Mercifully, it’s almost over. These dreary fantasy days of having a crucial player subtracted from your roster because they need “rest” and “rehabilition” or “a week away from football” are ending for another year after this week. Yes, friends, we have but just one more day of bye week horribleness, and during this particular day there’s a unique brand of suck.
Many of you have been riding Nick Foles over the past few weeks, and what a sweet ride that’s been. Since Week 9 Foles has thrown 10 touchdown passes with zero interceptions while also running for a score, and he’s accumulated 932 passing yards at a pace of 12.9 yards per attempt. That’s sort of pretty good, and it’s resulted in 88.5 fantasy points, making Foles a late-season savior who’s extended an olive branch to the playoff fate of so very many lost souls (he’s also reminded us that drafting quarterbacks early is still unwise, but that’s a conversation for another day).
And now for one week, all of that is gone. Foles sits with his bye, and you sit with a frown, as do Russell Wilson owners.
There’s a cure for what ails you, and its name is Case Keenum.
Even now as I type this at about 11 a.m. ET Sunday morning, Keenum is still widely available long after clearing waivers earlier this week. That’s especially true over at ESPN where he’s owned in only 31.9 percent of leagues, and although his ownership rises among Yahoo fake footballers, he’s still available in almost half of leagues there (55 percent owned).
Now, I realize the root of your hesitancy here, and your deep burning personal angst. Although it’s nice that he still hasn’t chucked many interceptions (only one in 126 pass attempts), Keenum has struggled over his past two starts, particularly when trying to manage a blitz. That’s not a surprising development, and Keenum’s struggles haven’t been jarring and they don’t represent any sort of abrupt cliff dive following a fine start. No, he’s just being a normal undrafted rookie quarterback, and he’s been forced to grow quickly while thrown into a difficult situation with Matt Schaub’s career sputtering, Arian Foster out for the season, and the Texans’ offense as a whole doing little.
That doesn’t exactly describe the ideal situation for consistent and sustained success, which is why over the past two weeks Keenum’s completion percentage has fallen to 51.2 and 54.2 after being a pretty alright 60.0 in an incredibly difficult beginning to his career(?) as an NFL starter on the road against the Chiefs. But again, pressure has been the theme throughout the past two weeks, and although the Raiders and Cardinals don’t have overbearing pass rushes, even their mid-pack front sevens (a combined 55 sacks) have been enough to disrupt Keenum. That changes today.
Keenum and the Texans draw Jacksonville, and their defense that’s registered all of 15 sacks, an average of just 1.5 per game. To put that into further perspective, the Colts’ Robert Mathis currently leads the league with 13.5 sacks, putting him only narrowly behind the Jaguars as a team. That utter lack of pressure has contributed to an appealing TD:INT ratio of 20:4 allowed by the Jaguars, the same defense that gave up 419 passing yards to Carson Palmer last week as he completed 71.4 percent of his passes. That’s a drastic rise from Palmer’s per game average of 257.3 yards, and his season completion percentage of 62.6.
The favorable numbers keep flowing. The Jaguars have allowed 41 passes for 20 yards or more, a clip of just over four per game, and they’ve also given up the longest pass in the league this season, a 91-yarder. Oh and look, that nothingness pass rush and the comfort it provides has also led to the second highest opposing passer rating allowed (105.4).
So yes, let Keenum ease your Foles or Wilson depression, and expect glorious things from Andre Johnson.
More stray lineup thoughts, predictions, words of warning
Be at least a little worried about the weather for tonight’s Patriots-Broncos donnybrook
Your concerns shouldn’t be anything like the worry we all went through last week while the entire northeast was held hostage by the wicked hand of mother nature. However, with the calendar flipping to December soon the dropping temperature will continually be a possible limiting factor for Peyton Manning, because bruised and aging bones don’t really enjoy sub-zero outdoor play.
Tonight in Foxboro the temperature is expected to be in the mid teens at night, with a chance of wind gusts reaching 20 mph. As Mike Reiss notes, in games when the temperature is below 32 degrees Manning has thrown more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (11).
Stay away from Julius thomas
Benching a tight end who’s behind only Jimmy Graham and Calvin Johnson with his 11 touchdowns and is averaging 11.5 fantasy points per game is a painful thing even if there’s a chance he could play. But I don’t see any other wise direction with Julius Thomas tonight.
This morning NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that it’s not looking good for Thomas, which isn’t remotely surprising after he was extremely limited all week in practice due to a knee injury. Maybe he does play, though, and maybe he pulls a Jimmy Graham circa Week 8 trick, when the Saints tight end scored twice despite playing only a handful of snaps with a wonky ankle and being targeted just three times. But with Thomas playing in the late game, such an outcome isn’t at all worth the risk.
At this point, any tight end guaranteed to play and produce something is better than Thomas, who will likely not play and produce nothing. Picking up backup Joel Dreessen as insurance and peace of mind is intelligent.
Chris Ogbannaya is your deep running back sleeper
Yeah, the Browns’ backfield is still a little messy, and last week in their loss to Cincinnati Chris Ogbannaya only narrowly received more carries (eight) than Willis McGahee (six) and Fozzy Whittaker (four). But if you’re desperate to replace any of the stud running backs sitting out in the final bye week (C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, and Gio Bernard), Ogbannaya is a fine gamble because of his receiving ability.
Jason Campbell targeted him 12 times last week, which was only three looks behind Josh Gordon. That led to 39 receiving yards, raising Ogbannaya’s total yards to 138 over the past two weeks. Don’t shrug that off, as it’s a mighty fine number for a running back in a cloudy backfield, and in a matchup against the Steelers and the league’s 23-ranked rush defense today Ogbannaya should receive consideration in leagues with 14 teams or more.