So this is it. You have one more week to make the playoffs, and one more week to ensure that cousin Bobby won’t torment you throughout the entire offseason, and remind you of that time apple juice squirted out your nose somehow. Indeed, the stakes go far beyond monetary means.
Every fantasy decision is always crucial, but this week that’s far more true and painful. Each starting lineup call that’s even remotely questionable could be the difference between a taste of that sweet, sweet playoff cash, and bitter nothingness. That’s why today in what’s maybe, probably becoming a weekly installment of “who ya got?” we’re focusing on the deepest position, and therefore the group that also brings the most questions and confusion on benches. Yes, mid-to-low tier wide receivers are the worst.
Although there are a number of names you could slot in here, for this exercise we’ll use these two: Anquan Boldin vs. Danny Amendola.
It’s quite possible to have both on your roster. In fact, given their August ADP that’s graciously provided by FantasyPros, it’s borderline probable. There we see that Amendola was rather absurdly taken with the 45th overall pick on average back in August, making him a late fourth-rounder right alongside the likes of Wes Welker (78 more fantasy points than Amendola) and Vincent Jackson (75 more points). That was in the before time, when we were willing to forget Amendola’s rich injury history.
Then Boldin waited until the 79th overall slot on average, over two rounds later. If you felt frisky enough to take that risk on Amendola, you were also wise to grab some insurance early, and the top target on his new team was chillin’ late in the sixth round in the form of Boldin. At the time Amendola had WR1 potential if he could play, oh I dunno, 13 games, because the target volume and resulting production with him playing the Welker role in the Patriots offense would have been mighty high.
Of course, Amendola breaks frequently, and some numbers are always better than no numbers. The former is mostly what Boldin has done this year with a few notable exceptions (his two-touchdown game last week against the Redskins, and 208 yards on 13 catches in his 49ers debut). So now in Week 13 we have two wide receivers in similar stations both in terms of the hierarchy of targets on their roster, and the difficulty of their opponent. Both here and elsewhere, they’re ranked almost evenly this week, making this one of many examples where choosing the right wideout is not an easy thing.
Anquan Boldin @ STL
The coverage Boldin will face isn’t so much the problem here, though Janoris Jenkins can still be pretty alright when he’s not insulting mothers and wives, and then getting owned. And Overall the secondary Boldin will run and catch against poses little threat, as the Rams are allowing 247.0 passing yards per game (22nd), and they’re tied for the third worst yards per pass attempt allowed (8.2). But they’ve kept the passing scores relatively in check through 12 games (17 overall), and same with chuck yardage, with 35 passes allowed of 20 yards or more (18th).
No, the real problem for Boldin is the one his quarterback will face. The Rams’ front four has an insatiable thirst for quarterback blood, having recorded 33 sacks (only five behind the league leaders). Led by Robert Quinn and his 13.0 sacks, the front four alone has brought opposing quarterbacks down 26 times, which is more than eight teams. Kaepernick’s mobility and the offensive line in front of him have kept sacks down, but generally when he’s been sacked three or more times in a game, horrible things are forthcoming. That’s happened four times this year, and in those games Kaepernick has averaged only a meager 4.6 yards per pass attempt.
Somehow the previous meeting between these two teams back in Week 4 wasn’t one of those games, yet Kaepernick still passed for only 167 yards while leading the usual run first and then run some more offense in San Francisco. Thing is, 90 of those yards — or put another way, 53 percent of Kaepernick’s total yardage — went to Boldin, and no other 49ers receiver had less than 25 yards. That was during a time when Kaepernick was only looking to Boldin when he desired to throw even sort of deep, but now Mario Manningham has returned, and Michael Crabtree will make his season debut in a limited capacity.
Danny Amendola @ HOU
At first this decision looks a lot easier than it is, which is the case with most things. The Texans are giving up the fewest passing yards per game, allowing only 171.8. But then there’s the touchdowns they’ve allowed, and at 18 that’s not low. And the opposing passer rating allowed, which is also the opposite of low at 92.4.
There’s also been an opportunity for at least one receiver to emerge against the Texans to varying degrees. Take just this past week when Houston was downed by the crappy Jaguars, and in that game Cecil Shorts finished with a not fantastic but still fine 71 receiving yards, while Ace Sanders had a 51-yard reception, and in total three Jags pass catchers had over 60 yards. Then there’s two weeks ago, when undrafted Raiders rookie Matt McGloin made his first start against the Texans, and that ended in two +30 yard completions, and 84 yards for Rod Streater.
Over their last four games the Texans have allowed the opposition’s top receiver to finish with an average of 86.3 yards (which includes T.Y. Hilton’s 121 yards), a stretch in which they’ve also given up eight passing touchdowns. Despite the shutdown ability of Johnathan Joseph and the pressure applied by J.J. Watt up front, this is still a beatable defense for at least one lucky pass catcher.
But often just one, or at least only one for any sort of fantasy significance, and herein lies the problem for Amendola. While it’s swell that he boomed against Pittsburgh three weeks ago (122 yards on just four catches), including that game he’s been targeted 17 times since Week 9. How many times has Rob Gronkowski been targeted over the same stretch? 27. What about Julian Edelman, who plays essentially the same role as Amendola? 19. Vereen? 22 over just two games.
Give me…Boldin: The matchup is more appealing, yes, but this is more about Boldin still being the primary option, or at least having a more firm grasp on that status than Amendola. It’s a temporary grasp too, because Crabtree’s role will increase. But even with Aaron Dobson likely out, the hands Tom Brady has to feed are far too scattered to rely on Amendola being that guy who maybe, probably goes off against the league’s best pass defense (by at least one metric).