This week marks the first edition of Thursday Night Football in 2011, a catch 22 for those who love the NFL. For one, fans get a fourth night of football – really, no complaints here. On the other hand, it’s 65 hours less time to toggle around with your lineup. And yes, sometimes deadline pressure leads to poor decision-making.
So, in honor of the fourth-night of football this week, every sit and start will be related to the magic number that is four. Grab your four-pack of adult beverages, help yourself to four different types of game-day grub and – if you’re feeling lucky – text four different girls that you find attractive (you’ll find the more you contact, the success rate tends to remain the same).
The No. 1 pick-up this week has to be Laurent Robinson, who will be thrust into the starting lineup for the Cowboys as Miles Austin deals with his hammy. Already, Robinson is fourth on the team in receiving with 24 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a solid WR3/flex with high upside over the next month or so.
The Boys host the Bills, owners of the 25th-ranked pass defense that has allowed opposing wide receivers to score double-digit point totals in five of their eight games this season. Although the Bills are opportunistic on defense, second in the league in interceptions (15), the success has usually come when the team has captured a lead.
When trailing, the Bills have yet to record a sack and forced only five turnovers. The team has struggled defending pass plays 21 yards and over, an area where the Cowboys have thrived. Robinson, in particular, is averaging more than 15 yards per catch, and has a reception of 25 yards or more in four of six games this season.
When he filled for Austin Weeks 3 and 4, Robinson capitalized with 10 receptions for 165 yards. And last week, when Austin left early, Robinson hauled in five passes, including a touchdown.
Obviously, the Bills are going to focus their attention on shutting down the always-dangerous Dez Bryant and containing the newfound rushing attack headed by DeMarco Murray. That leaves Jason Witten and Robinson as targets that will face single coverage. I would be comfortable starting Robinson this week in what should be a high-scoring contest.
Another game that will likely include a lot of offense is the Monday night showdown between Minnesota and Green Bay. The Vikings, off a bye week, have had plenty of time to try and figure out how to attack the vulnerable Packers secondary. It also allows offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to create a game plan for Christian Ponder, who has thrown for 455 yards and three touchdowns since being inserted into the lineup.
The week off also allowed Percy Harvin a week to get healthy. Against the Panthers in Week 8, the Vikings got Harvin more involved with a goal-line carry, in addition to 58 yards receiving, his highest total since Week 2. Harvin has averaged a measly four fantasy points per game this season, but that is bound to change with Ponder behind center. And it begins this week, because Musgrave must attack the Pack secondary.
Against San Diego last week, the Packers allowed 30 points to the Chargers wide receivers, including deep threat Vincent Jackson. This season, Green Bay is allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts – 17.5 points per game.
In Ponder’s last start against Green Bay, he found Mike Jenkins three times for 111 yards, but spread the ball around to a total of six different receivers. Expect Harvin to steal a lot of those targets as the Vikings get their biggest playmaker involved.
Last week, we finally saw the breakout game for Julio Jones. The former Alabama standout, who had been dealing with injury earlier in the season, caught three passes, two resulting in scores. Jones totaled 131 yards on – you guessed it – four targets.
It was the explosion that we expected from Jones – averaging 44 yards per catch – on some of the more jaw-dropping plays made all season. Jones has a Vincent Jackson-like feel. His size, speed and athleticism allow
him to stretch the field and compete for every ball. Currently, Jones is tied with Steve Smith, Jordy Nelson and fellow rookie A.J. Green for the most catches of 40 or more yards in the NFL.
Jones was drafted by Atlanta to force opposing defenses to respect the side of the field not occupied by Roddy White. Against Indy, White still was targeted nine times and finished the afternoon with four receptions for 76 yards, but the two wide receivers will impact each other’s fantasy output going forward.
On Sunday, the Falcons will host the Saints in an offensive showdown. The Falcons, with dome-field advantage, will also face a Saints secondary that may be without starting cornerback Tracy Porter. Patrick Robinson and Leigh Torrence filled in for the injured Porter. Advantage: Jones.
Follow Sam on Twitter for fantasy updates throughout the week; tweet him with your questions, too.
Dwayne Bowe owners know the frustration of starting him each week on such an inconsistent offense. And after the Chiefs fell flat on their face last week, there’s always that hope for a big rebound performance.
Not this week. Not against Champ Bailey.
The Bowe-Bailey matchup has been won by the Broncos corner six out of seven times. Overall, Bowe has totaled 39 receptions for 513 yards and two touchdowns in seven career games since 2007. Last year, Bowe dominated in the first matchup, with a 13-catch performance that included his first touchdowns against Bailey. But in their second showdown, Bailey held Bowe catchless.
This season, Bowe has four touchdowns, none since October 9, though. And Bailey is enjoying yet another tremendous season, shutting down the likes of Vincent Jackson (3 receptions, 34 yards) and Brandon Marshall (6 receptions, 64 yards) in recent weeks.
Of course I would not bench Bowe altogether – with his kind of talent and given how high you had to draft him – but I’m not confident he’ll dominate Bailey who is getting healthy and returning to his elite form. Instead, I’d feel comfortable starting Jonathan Baldwin or Steve Breaston, who hauled in seven passes for 115 yards last week, capitalizing on a team-high 11 targets.
I’m also concerned about Larry Fitzgerald this week. Like Bowe, he’ll face a shutdown corner in Nnamdi Asomugha, who week after week has limited the elite wide receivers in the league.
The Eagles secondary has the ninth-best pass defense in the league, and Asomugha is making No. 1 wideouts invisible. Since the bye week, Dez Bryant has been limited to three catches for 28 yards, Miles Austin to three catches for 27 yards, while Devin Hester and Roy Williams combined for four catches for 58 yards.
Fitzgerald will likely be without his quarterback, No. 4, Kevin Kolb for a second straight week. Sure, fill-in John Skelton was able to find Fitzgerald for the game-saving touchdowns last week, but that was against the Rams – you know, the team that has allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns in the NFL.
Then, there’s also that whole Dream Team pressure. Yeah, yeah, we know the story, but if the Eagles want to continue to make a push towards the playoffs, it begins with a victory against the two-win Cardinals. Coming off a tough loss on Monday night to Chicago, needing to win as many games as possible to remain in contention, the defense is going to play sharp, especially at the Link.
It’s been an up and down season for Fitz, but it all stems back to his quarterbacks’ struggles. He’s yet to catch double-digit passes. He has just three touchdowns. He’s reached double-digit point totals just once, in Week 2, and has been mediocre since. Don’t count on this week for a big contribution.
Last week, Chris Ogbonnaya got the start at running for the Cleveland Browns. Big whoop. Ogbonnaya responded with a lackluster 2.2 yard-per-rush average, totaling 28 yards on the day. This week, I wouldn’t touch him with a four-foot pole.
Ogbonnaya has a very tempting matchup against the Rams, who have allowed opposing running backs to score in five of their eight contests, and reach double-digit point totals six times. In Week 8, though, the Rams turned a corner, limiting New Orleans to 57 yards. They followed that outing by holding Zona to 32 yards last week.
There are plenty of waiver wire options that I would prefer over Ogbonnaya. Roy Helu faces a deceivingly good Miami rush defense, but with John Beck behind center he will be forced to check down frequently. Chris Ivory received goal-line touches in the absence of Mark Ingram, and the Falcons-Saints matchup will definitely be high scoring. Even Ben Tate, who spells starter Arian Foster, has topped the 100-yard rushing mark twice in the past three games, and the Texans should attack the Bucs on the road.