Week 5 of the NFL season is set to kick off tonight when The Arizona Cardinals take on the St. Louis Rams at St. Louis in what looks on paper to be a pretty boring game, at least fantasy wise. The Cardinals are the real story hear as they are one of three teams left in the league who are unbeaten at 4-0, a feat they haven’t achieved since the 70s when they were the St. Louis Cardinals. In my opinion the Cardinals are the most overrated team in football. They have won three of four games by four or less points, have a shaky situation at quarterback, and have zero aability to run the ball. Two of their wins came against the rookie QB lead Seahawks and rookie QB lead Miami Dolphins. The real surprise games for Arizona was the wins against New England by 2 points and the crushing win against Philadelphia beating them by the tune of 27-6. It is hard to count those wins as flukes and is a testament to how well the Cardinals defense is playing so far this season, perhaps the only saving grace the team has. But can they keep it up? For this week, I think they can. Here’s why.
Arizona is coming off a big OT win against Miami where the Miami rookie QB Ryan Tannehill threw for over 400 yards, but the Cardinals only allowed 1 TD while gaining two interceptions in all those yards. The secondary unit of Arizona just do not give up touchdowns. These guys are firing on all cylinders right now and this week, against the Rams, I don’t see that changing. While the Cardinals were having some problems deciding which quarterback should lead the way, an injury gave Kevin Kolb a few unchallenged weeks to earn that spot. In three games he has 750 yards, 7 touchdowns, with only 2 interceptions. His ability to take care of the ball when he has it has helped Arizona keep their unbeaten streak alive, who knows what will happen when their “starter” Skelton returns. As long as he can keep that up, the Cardinals will play well, but St. Louis is averaging 2 interceptions a game so Kolb will have to be extra careful with the ball. With no real impact in the running game, this one all comes down to Kolb, his receiving core of Larry Fitzgerald who is always a threat no matter who is tossing him the ball and the new league leader in receiving touchdowns, Andre Roberts, and the Cardinals defense.
St. Louis, on the other hand, has been very inconsistent on offense and it all starts with their third year QB Sam Bradford who is not quite living up to his Rookie of the Year status from two years ago. He hasn’t progressed at all over the past two season. A lot of that comes down to the lack of talent the Rams have catching the ball. They don’t have a starting WR who has ever gained 1000 yards in a season. Their leading receiver, Danny Amendola, is doing well so far this year with 350 yards and a pair of scores but don’t count on him doing much against the NFL’s top defense. The St. Louis running game has also not been able to get anything going on the ground. A good ground game, something both teams are lacking, is important in opening up more of a team’s playbook including play-action passes and screens. The running game in St. Louis revolves around Steven Jackson who hasn’t had a season in which he gained less than 1000 yards since his rookie year 9 years ago. He has always been one of those rare workhorses in a league that is full of running back committees. I can’t help but think that his overuse is finally catch up to him as he reaches his 30s this season. He was sidelined two weeks ago with a groin injury, which is still lingering and, along with rookie Daryl Richardson averaging 5 yards a carry, Jackson’s chances of having a big game are slim tonight in Arizona.
QB: Kevin Kolb – 22/34, 230 yards, 2 TD
WR: Larry Fitzgerald – 6 rec, 85 yards, 1 TD
WR: Andre Roberts – 5 rec, 65 yards, 1 TD
WR: Early Doucet – 4 rec, 40 yards, 0 TD
RB: Ryan Williams – 15 carries, 55 yards, 0 TD
TE: Rob Housler – 4 rec, 35 yards, 0 TD
St. Louis 16
QB: Sam Bradford – 25/37, 235 yards, 1 TD
WR: Danny Ammendola – 7 rec, 75 yards, 1 TD
WR: Brandon Gibson – 6 rec, 70 yards, 0 TD
WR: Chris Givens – 4 rec, 45 yards, 0 TD
RB: Steven Jackson – 13 carries, 45 yards, 0 TD
RB: Daryl Richardson – 10 carries, 30 yards, 0 TD
TE: Lance Kendricks – 5 rec, 30 yards, 0 TD
Even writing these stats were boring. You would think that if the league is going to make sure that teams have even less rest throughout the year by mandating Thursday night games for more than 2/3rds of the season that they would at least make the single game on Thursdays be a good match-up. The next good Thursday game is when the Saints take on the Falcons the last Thursday in November. Thankfully I, nor many others, don’t have any players from this game to worry about fantasy wise. Luckily for me, I have a good place to go for cheap drinks and the best buffalo wings one can buy. There is also the fact that I don’t have to watch Footlocker employees blow a game again, I can go back to booing the real refs and let them blow the game the way they are paid to do. Or, maybe I can get the barkeep to put The Office on at 9pm. In lieu of that, lets take a look at other players around the league who have cupcake match-ups this week.
Matt Ryan ATL – He is off to a great start and is leading all the conventional passers in fantasy points. He gets a start no matter who he is playing but this week is special as he takes on a Washington secondary who has given up 300+ yards and 3 TDs to all but one quarterback so far. Look for Matt as a lock for those stats or more.
Andy Dalton CIN– This second year, the fiery redhead sure plays a mean football. In his rookie season he showed us his potential. Over the last three games he has lived up to that potential. Throwing for 318 yards and 3 TD, 328 yards and 3 TD, 244 yards and 2 TD over the past three games respectively, look for him to have another 300+ yard 3 TD game against the dolphins who just lets everyone throw for 300 yards against them.
Eli Manning NYG– The 2 times Superbowl MVP is indeed ELIte. He is second in passing yards with 1320 and has a healthy 7 TDs – 4 INT (3 of those interceptions coming in one game) ratio. This week will be one of Eli’s softest match-ups of the season when takes on the Cleavland Browns. The Browns are averaging 300 yards passing against their D and they haven’t even faced one of the leagues top dogs yet. Look for Eli to have 350 yards and at least 3 TDs.
Sleeper: Andrew Luck IND – The rookie sensation who is supposed to be the next coming of the football god, Payton Manning, should look quite like his successee this week as the Colts take on the Packers in Indianapolis. I’m not saying the Colts will win, they probably won’t against such a potent offense as the Packers, but playing from behind will force Luck to take it to the air, and the Packers pass defense is nothing to write home about; all signs point to “great success.” Luck has already thrown for 300 yards in two of his three games and against much better secondaries than the Packers have. Look for 300 yards and 3 TDs for Luck this week.
AJ Green CIN- With the easy match-up I described above for Amdy Dalton, look for Green to be the main beneficiary of those stats with two of Dalton’s touchdowns coming his way. As a rookie last year, Green and Dalton grew leaps and bounds together and I think the success of each is due to the confidence and camaraderie one has for the other. This may end up being the best QB/WR duo of all time. I see them doing great things in years to come. This is what football is all about. Look for at least 100 yards for Green along with those two TDs.
Julio Jones ATL– There is a pattern here, QBs with great match-ups will lead to WRs with great match-ups. As if you weren’t going to start Jones of Green if you have them, these guys may be the reason you win this week. Jones has been huge when on the road. Facing the ‘Skins at home who have given up 100 yards and a score to each of the last three #1 receivers they have faced, there is no reason for Jones to kick the coming-up-big-on-the-road habit just yet. Pen him in for 110 yards and 2 scores.
Reggie Wayne IND– His name was made a fantasy commodity when Payton was his QB in Indianapolis and is proving to be just as helpful with the rookie Andrew Luck taking over. After one of the worst downfalls a team has ever seen last year, the Colts are poised to be one of the top teams in the recent years to come. With a great match-up against the swiss cheese holes in the Packers secondary, look for Reggie Wayne to have a big game because Luck relies upon him so heavily. 100 yards and 1 TD.
Sleeper: Malcom Floyd SD- His name has not always been synonymous with fantasy starter, things have changed for the San Diego Chargers veteran wide out. He is no longer living in Vincent Jackson’s shadow. He has Phillip Rivers all to him self now. While I have never been a fan of Rivers, the guy puts up a lot of yards. This week the Chargers take on the Saints who have given up 100 yards or 1 TD to the top receiver for 3 out of the last 4 weeks. This is as good a week as any for Floyd and Rivers to get on the same page. They should be able to compile 90 yards and a score together against the 0-4 Saints.
Ryan Matthews SD – Ryan Matthews was highly touted in the off-season due to his success last year, but he is a risk this game because San Diego is playing backfield games. Nonetheless, I don’t see any reason why Matthews shouldn’t have a great game if he gets a good amount of carries against the worst run defense in the league, The New Orleans Saints. The Saints have given up over 400 yards and 5 scores to running backs in the first quarter of the season. Look for Matthews to regain his starting role and have 150 total yards and 1 touchdown.
Marshawn Lynch SEA – This pick should come as no surprise as Lynch has been a top 5 running back since last season and is the only piece of ‘real’ offense the Seahawks have. Not to mention they are facing the Carolina Panthers who are giving up on average 100 yards to running backs on the ground. While not every running back scores on the ground, they also give value to running backs through the air as well. Look for Lynch to have 150 total yards and one rushing score.
Frank Gore SF – While Gore is not the back he used to be and is being spelled by backup Kendall hunter, he still can break tackles and tastes blood once he gets near the end-zone. Against Buffalo who has given up six scores so far and last week gave up 100 yards to two different backs, Gore looks set to have his biggest game of the season. Look for 110 yards for the old wrecking ball and if he doesn’t get too many goal line touches hawked by Hunter he may very well end up with 2 TDs.
Sleeper: Cedric Benson GB – Green Bay hasn’t been known as a running team since before Brett Farve. With talent like Farve and Rodgers, they don’t need a great back to win Championships. Against the Colts, Green Bay should have the lead and will use Benson to manage the clock. Given that the Colts gave up 190 yards and a score to Maurice Jones-Drew and 120 yards and score to Matt Forte plus two more TDs to Forte’s backup, Benson looks in line to pick up where the Colts left off before their bye week. I like him for 130 total yards and 1 score.
So that wraps up my potential big game match-ups. If there is interest for my thoughts on tight-ends, kickers, and team defenses leave a comment otherwise I’ll keep the section like this for most weeks.
Thanks for the read.