Fantasy Football

Week 5 Thursday LU Calls

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Michael Harmon

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When you casually reviewed the Thursday night schedule at the end of the preseason, I’m fairly certain that you whizzed right past this Week 5 matchup between the Rams and Cardinals. Sure, you were looking forward to tracking potential Larry Fitzgerald points.

You certainly weren’t anticipating a matchup between an undefeated Arizona squad and a 2-2 Rams squad under Jeff Fisher. Let’s set the table.

The Cardinals won three of their first four games by four points or fewer, adding a blowout home win over the Eagles for good measure. The Rams eked out narrow wins over the Seahawks and Redskins by a combined nine points, narrowly lost to the Lions in Week 1 after leading much of the game and fell in an uninspired game against the Bears in Week 3 by 20 points.

Now that you’ve caught up, it’s time to assess the Week 5 opener.

On paper, it’s a fantastic matchup for Ryan Williams of the Cardinals. The Rams have allowed 130 total yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game to opposing running backs. When you add the rushing efforts of quarterbacks and end-arounds, the Rams have surrendered 135.6 rushing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game.

However, the Cardinals have been unable to run the ball effectively. Williams produced just 26 yards on 13 carries in Week 4 against the Dolphins. The Cardinals have averaged just 68 rushing yards and 0.5 rushing touchdowns per game. To be fair, Williams and the Cardinals have faced the Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks and Patriots in the first four weeks. I’ll tag him as a mid-RB2 this week.

Let’s move to the Rams backfield, where Steven Jackson had the best scoring opportunity that he may see all year in Week 4. Unfortunately, his three-yard run was nullified by a penalty, and the Rams later scored on a fake field goal (Danny Amendola owners received a gift). Jackson has played through a groin injury to the tune of 3.3 yards per carry. He’s yet to eclipse 60 rushing yards in any of his four 2012 starts.

The Cardinals have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs at the quarter-pole. I’m fearful that the short week forces Jackson to cede some of the Week 5 workload to Daryl Richardson. As a result, Jackson rates no better than a back-end RB2 this week.

The Rams have successfully stifled opposing passer through four weeks. To date, St. Louis has surrendered the 11th-fewest passing yards (213.5 yards per game) and just two touchdowns against eight interceptions. Overall, the Rams rank seventh in fantasy points against quarterbacks. Kevin Kolb has found his pace in the past two weeks, gaining comfort and consistency downfield with both Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts. Kolb has averaged 273 passing yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in the past two weeks. He’s a lower-end QB2 this week.

Fitzgerald slides back into a low-end WR1 slot this week, but he will draw coverage from noted agitator Cortland Finnegan. The aforementioned Roberts, who is tied for the league lead with four touchdown receptions (6.3 targets per game), rates a high-end WR4 option this week.

Conversely, the now-celebrated Arizona pass defense ranks fifth against quarterbacks, having surrendered 280 passing yards and 0.75 passing touchdowns per game. Sam Bradford’s a no-go in fantasyland, but he’ll get his normal support from wideout Danny Amendola. Amendola has averaged 11 targets per game, producing 87.8 receiving yards and 7.8 receptions per game. He’s on the board as a low-end WR2 this week.

Tight ends have been invisible against these squads. Both teams rank in the top 10 in terms of points allowed against tight ends with just a single touchdown scored (against Arizona).

I would be remiss if I failed to celebrate two of the early MVPs from these teams. Greg Zuerlein was the story behind the fake field goal touchdown toss last week. Zuerlein converted field goals from distances of 48, 58 and 60 yards to fuel the Rams’ victory over the Seahawks. He’s perfect on eight field goal attempts this season. Opponents have kicked 11 field goals against the Rams, including two long-distance conversions over 50 yards.

Jay Feely is also on the board this week against the Rams. Feely has converted each of his seven field goal attempts and 10 PATs to date. He’s worth consideration off of the waiver wire for owners facing Week 5 Byes.

Finally, the Cardinals rank third in scoring defense at 15.3 points allowed per game. They have generated nine turnovers and 16 sacks (second to Cincinnati). Look for Sam Bradford to be under duress in this contest, as the Rams have already surrendered 14 sacks. The Cardinals are a strong fantasy option this week.

The Rams are tied for 17th in total defense at 22.8 points allowed per game. St. Louis has generated eight turnovers (all interceptions), but just six sacks despite the presence of Long and Quinn on the defensive front. Like the St. Louis offensive line, the Arizona front has been leaky. Opponents have registered 14 sacks. Through four games, Kevin Kolb has been efficient and has done well to protect the ball. With persistent pressure in this road tilt, the St. Louis secondary will have an opportunity to make plays. The Rams rate a “Sleeper” tag and spot play for Week 5.

How does it finish? Zuerlein may supplant Sebastian Janikowski and lay claim to the “Super Jock” tag.

Tagged: Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson, Kevin Kolb, Danny Amendola, Sam Bradford, Ryan Williams, Greg Zuerlein

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