We got back in black last week with a 3-2 performance that I promise will mark the last time I (1) try to predict the Philadelphia Eagles' backfield usage and (2) attempt to make any educated guess about how an offense might fare when playing American football on a field in England that has only ever been used for rugby. Conditions there were sub-optimal.
The Colts remain a bad football team, but things are pointing up for Andrew Luck with improved pass blocking, in part thanks to some scheming that saw the Colts keeping six or seven blockers in to protect him. When he’s had time to operate and let routes develop, he can make all the throws. This week the outlook is especially good for Luck against a fairly impotent, Justin Houston-less Chiefs pass rush that’s generated a league-low 8 sacks (tied for last with Pittsburgh) and produced just 21 QB hits, also dead last.
Also improving Luck’s outlook is the return of two starting Colts wideouts: the speedy Phillip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief. Another big factor here is the fact that the Colts defense is hot garbage -- dead last in rushing defense DVOA and hardly better in pass defense. In other words, they’re going to need a lot of points and Luck in order to win this game. Despite pretty horrid pass protection at times earlier this season, Luck has still averaged 296 yards per game.
Spencer Ware rushing yards OVER 82.5
Speaking of the Colts’ horrid run defense, it will have to make do this week without two of its top run defenders, defensive ends Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford, both of whom are on the shelf with knee injuries. Meanwhile, Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles suffered a setback with his knee, meaning that it’s going to be the Spencer Ware show once again. Ware has averaged 18.5 carries and 91 yards per game over the past four contests and should have ample opportunities to gash the Colts defense as the focal point of the offense.
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Christine Michael rushing yards OVER 72.5
Michael is a solid, aggressive rusher and remains the guy in Seattle’s backfield with Thomas Rawls out. Meanwhile the Seahawks defense spent an absurd 46 minutes on the field on Sunday night in the Seattle-Arizona “Why Do We Even Have Kickers Bowl?” Pete Carroll is going to want to limit additional strain on his defense as much as possible against a Drew Brees-led Saints offense that tests everyone at the Superdome.
The way to keep the rock out of Brees’ hands is by methodically rushing the ball. Not by much, but the maligned Seahawks offensive line is better at run blocking than pass blocking. There’s also the matter of Russell Wilson’s health: in addition to the knee injury that he’s soldiered through, he also sustained a pectoral injury against the Cardinals which he described as not "crazy, crazy bad." Because he’s Russell Wilson he will play but that doesn’t sound good. So this game should see a ton of Michael against the Saints’ 28th-ranked rushing defense in DVOA.
Getty ImagesHarry How
Jordy Nelson receptions UNDER 5.5
Packers receivers including Nelson are still struggling to get much separation against opposing secondaries. That task should prove easier on Sunday against an unspectacular Falcons back end, except for Nelson who is likely to see a lot of top Falcons cover man Desmond Trufant. The Packers are more likely to try and attack the underbelly of the Falcons defense with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery, the wideout-turned-running back. Going back to the first Packers game post-bye, Nelson turned a whopping 13 targets against the Giants into only four receptions, followed by a seven-target, five-catch game against Dallas and a four-target, one-catch game for just nine yards against the Bears last week.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
Alshon Jeffery receptions UNDER 5
Yep, this week we’re doubling down on the receptions unders against one-time top fantasy wideout commodities. Jeffery and the Bears are going to be facing a ticked off Vikings team and a shutdown secondary coming off an embarrassing loss at Philadelphia. This defense should be raring to take its anger out on the Bears even if Mike Zimmer didn’t slit the throats of stuffed animals as a motivational tactic, which he claims was erroneously reported. "I do a lot of crazy stuff," Zimmer said, "but I'll admit it when I do it."
Anyhow, this is a really bad Bears offense and both of its guards (Kyle Long, Josh Sitton) are dealing with injuries and there’s a QB under center, Jay Cutler of course, who knows he’s only playing because head coach John Fox “doesn’t have a choice.” He’s right, and his return to action couldn’t come at a worse time for his personal on-field safety and Alshon Jeffery’s receiving totals. Jeffery has exceeded 5 receptions just once this season -- against Jacksonville -- and it took 13 targets to get there.