Lineup Calls: NYJ-DEN
The jokes have all gone stale in the social media space regarding the opener to Week 11 on Thursday night. It’s a matchup made for a spotlight dance. Rex Ryan brings his brash and bold New York Jets squad to Denver to take on the most polarizing player in the NFL.
Seriously, people have their thoughts about off-field transgressions and things that they see on the field and get animated when discussing them. Bring up the names of Ndamukong Suh, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick among casual fans and the “word association” game may get a little heated (I bring up Suh’s name because of the escalating grudge matches in the NFC North). Bring up the name of Tim Tebow and the game can go in any of 100 directions.
You’ll hear a crack on “Tebow-ing.” You’ll hear about his arm strength, the Florida Gators, his religion and derisive commentary about his abilities when compared to standard quarterbacking metrics. At some point, a voice in the crowd will utter the word “winner.”
Can Tebow and Lance Ball shock the Jets on Thursday? Is the step up in class too steep?
Let’s break down Thursday night’s tilt in Denver from a fantasy perspective.
Like Tebow, New York quarterback Mark Sanchez is a polarizing figure in terms of his on-field play. He’s been a steady contributor to fantasy owners’ bottom lines. Sanchez has accounted for multiple touchdowns (including his three rushing touchdowns) in seven of nine games this season while averaging 231.2 passing yards per contest with a mean of 215.5 yards.
He’s a solid Bye week or injury fill-in this week against a Denver defense that ranks last statistically against quarterbacks. It should be noted that Denver has played better football with Champ Bailey back in the secondary, and he’ll most certainly give Santonio Holmes fits (see the “Flop Alert” section below). Still, Plaxico Burress, Dustin Keller and a little of Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight out of the backfield should yield results. Sanchez is ranked 10th in my early-week quarterback list.
Burress was hardly dominant against the Patriots, but he delivered the touchdown reception that we anticipated (three receptions for 39 yards). I anticipate a busy night for Burress on Thursday with Holmes and Bailey locked up against each other. I ranked Burress 21st among wide receivers this week.
The Jets will not have veteran LaDainian Tomlinson (sprained MCL) at their disposal on Thursday night, thereby putting Shonn Greene in line for a sizable workload. The Broncos will not run and hide in this game as the Patriots did in Week 10 (Greene logged 13 carries and 61 rushing yards). Green has averaged 20 carries in his previous four games, and I suspect that he approaches that mark on Thursday. Denver allows 117 rushing yards (4.0 yards per carry) per game. He occupies the 18th slot in my early-week running back rankings.
Finally, I have the New York defense ranked eighth this week. Tebow will take his share of sacks, though I fear he won’t attempt enough passes to help owners pad their stats with turnovers. Of course, I’m curious about when the official scorekeepers will change everything he does to a rushing attempt.
Lance Ball was the last man standing for the Broncos’ running game (excluding Tebow, of course) in Week 10, and he nearly amassed 100 rushing yards in relief of Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno. Moreno is now done for the season because of a knee injury, and McGahee’s hamstring injury will likely sideline him for this tilt.
Ball demonstrated that he can handle a heavy workload with his 30 carries in Week 10. He’s on the board as my 19th running back.
LaDainian Tomlinson’s injury opens the door for Joe McKnight to demonstrate his open field abilities as a receiver. McKnight has been used primarily as a return man, though he did carry the ball nine times in Week 9 against the Bills for 27 yards. He’s a deep “Ninja” option in PPR leagues as the 38th running back on my board.
Dustin Keller hasn’t tasted the glory of the painted grass for quite some time, but he and Sanchez has connected on a number of big gains in recent weeks. Keller has recorded a reception of at least 24 yards in four straight games (six on the season). I have him rated 11th among tight ends this week.
I’ll say it. Bring the pain.
Tebow rates as a QB2 option this week. I can’t spin it. Tebow has been fantasy gold and a must-start in each of his first three starts. I just can’t endorse him against the Jets, even with Darrelle Revis’ knee in question. Tebow completed two passes last week. I get that one of those completions against the Chiefs was a 56-yard touchdown to Eric Decker (also on the outs this week), but I can’t put everything on a single throw against a far superior New York pass defense.
I do admit that I’d like to be the fly on the wall as the Jets transitioned from the surgeon-like precision of Tom Brady in Week 10 to game-planning for the unique offensive packages employed by the Broncos. Tebow will still earn his yardage on the ground, thereby earning him the 13th slot on my rankings sheet.
Similarly, Eric Decker dips to 36th place in my early Week 11 rankings. He’s been Tebow’s go-to receiver and delivered end zone romps. Decker will need a blown assignment or extended Tebow scrambling session on the edge to give him a chance. I’ll avoid the risk.
Santonio Holmes recorded a season-high 93 receiving yards on six receptions in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Patriots. He’s been a frustrating weekly play for fantasy owners, but the big-play potential remains. Holmes faces a daunting task this week in his one-on-one matchup with Champ Bailey, who shut down Dwayne Bowe in Week 10. Holmes will draw one or more penalties downfield, but those aren’t helping the fantasy cause. I have Holmes ranked as 13th among wide receivers this week.