We’re with you every Sunday to provide the Sunday Six Pack, an article featuring six of the biggest storylines heading into each and every week of the season. Keeping tabs on these events will keep you prepared and informed throughout the season – just don’t drive within six hours of reading this. This week’s edition comes from both Jeff Haverlack and Jarrett Behar who collectively put together a TEN pack of storylines since so much is going on!
Can #1) Lion’s Share
Many teams have had their share of trouble in 2012. From the unexpected difficult starts of both Green Bay and New Orleans to the surprising level of mediocrity of the New England Patriots, the 2012 season isn’t progressing as expected. And near the top of that list is the plight of the Detroit Lions. At 2-4, last in the NFC North and winless within the division, the Lions have rekindled the memories of the decade prior to 2011. Calvin Johnson possesses only a single touchdown through six games, Matthew Stafford sports a 5:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and while the running game is beginning to find some level of consistency, opposing defenses continue to dare the Lions to run the ball while they, instead, focus on diminishing Johnson’s impact. It’s gut check time in Detroit in a must-win situation vs. the scrappy Seahawks in week eight. Was 2011 an anomaly?
Can #2) Cam it be true?
Could it be that all the immaturity concerns highlighted on the way to Cam Newton being selected first overall in 2011 by the Carolina Panthers were indeed correct? I for one wouldn’t have touched him in the first round of fantasy drafts in 2011. But then Newton goes on to have a stellar campaign, silencing most critics, including myself. The sophomore slump appears to be in play and with the Panthers now sitting at 1-5 and last in the division, Newton is starting to unravel, physically and emotionally. The second half of 2012 is going to define the player and the character that is Cam Newton. Will he be the Cam that detractors saw before he was a professional or is he the next Vince Young?
Can #3) Titanic Effort
Chris Johnson continues to be talked about leading up week eight’s game vs. the Indianapolis Colts and their 26th ranked run defense. Insiders were quick to point out that Buffalo was last in rushing defense and it was no great feat that saw C.J. gain nearly 200 yards. But for Johnson owners, it was a welcomed site regardless of the opponent. C.J. showed just why he is so frustrating to own, with phenomenal speed and burst on display against the hapless Bills.
After a decent game against Pittsburgh Week six, we hope most of you had Chris Johnson in your lineups for his 18 carry, 195 yard, two touchdown performance against those Bills and their rushing defense that is ranked dead last in the NFL. Now he gets the Indianapolis Colts that, as we mentioned, ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed per game. Hopefully the absence of Michael Roos won’t disrupt the flow that the Titans’ offensive line has found, and more importantly, Johnson will continue to trust his line and follow the play design.
If it was me as head coach last week, I would have force-fed the ball to C.J. at the goal line multiple times rather than call for Jamie Harper for two quick touchdowns. Call me greedy, but I want my high priced back to develop a fond familiarity with the end-zone, however I can make it happen.
Can he reward owners two weeks in a row?
Can #4) Fallen Oak
Is Oakland’s Darren McFadden not that great any longer or are the Raiders just that bad? In his last three games vs. Denver, Atlanta and Jacksonville, DMc could only muster 157 yards on 59 carries, good for an anemic 2.66 yards per carry average. Before dismissing that per carry average, realize that two of those teams, Atlanta and Jacksonville are near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed. Up next is the 22nd ranked defense of the Kansas City Chiefs. To date in 2012, McFadden has but one 100 yard effort to his name, will he get his second this week? We’ll be watching.
Can #5) On the Cobb
With news this week that Greg Jennings could be out for an extended period of time, Green Bay’s Randall Cobb is continuing to see his stock climb. Two weeks ago, Cobb notched his first 100 yard effort, hauling in seven receptions for 102 yards. Last Sunday vs. St. Louis, Cobb upped his fantasy output further by reeling in eight receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The dynamic and flashy Cobb is certain to be on the receiving end of multiple strikes from Aaron Rodgers and is a good bet to find the end zone again when Jacksonville comes calling on Sunday. If he matches his reception total from recent weeks, he’s going to be a hot topic in trade talks before your league’s trading deadline. While we’ll be watching to see if he’s productive for a third week in a row, there’s little doubt that Cobb will be a mainstay in Green Bay for years to come. Patient owners have been finally rewarded.
You may not realize it, but Randall Cobb has the 5th most PPR WR points in the last three weeks and is averaging the 8th most over that span, more than AJ Green (11th), Demaryius Thomas (13th) and Julio Jones (16th). Now with the news that he may see more backfield work considering the Packers struggling run game, that he has carved out a significant role even when (if?) Greg Jennings returns, and with Jordy Nelson suddenly developing a hamstring ailment, Cobb has turned into a set it and forget option at receiver. He should have a field day against a Jaguars defense that is ranked 24th in average passing yards given up per game.
Can #6) Greene Giant
Just what has gotten into the Jets’ Shonn Greene?!? Four touchdowns on 48 carries for 215 yards over the past two weeks? And six receptions last week vs New England? This is not the Shonn Greene we have all come to expect. Let’s not get too excited though because these games came vs. a soft Indianapolis defense and an emotionally charged affair vs. the Patriots. The Jets roll into Miami for a contest with the Dolphins on Sunday. Expect the Dolphins fourth ranked run defense to have noticed Greene’s productive ways as they seek to put an end to further discussion. Can Shonn Greene keep channeling his inner Arian Foster or is it back to the fantasy bench?
Can #7) Jennings Unleashed
Rashad Jennings was an extremely hyped player in the preseason with MJD holding out and many knowledgeable NFL commentators praising his skill set. MJD’s return and an early season knee injury limited the return on any Jennings investment. Now, however, MJD is out for an undetermined amount of time with a foot injury and Jennings will get a chance to showcase his abilities before he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. Don’t let his 21 carries for 44 yards against an underrated Raiders rush defense fool you. Also don’t forget that he added seven receptions for 58 yards and scored a five yard rushing touchdown. Jennings is a low end RB1 option in PPR leagues on a Jaguars team that doesn’t have much else going for it on offense. The Packers are giving up 4.2 yards per carry and are on their third middle linebacker of the season.
Can #8) Mile High Shootout
Peyton Manning is starting to look like the Peyton of old, and the Saints are giving up a staggering average of 465.5 yards per game through seven weeks. Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker should all be in for monster days, and Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and even Ronnie Hillman and Brandon Stokley should be startable as bye week fill-ins. On the other side, Drew Brees knows he has to put a ton of points on the board to have any chance to win this game. Marques Colston has the 4th most total PPR points of any WR the last four weeks, and that includes his bye week. Colston, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are all must-starts. If Jimmy Graham (questionable ankle) sits, Devery Henderson might be worth a start. Pierre Thomas is a decent flex/bye week fill in and Mark Ingram continues to have his talents waste away.
Can #9) RG3 Meets Dick LeBeau
Not much other than his failure to go out of bounds against the Falcons has slowed down Robert Griffin III. Now he brings his talents to Pittsburgh against a Polamaluless (try to say that five times fast) Steelers defense that is still giving up the second fewest yards per game and is ranked ninth against the run in terms of yards per game. The Redskins have the number one rushing offense in the NFL behind RGIII and Alfred Morris, and the inventive formations being unleashed weekly by Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan. It will certainly be a interested clash of two strengths, and I believe LeBeau can confuse the rookie QB into some making some mistakes.
Can #10) I Hope Steve Smith Likes Peanuts
The struggling Carolina Panthers offense gets to travel to Soldier Field to play a Bears defense that might be wearing Zubaz pants because they are certainly playing like its 1985. While its one thing to anoint Jonathan Stewart the starter and try to change your offensive philosophy, to do it in one week facing a matchup against arguably the best defense in the NFL right now is a whole other animal. In addition, Cam Newton’s security blanket, Steve Smith, is likely to be shadowed by Peanut Tillman (yeah, the guy that held Megatron to 3 catches for 34 yards on 11 targets). I look for Smith’s stat line to look more like Week 6 against the Seahawks (4 catches on 13 targets for 40 yards) than against Week 7 against the Cowboys (7 catches on 9 targets for 83 yards).