We’re with you every Sunday to provide the Sunday Six Pack, an article featuring six of the biggest story lines 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. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s Sunday Six Pack:
Can #1) Kissing Cousins
The traveling circus that is the Washington Redskins comes to Atlanta this week in a game that features two 2012 playoff teams that would have top four draft picks if the season ended today. Its hard to know if this game is really about the trade value of Kirk Cousins, a move by Mike Shanahan to try to force Daniel Snyder to fire him or giving Robert Griffin III more time to get back to full strength (or as close as he’ll ever get), Regardless, Cousins gets a Falcons team that is ranked 20th against the pass in terms of average yards per game given up and has an injury depleted secondary to boot. If Cousins is going to fight through the insanity and have a big game, it will have to start in Atlanta. On the other side of the ball, Steven Jackson finally looks like he’s over his quad injury and has been running well lately. The Redskins are in the middle of the pack (19th overall) in terms of average rushing yards given up per game, but are a top six matchup for this game against the run according to our friends over at 4for4.com.
Can #2) Cutlery
Since Week 11, Bears quarterback Josh McCown is the fantasy QB2 in four point per passing touchdown leagues. Now with Jay Cutler ostensibly healthy, McCown heads back to the bench. Before he went down in week seven, Cutler was the fantasy QB6 through the first six weeks of the season, so its not like he’s been chopped liver in Marc Trestman’s offense. The bigger questions is which Bears receiver does Browns stud cornerback Joe Haden gravitate towards, Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery? Or, if Haden sticks to one side of the field, how do the Bears line up their WRs? It will be an interesting chess match for sure. For the Browns, the Bears are ranked dead last in the league in terms of average rushing yards given up for game making Chris Ogbonnaya an acceptable fill in for those playoff teams that lost Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew.
Can #3) Dr. Geno and Mr. Smith
It really has been a Jeckyll and Hyde rookie season for Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith. And just when it seemed that he was about to descend into full Jeckyll mode and the Raiders were the hot D/ST start of Week 14, Smith rebounds and throws for 219 yards with one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown. Now Smith travels to Carolina to get a Panthers defense that is not only ranked 1st against the run and fifth against the pass, but is sure to be looking for redemption after being embarrassed in the Superdome last week. Its hard to count on any Jets players this week. For the Panthers, Steve Smith has been an uninspiring WR3/4 for most of the year, elevating himself slightly into a low ceiling WR3 for the past for weeks. Other than Cam Newton, the only other Panther I’d feel good about is Greg Olsen.
Can #4) Sweeney Todman
Jaguars starting running back Maurice Jones-Drew is doubtful for this week with a hamstring injury, which leaves former Connecticut Husky Jordan Todman as the starting running back in a great matchup against the Bills porous run defense. The Bills are ranked 26th in terms of average rushing yards given up per game and gave up 127 yards to Bobby Rainey of the Buccaneers last week (albeit 80 on one play). Todman averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 616 carries in college on a team that had trouble throwing the ball. As a result, Todman often saw eight man fronts, making those stats all the more impressive. The Jags have had success running the ball as of late, and I would not be surprised if Todman ended up as a serviceable RB2 this week.
Can #5) Ram Tough
By the numbers, the Rams defense isn’t all that exciting, ranked 22nd against the pass and 14th against the run in terms of average yards per game given up. The Rams are tied for seventh most sacks in the league, however, and have been able to come up big in harder matchups at home, including a 42-21 win over the Bears in Week 12. Drew Brees and the Saints have been operating on all cylinders as of late, save for a Week 13 demolition at Seattle where Brees was constantly under pressure. The Rams have the ability to put Brees under a similar amount of pressure, but have the disadvantage of playing inside at the Edward Jones Dome. If the Rams can get Zac Stacy and the run game going, keep Brees off the field and get him running when he’s on the field, the Rams may be able to pull off the upset this week. If they can’t, look for another big day for Brees, Jimmy Graham and the resurgent Marques Colston (nine receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 13 targets last week).
Can #6) Have You Met Dez?
Dez Bryant is the PPR WR11 this year, but it doesn’t feel like it. Plus, back end WR1 is not what you expect from a physically dominant receiver like Dez, especially considering the fact that he’s been able to largely avoid off-the-field distractions. Bryant has had some unacceptably low target games including Week ten at New Orleans (two targets) and Week 14 at Chicago (four targets). I think we need to get Barney Stinson involved to re-introduce Bryant to Tony Romo and Jason Garrett. The offense should run through Bryant and the underappreciated DeMarco Murray. It’s not just in the best interest of Dez’s fantasy owners, it would likely serve the Cowboys as well.