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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.
Can #1) Don’t Fear the Neckbeard
Of quarterbacks who have started a game this year, EJ Manuel is ranked 31st in the league in average yards per attempt at 6.4 (what’s even more scary is that he’s five spots ahead of Tom Brady [5.4]). With the Bills ranked 27th in the league in total offense (again, two spots ahead of the Patriots), they’ve decided to make the change to legendary partier and neckbeard enthusiast Kyle Orton. Orton has a similar career completion percentage to Manuel (58.5 for Orton to 58.6 to Manuel), but may provide a veteran presence to stabilize the run-heavy, conservative Buffalo offense. He doesn’t get a very easy first test, travelling to face a Detroit Lions defense that is ranked first in the league in total defense and is only giving up an average of 267.2 yards per game. The same Detroit defense that held Aaron Rodgers to 162 yards and 1 TD in their last home game. Its going to be a long day for fans of extended facial hair.
Can #2) All Skill
[inlinead]In the 2013 preseason, I went to the Colts/Giants game and saw one of my favorite all-time jerseys, a guy with a white Colts #12 jersey with the name “Skill” on the back – that’s looking to be more and more true with each passing game. Rising above the fact that his Offensive Coordinator is Pep Hamilton, Andrew Luck is the QB1 through four weeks by a decent amount. He’s on a pace to throw 52 touchdowns and even has one more touchdown pass through four games than Aaron Rodgers has through five and is completing 68.8% of this passes. And he’s spreading the ball around with seven Colts receivers having caught at least ten passes already. Look for Luck’s skill to continue this week against a Ravens defense that is ranked 24th in the league, giving up an average of 260.2 passing yards per game.
Can #3) When the Saints Go Marching Home
At 1-3, the Saints early season struggles have surprised many. All three of their losses have come on the road, including last week’s 38-17 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys. Despite the fact the Saints are third in the league in total offense at 425.8 yards per game, Drew Brees is just the fantasy QB8, Brandin Cooks is a respectable high end WR3 in PPR (WR25), but Marques Colston is just the PPR WR54. Jimmy Graham is the TE1, but by only 1.5 points over the resurgent Martellus Bennett. In the running game, the Saints are actually tied for the league lead in yards per carry at 5.3, but, not surprisingly are just 20th in rushing attempts at 100. Now the Saints get to return home against a Buccaneers team that is ranked 26th in total yards given up through four weeks and with a likely chip on their shoulder. Obviously you are starting Brees, Graham, and likely Cooks. Colston checks in as a mid-range WR4 play, and if I had to play an RB, it would be Khiry Robinson who might get some more action if the Saints have a big lead. Travaris Cadet got six targets last week to only two for Pierre Thomas last week, but I don’t think you can count on any useage consistency between those two for right now.
Can #4) TDs for DT
Demaryius Thomas has certainly disappointed this owners through three weeks as just the PPR WR37 going into his Week 4 bye. He’s averaged just 4.3 receptions for 47 yards and .3 TDs on 9 targets through 3 games. That under 50% target conversion rate is well under his career mark of 57.7% coming into this season. You have to believe Peyton Manning will work to get DT more involved this week, against Patrick Peterson and a Cardinals team that is ranked 18th against the pass this year at 244.7 yards per game. Also looks for Julius Thomas to improve on his 14 receptions (impressive on just 17 targets) against a Cardinals team that has had trouble defending TEs and gave up 6 receptions for 81 yards to Antonio Gates and 7 receptions for 71 yards to Larry Donnell before getting a Vernon Davis-less 49ers team week three.
Can #5) Geno’s Last Stand
Potty-mouthed Jets quarterback Geno Smith is actually completing over 60% of his passes, but is tied for 28th in the league among quarterbacks who have started a game with just 6.8 yards per attempt and has thrown just 4 touchdowns to go with five interceptions, many of which have been of the soul-crushing variety. All of that has left Geno with a mouthfull of soap and, with the benefit of his 88 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown, as the QB17. With the pressure mounting on Rex Ryan’s job, however, and the Jets actually just one game out of the abysmal AFC East, this game seems like Geno’s last opportunity to stave off the calls for Michael Vick. Unfortunately, he has to travel to San Diego, who in its two home games limited the Seahawks to 288 yards of total offense, including holding Marshawn Lynch to just 36 yards and intercepted Blake Bortles twice and limited the Jaguars to 84 total rushing yards. If the Jets can’t support Geno with the run, it could be a long day for the Jets, and the last time that we see Vick on the sidelines looking disinterested.
Can #6) Run DeMarco Run
It’s odd to think of the Dallas Cowboys doing things correctly from a coaching perspective, but that’s exactly what’s happened through the first four games of the regular season. Realizing that their bread is buttered starting with their dominant offensive line, the Cowboys lead the league in rushing attempts through four weeks with 130 – 99 of which have gone to MVP candidate DeMarco Murray, the league’s leading rusher and the overwhelming RB1. Murray’s lowest PPR scoring day so far is a 23.1 in week three. To put that in perspective, he’s scored more points in his lowest game more than the highest PPR scoring game of LeSean McCoy (20.2), Alfred Morris (20.5) and Reggie Bush (21.9). Obviously the question with Murray is whether he can hold up under a 27 touch per game workload, but he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down so far. This week he gets the Houston Texans, who are ranked just 24th in the league in average rushing yards per game given up at 130.2. Opponents have rushed for 5.0 yards per carry against Houston. It looks to be another banner day for the league MVP candidate.