Is it just me, or are defenses playing better this year than they were last?
With vast improvement thus far from New England and Green Bay – plus the surprising emergence of Seattle and Arizona’s swarming squads – fantasy matchups are getting tougher and tougher. Even teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta, who were pretty easy to game plan against, have been shooting down fantasy studs like they are dropping bad lines at a dive bar.
While this may not make the fantasy weekend as fun as it once was, it has made predicting the Deuces each week a bit easier than the Aces.
Case in point: Last week’s five wins out of eight Deuces, including calling below average performances from Tom Brady (18.1 points) and Aaron Rodgers (10.62 points). Sure, I missed on Darren McFadden, and Shonn Greene scored one more point than I predicted, but for the season I am now boasting a 14-7 record in the Deuces column. Let’s see if that trend continues during Week 4.
QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (@ Green Bay Packers) Coming into Lambeau winless, Brees is in a must-win situation with the Saints this weekend, which could very easily lead to a sense of urgency that will blow the lid off the fantasy world. It could also lead, however, to more ill-timed turnovers, as Brees has been noticeably pressing this young season. New Orleans’ offensive line has been spotty of late, and the receivers are not getting separation downfield, leaving Brees to force throws into tight windows or sling it on the run. Clay Matthews is back to form on defense, with six sacks already this year, while the Pack’s ball-hawking secondary already has four picks. As a Saints fan, I will gladly be wrong on this one, but it doesn’t look good for Brees against a bunch of angry cheeseheads looking for redemption. Prediction: 275 yards passing + 2 TDs + 2 INTs = 15 fantasy points
RB Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers) Most people may not know it – especially since they can hardly fill their own stadium, let alone captivate a national audience – but the Bucs are quietly boasting the league’s top rushing defense this season. On the way to giving up a mere 47.3 yards per game, Tampa has held more established rushers like DeMarco Murray and Ahmad Bradshaw in check, which leaves me little hope for a younger pup like Morris. Plus, it is not like he will make up for it in the passing game, as he only has one catch on the season. Goal line carries may get him in the end zone, but he is also working in a similar situation as the Carolina backs were this time last year, ceding red zone touches to their mobile quarterback. It all adds up to a rough week for one of this season’s breakout candidates. Prediction: 42 yards rushing + 1 TD = 10.2 fantasy points
RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Chicago Bears) Speaking of Murray, he also looks to be in for a second straight disappointing week after last Sunday’s 11.5 point performance. Chicago has only given up one rushing touchdown this season and a sparing 15 first downs to running backs all year. At home under the big Texas lights, look for the Cowboys to try and beat Chicago in the air, even if Dez Bryant has more closely resembled a blinged-out zombie this season. Murray will catch a few passes, making him a viable option in PPR leagues, but his standard scoring will likely be down this week as it was last week against Tampa. Prediction: 72 yards rushing + 22 yards receiving = 9.4 fantasy points
WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears (@ Dallas Cowboys) Dallas’ revamped secondary continues to pay dividends, as opposing quarterbacks are posting a paltry 82.0 passer rating against the Big D. With Marshall being Chicago’s main receiving weapon, look for free agent stud Brandon Carr to shadow him all night, frustrating him with little separation and holding him out of the end zone for a third straight week. Prediction: 54 yards receiving = 5.4 fantasy points
QB Eli Manning, New York Giants (@ Philadelphia Eagles) Hakeem Nicks is out – again – and I don’t expect Ramses Barden to be roaming like a wild buffalo against Philly’s top-flight secondary this week. Eli certainly has other weapons at his disposal, and Ahmad Bradshaw is set to split carries with Andre Brown, so there will be offensive balance to keep things moving. But the Eagles are giving up less than 175 yards in the air each game, and opponents are only completing 28 percent of their third down conversions. This looks like a tough one for the younger Manning. Prediction: 206 yards passing + 2 TDs + 3 INTs = 10.24 fantasy points
TE Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (@ New York Jets) Sure, Darelle Revis is done for the Jets, and Davis has been the best fantasy tight end in the league this season with 40.9 points. Rex Ryan, though, knows when to scheme for a playmaker, and given that Davis is the only one San Francisco has, I expect New York to throw the dogs his way. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see a second straight loss for the Niners this week, but even if they win, they’ll do it on the ground, not through the air. Prediction: 72 yards receiving = 7.2 fantasy points