By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
Play Carson Palmer.
I know you were going to. But in case you’re like my buddy Austin, who happens to overthink almost every fantasy scenario (including Andy Dalton or Sam Bradford last week), stop while you’re ahead. Palmer is your guy.
How’s that for an intro? Let’s get into my Week 7 selections.
Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
This is it.
This is the week Andrew Luck redeems himself, repents for his fantasy sins, drenches himself in Holy Gatorade and comes out as the savior of your season.
The Great Neck-Bearded One will toss multiple touchdowns and carve up a New Orleans Saints defense that gave Jameis Winston a boost of confidence a week after one of the three worst pick-sixes (the other two belonging to Colin Kaepernick and Josh McCown, in whichever order you please) of 2015 in Week 1. Winston bounced back from atrocious to encouraging in one Sunday, thanks to the Saints.
The Saints have allowed the most total yards (2,458 in six games — 409.7 per game) in the league. They’re also 24th in the league in passing defense. This will be a bountiful day for Saint Luck and the Colts.
Todd Gurley, running back, St. Louis Rams
Early in the 2015 season, the Rams’ backfield was much like abstract art — a beautiful mess.
There was incumbent starter Tre Mason, Benny “But He Can Catch The Ball Out of The Backfield” Cunningham, and first-round selection Gurley, who wasn’t quite healthy enough to make a contribution. Fast forward a few weeks, and Gurley was single-handedly running over the Cardinals to the tune of 146 yards on just 19 carries (7.7 yards per attempt). The next week, Gurley gained 159 yards against the Green Bay Packers in a two-touchdown loss.
The guy can’t do it all on his own, but what he can and has done is take over the running back position for the Rams. Add in the tried-and-true method of playing running backs facing the Browns’ defense, no matter what, and you’ve got the makings for a career day for the rookie from Georgia.
Antonio Gates, tight end, San Diego Chargers
Gates recently returned from serving his four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs, and came back with a vengeance. The tight end has caught nine passes and gained at least 92 yards in each of his first two games. He scored twice against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.
And this week, he faces that team we love to exploit for their struggles with covering tight ends, the Oakland Raiders (six touchdowns allowed in four games). If you think the 16 targets he had last week were a lot, just wait until this week, when the Raiders’ staunch run defense (83.2 yards per game) forces Philip Rivers to again drop back 60-plus times to throw into the sieve that is the Raiders’ pass defense (ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game). Rivers will scowl, fire in Gates’ direction, and scowl again all afternoon.
One thing to keep an eye on here: Gates missed two practices (Wednesday and Thursday) with what the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported is an MCL sprain. He’s listed as questionable, but if he’s not available, Ladarius Green is a handcuff option here. I know (scoffs), what kind of person handcuffs their tight end?
It might be smart here, because you can’t argue with the Raiders’ weakness. And yes, I know it didn’t hold true with Owen Daniels and the Denver Broncos. I blame that on Peyton Manning, and you all saw what he managed to eke out against the Browns last week. I plead innocence on that missed call.
Baltimore Ravens Defense/Special Teams
This is the same defense that once boasted playmakers such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs.
And this is the same defense that allowed Josh McCown to set a single-game franchise passing record, Gary Barnidge to catch a touchdown with his inner thighs, and the Browns to come back from a 21-9 deficit to win 33-30 in overtime.
The latter occurred more recently than the former, meaning you should run, and run quickly, from even entertaining the idea of playing the Ravens’ defense/special teams this week. Add in one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL right now in Carson Palmer, a deep threat in John Brown, and an all-around star wide receiver and future Hall of Famer in Larry Fitzgerald, as well as a rejuvenated rushing attack, and Arizona might put up 35 on the Ravens this week.
And it’s in primetime. Yikes. Bench the Ravens.
Christine Michael, running back, Dallas Cowboys
Someday, hopefully in the near future, we’ll finally stop hearing about Christine Michael.
But that day is not today, it isn’t tomorrow, and it probably isn’t until the end of this season, at the very earliest. Why? Well, because the Cowboys invested in the Man of Glass, Darren McFadden, and seeing as he’s stayed true to character by missing plenty of time due to injury, we’ve had fun playing musical chairs with Cowboys running backs. First, it was speedster Lance Dunbar, but his chair was removed when he suffered a torn ACL and MCL. And then there were two: Michael, and Joseph Randle.
Randle has more experience in the Cowboys backfield, but Michael’s ever-tantalizing-but-rarely-profitable athleticism and speed has him in the conversation for a larger role this weekend. That means less snaps for Randle, screwing over those of you who snagged him off the waiver wire, and further minimizing the fantasy potential for the Cowboys’ running backs this week.
I haven’t seen any real production from Michael to make me think that he’ll melt my face with a 25-pointer on Sunday. If he does, fine, consider me in need of a facial transplant. I’d welcome that. But in the meantime, don’t buy into the hype. We know what New York’s defense did to Alfred Morris and Matt Jones. It will only be worse this week.
Follow and tweet Nick Shook at @TheNickShook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.