By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
If your cable provider happens to include NFL Network in your overpriced TV package, you likely joined the rest of Football America in celebrating Christmas a month and a half early by watching Rex Ryan and the red-clad Bills take down the Kelly green-wearing Jets. I know, it was weird to me, too. I haven’t even used turkey and stuffing to test the limits of my Levi’s yet.
Luckily, we get another one of those, uh, eyebrow-raising uniform matchups on Thursday with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. But more on that later; we have Sunday games to get to.
When you read below, you’ll see that I’ve gone back-to-back with a choice in the start section. This isn’t by mistake, but by the good graces of the schedule lending you a favor — unless you’re a supporter of the Browns. But then again, you’re used to getting the short end of the stick.
DeAngelo Williams, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s back! After a one-week hiatus (due to the Browns playing on Thursday, before this column ran), the weekly “play this running back against the Browns” selection has returned with a vengeance. Why?
Well, you read my column last week, right? And you listened and started Williams, right? And you reaped the rewards, right?
Right? Good. Turn that action into a habit, because Williams is about to set your world on fire Sunday against the Browns. I can’t make the same guarantee about Johnny Manziel, but I’m certain Williams keeps it up this week, after carrying the ball 27 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns last week. I don’t expect those numbers again, but they won’t be too far off.
The Allens, wide receivers, Jacksonville Jaguars
I just did a quick Google search of “the Allens,” and nothing related to the Jaguars receivers came up. There’s a band called The Allens (they’re kind of good), a leading international law firm founded in 1822 called Allens, but not a trace of the pass-catchers.
We might have just stumbled upon marketing gold.
Gold is also the same color the Jaguars will be wearing on Thursday, which is after their advantageous matchup against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. It’s liberally called gold, seeing as it really looks more like the color of dead grass. But I digress.
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are facing a defense that is second-to-last in the NFL against opposing receivers. The Ravens have allowed 93 points to the position group in just the past three weeks.
Hurns is questionable with a foot injury, but he or Robinson are great starts this week.
James Starks, running back, Green Bay Packers
I’m piggybacking off my add/drop column by carrying Starks from the add group to the start gang. The Detroit Lions have limited opposing backs to fewer than 10 points just twice this season, and in an organization filled with uncertainty (the interim GM on Thursday wouldn’t guarantee his franchise quarterback and wide receiver would be around beyond 2015), there’s little reason to expect the Lions to put up much of a fight.
This means a big lead early for the Packers, and plenty of carries for Starks, not to mention targets as a receiver out of the backfield. This is an underlooked start this week nationally, but I have an odd feeling it’ll pan out.
Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Miami Dolphins
I was in South Florida this week. It’s a beautiful place.
But what isn’t beautiful is the Dolphins’ matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
After cornerback Byron Maxwell and Co. were embarrassed in pass coverage onMonday Night Football to open the season, the Eagles have actually rounded into a rather formidable defense. They’ve scored at least six points in every week but one since that first-week debacle in Atlanta, and are averaging fewer than 21 points allowed per game.
Tannehill and the Dolphins have looked like world beaters against subpar competition. Their record might not suggest it, but the Eagles are not a subpar team. Plus, I just can’t put my hopes and dreams on the arm of Tannehill, with or without interim coach Dan Campbell.
Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
The Denver Broncos are without cornerback Aqib Talib after the defensive back was suspended for poking an opponent in the eye (no, I’m not kidding) in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. In steps Bradley Roby, which is a name that should sound familiar to those of you living in Ohio.
Roby is the former standout Ohio State corner, taken in the first round of the 2014 draft. He’s had a limited contribution since entering the NFL, but he also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time (see: fumble return for game-winning touchdown against the Chiefs earlier this season).
Maclin is on pace for more than 1,000 yards receiving, and although I’ve long been a fan of him since he was a college star at Missouri, the Broncos’ defense will be a problem for the Chiefs. Even without Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and T.J. Ward still lurk in the secondary.
Need more evidence? In their first matchup (Sept. 17, a 31-24 Broncos win), Maclin was held to four catches for 57 yards and shut out of the end zone. That type of game is coming again.