By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
You know, despite all of the (fun word alert) hoopla surrounding the play of Seattle’s Thomas Rawls, I don’t like his matchup very much this week.
Yes, the rookie running back exceeded 200 yards on the ground last week, but it came against the San Francisco 49ers. We know how bad things are out in The Bay.
This week, Rawls’ Seahawks face the Pittsburgh Steelers, ranked first against opposing running backs in fantasy football. With Marshawn Lynch out for weeks after an operation for a sports hernia, Rawls undoubtedly will see 10-plus touches. But Pittsburgh is no slouch against the run.
Doug Baldwin, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Speaking of Pittsburgh’s defense, while the Steelers have been stout against opposing backs, they’re 23rd against opposing fantasy receivers (in standard-scoring leagues). In a 30-9 drubbing of the Browns in Week 10, they still managed to allow Cleveland receivers to score 24 points. A week earlier, in a shootout against Oakland, Pittsburgh gave up 43 fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
In short, it’s a good choice to take the speedy wideout as your WR2 or Flex option this week.
John Brown, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals
While we still have Baldwin on the brain, take a look at his matchup against San Francisco last week: six catches, 60 yards. Somewhat pedestrian, one might surmise, but it must be taken into account that Rawls was absolutely shredding the Niners defense for most of the afternoon, relegating Baldwin to a secondary role.
Brown is Arizona’s Baldwin, albeit with more talented options at the other receiver positions. But what makes Brown dangerous is his top-end speed, creating a deep threat that can result in big plays. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that while Arizona’s rushing attack — one of the best in the league — will flourish, I can see Carson Palmer taking a couple of deep shots early with Brown as his target. Most any Cardinal is a good play on Sunday, and my sneaky choice is the man with the best touchdown dance in the NFL, even if it is just wild flailing of the arms.
Jameis Winston, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has sneaked its way into the playoff conversation, winning three of its last four to sit at 5-5 with six games to play. At the front of that charge has been the rookie quarterback, who was named rookie of the week for the third time after a 19-of-29, 246-yard, five-touchdown performance against Philadelphia.
Indianapolis is ranked 23rd in fantasy against opposing quarterbacks. The Colts have allowed at least one passing touchdown to an opponent in every game. Winston and Co. appear ripe to continue their ascension this week.
Tavon Austin, wide receiver, St. Louis Rams
Case Keenum suffered a concussion last week in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens — even though it was initially ignored by everyone responsible for watching out for those kinds of things — meaning Nick Foles will likely be back under center for the Rams. That’s the same Foles who was traded to the Rams by the Philadelphia Eagles, and was later benched for Keenum, who had very little professional experience of which to speak.
The Rams face one of the league’s better pass defenses in Cincinnati this week. It isn’t looking pretty for Austin or the rest of the Rams’ offense.
Vernon Davis, tight end, Denver Broncos
Davis saw his first legitimate action of the 2015 season in Brock Osweiler’s first start of the season, which makes sense, since tight ends are typically viewed as security blankets for inexperienced signal-callers. But this week, the matchup isn’t so favorable.
New England allowed its most points to opposing tight ends in Week 3 against Jacksonville. The total? Ten points.
Since then, the Patriots have limited tight ends to 4.8 points per game. Mix that with a young, inexperienced quarterback and you’ll get a low-scoring game from Davis.
LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills
Michael Fabiano of NFL.com was correct when he wrote that “chances are pretty good you can’t afford to bench McCoy, so consider this a simple warning,” because let’s face it, you aren’t sitting Shady. He and Karlos Williams are a formidable tandem in Buffalo’s backfield, on a team that seems to be starting to figure it out just in the nick of time.
But Kansas City’s defense has been the main reason for the Chiefs’ resurgence. After starting the season 1-5, the Chiefs have won four in a row. In those four wins, they’ve held opponents to 13, 10, 13 and 3 points. Even in their two losses in the two weeks prior to the winning streak, they didn’t allow more than 18 points in either game.
Kansas City is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (92.6). The onus will fall more on the shoulders of quarterback Tyrod Taylor than McCoy and Williams.