Palmer, Fitzgerald Continue Early Season Dominance
Last season Arizona scored 310 points, an average of 19.4 points per game, ranking them 24th in the league. They managed to score 30-plus points twice last year, both instances with Carson Palmer behind center. The Cardinals scored 155 points in the six games Palmer started prior to his season-ending injury.
Those six games of averaging 25.8 points-per-game were just a taste of what we have gotten this season from this Cardinals offense. Three games in and we have the makings of what can be an offensive juggernaut as they have posted 126 points. That's more than what Indianapolis and Philadelphia have scored combined on the season.
Palmer is fully healthy and that obviously has played a large part in what we are seeing. Larry Fitzgerald, the man many wrote off as finished heading into this season, has proven that quarterback play, and not his age has been his biggest downfall the last few seasons. With 23 catches for 333 yards and five touchdowns, Fitzgerald is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season since 2011. Based on where he was drafted he is seriously out-performing his eighth round ADP.
The scary part is this offense isn't even operating on all cylinders. Sexy sleeper pick John Brown and Michael Floyd have both been quiet thus far. Brown is still the safer of the two players right now but should be viewed as a WR4 for the time being. Andre Ellington injured his knee in Week 1 and has been replaced by a combination of Chris Johnson and David Johnson. Both have played well in his stead and likely have forced a full-blown committee moving forward.
Head Coach Bruce Arians has game planned masterfully thus far and should continue to do so. He also is of the mindset that you don't take your foot off the gas pedal on offense. This is exactly what you want from a Fantasy standpoint. As this offense continues to gel, the points and yardage will continue to pile up on the stat sheet.
[caption id="attachment_98572" align="alignright" width="300"] Palmer's return to heath means big things on the horizon for Arizona Photo Credit: FF Swami[/caption]
With Tony Romo out, it was pretty easy to know what Dallas was thinking heading into their matchup this week against Atlanta. With Brandon Weeden at quarterback, they were going to run the ball; a lot. Joseph Randle tallied 14 carries for 87 yards and three touchdowns, Darren McFadden logged six carries for 35 yards and a score and Lance Dunbar got one for five yards. A total of 21 carries in a game they ended up losing by 11 points going away. Atlanta stacked the box and was still beat pretty badly up front. Had the Falcons not dominated time of possession while continually scoring to pull away in the second half we would have seen much more running from Dallas. Randle should see two-thirds of the rushing work out of this backfield, and with how dominant they are up front, that means RB2 value just about every week. The exceptions will be when they run across high-octane offenses like New England or Green Bay. Those are the only two opponents left on the Dallas schedule that Randle should questionable to start because they are fully capable of opening a large lead quickly and forcing the Cowboys to abandon the run.
Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman battled through training camp for the right to start. Coleman won the battle, but injuries played a part as both missed time this summer to injury. With Coleman sidelined with a cracked rib, Freeman got his first NFL start. He ran with it logging 141 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carriers while adding five catches for 52 yards. The question now is when Coleman returns to health, what will his role be. Based on what I saw, it sure looks like he is going to be on the short side of a committee at best. Freeman ran with authority, repeatedly bouncing off would be tacklers to rack up extra yardage. The fact that he also does well in the pass game bodes well for his ability as a three-down option. With Coleman likely sidelined for at least another week, Freeman is going to get to continue building on his resume. A strong showing against Houston will cement his status as the lead dog in this backfield. Freeman is currently available in 20.8-percent of leagues on ESPN. If you happen to be in one, be sure to put in a waiver claim for him.
Now that we have a bit of a sample size on Tyrod Taylor, it's pretty safe to say that the good outweighs the bad for the Virginia Tech Alum. He has completed at least 72.4 of his pass attempts in every game this year, so he is accurate. When seeing him though, it's easy to see also has some very nice touch on balls downfield as well. The ball comes out of his hand and it just looks pretty. He combines his very underrated arm with some quicks as well. He has 96 yards rushing and a score on the ground. The only negative right now is that Rex Ryan wants to use him more as a game manager then a playmaker. While this hurts his value near term, solid play like we have seen will force the playbook to open more. As things stand right now, Taylor is a high-end QB2 based on what we have seen. Before the season comes to an end, he will be a QB1.
The battle of wills between Gary Kubiak and Peyton Manning appears to have ended. On Sunday Night Football for all to see, Manning spent a majority of the night in either the pistol formation or out of the shotgun. His two weeks under center were brutal to watch, as his immobility combined with awful offensive line play had this offense looking anemic. The early results were good. Manning looked comfortable and saw the field better completing 31-of-42 passes for 324 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also took only one sack after being sacked seven times in their first two contests. There are still concerns in terms of decline with Manning, but this effort will help ease them. The passing looks like it will be fine and Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will be weekly starts. The running game is still atrocious. As a team, the Broncos have rushed the ball 66 times for 171 yards and a touchdown. C.J. Anderson looks like he could be this year’s big first round bust, and should be considered unusable in Fantasy right now.
Early indications have Ben Roethlisberger suffering only a PCL sprain and a bone bruise to his left knee. After seeing the injury live, it’s surprising he won’t be missing the season. Regardless, he should miss at least four weeks with six-plus weeks a real possibility. Michael Vick now takes over this team, and it’s going to change the way they play offense. Vick took over with 5:06 remaining in the 3rd quarter and attempted just six passes. Three of his six targets went to LeVeon Bell and only one to Antonio Brown. As a backup quarterback, Vick has proven to be woefully unprepared; hopefully this changes now that he knows he has the job for a bit. Expect Pittsburgh to go ball control with a one-two punch of Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Vick won’t be asked to do much, which in turn is really going to hurt Brown. His streak of 36 games with at least five catches and 50 yards is going to really be put to the test. You obviously still have to start him every week, but he honestly should be viewed as a low end WR1 instead of an elite one. Heath Miller, Darius-Heyward Bey, Marcus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant (when he returns from suspension) will all be unusable. This is a tough pill to swallow for this entire offense, as they looked like a Top 3 unit this year.
There are certain players that just don’t get the respect they deserve on a yearly basis. One of them is Steve Smith Sr. My opinion as to why is a combination of his diminutive stature and a personality that many people personally don’t like. None of that matters to me, and shouldn’t to you. The guy puts up numbers, and that’s all that matters. He backed up his 10-catch, 150-yard effort from last week with a 13-catch, 186-yard outburst with a pair of touchdowns against the Bengals this week. Can you say Fantasy monster? With no other viable option at receiver, Joe Flacco has just locked in on the dependable veteran and Smith has rewarded him for doing so. The return of Breshad Perriman is still a question, plus we don’t know how effective he will be against NFL competition. The tools are there, but can he use them? Because of this Smith should have zero decline in value near term. That being said his trade value will never be higher and you should be looking to deal and sell that fact. Last season he had four 100-yard receiving games, all within his first six games. After that point, he had just three games where he had more than 70 receiving yards. He faded badly, and with him now being 36, it’s safe to assume we see it again as the rigors of another NFL season wear his body down. You probably didn’t draft Smith to start, so sell him off now for something you can use before it’s too late.
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