Congratulations for making it to the semifinals. Months of hard work, bleary-eyed reading of the injury report — I’ll just refresh it one more time — and Monday Night Sweats (RotoGrinders!) have paid off for you.
Now you’re facing your toughest opponent yet. Maybe you lost three wide receivers to injury last week. Maybe Cam Newton is the only quarterback on your roster.
You need upside. Lots of upside. That’s what these boom or bust projections are intended to do. Using team averages, matchups, Las Vegas spreads and a few hours of research, we’ve been able to sift out a few nuggets of gold each week. There have been less lucrative stones, but that’s the nature of this game.
If you try for BOOM you’re going to BUST on occasion.
This is not the time of the season to go boom or bust if the odds have been in your favor all season. You’re doing everything right. Dance with the players who brung’ya.
BUT, if you are in the middle of a crisis like the ones I mentioned four paragraphs ago, you probably find yourself down 30 or more points going into your biggest contest of the season.
In that case, you probably need to find some BOOM or your season will be over.
If you’re playing in daily fantasy leagues, you’ll want some boom or bust considerations to take down any tournament with a big field. You’ll need multiple elite performances including at least one from a source most other fantasy owners didn’t consider.
With that lengthy intro out of the way, let’s get to some key matchup talk for the Thursday night game.
We have Drew Stanton as our second-worst quarterback of the week and Shaun Hill 17th overall. Hopefully you don’t have to start either of them.
The matchups aren’t fully factored into the early projections, but I did make the adjustments for the quarterbacks from tonight’s game. Hill was originally 22nd. He has an interesting matchup.
Over the course of the season, the Cardinals have been stingy against opposing quarterbacks, however a look at the game logs reveals there is a slight opportunity here. The Cardinals have allowed 400 yards passing twice (Peyton Manning and Nick Foles) and 354 or more yards four times (add Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan to Manning and Foles).
They also allowed Alex Smith to throw for 293 yards. That may not sound significant but it’s almost 40 yards more than he’d thrown for in any of the previous 13 games. It’s also worth noting Ryan’s 361-yard, 2-TD game cam the week before, and Russell Wilson threw for 211 and rushed for 73 the week before that, giving the Cardinals the 10th-most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in the last three weeks.
Only running quarterbacks Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have torched the Rams for 30 or more fantasy points this season. Peyton Manning threw for 389 against them, but scored just 23.4 fantasy points. He threw one TD and two picks.
Stanton rushed nine times for 47 yards in the last three weeks but is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry this season. His run game probably won’t strike fear in the Rams defense like a Wilson or Kaepernick, but it’s worth noting.
Also worth noting: Against the Rams in Week 10, Stanton came in late for Carson Palmer to go 3-for-5 for 85 yards and a touchdown. The duo combined for a respectable 20.8 points — 28-41, 326 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Kerwynn Williams and Tre Mason are the big talking points here. But the matchups aren’t great.
The Cardinals allowed Steven Jackson to rush for 100 yards two weeks ago and gave up two touchdowns to Jamaal Charles last week. They’re also the defense that ended DeMarco Murray‘s 100-yard game streak and gave up just 39 yards rushing to Marshawn Lynch in Week 12 on 15 carries for his lowest yards per carry average of the season.
Probably most importantly, they held Mason to just 48 yards on 14 carries in their earlier meeting this season.
Williams, who the smart fantasy football people say has skills similar to injured starter Andre Ellington, didn’t play in the last meeting between the teams. Ellington rushed for just 23 yards on 18 carries and accumulated just 19 yards on five carries. His rushing touchdown saved the day for his fantasy owners.
The Rams have allowed only one rusher to go over 75 yards since Week 5 — Ryan Mathews went for 105 and a touchdown in Week 12.
Neither team is particularly susceptible to No. 1 or No. 3 wide receivers, but the Rams are among the worst teams against No. 2 wide receivers and the Cardinals have given up big games to tight ends, according to Football Outsiders.
The Cardinals have two wide receivers with star potential who have been frustrating for fantasy owners this season. Depending on which depth chart you use, Michael Floyd is No. 1 and Larry Fitzgerald is No. 2. Football Outsiders warns that their choices when deciding who is WR1 or WR2 are subjective. They’re both risky and have a little upside.
The Rams have a lot of firepower at tight end. Jared Cook caught two passes for 84 yards and a touchdown the last time he faced the Cardinals. He leads the Rams in receptions and targets by a large margin, is second in receiving yards and tied for second with three TDs. The team leader in TDs is secondary TE option Lance Kendricks with four. He has 197 yards on 23 catches this season.
I’ll have some exposure to a Hill-Cook pairing in a daily fantasy lineup tonight, but I’m probably staying away from the rest of the receivers.
Kickers are really a crapshoot every week. A good strategy is to start players from teams expected to score a lot of points. This game has the second-lowest over-under of the week, according to the Las Vegas sportsbooks.
I wouldn’t recommend either kicker in this game.
This is an interesting situation. All of the experts are on the Rams. … Rams, Rams, Rams.
The Rams have scored 44 points in the last three weeks, no less than 12 in any game. They’ve shut out two consecutive opponents. But, (enjoy this pregnant pause) they’ve shut out Oakland and Washington, two teams who you’d expect to be shut out.
In their meeting with the Cardinals in Week 10, the Rams defense scored just four points, which fits with the theme against Arizona this season.
The Cardinals give up almost nothing to opposing fantasy defenses. They haven’t allowed more than 9 fantasy points in any game, have allowed just three points per game over their last five and have allowed three or fewer points eight times this season.
I’m fading the Rams, and will probably rock the Cardinals.
In that Week 10 win in Arizona, the Cardinals defense scored 21 fantasy points. The Rams allow 8.2 fantasy points per game to opposing defenses.
Again, the Raiders and Redskins skew the three-week and five-week statistics a bit, scoring one and four points respectively in the last two weeks. But the week before that St. Louis gave up 10 fantasy points to the Chargers.
They’ve allowed nine fantasy points or more to defenses in 7 of 13 games, including a 12, two 13s a 14 and that massive 21 against the opponent they’re facing this week.
One more thing
I’ve rambled on for quite a while, but I have one more note that I really need to address for these early projections:
I made a substantial change to the numbers for the Browns quarterback because Johnny Manziel is starting. I added 10 passing yards, .3 passing touchdown, 12 rushing yards and .2 rushing touchdown. It moved him into the middle of the pack from the bottom.
He’s risky. He could put up a big pile of hot mess this week against the Bengals, but there should be play-action to be had. Josh Gordon only needs one target to turn a mediocre game into a monster. Then if Manziel rushes for a TD, you’ve got a Millionaire Maker-winning quarterback on your hands. Likely? Unlikely? I have no idea – he’s only thrown 9 NFL passes. It’s possible, I will say that.
Week 15 projections: