Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Jeremy Maclin – I really wish I could write about someone from the Cardinals’ offense but sadly outside of Larry Fitzgerald there is no one worth mentioning. The Eagles, however, have several key players that always have value on the line in one way or another each week. This week I think that the wide receivers have the most to gain, Maclin in particular. It’s pretty clear who Michael Vick’s favorite target has been so far during his Eagles’ tenure. The numbers at the halfway mark of the 2011 campaign offer a solid indication that Maclin is far and away Vick’s primary target. DeSean Jackson has slipped back in production and in doing so has raised Maclin’s numbers.
Jackson is still an elite option but he’s no longer in the same class he was in when entering the 2011 season. While Jackson still offers the chance to win you your matchup single handedly at any point in the season, he remains wildly inconsistent. Maclin offers a more stable option on a week-to-week basis. That stability adds up quickly, and by season’s end Maclin’s numbers could completely overshadow Jackson’s output. Maclin needs to fully exploit matchups like this one. Though he is a consistent threat each week, the occasional dominate game will be what pushes him past Jackson in the 2012 rankings.
The Cardinals offer Maclin the chance to not only pile up yardage but to also be heavily targeted in the red zone. He has the chance to add to his 600-plus yards in a very big way and possibly increase his touchdown total in the same manner that Vincent Jackson did last week against the Green Bay Packers. Vick should have the best game he has had in quite some time and Maclin will be the most targeted option.
Expect 100-plus yards and multiple scores. If not, he could lose his place as the go-to guy and Jackson could regain the title.
Tennessee Titans vs. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton – No matter what any other rookie does the rest of the season, Newton has already clinched the Rookie of the Year trophy. Tennessee fans are going to cringe every time Newton makes a great play and think “Newton plays the way we thought Vince Young would.” Newton has already cemented his place among the premier options at the quarterback position.
He was drafted extremely late in fantasy drafts, or was maybe even a free agent pickup, and has put up the numbers that we were expecting out of possible first-round pick Michael Vick. Part of Newton’s success is that the Panthers have set up the perfect offensive situation for the young playmaker. Carolina is running the same kind of offense as the New England Patriots. Steve Smith is playing the role of Wes Welker, Jeremy Shockey is the Carolina version of Aaron Hernandez, and Greg Olsen is impersonating Rob Gronkowski. The fact that the Panthers are having more success than expected means that the same offense will be in place next season thanks to the coach being safe.
Newton will have a year of pro experience under his belt and expectations will be incredibly high. Games like this one against the Titans will be fondly remembered on fantasy draft day in 2012. He could post another 300 yards and two scores through the air and add another 50 yards and a touchdown rushing. Great production against inferior competition will inflate his ranking higher than anyone could have predicted to begin the season.
Look for Newton to have perhaps the best day of his young career and inspire drafters with the notion that if he can play like this as a rookie than year two could be unreal. Really going off for a big day in games like this one here in Week 10 could put Newton in the same company as someone like Matthew Stafford on draft day.
Houston Texans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andre Johnson – As a Johnson owner, I’m so sick of hearing that he’s “day-to-day.” He’s been listed as day-to-day for about a month now. I really don’t think that we’ll see him until after the bye week. There really isn’t a need to force him back yet. Even if he was fully recovered and 100 percent I’d still believe that they would hold him out for an additional week just to be sure.
The Houston Texans will be going to the playoffs for the first time in their short history. Once in the playoffs the absolute need for Johnson to be on the field will be triggered, but not until then. Johnson will be out for about seven games by the time he returns. There is no coming back from that in terms of value preservation. Johnson cannot salvage his 2011 season in the way that he saved himself in 2010 when returning from a high ankle sprain. The best that owners can hope for at this point is that he’s back and fully healthy to help you in the playoffs.
The downside to that is that most of Johnson’s owners probably won’t be in the playoffs due to his absence. If your fantasy playoffs start in Week 13 then most managers will get four total games out of their first-round pick. Ouch! The hamstring injury is one that doesn’t linger from year to year but can be quite bothersome throughout the season in which it was suffered. Johnson’s draft position will obviously slip for next year due to his injury and partly due to Calvin Johnson claiming the No. 1 wide receiver spot. I’d love to see him back this week and begin to put some kind of production on the board but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
Look for another zero next to Johnson’s name and a lost opportunity to begin to rebuild his draft value for next season. If Johnson does miss another game it would bring his total to 10 lost games over the past two seasons alone. Every week he misses the injury concern moving forward becomes more and more apparent.