It’s no secret that the Arizona Cardinals have a terrible offense. Their quarterback carousel has enough ducks on it to feed a family of four for a year. Their offensive line has enough garbage to make Oscar the Grouch look, smell, and even sing clean. And their one and only player I respect, Larry Fitzgerald, is getting disrespected like a bad New York City comedian by opposing defenses on a weekly basis.
The desert defense is a different story though. In fact, believe it or not the Cardinals defense has been the strength of the team for most of the season. They have allowed just nine rushing touchdowns in 13 games — three of which alone came via Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch this past week. They rank fifth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (197.1), and 12th in total defense.
This week the Cardinals play a defeated 4-9 Lions team at home, and will be looking to make a statement after the 58-0 whopping they took thanks to those Lynch-led Seabirds. This could be bad news for any Lions offensive players like Matthew Stafford, and dare I say, Calvin Johnson. Now, Johnson should never be caught warming any fantasy benches. However, there are some better quarterback match-ups out there that may be worth exploring for Stafford owners.
T.H.F. — The Houston Fake
It’s first down and ten yards to go for the New England Patriots at the Houston Texans 37 yard line. The Patriots are in a Single-back jumbo set, and the Texans are countering with a 3-4 base cover two zone formation.
Now, the beauty of this formation is that it creates an illusion that the Patriots are definitely running the football, and if they don’t they only have two receivers to really worry about. The Texans defense will have a run-first mentality before the ball is even snapped, which will open up the middle of the field right away. The ultimate deep dagger will come if the safeties are caught cheating and move towards the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball.
The Patriots have this play completely won, and Tom Brady knows it pre-snap. Brady goes play-action to running back Stevan Ridley who takes the invisible pigskin and heads toward the flat. The offensive line slants right, which right away forces the Texans defensive line to move with it as if a stretch run is the call. Not only do the linebackers follow behind, but free safety Glover Quin flies in from the top and immediately takes himself out of the play. Strong safety Danieal Manning also bites and takes a few steps forward.
This creates a huge passing lane down the field for Brandon Lloyd and Brady to exploit, especially being that the defense is in zone coverage, thus the cornerback in front of Lloyd is counting on safety help over the top. The problem is that it isn’t there, as mentioned above. Lloyd runs a long slant route and he and Brady convert the long touchdown easily.
I have watched a lot of tape of the Texans defense this season, and it’s clear to me that their Achilles Heel still is the back end of their secondary coupled with their fanatical approach in stopping the run. This is something that may become even more transparent this week against a Indianapolis Colts offense that showed a willingness to run the football last week (25 carries outside of Andrew Luck‘s five).
Colts wide receiver TY Hilton is starter-worthy for those who like to take risks, while Reggie Wayne is a definite must start.
O.M.W. — Oh Mister Wilson
New York Giants rookie running back David Wilson has walked a tough road this season, and has often found himself in the mutt house. After last week’s performance against the New Orleans Saints though, it’s become pretty clear the he can be an explosive runner with the pigskin in his hands.
This week Big Blue faces off against an Atlanta Falcons defense that is allowing a 31st best 4.9 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns. And with the NFL playoffs on the horizon Wilson’s emergence couldn’t have come at a better time. Furthermore, fantasy owners who were looking for a glimmer of hope when they kept Wilson on their active playoff roster received it with an opportunity for a ray.
On this play the Giants are lined up in a weak formation with two wide receivers split wide and tight end Martellus Bennett in motion. The Saints defense is lined up in a Cover 1 (one deep safety), and free safety Roman Harper is caught creeping up to the line of scrimmage to Eli Manning’s right. This is key.
Now, there were four critical blocks made on this play. The first one, and most critical was the pancake hunting voyage left tackle Will Beatty went on at the snap of the ball as he manhandled the defensive tackle and opened up a gaping hole. The second was Bennett’s contain block to the inside on the defensive end. The third was full back Henry Hynoski finish (teal path) on the cornerback to keep him from chasing. The fourth was Bear Pascoe’s (lined up wide at the top) push block on linebacker David Hawthorne.
In the end these four blocks help create a huge running lane for the speedy Wilson to exploit. Note: Guard Kevin Boothe’s pull block was important as well, but middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had already gone too wide to make a play on Wilson anyways.
It’s being reported that normal starter Ahmad Bradshaw will not play this week. This means that Wilson will get the bulk of the carries. However, it is important to keep in mind that this one-tool (running style) player’s success will be dictated by how well the Giants blockers can get off the line and get to their blocks. Wilson is definitely a worthy start as a RB2 or flex option.
Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA).