Each week, Dave presents a preview of several of the week’s most interesting contests, offering his take on fantasy performances, potential sleepers and, of course, the game’s outcome.
Byron Leftwich: For the first couple of weeks this season, Leftwich, along with the rest of the offense, struggled to find their identity while Jacksonville’s strong defense was forced to carry the load. Lately, however, these roles have been reversed, with Jacksonville’s once feared defense faltering and Leftwich spreading the field, finding his receivers for several scores. Leftwich has turned from a potential bust into a quality fantasy start. Expect more success in the passing game this week as he faces an Indianapolis secondary that at times can evoke memories of winless high school teams. Look for Leftwich to spread the wealth to his many receivers on his way to 240 passing, two TDs, and an interception.
Fred Taylor: Disappointed fantasy owners finally a got a touchdown from Taylor last week as he displayed his ability as a runner and a pass catcher (66 rushing and 71 receiving). At first glance, this looks to be an excellent match-up for Taylor, because Indianapolis’ run defense is also considered to be sub-par. However, the Colts have improved to the point where they should be seen as at least an average unit, holding runners to 4.2 yards a carry. Unfortunately, Taylor’s production could also be hurt by Indianapolis’ weak secondary, which will coax Jacksonville to throw more often (especially if Manning leads Indy to an early lead). In spite of this, expect a decent day from Taylor. He will chalk up 65-75 rushing, 20 receiving, and could add another TD to his resume.
Jacksonville WRs: Even at age 36, Jimmy Smith is looking to produce yet another banner season. Smith is already on his way to well over 1000 yards (476 thus far with a TD), and should add ninety more and a TD this week. As for the other WRs, they are not consistent enough to start on a regular basis, but some could be used in larger leagues (see the Sleepers section below).
George Wrighster: Wrighster has been the main pass-catching TE in Jacksonville this year, as Kyle Brady is being utilized as more of a blocker. Still, the developing Wrighster is not a quality start yet. Expect only about 20 yards from him. If you need a fill-in at TE, try up-and-coming sleepers such as Jeb Putzier in Denver or Jermaine Wiggins in Minnesota if they have not already been snatched off waivers in your league.
Defense: Facing Manning and James on the road is not the formula for a good fantasy day. Expect the Jaguars to be burned for several touchdowns as Manning exploits their lack of a pass rush. The most you can hope for is one sack and possibly a turnover. Keep in mind that Manning has only thrown three picks this year, and his offensive line has only given up three sacks. However, because of Indianapolis’ offensive firepower, you could see an unusually high number of tackles from LB Mike Peterson as well as DBs Donovin Darius, DeWayne Washington, and Rashean Mathis. So, if play in a league with IDPs, this match-up could favor Jacksonville’s defensive secondary. However if your league deals with team defenses, throw another unit into this slot.
Peyton Manning: Peyton laid out the blueprint for exposing Jacksonville’s defensive weaknesses in Week 4, when the Colts beat Jacksonville on the road, 24-17. Manning used his superior offensive line to pass early and often against Jacksonville’s weak pass rush. Since that game, Jacksonville has been burned through the air in consecutive weeks by Drew Brees and Trent Green. Again, Manning will use the extra seconds in the pocket to hit his many receivers with ease. It could be a big day for the Colts’ QB: 290 yards and three touchdowns. He should be starting in your lineup every week, but he should put up even better numbers than usual here.
Edgerrin James: In his first meeting of the year with Jacksonville, James had 108 total yards and a touchdown. Despite his earlier success against them, Jacksonville’s run defense boasts a mark of 3.8 yards per carry. James will find it tough to gain yardage early as the colts try to establish the passing game, but his yards will come later once Jacksonville becomes too concerned with stopping the air attack (or if Indy is protecting a late lead). Expect 80 on the ground, 20 through the air, and a trip to the end zone.
Indianapolis WRs: Manning has spread the pigskin around this year, hitting Stokley, Wayne and Harrison for three TDs each. Expect a productive day for all of them once again.
Harrison, who strangely has the lowest yardage total of the three (296), will be Manning’s main target here, registering 90 yards and a touchdown. Stokley will work the middle of the field for a respectable 65 yards and a trip to the end zone. Wayne, who has been becoming the focus of more and more defenses, will still manage 70 and a touchdown. As you can see, Manning will continue to share the wealth throughout this game.
Dallas Clark/Marcus Pollard: Last year, Clark and Pollard were a rare example of two tight ends splitting time and still both being productive fantasy players. This year has been a different story. Clark has largely been relegated to blocking duty, which is shown by his meager two catches on the year. Pollard has eight grabs, but most of them have been short passes across the middle whenever Manning has been in trouble (a rare occurrence). If you have to start one, go with Pollard, who recorded a touchdown in the last meeting between these two teams. Do not expect blockbuster numbers from either, however. Clark should manage a catch for ten yards, but could also wind up not even getting a look from Manning. Pollard should grab 20-25 yards while his owners hope that he steals a touchdown away from one of Manning’s main wide receiver targets.
Defense: The Colts are never a quality start, and that holds true once again here against an improving Jacksonville offense. They will pick off one wayward pass from Leftwich while only getting one sack for the game. Expect Dwight Freeney to pressure him somewhat and pick up the lone sack.
Ernest Wilford: He has the size, but unfortunately has not developed the speed yet to be a consistent deep threat. However, at 6′6″, Wilford is Leftwich’s favorite red zone target. His size alone makes him a candidate for fade or jump ball routes near the goal line. He could be used as a fill-in in large leagues. Do not expect large catch or yardage totals, but a touchdown from him this week is very possible.
Troy Edwards: Indianapolis’ equivalent of Brandon Stokley, Edwards is a possession receiver that is not afraid of the mid-range routes over the middle. He ould see his share of catches if the Colts decide to key on Smith.
This should be a fun game to watch. Expect an offensive shootout that will see Jacksonville eventually run out of bullets. Manning and the friendly confines of the RCA Dome will prove too much for the young Jags. Indianapolis 35, Jacksonville 24.
Dave McGrath is a freshman at LaSalle University, and will be previewing several games in this way each week. He holds the distinction of being the only Cincinnati Bengals fan in Philadelphia.
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