StrategyOctober 4, 2012

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Thursday Night Fantasy Preview: Cardinals at Rams

By R.J. White

Week 5’s Thursday night game brings us a pretty tepid schedule of fantasy performers, with two teams historically typified by surrounding one amazing talent with a bunch of mediocre pieces thrown in for good measure. However, each team has given us a little more to discuss than just Larry Fitzgerald and Steven Jackson. Who will emerge from this one with a big fantasy performance?

Arizona Cardinals

The offense seemingly revolves around getting Larry Fitzgerald open. Defenses know this and have done their best to stop Fitzgerald first and foremost, and that resulted from a two-game span to open the season with just five catches and 67 yards combined. Fitzgerald then found some magic in recent weeks, catching 17 passes for 178 yards and two TDs in his last two games. He’s been helped by the emergence of Andre Roberts, who grabbed six catches for 118 yards and two TDs in Week 4 to make him one of only a few players with four receiving TDs so far this year. However, the twosome will go up against a Rams secondary that’s allowed just one TD to a wide receiver this season. You can’t bench Fitzgerald under any circumstances, and I wouldn’t recommend you doing so anyway, but I think Roberts is a stay-away in this game.

Ryan Williams unsuccessfully took over the reins of the rushing offense to himself last week with Beanie Wells on injured reserve. Williams, who essentially had a medical redshirt on his rookie season and still seems to be learning certain part of the offense, was limited to just 26 rushing yards on 13 carries last week and saw himself off the field for long stretches as the Cardinals shifted into no-huddle mode, which isn’t a part of Williams’s repertoire. He shouldn’t have that problem this week, and the Rams haven’t done a good job of stopping the run. I think you can reasonable expect 80-100 yards and a TD. He’s a viable RB2 in this game. Owners in deep leagues should grab Powell and/or LaRod Stephens-Howling to see if either carves out an appreciable role in the offense.

Kevin Kolb has a quality fantasy day while playing from behind against the Dolphins’ week pass offense, but it’s not something you can count on each week — leave him on the bench.

The Cardinals have had one of the top fantasy defenses this season, and they should be able to continue to have success when playing a Rams offense that’s given up 3.5 sacks per game, especially with Arizona getting Darnell Dockett back tonight. Make sure the ARI defense is owned and used in all leagues.

St. Louis Rams

Like Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson has been the cog that makes his offense go over the last few years. However, he and the Rams rushing attack has been dormant this year, with Jackson failing to top 60 yards rushing in any of his first four games while averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this year. Throw in just seven catches (for 48 yards) and no TDs for Jackson and it’s clearly been a down year. The Cardinals have shut down opposing running backs in 2012, allowing them just one TD and marginally effective yardage totals. Jackson is questionable for tonight, but the sense is that he’ll play. Ideally, he won’t play for your team.

Going by season stats, Danny Amendola is having a breakout season, catching 31 passes for 352 yards and two TDs through four games. However, the high totals are thanks in large part to an unrepeatable 15-catch, 160-yard effort against the Redskins in Week 2. Take out that outlier and Amendola has been pretty consistent, catching five or six passes a game for 50-70 yards. There’s nothing wrong with those totals for your WR3, and Amendola clearly has upside in PPR leagues, so I imagine he’ll be starting for most owners tonight. It’s a good thing that the Cardinals have been vulnerable to the pass, and Amendola’s owners have likely be re-watching Brian Hartline’s performance from last week against this team and licking their lips. Keep other Rams receiving options on the bench unless your desperate, but I’ll be interested to see if Chris Givens continues to work his way into more playing time. Sam Bradford shouldn’t be drawing fantasy starts outside of two-QB leagues.

The best fantasy kicker on the planet right now is Greg Zuerlein, who impressively nailed a couple of distant kicks last week against the Seahawks from 58 and 60 yards. The Cardinals have been great at holding opponents to field goals instead of touchdowns, and that means another big night for Zuerlein. He’s my top kicker this week, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to cut a guy like Sebastian Janikowski or Dan Bailey to roll with Zuerlein.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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