One of the new wrinkles set up for 2012, is that every week of the season, two teams are called upon to cram a week's worth of planning into three short days so they can suit up and play on Thursday night.
My guess is that most of the players/coaches don't like it, but it certainly spices up the week for the majority of fans—especially those who play fantasy football.
Not every owner will have a player from the game on their team, but there are usually a few fantasy-relevant players that might be going against you, so every game is worth reading up on.
With that in mind, here is the analysis of each of those players and what they might do for (or against) your fantasy team this Thursday night.
Kolb has been outstanding for the Cardinals since taking over for John Skelton in Week 1, and not just for the fact that he has the Cards atop the division at 4-0.
His completion percentage is at a respectable 62.6 percent and his TD-INT ratio looks good at 7-2, but most importantly, he’s putting fantasy points up on the board at a clip of 20.4 per game in his three starts (ranked 11th as a starter, just ahead of both Peyton and Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers).
That being said, I do believe he’ll have a bit of a problem against a much-improved Rams defense this Thursday night, as their realigned secondary has them tied for the fewest TD passes allowed in the league right now.
Fantasy Call: Kolb will always have Larry Fitzgerald to throw to, so he’ll never be too bad of a fantasy option. With Michael Floyd starting to come on and the obvious improvement of Andre Roberts, Kolb could surprise and put up some decent stats, but I wouldn’t bank on it enough to rank him as anything more than a lower-end QB2.
Bradford actually looked like he’s coming around a bit after watching him against a tough Seattle defense last week, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of chemistry with all the new receivers around him.
Danny Amendola will give him as many completions as possible, but without any big-play ability, Bradford’s touchdowns will have to come from his outside receivers—something that just hasn’t happened with any sort of regularity yet this season.
Considering the Rams will have a tough time running against the Arizona front seven, Bradford may be forced to toss the pill around a little more than normal, so there’s an outside shot for a pretty decent game from him.
Fantasy Call: At this point, a “pretty decent game” from Bradford isn’t something you want to see in the QB slot for your fantasy team. He’s a better fantasy player at home in the dome, but he’s also only thrown two TD passes in four career games against Arizona, so unless you’re in a deeper two-QB league, you’ll want to avoid this situation.
Without Beanie Wells or LaRod Stephens-Howling around, Ryan Williams pretty much has the backfield all to himself. He wasn’t able to take advantage of it last weekend against Miami, but the Dolphins have proven to be one of the toughest teams in the NFL to run against this season so I hardly expected him to, either.
This Thursday, however, he’ll have a legitimate shot to prove his worth against a Rams rush D that was one of the worst in the league in 2011. They seem to have improved a bit this season, but not all that much, as they continue to let RBs run pretty wild on them.
Fantasy Call: If Ryan Williams is to ever break out as a usable fantasy player for your team, this could be the game he does it. The Rams have already allowed two RBs to go off for more than 20 fantasy points against them and though I’m not sure Williams hits that number, he’s definitely worth a shot as a fantasy RB2 this week.
LaRod Stephens-Howling / William Powell
Stephens-Howling was inactive for Week 4 and missed the Cardinals practice on Monday, but he got in a limited practice on Tuesday so he'll be a game-time call Thursday night.
Powell was undrafted back in 2011 out of Pittsburgh and is more in the Stephens-Howling mold standing just 5’9” tall. He’ll act as an every-once-in-a-while third-down back when Williams needs a breather.
Fantasy Call: Neither one is an option.
Even though S-Jax showed more burst and power and looked better than he had in previous weeks, he still only managed to put up 55 yards on 18 carries (3.1 YPC) and catch just one pass in Week 4.
The Seahawks stifling defense undoubtedly had something to do with it, but it still looks like Jackson’s career wear-and-tear has finally caught up to him.
Arizona is going to let him know it, too, as they’ve already held LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch to their lowest fantasy scores this season, as well as Reggie Bush and Stevan Ridley to their second-lowest scores (all under 10 fantasy points).
Fantasy Call: This is an inter-division rivalry game so anything goes, but it’s still not shaping up to be a great week for fantasy owners to get Jackson in their lineup as anything more than a flex or maybe a low-end RB2 with four teams being on a Bye.
Everyone expected Isaiah Pead to come into the season as the rookie back-up to Steven Jackson, but the Rams seventh-round pick, Daryl Richardson, wrestled the job away and has kept it ever since.
He’s a smaller guy at 5’10”, 196-pounds, but has speed to burn and can make a big play at any time.
Besides, he’s the younger brother to both the Bengals RB Bernard Scott and Jets WR Clyde Gates (don’t ask me about the three different last names), so that's gotta mean something, right?
Fantasy Call: Since the Rams won’t be able to run much in this one, I could see Richardson getting some decent playing time as their passing-down back, but probably not enough to use him as more than a flex in the deepest of leagues.
Isaiah Pead / Terrance Ganaway
Pead was inactive last game and Ganaway didn’t touch the ball.
Fantasy Call: One of them will be inactive again and the other one won’t touch the ball…again.
The good news is that Fitz is starting to click with Kevin Kolb, or at least much better than they had in the past. He has touchdowns in two straight games now along with 17 receptions on 24 targets for 178 yards.
The bad news is that the St. Louis Rams have allowed the third-least amount of fantasy points to opposing wide receivers so far this season and haven’t allowed Larry more than four catches or more than 61 yards in each of their last four meetings.
Fantasy Call: Another thing Fitz has going for him is that the biggest/tallest wide receiver on each team the Rams have faced (Megatron, Leonard Hankerson, Brandon Marshall and Sidney Rice) all had the best fantasy day of their respective WR corps.
Michael Floyd is pretty much the same size as Fitzgerald, but talent has to win out here.
Fitz may not put up WR1 fantasy stats this Thursday, but should be square in the middle of the WR2 range and will of course have his natural upside.
The Cardinals coaches all had high praise for Roberts during the offseason and it seems they were all spot-on with what they saw.
A touchdown in each of the Cards’ first two games could have been brushed off as flukey, but after his 118-yard, two-TD performance against the Dolphins last weekend, Roberts has to be considered a real, viable threat within this offense.
If he was on your waiver wire last week, you might want to take another look to see if he’s still there.
Fantasy Call: Roberts has excelled with Larry Fitzgerald drawing double—and sometimes triple—coverage as he has more than enough speed to beat single-coverage on a regular basis.
I’m not so sure he’ll be able to do what he’s been doing over the first quarter of the season this Thursday night though, as the Rams have been one of the stingier pass defenses in 2012.
He might be worth a shot as a low-end WR3 or flex, but don’t expect the same numbers he’s been putting up.
Floyd’s size (6’3”, 225-pounds) and speed (4.4 40-yard dash) are undeniable and now it seems Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals are going to start using them.
After a couple of weeks spent in relative obscurity, Floyd caught a nice TD pass in Week 3 against the Eagles and was rewarded by receiving EIGHT targets from Kolb last week against the Dolphins. He only caught four passes for 35 yards, but at least he was being used.
Fantasy Call: This doesn’t look like the game where we witness Floyd’s fantasy breakout performance, but he could be used a decent amount as the Rams seem to have trouble with bigger receivers. Keep him stashed on your bench.
Doucet is starting to get phased out a bit with Floyd entering the mix, but is still usually good for a couple of catches or so.
Fantasy Call: In 16-team leagues where you start four WRs, give him a shot.
Amendola is being targeted at an alarming rate garnering 44 of them through the team’s first four games (fourth in the league).
Those targets have translated into the second-most receptions (31) in the league and simply because of sheer volume, he also has the eighth-most yards (351) as well.
Arizona’s defense has been really strong against the run, but nothing special against the pass, allowing the tenth-most fantasy points to WRs.
They also seem to have trouble with slot receivers as Davone Bess just torched them for 123 yards last weekend (Welker also had 95 yards in Week 2).
Fantasy Call: I’m not totally jumping on the bandwagon with him just yet, but he does look to be a pretty solid play this week as either a higher-end WR3 or even as a WR2 with there being four teams on Bye this weekend.
That being said, Arizona has only allowed two TDs to opposing wide receivers this year, so with Danny not usually a touchdown type of guy, I wouldn’t expect one of those coming.
Gibson is the starting receiver opposite Amendola and still gets the second-most targets for the Rams, but how long those statements stay true is up in the air.
Rookies Chris Givens and Brian Quick are coming on fast and now that second-year WR Austin Pettis is back from his suspension, I doubt Gibson gets as much play as he has through the first four weeks of action.
Fantasy Call: Gibson has done pretty well for the Rams thus far getting almost five targets a game and equaling his career best in TDs with two, but not only should those numbers take a hit in the coming weeks with other receivers coming on, but the Cardinals have also only allowed two TDs to wide receivers this season, so don’t take the chance with him as a flex unless you have to.
Givens was touted as one of the fastest receivers in the 2012 NFL draft and has proved his observers right as of late.
He’s just now starting to see a few targets within this offense and if opposing defenses continue to dare Sam Bradford to beat them by bunching the line with their safeties, Givens will start to take advantage of his one-on-one coverage deep.
Last week against Seattle, Chris caught a 52-yard bomb after he flew past his defender with ease, and though it may take a little while for him to make a solid fantasy contribution, he should probably start to be added to a few “watch-lists”.
Fantasy Call: Arizona can sometimes be beat by faster WRs like Givens, but he’s still not getting enough playing time yet to take a risk with him as a starter.
On a side-note, Givens was actually on the field for more snaps than Gibson last week, so a changing of the guard could be coming sooner rather than later (42 of 61 snaps compared to 36 for Gibson).
Admittedly, I was one of those who thought Brian Quick would rise to the top of the Rams WR food chain during the pre-season and end up a viable fantasy starter within a few weeks.
It hasn’t quite happened that way with Quick being a little slow to learn the playbook and even slower in getting acclimated to the speed of the NFL, but he finally got some decent playing time last week and looked like a beast when he finally caught his first NFL pass (for 19 yards).
Fantasy Call: Quick still needs a little seasoning before even thinking about using him as a fantasy player, but both he and Chris Givens will start to be in the conversation soon, so start to keep track of him on the waiver wire now.
There was an Austin Pettis sighting last weekend as he finally suited up for his first game of the season after being suspended for Weeks 1 and 2.
He only played seven of 61 offensive snaps, but he was targeted twice during those seven plays and caught both balls for a total of 22 yards.
Being a 6’3”, decently fast third-round pick last year out of Boise State, he might end up surprising later on in the season.
Steve Smith, however, was a healthy scratch after catching five balls through the Rams first three games.
Fantasy Call: Neither one is playable at this point and one, if not both, will be inactive this Thursday night.
Housler has a ton of talent and is starting to be worked into the offense a little more each week, but his best game thus far only went for two catches on three targets for 48 yards, so he hasn’t quite climbed into the fantasy conversation just yet.
Fantasy Call: His 6’5”, 250-pound frame with sub-4.5 speed will eventually be utilized correctly, but until we see a legitimate fantasy-line from him, he has to be sat on your bench.
As much as it pains me to say so, my girlfriend’s cousin is injured once again (knee) and has been inactive for the past two weeks because of it.
Fantasy Call: The amount of ‘girlfriend’ references I could use here is laughable.
Lance has some pretty decent talent, but the Rams simply don’t use the tight end position enough in their offense to consider him a viable fantasy option… ever.
Fantasy Call: If you have him on your team, stop reading now and take up the piano or better yet, go put together a puzzle. Make it a 5,000-piece puzzle so it can take you through the rest of the fantasy football season.
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