New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will have his work cut out for him on Monday night against the top scoring defense in league in the Houston Texans. Fantasy owners will likely have chosen safer options from Week 5's earlier action, but plugging Sanchez in for an emergency start may not be as bad as previously thought, even without Santonio Holmes playing.
Not to mention, Jets shutdown corner Darrelle Revis won't be around to help the cause against a high-powered Texans offense.
In terms of fantasy, Sanchez's numbers will benefit if the Jets aren't able to prevent Houston from lighting up the scoreboard. Playing from behind will result in Sanchez slinging the ball more frequently, especially since New York doesn't have a true No. 1 back to establish a legitimate running game.
The playmakers at the Jets disposal will be hurt by the absence of Holmes, not to mention an additional rash of injuries to their typical pass catchers.
Stephen Hill, one of the most physically gifted receivers of the 2012 draft class, is listed as doubtful. Tight end Dustin Keller is Sanchez's security blanket in the passing game, but he's been out since Week 1 with a hamstring injury. According to ESPN's injury report, he too is listed as doubtful for Monday.
This means that the receiving corps will be headlined by Sanchez's close friend Jeremy Kerley, and Chaz Schilens, who was added as a free agent in the offseason.
In a Newsday profile by Kimberly A. Martin, Kerley is painted as a small-town kid who has overcome long odds his whole life. Martin indicates, that Kerley has been in head coach Rex Ryan's doghouse since training camp, but he will be the longest-tenured receiver to line up to face Houston.
When he first met Jets' receivers coach Sanjay Lal, he had some interesting words before even introducing himself, as Lal recalls in Martin's piece.
Before he even said "Hi" to me, he said: "Do you think I can be an every-down receiver?" And my answer was "Yes. I do." So now he has his chance.
Longer odds may not exist for Kerley and the Jets against the secondary yielding the second-fewest passing yards to this point, but as Lal states, the opportunity has presented itself. Kerley definitely plays with a seemingly permanent chip on his shoulder, which is the sort of mentality the Jets need right now in the face of heavy adversity.
To be fair to Schilens—and it's certainly easy to be critical—he has never had the chance to establish himself with a legitimate quarterback.
In his first start for New York in Week 4, the former Oakland Raider managed to amass three receptions for 45 yards. At 6'4", 225 pounds, Schilens has the ideal size for a possession receiver, and could emerge as a viable red zone option for Sanchez.
Another brand new receiver in the fold trying to learn on the fly is Clyde Gates, who was a fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins.
Unsurprisingly, Gates' speed alone was too tempting to pass on despite how raw of a prospect he was. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano coached Gates for a short time when he served as Miami's head coach until the middle of the 2011 season. That has the explosive receiver on an inside track to see more snaps thanks to the depleted receiving corps.
Even if he doesn't pick up the offense right away, Gates can outrun just about any defensive back in the league. According to an article by the Palm Beach Post, Gates was dealing with a groin injury at the NFL Combine but still ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash.
Between the scrappy Kerley with whom Sanchez is comfortable, the big-bodied Schilens and Gates' ability to stretch the field, the Jets QB may not be as deprived of offensive weapons as it first appears. Sanchez has also established recent rapport with backup tight end Jeff Cumberland, who is second on the team with 11 receptions.
In the wacky nature of the NFL, the Jets look like one of the worst teams in the league at the moment. Sanchez has the ability to change that perception, and as I've pointed to before, the schedule after Houston gets much more generous.
While the matchup looks terrible on paper, Sanchez may be able to scrounge up some decent fantasy numbers playing from behind.
Final stat projection: 23-of-45, 285 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Sanchez will make some mistakes and continue to struggle with accuracy, but he should manage to get a few big plays on Monday night and tack on a touchdown in garbage time.
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