Kolb Likely to Start Against Cowboys: Fantasy Outlook for Key Cardinals Players
Kolb, who has missed four games with an aggravated turf toe injury, has fully practiced all week and appears to be the likely starter for the Cardinals, barring any major last minute setbacks during warm ups.
The news has left Cardinals fans and fantasy owners of key Cardinals players alike asking the same question...How will this change affect the performance, and fantasy value, of key Cardinals players?
Join me as we take a look.
Kevin Kolb, QB. Owned in 42.7% of NFL.com Leagues.
Kolb has spent four games on the bench, and was hardly posting big numbers in his games leading up to that point, so that he is owned at all in more than 40% of NFL.com leagues is quite impressive. Clearly his fans, and fantasy owners still believe that Kolb could be a solid performer
Before his injury hobbled his development, Kolb was only average at best, devastating to fantasy owners at worst, due in no small part to the Cardinals sub-par running game and receivers struggling to get on the same page as their QB.
However, Kolb returns to a team on somewhat of a high, following a sweep of divisional rivals St. Louis, who's running game, and passing games are both looking significantly improved, so his numbers may not be so bad as fans remember.
The Cardinals face a Cowboys team who's secondary reminds me of the Cardinals own in years gone by.
It gives up yards, and points, and is certainly beatable through the air, but it also has the potential to make huge plays—interceptions and fumbles, for example—when it matters, and can easily punish a team who lets their guard down.
Kolb's teammates, Beanie Wells, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts and Todd Heap have all looked better in the last few games, and should provide Kolb with a few more options than he had earlier in the season.
The Cardinals are by no means favourite to win the game, but that will likely result in an increased amount of passes as Kolb tries to keep the Cardinals in contention.
If you still have Kolb on your team, it's likely that you also have a dependable starter, like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady as well. If you haven't yet dropped him, it's likely because it simply doesn't matter all that much. You likely kept him as a bye-week replacement, and you probably would only consider him if and when the matchup really favoured you.
In those cases, his first week back, against a Cowboys defense which can certainly punish QBs with multiple INT's if they are given the chance, is not a matchup you'd want to play. You may want to hold off on dropping him, in case of catastrophic injury to your starter, or in case of a massive late-season resurgence, but it's not the week to start him either.
If, however, you are an owner who has been punished by high-profile injuries to players like Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel who now finds yourself struggling to choose between picking up Caleb Hanie, Dan Orlovsky and T.J. Yates, then Kolb represents a really nice risk/reward option.
Don't expect the world from him, but the Cardinals schedule—with four of five games taking place in Arizona—means Kolb could represent great value, if, as I suspect, Kolb feels he is playing for his job, and is forced to perform unusually well as the Cardinals close out the season.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR. Owned in 100% of NFL.com Leagues.
The simple fact is Cardinals fans, and fantasy owners all have a lot of hopes pinned on Larry Fitzgerald.
For the Cardinals, if Fitzgerald doesn't perform, their chances of winning decline steeply.
For fantasy owners, who likely spent an early round pick on Fitz, his failure to consistently post double-digit points, and undroppable status, may have cost his owners more than a few wins. So bad, in fact, have things got, by Fitzgerald's impeccable standards that his is benched in almost 8% of all NFL.com fantasy leagues, an almost unheard of number in recent years.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, Fitzgerald will likely be the go-to receiver, regardless of which quarterback is under center, however, Fitzgerald has looked most potent with Skelton, throwing him the ball. Under Kolb, after a relatively solid start, Fitzgerald was kept out of the end zone for four consecutive games. With Skelton starting, Fitzgerald has caught touchdown passes in three of his four starts (though one of them was, admittedly, thrown by Richard Bartel, after Skelton was pulled from the game), and multiple touchdowns against the Eagles—the only time this season he has done so.
Kolb's starting should be a worry for Fitzgerald, who has caught only 2 touchdown passes from Kolb all season, compared to three from Skelton, and one from Bartel.
If you own Fitzgerald, you will probably start him every week, but, owners beware.
Kolb has tended to throw the ball away when pressured, rather than heave it in Fitz's direction, as both Skelton and Bartel did, so expect to see Fitz targeted a little less often.
The Cowboys are also very good at forcing interceptions, and, with Kolb coming of a relatively long stretch injured, do not expect to see so many long bombs down the field, as Kolb will still likely feel some tenderness in his foot.
The injury, however, could be a blessing in disguise, in some ways, as it may limit Kolb's mobility just enough to force him to sit in the pocket, and attempt to complete passes. Given Fitzgerald's ability to complete passes even in heavy coverage, expect number 11 to be the Cardinals safety valve if Kolb is unable to escape the pocket.
All in all, it's a mixed bag for Fitzgerald. While he would normally be a "Must Start" player, you may want to consider other options—if match ups favour it—over Fitzgerald, until we know how Kolb is going to perform.
Beanie Wells, RB. Owned in 99.4% of NFL.com Leagues
Beanie Wells is coming off a career game against the St. Louis Rams, where he, in many cases, single handedly won the game for those owners who started him, and left those fans who kept him on their benches reeling.
Wells has been limited throughout the season by a knee injury, and his performance, like that of his team, has been hit and miss.
Wells has posted more than 30 points—in most formats—at his best, and just one tenth of that, there points, at his worst. He has definitely frustrated owners, so much so, that less than 65% of owners started him against the Rams.
Wells comes into the game against the Cowboys having set a Cardinals rushing record in the previous game, and hoping to continue his recent run of form.
The Cowboys defense is significantly better than the Rams, but with Kolb coming off an injury, and neither Chester Taylor or LaRod Stephens-Howling doing anything to establish a running back committee in Arizona, Wells is likely to see a significant number of carries.
Though Wells has once again been limited in practice throughout the week, he should not be too adversely affected come game time.
Wells has struggled with ball security in the past, especially on botched hand-offs. Receiving the ball from Kolb shouldn't be too much of a change for him—both Skelton and Kolb are similarly sized quarterbacks, at 6' 5" and 6' 3" respectively.
Wells is best when he is able to hit the hole hard, and run north and south, and when forces to dance around in the pocket, has been much less successful. If Wells can run right up the Cowboys gut, and the Cardinals do not abandon the run too soon, then Wells could have a good game.
A change at quarterback could be a mixed blessing and curse for Wells, depending on how the game unfolds. The blessing is that a quarterback, coming off a four game injury may be likely to lean more heavily on his running back as he looks to ease himself back into the swing of things, the curse could be that Kolb may now be playing for his job and, win or lose, will need to post some significant numbers of his own to quiet his critics, who are calling for his job to be handed to John Skelton.
The Cowboys fierce rush defense early in the season has looked much more anaemic in the past five weeks, and have given up numerous 100+ yard rushing games
Wells will look to ride the momentum of his 228 yard game against St. Louis, and the Cardinals play callers will likely give him a chance to do so.
There is a problem, however. Although the Cowboys have given up plenty of yards recently, they have been much more stingy in the red zone, and have not given up very many touchdowns at all. The Cardinals have struggled themselves in the red zone, and Wells lacks the elite speed to make long rushes for touchdowns—as demonstrated twice against the Rams, when he was eventually caught, and tackled short of the end-zone.
Wells should be set for double digit points against the Cowboys, but fans hoping for similar numbers to those he posted against the Rams will likely be disappointed. He should be started in most formats, but does not have quite as much upside as he did last week.
Early Doucet or Andre Roberts, WR's. Owned in Less Than 15% of NFL.com Leagues.
The Cardinals are in desperate need of a dependable number two receiver. Many have been hoping that either Early Doucet or Andre Roberts would step up and be that player, but unfortunately, both have been relatively ineffective most of the time.
Doucet had a solid game in week one against the Carolina Panthers, with 105 yards receiving and a touchdown, and another impressive game against Minnesota in week five, where he hauled in catches for 92 yards, but has yet to come anywhere near those numbers since then.
Andre Roberts has yet to pass 55 yards in a single game, and has failed to catch a Touchdown all season.
Against the Cowboys Kevin Kolb will need all of the help he can get, and with Fitzgerald likely to be double teamed all night, will need either Doucet or Roberts to stand up and deliver.
Kolb has preferred Doucet as his number two receiver, with Skelton preferring Roberts, so of the two players, Doucet perhaps has the most upside, however, of the two players, Roberts has looked the most sure-handed in recent weeks, and Kolb will certainly have taken note of this from the sidelines.
After Fitzgerald, the Cowboys will likely zero in on Doucet, so Roberts may find himself in a little more space, especially in bunch sets.
Neither Roberts or Doucet are considered real starters in most fantasy formats, but both have some upside in deeper leagues, and flex formats. Doucet, who has been targeted upwards of 10 times in multiple games, may be particularly valuable in PPR leagues as a number three or flex player.
Roberts may have the highest risk/reward payoff, and appears to be improving week on week, and may be due a breakout game any time.
The Cardinals are likely to be playing from behind, or with a narrow lead, so expect both players to see plenty of playing time, however, don't assume that will automatically result in a massive number of points—Fitzgerald and Wells will both likely see the bulk of any fantasy points the Cardinals produce.
Patrick Peterson CB/PR. IDP Only—No Ownership Stats.
Patrick Peterson is an elite return man. He has already equalled an NFL single season punt return record, and is looking to improve on that in his final five games this season.
He has averaged nearly 20 yards per return, and the Cardinals defense is looking more and more likely to force those with each passing week.
The Cowboys punt coverage is not considered to be one of the best in the NFL, and many of Peterson's fans, and owners, hope that Peterson's fifth, record breaking, punt return TD is most likely to come against the Cowboys.
However, fans hoping for huge numbers against the Cowboys may be sorely disappointed.
The Dallas Cowboys actually possess one of the better punt coverage units in the NFL, their stat's are heavily skewed by a single, appalling, performance against the Washington Redskins.
The Cowboys have only allowed three punt returns for more than 20 yards all season, the problem is that all three came against the Redskins. They will have learned from this, and will definitely limit Peterson.
Peterson's former LSU teammate, and current Cowboys special teamer Danny McCray knows just how devastating Peterson can be, and will certainly have warned the Cowboys to beware of him.
Directional Punt's and high kicks, with long hang-time will be the order of the day. We will see touchbacks, kicks out of bounds, and fair catches, but returns are likely to be few and far between.
If the Cowboys do not respect Peterson, they run the risk of handing the Cardinals the game, and, in a game which the Cowboys must win in order to remain in control of their own playoff destiny, they will not take chances.
They know that the Cardinals offense has been ineffective, and will likely concede some field position, by way of high and directional kicks, rather than giving Peterson the chance to change the complexion of the game.
This means that if you are starting Peterson, you're going to be doing so on the basis of his coverage skills alone, which have been less than stellar to this point, and better options almost certainly exist at DB.
Of course, you can never discount a player like Peterson, who may well just back-pedal into his own end-zone and field a kick which would otherwise give a touchback, but... well... don't count on it.