Harmon Rankings: QB , RB , WR , TE/DEF/K
One of the wide receiver slots on the "2012 All-Name Team" may have been filled on Thursday night. Cecil Shorts III stole some of the spotlight from Andrew Luck, at least in the fantasy realm, with his six-reception, 105-yard effort against the Colts. Shorts registered an early 52-yard reception and eventually caught a touchdown pass from Chad Henne, who was on in relief for the injured Blaine Gabbert. I know that we keep watching Justin Blackmon and waiting for his breakthrough, but he's third on the list right now behind Shorts III and offseason acquisition Laurent Robinson.
We'll chronicle this squad more as we wrap up Week 10, but let's stay focused on the task at hand. It's time for another round of "Lineup Calls," chronicling the good, bad and ugly matchups for wide receivers.
I'll give you the opening shot. How low do you rank Brandon Marshall this week against Houston?
Heroes (Exclude Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz, Mike Wallace, Marques Colston, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones)
Eric Decker at CAR
Decker posted another huge stat line for fantasy owners in Week 9. He registered 99 receiving yards with two touchdowns to extend his scoring streak to five games. On paper, it's a difficult matchup against the Carolina pass defense (third-fewest fantasy points allowed to WRs).
I look for the Broncos to establish the run against Carolina with Willis McGahee, thereby bringing the linebackers up into the gaps and affording Peyton Manning ample room to operate across the middle. Decker posts a big reception count this week.
Miles Austin at PHI
The Falcons became the latest opponent to expose the deficiencies in the Philadelphia pass defense. It's a unit with a huge reputation that hasn't lived up to expectations, and both Roddy White and Julio Jones finished with more than 100 receiving yards.
Tony Romo isn't as efficient as Matt Ryan, but he'll make plays against this middling defense. Romo has also turned back to Austin in a huge way during the Cowboys' past three games. Austin has amassed 21 receptions for 306 yards in this three-game span.
Torrey Smith vs. OAK
Smith ended a slump by scoring in Week 9 against the Browns. He finished the game with just 46 receiving yards, but the short touchdown reception made him a fantasy hero. Smith has scored in two of the past three games, though he hasn't topped 50 yards since Week 4.
I look to see more from Smith this week against the generous Oakland pass defense. The Raiders will try to slow Ray Rice after being run over by Doug Martin in Week 9. As a result, Smith will have ample opportunities in single-coverage downfield (Anquan Boldin is on the radar as a "Sleeper" as well). The Raiders have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, and quarterbacks complete a high percentage of their attempts.
Brandon Lloyd vs. BUF
Lloyd caught only two passes for 28 yards in Week 8, but they both went for touchdowns against the Rams. He's on the board for a big play as a WR2 option this week against the surprisingly awful Buffalo defense. The Bills have been devoid of a persistent pass rush (injuries). As a result, Buffalo has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers (12 touchdowns).
Mike Williams vs. SD
Williams has become one of the most consistent second receivers in the game. He's caught four or more passes in five consecutive games, including two 100-yard efforts while scoring three touchdowns. He's a mid-WR2 option this week against the Chargers (12th-most fantasy points allowed to receivers) in this home tilt. San Diego will try to contain the surging running back and Doug Martin, thereby affording the white-hot Josh Freeman opportunities downfield.
Williams has been a favorite target of Freeman's in the red zone, producing four receptions on nine targets, including three touchdowns. I didn't list him out separately, but Vincent Jackson clearly rates a strong play this week against his former team.
Malcom Floyd at TB
The Buccaneers surrender a ton of receiving yardage. That's the summary statement of the defense's production through eight games. Receivers have averaged 235.1 yards per game against the Tampa Bay secondary, and the arrival of Danario Alexander (see below) finally gives Philip Rivers a formidable No. 2 wide receiver. I know you're disheartened by Floyd's weekly production, but he's a strong play for this matchup.
Sleepers Emmanuel Sanders vs. KC
Sanders made an impact in Week 9 against the Giants when Antonio Brown departed because of an ankle injury. He caught two passes for 20 yards, including a touchdown reception. Todd Haley likely opens up the offense against his former team, the turnover-prone Kansas City squad. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to stretch the field early and to play with great field position advantage all night.
Veteran Jerricho Cotchery rates a play in the WR4 slot for owners in deeper leagues. He caught four passes for 50 yards against the Giants last week.
Danario Alexander at TB
Alexander emerged as the No. 2 option opposite Malcom Floyd in Week 9. He caught three passes for 61 yards (four targets) in the Chargers' divisional win over Kansas City. Look for him to take on a higher target count this week against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Donald Jones at NE
Jones has become a bigger part of the Buffalo offense in the past two weeks. He's recorded 10 receptions for 112 yards, including a touchdown against the Titans. Jones stands to pick up a higher target count this week against the New England secondary.
The Buffalo defense will be giving up points, as we've come to expect, thereby affording Jones an opportunity to pile up catches and yardage in frantic comeback mode.
Flops Steve Smith vs. DEN
Smith finally found the end zone for the first time in 2012 against the generous Washington pass defense in Week 9, but finished the game with three receptions for 41 yards. He's recorded a single 100-yard game since Week 2. This week, Smith draws coverage from shutdown cornerback Champ Bailey. Smith falls to a mid-WR2 level at best this week.
Dwayne Bowe at PIT
How much do you trust the Kansas City offense? Bowe's still tied for the eighth-most targets in 2012 (10 targets per game), but he's been limited to 45 receptions (three touchdowns). The Steelers haven't generated many turnovers (eight) and continue without Troy Polamalu, but they still rank sixth against wide receivers. Bowe enters the rankings as a back-end WR2 this week.
DeSean Jackson vs. DAL
Jackson finally hit on one of those huge plays with Michael Vick in Week 9. He finished the Eagles' loss to the Falcons with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, an effort that included a 77-yard touchdown sprint. I just can't trust that lightning strikes for a second time against the Dallas cornerbacks (fifth against wide receivers). Jackson and teammate Jeremy Maclin are back-end WR2 options, at best.