After a harrowing OT win against the Colts, the Cardinals are finally back at University of Phoenix Stadium for a Monday Night football game against the Dallas Cowboys.
With the team’s offense struggling in an early morning road start against the Colts and the newly-added Jacoby Brissett last week, will Arizona’s offense and Carson Palmer be able to bounce back? And after Ezekiel Elliot’s stinker of a game against Dallas, which the Cowboys be able to take control of their team in front of the national viewers?
Let’s take a look. And before you say it, no, I’m not going to make any Rod Tidwell references (....darn).
Start of the Week: J.J. Nelson, WR, Cardinals
Strange to think that on a team with Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, John Brown and Jaron Brown as WR2 that J.J. Nelson could be the guy who the Cardinals offense runs through in 2017.
As has been commonly passed around Twitter, this stat about Nelson is kind of insane with the streak he is currently on:
WR JJ Nelson has 8 receiving TDs since week 8 of last season. Only GB's Jordy Nelson (no relation) has more in that span with 10 pic.twitter.com/Z2hv1qZqxb— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) September 18, 2017
For his efforts, Nelson won the NFC Offensive player of the Week award, putting him in a very exclusive category:
WR J.J. Nelson becomes just the third wide receiver (Roy Green, Larry Fitzgerald) in team history to be named Offensive Player of the Week.— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) September 21, 2017
So what are we to make of all of this besides picking Nelson up if you haven’t already?
Well Nelson’s ascendence has primarily to do with three things:
- Lack of John Brown availability (and other receiving options)
- Arians’ deep passing scheme favoring WR burners
- Nelson’s ability to get separation in the red zone
The last point is possibly the biggest reason why Nelson’s gotten the attention of the fantasy world, as he’s become a go-to guy for Palmer ever since teams started devoting the majority of their coverage to not let David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald beat them there last year. And the fact that the team is missing Johnson has led to some red zone woes this year. Still, at this point the random drops are what’s keeping Nelson from reaching a “start every week” level fantasy player.
Against the Cowboys defense which has struggled mightily, and with potentially some additional help on the offensive line and more reps for Chris Johnson, I’d think Nelson could continue his streak against some Cowboy corners that couldn’t stop Sanders and Thomas last week.
Course it’s fantasy so watch Nelson get 2 catches for 14 yards somehow and next week we’re talking about Larry Fitzgerald’s 2 TD’s (I’m mostly joking).
Cardinals Start: Chris Johnson, RB
Ssorry to all who picked up Kerwynn Williams but when the team fell quickly behind the Colts, Arians aired it out and that meant that Kerwynn took a lot less snaps.
But still despite Ellington’s prevalence I think that it’ll be Chris Johnson who ends up with the “hot hand” and gets a rushing TD on Monday Night, as Arians’ preference for rookies and Johnson running harder than he had shown all preseason likely means that he’ll end up being that three-down back that Arians wants in David Johnson’s absence.
The downside with Johnson, obviously, is that he’s hit IR in every single season he’s been with Arizona and at his age there’s no telling if he’s got a few games left in him or just one big hit. Cautiously start him as a RB3 knowing that even in a RBBC, Dallas’s defense has been porous enough that he should get a few lanes.
Cowboys Start: Cole Beasley, WR
This one should be obvious considering the fact that the Cardinals haven’t done a great job containing slot receivers this year. In fact you could argue that they haven’t contained them at all.
Most Targets Surrendered to WRs Out of Slot (Weeks 1-2)— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 20, 2017
1. Cardinals (23)
2. Seahawks (22)
3. Broncos (20)
4. Chiefs (20)
5. Chargers (20)
In short, with Dez Bryant drawing Patrick Peterson (who’s having an unbelievable year), Ezekiel Elliot after a letdown week going up against a Cardinals team that does well against the run and Deone Bucannon potentially back to cover Jason Witten along with Dansby and Reddick, play Beasley with confidence.
Cardinals Sit: Kerwynn Williams, RB
While I think Kerwynn’s snaps increase if the Cardinals are leading and want to run the ball, for previously mentioned reasons I’d sit him down this week. I also would consider sitting Jermaine Gresham if you have a better tight end option.
Williams might even still go off if Arians feels he has the hot hand, but my gut tells me that with Andre Ellington’s resurgence and Arians’ move to RB’s contributing in the passing game more that he and Johnson will get the bulk of the load.
If Williams doesn’t produce this week, consider dropping him to pick up another Cards running back.
Cowboys Sit: Dez Bryant, WR
Sit Dez? You can’t be serious.
I can when he plays Patrick Peterson. Last time these two teams played each other Bryant had a garbage time touchdown in a game in which AZ had already won. That’s not the case with this year’s Cowboy team, and Peterson’s playing and an even more unbelievable clip.
What did Bryant record the last time he played Peterson?
2 catches for 15 yards and that late TD.
Sit Bryant if you have a better option, knowing that Dak won’t be looking his way if he’s blanketed all night.
Sleeper Pick: Either one of the Defenses
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure which team’s defense will thrive in this game. It’s possible that Arizona’s offense turns the ball over 4 times, gives up a few sacks and Dallas routes the Cards at home.
It’s also possible that Arizona does the same to Dallas as the Broncos did last week, considering they have a similar dominant secondary and good pass rushers with linebackers who can stop the run.
But I think it’ll be a close game up until the end, personally. Still, there’s indications that a slobber-knocker could happen where one of the team’s offenses implodes and you have a rout on your hands.
What are your thoughts and predictions?
Sound off in the comments or find me, @blakemurphy7 for any fantasy questions on Twitter.