Through 3 games, the Arizona Cardinals have a better record than the Los Angeles Rams. It’s reality. However, reality is for another time. This is fantasy. In fantasy, we have decisions to make, and hopefully the following insight will help make those decisions less difficult.
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Los Angeles Rams
When the Cardinals traded a 2nd round selection and guard Jonathan Cooper to the Patriots for Chandler Jones, they thought they had found the missing piece in their defense. With a nasty secondary capable of limiting the NFL’s best receiving threats, and a run defense that has been among the league leaders for years, Jones seemed like the perfect fit. There was plenty of hype for this team to be in the mix for a Super Bowl. So far their play has been inconsistent despite Jones and running mate Markus Golden notching sacks in every game thus far. After struggling with the Patriots, they dismantled the Buccaneers which seemingly righted the ship. Then they went to Buffalo and let the Bills run for over 200 yards on them. After seeing that, Todd Gurley owners have to be hopeful he can do the same thing. If you have him, you aren’t’ sitting him anyway.
The Cardinals possess arguably the best secondary in the NFL. They are versatile and mean. They cover tight ends and running backs as well as any team in the league. Leave all receiving and passing options on the bench this week for the Rams. Tavon Austin is inconsistent, but given his cheetah like quickness, he isn’t as prone to bad matchups as other players. He is a weekly gamble. If you have him, let your other matchups decide whether to roll those dice this week as you usually should.
Players to start for the Rams:
Players to sit for the Rams:
- Tyler Higbee
- Case Keenum
- Kenny Britt
- Brian Quick
- Tavon Austin (unless you are desperate)
- Can the Cardinals consistently stop the run and funnel teams into their secondary?
The Rams still have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL. They are very capable vs. the run, allowing just 3.4 yards per carry through 3 games. Unfortunately, the Rams offense is abysmal which leaves their defense on the field for much of the game. Running backs can eventually accumulate enough touches to have a meaningful day vs. the Rams. Like Gurley owners, David Johnson owners aren’t leaving their star running back on the bench. He is a must-start every week regardless of matchup, and is probably the best running back in the NFL.
Over the offseason, the Rams lost star corner Janoris Jenkins in free agency along with safety Rodney Mcleod. Through 2 weeks against weak passing opponents, the Rams were steady. Then Jameis Winston put up 400 yards and 3 scores. I’m not confident in Carson Palmer, but I’m not any more confident in the Rams secondary. Palmer is a low end QB1 against this team despite his struggles this season. The Rams can rush the passer and force bad throws despite having a weak secondary, so expect an average to above-average day for the Cardinals Passing game.
One Cardinal’s receiver I am higher on than the rest for this matchup is John Brown. Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers have been mostly reliant on touchdowns, and Michael Floyd hasn’t been very good. Brown struggles in his first two games vs. New England and Tampa Bay. Malcolm Butler and Alterraun Verner are two of the leagues better corners. This week against the Rams, Brown will line up opposite Troy Hill for the majority of the game. Hill has graded out to a measly 38.6 (99th out of qualifying corners) on Pro Football Focus so far. There may not be a better time for John Brown to have a breakout game, especially after finally filling the stat sheet a bit last week vs. the Bills. I would say Fitzgerald is a WR2/WR3 against a talented Lamarcus Joyner, and Michael Floyd is just a flex option until he really proves he can put together some consistent production.
Players to start for the Cardinals:
- Carson Palmer (low-end QB1)
- David Johnson
- Larry Fitzgerald (WR2/WR3)
- John Brown
- Michael Floyd (WR3/Flex)
Players to sit for the Cardinals:
- Running backs not named David Jonson
- Cardinals tight ends (because why would you even think about playing them anyway?)
- Which Cardinals passing offense will show up this week?