Who thought up this Thursday night NFL schedule? Who’s in charge of this slate of games? Fantasy football owners demand answers!
Last week we were subjected to a dreadful Chargers/Chiefs contest (dreadful, that is, unless you happened to be a San Diego D/ST owner) and now Colts/Jaguars? Could this week somehow be worse than week nine?
Actually, I think that tonight’s game will be more competitive than one might expect. Andrew Luck has struggled at times on the road, and while the Jaguars are bad (sorry Jags’ fans, there’s no way around that statement this season) the Colts may be without two top defensive backs which may be enough to keep things interesting.
With that in mind, let’s look at this week’s three-fer and find some players you can start.
1. Vick Ballard
If you follow my blog or listen to my many podcast appearances, you may recall that I had referred to this guy as Vick “Stinkin'” Ballard for the early part of the season, and said I would continue to do so until he actually did something of significance in a game. Ballard’s week eight overtime heroics against the Titans – recall his twisting, stretching goal-line dive to win the game? – certainly qualify as significant so I needed to drop the “Stinkin'” moniker. He reminded me of a Shamu or a dolphin from Sea World on that dive, so I now refer to him simply as “Flipper” Ballard, but I digress…
Regardless of how you refer to him, Ballard should likely see the majority of work against the Jaguars’ 27th-ranked rushing defense since fellow-back Donald Brown is dealing with an injury. Ballard is likely to find the end zone tonight, and I project him to rush for 75 yards and to catch four passes for another 15 yards. He is a solid RB2/flex play.
2. and 3. Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon
As I mentioned in the intro, Indianapolis will be without two starting cornerbacks as Vontae Davis and Jerraud Powers will very likely be out for tonight’s game. Add in the recent production bump that Jaguars’ QB Blaine Gabbert has seen in the last few weeks, with passing TDs in each of his last three games, and you suddenly have a Jaguar passing attack that might have some fantasy merit in this game.
Justin Blackmon was highly-regarded at the beginning of the season, and has been a disappointment thus far. However, he is coming off his two best back-to-back performances, catching four passes in week eight against the Packers and five last week against the Lions. He also secured the first TD of his NFL career last week, so I feel like he and Gabbert are finally developing some chemistry. I don’t look for a huge yardage game from Blackmon, but see his statline to end up 4 catches for 50 yards and he may add TD number two to his collection.
Laurent Robinson was arguably one of fantasy football’s top-5 most valuable players in 2011. After Robinson signed a free-agent contract with Jacksonville in the off-season, fantasy owners are still waiting for last year’s Laurent to show up. In fairness, Robinson has been dealing with some nagging injuries in 2012, and last week it looked as if he may finally be healthy once again as he posted a season-high six catches against the Lions. Blackmon’s maturation will help Robinson’s output as well, and I look for Laurent to have a season-best game tonight with eight catches for 85 yards and a TD.
I do think the Colts end up winning this contest as their solidarity and passion to win for Coach Chuck Pagano pushes them onward to the playoffs. The Jags should make a game of it, however, and I think we’re in for one of the more entertaining Thursday night games we’ve had in a while. Enjoy it and I’ll be back next week to look at the AFC East showdown!