The Arizona Cardinals, now 1-3 after Week 4’s loss to the NFC West rival Los Angeles Rams, were supposed to build on and continue their success from last year all while daily fantasy football owners cashed in on FanDuel, DraftKings and other platforms.
Instead, the Cardinals are not only in danger of falling out of the NFC playoff picture, they may no longer be a fantasy titan due to quarterback Carson Palmer’s injury and a difficult schedule.
For starters, the Cardinals are not off to a blazing start this year like they were in 2015. According to FantasyData.com, through the first four weeks of last season, the Cardinals were responsible for five of the best 33 single-week fantasy performances in the entire league (Larry Fitzgerald twice, the Arizona D/ST, Chris Johnson, and Carson Palmer.)
In 2016, that’s shrunk to two. There was Palmer’s 304-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 2, Arizona’s sole victory so far this season, and running back David Johnson’s 83-yard, two-touchdown work in Week 3 against Buffalo. Except, Palmer’s work ranks No. 35 and Johnson’s No. 50.
Among D/STs, the Cardinals’ unit also put up impressive numbers in Week 2’s win. It's 23 points off four interceptions and three sacks while giving up only seven points to Tampa Bay, is the third-best output of any defense in a single week this season.
And the D/ST could be the only bankable purchase FanDuel or DraftKings players make from the Cardinals' roster. Arizona’s currently 10th in total defense, 11th in points allowed, tied for third in interceptions and fifth in sacks, all solid stats that suggest the defense isn’t what’s wrong.
The fate of the offense in the near and long-term future rests solely on Palmer’s health and how Arizona can overcome their schedule. Palmer’s presently in the NFL’s concussion protocol after he was sacked in the fourth quarter against the Rams, and head coach Bruce Arians said it would be difficult for Palmer to return on a short week when Arizona heads to San Francisco to face the 49ers on Thursday night.
Drew Stanton came in for Palmer in Week 4 and he’s likely to start against the 49ers, but once Palmer returns he’ll have to rediscover the form that made him an MVP candidate last season. The 36-year-old is presently sixth in passing yardage, but he’s also tied for fifth with five interceptions and his offensive line as allowed 12 total sacks. Consider Palmer didn’t throw his fifth interception last year until Arizona’s sixth game, and he’s already posted back-to-back games with a sub-60 completion percentage, something he never did in 2015.
And the schedule will be trying. After traveling to face the 49ers, the Cardinals get a bit of a break when facing the moribund Jets at home, but then host Seattle and travel to Carolina before the bye. Then the Cardinals' matchups look like this: vs. San Francisco, at Minnesota, at Atlanta in Week 12.
It’s a difficult slate and daily fantasy players should probably avoid most of the Cardinals for at least the next few weeks. Otherwise, use our rankings for FanDuel, DraftKings, or any other daily fantasy football platform, to find the best combinations and win your league in Week 5.
Byes: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle
1.Eli Manning, New York Giants
2.Tom Brady, New England Patriots
3.Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
4.Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
5.Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Bonus: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders; Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Manning’s the top choice because he’s not nearly as expensive as everyone else, and the Giants’ third-ranked passing game meets a Packers secondary that’s seventh-worst against quarterbacks. Brady’s triumphant return comes at the expense of a Browns defense hoping to avoid going 0-5, but he could be pricey. Roethlisberger’s price will skyrocket but the Jets are surprisingly only the 11th worst unit against QBs. Cousins his here because of his volume of passes and accuracy (151 attempts and 66.2 percent), but he has a matchup that could go either way against Baltimore. The Ravens are fifth-best against QBs, but just got burned by Oakland’s Carr. Dalton has A.J. Green. Enough said.
1.C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos
2.Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
3.Matt Forte, New York Jets
4.Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
5.Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
Anderson’s yardage hasn’t been subpar the last couple of weeks, but Atlanta’s one of seven teams allowing 4.5 yards or more per carry and Denver will run to keep the Falcons aerial attack off the field. Gurley should help the Rams grind down the Bills stacked defensive front, while Forte will see the ball a ton against Pittsburgh for the same reason that Anderson will, plus the Steelers are fifth-worst against RBs.
1.Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
2.Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
3.Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
4.Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
5.A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Thomas is a value play that will cost far less than Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, and the Falcons are only 19th against WRs. Edelman could explode now that Brady’s back, while Benjamin is a risk given how much defenses focus on him and Newton’s status being uncertain. Beckham and Green are expensive, but they’re reliable and make up for all the Saints and Jaguars and Seahawks pass-catchers resting up.
1.Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
2.Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
3.Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons
4.Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
5.Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders
If Brady’s back then so is Gronk. Olsen showed it doesn’t matter if Cam Newton or Derek Anderson is under center, he’s going to catch touchdowns anyway. Tamme only has 22 targets, including just two in Week 4, but that should increase as Denver focuses on Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. Ertz should catch his first touchdown of the year to a Detroit D that’s the worst in fantasy against tight ends.
1.David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
2.Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
3.Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
4.Tavon Austin, WR, Los Angeles Rams
5.Travis Benjamin, WR, San Diego Chargers
Johnson is clearly the brightest star on Arizona and he’ll get a ton of touches on Thursday. Hyde’s a gamble on the short week but he might be on the verge of really breaking out against a Cardinals D that’s allowed 249 rushing yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks. Sanders will snag whatever Thomas doesn’t, and Austin has the potential to shine against a Bills team owning the sixth-worst D against WRs.
With K.C. and Seattle on byes, the Vikings move to No. 1 because it’s hard to believe Houston’s completely turned its offense around after one week. The Patriots are top 10 fantasy D/ST more than capable of thwarting a Cleveland offense averaging 18.5 points a game and an offensive line that’s already let up 11 sacks. Buffalo just dismantled a Patriots offense led by a limited quarterback and up next is the Rams, who start Case Keenum. The Panthers will rebound against the turnover-prone Bucs, and the Bengals pass rush (No. 2 in the league with 13.0 sacks) should be disruptive enough to throw off the Cowboys and Dak Prescott.