Matchup: Jaguars @ FalconsThursday, December 15, 2011
Thursday Night Football
Jacksonville @ Atlanta
Two months from turning 30, Michael Turner is in the midst of his second straight late-season swoon. And it started earlier this year. Turner has one touchdown in his last five games and 139 yards on his last 47 carries (2.96 YPC). Big-bottomed and thunder-thighed, Turner is a squatty plodder in need of large lanes and a head of steam to break off sizable chunks of yardage. Facing perhaps the NFL's worst run defense in Carolina last week, Turner managed two yards or fewer on 9-of-21 rushing attempts. He was thrown for a loss five times. Most likely, Turner will require a goal-line score to pan out as a worthwhile RB2 start on Thursday night. Working in his favor is a Jaguars defense that has been touched up for 432 yards and five touchdowns on 91 carries (4.75 YPC) by opposing backs over the last four games. Working against Turner is the fact that he's an overused, declining runner playing on a short week. Fantasy owners need to be aware that Turner has little left. If he does produce, it will be mostly due to the weak opponent. ... Tony Gonzalez is the No. 3 fantasy tight end, ranking second in the league in catches at the position and third in yards. Only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have scored more. No defense in football has allowed more receptions to tight ends than Jacksonville, so this is a favorable matchup for Gonzo.
The Jaguars lost yet another key defensive back when promising rookie safety Chris Prosinski (thumb) joined Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, William Middleton, and Courtney Greene on injured reserve this week. Ripping up box scores, Matt Ryan has completed 134-of-227 passes for 1,791 yards (7.89 YPA) and a 14:4 TD-to-INT ratio over the last six weeks. Ryan's on-field performance isn't as good as the stats suggest, but he's getting it done in fantasy and shouldn't struggle to pour points on an injury-decimated defense in the Georgia Dome. ... Here is Ryan's target distribution since Julio Jones returned from double hamstring strains in Week 12: Roddy White 39, Gonzalez 30, Jones 19, Harry Douglas 13. ... White has seen double-digit targets in four straight games and is the No. 6 fantasy receiver over the past five weeks. ... Douglas is off the radar with Jones back healthy. ... More of a possession receiver at Alabama, Jones has been the primary deep threat in Atlanta. His 18.1 yards-per-catch average ranks fifth in the NFL amongst players with at least 30 receptions. Jones will be the Falcons' best bet for big plays against the Jags on Thursday night.
As has been the case all season, Maurice Jones-Drew is the only viable fantasy option on the Jaguars' roster. The league leader in carries and rushing yards is enjoying the best season of his career, and is red hot with 100 total yards or more in five straight games since Jacksonville's Week 9 bye. The Falcons are playing tough run defense this year, but Jones-Drew has held his own in difficult matchups. In five games against top-ten rush defenses, MJD has averaged 107 yards from scrimmage while seeing his role in the passing offense grow. He's cleared 50 receiving yards in three consecutive weeks and now ranks third among running backs in fantasy scoring. ... With Mike Thomas (concussion) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) set to be inactive, Jarett Dillard will be the Jaguars' No. 1 wide receiver at Atlanta. This is Dillard's third season in the NFL and he has never hit 50 yards. ... Marcedes Lewis sprinted through a sleeping Tampa secondary for a 62-yard deep shot in last week's win, and finished with a season-high 77 yards. Lewis has yet to score a touchdown this season and would be a poor fantasy tight end play against the Falcons.
Score Prediction: Falcons 30, Jaguars 10
Gregg Rosenthal takes a look at the key players to start or sit on Thursday night.