Usually, we'll analyze the players on both sides of the ball when we do our fantasy football preview for each week's Green Bay Packers game. Today, we're taking a little different tactic and looking at how the matchup with the Miami Dolphins defense is likely to impact the performance of Aaron Rodgers and company.
First up is Rodgers himself. According to ESPN standard scoring, the Dolphins are allowing the sixth-fewest points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season - 14.1. In fact, only Alex Smith has scored more than 14 points against this defense, when he put up 19 in week three. And while that might be cause for concern for Rodgers' fantasy owners, context is crucial here. The starters that the Dolphins have faced aren't exactly a murderer's row of signal-callers. Aside from Tom Brady, whom they faced in week one and who basically has fallen off the face of the fantasy planet, their opponents have started E.J. Manuel (since benched), the aforementioned Alex Smith, and rookie Derek Carr on a terrible Raiders team.
Sure the Dolphins' pass-rushers get to the quarterback with regularity. Sure, they have an impressive points against rating so far. But that has come against poor fantasy competition in the first place. Don't expect a 30-point day from Rodgers this week, but 20 should still be a reasonable target.
While on the surface it looks like a great matchup for Eddie Lacy and James Starks against a Dolphins defense that allows the 10th-most points to running backs, the ridiculous performance by Kansas City's running backs skews those numbers. They were credited with 44 points in week three, but a whopping 18 of that came from reserve back Joe McKnight, who did all of his damage through the air rather than on the ground. Against the Bills, one of the more potent ground attacks (and 1-2 running back punches) in the league, the Dolphins allowed a much more respectable 19 points. Once again, that number is skewed by non-rushing production, as C.J. Spiller recorded a kick return score.
So while a short touchdown is entirely possible for Eddie Lacy, don't count on huge yardage totals unless somehow Lacy gets loose on some screen passes (which would be a great idea against this pass rush, McCarthy. I know you can hear me). You're probably starting Lacy no matter what, but a sixty-yard, one-score day seems like a reasonable expectation.
Like at quarterback, the Dolphins are quite a bit better than average against receivers, allowing the 8th-fewest points per game to wideouts. However, they haven't seen a player the caliber of Randall Cobb yet this season, let alone Jordy Nelson. The top wideouts they've faced this year are Julian Edelman, Sammy Watkins, Dwayne Bowe, and...James Jones, I guess? Again, that's frankly some pretty poor competition - not a single one of those is in the top 25 wide receivers, whereas Nelson and Cobb are both top-five guys in standard scoring.
In other words, feel free to use Jordy and Cobb normally this week. If you're sitting them, you're probably doing it wrong.
Tight end production is tougher to predict, and a defense's allowance of points to the position is also heavily matchup-dependent and reliant on red zone tendencies. So while the Dolphins have allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this year, two of them came to Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, who are among the most athletic players at their position in the league. Andrew Quarless is not, so don't let the Dolphins' early struggles at keeping tight ends out of the end zone convince you to play him this week.
I feel that kicker production has very little to do with the opponent and much more to do with the kicker's offense. Sure, red zone defense can come into play, but the Fish are in the middle of the pack and have alternated between giving up big days to kickers and small ones. If you've got Crosby, start him. If not, don't fret about it.
This gets interesting, as a young or turnover-prone quarterback can pay dividends for a fantasy D. In the case of Ryan Tannehill, he has been picked off three times, sacked nine times, and fumbled twice (recovering both) this season. There should be opportunities for the Packers defense to pressure him this Sunday, and the rest of the team has had issues with ball security as well, as the Dolphins have fumbled eight times and lost five.
With the Packers' defense forcing eight turnovers in three games, you could do far worse this week.
Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a private fantasy football League for SBNation readers this week. It's $10 to join, the top 200 teams win money, and first place wins $1,000. League starts Sunday 1 PM ET and ends on Monday. Here's the link.