Game Predictions & Player Projections - ARI vs. IND

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Prediction: ARI 23, IND 13 (Line: ARI by 7.5, O/U = 44.5)

UPDATE: John Brown is out because of his quadrceps injury. Jaron Brown moves up and J.J. Nelson is more interesting. Third-rounder Chad Williams also slated to see playing time.

What's a few missing superstars? This won't be the highest-scoring game of the weekend but it may be the saddest. The Cardinals just had the inconceivable happen with David Johnson out for the bulk of the season. The Colts likely knew all along that Andrew Luck was not ready to play but they are only disclosing what they must. After getting spanked by the Raiders, it is apparent that Luck was the glue that held it all together.

This favors the Cardinals because of their better defense and, if only in this case, a better quarterback.

Arizona Cardinals

1 @DET 23-35 10 SEA ---
2 @IND --- 11 @HOU ---
3 DAL --- 12 JAC ---
4 SF --- 13 LAR ---
5 @PHI --- 14 TEN ---
6 TB --- 15 @WAS ---
7 @LAR --- 16 NYG ---
8 BYE xxx 17 @SEA ---
9 @SF ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
ARI @ IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 280,1
RB Andre Ellington 3-20
RB Adrian Peterson 30
RB Kerwynn Williams 40,1 2-10
WR Jaron Brown 3-40
WR Larry Fitzgerald 6-100,1
WR J.J. Nelson 4-70
PK Phil Dawson 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Cardinals came out flat last week and while they scored 23 points, the defense fell apart. And losing Johnson not only takes away their only rusher, it also removes their most effective receiver. There are several soft spots in the schedule that will help, but the aging Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are likely to get worse as the season progresses. Fitzgerald in particular faded badly last year. Losing Johnson is just devastating with no realistic chance for a "next man up" to remotely matter as much.

QUARTERBACK: Carson Palmer passed for 269 yards and a score in Detroit (two if you count the pick-six) but also added three interceptions. Losing his safety valve of Johnson will hurt and Palmer already struggled this year. The ability for the Cardinals to remain in games will be up to Palmer and his arm. And he won't have Johnson to rely on as a receiver or as a concern to the oncoming rushers on pass plays.

RUNNING BACK: David Johnson's wrist surgery will have him out a reported two to three months. He's going on injured reserve with a chance to come off in Week 10. The Cards re-signed Chris Johnson and he'll be part of a committee approach also using Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington. Until they all play, there is only speculation about what their respective roles will be. Chances are good that none of them will be any difference maker for the Cardinals or your fantasy team.

WIDE RECEIVER: Larry Fitzgerald started the year out on a positive note when he led the team with six catches for 74 yards. His 13 targets were four more than any other player. But Fitzgerald started 2016 with a two-touchdown game and then faded fast in the second half of the year. If this is Fitzgerald's final year - and at 34 years old it may well be - he is going to be called upon to carry this team whether he can hold up or not.

John Brown and J. J. Nelson also come into play more. They are no longer just support players. The wideouts have to succeed if the Cards are to have any chance of winning games.

TIGHT END: No fantasy value.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: CB Vontae Davis remains out and that greatly benefits Larry Fitzgerald. He is the lone no-brainer fantasy start here. Both Brown and Nelson offer upside but could just as easily offer up mediocre production. This is a good place to take the risk though. The Colts already allowed Jared Goff to throw for 306 yards.

If you had to start one of the running backs, Williams carries the most upside. Johnson was on the waiver wire for a reason. Ellington proved long ago to be nothing more than a change-of-pace back. Williams already scored once last week though he was held to only ten yards on five carries by the Lions.

Consider Fitzgerald as a good play this week. Palmer, Brown and even Nelson could be considered if the risk was acceptable.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ARI 22 7 8 24 18 11
Preventing Fantasy Points IND 16 23 25 15 29 29

Indianapolis Colts

1 @LAR 9-46 10 PIT ---
2 ARI --- 11 BYE xxx
3 CLE --- 12 TEN ---
4 @SEA --- 13 @JAC ---
5 SF --- 14 @BUF ---
6 @TEN --- 15 DEN ---
7 JAC --- 16 @BAL ---
8 @CIN --- 17 HOU ---
9 @HOU ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
IND vs ARI Rush Catch Pass
QB Jacoby Brissett 190,1
RB Frank Gore 40 3-20
RB Marlon Mack 20 2-20
WR T.Y. Hilton 4-50
WR Donte Moncrief 2-50,1
TE Jack Doyle 4-40
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 1 XP

Pregame Notes: An inauspicious start to the year likely won't get any better here but upcoming home games against the Browns and 49ers offer hope. Scott Tolzien was not up to the task of replacing Andrew Luck and there is no decision yet as to the starter. While the Colts have been less than forthcoming about Luck's prognosis, it seems evident that this situation is not expected to improve anytime soon. The absence of Luck has this offense on its heels with little expectation of improvement.

QUARTERBACK: It has been reported that Jacoby Brissett is being considered to start this week after throwing two completions for 51 yards at the end of the blowout loss in Los Angeles. Scott Tolzien only threw for 128 yards, but both interceptions were returned for defensive touchdowns. Brissett may not prove any better but he's unlikely to be any worse. Brissett only had a few plays but produced a 109.7 QB rating. Tolzien ended with a 33.8 QBR.

I'll assume Brissett gets the nod and update if needed. It won't make a tremendous difference either way.

RUNNING BACK: It all fell apart so badly that Frank Gore was only given ten carries. Marlon Mack also was allowed ten runs and he scored a meaningless fourth-quarter touchdown. But he only averaged 2.4 yards per carry in a game that the Colts had already thrown in a white flag. Ongoing, Gore will continue to be the primary back with the bulk of the workload. At the current rate, we may never know if Robert Turbin remains the goal line back since the Colts may never get close enough.

WIDE RECEIVER: Only T.Y. Hilton had more than one catch as a wide receiver last week. And he ended with only three catches for 57 yards. The loss of Luck is catastrophic on this unit. The best they can hope for is slop time at the end of games when the defense allows short over-the-middle throws. Donte Moncrief caught one pass for 50 yards from Brissett to set up the Mack touchdown in the fourth quarter.

TIGHT END: Jack Doyle gained 41 yards on two catches last week. But he's risky to rely on with the quarterback situation. Doyle only received three targets in the game.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Cardinals defense was shredded by Matthew Stafford for four touchdowns last week but there is no Stafford here. Gore is worth starting despite his risk of minimal production. But no other Colts carry more than high risk. This offense has to settle down and figure out what a non-Luck world really is. But it is not going to happen this week against the Cardinals defense. Hilton naturally draws Patrick Peterson unless they move him around. Even Hilton is a major risk at this point.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points IND 29 19 29 21 26 21
Preventing Fantasy Points ARI 29 20 30 3 11 26

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