It’s the semifinals of most fantasy football leagues and you have a dynamic receiver in the Carolina Panthers’ Steve Smith going against the Houston Texans in Week 15. But he and you could not have drawn a worse matchup.
Smith will likely draw Johnathan Joseph in coverage. One of the league’s top corners, Joseph hasn’t allowed a TD since Week 9 and has allowed just two all year, according to Pro Football Focus. He has only given up 34 yards or more once since Week 6 and that came last week against the Bengals and 6-4 rookie A.J. Green who had five catches for 59 yards— 36 yards coming on one play. The 36-yarder is the longest play Joseph has allowed since Week 6.
So in starting Smith you have to hope the Panthers will be moving him all over the field, letting him find seams and empty pockets with which to catch the ball and go to work. But just two TDs allowed by Joseph all season and just one game above 67 yards allowed by Joseph all season certainly has to be a scary proposition to think about when you shift Smith into your starting lineup.
Smith, who was quiet last year with the terrible QB play the Panthers had, came out like gangbusters in 2011. He had a 33.8-point game right out of the gate and followed with 16.2 before a 2.5 dud in Week 3. He bounced back in Week 4 with 22.10 points, followed by 15.4, 9.1 18.4 and 20.7 by Week 8. Seven of his first eight games he scored at least 9.1 points and six of his first eight he scored at least 15.4 — you couldn’t ask for much more from a mid-to-late-round pick by most drafters.
But then the inconsistent fantasy days followed more often than not. Week10, coming off a bye, was 5.8 points, followed by 15.1, 9.2, 4.2 and last week’s 15.5.
In the last two wins, Smith has not been a good play; in the last two losses he has scored at least 15 points. Herein lies the problem. It’s safe to say the visiting Panthers are going to get gashed by Houston RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate and be down in this game from the jump. So the trend of Smith scoring well when the team is losing could continue.
However, the Texans have won seven in a row by an average of 15 points per game and the hopes of Smith racking up points as part of a trailing team could be shutdown by Joseph, who over those last seven games has allowed 17 catches, for 192 yards and one TD — 2.4 catches, 27.4 yards and .14 TDs per game for an average of 4.78 fantasy points in Athlon’s half-PPR format.
So you take Smith’s inconsistencies versus Joesph’s consistency and I’m shying away from the veteran receiver in Week 15.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter