This season, Carson Palmer is a great low-round target at quarterback in most fantasy leagues. In a recent 12-team draft, I was able to get him in the eleventh round, at #129 overall. That seems to be about where he is going in the average snake draft, and it means you can either stock the rest of your team and pick him late as your starter or grab a stud QB early and grab him late as a competent backup. However, as mentioned in the previous article, Palmer faces a very difficult slate of pass defenses this year and he shouldn’t be treated as an every-week starter like the Tom Bradys, Drew Breeses, and Aaron Rodgers of the world. For this season, he is a spot starter and here are three weeks in particular where he should ride your bench.
Week 3 @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh had the very best pass defense in football last season, allowing a mere 171.9 yards per game through the air. This will be a serious test for the new-look Raiders and we will see what they can bring to a fight with one of the AFC’s dominant teams. It is possible that the Steelers’ age and the loss of some key cogs (Casey Hampton, James Farrior, Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall) and the potential holdout of Mike Wallace will make them more susceptible to defeat. However, they are still the Steelers and they are great until proven otherwise, no matter who is suiting up for them. If this game were played in Oakland, I might be inclined to give Palmer the benefit of the doubt, but this game is in Pittsburgh where the Steelers almost never lose. The opposing team’s locker room at Heinz Field may as well have a sign that reads, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Week 8 @ Kansas City Chiefs: Not only did the Chiefs have the ninth-best pass defense last year, but they signed former Raiders CB Stanford Routt to "bolster" that unit. What Routt lacks in talent, intelligence, and general effectiveness he makes up for in sheer aggression (which unfortunately for him leads to a lot of illegal contact/pass interference penalties), and he spent last year practicing on a daily basis against Carson Palmer. This game will be played in late October in Kansas City, which means that the field will likely be a muddy mess, unsuitable for a demolition derby much less a professional football game. This game will be ugly, rough, and there will be lots of runs up the middle for no gain. That’s no recipe for success from Palmer.
Week 10 @ Baltimore Ravens: Hide yo kids, hide yo wife. The Ravens were the fourth-best pass defense last year and have for the previous decade been the premier defensive unit in the league, led by LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed. They also sport CB Jimmy Smith, LB Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, and as if they needed more toughness on the defensive side they drafted studly Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw in the first round back in April. This unit is as close to the 1985 Chicago Bears as we are going to get. Bench all your Raiders for this one, and spend your time alternating between drinking heavily and praying fervently.
Other than those games, Palmer is a pretty good play this season relative to his draft position. In his prime with the Bengals he was a solid fifth-round selection and his skills haven’t diminished considerably since then. He has a solid group of young talented receivers and is primed for a successful season this year and to lead the Raiders toward a playoff berth.