Many, myself included, wrote off Steve Smith as having a no chance to be a viable NFL wide receiver this year, let alone a viable fantasy football option. As the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders, it is time to issue my last mea culpa after writing an entire article telling people to stop drafting Steve Smith: slot Steve Smith into your lineups this weekend.
Steve Smith has returned to being the Steve Smith of old, before the “raw shredded chicken” Achilles injury. He’s playing fast and angry, the only way Smith knows how to play. Joe Flacco is giving Smith plenty of opportunity, as Smith leads the team in targets through three weeks with 25. Smith has turned those 25 targets into 16 catches and 170 yards. The only thing Smith is missing from his ledger is a touchdown. That has more to do with the anemic Ravens offense that has only managed four touchdowns all season, and all three of the receiving TDs going towards Mike Wallace.
This week will be a get-right game for the Ravens offense as they take on a Raiders defense that has severely underperformed expectations thus far this season. The defense has been especially terrible against wide receivers. Through three games they have allowed three 100-yard receivers. Only the exotic anemic smash mouth of the Titans escaped having a 100-yard receiver as the Saints had two and the Falcons one. The Raiders defense has also yielded five touchdowns to wide receivers thus far this season, including two receivers catching scores in each of their first two games. They’re having a rough time against the pass so far this year.
That is good news for the Ravens, who are likely to lean on the pass Sunday as John Harbaugh expressed displeasure for the rushing attack to the media today. They are unlikely to turn towards them this weekend as they wait for rookie Kenneth Dixon to make it back, instead relying on the sometimes elite arm of Joe Flacco. He’s going to have to sling it all over the field if the Ravens have any shot of winning this game, and that means a lot of targets for Smith.
Steve Smith has recovered astonishingly well from his Achilles injury and is not only playing; but he’s also thriving. As he takes on a Raiders secondary that is incapable of stopping wide receivers while being the apple of Joe Flacco’s eye, he has the perfect mix of opposition, talent and opportunity to feast.