Week 4 is upon us and it started with a less than scintillating performance from the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night. They won (but didn’t cover) and led us to believe that Brandon Weeden could indeed by a successful NFL QB. No matter. What does the rest of the weekend hold? Are there matchups which you can exploit to win in week 4? Who might you think twice about staring this week? I’m here to help. I’ll wrap up with the final Survivor Pool picks for the week. The big choice (the Ravens made it through on Thursday night).
Remember, I usually like to use Rotoworld’s rankings as a quick guide and then see where I can take advantage of lower or higher rankings. Follow along, as I read aloud. If you have questions, just leave a comment or send me a note on Twitter.
Bye week: Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers
Up: Matt Schaub is matched up with the worst defense against QBs in the NFL – the Tennessee Titans. However, the Texans offense is predicated on running the ball and the Texans have two running backs that have succeeded in the past in Arian Foster and Ben Tate. It will be interesting to see how the Texans play this game offensively. I say that Schaub finishes as a top 8 QB this week. If you own him and you don’t start him this week, I’m not sure when you would.
Philip Rivers is another must start this week. He goes on the road against a Chiefs team coming off an emotional win. These division games always seem to be high scoring affairs. The Chiefs defense has also been one of the worst against QBs this year. They’ve gotten some defensive help back, but I see Rivers being able to take advantage of the team. Moreover, it doesn’t look like Ryan Matthews is quite back up to speed after his latest injury layoff.
If you want to go deep, I’ve got two options (especially for those in 2 QB leagues). The first choice is somewhat obvious as it is Josh Freeman going against what looks to be the worst secondary in the league. They should get safety Brandon Meriweather back this week, but I’m not sure how much that will really help. Meriweather is a talent, but a bit of a knuckle head. I like Freeman as a top 15 option this week.
Way down the list is Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals look to be a fierce defensive team this year. And, without Beanie Wells, their backfield is much more settled (and talented). The Cardinals as a whole look to be a good team. They face the Miami Dolphins at home and the Dolphins may not have Reggie Bush (though even if they do he won’t be 100%). Moreover, star CB Richard Marshall missed practice time this week and if he’s out (or less than fully healthy), the Cardinals are at even more of an advantage. He’s a top 20 QB this week.
Down: Tom Brady’s offensive line has been suspect all year and they will be without Logan Mankins in week four. The Patriots face the Bills who have been average against QBs this year. I do not see Brady as a top 10 QB this week as I think the Patriots will try to establish the run a bit more to protect him.
Tony Romo faces the Chicago Bears on Monday night. The Bears are the stingiest defense with respect to QB scoring so far I’d start Schaub, Phillip Rivers, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton over Romo this week. I had this discussion over Twitter with the folks at Fantasy Fix (a good follow I might add) this past week. They rank Romo a bit higher than I would because they believe the Bears have put up their numbers against inferior opponents. I cede that point, but I don’t think it matters as much as they do. The Bears defense is good (Aaron Rodgers and company struggled against it) and Romo will on Monday night as well. Oh, one last thing – Romo is historically poor on Monday nights for what it is worth.
Up: Ryan Williams is the starter for the Arizona Cardinals this week with the news that Beanie Wells will be out for at least two months. Williams has talent, but his offensive line is suspect at best. He gets a good matchup in his first week and should be a top 15 RB this week in all formats.
Jacquizz Rodgers should be a monster in PPR leagues this week as the Panthers average almost 11 receptions given up to RBs. He’s a top 20 back in PPR leagues and could score.
Look for Jamaal Charles to pick up where he left off last week. The Chargers aren’t the best matchup, but are certainly friendly. And if Charles is stopped on the ground, the Chargers give up receptions to RBs. Also look for Dexter McCluster (who is likely listed as a WR and may not be healthy) to be an option in deeper PPR leagues.
Down: Cedric Benson has a fantastic matchup against the New Orleans Saints, but I’m going to take the risk and say the Mike McCarthy uses this week to try to get his passing attack going against the poor Saints defense. Don’t expect much more than what we’ve seen from Benson in the first three weeks even with this great matchup.
More matchup downgrades with Willis McGahee. He’s going to play, but it’s going to be about pain tolerance for him and I think they will mix in Lance Ball a bit more than usual. I see McGahee to fall around the top 25 this week again even with the good matchup.
Check Reggie Bush’s status as he’s going to be a game time decision. If Bush is out, I think there will be a split between Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller. I don’t like any of the three backs at all this week based on health and matchup.
Marshawn Lynch is a start, but I don’t see him as a top 10 back this week as it looks like the St. Louis Rams will get Michael Brockers back this week and their run defense should improve dramatically. So, watch the inactives and if Brockers is in, expect a top 15 performance from Lynch. If not, then top 8 is in the cards for Lynch.
Up: Vincent Jackson will be a top 3 WR this week against the Redskins. I can see 6+ catches for 120+ yards and 2 TDs. It should be a shootout.
Leonard Hankerson will get the most snaps at WR this week in my opinion and as a result he has the best chance to put up big numbers for the Redskins. Tampa Bay is terrible against WRs and I’d rather start Hankerson than Kenny Britt, any of the Cowboys WRs (Dez Bryant, Miles Austin or Kevin Ogletree) or Sidney Rice. He’s a top 25 option for me this week.
Greg Jennings still isn’t 100%, but shouldn’t need to be against the New Orleans Saints. I think his numbers will actually look more like a possession WR as he doesn’t seem to have that burst so expect more catches for fewer yard (he may struggle to get 100 yards), but he should score (as almost everyone on offense should for the Packers). I like Jennings as a top 10 in PPR, top 15 in non-PPR.
I like Eric Decker better than Demayrius Thomas for this week (and the rest of the season). The reports that Peyton Manning can’t throw down field as well as he used to mute Thomas’ big play value. Decker can work more of the intermediate and shorter routes than Thomas can. I see Decker as top 10 this week (top 7 in PPR) and Thomas in the top 15 this week against a porous Raiders defense.
Michael Crabtree looks like he has a tough assignment against the New York Jets defense. However, Darelle Revis is out for the year, so the matchup isn’t quite as hard as it seems. Also, note that the 49ers are not coming west to east again – they stayed in Youngstown for the week to practice so there shouldn’t be any “jet lag” issues for the 49ers. Start Crabtree as a solid WR2 in most leagues, borderline WR1 in PPR.
Jerome Simpson is back off of suspension and the talk is that he will be heavily involved. I’d take a wait and see approach to Simpson, but if you can grab him and stash him on your bench, I’d do it this week.
Down: Hakeem Nicks is out. Just in case you missed it. Get him out of your lineup.
Pierre Garcon is likely to play this week, but he will be on a pitch count according to Adam Schefter. The Redskins play the late game, but the Buccaneers have been extremely friendly to WRs this year. I still think he’s too big a risk even with the great matchup.
Do not start Dez Bryant or Miles Austin unless you are desperate. The Bears can shut these players down. I like Austin a bit more than Bryant, but both are no better than low end WR3/Flex plays this week. Whether you start them or not depends on the depth of your league and your other WRs.
I’m not sure if you’d start any other Bears WR, but Brandon Marshall, but if you are, don’t. As for Marshall, I see him in the same realm as Bryant and Austin. He’s a risky start this week.
Kenny Britt isn’t 100% and even if he is on the field, I don’t think he’ll have the health to beat a tough Texans defense. Leave him on the bench this week.
I’m not sure why I continue to see Marques Colston ranked as a top 20 WR. He’s not the same WR he was a few years ago and the Saints offense isn’t the same. He’s a low end WR3/Flex for me this week and beyond. He’s not 100% healthy and won’t be all year. He won’t have that burst he needs.
Up: Our weekly Tennessee Titans update brings Owen Daniels to the stage as the Texans face the Titans. Daniels instantly becomes a top 10 TE consideration. I might be crazy, but I could see him scoring more than Rob Gronkowski this weekend.
If Tennessee is going to throw against the Houston Texans (and they will likely have to since Chris Johnson looks more like present-day Larry Johnson), they won’t be able to throw to their WRs as often as they might like. For that reason, I like Jared Cook to put up top 12 TE numbers this week. The Texans struggle against the TE and Cook has the skills to take advantage of those struggles if Jake Locker gets the time to throw.
If you are desperate (two TEs leagues, only New York-based players league) Dustin Keller has a tasty matchup with the 49ers who continue to struggle against the TE. The problem is Keller isn’t healthy and Mark Sanchez isn’t good.
Down: For all of the struggles the Saints defense has had this year, they’ve done very well against TEs. As a result, I’m downgrading Jermichael Finley to outside the top 10 this week. He’s got completion at the TE spot and he hasn’t shown enough this year to make me recommend him.
You aren’t going to sit him, but Rob Gronkowski won’t be a top 10 TE this week. The Bills can control the TE game with their strong safety play and Gronk isn’t fully healthy.
Up: Nate Kaeding is out so Nick Novak (clearly on Norv Turner’s speed dial) is the choice to replace him yet again. Novak is a solid bye week option should you need him. He should finish in the top 12 in points this week.
Down: Ryan Succop had the winning kick last week and had a huge week overall. He’s going up against the second toughest defense for kickers to score upon this year so do not expect a top 12 performance this week.
Up: The Buffalo Bills are sneaky play against a Patriots offense without Logan Mankins or Julian Edelman or Aaron Hernandez and with Rob Gronkowski banged up. I’d like for two or more turnovers and at least three sacks on the day with the potential for a TD of some sort (ether turnover or return).
Down: I don’t like the Philadelphia Eagles as a top 10 defense this week. The Giants have shown a propensity to score in bunches and they have an extremely balanced offense. I know that Hakeem Nicks is out for the Giants, but Eli Manning has too many other weapons.
A bit further down the list, I’d drop the Patriots out of the top 15 as the Bills are getting Fred Jackson back (even on a limited basis) which makes the Bills offense a bit more dangerous.
Survivor Pool – Week 4 selections – Updated
Updates are in bold from my mid-week column. And, you’ll see – no changes from me. I stand by what I wrote earlier with a little bump up for the Cardinals.
Last week the Saints and 49ers took out a good chunk of remaining pool entrants. So, for most of us, the pools are starting to get interesting.
Here is what we have for a top 10 from Office Football Pool and ESPN as of early on Sunday morning:
Office Football Pool
ESPN Eliminator Challenge
|1||Baltimore Ravens (W)||45.20%||
|6||Green Bay Packers||4.30%||
|7||New England Patriots||1.80%||
|8||San Francisco 49ers||1.10%||
|New England Patriots||
|San Francisco 49ers||
A clear cut favorite is out there. Does it make sense to take them? Is there really that much of a difference between the top pick and the rest of the field? My early top 3 picks for the week (final column up Sunday):
- Baltimore Ravens – This is not the same case as the Patriots versus the Cardinals from earlier this season. The Ravens are a far superior team to the Browns. The Browns have shown very little this season to make me think they can keep up with the Ravens. I give Baltimore an 82% chance of winning this divisional matchup at home. Take the Ravens if you believe in “survive and advance.”
- Houston Texans – Now, we get into pot odds and does it make sense to take a lesser team in the off chance that the Ravens lose? If you have the Texans still available, this is the time to use them especially if you are in a pool where the picks look more like ESPN than Office Football Pool above. The Titans are a one dimensional offensive team and the Texans have a defender (in Jonathan Joseph) who can take away a portion of that dimension. I give the Texans a 78% chance of winning.
- Atlanta Falcons – The only reason I have them third is because Carolina will have had 10 days off to prepare for the Falcons. That said, the Falcons are very good at home and their passing attack looks unstoppable. The Panthers don’t have the weapons in the defensive backfield to matchup. I give the Falcons a 75% chance of winning.
I’d also watch the Cardinals this week to see if the Dolphins are without the services of Reggie Bush. If Bush is out, I could see pushing the Cardinals into the top three. I think they are a viable choice this week as well equal with the Falcons.
As for the avoid list, I’d lean away from the Denver Broncos. They are home against a Raiders team coming off of a big win. The Broncos may be without Willis McGahee which would be a big blow to Peyton Manning and put too much on his shoulders in my opinion.
If you get bonus points for picking an underdog, I’d look at the New York Giants on the road at Philadelphia. I know, I’m beating a dead horse picking against the Eagles and Michel Vick again, but I just don’t know how much longer Andy Reid can stay with Vick.
Just a reminder from last week, if you ever wanted to see what Vegas thinks each team’s “chances of winning” are, use this handy little converter to transform money lines into win percentages. You can also create a spreadsheet if you’d like (or use this one – scroll to the bottom) to do it for fun at home. This percentage chance to win is another quick way to gauge win expectations for each team each week. You can get a variety of money lines here or here.
Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. He even won an XFL fantasy league. Really. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.