It’s the beginning of bye weeks and top tier teams such as the Broncos, Seahawks, Bengals and Cardinals all have the week off. The Browns and Rams join those four teams to round out the six squads who get to take an early breather on their season. That leaves us with thirteen games to analyze and discuss, so let’s take a look at which teams and fantasy options will drive your lineups this weekend.
NY Giants at Washington – THU, SEP 25
Over/Under: 45 Points
Spread: WAS -3.5
The Giants and Redskins take the field to kick things off on Thursday night football and this should be a game with relatively limited defense played, but keep in mind that these Thursday night contests typically play out to be a little sloppier since teams are given minimal rest between games (looking at you, Bucs and Falcons). We can start with the Redskins offense since Kirk Cousins’ impeccable play through the last two games has everyone giving the foregone conclusion that Washington is now his team. It’s definitely his team in Week 4 with RG3 still out and what interests me the most with Cousins is his receiver usage. In Week 2, he targeted Pierre Garcon just 4 times followed by 16 times in Week 3. DeSean Jackson saw 10+ targets in Week 3 as well and if not for an injury early in Week 2, might have seen double digit targets as well. The only real consistent has been Logan Paulsen who, with Jordan Reed still out, has seen 11 and 9 targets in the two games with Cousins at the helm. Cousins started the last three games of 2013 and targeted Paulsen 7, 2 and 8 times in those three games respectively. He has an inclination to lean on his tight ends which makes Paulsen a terrific play.
As far as the other weapons go, the matchups on the outside for Jackson and Garcon shouldn’t be too big of a challenge. The Giants benched FS Stevie Brown last week and the expected replacement is Quintin Demps, who isn’t really any type of upgrade over Brown. As we’ve seen through the first few games, that weakness at free safety has left a ton of space over the top for opposing offenses, most notably Calvin Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins who each have 100+ receiving yards in games against the G-men this season. This would seem to indicate that if forced to choose between Garcon and Jackson this week, you might want to put some faith in DJax who serves as the primary deep route runner for Jay Gruden’s offense. Garcon is also more likely to see a higher dose of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this week who has been stellar so far in 2014, ranking in the top 10 for corner coverage ratings on PFF.
Looking at the Giants, they had both the run and passing game going at full steam in Week 3 against the Texans. They get another relatively porous defense in the Redskins who are coming off a game where they allowed 325 passing yards and 3 scores to Nick Foles and company. The Redskins also lost DeAngelo Hall last week to an ACL tear in Week 3, leaving them extremely thin at corner. Hall had struggled this season but the bulk of the corner snaps now fall to relative unknowns E.J. Biggers and David Amerson. Biggers is the most likely candidate to take over at the LCB slot for Hall with Amerson remaining on the right side of the field. It also means Bashaud Breeland will play for slot corner snaps since Biggers had been filling in on slot coverage duties on the majority of passing downs. Why is that significant? Because Victor Cruz is taking almost 90% of his snaps out of the slot this season and is fresh off a huge 5 catch, 107 yard, 1 TD performance. Look for the Giants to try and exploit the rookie 4th rounder Breeland early and often by getting Cruz involved as much as possible out of the slot. Beyond Cruz, Rueben Randle should see mostly Amerson in coverage and Preston Parker will get to go against the unproven E.J. Biggers, which MIGHT be a cheap value play worth rolling out in a tournament with Jerrel Jernigan on IR and Odell Beckham not ready to take the field quite yet.
The running game also excited Giants fans in Week 3 as Rashad Jennings took 34 carries for 176 yards and a TD. My first concern when seeing those numbers are that the 34 carries aren’t something to expect weekly. The Redskins are 3.5 point home favorites meaning Vegas likes Washington to probably have a lead late and the run game won’t be nearly as valuable as it was while dominating the Texans in Week 3. The 34 touches also match the total of carries Jennings saw through Weeks 1 and 2. It’s not to say that Jennings isn’t talented and capable of putting up big numbers, but I’d just project his touches closer to the 20 mark than above 30 again on TNF. The other issue is that this Redskins front 7 has looked great over the past two games, holding the Redskins to just 8 rush yards in Week 2 and the Eagles to 42 rushing yards in Week 3. Even with the 103 yards they allowed to Arian Foster in Week 1, they were still able to hold him under 4 YPC. If Jennings wants to have another big game, he might have to find a way to get involved in the passing game since I don’t see him topping the 100 yard plateau on Thursday in Washington.
* Rashad Jennings – $6500
* Victor Cruz – $6800
* Preston Parker – $3000
* DeSean Jackson – $6100
* Pierre Garcon – $7100
* Kirk Cousins – $8200
Green Bay at Chicago – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 49 Points
Spread: GB -1.5
The Packers absolute disaster in Week 3 against the Lions was a killer for daily fantasy lineups. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy were all complete non-factors and probably buried your squads. There’s plenty of frustration to go around, but let’s start with who I see making the biggest turnaround on Sunday; Eddie Lacy. I know he’s looked horrible through the first three weeks of action but he drew the Seahawks, Jets and Lions in those games. The Jets and Seahawks ranked in the top 5 last season in run stopping on PFF. In terms of defense vs. position, here were the stats allowed by those rush defenses in 2013:
- Seahawks Rush D – 2013: 83.94 RuYd/G, .25 RuTD/G
- Jets Rush D – 2013: 71.38 RuYd/G, .53 RuTD/G
- Lions Rush D – 2013: 78.63 RuYd/G, .50 RuTD/G
Now compare that with the Bears defense last season:
- Bears Rush D – 2013: 141.38 RuYd/G, 1.19 RuTD/G
It’s not the end of the world for Eddie Lacy so don’t abandon ship after a rough first few weeks. He was facing three of the best rush defenses in all of football and while I can’t argue that he should have done more against them, he at least gets to make it all up against one of the worst rush defenses in all of football. The Bears allowed another 91 rushing yards on 22 carries to all Jets RBs in Week 3 and even though those numbers don’t jump off the page, it could have been a lot worse had Rex Ryan not abandoned Chris Ivory who looked like he could churn out 5 yards every time he got the ball. Also consider that Lacy had 42 carries for 210 yards and 2 TDs in two games against Chicago a year ago. This is the perfect time to buy low on Lacy when he should be low owned thanks to his recent struggles.
The Packers passing weapons are a group I wouldn’t expect to be low owned despite recent struggles, since most people are smart enough to realize that Rodgers and company won’t stay quiet too long. Still, it’s somewhat alarming that Rodgers has two games this season with under 200 passing yards and just one passing touchdown. Last season he didn’t have under 200 yards passing in any of his starts, less the game where he went out really early with an injury against these same Bears. Seeing two games under that total in three weeks is worrisome but again I think the matchup means you can overlook some of that. This Bears secondary lost Peanut Tillman in Week 2 and then allowed 300+ passing yards to a Geno Smith led offense in Week 3 (without Eric Decker for most of the game). With no Tillman, da Bears started Tim Jennings at LCB and Kyle Fuller at RCB. Fuller graded out well on PFF but still allowed a crucial 51 yard grab to Greg Salas late in that contest, on a route that might look very similar to something Jordy Nelson might try. Fuller should see Jordy for most of this game and despite good PFF marks over the last two weeks I’m still inclined to believe that’s a matchup Jordy should win. The other big name wideout for Green Bay is Randall Cobb who takes 98.1% of snaps from the slot and has seen all 21 of his targets this season from that role. He’ll get to matchup most often with Isaiah Frey, the Bears starting slot corner. Frey played his first game of the season last week and was picked on 6 times, allowing 4 catches for 46 yards and a TD. The Bears will likely throw a variety of safeties at Cobb as well, since Frey only played about half the defensive snaps in Week 3.
For the Bears offense, they did enough to win in Week 3 despite an ailing Brandon Marshall barely being available. Chicago too has a struggling running back that many are losing faith in with Matt Forte. Over the past two games, Forte has just 54 rushing yards on 25 carries. Again, understanding the matchups you’ll see he’s drawn the 49ers and Jets rush defenses in those games. Both of those teams rated in the top 10 in defense vs. running back stats a year ago and both are well within the top 10 this season. The Packers on the other hand are allowing 110 rushing yards per game to opposing backs and 1.33 touchdowns per contest. They’ve also allowed 3 30+ yard receiving running backs through the first three weeks, an area where Matt Forte is able to get involved and rack up fantasy points. Overall, Green Bay is the 27th ranked defense vs. RBs so far in 2014 and that is great news for the upside of Forte in this matchup.
Looking over to the Bears passing matchup, the Packers secondary was extremely impressive in their loss to Detroit in Week 3. Stafford threw for 246 yards with 2 INTs and 0 touchdowns, while Calvin only managed 6 grabs for 82 yards on 10 targets. Interestingly enough, the Packers haven’t allowed any of the first three quarterbacks they’ve faced to tally more than 250 passing yards. They also haven’t faced an offense with multiple receiving weapons like the Bears though, and anytime Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall play together it’s extremely difficult to cover. Add Martellus Bennett into the mix, who has at least 5 catches and a TD in every game this season, and you have one of the most dangerous receiving corps in football. For coverage, Brandon Marshall (if healthy) should come out of the slot on about 50% of snaps but he’s only seen 5 of his 25 targets in 2014 from that slot area. When he comes out of the slot, expect Casey Hayward to play more snaps this week and help out on coverage of Marshall. For Alshon Jeffery, he sees the majority of his snaps wide left of Jay Cutler and should draw Sam Shields in coverage for most of this game. Shields hasn’t been great this season, allowing 10 catches on 14 targets for 180 yards and 2 TDs. That could be the matchup to exploit, especially if it looks like Marshall may not be 100%. Still, with this passing game it seems like Jay Cutler gets locked in on either Marshall or Jeffery early in a game, so mixing in both for tournaments should be a beneficial strategy.
* Eddie Lacy – $5600
* Jordy Nelson – $7200
* Randall Cobb – $6400
* Aaron Rodgers – $8200
* Jay Cutler – $8200
* Matt Forte – $7800
* Alshon Jeffery – $6600
Tennessee at Indianapolis – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 45.5 Points
Spread: IND -7.5
The Colts offense should be able to find some room on the ground against the Titans who are allowing 117 yards per game to opposing RBs and 1.33 TDs. Indianapolis certainly isn’t built on a strong running foundation, but the yardage could be there considering a juicy matchup and being favored by 7.5 points. More ground game could potentially mean more Trent Richardson who has shown signs of life over the past two games. In Week 2, he had 21 carries for 79 yards. In Week 3, Richardson had 14 carries for 57 yards. Bradshaw is still in the mix, and honestly is the much better play, but I’m just trying to find some semblance of hope from TRich. The Colts clearly want to get him the ball more and if the Colts are able to get a lead here, he might see around 18 carries and if he can find the end zone, he could easily hit value for just $4700 on DraftKings. There are better options around him, so consider him only for tournament play.
The aerial attack for the Colts might see the toughest secondary of the season as the Titans do have some talented defensive backs and Luck + Co. have had some cupcake defensive matchups through the first three weeks. The Colts have faced the three worst defenses vs. quarterbacks in Weeks 1-3 in the Broncos (30th DvP), Eagles (31st DvP) and Jaguars (32nd DvP). With that in mind, it’s not a huge surprise that Luck has totaled 30+ fantasy points in 2 of his first three games and a shade under 20 in the other. The Titans rank 2nd vs. QBs this season and have yet to allow more than 202 passing yards against or more than 1 passing touchdown. Top corners Jason McCourty and Coty Sensabaugh have rated out positively in pass coverage as well. McCourty should be in line to battle Reggie Wayne on the majority of snaps while likely seeing some of T.Y. Hilton or Hakeem Nicks when they line up wide right. The matchup on the left side of the field is much more enticing though as Blidi Wreh-Wilson was hit for 57 yards and a TD last week on 8 targets against. Wreh-Wilson has now grated out negatively in pass coverage each of the last two weeks while playing nearly every snap. Last week was the first time they moved him over to the right corner, likely as an attempt to push McCourty towards semi-shadowing A.J. Green. Green still was able to get matchups with Wilson, but I don’t think the Colts will work so hard just to get Wayne away from that coverage when they have two other talented receivers in Hilton and Nicks. Hilton will start wide left and has the best matchup of the week and I’d be surprised if the Colts slide him to the slot too often (33.1% of snaps from slot this season) with a much better defender in Coty Sensabaugh patrolling that position.
* Justin Hunter – $3800
* T.Y. Hilton – $5300
* Ahmad Bradshaw
Miami at Oakland – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 41 Points
Spread: MIA -4
The Dolphins took their Week 1 victory and have since made an absolute mess of themselves like only the Dolphins could. Miami loses two games and complete anarchy sets into their locker room, with Joe Philbin failing to give a vote of confidence to Tannehill and defensive players whining about their scheme issues. So what can possibly fix the Dolphins broken locker room? A trip to London to take on the hapless Raiders. Oakland surprised a few people last week by hanging with the Patriots late before eventually losing, but I’ll chalk that up to some failures by New England’s offense more than an elite performance by the Raider D. Oakland is still obliterated on their front 7, now starting a pair of backup linebackers including Kaluka Maiava – an undersized linebacker who is notoriously bad against the run. Enter Lamar Miller who played 55 of the team’s 71 offensive snaps in Week 3 with Knowshon Moreno out. Miller took 15 carries for 108 yards and caught four balls for another 24 yards. It was the first time we’ve seen Miller as the true dominant running back in the Dolphin rotation in a while and he took advantage. In Week 4 he gets a Raider defense allowing 147 yards per game on the ground to opposing RBs while ranking 24th in terms of defense vs. running backs so far. With all of the injuries (including losing strong safety Tyvon Branch last week), an already porous front seven appears to be primed to be lit up by Miller.
In the passing game, it looks like Miami will trot Ryan Tannehill out there again in Week 4 despite his early season struggles. Where Tannehill has been exploited most this season is under pressure, where he has just a 40% completion percentage. In 38 dropbacks where the defense was able to pressure him, his QBR is just 46.4. Compare that to a mediocre 81.9 QBR when not under pressure. Neither number is elite, but he needs to do a better job of getting the ball out safely when the opposing defense can create a pass rush. The Raiders might not be that defense though, ranking 26th in the NFL in sacks this season with just 1.3 per contest. They’ve also only hurried the QB 24 times through 3 games, which is 12 total times less than what Tannehill and the Dolphins offense have allowed through three contests. Assuming Tannehill has time to throw on most downs, he needs to be able to take advantage of Brian Hartline in a similar role to what Julian Edelman played against Oakland last weekend. Everyone in the stadium knew Edelman was going to get the ball and it didn’t matter. The bulk of that damage fell on Carlos Rogers who was thrown at 5 times for 5 receptions allowed and 48 yards. More likely though, Rogers lines up across from Mike Wallace while Tarell Brown takes Hartline in coverage. Rogers and Brown have both rated out as average corners so far this season and neither match up should scare you off.
For the Raiders, there’s not a whole lot to talk about in terms of their offense. They use a running back by committee approach but are typically too far behind to repetitively run the ball on their opponents. Using a Raiders running back seems like a losing proposition, so we’ll spare breaking down that matchup too in-depth. What may be intriguing is incorporating some of the Raiders receivers since Derek Carr has shown some flashes of good QB play through the first three weeks of the season. In those games the targets have wildly varied, and oddly enough the most consistent targets have gone to Denarius Moore. Here’s the target breakdown for each OAK receiver by week so far:
James Jones: 3 targ, 14 targ, 5 targ = 22 total
Rod Streater: (he is OUT) 7 targ, 3 targ, 3 targ = 13 total
Denarius Moore: 8 targ, 5 targ, 7 targ = 20 total
Andre Holmes: Out Wk1, 7 targ, 2 targ = 9 total
Jones has the one monster 14 target game with Carr but Moore has actually been the most consistent look with 5+ targets in each of the first three weeks. Moore should lineup across from Cortland Finnegan if the Raiders continue to use him at the LWR slot (he’s started two of the three games there this year). Finnegan has been solid so far this year, allowing just 9 catches for 119 yards on 15 targets. That leaves Andre Holmes to Brent Grimes who has moved away from the slot corner role he excelled at a year ago. Grimes hasn’t been great, allowing 11 catches on 18 targets for 87 yards and 2 touchdowns. The biggest hole for this defense may be the slot though, where Joe McKnight was able to torch the Dolphins in Week 3 to the tune of 6 catches for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Dolphins threw slow linebackers and even defensive end Cameron Wake on McKnight which proved to be a terrible approach. They didn’t have many sets with 3 corners on the field, so expect James Jones to play a ton of slot this week. Rod Streater had been taking 62% of his snaps from the slot but he’s injured and Jones has seen the next highest percentage of snaps from the slot (35%) making him the best candidate to assume a bigger role in Streater’s absence.
* Lamar Miller – $6200
* Mike Wallace – $6000
* Denarius Moore – $3700
* James Jones – $5100
Detroit at NY Jets – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 45.5 Points
Spread: DET -1.5
I’ll get the rushing attack analysis out of the way early. Neither one of these defenses yields much on the ground. The Lions have shut down the Giants, Panthers and Packers rush attacks already this season while rating out as 5th best defense vs. RBs. They were top five in 2013 as well and are holding opposing RBs to around 50 total rushing yards per contest. The Jets might be even better, holding opposing backs to an average of 35 yards per game on the ground this season while rating out as the 2nd best defense vs. RBs in 2014. Last season they were top five as well. If you think Chris Ivory or Joique Bell are going to be able to find space up the middle, you’ll likely be mistaken. Using CJ2K or Reggie Bush in large field tournaments could pay off, but you’d need them to pick up a big gain in the passing game or see a large number of targets – which seems unlikely since both squads use a pretty staunch running back by committee style.
Now to the passing game, we’ll start with the Stafford and Megatron combo that was such a big disappointment in Week 3. Staff threw in the direction of Calvin 10 times, making it Johnson’s 3rd consecutive game with double digit targets, but they only connected 6 times for 82 yards and no touchdowns. For many, that would be a fine game, but the expectation on Megatron is a little higher and he was certainly a disappointment at home against a poor Packers defense. This week, the competition gets even lighter and Vegas has the early line set on this to around 45 points, which is above what you’d usually expect in a game involving the Jets. The Lions will likely move Calvin around in this one, leaving him in matchups with Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen most often on the outside. Allen has been picked on by opposing coaches this season, having been targeted 31 times and allowing 19 catches for 205 yards. Walls hasn’t seen nearly as much action but has been thrown at 14 times so far, allowing 8 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. My best guess is the Jets try to push Allen towards Megatron more often here, since Allen is listed at 6’2” which is at least a little closer to Calvin’s 6’5” stature. They’ll also rely heavily on shading safeties Calvin Pryor and Dewan Landry towards the Lions stud receiver, although this isn’t exactly a new approach. Calvin should be in line for a nice bounce back week against a secondary allowing 1.67 receiving touchdowns per game to opposing wideouts on the year.
The Jets passing game may or may not have Eric Decker available and that could mean a whole lot when setting your lineups come Sunday. Decker pulled himself from last Monday’s contest and Jeremy Kerley proceeded to dominate the Bears secondary, hauling in 7 balls for 81 yards and a TD. Geno Smith had a similarly impressive game on paper, tallying 300+ passing yards for the first time this year. His day could have been much bigger though, had he not struggled inside the red zone. Smith has also been abysmal under pressure this season, making countless mistakes when hurried. According to PFF, Smith has just a 31.4% completion percentage under pressure this year to go with 2 TDs and 1 INT. Compare that with his nearly 80% completion percentage when the O-line gives him enough time where he isn’t hurried. Another concern with Geno though, is that he’ll hold the ball too long which leads to the total number of hurries inflating. He’s been pressured on an average of 15 dropbacks per game this season. Bad news for Geno this week is that the Lions front 7 has been terrific at getting after the QB, hurrying opposing quarterbacks 22 times and averaging three sacks per game, which is tied for 4th most in football. That should be owners #1 concern when considering Geno this week, since I actually think Kerley and Nelson can be serviceable weapons in the passing game if Geno is able to get enough time to find them. I don’t see that being the case against the Lions though so I’m avoiding them altogether.
* Matthew Stafford – $8000
* Calvin Johnson – $8500
* Golden Tate – $4700
* Jeremy Kerley – $3500
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: PIT -7.5
The Bucs have been the popular squad to make fun of over the last week after their absolute beatdown at the hands of the Falcons on national TV. They now head to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers team that won in impressive fashion at Carolina on Sunday Night Football. Vegas has the Steelers as early 7.5 point favorites, which is one of the widest margins of the weekend. That means two things can be expected. The Buccs will likely be forced to throw a lot with former/new QB Mike Glennon and the Steelers should be running the ball a lot late in the game. We’ll start with Glennon and company since I actually view his return as good news for Vincent Jackson in particular. Jackson has seen 25 targets through three games, but has just 10 catches for 105 yards and a TD. McCown just flat out wasn’t getting him the ball in the right spaces and Glennon proved a year ago that he can get VJax involved – specifically in the red zone. Jackson has just two red zone targets this season, one in Week 2 and one in Week 3 (which he hauled in for a score). With Glennon last season, VJax had 6 games with two or more red zone targets in Glennon’s 13 games started. Similarly, he had only three games with less than 8 targets and 7 double digit target games, of which he has none in 2014. So I think we’ve established that Glennon should facilitate the ball to Jackson more often, now let’s move over to his matchup. He catches a break (?) with Ike Taylor going down last weekend for the Steelers. I put the question mark since Taylor has been a train wreck in coverage against bigger wideouts like VJax and likely would have struggled to contain him this week. Now he’ll mostly see William Gay as the RCB or Cortez Allen as the LCB. Gay has been terrific and finished last season as PFF’s #9 overall coverage corner. Allen has been a disaster who’s allowed 11 catches for 126 yards and a TD on 18 targets. I’d expect the Steelers to leave their corners on sides of the field with Taylor, who they loved to use in shadow coverage, out. Evans and Jackson could both be in beneficial matchups at different times in this game.
On the ground, there are going to be holes to exploit for the Buccs against this Steelers rush defense. They lost a pair of starting linebackers this week in Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones, leaving them incredibly thin at the position. They’ve even gone as far as to bring back James Harrison for one last hurrah. That means huge holes to be exploited against a defense that allowed 170+ rush yards to the Browns followed by 160+ rush yards to the Ravens – two run games that are far from elite. Last week they were better vs. CAR, but the Panthers only attempted eight total rushes by running backs the entire game. Bottom line, there could be huge potential here so waiting on news about which RB will start could be essential. If Martin goes, he’s likely a GPP option at best given the upside and matchup. If Martin sits, I’d consider Rainey as a valid option in all formats because of the matchup and guaranteed touches he’d see again in Week 4.
For the Steelers, there should be all sorts of valuable options to look at this weekend vs. TB. The Bucs are a mess on both sides of the ball and while they return DT Gerald McCoy on Sunday (most likely), they are more than one piece away from having an above average defense. For Pittsburgh it all starts with Le’Veon Bell who has continued to impress owners with his ability to get involved in both the rushing and passing attack. In last week’s article, I thought Bell would be more involved in the passing game against that Carolina front 7, but instead he totaled 147 rushing yards (LeGarrette Blount added 118 rushing yards and a TD as well). The Steelers have done an excellent job of guaranteeing that Bell sees at least 20 touches, whether on the ground or through the air, in almost every contest. That, combined with the a fore mentioned PPR value, makes Blount a high floor play for cash games with some tournament appeal thanks to his upside. Matchup-wise, both he and Blount should see plenty of touches if the Steelers are able to pick up the early lead (as is expected) and the Buccs have allowed at least 80 rushing yards to every team they’ve faced this season, including a pair of 100+ yard games allowed to the ground games of the Panthers and Falcons. Bell is the best play here, but again, don’t forget about Blount who has shown over the past couple of years that he’s capable of putting together the big game and, if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s one of those vaunted revenge games.
In the passing game, the biggest question will be how will they match up against Antonio Brown who hauled in two touchdowns against the Panthers in Week 3. Brown, who takes the bulk of his snaps at RWR, will see a heavy dose of Alterraun Verner – Verner is extremely talented but has shown over the past couple of years that he’s vulnerable to allowing the big game to equally talented wideouts. Verner rated out as the 17th best coverage corner on PFF in 2013 and has dropped all the way to 52nd among qualified corners so far in 2014. A lot of this could be blamed on the talent around him, since the TEN secondary last season was surprisingly impressive, but he’s been picked on a bit when directly in coverage. Verner has been thrown at 12 times, allowing 10 catches for 161 yards and a TD. That means Brown should be able to take advantage of this matchup and put up some decent numbers against this secondary. After Brown, the other intriguing option is Markus Wheaton who has been sneakily impressive this season and who I wrote about last week as a guy to think about moving forward. Wheaton will see a heavy dose of Johnathan Banks, who has been terrible this season. Banks has rated out as the 5th worst qualified corner on PFF this season, 92nd of 97 total qualified CBs. Look for Wheaton to be a reasonable tournament play as Big Ben’s 2nd best option in the Steeler passing attack.
* Vincent Jackson – $5100
* Bobby Rainey – $5800
* Ben Roethlisberger – $6900
* Le’Veon Bell – $7400
* Antonio Brown – $7800
* Markus Wheaton – $4200
Carolina at Baltimore – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 41 Points
Spread: BAL -3
The Panthers and Ravens will meet in a game with one of the lowest O/Us of the weekend. They also boast two defenses who were marched all over in Week 3. Both teams are built off of their defenses, but the Ravens in particular have struggled with that identity in 2014. Brian Hoyer threw for 290 against them in Week 3 and Andy Dalton had 301 against the Ravens secondary in Week 1. They’ve also allowed 4 80+ yard receivers through the first three weeks of the season, with Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel being the last two wide outs to post those stats from the vaunted Browns offense. For the Panthers, the bulk of the focus will be on covering Kelvin Benjamin who has been terrific in the early going with 27 targets through three games for 16 catches, 253 yards and 2 TDs. Benjamin’s matchup for Sunday will most likely be Jimmy Smith, the Ravens 6’2” corner who is most equipped to go up against the tall, physical Benjamin. The Ravens most talented corner is Lardarius Webb, but he played just four snaps in his 2014 debut last week and at 5’11” would likely struggle to take away the 50-50 balls from Benjamin. Smith has been great in coverage so far this season, rating out as PFFs #25 corner. It’s not a great matchup for Benjamin, like last week’s tussle with the Steelers secondary, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge downgrade for him if guys like Andrew Hawkins were able to post solid performances against the Baltimore defensive backs.
On the ground, it may be a rare opportunity to target one of the Panthers running backs. Carolina has traditionally been a run-first team but lost both Stewart and Tolbert last week to injury and were forced to pass a ton with DeAngelo Williams already sitting out. Stewart and Tolbert are going to miss Week 4 and Williams is expected to return, making him the featured back in this offense. The matchup isn’t ideal, with the Ravens ranking 11th in defense vs. running backs this season, but the workload for Williams combined with his price tag make him an intriguing play. Take a look at what Williams was able to do last season when Stewart was injured:
The numbers don’t jump off the page but he did have 6 games with at least 12 fantasy points of the 10 games Stewart missed AND those include having Tolbert, the ultimate touchdown hawk, on the field healthy. With neither healthy and Williams as the only real RB option, he should see 15+ carries this weekend and guaranteed workloads are always worth targeting.
For the Ravens, the headliner in Week 3 was the play of Lorenzo Taliaferro who had 91 yards and a TD on 18 carries. The risk with using Taliaferro this weekend though is that Bernard Pierce is expected to return and he was no slouch in Week 2, totaling 96 yards on 22 carries. Pierce is still likely the top back and Forsett/Taliaferro will see touches around him. The three headed beast of a running game is good news for Ravens fans but likely detrimental to their daily fantasy value. This is essentially what Carolina usually has going, with three backs capable of serving different purposes throughout the game and I don’t know if you can rely on any of the three Baltimore backs to get the bulk of carries. If I’m trusting anyone this weekend it’s probably Pierce, although the matchup with the Panthers is also concerning although they did allow both Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount to have over 100 rushing yards each in their Week 3 loss to the Steelers.
The better matchups may come on the outside after Antonio Brown was able to reel in all 10 of his targets for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Steelers picked on Antoine Cason most often, connecting all four times he was in direct coverage on Brown. Cason should see mostly Steve Smith this week, who has the leg up considering the old revenge game factor. Smith also has the leg up since he’s been Joe Flacco’s favorite target this season – with 32 looks through three games. Smith (and all Ravens WRs) should also get a slight boost after the loss of Dennis Pitta in Week 3. Pitta had been a vital part of the Ravens offensive scheme with Gary Kubiak and while I’d expect Owen Daniels to step in and be a solid replacement, there will certainly be a crowding out effect that helps both Smiths (Steve and Torrey). Steve will be the focal point of this breakdown though since he again topped 100 yards in Week 3 (2nd time this season) while torching Joe Haden in coverage. The Browns tried to mostly shadow Steve Smith with Haden, but Smith broke loose for 3 catches on 4 targets for 63 yards. The only downside was that it was the first week where Steve Smith hadn’t seen double digit targets, and was actually out-targeted by the unrelated Torrey. Still, Steve is playing the most valuable role in Kubiak’s offense as the “X” receiver and should be the most consistent of the two for the remainder of the season, including this weekend against the Panthers. Torrey will always have upside because of his big play ability but his floor is pretty low as long as his target numbers are fluctuating.
* DeAngelo Williams – $3900
* Kelvin Benjamin – $5800
* Steve Smith Sr. – $5600
* Owen Daniels – $4100
Buffalo at Houston – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 41 Points
Spread: HOU -3
The Bills and Texans will match up in Houston in a surprising game of two teams who are both 2-1. But both teams fell last week by double digits with Buffalo dropping a home game to the Chargers and Houston losing on the road against the Giants. We’ll start with the Buffalo offense since predicting some of their weapons can pose a bit of a challenge. The man to own in the Bills running game continues to be Fred Jackson who is dominating the opportunities category. Last weekend, Jackson saw 10 receiving targets along with six carries. Spiller on the other hand had 10 carries with just three targets. Jackson is also a staple of the Bills red zone attack, and Spiller is a mere afterthought in that area of the field. So far this season, Jackson has a team high 11 red zone targets (runs + rec. targets) compared to just two for Spiller. This is all significant because the Bills draw a rush defense that was torched by Rashad Jennings in Week 3 and Alfred Morris in Week 1. Jennings tallied 176 rushing yards on 34 carries last weekend and Houston is now averaging 125 rush yards allowed to opposing backs on the season. Spiller is the more traditional running back, but I love the way that Buffalo gets Jackson involved which increases his overall upside, specifically on DraftKings with the full point per reception scoring.
In the receiving game, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods shared a game high eight targets a piece in their Week 3 battle with San Diego. Woods is a potential deep GPP play who can rack up some decent reception numbers but Watkins is the real stud to look at, despite hauling in just two of his eight targets last week for 19 yards. He showed how good he can be in his Week 2 dominance of Miami where he had 117 receiving yards and a TD. This week he has a really tough matchup though as the Texans will likely shadow him with Johnathan Joseph, who has the 6th highest coverage rating on ProFootballFocus this season. That’s not to say that Watkins can’t break one or two big plays and hit value, but I think you’re looking at more of a deep tournament play than anything reliable in head to head or 50/50 type games. This line of thinking is enhanced when you consider that through three games, Watkins has two duds combined with one huge performance. I’d expect that trend to continue throughout the season with Watkins being a boom or bust performer week to week, at least as long as EJ Manuel is throwing to him.
For the Texans, the biggest question mark is the health of Arian Foster who sat out Week 3 against the G-men. Foster had been getting an obscene number of touches through the first couple of weeks and Bill O’Brien may have worn him down too early. Foster is shaping up to be a game-time decision, but I see this going one of two ways. First, if Foster plays I would hope O’Brien is smart enough to limit his touches, at least a bit, and get Alfred Blue more involved. In that situation, the Texans are looking at a bit of a time share and Foster loses some of his cash game appeal, especially against a Bills rush defense that is allowing the 8th fewest fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season. The second potential situation is that Foster sits out another game and Alfred Blue sees the bulk of the touches. If Blue is the featured back, you’re looking at a strong value play who should see more than the 13 carries he got (and took for 78 yards) in Week 3. The Texans fell behind early last week and were forced to abandon the run. I don’t expect that to happen against this Bills team, especially with Houston at home. If Foster sits and this game remains close, like most expect, Blue should easily top 20 carries and could be a nice play who earns that 100+ rushing yard bonus on DK.
For the passing game, Ryan Fitzpatrick finally looked like Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 3. He had three interceptions to go with just one touchdown while throwing for 289 yards, with most of those coming in garbage time. The one item of interest is how he continues to get DeAndre Hopkins more involved in the offense. Hopkins leads the Texans in receiving yards so far with 227 yards on 19 targets with 13 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Last week he saw a season high 9 targets from Fitz. He serves as a nice compliment to Andre Johnson on the outside and both are viable options this weekend. Buffalo is ranked 21st against quarterbacks through the first three games, allowing an average of 281 yards passing and 1.67 receiving touchdowns per contest. In terms of coverage on the Bills, the Texans might want to go after slot corner Nickell Roby, who has been terrible this season. On 10 targets against, Roby has allowed 9 catches for 145 yards. The problem with that is the Texans only slot receiver this season has been Damaris Johnson who takes 80% of his snaps from the slot but has only played on about a quarter of the Texans overall slot. The Bills should be able to keep Roby off the field on most situations. That brings us to the match up with Stephon Gilmore, who through two games played in 2014 has allowed 9 grabs on 10 targets for 100 yards and 2 TDs (one in each of the two games he’s played). That gem should fall to Andre Johnson who lines up wide left of Fitzpatrick and Gilmore plays the right corner’s side of the field. I know I just talked about how good Hopkins has been, but I do think Johnson has a really nice matchup this weekend and he consistently sees at least eight targets per contest.
* Fred Jackson – $4900
* Andre Johnson – $5700
* Alfred Blue – $4500
Jacksonville at San Diego – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: SD -13.5
A visit from the Jaguars could mean a few big games from some of the San Diego studs, along with some decent value plays presenting themselves on Sunday. Let’s get right into it and talk about the workload we should expect out of Donald Brown this weekend after injuries decimated Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. Brown has been a lifetime backup who always seems to perform well in that role and should be in a good spot this weekend with the only other back available being Brandon Oliver (who is actually a decent min-priced tournament play this weekend). Brown gets involved in both the passing and rushing attacks, boasting 62 rush yards with 5 catches for 27 more yards in the Week 3 win at Buffalo. The Bills front seven is far superior to that of the Jaguars though, who rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to running backs this season. So far this year, Jacksonville is averaging 139.67 rush yards per game allowed with 1.67 rush touchdowns, 6.33 receptions and 44 receiving yards to opposing RBs specifically. Combine that with the 13.5 point spread favoring San Diego and there’s plenty to be excited about in using Brown on Sunday. I’d say he’s a lock for 20 touches, whether they come through the passing or ground game, and should have a floor of about 15 fantasy points. He’s a terrific cash game play and still has the upside, given the matchup and workload, to be in tournament lineups come Sunday.
In the air, this might serve as an opportunity for Keenan Allen to right the ship a little bit. Allen has virtually disappeared this season, with just 17 targets for 12 catches and a touch over 100 yards receiving through three games. He’s yet to find the end zone as well, just a year after he was dominant inside the 20 yard line for the Chargers offense. This weekend he’ll get a JAX defense ranked 22nd against WRs on the season and 32nd against quarterbacks. The biggest risk with Allen will be his workload, given the likelihood that San Diego is running away with this game late. He should still be able to get more involved in the time he has on the field though, as this Jacksonville secondary is really bad. In coverage, expect Allen to line up across from Alan Ball on most snaps and Ball has actually been the most serviceable corner for the Jags this season, holding opposing receivers to a 50% reception rate with just under 100 yards receiving on 10 targets with a TD-allowed and an INT. The way the Chargers could kick start Allen’s season though would be to slide him over to the right side of Rivers and line him up with Dwayne Gratz who has allowed 2 touchdowns and 151 yards receiving on 12 receptions this season (18 targets in coverage). Gratz is struggling, specifically over the last couple of weeks and San Diego could get their star 2nd year wideout going by giving him more snaps in that position come Sunday.
For Jacksonville, the era of Blake Bortles officially starts this weekend as the rookie QB gets his first real start. He played much of last week’s game while throwing for 232 yards with two touchdowns and 2 INTs (most in garbage time). Bortles has a decent match up this weekend and should see a good amount of garbage time again in San Diego. With that in mind, look for him to drop back around 40 times to throw as the Jags try and catch up with the Chargers all game long. I won’t even bother analyzing Jacksonville’s rushing attack, since their offensive line and running backs haven’t sustained an even remotely fantasy relevant performance all season. Instead, let’s look at who Bortles targeted most in his Week 3 game. With Marqise Lee out, both Allen Robinson and Cecil Shorts saw 10 targets while Allen Hurns was thrown at only three times. Hurns continues to make the most of his opportunities, but in terms of raw workload it appears that Robinson and Shorts are the guys to own. The Jags move both around the field on offense so expect them to find time against both Jason Verrett (decent matchup) and Shareece Wright (tougher matchup). After being torched in Week 1 for over 100 yards receiving against, Wright has held opposing WRs to just 1 reception for 17 yards on 5 targets over the last two games. Either way, look for Jacksonville to throw a lot in this game which makes Bortles, Robinson and Shorts valid tournament plays. Chad Henne was always a reasonable tourney play with the Jags ability to fall way behind, so a more talented Bortles should definitely fall into that category.
* Blake Bortles – $5800
* Allen Robinson – $4400
* Cecil Shorts III – $5000
* Philip Rivers – $7700
* Donald Brown – $5400
* Keenan Allen – $5300
* Branden Oliver – $3500
Atlanta at Minnesota – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 46.5 Points
Spread: ATL -3
So one team here is 1-2 with a rookie QB making his first official start and the other just dropped 56 points on national television while dominating a divisional rival. Just wanted to make sure I had my facts straight before trying to figure out how the Falcons are just 3 point road favorites. I know Vegas values home field advantage heavily, but based on how strong Atlanta’s offense has looked this season with how bad Minnesota’s defense has been, I find it hard to believe the Falcons won’t blow the Vikings out of the water. The biggest issue for Minny’s defense has been their rush-stopping, which is allowing 100+ yards per game to opposing backs on the season. They rank 14th against running backs, but those numbers are slightly skewed considering the triple digit yardage they’re allowing. The Falcons run game is led by Steven Jackson who finally had a productive outing in Week 3. And by productive I mean he had 54 rushing yards and a TD on 14 carries. The Falcons rushing attack is relatively balanced and not wholly productive so this might not be the area where you try and find some value in Week 4.
The passing game is a different story. Matty Ice had his 2nd three touchdown game of the season last Thursday night and has already almost reached the thousand yard plateau this season. His matchup this weekend looks solid despite the #4 overall defense vs. QB rating the Vikings have sported this year. There’s no doubt that their secondary has improved with the addition of Captain Munnerlyn, but I’m still wary on anointing them as a secondary worth avoiding. On the left side, Julio Jones will likely see Xavier Rhodes in coverage. The young corner has been hit or miss early in his career and has allowed 8 grabs on 13 targets against so far this year for 113 yards. In that matchup, the advantage goes to Jones who is coming off a 9 catch, 161 yard day with two scores. Jones always has tournament upside and remains a solid option for cash games, especially on the road with Vegas leaving the line on this game so close. That puts Roddy White in a matchup, on most downs, with Josh Robinson who has been impressive to start the year. He earned his first start last week and has allowed four catches for 47 yards on 7 targets this season. On the inside, you should probably rule Harry Douglas out of your contests this weekend. Douglas was banged up in last week’s win and will see mostly Munnerlyn out of the slot, which should prove to be tough sledding.
For the Vikings, there are a few places where rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater can exploit this Falcons defense. Atlanta’s defense may have forced a ton of turnovers in Week 2, but overall their talent is relatively pedestrian. Bridgewater will likely rely on both Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings a lot, especially after the injury to Kyle Rudolph last week has placed their starting tight end on IR. Jennings and Patterson are really the only two options in this passing game and that should mean huge dividends to their production. Expect Patterson to move around a bunch, lining up across from Robert Alford or Desmond Trufant on most downs. Both have had good starts to the year but Patterson’s speed is a different animal than some of the physical wideouts they’ve seen so far. The best comparison might be Brandin Cooks in Week 1, who had 7 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Patterson represents a similar threat and could be looking at a game much like Cooks had, or even greater considering his market share of Vikings touches. For Jennings, he’s been handling most of his duties out of the slot and will see a good amount of Roberto McClain, the Falcons slot corner. McClain has been solid as well this season, allowing just 9 catches on 15 targets for 71 yards and an INT. Jennings could be in for a tough game here, but remains somewhat relevant since he has a couple of games already this season with 12 or more fantasy points.
On the ground, Adrian Peterson remains suspended and Matt Asiata should continue to see the bulk of the carries. Asiata was disappointing last weekend and has yet to top 40 rush yards in either of his two starts for the Vikings. Much like we saw last season, he’s not a great running back and his involvement in the passing game keeps him somewhat relevant, but it’s difficult to trust a guy averaging just under 3 yards per carry through the last two games. Asiata really only becomes valuable if he’s able to find the end zone, making him a riskier tournament play and not quite as viable in any type of head to head or 50/50 contest. There are better cheap RB options available besides him this week as well, despite the Falcons ranking as the 2nd worst defense vs. running backs so far this season.
* Matt Ryan – $8300
* Julio Jones – $8300
* Cordarrelle Patterson – $5600
* Greg Jennings – $4500
Philadelphia at San Francisco – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 50.5 Points
Spread: SF -5.5
This is one of those games you look at and usually struggle to find clarity with. The tempo of this game could go either way, with the Eagles looking to push the pace early and often and San Francisco unlikely to speed things up in response. Vegas has the 49ers as sizeable favorites (5.5 points) considering the 3-0 start from Philly. I’m not an oddsmaker, nor do I typically bet on sports, but this is one of those fishy lines that has me thinking they know something I don’t. For starters, the Eagles are reeling with underrated injuries right now. Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre are missing on their offensive line and they managed just 42 total rushing yards between Sproles and McCoy in Week 3 against the Redskins. Let’s start there, since the Eagles offense has been heavily reliant on Sproles and McCoy this season and their ability to tire out opposing defenses depends mostly on their running back tandem. This weekend they’ll take on a 49ers front seven that has been expected to drop off in 2014 while losing some key pieces. They haven’t been outstanding, allowing a big Week 1 game to DeMarco Murray, but they’re still allowing the 4th fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season. In the first three weeks, backs are averaging just 66.67 yards per game and 0.33 touchdowns. The Eagles star RB on the other hand, has yet to top 100 yards rushing just one season after he accomplished that feat 7 times in 16 games. Sproles continues to be a popular pick, but as I outlined in last week’s article, using him off of the turf is an extremely risky option. He is lightning quick on turf, but he’s always been a mediocre play when he doesn’t play inside a dome. Last week he was average at best against a vulnerable Washington defense that had lost its best linebacker during the game. He saw more snaps with McCoy sitting out for a little while and did less with them. I wouldn’t be using either of these running backs in anything other than large field tournament play this weekend. My one comment on McCoy would be that he makes an intriguing contrarian play on Sunday, especially given his very reasonable price point.
For the passing game, Nick Foles has been spectacular while throwing for 300+ yards in each of the first three games this season. His most popular weapon has been Jeremy Maclin, who has taken on a much different role in Chip Kelly’s offense than he was used to with Andy Reid. Maclin has a touchdown in each of the first three games while averaging 10.33 targets per contest. He’ll have likely the toughest matchup of the season in Week 4 though, facing mostly Perrish Cox in coverage. Cox has rated out as the 8th best coverage corner on PFF so far this season and has allowed just 6 catches on 12 targets for 102 yards. What has really killed the 49ers defense has been red zone coverage, hence the 7 passing touchdowns they’ve allowed this season and their opponent’s 58.33% red zone touchdown conversion rate. So where have the Eagles gone with their red zone touches? Well last week it was Jordan Matthews who saw three red zone looks. The 6’3” receiver out of Tennessee offers a taller, more physical option inside the 20 for Foles to be targeting. We saw Brandon Marshall go up and outphysical the 49ers corners on a couple of plays in the Week 2 Sunday Night Football game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles try and get Matthews more involved in the red zone to get over on his coverage. Matthews played mostly slot receiver in his big coming out party last week, meaning he should see a lot of Jimmie Ward. That slot role is very similar to what Marshall took advantage of in Week 2 and Ward is extremely vulnerable in coverage against bigger receivers.
For the 49ers, there are some really juicy matchups in the passing game that they can exploit. The Eagles allowed both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to finish last week as two of the top five fantasy producing receivers. Take a look at some of the game logs opposing WRs have boasted against Philly through three games this season:
Week 1: Allen Hurns – 9 targets, 4 Rec, 110 RecYd, 2 TDs
Week 1: Marqise Lee – 10 targets, 6 Rec, 62 RecYd
Week 2: T.Y. Hilton – 11 targets, 6 Rec, 65 RecYd, 0 TDs
Week 3: DeSean Jackson – 11 targets, 5 Rec, 111 RecYd, 1 TD
Week 3: Pierre Garcon – 16 targets, 11 Rec, 138 RecYd, 1 TD
That’s five different receivers who have had at least a dozen fantasy points against the Eagles secondary through three weeks of action. That brings us to a terrific option in Michael Crabtree. Crab was quiet in Week 1 but has bounced back over the last couple of weeks, tallying 17 catches for 162 yards and 2 TDs in that span. Last week, he saw a slight target spike as Vernon Davis sat out the contest vs. ARI, but still his targets should be right around 10 per contest and will go even higher if the Eagles are able to establish an early lead in this one. The line doesn’t indicate that will be the case, but again I don’t really know how the Eagles are sitting as such heavy underdogs in this game. Crab should lineup across from Cary “I don’t know when to shut up” Williams in this game, and that’s extremely enticing. Williams has allowed 14 catches for 214 yards and a TD so far in 2014 and most recently complained publicly that the Eagles coaches were working players too hard. Williams apparently hasn’t been working hard enough and Crabtree should have a field day in this matchup.
* Jordan Matthews – $5500
* Jeremy Maclin – $6300
* Nick Foles – $8000
* Colin Kaepernick – $7600
* Michael Crabtree – $6400
* Anquan Boldin – $5000
New Orleans at Dallas – SUN, SEP 28
Over/Under: 53 Points
Spread: NO -3
Oh boy, here we go. The Saints travel to Dallas on Sunday Night Football. The game has a 53 over/under and early signs are pointing to the Saints weapons being heavily owned in all contests this weekend. The Dallas defense held up reasonably well through the first two weeks but after allowing 327 passing yards and 2 TDs to Austin Davis last weekend it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Brees doesn’t post a monster stat line. We’ll start with his most valuable weapon, Jimmy Graham, who could prove to be a matchup nightmare for the Boys. Dallas is decimated at linebacker and they don’t have enough size from their corners to match up with Graham either. They rank dead last at covering the TE position, allowing 9 catches per game for 97 yards and 1.33 touchdowns. Last week, both Jared Cook AND Lance Kendricks were among the top fantasy performing tight ends. I don’t see any realistic way the Cowboys keep Graham away from 100 yards receiving and at least 1 score, making him a near must own in cash games on Sunday. Beyond Graham, there are three viable receivers you can consider in a potential shootout. Brandin Cooks has been the best of Brees’ WRs, with a pair of 15+ fantasy point efforts already this season. He’ll likely get the opportunity to go up against Orlando Scandrick (above average corner) or Brandon Carr (very mediocre corner) in this game. Ideally I’d like to see the Saints try and take Scandrick out of the game by running Kenny Stills in his direction on deep routes, but Cooks could find himself in a matchup with Scandrick from time to time. Still, the Cowboys lack the ability to rush the passer and if Brees/Cooks have time, he could find himself with some big gainers throughout this game. The Saints will also use Cooks from the slot on about 30% of his snaps, which means matchups with either linebackers or Sterling Moore/Morris Claiborne. Claiborne may not even play this weekend after storming out of the Cowboys facility upon learning he was demoted to out of the starting rotation. The other guy who will see time in the slot is Marques Colston who has taken about 70% of snaps this season in that role. He too has a juicy matchup against either Sterling Moore or Claiborne and could be another interesting tournament option.
The rushing attack for the Saints will most likely be able to gain traction here as well, with the Cowboys averaging 102 yards per game allowed on the ground. I like Khiry Robinson to see about 18-20 carries in this game, assuming the Saints are able to maintain some type of lead. Robinson should be able to do more than the 69 yards he accumulated last week and is one of the best value RBs of the weekend. The other back to consider is the PPR dreamy Pierre Thomas. Thomas found the end zone in Week 3 on the ground but is much more often used in passing down situations. Given the bevy of injuries to the Dallas linebacking corps, I don’t know if they have anyone who can slow Thomas on check down passes from Brees. Add in the ‘dome’ factor and Thomas should have no issue picking up a head of steam while accumulating chunks of yards in the passing game.
Moving over to Dallas, it looks like Romo and company should be forced to throw a lot this weekend at home. I don’t want to say this game could be like last year’s thriller vs. Denver, but I see the potential. He gets a Saints defense that was throttled by Matt Ryan in its season opener on the road. They failed to stop Brian Hoyer from efficiently moving the ball in Week 2 and were average at best against Teddy Bridgewater once he entered the game in Week 3. Romo on the other hand has looked pretty average and has yet to post one of those big games he’ll traditionally have 3-4 of each season. This could be the spot, with his top option Dez Bryant in a good matchup on the outside. The Saints three qualified corners in terms of snaps played have all graded out well below the league average in coverage ratings on PFF. Dez will take the majority of his snaps to the right of Romo, which means a match up against Corey White on most plays. White has allowed 14 catches on 20 targets this season for 116 yards. Bryant could also see some Keenan Lewis who was moved to RCB last weekend but played the left side in Weeks 1 and 2. Lewis has allowed 13 catches for 149 yards on 20 targets with a touchdown this season. The Saints secondary has overall been a pretty big disappointment and I think Dez makes for one of the top tournament play receivers this weekend. I’d consider him in cash games but his injury-susceptibility is really a turn off.
The area where the Cowboys have been most successful is on the ground, where DeMarco Murray has 100+ yards rushing in each of his first three games. Murray has been the most reliable back in football in 2014 so far, and it’s hard to see him not being productive again on Sunday night. The Saints allowed just a shade under 100 yards rushing to the Falcons and their not-so-prolific rushing attack, followed by 100+ yards to the dynamic duo of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell (sarcasm there, everyone). Last week they had a decent effort against Matt Asiata, but it’s hard to count that as a real win. They haven’t faced a running back at the caliber of Murray so far in 2014 and I see him posing a major issue to their defense. Last season, they allowed 100+ rushing yards to four different running backs and I think Murray should be the first to top that total in 2014.
NOTE: Tony Romo is listed as probable right now despite missing practice Wednesday. If he doesn’t play for any reason, I’ll try to update the article accordingly.
* Drew Brees – $9300
* Pierre Thomas – $5400
* Khiry Robinson – $4800
* Jimmy Graham – $7500
* Brandin Cooks – $5300
* Marques Colston – $4800
* Tony Romo – $6700
* DeMarco Murray – $8300
* Dez Bryant – $7900
New England at Kansas City – MON, SEP 29
Over/Under: 45 Points
Spread: NE -3.5
The final matchup of the weekend pits the Chiefs and Patriots against one another. The Patriots have been baffling so far this season and the offensive line is being raked over the coals in the Boston media right now. Brady hasn’t had much time to throw and when he has, he’s been missing open targets. Last weekend, while barely scraping out a win over the Raiders, Brady threw for just 234 yards and 1 TD. In that game, 19 of the 30 targets that went to either receivers or tight ends went to Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski. He clearly doesn’t feel comfortable with any of the other weapons yet and that means Edelman/Gronk should continue to be the focal points of your daily fantasy attention. For Edelman, the Patriots will likely try and get him matched up with Marcus Cooper as much as possible. They move him around, but Cooper could be the guy to target. He’s allowed 13 catches for 207 yards and 2 TDs on 19 targets so far this year. Kansas City’s defense as a whole has ranked 23rd against Quarterbacks so far. The next option is Gronkowski, who played 46 of the Patriots 77 offensive snaps last weekend and found the end zone. He’ll continue to play a higher percentage of snaps each week, especially in important games against tougher matchups like the Chiefs. Kansas City has struggled in the red zone so far this season with the TE position, allowing 3 touchdowns to opposing TEs so far. Gronk is almost a lock to be on the field whenever New England reaches the red zone, so look for him to be a good bet to find pay dirt again on Monday Night Football. That will likely be followed by a confusing look that says ‘Gronk no can spike no more?’
Anyways, the other factor to consider in the Patriots offensive matchup is their O-line struggles. Beyond Brady’s time in the pocket to throw, the O-line hasn’t done a great job of creating space for Stevan Ridley to run the ball through this season. Riddles did have one big game against the Vikings but he consistently was hit at the line of scrimmage in the Week 3 game against the Raiders. There are two bits of promising news here though. First, Ridley has seen 25 and 19 carries over his last two games. Not many backs in football are getting that many guaranteed looks per game (although if he fumbles once he’s riding the pine for the rest of the night). Second, the Chiefs front seven is decimated by injuries and just allowed Lamar Miller to rip through them for 108 rushing yards on just 15 carries. With Mike DeVito, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry all on the mend, the Chiefs really don’t have an answer to a powerful running attack. The O-line isn’t spectacular, but I’d be surprised if the Patriots were unable to move the ball consistently on the ground in this game.
For the Chiefs offense, they have a tough matchup with the #2 ranked defense in football so far this season. Revis hasn’t been “Revis Island” but the grouping of Revis, Ryan, Arrington, Dennard and McCourty have made one of the best secondaries in the game so far in 2014. Considering the Chiefs mediocre passing attack, I’ll save you the trouble and just say the only potentially viable option is Travis Kelce. The rushing game is a different story though, and they should be able to move the ball efficiently against an average front 7. In Week 1, Knowshon Moreno tore the Patriots apart to the tune of 134 yards. Last week, Darren McFadden was able to muster up 60 rushing yards on 18 carries and had a 8 yard TD run taken away on a pointless holding call late in the contest. There is space to run against this defense and running the ball is the KC specialty. The big question mark lies in whether or not Jamaal Charles plays. It’s looking more likely than not that he goes, so look for him to get heavily involved in the KC offensive gameplan after Andy Reid still hasn’t had the opportunity to pay him back for the Week 1 debacle that led to Charles seeing a heavily reduced workload. Charles, if fully healthy, might be in a really good spot for a bounce back game on Sunday and always has that huge upside you look for in running backs – accompanied with a pretty low floor and a reasonable price point.
* Tom Brady – $6300
* Stevan Ridley – $4600
* Julian Edelman – $6500
* Rob Gronkowski – $5700
* Jamaal Charles – $7400
* Travis Kelce – $3700
See everyone next week and best of luck in all of your games on DraftKings this weekend!