Let the bye week blues begin…
And let the alliteration accidentally begin, as well.
After a bizarre Week 3 of fantasy football, owners and analysts alike anticipate a much more plausible slate of games in the fourth week of the season, though, when it comes to fantasy, nothing ever seems to be plausible. Now, two teams are on a bye, and a handful of significant fantasy players will be out of commission for fantasy owners. The start/sit questions become even more difficult.
Let’s get down to business.
Week 4 Byes: Green Bay, Carolina
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Terrelle Pryor vs Washington Redskins: Please be okay. Please be okay. Please be okay. Pryor looked very sharp on Monday night against a tough Broncos defense, completing over 67 percent of his passes for 281 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. However, he left late in the game after taking a vicious hit, and was sidelined with a concussion. He is currently questionable right now, but if he is cleared to play, watch out. Pryor has looked like much more than just a runner thus far, making all of the necessary throws and showing some much better accuracy than people expected. The Redskins, meanwhile, are on pace to allow the most yardage in the history of the league, and after three games, have allowed the most yards ever (1,464). This unit has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and have already surrendered a whopping nine passing touchdowns. Assuming he plays, I have Pryor has my number 10 quarterback this week, and no, that’s not too high.
Tom Brady @ Atlanta Falcons: Now usually, starting Brady would be as much of a no-brainer as wearing pants. You know, unless you are weird. However, Brady hasn’t been the dominant fantasy signal caller we have been accustomed to seeing, so I think now is a good time to remind fantasy owners that yes, you can still trust this guy. First of all, the Gronk returns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to make his season debut this week, which does wonders for Brady’s value. Rather than forcing red zone throws to rookies Aaron Dobson and company, Brady will look for arguably the most dominant end zone threat we have ever seen. Secondly, the matchup is favorable, as the Falcons defense is beat up, and allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This will easily be Brady’s highest-scoring fantasy outing. Book it.
Ben Roethlisberger vs Minnesota Vikings: Big Ben will visit the real Big Ben in London this week, facing a very weak Minnesota secondary. This unit just allowed Brian Hoyer of all people to eclipse 300 passing yards and three touchdowns on them. They have quietly been almost as bad as the Redskins, allowing eight passing touchdowns and the 13th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Ben received his favorite red zone target in Heath Miller last week, and as Miller gets back in shape, the more that will help Ben’s fantasy prospects. If you have Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton on a bye, you could do a lot worse than Roethlisberger as a bye week plug-in this week.
Colin Kaepernick @ St. Louis Rams: What do you get when you combine a struggling quarterback and a Thursday night game? A potential mess, that’s what. Kaepernick has looked very off over the last two weeks, throwing a combined four interceptions. Perhaps the lack of weapons is much more significant than many originally anticipated. While he clearly has QB1 potential, it’s difficult to trust the likes of Kyle Williams and company as top receiving options, and whether you believe in it or not, Thursday night games have typically been very unfriendly in fantasy land. I’d look elsewhere this week.
Andy Dalton @ Cleveland Browns: Dalton has been the definition of hot and cold thus far. And while it may not show in his week-to-week statistics, if you watch him play, you’ll see it. One second, he’ll make a perfect throw to his receiver. The next? He’ll make a poor read, resulting in a turnover. I do like Dalton for the rest of the season, but in a week where a ton of quarterbacks have favorable matchups, I don’t see the need to roll with Dalton. While he did well against the Browns last year, this 2013 defense is very, very strong, only surrendering two passing touchdowns this week and have a very stout pass rush. If you were considering Dalton as your bye week replacement this week, hold the phone. There are much better options out there.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
Trent Richardson @ Jacksonville Jaguars: While Richardson’s Indianapolis debut wasn’t ground-breaking by any means, he did score a touchdown and ran very hard against a tough 49ers defense. He had a solid 13 attempts in his debut, and against a poor Jacksonville run defense this week, I expect to see him flirt with 25 total touches. The Jags are allowing a league-worst 167 rushing yards per contest and 5.2 yards per clip. This unit is allowing the 8th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, and considering Blaine Gabbert is once again the starting quarterback, owners can expect a few turnovers in his own zone, which will bode well for Richardson.
Bernard Pierce @ Buffalo Bills: Pierce’s Week 4 value obviously hinges on whether or not Ray Rice returns, but his status remains in doubt for this weekend. Pierce, meanwhile, is in the top-10 in rushing attempts this season with 52, and with how much Baltimore is running the football (88 team attempts), Pierce should obliterate a Buffalo run defense that has allowed over 500 total yards to opposing running backs this year. As long as Rice remains sidelined, Pierce should be a top-12 guy in all formats this week.
Bilal Powell @ Tennessee Titans: Powell is now a legitimate number two fantasy running back. With Chris Ivory sidelined, the majority of the touches will belong to Powell, who is coming off a 27-carry, 149-yard performance in Week 3. Powell is also used in the passing game a good amount, seeing at least two catches in every week of the season. This week’s matchup against the Titans is solid, as this unit has surrendered at least 100 total yards and a touchdown in each of the last two weeks to opposing rushers. While Powell may not be the most explosive back by any means, the volume is there, which makes him at least flex worthy this week.
C.J. Spiller vs Baltimore Ravens: I hate life. Hate it. You will almost never see me recommend benching my man crush, but Spiller is a concern for owners right now. While he did suffer a quad injury on Sunday, he fully expects to play, but how effective will he be? The Ravens run defense has been stellar, allowing the 6th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Running backs are averaging just 3.4 yards per carry against them, and while Buffalo wants to run the football, the presence of Fred Jackson is very much a factor. The veteran has outplayed Spiller in all facets this season, and until Spiller emerges out of this backfield, it’s hard to trust him. Sigh…
Stevan Ridley @ Atlanta Falcons: I wrote an article a few days ago stating that Ridley is a bust this season, so of course, I will be benching him if I own him. Guys like Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount will significantly cut into his workload, and considering Bolden is a much better pass-catching option, I’d expect Ridley to lose work on passing downs. The Falcons have allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and I expect the Patriots to throw the ball a good amount in this contest, limiting Ridley’s fantasy production.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown vs Minnesota Vikings: One of my starts of the week, Brown is coming off an insane fantasy outing. On Sunday night, he caught nine balls off 13 targets for a whopping 196 yards and two scores. I had Brown pegged as a major breakout candidate this season, and as long as he and offensive coordinator Todd Haley can get on the same page, it will happen. He is the most valuable receiving threat in this offense, and against a Vikings secondary that continues to get torched week after week. This unit ranks 28th against the pass and has surrendered eight passing touchdowns this year. With a handful of fantasy relevant receivers on a bye this week, Brown is inside my top-10.
Eric Decker vs Philadelphia Eagles: If you bought low on Decker after Week 1, congratulations. Decker exploded on Monday night, catching all eight of his targets for 133 yards and a score. From the start, he was clearly Peyton Manning’s go-to option in the passing game, and now that the case of the drops seem to be behind him, Manning should continue to look his way. If that’s the case this week, Decker will go off against an Eagles defense that is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season. This offense should have a ton of fun against this unit. Consider Decker an easy top-15 option for Week 4.
Stephen Hill @ Tennessee Titans: If you need to replace the Packers receivers or Steve Smith this week, Hill is an intriguing option. We always knew this kid had upside, running a 4.3 40-yard dash with a 6’4″, 215-pound frame. So far this year, he’s looked strong, catching 13 balls for 233 yards and a score. Hill is averaging 17.9 yards per catch, so owners know he will likely give them a big play each and every week. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith is targeting him more than any of his other receivers (23 times) and in a friendly matchup against a Titans defense that struggles against the pass, allowing five touchdowns through the air thus far. You could do worse if you need to replace one of your guys on a bye week.
Andre Johnson vs Seattle Seahawks: Now, you most likely can’t afford to bench a guy like Johnson, but if you can, I’d highly recommend it. Johnson continues to get banged up after each week, this time, dealing with a bruised shin, and while he should play, the matchup is as bad as it gets. Seattle has the best secondary in football, allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season. Richard Sherman is as much of a shutdown corner as there is in the league, and Johnson may struggled to get open against these physical corners.
Vincent Jackson vs Arizona Cardinals: The combination of a rib injury that has caused him to be day-to-day and a rookie quarterback making his debut are enough for me to shy away from Jackson this week. Even as bad as Josh Freeman was, I’m not sold that Mike Glennon will be the savior for this passing offense for the immediate future. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers, and the presence of Patrick Peterson isn’t very inviting. There is simply too much not to like here, and there are better options out there, for sure.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Heath Miller vs Minnesota Vikings: I never thought I’d say this, but guys, start your Steelers this week. Miller returned to the lineup last week, playing on 39-0f-66 snaps, only catching three passes. However, the Steelers are removing snap restrictions this week, which means the veteran tight end is a full-g0. The matchup is great, as the Vikings are allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. Big Ben loves targeting him in the red zone, as Miller led all tight ends with 20 red zone targets a season ago. I foresee a very productive outing from Miller. Something along the lines of six grabs for 80 yards and a touchdown. He’s a top-10 option this week.
Brent Celek @ Denver Broncos: Although he’s only been targeted eight times this season, Celek has some sleeper appeal this week against the Broncos. This unit has yet to allow a tight end to score a touchdown against them, but Denver has allowed the second-most receptions and third-most yards to the tight end position through three weeks. Philadelphia will be trailing a lot in this contest, so Michael Vick will have to throw the ball quite a bit. And if he continuously gets pressured, Vick will likely check it down to Celek quite a bit.
Kyle Rudolph vs Pittsburgh Steelers: I rarely have Rudolph ranked inside my top-15 because I don’t prefer touchdown or bust guys. That is exactly what Rudolph is, and against the Steelers, his chances of scoring are slim. This unit has allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year, and have yet to allow a tight end to find the end zone. You can find much better production out there.
Brandon Myers @ Kansas City Chiefs: This Kansas City defense is for real, folks. They get pressure on the quarterback, can cover the opposition and force turnovers. Meanwhile, the Giants offense looks like an absolute mess, as quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times last week. Myers, meanwhile, only posted three fantasy points last week, and heading into a matchup against a Chiefs unit that has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends won’t help his cause.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Colts defense vs Jacksonville Jaguars: 11, nine and 26. Those are the fantasy totals of opposing defenses that have faced the Jaguars this season. The Colts, meanwhile, are coming off of an impressive 11-point outing against the 49ers, and considering Blaine Gabbert is once again under center, the Colts could have a field day on Sunday.
49ers defense @ St. Louis Rams: The vaunted 49ers defense has looked nothing like the part so far this season. Sure, they’ve been serviceable, bu they haven’t looked as ferocious and aggressive as season’s past. Now, they are already without Aldon Smith and could very well be without leader Patrick Willis on Thursday night as well. The Rams certainly aren’t an offensive juggernaut, and this should be a low-scoring affair. However, there are higher upside defensive units to choose from.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.