9:30 AM ET London Game
New Orleans vs. Miami
Team Totals: Saints 26.5, Dolphins 23.5
Fantasy’s overall QB4 through three weeks despite a tough early-season slate that included road trips to Minnesota and Carolina, Drew Brees now draws a jet-lagged Dolphins team that spent two weeks in L.A. after its opener was canceled by Hurricane Irma, then flew to New Jersey for a Week 3 blowout loss at the hands of the lowly Jets, and now arrives in London in prime position to be blowtorched again. Miami gave up Week 2’s QB7 fantasy finish to struggling Philip Rivers, then allowed Josh McCown to post the second-best yards-per-attempt average (10.83) of his 15-year career. Brees gets back Willie Snead from suspension, adding a high-percentage, chain-moving weapon to an offense that already ranks top five in yards per play (6.3) and No. 3 in offensive DVOA. Brees should shred. … Although Alvin Kamara excited more with a 25-yard touchdown run to seal last week’s win over the Panthers, Mark Ingram remained the Saints’ lead back with 16 touches on 50% of the snaps compared to Kamara’s five touches on 28% of the downs and Adrian Peterson’s 11 touches on a 24% playing-time clip. Miami’s run-defense metrics are solid so far – they held Chargers and Jets backs to a combined 3.26 yards per carry in Weeks 2-3 – but little about the Dolphins’ up-front personnel suggests they will stay stout all year. Ingram is a low-end RB2/flex play, but a reasonable one. Kamara has been held to five touches or fewer in two straight games. Offensive misfit Peterson would need at least an Ingram injury to become playable in fantasy.
Michael Thomas has led the Saints in targets in each of their first three games (8, 10, 8) and on Sunday morning faces a Miami secondary Keenan Allen dogwalked in Week 2 (9/100/0) before it kick started Robby Anderson’s season (3/95/1) last week. Thomas’ stat line over his last 16 games is 99/1,244/10. … Willie Snead ran 76% of his 2016 routes in the slot and figures to push fill-in slot WR Brandon Coleman into a fourth receiver role. Through two games, the Dolphins have allowed enemy slot men Allen and Jeremy Kerley to catch 14-of-15 targets for 142 yards. If we get word Snead will resume the Saints’ full-time slot role, he will be playable immediately. Coach Sean Payton hinted that isn’t a given, though. … On weekly target counts of 5 > 6 > 3, Ted Ginn has settled in as a low-volume, low-floor, and big-play-dependent dart throw. This matchup does suit Ginn; Miami has allowed enemy passing games to function with extreme efficiency, surrendering the NFL’s highest completion rate (79%) and yards per pass attempt (9.4). … Coby Fleener’s matchup isn’t imposing versus a Dolphins defense Chargers tight end shelled for 10/101/1 in Week 2, then gave up five catches to Austin Seferian-Jenkins last week, but Fleener’s splits when Snead plays are concerning. Whereas Fleener averaged a 4/54.3/0.75 stat line in Snead’s four missed 2016-2017 games, his average plummets to 2.9/34.8/0.13 with Snead active.
After not showing up in last week’s embarrassing, 20-6 drubbing by the Jets, the weary Dolphins draw favorable matchups across the board in London against a Saints defense that gave up back-to-back top-three fantasy finishes to Alex Smith and Tom Brady in Weeks 1-2 before facing scatter-armed Cam Newton without Greg Olsen (foot) and Kelvin Benjamin (knee) last week. Jay Cutler has managed QB17 and QB26 finishes despite plus draws against the Chargers and Jets, respectively, however, and Cutler has simply never been a good fantasy quarterback despite all of his theoretical tools. Cutler has just one career top-ten seasonal finish in his 12-year career, and he’s gone ten straight games without reaching 260 passing yards. I think Cutler is best viewed as a passable two-quarterback-league starter but a low-end streamer despite this cupcake opponent. … Allowing a combined 71/320/4.51/1 rushing line to enemy backs, the Saints offer a get-right opportunity for Jay Ajayi following his scoreless, 25-total-yard dud in last week’s loss to the Jets. Ajayi doesn’t have much receiving production to show for it yet, but he is averaging 25 pass routes run per game after clearing that mark in just one game all last season.
Cutler’s Weeks 2-3 targets: Jarvis Landry 26; DeVante Parker 19; Kenny Stills 15; Julius Thomas 8; Ajayi 5. … Parker was a ghost until garbage time in last week’s loss to the Jets, but he still delivered an 8/76/1 stat line and has topped 75 yards in each of his first two games with Cutler. In London, I expect Parker to draw shadow coverage or something close to it from Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, who chased Brandin Cooks (2/37/0) in Week 2 before missing Week 3 with a concussion. Lattimore is still a rookie, of course, and I’m not shying away from Parker in any form of fantasy against the Saints. Cutler will throw to him even when Parker looks “covered.” But there is a chance Lattimore will become this year’s version of Jalen Ramsey. … In the event Lattimore does contain Parker, Landry would be the likeliest beneficiary against a Saints defense that got rinsed in the slot by Adam Thielen (9/157/0) and Chris Hogan (5/78/1) in Weeks 1-2. Landry has drawn target totals of 15 and 11 and is a high-floor start with upside enhanced by this beautiful matchup. … Stills gets the “revenge game” narrative against the team that traded him to Miami, and a plus draw against a Saints defense that has given up an NFC-high 19 completions of 20-plus yards. Stills has drawn six targets thrown 20-plus yards downfield, second most on the Dolphins behind Parker (8), and well ahead of Landry (1) and Thomas (0). … After he played 96% of Miami’s Week 2 snaps, Thomas’ playing time dipped to 58% in last week’s loss to the Jets, and Thomas noticeably got blown up as a run blocker. On target totals of 3 and 5, Thomas remains a TD-or-bust streamer at best.
Score Prediction: Saints 34, Dolphins 24
1:00 PM ET Games
Tennessee @ Houston
Team Totals: Titans 23, Texans 21
Deshaun Watson looked totally unprepared for the NFL in preseason games while losing a camp battle to Tom Savage, then struggled mightily in Weeks 1-2. He took a big step last week in Foxboro, exploiting New England’s pass-rush-deficient defense with aggressive throws at all levels while using his escape ability to break loose from countless sacks. While it should be acknowledged New England’s defense has been an early-season sieve, it should also be acknowledged Watson is now in play as a Week 4 streamer. The Titans pose a favorable matchup, having given up Derek Carr’s QB7 finish in Week 1 and Russell Wilson’s four-touchdown breakthrough game last week. Tennessee has permitted the NFL’s fourth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks (57), while Watson leads the position in rushing yards (124). I still want to see more against a defense that can actually generate pass rush, but it’s possible I got too down on Watson too soon. … At this point, Lamar Miller can only be considered the lead part of an RBBC involving D’Onta Foreman after Miller out-touched the rookie by a 15 to 11 margin in Week 3, but got outgained by Foreman 90 to 63. Miller has simply not been effective in Houston, and so a loss of usage has become inevitable. Miller needs to be downgraded to a high-risk RB2/flex option against Tennessee’s stout defensive front, which held Raiders, Jaguars, and Seahawks backs to a combined 62/215/3.47/1 rushing line in Weeks 1-3, also yielding the NFL’s 12th-fewest catches (14) to the position. Foreman isn’t quite playable yet, but I think he will become the Texans’ lead runner eventually.
Watson’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 32; Tyler Ervin 9; Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller 8; Stephen Anderson 7; Ryan Griffin 6; Lamar Miller 5; Foreman 3. … The Titans are hemorrhaging wideout production, having given up stat lines of 10/105/1 (Doug Baldwin), 6/83/0 (Michael Crabtree), 6/82/1 (Allen Hurns), 7/76/0 (Marqise Lee), 5/62/1 (Amari Cooper), and 2/30/1 (Paul Richardson) so far. Watson’s obvious DFS stack partner, Hopkins is averaging 3.2 targets per quarter since the rookie replaced Tom Savage in Week 1. … Will Fuller (collarbone) is set to return, upgrading Watson’s outlook and increasing Houston’s team speed. Unfortunately, Fuller muddies the fantasy outlooks of all Houston’s complementary wide receivers, bringing their playing time and usage into question. My guess is we’ll see Fuller and Hopkins outside with Miller and Ellington rotating in the slot. … Griffin took over as the Texans’ every-down tight end in last week’s loss to New England, drawing six targets on 86% of the snaps. The Titans’ defense got creamed by Seahawks tight ends (10/125/1) in Week 3. Griffin has some long-shot streamer appeal in an offense that offers high-efficiency potential if Watson keeps improving.
After opening the season with a pass-first approach, the Titans resumed ground-and-pound football in last week’s win over Seattle. Even after Tennessee managed 28 yards on its first 17 carries, coach Mike Mularkey stuck with the run en route to 162 yards on his team’s next 16 attempts, ultimately wearing out a Seahawks defense that looked spent in the fourth quarter. DeMarco Murray’s down-to-down success rate was low, but he ripped a 75-yard touchdown off left tackle and wound up out-snapping (66%, 41%) and out-touching Derrick Henry (15, 14). After the game, Mularkey indicated the touch split is here to stay, keeping Henry in flex consideration but dropping Murray down to an RB2. Houston has played solid run defense early on, limiting Jaguars, Bengals, and Patriots running backs to a combined 75/258/3.44/1 rushing line and allowing the NFL’s tenth-fewest receptions (13) to the position. … The Texans faced Blake Bortles (QB22) and Andy Dalton (QB26) in Weeks 1-2, then got pummeled by Tom Brady for last week’s QB1 result on five touchdown passes and 10.8 yards per attempt. There’s probably not much we can take away from that for Marcus Mariota, whose to-date finishes are QB6 > QB18 > QB14, production in line with a fringe fantasy starter. The Texans held Mariota to a QB29 result last Week 4 and generally have a solid pass defense. The Titans’ schedule loosens up considerably in Weeks 5-7 against the Dolphins, Colts, and Browns, but Mariota doesn’t stand out as a great play this week.
Mariota’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Rishard Matthews 24; Delanie Walker 19; Eric Decker 18; Corey Davis 13; Murray, Jonnu Smith, Taywan Taylor 6; Henry 1. … Missing CB Kevin Johnson (MCL) after losing top CB A.J. Bouye in free agency, the Texans got hit for a 4/68/2 stat line by Chris Hogan last week in a game where Hogan ran 77% of his routes outside. Matthews is the next man up as a 72% perimeter player who has collected a 69/1,048/15.2/10 receiving line over his last 16 games, clearing 70 yards and/or scoring a touchdown in 13 of them (81%). In last year’s two Texans games, Matthews dropped lines of 2/82/0 and 9/114/1. For as long as Davis (hamstring) remains out, Matthews should be viewed as an every-week WR2/3 play. … It hasn’t come together for Mariota and Decker; Decker has yet to clear 50 yards and is scoreless three games in. I expect Decker to get going, but he’s a WR4/flex option until we see it. … Decker moved outside with Davis shelved last week, so Taylor took over in the slot, played 36% of the snaps, and ran 68% of his routes inside. Slot receivers to face Houston so far are Allen Hurns (3/42/0), Alex Erickson (4/62/0), and Danny Amendola (3/48/0). … Walker’s two 2016 stat lines against the Texans were 2/34/0 and 5/35/0. Houston never poses a plus matchup for tight ends, so Walker is purely a bet-on-talent start this week. It is concerning Walker has yet to see a single red-zone target.
Score Prediction: Titans 20, Texans 17
Jacksonville @ NY Jets
Team Totals: Jaguars 20.5, Jets 17.5
The Jaguars’ offense took a shocking step forward in last week’s blowout win over the Ravens in London, doing whatever they wanted against a premier Baltimore defense. Leonard Fournette hit pay dirt for the third straight game and enters Week 4 averaging 21.7 touches per game. The Jets’ defense showed improved effort in its 20-6 upset of Miami, but Todd Bowles’ unit has still allowed the NFL’s ninth-most points (72) plus a generous 73/339/4.64/3 rushing line to Raiders, Bills, and Dolphins backs. Gang Green presently ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (490) and has faced the league’s seventh-most rushing attempts (84), a trend likely to continue against the run-first Jags. Fournette is a high-floor, high-upside RB1 play. … Blake Bortles’ Week 3 game will probably go down as his best of the season, but it at least earned him a starting nod in two-quarterback leagues and streamer discussion considering this week’s opponent. Prior to last week’s Jay Cutler dud (QB26), the Jets served up top-ten fantasy finishes to Tyrod Taylor (QB9) and Derek Carr (QB5), and Gang Green’s combined shortage of pass rush and secondary play will keep them as a pass defense to attack all season long. It’s still worth remembering Bortles failed to finish inside the top-20 fantasy passers in each of his first two games, and a step back traveling to the Meadowlands after playing in London wouldn’t be at all surprising.
Bortles’ Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Marqise Lee 23; Allen Hurns 14; Fournette 12; Keenan Cole and Marcedes Lewis 9; Chris Ivory 8. … The Jets were dusted by outside WRs Michael Crabtree (6/80/3) and DeVante Parker (8/76/1) in Weeks 2-3. Running 75% of his routes outside, Lee offers WR3/flex appeal after consecutive games of 65 yards or better. Last week, Lee gained all of his 65 yards in the first half before the Jaguars took their foot off the second-half gas in a 44-7 win. … Hurns has been hyper efficient early on, converting 12-of-14 targets into 144 yards and two scores. Hurns runs shorter, lower-ceiling routes than Lee as a 70% slot receiver, but he has also out-targeted Lee 5 to 2 in the red zone and is a better bet for easy scores. Jacksonville’s offense is obviously much worse than Oakland’s, but this is a poor man’s version of the Michael Crabtree–Amari Cooper situation with Lee as a destitute man’s Coop and Hurns as a homeless man’s Crab. … Lewis went catch-less on four targets in Jacksonville’s first two games, than erupted for a Larry Donnellian 4/62/3 receiving line against the Ravens in London. My takeaway from that performance was more that Baltimore is a defense to attack with tight ends, and not that Lewis is suddenly a fantasy starter. Lewis is run or pass blocking on well over half of his snaps.
My takeaway from last week’s Jets win is that Miami probably isn’t very good, and especially that the Dolphins’ defense isn’t a unit to fear. It was not that the Jets’ offense has suddenly arisen, or that it will be competitive against the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s havoc-wreaking defense has yielded the NFL’s sixth-fewest points (51) while holding Tom Savage/DeShaun Watson to Week 1’s QB28 fantasy finish, Marcus Mariota to Week 2’s QB18 mark, and Joe Flacco to last week’s QB36 result. Facing DE Calais Campbell and CBs Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, every Jets passing-game member should be benched this week. … Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the exception after he turned six targets into a 5/31/0 line in last week’s win over Miami. Said to be out of shape prior to the game by coach Todd Bowles, “ASJ” nevertheless played 79% of the Jets’ offensive snaps. Seferian-Jenkins is a legitimate streamer against a Jaguars defense that gave up four catches to C.J. Fiedorowicz in Week 1, four to Delanie Walker in Week 2, and five grabs to Ravens tight ends last week, including Baltimore’s lone touchdown (Ben Watson). … Matt Forte’s turf toe injury may make Bilal Powell a popular fantasy play, but beware Elijah McGuire’s growing role and the Jets’ signing of passing-game specialist Travaris Cadet, who knows OC John Morton’s scheme well from their time together in New Orleans. In an offense that is likely to struggle, Powell is a risky flex.
Score Prediction: Jaguars 23, Jets 13
Carolina @ New England
Team Totals: Patriots 29, Panthers 20
Fantasy’s biggest Week 3 flop in a home date with the Saints, Cam Newton goes back on the road for another mouth-watering draw against the Patriots, who gave up top-four fantasy finishes to Alex Smith (QB1) and Drew Brees (QB4) in Weeks 1-2 before being carved up by previously-struggling Texans rookie Deshaun Watson for 342 all-purpose yards. Each quarterback to face the Pats has thrown for at least 300 yards and multiple TDs. Unfortunately, Newton’s play has deteriorated so badly he is now a target for New England’s fantasy D/ST, and little more than a contrarian DFS tournament option. No longer being used as a dynamic runner and never a technically-sound passer, Newton’s last five fantasy finishes dating back to last season are QB28 > QB21 > QB17 > QB25 > QB25. For an extended stretch, he’s barely been start worthy in two-quarterback leagues. … Christian McCaffrey’s outlook is similar to last week’s versus the Saints, whom he flamed for 117 yards on 13 touches, including nine receptions. Like New Orleans, the Patriots are vulnerable to receiving backs. They allowed an AFC-high 808 receiving yards to the position in 2016 and have allowed an AFC-high 253 receiving yards to running backs through three 2017 games. McCaffrey has only one touch inside the ten-yard line compared to Jonathan Stewart’s five, so the rookie will likely have to break something from further out to score. But this is an exciting draw for McCaffrey in PPR. … I’m more worried about Stewart in what sets up as a negative-script game with New England favored by more than a touchdown. Stewart’s touches have descended each week (20 > 15 > 13), and he is barely involved in the passing game. He’s a low-floor, touchdown-dependent flex option.
Newton’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: McCaffrey 23; Devin Funchess 16; Kelvin Benjamin 15; Stewart and Curtis Samuel 5; Ed Dickson 4; Russell Shepard 3. … Benjamin is expected to play after last week’s knee injury, and his matchup looks strong on paper versus a Pats defense that has given up big wideout lines of 7/133/1 (Tyreek Hill), 5/89/0 (Michael Thomas), Brandon Coleman (4/82/1), 7/76/0 (DeAndre Hopkins), and 4/59/1 (Bruce Ellington). The question with Benjamin is not opportunity or matchup. It is Cam’s ability or lack thereof to deliver him the ball. … Dickson’s lone Week 3 catch came from Derek Anderson with Newton benched in garbage time. Pass. … Funchess is now the Panthers’ clear-cut No. 2 receiver. He is purely an opportunity-based dart throw in Foxboro whose outlook is elevated by what figures to be negative game script. … Samuel’s playing time rose in Week 3, but three of his five targets came from Anderson. Regardless, the dynamic second-round pick will remain someone to monitor.
Tom Brady sent a definitive reminder of how matchup proof he remains by blowtorching a normally stout Texans defense for five touchdowns and nearly 11 yards per attempt (10.8) in last week’s surprise shootout win. Drew Brees made similar work of these same Panthers in Carolina last Sunday, throwing for three touchdowns with a 76% completion rate, and relentlessly exploiting soft spots in the Panthers’ Cover-3 zone. I don’t believe Carolina’s defense is nearly as leaky as Brees made it look, but I do buy Brady uncovering similar weak points. Following a rough opener where the Patriots got out-schemed by the Chiefs, and a seemingly-rusty Brady overthrew everything, Tom Terrific has strung together consecutive QB1 overall weekly finishes with 825 yards and eight touchdowns over his last two games. … This is a tough on-paper draw for early-down/short-yardage banger Mike Gillislee, who hasn’t seen a single passing-game target as a Patriot and is averaging a sub-Blountian 3.22 yards per carry. Carolina is nails against the run, having held 49ers, Bills, and Saints backs to a combined 54/196/3.63/1 rushing line. Gillislee remains a low-floor, touchdown-dependent RB2/flex option. … Last year’s Panthers gave up the league’s third-most receptions (101) to running backs, and this year’s club has allowed the fourth most (22). The matchup lays out nicely for James White in that respect, but he’s hardly a sure thing with descending weekly touch counts (13 > 10 > 6). White won’t help anyone if the Patriots grab a lead and start putting the ball in Gillislee’s belly. … Even with Rex Burkhead (ribs) out last week, Dion Lewis logged only five touches on a 19% playing-time clip. Lewis is just a long-shot stash in 14- and 16-team leagues.
Brady’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Rob Gronkowski 25; Brandin Cooks 18; Chris Hogan 17; White 14; Danny Amendola 12; Burkhead 7; Dwayne Allen 5; Lewis and Phillip Dorsett 4. … Gronk’s to-date target share is 23%, an improvement on his previous single-season career high of 21.5%. He leads all NFL tight ends in red-zone targets (5). Gronk obviously isn’t just any tight end, but this is a matchups column, and it is therefore worth mentioning the Panthers stymied 49ers tight ends in Week 1 (5/27/0), Charles Clay (3/23/0) in Week 2, and Coby Fleener (1/21/0) in Week 3. … The Panthers have been most vulnerable to perimeter receivers, namely Michael Thomas (7/87/1), Pierre Garcon (6/81/0), and Ted Ginn (2/44/1). With Amendola back healthy in Week 3, Hogan ran 77% of his routes on the outside. Hogan is tied with Gronkowski for the Patriots’ team lead in red-zone targets and is also tied for second-most touchdown catches (3) among NFL wide receivers. There will be ups and downs in a deep offense, but Hogan is an every-week WR2. … Ex-Saint Cooks’ last four receiving lines against the Panthers are 7/42/0, 7/173/1, 6/104/1, 7/79/0. Cooks’ weekly production is also likely to remain volatile, but his weekly ceiling is immense. He enters Week 4 ranked sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (256). … Slot man Amendola played only 48% of the offensive snaps in his Week 3 return from a concussion. Slot receivers to face the Panthers so far: Brandon Coleman (1/11/1), Jordan Matthews (3/30/0), Trent Taylor (1/8/0). Amendola is a PPR-specific WR4 whose role in New England’s offense will vary depending on weekly game plans.
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Panthers 20
Detroit @ Minnesota
Team Totals: Vikings 22.5, Lions 20.5
After disappointing as last week’s fantasy QB18 in a prime home draw against the Falcons, Matthew Stafford goes back on the road to face a Vikings defense that held Drew Brees to Week 1’s QB16 finish, home-game Ben Roethlisberger to Week 2’s QB8 result, and Jameis Winston to last week’s QB20 mark. This is an uninviting matchup for Stafford, whose two 2016 finishes against Mike Zimmer’s defense were QB16 and QB23 with yardage/touchdown totals of 219/2 and 232/1. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Vikings have given up just two games of 300 passing yards. Upside-seeking fantasy owners may want to consider Week 4 alternatives. … Ameer Abdullah’s week-to-week touch counts have been consistent at 18 > 17 > 17, but he only has four red-zone carries, and hasn’t gained a single yard on them. Abdullah also has zero red-zone targets. The Vikings have played shutdown run defense three games in, limiting opposing running backs to a combined 56/171/3.05/0 rushing line. At this point, Abdullah can’t be viewed as more than a low-ceiling flex play. … Theo Riddick hasn’t been of much fantasy use, either, with uneven weekly touch counts of 7 > 12 > 4. Riddick is playing 40% of the Lions’ offensive snaps compared to Abdullah’s 45%. Riddick’s value comes in the passing game, but the Vikings have allowed the NFL’s 11th-fewest catches (14) and receiving yards (87) to enemy running backs.
Stafford’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Golden Tate 27; Riddick 19; Eric Ebron and Kenny Golladay 15; Marvin Jones 13; Abdullah and T.J. Jones 7. … As Tate is running 84% of his routes in the slot, he projects to avoid Vikings shutdown CB Xavier Rhodes, who plays only 4% of his snaps inside. In last year’s two meetings with Minnesota, Tate dropped receiving lines of 11/77/1 and 5/77/0. Tate should be teed up with confidence. … As 90% and 80% perimeter players, respectively, Jones and Golladay are at more risk of drawing Rhodes’ coverage. At the same time, whomever is not matched up with Rhodes on a specific play will draw weekly burn victim LCB Trae Waynes on the other side. Jones and Golladay are risky, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one made a big play against Waynes this week. It’s worth noting Jones’ two 2016 stat lines against the Vikings were 1/5/0 and 4/54/0. … This is a bounce-back spot for Ebron following his drop-filled Week 3 against a Minnesota defense that yielded 5/54/1 to Coby Fleener in Week 1 and 6/50/1 to Bucs tight ends last week, facing an ankle-hobbled Jesse James in between. Ebron posted a 7/92/0 receiving line against the Vikings last Week 9, although he went catch-less against them in these clubs’ Thanksgiving rematch. Ebron is never a “safe” streamer, but this is a plus draw for him.
Case Keenum’s 369-yard, three-score demolition of the Buccaneers was stunning and spectacular, but needs to be kept in context against a defense that was missing LCB Brent Grimes (shoulder), MLB Kwon Alexander (hamstring), and DT Chris Baker (flu), and lost WLB Lavonte David (ankle) during the game. Keenum now draws an overachieving Lions defense that has so far allowed fantasy results of QB21 (Carson Palmer), QB23 (Eli Manning), and QB21 (Matt Ryan). Keenum is enough of a gunslinger with an explosive enough supporting cast to be fired up in two-quarterback leagues, but inconsistency must be expected as a hallmark of the journeyman backup’s career. … The Lions sprung run-defense leaks in last week’s loss to Atlanta, getting rocked for a 27/152/5.63/1 rushing line by Falcons backs. Detroit has also yielded the NFL’s sixth-most catches (21) and third-most receiving yards (221) to enemy backs. This is an underrated matchup for Vikings all-purpose workhorse Dalvin Cook, who ranks second in the NFL in carries (61) and eighth in snaps played (142) among running backs. Cook is an every-week RB1.
Keenum’s Weeks 2-3 target distribution: Stefon Diggs 17; Adam Thielen 14; Cook and Kyle Rudolph 8; Jerick McKinnon 7; Jarius Wright 5. … After a Week 3 game where he simply couldn’t be covered by the Brent Grimes-less Bucs, Diggs draws a tougher Week 4 assignment against Lions CB Darius Slay, whom PFF has charted with a 38.9 passer rating allowed on throws into his coverage, the NFL’s second-best mark among cornerbacks who’ve been targeted 20-plus times. Diggs is far too dynamic to be benched in season-long leagues, but his DFS ownership percentage may be too high as fantasy players try to chase last week’s points. … Thielen’s matchup is also less than ideal against red-hot slot CB Quandre Diggs, who played a big role in holding Larry Fitzgerald to 74 yards on 13 targets in Week 1, shut down Sterling Shepard in Week 2 (2/23/0), and helped limit Mohamed Sanu to 28 yards on six targets last week, although Diggs did get beaten twice for scores in that game, once by Taylor Gabriel from 40 yards out and again by Sanu from close in. All in all, a Vikings passing-game explosion like last week’s is unlikely against Detroit. … After leading all NFL tight ends in targets and red-zone targets last season, Rudolph has been one of this year’s biggest early-season busts. His weekly target counts are 3 > 6 > 2 as Rudolph has blocked on 58% of his snaps after doing so just 42% of the time last year. Even against a shaky Lions tight end defense, Rudolph’s to-date usage strongly suggests he should be downgraded to TE2 territory.
Score Prediction: Vikings 23, Lions 20
Buffalo @ Atlanta
Team Totals: Falcons 28.25, Bills 20.25
The Bills enter Week 4 allowing the NFL’s fewest points (12.3) and sixth-fewest yards per game (278.3) but having faced the moderately-talented or worse offenses of the Jets, Panthers, and Broncos. Buffalo’s first legitimate challenge comes Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against returning NFL MVP Matt Ryan, whose 2016 yards per attempt (9.3) and completion rate (69.9%) are almost the same as his 2017 marks (9.3, 68.8%) but without the same prolific touchdown rate (7.1%, 4.3%). This is an opportunity to fade to-date, small-sample 2017 fantasy results and bet on talent advantages, where Atlanta holds a decisive edge. … After a near-even timeshare in the Falcons’ opener, Devonta Freeman out-touched Tevin Coleman 21/24 to 8/9 and out-snapped him 66%/60% to 38%/41% in Weeks 2-3. Freeman is the Falcons’ obvious lead back under post-Shanahan OC Steve Sarkisian, while Coleman is a lightly-used change of pace. Buffalo sprung run-defense leaks in last week’s win over Denver, permitting a combined 18/93/5.17/1 rushing line to Broncos backs. Since the start of the 2016 season, Freeman has scored 13 touchdowns in nine home games versus only four TDs in ten games on the road. Clearly identified by the new playcaller as the Falcons’ best backfield option, Freeman should continue to be fired up confidently as an every-week RB1 starter. Coleman remains a low-volume and therefore boom-bust change of pace.
Ryan’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Julio Jones 26; Mohamed Sanu 21; Coleman and Taylor Gabriel 13; Freeman 7; Austin Hooper 6. … The Bills aren’t a matchup to fear for wideouts after allowing six enemy receivers to clear 55 yards against them in Weeks 1-3. Julio is scoreless three weeks in, but he ranks fourth in the NFL in receiving yards (265) with consecutive 90-plus-yard games. Jones is someone to keep betting on and not against, especially in a game like this. Neither Bills RCB E.J. Gaines nor rookie LCB Tre’Davious White offers the requisite skill level to go toe to toe with Julio. … Despite scoring a red-zone touchdown in last week’s win over Detroit, Sanu failed to reach 90 yards for his 18th straight game as a Falcon. At best, Sanu is a touchdown-dependent WR4. … Gabriel played a season-high 58% of Atlanta’s Week 3 offensive snaps, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown from 40 yards out. Unfortunately, Gabriel remains little more than a dart-throw play facing a stingy Bills secondary that has yet to allow a single passing touchdown through three games. … The passing-game usage simply hasn’t been there for Hooper, as Sarkisian isn’t drawing up plays designed to get him the ball. Hooper has drawn just two targets in each of the first three weeks. The Bills contained Jets tight ends in Week 1 (5/59/0), Panthers tight ends in Week 2 (3/36/0), and Broncos tight ends in Week 3 (4/23/0).
Staying true to his historical norms, Tyrod Taylor met or exceeded expectations in Weeks 1 and 3 home games against the Jets and Broncos. He flopped badly in a Week 2 road meeting with Carolina’s zone defense, and goes back on the road to face Atlanta’s zone in Week 4. Taylor’s rushing ability and the fact that the Bills will almost certainly have to score above expectation give him upside, but I think a sneaky play here is the Falcons’ D/ST. Taylor has thrown just 5-of-21 touchdown passes (23.8%) on the road since the beginning of last season, a nine-start stretch in which the Bills’ offense as a whole has scored just 17.3 points per game on the road versus 29.3 points per game at home. … The possibility of negative in-game script is a definite Week 4 concern for LeSean McCoy with Buffalo as an eight-point road dog, but there are multiple matchup advantages to mention. The Falcons have struggled in run defense by allowing a combined 48/218/4.54/1 rushing line to Packers, Bears, and Lions running backs, while Atlanta has surrendered the NFL’s second-most receptions (26) and fourth-most receiving yards (220) to the position. McCoy ranks fourth among NFL running backs in targets (20) and is tied for second in catches (18), so he should continue to get big-play chances even if the Bills fall behind. … Mike Tolbert remains stash worthy in deeper season-long leagues with double-digit touches in two of Buffalo’s first three games. A weekly goal-line threat, Tolbert has three runs inside the five-yard line to McCoy’s one.
Taylor’s Weeks 1-3 targets: McCoy 20; Charles Clay 18; Zay Jones 12; Jordan Matthews 11; Andre Holmes 7; Tolbert 3. … The Falcons have given up the NFL’s eighth-most receptions to tight ends (16) after allowing the league’s eighth-most yards and sixth-most touchdowns to the position last year. Clay has solidified himself as a legitimate every-week fantasy starter by emerging as Tyrod’s top target due to all of the Bills’ wide receiver turnover. Clay ranks top 12 at the position in targets, catches (13), and yards (115), and he is tied with Rob Gronkowski for No. 1 among tight ends in red-zone targets (5). … A Bills wide receiver is going to have a decent game at some point, but we’re probably not going to see it coming. Matthews’ weekly target totals are 3 > 3 > 5. Struggling rookie Jones’ are 4 > 6 > 2.
Score Prediction: Falcons 30, Bills 23
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Team Totals: Steelers 22.25, Ravens 19.5
Assuredly embarrassed after its stunning 44-7 loss to the Jaguars in London, 2-1 Baltimore returns home for a probable low-scoring divisional matchup. The Steelers haven’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of quarterbacks – DeShone Kizer, Case Keenum, Mike Glennon – but they have capitalized on the soft schedule with the NFL’s second-most sacks (11) and sixth-lowest passer rating allowed (73.8). Joe Flacco has notched QB26, QB15, QB36 weekly fantasy finishes through three games, while Flacco’s two 2016 results against the Steelers were QB20 and QB18. There will be very few instances this year where Flacco is more than a low-end two-quarterback-league option. … Worst-case scenario game script torpedoed the Ravens’ Week 3 backfield distribution, but Buck Allen still paced the unit in playing time (59%) and touches (13) and has the securest role by far because of his passing-game chops. Allen has run a route or pass blocked on 63 snaps this season; Terrance West and Alex Collins have done so on 18 plays combined. Allen won’t blow away anyone with his inside running, but he remains an every-week RB2/flex in PPR leagues. … Collins’ emergence is a real threat to West’s role. Albeit mostly in garbage time, Collins has parlayed 16 carries into 124 yards (7.8 YPC) in two games as a Raven, while West has managed 33/128/3.9/2 rushing. Neither topped 10 touches in either of the last two weeks. Regardless of the strength of the Steelers’ run defense, Collins and West are fantasy options to avoid.
Flacco’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Jeremy Maclin 13; Allen and Watson 11; Breshad Perriman 9; Wallace 7; Maxx Williams 5; West 4; Nick Boyle 3. … The Steelers have allowed the NFL’s second-fewest receptions (20) and yards (220) to enemy wide receivers. Facing bad quarterbacks helps, but Flacco isn’t exactly #elite, and the Ravens’ wideouts haven’t been doing much themselves. Maclin is Baltimore’s only receiver with a game above 50 yards. Perriman is catch-less in consecutive weeks, and Wallace is a ghost. Running two-thirds of his routes at slot receiver, Maclin is the only mildly attractive fantasy bet against Steelers second-year UDFA slot corner Mike Hilton. Wallace and Perriman should not be owned in 12- or even 14-team leagues. … Ryan Mallett saved Watson’s Week 3 box score with a garbage-time touchdown in London. Watson still played 70% of the snaps and has run 54 pass routes on the season versus No. 2 TE Boyle’s 35. Watson is an opportunity-based streamer against Pittsburgh, which struggled in tight end coverage last season but has given up very little production to the position early this year.
The Ravens’ defensive performance was inarguably bad in London, but the smart money is on John Harbaugh’s team bouncing back in this critical divisional game, particularly considering their defensive talent. Even after last week’s debacle, Baltimore has held enemy quarterbacks to a league-low 58.5 passer rating and the NFL’s second-lowest completion rate (52.8). Ben Roethlisberger’s away-game struggles have continued into this year; his two fantasy finishes on the road are QB15 (@ CLE) and QB25 (@ CHI), whereas Ben notched top-eight numbers at home in Week 2 against the Vikings. Since the start of last season, Baltimore has allowed an average of just 14.3 points over its last nine games at M&T Bank Stadium. … Badly missing space-eater DT Brandon Williams (foot), the Ravens sprung run-defense leaks the past two weeks by serving up a combined 43/209/4.86/1 rushing line to Browns and Jaguars backs. They have also allowed the NFL’s sixth-most receiving yards (183) to the position. It remains concerning that the Steelers’ running game has yet to get going, but this matchup likely isn’t as daunting as initially meets the eye. After last week’s one-yard TD against the Bears, Le’Veon Bell has scored 18-of-27 (67%) career rushing touchdowns on the road. In what projects as a low-scoring, grinding affair, Bell should remain a volume monster. In DFS, this figures to be Bell’s lowest-owned week in a long time.
Ben’s Weeks 1-3 targets: Antonio Brown 36; Martavis Bryant 18; Bell and Jesse James 17; Eli Rogers 11; JuJu Smith-Schuster 10; Vance McDonald 1. … Brown leads the NFL in receiving yards by 55 and ranks second in targets. Albeit against a Ravens secondary worse than this year’s, Brown’s two 2016 receiving lines versus Baltimore were 10/96/1 and 7/85/1. … Bryant’s drops and missed contested opportunities in last week’s loss to Chicago left a ton of yards on the field. Likely rusty after his year away from the game, Bryant enters Week 4 with a brutally inefficient 38.9% catch rate that figures to regress positively, at least eventually. In the short term, Martavis needs to be viewed as a boom-bust WR3 regardless of matchups. It can’t help that Bryant missed most of the practice week with an illness, losing needed reps with Big Ben. … Week 3 usage suggested rookie Smith-Schuster has passed Rogers for the Steelers’ slot role. Smith-Schuster logged six targets on a season-high 80% snap rate to Rogers’ zero looks on 33% of the downs. While not an immediate-value situation for fantasy, this is a depth-chart development we’ll continue to track. … The Ravens are struggling mightily against tight ends, giving up 6/108/1 to Browns tight ends in Week 2 and 5/74/3 to Jaguars tight ends in London. James is never a safe-floor play, but the matchup makes him worthy of streamer discussion. James is playing 83% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps and quietly leads the team in both red-zone targets (4) and targets inside the ten-yard line (3).
Score Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 16
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Team Totals: Bengals 22.5, Browns 19.5
Although the result was a loss, the Bengals’ offense showed signs of Week 3 life at Lambeau under new OC Bill Lazor, who emphasized getting the ball out quick to minimize offensive line deficiencies. Per PFF, Andy Dalton’s average time to throw was 2.53 seconds, an improvement on his Weeks 1-2 mark of 2.72. His QB19 fantasy result was a step forward from his Weeks 1-2 QB37 and QB26 finishes. Dalton should take another step against the Browns, who gave up season-best games to Joe Flacco (QB15) and Jacoby Brissett (QB5) the past two weeks and have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year. Dalton is still just a fringe streamer and contrarian DFS tournament play, but things are finally looking up. … Joe Mixon took Week 3 control of the Bengals’ backfield, logging backfield highs in touches (21) and snap rate (56%) while Giovani Bernard (5, 21%) was a lightly-used change of pace, and Jeremy Hill’s (8, 23%) role remained minor. Mixon has still seen too few running lanes behind sub-par blocking, but he’s going to be an every-week RB2 if he maintains usage like last week’s. This matchup isn’t quite as favorable as it may look on paper, however; the Browns have held enemy backs to a combined 74/251/3.39/2 rushing line while giving up the NFL’s sixth-fewest catches (12) to the position. That will change if Browns 343-pound NT Danny Shelton’s in-practice calf injury keeps him out.
Dalton’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: A.J. Green 31; Brandon LaFell 14; Gio 8; Mixon 7; Alex Erickson 6; Tyler Boyd and Tyler Kroft 5. … The Browns have been completely shredded by No. 1 wideouts, giving up 11/182/0 to Antonio Brown, 4/31/1 on five targets to Jeremy Maclin, and 7/153/1 to T.Y. Hilton. As Green for his career averages 98.0 yards and 0.66 touchdowns per game on the road versus only 68.4 yards and 0.47 TDs at home, he is an elite DFS option at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium. … I mentioned LaFell’s on-off splits in relation to Tyler Eifert (back) last week. LaFell went on to catch 1-of-2 targets for five yards at Green Bay, his failed target coming in the end zone on a pass Dalton overthrew. No other Bengals pass catchers are seeing enough volume to be discussion worthy.
It hasn’t always been pretty with a league-high eight turnovers, but DeShone Kizer has been a top-12 fantasy passer twice in three games and will continue to offer high weekly ceilings due to his aggressive passing and rushing skills. Kizer ranks third among signal callers in rushing attempts (17) and is tied for first in rushing TDs (2), and Week 4 opponent Cincinnati has allowed a league-high 90 rushing yards to quarterbacks. The Bengals gave up Week 2’s QB9 finish to Deshaun Watson in his first NFL start, and last week’s QB8 result to Aaron Rodgers. Kizer’s floor isn’t safe, but he’ll be a season-long streaming and DFS tournament factor for the foreseeable future. … An early-season bust, Isaiah Crowell will take on a Bengals run defense that held enemy backs to a combined 84/297/3.54/1 rushing line in Weeks 1-3, and now gets back WLB Vontaze Burfict from suspension. Crowell has reached 4.0 yards per carry in just two of his last 12 games and three of his last 15. At this point, I’m going to need Crowell to show me something positive before considering him anything more than a low-end flex option. … Duke Johnson has yet to top eight touches in a game this year, but his usage has increased each week and should continue to due to the Browns’ running-game struggles and wide receiver shortage. Johnson was Cleveland’s most dynamic player in last week’s loss to Indianapolis, parlaying two carries and six catches into 104 yards and a score. Leading the Browns in targets, Johnson is a viable flex play in PPR leagues.
Kizer’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Johnson 16; Kenny Britt 15; Rashard Higgins 13; Seth DeValve and Ricardo Louis 11; David Njoku 9; Crowell 6; Kasen Williams and Sammie Coates 4. … Britt woke up for a team-high ten targets in last week’s loss to the Colts, although he only caught three with a drop, and several were errant from Kizer. Still, Britt has opportunity-based WR4/flex appeal in Corey Coleman’s (hand) absence. Geronimo Allison (6/122/0), DeAndre Hopkins (7/73/0), Davante Adams (6/60/0), Jeremy Maclin (2/56/1), and Jordy Nelson (6/52/2) have all had productive games against the Bengals’ secondary. … Slot man Higgins logged a 68% snap rate in Week 3, but he managed ten yards on six targets in an ugly game. The Bengals have had trouble with slot receivers, namely Allison and Maclin. Still, we may have jumped the gun on practice-squad call-up Higgins as anything more than a WR5. … The Browns are staying true to their tight end timeshare, playing DeValve on 56% of the Week 3 snaps and Njoku on 39%. I really want to see them make an adjustment to get both on the field together — sensible considering Cleveland’s wideout shortage – but it’s not something we’ve seen any signs of yet.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Browns 20
LA Rams @ Dallas
Team Totals: Cowboys 27, Rams 21
This line and over-under on Rams-Cowboys got pounded by sharp bettors as soon as they were opened on Monday, moving the spread in the Rams’ direction and zooming the game’s point-total projection through a key number (47). I am expecting a shootout at JerryWorld with Dak Prescott at the forefront. Despite a brutally difficult schedule to begin the year (vs. NYG, @ DEN, @ ARZ), Prescott emerged as fantasy’s overall QB7 scorer and now faces a Rams defense that coughed up last week’s QB7 result to previously-struggling Brian Hoyer, who threw for 332 yards, the second-highest number of Hoyer’s nine-year career. … The Rams also struggled in run defense in Weeks 1-3, yielding a combined 90/399/4.43/5 rushing line to Colts, Redskins, and 49ers running backs. All told, only five teams have given up more rushing yards than Los Angeles, and no one has allowed more rushing scores. I agree with the popular sentiment that Ezekiel Elliott has so far lacked his 2016 second gear, and it’s no secret the Cowboys’ offensive line isn’t opening running lanes like they did last season. Still, as a significant home favorite in a plus matchup with high-scoring potential, Zeke should have a real chance at a breakthrough game.
Prescott’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Dez Bryant 27; Jason Witten 26; Terrance Williams 16; Elliott and Cole Beasley 14; Brice Butler 7. … After hitting pay dirt in Weeks 2 and 3 in Denver and Arizona, Dez enters Week 4 with 12 touchdowns over his last 14 full games with Prescott. Rams top CB Trumaine Johnson got roasted by Pierre Garcon (7/142/0) in Week 3, while 5-foot-7, 169-pound slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman has been forced to play outside in Kayvon Webster’s (hamstring) absence. Johnson is a good player who should eventually rebound, but I like Bryant’s chances of getting the best of him in this potentially high-scoring spot. … The rest of Dallas’ wideouts are tough to trust. Butler has consistently outplayed Williams, but the Cowboys have an odd run-blocking obsession with Williams that convinces them Butler is an inferior player. Butler dropped a 2/90/1 receiving line on the Cardinals last Monday night, but he only ran three pass routes. Williams has scored a touchdown in just seven of his last 35 games, topping 70 yards twice in that span. … Perhaps due to an ongoing hamstring injury, Beasley has not been a big part of Dallas’ passing offense yet. Beasley hasn’t reached 50 yards in a game since last Thanksgiving. … The Rams contained Jack Doyle (2/41/0) in Week 1, Jordan Reed (6/48/0) in Week 2, and 49ers tight ends (2/9/1) in Week 3. Witten got off to a white-hot Weeks 1-2 start, then was invisible in last week’s loss to Arizona (1/3/0). I think he is a low-end TE1 option at best in this difficult matchup.
Jared Goff is a recommended streamer against an injury-wracked Dallas pass defense Trevor Siemian lit up for Week 2’s QB3 fantasy finish before it surrendered Carson Palmer’s season-best QB11 mark last Monday night. Coming off their Thursday night shootout win over the 49ers, the Rams had ten days to prepare for a Dallas defense that’s on a short week. Coach Sean McVay should know Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli’s tendencies as well as any coach after game planning against him for the last half decade as a Redskins assistant, while Goff has two top-14 weekly finishes under his belt, including last week’s QB9 result. Only three teams have given up more passing touchdowns than the Cowboys (6), and only three have allowed more completions of 20-plus yards (11). Goff is third in the NFL in 20-plus-yard pass plays (17) and top ten in passing TDs (5). … Logging usage not far off David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell’s last year, Todd Gurley ranks fifth among running backs in snaps with a 25.3 touches-per-game average. This year’s version of 2016 Melvin Gordon, Gurley is middling or worse in most efficiency metrics, but extreme-volume usage will compensate for that and then some. The only halfway-decent running team Dallas has faced so far is Denver, and Broncos backs gashed the Cowboys for a combined 34/164/4.82/1 rushing line in Week 2. (Their other opponents were the Giants and Cardinals.) This is Gurley’s last plus matchup before a turbulent Weeks 5-11 stretch (vs. SEA, @ JAX, vs. ARZ, bye, @ NYG, vs. HOU, @ MIN).
Goff’s Weeks 1-3 targets: Gurley 17; Robert Woods 16; Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp 14; Tyler Higbee 7; Gerald Everett and Derek Carrier 4; Tavon Austin 3. … Mainly a slot receiver in Buffalo, Woods has been used as a downfield threat in L.A. He leads the Rams in 20-plus-yard targets (4) and is running more perimeter routes (75%) than Watkins (70%). No Rams wideout is logging go-to-guy usage, but Woods offers sneaky WR4/flex appeal against a Dallas defense that is highly vulnerable deep. … Watkins only has one 20-plus-yard target and has been held under 60 yards in 2-of-3 games, but this would be a great opportunity for Goff to push the ball vertically to him. After last week’s 6/106/2 explosion in San Francisco, Watkins is a more confident WR3/flex start. Like Gurley, however, Watkins’ schedule is about to get really rough. … Dallas got torched by 67% slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald (13/149/1) last Monday night. 55% slot man Kupp is the next man up, although it is concerning he has yet to exceed six targets in any game as part of a widely-distributed, spread-the-wealth passing attack. Because of the Rams’ newfound offensive diversity, our ability to predict big pass-catcher games may be limited all season.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Rams 27
4:05 PM ET Games
Philadelphia @ LA Chargers
Team Totals: Chargers 24.5, Eagles 23.5
The 48-point total on Eagles-Bolts is fifth highest of the week as Philip Rivers looks to rebound from last week’s three-interception meltdown. Turning 36 later this year, Rivers’ numbers don’t look great in a bigger sample size. Over Rivers’ last 16 games, he has completed just 59.9% of his passes with 25 picks and a 6.55 adjusted yards-per-attempt average, all well-below-par marks. With that said, Rivers posted top-12 fantasy numbers in each of the first two games against Denver and Miami, while Alex Smith and Eli Manning both tagged this Eagles defense for top-ten finishes in Weeks 2-3. I’m standing behind Rivers as a QB1 play versus Philly and really like him in DFS. The Eagles look very much like a pass-funnel defense through three weeks, and DT Fletcher Cox’s multi-week calf strain will take a big bite out of their interior pass rush. … Melvin Gordon is dealing with a bone bruise on the same knee in which he underwent microfracture surgery after his rookie campaign. The good news is he is fully expected to play. The bad news is Gordon’s injury iss susceptible to in-game setbacks, as he aggravated it last week and wound up playing a season-low 42% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps. More bad news is an Eagles run defense that has held enemy running backs to a combined 43/164/3.81/2 rushing line and the NFL’s sixth-fewest receptions (12). Gordon is always a good bet to score – he has 15 all-purpose TDs over his last 16 games — but I prefer the Chargers’ passing game from a fantasy standpoint in Week 4.
Rivers’ Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Keenan Allen 29; Tyrell Williams 18; Gordon 16; Travis Benjamin 15; Antonio Gates 12; Hunter Henry and Branden Oliver 7. … Allen enters Week 4 ranked ninth in the NFL in catches (19) to face a Philly secondary that got blowtorched by Giants slot man Sterling Shepard (7/133/1) a week ago. Allen is running 61% of his routes inside, where he will catch Eagles journeyman slot CB Patrick Robinson, who was victimized on Shepard’s 77-yard score. Allen is a terrific DFS stack partner with Rivers. … Philly is still attacked more outside, where Odell Beckham (9/79/2) and Brandon Marshall (8/66/0) were revived by the Eagles last week. Williams is tough to trust after an inefficient start – he’s averaging 6.8 yards per target after averaging 8.9 YPT last year – but this is a slump-busting spot against Eagles CB Jalen Mills, who has allowed an NFC-high 256 yards through three weeks. … Benjamin is an intriguing dart throw considering the cake matchup. Benjamin is playing 66% of Los Angeles’ offensive snaps and has been targeted on a team-high seven of Rivers’ 20-plus-yard attempts, dwarfing Williams (3) and Allen (0). … Henry out-snapped Gates 56% to 55% in last week’s loss to Kansas City, but Henry ran just 15 routes to Gates’ 31 and drew zero targets to Gates’ five. This is a nightmare fantasy situation; Henry hasn’t seen a single target in two of the Chargers’ first three games. Essentially playing in a rotation, Gates and Henry are both high-risk Week 4 plays without tangibly high ceilings.
The Eagles’ offense enters an exciting Week 4 spot against an underachieving Chargers defense that lost CB Jason Verrett (knee) for the season and has middling advanced metrics despite facing bottom-half quarterback starters Trevor Siemian, Jay Cutler, and Alex Smith in its first three games. Carson Wentz ranks sixth among NFL signal callers in fantasy points and eighth in passing yards (81) with two top-five fantasy finishes in three starts. The biggest Week 4 concerns I have about Wentz stem from his less-than-ideal pass-catcher matchups, which we’ll get to below. … The Bolts have especially big run-defense problems, having yielded a combined 78/411/5.27/1 rushing line to enemy backs. Los Angeles gave up 121 rushing yards to Broncos backs in Week 1, 119 yards to Dolphins backs in Week 2, and 171 yards to Chiefs backs last week. Even in Darren Sproles’ (ACL/wrist) absence, however, the Eagles are likely to maintain a three-way RBBC after Wendell Smallwood took the lead in Week 3 touches (13) and snaps (57%), but LeGarrette Blount’s usage and effectiveness spiked with 12 touches on 29% of the downs, and Corey Clement mixed in with six touches on 9% of the plays. Smallwood should be the most consistent because of his passing-game role, but Blount has out-touched him 7-to-1 in the red zone so far, and Smallwood has zero touches inside the five-yard line. Smallwood looks like a low-upside flex play. Blount is a touchdown-dependent flex option. A true feature back seems unlikely to emerge here.
Wentz’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery 28; Torrey Smith 16; Nelson Agholor 14; Smallwood 5; Trey Burton 4; Mack Hollins 3; Blount 2. … The Chargers shut down Travis Kelce (1/1/0) and Julius Thomas (3/26/0) in Weeks 2-3, although they did yield a combined 5/98/0 receiving line to Broncos tight ends on Opening Day. For better or worse, I’m not yet ready to deem Los Angeles a scary enough matchup to express worry about Ertz, who leads all NFL tight ends in targets (28), catches (21), and yards (245). … Jeffery figures to draw Week 4 shadow coverage from Bolts top CB Casey Hayward, perhaps opening up more middle-of-the-field opportunities for Ertz. In Jeffery’s case, arguably more concerning than Hayward’s coverage is Wentz’s inability to throw the ball accurately downfield. Wentz has completed just 4-of-16 throws (25%) traveling 20-plus yards in the air this season after going 21-of-64 (33%) on such throws last year. By NFL standards, Wentz had Jeffery wide open down the left sideline for a would-be 40-plus-yard touchdown bomb in last week’s win over the Giants, but sailed the throw several yards above Jeffery’s head. Despite all of the concerns, Alshon is a high-end WR3 play at worst based on the expected high-scoring nature of this game. … Agholor is a tough fantasy sell after failing to top 20 yards in two straight games on target totals of 3 and 3. … Wentz’s inability to connect deep is even more of a worry for Smith, who is averaging 41.7 scoreless yards through three games as an Eagle.
Score Prediction: Chargers 28, Eagles 24
NY Giants @ Tampa Bay
Team Totals: Buccaneers 23.5, Giants 20.5
After abysmal Weeks 1-2 offensive performances, the Giants put their foot on the gas for an extremely up-tempo Week 3 attack at Philadelphia, pushing the pace and getting the ball out of Eli Manning’s hands quickly for run-after-catch chances. The strategy worked enough to score 24 points and get the game to overtime, and Eli took zero sacks and only four hits after absorbing eight sacks and 13 hits in the first two games collectively. Eli’s Week 4 matchup certainly looks favorable against an injury-ravaged Bucs defense Case Keenum flamed for last week’s QB3 overall finish. While I have to say I was impressed by the Giants’ Week 3 game plan and execution, I remain skeptical Eli is anything more than a plus-matchup streamer. He’s on the QB1 fringe this week. … Regardless of opponent, the Giants’ running game still looks like a situation to avoid. Orleans Darkwa gave New York its best run plays in Week 3, but he left with a back injury and didn’t return, and his availability and effectiveness are in Week 4 doubt. Paul Perkins is averaging an abysmal 9.7 touches for 25.7 scoreless yards per game. In chronological order, Shane Vereen’s snap rates are 54% > 30% > 27% with touch counts of 9 > 9 > 3. There are whispers in New York that the Giants intend to get fourth-round RB Wayne Gallman snaps this week.
Manning’s Weeks 2-3 target distribution with Odell Beckham playing: Beckham 18; Brandon Marshall 16; Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram 14; Vereen 5; Perkins 4. … Beckham looked all the way back in last week’s loss to Philly, playing 83% of the snaps and making a pair of highlight-reel touchdown catches. Regardless of Bucs LCB Brent Grimes’ (shoulder) availability, Beckham’s fantasy owners should resume treating him as an every-week top-three WR1. … Confidence is obviously lower in Marshall, but last week’s quick-out scheme enhances his outlook. As the Giants can’t run the ball at all, short passes are their best means of moving the chains, and the pass-first, fast-pace strategy boosts Marshall’s weekly target projection. He is a viable WR3/flex in Tampa Bay. … I have a hard time buying into Shepard as a consistent fantasy asset competing for targets with Marshall, Engram, and the Giants’ running backs behind OBJ, and Shepard has been far from consistent thus far. Even against a weak Bucs secondary, Shepard feels like a point-chasey play after he scored two-thirds of his Week 3 fantasy points on a 77-yard touchdown due to a breakdown in the Eagles’ also-bad secondary. … With at least four catches in each of the Giants’ first three games, Engram presently ranks sixth among NFL tight ends in receptions (13) and therefore offers at least some streamer appeal. The Bucs have played two games, in them holding Zach Miller to 42 scoreless yards on nine targets and Kyle Rudolph to 1/4/0 on two looks.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see old-school coach Dirk Koetter pull back the reins on Jameis Winston following his three-pick, two-fumble Week 3 game in Minnesota. We’ve seen Koetter go extremely run heavy on offense before when Winston struggled with turnovers. This is a daunting matchup, anyway, against a Giants defense that held Matthew Stafford to Week 2’s QB20 finish and previously white-hot Carson Wentz to last week’s QB24 mark. As Winston’s to-date fantasy results are QB19 and QB20, he hasn’t come close yet to delivering on the fantasy promise many expected in his third NFL season. With that said, I’m eyeing Week 5 against the Patriots as Winston’s possible breakout game. … Blown out in Minnesota, Koetter’s offense finished with 42 pass dropbacks compared to nine rushing attempts, a ratio Koetter undoubtedly regrets. This will likely be Jacquizz Rodgers’ final game as the Bucs’ starter before Doug Martin returns from suspension, and I would expect a significant increase on the five runs he finished with last week. The Giants’ defense has posed a mediocre run-game matchup to this point, permitting a combined 90/391/4.34/2 rushing line to enemy backs and the NFL’s third-fewest catches (9) to the position. Even as he seems certain to see more Week 4 work, Rodgers is probably best viewed as a low-upside RB2/flex. … Charles Sims carries no value with touch counts of 4 and 3 two games in.
Winston’s Weeks 2-3 target distribution: Mike Evans 21; DeSean Jackson 14; Adam Humphries 13; Cameron Brate 7; Chris Godwin 5; Sims and O.J. Howard 4. … The Giants are shutting down No. 1 wide receivers, notably Dez Bryant (2/43/0), Golden Tate (4/25/0), and Alshon Jeffery (4/56/0). Expectations may need to be lowered for Evans against Janoris Jenkins in an almost-certain shadow situation. … D-Jax would be the beneficiary, drawing struggling Giants second-year CB Eli Apple. PFF has charged Apple with the NFL’s ninth-most yards allowed (193) among cornerbacks and a league-high three TDs. The Bucs made a concerted effort to get Jackson going in last week’s loss to Minnesota, and he delivered a 4/84/1 receiving line. … Although it remains concerning Brate was out-snapped by Howard in each of the Bucs’ first two games, it is encouraging Brate is running pass routes on 70% of his snaps. Howard is running routes on just 37% of his plays and blocking the rest of the time. Annually vulnerable over the middle and in the seams, the G-Men were gashed for 7/59/1 by Jason Witten in Week 1, 6/54/1 by Lions tight ends in Week 2, and 10/62/1 by Eagles tight ends last week. Brate is a quality Week 4 streamer.
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Giants 23
San Francisco @ Arizona
Team Totals: Cardinals 26, 49ers 19
Ranked third in the NFL in passing yards (925) behind only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, Carson Palmer cooled fears he was “washed” by dumping 325 yards and two scores on the Cowboys’ last Monday night en route to Week 3’s overall QB11 finish. Palmer has been a top-12 fantasy passer in consecutive games and remains streamer worthy against a 49ers defense Jared Goff picked apart for last week’s QB9 result with career highs in completion rate (78.6%), adjusted yards per attempt (12.6), and QB rating (145.8). Still, Palmer’s going-forward outlook isn’t great in a depleted offense with major O-Line deficiencies that will worsen as the Cardinals’ schedule toughens. Arizona has allowed a league-high 27 quarterback hits and the NFL’s fourth-most sacks (11) despite facing the Cowboys, Colts, and Lions. Beginning in Week 5 at Philadelphia, the Cardinals will be playing some very good defensive fronts, very soon. … Matchups don’t matter when your running game is dysfunctional and can’t decide on backfield roles. Chris Johnson got the Week 3 start, but he was buried every time he touched the ball. Kerwynn Williams touched the ball once and is an afterthought at this point. Andre Ellington was Arizona’s most-effective option versus Dallas, turning ten touches into 80 yards on a 60% playing-time clip, yet he is a low-end flex play at best.
Palmer’s Weeks 1-3 targets: Larry Fitzgerald 34; Jaron Brown 17; Ellington and J.J. Nelson 16; Jermaine Gresham 13. … Fitzgerald ranks third in the NFL in targets, first in red-zone targets (8), second in catches (22), and second in red-zone grabs (4). He will take on 49ers slot corner K’Waun Williams, who stands 5’9/183 to Fitzgerald’s 6’3/225. Per PFF, Williams has allowed 2.06 yards per coverage snap, the NFL’s seventh-worst mark among 46 qualified slot defenders. … Fitz went off against the Cowboys while Brown (2/27/1) and Nelson (0/0) were quiet, and there will likely be similar give and take between the Cardinals’ receivers for most of the year. At 5-foot-10, 156, Nelson is an inherently limited player, even if he is going to turn in his share of sporadic big plays and games because of his separation skills. The 49ers showed vulnerability to perimeter players Robert Woods (6/108/0) and Sammy Watkins (6/106/2) in last week’s loss to the Rams, providing some optimism for Brown and Nelson, even if both are likely to remain volatile week to week. … Gresham has drawn 13 targets in only two games played – including four in the red zone — and is a bigger part of the Cardinals’ offense than people seem to realize. He offers deep-league TE2 value and will be TE1 streamer worthy in more favorable spots than this. The Niners checked Greg Olsen (2/18/0), Jimmy Graham (1/1/0), and Rams tight ends (2/21/0) in Weeks 1-3.
Even with ten days to prepare for a short-week Arizona team, this is a tough road spot for the Niners. Nursing a hip injury, Carlos Hyde is a volume-driven RB2 play against a Cardinals defense that held enemy backs to a combined 67/185/2.76/2 rushing line in Weeks 1-3, as well as the NFL’s fifth-fewest receiving yards (71) to the position. … Pierre Garcon is the 49ers’ only high-volume pass catcher, and he will draw Patrick Peterson’s shadow coverage in Week 4. Peterson’s Week 3 shadow on Dez Bryant was so aggressive he even chased Bryant into the slot. … Brian Hoyer finally hit Marquise Goodwin for a big play in last week’s shootout loss to the Rams, connecting for 50 yards deep down the middle. I’m usually down on Goodwin because his track record is so unproductive, but this is actually a decent spot for him. Cardinals No. 2 CB Justin Bethel has been a predictable weekly whipping boy across from Peterson, coughing up Kenny Golladay’s big opener (4/69/2) and much of Brice Butler’s (2/90/1) big Week 3 game.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 23, 49ers 17
4:25 PM ET Game
Oakland @ Denver
Team Totals: Broncos 24.5, Raiders 21.5
A predictable flop at Buffalo after his hot Weeks 1-2, Trevor Siemian returns home for a bounce-back spot against the Raiders, who have been flamed for fantasy finishes of QB6 (Marcus Mariota), QB13 (Josh McCown), and QB4 (Kirk Cousins) – each of those quarterbacks’ season-best games. Siemian isn’t the fantasy passer he produced as in the first two weeks, but he’s a better streamer this week than last. He turned in respectable 2016 finishes of QB15 and QB17 against Oakland, tossing multiple touchdown passes in both. … A combination of negative script, time-of-possession loss, and two picks thrown by Siemian to cost the Broncos drives caused C.J. Anderson’s Week 3 dud. Anderson’s snap rate (70%) barely fell from Weeks 1-2 (78%), even as Jamaal Charles equaled Anderson in touches (10) and scored more fantasy points. Charles’ role didn’t waver, either. He has handled 10 touches in each of Denver’s first three games, maintaining a defined change-of-pace role. Oakland’s run defense has been solid so far, holding enemy backs to a combined rushing line of 72/278/3.86/0. Still, I like Anderson’s chances of rebounding on 20-plus touches as a home-favorite running back facing a defense against which the Broncos shouldn’t struggle to move the ball as an offense. Charles is still just a low-end flex option.
Siemian’s Weeks 1-3 targets: Emmanuel Sanders 29; Demaryius Thomas 25; Bennie Fowler 14; Anderson 8; Virgil Green 7; AJ Derby 6; Charles 3. … A shifty speedster who works inside 25% of the time, Broncos target leader Sanders matches up most favorably against the Raiders’ plus-sized corners. Despite inferior size, Sanders has continued to dominate scoring-position work with four red-zone targets to Demaryius’ one and two targets inside the ten-yard line to Thomas’ none. This should even out eventually – Sanders and Thomas equaled each other in red-zone looks (18) last season — but it is still a positive early-season trend for Sanders in a very positive spot. … The Raiders checked Thomas twice last season, holding him to a 5/56/0 receiving line in these clubs’ Week 9 meeting and 4/47/0 in the Week 17 rematch. While Thomas obviously needs to start scoring TDs to offer any tangible upside, he can certainly be viewed as a safe-floor play. He caught at least five passes in 13-of-16 games last year and did so in each of the first three 2017 weeks. Five different enemy wideouts have cleared 50 yards against the Raiders so far.
A flop in last Sunday night’s loss to Washington, Derek Carr is set up for more disappointment in this Week 4 trip to Denver. Carr has faced the Broncos’ defense three times over the past three seasons, emerging with QB21 > QB24 > QB27 results. It should be noted Denver has shown more pass-defense vulnerability than usual early this year, giving up fantasy finishes of QB12 (Philip Rivers), QB11 (Dak Prescott), and QB17 (Tyrod Taylor). Still, I would pass on Carr outside of two-quarterback leagues. … The Broncos have clearly fixed their run defense after struggling there throughout last year, holding enemy backs to a combined 58/142/2.45/0 rushing line and most notably eliminating Ezekiel Elliott (9/8/0) and LeSean McCoy (14/21/0) in back-to-back weeks. This is an ugly matchup for Marshawn Lynch, whose weekly touch counts have descended (19 > 13 > 7) while handling just 40% of Oakland’s offensive snaps. … Ultimately, the Raiders’ backfield has been a true three-way committee. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are both regularly involved, but neither has reached double-digit touches in a game thus far. There would need to be some sort of shift in approach or injury for these guys’ outlooks to change.
Carr’s Weeks 1-3 targets: Amari Cooper 23; Jared Cook 17; Michael Crabtree 16; Washington 11; Seth Roberts 7; Lynch 5; Richard and Cordarrelle Patterson 4. … Similar to Carr, Cooper is likely in for another long day. Beginning with most recent, Cooper’s four career stat lines against the Broncos are 4/39/1 > 6/56/0 > 0/0 > 4/47/0. Denver’s 2017 secondary hasn’t allowed a single enemy wide receiver to reach 65 yards. Cooper is low-floor, touchdown-or-bust play. With all of that said, Cooper is going to be one of the best buy-low targets in fantasy after this week. … As a Raider, Crabtree’s four receiving lines against Denver are 5/47/0 > 2/27/0 > 4/19/0 > 4/54/0. Crabtree also needs to be downgraded to a low-floor and ultimately undesirable WR3/flex option. … The premier matchup in Oakland’s pass-catcher corps goes to Cook against a Broncos defense Jason Witten dusted for 10/97/1 in Week 2 before Bills tight ends combined for 7/70/1 against Denver last week. Playing a huge role in the Raiders’ offense, Cook has out-targeted Crabtree and out-gained Cooper 124 yards to 101. Cook is an every-week TE1 at this point.
Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Raiders 20
Sunday Night Football
Indianapolis @ Seattle
Team Totals: Seahawks 27, Colts 14
Fresh off his Week 3 four-touchdown revival in Nashville, Russell Wilson returns home for a cupcake draw against a cross-country-traveling Colts team that plays pass-funnel defense. Whereas Indy has shut down enemy backs on a combined 63/201/3.19/3 rushing line, Chuck Pagano’s defense has yielded QB14, QB12, and QB13 results to Jared Goff, Carson Palmer, and DeShone Kizer while allowing a league-high 20 pass plays of 20-plus yards. Less of a threat than most teams to exploit the Seahawks’ pass-protection woes, the Colts enter Week 4 ranked 27th in sacks (6). A man-coverage defense that turns its back to the action on passing downs, the Colts will be vulnerable to Wilson’s break-pocket scrambles. From deep-ball, pass-rush, and mobility standpoints, there isn’t a defense in football that matches up more favorably for Wilson than Pagano’s group. … With C.J. Prosise (ankle) out indefinitely and neither Eddie Lacy nor Thomas Rawls pushing for snaps, Chris Carson projects as a Week 4 volume monster with Seattle almost certain to live in positive game script as nearly two-touchdown home favorites against the road-tripping Colts, who are primed for a mammoth letdown after getting their first 2016 win. Indy deserves credit for playing stout run defense to this point, but this is a volume-over-efficiency situation at fantasy’s most volume-over-efficiency position. Carson is a locked-and-loaded, high-ceiling RB2.
Wilson’s Weeks 1-3 target distribution: Doug Baldwin 28; Jimmy Graham 20; Paul Richardson 19; Tyler Lockett 15; Prosise 11; Luke Willson 8; Carson 5. … Baldwin’s groin tweak is cause for some alarm, but most signs point to him suiting up versus Indy. Sixth in the NFL in receptions after last week’s explosion in Tennessee, Baldwin will avoid Colts RCB Vontae Davis, who is making his 2017 debut after missing Weeks 1-2 with a groin injury. Davis played just 3% of his 2016 snaps in the slot. Baldwin has run 68% of his 2017 routes inside. … Richardson is running 64% of his patterns on Davis’ side, most among Seattle receivers. I still like Richardson as a dart throw because of Indy’s deep-pass vulnerability, and I’m not convinced Davis is all the way back healthy yet. Davis was a major liability when he tried playing through a groin injury last season. … Lockett is my favorite DFS play in Seattle’s pass-catcher corps. Lockett’s snaps have trended up each week (53% > 74% > 90%), and he runs only 9% of his routes on Davis’ side of the field. Should Baldwin sit out or suffer an in-game setback, Lockett would take over as Seattle’s slot receiver. Lockett also offers scoring potential in the return game and is an enticing correlation play with the Seahawks’ D/ST. … Graham came to life in last week’s loss to Tennessee. The Colts gave up a 5/45/1 receiving line to Browns tight ends in Week 3, 2/62/0 on three targets to Cardinals tight ends in Week 2, and 4/89/0 on six targets to Rams tight ends in Week 1. I’m right back on the Graham train this week.
Jacoby Brissett blowing up for last week’s QB5 finish was a nice story, but the story is likely to be much different going from a home game against the Browns to a cross-country road game in Seattle, which held Aaron Rodgers to his season-low QB13 result in Week 1, Brian Hoyer to Week 2’s QB33 finish, and Marcus Mariota to last week’s QB15 mark. … The best play in Indy’s skill-position corps is still T.Y. Hilton, whose speed-quickness game can cause trouble for plus-sized Seahawks CBs Richard Sherman (6’3/195) and Shaq Griffin (6’0/194). Mostly a slot receiver last season, Hilton is playing 62% of his snaps outside this year. He is still best viewed as a boom-bust WR2/3 despite last week’s eruption versus Cleveland. … No other Colts wideout has reached 60 yards in a game yet. … The Seahawks have given up a truckload big run plays early on, but that seems unlikely to continue against Indy. With 34-year-old Frank Gore and journeyman Robert Turbin as their top-two backs, the Colts rank dead last in the NFL in yards per carry (2.7). Gore remains a low-floor, touchdown-dependent flex option. He has been targeted in the passing game just four times through three games. … The Seahawks allowed the NFL’s fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2016, then checked Martellus Bennett (3/43/0) in Week 1, 49ers tight ends (3/19/0) in Week 2, and Delanie Walker (4/31/0) in Week 3. It’s tough to get excited about Jack Doyle.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 34, Colts 3