Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward redraft leagues but can also be used for setting DFS lineups, as these are the players I’ll likely be filling out my cash lineups with on Sunday. As is the case each week, I’m ignoring the Thursday night game.
Start of the Week: Tyrod Taylor vs. Giants: With a team total of 25.75 points, the Bills are projected to be one of Week 4’s highest-scoring teams. Add in a point spread of 5.5 with the Bills as home favorites, this shapes up nicely for Taylor to continue the success he’s had over the first three weeks of the season. There’s a direct correlation between point spread and success for the quarterback of the favored team. Sharp players are already using Taylor as their locked-in QB1, but we still get inquiries here at Rotoworld from owners in leagues where Taylor is available on the waiver wire. He needs to be owned in 100 percent of leagues no matter the size. No team has allowed more passing yards through three weeks than the Giants. According to Pro Football Focus, only Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady have been more accurate than Taylor. With LeSean McCoy (hamstring) fully expected to sit out, Taylor could have a bit more put on his plate.
Cam Newton at Bucs: Newton is a weekly must-start at the moment. He’s fantasy’s No. 4 quarterback through three weeks, yet some are failing to take note because Newton has proven highly volatile during his career. Newton’s accounted for six touchdowns the past two games and is dominating goal-line and red-zone carries for the Panthers. From Rich Hribar’s Week 4 Worksheet, Newton has handled three of the Panthers’ five carries from inside the five-yard line. So, not only is Newton throwing touchdowns, he’s taking matters into his own hands at the goal line. Bucs-Panthers has the lowest over-under of the week at a meager 39.5 points with Carolina as three-point favorites. Tampa Bay is trying to sort out its cornerback position with Alterraun Verner getting benched last week in favor of fellow pint-sized CB Tim Jennings. RCB Johnthan Banks hurt his knee Week 3 and didn’t practice Wednesday. Coach Lovie Smith has never had great safeties. The back end is in flux. The Bucs have faced the seventh-fewest pass attempts but have allowed the fourth-most touchdown passes. Tampa Bay has also surrendered the third-most rushing touchdowns.
Derek Carr at Bears: Carr failed to impress Week 1 but has answered with back-to-back 300-yard games with five touchdown passes. He’s looked like a legitimate franchise quarterback against the Ravens and Browns. Carr now gets his easiest on-paper matchup of the young season. The Bears have faced the fewest pass attempts (77) but have allowed the second-most touchdowns (8), giving up a touchdown pass every 9.6 attempts. They also don’t put pressure on the quarterback. The Raiders are three-point road favorites with a healthy projected team total of 24 points. The additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree at receiver have catapulted Carr up the ranks.
Andy Dalton vs. Chiefs: Thanks in large part to Aaron Rodgers last week, the Chiefs have given up the most touchdown passes and fantasy points to quarterbacks through three weeks. As noted in previous Start/Sit columns the first couple weeks, and thanks to Bengals expert Joe Goodberry, Dalton is a much better quarterback against uncommon opponents like the Chiefs. He’s also better at home. With a full arsenal of weapons, including the healthy returns of A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Tyler Eifert, Dalton is fantasy’s No. 3 overall quarterback at the moment. The Chiefs are getting RCB Sean Smith back from three-game suspension, but after being away from the team and not allowed to practice for three weeks, he’ll almost certainly be rusty. Kansas City was also dealt a big blow this week, losing slot CB Phillip Gaines to a torn ACL. Burn victims Marcus Cooper and Jamell Fleming will be asked to log heavy snaps. Fleming has been the worst corner in the league through Week 3.
Philip Rivers vs. Browns: I’m not in love with Rivers this week, but he’s certainly usable with Tom Brady and Marcus Mariota on their bye weeks. As mentioned above, Rivers has been the league’s most-accurate quarterback this season; he’s been getting the ball out of his hand quickly and close to the line of scrimmage, letting his receivers do work after the catch. The Browns are giving up over 8.06 YPA and are banged up in the secondary with FS Tashaun Gipson (groin) and slot CB K’Waun Williams (concussion) not practicing Wednesday. No. 1 CB Joe Haden has also proven burnable, getting beat thoroughly by Brandon Marshall and Amari Cooper Weeks 1 and 3. The Chargers are heavy 7.5-point home favorites with a projected team total of 26 points.
Teddy Bridgewater at Broncos: Avoid the Vikings like the plague this week. No defense has been better through three weeks than the Broncos. With edge rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller putting consistent heat on the quarterback, it’s allowed the cornerback trio of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby to be playmakers on the back end. All three of Roby (3), Talib (6), and Harris (15) have graded out as top-15 cover corners out of 100 qualifiers at Pro Football Focus. Denver is allowing just 5.78 YPA through the air and has surrendered the fewest fantasy points and touchdown passes while picking off the second-most passes. Bridgewater is fantasy’s No. 33 quarterback, dead last among regular starters, after three weeks. The Vikings have a projected team total of 18 points.
Nick Foles at Cardinals: It’s doubtful Foles is on many, if any, radars this week, especially after being a complete bust Week 3 against the Steelers in a cake matchup at home. But Foles has largely suffered thanks to the talent, or lack thereof, around him. Foles’ pass catchers have dropped 10 of his 87 pass attempts, and Pro Football Focus actually has him graded out as the sixth-most accurate quarterback with the seventh-best adjusted passer rating. This isn’t the week everything is likely to come together for the Rams’ passing “attack.” The Cardinals have picked off the most passes with seven and allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. To make matters worse, Foles’ No. 1 receiver, Kenny Britt (shoulder), didn’t practice Wednesday. The Rams are projected to score just 17.5 points this week. Only the Lions are lower at 16.5 points.
Drew Brees vs. Cowboys: Most signs point to Brees playing after missing last week’s game with a bruised rotator cuff. He’s nowhere near 100 percent, but Brees is determined to play and gives the Saints their best chance to win. If he suits up, expect coach Sean Payton to make it a point to try and focus the offense around Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, and C.J. Spiller. Couple that with the Cowboys’ ability to control the clock on the offensive side of the ball, and the Saints’ putrid passing offense is one to avoid. Brees is unable to drive the ball downfield and will have to settle for making dump-offs and quick passes like Alex Smith. Even after giving up 285 yards and two touchdowns to Matt Ryan last week, the Cowboys have still allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Matthew Stafford at Seahawks: Stafford’s inaccuracy paired with OC Joe Lombardi’s questionable play calling have made Stafford about useless, even in two-quarterback leagues. He should’t be sniffing 12-team league rosters this week with the Lions heading to Seattle as 10-point underdogs and the lowest team total of the week at 16.5 points. Stafford is a virtual lock to turn the ball over multiple times. He’s been one of the worst quarterbacks under pressure through three weeks.
Start of the Week: Jonathan Stewart at Bucs: Tampa Bay simply doesn’t have the size up front to hold up well against the run. The Bucs don’t have a true space-eating nose tackle, as starting defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald are both under 300 pounds. Rookie MLB Kwon Alexander is also way undersized at 227 and has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst run-defending inside ‘backer. With the Panthers as road favorites, everything points in Stewart’s favor. However, as mentioned above, Cam Newton is dominating goal-line looks with three of the Panthers’ five carries inside the five-yard line. Stewart only has one of the other two, severely capping his scoring upside. If Stewart’s to score Sunday, he’s likely going to have to break one off. Fortunately for him, Alfred Blue just ran for 139 yards against the Bucs in Week 3 with a long gain of 20 yards. Blue was consistently gaining chunk yards and took his touchdown to the house from 20 yards out.
Melvin Gordon vs. Browns: There’s some real concern with the Chargers’ offensive line, as LT King Dunlap (concussion), LG Orlando Franklin (ankle), and C Chris Watt (groin) all missed practice Wednesday. But if San Diego can somehow find a usable combination, this game sets up extremely well for Gordon. The Browns are traveling cross-country as heavy 7.5-point road underdogs, meaning the Chargers should be able to run a balanced attack with Gordon leading the way. The problem the first three weeks for Gordon owners is that San Diego has been trailing an awful lot on the scoreboard. Game script for Week 4 really favors the Chargers’ running game, and the Browns have been bleeding yards to opposing running backs at a 5.21 YPC clip. Cleveland has allowed the third-most fantasy points to runners. Gordon is averaging 15 carries per game through three weeks. If the Chargers can maintain a lead, he should easily see 20 totes.
Frank Gore vs. Jaguars: Gore isn’t getting nearly as many looks as many thought he would with the Colts. But coming off an 86-yard, two-touchdown rushing game against the Titans, OC Pep Hamilton would be wise to put more on Gore’s plate with Andrew Luck struggling and battling a bit of weakened throwing shoulder. The Jaguars were terrible against the run last week, giving up three one-yard touchdowns to LeGarrette Blount and an eight-yard score to Dion Lewis. This Colts offense is powerful enough to get Gore plenty of looks inside the five-yard line. With the Colts as heavy 9.5-point favorites and a 29-point projected team total, Gore should be locked into 15-plus carries.
Duke Johnson at Chargers: Johnson has out-snapped teammate Isaiah Crowell each of the past two weeks, registering 22 touches for 78 yards. Crowell averaged just 3.6 YPC last week against the Raiders and doesn’t play in the passing game. The Browns are 7.5-point underdogs, which will translate to more playing time for Johnson. He caught six passes last week and should see a number of dump-offs into the flats from Josh McCown in catch-up mode. The Chargers have allowed the second-most fantasy points and five catches per game to running backs. This could be Johnson’s breakout week. He has standalone value as a FLEX option with upside.
Theo Riddick at Seahawks: I’m trying to dive a little deeper here with Riddick. He’s carried the ball just one time for five yards this season, but has caught 15-of-18 targets for 144 yards and one touchdown. Riddick is behind both Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah on the depth chart, but has been getting a ton of run in the fourth quarter with the Lions trailing on the scoreboard. He’s Detroit’s garbage-time back. With the Lions as the biggest underdogs of the week on Monday night, look for Riddick to play 20-plus snaps and catch plenty of Matthew Stafford check-downs. For what it’s worth, I’m actually using Riddick as a FLEX in one of my PPR leagues over Abdullah and C.J. Spiller.
Lamar Miller vs. Jets: The Dolphins are 27th in rushing offense, averaging just 72 yards per game on the ground. Miller is averaging just 3.5 YPC on 30 carries. Mwanwhile, the Jets boast one of the top run defenses, allowing just 3.2 YPC, one touchdown, and the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. This looks like another week to avoid Miller before the Dolphins head into their Week 5 bye when they’ll hopefully be able to straighten out their running game. Also working against Miller is Damien Williams replacing him in the backfield when the Dolphins get into scoring position.
Rashad Jennings at Bills: Teams aren’t running against the Bills; Buffalo has faced just 41 carries from running backs through three games and is allowing a league-best 74 yards per game on the ground. 30-year-old Jennings is averaging a pitiful 2.9 YPC on 33 runs and isn’t making any noise as a pass catcher with Shane Vereen filling that role. Jennings has managed just 44 yards on 20 carries the past two weeks and is losing work to Andre Williams. Neither Jennings nor Williams is in play this week against the Bills. The Giants are going to have to have success through the air to win.
Doug Martin vs. Panthers: Martin is continuing to lose more snaps to Charles Sims. Though Sims isn’t much of a runner, the Bucs have simply been abandoning the run game and letting Jameis Winston throw the ball downfield or check it down to Sims, who scored a long touchdown on a screen pass in Week 3 against the Texans. Martin has been about a 50-percent player this season. He doesn’t play in the pass game, has yet to score a touchdown, and is averaging just 3.86 YPC. The Panthers got stud DT Star Lotulelei (foot) back last week and held Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson to a combined 2.95 YPC on 21 carries. Carolina is going to make Winston beat them.
Carlos Hyde vs. Packers: Hyde is a talented runner and is still third in the league in rushing, but he’s fallen victim to serious game-flow problems the past two weeks. The 49ers have gotten plastered by the Steelers and Cardinals in back-to-back road games. San Francisco at least gets to head back home, but Green Bay is coming to town as eight-point favorites. The game script obviously doesn’t favor Hyde once again. If — a big “if” — the 49ers can stay close in this one, Hyde could make for a fine play. The Packers have allowed four touchdowns and 4.5 YPC to running backs. But early money is on the Packers coming in, even on short rest, and blowing the doors off the 49ers.
Start of the Week: Jordan Matthews at Redskins: Matthews is the closest one to being an every-down receiver in the Eagles’ offense. He’s played 83.7 percent of the snaps. Matthews is one of 14 receivers with at least 30 targets through three weeks and is averaging 10 targets per game. He runs a ton of high-percentage routes, and, to this point, Sam Bradford has keyed in on Matthews in the short passing game. The Eagles aren’t attempting anything downfield. Washington has faced only one true slot receiver through three weeks, and that was Jarvis Landry in Week 1. He caught eight passes that game. With DeAngelo Hall (toe) to miss Week 4, it could leave Justin Rogers or Will Blackmon covering the slot where Matthews has run over 96 percent of his routes. He’s frustrated owners a bit, but this matchup is extremely favorable for Matthews to dust the Redskins.
Michael Crabtree at Bears: Amari Cooper is a much better play, obviously, but Crabtree is also squarely in the mix against a leaky Bears secondary. Cooper and Crabtree move around a bit, but Crabtree is likely to mostly see Bears second-year LCB Kyle Fuller. He’s been torched in coverage so far this season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 93 corner out of 100 qualifiers. Fuller is allowing 18.3 YPR and has surrendered two touchdowns and a 137.5 passer rating. Crabtree is averaging 11 targets per game and has seen at least eight each week. He’s going to be up-and-down for much of the season, but Sunday sets up well for him to have a solid game. As a team, the Bears are allowing over 12 yards per catch to receivers and the sixth-most fantasy points.
Donte Moncrief vs. Jaguars: The Colts opened the week with the highest projected team total at 29 points after Jacksonville gave up 51 to the Patriots in Week 3. This could be the cure for what ails Andrew Luck and the Colts offense. Through all the adversity, Moncrief has been the constant. He has one touchdown in each game and is second on the team in targets with 25, one behind T.Y. Hilton. Moncrief has breezed by Andre Johnson in the pecking order. The Jaguars are severely banged up on both sides of the ball and were missing key defenders FS Sergio Brown (calf) and top CB Davon House (leg) at Wednesday’s practice after both were hurt against New England. Both Hilton and Moncrief are primed for big days and could return top-12 value.
Pierre Garcon vs. Eagles: As long as DeSean Jackson (hamstring) remains sidelined, Garcon should pace the Redskins in targets and be usable in fantasy. He’s averaging nine targets per game and hasn’t seen fewer than seven in a week. Garcon draws probably the toughest matchup against Eagles RCB Nolan Carroll. He hasn’t allowed a touchdown through three weeks but is giving up catches (13) opposite burn victim LCB Byron Maxwell. Washington and Philadelphia both like to play fast and have combined to run at least 70 offensive plays each in five of their six games. The Eagles have a stout run defense, allowing over 3.12 YPC and zero touchdowns to running backs, so this figures to be a game where Kirk Cousins could flirt with 40 pass attempts. Garcon and Jordan Reed should each see double-digit targets if that happens.
James Jones at 49ers: Jones was my Monday Night Football hammer last week in DFS. Heading into the Monday night game, I was barely above breaking even. I owned Jones in 100 percent of my head-to-heads and a couple tournaments. Aaron Rodgers ended up going wild, and Jones posted a 7-139-1 receiving line, allowing me to not have to eat Ramen noodles this week. Jones has four touchdowns on the season and has caught at least one in each game. The Packers travel to the 49ers, who were just lit up by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer in back-to-back weeks. San Francisco is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers. Jones would be hard to trust if Davante Adams is in the lineup, but he’s in a walking boot with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Wednesday. With Adams out last Monday night, Jones saw a season-best eight targets. Jones is a go-to option for Rodgers in the red zone and should run all of his routes at Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker. They’ve both received poor coverage marks from Pro Football Focus.
Rishard Matthews vs. Jets: Matthews is leading the Dolphins in receiving, but he’s been extremely garbage time-dependent the past two weeks. Of his 16 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns, he’s caught 12 of those passes for 222 yards and all three scores with the Dolphins trailing. Granted, the Dolphins haven’t been leading in many games and don’t project to win Sunday, but Matthews has done most of his damage in the second half and caught just one pass in the red zone through three games. Matthews will likely draw Darrelle Revis in coverage most of the morning. Matthews should be owned in 12-team leagues, but could be a sell-high candidate.
Jeremy Maclin at Bengals: Speaking of garbage time, Maclin was the king of it last Monday night against the Packers. With the Chiefs trailing 31-7 in the second half, Maclin caught his first pass of the night and went on to post an 8-141-1 line. None of it mattered for the Chiefs. Alex Smith has been trying to take more shots downfield, but he isn’t connecting on any of them and remains a check-down specialist. In Weeks 1 and 2, Maclin combined to catch nine balls for 107 scoreless yards. Smith still seems to prefer throwing to Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce. Maclin will do battle with the Bengals’ deep cornerback group led by RCB Adam Jones. Jones missed practice Wednesday with an elbow issue but played every snap in Week 3, so it might not be serious. And we all know Chiefs receivers don’t score touchdowns. Week 4 sets up as a Charles game.
Mike Wallace at Broncos: See: Bridgewater, Teddy above. The Broncos are playing lights-out pass defense, and the Vikings have one of the lowest team totals of the week at 18 points. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby are all playing at a top-notch level on the back end for the Broncos, locking down receivers. Wallace averages fewer than five targets per game to begin with as the Vikings’ No. 1 receiver. He’s not going to get enough volume in this one to make up for the tough matchup. If the Vikings are going to have a prayer in this one, they need Adrian Peterson to run hog wild and for the defense to get after Peyton Manning and force turnovers.
Rueben Randle at Bills: Week 3 was about as consistent as we’ve ever seen Randle. He caught all seven of his targets for 116 yards and a score. The touchdown, however, was extremely lucky; the ball bounced off Randle’s shoulder and up into the air as the cornerback fell down. Randle got back under it and walked into the end zone from 41 yards out. This week’s matchup against Bills impressive rookie CB Ronald Darby and emerging shutdown CB Stephon Gilmore won’t be as easy. Darby and Gilmore are allowing quarterbacks to complete less than 50 percent of their passes thrown at them and have surrendered just one touchdown with two interceptions and seven pass breakups. With Victor Cruz (calf) suffering a setback Wednesday, Randle will remain an every-down player, but he might need 10-12 targets to really make some noise.
Start of the Week: Martellus Bennett vs. Raiders: Combine Jimmy Clausen at quarterback and the Seahawks elite down-the-middle defense, Bennett was swallowed up in Week 3. He managed just four catches for 15 yards with a long gain of six. Things should go much better against the Raiders. Oakland has been getting shredded by tight ends the first three weeks. Tyler Eifert went 9-104-2 against the Raiders in Week 1. Crockett Gillmore went 5-88-2 in Week 2, and someone named Gary Barnidge posted a career-best 6-105-1 line last week. It’s pretty clear the Raiders are the team to stream tight ends against, even if Clausen is at quarterback Sunday. Clausen is probably the worst starter among the 32 teams this week, but Bennett is much better than Gillmore and Barnidge.
Charles Clay vs. Giants: Clay is playing about 90 percent of the snaps for the Bills and has seen his targets increase each week. They peaked at seven in Week 3. And with Sammy Watkins (calf) and LeSean McCoy (hamstring) expected to miss Week 4, Clay could be in line for even more looks in the short passing game. The Giants have allowed a TE1 each week and are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Clay should have a chance to prove his worth Sunday.
Coby Fleener vs. Jaguars: Dwayne Allen (ankle) continues to miss practice this week. That leaves Fleener as a full-time player. He played 52-of-61 snaps against the Titans last week and was targeted six times. The Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to tight ends and could be without FS Sergio Brown (calf) after he missed practice Wednesday. Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans would be left at safety for the Jaguars, and neither can cover one bit.
Jason Witten at Saints: The ole dad Witten runs like he’s made of concrete, but continues to get the job done. He’s practicing in full this week despite ankle and knee injuries. The Saints might be getting FS Jairus Byrd (knee) back in the lineup for his season debut, but Witten should remain Brandon Weeden’s safety blanket over the middle. Byrd’s return will help, but the Saints have allowed the second-mots receiving yards and second-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Jordan Cameron vs. Jets: Jets safeties Clavin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist have been wreaking havoc in the middle of coach Todd Bowles’ defense. Pryor has been laying big hits as a box safety, while Gilchrist is handling center field. The two have combined to allow just 10 completions for 77 scoreless yards on 19 targets in coverage while picking off two passes. That comes out to a 23.2 passer rating. David Harris has also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 inside linebacker in coverage. Cameron has been third in line for targets behind target-hog Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews. Cameron probably gets the easiest matchup of the three, but it’s not one we’re trying to exploit.
Kyle Rudolph at Broncos: Rudolph gets the best matchup among Vikings pass catchers, but Broncos FS Darian Stewart has been dynamite in coverage. He’s allowed just five catches for 18 scoreless yards to go with an interception. Rudolph dropped a 24-yard touchdown last week. He hasn’t been able to put it all together for long stretches since being a 2011 second-rounder. Teddy Bridgewater looks Rudolph’s way in the red zone, but the Vikings may not get there much Sunday.
Owen Daniels vs. Vikings: On the other side of the Vikings-Broncos matchup is Daniels. Soon to be 33, Daniels looks like he’s near the end of the line. He hasn’t topped 28 yards receiving in a game through three weeks and saved his Week 3 by catching a late 11-yard touchdown. Daniels is last in yards per route run among tight ends at 0.46, and he’s run the second-most routes behind Eric Ebron. Daniels has a disgustingly-low 52 receiving yards on 113 routes.
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