Here we are. After this week, we'll be a quarter of the way through the NFL season. People are starting to have an idea as to what players can be relied upon on their fantasy teams and which draft picks they might have to cut bait on. I'd give it at least one more week before making any decisions, as some of the trades made during this time will make or break fantasy seasons. Let's get into Week 4!
As always, these games are ones that I believe set up as good fantasy days for the players involved in them. There are obviously players in games other than these that will have good fantasy games, these games just look good for fantasy purposes in general. Also, I've added the Over/Under lines for total points scored in each game next to the listed match-up.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts - Oct. 4, 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48
Overview: Well, the Colts kind of got of the schnide last week against the Titans, right? Now they get the Jaguars, who have given up the 3rd most points in the league so far this year. The Jags' pass defense is ranked 25th in yards given up and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.2 percent of their passes with 5 TDs and only 1 INT on the season. The rush defense has been better, giving up only 3.3 yards per carry (YPC) and 90.7 yards per game (YPG) on the ground. While the numbers suggest it's a tough match-up for the Colts' backs, I don't see the Jags slowing down the Colts much here, as Indy seemed to get into a groove late in last week's game. Let's hope it continues. On the other hand, we have the Jaguars' offense coming off basically an entire game of garbage time, as they got blasted by the Patriots. I don't think this game will be quite as lopsided as that one and the Colts' defense will likely assist with that, as they're ranked 21st and 22nd in pass and rush defense, respectively. Let's see if the Jaguars can continue to give us some fantasy relevant options.
Jacksonville: In last week's 51-17 debacle against the Patriots, Jaguars' quarterback Blake Bortles still managed to put up 242 yards and 2 TDs (with 1 INT). In the past 2 games, Bortles has managed to throw for 2 TDs and at least 240 yards and I don't see why that can't continue this week in another possible blowout or shootout with Indy. He's not the worst option you could find as a bye week replacement in a deep league and is once again interesting as tournament play on daily fantasy sites (DFS).
Although Indianapolis is 21st in the league in rushing yards allowed, they've only given up 3.7 YPC, which doesn't bode well for T.J. Yeldon and the Jags' running game. Yeldon managed only 33 yards on 11 carries last week against a Patriots' defense that is giving up 4.9 YPC on the season and he's only averaging 3.2 YPC through 3 games. He also only received 12 and 11 carries in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively -- both of which were losses -- while he got 25 carries in their Week 3 win. I don't see Jacksonville winning this game and being in a position to give Yeldon a lot of attempts, so I'd only start him as a low-end flex option if you're desperate.
The Jaguars' receivers have been hit-or-miss so far, with consensus breakout candidate Allen Robinson having one terrible game in Week 1, a huge game in Week 2 and a mediocre one in Week 3. That being said, Robinson has gotten 12 and 9 targets in the last two games and he's their #1 option in the passing game by far. He'll probably see Colts' CB Vontae Davis this week -- which isn't usually good for fantasy production -- but if you have Robinson and have been playing him, you likely have to keep rolling him out there. He's a low-end #2 WR. The apparent second option in the passing game is Allen Hurns, who had one big play last week to make both his and Bortles' fantasy day. Hurns is a nice hail-mary play in DFS tournaments, but he's not startable in any standard formats.
Indianapolis: Andrew Luck might be the biggest disappointment so far in fantasy. His stat line (although still mediocre) from last week doesn't tell the whole story, as he had to put up most of his points and production in the 4th quarter against a Titans team that was leading most of the game. Through 3 games he's only completing 56% of his passes and has 5 TDs compared with 7 INTs. He's still got a long way to go to resemble anything like what he was last season when he turned himself into a Top-2 option at QB in drafts this year. As a Luck owner, I'm hoping he gets things straightened out and this is a good match-up for him to start the process. He did show up on the injury report this week with a right shoulder injury, but according the Indianapolis Star, Colts' head coach Chuck Pagano has "supreme confidence" that Luck will be in the starting lineup come Sunday. If you have Luck, you're starting him.
The old man's still got it! Against the Titans, fantasy owners saw what we were hoping for when Frank Gore signed with the Colts in the off-season, as he finished with 14 carries for 86 yards and 2 TDs. If you watched the game, you saw that Gore looked great and got both TDs from inside the red zone. Although the stat line may not show it for Week 2, this is the second week in a row that Gore has looked good running the ball and his outlook is great for the next 4 weeks or so. You can start him as a strong #2 RB with confidence.
Despite a nice touchdown catch late in the Titans' game by Phillip Dorsett, there's really only two receiving options you're paying attention to here: T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Both received 7 targets last week and are the Top 2 options for Luck in this offense. I wrote prior to the games last week that Andre Johnson (despite an amazing career) has just looked old and slow and that trend continued in Week 3. It appears that the Colts have come to grips with this, as Luck only gave Johnson 1 target in their Week 3 contest while Dorsett got 3 targets and TE Coby Fleener caught 4 passes on 6 targets. The Colts' offense can realistically support 3 fantasy relevant receiving options, but it looks like the 3rd receiver -- possibly Dorsett with some Johnson mixed in from this point forward -- and the tight ends (Fleener and Dwayne Allen, who missed last week's game) will take away from each other, especially with how the offense has looked so far. I'm ignoring these guys for now. You can start Hilton as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 and Moncrief as a solid WR2.
Houston Texans @ Atlanta Falcons - Oct. 4, 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 46.5
Overview: Can anyone stop Julio Jones? You're up Houston! The Texans actually have the 12th ranked pass defense, but can normal humans slow down Jones? I think not. What about the Falcons' run game? Can it continue it's pace from last week? Houston's rush defense is ranked 19th, but has only allowed 3.8 YPC. I'd say it's a push in that category. The Texans are also coming off a strong game on the ground -- 46 rushing attempts for 184 yards --and while the Falcons have the 12th ranked rush defense, they've given up 4.8 YPC. They're down at 24th in pass defense and gave up almost 350 yards and 28 points to a Cowboys' team that was without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. You're not scared of the Falcons' defense.
Houston: I don't think I need to say much about the Texans' quarterbacks here. You're not starting Ryan Mallet and you wouldn't be starting Brian Hoyer. Even if you're in a 2 QB league, Mallet -- who's only completing 53.6% of his passes -- would be in the lower half of guys you'd consider as a possible QB2, even with all of the injuries to quarterbacks right now. However, Mallet does have a big arm and could be playing from behind here, so if you like to go really different in DFS tournaments, he could put up numbers here from pure volume against the Falcons' porous pass defense.
The Arian Foster watch continues, as ESPN's Tania Ganguli reported that he practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and head coach Bill O'Brien has said that Foster will be a game time decision going into this Sunday's game. If Foster is active, I think you have to start him unless you're in a great situation at running back. When he plays, Foster is one of the top RBs in fantasy and you have to believe he'll be at full strength if he gets into the lineup. If Foster sits out another game, Alfred Blue would be the highest ranked RB for Houston, as he's coming off a 31 carry, 139 yard and 1 TD performance against Tampa Bay last week. Be warned: I wouldn't feel comfortable with Blue as a #2 RB and would only play him at flex if it was necessary, as this seems like the perfect time for him to come back down to earth after the huge game last week. Also, it doesn't help that it's the Falcons' high-powered offense instead of the Buccaneers' and Houston could be down
DeAndre Hopkins is the only pass-catcher we care about in standard leagues and he's a borderline #1 receiver for the rest of the season, regardless of who's throwing him the ball. Hopkins has had 2 great games out of 3 and if you have him, you're playing him. Cecil Shorts III and Nate Washington have been surprisingly relevant through the first 3 weeks of the season and I think the Texans will have to score some points to keep pace with the Falcons, so it's possible one of them has a nice game here, I just don't know which one it's going to be. You're obviously only paying attention to these guys in deep leagues and/or as a pure dart throw in DFS.
Atlanta: Matt Ryan is a great real-life quarterback and his connection with Julio Jones has been nothing short of sensational so far this season. The only problem is, Jones is the only guy that has been making plays for Ryan consistently. If the Falcons were somehow able to replace the current version of Roddy White with the one from 5 years ago, then Ryan would be a Top-5 QB. Unfortunately, White just isn't the same player he used to be and hasn't been getting targets since Week 1. Without another legitimate option, Ryan has been the #8 QB in standard leagues through 3 games and I think he'll continue to be a Top 10-12 guy, but I'm not sure he's going to be that Top-5 guy everyone always hopes he will be.
Whoa! Where'd that come from?! Devonta Freeman went crazy last week, as he got all 30 carries out of the Falcons' backfield and turned them into 141 yards and 3 TDs! This might sound like a bad thing, but I think what makes this even more impressive is that Freeman's longest run of the day was only 17 yards. This means he was churning out good yardage on a consistent basis. Now, prior to this game rookie RB Tevin Coleman (who was out with a broken rib) had been getting the majority of the work in the ground game and had looked good doing it. We'll have to see how this situation shakes out once Coleman comes back, but it looks like the timeshare could be back on after we thought the roles for both backs had been defined. Like his counterpart in Houston, I wouldn't be wagering on Freeman to come anywhere close to his production from last week, as he only has 22 carries for 43 yards combined in Weeks 1 and 2. What you can count on from Freeman is getting a few catches, as he's had at least 3 in every game this year. View him only as a flex this week.
What else needs to be said about Julio Jones? He's had at least 9 catches and 135 receiving yards in all 3 games this season and has 4 total TDs. The guy is incredible. With the Pittsburgh Steelers being without Ben Roethlisberger for the foreseeable future, Jones has now jumped ahead of Antonio Brown as the #1 WR in fantasy. The other receiving options include the aforementioned Roddy White and the Falcons' #3 WR, Leonard Hankerson. I already made my thoughts on White clear when speaking about Ryan. When you see Hankerson on the field, he looks the part in the uniform and he has the potential to put up some numbers, as he showed in Week 2 when he caught 6 passes for 77 yards and a TD. He's gotten 10 and 6 targets in the past two weeks respectively and he's an interesting DFS play in this game against Houston's questionable secondary.
New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills - Oct. 4, 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 46.5
Overview: Buffalo has the #1 ranked rush defense in the league so far and the Giants' rushing attack has been underwhelming, as they're the 22nd in the league in rushing yards and are only averaging 3.6 YPC as a team. I don't think the Giants are moving the ball on the ground here. But through the air? The Bills have given up 980 yards passing through 3 games, second worst only behind...the Giants. I've already told you that the Bills are ranked 1st in rushing yards allowed, so who do you think is #2? That's right, the Giants. See? It all comes full circle. Let's see if they can break the record for passing yards in a single game!
N.Y. Giants: If you had to guess, how many interceptions would you say Eli Manning has this year? 3? 4? Would zero be anywhere in your top 3 guesses?! I'm not saying that Eli has been great, he hasn't, but he's completing almost 65% of his passes and has had 2 TD passes in each of the past 2 weeks. Against the Bills' pass defense you could do worse than Eli this week. If you really want to be sneaky, I doubt people will be using him in DFS and has the chance (not saying it's going to happen or even likely) for a big day. He's a Top-10 guy this week.
At this point, nobody is excited about this running game, as the Giants' coaches don't seem to want to give any of their RB trio (Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen) a heavy workload or even the majority of touches. Jennings and Williams occupy the same role as the 1st and 2nd down backs and short yardage guys, but neither of them are particularly good at them. Vereen is the pass-catching specialist who has a defined role in the offense, but I'm not sure how valuable that role is. He had 8 catches in Week 2 only to have 0 in Week 3, so you can't even count on him consistently getting numbers. Stay far away from this situation, especially this week against the Bills' stout run defense.
You all know you're starting Odell Beckham Jr., but what about the other options in the passing game? Rueben Randle caught all 7 of his targets for 116 yards and a TD in Week 3, which likely isn't sustainable. That being said, Randle could once again see a fair amount of targets here, and the Bills' other cover options in the secondary (behind Stephon Gilmore, who should be on Beckham) aren't anything to write home about. I wouldn't put any faith in him, but he's an interesting deep league and DFS play this week. For those of you hoping that there would be a Victor Cruz sighting in this game, ESPN has reported that Cruz has already been ruled out for this week. I'm interested to see what this offense would look like with Beckham, Cruz and Randle all in the lineup, but we'll all have to wait a little while longer to see Cruz's debut. The tight ends for the Giants (Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells) have been splitting reps and both came up with 3 catches last week, although Donnell had 6 targets to Fells' 3. Either way, you're not starting either one this week or anytime in the near future.
Buffalo: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been a revelation for the Bills, completing 74.4% of his passes for 9.15 yards per attempt, 7 TDs (to 3 INTs) and a 116.1 passer rating. He's also run for at least 40 yards in 2 of the 3 games. Taylor is a QB1 candidate for the rest of the season and is a no-brainer start in this game against the Giants' pass defense.
The Bills have the #1 rush offense in the league, with 152.7 yards per game on 4.7 YPC. And that's been without a fully healthy LeSean McCoy, who looks like he's going to sit out this week to rest his hamstring. With that in mind, rookie backup Karlos Williams is a must-start this week, even against the Giants' #2 ranked rush defense. Williams has 24 attempts for 186 yards and 3 TDs combined through 3 games and had 12 carries for 110 yards and a TD in the Week 3 game against the Dolphins. He's looked great and you can't ignore that the Bills' offensive philosophy revolves around the running game. Again, must-start.
Despite Tyrod Taylor having a great start to the season, none of the options in the receiving game have been consistent for fantasy purposes. Percy Harvin had a good Week 1, Sammy Watkins showed up with a nice Week 2 and TE Charles Clay was the best of all the receiving options in Week 3 (5 catches for 82 yards and a TD, his second straight game with a TD). Early in the week it looked like Watkins could sit out this game, but he hasn't been totally ruled out yet. Even if Watkins plays, I won't be counting on him as a starting WR on my teams due to the injury, which is a shame because of the great match-up. He's in flex consideration. Harvin is a nice tournament play in DFS lineups, as he's been getting targets even with Watkins on the field, but I can't trust him in standard leagues. Clay is a different story, and if he gets 6-7 targets like he has in the past 2 games, he should have a big day against this secondary. He's a sneaky Top-10 option in this game and a great guy to get in DFS because his price is so low.
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers - Oct. 4, 4:25 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48.5
Overview: Did you see that Monday night game? Aaron Rodgers is just masterful. What can you even do against that? The 49ers defense in particular is in no position to do anything with the Packers' offense, as they have the 27th ranked pass defense in the NFL. They've been torched by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer in the past two weeks, both of which are great QBs. But even those guys aren't Aaron Rodgers. In the run game, the 49ers have been a little better but still aren't great, as they're ranked 16th in rushing yards allowed. The Packers get the benefit of usually playing with a lead, but strangely, Green Bay is 11th in the league in passing yards allowed and 27th in rushing yards allowed. This could mean good things for San Fran's run game, although they could be playing from behind here.
Green Bay: Like I've said the past two weeks in this article, Aaron Rodgers is just truly amazing. He's completing 73.6% of his passes, has 10 TDs and 0 INTs with a 135.4 passer rating. It's between Tom Brady and Rodgers as the #1 QB in fantasy for the rest of the season and I'd take Rodgers.
Running back Eddie Lacy hasn't quite gotten off to the start that fantasy owners might have hoped, but I'm sure the best is yet to come. He had an ankle injury going into the game in Week 3 and only got 10 carries for 46 yards while backup James Starks received 17 carries. Lacy has averaged 4.4 YPC so far (while Starks has only averaged 3.3), which shows that he's running well, he just needs to get completely healthy and into a rhythm with Rodgers' offense firing on all cylinders. If you have Lacy, you're rolling him out there and hoping he's able to get a full workload.
The Packers' receiving corps doesn't look like what fantasy owners expected prior to the season, while Jordy Nelson getting injured, James Jones being brought back and Davante Adams injuring his ankle in Week 2 and being hobbled in Week 3. This isn't stopping Rodgers from putting up points, but it does get slightly frustrating for those of us in the fantasy business. Randall Cobb is an obvious Top 5-10 WR, but what about everyone else? James Jones has been nothing short of fantastic after rejoining the Pack and Adams has been mostly a disappointment to this point. As long as Adams is healthy, I'd view both he a Jones as WR3s. Rookie Ty Montgomery also made an impact in Week 3, but it was only on 2 targets. If Adams doesn't play, I'd like to see what the offense looks like and how much players like Montgomery and Jeff Janis will be targeted, but for now they're unusable unless you're just taking a shot in the dark in DFS and even that is a long shot.
San Francisco: Colin Kaepernick might have had the worst game I can remember seeing for a QB last week against Arizona, finishing 9/19 for 67 yards and 4 INTs. Kaepernick was able to get some garbage time stats against the Steelers in Week 2, but otherwise hasn't done anything for fantasy owners this year. He has run for at least 40 yards in each game, which is something. You can't trust him in standard leagues, but he could be decent as a tournament DFS play, especially if the 49ers are in comeback mode. I don't necessarily expect it, but with Kaepernick's history (particularly rushing) against the Packers, it's a possibility.
Let's get one thing straight. Carlos Hyde looks like he's a good football player. But does that make him a great fantasy option? No. He had that explosion in Week 1 against Minnesota and then two straight weeks of doing nothing against Pittsburgh and Arizona. What this tells me is that he's likely going to need the right game script in order to be an effective starter in fantasy this year. You saw how good he can be if San Francisco gets a lead and is in control of the game. You also saw how bad he can be if they're getting run out of the building. Unfortunately, this game doesn't set up in Hyde's favor. The 49ers defense is no longer good enough for them to control the game on that side of the ball and allow the offense to run it to keep the other team off the field. If you have Hyde, you're likely starting him, but you don't have to like it.
The receivers in San Fran have been at the mercy of Kaepernick, who just hasn't delivered any stats other than in Week 2. In the back half of his career, Anquan Boldin is still a good football player and would have a ton of catches for another team out of the slot. Boldin is the #1 option for the 49ers and I'd use him as a WR3. Torrey Smith is nothing more than a big-play threat and isn't a reliable option in seasonal leagues. He's the perfect DFS play in tournaments though, as one or two big plays could deliver a bunch of points. Through two weeks, tight end Vernon Davis was looking decent and seemed to be involved in the offense. Week 3 was a bad one for the entire team and Davis didn't even have a target, as he left with a knee injury. Backup Garrett Celek isn't really worth monitoring to for fantasy purposes and shouldn't be started in any format.
I considered throwing Dallas vs. New Orleans in here as well, but both teams are just too banged up for me to believe this game is going to be high scoring. With Dallas missing Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and the Saints possibly being without Drew Brees again -- as well as being somewhat disappointing this far -- this game just isn't as attractive as it looked just a few weeks ago. The running backs in this game -- the Cowboys' Joseph Randle and receiving back specialist Lance Dunbar and the Saints' Mark Ingram -- could have good games, but I don't love any other options here.
Good luck to everyone in Week 4!