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Fantasy Game of the Week: Week 4

The return of Le'Veon Bell for a home game in Pittsburgh should help the Steelers' offense shake off a poor effort in Week 3.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week's prediction worked out just O.K., as the Chargers' offense struggled a little more than I was expecting against the Colts' defense.  Philip Rivers was able to put up some decent yardage, but wasn't able to get any TDs, while Melvin Gordon and the running game didn't really get going, but he was able to get into the endzone.  In hindsight, the injuries probably did catch up with them a little bit.  At least the most important Colts' players were able to put up some decent numbers, including Andrew Luck salvaging his day with a 63-yard bomb to T.Y. Hilton for a TD.  Frank Gore may have only averaged a little under 4.0 yards per carry, but he was looking good in this game and had a TD.  And hey, at least a talked a little about the Saints-Falcons game, right?!

Anyway, I’m going a little outside the box here, but the pickings are a little slim this week and I have a good feeling about this one.  The Saints-Chargers game has the highest over/under of the week at 53.5, but as you’ve seen through just three games this season, there is a huge difference between New Orleans’ offense at home and New Orleans’ offense on the road. I mean, they’re averaging 490.5 total yards and 33 points per game in their first two home games and only managed 288 total yards and 13 points on the road against the Giants in Week 2.  You won’t get me this time Saints! Now, let’s go ahead and take a look at the game of the week.

Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, October 2 at 8:30 p.m., Over/Under: 47.5

The Chiefs

Chiefs’ Quarterback Alex Smith is not what you’d call a fantasy superstar, but he can get it done from time to time. Remember in Week 1 when he threw for 363 yards and 2 TDs (along with a rush TD) in a comeback win against San Diego? Well, after being blown out in Philadelphia last week, I could see the Steelers coming home putting up points early and often in this one and although the Chiefs’ have the 11th ranked pass defense and have given up the 2nd fewest amount of fantasy points to opposing QBs, they got the good fortune of playing against Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick in back-to-back games (6 INTs Fitzpatrick? SIX?!). What I’m saying here is that I think Smith will have to throw a decent amount in this game and when you combine that with the fact that Pittsburgh currently has the 31st ranked pass defense in the league, you have a nice streaming option at QB.

Smith’s main targets in the passing game are WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Travis Kelce. Maclin didn’t have a huge game last week against the Jets, but Kansas City’s defense was beating them pretty handily all on their own, so the offense didn’t have to do much. He’s also gotten at least 7 targets in each game so far and did get open down field several times in that game, Smith just wasn’t able to connect with him. The Steelers haven’t given up a ton of fantasy points to WRs so far, but I expect Maclin to be a solid WR2 with a good chance at a TD this week. Kelce was the one with a nice game last week, posting 6 catches for 89 yards and a TD. If you’ve been a Kelce owner anytime in the past two seasons, you know how frustrating it can get when he doesn’t get as many targets as he should, but he’s had 7 in all 3 games so far this season and I see no reason why he can’t at least maintain that here. Pittsburgh is middle of the pack against TEs in fantasy points allowed, but that’s only due to them having yet to give up a TD to the position. They’ve actually given up the 6th most catches to TEs in the league so far and that touchdown stat could easily change against Kelce. Start him if you’ve got him.

Will this be the week we see RB Jamaal Charles return to action? Well, it would be a good match-up for him to come back for, as the Steelers have given up the 5th most fantasy points to RBs so far, including allowing the most receiving yards to RBs in the league. That would suit Charles’ skill set, but the problem is that we don’t know what to expect from him if he does play. There’s always the fear that he will be worked in slowly after coming back later than originally expected from the knee injury that ended his 2015 season and his backup, Spencer Ware, has filled in nicely for him to start the season. But for me, it seems like they’ve been handling Charles with kid gloves for this long so that when he was able to return, he’d be full-go. If word comes out that he’s going to play in this game, I think I’d want to find a way to get him into my lineups as at least a flex and I’d be hesitant to use Ware in standard sized leagues. If he sits again, then Ware is an auto-start, as he’s scored at least 7 fantasy points in each game this season, even when going up against tough defenses like the Texans and Jets.

Will we get to see the return of both Le'Veon Bell and Jamaal Charles in the same game? Football fans and fantasy owners hope so! Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Will we get to see the return of both Le'Veon Bell and Jamaal Charles in the same game? Football fans and fantasy owners sure hope so!

The Steelers

Yes, Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers’ offense (besides Antonio Brown, who’s an alien) had a bad game last week against the Eagles in Philly. But I don’t think everyone really knows how much better Big Ben has been at home than on the road recently. Since 2014, Roethlisberger has averaged almost exactly 10 fantasy points more at home than he has on the road, putting up 24.06 fantasy points per game in Pittsburgh and just 14.09 fantasy points per game on the road.  That’s Drew Brees-esque. As I said earlier, the Chiefs’ pass defense doesn’t really scare me, despite the 6 INTs they managed to get off of Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, who is the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde QB. Look for Big Ben and the Steelers’ offense to get things going again at home, especially with a certain All-Pro RB making his season debut.

That sound you heard was a collective squeal of excitement from all of Le’Veon Bell’s fantasy owners who have been waiting for this moment since they drafted him, as Bell completed his 3-game suspension last week and is set to take the field for the first time this season against the Chiefs. If he’d been able to play starting in Week 1, Bell would’ve been in a tier all on his own amongst RBs due in large part to his extreme involvement in the passing game to go along with his ability running the ball. We all know how great Bell was in 2014, when he had 290 rushing attempts for 1361 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and 8 rushing TDs, as well as 83 receptions for 854 yards and 3 TDs through the air, finishing with 373 total touches on the year. Last year he was on pace for about 365 total touches before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 8 and he was averaging 4.9 YPC at the time he went down, even better than his breakout season. In his debut he gets a Chiefs’ run defense that has given up the 5th most rushing yards and 11th most fantasy points to RBs. Oh, and don’t worry about backup DeAngelo Williams, who has filled in more than admirably for Bell when needed in the past two seasons. Williams may get a few carries here and there to give Bell a breather, but he won’t be an integral part of the offense unless Bell goes down again and the Steelers want to make sure he’ll be fresh if that unfortunate scenario plays itself out again. But don’t think about that, just get excited that Le’Veon Bell is back in our fantasy lineups!...Unless you’re playing against him.

Everyone here knows that if you have Antonio Brown you’re starting him, but I just wanted to highlight the fact that he managed to put up 12 catches for 140 yards in a game that the Steelers got completely dominated in last week. I mean, they only had 251 total yards on offense….and Brown had over 55% of them! I don’t think there’s any way that the Chiefs’ top CB Marcus Peters, who is actually a very good player, can cover Brown in this game. I’d have no problem ranking Brown as my #1 WR each and every week regardless of match-up. The other receivers, not so much. Markus Wheaton struggled mightily in his first action of the season in Week 3, dropping at least 3 passes and getting benched for a while because of them. I’m sure he’ll shake it off, but he’s not someone you should be looking at in your starting lineups. Neither is Sammie Coates, who doesn’t get enough consistent targets to make you confident enough to start him, although his big-play ability and potential makes him slightly more enticing in deeper leagues. The other WR here would be Eli Rogers, who after a nice Week 1 performance has totaled only 3 catches for 41 yards in the last 2 games combined. He also suffered a toe injury in Week 3 that might keep him out in this game. That just leaves TE Jesse James, who I wouldn’t go near with a 39.5 foot pole in this match-up. The Chiefs have given up the 3rd least amount of fantasy points to TEs thus far and Safety Eric Berry is exceptional at covering TEs. What I’m getting at here is that you can’t start any other options in the passing game with confidence, although I’m sure one of them will have a decent game playing third-fiddle to Brown and Bell, who should get about a million targets between them.

The Best of the Rest

Indianapolis at Jacksonville - Sunday, October 2 at 9:30 a.m., Over/Under: 49

I wouldn’t have chosen this game to feature for two reasons: 1) Jacksonville’s offense hasn’t performed up to expectations so far this season, and 2) this game is being played in London, so I have my concerns about how the teams are going to play in general. You’re starting Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and probably Frank Gore for Indy, maybe Dwayne Allen and Phillip Dorsett if you’re in a bind.

Like I said, the Jags haven’t lived up to what they showed last season on offense, but they still have some nice pieces.  Allen Robinson is a must-start every week and Blake Bortles has a nice match-up here, so I wouldn’t dismiss him immediately as a Top-12 option this week.  Allen Hurns hasn’t been producing like last season, but this could be a good game for him if you’re desperate. With the lack of decent options at TE, Julius Thomas should be started if he’s not injured. The running game has been disgustingly bad for Jacksonville and I’d try to avoid starting Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon at this point.

Carolina at Atlanta - Sunday, October 2 at 1:00 p.m., Over/Under: 50.5

I expect the Panthers offense to have a bounce-back game against the terrible Falcons’ defense after getting mostly shut down by the Vikings last week. Cam Newton is probably the #1 QB this week and Greg Olsen might be the safest fantasy starter at TE in the league. Kelvin Benjamin will get more than 1 target this week, as the Panthers’ offense should correct that oversight from last week. The running game will be less attractive as long as Jonathan Stewart is out, but I’d start Cameron Artis-Payne over Fozzy Whittaker, although Whittaker makes it closer in PPR formats.

Atlanta has been on a roll offensively so far this season, scoring at least 24 points in all 3 of their games, including hanging 45 on the hapless Saints’ defense on Monday night. I don’t think the Panthers are going to let Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman run wild like New Orleans did, but I’m not really sure you can bench them either. I’m not sure if anyone is depending on Matt Ryan at their every-week starter, but I don’t think he’ll have huge numbers here. Julio Jones is an elite talent and fantasy player, but he hasn’t produced like it yet this season and I’m a little concerned with how much he gets knicked up. Obviously you’re starting him, but you’re hoping for a big game soon. Jacob Tamme has been pretty involved so far, but had a disappointing game against the Saints last week, especially with how many points the Falcons scored. I don’t trust him as an every-week starter.

Oakland at Baltimore - Sunday, October 2 at 1:00 p.m., Over/Under: 46.5

Oakland has been pretty good offensively so far and their defense has been pretty horrendous for the most part. That usually bodes well for fantasy purposes, but I’m a little worried that the Raiders might lay an egg playing on the road and against a Ravens’ defense that has actually been pretty decent numbers wise. I still don’t mind starting Derek Carr and you’re definitely keeping Amari Cooper in your lineups, but I don’t love Michael Crabtree as a starter this week. Clive Walford has been getting more involved in the offense, but Baltimore has been pretty good against TEs. Latavius Murray hasn’t gotten the amount of touches I was expecting and the Ravens have a Top-10 rush defense.

On the other side, it’s Joe Flacco and his merry band. Flacco is a good streaming option this week and Dennis Pitta should basically be considered an every-week starter at this point, especially in a good match-up here. Although Mike Wallace has been scoring the TDs, Steve Smith has been getting better and better each week and the Raiders’ pass defense is ranked last in the league. I wouldn’t hesitate to use either of them as WR3s or flexes. You should be staying far away from this running game though, as nobody has been able to rise above the RBBC that has been instituted.

New Orleans at San Diego - Sunday, October 2 at 4:25 p.m., Over/Under: 53.5

This is finally Drew Brees first game back in San Diego after being released by the Chargers and becoming a future Hall of Famer with the Saints. This might add a little something extra to Brees’ performance and the Saints have to win this game to have any hope of making the playoffs. As I said, you can’t really trust the Saints on the road, but you can’t bench Brees either.  Brandin Cooks was another guy that inexplicably had a bad game in the shootout against Atlanta, but he’s also not someone you can really afford to sit-down, as he was probably drafted to be your WR1. Willie Snead was held out in Week 3 with a toe injury, so keep an eye on that here.  Coby Fleener finally came to life against the Falcons to the tune of 7 for 109 and a TD. I’m not saying he’s a must-start, but he’s obviously getting more in sync with Brees.  Mark Ingram should do fine here, as even Frank Gore made several nice plays against the Chargers last week.

Start all your Chargers! Philip Rivers is a must-start against this defense and Melvin Gordon is at least a Top-10 option at RB. Rookie TE Hunter Henry looked pretty good in relief of Antonio Gates last week and if Gates is out again, he could be a sneaky streaming type option. The receivers underwhelmed in Week 3 against the Colts, but in another plus match-up at home, I expect Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams to have better numbers this week.