Fantasy Football Recap and Takeaways: Week 4
Instead of celebrating redemptive performances, fantasy football players will lament several key players suffering injuries in Week 4.
Derek Carr, Ty Montgomery, Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Davante Adams, and Julio Jones all left their respective games, some with potentially serious ailments. These health scares took the focus away from Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson, and Le’Veon Bell offering uplifting performances.
Here’s the Week 4 rundown of meaningful tidbits and takeaways from each game.
Green Bay Packers 35, Chicago Bears 14
- Along with Adams suffering a sickening hit, the Packers lost Montgomery (ribs) and Jamaal Williams (knee) during Thursday’s win. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Montgomery’s injury isn’t as bad as they initially thought, and he could still play in Week 5. Just in case, add Aaron Jones, who ran for 49 yards and a touchdown as the third-man up. Playing running back behind Aaron Rodgers is too lucrative a job to not stash a potential fill-in starter.
- Martellus Bennett tied Jordy Nelson for a team-high seven targets but recorded just 39 yards on six catches against his former team. The tight end is averaging 5.0 yards per target and has yet to score a touchdown or exceed 50 yards in a game this season. He’s only a viable PPR play if Montgomery and/or Adams need time to recover.
- After leading Bears receivers with one Week 3 reception, Deonte Thompson doubled his 2017 targets with nine. He played 53 of 68 snaps, per Pro Football Reference, 15 more than runner-up Marcus Wheaton. Being Chicago’s No. 1 receiver still might not amount to any fantasy production, but he’s at least the guy to watch for potential garbage-time appeal.
- Tarik Cohen had a snap count above 40 percent in each of Chicago’s first three games before seeing the field on just 18 plays, just two more than Benny Cunningham. He still caught four passes during a quiet performance, so PPR owners should continue to trust the diminutive newcomer.
New Orleans Saints 20, Miami Dolphins 0
- The Saints and Dolphins entered Sunday morning’s game at Wembley Stadium tied for an NFL-high 9.4 yards allowed per pass attempt. So naturally, they nearly hit halftime mired in a nil-nil draw before a last-second field goal. Following an atrocious opening two games, New Orleans stifled Cam Newton and Jay Cutler to a combined 308 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and four interceptions. Perhaps this is no longer a defense to pick on every week, but the unit also might have simply caught two slouching offenses at the perfect time. The Lions and Packers will present tougher litmus tests in the next two games.
- The Dolphins scored six combined points against the Jets and Saints, and that touchdown came in a meaningless final play last week. That’s not great. They also had to travel to Los Angeles to New Jersey to London after Hurricane Irma canceled their season opener, and Jay Ajayi struggled while playing through a knee injury. Anyone with Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, and DeVante Parker should not panic just yet.
- Alvin Kamara snagged 10 catches for 71 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown on a third-down shovel pass. Mark Ingram paid the price but salvaged some value with four receptions and 45 rushing yards mostly compiled while running out the clock. Kamara is a must-add with monster PPR upside. Ingram is more of a low-ceiling, high-floor PPR flex play with bye weeks coming, and Adrian Peterson demanded to be dropped in all leagues with four yards.
Carolina Panthers 33, New England Patriots 30
- Once the fantasy community threw the white flag on Newton, he responded by going 22-of-29 for 316 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, 44 rushing yards, and one more score on the ground. Fantasy investors can exhale once they stop cursing themselves for sitting the slumping quarterback, but he’s still a dicey Week 5 play against a resilient Lions defense that has allowed four passing touchdowns with seven interceptions this season.
- Kelvin Benjamin not only played but recorded 104 yards a week after suffering a knee injury that initially looked serious. He’s still Carolina’s top wideout despite Devin Funchess scoring two touchdowns with a team-high seven catches and nine targets.
- Did the Saints and Patriots trade places? New England has allowed 32 points per game and over 300 passing yards every week. They let three passers reach 300 yards last season. Onlookers can only give Bill Belichick the benefit of the doubt for so long. It’s time for gamers to target his defense mercilessly, starting with the Buccaneers this Thursday night.
- Danny Amendola now has 15 receptions on 19 targets in three games. He and Chris Hogan both scored touchdowns while Brandin Cooks was relegated to three catches for 38 receiving yards. New England’s atrocious defense should create opportunities for them all to contribute in shootouts, and James White remains a PPR savant with a team-high 22 receptions.
Houston Texas 57, Tennessee Titans 14
- When a team scores 57 points, it’s probably time to make sure its quarterback is owned in 100 percent of fantasy leagues. Watson won many matchups with four passing touchdowns and one rushing score. Per the Texans’ PR Twitter page, he’s the first rookie passer to accomplish that feat since Fran Tarkenton in 1961. Watson now has No. 7, 15, and 1 QB finishes in three starts, so he has quickly earned a promotion from waiver-wire add to lucrative matchup play. He gets a tough Week 5 opponent in Kansas City but will make a terrific start when Houston hosts Cleveland in Week 6.
- Watson continues to favor DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 10 of 12 targets for 107 yards and a touchdown. He’s a top-10 option with an effective quarterback feeding him the ball, even with Will Fuller back. In his first game of the season, the sophomore secured two touchdowns and drew a long pass-interference penalty. Grab him if available, but make sure he does not repeat last year’s misleading hot start before inserting him into the lineup.
- A blowout caused Tennessee to table its running game. On the other end, Lamar Miller quelled concerns of a D’Onta Foreman takeover with 131 total yards (75 rushing, 56 receiving) and two touchdowns on 23 touches. The Texans, of course, won’t always run 78 plays in 43-point victories. Yet he still commands respect as a No. 2 RB.
- After running for two touchdowns, Marcus Mariota left with a hamstring injury. In Week 17’s start last year, Matt Cassel compiled 150 yards (114 to Rishard Matthews), a touchdown (to Matthews), and a pick. Miami would be a good matchup for Mariota if he’s ready to go.
Los Angeles Rams 35, Dallas Cowboys 30
- Considered Week 4’s most popular high-end DFS running backs, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott both delivered. After filing another seven catches, Gurley is on pace to obliterate last year’s tally of 43. The 596 yards and six touchdowns are also cool. Elliott registered 139 yards and lunged for one rushing and receiving touchdown apiece. While Gurley is a fantasy cornerstone, Elliott faces a federal court appeals hearing on Monday about an injunction that has held off his six-game suspension for domestic violence.
- Sammy Watkins investors played “Where’s Watkins?” for most of the game before he received his lone catch late in the fourth quarter. A wide range of outcomes makes him frustrating to own, but the ceiling is too high to abandon in a Rams offense averaging 35.5 points per game. Robert Woods, meanwhile, fell victim to this week’s installment of “What’s a catch?” After his touchdown was overturned, Cooper Kupp took the score. Despite the inconsistent target distribution, Jared Goff continues to draw appeal as a steady hand. Week 5’s tilt with Seattle, however, should send him to the bench.
- After throwing 459 passes in his rookie campaign, Dak Prescott is on pace to cork 572 throws. He’s averaging an inefficient 6.6 yards per pass attempt, but a rise in volume nonetheless boosts his fantasy appeal. The Cowboys are in store for another shootout against the Packers, who finally afford Dez Bryant an advantageous matchup.
- Greg Zuerlein kicked seven field goals. No algorithm can overcome facing a kicker who makes seven field goals, four of which exceeded 40 yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Baltimore Ravens 9
- Antonio Brown finished with 34 receiving yards, his lowest single-game tally since Oct. 18, 2015. He looked even more upset on the sideline than fantasy gamers pouting on Twitter. Don’t follow his lead and attack Gatorade coolers in frustration, as Brown should return to normal at home against the Jaguars.
- Speaking of back to normal, Bell compiled 186 yards and two touchdowns on a borderline irresponsible 39 touches. After dusting off the cobwebs caused by sitting out the preseason, he has returned to the forefront of elite fantasy rushers.
- Terrence West took an express train to the waiver wire by submitting minus-seven yards on four rushes. Despite an early fumble, Alex Collins collected 82 rushing yards on nine of Baltimore’s 15 carries because of a 50-yard run. He’s worth adding, but nobody in the Ravens’ offense should elicit any confidence. Javorius Allen again saved some PPR value with six catches, most in garbage time, but again saw his rushing role dissipate with two handoffs.
- Baltimore’s receivers, who entered the game with 13 combined catches, corralled 11 of Joe Flacco‘s 31 completions. The laboring quarterback averaged a mediocre 4.8 yards per pass attempt, with none of his 49 throws completed for more than 16 yards. Outside of Ben Watson as a low-end PPR TE, this looks like a fantasy graveyard.
New York Jets 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 20 (OT)
- Bilal Powell turned a fluky 75-yard touchdown run — the Jaguars defense thought he was down by contact and stopped playing — into a monster performance (190 yards and a touchdown) with Matt Forte sidelined. Rookie Elijah McGuire joined the fun with a 69-yard touchdown run that padded his tally to 131. The Jets will struggle to foster one valuable fantasy back in some weeks, so both will take a hit if Forte takes back his workload. Those who grew frustrated with Powell’s lacking usage in the early weeks can tepidly trust him again as a flex play if Forte is unavailable, and McGuire is an intriguing bench stash. The Jaguars, meanwhile, face Bell and Gurley in their next two games.
- Mercedes Lewis In Week 3: 4 catches, 62 yards, three touchdowns. Mercedes Lewis in Weeks 1, 2, and 4: zero catches. Let’s hope nobody turned his way after his one-hit wonder. Plenty of gamers, however, were relying on Marqise Lee, who caught two of three targets for 18 yards, Allen Hurns received 10 targets, but pieced together just 42 yards. London Jaguars was fun while it lasted, but steer clear of their passing offense at Pittsburgh.
- But lock Leonard Fournette into a starting spot. The rookie has scored in every game, and only Bell and Gurley have fielded more handoffs than his 81. So what if he’s averaging a paltry 3.5 yards per carry?
Cincinnati Bengals 31, Cleveland Browns 7
- Andy Dalton is now 46-of-57 for 498 passing yards and six touchdowns after burning the Browns for four scores. Two went to Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert Kroft, who exploded for six catches, 68 yards, and two touchdowns. He had crossed the pylons once in 33 career games before Sunday. Dalton made the most of two enticing matchups, but he belongs back on the bench against a stingy Bills defense. Although Kroft warrants a speculative add with Eifert not close to returning, don’t assume he will seamlessly replace his predecessor as a starting-caliber tight end.
- So much for a Joe Mixon coming-out party. The Bengals complied by giving him 17 carries and four targets, but he accumulated just 29 rushing and 19 receiving yards. Giovani Bernard out-performed him by converting a screen pass into a 61-yard score. A 24-point victory against the Browns represented the perfect game script for the rookie, so Week 3’s strong first impression with new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor might have been a false alarm. Proceed with caution against Buffalo.
- In addition to leading the Browns in targets (10) and receptions (nine), Duke Johnson scored their only touchdown on the ground. The fact that it was a 1-yard rush should sound an alarm for Isaiah Crowell owners. He’s averaging 2.9 yards per run with four receptions and no touchdowns after playing just 22 snaps on Sunday, per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus. What good is Crowell if he won’t at least monopolize their fleeting goal-line handoffs? He’s looking like a sunk cost whom drafters can no longer consider starting. Johnson makes a solid Week 5 PPR play against the Jets.
Detroit Lions 14, Minnesota Vikings 7
- Ameer Abdullah did not give Detroit its first 100-yard rusher since Reggie Bush in 2013’s Thanksgiving game, but he came close with a career-high 94 yards on the ground. He also snagged three catches, and Theo Riddick finished with just four carries and one catch. Abdullah is transforming into the NFL’s most unexpected bell-cow back who warrants a long look despite a difficult Week 5 matchup against Carolina.
- Effective running and defense is great for the Lions, but not so ideal for Matthew Stafford‘s fantasy stock. Playing a game-manager role, he finished with 209 yards and no scores. The NFL’s highest-paid player has not finished as a top-15 fantasy QB since Week 1. Reserve him for matchups friendlier than a road tilt at Minnesota.
- Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Cook was diagnosed with a complete ACL tear. The rookie continued to shine with his second touchdown in as many weeks before suffering the devastating non-contact injury. Jerick McKinnon also briefly left with an ankle injury, so Latavius Murray received most of the playing time in Cook’s absence. The former Raiders rusher is worth adding as a volume play, but a superb offensive line fueled his past fantasy success. Take a week to see how Minnesota manages its backfield against the Bears before starting Murray or McKinnon.
Buffalo Bills 23, Atlanta Falcons 17
- Jones (hip) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) both left early to trigger the day’s biggest upset. Matt Ryan faltered without his top-two receivers, averaging his fewest yards per attempt (5.8) since 2014’s Week 17. Tight end Austin Hooper received a career-high seven targets, but running back Tevin Coleman was the biggest benefactor with 79 rushing and 65 receiving yards. Fortunately, the Falcons have a Week 5 bye.
- Charles Clay was ESPN’s No. 5 PPR tight end before amassing 112 yards, two short of his career high. After accounting for 61.5 percent of Buffalo’s passing offense against Atlanta, he has a 25.3 percent target share in an offense that has yet to establish a credible wide receiver. With 456 yards and six touchdowns in his last eight games, Clay has gone from a popular waiver-wire add to a reliable weekly starter.
- Tyrod Taylor has the fewest pass attempts (99) of any quarterback who has started four games. He can derive value with his legs, but his 12 rushing yards did not bolster a boring 182 passing yards and touchdown against Atlanta. It’s hard to blame Taylor or his receivers with Watkins, Woods, and Hogan all thriving away from Buffalo. Taylor deserves a team willing to optimize his talents and upgrade him from a fringe fantasy option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25, New York Giants 23
- Wayne Gallman produced the Giants’ best rushing performance of the season with a grand total of 42 yards. He looked like Tiki Barber compared to Paul Perkins but averaged 3.8 yards per rush. Realizing their running futility, the Giants let Eli Manning air it out 49 times, which led to 288 passing yards and two touchdowns. Manning has attempted 96 passes in the last two weeks, so he’s an intriguing streamer against the Chargers despite the interception risk and New York’s early offense outage. Don’t bother wasting a roster spot on any Big Blue running back.
- This game defied the common warnings against rookie tight ends. Evan Engram secured six of 11 targets for 62 yards, giving the first-round pick 200 yards through four highly active games. After Cameron Brate scored his second touchdown of the season, O.J. Howard registered his first career score on a 58-yard bomb. Engram is a viable fantasy play as a contributor in a pass-first, second, and third offense, but Howard remains a long-term project limited to dynasty appeal. Brate, however, is a must-start against the reeling Pats.
- So is Jameis Winston, who incinerated the Giants for 332 passing yards and three touchdowns. It marked his second-straight 300-yard game, and he should cruise to a third versus New England’s dazed defense. Expect him and Mike Evans, who has 32 targets, 227 yards, and two touchdowns through three games, to be DFS chalk plays.
Denver Broncos 16, Oakland Raiders 10
- Derek Carr left the game with a back injury, and E.J. Manuel was unsurprisingly not up to the task of navigating Denver’s defense. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said his quarterback’s back spasms “should be something that cleans up.” Even if Carr plays, he’s not an optimal Week 5 play with a struggling offense hosting Baltimore.
- Amari Cooper is making a strong case for Bust of the Year. After recording nine yards in his second straight game with single-digit yards, he has caught a minuscule 12 of 31 targets for 110 yards. He now has 476 receiving yards in his last dozen games. Welcome to the bench, sir. He should have company in Marshawn Lynch, who continued his troubling trend of depreciated results with 12 yards against an elite rushing defense.
- Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for five catches and 38 yards. A.J. Derby delivered four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Of course. The third-year tight end entered Sunday with zero career touchdowns, so treat this as one of many random outliers that will flummox fantasy players throughout the season. Stick with Thomas and Sanders when they return from a Week 5 bye to face the 0-4 Giants, but monitor Derby given their struggles against tight ends.
Philadelphia Eagles 26, Los Angeles Chargers 24
- For the second week in a row, the Eagles won a tight game by running more than they threw. LeGarrette Blount starred with a 68-yard run and 156 total yards, but Wendell Smallwood punctuated a three-yard rushing touchdown after the Chargers stuffed Blount on four goal-line handoffs. If they continue to split the workload, Blount needs to convert red-zone runs to preserve any starting stock.
- After revitalizing Manning, the Eagles coughed up 347 passing yards and two touchdowns to Philip Rivers. They also proved the perfect remedy for Tyrell Williams, who snapped out of his funk with a 75-yard score. The quarterback is interesting against a regressing Giants defense, but Williams’ 16 percent target share means managers must carefully pick their spots.
- According to Jahnke, Austin Ekeler played three snaps. In those plays, he caught a 12-yard pass, snagged an 11-yard reception, and took his lone carry 35 yards to the house. That touchdown was the undrafted rookie’s first and only career rush. Three snaps and one run does not make a viable fantasy option, though perhaps he will earn a meatier role behind Melvin Gordon, who amassed 29 yards while playing through a knee injury.
Arizona Cardinals 18, San Francisco Cardinals 15 (OT)
- Jaron Brown became the third Cardinals receiver to surpass 100 yards in a game, joining J.J. Nelson (120 yards in Week 2) and Larry Fitzgerald (149 yards in Week 3). He had the benefit of extra time in a matchup settled with 32 seconds remaining in overtime. Although it was also Brown’s second game with double-digit targets, gamers can’t trust him or Nelson on a weekly basis when a different wideout leads the way each week. John Brown also received seven targets in his first appearance since Week 1, but his long-anticipated breakout does not appear imminent.
- There’s usually room for at least one of them to have a huge day with Carson Palmer averaging 45.8 passes per game. The Cardinals ran for 51 yards in nearly 70 minutes, but Andre Ellington contributed nine catches for 86 yards on 14 targets. An easy early schedule gifts Palmer another great matchup against the Eagles, so roll with him (and Fitzgerald) after three straight 300-yard outings, even if Arizona has accrued just 16, 17, and 18 points in those encounters. Ellington justifies PPR consideration.
- With Pierre Garcon covered by Patrick Peterson, Brian Hoyer turned to Aldrick Robinson (52 yards on 12 targets) and Trent Taylor (47 yards on 10 targets) to mediocre results. He has now gone three of four games without a passing touchdown, making Week 3’s Thursday night shootout a strange anomaly. Outside of Garcon and Carlos Hyde, their only relevant player is Robbie Gould, who has made all 11 field-goal attempts after converting three from beyond 45 yards on Sunday. And what a great last name.
Seattle Seahawks 39, Indianapolis Colts 18
- Chris Carson was carted off the field with a leg injury during the fourth quarter. Just as the seventh-round pick seized the featured back role, his season could be over. Seeing his first action since Week 1-when he ran for three yards-Eddie Lacy procured a team-high 52 rushing yards. A healthy scratch, Thomas Rawls could now receive a second chance to rediscover 2015’s rookie success. J.D. McKissic stole the show with a 30-yard touchdown run and 27-yard touchdown grab, but he’s a change-of-pace speedster filling the inactive C.J. Prosise‘s shoes. Any healthy Seattle back is now worth a speculative add, but don’t start any in Week 5.
- It’s unclear why Seattle went for a fourth down with a 39-18 lead late in the fourth quarter, but anyone who started Russell Wilson certainly did not mind the extra score. Despite a slow first half, he submitted Sunday’s fifth-most fantasy points at quarterback with 295 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and a 23-yard rushing score. After completing fewer than 60 percent of his passes in each of his first three games, he went 21-of-26. Two of those five misfires were picked off, but that includes a pass deflected off Jimmy Graham‘s hands. He’s once again a top-five play against the Rams.
- In the Colts’ defense, who was actually counting on them to put up big numbers at Seattle? They averaged 4.2 yards per play and yielded two Seahawks defensive touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton had a quiet three catches for 30 yards after Week 4’s breakthrough, and Donte Moncrief copied that line with his first touchdown of the season. Their schedule gets cozier with upcoming matchups against the 49ers and Titans, so hold onto those wideouts and Frank Gore.