Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 4 (2020)
The NFL encountered its first major COVID-19 conflict of the season Tuesday, when three Titans players and five staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.
Per ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Titans shut down their facilities and are not allowed back into the building until Saturday. Since then, there have been additional cases, and the league has postponed the game, so it will no longer take place Week 4. Since the Vikings just played Tennessee last Sunday, they have also suspended in-person activity prior to their upcoming contest with the Texans. As of now, the NFL appears to still be attempting to play the MIN/HOU contest.
This was always a risk when playing a contact sport during a pandemic that has not been properly contained. Getting through the entire 2020 schedule exactly as planned is still a long shot, so fantasy managers must be ready to adapt and scramble for last-minute replacements. Of course, everyone’s safety is far more important than not having Derrick Henry in your Week 4 lineups.
Any Start/Sit questions related to those games are unanswerable at this time. For now, let’s focus on the other matchups still in line (for now) to take place. The Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) cited below apply to half-PPR leagues, taken as of Tuesday night.
Start: Joe Burrow (CIN) vs. JAC: QB12 ECR
A “Sit” last week, Burrow tossed two more touchdowns while once again clearing 300 passing yards. In my defense, he had a full overtime period to fortify those numbers as Week 3’s QB13. In the rare tie, the Bengals executed 44 passes to just 17 runs. That play discrepancy could lead to a monster showcase against the Jaguars, who have yielded an NFL-worst 80.0% completion rating and 118.6 quarterback rating. Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick each finished as the QB8 against them in consecutive weeks, so it’s perfectly reasonable to play the rookie over future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Start: Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA) vs. SEA: QB17 ECR
By no means should you bench a stud in favor of streaming Fitzpatrick. Yet if any games are postponed, he stands out as the top guy to add and start. Those who can’t afford to stand by Carson Wentz any longer can also turn to the Miami veteran, who is currently the QB14 after finishing last year at QB16. He’s rebounded from a three-interception Week 1 against the Patriots to post 24-25 fantasy points in consecutive contests. Now he gets the Seahawks, who have allowed an eye-popping 430.7 passing yards per contest. The home game has an over-under line of 54.5 points, so this is a major upside spot for Fitzpatrick. Since he’s not facing New England or another top-tier defense, the floor isn’t as low as some may fear.
Sit: Tom Brady (TB) vs. LAC: QB18 ECR
The Chargers’ contests have averaged an anemic 38.7 combined points, with no team on either side eclipsing 23. They’ve permitted QB20, QB7, and QB21 finishes thus far. That QB7 was Patrick Mahomes, who ran for 54 yards and got over 300 passing yards in overtime. It’s not a pretty matchup for Brady, who is averaging just 6.9 yards per pass attempt and is unlikely to have Chris Godwin at his disposal. Despite coming off the best game (25-of-38, 297 YDs, 3 TDs) of his Tampa Bay tenure, the 43-year-old is a QB2 with a limited ceiling in a matchup tied with two other games (PHI vs. SF, IND vs. SF) for Sunday’s lowest consensus over-under line.
Sit: Carson Wentz (PHI) at SF: QB21 ECR
A Week 3 matchup against Cincinnati represented a golden bounce-back opportunity, and Wentz indeed churned out a fine fantasy outing with the help of 65 rushing yards and a running score. However, he went a troubling 29-of-47 for 225 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. Dead last in yards per attempt (5.6) and quarterback rating (63.9) among all starting quarterbacks, Wentz isn’t startable in one-quarterback leagues until he turns the corner. While the 49ers are missing Joey Bosa and Solomon Thomas, the Eagles will be without Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert. The status of DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Jason Peters also remains unclear.
Start: Mike Davis (CAR) vs. ARI: RB21 ECR
He’s no Christian McCaffrey, but managers who scooped up Davis may not be as devastated by losing their No. 1 pick. Davis has now secured eight catches in back-to-back games, the first despite not seeing much playing time until replacing McCaffrey in the fourth quarter. As the leading man, he also produced 46 rushing yards and a score on 13 handoffs in Week 3’s win over the Chargers. This is his backfield now, and Davis is a dual-threat facing a beatable Arizona defense. Park him into your lineup until McCaffrey comes back.
Start: Darrell Henderson (LAR) vs. NYG: RB23 ECR
Henderson has quickly taken over the Rams’ backfield, tallying 241 total yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. While he played under half the snaps in each contest, the second-year runner received 20 handoffs in Week 3’s 35-32 loss at Buffalo. Per ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry, Henderson is now in position to start this Sunday against the Giants:
Sean McVay says "I think so" when asked if RB Darrell Henderson will start Sunday based on his performance the last 2 weeks. "He’s a slash type runner, but he’s physical…I think the more that he plays & the more he’s available, the better he’s going to get."
— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) September 29, 2020
Fantasy managers sound indeed sound the sirens. While the G-Men has given up just 3.8 yards per rush, they’ve already seen four opposing backs finish RB21 or higher in standard scoring. They surrendered 113 rushing yards to Benny Snell in relief of James Conner in Week 1 and a combined 146 total yards and three touchdowns to Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr. The only true starter they’ve faced, David Montgomery produced 82 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards, and a touchdown. With the Rams currently massive 13-point favorites at home, Henderson is in line for another huge showcase. He’s easily a top-20 play, and perhaps even top-12.
Start: Latavius Murray (NO) at DET: RB36 ECR
Murray has received 30 carries, eight inside the red zone. The Lions have ceded 5.9 yards per run. Despite coming off consecutive losses, the Saints are road favorites, which could yield a run-heavy game script with or without Michael Thomas and Jared Cook. You should probably play that Alvin Kamara guy, but Murray is a sneaky flex play (preferably in non-PPR leagues) for managers in a bind.
Sit: Joshua Kelley (LAC) at TB: RB28 ECR
Kelley didn’t deliver the way I hoped last week against a woeful Carolina rushing defense. That’s because he followed a 23-carry outburst with just eight handoffs in a loss to Carolina. His snaps dipped from 43 to 23, as Austin Ekeler instead hoarded 12 rushes and 11 receptions. The rookie may be more game-script dependent than initially anticipated, which is bad news considering the Chargers are 7.5-point underdogs at Tampa Bay. More importantly, he’s less likely to inflict damage on his opportunities. The Buccaneers, who were the NFL’s premier run defense in 2019, have allowed just 2.9 yards per carry this season.
Sit: J.K. Dobbins (BAL) at WAS: RB33 ECR
A two-touchdown debut has concealed Dobbins’ restricted role in September. The rookie has seen 15 touches all season while averaging just 22.3 snaps per contest. Those opening scores weren’t a harbinger of consistent goal-line usage in Baltimore’s offense; he’s yet to receive a red-zone opportunity since. As 13-point road favorites, the Ravens could run the ball up Washington’s throat to avenge Monday night’s loss to Kansas City. Yet the way Baltimore is spreading playing time throughout the backfield, not even Mark Ingram is a trustworthy play. Make Dobbins earn his way back into the starting fold.
Sit: All Lions RBs vs. NO
D’Andre Swift has the highest ECR (RB32) of Detroit’s running backs. He played six snaps last week. Adrian Peterson (RB37 ECR) saw 40, leading to 22 carries for 75 yards in a win over the Cardinals. However, he had played 39 snaps combined in their previous two losses. Against a New Orleans defense permitting 3.4 yards per run, Peterson is only startable if you’re hoping for a goal-line touchdown or counting on an upset. Kerryon Johnson (RB48) is involved just enough to hinder Peterson and Swift, but not enough to help his fantasy outlook as anything more than a potential touchdown vulture. Stay away from this backfield until further notice.
Start: DeVante Parker (MIA) vs. SEA: WR27
Recommended in this same space last week, Parker produced 69 yards in his second straight five-catch game. That’s a fine showing, but we’ve yet to witness the upside the receiver displayed by topping 110 yards in four of last year’s final seven contests. Expect that to change this week. Remember those grotesque numbers from Seattle’s passing defenses? That’s resulted in five receivers already finishing inside the weekly top 10. The Seahawks have allowed 47.9 fantasy points per game to the position. The Cowboys are second at 34.0. While Parker hasn’t broken the bank yet, he leads Miami wide receivers in targets (17) and average targeted air yards (12.6). A Fitzpatrick-Parker pairing should pile up points this weekend.
Start: Jarvis Landry (CLE) at DAL: WR33 ECR
Investors are justifiably concerned about Landry. Three games into the season, he has just 12 catches for 143 yards. Prior to 2020, Landry had averaged 9.0 targets per game as a member of the Browns. He’s now at 4.3. This is mostly because Baker Mayfield has attempted just 85 passes, the third-fewest among quarterbacks who started all three games. That should increase a bit against the Cowboys, who rank 28th in passing defense and 31st in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Look for Landry’s volume to rise in a bounce-back outing. If he delivers another dud, it’s time to panic.
Start: Allen Lazard (GB) vs. ATL: WR37 ECR
Atlanta’s defense is terrible. The 0-3 Falcons have capitulated 36 points, 362.7 passing yards, and three passing touchdowns per game. They’ve led a pair of wide receivers to at least 12 fantasy points in every contest, so there’s plenty of room for Lazard to make his mark Monday night with or without Davante Adams. He already stole the primetime spotlight by tallying 146 yards and a touchdown last Sunday night. Lazard played 59 of 62 snaps and led Green Bay in targets (eight) with Adams sidelined, so the sky is the limit if he is once again Aaron Rodgers‘ No. 1 receiver.
Sit: T.Y. Hilton (IND) at CHI: WR26 ECR
So it’s come to this. Despite a candid pep talk from his grandmother, Hilton’s snaps (52%) and targets (three) dipped yet again. He’s recorded just 10 catches for 133 yards this season. Those who sit him could get burned bad, especially since Michael Pittman Jr. will join Parris Campbell on the sidelines, but he’s far from a must-start. The Bears have held the opposition to two passing touchdowns and an NFL-low 56.7% completion rate. Philip Rivers, who has attempted 46 passes in two wins after hitting the same mark in Week 1’s loss to Jacksonville, may once again lean on Jonathan Taylor in a low-scoring grind. Hilton will likely need to hit on a deep bomb — no longer Rivers’ forte — to pay off as the high-end WR3 rankers are still forecasting.
Sit: Jerry Jeudy (DEN) at NYJ: WR38 ECR
Jeudy has begun his career with commendable consistency, posting 55-62 receiving yards in all three games. He’s averaging eight targets per game and has the acceleration to eventually take one big play to the house. Even though he’s Denver’s top wideout with Courtland Sutton out of commission, let’s not mess with Thursday night’s dismal battle between the winless Broncos and Jets. Brett Rypien will make his first career start, and he’ll do so against a defense that has proven more vulnerable to running backs and tight ends. Melvin Gordon and Noah Fant are the only offensive players to start with any semblance of confidence in this matchup.
Sit: N’Keal Harry (NE) at KC: WR47 ECR
Opponents have made Kansas City’s run defense a clear point of attack. Even with their backfield uncertainty, the Patriots are likely to follow that trend. Harry’s targets plunged from 12 in Week 2 to four last Sunday, as New England returned to a run-heavy approach against Oakland. Cam Newton may have to throw more from a deficit this time, but Harry has yet to parlay his opportunities into results. Three games into 2020, he’s averaging a pedestrian 6.6 yards per target.
Start: T.J. Hockenson (DET) vs. NO: TE9 ECR
Hockenson exceeded 50 yards just twice last season. He’s done it in all three 2020 games while drawing a higher snap rate (64%, 69%, 82%) every week. The second-year pro is fourth in yards per route run (2.04) and seventh in catch rate (81%) among all tight ends, so this strong start looks much more sustainable than 2019’s Week 1 anomaly. While there’s some concern of him falling out of favor a tad upon Kenny Golladay‘s anticipated return, the matchup eases those fears. No team has allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Saints, who have approved a top-eight scorer at the position each week. It’s one thing to get shredded by Darren Waller, but Robert Tonyan?
Start: Dalton Schultz (DAL) vs. CLE: TE13 ECR
Schultz, who opened the season as a backup to Blake Jarwin, has run as many routes (95) as Waller and gotten targeted on a higher percentage (21%) of them than Travis Kelce (20%). He may need shootouts to sustain any fantasy viability in a crowded Cowboys offense, but this team is built for precisely that. Even if they don’t force Dak Prescott to throw as much as the Falcons and Seahawks to keep up, the Browns are a vulnerable adversary for Schultz. Cleveland has acquiesced 12.0 fantasy points per game and an NFL-high 11 red-zone targets to tight ends.
Sit: Logan Thomas (WAS) vs. BAL: TE17 ECR
Thomas once again saw plenty of snaps (85%) and targets (seven), but he once again settled for a tame yardage tally (31). Although he’s drawn an impressive 24.2% target share from Dwayne Haskins, the former quarterback has collected four catches in each game with only 7.8 yards per reception. This isn’t admitting defeat as much as shying away from Thomas in a tough matchup against Baltimore.
Sit: Jimmy Graham (CHI) vs. IND: TE18 ECR
Graham is an intriguing pick-up following a 10-target, two-touchdown Week 3 bonanza. He already matched last year’s touchdown total (three), but you’re not signing up for an elevated floor just yet. He settled for an 18-yard grab on his only Week 2 target. And while he caught his second touchdown from Nick Foles, this is the first full game Graham will play with Chicago’s new starting quarterback. Unless postponements or an injury forces your hand, let’s see if the five-time Pro Bowler can do it twice in a row.
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