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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 4

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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 4

Bye weeks are here!

OK, so they aren't that exciting. And they aren't fun for fantasy owners, either. What it means for owners of Tom Brady, Gronk, Marcus Mariota and Julius Edelman, is that decisions on who to start and sit became that much more difficult and time-consuming.

Luckily we're here to help. So let's jump into it with 12 players worth starting and 12 worth putting on or keeping on your bench.

START

Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI (vs. OAK) - The Bears will not get shut out again this week. That's not a bold prediction, just a simple fact. Bennett will be a big part of the offense and the Raiders are the NFL's worst at limiting fantasy production from TEs. They've allowed an average of 7 catches, 102 yards and 1.67 TDs to TEs each week over the first three games of the season, making stars out of Crockett Gillmore and Gary Barnidge. If you're asking who those guys are, don't worry, you're not alone. Bennett was drafted as a Top 5 tight end. If Crockett Gillmore can put up ridiculous numbers on this Raiders defense, don't you think Bennett can, too? Even if Jimmy Clausen is his quarterback... (Tony Andracki)

Derek Carr, QB, OAK (@ CHI) - I was admittedly nervous when I proclaimed at the start of the year that the Raiders would make the playoffs, but a pair of victories over the Ravens and Browns have me feeling a little better about it. While I still may get laughed at it by season's end, it won't be because of how Derek Carr has played. The second-year signal caller has been lights out the last two weeks, topping 300 yards in each and throwing for five touchdowns. Now he gets the Bears' semblance of a defense, which hasn't stopped anything this year. With Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (see below) playing well and Latavius Murray keeping defenses honest, Carr is quickly looking like a breakout candidate. He's a QB1 for me this week, and I'm starting him in a league in which I have Tom Brady (bye). (Mark Strotman)

Michael Crabtree, WR, OAK (at CHI) - Targets, targets and more targets. Through three games, Crabtree has 33 (!) targets and 18 catches to go along with it. While the Carr-Cooper connection looks to be something special, Crabtree is getting his share of love too and shouldn't be ignored in a matchup against a bad Bears secondary. Crabtree is a great FLEX play this week. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

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Andy Dalton, QB, CIN (vs. KC) - This is another matchup play, as the Chiefs are the worst in the league at limiting fantasy production to opposing QBs. They've allowed multiple passing TDs in each of their first three games (10 overall) to go with 923 yards. Dalton has surprisingly been a Top 5 quarterback this season and I fully expect that production to continue this week. (Andracki)

Melvin Gordon, RB, SD (vs. CLE) - The wait is over. This is finally Gordon's breakout week as he goes up against a Browns defense that can't stop a nosebleed. The Chargers should wear down the Browns defense by handing Gordon the rock early and often. He's tied for second with most 20+ yard runs and the Browns' defense has the second worst YPC average. It's a perfect storm for Gordon to post some big numbers. (Paschall)

Chris Ivory, RB, NYJ (@ MIA) - So the 91-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 1 was probably a bit of fool's gold, but after missing last week's game against the Eagles, Ivory is ready to roll. He'll face a Dolphins defense that just hasn't lived up to its preseason hype, and with a pair of fresh legs I'm betting on Ivory getting back to solid FLEX status. Plus, something odd always seems to happen in those London games. Get up early to watch him find the end zone across the pond. (Strotman)

Duke Johnson, RB, CLE (@ SD) - Johnson has a total of 10 standard fantasy league points in three games this season so this is a bold move for me in Week 4. The former Miami Hurricane finally played more snaps than incumbent starter Isaiah Crowell in a Week 3 loss. And finally, Browns OC John DeFilippo played to the rookie's strengths by getting him involved in the passing game as Johnson hauled in six receptions for a respectable 32 yards. Eventually, Johnson will be handed the keys to Cleveland's backfield and not look back. Week 4 against a bad Chargers run defense (377 yards and four touchdowns allowed) should be a good starting point. (Scott Krinch)

Donte Moncrief, WR, IND (vs. JAC) - See ya later, Andre Johnson. It was fun while it lasted, but your time in the spotlight is over. Taking your place? Moncrief, who in three games has caught 17 passes for 200 yards and three scores (one in each game). Even with Andrew Luck banged up, he's bound to get back on track against the Jaguars defense, meaning Moncrief is in store for plenty more targets and a score. If you swiped up Moncrief when TY Hilton had his injury scare, congrats. Andre Johnson owners? Time to move on. (Strotman)

Allen Robinson, WR, JAC (@ IND) - Yo, Gus Bradley. Would you please tell Blake Bortles to get Robinson involved in the offense? Fantasy owners and lovers of good old fashioned wide receiver play would really appreciate it. We saw why Robinson was so highly coveted in fantasy drafts after his six catch, 155 yard, two touchdown performance in Week 2. But that was sandwiched between one catch and four catch performances. We need more. Look, we know you're going to be out of it by halftime against Indy. So why not just loft 'em up to Robinson in garbage time. Pretty please? (Krinch)

CJ Spiller, RB, NO (vs. DAL) - Is this the week he breaks out? I'm betting the answer is yes. It's more of a gut call than anything, but he has been looking more and more healthy every week and now draws a nice matchup with a Dallas team that just let Devonta Freeman run absolutely wild all over them. With so many running backs either on bye or drawing bad matchups this week (seriously, I could have listed 10 RBs I would sit this week), Spiller is a guy to take a chance on. (Andracki)

Tyrod Taylor, QB, BUF (vs. NYG) - Eight touchdowns in three games and two straight double-digit fantasy performances. Taylor isn't just a blip on the radar anymore, he's a quarterback who is a must-own fantasy player at the moment. With weapons abound in Buffalo, Taylor is fully capable of posting Top 12 QB totals on a weekly basis. Taylor draws another nice matchup this week in the New York Giants, who have allowed a 300-yard passer in each game this season. (Krinch)

Karlos Williams, RB, BUF (vs. NYG) - Hopefully you were able to snatch up Williams this week off the waiver wire because he's in store for a big week. In limited action, he's averaging 7.8 YPC. Running the football a lot is in Rex Ryan's DNA so with Shady out, Williams should get a full workload. The Giants defense is stingier than most believe but Williams' usage is hard to ignore this week. (Paschall)

SIT

Ameer Abdullah, RB, DET (@ SEA) - Things simply aren't going right for the Lions, which means the rookie from Nebraska needs to stay on the bench in a road matchup against the Seahawks. He's shown plenty of promise through three weeks, scoring in two of his first three games, but this Seahawks defense turns into something else at home. I wouldn't trust Abdullah, as fun as it is having guys on Monday Night Football. Find a better FLEX play and wait for the Lions offense to (hopefully) hit its stride sooner than later. (Strotman)

John Brown, WR, ARI (vs. STL) - The Rams defense has allowed just two passing TDs all year. They generate a pretty insane pass rush led by Robert Quinn and the Cardinals are going to have their hands full this week. Beyond that, Brown is dealing with a shoulder injury and he just has not fulfilled all the preseason sleeper tags place on him. I was super high on Brown and I still think he will be a very good fantasy player this season, but right now, it's been all Larry Fitzgerald. I'm not betting that will change this week. (Andracki)

Owen Daniels, TE, DEN (vs. MIN) - Hey! He's got a pulse! Last week's touchdown got Daniels owners jumping for joy but he may go back to being irrelevant this week. The Vikings have the safeties and coverage linebackers to take away tight ends and Daniels just doesn't have the athleticism at his age to separate from those guys. I don't think Daniels can keep the momentum rolling this week. (Paschall)

Eagles RBs (@ WSH) - The matchup stinks: The Redskins have allowed only 163 rushing yards on 53 carries (a 3.08 ypc) and one rushing TD to RBs. Plus, the Eagles backfield is a mess right now. Who do you have confidence in starting? DeMarco Murray? He's been hurt and horribly, ridiculously ineffective even when he does play. Ryan Mathews? He looked great last week, but if Murray plays again, will Mathews get enough touches to be fantasy relevant? Darren Sproles? He contributes on special teams, but if he doesn't find the endzone (either via pass, rush or punt return), he won't get enough touches to have enough yards to be a good fantasy option. This whole thing is scary. Stay away. (Andracki)

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Mike Evans, WR, TB (vs. CAR) - Mike Evans' owners must be really grumpy to see his name here. After having a monster 17-target, seven-catch performance in his first productive week, I don't feel great about his performance this week against the Panthers defense. Not only does Carolina now have a really good corner in Josh Norman, but they magically find ways to take a team's top receiving target out of games. Ask DeAndre Hopkins, who struggled earlier in the year against them. Evans also did not perform well against the Panthers last year (7 catches, 50 yards, TD between two games). If you have a better option on your bench, you might want to look for it. (Paschall)

Devonta Freeman, RB, ATL (vs. HOU) C'mon. Nearly 200 total yards and 39.3 fantasy points for a guy who hasn't flashed much in his brief career with the Falcons. Week 3 was an aberration. Freeman is what he is. A guy who is going to catch balls out of the backfield as a decent passing-game specialist. Once Tevin Coleman returns, which could be as early as this weekend, Freeman will be relegated to second-string duties. Plus, Houston hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher nor a rushing touchdown in 2015. He's Fool's Fold. Stay far away. (Krinch)

Todd Gurley, RB, STL (at ARI) - I'm all on the Gurley Train this year. It just won't get going this week. The Cardinals defense is fantastic against the run and with Arizona's high scoring offense, the Rams may be playing from behind a lot. Be patient, Gurley owners, he will breakout soon. (Paschall)

Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN (vs. KC) - Everything about Hill scares me right now - his situation (the Bengals have already said they're going to go with Gio Bernard when they're behind or the game is close), his production (2 fantasy points the last two weeks combined) and his matchup (the Chiefs are the best at limiting fantasy production from RBs). Hill will rebound; I still like him and he's my RB in Madden (not that that matters to you...), but this will not be his redemption game. (Andracki)

Matt Jones, RB, WSH (vs. PHI) -  I Still don't know what to make of the Redskins rookie running back. He looked like a draft steal after his 123-yard, two touchdown performance in Week 2. Then everyone put him in their lineups and he carried the ball 11 times for 38 yards in his encore. As a rookie, he's going to have his ups and downs, and Alfred Morris still being in Washington is only going to complicate things in 2015. Keep Jones rostered, but play him at your own risk. And Sunday isn't the time to get risky as he goes up against an Eagles defense which hasn't allowed a rushing score this year. (Krinch)

Jarvis Landry, WR, MIA (vs. NYJ) - I don't trust these London games for fantasy purposes, and with a broken Dolphins offense squaring off against a scary Jets secondary it's tough for me to start Landry. In PPR formats he's been great, catching eight passes in each of the first three games. He hasn't found the end zone yet, but soon will. Just don't expect it to happen this Sunday morning against a Revis/Cromartie duo. Ryan Tannehill (see below) has some things to figure out, and hopefully the bye week in Week 5 helps him. Facing this Jets defense won't. You may not have many better options than Landry, so you may have to start him. Just don't expect another eight-catch performance. (Strotman)

Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR (@ TB) - I haven't given up hope on Stewart turning around this nightmare start to a season, but even against a porous Tampa Bay defense I can't trust him. He hasn't found the end zone and hasn't topped 65 yards on the ground in three games this year, and with a banged up knee there's simply better options with higher upside. You won't regret having Stewart on your bench, and even if he does manage to find the end zone this week you'll feel good about him getting out of his slump. Consider it a win-win, but keep him out of your lineup. (Strotman)

Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA (vs. NYJ)I was super high on Tannehill, like the majority of people, going into the 2015 season. But right now this Dolphins team is a total mess. Tannehill is currently the 11th ranked fantasy quarterback, but that's mainly because of his 25-point Week 2 outing. Last weekend against a good Bills defense, Tannehill turned the ball over three times. Now, he draws a swarming Jets defense which likes to feast on opponent's mistakes. I can't start him with any confidence on Sunday. (Krinch)

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

Three keys and prediction: Bears vs. Patriots

1. Good games from Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Here’s a sampling of Pro Football Focus grades for primary middle/inside/will linebackers against New England this year: 

Reggie Ragland (KC): 60.1
Anthony Hitchens (KC): 30.2
Zaire Franklin (IND): 48.6
Najee Goode (IND): 47.1
Kiko Alonso (MIA): 63.9
Raekwon McMillan (MIA): 62.5
Christian Jones (DET): 59.7
Jarrad Davis (DET): 29.8
Telvin Smith Sr. (JAX): 64.1
Myles Jack (JAX): 61.0
Bernardrick McKinney (HOU): 68.7
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 43.2

Think what you will of Pro Football Focus’ grades, but the average here is 53.2. Interestingly, though, the average grade for these 12 players over the course of the 2018 season is 51.5. So maybe the issue is the Patriots have faced a bunch of mediocre-to-bad linebackers, allowing them to take advantage of those soft spots with Sony Michel running the ball and James White catching it. Smith’s PFF grade is 62.3; Trevathan’s is 64.3, so by this measure, they’re better than any of the interior linebackers the Patriots have faced but still are the weak spot in the Bears’ defense (only Jonathan Bullard has a lower PFF grade among players with 100 or more snaps). 

How Smith and Trevathan play will be key in determining how quickly Brady is able to get the ball out (with passes to White), and how many times they get into third-and-less-than-five situations (with Michel running it). Both those factors will be critical for the Bears’ pass rush, which brings us to our next point.

2. Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady is a master of beating blitzes, completing 23 of 21 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and only one sack when blitzed, per PFF (that’s good for a 138.4 passer rating). When he’s under pressure, though, he has his lowest passer rating — which is still 87.2 — but the point here is that the Bears can’t afford to have to send blitzes to try to get pressure on Brady. The Bears were one of the best teams in the league at pressuring opposing quarterbacks without blitzing before the trip to Miami, and how healthy Khalil Mack really is will be a critical determining factor in those efforts. But when the Bears do earn their pass-rushing opportunities, as Akiem Hicks put it, they need to at least affect Brady and not let him comfortably sit back to pick apart their defense. 

3. Convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. This was a point Taylor Gabriel made this week about the state of the NFL in 2018: You can no longer afford to settle for three points or, worse, come away from a red zone possession with no points. Scoring is up league-wide, and the Patriots have scored 38, 38 and 43 points in their last three games. One of the biggest reasons the Bears lost that shootout in Miami was two turnovers from inside the five-yard line (Jordan Howard’s fumble, Mitch Trubisky’s interception). Stopping New England’s offense will be difficult, and the expectation should be for Sunday to be a high-scoring afternoon. If that’s the case, the Bears will have to get in the end zone every opportunity they get. The good news: New England’s defense is allowing a touchdown on 68 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the red zone. 

Prediction: Patriots 31, Bears 27. The Bears’ defense sounded properly motivated after getting gouged by Brock Osweiler in Miami last weekend, but that only goes so far when one of the best quarterbacks of all time rolls into town. This winds up being a back-and-forth affair, but the guy with 54 game-winning drives in his regular season and playoff career makes it 55 late in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. A close loss to the Patriots wouldn’t dampen the positive vibes around the Bears, so long as they respond with wins against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the next two weeks.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can the Bears pull off an upset at home against Tom Brady and the Patriots?

Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.

11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?

23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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