Perhaps Week 4 is the week we will finally see some consistency and predictability with this NFL season. From injuries to suspensions to some bizarre poor games (19 carries for 22 yards against the Redskins for LeSean McCoy), it has been a head-scratching start to the season for sure. That’s what gives all of us gamers a love/hate relationship with one-week fantasy football. We love the highs and hate the lows, but we enjoy everything in between.
Let’s take a look at some quarterbacks and running backs for this week, as we have some exciting young rookies making their first starts under center.
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
Five to target
1. Drew Brees ($9,200)
2. Andrew Luck ($9,800)
3. Matthew Stafford ($8,600)
4. Colin Kaepernick ($8,100)
5. Teddy Bridgewater ($5,900)
It doesn’t take RotoGrinders’ Defense vs. Position tool to tell us that the Dallas defense is porous. Last week, the unit finally started to live up to its billing against the Rams, allowing the superhuman Austin Davis to eclipse 300 yards. Imagine what a healthy Drew Brees and his slew of weapons can do to this defense. Brees is far and away my #1 QB option this week as we get a thinner slate with some teams starting their bye weeks. He’s a virtual lock for cash game production against the Cowboys.
There are certain quarterbacks that become viable fantasy options on a weekly basis simply because their floor is too high to ignore. With his ability to run the ball and several viable pass catchers at his disposal, Andrew Luck is becoming one of those players. The price tag is high thanks to some easy early season matchups, but it’s getting to be increasingly difficult to ignore Luck on a weekly basis. The argument could be made that he is approaching top-3 fantasy quarterback status, and I expect the production to continue this week with a home date against the Titans on tap.
The Jets Defense is easy to figure out: you can’t run on them but you can throw on them. Expect the Lions to go with an extremely pass-heavy approach this week, which will mean good things for Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and company. Stafford should rebound well from his poor outing a week ago against the Packers.
The fantasy upside of Colin Kaepernick is always tantalizing, but he has been alarmingly bad at times so far in 2014, and everyone saw that bad side on Sunday night two weeks ago against the Bears, as Kaepernick’s turnovers single-handedly switched the momentum of the game. Though I am not surprised to see some regression from him, this appears to be a week to capitalize on that upside. The Eagles Defense was shredded by Kirk Cousins last week, and opposing quarterbacks always have opportunity to do some damage given the fast-paced nature of Eagles games. Vegas projects this game to top 50 total points, and Kaepernick could be a sneaky option this weekend.
Even though they played well against the Bucs last week, I am nowhere near sold on the Falcons Defense. They lack talent at most of the skill positions and are extremely vulnerable against the pass. Teddy Bridgewater has as good of a matchup as you could hope for as a rookie making your first start, and he could be a sneaky cheap option that puts up big points at the QB position this week.
Two to avoid
1. Geno Smith ($7,400)
2. Blake Bortles ($6,500)
With little semblance of an effective running game, the Jets are putting the ball in Geno Smith’s hands a lot more this season. That’s where the positives end on him this week. The Lions Defense is quietly becoming an elite unit, and all you have to do is take one look at what they did to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week to notice that. Add in the fact that Eric Decker might miss this week’s game and you eliminate Geno Smith’s most explosive weapon in the passing game. This screams of a stay away, and I really like the Lions Defense as a unit this week for daily fantasy.
While I like one rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater this week, I will be staying away from Blake Bortles. The Jaguars are 14-point underdogs and are playing on the road, so the deck is stacked against the talented young signal caller for his first start. It’s always tough to trust rookies on the road, and given all the circumstances surrounding this game I would much rather have Bridgewater at home this week. Since the two rookies are similarly priced, it’s easy to ignore Bortles here.
Five to target
1. DeMarco Murray ($9,000)
2. Matt Forte ($8,600)
3. Eddie Lacy ($8,000)
4. Lamar Miller ($6,900)
5. Donald Brown ($6,300)
DeMarco Murray has cemented himself as the clear #1 RB for fantasy this season with three straight 100+ yard performances to start 2014. The Cowboys are running the ball more than ever, and you know they will want to do that to keep the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands this week. The goal should be to keep the Dallas defense off the field as much as possible, and utilizing Murray as a bell cow is definitely the way to accomplish that. Another solid game should be in the works.
Matt Forte has yet to score a touchdown this year, but he’s also had some tough matchups, as the Bears have already had to face the 49ers and Jets this season — two of the top rush defenses in the league. The good news for Forte is that he can do damage even when he isn’t running the football well. For example, on Monday night he had six catches out of the backfield and he now has a total of 19 receptions through three games, which is more than some of the top wide receivers in the league. This gives him a nice, safe floor for your cash games.
The biggest decision I had to make this week when writing this column was whether or not to include Eddie Lacy. Admittedly, I have always been higher on Lacy than most daily fantasy players, so I have some natural bias in his favor. However, it needs to be mentioned that he is showing some alarming signs whereby several experts have started comparing him directly to Trent Richardson. The question is where Lacy heads from here. He has had some extremely tough matchups against the Seahawks, Jets, and Lions through three weeks (those teams rank first, second and fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game). Also, as my colleague C.J. Carter pointed out this week, peripheral stats speak well of Lacy, including his fifth-best elusive rating on Pro Football Focus. At a discounted price on FanDuel, I’ll give Lacy one last shot against a putrid Bears Defense that set franchise records for futility against the run last season and ranks 26th against the run so far this season.
Opportunity knocks for Lamar Miller with Knowshon Moreno injured, and he certainly delivered in his first start, logging a 100+ yard performance and over seven yards per carry despite the Dolphins playing from behind much of the game. He’ll have a nice matchup against the Raiders this week and should get an even better opportunity to prove his worth this time around at a reasonable mid-level price.
Sometimes decisions come down to weighing talent vs. opportunity, and nobody fits that bill better than Donald Brown right now. With injuries to both Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, the Chargers backfield belongs to Brown. He’s not going to wow you with production, but opportunity is certainly there with the Chargers playing at home as 14-point favorites against the Jaguars and their swiss cheese defense. I wish his price was a bit cheaper, but I am still comfortable rolling him out there in this matchup.
2. Lorenzo Taliaferro ($5,300)
As I wrote above, the Jets Defense is easy to figure out. They lead the NFL with just 55 rushing yards allowed per game, and they have faced some decent running backs along the way, in particular Matt Forte, who was held to 13 carries for 33 yards on Monday night. It’s always difficult to figure out which back will be the best option of the week for Detroit, so in this matchup it’s probably wise to simply avoid both Joique Bell and Reggie Bush. I would give Bush the nod if forced to choose between the two, given his pass-catching prowess.
The “super sexy” option of the week last Sunday was newly-minted Saints starter Khiry Robinson, and while he wasn’t awful he certainly didn’t hurt you if you chose not to play him. I feel the same way about Lorenzo Taliaferro this week. He will be a popular option given his success last week, but there are some concerns here, namely that there’s a realistic chance that Bernard Pierce returns this week. Taliaferro will not catch you many passes and there’s a capped upside here with Justin Forsett also in the mix. You are best served to look elsewhere this week.