Week 4 has been a tough one for the NFL dealing with COVID-19 and we have our first taste of how the league will operate with future cases. The Titans-Steelers game was rescheduled to Week 7, forcing the Baltimore Ravens to change their schedule as well. The rival game between the Ravens and the Steelers will take place on Week 8 instead.
The New Orleans Saints had a coronavirus scare when they landed in Detroit to face the Lions. A player had a false positive, and after additional testing revealed negative results, the game was not postponed and played as scheduled. However, the Patriots were not so lucky. QB Cam Newton tested positive prompting the league to move the game to Monday night at 7:05 EST. QB Brian Hoyer will start for Newton against the Chiefs. We will see two games on Monday night including the Packers and Falcons during their regularly scheduled matchup. The Patriots-Chiefs game is contingent upon further testing and no further positive results.
This, of course, has been a nightmare for fantasy GMs who have a healthy dose of starters on both teams. Many were forced to pivot to less-productive alternatives and watching Monday night’s makeup game may be painful if it indeed takes place.
Browns @ Cowboys Lead Another Week of High Scoring Offense
Welcome back to the world of top-tier wide receivers, Odell Beckham, Jr. It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been since Week 12 of 2019 when he finished as the WR11 with 20.4 points in PPR. On Sunday, Beckham finished with 38.4 fantasy points with five receptions, 82 yards, and two receiving touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was on a bomb pass from WR Jarvis Landry who put other QBs in the league to shame in just one pass. Beckham didn’t stop there. He also rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Spoiler alert. He’ll be leading my trade away list.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott continues to explode in fantasy. He scored 37.28 points on over 500 yards and four touchdowns. Dallas couldn’t pull out a win, but that doesn’t matter in fantasy. Prescott is trying his hardest to prove he’s worth a big paycheck. That means a lot of comeback finishes with poor defensive play to help.
The Chargers at Buccaneers was another high-scoring affair. Tom Brady looked sluggish in the first half while Justin Herbert continues to impress in his rookie campaign. The score favored the Chargers just before half-time, but Brady and the Bucs rallied on a forced fumble and dominated the second half to win 38 - 31. Brady threw for 369 yards, one interception, and a whopping five touchdowns, even without WR Chris Godwin and RB Leonard Fournette. Herbert was no slouch, either, scoring 23 points on 290 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Unfortunately, RB Austin Ekeler was carted off the field and rookie RB Joshua Kelley fumbled and failed to produce for real football and fantasy.
Just about every game had a team that scored at least 30 points or more with the exception of the Giants at Rams, Colts at Bears, and the Eagles at the 49ers. In the first half of the Giants-Rams game, Los Angeles had failed to complete even one 20-plus yard play. This has happened only twice under HC Sean McVay. The first one was during their appearance at the Super Bowl against the Patriots. The Rams did pull themselves together and emerged victorious in a 17 - 9 win over the dejected New York Giants.
It was a common question during QB Nick Foles’ tenure with the Eagles when he started in place of an injured Carson Wentz. Which version of Foles would show up? The one that throws three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win? Or, the QB who will throw 16 incompletions, only one touchdown, and an interception? The Bears, unfortunately, got a taste of the latter. They could not get much going on offense and Foles’ one touchdown came late in the game with little hope of winning. They lost to the Colts 19 - 11. Colts’ QB Philip Rivers was mediocre, despite the win. He completed 16 out of 29 attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown. He connected in the end zone with TE Mo Alie-Cox for his only reception of the day for 13 yards. Fantasy GMs forced to pivot to Alie-Cox heaved a collective sigh of relief but still weren't thrilled at the result.
The Eagles at 49ers also did not have a team with 30 or more points, but both teams got close in Philadelphia’s 25-20 victory. Carson Wentz finally led the team to their first win and posted 21.42 points. San Francisco’s backup QB Nick Mullens was benched in the fourth quarter after a bad pick-six. C.J. Beathard took over and got the 49ers within five points, but the offense couldn’t come down with a Hail Mary touchdown as the seconds drained off the clock. Jerick McKinnon continues to produce in fantasy, scoring a touchdown on 14 attempts and 54 yards and even saw nine targets, seven receptions and 44 receiving yards. WR Deebo Samuel got his first start of the season but it was rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk with a huge run and Olympian hurdle to score a touchdown. It was clear that the 49ers missed QB Jimmy Garoppolo as they fell to 2-2 in the division.
We knew that 2020 would be a year of injuries with no OTAs, shortened training camp, and no preseason games. We have already seen too many injuries to big names and NFL defenses are likewise suffering. It’s highly likely we'll continue to see the scores pile up each week as teams are forced to start second and third-string players on defense.
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Fantasy Yays and Oy Veys
Prescott and Brady lead quarterbacks in scoring, with Carolina’s Teddy Bridgewater coming in third with 26.24 points. Bridgewater had his best game so far in 2020 against the Arizona Cardinals, with 276 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception. He tacked on 32 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown. Bills’ QB Josh Allen gave GMs a scare when he landed poorly on his shoulder and went to the locker room. He later returned and showed no signs of slowing down with 288 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Lamar Jackson finishes our top-five QBs with 193 yards, two touchdowns, 53 yards rushing that included an explosive 50-yard touchdown run. This is Jackson’s second appearance in the top-five since Week 1. He finished as the QB18 in Week 2 and the QB23 in Week 3.
The Rams’ Jared Goff was a favorite to start this week against a mediocre Giants Defense. He disappointed with 200 yards passing and only one touchdown and 11.7 points. Other quarterbacks that let you down were the Giants’ Daniel Jones, Broncos’ Brett Rypien, Colts’ Philip Rivers, and Foles who all finished with under 12 points in Week 4.
Finally, Bengals’ RB Joe Mixon found the end zone not once but three times, finishing with a week-winning 42.1 points. Jacksonville has only allowed one rushing touchdown prior to this week and no receiving touchdowns by a running back. We have been waiting for Mixon to have a big finish and this is just what GMs need to trade him away at his highest value. Washington’s Antonio Gibson also made his first big impact in fantasy finishing with 22.8 points in PPR with 46 yards rushing, a touchdown, and four receptions for 84 yards. Dalvin Cook, Melvin Gordon, and Chris Carson all scored two touchdowns and finished as the RB2, 3, and 4 in Week 4. Carson was considered questionable with a knee injury then went out and came back in after being evaluated and cleared from a possible concussion.
Raiders’ RB Josh Jacobs had another disappointing week with only 10.3 points and failed to score a touchdown. Chicago’s David Montgomery, Devonta Freeman, and David Johnson all struggled, scoring less than 12 points and zero touchdowns.
GMs were excited to have George Kittle back and were not disappointed with his performance during Monday night’s game against the Eagles. He leads all tight ends with 40.1 at Sunday’s conclusion with 15 receptions, 183 yards, and a touchdown. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews scored two touchdowns on three receptions ending Sunday with 20.7 as the TE2. Dallas’ Dalton Schultz stepped up in Sunday’s shootout against the Browns with a touchdown on four receptions and 72 yards. Even Austin Hooper got involved in the matchup after being quiet so far in 2020. The Raiders’ Darren Waller did not score against Buffalo but was heavily targeted with nine receptions for 88 yards and 15.8 points.
Normally reliable tight ends Hunter Henry, Tyler Higbee, and Mike Gesicki all scored less than six points. Even Raiders’ TE Jason Witten, in his 17th season, found the end zone on two receptions and 18 yards, much to Waller managers' chagrin.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR - PIT)
Kenyan Drake (RB - AZ)
A.J. Brown (WR - TEN)
Justin Jefferson (WR - MIN)
Tyler Higbee (TE - LAR)
Chris Godwin (WR - TB)
Tyler Lockett (WR - SEA)
Joe Mixon (RB - CIN)
Melvin Gordon (RB - DEN)
Mike Davis (RB - CAR)
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR - CLE)
Aaron Rodgers (QB - GB)
Adam Thielen (WR - MIN)
After some disappointing performances by big names, now may be the time to target those players in a trade. Smith-Schuster, Brown, and Godwin may be getting the out-of-site-out-of-mind treatment with injuries and a surprise bye week. All three of these receivers have excellent potential in their respective offenses and GMs may be getting irritated having to hold on to them or need to fill roster spots now.
Drake, Jefferson, Higbee, and Lockett let their managers down this week and may be eligible for trade consideration. Drake is especially worrisome since he has not had a good game yet in 2020, despite quite a bit of offseason hype. Trading for Drake carries risk, but he is still the RB1 for the Cardinals and has the opportunity to be productive, it just hasn’t clicked for him yet. Now may be the best time to get him on your roster while managers are tired of dealing with lackluster fantasy scores each week. He did pop up on the injury report at the end of the game, so keep an eye on his status.
Last week I had Lockett in the trade-away column after his huge game against the Cowboys. This week, I have him in the trade-for category and I promise that I am not trying to be confusing. If you need a WR, Lockett is an excellent target while WR DK Metcalf is seeing volume as well as burgeoning WR David Moore getting involved. It’s all about team needs. If you needed pieces last week, you could get an excellent return while Lockett’s stock was high. Now that he is coming off of a bad performance, you can look to acquire him for a better trade value coming off of a bad game.
I know that I have been saying to trade Mixon since the beginning of the year and I have also said to wait until he has a good game so you can get the best value in return. I never imagined that would include three touchdowns and over 40 points. Enjoy the huge performance for a bit and then trade him. I doubt he will have another game like this one and it’s just the ammo you need to send him to another roster.
Gordon and Davis are two running backs that you should look to trade away this week. The Broncos should be getting RB Phillip Lindsay back this week and RB Christian McCaffrey looks to return soon for the Panthers. Gordon will see split volume with Lindsay in the backfield and Davis will be all but obsolete once McCaffrey returns to the starting lineup. Their stock is way up after this week and may start to plummet after Week 5.
Beckham is another big Week 4 producer that you can move for more reliable pieces. There are so many mouths to feed in that offense that it’s hard to imagine this kind of performance sees a repeat.
Trade away Aaron Rodgers? Am I crazy? Well, not really. Rodgers has been coming through in a big way to start the season, giving management the business for trading up to draft his replacement. The Packers have a bye in Week 5 then face a slew of excellent defenses including Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Indianapolis. All three defenses are ranked in the top-five in defenses against quarterbacks allowing under 16 points a game to the position over four weeks.
Injury Updates and Quick Hits
Buccaneers’ TE O.J. Howard suffered an Achilles injury and is likely out for the season. … Chargers’ RB Austin Ekeler hyperextended his knee and also injured his hamstring. He was spotted on crutches after the game. … Browns’ RB Nick Chubb injured his knee and left the game early. … Titans have a total of 18 positive COVID-19 cases and Week 5 is on the table to be postponed. … Patriots’ QB Cam Newton tests positive for COVID-19, but he is the only player to test positive so far. The Chiefs-Patriots game is rescheduled for Monday 10/5 at 7:05 pm EST. … 49ers’ backup QB Nick Mullens was benched for C.J. Beathard after his pick-six.