Finally, some normality. The guys that are supposed to be good at this football thing were actually good at it this week. Le’Veon Bell lashed the Ravens, the Broncos’ defense stomped some mudholes, and Todd Gurley just kept right on doing his thing. That’s how Week 4 is supposed to be, and after so many tight and exciting games, there’s plenty to recap. Here’s everything you need to know:
- It’s nice of Bilal Powell to finally show up. Would you believe the Jets are 2-2? Most of this is thanks to Powell’s 163-yard, one-TD effort on 21 carries, and as a matter of fact, most of it came pretty easy. On a run that should have gone for just eight yards, Powell had the wherewithal to realize he was never down by contact after he stumbled past the line of scrimmage. The Jags defense already thought the play was over, and before you knew it, Powell had taken it to the house. As an owner, you can’t complain, either. Powell’s super intelligence was good for 29 points.
- Let’s dedicate this whole section to the Panthers offense, shall we? Not to single anyone out, but Devin Funchess, five gold stars. A 70-yard, two-TD performance was huge for the whole 10% of people that own him, even though most of that probably sat on the bench. It’s also worth noting that Cam Newton seems to have developed quite the bromance with Funch, because for the second straight week, Funchess outplayed Kelvin Benjamin in terms of targets.
- Big day for kickers everywhere. I was once again mesmerized by Jake Elliot’s 53-yard field goal, and Graham Gano’s 48-yard game winner in Foxboro was certainly no gimme, either. Greg Zuerlein was another noteworthy standout, but perhaps the most impressive was good ole’ Robbie Gould. Finishing 5-of-5 with 15 points in an extremely defensive game was the reason the Cardinals walked away with a victory. His 49-yarder certainly helped as well, as all four combined for 74 fantasy points this week.
- Last week I was convinced the Eagles would trade for a running back. Now, probably not. Sunday=no Sproles, no problem for Philly, as Wendell Smallwood put on a clinic against the Chargers. Finishing with 79 combined yards and a touchdown to boot, Smallwood has really emerged as a dependable option. The three-head attack is working, and LeGarrette Blount’s two crucial runs to pick up a first down in the dying stages of Sunday’s game really secured the win for the Eagles. Smallwood, on the other hand, has the speed on the outside to be a big-time threat, and just remember, he’s owned in only 14% of leagues.
- Carson Palmer didn’t play the game of his life, but he came pretty damn close. With only three minutes left on the clock in overtime, he made a gorgeous throw to Larry Fitzgerald in the middle of the end zone to send the Cardinals to 2-2. It was the only touchdown thrown in the field goal fest, and since owners still seem hesitant to pick him up, maybe now people will start to listen.
- The juice was really loose in Tampa on Sunday. Jameis Winston found O.J. Howard wide open down the sidelines for a touchdown. He tip-toed into the Giants’ secondary completely unnoticed and finished with 14.3 fantasy points. Mike Evans was once again great, but so was fellow tight end Cameron Brate on the final drive of the game. He caught two crucial catches to secure the Bucs some favorable field position, and if there’s a tight end that you should consider owning, this is your guy. Brate is very physical at the line and has fantastic hands, so if you don’t know, now you know.
- DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins were winners for the third week in a row. That connection is officially zen now, as the two paired for 107 yards and a touchdown. I’m not really sure what Hopkins’ ceiling is with Watson completing passes like this, but you’re seeing amazing WR1 value for what was a third round price. Watson, on the other hand, can be considered as a QB2 now, and if you can start him against the right defenses, you could walk away very happy.
- *ducks flying shoe* Okay, I have to give Eli Manning some credit. He actually made some throws against, yes, a pretty deflated Bucs defense. Still, Manning did his job in the fourth quarter, connecting with Rhett Ellison on a 3rd and goal play action crossing route. He even had a rushing touchdown that screamed awkwardness! Manning still gets a “no” from me as a fantasy option, but it was nice to see him settle behind a terrible offensive line and stay off the turf for once.
- So the Rams are the highest-scoring offense this season. Show of hands who saw that coming? Todd Gurley was glorious again against the Cowboys. Finishing with 121 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry, Gurley’s stats on paper only begin to tell the story, though. Joining Steven Jackson (2006), Gurley became the only other RB to rush for 100 yards and rack up 90 receiving yards in Rams history.
- More Eagles talk. If you’re a Zach Ertz owner, you must be frothing at the mouth. He caught for 81 yards on just five receptions against the Chargers. This kind of production from what some deemed to be a TE2 is ridiculous, and since he now ranks fifth in receiving yards (326) and third in receptions (26), well… let’s just say there might come a time when his value exceeds that of Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce.
- Opinions aside, LeSean McCoy has a right to be fired up. After weeks of receiving duties, he went off on the ground against the Falcons, posting 82 yards. The Falcons’ D/ST has posted a lousy 26 tackles for a loss this year, and they managed just six against the Bills. Mike Tolbert took a back seat after seeing most of the handoffs over the last two weeks, so it was nice to see the Bills offense look the way it’s supposed to look, especially as the underdogs.
- Not gonna lie, I was getting pretty worried when I saw Brian Hoyer with as many rushing TDs as Le’Veon Bell all of last week. He finally came good against the Ravens, though, putting 12 points on the board in a multi-score effort. Owners get to relish in the 34.6 PPR points Bell also put on the board, which for the most of you, should have won you your matchup.
- Epic day of epic proportions for the Texans D/ST. Four INT’s, two of which came from safety Andre Hal and a forced fumble to go with it. A lot of that is thanks to the Marcus Mariota injury, but still, the Texans have allowed the second most 40+ yard passing plays so far, so this is a real confidence booster with three tough matchups ahead.
- It’s nicknamed the “no-fly zone,” but I’m starting to think that ain’t accurate. Combined, the Broncos D/ST has allowed just 90 yards against McCoy, Elliott, Melvin Gordon and now Marshawn Lynch. The Raiders coughed and sputtered on offense all day, rushing for a total of 24 yards. In case there was any doubt following Week 3, this is your No. 1 elite defense ladies and gents.
- Silly Cowboys, you have Ezekiel Elliott. Use him! After rushing for 85 yards and a TD against the Rams, the Cowboys abandoned the run on the final drive of the game. Instead, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan relied on dink and dunk throws, just like the check down pass that saw Elliott fall one yard short of the first down on 4th and 10. Fantasy owners can be happy with Elliott’s 29.9 points, but really, it could have easily been more.
- Matt Ryan is a great QB, but he’s sometimes not so good when it counts. His career stats when trailing in a game with under two minutes left on the clock look like this: 50% completion rate, six INTs, and six TDs. Sunday wasn’t much better, as Ryan managed to get the Falcons into the red zone, but failed to connect with Taylor Gabriel on a screen route on 4th and 1. He threw two INTs against the Bills, and after throwing just seven all of last season, he now has five.
- There’s a small percentage of people stuck with the Giants D/ST (you poor souls), so this is for you guys. In one word: schmozzle. By my count, the Giants defense blew their coverage three separate times, and it resulted in another humiliating last-minute field goal defeat. Giving up a chunk of yards to Mike Evans is one thing, but giving up 143 yards and two TDs to two of the Bucs’ tight ends is another problem entirely. Really, this has now become a total team effort to suck this bad.
- The Raiders had a rough one, but Jared Cook really hurt their chances. Cook had two massive drops in the end zone on perfectly thrown balls from E.J. Manuel, both of which would’ve put the Raiders in front. One was a difficult over-the-shoulder catch, but the other was in the breadbasket between two Broncos defenders. It cost the Raiders, and it cost fantasy owners some big-time points.
- Paul Perkins’ stat line looks more like lottery numbers than it does anything else. Get this, nine carries, 13 yards. That’s all Perkins mustered up. Somehow, he’s still owned in 96% of leagues, though, and that number is rising! Either everyone is drunk, or I’ve missed the memo on where the value is meant to be hiding.
- The Jaguars D/ST has allowed the fewest passing yards all year, but that kinda cancels itself out when you realize they’ve also allowed the most rushing yards this season. Allowing Bilal Powell to run riot is something a lot of teams are guilty of, but Elijah McGuire rushing for 93 yards and a TD as well? That ain’t good. Things don’t get easier for Jacksonville, and I’d recommend staying away from them for the next month. They visit Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley over the next two weeks.
- 49ers D/ST, what the hell, man? Everything was going okay until the Cardinals received the ball in overtime. Either San Fran’s defense was gassed, or Carson Palmer just caught them by surprise, because they completely screwed up covering one of the NFL’s top receivers. On Larry Fitzgerald’s game-winning TD, cornerback Rashard Robinson lost Fitzgerald in the secondary as he instead gazed at the QB, forcing the safety to rush over and try to make a play. Of course, that never happened, and even though this probably affected 0.2% of owners, it’s just a reminder that the 49ers D is not worth streaming. Ever.
- Who bought into Sammy Watkins finally turning the corner after last week? I know this guy did. Guess that’s what you get for showing good faith because Watkins’ 2.7 fantasy points were a real kick in the nuts. The Rams’ gameplan was obviously not to throw the ball deep, and that’s why we’re seeing these kind of lull numbers. Watkins is still such a tough cookie to crack, though, and with the Seahawks up next, he’s worth a sit.
- Pour some fuel on that flaming Joe Flacco hot seat, wuddya? Another two INTs against the Steelers on Sunday, oh boy. He’s now thrown four picks in 65 passing attempts, and the entire Baltimore area is calling for the Colin Kaepernick era to begin. Luckily, this doesn’t affect many owners, and with no true No. 1 wide receiver, it’s not really a QB position to watch, either.
About the only thing worth celebrating in New York might be Evan Engram’s new career-high reception total. He reeled in six passes against the Bucs and delivered 12.2 points to his owners. The Giants rookie dropped just one of his 11 targets all day and was a big reason for Eli Manning’s solid protection in the pocket. Engram has now posted at least four receptions in all four of his starts this season and has a really favorable matchup next week against the Chargers. His ownership continues to creep up, but this is an option you should be considering ahead of guys like Jared Cook and Jack Doyle right now.
On the Shelf
- What could’ve been, huh? Dalvin Cook done for what we can only assume to be the season with an ACL tear. It was a freak accident, as he made a vicious cut to try to step a defender. If you’re now scrambling for options at RB, Latavius Murray should be on your radar along with Jerick McKinnon.
- You knew this was coming at some point. Not a season goes by without Julio Jones getting banged up, and here we are in Week 4 with a hip flexor injury. Jones limped off the field at halftime and was never to be seen again. The Falcons also lost Mohamed Sanu to a hamstring injury. The Falcons have a bye in Week 5, and early indications are that Julio will be ready to go come Week 6.
- Christmas hams are the theme here, because Marcus Mariota also strained his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. He too disappeared after halftime, leaving starting duties up to Matt Cassel. This one might not be too serious, but if you’re stuck with just one QB on your roster, now is the time to consider other backup options.
- Just make sure Derek Carr isn’t one of those options, though. His back injury looked nasty against the Broncos, as he fell backward into a defender’s knee. His injury has been labeled as back spasms. We wait to learn more.
- Other injuries of note: Chris Carson (ankle), Michael Crabtree (lung), Marquise Goodwin (concussion).
And if you look to your left, you’ll see Andy Dalton quietly achieving some pretty okay things. Fine, it was against the Browns, but Tyler Kroft deserves some words here. In the end, it was a total of six receptions, 68 yards, and two TDs, combining for 24.8 fantasy points in the absence of Tyler Eifert. This is big for the Bengals, but even more important for fantasy owners who are strapped at TE (i.e. everyone). Prior to Sunday, Kroft hadn’t scored a touchdown since 2015, but now in his third year, he could easily emerge as one of Dalton’s favorite targets if Eifert’s back continues to cause problems. If you need further convincing of Kroft’s potential in this offense, you only have to look at the fact that Dalton targeted him three separate times on third down, converting twice. If you’re in a deep league, Kroft is worth your time.
Amari Cooper drew the Bradley Roby match up against the Broncos on Sunday, and honestly, it was a K.O before the fight even started. The top class wide receiver was humbled for most of the game, serving up nine yards and 2.9 fantasy points on just two targets. Much of this falls on E.J. Manuel’s shoulders, and, of course, the lingering knee injury, but not once did Cooper look open down the field. It’s a fairly typical display from the 23-year-old, as Cooper has caught just one touchdown in four career games against the Broncos. As an owner, you knew you were buying into these kind of up-and-down weeks when you drafted him, but now with two straight weeks of fewer than 10 yards, Cooper has to be a popular name on the trade market.
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