Well, it’s Week 4 and things haven’t quite gone as planned so far here with my weekly picks. The visions I had dancing in my head of starting the season on fire and having all our readers begging for my picks haven’t quite materialized… yet! Ok, ok, that’s probably never going to happen, and you may be better off fading me at this point, but I feel it all turning around this week! There’s plenty of room left here on the bandwagon (current occupancy: 1).
And to shake things up this week, I’m not gonna just give my reasons for why each team will cover. Instead, I’m gonna also break things down by giving my fantasy football takes on each game and which players you should be thinking about starting or sitting when Sunday afternoon rolls around. You’re welcome.
Rams +3 vs. 49ers - Ok, not off to the start I was hoping for (By the way, I posted this pick on Twitter and will every Thursday for future reference). Serves me right for going with Brian Schottenheimer’s team. By the way, did you know this is Jeff Fisher’s 18th season as head coach in the NFL and he only has six winning seasons? Six! Someday someone in the media will have to explain to me how some people get labeled “great” without ever actually, you know, doing anything great.
Bills +3 vs. Ravens - The world is on Baltimore this week, and that’s never good. Buffalo is in desperation mode and I think they’re going to pull out the W against a not-that-good Ravens squad. Look for the Mike Pettine’s defense to make a big play or two that swing the game.
- Fantasy: Ray Rice is going to be a game-time decision, but even if he does manage to play, Bernard Pierce is the guy you want in this game. Rice clearly isn’t 100% and Pierce should get 15+ carries against the Bills pitiful run defense, and is a solid bet for a score. On the other side, one of these days CJ Spiller is going to break out in a big way… it’s just probably not going to be this week. Send out some feelers to the Spiller owner in your league and see if you can trade for him on the cheap. You’ll be happy you did. If you have Stevie Johnson, though, start him with confidence and expect good things.
Browns +4 vs. Bengals – Another case of everyone jumping on one team. Seems so easy, right? “The Bengals are good! They’re only laying 4 points?! To the Browns?!” Well, I think the Browns are going to cover and maybe even win. This has all the makings of a sucker bet. Just like my Packers pick last week against these very Bengals. Ugh.
- Fantasy: Josh Gordon! Josh Gordon! Josh Gordon! My favorite mid-round “sleeper” (even though there’s no such thing as sleepers these days in fantasy) of the 2013 season exploded onto the scene last week in a huge way and I couldn’t be happier about it. Nearly all of the Bengals secondary is either out or banged up this week and Gordon should be due for another monster performance, even if Brian Hoyer doesn’t give him the insane 19 targets from a week ago again. Also, if you have Jordan Cameron, congratulations. As for the Bengals, I’d expect to see more Gio Bernard sweetness this week, and this could be a breakout game for Tyler Eifert as well. Oh, and I didn’t mention AJ Green, because if you have him you shouldn’t need me to tell you to play him, or any of your other studs. Don’t get cute. And by cute, I mean dumb. Don’t be dumb.
Bears +3 @ Lions – I’ll tell ya, I don’t feel good about this one here, but I do think the Bears are absolutely the better team. They should be able to control the clock and get a few timely turnovers on defense to give them the edge and push them to 4-0.
- Fantasy: I’d expect huge games from both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in this game against the Lions less-than-stellar secondary. I’d happily start Jeffery as a flex this week, and Martellus Bennett also is a solid option at tight end. The Bears have been spreading the ball around on offense, and while it’s hurt Marshall a little bit so far, in the long run it will help keep defenses from swarming him as much. For the Lions, the guy I’m excited to see is Ryan Broyles, who is just getting back into the swing of things after knee surgery. He comes back at the perfect time too, because Nate Burleson broke his arm while trying to save a falling slice of pizza before crashing his car. We’ve all been there, so I feel for him. But I also thank him for his sacrifice in allowing a new PPR stud to be unleashed this week in Mr. Broyles. I would start him with confidence. Same goes for Reggie Bush, who appears to be a full-go this week.
Chiefs -4 vs. Giants – This is a case of the great majority of the gambling world being on one team and me just not caring. The Giants are just a raging dumpster fire of a team right now and after backing them for three straight losing weeks in this space, I can take no more. Think about this; the Giants are actually hoping that David Diehl is able to come back to bolster their offensive line. Yes, that same David Diehl who was quite possibly the worst player in the NFL last season. Yikes.
- Fantasy: Perhaps I’m being delusional, but I think there’s actually a pretty good chance this could be the week David Wilson bounces back and becomes a relevant fantasy performer. With Eli taking hit after hit behind that aforementioned garbage offensive line, the Giants know they need to get Wilson and the run game going a little bit if they’re going to have any chance. I’d also expect Hakeem Nicks to get plenty of targets this week after his goose egg last week. As for the Chiefs, well, it’s the Giants defense, so you should feel pretty good about any of your Chiefs players. Yes, even Dwayne Bowe, who I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.
Steelers -3 vs. Vikings – On a neutral field in London, I’ll take the team with Ben Roethlisberger over the one with Matt Cassell. End of story. But no, this doesn’t mean I think the Steelers are good. They’re not.
- Fantasy: Antonio Brown is obviously a must-start against this Vikings defense, and Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller, and Ben Roethlisberger are all worth consideration as well. Just keep in mind that these London games are usually horrific and sloppy. For the Vikings, if their name doesn’t rhyme with Ladrian Beterson, don’t play ‘em. Simple as that.
Bucs -2.5 vs. Cardinals – Remember last week when the Browns lost their best player and made a QB switch and nobody thought they had a chance to win? I do, and that’s why I’m taking a shot on the Bucs here. There’s a new QB and Vincent Jackson is out, but I say it doesn’t matter. Bucs win their first game of the season and Greg Schiano gets to live another week.
- Fantasy: This game could be where fantasy production goes to die this week. Larry Fitzgerald is likely to be shadowed by Darrelle Revis and Doug Martin is going to face 8 man fronts all day long. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Michael Floyd have a bit of a breakout game, however.
Jaguars +8 vs. Colts - The Colts are coming off a big win last week in San Francisco and this is a prime letdown spot for them. I’m not saying they’re going to lose, but don’t be surprised to see the Jaguars give them everything they can handle. Take the points.
- Fantasy: With Ahmad Bradshaw out, this could be the week you finally get some production from first round pick Trent Richardson. There’s no reason for the Colts not to unleash their new backfield toy and see what he can do against the Jags poor run defense. This may look like a tasty matchup for Andrew Luck as well, but in what is likely to be a run-filled game, I’d consider him more of a low-end QB 1 rather than someone I’d expect a huge week from. For the Jags, it’s the same as always – a whole lot of MJD and some Cecil Shorts sprinkled in. Both are worth spots in your lineup this week, despite Blaine Gabbert being back.
Texans +3 vs. Seahawks - Looks like a slam dunk for the Seahawks here, especially after the Texans got smoked by Baltimore last week, right? Just remember, Seattle is a much different team on the road, and the Texans need to have a big showing. Texans win outright.
- Fantasy: Arian Foster made some noise this week about needing to get the ball more, so expect to see him in large doses this week, because that seems to be the new thing to do in the NFL these days (see: Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Frank Gore, etc.). The Banged Up Andre Johnson very well may struggle this week against Richard Sherman, but DeAndre Hopkins should pick up the slack and is a good bet for a score in this game. For Seattle, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot offensively in what should be a grind-it-out kind of game. I would think about sitting Russell Wilson if you have a solid backup. I’d rather start someone like Jay Cutler, Tony Romo or maybe even Phil Rivers if you can.
Jets +3.5 @ Titans – I covered a lot of this in my Stock Watch, but Rex Ryan and his defense getting points against Jake Locker? I consider that a gift.
- Fantasy: For the Jets, it’s all about Bilal Powell on the fantasy gridiron this week. With Chris Ivory out, expect to see Powell get 20-25 touches, which makes him a rock solid RB2. Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill both broke out in a big way last week, but I wouldn’t expect repeat performances this week against a solid Tennessee secondary. I do think one of them will put up a solid game, it’s just hard to say which one at this point. For the Titans, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting any of their players. If you have Chris Johnson, you probably have to use him, but if you have a decent bench option, it’s something to consider.
Broncos -10.5 vs. Eagles – Both teams want to play up-tempo. One team has Peyton Manning and the other has Michael Vick. One team has four legit receiving options, the other has one. Don’t overthink this.
- Fantasy: The league’s best fantasy quarterback so far (by a wide margin) is getting to play what is quite possibly the worst defense in the league, so this is going to be a fantasy football bonanza. Consider yourself lucky if you have Peyton, Decker, Demaryius or Julius Thomas, and/or Wes Welker on your team. On the flip side, if you have Vick, McCoy, or Jackson you are also due for some huge points in what is certain to be a high-scoring game. Hey, those garbage time points count all the same! It’s games like this that make fantasy football fun (or make you hate it).
Raiders +3 vs. Redskins – I don’t think people realize just how terrible the Redskins are yet…
- Fantasy: Speaking of garbage time points, I give you the 2013 King, Mr. RG3! It’s rare to see a guy completely and totally stink it up for 2 or 3 quarters and then finish with 20+ fantasy points against vanilla defenses late in games, but Griffin has perfected the craft. In fact, I think garbage time should be renamed “RG3 time” for the remainder of the season. As a result of the RG3 time dominance, Pierre Garcon has become a fantasy stud, especially in PPR leagues, and Alfred Morris has taken a bit of a backseat. This game shouldn’t be a blowout, so it could be Morris’s first huge game of the season. Darren McFadden should also have a pretty solid game and you need to take advantage of him while he is still miraculously healthy. If you’re one of the teams with Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton on bye, you can do worse than throwing Terrelle Pryor out there as a fill-in. He will get you points against this awful defense.
Chargers +2 vs. Cowboys – Whewf, this column is getting long. Chargers and Cowboys, huh? Give me the team that doesn’t play in the NFC East. Give me the home team getting the points. Give me the Chargers!
- Fantasy: I wouldn’t expect a repeat of last week for Demarco Murray, but you obviously can’t think about benching him either. Ride him while he’s hot. With Miles Austin out, I would expect to see increased targets for Jason Witten in the middle of the field as Dez Bryant draws the majority of defensive attention. On the Chargers side, Phil Rivers is worth a shot if you are having QB issues, and Antonio Gates is having a terrific start to the season. Anybody else though, ehhh…
Falcons -2 vs. Patriots – I don’t think the Falcons are that good at all to be honest, with Steven Jackson out and Roddy White permanently banged up, but this is a 1-2 team that is desperate for a win. They’re home in a primetime game and have a very solid home field advantage. They’ll win a close one.
- Fantasy: Julio Jones is obviously a superstar, and you probably can’t afford to sit Tony Gonzalez, but I’d be weary of starting Roddy White or either of the Falcons RB’s. In a PPR league Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling both have increased value, but it’s a toss-up as to which one you’d prefer. I’d go with Quizz myself if you have the option. For the Patriots, it’s up in the air as to whether or not Gronk or Danny Amendola will return. It’s hard to rely on either of them since this is the Sunday night game, so you better have contingency plans in place. If you don’t have any other backup options in this game or on Monday, I would probably just sit both of them. After all, the Patriots are not exactly forthcoming when it comes to reliable injury information, and yon’t wanna get stuck with a 0 in your lineup. The one receiver I would start no matter what would be Julian Edelman, especially in PPR leagues. The guy is a target machine. As for Stevan Ridley, well, he’s just not my cup of tea. Good luck if you have him.
Saints -6.5 vs. Falcons – The Saints’ home field advantage is going to carry them in this game. Look for Drew Brees to put on an absolute show through the air, especially with Cameron Wake hurt.
- Fantasy: As I said, Brees is going to put on an aerial assault, so Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, and Marques Colston are all great starts. Lance Moore is a risky flex, but he’s on the radar, and Pierre Thomas looks like he’s about to become a 15 touch a week player, which makes him a very solid flex. For the Dolphins, the Lamar Miller/Daniel Thomas platoon has become extremely annoying. Miller is the better option, but his production will be inconsistent until the Dolphins just put Thomas on the bench for good. By the end of the game, I would expect to see Mike Wallace and/or Brian Hartline put up some solid numbers, especially in RG3 time after the Saints build a big lead.
Best Bets: Jets +3.5, Bills +3, Browns +4, Texans +3, Steelers -3
Teaser of the Week: 3 Team / 10 Point – Jets +13.5, Broncos -0.5, Bears +13
Last Week: 6-10 Total, 2-3 Best Bets
Overall: 20-27-1 Total, 5-10 Best Bets
And as always, we would love to hear your best bets or fantasy football thoughts here in the comments or on Twitter. Good luck to everyone this week. Unless of course you’re against me…