Week 4 Fantasy Football Players to Watch After an Upside Down Week 3

This past weekend someone asked me why fantasy football is so difficult. I told her, quite frankly, it is so hard because the NFL is almost impossible to predict. Right on cue the Bills beat the Vikings and the Lions beat the Patriots with their first 100 yard rushing performance in 5 years. This, of course, after the Browns had their first win in 635 days. So, yeah, it’s very hard to predict what will happen each week. He said, launching into fantasy football predictions for Week 4…

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Key Players: Jordan Thomas, Ryan Griffin, Eric Ebron, Andrew Luck

Houston has formed a very bad habit: falling behind early and trying to throw their way into a win. There’s no chance Bill O’Brien planned for this in the offseason. He must have figured he could put together a strong running game and only throw when he needed to, especially in an effort to ease Deshaun Watson back from his knee injury. Instead Watson has thrown over 30 times in each game, capping it off with a 40 throw performance last week. Lamar Miller is touchdown-less thus far and even a 3 sack performance from JJ Watt was not enough to stop what was until then a spluttering Giants’ offense. Until the defense is able to hold down the opposing offense in the first half, try to find as many Texan receivers as you can. Of course DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller remain the priorities, but last week something I’ve been harping on finally showed some flashes. Tight end Jordan Thomas was able to find a hole in coverage for 39 yards early in the game when the Giants’ defense followed Watson’s scramble and Fuller’s deep cross. Ryan Griffin added a 32 yarder of his own later in the game. If the Texans must continue to air it out, these are two players to watch as backup tight ends now that we are entering Bye Week Season.

Frank Reich subbing in Jacoby Brissett for the final Hail Mary raised all kinds of red flags about Andrew Luck’s health. Luck finished the game 25-40 for only 164 yards (4.1 yards per completion) with 1 touchdown and no picks. Combining this with lifting him for the final throw, and it’s not entirely clear his shoulder is all the way back. Which makes it even more perplexing Frank Reich only called 13 rushing plays the whole game. After his 319 yard Week 1, it looked like Luck might be back. Now things are not as clear and he remains a backup for now. Since the Texans have looked so poor in the first half all season, look for the Colts to come out slinging this week. Eric Ebron only had 5 receptions on 11 targets for 33 yards, however he just missed scoring a touchdown for the third straight week. With Jack Doyle’s health still in question, it’s worth keeping Ebron on your radar. Don’t forget Gronk absolutely torched the Texans in Week 1. While Ebron, like every other tight end in football, is not Gronk, Reich may try to exploit the same lapses in coverage this week. And he has the benefit of T.Y. Hilton on the outside, which of course the Patriots did not.

Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers

Key Players: Josh Allen, Chris Ivory, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Davante Adams

Of all the games last week, the Bills upset of the Vikings was the most shocking. Josh Allen thoroughly exceeded expectations, going 15-22 for 196 yards with 1 touchdown and no picks. He added 10 carries for 39 yard and 2 touchdowns, though his most impressive run came on an insane hurdle for a first down. It wasn’t all good news for Allen, as he did fumble the ball 3 times, improbably not losing any of them. Still, this was a great performance for a rookie against one of the best defenses in all of football. If nothing else, he showed his poise and game management are perhaps not as far behind his arm as many of us thought. I still wouldn’t go adding him to your team any time soon. I would watch this week and see how he does against the worst Mike Pettine has to throw at him. I assume he’ll dig deep into his bag of tricks to find looks Allen has never even dreamed of. Chris Ivory only gained 56 yards on his 20 carries to go along with 70 receiving yards on 3 receptions. He will be needed again this week to try and slow down the Green Bay pass rush. The Packer linebackers are not as good as the Viking linebackers, so he might put up some bigger numbers. LeSean McCoy says he can play despite cracked ribs, we shall see. It’s still worth starting Ivory over McCoy if you picked him up last week. Ivory should get the call for the tough runs at the goal line.

The Packers suffered a surprising loss of their own. Perhaps they were still too busy seething over Clay Matthews “penalty” against the Vikings in Week 2. On a side note, the NFL really needs to get this figured out. I understand the desire to keep players healthy, but come on. This literally cost them a win against a division rival. Ugh. Anyway, Aaron Rodgers had a good game by most standards, though not one nearly up to his usual caliber, as he finished 27-44 for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mike McCarthy has never really been one to run the ball, but he probably should a bit more this week. He could try and jump out to a big lead and make Allen pass the Bills back into it. It might make more sense to try and do so on the ground instead of through the air. Aaron Jones is back from his suspension, so this would be a good week to do it. Jones was supposed to get the least amount of carries, then ended up with the most. Even though the “most” was only 6 for 42 yards, he did look good. Why not see if he can ease some of the pressure on Rodgers this week? In the passing game, Davante Adams continues to separate himself from the, no pun intended, pack. He finished with 7 receptions on 9 targets for 52 yards and 1 touchdown. If the Packers want to try and get out to big lead, Adams looks to be Rodgers’ guy. And hey, the Bills defensive backs apparently retire at halftime, maybe Rodgers and Adams can try to make it happen again this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears

Key Players: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Jordan Howard, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller

After two weeks sending the good Ryan Fitzpatrick onto the field, the bad Ryan Fitzpatrick was on display in the first half last week. Now the Bucs are at a crossroads: do they keep Fitz in the starting lineup or do they give the job back to Jameis Winston? As of Wednesday night (when I’m writing this), Dirk Koetter is keeping his choice a secret. i can see the gamesmanship in doing so, I just hope he continues to ride Fitzpatrick. Mostly because I just plain don’t like Jameis Winston, if I’m being honest, and because there’s a decent chance he will burn the Bucs again. The Tampa receiving corp is so deep, why not go with the guy who has had success thus far this season? Even after his 3 first half interceptions, Fitz finished 30-50 for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns to go with those picks. If he struggles against Da Bears this week, then maybe think about Winston coming out the bye in two weeks. This is going to be an interesting quarterback battle to watch. As I said above, the Bucs have a very deep and versatile receiving corp. Whoever ends up with the full-time job only needs to limit the turnovers to be a reliable fantasy backup.

The Bears are lucky the Sam Bradford led Cardinals were so inept in Week 3. Jordan Howard had 24 carries for 61 yards with 1 touchdown to go with 2 receptions for 20 yards. Give credit to Matt Nagy for not panicking and continuing to feed him the ball even with the limited productivity. I expect more of the same this week, as he will want to try and keep the Bucs receivers off the field as long as possible. Mitch Trubisky isn’t there yet as a passer, so the offense must continue to run through Howard. A Bear to keep an eye on this week is Taylor Gabriel. While Fitzpatrick’s interceptions certainly did not help, the Bucs secondary gave up 335 passing yards last week. Gabriel did not put up very big yardage total (34 yards), but he is starting to see more targets and more receptions. With his speed, he only needs to break one of these short completions per game in order to be sleepers in deep PPR leagues. Keep an eye on him this week, and Anthony Miller in the future. Miller features all the same upticks in targets and receptions, but he is unlikely to play this week due to injury.

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots

Key Players: Ryan Tannehill, Josh Gordon, Sony Michel

I haven’t changed my advice on staying away from the Dolphins skill position players. Last week Ryan Tannehill completed 18 passes to eight different receivers, with no one finishing with more than 3 receptions. Albert Wilson even had a 51 yard touchdown pass of his own to go with a 74 yard touchdown reception. They are truly a balanced offense. Tannehill, however, is starting to emerge as a potential backup in 2018. Maybe even a starter in a pinch for those who were starting Jimmy Garoppolo. So far in 2018, Tannehill has completed 73 percent of his passes (54-74) for 687 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (both in Week 2). Since the AFC East still goes through New England, this is a huge game for Tannehill, both as the Dolphin’s franchise quarterback and as a potential fantasy prospect. The Patriots just got smoked by Kerryon Johnson and the suddenly existent Detroit running game. The Patriots may very well have to bring their safeties up into the box, leaving plenty of room over the top for Tannehill. If he is able to take advantage of that, he could have a big game potentially riding the momentum into a big season.

One day I’ll stop clicking on local football articles to save myself the aggravation. More specifically, I can stop running the risk of rolling my eyes so severely they detach from the sockets. Until that day, I’ll be stuck reading trash like this article from Boston.com. Every year when the Patriots get off to a rough start, it begins. The end is nigh, the Four Horsemen ride to Foxboro, etc. Fans I know say, “we suck this year,” and I sit there in my Browns shirt unable to comprehend how the greatest franchise in modern sports “suck” at anything. The point of my rambling is this: the season is young. We still have to see what the Patriots look like with Josh Gordon in the lineup (not to mention Julian Edelman is on the way). If Gordon is the Gordon of old, on the field, not off, then the Patriots offense will go back to it’s old explosiveness. The player who may benefit the most from Gordon stretching the field is Sony Michel. His numbers against the Lions were not great, 14 carries for 50 yards, yet it is interesting to see him take over a bulk of the carries. One look at his college tape shows exactly what he can bring to the Patriots if Gordon can open up the field. He would also go from a stash away player to a fantasy starter.

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

Key Players: Kerryon Johnson, Kenny Galloday, Marvin Jones Jr., Ezekiel Elliott, Tavon Austin

For the first time in 70 games, the Detroit Lions had a running back rush for 100 yards. It could have been because the Patriots defense did not play well, it could be because he is a very elusive runner. As I’ve reviewed the tape, it certainly looks to be a combination of both. The Patriots played most of the game in their Big Nickel defense, leaving their safeties extremely deep. When the line and linebackers failed to contain him, the safeties could not react before he was already 5 or 6 yards past the line of scrimmage. At the same time, Johnson showed the elusiveness that made him a hot draft commodity. He was decisive with his cuts, bursting through the hole before the defense could react. Even when they did react, he was able to change direction before they could close. Look for a big season from him and a big game this week. The Cowboys offense is in a major funk. The Lions should look to establish Johnson early, use play action to beat the Cowboys deep, and then use Johnson to run the clock out once they have a lead. When they do pass, look for Kenny Galloday (6 receptions for 53 yards and 1 touchdown) and Marvin Jones Jr. (4 receptions for 69 yards and 1 touchdown). Each has scored a touchdown the last two weeks. Look for that trend to keep up in Dallas this week.

Ezekiel Elliott also ran for 100 yards last week, 127 to be specific. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, this was about the only thing that went right on offense. Most of the season has been a disaster for Dallas. So far they have scored a grand total of 4 touchdowns, 2 by Elliott on the ground and 2 in the air to Tavon Austin. Outside of a 64-yard touchdown pass to Austin, Dak Prescott has struggled to push the ball downfield, failing to hit 200 yards passing in a single game this season. Thus far, as you may have guessed, Elliott is the only Cowboy player worth carrying in fantasy. Austin is an intriguing option in deeper leagues. He qualifies as both a wide receiver and a running back, plus he has scored a touchdown two weeks in a row. If Prescott cannot stretch the field vertically, perhaps Austin can stretch it laterally, he’s certainly had success doing so in the past. Until someone else (I still haven’t given up on Michael Gallup) steps up in the receiving corp, Austin’s speed is the only card, outside of Elliott, they have to play. As I’ve mentioned a few times already, the bye weeks have started. Austin is a rare player who can help at two positions, three if you count the flex spot, so why not read the writing on the wall for your late round, “I’m smarter than you” sleeper and replace him with Austin?

Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons

Key Players: Giovani Bernard, Tyler Boyd, Andy Dalton, Calvin Ridley, Tevin Coleman

Just as the bad Ryan Fitzpatrick reared his ugly (though still magnificently bearded) head last week, so did the bad Andy Dalton, who threw 4 interceptions against the Panthers. When he got off to a hot start, I considered adding him. I wanted to wait and see if he could maintain it. I’m glad I did as, you know, 4 interceptions. The Falcons just got shredded by Drew Brees and the Saints, so let’s see what Dalton does this week. Giovanni Bernard had a decent game with 12 carries for 61 yards and 1 touchdown, plus 5 receptions for 25 yards. Joe Mixon looks like he’ll be back this week, but if you own him and added Bernard, consider holding Bernard for a little while if you have a free bench spot. Running backs that start the season with injury trouble often have the injuries resurface later on. Another Bengal to seriously take a look at is Tyler Boyd. This past week he had 6 receptions on 7 targets for 132 yards and 1 touchdown, making 2 scores in 2 weeks. With all eyes rightfully on A.J. Green, Boyd has been taking advantage of being an afterthought. Since the Falcons just got smoked by the Saints, they will want to do everything they can to contain Green. If you have Boyd, start him.

Calvin Ridley showed why so many teams must have been terrified when the Falcons snatched him at the end of the first round of the 2018 Draft. Last week he wracked up 7 receptions for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns in an extremely impressive performance. With Julio Jones on the other side, Ridley may not have huge games like this every week. However, he will not receive most of the defense’s attention, that will still go to Jones. So, there will be plenty of chances for Ridley to score and to slip away on quick throws the to weak side. As for Tevin Coleman, it was not his best day. Fear not, Coleman owners. He should be in for a better week this week against a Bengals defense that allowed Christian McCafferey to wrack up 184 rushing yards in Week 3. As such, it is prudent not to go into panic mode.

New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars

Key Players: Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Quincy Enunwa, Blake Bortles, Leonard Fournette

The second Crowell scored his second touchdown, I prepared to write a scathing diatribe about the ghosts of the Browns’ past coming back to haunt them. Fortunately, more on this later, the Browns ended up pulling out the win. So far Crowell and Bilal Powell are splitting the carries, this past week Crowell had 16 for 34 yards and Powell 14 for 73 yards, but Crowell has been getting the ball in the red zone. Therefore, he remains the best fantasy option even though he isn’t doing much in terms of yards. What’s interesting about the Jets thus far is neither back is doing much in the passing game. Running backs not seeing a lot of receptions with a rookie quarterback is a rarity. With Sam Darnold having issues protecting the ball, it’s not a bad idea for the Jets to start exploring some passing options out of two back sets. For now the Jets passing game remains reliant on Quincy Enunwa. Even so, it’s a good idea to sit him if you have the option this week. The Jaguars defense is no joke and unless someone else starts to beat them this week, they will focus all their attention on Enunwa. Yet another reason for the Jets to think about some designed passes to the running backs.

The Jaguars only scored 6 points in Week 3, immediately making all those ready to crown them the new Kings of the AFC decide to keep their mouths shut a little while longer. It’s not unheard of for a team to lay an egg after a big win, what makes a great team great is recovering after laying said egg. Blake Bortles followed up torching the Patriots with a pedestrian 21-34 for 155 yards. Hence why I called him the new Eli Manning a few weeks ago. Leonard Fournette should be back this week, look for him to try some of the same runs Carlos Hyde ripped off last week. The Jaguars offense needs him back and they need him healthy. In order to keep him healthy, the Jaguars need Bortles to put up a better game than last week. Fournette owners need to watch this one closely.

Philadelphia Eagles at Tennessee Titans 

Key Players: Carson Wentz, Dallas Goedert, Wendell SmallwoodMarcus Mariota, Derrick Henry

Carson Wentz was not the MVP he was last season, but the Eagles fans probably don’t care about that now. He’s back, he’s healthy, and he lead them to a much needed win. I did not like to see him running to extend drives. I understand it is probably instinct at this point, I just wish he wouldn’t push it so soon. At a certain point, he’s going to need to learn how to just throw the ball away sometimes. When he was throwing the ball, he built a rapport with rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, who caught all 7 passes thrown his way for 73 yards and 1 touchdown. Most important, going back to my previous point, was that 3 of the 7 came as Wentz was escaping pressure. If teams are going to leave him open underneath, Doug Pederson should encourage Wentz to seek him out. With depth issues on the outside, this could happen often enough that when combined with his regular patterns (like the one on the touchdown) and he’s an intriguing option to watch. Another way to keep Wentz healthy would be to give Wendell Smallwood some more carries. Last week his 10 carries went for 56 yard and 1 touchdown with 3 receptions for 35 yards (34 on one catch) showed how his speed can impact the game. Needing to worry about him on screens and draws could keep the rush at bay.

We need to see the Titans put the same offense on the field at least one or two weeks in a row before knowing what exactly to make of their fantasy prospects. I really don’t have much more to offer here. So, let’s move on.

Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders

Key Players: Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde, Jordy Nelson, Marshawn Lynch

For the 30th time since 1999 (no, really, 30 freakin’ times), the Browns have a new starting quarterback. Baker Mayfield endeared himself to the NFL’s longest suffering franchise with a comeback win over the Jets on Thursday night. Having gone back and watched the game a few times (what? It’s been 635 days, man), the No. 1 thing that jumped out at me was how much more decisive Mayfield was compared to Tyrod Taylor. While it can be debated whether or not it was Taylor’s fault for the Browns poor start (certainly Todd Haley’s pass first game plan did not help), he clearly held the ball too long too many times. Mayfield, on the other hand, got the ball out fast and on target. Jarvis Landry was the biggest beneficiary of Mayfield coming onto the field, finishing with 103 yards on 8 receptions, including a perfect completion to set up the game tying touchdown, then throwing the two point conversion pass (apparently the Jets forgot he was left handed). Scoring that game tying touchdown was Carlos Hyde, who had a huge game with 23 carries for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns. At the start of the season, I was unsure Hyde was legit fantasy option with Duke Johnson already on the roster and Nick Chubb being drafted. So far it’s been all Hyde and it looks like his life will get even easier with teams terrified of Mayfield’s quick throws.

It’s hard to imagine, outside of another Derek Carr injury, a worse possible start to the John Gruden Part Deux Era in Oakland. The Raiders have held the lead in all three games this season and are somehow 0-3. The first game can be forgiven, it was only a matter of time before the Rams offense woke up. The past two weeks are a bit harder to swallow. This week they’ll need to try and contain the potentially resurgent Browns. Denzel Ward has quieted a lot of his doubters and will draw Amari Cooper this week. The Raiders will need Jordy Nelson to repeat his performance from last week (6 receptions for 173 yards and 1 touchdown) in order for the passing game to succeed. Marshawn Lynch scored another touchdown last week, proving himself to be a good third back or even a second back in a pinch.

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Key Players: Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, Josh Rosen, David Johnson, Christian Kirk

I cut Chris Carson last week to re-pick up Josh Gordon. The logic being it made more sense to carry Austin Ekeler and James White on the bench since I already had Melvin Gordon and Kareem Hunt as starters. I’m waiting with baited breath to see if my waiver claim to reacquire him goes through. Last week he had a huge game with 32 carries for 102 yards and 1 touchdown, finally allowing the Seahawks to be the Seahawks again. Looking back on it, this was inevitable. Teams that have had success with a certain style will always try to make it work early in the season. This week I’ll be curious to see two things: can Carson repeat his performance against a Cardinals defense that did a fairly reasonable job containing Jordan Howard last week (2.5 yards per carry) and when will Rashaad Penny start getting more carries? The other Seahawk to watch this week is Tyler Lockett, who is coming off a 4 reception for 77 yards and 1 touchdown game. In the absence of Doug Baldwin, Lockett has scored a touchdown in every game this season. Going up against Patrick Peterson will be a good test for Lockett’s long-term fantasy value, even after Baldwin returns.

Arizona joins New York, Buffalo, and Cleveland in having named their shiny new quarterback the starter. Of all the rookies, Rosen was the one I thought would play first. I know I’ve dumped on Sam Bradford a lot in my coverage and I once wrote an article using him to explain an economic phenomenon in the NFL, but please don’t think I hold some great contempt against him. His injury history has just made it impossible for him to drive the ball downfield and every defense knows this. It is impossible to run an NFL offense when the defense does not have to fear the deep ball. Ultimately this meant it was always an inevitability that Rosen would take over. Now his time has come. If he is able to complete a few deep passes early in the game, David Johnson will finally have space to work underneath, which will bring sweet relief to those who drafted him with their first pick. If Rosen is not able to complete deep passes, Johnson remains a tantalizing frustration. It will be very interesting to see how Rosen meshes with fellow rookie Christian Kirk, who is coming off a 7 reception for 90 yards performance. A slot receiver is a young quarterback’s best friend, so expect Rosen to look his way when Seattle ramps up the blitz. If this happens, Kirk becomes a viable fantasy starter.

New Orleans Saints at New York Giants

Key Players: Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr.

Michael Thomas is off to what could end up being a record setting season with another great game. He caught all 10 passes thrown his way for 129 yards, making it double-digit catches in every game this season. With numbers like that, he remains a No. 1 receiver even in the games where he doesn’t score any touchdowns. He already has 38 receptions this season. If he averages 10 receptions per game for the rest of the season, he’ll finish with 168 receptions and shatter Marvin Harrison’s record of 143. This would be appropriate as Thomas is a lot like Harrison in the sense that he can put up these numbers because he is a complete receiver who runs the entire route tree and knows when to improvise. Keep an eye on this record. With the Giants trotting out a revolving door of an offensive line, look for the Saints to go to Thomas early and often in order to jump out to a big lead and force the Giants to throw the ball. Mark Ingram is still out this week, so Alvin Kamara should capitalize on all the attention Thomas will draw. Last week he accounted for 66 rushing yards on 16 carries and 129 receiving yards on 15 receptions. Even when Ingram comes back, Kamara will put up his numbers. Kudos to anyone who didn’t fall for the “but can he run between the tackles?” hype in the preseason.

The Giants finally showed some life in Week 3. It remains to be seen if this was actual progress or the Houston defense is a just a straight up dumpster fire in the first half. Regardless of how it happened, Saquon Barkley continued his hot start with 17 carries for 82 yards and 1 touchdown, as well as 5 receptions for 35 yards. Thus far in 2018, Barkley has posted 46 carries for 216 yards with 2 touchdowns, plus 21 receptions for 137 yards (353 total yards). While he may not post a 1,000/1,000 season this season, it doesn’t seem out of the question in the future. This week the Giants will need him to control the clock and keep the Saints off the field. They will also need him in the screen game to try and keep Eli Manning upright. Like the Cowboys, I’d like to see the Giants try and open up some space laterally. One idea I had was lining Barkley up in the slot with Jonathan Stewart in the backfield, them sending him in motion for a jet sweep. Finding more creative ways to use Barkley will not only improve the Giants offense, it will increase Barkley’s already high fantasy value. The Giants’ offense will also improve if Odell Beckham Jr. can replicate his 9 reception for 109 yards and 1 touchdown performance this week. After seeing what Calvin Ridley did to the Saints last week, there seems to be a very good chance he will.

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers

Key Players: Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams

Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be out for the rest of the season, leaving C.J. Beathard in charge. In order to hang with the Rams and hold off the Seahawks, the 49ers are going to need to ride Matt Breida and Alfred Morris for the rest of the season. This week will be a good test for the 49ers as Derwin James will be sitting in the box the whole game until Beathard makes him move. Starting over with a new quarterback puts the 49ers in stasis for now, let’s take a deeper look next when we have some film to work with.

The Chargers fell flat in their second game against a top-tier team. This week they should have an easier time with the 49ers. Melvin Gordon continues to impress with 15 carriers for 80 yards and 1 touchdown. Austin Ekeler has had his moments as well (by the way, I didn’t follow through on my wacky plan to start both last week), but he lost a fumble last week. In a game against the mighty Rams and their explosive offense, this is a cardinal sin. We shall see if it affected the Chargers trust in Ekeler this week. Speaking of fumbles, Keenan Allen lost a fumble as well. Combine this with Mike Williams’ 2 touchdown game and his fantasy stock may have taken a hit. As with a few games I’ve already mentioned, it would behoove the Chargers to jump out to a big lead and then run the clock out. C.J. Beathard, like most second-tier Big Ten quarterbacks, excels when his team runs the ball. If the Chargers go up big early, that strategy goes out the window. So, we should see how much those fumbles affected Ekeler and Allen early in this week’s game.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Key Players: Alex Collins, Javorious Allen, John Brown, Vance McDonald, Antonio Brown

Alex Collins continues to get a majority of the carries for the Ravens and scored a touchdown against the Broncos. Too bad for us Collins owners that Javorious Allen continues to be a touchdown vulture. Every week he reminds me more and more of Mike Tolbert during his days on the Chargers. This week it’s hard to know what to expect. The Steelers defense hasn’t really faced a lot of rushing attempts this season. The Browns decided it was a great idea to ask Tyrod Taylor to throw 40 times in the rain, the Chiefs are off to a historic start in the passing game, and the Bucs fell so far behind early they had no choice but to throw. Since this is a classic AFC North match up, I expect the Ravens will try and run the ball. It just remains to be seen who gets the ball in the red zone. I predicted Collins would have a breakout year this year and, admitting my bias, spent a second-round pick on him. After this week I’m going to seriously ponder either replacing him in the starting lineup or trading a few receivers for a new back. When the Ravens do pass, John Brown is a good option in deeper leagues. He had 5 receptions for 86 yards last week and is averaging 18.5 yards per catch thus far in 2018. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks off a long touchdown. A consistent running game would go miles towards making that happen.

Antonio Brown will not be joining Le’Veon Bell on the trade block. He scored a touchdown last week and was targeted 9 times. With Juju Smith-Schuster breaking out this year, Brown, so long as he’s happy, should see more space than he’s been accustomed to in recent seasons. Similarly, there was a lot of space for Vance McDonald to work last week. He ended up with 4 receptions for 112 yards and 1 touchdown. It will be interesting to see how things play out between him and Jesse James for the rest of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

Key Players: Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay

Patrick Mahomes continued his incredibly hot start to the 2018 season, throwing 13 touchdowns through just three weeks. Last week he was 24-38 for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns. Thus far he has not seen a pass rush like the Broncos (9 sacks so far in 2018) yet, so this is a great test for him. He has exceeded all expectations thus far, there’s not much else to say about him. Except to once more gloat about being smarter than the Yahoo algorithm that gave me a “C” for drafting Mahomes. Yeah. Take that lines of computer code I hope don’t become sentient any time soon. Kareem Hunt eased some of my fears with 2 rushing touchdowns last week. He even got a chance the run the clock out at the end of the game (a rarity for an Andy Reid running back). I expect a big game from him as he will be needed to keep the Denver pass rush from going into full on attack mode. The biggest beneficiary of Mahomes’ ability to spread the ball around on the outside last week was Travis Kelce, who had 8 receptions for 114 yards. Wtih Mahomes’ arm and the speed on the outside, many of his catches just came from him reading the gaps in coverage. This week should be more of the same, as the Broncos will be blitzing on top of respecting the speed on the outside.

The Broncos need to keep the ball away from Mahomes and Co. in order to beat Kansas City this weekend. In order for that happen Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay need to fuel the Broncos offense (Lindsay could also help them out by not punching people). Honestly, I keep repeating myself every week with the Broncos. With Case Keenum under center and a great defense, the running game is the only thing to watch, from a fantasy perspective, for now.

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