Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 4: Early Advice for Your Fantasy Football Rosters
Thursday and Friday practice participation gives us some of the final pieces of the puzzle to set our fantasy football lineups on Sunday.
Comments from coaches and players help fill out the picture, and Sunday game-time decisions are the last and sometimes most important pieces of information we are waiting on to make those important calls. Still, as early as Thursday (or even Monday), it is pretty easy to tell who some of the best sits and starts of the week are going to be.
Who's up and who's down in Week 4?
START: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
Peyton Manning has gotten off to a slow start against Atlanta and Houston the last two weeks, but those are two of the best teams in the league. He was still able to put up numbers in a catch-up-mode effort, but this week against the Oakland Raiders, Manning should be able to get the Broncos out to a lead behind his strengthening arm.
The Raiders have little to offer in the way of pass rush or sticky coverage in the secondary. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker should be able to run free the same way that Mike Wallace and the Pittsburgh Steelers receivers did last week while helping Ben Roethlisberger to a 384-yard, four-touchdown performance.
SIT: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
Philip Rivers has the reputation of an elite fantasy quarterback, but he hasn't delivered like one this year. The only good game he has had came against a Tennessee team that didn't look like it got off the bus.
Rivers was stifled by an Oakland defense that made Ryan Tannehill look like a veteran gunslinger, and Rivers was positively smothered by an Atlanta defense that had to travel west for the matchup last week.
Rivers has been hurt by the loss of Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates hasn't rounded into form yet either. Until we see Rivers play like he used to, we can't automatically start him the way we used to.
START: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
After a rough Week 2 and opening quarter of Week 3, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore pass offense returned to their Week 1 form against the resurgent New England Patriots defense.
Flacco successfully tested the Patriots secondary with downfield throws to Torrey Smith, and he used Dennis Pitta in the short and intermediate passing game to keep things balanced.
The whole unit should have a much easier go of it against the Joe Haden-less Cleveland Browns secondary this week on Thursday night. Unless you have an elite option to play on Sunday or Monday, make Flacco your starter this week.
SIT: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo
Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the league lead with eight touchdown passes, but don't let that induce you into starting him against the Patriots.
He has benefited from playing two terrible secondaries (Cleveland minus Joe Haden and the Kansas City Chiefs), and the other three scores he threw came after his team was already blown out by the Jets.
The Patriots front seven is vastly improved, and Fitzpatrick might be without both of his top running backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, to take some pressure off the passing game. Expect Fitzpatrick to be exposed as an other example of early-season stats lying.
START: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Detroit
What more do you want to have faith in Mikel Leshoure? He got 26 carries and almost all of the work in the backfield for the first three quarters. He ran unbelievably well for his first regular-season game in almost two years and only one year removed from tearing his Achilles tendon, which used to be a death knell for running backs.
Leshoure notched 100 yards and a score and added four catches to show that he can be a true every-down workhorse. Going into the matchup against Minnesota this weekend, expect a lot of touches and a lot of fantasy points.
SIT: Michael Bush, RB, Chicago
Michael Bush's stay as a starting running back might be very short, as Matt Forte returned to practice on Wednesday and could play on Monday night with the extra day to prepare.
Bush is nursing a shoulder injury himself, and the Bears will surely look to split the workload between him and Forte if they can.
Add to that a tough Dallas run defense, a fired-up crowd in Cowboys Stadium and an ineffective Jay Cutler, and it's a recipe for Bush to put up meager numbers. He should only be played this week if you are desperate at running back.
START: Ryan Williams, RB, Arizona
Everything is breaking Ryan Williams' way after things were looking bleak for the back just one week ago.
He nearly fumbled away the big upset win over the Patriots on the road, but last week versus the Eagles, Williams ran with a lot more confidence. He broke tackles, got to the edge easily and looked a lot like the back he was at Virginia Tech in the second half of the game.
You would never know he suffered a potentially career-ending patellar tendon injury in his knee a little over a year ago. Kevin Kolb played the best game of his Arizona career, and the team's defense will certainly keep games on track for the Cardinals to be able to play ball-control offense.
With backfield mate Beanie Wells on injured reserve with turf toe, Williams has the backfield to himself and should get at least 20 carries against the Dolphins this week.
SIT: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee
Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard season seems so long ago now. He is struggling to get to two yards per carry, which would be the NFL's version of the Mendoza line, if any running back who was that ineffective ever ran the ball long enough to have a job for a whole season.
Johnson probably won't lose his job any time soon with the huge paycheck he gets, but he is unlikely to get back on track against the fierce Houston Texans defense this weekend. Once defenses start respecting Jake Locker more, Johnson will see running lanes open up, so don't cut Johnson or trade him for pennies on the dollar. Just don't play him this week either.
START: Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
Coming off one of the best and most emotionally charged moments of his career, Torrey Smith has a good chance to keep his production levels high against the Browns.
Their secondary hasn't been the same since Joe Haden was suspended. Joe Flacco is taking a lot of shots downfield to Smith, and he is likely to grab at least one deep score on Thursday night.
After losing his little brother in a motorcycle accident on Sunday, Smith showed amazing courage playing and then excelling on Sunday night. It's hard to not root for him to turn this adversity into another step forward in his young career.
SIT: Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
Santonio Holmes had his best game in a long time against the Dolphins last week, but this week the Jets draw the 49ers defense. In addition to Mark Sanchez having pressure bearing down on him all day, Holmes will have to contend with a physical secondary.
Last week, Holmes showed focus and execution he hadn't shown since signing his big contract, but that could diminish quickly with the Jets at home facing a tough opponent. The home crowd could quickly turn on them if they fall behind early.
Losing their best player on either side of the ball, cornerback Darrelle Revis, won't help matters. Avoid the Jets offense in fantasy football this weekend.
START: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay
No team has more motivation this weekend than the Green Bay Packers. After the replacement refs stole a game from his team, Jordy Nelson should be able to ride the wave of resentment to his biggest game of the season.
The Packers' pass offense has been stifled by some good defenses, but the Saints defense has certainly not been that this season. With Greg Jennings healthy again and ready to draw the coverage a No. 1 receiver demands, Nelson will get his one-on-one matchups outside and produce great numbers for his fantasy owners on Sunday.
SIT: Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago
A lot of bad factors are swirling around Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler is playing some of the worst football of his career. The offensive line isn't giving Cutler time to throw downfield. Marshall is having trouble getting separation on his downfield routes.
On Monday, the Bears go into a hostile environment against a Cowboys defense that suddenly has one of the best secondaries in the league. Brandon Carr and Co. were able to shut down Vincent Jackson in Week 3 at home, so the writing is on the wall to avoid Marshall this week if you can.
START: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
Demaryius Thomas struggled against the Texans last week, but he gets a great tonic for a wide receiver in the form of the Raiders' no-name secondary.
He has been getting open in the end zone, and Peyton Manning should have plenty of time to find him downfield against a defense that had to sign Andre Carter this week to try to generate some sort of pressure on the quarterback.
Thomas has been very difficult to tackle after the catch, and he should get plenty of chances to make hay after the catch in this divisional home game.
SIT: Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans
Marques Colston is getting opportunities to score, but he is either dropping or fumbling the ball near the goal line. He is dealing with a painful foot injury that supposedly resolved itself, according to Jay Glazer from Fox Sports, but the relief didn't show up in his stat line last week.
This week, the Saints travel to Green Bay to play a fired-up Packers defense, which is not conducive to big numbers for the underperforming wide receiver. He should be on your bench until he looks and produces like the top-20 wide receiver he was drafted to be.
START: Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego
Antonio Gates hasn't produced like the elite fantasy tight end that he was expected to be, but remember that the Chargers had three tight end touchdowns in the game he missed with a rib injury.
This week, Gates gets the Kansas City defense, which has allowed touchdowns to tight ends in each of the first three games. Philip Rivers will lean on his most reliable target in the road divisional battle. Last week's complete team letdown shouldn't be held against Gates. He should resume his normal level of production this week.
SIT: Jason Witten, TE, Dallas
Jason Witten just doesn't look like Jason Witten. He's dropping multiple passes and not doing much at all after he does actually catch the ball.
Not that it is hurting the Cowboys passing game, with yet another quality No. 3 receiver (Kevin Ogletree) emerging this year to go with the ultra-talented starting duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
Witten should be on your bench until he looks like the Witten of past years. He came back from his spleen injury before anyone expected him to, but perhaps it has slowed down his recovery. Whatever the real reason for it, Witten should be on your bench until this slump is over.