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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 4: Projecting Best and Worst Plays at Skill Positions

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 22:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins scrambles with the ball as he avoids the tackle of Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions in the first half during a game at FedExField on September 22, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

Every week, fantasy football owners are faced with tough calls based on matchups. Sometimes a top player squares off with a fierce opponent, and other times lesser-known names have tasty matchups that promise huge scoring opportunities.

Week 4's schedule will feature some of the top teams squaring off against each other. For instance, the Denver Broncos will take on the Philadelphia Eagles, which figures to be the best game of the week involving a handful of big-name stars.

With other intriguing battles on the slate, here are the best and worst plays for the offensive skill positions this week.

 

Start 'Em

QB: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 22:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins throws a pass in the third quarter during a game against the Detroit Lions at FedExField on September 22, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Washington has gotten off to a rough start at 0-3, but it gets to face the Oakland Raiders in Week 4. Despite his team's poor performances, Robert Griffin III has been fairly consistent this season, throwing for at least 320 yards each game.

The offense scored a touchdown in the second quarter on Sunday, which marked the first time all season the Redskins scored in the first 30 minutes of a game this season. As a result, Washington has been out of most of its games by halftime, but that hasn't stopped Griffin from adding to his numbers in the second half.

The Redskins played well against the Detroit Lions, so they can carry a little bit of momentum out to Oakland. The Raiders' defensive numbers are greatly helped by a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2, so don't be too impressed with their overall numbers.

Griffin broke off a 21-yard run in Week 3, so he may be ready to get back to being a dynamic playmaker. This week will be good for the second-year quarterback, as the Raiders did not have an interception entering Monday night's game against the Broncos.

Fantasy owners should be thrilled with this matchup.

 

RB: Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Trent Richardson #34 of the Indianapolis Colts runs against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The only matchup better than Griffin against the Raiders is Trent Richardson taking on the Jaguars. Jacksonville is expected to finish with the worst record in the league, and it has been unable to stay competitive in any game this year.

In addition, Jacksonville has by far the worst run defense in the NFL, so Indianapolis will be able to work its new weapon into the game plan. 

Richardson had a touchdown on his first carry as a Colt, but he was held to only 35 yards in his debut. It also marked the first time in his career that he did not have a catch. However, these were unique circumstances.

Now that he has a full week to work with the offense, he will be expected to carry the ball more than 13 times and get involved in the passing game. 

Fantasy owners who sat him last week because of his situation should be making sure they have a spot for him this week.

 

WR: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 24:  Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos catches a touchdown pass against cornerback Cortland Finnegan #31 of the St. Louis Rams during the first quarter at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 24, 2
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

It's tough to pick who Peyton Manning's favorite target will be each week, but Demaryius Thomas is always a good option. The Broncos will host the Philadelphia Eagles, and the team has lost only once at home in the regular season since Manning signed.

The Eagles rank 29th in pass defense, so Manning should have a great day. Thomas had a breakout season in Manning's first season with the team in 2012, recording 1,434 yards with 10 touchdowns on 94 receptions.

He is on an even better pace this season. Through two games, Thomas has 213 yards and two touchdowns. The 25-year-old has averaged an incredible 21.3 yards per catch. He is currently on pace for more than 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns. With the Broncos offense this year, those numbers may not be a huge stretch.

Thomas quickly became his quarterback's top target, and he will get to go up against a weak Philadelphia secondary. It's a matchup that should benefit all of Denver's receivers, so don't hesitate to put any of them in your lineup.

 

Sit 'Em

QB: Eli Manning, New York Giants

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 22:   Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants drops back to pass against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Eli Manning has never been a great fantasy quarterback, but he is having a terrible start to the season. Although he ranks seventh in yards, he leads the league in interceptions with eight in three games, which nearly match Peyton's touchdown total (nine) through two games. No other quarterback has more than six picks, and rookie Geno Smith is the closest to Manning.

This past weekend against the Carolina Panthers was the first time that Manning did not throw multiple interceptions. He threw for only 119 yards in the game, and the Giants are left looking for answers.

Now the Giants have to go to Arrowhead. It's not an easy place for visitors to play in, and the 3-0 Chiefs have a strong defense. Their pass defense ranks sixth in the NFL and has shut down the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kansas City leads the league with 15 sacks and is tied for second with five fumble recoveries. The defense also has four interceptions and has taken two back for touchdowns.

The Chiefs will be hard on Manning and force him to make mistakes.

 

RB: C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 22: Running back C.J. Spiller #28 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball in the 1st half of the Jets game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on September 22, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ron Anton
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

Baltimore has struggled this season but still has a stout run defense. The Ravens rank fourth against the run this year, which doesn't bode well for C.J. Spiller, who is battling a thigh injury. Adam Schefter and Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reported that Spiller is expected to play, however.

The 26-year-old is one of the league's most explosive backs, but this is not a good matchup. He ran for only nine yards on 10 attempts against the New York Jets before leaving the game.

Spiller ran for 103 yards on 16 carries in Week 2, but he has only 50 yards on 27 carries in the two other games. Facing the Ravens will not make life any easier on him.

Buffalo may be tempted to give Fred Jackson, who has the hot hand, the majority of the carries on in Week 4, so fantasy owners should be sitting Spiller this week.

 

WR: Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 22: Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns carries the football during the first quarter of the game on September 22, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hanna
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Josh Gordon was suspended for the first two weeks of the regular season, but he helped the Cleveland Browns pull off a shocking win against the Minnesota Vikings in his 2013 debut, when the 22-year-old had 146 yards and a score on 10 receptions.

The talented receiver made Brian Hoyer's first start with the team much easier. However, the quality of opponent will improve tremendously this week. The Vikings rank 28th in pass defense, and the Bengals rank 15th. That seems low for Cincinnati, but they have gone up against Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.

Cincinnati held Rodgers to 244 yards and one touchdown to two interceptions. If the defensive line was able to make Rodgers' life miserable, think about what it will do to Hoyer. 

Green Bay has one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, but its wideouts struggled on Sunday. Only one receiver had more than 55 yards, and none topped the 100-yard mark.

The Bengals clearly have a lot of talent in the secondary. Leon Hall is an elite corner who can contain Gordon. Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Reggie Nelson can all be effective as well, so Gordon will have a tough time getting open.

Gordon topped 100 yards for only the second time in his career on Sunday. He never had back-to-back games with at least 90 yards in each. In two games against the Bengals last season, he was held to 52 yards per game. Those two meetings came in the first half of the season, before Cincinnati got on a roll.

Week 3 was great for Gordon, but he is going to have a rough week against the Bengals. 

 

*All stats are courtesy of NFL.com

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