With the first quarter of the 2013 NFL season nearly complete, fantasy football owners are starting to get a good feel for how good their fantasy teams may or may not be. Records obviously go a long way to determining that, but there is still time to turn things around in the event of a slow start.
In order to get back on track, though, it starts with picking up a win in Week 4. The Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers are on the bye, so there are likely some very difficult lineup decisions to be made. Making the right move could represent a season-changing moment, so the stakes are certainly high this weekend and beyond.
Here is a look at some of the best and worst fantasy plays to take into consideration when setting your lineup ahead of Week 4.
Start: Michael Vick (PHI)
Head coach Chip Kelly's high-octane offense has been as good as advertised, and Michael Vick has been the main beneficiary thus far. Although Vick was drafted as a backup in most leagues, he is putting up starter-worthy numbers, and he is absolutely worth a start this week as his Eagles gear up to face the explosive Denver Broncos.
Since Philly's defense is so pathetic and Denver's offense can't be stopped, the Eagles figure to be playing from behind. That isn't good from a real-life perspective, but it's great for fantasy.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor put up great numbers against the Broncos in garbage time on Monday night, and Vick should be able to exceed those stats thanks to his strong supporting cast.
Week 4 Projection: 312 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, one interception; 51 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
Sit: Matt Schaub (HOU)
Matt Schaub and the Texans' passing game were humming along through the first two weeks of the season, as Schaub averaged well over 300 yards and three touchdowns per game. He seemed to hit a wall in Week 3, though, as the Baltimore Ravens shut him down to the tune of 194 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Things won't get any easier this week.
In Week 4, Schaub is tasked with facing the Seattle Seahawks' league-best pass defense. The Seahawks are allowing less than 147 passing yards per game, and they have five interceptions to their credit. Add in the fact that stud wide receiver Andre Johnson is uncertain with a shin injury and there simply isn't much upside involved with starting Schaub this week.
Week 4 Projection: 187 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions
Start: Ahmad Bradshaw (IND)
When the Colts acquired Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns, most figured that Ahmad Bradshaw's fantasy value was done for. That wasn't the case last week though, as Bradshaw led the team in rushing with 95 yards and a touchdown against the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense. Another big day could on the horizon in Week 4 as well.
Bradshaw has a much easier task on his hands this weekend as the Colts will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags are easily the worst team in the league against the run, as they are allowing nearly 168 yards per game on the ground.
The Colts figure to have a big lead in this game, and they'll want to work Richardson in more than last week, but there will be plenty of carries to go around as they try to run out the clock late.
Week 4 Projection: 104 rushing yards, one touchdown; three receptions for 21 yards
Sit: Ryan Mathews (SD)
Although the Chargers offense has been a pleasant surprise this season, it hasn't been due to the play of Ryan Mathews.
New head coach Mike McCoy has relied heavily on quarterback Philip Rivers and the passing game, and he has employed a running-back-by-committee approach. Mathews is technically the go-to guy, as he has led the team in carries in each of the first three weeks, but McCoy hasn't gone out of his way to unleash him.
With Ronnie Brown stealing goal-line carries and Danny Woodhead seeing third-down work, Mathews is essentially a two-down back between the 20s, which is less than ideal from a fantasy perspective.
To make matters worse, the Bolts are facing a Dallas Cowboys defense that has been dominant against the run to the tune of 66 yards allowed per game. Look for the Chargers to pass early and often, which will cap Mathews' potential on Sunday.
Week 4 Projection: 33 rushing yards; two receptions for 12 yards
Start: Denarius Moore (OAK)
With so many quality wide receivers on the bye this week, there are definitely some openings to play guys that you normally wouldn't. Denarius Moore is definitely someone worth considering, as he has a great matchup on his hands.
The Raiders are facing the Washington Redskins, who have allowed 333 passing yards per game this season, which means that there should be plenty of big-play opportunities for Moore to take advantage of.
The one concern regarding Moore this week relates to his quarterback situation, as Pryor suffered a concussion on Monday night against the Broncos. If Pryor is unable to play, backup Matt Flynn will take the reins.
Flynn didn't look good during the preseason, but he has a history of stepping up when called upon. With Washington's defense offering very little resistance, Moore should be in line for a big game regardless of who is throwing him the ball.
Week 4 Projection: Five receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Hakeem Nicks (NYG)
The Giants have experienced an absolutely brutal start to the season, as they are 0-3 and on the verge being ruled moot should they lose to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
One of the underlying storylines surrounding the team right now is the usage of Hakeem Nicks. New York couldn't get anything going through the air in Week 3 against the Panthers as quarterback Eli Manning had a miserable day. It resulted in Nicks tallying a goose egg in the receptions column.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Manning will make a concerted effort to get Nicks the ball this week after what happened in Week 3, but the Chiefs have one of the best pass defenses in the league. KC is allowing just 185 yards per game through the air, so there is only so much to go around between Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Brandon Myers.
Nicks won't get shut out again this week, but he's best off remaining on your bench.
Week 4 Projection: Three receptions for 46 yards
Start: Dallas Clark (BAL)
Aside from a small handful of players, the tight end position is truly an enigma in fantasy terms this season. Any mid-level option could potentially go off in any given week, but they could also end up with one catch just as easily. Unless you have one of the top options there is plenty of guesswork involved, but Dallas Clark is definitely someone with plenty of positives pointing in his favor this week.
Clark has yet to catch a touchdown, but he has been targeted consistently by quarterback Joe Flacco and has 12 catches through three games. He is particularly intriguing this weekend due to the fact that the Ravens are facing a Buffalo Bills defense that could be missing both of its starting cornerbacks as well as its best safety.
The New York Jets torched the Bills through the air last week, and the Ravens are likely to do it again in Week 4.
Week 4 Projection: Six receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Kyle Rudolph (MIN)
Rudolph was a revelation for the Vikings last season as he caught nine touchdown passes, but his value is tied almost entirely to his ability to get into the end zone. He is never going to put up big receiving stats, especially with Christian Ponder throwing him the ball. Rudolph is a risky play from week to week, but it rings even truer in Week 4 as he'll go up against a stout Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
The Steelers boast the third-best pass defense in the league at less than 183 yards allowed per game, and they are generally tough on tight ends due to their athletic linebackers and safeties.
Rudolph's day could potentially be saved by a touchdown catch, but it's so hard to predict that you're best off leaving him on your bench this week.
Week 4 Projection: Four receptions for 30 yards
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