Some fantasy owners may be feeling the heat even though it's only the fourth week of the NFL season, so it's already paramount to make proper lineup choices. There are plenty of obvious options to consider, but the not-so-obvious quandaries are what lead directly to wins or losses oftentimes.
Plenty of strange things have happened already this season in terms of supposed superstars coming up small and little-known players breaking out. It's now time to determine which trends have staying power and which are only temporary. That isn't always easy, but nobody said that winning a fantasy football title would be.
Here are some of the most pressing lineup decisions to consider in Week 4 when you're determining who should start and who should sit.
Start: Colin Kaepernick (SF)
Kaepernick seemed like a threat to be both the fantasy and NFL MVP this season after his Week 1 showing against the Green Bay Packers, but he has been below average since then. Kap is coming off two consecutive performances with 150 or fewer passing yards and no touchdowns, so his owners certainly have to be getting antsy. Although there may even be a desire to sit him this week since poor output on Thursday night would set his owners back, he should be in your lineup.
Not only are the 49ers desperate for a win after starting 1-2, but the St. Louis Rams are quite vulnerable on defense. They allowed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to throw for three touchdowns last week, and running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 175 yards. As a dual-threat quarterback, there will be plenty of opportunities for Kaepernick to score fantasy points. Expect Kap to get back on track in Week 4.
Week 4 Projection: 277 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 82 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
Sit: Eli Manning (NYG)
Manning is very much like Kaepernick in fantasy terms as he started the season in red-hot fashion, but he has since tapered off. Although Eli did throw seven interceptions through two games, he also had five touchdown passes to his credit, and he was averaging better than 400 passing yards per game. Manning looked awful in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, though, as he threw for just 119 yards, no scores and a pick, which may have cost his owners a win.
New York's running game is so poor that the G-Men are pretty much forced to throw the ball in order to generate offense, but that will be easier said than done this week against the Kansas City Chiefs. The undefeated Chiefs have been tough on opposing signal-callers to the tune of 185 passing yards allowed per game and a league-leading 15 sacks. Assuming KC can pressure Manning, he is bound to make some mistakes.
Week 4 Projection: 234 passing yards, one touchdown, three interceptions
Start: Ray Rice (BAL)
When healthy, Rice is clearly a must-start option as he has the ability to be one of the best running backs in football. Rice has been a bit banged up over the past couple weeks, though, and his status for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills is still in question. The looming presence of backup Bernard Pierce is also somewhat troublesome, but according to the Ravens' official Twitter account, Rice looked good in practice on Wednesday, so a return may be imminent.
As long as Rice plays at Buffalo, he needs to be in your lineup. It's possible that Rice will be stuck in a one-week timeshare with Pierce since the Ravens may not want to risk his health, but Rice can still produce in that type of situation. Buffalo is 31st against the run this season as it is allowing 155 yards per game on the ground and was gashed by New York Jets running back Bilal Powell last week. Rice is far superior to Powell, and he'll prove that on Sunday.
Week 4 Projection: 88 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, five receptions for 46 yards
Sit: Giovani Bernard (CIN)
Despite the lack of consistent touches, Bernard has been a fantasy revelation this season. The Bengals rookie sensation is already one of the league's most dynamic players, and he has added another dimension to Cincinnati's offense. With three touchdowns over the past two weeks, Bernard also seems to be surpassing BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the depth chart, so fantasy superstardom may not be far off for the North Carolina product.
With that said, fantasy owners should pump the brakes this week at the very least. The Bengals will face a hard-working Cleveland Browns team that will try to make this a boring, low-scoring affair. Cleveland is allowing a mere 84 rushing yards per game, and it will probably force quarterback Andy Dalton to win the game with his arm. Add in the fact that this type of game is tailor-made for a power runner like Green-Ellis, and Bernard is bound to take a step back.
Week 4 Projection: 36 rushing yards and three receptions for 28 yards
Start: Jason Avant (PHI)
While DeSean Jackson receives most of the attention, Avant was developed into Michael Vick's No. 2 option in Chip Kelly's high-flying Eagles offense. Avant certainly isn't a flashy receiver by any means, but he is as sure-handed as they come, and there is no question that Vick trusts him more than a guy like Riley Cooper, who has struggled to make plays in the early going.
Avant is coming off an 87-yard, one-score effort against a tough Chiefs defense, and he'll have a chance to produce against the NFC West once again this week. Philly will face a Denver Broncos team that most observers expect to win with relative ease, but that means there will be plenty of chances for garbage-time stats. The Broncos are 30th in the league against the pass for that very reason, and Avant will take advantage of the circumstances.
Week 4 Projection: Six receptions for 101 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Greg Jennings (MIN)
When the Vikings poached Jennings from the rival Green Bay Packers during the offseason, he was expected to replace Percy Harvin as Minnesota's top receiver and aid in the development for quarterback Christian Ponder. Neither of those things have happened through the first three weeks of the season, though, as he is averaging fewer than four catches per contest and has yet to score a touchdown. Things won't get any easier on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in London.
Jennings will almost certainly be covered by Ike Taylor for much of the game. Taylor is one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL, and he should be able to keep Jennings in check. Also, Ponder simply isn't very good at getting the ball to his outside receivers. Playing against a Steelers defense that is allowing just 183 passing yards per game certainly won't help matters either.
Week 4 Projection: Four receptions for 41 yards
Start: Heath Miller (PIT)
Miller enjoyed a career year in 2012 as he set personal bests with 71 receptions, 816 yards and eight touchdowns. Miller was the Steelers' MVP last season, but a knee injury late in the campaign made him a question mark heading into 2013. Miller missed the first two games of the season, but he returned last week and caught a modest three balls for 35 yards. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, though, Miller should be ready to take the training wheels off this weekend.
After throwing for 400 yards last week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appears to have renewed confidence, and having Miller on the field will only help in that regard. The Vikings also happen to be giving up more than 315 yards per game through the air, which means that Big Ben and Miller may be hooking up early and often on Sunday.
Week 4 Projection: Six receptions for 77 yards and one touchdown
Sit: Zach Miller (SEA)
One tight end named Miller who shouldn't be in your lineup this week is Zach Miller of the Seahawks. While Miller was once one of the best tight ends in football while with the Oakland Raiders, his role in Seattle is much different. He has turned into a blocking tight end who excels in the red zone, but he doesn't get many opportunities otherwise. His chances will be even fewer and far between against the Houston Texans in Week 4.
The Texans boast the No. 2 pass defense in the league as they are allowing just 158 passing yards per game. Miller is arguably quarterback Russell Wilson's No. 4 option behind Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, so the numbers obviously aren't in his favor. Miller caught two touchdowns last week, but he finished the game with those two receptions for just five yards. Don't invest in a stock as volatile as scoring touchdowns.
Week 4 Projection: Three receptions for 25 yards
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