When doing my fantasy football rankings, I employ a highly scientific method calculated by four super computers, several chess champions and mathematicians and, in the event of a tie, one dartboard.
Okay, so I might be making that up. In reality, when coming up with these rankings I study matchups, past performances and try to project which players are due for a breakout performance. Like all of fantasy football, it isn't an exact science, but it's a good guide for the upcoming week.
And yes, I keep the dartboard handy.
Notes: Rankings for standard-scoring leagues and scoring via ESPN. Washington, the Minnesota Vikings, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all on byes this week.
|1||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys||30|
|2||Philip Rivers||San Diego Chargers||Oakland Raiders||26|
|3||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||Arizona Cardinals||25|
|4||Matt Ryan||Atlanta Falcons||New York Jets||23|
|5||Michael Vick||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||22|
|6||Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||20|
|7||Matt Stafford||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||20|
|8||Tom Brady||New England Patriots||Cincinnati Bengals||18|
|9||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||Chicago Bears||18|
|10||Sam Bradford||St. Louis Rams||Jacksonville Jaguars||17|
Until a defense can slow him down, Peyton Manning will top these rankings every week. He's been unstoppable.
A tasty matchup against the Oakland Raiders vaults Philip Rivers to No. 2 on this list, while Cam Newton coming off a bye (and facing an Arizona Cardinals defense that has been friendly to opposing quarterbacks not named Mike Glennon in fantasy football) is primed for a big week.
A lot of fantasy's top quarterbacks have tough matchups this week, as reflected in the rankings. One to watch for, however, is Sam Bradford. He faces a hapless Jacksonville Jaguars defense that has given up a combined total of 39 fantasy points to Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck the past two weeks.
Add in the fact that the St. Louis Rams can't run the ball—they are averaging 47.3 rushing yards per game, worst in the NFL—and you have the recipe for Bradford to post huge fantasy numbers.
|1||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||23|
|2||Reggie Bush||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||22|
|3||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears||New Orleans Saints||22|
|4||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||Tennessee Titans||21|
|5||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks||Indianapolis Colts||20|
|6||DeMarco Murray||Dallas Cowboys||Denver Broncos||18|
|7||Arian Foster||Houston Texans||San Francisco 49ers||16|
|8||Frank Gore||San Francisco 49ers||Houston Texans||15|
|9||Fred Jackson||Buffalo Bills||Cleveland Browns||14|
|10||Ray Rice||Baltimore Ravens||Miami Dolphins||14|
Running Back Notes
This is a week to trust your big names, even if they have tough matchups. Folks were probably worried about Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster this week, as both the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks are tough against the run. But good players overcome bad matchups, and Foster scored 22 points while Lynch added 17 in standard-scoring leagues.
One player to watch out for is Fred Jackson. The Cleveland Browns are solid defensively and have made the going tough for opposing running backs, but Jackson is a good play this week. He's been surprisingly consistent—he's scored double-digit fantasy points in all four weeks—and C.J. Spiller could miss the game on a short week after injuring his ankle.
From Mike Rodak of ESPN:
Spiller says it may be "tough" for him to play Thursday following ankle injury today in win over Ravens— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 29, 2013
For what it's worth, Jackson sprained his MCL, but he expects to play. Obviously, monitor this situation closely heading into Thursday night.
As for Ray Rice, expect the Baltimore Ravens to return to the running game after Joe Flacco threw five interceptions against the Buffalo Bills. Rice has been one of fantasy's biggest disappointments to start the year, but that will end in Week 5.
|1||Victor Cruz||New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||25|
|2||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||23|
|3||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys||Denver Broncos||22|
|4||Julio Jones||Atlanta Falcons||New York Jets||20|
|5||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys||20|
|6||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals||New England Patriots||18|
|7||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears||New Orleans Saints||17|
|8||Jordy Nelson||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||16|
|9||Wes Welker||Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys||16|
|10||DeSean Jackson||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||15|
Wide Receiver Notes
In four games this season, the Philadelphia Eagles defense has allowed six wide receivers to score double-digit fantasy points. If you have Victor Cruz this week, sit back and enjoy the show.
A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall failed to record double-digit fantasy points this week, but expect that to be the exception, not the rule. Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones (10 points) had modest weeks by their lofty standards, but each have good matchups to exploit.
Will the real DeSean Jackson please stand up? In the first two weeks, he totaled 41 fantasy points. In the last two, he's managed just nine. Against a porous New York Giants secondary, he should return to fantasy prominence.
If he doesn't, it might be time to consider those first two weeks an outlier.
|1||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints||Chicago Bears||20|
|2||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns||Buffalo Bills||18|
|3||Greg Olsen||Carolina Panthers||Arizona Cardinals||16|
|4||Tony Gonzalez||Atlanta Falcons||New York Jets||15|
|5||Martellus Bennett||Chicago Bears||New Orleans Saints||14|
|6||Antonio Gates||San Diego Chargers||Oakland Raiders||14|
|7||Jared Cook||St. Louis Rams||Jacksonville Jaguars||12|
|8||Julius Thomas||Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys||11|
|9||Jermichael Finley||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||10|
|10||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers||Houston Texans||10|
Tight End Notes
Jimmy Graham and Jordan Cameron produce like wide receivers playing the tight end position. They are no-brainer starts every week.
In Week 1, the Arizona Cardinals gave up 24 points to Jared Cook. In Week 3, they were torched by Graham to the tune of 25 points. Expect Greg Olsen to have a huge week.
Antonio Gates has now registered double-digit fantasy points in three straight weeks. He's back, folks, and his resurgence seems to mirror that of Philip Rivers.
The Jaguars allowed Zach Miller to post 12 fantasy points against them in Week 3. In Week 4, Coby Fleener scored 13 on them. Expect Jared Cook—who had more points in Week 1 (24) than he's had the rest of the way (nine)—to rebound in a big way against Jacksonville.
|1||Kansas City Chiefs||Tennessee Titans||20|
|2||St. Louis Rams||Jacksonville Jaguars||17|
|3||Seattle Seahawks||Indianapolis Colts||14|
|4||Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys||13|
|5||New England Patriots||Cincinnati Bengals||12|
|6||Cleveland Browns||Buffalo Bills||12|
|7||Baltimore Ravens||Miami Dolphins||11|
|8||Houston Texans||San Francisco 49ers||10|
|9||San Francisco 49ers||Houston Texans||10|
|10||Tennessee Titans||Kansas City Chiefs||9|
Defense/Special Teams Notes
The Kansas City Chiefs have registered 20 or more fantasy points in three games, and now they face a Tennessee Titans team that will be without Jake Locker. From Adam Schefter of ESPN:
Tennessee still awaiting more tests on Jake Locker’s injured hip, but belief is he could miss four to eight weeks.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 30, 2013
Don't sleep on the Titans defense, either—it has scored nine or more fantasy points three times this year. Expect a defensive showdown in that contest.
The Seahawks remain the safest play among fantasy defenses, while the Texans and 49ers should lock horns in a defensive duel. Speaking of horns, the Rams are a great play this week, facing a Jaguars defense that has given up double-digit points to opposing defenses every week this year.
Finally, on a short week facing a Bills team with a beat-up backfield, the Browns are a nice play. Cleveland has been good for seven or more fantasy points in every game this season. Give the Browns a look on Thursday night.
|1||Matt Prater||Denver Broncos||Dallas Cowboys||15|
|2||Stephen Gostkowski||New England Patriots||Cincinnati Bengals||14|
|3||Steven Hauschka||Seattle Seahawks||Indianapolis Colts||13|
|4||Matt Bryant||Atlanta Falcons||New York Jets||13|
|5||Garrett Hartley||New Orleans Saints||Chicago Bears||12|
|6||Robbie Gould||Chicago Bears||New Orleans Saints||12|
|7||Nick Novak||San Diego Chargers||Oakland Raiders||11|
|8||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens||Miami Dolphins||10|
|9||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||9|
|10||David Akers||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||8|
Kickers are fickle, so if you have one you trust—and one on an explosive lineup—stick with him. If you own Matt Prater or Stephen Gostkowski, for instance, you won't need to spend too much time obsessing over your kicker—they're weekly plug-and-play options at the position.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, make ill-fated NFL predictions and tweet cheesy jokes. You might even see yourself on the Jumbotron.