C.J. Spiller wasn't a complete waste against a good Ravens run defense, but he's banged up again (ankle sprain).
Some of the elite running backs in fantasy football—namely C.J. Spiller, Doug Martin and Stevan Ridley—have been unable to get going to start this NFL season, so fantasy owners don't have much to look forward to with that trio right now.
The first three most significant takeaways from the fourth Sunday of this season revolve around them. They have cost fantasy owners to date, and the prospects of them helping in future weeks are just as gloomy.
There are, however, some promising things to soak in heading into Week 5, as we take a look at the fantasy numbers in more detail.
C.J. Spiller was better on Sunday against a solid Baltimore Ravens run defense. He just was not good enough for fantasy owners that selected him among the first five picks in their drafts this summer, though.
Spiller had a season-high 23 carries for 77 yards rushing, but he was once again overshadowed by backup—no, make that, time-share back—Fred Jackson. What's worse is that Spiller has yet another bump that might keep him out of Thursday night's game at Cleveland.
I'm going to do as much treatment as I can to get ready for Thursday, but it's a short week, so it's going to be tough. If I can go out there at least 85 or 90 percent, I'm going to play.
Jackson is banged up, too, but his knee issue does not appear serious enough to keep him out Thursday.
"It's not as significant [as last season]," he said. "It's something that we can manage, and I expect to play."
Neither back is a great play against a Browns run defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game through the first four weeks.
Spiller owners not only have to deal with question marks from a Buffalo offense starting a rookie quarterback, but injuries are also dinging him every week, and Jackson just will not go away as a vulture for touches and touchdowns.
My (least) favorite Martin: The Bucs offense was bad, and now it is worse with a shaky rookie quarterback.
If you think that David Wilson and Stevan Ridley owners are frustrated, sit down and have a talk with those who picked Doug Martin in their top three of fantasy play.
You could swap horror stories.
Heck, some of Martin's owners even picked him over Arian Foster. Boy, did that turn out to be a colossal mistake.
It doesn't promise to get any better soon, either.
Martin was bottled up by a mediocre Arizona Cardinals' run defense on Sunday, rushing a league-high 27 times for a mere 45 yards. Unlike Wilson and Ridley, it isn't opportunity that is holding him back. It is his own team's malaise.
The Bucs have put their eggs in quarterback Mike Glennon's basket, which will lead to a lot of teams stacking the box against the Bucs' No. 1 weapon. Defenses are going to make Glennon beat them and, like Sunday's untimely fourth-quarter interception showed, he is going to struggle to do so, at least for now if not for the remainder of this season.
What is worse, the Bucs have a bye in Week 5 before a promising Week 6 matchup against Philadelphia. You are going to want to wait through Tampa Bay's bye week and Martin's Week 6 performance before you sell on him.
The Bucs have only three favorable matchups on their schedule the rest of the way, facing Philly, then Buffalo in Week 14 and St. Louis in Week 16. Here are Tampa Bay's remaining opponents:
- San Francisco
- St. Louis
- New Orleans
Martin might be all right in two of the fantasy postseason weeks, but with him getting stuffed in your starting lineup like he did on Sunday, you are not going to make it that deep into the fantasy season.
Blount-force trauma: LeGarrette Blount has outscored Stevan Ridley, minimizing Ridley's fantasy value.
As I alluded to on the intro slide, Stevan Ridley owners should be among the most frustrated in all of fantasy. He is stuck in the Patriots' dreaded running-back-by-committee scenario with no apparent end in sight.
Through one quarter of the season, Ridley only has 174 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving. Those are numbers you might have expected for one game, but not for one month.
The worst part of his slow start is that, unlike Doug Martin, his bad numbers are not only a function of his lack of production, but also his lack of use. When Shane Vereen went down for most of the season with a wrist surgery, Ridley had a chance to become a workhorse in the Pats offense, a unit that was already without its leading targets in tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) and wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin).
Instead, Ridley has surrendered more carries to LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden, especially in the red zone. Blount had nine carries for 64 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons on Sunday night while Bolden received seven touches, including one short-yardage score that was overturned by replay.
Ridley not only is not getting enough touches, but he is also not getting the important ones for fantasy owners. Blount and Bolden have replaced Ridley in the red zone too much for fantasy owners to consider Ridley a trustworthy starter.
"We have a lot of things we need to improve on, the red zone being one of them," Ridley told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald before the Patriots' victory in Atlanta. "While we’re without a few players, we can still get stronger as a whole with guys stepping up."
Ridley's red-zone situation doesn't figure to get any better once Gronk and Amendola return, perhaps as soon as Week 5 at Cincinnati. You cannot trust Ridley, Blount or Bolden in that matchup against a sturdy Bengals' front coming off a bad loss to the Browns, especially on the road.
Trading Ridley is a dicey proposition, too. No one is going to offer anything in the way of a fantasy starter for him. Unfortunately, you're stuck holding the bag—one filled with something wretched.
Le'Veon Bell soared in his NFL debut, returning from a foot sprain with a pair of touchdowns.
Pittsburgh might be 0-4 after its loss to the Minnesota Vikings in London, but at least the Steelers have something to hang their hat on now—rookie running back Le'Veon Bell.
Bell proved to be a feature back, one capable of posting top-10 numbers at the position, in his NFL debut, returning from a foot sprain. The 16 carries for 57 yards might not stand out to you, but the Steelers had produced just 51.7 rushing yards per game before Bell and hadn't had a rushing touchdown.
Bell produced two of those, and behind a patchwork Steelers' offensive line no less.
Count tackle Marcus Gilbert as a Steeler who is happy Bell is finally able to carry the load, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
He's an Adrian Peterson-type—I don't want to put him in the same category yet, but he has that type of playmaking ability to break tackles and get yards after he's hit. Le'Veon is a special back we're glad to have back. He brings everything to the table. He can run the inside zone, outside zone, he can block—this guy's he's an every-down back. I think just getting him out there can really help us.
Bell also reeled in four passes for 28 yards on Sunday. His well-rounded production means you no longer need to own Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones or Isaac Redman, who was a healthy inactive, in any fantasy leagues.
That is especially true with Pittsburgh heading into its Week 5 bye. Dwyer, Jones and Redman won't get a sniff now that Bell is 100 percent.
Philip Rivers' fantasy value has come into focus amid a rejuvenated offense and passion for the game.
Watching Philip Rivers dance down the field after his long, game-clinching touchdown toss to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter on Sunday, it was easy to think the quarterback is a kid again.
Rivers is also a sure-fire fantasy starter again.
"The sky is the limit when he’s playing that way," Gates told Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune San Diego. "He’s back to playing like the Philip Rivers everyone knew."
Gates is back as a must-have fantasy tight end, and Rivers has made spare parts like Eddie Royal and Danny Woodhead, who had two receiving touchdowns on Sunday, look like viable starters. A Week 5 matchup at Oakland looms, and Rivers looks like a must-start quarterback in all fantasy leagues again.
Royal told the Union-Tribune San Diego after Sunday's victory:
He's exactly the guy our team needs him to be. Different teams need a different style of leadership. He's the perfect fit for what we need. The energy, the emotion, the intelligence, the accuracy. He's the perfect guy for our team. And it all came together today. He’s just playing great football.
The hurt Locker: The Titans won again Sunday, but they likely have lost their starting quarterback.
Break up the Tennessee Titans. They are so surprising that even Jake Locker, who had three touchdowns against the Jets on Sunday, and Titans' backup Ryan Fitzpatrick look good.
Locker's fantasy value might have been rendered a moot point, though, as a hip injury left him hospitalized later Sunday and put "his status for the remainder of the season in question," according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
You don't need to consider Fitzpatrick in one-quarterback leagues yet, but the likes of Nate Washington (four catches for 105 yards, two touchdowns), Kendall Wright (five catches, 56 yards) and perhaps even Damian Williams (five catches, 53 yards) and rookie Justin Hunter, who has a touchdown in each of the past two weeks, might be bye week fill-in options for you. The Titans' defense has been good, too, leading the way in Week 4.
Chris Johnson will have better weeks than he had against the Jets' run defense with 15 carries for 21 yards, but we probably should be paying more attention to the upstart Titans' options in fantasy.
Alfred Morris tumbled for fantasy owners in what should have been a favorable matchup.
Alfred Morris owners should be frustrated with his performance against the suspect Raiders defense, but they can at least breath a sigh of relief that his ribs are just bruised, according to Mike Jones of The Washington Post.
The bye comes at a convenient time this week for Morris.
"Alfred's ribs are a little sore right now," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told The Washington Post. "I don’t know how serious it is, but we’ll wait and see on that."
Morris should be fine by the time Week 6 at Dallas (Oct. 13) rolls around. He has two full weeks to heal.
Backup running back Roy Helu rushed 13 times for 41 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders, adding two catches for 43 yards, but you should not feel compelled to add him off waivers heading into the bye unless you are a Morris owner.
Helu is a mere handoff back, and the stress that the full four-team bye weeks place on your roster and reserve options should preclude you from adding him.
We have told you all about Coby Fleener for weeks, if not months. Now, he looks like the second coming of Jordan Cameron.
He is a viable starting fantasy tight end, if not a potentially elite option.
Fleener nearly doubled his season production in Week 4, catching five passes for 77 yards and a 31-yard touchdown. Andrew Luck's offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton likes using tight ends off play-action in their power running attack, and Fleener will no longer have to deal with Dwayne Allen (hip), who is out for the season.
Through the NFL's first month, here's how we should rank the tight end position for the rest of the season:
- Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
- Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
- Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
- Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
- Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
- Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
- Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
- Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
- Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
- Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
- Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
- Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
Fleener is just out of that starting 12 in standard leagues, but he is nearly as good as half of them when the matchup is right—like it was against the Jags, as Hays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union writes.
That will not be the case against the Seahawks in Week 5, but Fleener is going to be an impact tight end, especially during the thick of the bye week season.
We shouldn't have questioned it by now—and we shouldn't get overly excited about it after the drubbing of the listless Giants—but the Kansas City Chiefs are for real under Andy Reid.
Alex Smith is among the most productive fantasy quarterbacks again, Jamaal Charles looks as good as any running back not named Adrian Peterson—if you discredit LeSean McCoy over his modest performance at Denver—and that Chiefs defense looks incredible.
The Chiefs travel to Tennessee in Week 5, facing a team that will be without its starting quarterback. You have to love the Chiefs, particularly through the bye weeks.
Roddy White failed on a last-minute red-zone try in the Falcons' 30-23 loss to the Patriots on Sunday night, which punctuated another reserve-worthy performance for your supposedly elite fantasy receiver.
White finished with three catches for 28 yards. He has just 10 catches for 84 yards through a month of play. That used to be a good half of a game for White, whose ankle is still "ballooned," according to Ray Glier of The Boston Globe.
You have to be wary of White next Monday night against the Jets. Sure, the Jets have made stars out of mediocre-at-best receivers the past two weeks against the Bills and Titans, but that is still a Rex Ryan defense. White is a "sit" in most leagues until he proves healthier and more productive.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.