Whether you want to or not, it’s time to start giving some respect to the Denver Broncos.
After an offseason marred by controversy and dissension, rookie head coach Josh McDaniels has joined Robert “Red” Miller (1977) as the only Denver coaches to start 4-0 in their first seasons. As an added bonus, the Broncos now sit two games up on the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
For those of you who play in deeper fantasy leagues and followed our advice by drafting quarterback Kyle Orton as your backup, how do you feel right now? Orton is averaging 16.0 fantasy points per week (standard scoring), has thrown a touchdown pass in all four games, is rocking a QB rating of 97.7, and has yet to be intercepted. In fact, he hasn’t thrown an interception in his past 155 attempts, currently the longest streak among starting quarterbacks.
And for those of you who were ready to jump ship on our boy Brandon Marshall, it looks like the beast is back (as predicted). Marshall has hauled in nine receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns over the past two weeks, including a ridiculous 51-yard catch and run for the game-winning score against the Cowboys on Sunday.
With a top-five fantasy defense that has already accumulated an NFL-best 15 sacks, this team looks legit.
Matt Forte, Steve Slaton, Antonio Gates
Complain, complain, complain. That’s what all of us have been doing regarding these three guys the past three weeks. You have to admit, it was nice seeing some of the top dogs getting back to form in Week Four. Did any of you realize that none of them had scored a touchdown prior to Sunday?
Yes, the San Francisco D/ST deserves some love for its dismantling of the St. Louis Rams, but since I had the pleasure of getting waxed by them in three different leagues, this sentence is all the love they’ll be getting for the time being.
Matt Forte: 12 carries, 121 yards, 10.1 YPC, 1 touchdown
Steve Slaton: 21 carries, 65 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 receptions, 24 yards, 1 touchdown
Antonio Gates: 9 receptions, 124 yards, 2 touchdowns
Everybody feel a little better now?
Their value is climbing
1. Ben Roethlisberger Quarterback Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben has thrown for 275-plus yards and accounted for two touchdowns in three of four games this season. His 1,193 passing yards rank third in the NFL, he’s completing 73.2 percent of his passes and has had 31 or more attempts in all four games this year.
Next two games: at Detroit, Cleveland
2. Mike Sims-Walker Wide Receiver Jacksonville Jaguars
From waiver-wire pickup to fantasy starter, MSW is emerging as one of the top young wideouts in the league.
It looks like quarterback David Garrard has finally found a big-play receiver to throw the rock to as Sims-Walker—after catching zero passes in Week One—has hauled in 19 balls for 278 yards and three touchdowns in his past three games. In those three outings, MSW has caught a minimum of six passes for 80 yards each time.
Next four games (defensive passing rank in parenthesis): at Seattle (17th), St. Louis (19th), at Tennessee (31st), Kansas City (28th)
3. Donald Brown Running Back Indianapolis Colts
One of our favorite sleepers heading into the 2009 season, Brown has been producing some reliable fantasy numbers over the past three weeks.
The rookie out of Connecticut has scored two touchdowns and is averaging 10.3 fantasy points per week. Those may not be the type of numbers that set the league on fire, but that’s excellent and reliable production from the flex position.
Keep this stat in mind: Of Brown's 38 carries this season, 11 have come inside the red zone. Starting running back Joseph Addai, who already has 48 carries on the year, has only been handed the ball 10 times in the red zone.
Three more who are climbing
1. Steve Smith New York Giants: 11 receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns in WeekFour
2. San Francisco 49ers D/ST: 35-0 shutout over St. Louis, two defensive touchdowns, one special teams touchdown
3. Rashard Mendenhall Pittsburgh Steelers: 29 carries, 165 yards, two touchdowns
Falling down the boards
1. Tony Romo Quarterback Dallas Cowboys
I hope you’ve got a good backup quarterback because it’s just about time to send Romo to the bench.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback, who we all kept hearing would thrive with the departure of locker room malcontent Terrell Owens, has been abysmal in 2009.
Over his past three starts, Romo has thrown one touchdown pass and four interceptions, been sacked seven times and hasn’t thrown for more than 260 yards. It should come as no surprise that the Cowboys are 1-2 in those three games.
Without a viable big-play wide receiver, it could be a long-year in Big D for the franchise quarterback.
The good news? Two of Romo’s next three games come against the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs.
2. Darren McFadden Running Back Oakland Raiders
If you can’t run against Houston, you can’t run against anybody.
Heading into Week Four, the Raiders had to be licking their chops. The Texans had the worst run defense in the league, allowing 205.0 yards per game. In addition, the three running backs they faced before McFadden (Thomas Jones, Chris Johnson, MJD) had all rushed for more than 100 yards and scored two or more touchdowns.
So how did the Raiders’ former first-round pick fair against such a weak defense? By carrying the ball six times for minus-three yards in a 29-6 loss.
That stat line speaks for itself.
3. Julius Jones Running Back Seattle Seahawks
For those of you who drafted Jones, this was the plan of attack we gave you in the NFP Total Access Pass:
A. Start him in Week One. Result: 135 total yards, 1 touchdown, 18 fantasy points
B. At conclusion of Week One, put him on the block and make a deal while the value is high
For those of you who followed the advice, I hope what you got in return is better than what Jones has been producing since his opening performance.
During the past three games, Seattle’s top rusher has only amassed 180 total yards. Yes, he’s caught two touchdown passes, but he’s also posted two games with fewer than 30 yards rushing.
Since his 18-point performance in Week One, Jones is averaging just 9.3 fantasy points per week. Not terrible, but still one point less than Colts running back Donald Brown ... whom you could have drafted 3-4 rounds later.
Three more who are dropping
1. Tennessee Titans D/ST: Allowed 37 points and 442 total yards to the Jags in Week Four.
2. Roy Williams Dallas Cowboys: 11 receptions and zero touchdowns in his past three games.
3. Leon Washington New York Jets: 93 total yards and zero touchdowns in his past two games.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh