Regardless what some may say, close games in the NFL can be a blessing for fantasy owners. Players seem to try harder when the game is still within reach, and there were plenty such performances in Week 4. Not to mention a return to form by some players who have been struggling this year, and a few who should have fantasy owners nervous moving forward.
Here’s a quick look, from a fantasy perspective, of each Week 4 Sunday game:
Rashard Mendenhall has emerged as a gritty running back who grinds out plays and puts up consistent points—a rarity in the fantasy world these days. His 79 yards rushing on 25 carries weren’t stellar, but considering he added two rushing TDs, and the performance was against the Ravens?
Meanwhile, Ray Rice is going the other direction. His eight carries paled in comparison to Willis McGahee’s 14 and Rice was once again surprisingly under-used in the passing game, with one catch for nine yards. Rice was a little dinged up coming into the game, but one wonders overall what the future holds for Rice in 2010.
The 49ers may have lost, but they looked much more like the team we expected to see during the preseason. They drastically slowed a potent Falcons offense and hung around all game.
Frank Gore continues to use the passing game to keep himself at the forefront of the fantasy RB crowd. Michael Crabtree started showing signs of life, with five catches for 56 yards.
Roddy White continues to show why he’s a premier fantasy wide receiver with 104 yards on just seven catches.
While DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart continue to be under-utilized in the Panthers’ attack, they shined this time with limited opportunity. DeAngelo racked up 86 yards on 13 carries and a rushing TD. Stewart chipped in a long 55-yard TD reception. Steve Smith was taken out of the game and early word has him suffering from a high ankle sprain.
The Saints split their running game in Pierre Thomas’ absence, getting 67 yards from Chris Ivory and 47 from Ladell Betts on a combined 25 carries. The passing attack, which will be the subject of a soon-to-come post, continues to distribute the ball all over the place, leaving no true standout fantasy wide receiver.
I wasn’t ready to anoint Peyton Hillis as the next solid fantasy back, and I’m still not. But his 27-for-102 and a touchdown performance against the Bengals offense was a step in the right direction. He’s fared well in back-to-back weeks against stingy defenses. Jerome Harrison didn’t record a single carry.
Carson Palmer’s manhood was being questioned after a lackluster start to the season, but 371 yards passing and no interceptions wasn’t too shabby at all. Terrell Owens’ 10-for-222 day definitely helped … but no one should expect Owens to put up those types of numbers every week.
People can say what they want, but Kyle Orton is developing into a fantasy-relevant QB.
It helps that he has a large stable of able receivers. While no one receiver can be trusted to be a weekly fantasy starter (this week Brandon Lloyd led the attack with 11 catches for 115 yards a week after Jabar Gaffney had 12 catches for more than 100 yards), it is still interesting to see the pass-catching group mature overall. Rookie Demaryius Thomas turned in a disappointing 1-for-9 day, but remember that he’s a rookie receiver, and that inconsistency is par for the course for any rookie receiver not named Anquan Boldin or Randy Moss.
The Broncos have been stingy to opposing running backs, but Chris Johnson’s 19-for-53 day was still eye-opening. The Broncos, sans Knowson Moreno, were again extremely anemic in the rushing attack, but still pulled off the W.
Don’t look now, but Sam Bradford is slowly developing into a decent fantasy option in his rookie season. He had 289 yards and a pair of TDs to only one interception. The Seattle defense, which looked stout the first three weeks, crumbled in the game. There wasn’t a single Seattle offensive player worth noting … and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future.
Putting on my Green Bay fan mask for a moment, I’m a little nervous about the Packers offense. The running game proved yesterday that it can’t be trusted, but I’m more nervous about an Aaron Rodgers that seemed to struggle to get his footing once again.
He finished with just 181 yards passing and two interceptions. Sure, he had three passing TDs, but scoring strikes in the league aren’t a consistent commodity. It all starts with consistent yardage and making few mistakes —something he should have been able to manage against Detroit. Outside of TD passes overall this season, Rodgers has been statistically flat, and the receivers have been equally disappointing overall in the yardage and receptions departments.
Meanwhile, sophomore tight end Brandon Pettigrew emerged as a nice option in the Lions’ passing game with eight catches for 91 yards and Calvin Johnson notched a pair of scores to go with his 86 yards through the air.
Dustin Keller had just four catches for 28 yards, but his two TDs—for the second weekend in a row—suggest that he’s truly emerging as a solid young fantasy tight end. LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene both looked great for the first time all season. Tomlinson had 133 yards and two TDs on 19 carries. Greene finished with 117 yards on 22 carries. As expected, Tomlinson was the only back worth anything from a passing standpoint.
For the Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the only player worth much anything from a fantasy standpoint, and that isn’t saying much. Perhaps as a last-ditch emergency bye-week fill-in, but even then I’d be nervous starting him.
Finally, after four weeks of football, Maurice Jones-Drew emerges with a decent game. He had 105 yards on the ground and was 2-for-18 in pass catches with, more importantly, two total TDs. Of course, the Colts’ defense isn’t exactly the Steel Curtain.
For the Colts, Reggie Wayne was the big kahuna this week with 15 catches for 196 yards. Dallas Clark and Austin Collie hauled in TD catches. Joseph Addai’s two TD runs was a pleasant surprise, but not enough for me to comfortably use him week-to-week.
Arian Foster provided many a big scare when, last-second, he wasn’t allowed to start per coach’s choice. Derrick Ward notched a first-quarter TD in Foster’s place and things were looking bleak until Foster was allowed to return and scored 30 fantasy points in standard PPR leagues.
Zach Miller was the tight end play of the game, notching a 11-for-122 performance with a TD while Louis Murphy, dinged up but playing, was a pedestrian 1-for-5.
Ryan Mathews returned for nine carries, 55 yards and a TD on the ground, but Mike Tolbert stole the show with 100 yards on 16 carries with a TD of his own. Looks like another RBBC has been born, and Tolbert merits a look in all league formats, especially TD-heavy leagues.
The Cardinals passing game continues to be anemic at best. Derek Anderson threw up another two interceptions and it looks like rookie Max Hall could have played himself into the starting role. More on that later this week. Larry Fitzgerald’s 7-for-56 day would have been more digestible if he had a TD thrown in there somewhere.
Knocked out with a rib injury, Michael Vick was a nonfactor and his status merits close monitoring moving forward. Kevin Kolb was unspectacular in his place. It is apparent that with Kolb under center, Brent Celek’s value increases and the tight end notched a nice late-game TD.
LeSean McCoy also takes a value bump upwards with Kolb calling the shots, in my opinion, as the team needs to rely on its running game more than ever in those situations. McCoy’s 12-for-110 through the air was especially enticing—thanks in large part to Kolb’s overall lack of arm strength and need to dink-and-dunk his way down the field.
Ryan Torain has re-emerged as a fantasy guy to have. He had a lot of potential in Denver until injuries derailed his rise to fame … now under Shanahan again in Washington, Torain has eclipsed Clinton Portis (at least for this week), notching 70 yards rushing and a TD on 18 carries (to Portis’ 11). Torain should be rostered immediately in all league formats.
Yuck. Chicago looked downright miserable. The O-line allowed nine sacks in the first half alone, Jay Cutler was a mess until he was sidelined with a concussion (much like Kolb in Week 1 Packers-Eagles game … one wonders if it was more concussion or poor play that factored into the change at QB).
In the end, the Bears managed just 110 total yards offense and have question marks in all facets of their game. Ahmad Bradshaw, meanwhile, has emerged as a solid fantasy option for the Giants and should be started weekly regardless of matchup at this point.
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