Fantasy Football Week 4 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em: Not so Obvious Plays of the Week

Jeremy Alpert@@pyroman1acSenior Analyst IISeptember 30, 2011

Every week, there are certain fantasy studs that you simply have to start no matter what, such as Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson.

There are also a good number of players you know you should sit each week, such as a fringe running back like Willis McGahee going up against an extremely tough Green Bay Packers rush defense.

And then there are those players with whom you have no idea whether to start 'em or sit 'em.

Here are a few not so obvious guys at each major fantasy position that you might not know what to do with, but for whom the stats and other information dictate one way or the other.




Ben Roethlisberger (@ Hou)

 Roethlisberger certainly has his good games and his bad, but I believe this will be one of his good ones. Houston has been a lot better against the pass this season after finishing last in the league in 2010, but after holding Kerry Collins and Chad Henne in check, Drew Brees proceeded to throw all over them last weekend putting up 370 yards and three TDs.

I’m not going to go so far as to say Big Ben will do the same, but he’s averaged 314 yards/game so far, so it is possible.


Eli Manning (@ Ari)

 Very few of us expected Eli Manning to do much of anything against that vaunted Eagles secondary last weekend, but boy did he shut us up just when we least expected it. Manning tosses up four TDs and over 250 yards without his No. 2 WR (Mario Manningham) in the lineup and finally decides to join the 2011 fantasy passing brigade.

Arizona’s pass D was near the bottom of the league last season WITH CB Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie and are now even further down the list without him.

Manningham is back; Victor Cruz is a beast; Hakeem Nicks is ridiculous; book it. Eli is going to have a little fun with this one.


Matt Ryan (@ Sea)

 Seattle looks to have a pretty good defense this year and with as bad as their offense is, they sure do need it. Nevertheless, the reality is they can’t get to the quarterback, a fact that will get them torn apart against the likes of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.

With the Seahawks rush D actually being pretty formidable, I can see Ryan throwing the ball a good 30-35 times which is all he’ll need to chalk up 250-300 yards and two or three TDs.


Matt Schaub (vs. Pit) - Not much to say here other than I expect this one to be a shootout... and we all saw how that turned out last week for him against the Saints.


If you're in a pinch...

Jason Campbell (vs. NE)

 Campbell may never rise this high in my rankings again if he can’t pull off some nice fantasy numbers this weekend against the Patriots. So far, New England has allowed the most completions, yards and fantasy points to opposing QBs, mostly due to teams having to play catch-up after Brady has already gone off.

The Raiders will try to run at first, but like everyone else, they’ll have to turn to the pass to win. If Jacoby Ford comes back this week, which it looks like he will, he’ll lineup alongside rookie phenom Denarius Moore in what could end up becoming a lethal combination.

Campbell could be at the start of something good here.


Running Back 

Tim Hightower (@ StL)

 St. Louis has easily allowed the most rushing yards per game this season, so Hightower should be in for a nice day. On the indoor turf, however, I could see the Redskins using the speed and shiftiness of Roy Helu some, so Hightower’s fantasy outlook might be capped.

Whatever they decide to do, Tim is running as hard as anybody in the league right now which is something Coach Shanahan loves to see out of his players. If he hits his average of about 23 touches this Sunday, he could end up having an outstanding day.


James Starks (vs. Den)

It looks like Ryan Grant’s bruised kidney isn’t fully healed, so Starks will be in line for a heavy workload this Sunday against Denver. Even if Grant is able to go, I still believe they lay off him a bit despite his nice performance last weekend because frankly, hurt kidneys are not something you mess around with.

The Broncos rush D has been much better this season after ranking next to last in the league in 2010, but Aaron Rodgers has a tendency to open things up and will undoubtedly give Starks quite a few gaping holes to run through. Expect an early Packers lead and a heavy dose of Starks late in this one.


Felix Jones (vs. Det)

Felix looked awesome against the Redskins this past Monday night and if his shoulder injury heals up before the weekend, he should be able to continue his dominance into the game against the Lions.

Detroit is a much improved defensive team this year and may get even better once DT Nick Fairley gets on the field, but they’ve still given up 5.0 yards a carry this season. Felix is known to bust some long runs, so watch out for a couple of those in a nice fantasy performance this Sunday.


Wide Receiver

Denarius Moore (vs. NE)

 Denarius Moore looks like this year’s Mike Williams (TB) so far, and I doubt he slows down in Week 4. Playing against the Patriots in what should be another high-scoring affair, I expect Moore to be turned to often by Jason Campbell this Sunday.

With WR Jacoby Ford back in the lineup, Denarius will find himself in single-coverage whenever he’s out on the field, a game-plan which has so far proven to be useless against Moore’s superior will for the ball.

He’ll do it again this Sunday, so make sure you keep him in your lineup until someone slows him down.


Mario Manningham (@ Ari)

 If Manningham is as good to go as he said he was after each practice this week, he should be able to put up some nice fantasy stats against this porous Arizona pass D.

You know he’ll be up for this game as he doesn’t want to get “Wally Pipp’ed” out of the starting lineup by New York’s newest fan-favorite, Victor Cruz, so I expect some pretty good fantasy work from him this weekend.


Sidney Rice (vs. Atl)

 Rice stepped onto the field for the first time last weekend and immediately became Tarvaris Jackson’s go-to guy as he caught eight of his 10 targets for 109 yards against the Cardinals. Obviously Tarvaris isn’t quite an elite QB, but he does have a past with Sidney to refer to so I expect Rice to continue getting a ton of balls thrown his way from here on out.

Against a Falcons pass D that ranks near the bottom of the league, Rice is a good WR3 with nice upside.


Percy Harvin (@ KC)

The Vikings have to get Harvin the ball more starting this weekend if they ever want to win a game. Against a banged up Kansas City team, I’m betting on it happening this Sunday.

Whether he’s running the ball or catching it, Harvin should get at least 10 touches in this one and might even get as many as 15 or so. If he does, the fantasy stats will be there enough to warrant at least a WR3/flex start on your team.


Deion Branch (@ Oak)

Last week against the Bills had to have been one of the flukier games in Deion Branch’s career. In a game where Brady threw for four touchdowns and 387 yards on 30 completions, Branch failed to log a single reception on his three targets. Believe me that will not happen again.


The Patriots will continue to throw like crazy and Branch will be involved as much as he had been up until last week. I expect at least five or six catches and a good amount of yardage from him this Sunday against a beatable Raiders secondary.


Others to consider...

Lance Moore (@ Jac)

Johnny Knox (@ Car)

Tight End

Greg Olsen (@ Chi)

It’s not the most exciting homecoming for a player in recent years, but Olsen returning to Soldier Field to take on the Bears should at least serve as motivation for the athletic tight end.

Chicago allowed Jermichael Finley to have his way with them last weekend and though Greg will come nowhere close to the same fantasy output, there’s definitely a good chance he does something good for your team.



Brandon Pettigrew (@ Dal)

 Stafford finally remembered what Pettigrew was good for last weekend—the bail-out and dump-off pass. Brandon was able to turn a whopping 13 targets into 11 catches for 112 yards against the Vikings last weekend. He still hasn’t caught one in the end zone for the Lions, but that should come real soon, like maybe this weekend against a Dallas D that has given up the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends this year.

If you're in a pinch...

Anthony Fasano (@SD)




Josh Freeman (vs. Ind)

 Freeman, as usual, has been extremely vanilla thus far in terms of fantasy numbers and I’m not sure I expect much more from him in this one.

Tampa should be able to shellac Indy all game this Monday night, with most of the pounding done on the ground. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Josh throw a couple of TDs, but somewhere around 225 yards and one TD should be enough for a Buccaneers victory.

Like I said; vanilla.


Mark Sanchez (@ Bal)

 Sanchez may be able to put up decent fantasy numbers in this one simply because the Jets won’t be able to run the ball.

Mark has thrown two TDs in each of the Jets first three games while averaging 295 yards a contest, so it seems he’s becoming more depended on than he was in the past, but he won't be able to do that against the Ravens. He was atrocious against them in Week One last season throwing for just 74 yards and no TDs, but I expect a little better this time around… though maybe not much.


Tony Romo (vs. Det)

 Romo has a broken rib and the Lions defensive front seven are going to put some major pressure on him and his painkiller-filled head. Without Miles Austin around, don't expect much.


Cam Newton (@ Chi)

 Newton is a gamer and without question one of the best athletes ever to work under center in this league. However, I expect a bit of a rude awakening for the rookie against the Bears and their Cover-2 scheme this weekend.

It’s obvious Newton depends on throwing the ball to Steve Smith in order to succeed, a directive he had a real tough time accomplishing in the rain last weekend against the Jaguars. The Bears won’t let it happen either, so Cam may find himself trying to run a bunch, a choice that could get him into even further trouble against this speedy Chicago D.

He might be able to get some decent yardage in this one, but the touchdowns will be hard to come by. 

Running Back

Steven Jackson (vs. Was)

Give him a week to get his legs back under him before starting him on your team.


Beanie Wells (vs. NYG)

First games back from injury never go quite as well as you would like. Give him a week off from starting.


Frank Gore (@ Phi)

Gore is still a bit gimpy after a rough week of practice and will likely give up a few too many carries to Kendall Hunter to be worth a start this week.

Others that should ride pines this week...

Willis McGahee (@ GB)

Shonn Greene (@ Bal)


Wide Receiver

Mike Williams – TB (vs. Ind)

Talk about slow starts! Those who expected Williams to come close to WR1 status this season have been disappointed to the utmost degree thus far. Opposing defenses have figured out that the Bucs really don’t have anyone else to throw to, so putting Big Mike in double-coverage is pretty much a no-brainer for them.

With that said, it looks like Freeman is still trying to get him the ball and will continue to do so until Williams breaks out. Against a very mediocre Colts D, this could be the week, but you may want to wait off until he shows something.


Steve Smith – Car (@ Chi)

 Believe me, I know what Steve Smith can do and so far this season, he’s looked outstanding and completely rejuvenated with Cam Newton at the helm. Against this Bears Cover-2 pass D, however, I just don’t see the huge fantasy numbers coming this week.

Chicago won’t let Smitty behind them on deep routes while their speed and tackling skills are elite enough to keep Stevie’s yards-after-the-catch ability in check. He might catch a bunch of balls, which is great for PPR leagues, but I’m not expecting 100 yards or a touchdown.


A.J. Green - (vs. Buf)

 As it usually is with rookies, no matter the position; A.J. Green has been  inconsistent as expected so far this season. However, with Buffalo becoming a high-scoring team this season, my bet is that Cincinnati will have to pass the ball a bunch to keep up with them.

If Green can get a good eight to ten targets from Andy Dalton on Sunday, he’ll be in line for a nice game. If for some reason this turns into a battle in the trenches, which I believe it will, obviously Green’s fantasy value will suffer. He’s a high-risk, high-reward WR3/flex play this week.


Anquan Boldin - (vs NYJ)

Supposedly he'll be sent to Revis Island for the duration of the game—which is not a favored vacation spot amongst wide receivers.


Plaxico Burress - (@ Bal)


Tight End

Dustin Keller (@ Bal)

 The Ravens defense has been one of the best in the league at keeping tight ends fantasy points to a minimum for nine years straight now.  Not much else you can say about that.


Others that should be on your bench...

Brent Celek (vs. SF)

Zach Miller (vs. ATL)

Marcedes Lewis (vs. NO)

Jermaine Gresham (vs. Buf)



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