Fantasy Football Week 4: Rankings and Advice for Thursday Night Football

Richard Janvrin@@RichardJanvrinFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2015

Fantasy Football Week 4: Rankings and Advice for Thursday Night Football

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    It's safe to say this wasn't how we pictured the first Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers matchup of the fantasy football season, right?

    The injury heard round the world came last week when we saw Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger get his leg bent in a way that instantly made you flinch and say, "Oh man, he's done. He's done for the year. That's his ACL."

    Fortunately, Big Ben was eventually diagnosed with an MCL sprain, and instead of missing the entire season, he'll be out anywhere from four to six weeks.

    Instead of Big Ben, Steelers backup quarterback Michael Vick will get his shot.

    We saw Vick get a few starting opportunities with the New York Jets in 2014. Ironically, Vick threw for two touchdown passes against the Steelers last year.

    The Ravens, led by quarterback Joe Flacco, are 0-3 for the first time in their franchise's history, and most would agree that this is an enormous chance to get off the schneid and secure a victory.

    Let's kick this column off with the top 10 big board.

Top 10 Big Board

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press
    Thursday Night Big Board
    RankPlayerPos.Team
    1 Le'Veon BellRBPittsburgh Steelers
    2Steve Smith Sr.WRBaltimore Ravens
    3Justin Forsett RBBaltimore Ravens
    4Antonio BrownWRPittsburgh Steelers
    5Joe Flacco

    QB

    Baltimore Ravens
    6 Maxx WilliamsTEBaltimore Ravens
    7Michael VickQBPittsburgh Steelers
    8Marlon BrownWRBaltimore Ravens
    9Heath MillerTEPittsburgh Steelers
    10Markus Wheaton WRPittsburgh Steelers

Quarterbacks

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco

    Let me start by saying this: This is not a debate of whether or not Flacco is an elite quarterback.

    This has been a very frustrating season for the Ravens. However, Flacco has been solid over the last two games. After throwing for a measly 117 yards in Week 1, Flacco has gone on to throw well over 350 yards in his last two contests.

    Yes, the team was behind and forced into a shootout in his last two games, but the fantasy totals were there for Flacco, as he is the No. 7 QB over the last two weeks.

    Now, I get it—what are the chances the Ravens get in to a shootout with the Pittsburgh Steelers led by Michael Vick?

    Probably not great.

    The Ravens will be without their tight end Crockett Gillmore, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Additionally, Zrebiec reports that Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is out for the game as well. Just to make matters worse, the Steelers could also be without cornerback Cortez Allen for another game. 

    If the Steelers are without Allen again, that horrendous secondary is in even more trouble. In fact, the Steelers rank 30th in terms of pass coverage this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Since Baltimore won't be forced into a shootout, Flacco won't throw for insane numbers, but he'll be a very serviceable option this week with a favorable matchup.

    Projections: 22-of-35 passing, 250 passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

    Pittsburgh Steelers: Michael Vick

    You're probably not starting Vick in most leagues—he's just way too risky and unpredictable.

    However, Vick is surrounded by some of the best skill position players he's had in his career. This includes running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

    He's not nearly the same elusive Vick from his heyday, but don't be surprised if you see him take off and run from time to time.

    This game figures to be all Bell, and that's a pretty good bet. Avoid Vick this week.

    Projections: 18-of-28 passing, 155 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 6 carries, 20 rushing yards

Running Backs

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Baltimore Ravens Starter: Justin Forsett

    All right, this is the week for Forsett to get going.

    Unfortunately for Forsett, the Ravens were tasked with a menacing Denver Broncos defense in Week 1 and had to play in shootouts with the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals in the following weeks.

    When those things happen, the run game is often abandoned.

    The reason why Forsett should succeed this week is simple—the Ravens should actually have a decent lead at some point in the game.

    After some Week 2 concerns about fellow running back Lorenzo Taliaferro cutting in to his snaps, Forsett went out and played over 81 percent of the team's snaps in Week 3.

    Forsett owners are frustrated, and it's understandable.

    This is the week!

    Projections: 16 carries, 65 rushing yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions, 30 receiving yards

    Pittsburgh Steelers Starter: Le'Veon Bell

    It certainly didn't take the Steelers long to get Bell worked back into the offense, now did it?

    In Week 3, Bell played in 60 of the teams 63 offensive snaps and had a total of 26 touches (19 rushing, seven receptions).

    There's really no need to analyze this further. You're starting Bell, and the fact that Vick is starting under center only makes Bell that much more appealing.

    Projections: 28 carries, 140 rushing yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions, 40 yards

Wide Receivers

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    GAIL BURTON/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens: Steve Smith Sr.

    It's almost sad knowing Smith is retiring after this season. By far one of the most entertaining players to watch, Smith will get to showcase his fountain-of-youth self and trash talk on national television—how great is that?

    Let's be honest, the Ravens have almost no weapons whatsoever.

    As noted before, the Ravens will be without tight end Crockett Gillmore, leaving Smith as the clear-cut No. 1 option in this passing attack (as if he wasn't before).

    Over his last two games, Smith has received 16 and 17 targets, respectively. That's one more target than Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.

    Smith is in a similar situation as Jones—there's no one else to catch the ball.

    Look for quarterback Joe Flacco to force-feed Smith.

    Projections: 8 receptions, 100 receiving yards, 1 TD

    Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown

    Now, you probably saw the big board and thought, "How the heck can Brown be fourth on the big board?"

    Trust me, it was weird to place him there.

    The injury to Roethlisberger is really unfortunate for Brown from a fantasy perspective. Obviously, Vick is no Big Ben.

    Heading into Thursday night, Brown holds a streak of 36 straight games (including last year's Wild Card Game) in which he's had five or more receptions—that's incredible.

    Don't worry, stat guys—Brown will maintain his streak this week.

    Projections: 6 receptions, 75 receiving yards, 1 TD

Tight Ends

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens Starter: Maxx Williams

    As noted enough times that you should know by now, fellow tight end Crockett Gillmore has been ruled out for Thursday night's game.

    The one piece of information we can't ignore any longer is the fact that this guy has more than one "x" in his name—don't mess with anyone with more than one "x" in their name.

    In all seriousness, Williams will be the No. 2 target for Flacco, behind only Steve Smith Sr. In relief of Gillmore in Week 3, Williams caught three pass for 44 yards. Yeah, decent line, whatever, but what's really eye-opening are his targets—seven.

    Seven targets. That, my friends, is why Williams is scoring his first NFL touchdown Thursday night—he'll get a healthy amount of targets. He's worth starting this week.

    Projections: 6 receptions, 60 receiving yards, 1 TD

    Pittsburgh Steelers: Heath Miller

    Heath Miller is perhaps the member of the Steelers offense most affected by Big Ben's absence.

    Over the first two weeks of the season, Miller was averaging 13 fantasy points per game in points-per-reception formats. In Week 3, Miller finished with just four fantasy points in PPR formats.

    Now, Roethlisberger played a decent amount of the game, but backup quarterback Michael Vick didn't look his way once.

    The passing volume just isn't going to be there with Vick at the helm. Look for other options (like Williams).

    Projections: 3 receptions, 20 receiving yards

Defense/Special Teams

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Baltimore Ravens Defense/Special Teams

    The Ravens defense is absolutely atrocious.

    Even though the team is going up against Michael Vick, it's hard to foresee multiple turnovers coming from this unit. Neither one of these defenses are great options going into Week 4, but if forced to choose between these two, the Ravens defense is your best bet.

    Hopefully cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb can build up some confidence again.

    Projections: 17 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF

    Pittsburgh Steelers Defense/Special Teams

    Like the Ravens, this defense isn't great either.

    Heading into Week 4, cornerback Cortez Allen is questionable and linebacker Ryan Shazier is out.

    Shazier is rated as a top-10 inside linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus, so it's never good to lose a guy of his caliber—especially when the defense isn't very good to begin with.

    Expect the Ravens to be relatively turnover-free this game. Look elsewhere.

    Projections: 24 points allowed, 2 sacks

Best Sleeper Add

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Maxx Williams, TE, Baltimore Ravens (Owned in 2.2 percent of ESPN Leagues)

    After almost spitting my coffee out and checking back to make sure I wasn't absolutely losing it, it's true—Williams is owned in just over 2 percent of ESPN leagues. What is going on?

    Now, it's understandable if you're in a smaller league, but generally speaking, Williams needs to be owned.

    Williams is a supreme streaming option in a week where tight ends like New England's Rob Gronkowski and Tennessee's Delanie Walker are on byes.

    Williams will pay dividends for your fantasy team Thursday night.

Injury Report

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens

    Player

     

    Status

    Crockett Gillmore

    TE

    Out

    Breshad Perriman

    WR

    Out

    The Ravens will have to wait at least one more week before the debut of first-round draft pick Perriman. 

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Player

     

    Status

    Ben Roethlisberger

    QB

    Out

    Cortez Allen

    CB

    Questionable

    Ryan Shazier

    LB

    Out

    James HarrisonLB

    Probable 

    With Roethlisberger and Shazier out, can the Ravens take advantage and get their first win of the season?

    Injury reports courtesy of ESPN.com.

Start or Sit?

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens

    While the team as a whole has been performing terribly, Flacco has still been putting up some pretty good numbers. In a game that's not expected to be a shootout, look for Flacco to still post a solid fantasy day against a weak Pittsburgh Steelers defense.

    Verdict: Start

    Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens

    Don't hit the panic button just yet.

    This game is a perfect opportunity for Forsett to see a few more carries while staying involved in the passing game. If he doesn't meet expectations, reassess for Week 5. For now, Forsett is a solid running back option in Week 4.

    Verdict: Start

    All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus and Pro-Football-Reference.

    Follow me on Twitter @RichardJanvrin.