Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 4: Advice for Unfavorable Fantasy Football Matchups

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2018

Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard runs the ball in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Chicago Bears, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Frank Victores/Associated Press

It isn't always easy to get a read on fantasy football start 'em, sit 'em matchups. 

Look at the start of Week 4 on Thursday Night Football for proof. There, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked to be in a brutal matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, both based on reputation and the fact the unit had even held Aaron Rodgers in check from a fantasy perspective. 

Naturally, Goff scored 39.3 points. 

So goes the risk-reward of playing matchups, yet it is still one of the key factors in overall league results. Here is a look at some matchup comparisons and a few to know and avoid. 

       

QB

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Patrick Mahomes (at DEN) vs. Matt Ryan (vs. CIN)Matt Ryan
Drew Brees (at NYG) vs. Aaron Rodgers (vs. BUF)Aaron Rodgers
Ryan Tannehill (at NE) vs. Andrew Luck (vs. HOU)Ryan Tannehill
Philip Rivers (vs. SF) vs. Carson Wentz (at TEN)Philip Rivers
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. BAL) vs. Tom Brady (vs. MIA)Tom Brady
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Eli Manning, NYG (vs. NO)

Feel like playing a streamer? Feel like winning a fantasy game this week? 

Say hello to New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, a guy forgotten by most after his benching last year and mostly flying under the radar this year because he has yet to even hit the 20-point mark in a game. 

Yet. 

Manning has only thrown three touchdown passes this year, but he's impossible to ignore against a New Orleans Saints defense allowing the most points outright to opposing quarterbacks on average, with two opposing passers going for north of 40 points. 

Manning could do the same, especially with weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley.  

      

Matchup to Avoid: Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (vs. BAL) 

There are simply too many streaming options at quarterback to end up taking a risk on Ben Roethlisberger in Week 4. 

Big Ben has looked good over his past two outings, scoring 38.98 and 25.02 points. But the bigger of the two numbers came against one of the worst defenses in the league (Kansas City) on a staggering 60 attempts. 

Now Big Ben has to deal with the Baltimore Ravens, a defense predictably allowing only the fifth-fewest points to opposing passers. That defense will finally have C.J. Mosley back, so it should only improve. 

This is one of those rare circumstances where the weapons around a quarterback don't figure to help uplift him past a terrible matchup, and given the stream-happy nature of the position, grabbing Manning instead is a good idea. 

      

RB

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Alvin Kamara (at NYG) vs. Ezekiel Elliott (vs. DET)Ezekiel Elliott
Melvin Gordon (vs. SF) vs. Saquon Barkley (vs. NO)Saquon Barkley
Kerryon Johnson (at DAL) vs. David Johnson (vs. SEA)Kerryon Johnson
Jordan Howard (vs. TB) vs. Giovani Bernard (at ATL)Giovani Bernard
Derrick Henry (vs. PHI) vs. Chris Carson (at ARI)Chris Carson
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Giovani Bernard, CIN (at ATL)

Buy all the stock possible in Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard. 

Bernard hasn't been able to get on the field much thanks to the emergence of workhorse Joe Mixon, but with the starter out in Week 3, Bernard drummed up 17.1 points on 12 carries for 61 yards and a score with another five catches for 25 yards. 

Bernard will serve as the every-down back again in Week 4 with Mixon hurt, and he gets an Atlanta Falcons defense allowing the fourth-most points to his position. Those Falcons have been bullied by violent runners (Jay Ajayi, 20.2 points) and slashed by do-it-all types (Christian McCaffrey, 20.9). 

Now it's time for Bernard, who does a little bit of everything. 

      

Matchup to Avoid: Derrick Henry, TEN (vs. PHI) 

Big name, little game. 

So goes the story for Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry so far this year, as an expected breakout while getting spelled by Dion Lewis simply hasn't happened. 

Quantity isn't the problem, as Henry has 10 or more carries in all three games, with 18 totes in two consecutive contests. The problem is, he hasn't rushed for more than 57 yards or scored. 

The Henry show now has to deal with a Philadelphia Eagles defense surrendering the second-fewest points to the position. While the competition hasn't been the toughest (can anyone name an Indianapolis running back?), it's still a red flag going into a game where there might not be much in the way of scoring. 

Without a role in the passing game and making the offense too predictable on early downs, Henry is a must-avoid option in a bad matchup. 

          

WR

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Odell Beckham Jr. (vs. NO) vs. Keenan Allen (vs. SF)Odell Beckham Jr.
Mike Evans (at CHI) vs. Sammy Watkins (at DEN)Mike Evans
Michael Thomas (at NYG) vs. Jarvis Landry (at OAK)Michael Thomas
Allen Robinson (vs. TB) vs. DeAndre Hopkins (at IND)DeAndre Hopkins
Demaryius Thomas (vs. KC) vs. A.J. Green (at ATL)A.J. Green
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Michael Crabtree, BAL (at PIT)

Other than the obvious like rolling with Beckham, try to keep in mind someone like Ravens wideout Michael Crabtree. 

Crabtree has only scored double digits points once this year, and it is easy to forget he's in Baltimore. But what bargain hunters know all too well about Crabtree is he has received 10 targets apiece in each of his last two outings. 

It takes one good matchup for Crabtree to erupt. 

Crabtree has just that in Week 4 against the Steelers, a defense once again lost against the pass. The Steelers cough up the third-most points to wideouts this year, having let five opposing receivers hit 13 or more points so far. 

Crabtree is merely the sixth, and it only takes a few big plays for him to score more than any other player has against the unit. 

      

Matchup to Avoid: Marvin Jones, DET (at DAL) 

Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones is one of the hotter names in fantasy football right now coming off back-to-back scores, good for 13.4 and 14.9 points. 

But the problem astute owners will start to realize is Jones is a touchdown-reliant option right now, as eight targets in Week 1 only resulted in 7.4 points. 

Jones will have a hard time turning consistent targets into much against the Dallas Cowboys, as the unit permits the third-fewest points to the position and even held Beckham to less than 10. Keep in mind, too, the Lions just had their first 100-yard rusher since 2013. 

In what could be a run-heavy contest on the road, owners can do better by finding a streamer and waiting for Jones to have a better matchup.  

     

TE

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Travis Kelce (at DEN) vs. Eric Ebron (vs. HOU)Travis Kelce
Zach Ertz (at TEN) vs. Trey Burton (vs. TB)Zach Ertz
O.J. Howard (at CHI) vs. Jimmy Graham (vs. BUF)O.J. Howard
Rob Gronkowski (vs. MIA) vs. Jack Doyle (vs. HOU)Rob Gronkowski
Charles Clay (at GB) vs. Tyler Eifert (at ATL)Tyler Eifert
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Jimmy Graham, GB (vs. BUF) 

Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham should have one of his better performances of the season against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4. 

Graham has been all over the place so far, scoring 1.8 points in Week 1 and following it up with 12.5 points in Week 2. He has seven or more targets in two weeks running now, though, so it seems like the offense is starting to warm up to the idea of working through him. 

It's good timing, too, because the Bills cough up the ninth-most points to tight ends this year despite playing a soft schedule (Nick Boyle, Virgil Green). The best name they have faced, Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph, dropped a touchdown and 13.3 points despite a struggling quarterback. 

Graham doesn't have a struggling passing attack and should feast on a unit that can't match up against him well. 

     

Matchup to Avoid: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. CLE)

It might be time for owners to throw in the towel on Jared Cook. 

The Oakland Raiders tight end got free for 22.5 points in Week 1, hinting at a major season. It was a flash in the pan instead, as he's failed to score seven points in a game since. 

Don't expect that to change against an elite Cleveland Browns defense, which has allowed the third-fewest points to tight ends so far, allowing 7.5 in one game and less than that combined over the next two. 

The Browns will not only pressure an erratic Derrick Carr well, but they also have the athletes necessary to match up with Cook and keep him in line. 

       

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues.     

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