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Fantasy Fast Forward: NFL Week 4

Michael Vick

Ok, who’s ready for a Chiefs-Bears Super Bowl?

We all know that the likelihood of that happening is still very slim, but with the opening three weeks of the season in the books, the odds of Kansas City and Chicago meeting in February has gone from “no way in heck” to “so you’re saying there’s a chance!”

We’re heading into October now, which means teams and players are starting to show who they really are for the 2010 season. Pittsburgh has showed they can win without Big Ben. Michael Vick has showed he can still be a team’s “top dog” (pun intended). And the Bills and Lions are still the Bills and Lions. Teams and players may be showing their true colors, but personally, me and my weekly picks seem to be struggling with an identity crisis. Week 1 was a triumphant one. Week 2, well not so much. Now, Week 3 turned out to be one where I accentuated the negative. I’m a positive kind of guy, this isn’t like me. But in Week 3, I nailed my “jokers,” and struck out with most of my “aces.” What can I say, I guess I have a keen eye for lack of talent.

Well, on we go with Week 4. The bye weeks are upon us, so now more than ever, it’s important to find the right players with the right matchups, to fill in for your stars that are on hiatus for the weekend. Let’s take a quick look at my Week 3 results, then we’ll dive right in to what I see for Week 4.

My Week 3 QB Aces (Palmer, McNabb, Orton)

These three gems threw for just one touchdown a piece, with each of them throwing at least one pick as well. Orton did torch the sky with 476 yards through the air in Denver’s losing effort, throwing 57 times on the day. But the other two completed only 19 passes each, not good enough for “ace” status in my book.

My Week 3 QB Jokers (Schaub, Hasselbeck, Cassel)

None of these QBs threw for more than 250 yards in Week 3, but I’m willing to bet you would’ve been happy to start Matt Cassel on your fantasy teams last week, with his 3 touchdown passes. Schaub and Hasselbeck aren’t “drop-worthy” by any means, they just had down weeks.

My Week 3 RB Aces (Rice, Thomas, McFadden)

Rice had his biggest game of the season, but that’s not saying much. He rumbled for 80 yards and caught four passes for another 16, but no scores again and a knee bruise too, frustrates Rice owners everywhere. Thomas couldn’t find the end zone either, but he totaled 91 yards from scrimmage. McFadden had another top notch day though, running for 105 yards and a TD. Maybe he’s finally the real deal after all.

My Week 3 RB Jokers (R. Brown, Best, M. Barber)

Other than Barber’s TD run, these three were true jokers in Week 3, with Brown going for just 54 yards and the rookie Best coming back down to Earth with a lackluster 7 carries for 26 yards.

My Week 3 WR Aces (Heyward-Bey, S. Moss, Marshall)

Me picking Marshall was a home run, plain and simple. After two down weeks with his new team, Marshall lit up the Jets secondary on Sunday night, hauling in 10 balls for 166 yards and his first TD as a Dolphin. Moss scored as well, and had a very respectable 124 yards receiving in Washington’s embarrassing loss to the Rams, but “Hey-Bey” disappointed, catching just three of the 11 passes he was targeted on, for just a 49-yard total.

My Week 3 WR Jokers (S. Smith, S. Smith, Fitzgerald)

The Giants version of Steve Smith outgained Carolina’s in Week 3, with NY’s Smith catching nine balls for 103 yards and Carolina’s Smith putting up just three grabs and 22 yards. Neither scored, but Fitzy did, even though his two catches for just 26 yards on the day had to be a little deflating for his fantasy owners.

My Week 3 TE Ace (Heap)

Todd Heap was a “heap of crap” on Sunday, with just four catches against the lowly Browns for a measly 46 yards. No trips to the end zone for Heap either… bummer.

My Week 3 TE Joker (H. Miller)

The Steelers keep winning, but it’s not because of anything Heath Miller is doing. Just two catches for big Heath against the Bucs, for 25 yards total. Yuck!

My Week 3 Superlatives

Fantasy First Rounder Most Likely to Cause a Temper Tantrum (S. Jackson) – The touchdown he had saved Jackson from having a very mediocre Week 3. You probably want more than 58 yards on 10 carries out of your top fantasy running back, correct?

QB Most Likely to Lose Their Starting Job This Week (D. Anderson) – It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m guaranteeing it will sooner rather than later… especially with 122-yard passing days like Anderson had on Sunday against Oakland, in a game that the Raiders handed to the Cards. It’ll be Max Hall time in no time in the desert.

My Week 3 Wackies

“There haven’t been any shutouts yet in the regular season. Week 3 will have at least two.”

Fail. Philly came the closest, beating the Jags 28-3 in Jacksonville. But if no fans were there to watch the Jags score those three points, who can prove they were really scored in the first place?

“There has only been one running back to go for over 200 rushing yards in a game this season. Week 3 will have at least two.”

Double fail. Minny’s Adrian Peterson came the closest to the two bills mark, scampering for 160 yards in the Vikes’ first win of the season, over Detroit. Peterson didn’t hit the 200-yard mark in Week 3, but he will accomplish that feat at least twice this season, mark my words.

“After Week 3, I think we’ll have five undefeated teams remain. Less than half of those 3-0 teams will make the playoffs this season.”

Triple fail. We’re down to just three undefeated teams, so I’m already wrong there. I really didn’t see New Orleans falling at home to Atlanta or a hot Texans team losing at home to in-state rival Dallas. But I’m holding true to the second part of this prediction… less than half of the three 3-0 teams remaining will make the playoffs this season. So mayors of Kansas City and Chicago, don’t go booking any Super Bowl parades just yet, mmm-kay?

Ok, like Mark McGwire, “I’m not here to talk about the past.” Let’s look to the future, and turn our attention to Week 4.

Week 4 QB Aces

Mark Sanchez, NYJ (@BUF)

Believe it or not, Sanchez has played like a worthy fantasy starter so far this season. He hasn’t turned the ball over at all in his last two games, and has thrown for three scores in his team’s two wins. This week, he faces the league’s seventh-worst pass defense up in Buffalo. The Bills had Sanchez’s number in his two starts against them last season, throwing for just 223 yards combined in the two games, with just one touchdown and five interceptions. But this is a new year, and seemingly, a new Mark Sanchez.

Michael Vick, PHI (vs. WAS)

I haven’t had the chance to address the whole Michael Vick story yet, so let me touch on it here. I couldn’t be happier for the guy. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but what he did with the whole dog fighting thing… in my mind, sure it wasn’t great, but I certainly think he was over-punished for it all. To see Vick get a chance at career resurrection, well that’s what I call a fantastic NFL story, and human interest story for that matter. Vick this week will go up against a Redskins defense that handed St. Louis Rams rookie Sam Bradford his first NFL win last week. The hype in this game will be the whole “Donovan McNabb faces his former team” thing, but the real story after this game will be how well Michael Vick continues to play.

Bruce Gradkowski, OAK (vs. HOU)

Who would’ve ever thought I’d be promoting the fantasy prospects of Bruce Gradkowski!?! Well, the bye weeks are upon us, so if you’re a Tony Romo or Brett Favre owner, you’re looking for your bye-week replacement at QB. If you can’t get your hands on “The Sanchize,” go with the “Grad Man.” Oakland hosts the Texans this week, a team that hasn’t intercepted a pass yet and has given up the most passing yards (1,143) thus far this season. With emerging weapons like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy, and tight end Zach Miller, I like Gradkowski this week… there, I said it.

Week 4 QB Jokers

Joe Flacco, BAL (@PIT)

Entering the year, I had very high hopes for Flacco and the Ravens offense. So far, not so good. Flacco finally had a solid game last week against the Browns, but hey… he should, he was facing the Browns! He hooked up with new WR toy Anquan Boldin for three TDs on the day, while finally going 60 minutes without a turnover. This week, he faces an undefeated Pittsburgh team at Heinz Field… a Steeler team that has won all three games on the heels of their incredibly tough defense. I see Flacco regressing back to his Week 1 & 2, instead of building off his Week 3.

Donovan McNabb, WAS (@PHI)

I can’t see this return trip to Philadelphia going all too well for McNabb, to be honest. His emotions will surely be running high, and I’m sure he’ll want to prove to his former team that they made a mistake trading him away, but he just doesn’t have enough talent around him on offense to help him prove his point. Philly’s defense is good, especially against the pass, as they showed last week when they completely shut down Jacksonville’s David Garrard. McNabb is obviously a better QB than Garrard, but he’ll have his fair share of struggles this week in Philly.

Eli Manning, NYG (vs. CHI)

What has happened to the Giants’ signal caller? He’s turned into a turnover machine so far this season, almost “Jay Cutler-ish,” throwing six interceptions and losing two fumbles through just three games this season. This week he goes against Cutler’s undefeated Chicago Bears, and while Cutler should be able to throw all over the Giants defense, look for Eli & Company to struggle against a much improved Chicago defense. Until Eli finds some consistency protecting the football, I don’t see how you can put your fantasy hopes in his hands.

Week 4 RB Aces

Frank Gore, SF (@ATL)

Those of you in PPR (points-per-reception) leagues probably already know this, but what running back leads the league with 22 catches out of the backfield? San Fran’s Frank Gore is your correct answer. Gore hasn’t totally been an all-world rusher yet for the winless Niners, but his ability to make plays through the air as well as on the ground makes him the first round fantasy talent that he is. Gore goes up against an Atlanta defense that has already given 100-yard days to two opposing running backs this season, before bottling up Pierre Thomas and the Saints ground game last week. If you have Gore, you’re starting him without a doubt… this week, you’ll be happy he’s playing for your team.

Justin Forsett, SEA (@STL)

Head coach Pete Carroll didn’t lean on his third-year rusher much at all in Seattle’s first two games, with Forsett handling the ball just 15 times. Week 3, that certainly changed. Forsett racked up 17 carries in Sunday’s win over the Chargers, and that heavy workload should continue this week against a weak Rams defense. Last season on the road against St. Louis, Forsett had a career game, rushing for 130 yards and a pair of TDs to help deliver a Week 12 win for the ‘Hawks. I see triple-digit yardage for Forsett this week as well.

Brandon Jackson, GB (vs. DET)

Those of you who scooped up Jackson off the waiver wire after the Week 1 injury to Ryan Grant, this is the week that transaction finally pays off for you. Jackson has greatly disappointed his fantasy owners, and more importantly, the Packer coaches and fans, thus far as Grant’s replacement. But in his short NFL career, there’s only one opponent that Jackson has broken the 100-yard plateau against, and that team is Green Bay’s Week 4 opponent, the Detroit Lions. Philly’s LeSean McCoy and Minny’s Adrian Peterson have had huge days against Detroit the last two weeks, so look for B-Jack to finally break through with a big game of his own on Sunday.

Week 4 RB Jokers

Ricky Williams, MIA (vs. NE)

Many consider Miami’s rushing attack a two-man threat, but lately it’s been Ronnie Brown who has shouldered the lion’s share of carries over Williams. Ricky’s workload has dwindled each week this season, and that will likely continue against the Pats this Monday night in a game that I’m predicting will be a back-and-forth aerial show between Brady and Miami’s Chad Henne. At age 33, I think the wheels are finally starting to fall off for Williams… I’d keep his on your fantasy bench until further notice.

Peyton Hillis, CLE (vs. CIN)

Everyone is salivating over Hillis, snatching him off the waiver wire and plunking him right into their fantasy lineups. Folks, can we keep one thing in mind please… he’s on the Cleveland Flippin’ Browns! Sure, he was worthy of a fantasy pickup… I’m not begrudging you that. But to think he’s going to put up stat lines every week like he put up against the Ravens last week (22 carries, 144 yards, one TD) just isn’t realistic. He comes back to Earth this week against a very tough Cincy front seven in what should be a Bengal blowout.

Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (vs. CHI)

Quick, name the team that’s given up the least amount of rushing yards so far this season. Yup, it’s the undefeated Chicago Bears. I’ve liked Bradshaw so far this season… in fact, I was hyping Bradshaw a lot in the preseason. But this isn’t the week to rely on him in fantasy land. The Giants are turning out to just not be that good, really… so I’d think twice about inserting Bradshaw into your fantasy lineup this week.

Week 4 WR Aces

Austin Collie, IND (@JAC)

If they gave out a trophy for Fantasy MVP, this year’s award would have to go to Collie after the first three weeks of action. And who saw this coming? He entered the year third, at best, on most Colt depth charts at receiver, behind Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, and some had him losing ground to Anthony Gonzalez too. But who leads the league with 27 receptions? Collie. Who’s the NFL leader with 359 receiving yards? Collie. And who is tied with Hakeem Nicks and Jeremy Maclin with more TDs (4) than any other NFL receiver? Collie once again. He’s turned himself into a fantasy starting no-brainer, especially this week when he and the Colts square off against the lowly Jaguars.

Brandon Marshall, MIA (vs. NE)

I made him a Week 3 “ace” and I’m keeping the “ace” tag on him for Week 4 as well. He gets to face the awful Patriot defense this week, after living up to the hype against a much tougher New York Jet secondary last week. Marshall should pick the young New England secondary apart all game long on Monday night. Double-digit catches are almost a guarantee this week for Mr. Marshall.

Kevin Walter, HOU (@OAK)

I’ll admit, my first two “WR Aces” aren’t too much of a stretch, so I’ll make my third pick more of a long shot. Walter has emerged as one of Matt Schaub’s favorite targets, especially when taking aim at the end zone. Walter’s got a TD catch in each of the three opening games for Houston, and he’s clearly won the #2 WR spot over teammate Jacoby Jones. With top wideout Andre Johnson nursing a sprained ankle, Texans fans hope Walter can answer the call and deliver a career day in Oakland. As long as he’s not matched up with All Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha for the game, he should produce a solid stat line for Week 4.

Week 4 WR Jokers

Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ (@BUF)

I can’t claim to ever call myself a Jets fan in my life, but I will say that I’ve always liked Jerricho Cotchery as a player. This week, and really going forward, I can’t say that I like him as a fantasy player anymore. While fantasy owners have to like what Mark Sanchez has done to breathe life into the Jets passing game, it hasn’t had anything to do with the veteran receiver’s contributions. Cotchery has just eight catches on the year and he’s barely being targeted by Sanchez at all, instead looking looks to Braylon Edwards and tight end Dustin Keller. The position will only get more crowded when Santonio Holmes returns from suspension. Cotchery has always been a fantasy favorite of mine, but I think this is the week to finally pull the plug on him.

Marques Colston, NO (vs. CAR)

What has happened to this guy? Through the first three weeks, he’s really dropped into fantasy irrelevance, with only 14 catches so far and no touchdowns in a struggling Saints offense. Now it looks like QB Drew Brees will be hobbled this week with a strained MCL. He’ll play, for sure, but I have to believe the Saints will be relying on the run to beat the weak Carolina Panthers. Colston’s struggles will likely continue at least one more week.

Brandon Lloyd, DEN (@TEN)

Like the Broncos backfield committee of old, the Broncos receiving corps these days is a myriad of confusion that I just can’t figure out. One week, it’ll be Jabar Gaffney who turns it on. The next week, it’s Eddie Royal. Then it’s Demaryius Thomas. Then it’s Brandon Lloyd. Who can start any of these guys, not knowing anything about which one will be the flavor of the week? Look, Lloyd has arguably been the best of the bunch in Denver through the first three weeks, racking up 339 receiving yards so far to go along with one TD catch. But I can’t commit to Lloyd, or any of the Denver receivers for that matter, until I know who emerges as the team’s top go-to guy. It’s like Kyle Orton is their father and won’t commit to picking his “favorite child” because he “loves them all equally.” You didn’t believe your dad when he fed you that line of crap, and I don’t believe Orton either.

Week 4 TE Ace

Dustin Keller, NYJ (@BUF)

He’s Sanchez’s favorite target, and there’s no reason why that won’t continue up in Buffalo on Sunday against the Bills. The Pats’ tight end tandem of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were able to exploit the middle of that Buffalo defense in Week 3, and there’s no doubt Keller and the Jets will aim to do the same this week. He doesn’t have a great history against the Bills (one 5-yard catch in Buffalo last season), but this year is a new story for Keller. He’ll do plenty to help you win your fantasy matchup this week.

Week 4 TE Joker

Brent Celek, PHI (vs. WAS)

Plenty of Eagles have benefited from the emergence of Michael Vick in Philadelphia. Brent Celek isn’t one of them. Celek was regarded as Kevin Kolb’s favorite receiver. With Kolb now on the sidelines, Celek’s production has taken a big hit, with just nine catches so far and no trips to the end zone. I was a huge Celek fan heading into this season, but his stock has totally dropped with the QB change in Philly. Until Kolb returns to the starting role, I would advise you to look elsewhere for your fantasy tight end, because with how deep the position is nowadays, there are bound to be better options out there for the taking.

Week 4 Wackies

(These are admittedly low-odds predictions that only I have the stones to profess…)

  • Tom Brady will throw for the least amount of yards amongst the four starting AFC East QBs this week.
  • All five 0-3 teams will not only lose again this week, but will all lose by double digits.
  • Of the six top fantasy QBs entering this season that are in action this week (Brees, Rodgers, P. Manning, Brady, Rivers, Schaub), none of them will throw for more than 300 yards this week.

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