Week 4 recap: Beyond the Box Score
The Colts took care of business against one the league's worst defenses. The only development worth mentioning is tight end Coby Fleener, who has found the end zone in two of the last three weeks and caught five passes for 77 yards and a score against the Jaguars. With Dwayne Allen out for the season and plenty of passes to go around, Fleener is slowly drifting into must-start territory at the tight end position. Despite a tough matchup against Seattle next week, fantasy owners need to start all of their Colts as this offense is solid.
By any metric, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the worst offense in the NFL this season. Aside from Cecil Shorts - who leads the NFL with 52 targets - and Maurice Jones-Drew (when the matchup is right), nobody else is worthy of being on the fantasy radar.
New York Giants 7
Kansas City 31
I know that the Giants are 0-4 right now, but would it really shock you if they came back to win the NFC East? There isn't much you can say about this offense that isn't negative. Obviously there is a ton of talent here: an elite quarterback and solid weapons. Their offensive line has been banged up, allowing the fourth-most sacks this season. David Wilson hasn't been the game-breaker everyone envisioned and Eli Manning has more interceptions than touchdowns. Manning (30.0 quarterback rating) ranks 29th out of 35 quarterbacks who have started a game in the NFL this season. This offense will figure it out eventually; they are too good to struggle for this long. The perfect opportunity to turn it around is Week 5 taking on the Philadelphia Eagles, a defense that is allowing the most yards per game (446.8) in the entire league. This is a must-win game for the Giants.
Le'Veon Bell looked good in his NFL debut, rushing for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 16 carries. The Steelers continue to throw the ball a ton and the result has been a ton of targets for Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery. Pittsburgh isn't winning games, but they are putting up solid fantasy numbers when they fall behind and let Big Ben throw. It isn't rocket science: if they let Roethlisberger throw it 50 times a game, the numbers will be there.
Matt Cassel threw for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his first start for the Vikings, but more importantly he didn't turn the football over. This is a developing quarterback battle and it is worth keeping an eye on as the week progresses. Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson appear to be the only options worthy of fantasy consideration in the Vikings passing game. Adrian Peterson (23 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns) continues to be the top running back in fantasy football.
Tampa Bay 10
Ugly game. I don't buy that Arizona is a good offense. The Cardinals rank 25th, averaging 78.8 yards per game on the ground and are only slightly above average throwing the football. Aside from Larry Fitzgerald, it is nearly impossible to predict what is going to happen on a week-to-week basis in this offense.
Mike Glennon and Tampa Bay are a work in progress. My advice for fantasy owners would be to avoid this entire offense for the time being and re-evaluate after a few games.
New York Jets 13
According to total quarterback rating, Jake Locker is a top-five quarterback this season through four games. It is too early to speculate on his status going forward, but as of right now, it looks like Locker is going to miss some time with a hip injury that he suffered against the Jets. Nate Washington and Kendall Wright remain the only consistent options worth starting in the Titans passing game. Rookie Justin Hunter is worth owning and has serious potential in dynasty leagues. It is unfortunate that just as Locker is starting to put it all together, he is sidelined. This was shaping up as a true make or break season for Locker and so far he has delivered.
Do you need any analysis of the Denver offense? They are without question the best offense in the NFL. Peyton Manning is on pace for an historic record-breaking season and as NBC analyst and former head coach Tony Dungy said on Sunday Night, "this offense is only going to get better as the season goes on." Really the only fantasy situation worth monitoring is the running back committee, where Knowshon Moreno will continue to start due to his superb pass blocking, but it is looking like Ronnie Hillman has inherited the "closer" role as he gets virtually all of the work late in the game, while Montee Ball is a non-factor for the time being. Fantasy owners fortunate enough to own Manning and his four top targets should enjoy the ride; this offense is fun to watch. One quick note on one of the "four horsemen:" Wes Welker has six touchdowns (on pace to shatter his career-high of nine in 2011) in four games and is on pace for over 100 catches. If he keeps up this level of production, he will turn in the best season of his career.
The defense is the biggest culprit for the Eagles so far this season, but the up-tempo offense that was supposed to change the game has only exposed the offense's most glaring weakness, the decision making of quarterback Michael Vick. Vick is an electrifying game-changer and one of the most exciting fantasy quarterbacks of all-time, but when he is forced to make decisions at an even faster pace, it results in more fumbles, interceptions, sacks, misfires and big hits on Vick. After four games, we have reached the inevitable adjustment period where both Chip Kelly and Vick figure this out, or the experiment fails miserably and both are gone at the end of the season. Kelly is without question one of the best offensive minds in the game and will get it straightened out, but the defense as it is currently constructed puts them behind the eight ball right out of the gate.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Robert Griffin III has recorded a total quarterback rating fewer than 50.0 in all four games this season, something he only did twice all of last season. Griffin III picked up the win against the Raiders and had a decent fantasy day, but the rushing yards that made him the most dynamic fantasy quarterback in the league last season aren't there and he hasn't completed enough passes to overcome the loss of the rushing yards. Alfred Morris is averaging over five yards per carry this season, but suffered a rib injury in this game, which opened the door for Roy Helu Jr. to have a nice game. If Morris is forced to miss any action, Helu Jr. steps into the starting lineup. Aside from Pierre Garcon, can you really trust any of the other weapons in the passing game?
Darren McFadden suffered a hamstring injury which isn't believed to be serious, but it's McFadden so you never know with injuries. The big hit was the knee injury to Marcel Reece, which could sideline him for a while. This is an offense in disarray. Stay away.
San Diego 30
It is time to buy into the Chargers passing game after four games. Free agent acquisition Danny Woodhead has developed into an under the radar point-per-reception stud this season. Woodhead trails only Jamaal Charles in both receptions (22) and targets (27) by a running back this season. The revival of Antonio Gates (10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys) has been nice to see as well.
Where in the world is Jason Witten? Witten was shutout for most of the game, but caught a few passes late in the contest. They need to get him going, especially with Austin sidelined. The Cowboys' main offensive weapons delivered in this game, but a late fumble by Miles Austin fill-in Terrence Williams on the goal line sealed their fate.
New England 30
The New England Patriots offense is improving. Even without their three best players - Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen - quarterback Tom Brady is getting the job done. Julian Edelman has excelled running similar routes to what Wes Welker did in the past, while Kenbrell Thompkins has emerged as their big-play vertical threat and the go-to guy when they need a conversion. Thompkins is big, physical, athletic and clearly has huge upside, but has struggled catching the football at times. After three touchdowns in two weeks, Thompkins is clearly Brady's favorite target when he can't go to Edelman. The numbers won't be what they were in the past, but the Patriots are finding ways to win games (which is all that matters).
LeGarrette Blount busted a 47-yard touchdown run late in the game, finishing with 64 yards on nine carries (the first rushing touchdown of the season for the Patriots). New England led the NFL with 25 touchdowns on the ground last season, but have just one through four games this season. Stevan Ridley continues to get work due to injuries, but has done virtually nothing this season. Brandon Bolden looked good in this game and had a touchdown called back after replay early in the game, but injured his knee in the second quarter. The entire situation is a stay away until Vereen returns in Week 11, but Ridley and Blount will continue to share the workload for now.
The Falcons are banged up and it showed against New England. The big loss for the Patriots defense was Vince Wilfork, who is now out for the season with a torn Achilles that he suffered on the first series of the game. One of the best run stoppers in the entire NFL, Wilfork had played on 80 percent of the defensive snaps this season. After Wilfork went out, the Falcons couldn't run the ball with Steven Jackson out. They need him back.
Tony Gonzalez is still amazingly good. The Hall of Fame bound veteran caught 12 passes for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Roddy White is still hobbled by an ankle injury, which showed up in his lack of explosiveness and inability to make quick cuts to get open. Julio Jones caught just six of the 13 passes thrown his way, due in large part to the presence of cornerback Aqib Talib (who was thrown at eight times, including on the final play of the game in the end-zone which he batted away, and had just one completion against him). Talib also broke up what would have been a game-winning pass to White on the Falcons' final play of the game.