Week 4 Early Games Review and MNF Preview
Another Sunday is in the books and it was one I missed entirely. I was out of state for most of the day so it was the first Sunday in recent memory where I can say I was unable to watch a single snap of football. The Monday Night game tonight pits the Dolphins against the Saints. I expect the Saints to continue to pile on the points, especially if Cameron Wake is unable to play for Miami. Personally, I need a big game out of Mike Wallace, as I am down 8 points in my keeper league and a loss would be devastating. I think Miami has a chance to squeak out a win tonight, but it sure won’t be easy. Look for Brees and Jimmy Graham to continue their torrid start. The Saints defense has been playing surprisingly well even after dealing with a ton of injuries. Below are some notes from the early games yesterday.
Ravens @ Bills
This was an ugly game that the Ravens should have won. Ray Rice was completely ineffective in his return from a hip injury, as he only had 5 carries for 17 yards. His numbers have been very underwhelming this year, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s already starting to decline. Joe Flacco wasn’t much better, as he tossed FIVE interceptions to go along with 2 TDs. He basically cost the Ravens the game. Torrey Smith was again the top option in the passing game with 5 catches for 166 yards and a score. Marlon Brown continued to be a solid #2 option with 4 catches for 34 yards and a TD. The other Baltimore receiving options are irrelevant in fantasy.
Buffalo was able to capitalize on the turnovers to squeak out a win. Fred Jackson led the way with 16 carries for 87 yards, but left the game with a sprained MCL. He thinks he can play Thursday, but I doubt he suits up. CJ Spiller had another quiet game with 77 yards rushing and then he too left with an injury. It appears to be a mild ankle sprain, but since they are on a short week, I would look for other options to start and bench him. Even if he does play, I don’t expect a big game out of him. Robert Woods caught EJ Manuel’s lone TD pass, but he is not a reliable fantasy option. Stevie Johnson had zero impact on the game with 1 catch for -1 yards. The Bills are tough to figure out week to week.
Bengals @ Browns
Another ugly game for the Bengals and it showed why Andy Dalton is not a top-tier QB in the NFL. He cannot consistently make enough plays and the Bengals would be foolish to give him a large contract extension. He is wasting the prodigious talents of AJ Green, who had another quiet game with 7 catches for 51 yards. Giovani Bernard apparently has taken over the primary RB role from BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ellis had another pathetic game and is not worth starting in standard leagues. Bernard is a big factor in the passing game with 6 catches for 38 yards and added another 37 yards rushing. Expect big things from him as the season goes on.
Brian Hoyer improved to 2-0 as the Browns starter and has great chemistry with TE Jordan Cameron. Cameron is locked in as a top-3 TE option each week, as he had another 10 catches for 91 yards and a TD. Josh Gordon had a solid game, but it was almost impossible for him to replicate his dynamic debut last week. Gordon finished with 4 catches for 71 yards. The Cleveland running game is ugly, as Willis McGahee led the way with 46 yards on 15 carries. Avoid this backfield for now.
Bears @ Lions
The bad Jay Cutler showed up in this game, as he was back to his turnover-prone self. He had four turnovers on the day, with 3 interceptions and a lost fumble. The Bears were lucky to be so close with him playing poorly. His usual top 3 receiving options all had good games. Alshon Jeffery led the way with 5 catches for 107 yards and a TD. Martellus Bennett rebounded from a poor game to have 8 catches for 90 yards and Brandon Marshall had 7 catches for 79 yards and also converted a 2 point conversion late in the game. Matt Forte had another outstanding game with 95 yards rushing, 22 yards receiving and a rushing TD. He is the main cog in this offense and will continue to be used in all facets. He has become matchup proof.
Reggie Bush returned in a big way for the Lions. He ran for 139 yards and a TD and also had four receptions for 34 yards. This made popular waiver pickup Joique Bell an afterthought with only 7 carries on the day. It’s going to be hard for Bell to produce consistently with Bush getting most of the work. Calvin Johnson had a fairly quiet day, but salvaged it with a short TD catch. He always has trouble against the Bears, but still had a solid fantasy day nonetheless. Brandon Pettigrew finally showed up for a game and led the team in receptions with 7 for 54 yards. He still is too inconsistent to be relied on each week.
Giants @ Chiefs
My, how the mighty have fallen. Whenever you think it can’t get worse for the Giants, it does. Eli Manning had another awful game behind a patchwork offensive line. His lone highlight was a long TD pass to Victor Cruz. Cruz was the lone bright spot for the Giants, as he finished with 10 catches for 164 yards and a TD. Everyone else was horrible. Hakeem Nicks had another poor game in his contract year with 3 catches for 33 yards. I would bench him until the offense shows signs of life. David Wilson had 55 yards rushing on 13 carries. He should be benched until further notice as well. Cruz is the only Giant I would start without fear each week.
The Chiefs have an excellent defense and Alex Smith is proving to be the perfect QB for Andy Reid’s system. He threw for 288 yards and three TDs, but also had an uncharacteristic 2 interceptions. However, the Giants offense is so bad that it couldn’t take advantage of the turnovers. Smith’s receiving options aren’t very consistent, but Dwayne Bowe finally broke out a bit with 58 yards receiving and a TD. I still don’t like him as anything more than a WR3 though. Jamaal Charles continued to put up amazing numbers as he had 65 yards rushing and 62 yards receiving and a TD. He is another matchup proof RB.
Steelers @ Vikings
The Steelers are almost as bad as the Jaguars. Their offense is horrible and Big Ben is getting hit like crazy and won’t make it through the season taking this kind of punishment. He threw a TD to Jericho Cotchery, who led the way with 5 catches for 103 yards. Antonio Brown continued his solid play with 12 catches for 88 yards, but the Steelers still couldn’t win the game. Le’Veon Bell made his regular season debut, and while he didn’t have a ton of yards (57), he did score two TDs. Owners who stashed him on the bench were rewarded in a big way and can only hope that continues.
The Vikings had Matt Cassel under center replacing the injured Christian Ponder. With his safe play, Cassel may continue starting even when Ponder is healthy. He was turnover-free and had 248 yards passing to go with 2 TDs. Both TDs went to Greg Jennings, who was wasted in that offense until this game. Jennings had 3 catches for 92 yards and rewarded owners who still started him with confidence. Jerome Simpson had a big game after a quiet few weeks with 7 catches for 124 yards. He is at best a solid flex option, but is still too inconsistent for me. Adrian Peterson finally had a vintage game with 140 yards and two TDs. Now that the Vikings had a reliable QB under center, Peterson was able to run wild.
Cardinals @ Bucs
This may have been the ugliest game of the day. Carson Palmer “led” the Cardinals to the win, but played terrible aside from a fourth quarter TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald. He continued to throw interceptions and it’s clear he’s not a long-term answer at QB. Fitzgerald ended up with a solid stat line of 6 catches for 68 yards and the TD. Michael Floyd led the team in receiving with 5 receptions for 87 yards. The Cardinals don’t have a running game, so I am not going to waste my breath even mentioning it in the coming weeks until one of their backs gets more than 75 yards rushing in a game.
The Bucs benched Josh Freeman for rookie Mike Glennon and it didn’t end well. Glennon had an early TD pass to Mike Williams, but did not play well after that. It certainly didn’t help that top WR Vincent Jackson was nursing a painful rib injury, as he was a nonfactor with 2 catches for 27 yards. The bye comes at the perfect time for him to heal up and gain chemistry with his new QB. Doug Martin has now fallen victim to the poor Tampa Bay offense as well, as he posted one of the worst games of his career. He had 27 carries but only managed 45 yards. I’d almost start benching him when he faces brutal matchups because the Bucs offense is a mess and Glennon will almost certainly go through growing pains.
Colts @ Jaguars
The Jaguars again showed why they are easily the worst team in the NFL. After an early FG, they didn’t score again. Blaine Gabbert is terrible and that makes his WRs unattractive. Cecil Shorts is the garbage time king and managed to have a respectable 7 receptions for 61 yards, but I want no part of him as a weekly starter. Poor MJD is a non-factor and needs to be traded to a contender. He had 23 yards rushing and I wouldn’t start him unless as an emergency bye week fill-in unless he gets traded. I can’t believe I wasted almost an entire paragraph talking about the Jaguars. They are not an NFL caliber team.
The Colts enjoyed this glorified scrimmage. Andrew Luck had 260 yards passing and 2 TDs. One TD went to Reggie Wayne, who led the team with 100 yards receiving on 5 receptions. Coby Fleener had the other TD and had 5 catches of his own for 77 yards. TY Hilton had a decent day with 5 catches for 48 yards as well. Trent Richardson scored for the second straight week with his new team, as he had 20 carries for 60 yards and a TD. Richardson is proving to not be an elite option, but he definitely is safe and can almost be penciled in weekly for a cheap TD run and about 3 yards a carry.
Seahawks @ Texans
This was the most infuriating game of the day for me. As a Niners fan, I needed Seattle to lose a few road games. It was looking like that would happen when Houston was up 20-3 at the half and the Seattle offense wasn’t moving the ball. But, Matt Schaub struck again with poor play in crunch time and basically gave the game away. Schaub threw for 355 yards and 2 TDs to go with 2 INTs, one of which was returned for a TD by Richard Sherman late in the game. Andre Johnson had no issues with his bruised shin and had 9 catches for 110 yards. Owen Daniels had his typically solid game with 6 catches for 72 yards. The biggest surprise for me was the return of Arian Foster to fantasy stardom against his toughest matchup of the year. I actually benched him over Alfred Morris because of the matchup, and it is going to come back to haunt me. He had 102 yards rushing and 6 receptions for 69 yards and a score. He out-touched Ben Tate 33-8, so all of those rumors of a time share can be put to rest. Foster is going to be leaned on heavily as long as he is healthy.
The Seattle offense was stuck in neutral for most of the day. I started Russell Wilson and like my decision on Foster, it is going to probably cost me a win. Wilson had only 123 yards passing and also had an interception. He was able to somewhat salvage his day with 77 yards rushing, but it was still a poor performance. Marshawn Lynch had 98 yards rushing and a TD on 17 carries. He has become one of the safest RB1 starters around, aside from maybe Peterson and McCoy. He even led the Seahawks in receiving with 45 yards on 3 catches. That shows you how poorly the offense was playing behind an offensive line that was missing three starters, as he’s usually never a focal point in the passing game. The other Seattle WRs are too inconsistent to be relied upon.