Things that have happened since I last wrote this column a week ago: The Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched a playoff spot, Dexter ended uglier than a high school relationship, I found out that Michael Jackson helped compose the music for Sonic 3 (seriously!) and Geno Smith, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Brian Hoyer each finished as top-10 fantasy quarterbacks.
The biggest surprise to me was the Michael Jackson nugget, but if that hadn’t been brought up in road trip conversation, the insane quarterback play by the pedestrian passers would easily take the cake.
Though the numberFire projections had E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith as high-end QB2 options entering Week 3, it would’ve been impossible (or incredibly ballsy) to slot them in your lineup. Fortunately, it’s not as though you were losing any competitive edge at the quarterback position, as few teams were actually starting a guy like Ponder in Week 3.
The key takeaway: Quarterbacks are everywhere. If you don’t own one of the elite guys, you can get away with crime; starting Jake Locker being one of them.
Don’t expect this kind of strange production to happen each week, but we’ve already seen intense parity at the signal-calling position in fantasy so far this year. It’s a new NFL – one where every quarterback is passing, not just the top-notch ones.
Are there any bottom feeders at the position this week?
Michelle Tanner: You Got It, Dude. (Solid Starts)
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders
Pryor’s been really solid through three games, both in real and fantasy football. He’s got a top-10 passing net expected points total, a number that measures how many points a player has contributed to his team above expectation. He’s also had double-digit fantasy points in all of his matchups this year, including a 20-plus point one against Denver on Monday night.
If his concussion symptoms subside, Pryor is a great play against a Washington defense that’s given up the second-most points to fantasy quarterbacks this season.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboy’s quarterback is the 14th-best one in fantasy so far this season, but has been consistent as can be from a pretend pigskin perspective. He’s a must start outside of the elite options at quarterback this week, too, as he faces the porous – and I mean porous – San Diego secondary. So far this season, the Chargers have allowed a 23.8 standard point performance to Matt Schaub, 34.3 points to Michael Vick, and 28.8 points to – wait for it – Jake Locker. Romo should have quite a day.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
I mentioned in my 15 Transactions for Week 4 piece to grab Jay Cutler, but it’s not just for his matchup this week against the Lions. It’s because his next six games could be considered favorable.
Cutler’s thrived in Marc Trestman’s offense, and still ranks as the 19th-best fantasy option at quarterback even with tough matchups against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Get ready to see his success continue.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jones-Drew owners don’t want to do it, but his game against Indianapolis this week is one where he can really get things going. According to our metrics, the Colts have the fourth-worst rush defense on a per play basis, making Jones-Drew an interesting fantasy option for Week 4. I know he’s burned you so far this year, but MJD is a solid play this week.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Really? 11 carries? Against the Colts? Come on, Harbaugh.
I fully expect Gore to get things going against the Rams tonight, a team that was just manhandled by DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys, and one that ranks 27th against opposing running backs in fantasy. Gore is our 13th-ranked running back for Week 4.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders
Hey DMC haters: Darren McFadden is the number eight fantasy running back through three weeks of the season. It helps that he’s played the Jaguars and Colts defenses, and he was certainly lucky to have scored that late-game touchdown against the Broncos, but it appears as though the Raiders offense has opened up a bit for him with Terrelle Pryor starting.
McFadden gets the Washington defense this week, a team ranking 29th against fantasy running backs. Especially if Pryor plays, DMC is a solid start.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
After his 13-reception, 208-yard Week 1 game, Boldin’s combined for just six catches and 74 yards since. It’s a good thing he’ll be going up against a St. Louis defense this week that ranks 26th against receivers so far this season, allowing five receiver touchdowns in three games. Boldin should be in good shape to give you WR2 value this week.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Fluky? Perhaps, but Antonio Brown’s performance against the Bears at least showed the world what he’s capable of doing. The Steelers offense has struggled, but Brown has had at least five catches and 50 yards in each of his first three games. Currently the fourth-best .5 PPR wideout, Antonio gets a Vikings secondary that was just torched by Brian Hoyer last week. Start him, especially if you’re getting points for each reception.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Stevie J has been under the radar through the first three weeks, but he ranks 14th in half-point per reception leagues. Though he gets the Ravens this week, Baltimore’s known for playing better at home than on the road. Johnson is a solid play, and should be throughout the season.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Who is this 2013 Antonio Gates, and what did you do with the 2012 version? Gates ranks fifth in terms of receiving efficiency among tight ends this year, adding 16 points for the Chargers over the first three weeks above tight end expectation. He’s also the number eight tight end in fantasy, something that may have been a little unexpected prior to the start of the season.
His opponent this week, Dallas, just allowed 10 receptions to St. Louis tight ends last week, four to the Chiefs the week before, and seven against the Giants in Week 1. This could be a nice PPR week for the Chargers veteran.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears
Bennett had a good matchup against the Steelers last week, but blew it after the Bears went up big early. He has Detroit this week, a team that ranks well against the position, but hasn’t seen tough competition. Bennett could see the end zone for the fourth time this year on Sunday.
Bobby McFerrin: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Sneaky Plays)
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ugh. It feels dirty starting Roethlisberger after his sloppy play versus the Bears, but there’s no denying that his matchup against the Vikes in London has upside written all over it. If Brian Hoyer can throw for 321 yards against this miserable secondary, Ben can at least get you 250 and two scores, right? Right?
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Though Trent Richardson will be more involved in the offense this week, don’t assume Bradshaw’s just going to go away. Not only will he still see early-game touches, but if the game gets out of hand against the Jaguars, Bradshaw could see a lot of late-game action as well. He’s an interesting flex play if you’ve got someone like Eddie Lacy on a bye.
Michael Bush, RB, Chicago Bears
Detroit has given up more fantasy points via the ground than any other NFL team, surrendering four touchdowns in three games. Though no running back has gotten over 100 yards on them, there’s a chance that the Vulture King, Michael Bush, gets in the end zone this week.
Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, WR, Oakland Raiders
As noted with Pryor, the Redskins have struggled on defense this season. Both Moore and Streater could become sneaky plays as a result, but if Matt Flynn gets the nod against the Skins, I’d advise staying away.
Marlon Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Bills secondary is beat up, and we saw the impact that had against the Jets last week. Brown had just two catches for six yards in Week 3, but keep in mind that he faced a good Houston defense in a game that got away from the Texans. He could really benefit from a leaky secondary this week.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Detroit Lions
The opportunity is finally here for Broyles, but it’s unfortunate that it took a pizza-grabbing Nate Burleson car accident for it to come. I liked Broyles a lot in the preseason, and noted him as a sleeper. It wasn’t just opportunity-driven, either. Broyles had a nice per target NEP, ranking 9th of 117 30-plus targeted receivers in the metric last year. If you need a wideout, he could be a nice play this week.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Gresham’s getting little love for what he’s giving the Bengals and fantasy owners. Though he hasn’t hit the end zone yet this year, he’s accumulated 15 receptions over the first three weeks of the season. He’s a high floor tight end, which is nice to have at such a volatile position. This week against Cleveland, he’s a good play if you’re hurting at tight end.
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Heath didn’t play every snap in the Steelers loss to the Bears last week, but is expected to see an increase this week. In fact, head coach Mike Tomlin has pointed out that he hopes Miller will have no restrictions in terms of snap count.
This season, the Vikings have allowed six tight end touchdowns. They gave up three to Jordan Cameron last week, two to Martellus Bennett the week before, and one to Joseph Fauria in Week 1. Owners may fear Heath’s health isn’t 100 percent, but the matchup is the best you could ask for.
Defense to Start: New York Jets (vs. Tennessee Titans)
Johnny Dakota: There’s No Hope With Dope! (Risky Starts)
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
Yikes. The Texans passer threw for fewer than 200 yards against the Ravens in Baltimore last week, and didn’t throw a single touchdown. It’s slightly surprising given his six scores over the first two weeks. It doesn’t get any better on Sunday, as Schaub will see the league’s best pass defense.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill’s silently posting decent fantasy numbers, and they’ve been consistent as can be. Tannehill will be a 13- to 16-point player for the most part this season, but is facing a surprising New Orleans defense that’s given up the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. There are better options out there this week.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
It’s always risky to put a guy like Eli in a start/sit column, because he’s one of the most unpredictable quarterbacks on the planet. But that’s also the reason you sit him. After 800 passing yards through two weeks, Manning threw for 119 more than you and I did in Week 3. Now he’s facing the hottest defense in the league. No way, Jose.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Some of you are in shallower leagues where you can afford to put a guy like Ridley on your bench. This isn’t to say he’ll be completely worthless, as anyone who will see double-digit touches has some worth in fantasy. But right now, Ridley’s hard to trust until we see more out of the Pats running game.
Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans
The Texans’ backup runner has seen nine carries in each of his first three games, but like teammate Matt Schaub, will be facing a tough Seahawks defense in Week 4. His yards per carry average has been ridiculous, but expect that to slow down this week.
Isaiah Pead, RB, St. Louis Rams
Teammate Daryl Richardson was sidelined last week with a foot injury, and is hopeful that he’ll play this week. The Rams backfield situation is a mess, and even if there was a full-blown starter, said starter wouldn’t even be all that effective – the Rams rank eighth-worst in rushing efficiency this season.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Let’s just bench all of the Texans, shall we? Hopkins has put together a nice start to his rookie campaign, but those corners in Seattle will surely shut him down. He’s not worth the risk, even as a WR3. Hopkins is our 37th-ranked receiver for Week 4.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
The Giants pass-catcher ranks 51st among fantasy wide receivers in .5 PPR leagues, below guys like Jerricho Cotchery and Jerome Simpson. He was blanked against Carolina this week, and has just nine receptions on the year. For a player of his ability, that’s not fun. A big problem, too, was that Nicks saw just 86 percent of his team’s snaps. He’s not a good start against the Chiefs.
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
Clay’s a little like Jermaine Gresham in that he’ll have a high floor for you each week. But unlike Gresham, Clay’s matchup against the Saints doesn’t bode well for Week 4 fantasy success. The Saints have allowed just five tight end catches this season, ladies and gentlemen. Five. You know what to do.
Brandon Myers, TE, New York Giants
I’m picking on Giants this week, but there’s a reason: the Chiefs defense is for real. They held Jason Witten to a middling game in Week 2, and allowed just three tight end receptions to the Eagles last Thursday. Myers isn’t worth it.
The Sandlot: You’re Killin’ Me, Smalls!
Brian Hoyer, QB, Cleveland Browns
While Hoyer will get it down the field and take chances, don’t expect the same type of fantasy production this week against the Bengals. Over the last two weeks, Cincinnati has held opposing quarterbacks to under 25 points combined. Hoyer shouldn’t even be rostered in standard leagues, let alone started.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Even if he does play this week against Miami, Ingram’s shown nothing to make you feel confident about his play. He has 17 carries for 31 yards this year, something that even Pittsburgh running backs are besting.
Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets
Oh, imagine that – Chris Ivory's hurt. He may not even play this weekend, but even if he does, I’d expect his hamstring injury to limit his potential. It’s Bilal Powell’s time in New York, not Chris Ivory’s.
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
Lance Moore probably isn’t even worthwhile on your bench anymore, as he’s caught just four passes for 44 yards in the Saints three wins. Kenny Stills is getting more love in that offense, so starting Moore is like walking into a fire with gasoline all over your body.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers
Brown’s receiving yardage over the first three games of the season: 13, 26, 11. If not for a touchdown in Week 1, he’d be even more worthless in fantasy football. Drop him, don’t start him.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions
Pettigrew’s seeing less and less work with the emergence of Joseph Fauria, and now has just five catches over three games, including nothing – zilch – in Week 3 against the Redskins. He may be used more with Burleson out, but it’s way too difficult to trust a guy with just as many negative point totals this season as positive ones.
Defense to Sit: Houston Texans (vs. Seattle Seahawks)
For any other start or sit questions, visit numberFire’s Questions section and take a look at our weekly rankings.