Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 4
Week 3 was almost a fantastic week for our bold predictions. Almost.
Curtis Samuel finished as the WR23 in half-PPR leagues, while D.J. Moore finished just outside the WR2 range as Week 3's WR25. Both young receivers were well inside the top 24 prior to Monday Night Football. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots' defense technically didn't allow any points to the New York Jets -- the Jets scored their points on the back of a pick-six from Tom Brady's backup and on a fumble recovery on a special teams play.
I'm not sure we've ever missed so narrowly on two bold predictions in one week. This is truly heartbreaking stuff.
Our other predictions did not fare so nearly-well. Miles Sanders had arguably his best performance yet, rushing for a career high 53 carries and adding an impressive 73 yards in the receiving game, but a lost fumble cost him two points -- which would have been enough for him to surpass Jeff Wilson, this week's actual RB16. Mason Rudolph was extremely not a QB1 in his first NFL start, and Mark Andrews had a quiet afternoon despite a high-scoring game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
So we're still batting .000 on our bold predictions in 2019, but I have a good feeling this time. Here are five bold predictions for Week 4.
The Bills Will Upset the Patriots
The Pats are off to yet another impressive start in Tom Brady's millionth year as the starter. Their league-best point differential of 89 is 36 points more than the team with the second-best differential, the Dallas Cowboys (53). The Pats look like locks for another deep playoff run in 2019.
But the Buffalo Bills have been kind of flying under the radar this season as one of the most-improved teams in the league. Quarterback Josh Allen has taken a big step forward, jumping from 4.94 adjusted yards per attempt in his rookie season up to an impressive 9.1 mark so far in 2019. We can probably chalk up some of his development to the overhauled receiver corps, which went from featuring Zay Jones, Robert Foster and Kelvin Benjamin in 2018 to John Brown, Jones, Dawson Knox and Cole Beasley this year. The Bills' offense has been far more successful this season than last, and Allen's athleticism makes the team a threat to score from anywhere.
But what the Pats really need to worry about is the Bills' defense, which has allowed just 4.8 yards per play -- the sixth-best in the league. Their top-notch defense has been especially effective in creating turnovers, generating seven -- tied for second in the league -- over the first three weeks. Brady has had a good time trampling over the hapless defenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins and Jets through the first three weeks, but he hasn't faced anything close to Buffalo's D yet this year.
He'll have to face that tough defense on the road, as well, but yet despite playing on the road, the Patriots are currently 7.0-point favorites. I think the Bills are going to show the league that they're more than a 3-0 fluke in 2019 by upsetting the Pats in Week 4, which would add some value to the Bills' running backs as well as the Pats' pass-game options.
Matthew Stafford Will Finish as a Top-5 Quarterback
The Detroit Lions really seemed to want to establish the run this offseason when they hired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. And yet, Matthew Stafford is quietly having one of the most efficient seasons of his 11-year career -- he's averaging 8.0 adjusted yards per pass attempt for just the second time. The Lions are still smashing Kerryon Johnson as often as we expected they would, but Stafford is keeping this offense rolling.
Through three weeks of NFL action, only Kyler Murray (1,134) has thrown for more air yards than Stafford (1,122) -- and Murray has attempted 30 more passes than Stafford has. Stafford's 11.1 intended air yards per pass attempt ranks third-best in the league, and he's confidently throwing past the sticks to keep alive drives that would otherwise have been stalled out by the team's frustrating run-heavy play-calling.
This week Stafford squares off against the Chiefs in what should be one of the highest-scoring games of the slate. The Chiefs' defense hasn't been anything special this season and should have a tough time stopping Stafford's down-field passes -- a feature of Stafford's game the Lions will have to rely on if they want to keep up with Patrick Mahomes.
Stafford is currently projected as the QB15 heading into Week 4. I think Stafford is going to finish as a top-five quarterback in fantasy football in a game that should end up as an absolute shootout.
The Vikings and Bears Will Combine to Score Under 15 Points
The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are slated to face off against each other in what's already expected to be one of the lowest-scoring games of the week -- the over/under is currently set at 39, the second-lowest total on the week. There's a chance it goes even lower.
Everyone knows how impressive the Bears' defense is. They were the best unit in the league in 2018 and are doing an impressive job defending that title in 2019. Their 4.7 yards per play allowed is tied for third-best in the league, and they've forced turnovers on slightly more than 18% of their opponents' drives. So, yeah, they're still pretty good.
The Vikings' defense is no slouch, either. They've sustained an identical turnover rate to the Bears to this point, and they are allowing just 0.4 more yards per play overall and have generated pressure behind opposing offensive lines at an elite level.
Both defenses are great, and that alone should keep the score of this game low. But I'm far more concerned about these offenses.
To put it bluntly, Mitchell Trubisky isn't very good. According to out Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Trubisky has added just 0.92 Passing NEP to the Bears' expected points total with his passing over the last three weeks. For comparison, Marcus Mariota (2.43) has added over double that total to the Tennessee Titans' offense, and not many people would argue that Mariota has been playing well this year.
The Vikings' D should have no problem pressuring Trubisky into making risky decisions, but their own offense will likely struggle against the Bears' defense as well. We've established that the Bears' D is elite, but we haven't covered the bizarre Vikings' offense at all.
The year is 2019 and the Vikings are running the football like they don't even have a quarterback. Of their 168 offensive plays in 2019 -- the third-fewest in the league -- they've called run plays 103 times, or 61 percent of the time. And somehow, it's been working for them -- so far, that is. The Vikings have played in a bunch of games with truly wacky game scripts, which has enabled them to run the ball at a prolific rate. They'll likely find little success with that game plan in Week 4 against a Bears defense allowing -0.23 Defensive NEP per carry to opposing offenses this year.
If you're into defensive football, tune into this divisional game between the Vikings and Bears. Otherwise, check out the box scores after the game and live your life. These two rivals will combine to score fewer than 15 points in Week 4.
Josh Jacobs Will Be a Top-8 Running Back
Josh Jacobs looked like he was set up for an impressive season after the Oakland Raiders' season-opener. The 2019 first-round running back was dominant in their destruction of the Denver Broncos, rushing 23 times for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding another 28 yards on an impressive grab. But things for both Jacobs and the Raiders took a turn for the worse in the weeks since that victory.
While Jacobs has been impressive and efficient over the last two weeks -- he's averaging 6.5 yards per carry in that span -- he's run the ball only 22 times in those games, has drawn just 2 targets, and has lost opportunities and playing time to teammates Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. It's certainly been a frustrating couple of games for those who drafted the rook in fantasy leagues this year.
But head coach Jon Gruden seems intent on getting Jacobs the ball more -- especially another week removed from the illness that reportedly caused Jacobs to lose 10 pounds last week -- particularly in the passing game. More work in the passing game would be a big deal for the young back in fantasy football, especially in PPR leagues, as Oakland figures to see plenty of negative game scripts.
This week the Raiders will battle the Indianapolis Colts, who, in addition to generously allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year, also just lost defensive difference-maker Malik Hooker and could be without star linebacker Darius Leonard. Jacobs -- who is currently projected as numberFire's RB19 for Week 4 -- could feast on a vulnerable Colts defense, especially if he becomes more involved in Derek Carr's short-range passing game.
Jacobs is going to show why he was a first round pick in this year's draft and finish as a top-eight running back in Week 4.
It's Finally DeVante Parker's Time to Shine
The Miami Dolphins really don't have anything going for them this season. With a -117 point differential, they've been pretty hard to watch. They have been actively trading away any players other teams might want in their attempt to tank for the 2020 NFL Draft. And you know which player other NFL teams absolutely do not want to trade for? DeVante Parker.
The 2019 Dolphins exist in a state of perpetual garbage time. From virtually the moment they step on the field, they are playing from behind. And that has caused their quarterbacks to just chuck the ball down the field with nearly every pass attempt -- per the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Josh Rosen (10.9) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (12.2) are both top four in the league in intended air yards per pass attempt.
It hasn't looked pretty, but it has led to a boat load of air yards for their receivers. So many air yards, in fact, that Parker might even be lined up for the best performance of his career.
Parker hasn't shined so far in the 2019 season, but he's getting every opportunity to do so while playing on almost every Dolphins offensive snap. And despite having only 131 receiving yards on the season, Parker has somehow racked up the fourth-most air yards among wideouts in the league (433). He's getting similar volume to fantasy studs like Keenan Allen and Mike Evans. He just hasn't done anything with it yet.
In his disappointing-so-far career, Parker's personal record for receiving yards in a single game is 134. He's going to smash that mark in Week 4 on his way to a top-five finish among wideouts in fantasy.