Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: NFL Week 4 fantasy tips on start, sit, stream and more

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The ESPN+ cheat sheet provides a rundown of the best tips from all of our fantasy football content. You’ll find answers to the biggest start/sit questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Matthew Berry, Eric Karabell, Mike Clay, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Field Yates, Seth Walder, Al Zeidenfeld and myself. It’s all the best advice in one handy article.

Here’s what our experts are saying about Week 4 in the NFL:

Top Tips for Week 4

Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady has averaged 32.8 fantasy points per game this season. The GOAT’s return to Foxborough is one of the most highly anticipated games of the season. “Brady leads the NFL in pass attempts this season (and completions and touchdowns, and the Bucs lead the NFL in passing rate),” Berry writes in this week’s delightful Love/Hate. “People who bet against Brady usually lose. I’m betting on Tom wanting to light up his old team, and in a big way. You either believe or you do not. I do. He’s a top-four play for me this week.”

Matthew Stafford, QB, Los Angeles Rams

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Stafford has nine passing touchdowns, tied with Kurt Warner (1999) for the most ever by a Rams quarterback in their first three games of a season. That year, Warner won MVP and the Rams won the Super Bowl. “Yes, it’s good to be Matthew Stafford right now. It’s also good to have Stafford as your fantasy quarterback right now,” Berry writes. “He leads all quarterbacks in fantasy points per pass attempt and is QB6 for the season. Stafford has put up at least 275 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in every game, and he’ll do it again in a high-scoring game that is tied for the highest over/under on the Week 4 slate.”

Philadelphia’s running game

Many fantasy enthusiasts were in disbelief at Philadelphia’s running game on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys. The Eagles ran only three run plays for their running backs and of the team’s 12 rushing attempts, only five were by design. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that 9.4% rushing rate was the fourth-lowest rate in the NFL over the past 15 seasons. However, the Eagles running game could prosper in Week 4 against the Chiefs.

“Game script aside, the Chiefs have turned into a dream opponent for running backs with their dead-last-in-the-league run stop win rate and 5.4 yards per carry allowed,” Walder writes in his rundown of the offensive and defensive line matchups to exploit or avoid. “This is the most advantageous run blocking matchup we’ve seen all year! That’s in part because our projections get more confident in the extremes once play has begun, and also in part because the Chiefs have been terrible at stopping the run.”

The Chiefs defense has allowed the 5th most fantasy points per game (113.3) through three games. “Tackle Jordan Mailata and center Jason Kelce are both in the top three at their positions at run block win rate,” writes Walder. “The problem on Monday is that they weren’t really put to use, since Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell ran for a combined three carries. I assume the backs will run more next week, and when they do, the yardage will be there.”

Playing the matchups

Taylor Heinicke, QB, Washington Football Team

“He might seem an odd choice, with the bye weeks still two weeks ahead of us, but in your two-quarterback and superflex leagues and daily fantasy lineups, Heinicke is one of the most appealing add-and-starts of Week 4,” Cockroft explains in his writeup of the best and worst matchups of the week. “He’s QB17 in terms of total fantasy points through two starts and a relief appearance (52.00), and QB12 in terms of points per offensive snap played (0.31), and bear in mind that he did that against the Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, defenses that through three weeks have allowed the seventh-fewest, 14th-fewest and fifth-fewest fantasy points to the position.”

The only NFL teams allowing more fantasy points per game to QBs this season than the Falcons (25.0) are the Chiefs (25.2) and Washington (27.3). Atlanta’s secondary is the weakest link of its defense, while Washington’s offensive line excels at pass blocking. This unit shouldn’t have a problem providing Heinicke ample time to deliver the football to Terry McLaurin and his other receivers, making him a viable streamer on Sunday.

Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers

“Hubbard is a fourth-round rookie who had an excellent career at Oklahoma State that included over 2,000 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019,” writes Field Yates. He was one of the top waiver-wire pickups in this week’s column. Hubbard is expected to handle a high percentage of Christian McCaffrey’s massive workload — 26.2 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets) per game since 2019 — while the latter heals from a hamstring injury. “Hubbard handled 11 carries and five targets, clearly playing ahead of former Broncos back Royce Freeman (only five carries and just one target). While we hope McCaffrey is back sooner rather than later, Hubbard is a must-add in all leagues — and a player that will likely land inside the top 25 of the RB rankings as soon as Week 4.” And he did in fact land at 15 in our Week 4 PPR running back rankings.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

“Peyton Barber. There — that’s the analysis. As in, Peyton Barber just ran for 111 yards and a touchdown against these guys [Dolphins],” Berry writes. “I get the concerns about the Nyheim Hines usage, about the injury to Quenton Nelson and the fact that he now has back-to-back single-digit fantasy performances. I’m here to tell you that in the real revenge game of Week 4, there’s no way the Colts will let Jacoby Brissett beat them. Oh no, they know the best way to beat Brissett is keeping him on the sideline. Or, really, just letting him play. Not sure it matters. Jokes aside, this game has the second-lowest over/under of the week and will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair, which means it’s unlikely Indy falls behind and has to use Hines. Teams facing Miami this season average 28.0 RB carries a game (third most), and I say many of those will go to Taylor in this one.” The Seahawks (37) are the only other team that has allowed more points per game to running backs than the Dolphins (32).

Jakobi Meyers, WR, New England Patriots

“Tampa Bay has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, including the most to both left and right perimeter receivers, and the fifth-most to the slot,” Clay writes in his Week 4 Shadow Report of the best and worst WR/CB matchups. “If we adjust for volume, they look better (13th-most allowed over expected), but teams continue to attack them through the air (league-high 95 WR targets faced), and we should expect the same from New England. That’s especially the case considering Tampa Bay’s very strong run defense and injuries at cornerback (Sean Murphy-Bunting is on IR, and Dean went down in Week 3 and was replaced by Dee Delaney).”

Meyers has been one of the few bright spots for the Patriots offense that ranks 22nd in total yards per game. He has developed a rapport with rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Meyers also leads the team in targets (29), receptions (19), receiving yards (176) and receiving air yards (293). You should feel comfortable inserting him in lineups this week.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns

“We picked on Breeland last week, and he had yet another rough showing, allowing a 6-67-1 receiving line on six targets against Seattle. Breeland’s 64 fantasy points allowed this season ranks second among all defenders,” writes Clay. Beckham faces Breeland and a Vikings defense that, according to Clay, has “allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers and the most over expected. They’ve surrendered the fourth-most points to the perimeter, which is where Breeland and Peterson (who has played OK) align. Beckham made his 2021 debut on Sunday and aligned outside on 83% of his routes. That means he’ll see plenty of Breeland and Peterson this week and should, of course, be upgraded. Donovan Peoples-Jones plays the other perimeter spot for Cleveland, but he hasn’t seen nearly enough target volume to allow flex consideration.”

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Buffalo Bills

Gabriel Davis was touted as a breakout candidate this offseason, but it is Sanders that has been one of the most productive Bills receiver entering Week 4. He has amassed 194 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns and his 338 air yards per target (completed plus uncompleted passes measured from the line of scrimmage) are the second-most on the team behind Stefon Diggs (409).

“We shouldn’t expect Sanders to replicate the 26.4 PPR points he racked up in the Week 3 win over Washington. But the Bills wide receiver has seen at least six targets in every game this season, and the Week 4 matchup versus the zone-heavy Texans defense is excellent for the Bills’ pass game,” writes Bowen in his Week 4 film room. “With the veteran’s route-running traits, and a good feel for zone coverage, the Bills can create open-window throws for Allen to target Sanders versus Houston. Run the sit routes, the benders, the dig concepts. I see enough volume here for Sanders to be inserted in the lineup as a WR3 in deeper PPR leagues.”

Logan Thomas, TE, Washington Football Team

“We’re not even four weeks into the season and already my WFT hopes and dreams are reduced to finding fantasy silver linings in each week’s dismal performance,” writes Berry. “So far Thomas has been one of the few bright spots, as he has a score in two of three games and is actually TE7 on the season. Most importantly for our purposes here, he leads the Football Team in red zone targets, notable since the Falcons have allowed a league-high three touchdowns to tight ends, tied for most in the NFL. I like both Thomas’ odds of scoring again this week and of me banging my head against the wall when the WFT does something dumb in this game.” The Falcons defense has allowed 6.6 targets, 3.8 receptions, 45.8 receiving yards, 0.8 touchdowns, and 13 points per game to top tight end scorers over the last five regular season games.

Injuries of Note

Quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens: Jackson remained sidelined at Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with a back injury.

Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears: Dalton practiced in a limited capacity Thursday. He is questionable with a knee injury.

Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts: Wentz was a limited practice in Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with ankle injuries.

Running Backs

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos: Gordon remained limited at practice Thursday. He is questionable with ribs and a lower leg injury.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions: The Lions listed Swift as a limited participant at Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with a groin injury.

AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers: Dillon was added to Thursday’s practice report as limited. He’s questionable with a back injury.

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers: Jones was also a limited practice participant on Thursday. He is questionable with an ankle injury.

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts: Taylor was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with a knee injury.

Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders: Jacobs returned to practice on Thursday. He is questionable with an ankle injury.

Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles Rams: Henderson logged a limited practice Thursday. He is questionable with an injury to his ribs.

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Barkley practiced in a limited fashion Thursday. He is questionable with a knee injury.

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers: Mitchell was limited at Thursday’s practice with a shoulder injury. He is questionable.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team: Gibson is questionable with a shin injury. He did not practice on Thursday.

Wide Receivers

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons: Gage didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with an ankle injury.

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears: Mooney practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday. He is questionable with a groin injury.

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens: Bateman did not appear on Thursday’s injury report. He was dealing with a groin injury.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers: Valdes-Scantling didn’t practice on Thursday. He is questionable with a hamstring injury.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers: Allen was limited at Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with an ankle injury.

Will Fuller V, Miami Dolphins: Fuller was listed as a limited practice participant Thursday. He is questionable with chest/elbow injuries.

Kenny Golladay, New York Giants: Golladay was a limited participant in practice Thursday. He is questionable with a hip injury.

Sterling Shepard, New York Giants: Shepard didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with a hamstring injury.

Elijah Moore, New York Jets: Moore has been ruled out for Sunday’s game due to a concussion.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets: Crowder is “looking good” to play according to head coach Robert Saleh.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers: Smith-Schuster returned to a limited practice on Thursday. He is questionable with a ribs injury.

Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers: Claypool was limited at Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with a hamstring injury.

DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks: Metcalf was limited in Thursday’s practice with a foot issue. He’s questionable.

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: Lockett did not practice Thursday. He is questionable with a hip injury.

A.J. Brown, Tennesse Titans: Brown did not practice on Thursday due to a hamstring injury. He’s officially questionable.

Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans: Jones did not practice on Thursday due to a leg injury. He is officially questionable.

Tight Ends

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts: Doyle remained sidelined at Thursday’s practice. He is questionable with a back injury.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers: Kittle didn’t practice Thursday. He’s questionable with a hamstring injury.

Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gronkowski did not practice on Thursday. He is questionable with injuries to his ribs.

Lottery Tickets

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Denver Broncos

Bridgewater was one of my QB recommendations in my streaming pickups column. He has completed an impressive 77% of his passes through three games for 827 yards, and Bridgewater is even flourishing on deep balls. Did you know that the only other quarterbacks with more attempts of 20-plus yards than Bridgewater (18) this season are Derek Carr (22) and Lamar Jackson (19)? Despite losing Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler to injury in the first few weeks, Bridgewater still has a solid group of pass-catchers to throw to, including Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Noah Fant. He’s a solid option in Week 4 against a Ravens defense that is off to a horrendous start.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns

“Since the beginning of last season, the Vikings are allowing points on a league-high 48.3% of drives,” Zeidenfeld writes in his DFS Best Buys column. “Mayfield has not yet posted a game of over 20 DraftKings points in 2021, but Week 4 provides him with a prime spot to finally do so.” The Vikings’ defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to average 319 passing yards per game this season.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers

“I’m highlighting him despite his Week 3 absence due to a shoulder injury and uncertain Week 4 status, as the identity of the 49ers’ starting running back is paramount facing a matchup as favorable as this. The Seahawks have surrendered the season’s best fantasy day by any individual player, Derrick Henry‘s 47.70 PPR point performance of Week 2, not to mention a 23.10 point game to fill-in Alexander Mattison in Week 3 and combined 31.80 point scores to Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines in the season opener,” writes Cockcroft. Top RB scorers this season against the Seahawks have averaged an astounding 32 touches per game. “Mitchell might well not be healthy enough to return for this game, but considering fill-in Trey Sermon was clearly outplayed by fullback Kyle Juszczyk in Week 3, there’s little doubt he’d be given a starter’s workload if he’s able to suit up.”

Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, Carolina Panthers

Marshall was also another recommendation from my streamers column. He has struggled to find consistent targets behind DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, but the hamstring injury to McCaffrey (who averages eight targets per game since 2018) should open up more opportunities for Marshall. He should be able to run circles around Cowboys slot cornerback Jourdan Lewis. As a reminder, back in Week 1, Chris Godwin (16 of his 24 targets have come out of the slot) scored 25.5 points against Dallas’ defense.

Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

“The Raiders offense is humming so far this season and Renfrow has been a busy man. He has five-plus catches and at least 57 receiving yards in each game so far this year, good enough for double-digit fantasy points in every outing,” writes Yates. “Renfrow is a route-running maven, Derek Carr is playing lights out, and Las Vegas figures to stay pass-heavy. He’s a deep-league add.”

Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills

It appears Cockcroft and I are aligned with our appreciation for Knox. “As hard as it might be to believe, he’s the TE8 through three weeks (32.70 PPR fantasy points), and is one of only seven tight ends with as many as two end-zone targets,” writes Cockcroft. In my streamers column I wrote “Knox is a matchup nightmare and will see targets when that can be exploited, as was the case last week against Washington, when he had four catches, 49 yards and a TD. Knox was stronger and faster than the linebackers who were tasked to cover him, and he faces an eerily similar scenario this week against a Texans defense that has allowed the fourth-most points per game to tight ends thus far.” He’s an excellent lottery ticket this week if you aren’t blessed with an elite tight end on your roster.

Big question of the week

Will Kyle Pitts finally have the definitive performance that fantasy managers are looking for?

Many are anxiously waiting for Pitts to have a fantasy week winning performance. “Perhaps we were too hasty in exalting Atlanta Falcons rookie Kyle Pitts to star status. So far, no star. Next drop may be out of the top 100, but they do have a Jets game approaching,” writes Karabell in his trade index and rest-of-season rankings. However, this is a perfect window to trade for Pitts. Here is what I wrote about him in my fantasy football trade value column: Pitts is the TE15 and has caught 11 of 17 targets for 139 yards. If the highly touted rookie had a touchdown, he’d be inside the top 10. Quarterback Matt Ryan has a passer rating of 101.8 when throwing to him and the rapport will only get stronger as the season progresses. The Falcons have the 12th-most favorable schedule moving forward, which also bodes well for more production from Pitts.

Source: ESPN


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