NFL Game Previews: Week 4

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The RotoExperts Staff looks ahead to Week Four, with lineup recommendations in every game capsule.

Full disclosure: I like Josh Johnson long term and I'm actually starting him in one of my two-QB leagues this week (curse you Matt Hasselbeck!). However, do as I say, not as I do. Washington is allowing less than 200 passing yards per game. Don't expect them to suddenly give up much more than that facing a player making his first NFL start. I would sit all Tampa Bay receivers and that includes Kellen Winslow, who only had 17 receiving yards last time he played Washington. The Buccaneers backfield is kind of a mess, but Washington is ranked 22nd against the rush, so don't let the match-up scare you off. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers defense has been plundered mercilessly. They're 20th in receiving yards allowed and a pathetic 31st in rushing yards allowed. Everyone is saying it is time to dump Clinton Portis. I'd wait at least one more week and expect a big day from Portis, who should top 100 combined yards like he did last time he played Tampa. Santana Moss is not having another 178-yard day like he did last week, but the maddeningly inconsistent Moss should put together a second week of over 100 yards. Chris Cooley had 96 yards and a touchdown last time he played Tampa Bay. No reason to think he can't improve on that this time. -- Mark Strausberg

STANDOUT STARTS: Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley


I know that telling you that I am unimpressed with the Cowboys is not going to convince you to sit your Cowboys. But if I tell you that Denver has the seventh-best rush defense and second-best pass defense that should at least give you pause before you start any of them, right? And yes, if you have Jason Witten, start him. He has yet to put up fewer than seven fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, but I highly doubt you were thinking about benching him. You might be on the fence about Knowshon Moreno, though. Don't be ... start him. Some thought he'd lose carries to Correll Buckhalter last week, but he ended up with 21 carries, 90 rushing yards and a touchdown. Dallas is allowing about thirty yards less per game on the ground than Oakland, so figure on sixty yards and a score. I'd be even more excited if I was a Kyle Orton owner. Wait, did I really just write that? Let me rephrase -- if I had to start Orton because of the bye week, I wouldn't be worried. Orton has thrown a touchdown in each game this year; I don't see why he wouldn't here. Dallas is allowing a whopping 275 yards through the air per game. With Orton having a good game, I expect Brandon Marshall to also have at least 100 yards receiving or a touchdown. Even Eddie Royal makes a good low-end WR3 this week, despite just 42 receiving yards total this season. He'll match that at the least. - MS

STANDOUT STARTS: Kyle Orton, Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Royal

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Tony Romo, Roy Williams

Imagine your teenage daughter brought home Dick Jauron as her date. At first, you might wish she found someone a little brighter. But on second thought, you realize how delightful it is because you know he's not going to be too adventurous or try anything wild. It's amazing, the one time Terrell Owens should be seeing more balls thrown his way, he suddenly becomes reticent. While he'll put up much better numbers than he did last week, his owners in PPR leagues will be howling. Look for only a few catches due to a combination of Jauron's aversion to going long and Miami allowing the ninth-lowest amount of receptions in the league. Jauron won't be helping your Buffalo running backs either. He's already said that there will be a "50/50" split between Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. If that's not enough to dissuade you from starting either back, you should know that Miami also has given up the third-fewest rushing yards. Meanwhile, I think Miami will actually be more potent with Chad Henne replacing his fellow Chad. Henne has a much stronger arm than Pennington, which is good news for Ted Ginn Jr. He should give you at least 70 yards or a touchdown, if not both. Ronnie Brown has had over 100 combined yards both of the last two weeks. That's a reasonable expectation for this week as well. - MS


BANISH TO THE BENCH: Terrell Owens, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch

With Kevin Smith nursing a shoulder injury, Maurice Morris figures to be the Lions featured running back. He managed just 1.3 yards on eight carries last week, but did score a late touchdown. Don't expect Morris to contribute anything more than that against a still-potent Bears defense. With the Lions likely in a passing frame of mind, Calvin Johnson will have no trouble bouncing back from last week's "bad" performance. As a refresher, he hauled in eight balls for 94 yards and a touchdown the last time he faced the Bears. Expect something similar this time around. A lingering hamstring issue and a "dinged" knee may keep Matt Forte from putting in a full day's work against the Lions; (the Bears have a Week Five bye, and may rest him if things get out of hand). But the potential for multiple scores is too great to pass up. In Jay Cutler's presence, Devin Hester has become the most useful Chicago WR, and he's a good bet to get behind the porous Detroit secondary at least once. Both Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox are intriguing flex plays, with Bennett offering PPR reliability, and Knox providing more scoring potential. -- Chris Ryan

STANDOUT STARTS: Calvin Johnson, Devin Hester, Matt Forte

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris

Larry Johnson is averaging 2.5 yards-per-carry on the year, and it'd be a surprise to see him top 75 yards against the stout Giants defense. He's no more than a RB3 at this point. Dwayne Bowe's health is still a question mark, meaning Mark Bradley and Bobby Wade step into more prominent roles. Wade seems to have quickly become a Matt Cassel favorite, and could see plenty looks if the Chiefs find themselves desperately attempting a comeback. Bradley won't be worth your time, and while Cassel actually looked decent last week (14-of-18 and two touchdowns), he can't be viewed as a trusted double-digit performer against New York. As tantalizing as the match-up looks, Eli Manning won't be counted on to post big yardage totals. The Giants will milk the game away with the dominant running styles of both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs is a lock to score a touchdown, and Bradshaw is a fine bet to contribute enough yardage to make him an RB3 play. At receiver, Steve Smith is your best option -- he's averaging 7.6 catches a game -- but Mario Manningham offers enough double-digit point upside that he merits consideration in a flex role. - CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Bobby Wade, Brandon Jacobs, Steve Smith

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Larry Johnson

With the Seahawks determined to establish a ground presence, Julius Jones should provide double-digit bliss against an improved, but still leaky Colts defensive front. Seneca Wallace will once again get the nod at QB in Matt Hasselbeck's absence, but considering the Colts have allowed a ridiculously low seven touchdown passes in their last 19 games, neither is starter worthy. That doesn't mean, however, that prominently used flanker receiver Nate Burleson is not, (his 20 catches through three games are tied for third in the league). T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson will see enough balls to warrant starting status as well, but should be downgraded slightly with Wallace behind center. Joseph Addai and Donald Brown are each averaging slightly below 10 fantasy points a game, and until an injury happens, that's all you should expect from both. Seattle comes into the game as the seventh-ranked defense against the pass, but rankings can be thrown out when facing Peyton Manning. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark will be elite performers at their positions, although Pierre Garcon owners may want to tread carefully. After his Sunday Night Football coming-out party, the Seattle defense will pay special attention to Garcon, meaning Austin Collie could be in line for a high volume of underneath passes, and thus a 10-plus point performance in PPR leagues. - CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Julius Jones, Nate Burleson, Austin Collie

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Pierre Garcon, Matt Hasselbeck/Seneca Wallace

Cedric Benson went off for 171 yards in a Week 16 matchup against Cleveland last season, and with the way the Browns defense is hemorrhaging (they've allowed 549 rushing yards and eight ground touchdowns in three games), he's an excellent bet to top the 100-yard mark. The fantasy goodness doesn't stop with Benson, as Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco are in line for elite-level numbers, and the much-hyped Chris Henry is a sneaky-good touchdown option in the WR3 spot. The Browns are a complete mess, and at this point have but one viable fantasy option. Braylon Edwards is severely limited by the talent around him, but newly minted starting QB Derek Anderson doesn't mind flinging the ball downfield, meaning Edwards will at least have the opportunity to make big gainers, something he wasn't afforded with Brady Quinn at the helm. Other than that, there's nothing of interest in Cleveland. - CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Cedric Benson, Chris Henry

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Everyone on Cleveland not named Braylon Edwards

Probably the most tenuous fantasy matchup of the week; just about anything can happen in this AFC heavyweight clash. But the strength of the Patriots offense remains Tom Brady and his tight, efficient ball-control approach, which features frequent misdirection and draw plays to Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk in the running game, and an efficient short-route passing attack for Randy Moss and Wes Welker. If Welker is still out this week (he'll likely be another game-time decision), Julian Edelman, who has 11 catches for 118 yards in two games, can once again step in and assume his role. The Ravens -- who should easily keep the Pats RBs and TE Ben Watson under wraps, but will yield solid days for Brady, Moss and whoever plays in the Welker slot -- have some dangerous offensive weapons of their own. Joe Flacco is establishing himself as a QB1 and should continue his success against the Pats, with Ray Rice and Derrick Mason posting the best stats from the other skill positions. The Pats have a solid goal-line defense and have only allowed one rushing TD this year, so look for Willis McGahee to get shut out for the first time this season. Todd Heap, on the other hand, makes a nice sleeper play at TE ... Bill Belichick's "bracket coverage" be damned. -- Antonio D'Arcangelis

STANDOUT STARTS: Wes Welker/Julian Edelman, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap

BANISH TO THE BENCH: All Pats RBs, Willis McGahee, Ben Watson

The 0-3 Titans have something to prove this week in Jacksonville, and they'll rely on Chris Johnson and LenDale White in their explosive running game to do it. Kerry Collins shouldn't be played under any circumstances at this point, and the fantasy values of Nate Washington, Justin Gage and rookie Kenny Britt are similarly tainted until the Titans can establish a more dynamic passing attack. The Jaguars, too, must be able to throw the ball more efficiently in order to win, although their best receiver might be RB Maurice Jones-Drew. The Titans pass defense will tighten up more than it has in the previous three outings, but you can still expect a decent game from David Garrard (200 yards and a couple TDs), with Mike Sims-Walker getting a TD catch along with Jones-Drew. I still can't trust Torry Holt, whose decline was seemingly as rapid as any WR1 in the history of the league. Don't over think this one -- the guys who've been successful will show up, and the guys who haven't will continue to scuffle. -- AD

STANDOUT STARTS: Chris Johnson, David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Sims-Walker

BANISH TO THE BENCH: All Titans not named Johnson, Marcedes Lewis, Torry Holt

While the Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson connection must contend with the fantasy chokehold of Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha, you can't stay away just because one weird-sounding shutdown corner is matched up against your boy. It's a great week to play Kevin Walter, who looked good in his first game of the season (his hamstring didn't appear to be a factor), and finished with seven receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in Week Three. He and RB Steve Slaton will flourish as the Raiders focus on stopping Johnson. It's good to see Jacoby Jones more involved in the Houston offense, but he's still too marginal to warrant a spot in your lineup. The Raiders have done a good job shutting down opposing TEs, so if you have a better option than Owen Daniels, go with it. Oakland has just one player with fantasy relevance this week -- Darren McFadden. While it's possible either Louis Murphy or Darrius Heyward-Bey could get loose for a TD pass from JaMarcus Russell, the young QB hasn't shown he can complete a sufficient number of passes for either WR or TE Zach Miller to be worthy of a fantasy start. If Russell finishes with over 150 yards passing and a score, consider it a good day. -- AD

STANDOUT STARTS: Darren McFadden, Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Kevin Walter

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Jacoby Jones, Owen Daniels, everyone on Oakland except Run DMC

This game could turn into a shootout, giving rookie Mark Sanchez free reign against the league's 22nd-ranked pass defense. Although the Saints are giving up 245.3 passing yards per game, they have seven interceptions and have allowed just three passing scores. Sanchez should eclipse the 200-yard mark, but expect at least two picks. The Saints have also been able to bottle up the run, limiting opponents to only 67.0 rushing yards per contest. This isn't good news for Leon Washington or Thomas Jones, who are sharing carries anyway. Jones is a better bet to find the end zone, but neither should top 70 total yards. Jerricho Cotchery has emerged as Sanchez's favorite target and should see plenty of action. A hundred yards and a score aren't unrealistic. Chansi Stuckey was held in check a week ago but should rebound to finish with close to 60 yards. Dustin Keller is also a good bet to score, considering passing should be prevalent. Drew Brees failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 12 games during Week Three. It'd be wise to expect a big game this week as he throws for 250 and two scores. Marques Colston and Devery Henderson both have a good chance to find pay dirt and wind up with 75 yards a piece. Jeremy Shockey will pile up close to 50 yards. Pierre Thomas emerged last week and proved that his injury is a thing of the past. The Jets rush D is stout, but Thomas should get 100 total yards and a score. Reggie Bush will continue his role as the ultra-versatile running back. Think 75 total yards. -- Brad Rysz

STANDOUT STARTS: Jerricho Cotchery, Devery Henderson, Mark Sanchez

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Thomas Jones, Leon Washington

Marc Bulger's balky rotator cuff may force the Rams to start Kyle Boller. He threw for two touchdowns after replacing Bulger in Week Three, and faces the 49ers 24th-ranked pass defense. Still, his options are limited and anything more than 200 yards and a score can't be expected. Donnie Avery must step up for the Rams and it should start this week with 80 yards and a score. Consider him a WR3 option. Keenan Burton will see some action, but isn't rosterable at the moment. The 49ers are allowing just 3.0 yards per carry, so Steven Jackson will have his work cut out for him. Even so, he's the centerpiece of the offense and will approach 100 total yards and a score. Frank Gore is out for the next two games and Glen Coffee enters as the Niners featured back. The Rams are allowing 4.3 YPC; suggesting Coffee can be a decent RB2 option. With Gore out, Shaun Hill should air it out a bit more. Isaac Bruce hasn't been reliable to this point, but is a good WR3 option this week as he should find the end zone and finish with 75 yards. Josh Morgan has been too inconsistent to consider starting. Vernon Davis is slowly developing chemistry with Hill and will keep it going with 60 yards and a touchdown. - BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Glen Coffee, Donnie Avery, Vernon Davis


Philip Rivers has a tough match-up against the Steelers, but should have plenty of passing attempts leading to 250 yards and two scores. LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to return, relegating Darren Sproles to his utility role. If he plays, Tomlinson is a RB2 against a tough defense, although he should find the end zone and finish with 75 total yards. Sproles will still be a factor in the passing game and will total 75 yards. Vincent Jackson's breakout year will continue as he tops 100 yards and a touchdown. Malcolm Floyd is a better option than Chris Chambers at this point, although neither should be rostered on a fantasy team. Antonio Gates hasn't scored this season, yet you can't keep him out of your lineup. He'll still rack up the yardage opposed to other tight end options. The Steelers have been passing more, making Ben Roethlisberger a borderline fantasy starter. He's thrown for over 200 yards in all three games and will do it again against the Chargers. Willie Parker has a mild case of turf toe, which means Rashard Mendenhall will see some action. Neither will score, but should get 50 total yards each. They are not recommended starts this week. Hines Ward is having a solid season with 252 yards and will find the end zone in Week Four. Santonio Holmes hasn't been consistent, but he's still a decent WR2 in all formats. With his potential, he can't be sat. Mike Wallace had seven catches for 102 yards last week, but shouldn't be started as a WR3 until he proves he can go for at least 60 yards on a regular basis. Heath Miller will grab an occasional touchdown, however he won't gain enough yards to be a fantasy starter. Keep him as a backup this week. - BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Willie Parker, Chris Chambers

Brett Favre will be the main story in this game, although his overall fantasy value will probably be inflated. The Packers secondary makes big plays and Favre won't top 200 yards and a score. Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin will put up similar numbers of 70 yards each. Visanthe Shiancoe has been a bust with only 49 total yards and isn't worth starting until he performs. Harvin is a better bet to score due to his explosiveness. Adrian Peterson will find success, rushing for 115-plus yards and two scores. Aaron Rodgers has yet to throw a pick and faces a Vikings secondary that has four of them. He's been too consistent not to start, and should be in line for a big day. It's reasonable to expect 225 yards and two scores. Greg Jennings has been inconsistent but that won't last. A 100-yard game and a score are in line against the Vikes. Donald Driver has re-established himself as a WR2 and continues that trend this week with 75 yards and a score. Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee aren't worth starting. Ryan Grant is a rock and will get another 20 carries, finishing with 80 yards and a score. He's a RB2 option this week. -- BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Donald Driver, Percy Harvin

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee

For more lineup advice, consult the "Ask the Experts" section in the forums. For all the last-minute action, head over to for Sunday GameDay Chats.