Peyton Manning. Marshawn Lynch. Gio Bernard. Demaryius Thomas. AJ Green. Julius Thomas. The Seahawks defense.
That’s an all star line-up of players. It’s also a list of players you won’t have available to you in this week’s slate of fantasy games.
As you read this, you are well aware that week 4 is the first bye week of the season in the NFL, and it’s a doozy. In addition to those stalwarts mentioned above on the Broncos, Seahawks and Bengals, the Cardinals, Rams and Browns are also getting an early-season reprieve from the NFL grind.
If you invested heavily in any of these teams – and considering there are a few fantasy powerhouses in there, you probably did – then you’ve probably spent the week scrambling to fill in your roster unless you drafted really well.
What that also means is there are probably a few players on your league’s waiver wire or free agent pool who have no business being there.
For example, in one of my leagues, someone dropped Percy Harvin of the Seahawks. He won’t help me this week, since he’s on bye, but there are plenty of games left to be played. And I’d much rather add him that keep holding on to Justin Hunter of the Titans, waiting for him to break out.
It hasn’t happened in any of my leagues, but I’ve heard a few instances of the Seahawks defense being dropped. Swoop in and take advantage of that if you’ve been streaming defenses or the one you drafted isn’t performing up to expectations. (Same with Cincinnati and maybe St. Louis and Arizona, all of which were top 5 preseason defenses and should still be quality plays as they round into midseason form.)
And while you probably won’t get your hands on Gio Bernard of the Bengals, if his handcuff Jeremy Hill is still floating in the pool, I’d consider snapping him up for down the road.
A few players who have been nicked up or under performing that aren’t on bye weeks might also get dropped so an owner can fill holes in his lineup. In one 10-teamer I’m in, for example, TE Vernon Davis is on the waiver wire. In another, Maurice Jones-Drew is available for RB-needy teams.
Here are some other thoughts heading into week 4:
Stay steady with Eddie (Lacy, and other Packers)
Lacy certainly hasn’t been performing like the top 5, match-up proof running back he was drafted to be. But the Packers offense as a whole hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders, and he’s faced three of the best teams against the run so far this year. He’s also got Bryan Bulaga back at right tackle this week and has a favorable match-up against the Chicago Bears, giving up an NFL high 5.3 yards per carry. Keep Lacy in your lineup, as well as any other Packers you might be frustrated with right now (Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb).
Game-time decisions: Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis watch Week 2
The NFL schedule makers hate your fantasy team. Last week, I noted you didn’t have a lot of options if the Chiefs didn’t announce early if Charles was going to give it a go because Kansas City was playing at 4:25 and you’d need to make lineup decisions early. In a cruel joke for those who “won” the Knile Davis waiver sweepstakes, but don’t have him handcuffed to Charles, the Chiefs play on Monday Night Football this week. That means your only other options are the other team playing on Monday Night Football, the New England Patriots – and good luck figure out if this is the week Stevan Ridley or Shane Vereen are featured in Bill Belichick’s multiple (read: fantasy headache) offense.
If you own Davis, try to trade him to the Charles owner in your league while he still has value. JC owners likely regretted not having him last week (and you probably regretted leaving him on your bench if you didn't have other options).
A few other game-time decisions this week include RB Arian Foster, WR Calvin Johnson and WR Brandon Marshall at 1 p.m. and TE Vernon Davis at 4:25. I think I'm starting Calvin and Marshall as long as they are going to give it a go. Foster seems to indicate he's going to wait until he's 100 percent to play, so I'm going to have a replacement chambered for him. If he plays, however, I'll probably roll him out there unless I have a really great other option. Davis is a different story. The late start combined with the lack of other options really complicates things. Unless Jason Witten has been dropped by his frustrated owner or Travis Kelce of the Chiefs is still floating out there, I'm finding an early game replacement.
RBBCs in the AFC North
Justin Forsett might be the safest play of the Ravens running backs heading into this week, as he’s the only one I can see getting guaranteed touches because he’s the team’s clear passing down back. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro looked awfully good last week against the Browns, but incumbent Bernard Pierce had a nice game when he last played in Week 2. My guess is the Ravens are going to get both players carries depending on game flow, meaning Baltimore is officially a dreaded running back by committee team, although I do expect Pierce to get first crack.
If you have one of the Browns three running backs, I’d try to trade them this week. Isaiah Crowell got work with the first team in practice this week, ahead of Terrance West, and Ben Tate is mostly likely returning in week 5 from injury. As long as all three are healthy, I think it’s going to be a total committee approach in Cleveland. Abandon ship now and get value while you can for any of these three. If you must hold one, in a redraft it's Tate, in a keeper league, it's Crowell.
Meanwhile, I think both Pittsburgh's LeGarrette Blount and Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill have standalone value and can be decent flex plays any given week (well, not this week with Hill on bye). Blount showed his role as the Steelers closer last week, and with a weak slate of opponents coming up, he could be getting a lot of fourth quarter carries for the Black and Gold. Hill is getting mixed in with Giovanni Bernard to the point he's more of a 1B than a true No. 2. Both of these players move to RB1 fantasy status if the incumbent starter misses a game.
Need a deep sleeper? I’d like you to meet TE MarQueis Gray.
Please, do not rush to add Gray to your team and put him in your lineup this week. But he is a guy you might want to star in your watch list. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph is having sports hernia surgery and will be out six weeks. The Vikings are also starting rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. If my years of watching football have taught me anything, it’s that offensive coordinators try to give rookie quarterbacks “easy” throws so they don’t screw things up. It’s also taught me that Norv Turner loves his tight ends. Many fantasy players had pegged Rudolph to have a breakout season under Turner similar to Jordan Cameron a year ago because of that. It’s worth noting that Turner brought Gray into Minnesota when Cleveland cut him this summer, so he's a Norv guy.
Sticking with Minnesota, I also expect RB Matt Asiata to get a boost. While he's nothing special running up his linemen's backs for about 2 yards a carry, he's making magic happen when he catches passes it seems. Expect Bridgewater to check down often. Greg Jennings gets downgraded with Bridgewater starting until proven otherwise. Cordarrelle Patterson is still a boom-or-bust WR3. Hopefully, the Vikes recognize he's their most talented player on offense right now and get creative getting the ball in his hands with short screen passes and handoffs to open up room for the rookie QB.
Almost assuredly, the San Diego Chargers defense is not available in your league, as they are playing against arguably the worst offense in football, the Jacksonville Puddy Tats, giving up league-high points to defensive players. That might be OK, there is a little bit of the great unknown working in favor of the Jags, with Blake Bortles making his first career start. That probably bodes well for Jacksonville's skill position players like Cecil Shorts, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and maybe even the disastrous Toby Gerhart. The offensive line hasn't improved as much though, and if the Bolts can get after the rookie, it should create sacks and turnovers needed for a bountiful fantasy day.
Other options for defensive streamers include the Detroit Lions against the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers against Tampa Bay.
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