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NFL Skinny: Week 4 Preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Through three weeks, we've been blessed with several highly entertaining Sunday and Monday night affairs, and I'm lovin' every minute of it. Week 3 was arguably the best late-night combo of the bunch. After watching the Jets and Miami duke it out on Sunday night, we concluded with a QB showcase on Monday night.

We already knew Aaron Rodgers(notes) was big time, but I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with how far Jay Cutler(notes) has progressed at his craft in the short time under Mike Martz. Maybe Martz doesn't deserve all the credit, because the big difference with Cutler is something that is really hard to change overnight. It's his demeanor. You can tell that the "Matrix" is finally unveiling itself in his mind and he's now so much more relaxed under fire, and he's making much smarter decisions because of it. He didn't put up huge numbers against the Packers, but it was clear enough to me that he now firmly belongs among the elite class of QBs that I felt comfortable moving him into my latest Big Board top 50.

I did happen to pick the Bears in the upset in last week's Skinny, and some of you would probably prefer not to go back and re-read your comments directed at me for making that pick. I'm not an "I told you so" guy, but I know better than to rip on anyone for picks they make involving the NFL. Any given Sunday, man … Any given Sunday.

I did have more of a finger on the Week 3 pulse than the previous week, going 11-5 for my game predictions after a forgettable 8-8 Week 2. I'll be hard-pressed to repeat the 11-correct mark this week given we're dealing with two less games this time around. There's 14 games on the Week 4 docket, so let's dive in with an early look at how I see them playing out.

Note: Kansas City, Minnesota, Dallas and Tampa Bay are on bye in Week 4

Week 4 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 4 matchup

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
NINERS – 3.9 YPC | 7.7 YPA
FALCONS – 5.1 YPC | 7.9 YPA

What to watch for:While SF TE Vernon Davis(notes) hopes new 49ers OC Mike Johnson(notes) will spread the love, fantasy owners should hope he'll love the spread (offense) after taking the '08 season off to study the offense that was key to QB Alex Smith's impressive mid-season takeoff last season. ATL is allowing the most YPC and 4th-most YPA, so it's a good week for SF to get right in all facets of offense. The team played with a zombie-like passion last week, and I suspect it will come out, at least on offense, with a renewed vigor. In addition to usual green lights Davis and RB Frank Gore(notes), I'm warm to the idea that Smith and WR Michael Crabtree(notes) will forge a stronger bond this week. I'll call them yellow, but with a glint of green. … ATL, through three weeks, is the most productive fantasy backfield in the league. You can worry about the health of RB Michael Turner(notes) all you want, but you can't sit him. In the passing game, no team has allowed more passing TDs than SF (7). ATL QB Matt Ryan(notes) has been well protected, and the 49ers rank near the bottom of the league in QB sacks. You typically start WR Roddy White(notes) and TE Tony Gonzalez(notes), and there are no red flags to prevent you from doing so again this week.

Frank Gore, Michael Turner, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Matt Ryan
Atlanta Defense, Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan(notes), Alex Smith
San Francisco Defense, Michael Jenkins(notes)
Sleeper: Jason Snelling(notes)
Key Injuries: ATL DE John Abraham(notes) (eye); SF LB Takeo Spikes(notes)(knee); SF WR Josh Morgan (knee); SF S Michael Lewis (ankle)
Prediction: Atlanta 23, San Francisco 19
NEW YORK JETS @ BUFFALO BILLS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
JETS – 2.4 YPC | 7.2 YPA
BILLS – 4.2 YPC | 7.7 YPA

What to watch for: Neither of these teams reached the 20-point plateau in their two meetings a year ago, and conditions proved extremely difficult for BUF QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes), in particular – combined 19-for-48 for 214 yards, a TD and 2 INTs. Overall, BUF RB Marshawn Lynch(notes) was the team's most effective weapon against NYJ in '09, reaching 60 rushing yards in both contests and scoring one of the team's two touchdowns. If I was tempted to start a BUF player in this one, it would be Lynch, who has more carries (33) than RBs Fred Jackson(notes) and C.J. Spiller(notes) combined and is averaging 4.7 YPC. But I'm not that tempted. At least Lynch breaks the BUF red light streak in this space. … Officially, BUF is the worst defense in the league, allowing 29 PPG. The NYJ are likely to dial back on QB Mark Sanchez(notes) and the budding passing game in this one as BUF is allowing the fifth-most FAN PPG to RBs after yielding the third-most in that category last season. NYJ RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) is the beneficiary of the 60 side of the 60/40 touch split with RB Shonn Greene(notes) – actually, LT has picked up 59 percent of the split. And he's also the goal-line guy. Go green with LT this week, but don't completely discount Greene given the givens. An extra-heavy backfield emphasis for the Jets could also yield 15 carries for Greene, and that kind of work against this squad has nice (chartreuse) upside potential. BUF has also been riddled by TEs, and NYJ TE Dustin Keller(notes) has reached must-start territory considering what he's done in six games since the start of the '09 playoffs (27 receptions, 407 yards, 6 TDs). I'll bath the rest of the NYJ passing game in yellow because, simply put, teams haven't been forced to throw the ball much against BUF – it should be noted that WRs Brandon Marshall(notes), Donald Driver(notes), Greg Jennings(notes), Randy Moss(notes) and Wes Welker(notes) have all been held to 53 yards or less by BUF in '10.

LaDainian Tomlinson, Dustin Keller, NY Jets Defense
Marshawn Lynch, Shonn Greene, Mark Sanchez, Braylon Edwards(notes)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lee Evans(notes), C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Jonathan Stupar(notes), Roscoe Parrish(notes), Stephen Johnson, Buffalo Defense, Jerricho Cotchery(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: NYJ LB Calvin Pace(notes) (foot); NYJ CB Darrelle Revis(notes) (hamstring)
Prediction: NY Jets 24, Buffalo 13
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BENGALS – 4.5 YPC | 5.6 YPA
BROWNS – 3.8 YPC | 7.0 YPA

What to watch for: Last week, CLE RB Peyton Hillis(notes) became one of the rare RBs to exceed 100 rushing yards against BAL in the past few years. There's plenty to like about Hillis as the featured back behind this offensive line, and this week he faces a CIN defense yielding 4.5 YPC. But CIN has in recent years done a pretty good job with straight-line runners, so it'll be interesting to see who wins this test in Week 4. What CIN hasn't done well is defend RBs in the passing game, having allowed the fifth-most receiving yards to RBs, thus far. Hillis' ability as a receiver pushes him into the green this week. Forget about the CLE passing elements this week. CIN can take anyone out with its bracket coverage, and that'll probably be WR Mohamed Massaquoi(notes). WR Joshua Cribbs(notes) is always an X-factor (sleeper), but he's far from healthy right now (ankle). … Give the CLE run defense some credit. It has faced RBs Ray Rice(notes), Jamaal Charles(notes), Thomas Jones(notes) and Cadillac Williams, among others, and has not allowed a RB TD and is yielding just 3.8 YPC. It's hard to sit CIN RB Cedric Benson(notes) because of his workload, but this could be yet another middling 25/79 type of line for the big Bengal. CIN QB Carson Palmer(notes) has looked downright awful, thus far. But his relationship with rookie TE Jermaine Gresham(notes) appears to be solidifying and I would not be surprised if Gresham leads the team in receiving for the second straight week as CIN sticks to a conservative approach and tries to win this one by not beating itself.

Peyton Hillis, Cedric Benson, Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Defense
Benjamin Watson(notes), Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco(notes), Terrell Owens(notes)
Seneca Wallace(notes), Mohamed Massaquoi, Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Defense
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: CLE OT John St. Clair(notes) (ankle); CLE LB D'Qwell Jackson(notes) (chest); CLE WRS WR Brian Robiskie(notes) (hamstring) and Joshua Cribbs (ankle); CLE DL Shaun Rogers(notes) (hip, ankle); CLE RB Jerome Harrison(notes) (thigh); CIN CB Adam Jones(notes) (shoulder)
Prediction: Cincinnati 19, Cleveland 16
DETROIT LIONS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
LIONS – 5.0 YPC | 8.3 YPA
PACK – 5.0 YPC | 6.6 YPA

What to watch for: The worst thing for a beleaguered DET team heading on the road this week was that GB lost a tough one in CHI on MNF in Week 3. Forget about a letdown factor for the Pack in this one. All systems go for the GB passing game, and count John Kuhn(notes) as a solid sleeper who should start seeing more carries than Brandon Jackson(notes), assuming HC Mike McCarthy has been paying attention the past couple weeks. … You can't count on DET WR Calvin Johnson(notes) right now. QB Shaun Hill's(notes) inability to throw downfield effectively has pretty much sucked the life out of MegaTron's game – forget about his enormous talent, he needs the AllSpark that is QB Matthew Stafford(notes). Johnson has a long catch of 21 yards and has been held to 56 yards or less in each of his three games. The GB defense is strong across the board and even if rookie RB sensation Jahvid Best(notes) plays on his turf toe (and it is assumed that he'll at least try), he could be pulled early if the game gets out of hand so he can be in better shape for a winnable home affair with St. Louis in Week 5. Backup RB Maurice Morris(notes), a guy that would figure heavily in a playing-from-behind capacity with Best out, could be a surprise source of production. But it wouldn't shock me if DET didn't score an offensive TD in this one. All systems no!

Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley(notes), Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Green Bay Defense
Calvin Johnson, Brandon Jackson
Shaun Hill, Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith(notes), Nate Burleson(notes), Brandon Pettigrew(notes), Detroit Defense
Sleeper: John Kuhn, James Jones(notes), Maurice Morris, Tony Scheffler(notes)
Key Injuries: DET RB Jahvid Best (toe); DET QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder); DET G Stephen Peterman(notes) (foot); DET LB DeAndre Levy(notes)(groin, ankle); DET WR Nate Burleson (ankle)
Prediction: Green Bay 34, Detroit 10
DENVER BRONCOS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BRONCOS – 3.7 YPC | 7.4 YPA
TITANS – 4.4 YPC | 6.0 YPA

What to watch for: DEN is only allowing 3.7 YPC, but I'm not convinced that TEN RB Chris Johnson will have any trouble – his new 100-yard streak will continue in Week 4. But there's no definition to the TEN passing game with QB Vince Young(notes) under center and you have to figure that DEN CB Champ Bailey(notes) will take out whichever WR DEN decides he should take out, so this is a bad place to go WR speculating. The DEN defense has also been good at QB containment, having not allowed a signal-caller to exceed 34 rushing yards in Josh McDaniels' tenure. Probably best to avoid Young in this one, too. … Hard to believe given the unhealthy and underwhelming state of the backfield, that DEN will try to veer from its pass-heavy approach, which has yielded the sixth-most FAN PTS from the QB position, thus far. TEN was terrible against the pass a season ago, but it looks better on paper this year. That's a bit of a mirage, though, given that it has faced Jason Campbell(notes) and a Dennis Dixon(notes)/Charlie Batch combo in two of its three games. NYG QB Eli Manning(notes) threw for 386 yards against the Titans in Week 3. And now TEN is without starting CB Jason McCourty(notes), who broke his forearm last week. I'd have no problem rolling out QB Kyle Orton(notes) this week. The problem with DEN WRs, though, is figuring out who will be Orton's flavor of the week. This has been the second-most productive WR unit in fantasy, with four receivers among the WR top 40. They are all justifiable plays this week, but I'll put my two best guesses in green (below) and let the other two ride under the caution flag here.

Chris Johnson, Kyle Orton, Eddie Royal(notes), Brandon Lloyd(notes)
Jabar Gaffney(notes), Demaryius Thomas(notes), Tennessee Defense
Vince Young, Nate Washington(notes), Kenny Britt(notes), Bo Scaife(notes), Justin Gage(notes), Denver Defense, Daniel Graham(notes), Laurence Maroney(notes), Knowshon Moreno(notes), Correll Buckhalter(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: DEN WR Demaryius Thomas (arm); TEN CB Jason McCourty (forearm)
Prediction: Tennessee 26, Denver 20
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ ST. LOUIS RAMS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
HAWKS – 2.6 YPC | 7.4 YPA
RAMS – 5.1 YPC | 7.1 YPA

What to watch for: As I suspected, SEA made a bigger commitment to RB Justin Forsett(notes), and he acquitted himself with a serviceable 63 yards on 17 carries and another 31 yards on 3 catches against SDG in Week 3. A similar workload against a STL defense allowing 5.1 YPC should prove more fruitful – Forsett posted a 22/130/2 line in a Week 12 trip to STL in '09. STL has also allowed the ninth-most FAN PTS to WRs, although you'd be hard pressed to find a go-to guy among the SEA WRs. WR Mike Williams is dealing with a sore shoulder and the occasional drop, so he's an iffy bet. WR Deion Branch(notes) is probably the safest, albeit low upside, proposition. But I'm still harboring a mini-mancrush on rookie WR Golden Tate(notes), who gets more involved with each passing week. In deeper leagues, call him Rip Van Winkle in Week 4. TE John Carlson(notes) has clearly been a point of emphasis for SEA the past couple weeks, and he's a 12-team league starter this week given the TEs on bye. … STL RB Steven Jackson's groin looked like it was hurting pretty bad when he was removed from Week 3 action. He's being listed as "day-to-day" with the injury, but I'd be leery this week if I owned Jackson. Obviously, you'll have to follow this closely and be very certain that S-Jax is feeling good if you are going to hazard starting him against a now-stout SEA run defense. If he's being called a game-time decision come Sunday morning, I'd probably go a different direction, unless you literally have no other viable options. STL QB Sam Bradford(notes) has looked calm, cool and collected, so far. And he's facing a SEA pass defense that has seen the second-most pass attempts against through three weeks – and it has allowed a combined 762 passing yards in the past two games. SEA could also be without top CB MarcusTrufant (ankle) this week. Bradford won't be in my QB top 12 this week, but he won't be far outside of it. But his favorite target, WR Mark Clayton(notes), is definitely someone I'll have within startable range among Week 4 WRs.

Justin Forsett, John Carlson, Mark Clayton
Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola(notes), Matt Hasselbeck(notes), Deion Branch, Mike Williams, Seattle Defense
Kenneth Darby(notes), Daniel Fells(notes), St. Louis Defense
Sleeper: Golden Tate
Key Injuries: STL RB Steven Jackson (groin); STL S O.J. Atogwe (quad); STL S Craig Dahl(notes) (concussion); SEA CB MarcusTrufant (ankle); SEA WR Mike Williams (shoulder); SEA LB Aaron Curry(notes) (hamstring); SEA OT Russell Okung(notes) (ankle); SEA DT Brandon Mebane(notes) (calf)
Prediction: Seattle 26, St. Louis 23
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
PANTHERS – 3.1 YPC | 6.9 YPA
SAINTS – 4.4 YPC | 7.6 YPA

What to watch for: CAR had a rough time in Week 1 with NYG WR Hakeem Nicks(notes), but the Panthers have a talented secondary led by CB Chris Gamble(notes). The problem for CAR, though, is that the loss of DE Julius Peppers(notes) has decimated the team's pass rush – just 2 QB sacks in three games. NO QB Drew Brees(notes) is tough enough to get hands on for even the league's best pass rush units, so the CAR secondary could be in trouble this week because Brees should have all the time in the world to wait for someone to come open. It's hard to predict whose numbers Brees will choose to inflate from week to week, but I loved the way TE Jeremy Shockey(notes) looked last week and I wouldn't hesitate to double down on him in this one. Among the WRs, honestly, who knows? WR Marques Colston(notes) had just a combined two catches against CAR last season and has seen just 2 of 11 passes from Brees inside the red zone. I'm not comfortable going green with him this week, and I'm not completely sure I prefer him over Week 3 breakout WR Lance Moore(notes). I'm running both under the caution this week. … NO has been the second-toughest in fantasy against WRs, which kind of deflates the idea of CAR WR Steve Smith rebounding in QB Jimmy Clausen's(notes) second career start. The presence of NO CB Jabari Greer(notes) only complicates life more for Smith. Slow-starting CAR RB DeAngelo Williams(notes) is the only Panther I trust this week. Williams has gone for 149-plus rushing yards his past two trips to the Superdome, and he traditionally fares well on the indoor fast track. And NO has allowed back-to-back 100-yard games to RBs Frank Gore and Michael Turner. The key here will be to establish the running game from the get-go – CAR won't have a prayer if they fall behind by a couple touchdowns early.

Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas(notes), Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Defense, DeAngelo Williams
Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart(notes), Lance Moore, Marques Colston
David Gettis(notes), Dante Rosario(notes), Carolina Defense, Devery Henderson(notes), Robert Meachem(notes)
Sleeper: Ladell Betts(notes)
Key Injuries: NO CBs Tracy Porter(notes)(hamstring) and Randall Gay(notes) (concussion); NO RB Pierre Thomas (leg)
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Carolina 13
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
RAVENS – 4.7 YPC | 4.8 YPA
STEELERS – 2.6 YPC | 6.2 YPA

What to watch for: Last week, PIT fill-in QB Charlie Batch(notes) was productive through the air against TB, even if he received no style points in the process. Don't expect a repeat from Batch, as BAL has held opposing QBs to the seventh-lowest QB Rating (72.0). If your PIT player is someone other than RB Rashard Mendenhall(notes), walk away from this matchup. … The PIT run defense is a complete dead end for opposing RBs, especially if the RB has a deeply bruised knee, like BAL RB Ray Rice. It's unclear whether Rice or backup RB Willis McGahee(notes) will shoulder the load in Week 4, but it should be clear that you aren't going to play either one. BAL is likely going to have to ride the arm of QB Joe Flacco(notes), coming off an impressive 262 passing yards and 3 TD passes in Week 3. Flacco held up well against PIT in '09, completing 60 percent of his passes for a combined 455 passing yards, 3 TD passes and 1 INT. WR Anquan Boldin(notes) is the No. 2 WR in fantasy. And he's an absolute warrior who I expect to step up to the challenge of a big game like this. He's the only Ravens player I'm green-lighting.

Rashard Mendenhall, Anquan Boldin, Pittsburgh Defense
Joe Flacco, Todd Heap(notes), Ray Rice, Baltimore Defense, Hines Ward(notes)
Charlie Batch, Heath Miller(notes), Derrick Mason(notes), Willis McGahee, Mike Wallace(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: BAL RB Ray Rice (knee); BAL DLs Terrence Cody(notes) (knee) and DE Cory Redding(notes) (concussion)
Prediction: Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 16
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
COLTS – 5.0 YPC | 7.6 YPA
JAGS – 4.6 YPC | 9.9 YPA

What to watch for: JAC has a legitimate claim to being the worst offense in the league, thanks to the abysmal play of QB David Garrard(notes). RB Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) is still managing to pick up modest yardage on the ground, and you have to play him against IND, who is allowing 5.0 YPC. If MoJo has a bad game against IND, it'll be the first time in his career. Garrard typically plays much better at home and he is very familiar with IND – and he's played well the past two times the Colts have visited Jacksonville. I suspect he'll play better than he has the past couple weeks, at least. That said, I certainly wouldn't want to go to battle with him, but I might gamble on WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes), if I was in a pinch. However, IND is death to TEs, so forget about driving the Marcedes. … JAC has been embarrassingly bad at defending the pass for a while now, and IND QB Peyton Manning(notes) has topped 300 passing yards against the Jags in three straight meetings. You're starting all the IND passing pieces in this one, the only question becomes whether you trust RBs Joseph Addai(notes) or Donald Brown(notes). Basically, if you think the game will be close, you probably want to steer clear of the RBs because the team will always lean on Manning's arm over a ground game to lead the team to victory. I'll lean towards this being a breezy win for the Colts and I think Addai culls together a serviceable yards from scrimmage total and a touchdown.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne(notes), Austin Collie(notes), Dallas Clark(notes), Joseph Addai
Mike Sims-Walker, Indianapolis Defense
Marcedes Lewis(notes), David Garrard, Mike Thomas(notes), Jacksonville Defense
Sleeper: Blair White(notes), Rashard Jennings
Key Injuries: IND WR Pierre Garcon(notes)
Prediction: Indianapolis 31, Jacksonville 14
HOUSTON TEXANS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
TEXANS – 3.0 YPC | 9.1 YPA
RAIDERS – 4.6 YPC | 6.5 YPA

What to watch for: OAK can't stop the run. It is, without question, the worst run defense of the past decade. And this season is no different, as the unit is allowing 4.6 YPC. I'll have HOU RB Arian Foster(notes) among my top 2 RB plays for Week 4. HOU WR Andre Johnson(notes) is much trickier. He's been struggling through a sore ankle and he'll likely have to tussle quite a bit with OAK CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes). Last season when these teams met, AJ caught just 2 passes (out of 8 targets) for 66 yards and no TDs. I won't go so far as to color Johnson yellow this week, but he'll be outside my top 15 WRs for Week 4, and I could see where some owners might have 2-3 better options to roll with. WR Kevin Walter(notes) has scored in three straight games. If Asomugha shadows Johnson as opposed to staying to one side of the field, Walter could have another big day working from the slot. Same for WR Jacoby Jones(notes) working the other sideline. – OAK RB Darren McFadden(notes) has earned the OAK feature role and shouldn't be hurt too much by the return of RB Michael Bush(notes). McFadden occupying the first chair of the backfield has always been the Raiders' hope and dream. I wouldn't get tricky with Run-DMC in Week 4. HOU only allows 3.0 YPC to RBs, but they haven't faced a running game of significance yet. McFadden should post another quality yardage total. QB Bruce Gradkowski(notes) has 7 TD passes to just 2 INTs in five games as the OAK starter since last season. And HOU is allowing a healthy 9.1 YPA. Gradkowski is one of those in-a-pinch flyers that could pay big dividends this weekend. And Gradkowski loves WR Louis Murphy(notes). Five WRs have topped 80 receiving yards against HOU this season, and Murphy is likely to make it six. HOU is also allowing the second-most FAN PTS to TEs. TE Zach Miller, who had his best day of '10 (4/64/1) last week in Gradkowski's first start of the year, is a start that is easy to justify.

Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Matt Schaub(notes), Zach Miller, Louis Murphy, Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter
Jacoby Jones, Bruce Gradkowski, Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes)
Houston Defense, Oakland Defense, Owen Daniels(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: OAK DE Richard Seymour(notes) (hamstring); HOU WR Andre Johnson(ankle); HOU FS Eugene Wilson(notes) (hamstring)
Prediction: Houston 27, Oakland 24
ARIZONA CARINALS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
CARDS – 4.3 YPC | 6.1 YPA
BOLTS – 3.9 YPC | 6.1 YPA

What to watch for: Owners of SDG rookie RB Ryan Mathews(notes) have to be praying that he'll return from an ankle injury this week, as the Chargers are about to embark on a nice, cushy month-long journey through some of the most generous run defenses in the league – in order, ARI, @OAK, @STL, NE. I have a feeling Mathews won't make it for the first of that four-stop tour, which would mean backup RB Mike Tolbert(notes) is going to look mighty fine this week against an accommodating ARI run defense. As expected, Tolbert had difficulty in SEA last week, but he wound up picking up some nice yardage late when the SEA defense was exhausted – SEA RB Leon Washington's(notes) two second-half kickoff return TDs didn't allow the defense much time to rest. ARI has allowed 119 receiving yards to both Mark Clayton and Louis Murphy this season, and Roddy White hung a 7/78/1 line on it in Week 2. The gettin' has been good here for WRs, but I'm of the opinion that WR Malcom Floyd(notes) is already pushing must-start territory in the post-Vincent Jackson(notes) era regardless of the matchup. … SDG hasn't really faced a quality passing team, but it has feasted on the QBs that it has faced, recording 6 sacks, 5 INTs and allowing a 57.2 Comp%. On the flip side, ARI QB Derek Anderson(notes) has thrown 4 INTs and is completing a mere 52 percent of his passes. I'm expecting QB Max Hall(notes) to replace him at some point in Week 4 at SDG. WR Larry Fitzgerald(notes) is withering at the hand of Anderson, having caught just 12 of 34 passes intended for him. The SDG pass defense has long been excellent at limiting big pass plays, and it's hard to see much upside in Fitzgerald this week. While he's drawing the attention of the secondary, I do think ARI WR Stephen Williams(notes), filling in for injured WR Steve Breaston(notes), is a very intriguing flyer. I was very impressed with him in the preseason and he seemed to have a rare chemistry with QB Anderson. Last week, Williams filled in for Breaston and drew pass interference penalties on a couple of deep throws. He's tall, he can run and, from what I've seen, he's got pretty decent hands. The SDG run defense is nothing special, and an expected 15-20 touches for Wells should return solid, if unspectacular numbers. Wells has a chartreuse feel to me.

Mike Tolbert or Ryan Mathews, Philip Rivers(notes), Antonio Gates(notes), Malcom Floyd, San Diego Defense
Beanie Wells(notes), Larry Fitzgerald, Legedu Naanee(notes), Tim Hightower(notes)
Derek Anderson, Arizona Defense, Arizona TE
Sleeper: Stephen Williams
Key Injuries: SDG LB Shawne Merriman(notes) (calf); SDG LB Larry English(notes) (foot); SDG RB Ryan Mathews (ankle); SDG G Louis Vasquez(notes) (knee); ARI WR Steve Breaston (knee); ARI RB Beanie Wells (knee)
Prediction: San Diego 34, Arizona 16
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
SKINS – 3.5 YPC | 7.4 YPA
EAGLES – 4.1 YPC | 5.9 YPA

What to watch for: Michael Vick(notes) vs. Donovan McNabb(notes) – McNabb returning to face his old team in PHI. There'll be no problems selling the drama in this one. On the PHI side, there's not much to say here. Vick has fit like a glove running HC Andy Reid's full system. The Eagles have scored 70 points in basically 10 quarters of Vick. And the beneficiaries have been RB LeSean McCoy(notes) and WRs DeSean Jackson(notes) and Jeremy Maclin(notes). This is not the week to speculate that TE Brent Celek(notes) finally gets involved in the act. WAS is very good at defending the TE position and Celek did next to nothing against WAS last season when he had TE-friendly McNabb at the helm. Go with what you know on the PHI side. … McNabb knows the PHI defense and the PHI defense knows McNabb. So who has the advantage? I'll go with the PHI defense because it has the clear talent advantage and one of the best CBs in the league in Asante Samuel(notes). He can make it tough for McNabb to go to the well with WR Santana Moss(notes) like he has through the first three games. If McNabb is smart, he'll target his TEs early and often. The attacking PHI style has made it susceptible to the TE position. Chris Cooley(notes) is a must start and Fred Davis(notes) warrants sleeper status. At RB, who knows what is going on with the Clinton Portis(notes), Ryan Torrain situation. Frankly, I wouldn't bother trying to figure it out this week. The PHI defense is going to be out for blood and neither has the kind of game-breaking upside – like Jahvid Best in Week 2 – to take advantage when PHI opens a window of vulnerability with its aggressive approach.

Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Chris Cooley, Philadelphia Defense
Santana Moss, Donovan McNabb, Brent Celek
Washington Defense, Joey Galloway(notes), Clinton Portis, Ryan Torrain
Sleeper: Fred Davis
Key Injuries: PHI LB Ernie Sims(notes) (ankle); PHI G Nick Cole(notes) (knee); PHI TE Brent Celek (wrist); PHI DE Brandon Graham(notes) (ankle); WAS LT Trent Williams(notes) (knee, toe); WAS RB Clinton Portis (hand)
Prediction: Philadelphia 24, Washington 13
CHICAGO BEARS @ NEW YORK GIANTS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BEARS – 2.1 YPC | 6.6 YPA
GIANTS – 3.8 YPC | 7.2 YPA

What to watch for: NYG RB Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) is one of just three RBs to reach 75 rushing yards in each of the first three weeks, but he'll be facing a CHI run defense that has allowed just a combined 104 rushing yards on 50 carries in that span. CHI LBs Brian Urlacher(notes) and Lance Briggs(notes) are ball hawks, and Bradshaw is probably best avoided this week. CHI has allowed both Tony Romo(notes) and Aaron Rodgers to exceed 300 passing yards the past two weeks, but this is a unit that has been good at limiting the type of big plays that NYG WR Hakeem Nicks has become accustomed to – one of just five teams that has not allowed a 40-yard pass play. With the kind of pressure DE Julius Peppers can create, NYG QB Eli Manning is not likely to be too comfortable in the pocket on Sunday – especially since he doesn't have the kind of mobility that Romo and Rodgers have. I like WR Steve Smith and TE Kevin Boss(notes) as favored Manning targets this week as NYG looks to a quick, controlled passing game. … CHI QB Jay Cutler has looked like a steely veteran in his first three games under Mike Martz. He's thrown just 1 INT and has looked under control in the face of heavy fire. And Cutler might actually finally get a boost from some semblance of a running game, as NYG has allowed the third-most rushing yards to RBs. But, make no mistake, CHI is terrible up front in a run blocking capacity, and this offense will have to ultimately lean on Cutler. And I would be comfortable rolling with him and his three favorite weapons – WR Johnny Knox(notes), TE Greg Olsen(notes) and RB Matt Forte(notes) – against the NFL's third-worst scoring defense (28.3).

Jay Cutler, Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen, Matt Forte, Steve Smith
Kevin Boss, Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham(notes), Chicago Defense, NY Giants Defense, Devin Hester(notes)
Brandon Jacobs(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: NYG C Shaun O'Hara(notes) (ankle, Achilles)
Prediction: Chicago 21, NY Giants 20
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
PATS – 4.4 YPC | 7.5 YPA
FINS – 4.5 YPC | 6.3 YPA

What to watch for: NE QB Tom Brady(notes) topped 300 passing yards in each meeting with MIA last season and you can bet that Brady will come out slinging it in Week 4. In addition to WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker, you have to give serious consideration to TE Aaron Hernandez(notes). TEs have gone for nearly 1,200 receiving yards in the past 19 games against MIA. TEs Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) and Dustin Keller have both exceeded 85 yards against MIA in the past two weeks. And Hernandez has some serious receiving skills that Brady has been honing in on more and more with each passing week. At RB, it's never wise to put your chips in a Patriots backfield pot, but at least RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) looks like a safe bet for 12-15 carries. He's bye-week filler, not somebody you're going to strike it rich with. … I'm sure MIA will reach into its bag of tricks on offense in an effort to keep Brady off the field. I think the ideal blueprint would be for RBs Ronnie Brown(notes) and Ricky Williams(notes) to combine for more carries than QB Chad Henne(notes) pass attempts. I do think this will be the first big effort from Brown, and I have a feeling Williams will be at least serviceable. NE has no match for WR Brandon Marshall's size, and it will likely have to double cover him in some fashion. That could work out well for WR Davone Bess(notes) across the middle. In PPR leagues, he's somebody to consider.

Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Tom Brady, Ronnie Brown, Brandon Marshall
Chad Henne, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ricky Williams, Davone Bess
New England Defense, Miami Defense, Anthony Fasano(notes)
Sleeper: Aaron Hernandez, Brian Hartline(notes)
Key Injuries: NE RB Fred Taylor(notes)(toe); MIA LB Channing Crowder(notes) (groin);
Prediction: Miami 24, New England 21

Note: YPC stands for Yards Per Carry; YPA stands for Yards Per (Pass) Attempt

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