In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors.
Here’s our Week Four rundown:
Packers WRs Randall Cobb and James Jones (vs. New Orleans) — With the Saints' defense off-form, fantasy owners need to take a long look at all of the Packers' notable skill-position performers, including complementary players like Cobb and Jones. Cobb has a little more upside, what with a rush of 20 yards or more in each of the last two games. However, Jones has been targeted at least five times in each of the first three weeks, and he has some field-stretching ability. I'm all for working Cobb and Jones into lineups in three-WR formats.
Texans TE Owen Daniels (vs. Tennessee) — The Titans' defense has had no shortage of problems, and defending tight ends has been one of those issues. Daniels leads the Texans in targets (22) and is tied for the team lead in catches (13).
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (vs. Washington) — The Redskins' defense has been just awful against the pass, which certainly makes Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson an attractive option. But we also want to mention Martin, who has received the third-most carries in the league through three weeks (63) but has only one TD to show for his efforts. Moreover, Martin is gaining just 3.4 yards per carry. However, it's hard to bench him in Week Four. The Redskins have allowed 4.2 yards per attempt, making this a favorable matchup for the Buccaneers' rookie back. Even if veteran LeGarrette Blount gets a few more carries, I still like Martin's upside this week.
Panthers QB Cam Newton (at Atlanta) — Has Newton had something of disappointing season to date? Sure. Do you bench him this week unless you have absolutely exceptional alternative? I wouldn't. Newton can carry a fantasy-football team on his best, and he can produce at an above-average level even if he's not on top of his game. Through three games, he's averaging 266 passing yards, and he has rushed for a pair of TDs. He's too talented to give up on, to say the least.
Saints RBs Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram (at Green Bay) — The Packers are allowing 135.7 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Sproles, who got his first carries of the season in Week Three, has the most value, but Thomas and Ingram are reasonable "flex" plays in big leagues.
Titans RB Chris Johnson (at Houston) — I believed Johnson might break out of his slump in Week Three; the Titans were at home, and the Lions don't have a stellar run defense. Well, the Titans attempted just 19 rushes, and Johnson again disappointed, gaining 24 yards on 14 carries. Meanwhile, the Titans' passing game shined, with QB Jake Locker completing 29-of-42 passes for 378 yards and two TDs. Look, Johnson's production could very well pick up at any point; it's almost unfathomable that he has gained all of 45 yards on 33 carries in three games. However, he's not a recommended play in Week Four. The Texans' defense is the best he has faced this season, and by a wide margin. I don't think the turnaround comes this week. What's more, he's slated to face Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Buffalo in his next three games, and none of those look like particularly favorable matchups at the moment. Say it with me: Uh-oh.
Patriots RB Stevan Ridley (at Buffalo) — He's difficult for owners in big leagues to bench, and if you have to play him, you could do worse. However, Ridley's carries have declined in each of the last three games (21, 18, 13), as have his rushing yards (125, 71, 37). In fact, Danny Woodhead received more rushing attempts (15) than Ridley did in Week Three. The Bills' run defense has played well in 2-of-3 games and might be capable of keeping Ridley in check.
49ers QB Alex Smith (at N.Y. Jets) — Smith is a better fantasy-football performer than a season ago. In two-QB formats and big one-QB leagues, he's a solid start. Nevertheless, most owners in 10- or 12-team leagues likely have a better option this week. Note that PFW fantasy expert Pat Fltzmaurice has Smith No. 22 among quarterbacks this week. While the Jets' secondary isn't as imposing without CB Darrelle Revis, it is still a solid group, and it's not the Niners' style to attack with the pass.
Bears pass catchers other than Brandon Marshall (at Dallas) — The Cowboys' CB play is fun to watch. Rookie Morris Claiborne has especially caught my eye. He's long, physical and athletic — a star press-man cover corner in the making. With Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr and a solid pass rush, the Cowboys are limiting opponents to just 137.0 net passing yards per game. Marshall is a must-start, but I'd steer clear of the other Chicago receivers Monday night.