Steve Smith Sr. had promised a reckoning.
"Blood and guts everywhere," he said back in March.
During Baltimore's season opener, when cameras found Smith on the sideline, he let us all know — in the clearest possible terms — that he was looking forward to seeing Carolina in Week 4.
Predictably, Smith roasted his former employer on Sunday, hauling in seven passes on 10 targets, finishing with 139 yards and two touchdowns. If anyone actually doubted whether Smith was amped for a fight this week, his first reception settled the issue. After the catch, he stiff-armed Roman Harper to the turf — almost needlessly, since he had the safety beat.
Smith's first score was a tip-drill miracle that went for 61 yards. His second was a 21-yarder on which he out-fought coverage. Smith didn't seem to engage in much mid-game yapping, but he gave us this gem when all the numbers were in:
"I'm 35 years old and I ran around those boys like they were schoolyard kids."
You'll get no argument from ... well, from anyone. Because only an idiot would choose to argue with Steve Smith.
We're now a quarter of the way through Baltimore's season, and Smith has already topped the 100-yard mark three times. These are his week-by-week target totals: 15, 10, 7, 10. That sort of usage will definitely play. Baltimore has used him to attack all levels, against every defense. Last year in Carolina, Smith never reached 70 receiving yards in any game. This year, he's been over 70 each week.
At this point, it seems senseless to expect any other Ravens wideout (Torrey included) to leapfrog him in the team's receiving hierarchy. Wherever you ranked him entering the season, it wasn't high enough. He's a no-doubt start at his current usage, with three friendly matchups on deck: at Indy, at Tampa, vs. Atlanta.
• If Bernard Pierce played in Week 4 against the Panthers, I missed it. All the backfield touches went to Justin Forsett (17 touches, 97 yards, TD) and bulldozing rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro (15, 58, TD). Pierce was listed as probable entering the week, so we shouldn't assume his no-show in the box score was injury related. For the moment, he appears to be the third man in a two-man job-share.
• If you've invested in the the Carolina backfield, that situation somehow became messier in Week 4. DeAngelo Williams checked out with an ankle injury of as-yet-unknown severity. With Jonathan Stewart (knee), Mike Tolbert (broken leg) and Fozzy Whitaker (quad) already dinged, the Panthers are down to practice squad backs. Not good.
• Jacksonville's defense is the fantasy gift that just keeps giving, you guys. The Jaguars entered the week ranked last in the NFL against both the run and pass. Through three weeks, they'd allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, kickers and defenses. To no one's surprise, Phillip Rivers roasted Jacksonville on Sunday, passing for 377 yards and three scores. Two of the touchdowns and 105 yards went to Eddie Royal, who feasted again. Royal has yet to see fewer than six targets in any game, so I won't call him a fluke. Keenan Allen reminded us all why he was a consensus top-12 wideout in the pre-draft ranks, as he snagged 10 balls on 11 targets, accounting for 135 yards. No worries there. Donald Brown, we should note, did nothin' with the best possible matchup. You can't start Brown in Week 5 facing the Jets, except as an act of pure desperation.
• The Raiders are making the case for some sort of relegation arrangement between the NFL and the SEC West. Nothing went well for Oakland on Sunday in London, and Derek Carr suffered multiple injuries. Honestly, in an 8-team or 10-team league, I would not feel the need to keep a single Raiders skill player on my roster through their bye. What an awful team to showcase to the world.
Ryan Tannehill isn't complaining about Oakland, I'm sure, because that defense helped him reestablish his grip on a job that should not have been at risk. Tannehill completed 23 of 31 throws for 278 yards and two scores. Dolphins running back Lamar Miller had a dozen carries for 64 yards and two TDs, though he also lost a fumble. It's tough to take any stats seriously, if they're compiled against the Raiders. Miller belongs on your trade block, not in your long-range fantasy plans.
• Chicago's offense was good for exactly one half of football on Sunday. Green Bay's offense was dominant all day. Aaron Rodgers picked clean the bones of the Bears defense, passing for 302 yards and four touchdowns on just 28 attempts. His best play of the afternoon didn't even count. (Seriously, hit that link. It's one of the best individual plays you'll ever see, from the pre-snap adjustment to the throw. Just silly.) Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb each found the end-zone twice while reaching triple-digit yardage. Eddie Lacy was ... well, not great, exactly. He carried 17 times for 48 yards. But he crossed the goal line once, and had another score negated by penalty.
Jay Cutler was outstanding for a half, then ordinary. And ordinary was definitely not going to beat the Packers in Week 4. Cutler was intercepted twice and he threw for a pair of touchdowns; the first pick a bad ball, the other a clear miscommunication with Brandon Marshall. (We should probably mention that Marshall has only practiced once in three weeks, which is no small thing.) When Cutler isn't throwing to Forte, Jeffery, Bennett or Marshall, bad things are likely to happen.
I feel compelled to note that the officials on hand at Soldier Field had a miserable day, though the bad calls fell both ways (and ultimately, the game was not close). The early flag on Julius Peppers? I have no idea. Did he illegally strike an offensive player with his face? Is that what happened? Horrible.
• Every time I checked in with Buffalo and Houston, turnovers were happening. EJ Manuel and Ryan Fitzpatrick were each intercepted twice (no surprises there), and Andre Johnson lost a fumble (which almost never happens). One of Manuel's INTs became a pick-six, because J.J. Watt is not a normal human. Arian Foster returned from his hamstring malfunction, though he probably should have recuperated for another week. He finished with eight carries for only six yards, but added seven receptions for 55 on 10 targets.
• Mike Glennon only completed 50 percent of his throws against the Steelers, but he finished with 302 yards and two scores, including a go-ahead TD pass to Vincent Jackson in the closing seconds. Doug Martin returned to fantasy relevance in Tampa's win, though he didn't necessarily do it with flash (14 carries, 40 yards, TD). Bobby Rainey was merely a cameo player, and not so effective (four carries, two yards). Mike Evans finally hauled in a red-zone touchdown, but later exited with a groin injury.
All the key skill players in Pittsburgh's offense performed as expected: Le'Veon Bell had 109 scrimmage yards, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 and three scores, Antonio Brown caught two TD passes, and Heath Miller caught 10 balls for 85 yards. But the Steelers D allowed 350 total yards, plus the team gave away another 125 on 13 penalties. That's not the winning formula, no matter the opponent.
• Minnesota stomped the Falcons on Sunday, embarrassing Atlanta's defense. Teddy Bridgewater passed for 317 yards in his first regular season NFL start, plus he rushed for a 13-yard score. He was certainly not overmatched, nor sloppy with the football. Unfortunately, Bridgewater suffered a late ankle injury on a goal-line lunge, which puts his availability in doubt for Thursday's visit to Green Bay.
The Vikings' ground game was relentless and brutally effective, as Matt Asiata broke the plane three times, gaining 78 yards on 20 carries. Explosive rookie Jerick McKinnon, who we've discussed a time or two around here, was fantastic. McKinnon carried 18 times for 135 yards, adding one catch for 17. Without question, he belongs in your waiver plans. McKinnon is a freak athlete, even by NFL standards.
Jarius Wright was the unexpected-yet-impressive receiving star for Minnesota, catching eight passes for 132 yards on 10 targets. Meanwhile, Cordarrelle Patterson was an afterthought (2-38-0). Remember when we heard that Norv Turner's first order of business with the Vikings was to install new plays for Patterson? It now appears Patterson was actually a decoy in like nine of those plays.
• Chris Ivory dominated the Jets rushing workload on Sunday, delivering as good a day as could be expected against Detroit's run D. Ivory finished with 17 carries for 84 yards. Chris Johnson only saw six carries, but fortunately the Lions forgot to tackle him on one of 'em. Whoops.
Calvin Johnson (ankle) clearly wasn't operating at full capacity against New York, but his presence on the field is enough to stress any defense. Golden Tate led Detroit's receivers in catches and yards (8-116), while Eric Ebron and Jeremy Ross took the touchdowns.
• Philadelphia's offense slowed to a crawl in Santa Clara, accounting for only 213 total yards. The Eagles did all their scoring on defense and special teams, which is no way to live (although it worked for the '06 Bears). Frank Gore was fed early and often by the Niners, finishing with a terrific line: 24 carries, one catch, 174 scrimmage yards, TD. His 55-yard touchdown reception was pure improvisational ridiculousness from Colin Kaepernick, followed by a terrific race to the goal-line by Gore. If you needed fantasy contributions from Eagles this week ... nope. Didn't happen.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 5
QB Carson Palmer, Ari (at Den)
QB Eli Manning, NYG (vs. Atl)
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Min (at GB)
RB Bishop Sankey, Ten (vs. Cle)
RB Justin Forsett, Bal (at Ind)
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, Bal (at Ind)
RB Jerick McKinnon, Min (at GB)
RB Darrin Reaves, Car (vs. Chi)
WR Eddie Royal, SD (vs. NYJ)
WR Jarius Wright, Min (at GB)
WR Davante Adams, GB (vs. Min)
WR Denard Robinson, Jac (vs. Pit)
WR Andre Holmes, Oak (bye)
DEF San Diego (vs. NYJ)
DEF Pittsburgh (at Jac)
K Matt Prater, Den (vs. Ari)