Fantasy Football Week 4 Start 'Em Sit 'Em

Fantasy football sit-and-start advice should always be relative and league-dependent. Note that some players are targeted for DFS. Good luck with your Week 4 lineups!

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

Start in DFS: Jaylen Waddle ($19), Stefon Diggs ($25)

Waddle cleared concussion protocol Thursday and is expected to return Sunday. He put up monster numbers (3.14 YPRR!) when Tua Tagovailoa was healthy last season and rejoins a Miami offense lapping the league in EPA/play. He also gets a prime matchup that has Week 4’s highest total. Waddle’s salary is more than 20% less than it was in Week 1, so he’s undervalued.

Diggs hasn’t erupted during his past shadow matchups with Xavien Howard, but he should be busy in what looks like this week’s DFS matchup to target. The game has a big over/under (53.5 points), and the Bills have the second-highest team total of the week. Gabe Davis has earned just 15 targets this season, as Diggs remains Buffalo’s clear alpha. Yet his DFS salary isn’t that of a top-10 WR this week in what should be a shootout.

Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers

Start: Alexander Mattison, Miles Sanders

Mattison nearly lost two fumbles last week and had a bad drop but dominated Minnesota’s backfield usage. Cam Akers enters the mix now, but he’s not likely to suddenly force a split. The Vikings have been pass-heavy during their three losses to open the season, but they should have a much more favorable game script Sunday (4.5-point favorites) with Bryce Young likely returning for Carolina. The Panthers have allowed the most EPA/rush and the third-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Fire up Mattison in Week 4.

Adam Thielen would’ve been a must-start in a revenge game and DJ Chark would be a strong WR3 if Andy Dalton were starting in this matchup. But the Panthers are turning back to a healthy Bryce Young, which means a downgrade for the WRs and a heavy dose of Sanders (assuming his groin injury cooperates).

Sanders is second in RB target share and top-10 in snap percentage with his new team in 2023. He’s faced a couple of tough run defenses to open the season, but Minnesota has allowed the seventh-highest EPA/rush.

Denver Broncos @ Chicago Bears

Start: Javonte Williams, Justin Fields

Williams had just a 42% snap rate last week but is a solid fantasy start in this matchup. The Bears have yielded the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Denver should also finally have a positive game script for the first time all year. Williams has averaged 16 opportunities over the first three games as he works his way back from major knee surgery, and he’s likely to see a season-high in touches Sunday.

Fields has struggled mightily this season, but he’s in a bounce-back spot in Week 4. His clunker last week came in Kansas City against an underrated Chiefs defense, and at least he had 11 rushes. His seven designed runs were two more than he had combined entering the game. Fields got off to a slow start in 2022, and there remains a ton of fantasy upside if he starts running again. The Broncos have allowed the third-highest EPA/rush, the second-most YPC (5.6) and the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

Sit: Zay Flowers

Start: Browns D/ST

Flowers could see an uptick in looks (and hopefully a different route tree) with Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman ruled out, but Baltimore travels to face a red-hot Cleveland defense this week in a game with a 38.5 over/under with Deshaun Watson a surprise inactive due to a shoulder injury Sunday morning. The Browns lead the league in pressure rate while allowing the fewest yards per play. They’ve held wide receivers to the fewest fantasy points too, somehow allowing fewer than 100.0 yards combined by opposing wideouts (the only team in the league to do so). The Ravens have the sixth-lowest implied team total this week — lower than the Bears and Panthers.

Side note: stash Baltimore RB Keaton Mitchell on IR where available.

The Browns’ defense has allowed the lowest success rate over the first three games since 1999. Opposing offenses have run just nine plays inside the red zone and have totaled one touchdown in 2023. A favorable early schedule has no doubt helped, but also realize Cleveland gets home games against the Bears and Jets during the fantasy playoffs. Baltimore is dealing with numerous injuries, and Lamar Jackson has already taken eight sacks while fumbling four times. This game is also likely to be lower scoring now that Watson is expected to sit and Dorian Thompson-Robinson gets the start.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans

Start: Najee Harris, Tank Dell

Harris has been the No. 46 fantasy back in 0.5 PPR leagues, sandwiched between Chuba Hubbard and Ezekiel Elliott. He remains Pittsburgh’s lead back and somehow has been one of the league’s most “explosive” backs this season. Jaylen Warren remains a good bet to eventually take more work, but Harris should see a bunch of touches this week with the Steelers favorites. The Texans have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs and are tied for the highest EPA/rush.

Dell was the WR6 last week despite being tackled inside the one-yard line, and he’s quickly emerged as an immediate fantasy force. Dell’s first-read target percentage has increased each week this season, while Nico Collinshas decreased. C.J. Stroud is the real deal, and Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.

Los Angeles Rams @ Indianapolis Colts

Start: Tutu Atwell, Anthony Richardson

Atwell has been a top-12 fantasy WR to open the year and should remain busy while Cooper Kupp is out (Kupp doesn’t sound like he’s returning any time soon). I rank Puka Nacua higher, but he’s clearly playing through an injury.

Atwell has seen more targets than Calvin Ridley and CeeDee Lamb this season. The Colts have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to perimeter receivers, where Atwell has run 75% of his routes.

Now that Colts head coach Shane Steichen says Richardson will start Sunday, put him right back in fantasy lineups. AR easily leads the league in fantasy points per snap, and only health can stop a top-five fantasy QB-type rookie season. Center Ryan Kelly’s return Sunday should help, too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints

Start: Chris Godwin, Alvin Kamara

Godwin should be busier than usual this week with Marshon Lattimore shadowing Mike Evans and Rachaad White unlikely to find much success running. Godwin hasn’t gotten going yet this season, but he should see numerous targets in an indoor game this week. Lattimore and company have cut Evans’ fantasy production by 40+% over 17 career games against the Saints.

Kamara is back from suspension and should immediately take over as New Orleans’ feature back (especially with Jamaal Williams out). He’s not the same player he once was (and he no longer benefits from so many Drew Brees targets), but Kamara has fresh legs and remains capable of handling a three-down role (Kendre Miller remains a fine stash). The Saints will likely be run-heavy Sunday in a positive game script and with Derek Carr playing at likely less than 100%.

Washington Commanders @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sit: All Commanders

Start: D’Andre Swift

Sam Howell is on pace to take an NFL-record 108 sacks this season and gets an Eagles defense with the second-highest pressure rate. Terry McLaurin will be shadowed by Darius Slay, while Jahan Dotson (#85 in target rate and #90 in yards per route run) has ghosted his fantasy managers. Brian Robinson is legit and will finish as a top-15 fantasy RB, but this is a bad setup for someone so game script dependent.

I wanted to hype Cole Turner at the DFS minimum after finishing No. 1 among tight ends in fantasy usage last week, but Logan Thomas ruined the party. Some Commanders can be used in flex positions if needed this week (and at least Howell will be throwing a lot), but there will be far better future matchups to start them.

Swift finished with just six more snaps and two more opportunities (18 vs. 16) than Kenneth Gainwell last week. But nine of Gainwell’s opportunities came during Philadelphia’s final, 15-play drive in garbage time, including eight carries. It’s possible the plan was to rotate quarters, but Swift is running more routes and getting more rushing work (including short-yardage, where he’s been unlucky and stopped at the one-yard line three separate times to open 2023).

Swift has the second-most rushing yards in the league (and nearly 50 more than third place) despite seeing one carry in Week 1. He’s also a more than capable receiver should Jalen Hurts start throwing to him more. He’s a real health risk, but Swift is a talented runner who now gets to play behind the league’s best offensive line that’s providing the most yards before contact.

Swift is a threat to finish as fantasy’s RB1 any given week.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Tennessee Titans

Start in DFS: Ja’Marr Chase ($28), Derrick Henry ($32)

Forced to play almost exclusively out of shotgun thanks to Joe Burrow’s calf injury, Cincinnati’s offense hasn’t looked right this season. But it did come to life in the second half of Monday's game, in which Chase finished with 15 targets. He’s among the league leaders in targets, yet he hasn’t scored in 2023 after racking up 22 touchdowns in his first 29 games in the NFL. The Bengals get a pass-funnel Titans defense allowing a league-low 2.6 YPC but 7.7 YPA. Tennessee has ceded the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers this season.

It's entirely possible this is the beginning of the end for the Big Dog, but slow starts are nothing new for Henry. The Bengals have yet to allow a bunch of fantasy points to running backs but are ceding 5.1 YPC and rank 28th in rush defense DVOA. With Treylon Burks out and DeAndre Hopkins still nursing an ankle injury, the Titans could give Henry a heavy workload against a Cincinnati defense traveling during a short week.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

Start: Jakobi Meyers, Joshua Palmer

With Jimmy Garoppolo out, it looks like rookie Aidan O’Connell will start for the Raiders, who get a favorable matchup against a Chargers defense allowing the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Las Vegas has an extremely concentrated offense this season (with Josh Jacobs going nowhere), as both Davante Adams and Meyers somehow rank top-10 in target share. Meyers has been the WR6 in fantasy points per game in 2023.

In a matchup between defenses that both rank bottom-six in EPA/pass, this game could turn into a shootout.

Palmer had a nice game after Mike Williams left due to a season-ending knee injury last week. He should have a much easier time replacing Williams’ role than he did Keenan Allen’s last season. Palmer has produced far better stats with Williams off the field throughout his career, and he should be extra busy Sunday with Austin Ekeler doubtful. Los Angeles has been the most pass-heavy team in football with Ekeler out, and Palmer gets a home matchup against a Vegas defense that’s bottom-five in EPA/pass.

New England Patriots @ Dallas Cowboys

Sit: All Patriots but Rhamondre Stevenson

Start: Jake Ferguson

An Ezekiel Elliott touchdown would surprise no one during his revenge game, but Patriots outside of Stevenson aren’t strong fantasy starts this week. The Cowboys have an elite defense returning home after a big upset loss. Mac Jones’ over/under for passing yards is just 211.5 this week, when New England has the fifth-lowest implied team total.

Ferguson leads all pass catchers with nine red-zone targets and is tied for first inside the 10. He leads tight ends in end-zone targets, so his usage has been strong even if he’s not running a ton of routes. Dak Prescott is due for touchdown regression moving forward and plays far better at home, so Ferguson could hit paydirt Sunday.

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

Start: Marquise Brown

Start in DFS: Christian McCaffrey ($40)

Brown left Thursday’s practice after suffering a thumb injury, but is expected to play. He has quietly finished as fantasy’s WR26 and WR19 over the past two weeks, as Joshua Dobbs continues to play far better than expected. Opponents have attempted an NFL-high 44.7 passes against San Francisco this season, sporting by far the highest pass rate over expectation.

McCaffrey finally ceded some work to Elijah Mitchell last week but still finished with 23 touches. He now gets 10 days off and might see added work Sunday, with Deebo Samuel (ribs, knee) and Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) dealing with injuries and Jauan Jennings (shin) and Mitchell (knee) not expected to play. CMC has been a beast while averaging 141 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the first three games of the season. The Cardinals have played far better than expected but have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs. The 49ers are 14-point home favorites and have the highest implied team point total of the week.

Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets

Start: Rashee Rice

Sit: All Jets

Rice ranks as fantasy’s WR53 over the first three games, but the rookie saw his most snaps last week after Richie James went on IR. Andy Reid praised the WR afterward (presumably in between bites of his “nuggies”), so hopefully Rice’s extra playing time wasn’t just a product of the lopsided score or Kadarius Toney being limited to just two snaps because of his toe injury.

Rice ranks third in the NFL in targets per route run this season — behind only Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams. He was stopped at the one-yard line two separate times (and never scored) last week. New York’s defense looks like a pass-funnel that’s stuffed the run. The Jets admittedly have been a bit stingy against perimeter WRs but have yielded the ninth-most fantasy points to the slot, where Rice has run 68% of his routes this season.

The Chiefs hit on draft picks and have a formidable defense (especially when Chris Jones is on the field). Garrett Wilson gets one more game with Zach Wilson and will likely be shadowed by L’Jarius Sneed. The Chiefs have allowed the fewest fantasy points over expectations to wide receivers. I’m bullish on Breece Hall once NY makes the inevitable QB switch, but Kansas City has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Thanks to Wilson trying to play quarterback, the Jets have somehow run 60 fewer plays than their opponents so far.

Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants

Start: Tyler Lockett, Daniel Jones

Lockett leads the NFL with seven end-zone targets (no one else has more than five). He has more air yards than DK Metcalf, while Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been a complete non-factor while ranking dead last in average depth of target. The Giants have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to Metcalf’s primary side but the 12th-most to Lockett’s.

Jones appears to be heavily schedule-dependent, but he gets a Seattle defense this week ceding the second-most passing yards and the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. The Seahawks have allowed Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Andy Dalton to average 339.3 passing yards, 1.7 TDs and zero picks. Seattle is looking like a pass-funnel defense that’s strong against the run yet allowing the third-highest EPA/pass.

Jones is one week removed from being fantasy’s top quarterback, and he’ll be top-10 again Monday night (if Saquon Barkley returns, doubtful at this point, expect him to be far less than 100% this close removed from a high-ankle sprain).