I'm off to a terrible start in my fantasy leagues, with most of my squads at 1-2. But I don't own Michael Vick(notes) anywhere, so at least I'm spared that misery. Seriously, what a nightmare Vick is turning out to be. We knew the he was an injury risk, but we're only three weeks into the season and he's headed for his second questionable tag because of his latest injury (Week 3 right hand contusion follows in the footsteps of a Week 2 concussion). Half games and scattered DNPs seem like an inevitable part of the equation over the remaining 13 games of the season, unless he completely alters his style. Of course, it's that style that allows him to tap into that unmatched upside, so it's a double-edged sword. If I was a Vick owner, I'd be waiting for him to string together two healthy, classic-Vick type performances and then I'd take the best offer I could get for him. There's too many good quarterbacks this season – 20 averaging 20-plus fantasy points per game compared to 12 last season – to have to live with the pitfall potential of Vick.
Alright, let's jump into the Week 4 matchups, Skinny-style:
Total Week 4 green-light plays by position: 15 QBs; 20 RBs; 26 WRs; 10 TEs; 7 Defenses
The Cowboys have been one of the top run defenses in the league, holding RBs to 2.7 YPC. But backs have had success against them in the passing game, specifically LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) and Tim Hightower(notes). RB Jahvid Best(notes), averaging 2.9 YPC, is a sit in standard formats, but the matchup and his extensive use in the passing game – fourth among RBs in receiving yards – keeps him in the mix in PPR setups. TE Brandon Pettigrew(notes) is coming off a huge performance in Week 3 (11/112), but Dallas has long been adept at containing the TE position, and Rob Ryan's unit is 34.3 percent better than the league average against the TE this season, and they haven't faced slouches (Dustin Keller(notes), Vernon Davis(notes), Fred Davis(notes)). Pettigrew should be considered no more than a borderline starter this week – color him chartreuse. … Dallas' offense desperately misses WR Miles Austin(notes). That was evident on Monday night, with QB Tony Romo(notes) screaming at his inexperienced skill position players for being out of position. The Lions' undersized corners have struggled against bigger wideouts (Mike Williams, Dwayne Bowe(notes), Michael Jenkins(notes)), so I can see WR Dez Bryant(notes) going off in this contest. But the Cowboys don't really have much of an offensive identity right now and I would expect the Lions to take a page from the Redskins and make sure QB Tony Romo can't just dial up TE Jason Witten(notes) at will. And without an open line to his chain mover, I don't see Romo having much upside in this contest. He lands just outside my top 12 at QB this week. I think the Lions can be run on, and RB Felix Jones(notes) should be a utilized option for Romo in the passing game. I see Jones as a solid RB2 play, but that's assuming his shoulder injury that gave him issues late in the Monday night contest is not a big issue.
Headline: Dez outduels MegaTron, Dallas deals Detroit first loss
Other than Adrian Peterson, there's a grand total of two players to consider in this contest of the winless. One is Dwayne Bowe, who has been more in sync with QB Matt Cassel(notes) the past two weeks (combined 168 yards, TD) against solid competition in Detroit and San Diego. And RB Dexter McCluster(notes) is a definite Flex option as I think we'll see his receiving skills utilized against an attacking Vikings defense that has had issues with the dump pass – only the Raiders have allowed more receiving fantasy points to RBs. McCluster lands in the chartreuse bucket this week. If Chiefs top corner Brandon Flowers(notes) can't go (ankle), WR Percy Harvin(notes) or Michael Jenkins could have a nice afternoon. But Peterson should get a very heavy load and the Vikings passing game probably won't produce more than one serviceable entity.
Adrian Peterson; Dwayne Bowe
None of significance
Vikes: None of significance
Headline: Peterson carries Vikings to first win at Kansas City
Chan Gailey's spread offense has been very good at spreading the wealth in fantasy. RB Fred Jackson(notes) is No. 3 at RB and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) is No. 5 at QB in fantasy PPG (read: unbenchable). Cincinnati's defense looks good on paper, but it hasn't faced huge challenges in the offenses of Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco. And, while I do think Buffalo will score under 30 points for the first time this week, I would start all my Bills, per usual. That said, I do think WR David Nelson(notes) could suffer an off week as Cincy has good size and physicality at the corners. … We won't know whether RB Cedric Benson(notes) has to start serving a suspension for a personal conduct violation until later this week. Against a Buffalo defense that's allowed the seventh-most fantasy PPG to RBs, I like Benson or backup Bernard Scott(notes) this week, depending on who starts. I'd actually like Scott a bit more this week as the Bills don't have much juice on the edges of their defense and Scott could be dangerous in the passing game. After the way Wes Welker(notes) sliced up the Bills defense last week, it'd be hard to go against rookie WR A.J. Green(notes) on Sunday despite a disappointing Week 3. But the Bills don't have much of a pass rush, so QB Andy Dalton(notes) should have more time than was afforded against San Francisco. I like Green in a WR3 kind of way, but I think TE Jermaine Gresham(notes) could be headed for starter-worthy production as the Bills are not very good at defending the TE (see '10 numbers and Rob Gronkowski(notes) in Week 3), and Dalton has made Gresham one of the most targeted TEs this season. Also, with WR Jordan Shipley(notes) out and Jerome Simpson(notes) dealing with off-the-field issues, Andre Caldwell(notes) is a top-level sleeper this week. He was targeted 12 times last week.
Headline: Fitzpatrick is too little, too late, Bills fall from ranks of unbeaten
With WR Kenny Britt(notes) out for the year, it's imperative that Tennessee gets the running game out of the mud this week. The Browns haven't been anything special in terms of ground defense. In terms of matchups, this should be RB Chris Johnson's best opportunity for rushing production to date. With Britt out, WR Nate Washington(notes) is now QB Matt Hasselbeck's(notes) go-to guy, and Washington has been a top 20 WR through three games even with Britt in the fold. But Cleveland corner Joe Haden(notes) is an elite cover corner and that spells trouble for Washington. If the Titans struggle again to run the ball and Hasselbeck is forced to the air more than the Titans had hoped for, don't be surprised if TE Jared Cook(notes) is the recipient of most of Hasselbeck's aerial love. Cook is overdue and the setup is good. … The Titans defense has allowed just 3.1 YPC to RBs, and that's included the likes of Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) and Ray Rice(notes). That makes RB Peyton Hillis'(notes) return from strep throat a bit problematic, as does the emergence of Montario Hardesty(notes) in Week 3 (14/67) – talk of trying to limit Hillis' workload now looks a bit more real and you can imagine Hardesty getting 7-10 carries in concert with Hillis going forward. But Hillis will continue to get the goal-line work and be active in the passing game, so he should return much of his value. But the factors in play this week make him more of a chartreuse option, though I've labeled him as a green-light play. There isn't an attractive play in the Browns passing game as this is not a prolific passing attack, by any stretch of the imagination, and Tennessee has allowed the second-fewest fantasy PPG to QBs. Don't bother asking what the Browns passing game can do for you on Sunday.
Chris Johnson; Peyton Hillis
None of significance
Headline: Johnson tops century mark for first time this season, Titans hang on for win
The Rams are a mess right now given their injuries. With their pass protection issues (11 sacks allowed), QB Sam Bradford's(notes) sprained toe and the continued absence of blitz buster WR Danny Amendola(notes), expect the Rams to lean as much on RB Steven Jackson as they can this week against a Redskins defense allowing more than 5.0 YPC. Jackson carried four times last week as the team lightly tested his injured quad. He emerged from Week 3 no worse for the wear, so look for him to get much more work this week. He’s the only trustworthy Rams player, though WR Brandon Gibson(notes) is in the WR3 conversation. … QB Rex Grossman(notes) keeps landing matchups that make it hard to ignore him from a fantasy perspective. The Rams have allowed the fifth-most fantasy PPG to QBs, and the 10th-highest QB Rating. And then there's the Rams run defense that has allowed more rushing yards (399) than any team in the league. You have to consider all your Redskins, save the TEs (Rams are very good at defending that position), as looking better than usual. With WR Anthony Armstrong(notes) dealing with a hamstring injury, consider Jabar Gaffney(notes) as a borderline green lighter (chartreuse).
Sam Bradford; Jabar Gaffney; Brandon Gibson; Fred Davis; Washington Defense
Headline: Valiant effort by S-Jax not enough as Rams drop to 0-4 in loss to 'Skins
No team is averaging fewer yards per game on offense than San Francisco. That casts a cloud over all Niners despite what looks, on paper, to be a nice matchup for the running game against the league's most generous fantasy run defense in the Eagles. RB Frank Gore(notes) has averaged 2.5 YPC through three games and is now dealing with a sore ankle, though he's expected to play. How can you consider him anything but a cautionary tale for Week 4? TE Vernon Davis (8/114 in Week 3) is the only Niner that I would classify as a solid start this week. The Eagles typically leave themselves vulnerable to tight ends. … You knew the potential downside when you drafted QB Michael Vick, and we are seeing it in all its horror the past couple weeks as Vick has struggled with a concussion and a hand contusion. He's, once again, questionable this week, and the 49ers can bring the heat (7 sacks, fifth-lowest QB Rating allowed), so I wouldn't feel too comfortable about Vick even if he does play. WR Jeremy Maclin(notes) is day-to-day with a hamstring injury. If he plays, he's got a Miles Austin type game (Austin torched 49ers for 3 TDs in Week 2) and I could see him having a big day. But if he's out, move WR DeSean Jackson(notes) into the green light mix instead. There's too many X factors in play to bank on anyone else in the Eagles passing game. RB LeSean McCoy(notes) is, obviously, a must-play in all situations, even against a tough run defense like the 49ers.
LeSean McCoy; Jeremy Maclin; Vernon Davis; Philadelphia Defense
Michael Vick; Frank Gore; DeSean Jackson
49ers: RB Frank Gore (ankle);
Headline: Eagles defense takes charge in route of Niners
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips still has work to do with Houston's defense as the Texans are allowing 5.0 YPC to RBs and the secondary is giving up huge games to opposing No. 1 wideouts (see Reggie Wayne(notes), Brandon Marshall(notes) and Lance Moore(notes)). Pittsburgh's Big Three should be good to go this week – though RB Rashard Mendenhall's(notes) upside is limited by his poor offensive line and the potential that the team could be playing from behind (consider him chartreuse) –, and WR Antonio Brown(notes), averaging 70-plus yards in his past two, has a chance to, once again, produce at a WR3 level as QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) has targeted him second-most on the team. … In a battle of Pittsburgh's vaunted run defense against Houston's vaunted rush offense, I favor the Texans, especially with a healthy RB Arian Foster(notes) – he's expected to be back, leading the backfield charge on Sunday. Granted, Foster isn't a slam dunk against the Steelers, but Foster always has a decent chance to find the end zone and his ability as a receiver is something that Houston has missed – averaging just 2.7 RB receptions per game after tallying 5.3 per game in '10. I wouldn't sweat the Steelers pass defense too much. It looks good right now because it's faced QBs Tarvaris Jackson(notes) and a Kerry Collins(notes)/Curtis Painter combo platter – who wouldn't look good after that? I think the Matt Schaub(notes)-to-Andre Johnson connection will remain crystal clear this week.
Steelers: LT Jonathan Scott(notes) (ankle); RT Marcus Gilbert(notes) (shoulder)
Headline: Foster strong in return, Texans overwhelm Steelers
The Saints are allowing 26.7 percent more fantasy PPG to WRs than the league average and Jags WR Mike Thomas(notes) was targeted a healthy eight times (4/55/1) in QB Blaine Gabbert's(notes) first start in Week 3. The Jaguars are mostly an offense to be avoided outside of gangster of love Maurice Jones-Drew, but Thomas is an acceptable WR3 play this week given the circumstances – the Saints have scored 30-plus points in every game, so the Jags will have to throw. … Mark Ingram(notes) and Pierre Thomas(notes) owners should be frustrated with the tri-toon that head coach Sean Payton employs. A low-volume rush attack split three ways is maddening for all but owners of RB Darren Sproles(notes), who has been a super-charged version of Reggie Bush(notes) in this system. His 21 receptions is second to only Matt Forte(notes) at the RB position and his 2-3 carries a week can't be ignored – he turned two carries into 35 yards and a TD last week. The Jags haven't given much production to RBs in the passing game, but neither had the Texans before Sproles hung a 6/50 receiving line on them last week. Sproles is the only green-light option in the Saints running game until injury or a dramatic shift in philosophy occurs. The Saints receivers, sans Marques Colston(notes), are basically in the same boat as the RBs. With QB Drew Brees(notes), each and every one of them is a potential threat. But you can never tell who is going to be afforded the extra looks from Brees in a given week that makes them a green light special. But a healthy Lance Moore (9/88/1 in Week 3) is the best bet.
None of significance
Saints: None of significance
Headline: Brees scores fourth straight pass TD hat trick as Saints march over Jags
QB Cam Newton(notes) seems to be at his fantasy best when he's in fourth quarter fire-drill mode. Before Week 3, he was averaging 148 passing yards in the final quarter. This past Sunday, trailing by two points for most of the fourth quarter, Newton threw for 78 yards and his lone TD pass of the game in the final frame, salvaging a modest fantasy line in the process. This week's matchup bodes well for Newton in that the Bears have allowed the sixth-highest QB rating and it's easy to envision the Bears sporting a lead in the second half that would create the kind of environment that we've seen Newton thrive in thus far. The weekly 400-yard expectations have vanished, but Newton's still a borderline top 12 play at the QB spot this week. Only Seattle has employed a less productive fantasy backfield than Carolina this season, but at least Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch(notes) gets most of the work for his team. The Panthers remain intent on splitting the workload between DeAngelo Williams(notes) and Jonathan Stewart(notes), though only Stewart has offered up something to believe in, thus far. Williams has just one touchdown in his past 14 regular-season games and he's a tough, but understandable, cut in fantasy leagues. Not sure how you can spin him as a rebound candidate in his current environment. TE Greg Olsen(notes) should be in a position to step up against his former team. He's the No. 11 tight end in fantasy and the Bears have allowed 70-plus yards to a tight end each week this season. … Carolina allows the highest QB Rating in the league (that's including games against Kevin Kolb(notes) and Blaine Gabbert) and it has just five sacks. If ever there was a game that suited Jay Cutler(notes), this would be it. RB Matt Forte should have room on the ground and through the air, and speedy WR Johnny Knox(notes) is a quality speculative play against a defense that has allowed four pass plays of 40-plus yards. Knox is coming off a 4/84 performance in Week 3.
Jay Cutler; Cam Newton; Matt Forte; Steve Smith; Johnny Knox; Greg Olsen; Chicago Defense
Headline: Cam comeback falls short against Bears
Seattle's barren fantasy wasteland might finally have a resource to offer in the form of WR Sidney Rice(notes). In his 8/109 performance against Arizona in Week 3, he showed the kind of chemistry with QB Tarvaris Jackson that speaks to their time together in Minnesota. The timing routes looked good and Rice's physicality shined through on a deep ball that he outmuscled safety Adrian Wilson(notes) for. He's one Seahawk you can justify starting this week. … Seattle is a stout run defense, and the entire defensive unit can be hard to handle when it is playing at home. RB Michael Turner(notes) is likely to struggle for the second consecutive week against a Seahawks squad that hasn't allowed more than 78 YFS to a RB this season. But Atlanta's WRs Roddy White(notes) and Julio Jones(notes) present a huge challenge for the Seattle secondary. If QB Matt Ryan(notes) is afforded time to throw, he could have a field day against an overmatched pass defense – Seattle is allowing a league-high completion rate of 70.0 percent.
Michael Turner; Marshawn Lynch; Atlanta Defense
Tarvaris Jackson; Mike Williams; Zach Miller; Seattle Defense
Headline: Ryan gets Falcons back on track with big day in Seattle
The Giants get after the QB and Arizona has pass protection issues, so this isn't a contest to buy heavily into anyone other than WR Larry Fitzgerald(notes). RB Beanie Wells(notes) is expected to be questionable again with a hamstring strain, and he puts even more pressure on Kolb if he can't play, as the Giants can then devote even more attention to shutting down Fitzgerald and the passing game. … Nothing was more shocking to me last week than QB Eli Manning(notes) going into Philly and throwing for four touchdowns to a depleted receiving corps. Arizona is a charitable defense, allowing 4.5 YPC to RBs and an 8.0 YPA in the passing game. No. 1 WRs have fared especially well against the young Cardinals corners, and WR Hakeem Nicks(notes) should just continue that trend. He's got to be considered a top WR option this week. WR Mario Manningham(notes) sounds as if he'll play this week after missing last week because of concussion symptoms. Manningham's presence relegates Week 3 breakout WR Victor Cruz(notes) to no more than sleeper status.
NY Giants Tight Ends; Arizona Defense
Headline: Nicks too much to handle as Arizona falls to Giants
Rookie WR Denarius Moore(notes) is proving to be a special talent. He's in a terrible spot in Oakland for being able to put that talent on display on a regular basis. Many pundits want to ignore that fact and nstead just gush about his athleticism. Fact is, Moore is going to make a lot of sense being parked on the pine for fantasy owners in several of the remaining weeks, but this is not one of those weeks. The Patriots have allowed a stupefying 23 pass plays of 20-plus yards this season, four more than any other team. With RB Darren McFadden(notes) occupying New England's thoughts, Moore has a great opportunity to top the century mark in yardage this week with a couple big gainers. Other than Run-DMC, Moore is the only Raider I'd have faith in, although QB Jason Campbell(notes) is a viable "in a pinch" play. … The Raiders are as bad against the run as New England is against the pass. Oakland has yielded 5.6 YPC to opposing backs this season. Unfortunately, fantasy owners may have a hard time fully exploiting this matchup as the Pats employ a time-share backfield that rivals New Orleans in terms of socialist tendencies. Rookie RB Stevan Ridley(notes) gets sleeper consideration as he now appears to be in the mix for 8-10 touches.
Patriots: None of significance
Headline: Brady nearly flawless in rebound victory at Oakland
Green Bay hasn't allowed more than 40 rushing yards to a RB this season and are yielding a mere 2.5 YPC to RBs. The pass defense has been a different story entirely as only New England has allowed more passing yards. It's hard to back a Denver ground game averaging just 3.2 YPC given the situation. But there's some logic in throwing trust the way of QB Kyle Orton(notes) this Sunday. Orton has thrown 2 TD passes in each of his past two games and he's got two receivers in Brandon Lloyd(notes) and Eric Decker(notes) who complement each other well. Both should be highly targeted and I wouldn't be surprised if both finished north of 80 receiving yards on Sunday. … RB Ryan Grant(notes) rushed 17 times for 92 yards at Chicago in Week 3, banking a lot of credit with head coach Mike McCarthy in the process. McCarthy said this week that Grant is one of those backs that shine with high volume touches. That doesn't bode well for RB James Starks(notes). This has been a see-saw situation, but clearly Grant is in a more esteemed position this week, assuming his bruised kidney is not a serious issue.
Broncos: DE Elvis Dumervil(notes) (shoulder); LB D.J. Williams (elbow); RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring); CB Champ Bailey(notes) (hamstring)
Headline: Finley follows hat trick with two more TDs in Packers romp over Denver
RB Ryan Mathews(notes) had 26 touches last week, the second-most of his career. With RB Mike Tolbert(notes) at less than 100 percent (calf) and lacking the between the twenties talent that Mathews offers, we'll likely continue to see Mathews take a clear lead role in this offense, with Tolbert more exclusively relegated to short-yardage detail. TE Antonio Gates(notes) is looking at missing the next few weeks because of his problematic foot, meaning TE Randy McMichael(notes) (4/51 in Week 3) is in line to start again in his place this week. Miami has allowed the most fantasy PPG to TEs, so McMichael is hard to argue against. The Dolphins are also generous to receivers and WR Malcom Floyd(notes), assuming his groin injury improves this week, is a viable play in addition to the more-obvious Vincent Jackson(notes). … On the road against a tough defense with the sixth-worst offense in the league, I wouldn't feel good using any Dolphin outside of Brandon Marshall, and that includes rookie RB Daniel Thomas(notes) who, despite nice overall production, doesn't have the kind of game-breaking skills you can hope for in a tough situation such as this.
Headline: Rivers' four scoring passes more than enough in route of Dolphins
The Ravens have been the third-best in fantasy against RBs and Jets RBs are averaging 3.3 YPC. The ground game was having problems before C Nick Mangold(notes) hurt his ankle in Week 2. Given the matchup and the unlikelihood that he'll be targeted seven times in the passing game ever again, RB Shonn Greene(notes) is tough to validate even in a Flex capacity this week. As the true passing game threat out of the backfield, it's easy to imagine RB LaDainian Tomlinson outperforming Greene against the attacking Baltimore defense. The Ravens have proven most susceptible in pass defense, especially to the WR position – it has allowed 20 percent more fantasy production to wideouts than the league average. TE Dustin Keller has been QB Mark Sanchez's(notes) favorite target, but I think WR Santonio Holmes(notes) steps up biggest for the Jets passing game this week. He emerged from Week 3 unhappy with his diminished role and I expect the Jets to appease him this week. … The Jets lost a 10-9 decision to the Ravens in Week 1 of last season and this contest sets up as another likely low-scoring affair. Baltimore won't be able to pick on the Jets through the air like it did the Rams last week. TE Ed Dickson(notes) might have the best chance via the pass among Ravens as the Jets' all-out blitzes often leave them vulnerable to the tight end.
Mark Sanchez; Ray Rice; Santonio Holmes; Dustin Keller; Baltimore Defense
Jets: CB Antonio Cromartie(notes) (lungs, ribs); C Nick Mangold (ankle)
Headline: Rice scores twice as Ravens down Jets
Tampa Bay and Indianapolis rank in the bottom half of the league in both rush offense and pass offense. But Indy's rush defense lacks physicality and could wilt against RB LeGarrette Blount's(notes) power game. I like Blount in a 20/80/1 kind of way this week. Indy's Cover 2 isn't working like it usually does, as the team has allowed 13 pass plays of 20-plus yards, fifth-highest in the league. WR Mike Williams has struggled through three weeks, but he has a good chance to get back on track this week. The Colts are last in the league in time of possession. A big problem is that the Colts defense can't get off the field, allowing a league-high 50 percent conversion rate on third downs. Tampa Bay is one of the best offenses in the league in terms of third down conversions, so it stands to reason that the Bucs offense will see a lot of reps on Sunday, a positive for Williams and the rest of the Bucs' skill position players. – Three weeks have proved conclusively that everyone in the Colts passing game suffers dramatically without QB Peyton Manning(notes). WR Reggie Wayne is the only one worth considering, and he's no more than a desperation play at this point. Somehow in this Colts environment, RB Joseph Addai(notes) is averaging a career-high 4.8 YPC, including a 5.1 YPC clip against Pittsburgh last week. There's a low-ceiling stunting the potential of the entire Indy offense, but Addai at least has Flex appeal.
LeGarrette Blount; Mike Williams; Tampa Bay Defense
Headline: Defense powers Bucs to third consecutive victory on Monday night