Week 4 Fantasy Football Lessons: Corey Davis and Titans make a statement

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Corey Davis reminded us all this week why we chase volume in fantasy football. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
Corey Davis reminded us all this week why we chase volume in fantasy football. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)

The Sunday action of Week 4 is in the books. Let’s take a spin around the league to look at every team from all the games that took place and see what we can learn from a fantasy football perspective.

Philadelphia Eagles (23) at Tennessee Titans (26)

Playing it safe with players coming off a long injury absence is usually the prudent approach but Alshon Jeffery bucked the odds today. Jeffery came back and showed himself to be a true difference-maker for this team, stepping into the vertical role the team needed for weeks. He averaged 11 air yards per targets and sliced through an exploitable pass defense. Speaking of which, the Eagles have one of those in tow, as well. While the team has some ballhawks back there, cornerbacks like Jalen Mills continue to get picked on. The Eagles can’t be run on but opponents can hurt them through the air.

The Titans finally looked like the high-flying unit that many expected them to be coming into the season. After weeks of struggling with a lost and injured Marcus Mariota, Tennessee opened up on Sunday. Mariota shined, completing 69.8 percent of his passes, totaling over 400 combined yards and scoring three times. Corey Davis turned all of the targets and air yards into production with a nine-catch outing. His bonafide No. 1 wideout-style touchdown sealed the game for the team. Dion Lewis and new starting receiver dynamo Taywan Taylor cleaned up for nine and seven catches, respectively. Let’s hope this is just the beginning for this talented group.

Cincinnati Bengals (37) at Atlanta Falcons (36)

The Bengals offense is one of the most-improved units in the entire NFL. Andy Dalton has cleared 330 yards passing in back-to-back games and is averaging 2.8 touchdowns per game. The unit loses Tyler Eifert amid his best game of the season but with Tyler Boyd emerging as a strong No. 2 and John Ross finally flashing, there are more than enough boats in this fleet. As long as this offense continues to cook, no matter who lines up at running back will be an RB1 play. Giovani Bernard has stepped right into Joe Mixon’s bell cow role and averaged 18 touches and 91 total yards over the last two weeks. The team was all-in on Mixon as the lone workhorse but perhaps Bernard’s flashes will change their approach after the last two weeks. Mixon should be close to a return.

The Falcons are the discounted version of the Kansas City Chiefs without the appeal of the shiny new thing. Matt Ryan has averaged 10.7 yards per attempt and chucked eight scores over the last two weeks in Atlanta losses. With the injuries that have just ravaged this team, the defense can’t hope to put together a challenge for opposing offenses. That will continue to benefit fantasy managers. Calvin Ridley upped his rookie season touchdown total to six with another pair today, while Julio Jones maintains an 1,800-yard campaign pace. Moral of the story: take the over in all the Falcons games and get your fantasy players into lineups at all cost.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10) at Chicago Bears (48)

The Fitzmagic experience appears to finally be over. The talent-laden offense was noticeably overmatched from the jump against the fierce Chicago Bears pass rush. While he was only sacked twice, Fitzpatrick and company were constantly under duress and unable to mount drives. The veteran quarterback was still aggressive, averaging 10.7 air yards per attempt but his “live by the sword, die by the sword” style finally flipped on its head, as it always does in the end. Jameis Winston made an appearance in this game and with the Bucs bye this coming week, it feels inevitable he’ll start in Week 6. If this is it for the 2018 Fitzpatrick run, it will be a moment in time we’ll never forget.

Fitzmagic, we hardly knew ye. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Fitzmagic, we hardly knew ye. (AP Photo/David Banks)

After looking like the league’s most limited passer in the first three weeks of the season, Mitchell Trubisky exploded for 354 yards, six touchdowns, another 53 yards on the ground and the QB1 overall performance. The temptation will no doubt be to write this performance off due to a Bucs secondary that allowed a league-high 11.4 yards per pass attempt coming into Week 4. There’s no doubt Tampa Bay was a factor but there’s a chance this was at least a sign of optimism to come. So much of this Bears offense is new to each other with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and Matt Nagy’s system being new additions. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this unit just needed time to gel. It’s an optimist’s view but it’s worth noting that the 2017 Rams, who the Bears were often compared to this offseason, took until about Week 3 to officially announce their presence to the league.

Detroit Lions (24) at Dallas Cowboys (26)

While Kerryon Johnson earned the nominal starting spot, he was still clearly a committee back. His 10 touches did lead the team but not by a large enough gap with LeGarrette Blount seeing seven and Theo Riddick five. The Lions certainly weren’t expecting to fall behind to Dallas heading into the fourth-quarter but Johnson’s situation still doesn’t mirror one of a reliable fantasy back just yet. He is a hold while we hope Detroit only continues to hand more of the work his way.

A Cowboys offense that averaged just 13.7 points over their first three games finally came alive with 26 today. In Dallas-adjusted terms, that counts as a near-eruption. As per usual, Ezekiel Elliott was the engine of the offense but this time, his biggest impact came through the air. Analytics expert Warren Sharp at Sharp Football Stats noted that the Cowboys had a zero percent success rate when targeting running backs in the passing game. That changed today. Elliott ripped off a long catch and run on a screen pass to move the offense and hauled in a deep reception to lift the Cowboys to the win. With none of the receivers stepping up for more than five targets in this game, Elliott needs to be a feature of the aerial attack going forward.

Buffalo Bills (0) at Green Bay Packers (22)

After watching both teams in Week 4, it seems clear that the Vikings simply got caught looking a week past their Week 3 date with the Bills. Buffalo looked like the nightmare-inducing version we all expected in this spot. LeSean McCoy was limited to 37 meaningless yards on eight touches and Josh Allen was a net negative for the offense. Allen gave life to this unit against the Vikings but made ill-advised throws and traveled into pressure in Week 4. We’ve seen far more of this version of Buffalo, so we’re comfortable believing this is what we should expect.

Even a running back talent agnostic like me can admit that Aaron Jones is the best pure runner on this team. Both Jamaal Williams and Jones saw 11 carries today but the latter was far more effective with a 5.9 yards per carry average and a goal-line score. The trouble is that Williams (11 touches) and Ty Montgomery (seven touches) aren’t going anywhere and the pie in Green Bay is smaller than usual. Aaron Rodgers is clearly still not 100 percent and his supporting pass-catchers aren’t near the quality units of old. It’s going to take time for this to click. Rodgers, Jones and the Packers get two soft landing spot, with a road trip to Detroit and a home game against the 49ers before their Week 7 bye. Green Bay needs that for its All-Pro passer to get closer to his usual self.

Houston Texans (37) at Indianapolis Colts (34)

Will Fuller once again scored a touchdown as he always does with Deshaun Watson. However, Fuller went down with an injury in this contest, sadly; another common occurrence for the gifted receiver. With Bruce Ellington already on Injured Reserve, rookie Keke Coutee stepped into a big role. The speedy slot receiver led the team in targets and capitalized on plus-matchups for 11 catches. The Texans are short on passing game weapons and with Watson still playing fearless football, Coutee will have flex appeal if Fuller misses time.

Andrew Luck delivered several big-time throws that took plenty of zip and averaged 8.2 air yards per attempt. He came into this game carrying the lowest figure among starting quarterbacks. It’s beginning to look like Luck’s style of play early this season has more to do with smart coaching by Frank Reich to play with up-tempo quick passing than Luck’s admittedly diminished arm strength. Luck still got the ball out quick (2.5-second time to throw) to avoid punishment and that brought pass-catching back Nyheim Hines into focus. If the Colts keep up this style of play, Hines is an ideal fit. The rookie looked rejuvenated today after a rough showing in the preseason.

Miami Dolphins (7) at New England Patriots (38)

It was easy to see the Dolphins as a mirage 3-0 team. They were never in this game against New England and Ryan Tannehill eventually gave way to Brock Osweiler late in the blowout. No one wants that. Kenyan Drake earned just four touches today, falling well behind Frank Gore’s 13. We have no clue what the reason for Drake’s heavily-capped ceiling but we know he’s an unplayable asset in fantasy until we see something different. The Dolphins get the Bengals, who have been generous the last two weeks, to get right next week.

With Rex Burkhead on IR and receiving back James White and journeyman Kenjon Barner the only other backs on the active roster, it was reasonable to assume Sony Michel would assume lead back duties. It was clear the first-round rookie has the team’s favor after he received a healthy workload in Week 3 despite some struggles coming off a long injury layoff. Michel made good on his promise, handling 25 carries. As the only player made for early-down work in this offense set to find its way as the season goes on, Michel looks like a high-end RB2 play until further notice.

New York Jets (12) at Jacksonville Jaguars (31)

Sam Darnold did his best under siege in Jacksonville on Sunday. After a strong showing in Week 1, things just haven’t looked the same for Darnold and the Jets. Quincy Enunwa absorbed a team-high eight targets and is the lone trustworthy member of this scoring unit.

The frustration must certainly be setting in for Leonard Fournette as he seems unable to shake his long history of lower body injuries. It’s certainly setting in for fantasy owners who pummeled the @YahooFantasy Twitter handle with promises to never draft him again. While they struggle for replacements, the Jaguars rarely lose a beat when they just hand things over to T.J. Yeldon.

Seattle Seahawks (20) at Arizona Cardinals (17)

Time does not seem to make things any clearer as to why the Seahawks spent a first-round pick on Rashaad Penny. A team layered with needs didn’t show any urgency in handing the gig to their 2018 No. 1 pick this summer and then once again passed him over for the job this week. Journeyman Mike Davis once again played well for the team in relief of Chris Carson. Davis closed 2017 strong with this team and should be on your radar heading into Week 5, should Carson miss more time.

Josh Rosen was no instant savior but threw with far more authority than Sam Bradford did at any point this season. While Rosen got players like Chad Williams and Christian Kirk involved, Larry Fitzgerald was his favorite receiver. The favor didn’t amount to much as Fitzgerald turned in just 28 yards on seven targets. His production is alarming this year, as the veteran averaged just 21.7 yards per game since Week 1. The true silver lining comes in the form of David Johnson. The star back has scored in back-to-back games and the Cardinals got him passing game work and perimeter runs today. Johnson owners needed signs of life from Rosen and they got it.

New Orleans Saints (33) at New York Giants (18)

Michael Thomas snapped his dominant streak as the Saints spread the ball around to a variety of different pass-catchers. He still snagged all of his four targets on the day. Alvin Kamara remains the most dominant force in fantasy football. He didn’t make his money as a receiver today, but rather, he proved to be a sustaining runner. Kamara handled 19 carries and iced away the game for New Orleans. Mark Ingram returns for their next game but it’s impossible to imagine this team backing away from the special Kamara as their 1a back.

Alvin Kamara is truly a fantasy force to be reckoned with. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Alvin Kamara is truly a fantasy force to be reckoned with. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Evan Engram’s absence did what we expected. It put Sterling Shepard clearly in the successful sleepers’ circle with 10 catches and a score. Odell Beckham was the top volume player with a team-high 44.5 percent share of the team’s air yards. Saquon Barkley kept the chains moving with six catches for 53 yards off eight targets. However, it’s clear that while Eli Manning can keep this team efficient in the short passing game, there is simply no downfield element to this aerial attack. All these skill-position players’ ceilings, including the still-scoreless Beckham, are capped as a result.

Cleveland Browns (42) at Oakland Raiders (45)

If Baker Mayfield was supposed to come in and be the savior for Cleveland, he fell short. However, the rookie put out far more good tape than bad in this one and kept the Browns competitive in a cross-time-zone road trip. Jarvis Landry was his favorite receiver, leading the team in targets and air yards. Mayfield’s lead also gave us the best game we’ve seen so far from David Njoku with five catches for 52 yards on seven targets. Antonio Callaway was in the mix with nine targets but frankly, the rookie receiver doesn’t look all that good. He’s made several mistakes and often appears in the wrong place on his routes.

The Raiders ran an absurd 90 plays during their overtime win. A boost in play volume helps notoriously streaky players like Amari Cooper and Jared Cook not provide one of their disappearing acts. Oakland’s passing offense is still a tough one to trust without the infusion of overstocked volume. Derek Carr played well in the fourth quarter and overtime but still made far too many mistakes.

San Francisco 49ers (27) at Los Angeles Chargers (29)

With C.J. Beathard, it definitely could have been worse. The backup quarterback kept this offense afloat even as injuries to Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin and even Beathard himself continued to mount on the 49ers. It’s looking like a mulligan year in San Francisco but Beathard showed enough competency to be trusted as a caretaker for the fantasy players in this offense.

The Los Angeles Chargers might be too talented on offense. Keenan Allen still leads the team in targets but running back Melvin Gordon trails him by just two. Both players saw 10 looks today. Allen isn’t getting funneled opportunity like last season and has not cleared 70 yards since Week 1. Mike Williams came into this contest red hot with 80 yards and/or a touchdown in each of his first three weeks but caught just one of his three targets. Antonio Gates and Austin Ekeler’s chances siphoned looks from the receiving corps.

Baltimore Ravens (26) Pittsburgh Steelers (14)

John Brown’s renaissance tour continues. The supremely talented receiver led the team in air yards once again this week. He came into this game top-10 in that opportunity static. Joe Flacco trusts Brown and anyone watching the games can see why. It’s not just Brown, though, as 11 different players caught a pass on way to Flacco’s 363-yard passing day. The Ravens offense looks like a top-10 unit and the team as a whole a Super Bowl contender.

The Steelers hideous defense is starting to take its toll on their offense. James Conner has watched his carries go from 31 in Week 1 to eight, 15 and nine over the last three games. The Steelers aren’t dying for Le’Veon Bell’s return but the team desperately needs some help from their defense to maintain run-friendly scripts. Conner is still a fantasy starter with strong passing game opportunity but he’s no longer a clear RB1 as he appeared to be after Week 1.

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