Week 4 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Jalen Hurts vs. Chiefs -- Fantasy’s overall QB4 after three weeks, Hurts backed into a garbage time-fueled QB9 week last Monday night in Dallas where he finished with 326 yards and two scores through the air while leading the Eagles in rushing (9-35) on a night Philadelphia called just three run plays to its running backs. Hurts didn’t mince words afterward, labeling his performance a “deuce” that needed to be flushed. Hurts hasn’t played well the last two weeks, but his rushing floor — 8.67-59.7-0.33 weekly average on the ground — significantly raises his floor and ceiling, keeping him stapled to fantasy lineups. He now draws a Kansas City defense that is 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Chiefs have surrendered the most rushing yards to the position. Lamar Jackson eviscerated the Chiefs for 16-107-2 with his legs in Week 2 en route to the overall QB2 week. This game’s 54-point total is the second-highest of the week behind Cardinals-Rams at 54.5 points. Both the Chiefs and Eagles are top-10 in situation-neutral pace, enhancing this game’s fantasy-friendly environment. Hurts is a must-start in season-long formats and will likely go overlooked in DFS after his ugly “eye test” performance against the Cowboys.

Starts

Dak Prescott vs. Panthers -- The NFL’s leader in completion percentage (77.5%), Prescott is fantasy’s overall QB16 at the moment but is coming off a 238-yard, three-touchdown clubbing of the Eagles last Monday night, completing 21-of-26 passes as the week’s QB14. He could’ve had a bigger night but was ruled short on what looked like a one-yard touchdown run. The Panthers are No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but have faced Zach Wilson, Jameis Winston, and Davis Mills. This will be Carolina’s up-and-coming young defense’s first true test. And it will be without rookie No. 1 CB Jaycee Horn after the first-rounder broke his foot last Thursday night. It precipitated the Panthers trading for Jaguars 2020 first-round CB C.J. Henderson this week, but he’s still catching up to speed. Dallas plays at the eighth-fastest pace and has run the fourth-most offensive plays after three weeks. This game sports a 51.5-point total, tied for fourth-highest of Week 4. Prescott is a lock-and-load top-12 play.

Sam Darnold at Cowboys -- Reclamation project Darnold is fantasy’s overall QB12 after three weeks and is coming off a QB5 performance that saw him rush for a pair of scores against the Texans last Thursday. Darnold uncharacteristically has three rushing scores in the early going this year, which is obviously buoying his output. He now draws a Dallas defense that is 27th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Only three defenses have faced more pass attempts, and only the Bucs have surrendered more yards through the air. Missing stud DE DeMarcus Lawrence (foot, I.R.), the Cowboys’ pass rush has been nonexistent with the second-worst adjusted sack rate. The Panthers are coming off 10 days' rest with the Cowboys on a short week after playing last Monday night. This game’s 51.5-point total is tied for fourth-highest of the week. Darnold is a borderline top-12 fantasy quarterback and locked-in two-QB league play.

Kirk Cousins vs. Browns -- The run-the-ball-and-play-defense Vikings have changed course, and Cousins is letting it fly early on this season. He’s eighth in pass attempts and the overall QB6 in after three weeks. It makes sense when you have Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson on your team. The two have been virtually un-coverable. After getting fileted by Patrick Mahomes (337/3) and a combined 227/2 with a rushing TD by Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills in Weeks 1 and 2, the Browns predictably swallowed up Justin Fields in his NFL debut last week. Cleveland is 19th in pass-defense DVOA. Minnesota’s offensive line has pass-protected at an elite level, checking in at third in adjusted sack rate, and Cousins is getting time to make plays and dissect the defense. While both the Browns and Vikings play slow, each offense is in the top-10 in yards per play. These units have been hyper-efficient, and this game sports a juicy 51.5-point total, tied for the week’s fourth-highest. Cousins is a strong streamer and two-QB league play.

Sits

Daniel Jones at Saints -- Fantasy’s overall QB10 and one of the more popular streaming options last week, Jones flopped against the Falcons as the QB20 with 266/0 as a passer and 39 scoreless rushing yards. He now draws a New Orleans defense that is fifth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and tied for the league lead in interceptions. Only two teams have allowed fewer points through three weeks. And now the Giants are without both Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton due to hamstring injuries suffered last Sunday. Kenny Golladay will be locked up in Marshon Lattimore’s coverage. This game’s 42-point total is the lowest of the week. This is a spot to fade Jones and push our chips to the New Orleans D/ST in fantasy.

Ryan Tannehill at Jets -- After being a weekly QB1 last season, it’s been a tough start for Tannehill, checking in as the overall QB20 after three weeks. Tannehill is 18th in pass attempts, 24th in completion percentage, 20th in passing yards, and 20th in yards per attempt. It hasn’t helped that A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are already hurt with hamstring issues. Brown is expected to miss at least a couple weeks. Tannehill now draws a New York defense that is No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, having surrendered just one passing touchdown through three games. The Jets have been trailing big most weeks, so offenses are running all over them. Only six defenses have faced fewer pass attempts. But this pass defense has probably been the strength. Installed as 6.5-point favorites in a game with a mediocre 45-point total and Tannehill possibly missing his top two receivers, this profiles as a Derrick Henry game.

Justin Fields vs. Lions -- This is assuming Fields even starts Sunday after coach Matt Nagy reiterated Andy Dalton is the team’s starter when healthy. Dalton returned to a limited practice this week off his knee issue. Fields was a total disaster in his pro debut last week against the Browns, absorbing nine sacks and completing just 6-of-20 passes for 68 scoreless yards. The only positive was Fields didn’t turn the ball over despite all the harassment. The Lions don’t present a stiff test by any means, checking in at 23rd in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. But Fields and this Chicago offense just looked totally overwhelmed last week to the point there’s no way anyone can realistically have any sort of confidence in Fields as a fantasy starter. This game features a 42-point total, tied for the lowest of the week with Giants-Saints.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: Chuba Hubbard at Cowboys -- Christian McCaffrey is going to miss multiple games with a pulled hamstring. The Panthers aren’t going to put CMC on injured reserve, but coach Matt Rhule did suggest McCaffrey may miss three games. In his place will be fourth-round rookie Hubbard. He out-snapped Royce Freeman 40-11 last week after McCaffrey’s departure and handled 16 combined carries and targets. We saw it last year with Mike Davis, the Panthers aren’t afraid to just plug the next man up into CMC’s role. Davis was a weekly RB1 last season. Hubbard should flirt with 20 touches and see heavy pass-game usage. Dallas is No. 8 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 12th in run-defense DVOA, but the Eagles called just three run plays against the Cowboys last week. Austin Ekeler totaled 115 yards on 18 touches the week before. And the pass-heavy Bucs didn’t run the ball in Week 1. Hubbard should be locked into season-long lineups and will be a popular DFS target. This game has a juicy 51.5-point total, fourth-highest of the week.

Starts

Zack Moss vs. Texans -- Moss is somebody I’d be actively looking to sell in season-long fantasy, but there’s no denying he’s in a mouthwatering Week 4 spot. The Bills are massive 16-point home favorites over Houston, which should spell plenty of playing time for Moss. With Buffalo railroading Washington last week, Moss played 56% of the snaps to Devin Singletary’s 43% clip, and Moss turned 16 touches into 91 yards and one touchdown. The Bills’ backfield has pretty much been laid out for us; Singletary is the guy between the 20s before Moss comes in for red-zone, short-yardage, goal-line, and clock-killing work. Moss has eight red-zone carries and converted a pair of them for short touchdowns Week 2 at Miami. Josh Allen leads the team with nine inside the 20-yard line, but we know it’s going to be Allen or Moss carrying the ball at the goal line. Singletary has no touchdown upside and has to score from distance. With the Bills as huge favorites and the Texans 23rd in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 21st in opponent plays per game, and 30th in run-defense DVOA, this is about as good of a spot to trust Moss as there is on Buffalo’s schedule. He’s usable as a TD-dependent RB2.

Jonathan Taylor at Dolphins -- The Colts are trying to trade Marlon Mack, rolling with Taylor and Nyheim Hines as their backfield duo. Taylor remains a high-end RB2 with touchdown upside in this Indy offense where he leads the league with 13 red-zone carries, but the offensive line is completely falling apart due to injuries after losing stud LG Quenton Nelson to a high-ankle sprain in Week 3. Taylor is currently the RB32 in half-PPR points per game but is long overdue for his first end-zone trip of the season. The Dolphins present a prime get-right spot. Miami is 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 30th in opponent plays per game. Peyton Barber just dropped a 23-111-1 hammer on the Dolphins last week after Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for 21-108-3 the previous Sunday. Damien Harris posted 23-100-0 in the opener. The two-point spread suggests this game should be close, allowing the Colts to ride Taylor with Carson Wentz (ankles) at less than 100% health.

Leonard Fournette at Patriots -- Giovani Bernard (knee) is expected to miss at least a couple weeks with his sprained MCL. And with Ronald Jones in the coaching staff’s doghouse and Fournette just the better overall talent, it should allow Lenny to take over Bernard’s pass-game reps on top of his current role as the Bucs’ top back. Fournette has run 66 routes to Jones’ 18 through three weeks and has out-carried Jones 24-15. Tampa Bay is the most pass-heavy team in the league, so we can’t expect big rushing volume from Fournette, but he and Giovani Bernard have combined for 9.7 targets per game to this point. Look for Tom Brady to pile on the points in his return to New England Sunday night. Fournette should be part of it. The Patriots were said to be interested in Fournette over the offseason but opted to go a different direction. Tampa Bay’s implied total of 28.25 points is tied for the fourth-highest of the week.

Sits

Damien Harris vs. Bucs -- We saw Harris’ floor in the Week 3 blowout loss to the Saints when he posted the overall RB61 week, scoring the same amount of fantasy points as Chargers FB Gabe Nabers. As a pure early-down runner and non-factor in the passing game, Harris’ playing time was cut significantly in the loss. That’s the danger with him. And now James White is out for the season with a hip subluxation. Special-teamer Brandon Bolden played 46% of the offensive snaps against New Orleans. Look for Rhamondre Stevenson to be active again in Week 4 along with J.J. Taylor. This is a tough backfield to trust for fantasy. And now it gets to face a Tampa Bay run defense that has yet to allow a touchdown to a running back and has surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points to the position. The Patriots are a fantasy nightmare.

Myles Gaskin vs. Colts -- Salvon Ahmed was at least eliminated from the backfield rotation in Week 3, which is good news for Gaskin’s floor moving forward, but his six targets against the Raiders produced just nine yards. The Dolphins prefer Malcolm Brown near the goal line, as he’s out-carried Gaskin 4-1 in the red zone and 3-0 inside the 10-yard line. Gaskin is a mere RB3 thanks to his 16 targets in the pass game that are keeping him afloat in fantasy. The Colts have allowed the seventh-fewest catches to running backs after three weeks. This game’s 41.5-point total makes Gaskin wholly uninteresting as a fantasy starter.

Ty’Son Williams at Broncos -- Williams’ Week 3 snap count (50%) was right on par with his Weeks 1-2 rates, but he only handled five carries. The Ravens aren’t committing to Williams, even if he clearly looks like the team’s best running back. Baltimore is committed to giving carries and snaps to crusty veterans Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman. Lamar Jackson actually leads the team with three inside-the-10 carries while Williams and Murray each have two. Williams looks like a borderline RB2/3 in a three-man RBBC where the quarterback is the team’s best runner. Williams is the current RB29 and should be ratcheted down a couple notches against a tough Denver defense that has surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs and is No. 8 in run-defense DVOA. This game has a mediocre 44.5-point total.

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WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Robert Woods vs. Cardinals -- Woods was in this same spot last week and didn’t deliver for us. But I’m going back to the well because the peripherals are just too good to ignore, and Woods is about to have a breakout game. Better days are ahead after Woods paced all Rams WRs with an 88% snap rate last week against the Bucs. Cooper Kupp paces the Rams with 95 ran, followed by Van Jefferson at 83, and Woods at 82. Woods is seeing the field enough and plays in a high-octane offense and now gets to face an Arizona defense that is 24th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. K.J. Osborn (6-91-1), Justin Jefferson (6-65-1), Adam Thielen (6-39-1), A.J. Brown (4-49-1), Marvin Jones (6-62), and D.J. Chark (3-49-1) have all posted at or above expectation lines against this pass defense. Cardinals-Rams sports one of the highest totals of the week at 54 points.

Starts

Robby Anderson at Cowboys -- It’s been a sluggish first three weeks for Anderson, who enters Week 4 as the overall WR69 in half-PPR points. He’s been out-targeted 31-11 by teammate D.J. Moore, and rookie Terrace Marshall (14) has even seen more targets. Anderson signed an extension just ahead of Week 1 but has been on the side of a milk carton. Coach Matt Rhule wants that to change. “We have to get Robby going,” Rhule said after Week 3. “He’s been open quite a bit, and the ball’s not getting to him. We have to emphasize it.” This has #SqueakyWheel written all over it. Look for Sam Darnold to try and get Anderson some extra looks against a leaky Dallas defense that is 26th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. We want pieces of this game that has a 51.5-point total. Anderson will be very low-owned in DFS formats.

DeVonta Smith vs. Chiefs -- After posting the WR20 week in his NFL debut against the Falcons in Week 1, Smith has managed five catches for 44 scoreless yards on 13 targets over the last two weeks as the WR88 in that span. Jalen Hurts hasn’t played well, but Smith still leads the Eagles with 21 targets on the year. The Chiefs are 20th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and dead last in pass-defense DVOA after getting shredded by Mike Williams (7-122-2), Keenan Allen (8-50-1), and Marquise Brown (6-113-1) the last two weeks. A soft matchup in a game that has shootout potential, Smith is a high-upside WR3 play.

Brandon Aiyuk vs. Seahawks -- Aiyuk’s snap rate has been on the rise each week after his mysterious Week 1 usage, playing 47% of the snaps in the opener, 54% in Week 2, and then 86% last week against the Packers when he went 4-37-1 on six targets. Deebo Samuel is still the Niners’ top wideout, but with George Kittle (calf) banged up and less than 100 percent, it could mean even more for Aiyuk against a Seattle unit that is 19th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 27th in pass-defense DVOA. Trent Sherfield is back to full-time backup duties, and Aiyuk looks like one of Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite targets in the scoring area. The Seahawks simply couldn’t cover Justin Jefferson (9-118-1) and Adam Thielen (6-50-1) last week. Aiyuk should be fired up as an upside WR3 in a game with a 52-point total.

Sits

Sammy Watkins at Broncos -- Watkins has seen just one fewer target (23-22) than Marquise Brown, but Brown is getting the high-percentage throws schemed to him. Brown is the overall WR12 in half-PPR after three weeks despite a trio of dropped touchdowns last week. Watkins hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 5 of last season and is currently the WR44. And now the Ravens will be welcoming back first-round rookie Rashod Bateman (core) and Miles Boykin (hamstring) from I.R. in the very near future. Watkins’ playing time is likely to take a big hit. A date with a Broncos team that is No. 9 in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and fifth in pass-defense DVOA isn’t a spot for Watkins to turn his start of the season around.

Michael Pittman at Dolphins -- Pittman easily leads the Colts with his 26 targets, which are 10 more than the next-closest teammate, and he’s seen 12 targets in back-to-back games. But Pittman has yet to score a touchdown and is playing in a broken passing offense with a quarterback who can barely move due to dual sprained ankles. Pittman will now be locked up in Xavien Howard’s coverage much of Sunday in a game with a 41.5-point total. Carson Wentz’s poor play, the Howard matchup, and the low total for this one makes Pittman a mere WR4.

Kenny Golladay at Saints -- Golladay is playing through a bum hip and has started off as the overall WR60 three weeks into the season. Things aren’t going well, and frustrations have already started to boil over, as Golladay admitted to getting after OC Jason Garrett on the sideline two weeks ago. Even with both Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton out for this one with hamstring pulls, Golladay’s outlook isn’t pretty. He’ll be locked up in Marshon Lattimore’s coverage all day, and New Orleans is No. 5 in pass-defense DVOA. Giants-Saints has a poor 42-point total. Golladay should continue to be viewed as a WR4/5 until we see something.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: Kyle Pitts vs. Washington -- Pitts has run the fourth-most routes among tight ends through three weeks but is somehow only the TE15 in half-PPR with just 11 catches for 139 scoreless yards. Opportunity isn’t the issue here. Pitts is on the field a ton, so something has to give soon. This game has some sneaky blowup potential featuring a pair of bad defenses. Washington is 16th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, and the Falcons have got to get their No. 4 overall pick going in the box score. Dawson Knox just put a 4-49-1 line on Washington last week after Jared Cook posted a respectable 5-56 in the opener. Fantasy players need to stay the course, even if we should be downgrading Pitts in the TE1 ranks.

Starts

Dawson Knox vs. Texans -- After playing just 56% of the snaps in Week 1, Knox’s snap rates have been 83% and 78% against the Dolphins and Football Team the last two weeks. He’s found the end zone in back-to-back games and is ninth among all tight ends in pass routes. It’s hard to ask for much more from a fantasy tight end, and Knox plays in one of the league’s most pass-heavy offenses, even if he’s no higher than the fourth option. The Texans have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Knox should be treated as a TE1.

Tyler Conklin vs. Browns -- Fresh off the overall TE2 week last Sunday against the Seahawks, Conklin is now the TE9 on the season. He’s been in on 74% of the Vikings’ offensive snaps and is 14th among tight ends in pass routes. Like Knox above, Conklin sees the field plenty and runs a bunch of routes. At fantasy’s thinnest position, we take what we’re given. And Conklin is a weekly top-12 play right now drawing a Cleveland defense that has already surrendered two touchdowns to tight ends. Browns-Vikings has one of the higher totals (51.5) of the week.

Mike Gesicki vs. Colts -- We’ve done this dance with Gesicki before, and he’s left us for dead a number of times. Basically playing wide receiver for the Dolphins, Gesicki is sixth among tight ends in routes and has run a route on 91.3% of his snaps, with 77 coming out of the slot. He’s being asked to do very little pass blocking. Gesicki is coming off a 10-catch Week 3. He’s looked like fill-in Dolphins QB Jacoby Brissett’s favorite target since taking over for injured Tua Tagovailoa. This game is one to mostly avoid, but Gesicki pops out as a startable TE1 option.