Welcome to what many consider to one of the most stressful parts of the fantasy season, which is a bye week. For the first time this year, teams – though it’s just two this week, the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles – are off, so owners of Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Matthews, and either defense will have to start looking for alternatives.
By this point, you guys should know how our weekly fantasy football articles work, although I can’t blame you if you’re shaking your head a bit about last week’s suggestions. I know Todd Gurley was a questionable pick in hindsight, and Travis Kelce against that Jets secondary was a better matchup than I expected, but let’s hope this week goes better than the last. This is said selfishly because I need a win in fantasy to avoid the dreaded 1-3 start…
QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs ($5,600): I’m a bigger fan of Smith’s than other people, and I love how he works as a game manager (which, as I’ve said before, is far from an insult), but a matchup against the Steelers in Pittsburgh – on national TV! – screams he belongs on the bench. Somehow, Sam Bradford ($5,100 on DraftKings) is owned in only 9.7 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues and going against a Giants defense that struggled against Kirk Cousins, the 2010 number one overall pick wouldn’t be the worst option. I doubt you’ll see Bradford have his week two numbers (22 of 31 for 286 yards and two scores), but it’s a cheap pick and a safe pick as long as Bradford doesn’t tweak something sneezing on the sidelines, that is.
RB1: Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks ($6,000): I’ll be the first to say that the Jets defense has been unspectacular in their first three games, but Sunday’s matchup between Gang Green and the Seahawks is a trap game for the latter. After a game in which Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a staggering six interceptions, the Jets are returning home with a chip on their shoulder, and an urge to absolutely break some bones against a team they haven’t beaten since December 19, 2004. With that said, Christine Michael should be an easy sit, and Oakland’s DeAndre Washington ($3,800 and owned in only 15.9 percent of leagues) works as an adequate replacement. Washington has averaged 8.5 yards a carry the past two weeks, and with the Raiders needing to get some consistency on offense, expect the former Texas Tech running back to be a huge part of the offense against Baltimore.
RB2: DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers ($6,200): Honestly, this one is just simply a case of a backup being relegated to a lower role because the starter, which in this case is Le’Veon Bell, is returning from missing a chunk of time. I still think Williams will get a fair number of carries as Bell eases back into things, and I’d definitely keep him around as a flex, but the safest alternative is just turning to another running back for week four. After the news that Shane Vereen will be out indefinitely and factoring in the Giants going up against a Vikings defense that’s made quarterbacks look silly this year, I like third-year running back Orleans Darkwa ( and owned in just 16.2 percent of leagues) having a bigger role on Monday night. With the Vikings losing defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd to knee surgery, some holes should open up for Darkwa, and the Giants will need him if they want to move to 3-1 for the first time since 2011 – coincidentally their last Super Bowl season.
WR1: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders ($7,600): That whole point about Oakland’s offense needing to find consistency ties back to Amari Cooper, who has just 133 yards and zero scores since week one. With the Raiders playing a Ravens defense that’s been quite stingy aside from the first half against Cleveland, it’s probably safe to have Cooper on your bench this week. Even going against the Seahawks and what remains of the Legion of Boom, New York Jets wideout Quincy Enunwa ($4,400 and 38.8 percent of fantasy leagues) has impressed early and will most likely be a top target for Ryan Fitzpatrick yet again. Whether Fitzpatrick connects with the former Nebraska star or he instead hits Richard Sherman, however, is unclear.
WR2: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks ($3,900): For the time being, all Seattle wide receivers should be on your bench or at least as a last-resort flex until Russell Wilson gets healthy again. Down in Jacksonville, the team who skipped out on Wilson for a punter is 0-3 but, finally, Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee ($3,100 on DraftKings and sure to be available in your ESPN league unless someone is one of the 0.7 to own him) is showing the talent he had with the USC Trojans. In the past two weeks, Lee has 10 catches for 119 yards and with the Jaguars 0-3 and desperate, you may see Lee get even more touches Sunday against the Colts…in London! Again, make sure to set your teams early because Sunday’s slate of week four games begins at 9:30 A.M. E.T.
WR3: Victor Cruz, New York Giants ($4,600): I’m so happy to see Victor Cruz back and playing like he never missed the bulk of two seasons due to knee injuries, but I can’t vouch playing him against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. Some of you may be surprised to see his name on this list, but another former receiver who played in the Meadowlands isn’t the worst idea for a low-key wideout. I’m talking about San Francisco’s Jeremy Kerley ($3,400 and 3.2 respectively), of course, whom Blaine Gabbert has tried to form an early connection with. Even if Dallas slaughters the Niners, which is a good bet to take, this may be the week Kerley mimics his week one performance (seven catches for 61 yards).
TE: Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts ($3,800): Here’s one where the replacement for this player is his teammate. Jack Doyle, a little-known tight end who’s been on the Colts since 2013, has emerged as one of Andrew Luck’s go-to targets in the first three weeks and already has 13 catches for 137 yards after totaling 35 and 209 in those respective categories since entering the league. At just $2,500 on DraftKings and owned in only 11.7 percent of ESPN leagues, why not take a chance on a tight end who ranks fifth in fantasy points this year?
Defense: Houston Texans ($3,200): Not only is this a trap game against the Titans, but the NFL Network reported Tuesday night that three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt is likely to be placed on IR and miss significant time. With all due respect to this Texans defense, I can’t play them in a trap game without Watt. I can, however, play the Atlanta Falcons defense ($2,400 and 1.1 respectively) against…the Carolina Panthers? With Cam Newton and the Panthers offense really unable to get anything going in two of their first three games, a road game against the only team to beat them in the regular season last year may be an upset in the making. Atlanta’s cheap, Atlanta’s available, and Atlanta may be what brings you to a week four win in fantasy.
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