1:00PM ET Games
New England @ Buffalo
Although his team lost and his fantasy stats didn't overwhelm, Tom Brady put on a passing clinic in last Sunday's game at Baltimore. Tom was Terrific, relentlessly roasting Ravens RCB Cary Williams and throwing for a season-high 335 yards while both Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd cleared the century mark. Brady ranks a disappointing 13th in fantasy quarterback scoring due to a low TD rate on which he's a lock to improve. Since the Pats so often design matchup-based game plans and Buffalo's defense has been most exposable in the back end, it's reasonable to think playcaller Josh McDaniels will draw up a fantasy-friendly Week 4 approach. Through three games, the Bills have faced the weakest slate of quarterbacks in football (Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel) and allowed them to combine for 69-of-112 (61.6 percent) passing, 804 yards (7.19 YPA), and six touchdowns. Brady is a little bit better than those guys. A blowup game is imminent. ... Brady's target distribution on the season: Lloyd 33, Welker 26, Rob Gronkowski 18, Julian Edelman 15, Aaron Hernandez (injured) and Stevan Ridley 8, Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch 3. ... Lloyd is the No. 1 receiver in McDaniels' attack and will play most of Sunday's snaps against in-over-his-head Bills rookie RCB Stephon Gilmore. Per Pro Football Focus, Gilmore has allowed 12 of the 20 passes thrown at him to be complete for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Keep in mind the bottom-dweller QBs Gilmore has faced and put Lloyd in your fantasy lineup.
The Welker Snap Count Controversy has fast become yesterday's news. The Pats simply need him. Hernandez (ankle) is out until Week 5 at earliest, and Edelman will not play at Buffalo due to a mysterious hand injury. Welker played 73-of-83 (88 percent) downs in Week 3 and may be a 100-percent player against the Bills. Set to face off with oft-burned slot CB Leodis McKelvin, Welker is a must-start WR2 in all leagues. ... Shake off Gronk's slow start and keep him in your lineup. His stat lines in four career meetings with Buffalo: 8-108-2, 7-109-2, 4-54-2, 3-43-1. ... Branch was re-signed because he knows the Patriots' offense. He's a rotating role player and unworthy of a fantasy bench spot. ... Stevan Ridley's underutilization at Baltimore was obviously game-plan based as the Pats went no-huddle heavy against a heavyweight Ravens front seven, attacking it in the hurry-up. Don't read into Danny Woodhead's temporary bump in touches, or Ridley's weak fantasy performance as signs of things to come. Leave Woodhead on the waiver wire, ignore Brandon Bolden's Week 3 goal-line score, and start Ridley in this projected high-scoring affair.
Friday Update: Gronkowski was a late addition to the injury report on Friday and is now listed as questionable with a hip injury. I don't buy that he's in danger of missing Sunday's game, but I don't expect the secretive Patriots to give any further information, either. Check back Sunday morning. If Gronkowski is active -- and I anticipate he will be -- start him with utmost confidence.
At 50.5 points, Pats-Bills has Week 4's second highest over-under. The experts expect scoring in this one, and that's good news for fantasy players involved. ... Stevie Johnson is the first Bill we look to as the featured receiver in Chan Gailey's Pistol Spread. Johnson has a touchdown in four straight games dating back to last year, and six TDs the last nine times he's taken the field. In two 2011 meetings with a similar-looking New England secondary, Johnson dropped lines of 8-94-1 and 4-40-1. He's found pay dirt in three of his past four games against the Patriots. That's some encouraging historical data. Trot him out. ... Ryan Fitzpatrick is fifth in fantasy quarterback points, benefiting from Cleveland's Joe Haden-less pass defense, Kansas City's underachieving group, and Week 1 comeback mode against the Jets. Fitz annually strings together fast starts followed by inevitable late-season fades. While Fitzpatrick remains a big stretch as a QB1, he's worth riding in two-quarterback leagues as long as he's hot. The Pats' pass defense is better than it was last year, but hardly one to avoid with just four sacks and a 5:2 TD-to-INT ratio against through three weeks. Only Tampa Bay and Washington have allowed more completions of 20-plus yards.
Fitzpatrick's updated 2012 target distribution: Johnson 26, Donald Jones 16, Scott Chandler 15, C.J. Spiller 8, Tashard Choice and T.J. Graham 6. ... Though Chandler is never a terrible bet for a red-zone score, he hurts you when he doesn't come up with one. He found pay dirt in the first two games, then didn't last week and finished with 22 yards on two catches against the Browns. He's a desperation play. ... Annual offseason puff-piece all-star Jones has played in 26 career games and cleared 55 receiving yards twice. Leave him on the wire. ... Graham can fly downfield and has big-play ability, but is largely a clear-out route runner in the old Lee Evans role. He runs "goes" to stretch the defense so Johnson and others can secure the ball more cleanly underneath. ... The Bills' Week 4 backfield outlook is shakier than ever, although our tentative expectation is Fred Jackson (knee) will start as Spiller (shoulder) plays a "limited" role off the bench. Jackson is shaping up as the best bet for fantasy production after seeming to turn a corner in his recovery Thursday. Spiller is No. 1 in running back scoring through three games, but has the look of a dicey flex. As well as Spiller has played, though, he might only need 6-10 touches to be a worthy start.
Friday Update: The commentary here all remains relevant, but just to keep you up to date: Jackson and Spiller are both listed as questionable on the injury report. They also both practiced on a limited basis Friday. I think they'll both be active against New England. I would start Jackson as an RB2 and think long and hard about putting Spiller into a flex spot. These guys are playmakers in a projected high-scoring affair.
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Bills 21
San Francisco @ NY Jets
Darrelle Revis is out for the season with a torn left ACL, and his loss immediately morphs the Jets from a red-light fantasy pass-defense matchup into a unit to fear no more. Revis has missed four career games. In the three matchups when New York's opponent wasn't trotting out Brian Brohm at quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Henne, and Ben Roethlisberger combined to complete 62-of-102 passes (60.8 percent) for 766 yards (7.51 YPA), and a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Revis' loss is devastating because Rex Ryan's scheme was constructed with his man-cover skills in mind. Revis eliminated one side of the field and enemy No. 1 receivers, while Ryan's other ten defenders played aggressively, allowing the Jets to compensate for lacking other typically crucial elements like elite outside-edge rushers and ball-hawking center-field safeties with range. This defense will be ordinary going forward. Attack it with your fantasy players. ... Even pre-Revis ACL, New York was springing leaks against the run. The Jets are a lowly 28th in run defense, serving up a generous 4.60 yards a carry. They've allowed four rushing TDs in three games. Don't sweat Frank Gore's slow Week 3 game, which occurred because the 49ers unpredictably fell behind the Vikings 17-3 at halftime. San Francisco is certain to be more competitive in this game, allowing Gore to resume racking up attempts. He's still averaging 5.87 YPC and remains a strong RB2.
The Jets' defense is inherently vulnerable to tight ends because its strength for so long has been outside corner play. Safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry are also both coverage liabilities. Maintaining his tear from late in the 2011 season, Vernon Davis has 41 catches for 705 yards (17.2 YPR), and nine touchdowns in his last eight games. Proficient multipliers know that's an 82-1,410-18 line if extrapolated to a full season. Pro Football Focus also grades Davis as a top-eight run blocking tight end through three weeks. Best tight end in the NFL? ... Antonio Cromartie will likely match up with No. 1 wide receivers from here on out, replacing Revis, but "Cro" lacks Revis' versatility and can't cover the slot. Michael Crabtree will continue to be an underwhelming, low-upside WR3, but he plays inside enough to avoid Cromartie's coverage for most of Sunday. ... Cro is more likely to deal with Mario Manningham and Randy Moss down the sidelines. This is not a great matchup for either of them, and it would require a Moss or Manningham injury for the other one to warrant a start-‘em recommendation. They are rotating No. 3 pass-game options in a run-first offense. No, thank you. ... Game manager Alex Smith has yet to hit the 230-yard plateau in three tries, and San Francisco's passing attack has remained extremely conservative in terms of taking shots downfield. Smith is worth a look in two-quarterback leagues this week, but that's all.
To no one's surprise, Mark Sanchez has crashed back to Earth since his fluky, three-touchdown opener against a Buffalo defense that first-year coordinator Dave Wannstedt clearly didn't have ready to play. In the two games since, Sanchez is 31-of-72 (43.1 percent) for 444 yards (6.17 YPA), and a 2:3 TD-to-INT ratio. On its last 22 possessions, the Jets' offense has generated one touchdown and 12 punts. This offense is as bad as we all thought it would be. It will be interesting to see just how putrid Sanchez and the Jets' statistics become after a date with the 49ers' defense. In the meantime, keep Sanchez glued to waiver wires. ... Santonio Holmes dog-walked overmatched Dolphins RCB Richard Marshall in Week 3, burning Marshall for the majority of Holmes' 9-147 stat line. I wouldn't bet on Holmes coming anywhere close to those numbers against Vic Fangio's defense, which plays physical press coverage on the outside and will have Sanchez running for his life in the front end. There isn't a Jets skill-position player worth a fantasy start in Week 4.
Jeremy Kerley has been New York's top all-purpose threat in the season's first three games. With Stephen Hill (hamstring) out and Kerley set to start, I'd say he was worth a WR3 dice roll if the Jets weren't playing the Niners. Grab Kerley in 14-team leagues, but leave him on your bench. ... Dustin Keller is questionable to play with a hamstring injury, and has had too many setbacks for fantasy comfort. Would he even last two quarters? Ryan expressed lingering doubts about Keller's health on Friday. ... Shonn Greene is on the brink of losing his job to Bilal Powell. Powell played more snaps than Greene in Week 2, before essentially rotating with Greene on early downs and getting all of the passing-game work last Sunday. While the two are similarly plodding runners -- often difficult to tell apart with the football in their hands -- Powell at least has a clue when it comes to blitz protection and catching the ball, and can identify a cutback lane when the offensive line opens one. Greene runs like he's overweight and blind. Pick up Powell and trade Greene as soon as humanly possible. Don't start either of them on Sunday.
Score Prediction: 49ers 20, Jets 6
Seattle @ St. Louis
Seahawks-Rams has the lowest over-under of Week 4, which isn't a surprise because defense is both teams' strength and the offenses largely lack explosiveness. The lone fantasy must-start is Marshawn Lynch, who leads the NFC in touches and now faces a St. Louis defense allowing the seventh most yards per carry in football. The Rams have already given up five rushing TDs. As far as I'm concerned, Lynch is a top-eight back in standard scoring leagues. Going forward, I'd rank only Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, Ryan Mathews, Darren McFadden, and Jamaal Charles ahead of him. ... Golden Tate should feel a little bit embarrassed this week. He was an absolute slouch on Monday night's last-second, blown-call touchdown* catch in Seattle's win* over Green Bay, pushing a Packers defender to the ground before the jump ball and getting overpowered by S M.D. Jennings for what most certainly should have been an interception. I've always been enamored by Tate's skill set -- I watched every game he played at Notre Dame -- but I wouldn't start him in fantasy because of his impressive* Week 3 box score. Tate did play 50-of-61 snaps (82.0 percent) against the Packers and has clearly bypassed Braylon Edwards as Seattle's No. 1 split end. He'll line up often across from Cortland Finnegan on Sunday, and Finnegan has been an early-season shutdown corner for St. Louis.
Tate is still the choice if you're dying to play a Seahawks non-running back. Sidney Rice has struggled to get open and seen his snaps reduced as a result. It's fair to wonder if the buildup of injuries over his first five NFL seasons has sapped Rice's playmaking ability. He's been a 66-percent player the past two games and has a combined four catches for 55 scoreless yards. ... Russell Wilson's target distribution in Weeks 1-3: Rice 15, Tate 11, Edwards 9, TEs Anthony McCoy and Zach Miller 8, Doug Baldwin 7, Ben Obomanu 4, Lynch 3. ... Dump Miller for a TE2 with upside. ... Baldwin's return from a shoulder injury could help Seattle's offense, but probably not your fantasy team. ... Wilson is going to remain a disappointing QB2 until the Seahawks remove his training wheels and he starts playing better under duress. Wilson is averaging 25 pass attempts per game. For comparison, Christian Ponder is averaging 33. It makes a big difference, especially when Wilson is last in the league in yards per attempt.
Seattle eliminates run games and puts clamps on perimeter passing attacks. They force pass offenses to work the middle, where Danny Amendola does his dirty work. Tied with A.J. Green for fourth in the NFL in targets, Amendola is the Rams' No. 1 offensive option. He's also got the best matchup of St. Louis' receivers as a slot guy who will face 31-year-old slot CB Marcus Trufant while Brandon Gibson and whomever else the Rams trot out at wideout deal with physical outside cover men Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. Start Amendola in PPR and consider him as a low-end WR3 in standard. ... Sam Bradford is the No. 25 fantasy quarterback and 1-for-3 in terms of productive fantasy games. With Barry Richardson and Wayne Hunter as his bookend tackles against a Seattle defense that sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times last week, Bradford will be 1-for-4 after Sunday. ... Steven Jackson is still a high-octane rushing force when healthy, but he clearly is not and has a brutal Week 4 matchup. He gets Arizona and Miami after this. Jackson will have to show something special to be more than flex-worthy over the next three games. ... Gibson isn't worth your time. He's a below-average talent and Seattle will shut him down. ... Daryl Richardson is a handcuff. Whereas a banged-up S-Jax received 13 touches in Week 3, Richardson got five.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 20, Rams 13