I can’t go very far without hearing from a disgruntled owner who is 1-2 or 0-3 at the current moment. “Chris Johnson is killing me,” and “What do I do about Michael Vick,” have been popular sentiments amongst those yearning to get back on the right track.
Here are my two biggest pieces of advice for those of you struggling at the current moment:
1. Don’t do anything rash with Vick, Johnson or any other first round pick. You drafted these guys early and paid a heavy price for a reason. You owe it to them stick it out.
2. Make a trade! Don’t just sit on your hands hoping for the best. Identify your areas of biggest concern and get active looking to improve your roster. Sometimes it just takes one player to turn an entire season around.
And now, to business…
Jason Campbell, QB, Oakland Raiders: The six-year veteran is barely cracking the top-20 in fantasy scoring at the quarterback position through three weeks, but Campbell has an extremely favorable Week 4 matchup against a New England Patriots team that ranks dead last in the NFL in pass defense (377.0 yds/gm). Outside of the Green Bay Packers, no defense in the league is surrendering more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than New England (29.6 pts/gm). If there were ever a time to roll the dice on Campbell, Week 4 would be it.
BONUS START: Don’t hesitate to put Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore in the lineup as well this weekend. If the Patriots can’t slow down opposing quarterbacks, they obviously can’t stop opposing wideouts.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The second-year back out of Oregon is currently averaging only 14.0 rushing attempts per game this season, but we expect that number to increase Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Why? Because starting middle linebacker Gary Brackett is out for the year (shoulder) and the Colts are currently giving up an average of 20.3 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (10th-most in NFL). Blount should make a run at 100+ yards while finding the end zone at least once.
Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets: Burress has found the end zone in two of his first three games this season and takes on a Baltimore Ravens secondary in Week 4 that is surrendering an average of 26.0 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers (7th-most in NFL). Many believe that this game will be a low-scoring affair, but don’t be surprised if Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco turn it into a semi-shootout.
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: Did you know that Graham is currently a top-5 fantasy tight end in standard scoring formats? The guy has been targeted at least seven times in each of his first three games and has found the end zone in two of New Orleans’ first three contests. Look for the former Miami Hurricane to keep streaking Sunday when the Saints visit a Jaguars defense that is giving up an average of 10.9 fantasy points per week to opposing tight ends (8th-most in NFL).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, D/ST: On most weekends, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would fall far down my list of acceptable D/ST starts. But Week 4 offers up a tasty matchup as the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense—aka the Indianapolis Colts—comes to town led by the inexperienced Curtis Painter at quarterback. For those of you in need of a situational start this weekend, go get the Bucs.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: The media and fans are quick to throw Manning under the bus when he doesn’t deliver as expected, but 254 passing yards and four touchdowns against the “Dream Team” barely registers on the national radar. Whatever the case may be, don’t feel shy about riding Manning again this weekend against an Arizona Cardinals team that ranks 27th in the NFL in total defense (397.7 yds/gm) and is currently surrendering an average of 23.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (7th-most in NFL). Oh yeah, keep in mind that wide receiver Mario Manningham is back this week (concussion).
Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: The best way to slow down a high-powered offense like the Buffalo Bills (I can’t believe I just wrote that) is a healthy dose of an effective ground game that will move the sticks and chew up the clock. If Cincinnati wants a shot at winning this weekend, Benson will have to be their star. In addition, it doesn’t hurt that Buffalo is currently giving up an average of 21.8 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (7th-most in NFL).
Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins: Moss has been very consistent so far this season as the 11-year veteran has recorded at least five receptions on a minimum of eight targets for no less than 60 yards in each of his first three outings. We won’t be the least bit surprised if those numbers increase on Sunday when Washington travels to St. Louis to take on a Rams team that currently ranks 31st in the NFL in total defense (426.3 yds/gm) and is surrendering an average of 30.2 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers (2nd-most in NFL).
Dexter McCluster, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: While the numbers won’t jump off the page at you, McCluster rushed for 45 yards on nine carries in the second half of last Sunday’s 20-17 loss at San Diego. The upside here is that A) the Chiefs’ confidence in the former Ole Miss standout is beginning to grow and B) the Minnesota Vikings currently rank 28th in the NFL fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs (24.9 pts/gm). We aren’t predicting a huge game, but we like McCluster as a flex option for owners in deeper leagues, especially those of you who play in PPR formats.
Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: We know this is a semi-risky pick with Blaine Gabbert now under center for the Jags, but keep in mind that in the rookie’s first start he targeted Thomas eight times in a monsoon that led to four receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. Expect the Jags to throw the ball a ton on Sunday against a New Orleans Saints defense that is giving up an average of 27.7 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers (5th-most in NFL).
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