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Week 4 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Tom Brady (@ NE)

I had Brady as a “Thumbs Up” last week because people were too low on him against the Rams, and the same is true in Week 4 for anyone who doesn’t think he’s a high-end QB1. There is only one team Brady hasn’t faced and beaten in his career, so I am sure he will put up monster numbers for his return to Foxborough. For all the respect and appreciate TB12 has regarding his former franchise, he’ll find a way to have increased motivation based on any perceived slight he can manage to convince himself exists.


Thumbs Up: Jalen Hurts (v KC)

The offensive game plan wasn’t good for Philadelphia, but Hurts did not play well at all on Monday night—and he still finished with 20.54 fantasy points. A potential shootout against the Chiefs should keep him right in midrange QB1 territory, and all the man-to-man coverage Kansas City projects to play will open up running lanes for him to take advantage of. Keep rolling with the second-year quarterback.


Thumbs Up: Taylor Heinicke (@ ATL)

Heinicke was in a tough spot last week facing a ready-to-explode Buffalo team, but he saved his day with a rushing score, and the matchup will be much easier this Sunday against the Falcons. Overall, the 28-year-old has faced the Buccaneers, Chargers, Giants, and Bills over his past four games (dating back to 2020), so he’s battle-tested and should be happy to see more favorable coverages in Week 4.


Thumbs Up: Mac Jones (v TB)

There is concern about New England’s pass protection holding up against what is expected to be a fired-up Tampa Bay defense, but if given time, Jones should find open receivers with the secondary missing Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow) and likely Jamel Dean (knee) at cornerback. Jones has averaged a higher-than-anticipated 40.0 pass attempts per game, and he will need to put up points if the Patriots will have a shot on Sunday night.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Daniel Jones (@ NO)

Jones unfortunately was unable to find the end zone in Week 3 despite staying turnover-free on the season, and he’ll now enter an environment that will be ripe for defensive takeaways as fans return to the Superdome in full capacity for the first time since 2019. Injuries to Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Darius Slayton (hamstring) will make the matchup even more difficult, so Jones is a low-end QB2 that might need rushing production to pay off.


Thumbs Down: Teddy Bridgewater (v BAL)

Worries about a conversative attack last week for Denver came true, and Bridgewater could now be entering similar circumstances for a slugfest versus Baltimore. Without Jerry Jeudy (ankle) and K.J. Hamler (knee, season) a lot of the explosiveness has been drained from the passing attack, so Bridgewater gets downgraded against a still-formidable secondary of the Ravens.


Thumbs Down: Jameis Winston (v NYG)

Maybe I’m wrong and they won’t live up to their potential, but I think the Giants are better (and more opportunistic) on defense than they’ve shown so far, and Winston remains a hot-and-cold quarterback that can make costly mistakes in any given week. Through three games, Jameis has thrown for yardage totals of 148, 111, and 128.


Thumbs Down: Justin Fields (v DET)

As of this writing, I actually think Nick Foles will start for the Bears on Sunday, but if Fields gets another shot, it’s too difficult to trust him in non-Superflex leagues. Even in preseason action, the hype around Fields was more of a Twitter creation than anything else, and he was always going to be a quarterback that might have needed more time to develop. Unless there is a drastic change in the game plan with more designed runs to overcome the passing struggles, I’d look elsewhere.


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Jonathan Taylor (@ MIA)

As you saw at quarterback and will also see at wide receiver, the main “Thumbs Up” options are slam-dunk plays, but I think they are still worth a write-up. For Taylor, he didn’t capitalize on a great spot last week, but it wasn’t his fault at all (ten carries for 64 yards), and I simply can’t fathom Indy failing to feature him again with their season hanging in the balance at 0-3. The Dolphins just allowed Peyton Barber to go off for 142 yards and a score on 26 touches, which the Colts should make sure is the floor for Taylor if they want to turn things around. I have him as my RB4 in 0.5 PPR leagues.


Thumbs Up: Trey Sermon (v SEA)

This is under the assumption that Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) misses another week, as no team has allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than the Seahawks, and San Francisco will hopefully feature Sermon at least somewhat similar to how Alexander Mattison was last week for Minnesota. It sounds like the Niners want to mold Sermon into more of a north-south runner, and Sunday could be a great trial run with extended touches. The rookie is an optimistic RB2.


Thumbs Up: Sony Michel (v ARI)

You wouldn’t know from looking at the box score, but Michel was excellent in last week’s win over the Bucs, grinding out 67 yards on 20 carries and making multiple blitz pickups to keep Matthew Stafford clean. I would expect Darrell Henderson (ribs) will get another week to rest up, and Michel should be a strong play against an Arizona defense that just allowed James Robinson to come alive. Get him while you can.


Thumbs Up: Bills RBs (v HOU)

Zack Moss and Devin Singletary have both played well this season, and the entire Buffalo offense is set up for another big day with the Texans coming to town in Week 4. We know the Bills will lean on the passing attack no matter the score, but their runners should still see a favorable game script, and creating balance will only help ahead of a massive battle versus the Chiefs next Sunday night.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Damien Harris (v TB)

The Rams had what I would call a successful day running the ball versus Tampa Bay last week, and it still resulted in just 73 scoreless yards on 21 attempts, which just shows how stingy they are up front. Harris is usually a borderline top-20 option for me, but I have him outside the top 30, and my advice would be to hope for a low score and then buy-low on him next week.


Thumbs Down: Myles Gaskin (v IND)

Indianapolis has faced a difficult schedule of opposing rushing attacks to begin 2021, but they’re still allowing the 13th fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, and Gaskin’s volume has been slightly lower than you’d like (13.0 touches per game)—which is a concern for a player that is largely reliant on heavy touches. I have him as more of a FLEX than RB2 for Week 4, and looking ahead, it’s worth noting that Tampa Bay is up next in Week 5.


Thumbs Down: Texans RBs (@ BUF)

None of Mark Ingram, David Johnson, or Phillip Lindsay is a must-own at this point, and Sunday could quickly get out of hand in Buffalo. I thought last week—against an emerging Carolina pass rush—should have led to a decent game for David Johnson, but he wasn’t even targeted. Go for someone in a better offense as a desperation play.


Thumbs Down: Saquon Barkley (@ NO)

Although he’s trending up for the season, Barkley will be opposed by a swarming New Orleans defense this weekend, and I have him back where he started the year as more of an RB2. Some might say no Sterling Shepard or Darius Slayton will lead to more targets for Saquon, but it will also lead to more stacked boxes, and fantasy owners are relying on a long run/reception from him.


Wide Receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Calvin Ridley (v WAS)

Again, if you have Ridley, you’re playing him, but this week might finally be a ceiling game against a Washington defense that just allowed Emmanuel Sanders to go off—largely powered by a 28-yard touchdown and a 41-yard reception down the field. There is no way the yards per reception (8.8) and yards per target (6.0) for Ridley through three games won’t increase significantly, and he’s a buy-low target for impatient owners.


Thumbs Up: D.J. Chark (@ CIN)

Chark is also in position to have a huge game this week, as Cincinnati is susceptible to the deep ball (multiple downfield throws to an open James Washington were missed by Ben Roethlisberger in Week 3), and Jacksonville’s top target had an 8/95/2 line against the Bengals last season. The start hasn’t been very efficient catching passes from Trevor Lawrence, but Chark has two touchdowns in three games and brings plenty of upside on Thursday night.


Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (v TB)

As previously stated, Tampa Bay’s secondary is down two of their top cornerbacks, and recent signing Richard Sherman—who Agholor turned around in a previous matchup—wouldn’t be a substantial downgrade to his outlook on Sunday night. New England needs to find a way to generate offense, and featuring Agholor against single coverage is their best bet. I have him in the top 30 at receiver for this week.


Thumbs Up: Allen Robinson (v DET)

The caveat here is that Nick Foles needs to be under center, but if he is, I believe the former Super Bowl MVP is the best option to unlock the Chicago passing attack—and Robinson in particular. A lack of downfield opportunities has been a point of frustration for Robinson’s fantasy value since signing with the Bears, so hopefully Foles and his willingness to give his targets a chance to make plays will re-establish the ceiling for him and Darnell Mooney.


Others: Raiders WRs (@ LAC)


Thumbs Down of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins (@ LAR)

Maybe he was just a decoy at less than 100%, but Hopkins played 91% of the offensive snaps last week, and he’s seen just ten targets over the past two games since catching two touchdowns in the opener. Now, he’ll face Jalen Ramsey and the Rams—who limited him to a combined 12 receptions (on 23 targets) for 87 yards and one touchdown last year’s matchups. He’s a low-end WR2 for me.


Thumbs Down: Kenny Golladay (@ NO)

I was high on Golladay last week until it was reported before the game that he would have his snaps reduced (directly from wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert), and that’s exactly what happened with a season-low playing time of 69%. You probably have to hold on him because the upside if everything clicks isn’t worth the discounted compensation, but Sunday is a tough draw versus the Saints, then Golladay will take on Trevon Diggs and Jalen Ramsey. He needs to be viewed as a WR3.


Thumbs Down: Will Fuller (v IND)

Fuller saw a decent amount of targets in his Dolphins debut (six), but it led to just 20 scoreless yards, and Indianapolis hasn’t been a great matchup for him from his time in the AFC South (less than 50 yards in five-of-six outings). Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker should continue to operate as the top two wideouts, and Fuller probably shouldn’t be in lineups until Tua Tagovailoa (ribs) is back under center to open things up some.


Thumbs Down: Amari Cooper (v CAR)

I feel like everyone cursed Cooper by saying he finally turned into a consistent option with the hot streak dating back to last season resuming in the opener, but he’s been limited to six receptions for 50 yards and zero since over the past two games, and the rib injury combined with more balance for Dallas could lead to continued quiet showings. CeeDee Lamb should be considered the clear No. 1 wideout this week against a fast Carolina defense and beyond.


Others: Saints WRs (v NYG)


Tight End


Thumbs Up of the Week: Rob Gronkowski (@ NE)

The chess match between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be awesome to watch, but I’d bet TB12 wants to get Gronkowski a score in their return to New England, so don’t be scared off by the Patriots allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. For the season, Gronk is a lunging grab away from possibly having five touchdowns in three games.


Thumbs Up: Jonnu Smith (v TB)

Results haven’t been there so far for Smith, but targets have been with at least five in every game, and I’m giving him another shot to be a TE1 option for Week 4. Back in 2019, Smith went for a 6/78/1 line against the Bucs, and the aggressiveness of Todd Bowles’ defense could lead to him finding space on play-action/misdirection. Through three games, Tampa Bay has allowed fantasy point totals of 11.0, 12.3, and 12.5 to opposing tight ends.


Thumbs Up: Anthony Firkser (@ NYJ)

I’m expecting Firkser (knee) might return on Sunday since he’s been out for two games and wasn’t placed on IR, so he’s worth a flier considering the injuries to A.J. Brown (hamstring) and Julio Jones (leg) at wide receiver. Assuming he’s active, Firkser could realistically be the No. 2 option on offense behind Derrick Henry if Julio doesn’t suit up.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Evan Engram (@ NO)

Engram had a forgettable game in his first action of 2021 with two receptions for 21 scoreless yards (on six targets) and a lost fumble, and his outlook doesn’t look very promising for a matchup against the Saints on Sunday. Over the past few seasons, there arguably hasn’t been a more stingy opponent for the position; even a depleted New York offense isn’t enough to make Engram a confident start.


Thumbs Down: Dan Arnold (@ CIN)

I like the long-term landing spot for Arnold in Jacksonville, but it’s asking a lot of him to contribute after just a few days with the team, and the passing attack simple isn’t reliable enough to feel good about anyone other than D.J. Chark or Marvin Jones right now. Arnold should be viewed as a stash for those struggling at tight end in deeper leagues.


Thumbs Down: Mike Gesicki (v IND)

Gesicki is a buy-low target for me if someone still isn’t sold on the talent, but similar to Damien Harris earlier, it might be wise to wait a wait with the hopes he has a quiet game (which might even lead to him being dropped). The Colts have tightened up over the past two weeks with a combined six receptions for 45 yards and zero touchdowns allowed to the tight ends of the Rams and Titans.


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