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Week 4 Fantasy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Tom Brady (v KC)

Brady has been a “Thumbs Down” for each of the past two weeks in difficult matchups and without some key offensive weapons—but he’ll have Mike Evans and Julio Jones (knee) back on Sunday night for what should be a home shootout versus Patrick Mahomes. The GOAT has been sharp despite limited production to begin the year, and getting two key weapons back puts him into the midrange QB1 ranks after being a borderline QB1 in Week 2 and Week 3.


Thumbs Up: Russell Wilson (@ LV)

Wilson is another quarterback that hasn’t put up numbers to begin the year (Denver is averaging just 14.3 points per game), but hopefully the calendar turning to October leads to a flip switching for the offense with the first month basically being their preseason. It’s notable that Wilson said he had to make some plays with his legs late in Sunday night’s win, and that continuing would be an excellent sign for his outlook. Broncos-Raiders has a chance to be the first full-blown shootout in the AFC West this year.


Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v SEA)

A lack of touchdowns hurt Goff last week, but he’s still playing very well to open the year—with a 17-game pace of 4,239 yards and a 40:11 touchdown-interception ratio on the young season. I believe that Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will have a great game plan to attack Seattle’s defense, and the increased pace at which the Seahawks played at in Week 3 (which should continue) is a definite positive for everyone in this matchup from a fantasy perspective. Goff is again a high-end QB2.


Thumbs Up: Marcus Mariota (v CLE)

The Browns potentially not having defensive end Myles Garrett (shoulder/biceps) and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (groin) would be a significant upgrade for Atlanta’s offense, and Mariota should be playing with increased confidence coming off a victory last week. The former No. 2 overall pick has also rushed for two touchdowns in three games, and Cleveland just allowed Mitchell Trubisky to find the end zone as a runner; I’m optimistic about Mariota at a position that suddenly has a bunch of question marks outside the top 15 or so options.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Matthew Stafford (@ SF)

Los Angeles was able to finally get the better of San Francisco in the playoffs, and Stafford ending up putting up very good numbers (337 yards, two touchdowns, one interception). That said, he had a 4:4 touchdown-interception ratio last year in the regular season matchups (both losses), and 49ers have been better than ever defensively to open 2022. As the passing attack still rounds into form, downgrade Stafford to the clear QB2 range for Week 4.


Thumbs Down: Justin Fields (@ NYG)

There is still time to turn things around, but Fields is the QB31 through three weeks—and that’s despite solid production on the ground with nine rushing attempts per game. As a passer, Fields simply hasn’t made the progress many were expecting by calling him a breakout candidate, and Chicago has no reason to open up the passing attack with the defense and running game getting them to 2-1. Look elsewhere ahead of another possible low-scoring affair.


Thumbs Down: Trevor Lawrence (@ PHI)

Sunday feels like a spot where Lawrence could do more damage as a runner to move the ball versus a stingy Philadelphia defense, but the concern for Jacksonville is the offensive line facing a front that just recorded nine sacks in Week 3. In general, the Eagles have allowed just 5.1 yards per attempt through the air (by far the best in the league), and the hope for increased numbers on the ground isn’t something to bank on with Lawrence having eight carries for 22 scoreless yards on the year.


Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (@ NO)

I still have Cousins as a low-end QB1 option, and New Orleans is a defense that he’s had little trouble putting up numbers against throughout his career (12:1 touchdown-interception ratio in four games). However, I wouldn’t rank him over someone like Tom Brady or Russell Wilson like the consensus currently does, and the high-flying passing offense for the Vikings hasn’t exactly been as advertised to begin the season with Cousins averaging 6.1 yards per attempt.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Rashaad Penny (@ DET)

Throwing out the letdown Week 2 loss to the 49ers, Penny has seen touch totals of 14 and 15 with yardage totals of 67 and 69 so far this season—looking very good with the ball in his hands. Last year, Penny absolutely dominated versus Detroit with 25 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns during his scorching end-of-season run, and the Lions have really struggled to contain enemy backs with the most fantasy points per game allowed to the position. Penny should be ranked as a top-20 option for Week 4.


Thumbs Up: Damien Harris (@ GB)

New England will have to lean on the running game with Mac Jones (ankle) likely out of the lineup, and Harris has had a strong start to the year with 4.6 yards per carry and a touchdown in back-to-back outings. For this week, I think the running style of Harris could give Green Bay problems similar to David Montgomery a couple of weeks ago (15 carries for 122 yards), so he’s still a low-end RB2 option if Bill Belichick can keep it close versus Aaron Rodgers.


Thumbs Up: Travis Etienne (@ PHI)

Jacksonville was able to give Etienne a heavier workload on the ground last week as the blew out the Chargers, and he’s been consistent with fantasy point totals of 7.5, 6.8, and 9.0 despite no touchdowns or long runs. The Eagles are a difficult matchup for running backs, but Etienne’s style has historically given them some problems, so we’ll see if Doug Pederson takes advantage of that—including on targets from Trevor Lawrence out of the backfield.


Thumbs Up: J.D. McKissic (@ DAL)

Carson Wentz being under constant pressure last week led to nine targets for McKissic, and the Commanders could be having déjà vu on Sunday with a trip to face Micah Parsons and a resurgent DeMarcus Lawrence. Ideally, you won’t need to rely on McKissic in a redraft league, but he’s a good value in DFS play this weekend—particularly in full PPR formats.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (@ TB)

Edwards-Helaire feels like a prime sell-high candidate, as he is the current RB4—but has only seen carry totals of seven, eight, and even through three weeks. At some point, the Chiefs will get their wideouts going, and the receiving production of Edwards-Helaire (12/115/2) seems very likely to decline (at least in terms of efficiency). Tampa Bay remains a very difficult matchup for running backs, so CEH is more of a high-end FLEX on Sunday night.


Thumbs Down: J.K. Dobbins (v BUF)

Dobbins handled nine touches on 43% of the offensive snaps played in his season debut, but those numbers—at least for now—could be the norm for the Ohio State product as Baltimore leans on Lamar Jackson and uses a three-man rotation at running back. Now, Dobbins will take on a stout Buffalo defense that is coming off a disappointing loss, and it would probably take a couple of short touchdowns (as was the case for Chase Edmonds in Week 3) to pay dividends. A matchup against the Bengals in Week 5 is what fantasy owners should be looking forward to for Dobbins.


Thumbs Down: Breece Hall (@ PIT)

The short targets from Joe Flacco have been a huge plus for Hall to begin his career, but there is now some uncertainty with Zach Wilson (knee) slated to return—and Pittsburgh’s pass rush missing T.J. Watt (pectoral) could make it less likely that the running backs are looked to as quick outlets. Hall splitting work with Michael Carter on a team that could easily be 0-3 makes him someone to avoid on the road.


Thumbs Down: Rams RBs (@ SF)

The backfield for the Rams has flipped since the opener, as Cam Akers led the backfield with 12 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown last week, while Darrell Henderson saw just five touches. The tricky part is that Henderson still played 50% of the team’s offensive snaps, so this backfield is looking like one to avoid for a matchup against a San Francisco defense allowing a minuscule 2.8 yards per attempt versus the run.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Williams (@ HOU)

A touchdown saved Williams from massive disappointment in Week 3, but the performance wasn’t much of a surprise with the Chargers struggling due to Justin Hebert being less than 100% and star left tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps) leaving early. At 1-2, I’d expect Los Angeles to be on point this week—even without Slater on the blindside—and the return of Keenan Allen (hamstring) will roll coverage away from Williams. Somehow ranked outside the top 30 on ESPN.com, the big-bodied wideout has too high of a ceiling to not be in lineups.


Thumbs Up: CeeDee Lamb (v WAS)

Dating back to last season, Lamb has put up lines of 6/112, 7/75, and 8/87/1 in three games with Cooper Rush under center, so he’s at least solidified as a strong WR2 until Dak Prescott returns. The Commanders struggled to contain A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith last week, and Lamb seeing 11+ targets in each of the first three weeks puts him in position to have another big game with confidence rising following his highlight touchdown grab on Monday night.


Thumbs Up: Gabe Davis (@ BAL)

The interceptions took the attention away from the struggles, but Baltimore continues to be—by far—the worst pass defense in the league (353.3 yards per game allowed), and coverage busts should be something Davis takes full advantage of with Stefon Diggs having more eyes on him. Although he was limited to three receptions for 37 yards last week, Davis played 96% of the snaps in his return to the lineup. Consider him a high-upside WR2.


Thumbs Up: Julio Jones (v KC)

Todd Bowles said on Monday that Jones would be playing in Week 4, so fantasy owners counting on the veteran can get him back in lineups as a quality FLEX option. Based on how he looked in the opener, Julio will be both a downfield weapon and someone that Tampa Bay wants to get the ball to on shorter touches—which might be more of a focus this week if Chris Godwin (hamstring) remains out. If somehow available, now is the time to pick up Jones.


Others: Russell Gage (v KC), Chase Claypool (v NYJ)


Thumbs Down of the Week: D.J. Moore (v ARI)

Another new quarterback in Carolina hasn’t been enough to get Moore going to begin the year, and it’s impossible to not downgrade him from the WR2 ranks despite WR1 expectations that some placed on him in the preseason. This week’s opponent is unlikely to get Moore on track with Arizona limiting the former first-round pick to 3.0 receptions and 41.7 receiving yards per game in three career meetings, so Moore falls outside the top 30 at the position until we see him on the same page with Baker Mayfield.


Thumbs Down: Allen Robinson (@ SF)

Speaking of getting on the same page, Robinson and Matthew Stafford have been unable to connect on at least a couple of would-be touchdowns over the first three games, and it make might sense to bench the wideout for a difficult matchup versus San Francisco. The weekly touchdown upside remains high for Robinson based on his skillset in Sean McVay’s offense, but the Niners can be a daunting matchup for targets on the perimeter.


Thumbs Down: Allen Lazard (v NE)

Lazard has caught a touchdown in both games to begin 2022, but Romeo Doubs looks like the No. 1 target for Aaron Rodgers, and the group gets a tough matchup on Sunday versus a New England team that needs to hold up defensively if Mac Jones is out. Excluding the opener versus Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, the Patriots have limited Diontae Johnson (6/57), Chase Claypool (4/26), George Pickens (1/23), and Rashod Bateman (2/59) over the past two weeks.


Thumbs Down: Patriots WRs (@ GB)

On the other side of the Patriots-Packers matchup, the quartet of DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, and Kendrick Bourne will face a talented Green Bay secondary—even if Jaire Alexander (groin) is out—with Mac Jones either out or significantly less than 100%. Look for a heavy dose of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson on Sunday with the wideouts being too unreliable to start in 12-team leagues.


Others: Jarvis Landry (v MIN), Devin Duvernay (v BUF)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Gesicki (@ CIN)

Miami has a new offense and improved playmakers this year, but Gesicki’s numbers versus the Bengals are difficult to ignore—going for lines of 6/82/2 and 9/88/1 over the past two matchups. Cincinnati has allowed 89+ yards to opposing tight ends in two-of-three games this season, so Gesicki is set up to have a big game if the targets are there on Thursday night.


Thumbs Up: Evan Engram (@ PHI)

For the most part, tight end has again been a wasteland if you don’t have a top-tier option, so Engram is worth looking at as a high-end TE2 for this week. Limited to one reception last week in a blowout win, Engram at least converted a two-point conversation, and he’s a game removed form being targeted eight times; hopefully he is a central part of the offense with Philadelphia being better attacked between the numbers than on the outside.


Thumbs Up: Albert Okwuegbunam (@ LV)

Okwuegbunam has combined to catch one pass over the past two weeks, and his playing time on the year has dipped from 67% to 53% to 32%. Las Vegas has allowed more than 12.0 fantasy points to opposing tight ends in every game this season, though, and I have a feeling he may be more involved to create some chunk plays to kickstart the offense.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Higbee (@ SF)

Higbee has been a rare expectation as a tight end that can produce versus the 49ers (three scores last year), but San Francisco has allowed just 1.6 fantasy points per game to the position through three weeks, and a slugfest could be in the cards for Monday night. While the matchup might not be enough to bench him, expectations should be tempered for Higbee.


Thumbs Down: Cole Kmet (@ NYG)

Actual involvement for Kmet last week (two receptions for 40 yards on three targets) was a good sign, but the Bears don’t have the volume in the passing game for him to be trusted at this point. The Giants have notably limited Kmet to four receptions for 37 scoreless yards in two matchups over the past two seasons, so I’d avoid him after showing signs of life in Week 4.


Thumbs Down: Cameron Brate (v KC)

The Buccaneers being without all their top pass-catchers aside from Russell Gage led to a quality day for Brate last week (five receptions for 52 yards), but even with the Chiefs being a good matchup for opposing tight ends, I’m anticipating Tom Brady to focus on his wide receivers now that he has them back. It might take a touchdown for Brate to return TE2 value.