By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
It finally happened.
No, I’m not talking about finishing last week with an above .500 record with my picks — I squeaked one through this week to finish 11-10, which is a bounce back after a dismal Week 2.
I’m talking about COVID.
The NFL finally had its first outbreak following Week 3. The Tennessee Titans have shut down operations until Saturday after three Titans players and five members of their personnel staff tested positive for COVID-19. It was reported on Wednesday that the Titans-Steelers game on Sunday has officially been postponed, with hopes they can schedule the game for Monday night if test results come back in a timely fashion.
After watching what happened when the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals experienced a slew of positive tests to begin the MLB season, there’s hope that this will become a wake up call for players, teams, and the NFL.
My message to the players: follow the protocols. They’re put in place for a reason. If you want to play football, take precautions when in public, or just don’t go out when not at practice. It is actually easier to do than some make it seem.
We all want football to be played. We all need football to be played. Please be safe, not just for our entertainment, but for the wellbeing of yourselves and your families.
Now to my Week 4 picks.
If you read this column last week or in the preseason, you have a good idea as to what my Confidence Plays represent. It’s essentially a start/sit column featuring players I think will boom (play) versus those I think will bust (fade). I try to focus on some middle-of-the-road and streaming options, as you’re likely playing your top guys regardless of the matchup, but some of those top guys may land on the Fade side. (Some matchups suck — what do you want me to do?) Don’t interpret this as “I have to sit Patrick Mahomes to play Derek Carr because Carr is a Play this week.” Don’t be that fantasy player. But maybe put some of them in your DFS lineups to maximize upside or play them as your RB2 or WR2 or in your FLEX. Or, you know, stream them.
QB Jared Goff (LAR) – Jared Goff has looked like a much better quarterback than last year — more like the QB that led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018 — and should have zero issue picking apart a defense that just gave up 343 yards to Nick Mullens. Yeah, a backup QB. Goff is averaging 288 passing yards per game and has back-to-back seasons with over 4,600 yards. The Giants stand zero chance on Sunday.
QB Deshaun Watson (HOU) – Deshaun Watson is currently QB21 in 6pt/pass TD leagues. That’s not exactly what we thought we were getting when we drafted the Texans QB. But one thing the Vikings have done poorly this year — play defense. They’ve allowed the 3rd most passing yards through three weeks (299.67/game) and wide receivers have absolutely torched their injury-riddled secondary. Watson has a couple of burners on the outside (Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks) and a slot receiver who knows the Vikings secondary very well (Randall Cobb). If Watson can’t get right this week, there may be little hope for him in 2020.
RB Kenyan Drake (ARI) – Well, I whiffed on this one last week. So why am I heading back to the well? Honestly, how can you choose to sit a running back playing the Panthers? Isn’t it obvious by now? If not for Rex Burkhead’s big Week 3, the Panthers would again be the worst defense at preventing fantasy points to RBs. That said, they allow the most receptions to RBs and just ceded 11 receptions to Austin Ekeler. Drake has run the 13th most routes among RBs in the league (63) and of the top 15 RBs in routes run, Drake has the fewest targets (5). If Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t recognize this as the matchup to get Drake going, I wouldn’t expect much from Drake in 2020.
RB Devin Singletary (BUF) – Those Las Vegas Raiders. Man, that defense is bad. Or they’ve just had bad luck? They faced Christian McCaffrey (3-38 receiving) and Alvin Kamara (9-95) the first two weeks so giving up fantasy points was a given. But then they got sliced up like a pizza by Rex Burkhead (7-49-1) so the only conclusion is… they suck. Devin Singletary has been the Bills de facto passing down back, as he’s currently tied for 7th among RBs in routes run. Without Zack Moss in the lineup in Week 3, Singletary saw 88.7% of the team’s snaps. Even if Moss returns in Week 4 and Singletary goes back to the 55/45 split, he should maintain his RB2 floor with RB1 upside as a receiver in this delightful matchup.
RB James Robinson (JAX) – The undrafted rookie has been a dynamo through three weeks, putting up RB5 numbers. He currently accounts for 32.6% of the Jaguars offense. Cincinnati has allowed the second most rushing yards to running backs this season, for an average of 5.24 yards per carry. Miles Sanders was on his way to a HUGE game if not for a Wentz overthrow after he blew past the linebacker. Robinson is used in much the same way so expect another standout week for Robinson.
WR DeVante Parker (MIA) – Insert WR playing Seattle. Could the Seahawks secondary be any more generous to fantasy wide receivers? They’ve allowed 76 receptions to WRs through three weeks (25.3/game), 27 more than the next closest team; they’ve allowed 1,136 receiving yards to WRs through three weeks (378.67/game), 400 more than the next closest team. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger so we know he’s going to throw the football. DeVante Parker hasn’t lit the world on fire through three weeks, but he’s been consistently productive (12.3 fantasy points/game; WR31 to date). Look for his 2020 coming out party in Week 4.
WR Will Fuller V (HOU) – I’m a big fan of Deshaun Watson this week so it stands to reason I’m probably playing his top receiving option as well. Will Fuller is a fantasy enigma and trying to predict which game he’ll make it through without suffering an injury is tiresome. But this is a Vikings secondary that has allowed the 3rd most receiving yards to WRs through three weeks and has been hit with injury after injury to its corners. They’re also tied for 2nd with 5 TDs allowed to WRs to begin the season. Have you forgotten how much Watson loves throwing deep touchdowns to Fuller? This is the week you feel safe starting Fuller.
WR Michael Gallup (DAL) – vs CLE. The Browns have allowed the 6th most fantasy points to WRs this year. But it hasn’t been a team’s WR1 that’s done the most damage. Ravens WR Willie Snead led them in Week 1 with 16.4 on 4 catches; Bengals WR Tyler Boyd went for 20.2 on 7 catches; and last week, Dontrelle Inman outscored Terry McLaurin for Washington. By this logic, Amari Cooper can take a seat and we can dial up Michael Gallup, who finally had the big game we’ve all been waiting for last week against Seattle. Gallup is tied for 4th in the NFL in deep receptions (3) and maybe more importantly, hasn’t dropped any those targets. Dallas will move their receivers around, but I don’t expect Gallup to see much of Denzel Ward, making him a solid start in Week 4.
TE Darren Waller (LV) – Well, the Raiders are down their starting WRs to injury — Henry Ruggs is dealing with a hamstring and Bryan Edwards is out with an ankle injury — so Waller is the last man standing. The Bills have been generous to TEs this year (10th most fantasy points and tied for 6th most receptions) so Waller should be an easy play. I would, however, not be surprised one bit if Buffalo shifts Tre’Davious White onto Waller and just has him travel with him all game. (Why waste White’s ability on Nelson Agholor?) That said, I’m not worried. We’ve seen Gruden force feed his TE on plenty of occasions and this looks to be one of those.
TE Dalton Schultz (DAL) – Schultz scored 10 fantasy points on the Seahawks which, to date, is the most they’ve allowed to an opposing TE. Maybe Schultz is matchup proof in the pass-happy Cowboys offense? I’m not willing to go there yet, but I do like Schultz this week against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed the 4th most fantasy points to opposing TEs through three weeks and tied for the 4th most TDs allowed (3). As the team’s 4th or 5th option in the passing offense, the Browns won’t be covering Schultz heavily, leaving him with plenty of room to roam free for big gains and easy catches.
QB Carson Wentz (PHI) – I can’t let my fandom get in the way. The Eagles are bad right now. Injuries have again depleted their offense, forcing Wentz to do too much. His starting WRs this week could very well be rookie John Hightower, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (who has only 2 targets and no catches through three weeks), and slot man Greg Ward. DeSean Jackson hurt his hamstring last week (shocker) and rookie 1st round pick Jalen Reagor is out with a thumb injury. Alshon Jeffery is not yet cleared to play, though he’s been practicing on a limited basis. Oh, and the Eagles just lost TE Dallas Goedert to an ankle injury. San Francisco may not have a pass rush, but they’re a competent defense and they’re at home, where they went 8-2 last year (including the playoffs). Wentz will need to be a magician to not only pull off a win, but put up a top 15 performance.
QB Ryan Tannehill (TEN) – (***This game is currently postponed, but with hopes they will reschedule it for Monday or Tuesday night.***) The Steelers have been a menace on defense. They’ve stuffed opposing RBs and have forced QBs to beat them. They have arguably the best pass rush in the league and currently lead the league in sacks. In the regular season the last two years, Tannehill has been one of the better QBs in the league when under pressure — 8 TDs to 2 INTs in his last 14 games — but was the 2nd worst QB in the playoffs when under pressure last year — a 47.0 QB rating was better than only Lamar Jackson. It’s only Week 4, but this should feel like a playoff game for Tennessee as the Steelers are tied for the conference’s best record.
RB Miles Sanders (PHI) – Considering the injuries the Eagles have had on offense, Sanders is their entire offense to date. He has back-to-back games over 100 total yards and over 77% of the team’s snaps played each week. But the 49ers have shut down opposing RBs, allowing only 3.24 yards per carry and the 2nd fewest receptions to RBs, something that Sanders excels in. Even with Sanders averaging over 20 touches the last two games, volume will likely be the only reason Sanders has a decent game.
RB David Montgomery (CHI) – With Tarik Cohen tearing his ACL against the Falcons, we finally to get to see David Montgomery’s receiving skills at work. While the Colts have allowed 15 receptions to RBs (tied for 14th most), I’d wager his skills may have to wait a week. The Colts have been arguably the best defense in the league through three weeks. They’ve allowed the 6th fewest fantasy points to RBs to start the year. They also have been credited with only 15 missed tackles, per Pro Football Reference. That’s tied for the 3rd fewest. Montgomery’s ability to break tackles as a rusher (3rd most among RBs) will be put to the test in what could end up being a low scoring aware.
RB Leonard Fournette/Ronald Jones (TB) – Do you know which RB Bruce Arians will play and use the most? Me neither. Regardless, the matchup isn’t great for the tandem of Fournette and Jones. The Chargers have allowed the 6th fewest rushing yards to RBs and the 3rd fewest fantasy points. Neither have been overly exciting in the receiving game either. LeSean McCoy seems to be the optimal choice there, which leads me to believe that McCoy will be used quite a bit more than usual since the Chargers have given up almost seven receptions per game to RBs.
WR Allen Robinson (CHI) – Nick Foles entered Sunday’s game, threw 3 TDs, and absolutely peppered Allen Robinson with targets. He shouldn’t be a fade then, right? Well, the Colts have shut down everyone this season, allowing the fewest receptions to WRs through three weeks (26). We’ve seen this yo-yo act with Foles before and I’m not confident he doesn’t find a way to get pulled in this game in favor of Trubisky, and that may not have the spike in production it did a week ago.
WR D.J. Moore (CAR) – Are we sure D.J. Moore is still the WR1 on his own team? He leads the Panthers in snap share and targets among WRs, but is being used more as the deep threat in the offense (team-leading 17.1 yards/reception), which is kind of what we expected to happen for Robby Anderson. In any case, the Cardinals haven’t been a playground WRs want to play on this season, having allowed the 3rd fewest receptions to WRs and only 2 TDs. Teddy Bridgewater has thrown all of one touchdown to a WR through three weeks so I’m not getting too excited about Moore’s prospects in Week 4.
WR N’Keal Harry (NE) – Harry is 2nd on the Patriots in targets and when Cam Newton does throw the ball, he’s not shy about looking Harry’s way. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels haven’t been shy about switching up the game plan (as witnessed by their run heavy approach in Week 3) but against the high-powered Chiefs, I’d expect a lot of pass attempts this week. That’s bad news for New England and Harry as KC has allowed the fewest fantasy points to WRs to date and only surrendered 1 TD to a WR. Newton has accounted for 6 TDs on the year, but hasn’t thrown a single one to a WR. There are better FLEX options available.
TE Jimmy Graham (CHI) – 6 catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns probably gave my co-host Joe an aneurysm. But hey, that’s what Nick Foles does — he looks for his TE. I won’t be surprised to see Graham heavily targeted this week either with Foles at the helm, but the Colts defense has put the kibosh on that through three weeks. TEs have scored a whopping 9.2 fantasy points on them through three weeks. And Chris Herndon of the Jets has accounted for 5.1 of that. IND has also allowed only a 42.8% catch rate to TEs. We know Graham’s history with inconsistent hands, so…
TE Tyler Higbee (LAR) – I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: when Higbee scored 3 TDs against the Eagles, I said those would likely be his only three of the season. He’s just not a touchdown producer. I know I’ve also said this before: the Giants can cover TEs. They’ve allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to TEs and only Ross Dwelley has topped 5 fantasy points against them. The Rams won’t need to look at Higbee much with better matchups on the outside, so find a different TE to stream this week.