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Analysis Paralysis: Week 4 Start & Sit

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Can Ben Roethlisberger follow up his 400-yard performance against the Bears with a big game against the Vikings in London? Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Can Ben Roethlisberger follow up his 400-yard performance against the Bears with a big game against the Vikings in London? Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Just when we thought we might return to a sense of normalcy in Week 3, Jake Locker goes and finishes as a Top Five player for the week.

While we did see a return to the top of the weekly leaderboard by some old faithfuls like Cam Newton and Drew Brees, the topsy-turvy 2013 NFL season continued into Week 3 with some of the past week’s top performances coming from the likes of Jason Snelling, Geno Smith, and Santonio Holmes.

Things should start to get a tad (keyword: tad) more predictable going forward, but then again, we’re talking about fantasy football, so predictable may be the wrong word to use there. Maybe I should rephrase that and say that things will start getting more predictable than if you were using a Magic 8-Ball to make your start-sit decisions.

Speaking of, my Magic 8-Ball is in the hobby shop for a tune-up after last week’s call to start Dwayne Bowe, so I’m going to scrap that method and try a dart-throwing method for Week 4. Let’s see if I can hit the bullseye…

12-Pack of Goodness
(12 players who are primed to outplay their normal value this weekend)

Ben Roethlisberger: After starting off slowly in Week 1, Roethlisberger has put up two serviceable fantasy performances (12 and 16 points over the last two weeks). Yes, his big game in Week 3 was mostly due to garbage-time yardage, but the Steelers running game is averaging a miniscule three yards per carry and will need to lean on the arm of Big Ben. The Vikings have allowed league-high eight passing touchdowns this season (and made a star out of Brian Hoyer last week), so Roethlisberger is set up with a juicy matchup this week in London.

Alex Smith: I had Smith as a start last week, and while he didn’t produce an elite game, he still put up a more than respectable 13 points (which was his third-straight double-digit fantasy performance). He won’t light anyone up for 400 yards, but Smith has been playing mistake-free football so far this year and has the good fortune of facing a reeling Giants defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.

Darren McFadden: Whether you buy into Darren McFadden or not (I’m still skeptical), I’m not sure it really matters this week. The Redskins have allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL this season and would probably allow five yards per carry to me or you at this point. McFadden is actually a Top 10 fantasy running back right now and should have the opportunity to solidify that spot with a matchup that would have any running back salivating.

Bilal Powell: I’d be lying if I said that I thought I’d be recommended Bilal Powell as a must-start in Week 4, but alas, here we are. Powell received the most carries of any running back in the NFL last weekend and gets to face a Titans team that has given up more than 100 yards in each of the last two weeks. With Chris Ivory nursing a hamstring injury and Mike Goodson serving a suspension, Powell should receive 20-plus carries this week.

Knowshon Moreno: While it may look like Moreno split more carries with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman in Week 3 than in Week 2, he still only had one less carry this week (he just didn’t do as much with those carries). Moreno is still the main back in Denver (for now) and gets to face an Eagles defense that has allowed more than 110 yards in each of their last two games.

Aaron Dobson: He didn’t find the end zone against the Buccaneers last week, but Dobson is quickly emerging as a viable option for Tom Brady and the Patriots. While he’s had the expected rookie struggles with broken routes and dropped balls, Dobson represents the best downfield threat that the Patriots have and should be able to get lose against a Falcons secondary that hasn’t had much success stopping opposing wide receivers this season.

Emmanuel Sanders: Would you believe me if I told you that Sanders has more targets than Antonio Brown this season? I guess you’ll have to, because 30 was more than 29 the last time I checked. I wouldn’t look at Sanders as anything more than a flex option this weekend, but he gets to face that porous Vikings secondary I mentioned earlier and should be able to find the end zone for the first time this season

Ryan Broyles: Broyles wasn’t all that impressive in his first game of the season last week, but he’s become a borderline must-start after Nate Burleson’s broken arm. Broyles becomes the defacto second option in the Lions passing game and should be able to find some holes in a Bears defense that allowed Antonio Brown to run wild last week and will be focused on shutting down Calvin Johnson.

Coby Fleener: Perhaps most pundits were a little too quick to anoint Fleener as the next Rob Gronkowski after Dwayne Allen was lost for the season last week, but to be fair, the Stanford alum has a tough matchup against the 49ers last weekend. Things get a lot easier against the Jaguars this weekend and Fleener should be able to turn his red zone targets (he’s had five so far this season) into a score.

Jordan Cameron: Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, Jake Ciely… it doesn’t matter who’s playing quarterback for the Browns. Jordan Cameron will apparently produce regardless. We likely just saw his high-water mark for the season last week, but I think it’s time we look at the fact that Cameron is second in targets and fantasy points among all tight ends and consider him a must-start no matter who he has throwing the ball to him.

Indianapolis Colts: If you feel like we’ve seen this movie before, it’s because we have when the Colts played the Raiders in Week 1. While that (on paper) juicy matchup didn’t work out quite like I expected, I think this week should be a great week to start the Colts defense. They’re coming off a strong performance against the 49ers last weekend and get to face Blaine Gabbert in Week 4.

Arizona Cardinals: A good defense facing a rookie quarterback making his first career start? Sign me up! The Cardinals defense has been a little disappointing this season fantasy-wise, but they’ve also had the misfortune of playing the Lions and Saints. Things will get much easier as they face a reeling Buccaneers squad that is hitting the panic button and benching Josh Freeman for Mike Glennon.

6-Pack of Sorrow
(Six players you should think about benching if you have better options)

Eli Manning: With guys like Jake Locker and Geno Smith appearing in the Top 10 over the past two weeks, is there really any reason to start the NFL’s interception leader on the road against a tough Chiefs defense? Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest places to play and the Giants offense looks like a hot mess right now. You can do better this week.

C.J. Spiller: I’m not saying to bench Spiller this weekend, but I’d strongly consider it if you have a halfway decent option. Things will get better going forward, but facing a Ravens defense that has allowed the fewest points to fantasy running backs this week isn’t going to help anything. To add insult to injury, Spiller is nursing a quad injury and has been outscored (by a good margin) by Fred Jackson so far this season. Like I said, it will get better, but I’d look elsewhere if you can afford to this week.

Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall shouldn’t be anything more than a flex option on your team (and hopefully he isn’t), but I wouldn’t feel very good starting him this week. He only received nine carries last week while nursing a toe injury and has to play a Buccaneers defense that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. The toe seems to be fine this week, but the matchup does not.

Vincent Jackson: While Jackson’s rib injury from last weekend doesn’t sound like it will keep him out of your lineup this weekend, the quarterback news out of Tampa should. Jackson is an elite talent and may still be a better option that most receivers on your fantasy roster, but I’d like to see him put up a big game with Mike Glennon under center before I put him back in my lineup in Week 6 (after his bye week).

Brent Celek: I’ve seen Celek as a weekly starter on a lot of fantasy rosters and I’m not sure why. I’m guessing it’s the Chip Kelly-factor, but the reality is that Celek only has nine targets all season (Jimmy Graham almost doubled that last week). There are so many good weekly tight end options that you have to avoid the tempting calls of Chip Kelly’s sirens and look elsewhere.

New England Patriots: It might be easy to look at the season’s scoring leaders so far and think the Patriots are a must-start due to the fact that they have the sixth-most fantasy points among defenses right now. To put a little context to that number, however, the Patriots have faced two rookie quarterbacks and one quarterback who just lost his job. Things will get much tougher as they face a desperate 1-2 Falcons team on the road this weekend, so make sure you avoid the Patriots defense for now.

Your Questions. My Answers.

@chuck2388: Need help in the flex spot... 12 team standard, Ryan Broyles or Santonio Holmes?

Nick: I touched on why I like Broyles above, but I also just don’t buy into Holmes. While he’s a decent player, I think you’re going to have some up-and-down weeks out of him and I’d settle this decision with saying that I’d rather take Matthew Stafford’s receiver than Geno Smith’s.

@joshuetree: Brian Hartline or Ryan Broyles? Brian Hartline or Stevie Johnson? (this week)

Nick: I’d go with Hartline over both this week. That’s really nothing against Broyles or Johnson (I like both), but Hartline is leading the Dolphins in targets so far this season and should be the better play this weekend – especially if it’s a PPR league.

@johnwolfe109: should I trade away Jimmy Graham and Cecil Shorts for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten?

Nick: While it’s really hard to give up Graham (who is playing out of his mind right now), I’d do that. I think the difference between Bryant and Shorts is more than the difference between Graham and Witten. And any time I can avoid Blaine Gabbert, I consider that a win.

@Zachary_Tyler14: my Jordan Cameron for his Randall Cobb. Is that a fair offer? I'm proposing it

Nick: Honestly, it’s probably not, but it could (possibly) work if your trading partner needs a tight end. I’d hit the decline button if you sent that to me, but I don’t think it’s insulting enough to the point where no one will want to trade with you.

@Tgrose48: San Francisco or Tennesee Defense this week? Roll with Colin Kaepernick one more time or pull Ryan Tannehill off the bench? Thanks

Nick: I’d have to go to the well with San Francisco again this week. Losing Aldon Smith is a big blow, but I still think they’ll put up more fantasy points against the Rams than the Titans will against the Jets. As for your quarterback decision, I’d think a lot harder about that if Tannehill wasn’t playing the Bears. That’s a tough matchup and I still think Kaepernick will turn things around, so stay the course.

As always, I’ll be checking the comments section for start-sit questions all week, so drop them in there below this post and I’ll make sure I get back to you!