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Week 4 Review: Everything Is Starting To Come Into Focus

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Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense is on a record setting pace so far. Photo by Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense is on a record setting pace so far. Photo by Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images.

With Week 4 now (mostly) in the books it’s a great time to evaluate your team. We're one-third of the way through your fantasy season and things are finally starting to shake out. Picks have turned out better (or worse) than expected, players are hurt, and roles are established. But now, bye weeks are upon us and fill-in players are critical. This is the stage of the game where your ability to manage your roster comes into play, you can draft the greatest starters in the world, but they all have a bye at some point. You have a bench for a reason and these coming weeks are that reason, be smart and you might just survive. With that said let’s take a look at some of the individual performances that we saw on Sunday.

1. Peyton Manning is 37-years old, and as good as ever.

At 37, the majority NFL players are out of the game, Peyton on the other hand, is tearing up defenses at a record pace. He is currently on pace for a 5,880 yard season with 64 touchdowns and zero interceptions. These numbers are obviously ludicrous, he’ll throw an interception this season, and both his yardage and touchdown totals will eventually regress. But, even when they do come back down to Earth, it looks like he may be a serious contender for the single season mark in both categories. For fantasy purposes, all this really means is that a large percentage of teams who win their league championship this season will likely have Peyton at the helm.

Moving on. As far as quarterbacks go the usual suspects did their usual thing. Matt Ryan played well, Philip Rivers played much better following a forgettable Week 3, and Tom Brady finally had what I would consider a respectable week. Throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, and once he gets Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back, this offense should explode. Also, Brady's rapport with rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins has improved each week, so continue to try to buy low if possibly on Brady.

As far as bye-week fill-ins and second stringers in two quarterback leagues there are a lot of guys that have been playing well. Alex Smith is what he is, but he did have the third-highest fantasy total amongst quarterbacks in standard scoring this week. Don’t expect that on a weekly basis of course but, Andy Reid seems to have reinvigorated the Chiefs on both sides of the ball, and Smith is an every-week QB2. If you’re desperate Brian Hoyer and Jake Locker have played well of late, another guy who should have earned himself another start is Matt Cassel who managed the game for the Vikings and led them to their first victory.

2. Arian Foster takes the reins in Houston but Ben Tate still outplays him.

With Foster out-touching Tate 33-8 the timeshare is starting to disappear. For Tate owners this means he’s a dicey Flex play every week, he might score a touchdown, he might run for 100 yards, he might do nothing. It’s a shame because he’s been the more explosive back so far this season. Hopefully he lands elsewhere in 2014 so we can see what he is really capable of.

Foster rushed for 102 yards this week on 27 carries, that’s a measly 3.77 yards per carry and that’s just not good enough. Even so, he was one of the top fantasy backs this week, especially in PPR formats. Other top rushers included Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, and – surpisingly – Danny Woodhead. Both Bush and ADP did what was expected of them, and both have scary-high ceilings on a weekly basis. Woodhead did his damage in the passing game as he reeled in five passes for 52 yards to go along with two scores and 32 rushing yards. His role is expanding, and in PPR leagues he needs to be on your radar as a bye week fill-in.

Le’Veon Bell, welcome to the NFL. After missing the first three weeks of the season with a LisFranc injury Bell made his debut for the Steelers in London this week. He played the vast majority of snaps on his way to a nice fantasy day that included 84 total yards, four catches, and two scores. Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones have now lost all value. Owners who stashed Bell for the early part of the season are going to start to see their patience pay dividends.

Finally on the injury front we saw Alfred Morris (rib) and Darren McFadden (hamstring) both exit their Week 4 matchup early. In for Morris, Roy Helu Jr. played well and should be rostered in every league if Morris’ injury proves troublesome following their bye next week. Both McFadden and Marcel Reese (knee) were forced to leave for the Raiders, leaving Rashad Jennings to carry the rock. Given McFadden’s injury history, Jennings is worth rostering, he could very well carry the load next week against the Chargers.

3. Victor Cruz and Torrey Smith explode in losses.

Cruz went out and had himself a day (10/164/1) after having a quiet game last week, yet it still wasn’t enough, as the Giants were blown out by the Chiefs. Torrey, who had been serviceable through the first three weeks, finally did what every fantasy owner has been waiting for as he exploded for 166 yards on five catches, and a score.

With Peyton Manning and Broncos clicking through four weeks it bodes well for anyone in their passing game. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker both put up WR1 numbers, while Eric Decker had a decent, but not spectacular, day (for PPR formats).

All in all the strong start for wide receivers continued this week. Rookies Robert Woods and Kenbrell Thompkins continued to improve, and both had solid weeks. Alshon Jeffery and Nate Washington had great weeks and showed that they might be the real deal, or at the very least, they deserve a roster spot. Jerome Simpson was another wide receiver that had a notable day. With seven catches for 124 yards, how could one not notice. He plays in a run heavy offense and he’s the number two (or maybe even three) option in the passing game normally but, he drew a lot of targets this week with Matt Cassel under center. Keep him on your watch list moving forward. With the exception of Thompkins, all of the wide receivers mentioned in this paragraph are owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues, and with bye weeks coming they may be worth a look.

4. Jordan Cameron’s remarkable start continues.

Cameron has been nothing short of a Godsend for Fantasy owners this season. He added 10 more catches for 91 yards and a score this week and he has firmly entrenched himself as a Top Five tight end on a weekly basis.

Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez led the charge for tight ends this week, with Gonzalez having a career day even by his standards. Gates also had a great week and is off to an all around solid start to the 2013 campaign.

Elsewhere it was mostly quiet and/or confusing. Jared Cook, Jason Witten, and Julius Thomas all had down days. Coby Fleener had an excellent day but he’s still too unreliable to trust after rotating between good and bad days so far this season.

If you need a fill-in I’d look into Garret Graham or Heath Miller. Miller is back from a catastrophic knee injury and appears to be fully recovered. As the weeks pass, he should become more and more involved in the passing game. Graham, like Fleener has been confusing. He has now scored three of the first four weeks but he also posted a big, giant goose egg Week 3. Either way if you need a tight end the juice might be worth the squeeze with this one.

I’d like to end this by saying that I still don’t advocate panicking. At this point it is definitely time to look elsewhere though in certain situations. If you can afford to, make players prove it. Stop taking the chance on someone like David Wilson for the time being, wait until he gets a heavier workload and shows that he can hold onto the ball. Benching a player and trading a player are two totally different things, your best bet is to stash someone like that because you won’t get enough value in return on the open market.