With Week 4 starting Thursday night, we’ve reached a crucial point of the 2014 fantasy football season. A quarter of the fantasy season is almost done and how owners fare in Week 4 could make or break their teams. And sadly for owners it’s the first bye week of the season, with Denver, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona and Seattle all resting up in Week 4.
This week owners will need to make up the production for some high-scoring players. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Cincinnati’s Giovani Bernard are the two top-scoring running backs that need to be replaced this week. Owners could be especially desperate with receivers like Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, Seattle’s Percy Harvin and Arizona’s Michael Floyd all sitting out due to byes.
Hopefully, and likely, owners built in some contingencies during their drafts and they have backups ready to move into the starting line up. However, if need be, there is some value left on the waiver wire.
But of course owners also have some tough decisions to make, especially in the deepest fantasy pools of running backs and receivers.
Let’s breakdown some of Week 4’s running backs and wide receivers who could be started and those owners should think about sitting. There are also a few sleepers for owners to study before setting their line ups. Remember, always start and sit players at your own discretion.
RBs To Start/Sit
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
Spiller’s numbers are far from eye-popping with 147 rushing yards off 37 carries, and PPR-league owners might hesitate considering he’s only totaled seven receptions for another 57 yards. Spiller’s only touchdown of the season was a blistering 102-yard kickoff return, but otherwise he’s been relatively quiet. But in Week 4 he takes on a Houston defense that’s No. 25 in the league against the run, and just gave up 176 yards and a touchdown to New York’s Rashad Jennings. Spiller might not go off like Jennings, but he has the potential to put up his best game of the season so far and score his first rushing TD.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Foster owners have been here before, with the talented back sidelined with a nagging injury. Foster sat out last week’s loss and was limited in Wednesday’s practice. And even if he comes back against Buffalo, Foster has to battle a Bills frontline ranked sixth versus the run and is one of only four defenses that hasn’t allow a single rushing touchdown yet.
Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles
Arguably the most reliable veteran rusher/pass-catcher-out-of-the-backfield in the league, Sproles might not be the best start this week. Even though the Eagles are one of the highest scoring teams in the league, Sproles struggled mightily against Washington’s No. 3 ranked rush defense, and he was held to only three catches for 30 yards. Receptions and yards after the catch are where Sproles does the most damage, and now he’s facing a 49ers D that’s No. 6 against the run and has given up the fourth fewest points to running backs this season, according to Yahoo.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Normally it’s difficult to tell who will perform well in a Thursday night game, especially with the punishment running backs can take and the short four-day span between games. Morris is also nursing a minor knee injury, though he’s listed as probable. Morris also takes on a N.Y. Giants D coming off its best defensive performance of the season. However, Morris has torched the Giants for 332 yards at 4.7 yards per carry and seven catches for another 58 yards in four career games. For Marshawn Lynch owners, Morris could be your best remedy.
WRs To Start/Sit
Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
Tate’s quickly adapted to his new role as Calvin Johnson’s sidekick, totaling 16 receptions for 201 yards, though he hasn’t reached pay dirt yet this season. That could change against a N.Y. Jets secondary that’s let up seven touchdowns, the third-highest in the league.
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Yes the Colts face a Tennessee defense that just gave up a touchdown reception to a QUARTERBACK in Week 3, but the Titans No. 2 ranked secondary was gassed after their offense provided no help whatsoever and coughed up two turnovers. And yes Wayne is a No. 1 receiver with 16 catches for 188 yards off 25 targets, but neither he nor T.Y. Hilton has scored a touchdown yet, with the Colts tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and running back Ahmad Bradshaw scoring the most. Start Wayne if you’re in a PPR league, because that’s where his points will come from in Week 4, but he might be worth a sit in standard leagues.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
On the flip side, Wright could have a bust out game against the Colts No. 28 pass defense. Indianapolis is coming off an incredible defensive performance, but that was against a severely limited Jacksonville offense. The Colts are also banged up in the secondary with cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Greg Toler limited in practice this week. There are of course some fair concerns over Titans QB Jake Locker, but Wright has an excellent history against the Colts with 24 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown in four career games.
Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens
By all accounts Smith should be started in Week 4 against his old team, the Carolina Panthers. There’s no love lost between Smith and the Panthers, and he’s been electric with Baltimore, totaling 18 receptions for 290 yards and a score. He’s clearly Joe Flacco’s new favorite target. The Ravens are also at home, and tight Dennis Pitta’s season-ending injury could mean more targets for Smith. BUT, Carolina is coming off an embarrassing Thursday night loss to Pittsburgh, and should be equally fired up to play Smith. The Panthers have the No. 8 pass defense in the league, have an excellent pass rush with 8.0 sacks (third highest in the league) and they’ll be relatively healthy after 10 days or rest. Again Smith might be valuable in a PPR league, but otherwise standard league owners might consider sitting him.
Week 4 Sleepers
Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The rookie out of Penn State has shown improvement each week, even with Jacksonville’s offense among the worst in the league. He’s gradually increased his role in the passing game with one catch off three targets in Week 1, four off six targets in Week 2, and seven off 10 for 79 yards in Week 3. With Marqise Lee hurt, and Cecil Shorts III always an injury risk, Robinson could become fellow rookie quarterback Blake Bortles top target soon. Week 4’s matchup against San Diego isn’t exactly daunting, but the Chargers will be a challenge. Robinson is available in most leagues, and he could be worth a start in your No. 2 or 3 WR spot or your flex if options are low.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Another rookie, Adams has the potential to surpass the struggling Randall Cobb in the Packers passing attack. He hasn’t put up any big numbers in three games so far, but Green Bay needs another receiver to protect Jordy Nelson and running back Eddie Lacy. Adams also faces Chicago’s No. 16 pass defense this week.
Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets
To be clear, Amaro hasn’t exactly established himself in the Jets’ rush-first offense. He’s been targeted nine times, and caught six passes for 67 yards. But they’ll host Detroit’s top ranked defense in Week 4. Whether it’s Geno Smith or Michael Vick under center, Amaro could be among a number of Jets pass catchers who will have to carry much of the offensive load this week.
Levine Toilolo, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Now in his second season, Toilolo caught the third touchdown of his career last week. And while no one expects him to take Tony Gonzalez’s place, he’s one of the most protected tight ends in the league with running back Steven Jackson playing well (and staying healthy) and Julio Jones and Roddy White shooting down the sidelines. Atlanta’s on the road against Minnesota this week, a defense that’s allowing the 10 th most points to TEs so far this season. Devin Hester, Harry Douglas and White could also be limited by injuries, opening up chances for Toilolo.