Fantasy Football

Peyton, Eli smart starts for Week 4

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Michael Harmon

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Shake off the misery of Week 3. It was a wild and unpredictable week, and many of our would-be heroes failed miserably. Look at your list of the top 12 quarterbacks entering Week 3. Virtually every member of that list failed miserably, producing either one or zero touchdown tosses. Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo were all shut out. Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton produced a single touchdown. Meanwhile, players such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton and Matt Schaub lit up the scoreboard.

One of the breakthrough heroes in 2012 has been Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco guided the Ravens to his third win in 17 days with a strong effort against the Cleveland defense. He (and all of his supporters in fantasyland) wishes he could have that early red zone interception back. Owners still had to celebrate his 356 passing yards with a passing touchdown (Torrey Smith) and a rushing touchdown.

With one game in the books, we’re charging ahead to the Sunday slate. Is your squad facing a “must-win” situation? If so, you might have to get creative and toss up a “Hail Mary,” playing the matchup over the name.

Let’s get into this week’s “Lineup Calls.”



(Exclude Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers)


Peyton Manning vs. OAK
Manning and the Denver offense have seemingly slept-walked through the first halves of the past two weeks against the Falcons and Texans. He failed to recover for fantasy owners in Week 2 (241 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions), but finished well against the Texans (330 yards with two touchdowns).

Manning is a prime play this week against the beleaguered Oakland secondary. The Raiders have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and will be shuttling in several backups at cornerback. The Oakland defense has surrendered six touchdown passes without producing an interception. Big days are on tap for Manning’s talented trio of receivers Thomas, Decker and Tamme).

Eli Manning at PHI
Manning is down a few slots this week against the aggressive Philadelphia defense. He’s produced one quality fantasy outing in three starts, the ridiculous 510-yard performance against the Buccaneers.

The Eagles rank third against quarterbacks following matchups against Brandon Weeden (you remember the 5.1 Passer Rating?), Joe Flacco and Kevin Kolb. The Giants likely return Hakeem Nicks to the mix following the long layoff after the Week 3 demolition of the Panthers. Manning will need to contend with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha on the edges, but fantasy owners can find some consolation in Larry Fitzgerald’s dominant Week 3 effort.

Matt Schaub vs. TEN
My only fear in this matchup is that Arian Foster and Ben Tate run wild, thereby returning Schaub to the tepid stat lines from Weeks 1 and 2. He rope-a-doped the fantasy community in Week 3 and blew up the stat sheet with 290 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Broncos.

He’s in a fantastic spot this week against the terrible Tennessee secondary. The Titans have surrendered nearly 1,000 passing yards through three weeks and eight touchdowns. Do you need more? Opposing quarterbacks have completed 76.3% of their pass attempts.

Matthew Stafford vs. MIN
Fantasy owners who reached out to grab Stafford in the early rounds of this summer’s draft continue to await that signature performance. He’s yet to register multiple touchdown passes in any of his three starts. Last week’s furious comeback against the Titans was exacted by backup Shaun Hill, who delivered big plays while Stafford stood on the sideline.

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Stafford practiced on Thursday and, barring a setback, he’ll battle the Minnesota secondary. The Vikings are a middling unit against opposing quarterbacks (16th), surrendering 229.3 passing yards and 1.7 passing touchdowns per game. It’s hardly a “get right” start, but Stafford warrants his usual QB1 consideration here.

Philip Rivers at KC
Rivers failed for fantasy owners in a huge home tilt against the Falcons. He was one of many big-time quarterbacks to leave fantasy owners flat in Week 3. The Falcons actually shut Rivers out of the end zone, limiting him to 173 yards with two interceptions.

He should fare better this week against Kansas City on the road, a unit that has surrendered the second-most points to quarterbacks. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 239 passing yards and 2.7 passing touchdowns per game.

Michael Vick vs. NYG
Vick received the dreaded “vote of confidence” this week following three consecutive erratic outings. He’s already committed nine turnovers against four touchdowns. I would be remiss if I failed to note that Vick logged strong fantasy totals despite the frequent turnovers in Weeks 1 and 2.

Still, it’s been a frustrating grind for Vick’s fantasy owners. This appears, on paper, to be a fantastic spot against the injury-ravaged New York secondary. The Giants ceded big totals to Tony Romo and Josh Freeman before obliterating Cam Newton in the curious Thursday night game that began Week 3. New York has already turned in six interceptions.

Andy Dalton at JAC
Following a rough opener against the Ravens, Dalton rallied to throw three touchdown passes in back-to-back games (CLE and WAS). He’s an intriguing play this week, though hardly a slam-dunk, as Jacksonville has ceded just two passing touchdowns through three weeks. However, this Jacksonville defense also doesn’t get after the passer well, producing just two sacks thus far. BenJarvus Green-Ellis grinds out big yardage on the ground, thereby affording Dalton ample opportunities downfield this one.




Christian Ponder at DET
Ponder appeared on the late-week injury report because of a neck issue. He’s expected to play and ranks as a back-end QB1 for me this week. I love what we’ve seen from Kyle Rudolph and the versatile Percy Harvin alongside ROBO-back Adrian Peterson. The arrival of Jerome Simpson as a deep threat for Ponder is might enticing against this terrible Detroit secondary.

The Lions have surrendered the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (267 yards and 1.7 touchdowns per game).

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Carson Palmer at DEN
Palmer posted huge yardage totals in Weeks 1 and 2 against the Chargers and Dolphins with a single touchdown pass in each game. His yardage total dipped against the Steelers in Week 3, but the veteran quarterback tossed three touchdown passes.

Palmer’s a sneaky play this week against the Broncos on the road. The Broncos have allowed multiple passing touchdowns to each of their first three opponents (sixth-most fantasy points allowed to quarterback). Darrius Heyward-Bey won’t be available to Palmer, but speedsters Denarius Moore and Rod Streater will team with Darren McFadden to wreak havoc downfield.

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. NE
Fitzpatrick isn’t locking up high passing yardage numbers this season, but he has been effective in the red zone. He’s logged eight touchdown passes against three interceptions (Week 1 against the Jets) while averaging 194 yards per game.

Taken further, Fitzpatrick has averaged 270 passing yards and 1.4 touchdown passes per game in five games against the Patriots. Note that he’s also committed 14 turnovers during this five-game stretch. I expect to see him attack the beleaguered New England secondary.

Matt Cassel vs. SD
Cassel was offered a highly advantageous spot in Week 3 against the Saints. He produced just 248 yards with two turnovers while absorbing three sacks.

I put him on the board for Week 4 as a deep option against the Chargers (middle of the pack). Quarterbacks have averaged 248.7 yards and 1.7 touchdown passes against the Chargers through three weeks.




Tony Romo vs. CHI
Romo came out blazing against the New York secondary in Week 1. He’s produced a single touchdown with four turnovers in his past two games against Seattle and Tampa Bay.

I’m staying away from this matchup (see below). The Bears are struggling offensively, but the defense has been fantastic through three weeks (Colts, Packers and Rams). Say what you will about the Colts and Rams, but the Bears held the Packers in check in Week 2. Chicago’s defense has allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.


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Jay Cutler at DAL
Cutler ranks among the biggest fantasy disappointments in the early showing. He posted a huge season debut against the Colts before slumping terribly against the Packers (terrorized) and Rams. Cutler averaged 154.5 yards in these two games with one touchdown and five interceptions.

Cutler may come out and challenge Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne with great success, prompting renewed optimism about the Chicago offense. The return of Matt Forte would help that cause, but I can’t bank on it with DeMarcus Ware looming.

Cam Newton at ATL
What do you do with Newton? He slept-walked through the Thursday tilt against the Giants in Week 3, producing 242 passing yards with three interceptions and a rushing touchdown. He completed 21-of-35 pass attempts in Atlanta last season with three interceptions, 47 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. I anticipate that he and the Panthers rebound somewhat from that embarrassing Week 3 loss to the Giants, but I certainly don’t believe that he solves Mike Nolan’s defense.

Josh Freeman vs. WAS
Freeman posted a huge Week 2 effort against the Giants. He then continued his hot hand in Week 3 with a touchdown pass in the Buccaneers’ opening drive. Freeman was absolutely pathetic in every series thereafter.

Freeman’s accuracy and inconsistency issues are problematic to me. On paper, it’s a fantastic matchup for Freeman against the Redskins. Washington has allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterback, including nine touchdown romps and 325.7 yards per game. I’m merely fearful that Freeman underperforms in a big spot.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Vikings, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Ravens, Chargers, Texans, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Forte, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Rod Streater

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