Here we are, week 4 of the fantasy football season. This is the week where we can look back and begin to identify trends a little more easily. As the old saying goes, "once is an accident, twice is coincidence, but three times is a trend." There weren’t too many surprises in Week 3, although how many people thought Jamaal Charles would put up over 200 yards on the ground against the Saints? And just how bad is the Saints defense this year? (hint: they’re really, really bad…start all your players against the Saints!) The following players all put up 15 or more points last week: Kyle Rudolph, Nate Burleson, T.Y. Hilton, Heath Miller, Jason Hanson, Golden Tate and Mikel Leshoure; were they in your starting lineup? The following guys all scored less than 7 points…hopefully they were on your bench: Pierre Thomas, Josh Freeman, Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews, Roddy White, Tony Romo, Frank Gore, DeSean Jackson and Victor Cruz.
As I have mentioned before, these articles consider the ESPN and Yahoo standard scoring projections for players at each offensive position (QB, RB, WR and TE). I’m going to choose 2 players at every position to highlight: one as a "stud" and one as a "dud". A Stud is one who I think will significantly beat their projected total, and a Dud is one who I think will fall short of their projected total. It’s also worth mentioning that generally speaking, I’ll try to avoid players with injuries as it’s too easy to pick them as Duds if they’re unlikely to play. I will also keep a running tally at the end of the post each week to keep track of the accuracy of my predictions. If I can do better than 50% by season’s end, I’ll call it a success. So read on after the jump (assuming we still have those) to see who my picks are for Week 4.
QB Stud: Christian Ponder vs DET
You know who has been playing really well from a statistical perspective? Christian Ponder, that’s who. He has progressed each and every week from a fantasy perspective and now he gets to face the Lions who have looked terrible against a pretty mediocre crop of QBs (Bradford, Smith, Locker). They are ranked 23rd against the pass, and need I remind you that Ponder just put up over 20 fantasy points against a tough 49ers defense. And oh yeah, he gets his deep threat Jerome Simpson back this week. ESPN (Viking’s Hater Network) has Ponder projected for 12.7 points this week. Yahoo isn’t much better pegging Ponder for only 13.75. I think he’ll be good for at least 17 fantasy points this week.
QB Dud: Cam Newton vs ATL
What the heck happened to Cam Newton? He was fantasy football’s darling during his rookie year last year, but this year he is only averaging 16 points per week. Outside of Steve Smith, and maybe Greg Olsen to some extent, Newton is devoid of weapons in the passing game, and with Jonathan Stewart banged up, he’s not getting much support in the run game either. Even his rushing totals are not what they were last year. This week he gets the red hot Atlanta Falcons defense, ranked 2nd best against QBs. They held Petyon Manning and Philip Rivers to under 8 points each. Yikes. I’m not sure what Yahoo sees in this one, as they have Newton projected for 19.21 points. I think ESPN is right to be more conservative here as their projection is only 13.5. I think he’ll fall short of the Yahoo projection by at least 4 points this week.
RB Stud: Cedric Benson vs NO
Did you read what I wrote above about the Saints? Benson hasn’t been terrible as a Packer, and I bet Green Bay tries to get their run game going after giving up all those sacks to Seattle. Benson has gotten 17 and 20 carries the past two weeks and it has resulted in double digit fantasy points both weeks. The Saints currently boast the league’s worst run defense, and it’s not even close. For some bizarre reason, Yahoo has Benson projected for only 6.96 points. This is just way off. ESPN’s projection of 16.2 seems much closer. I think he’ll beat the Yahoo projection by at least 4 points, making it a 3rd week in a row for double digit points for Benson.
RB Dud: Steven Jackson vs SEA
For the past couple of years fantasy owners have been wondering when S-Jax would hit the wall. My friends, so far, that time is now. Yeah, he’s banged up a bit, and earlier I said I wouldn’t put injured players in my picks. But he's likely to play despite the injury, and there is just no way Steven Jackson puts up double-digit fantasy points this week. He’s facing the 5th ranked rushing defense of Seattle, is still getting over a groin injury, and oh yeah, he’s averaging 5.9 points this season. He hasn’t found the end-zone, and hasn’t topped 100 all purpose yards yet this year (both used to be bread and butter). ESPN foolishly has him projected for 11.6 points this week, and even Yahoo has him projected for 11.69. I think he’ll fall short of both by at least 4 points this week.
WR Stud: Leonard Hankerson vs TB
This may seem like an odd pick and I'll admit it's a little bit of a sleeper pick, but hear me out. After not getting any targets week 1, he was worked into the offense in week 2 and saw 3 targets: catching 2 balls for 68 yards and a TD. His role increased last week with Garcon out, and on 7 targets he caught 4 balls for 56 yards. Garcon is not a sure bet to play this Sunday, but guess what: the Redskins get Tampa Bay, the 2nd worst fantasy defense against wide-outs. They are only marginally better than the Saints. Hankerson was a deep sleeper on many expert draft rankings, and I think he has a good shot to beat his ESPN projection of 4.1 this week as well as his Yahoo projection of 5.76. It’s a bit of a gut call, but I think he’ll put up at least 7 points this week, and will make a decent flex play for someone hurting at WR.
WR Dud: Steve Johnson vs NE
I like Stevie Johnson, I really do. And he’s historically done really well against the Patriots. Plus, he’s averaging 11.7 points this season. But you know what else? He’s scored a TD in every game so far this year. Will that trend continue against an improved Patriots defensive secondary? I don’t think so. If you take away the TDs, Johnson is averaging 4 catches for 57 yards. Yuck. So, this pick is playing the odds that Johnson regresses towards the mean and doesn’t find the end-zone this week. ESPN has him projected as the 5th best WR for week 4 at 15.3, and Yahoo as the 3rd best WR at 12.15. I think he’ll fall short of Yahoo’s projection by at least 4 points.
TE Stud: Owen Daniels vs TEN
Do you know who the most targeted player on the Houston Texans is after 3 weeks? It’s not Andre Johnson. It’s Owen Daniels. Daniels is also tied with AJ in receptions at 13 on the year. He’s also averaging 7.3 points on the year. It’s true that the Texans are a run-first team, but Schaub is beginning to throw more and more each week. And even better, the Texans get the Titans this week, whose defense is league worst against the TE. Awesome. Yahoo has Daniels projected for only 5.35 points, while ESPN is a much more realistic 10.8. I think he’ll beat the Yahoo projection by at least 3 points.
TE Dud: Jermaine Gresham vs JAC
Here’s a guy who has the build to be an elite TE in the NFL, but for some reason gets relegated to blocking duties a fair amount. He did have a pretty good week last week putting up 67 yards and a TD, but he also faces the Jaguars and their 9th best defense against the TE this week. Despite the good week 3, he’s still only averaging 6.4 points this season, and is way behind AJ Green in the target count (34 to 20). He’s also only 4 targets ahead of Andrew Hawkins. ESPN’s projection of 9.2 seems a bit high. I think Yahoo’s 5.16 projection is much better. My prediction is that he’ll fall short of ESPN by at least 3 points.
RB Stevan Ridley
WR Wes Welker
WR Brian Hartline
TE Tony Gonzalez
TE Jacob Tamme
QB Brandon Weeden
QB Jake Locker
RB Willis McGahee
Overall Record: 13-11, 54% accurate
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Blair Walsh Project 1-2
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