Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts
All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA), which was updated for the first time this week to include 2017 data. Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
In Week 3, Sammy Watkins (concussion), Doug Baldwin (groin), Melvin Gordon (knee), Darren Sproles (ACL), and Matt Forte (toe) suffered injuries that may affect their availability for Week 4. Injuries cause fantasy owners problems, but they can also create opportunity. With that in mind, let’s dive into several Sneaky Starts for Week 4.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals (vs. SF)
Palmer bounced back after a rough Week 1 in Detroit by throwing for 657 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Colts and the Cowboys. The 49ers own the No. 20 QB aFPA, and just yielded 292 yards and 3 touchdowns to Jared Goff. This is a favorable home matchup for Palmer, who has averaged 305 yards and 1.67 touchdowns per game in nine home games since the 2016 season.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (vs. PHI)
Rivers had a brutal Week 3, throwing three picks against the division rival Chiefs. He gets an easier matchup against the Eagles, who just gave up 366 yards and 3 touchdowns to Eli Manning. Consider this: In 13 games since 2010, after failing to throw a touchdown in the previous game, Rivers has averaged 17.9 fantasy points and 2.1 touchdowns in his next game.
Alex Smith, Chiefs (vs. WAS)
Smith doesn’t have a particularly good matchup—Washington is No. 2 in QB aFPA—but Smith is worth a start this week given his year-to-date production (he’s the No. 2 fantasy quarterback) and the Chiefs’ implied total of 28.0 points, which means oddsmakers in Vegas expect Kansas City to score a few touchdowns in this one. Smith has thrown 7 touchdowns and is averaging 9.21 yards per attempt through three weeks. He can also put up some points with his legs if necessary.
Trevor Siemian, Broncos (vs. OAK)
Siemian had a rough outing in Buffalo in Week 3, but is primed to bounce back at home against the Raiders (No. 30 in QB aFPA). In his last two home games, Siemian has thrown for an average of 225 yards and 3.0 touchdowns while adding another 16.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns in the running game. The Raiders have yielded five touchdowns to Kirk Cousins and Josh McCown over the past two weeks.
Tyrod Taylor, Bills (@ ATL)
Buffalo isn’t going to be able to hide in its proverbial turtle shell against the Falcons, who are going to put some points up at home. Even if the passing game isn’t going well, Taylor is able to generate fantasy points with his legs. There could be quite a bit of garbage time production in this one as well.
Jay Cutler, Dolphins (vs. NO, game in London)
Cutler was a Sneaky Start in Week 3, and if not for a last-second touchdown against the Jets, he would have failed miserably. Possibly against my better judgment, I’m going back to the well for another week given his matchup against the Saints (No. 26 in QB aFPA), who are coming off a big road win against a division rival.
Deshaun Watson, Texans (vs. TEN)
Watson’s passing production has been spotty, but he acquitted himself well against the Patriots in Week 3, throwing for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns, while adding 41 yards as a runner. In fact, he has 124 rushing yards (and a touchdown) on the year, which adds another path to fantasy production if the passing game struggles against the Titans. Tennessee is No. 28 in QB aFPA, so Watson and the Texans should be able to move the ball.
Andy Dalton, Bengals (@ CLE)
It seems as if Bill Lazor’s promotion (to offensive coordinator) was good for Dalton. After a brutal first two weeks, he played pretty well against the Packers in Week 3, throwing for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns against a shaky Green Bay secondary. The Browns have struggled against the pass, yielding 259 yards and a touchdown to Jacoby Brissett after giving up 2 touchdown passes to Joe Flacco in Week 2.
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