Sneaky Starts: Week 4
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 great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). 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. And now that we have three weeks under our proverbial belts, our aFPA has been updated with 2018 data.
Last week, I discussed Ryan Fizpatrick, Jared Goff, Ryan Tannehill, Isaiah Crowell, Giovani Bernard, James White, Matt Breida, Will Fuller, Chris Godwin, John Brown and Tyler Boyd in this space. Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 4:
Andy Dalton, Bengals (@ ATL)
Through three weeks, Dalton is averaging 287 yards passing and 2.7 touchdowns per game. (Pay no attention to his 1.7 interceptions or to the man behind the curtain.) The Falcons are currently missing several defenders and, as a result, are No. 28 in QB aFPA. Atlanta shut down Nick Foles in Week 1, but yielded a combined 731 yards and six touchdowns to Cam Newton and Drew Brees over the last two weeks.
Case Keenum, Broncos (vs. KC)
Keenum opened the season with 329/3 against the Seahawks before a poor outing against the Raiders (which was saved by a rushing touchdown) and another bad game against the Ravens. He should bounce back against the Chiefs, who are last in the league in QB aFPA and have yielded 8.0 YPA and eight passing touchdowns through three weeks.
Eli Manning, Giants (vs. NO)
After a poor Week 1 against a very good Jacksonville defense, Manning posted a reasonable 279/1 against the Cowboys in Week 2 and 297/2 against the Texans last week. The Saints come to town this week, and Eli and the Giants’ passing attack should be salivating. New Orleans gave up 374/5 to Matt Ryan last week after yielding 417/4 to Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (@ OAK)
Mayfield draws his first start in Oakland against the league’s No. 23 QB aFPA defense. He completed 17-of-23 passes for 201 yards (8.74 YPA) in just over a half of play against the Jets last Thursday night and will have a few extra days to prepare for the Raiders. Oakland has been a little hit or miss against the pass—working backwards, Ryan Tannehill (289/3), Case Keenum (222/0) and Jared Goff (233/2) had varying degrees of success against the Raiders.
Joe Flacco, Ravens (@ PIT)
Flacco is averaging 43.0 pass attempts through three weeks and has posted the following lines: 277/1 (vs. Denver), 376/2 (at Cincinnati) and 236/3 (vs. Buffalo). This game has a total of 51.0 and Pittsburgh (No. 27 in QB aFPA) has been filleted in recent weeks by Ryan Fitzpatrick (411/3) and Patrick Mahomes (326/6).
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (@ NE)
This smells like a bounce-back game for the Patriots, but at the very least Tannehill should be in a position to throw the ball more than he has so far this season (24.7 pass attempts through three weeks). He’s been coolly efficient in leading the Dolphins to a 3-0 start, posting 230/2 against the Titans, 168/2 (while adding 44 rushing yards) against the Jets and 289/3 against the Raiders. This is not a bad spot against the Patriots, who are No. 24 in QB aFPA. The last time Tannehill played in Foxboro (back in 2016), he completed 32-of-45 passes for 389 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 35 yards as a rusher.
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