Week 4 Fantasy Football Matchups

To prepare you as best we can for your week of Fantasy Football, we've devised this series of previews for each NFL game. We'll give you a taste of what to expect, then rank each significant Fantasy contributor on a scale from 0-5 logos (with five logos suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any logos suggests you probably shouldn't start him under any circumstances). The rankings take the matchup into account, but injuries and other significant factors also contribute.

Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Lucas Oil Stadium
The Seahawks should deploy their run game as best as they can in an effort to keep the clock moving and to keep Peyton Manning sidelined. Julius Jones should be plenty busy, and Edgerrin James could be motivated to have a few decent carries in his first game against his old team. Don't look for Seattle to throw much until it has to; the Colts are very stingy vs. the pass at home (one passing score allowed in Lucas Oil Stadium's nine-game history). That could negate any momentum Nate Burleson has coming into this game, not to mention Seneca Wallace decent play. As for the Colts, they should be able to do as they please. Seattle's pass defense is ranked seventh but struggled with the Bears last week and should be an easy match for Peyton Manning here. If a big lead is built, look for Donald Brown to get a lot of garbage-time yardage for the Colts.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Seneca Wallace QB Peyton Manning
Julius Jones RB Donald Brown
Edgerrin James   RB Joseph Addai
Nate Burleson WR Reggie Wayne
T.J. Houshmandzadeh WR Pierre Garcon
John Carlson TE Dallas Clark
Olindo Mare K Adam Vinatieri
Seahawks DST Colts
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Cleveland Browns Stadium
Cedric Benson should have a field day against a Browns run defense that continues to get trampled. Expect the Bengals to lean on Benson early and often to set up their pass game and hit Chad Johnson for modest gains. Also keep an eye on Andre Caldwell , who seems to be developing into a reliable short-area target for Carson Palmer . Caldwell has been targeted 19 times while Laveranues Coles has been thrown at 15 times and Chris Henry just eight times. Palmer's week might mirror his Week 3 effort. The Browns will try Derek Anderson at quarterback, and he'll probably take more chances with the ball than Brady Quinn did. But trusting him to be successful against a good Bengals defense is a mistake at this point. The same goes for pretty much everyone else in Cleveland, though Jerome Harrison opened some eyes last week and could see more playing time regardless of Jamal Lewis health. Don't use Braylon Edwards unless you have to.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Carson Palmer QB Derek Anderson
Cedric Benson RB Jerome Harrison
Brian Leonard   RB James Davis
Chad Johnson WR Braylon Edwards
Andre Caldwell WR Mike Furrey
Daniel Coats   TE Robert Royal
Shayne Graham K Billy Cundiff
Bengals DST Browns
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Gillette Stadium
Joe Flacco and the Ravens have beaten up on the Chiefs, Chargers and Browns this year, so the Patriots will be a tough challenge for the offense. As much as you might expect the Ravens to run the ball as they play to their strength and keep the Patriots' offense on the sideline, you can't help but think they're so confident in their passing game that they'll throw their fair share, too. The Patriots' secondary is well schemed and should be able to handle what the Ravens throw at them. Ultimately expect Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to be the primary weapons -- another 300-yard game by Joe Flacco against a pass defense that's giving up 174.0 pass yards per game would be a huge shock. New England will undoubtedly see the Ravens' top-ranked run defense as a challenge, so expect Tom Brady to sling the ball a lot. He'll be successful if Wes Welker is active, so keep tabs on that. The catch here is that the Ravens will blitz a ton and make Brady uncomfortable, and he has not fared well when he doesn't have time to throw. We could see a lot of short dump passes to Welker and Kevin Faulk to negate the blitz as well as the occasional draw play to Fred Taylor . This should be a telling game for both teams.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Joe Flacco QB Tom Brady
Willis McGahee RB Fred Taylor
Ray Rice RB Kevin Faulk
Derrick Mason WR Randy Moss
Kelley Washington WR Wes Welker
Todd Heap TE Benjamin Watson
Steven Hauschka K Stephen Gostkowski
Ravens DST Patriots
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Soldier Field
The Lions' game plan will depend heavily on Kevin Smith availability. If he's in there grinding away as usual, the team can feed off of him and use play-action to make strikes downfield to Calvin Johnson . If he's out, then the onus will pretty much be on Matthew Stafford to make plays and smart decisions in the pocket. He'll have problems doing that as the Bears have registered nine sacks (tied for second-best in the NFL) and Stafford's been sacked five times so far. It looks like Smith will start, but Stafford will have to stay clean and play mistake-free in order to give the Lions a chance. The Bears have a running back injury of their own as Matt Forte knee is gimpy. But even if he were to play, you have to expect Chicago to throw more than normal as the Lions' pass defense remains soft. The Bears are getting great play out of Devin Hester and Johnny Knox , and the Lions don't have the corners to keep up with them. Both might haul in long touchdown passes, and Cutler could have his best day as a Bear.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matthew Stafford QB Jay Cutler
Kevin Smith RB Matt Forte
Maurice Morris RB Adrian Peterson
Calvin Johnson WR Devin Hester
Bryant Johnson WR Johnny Knox
Brandon Pettigrew TE Greg Olsen
Jason Hanson K Robbie Gould
Lions DST Bears
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Reliant Stadium
Darren McFadden fans, this is it. If he can't run well against a Texans defense that has yielded a 100-yard rusher in every game this season, then something is rotten with him. McFadden has been underwhelming this year although his touches (17, 12 and 12 carries per game respectively with two catches a week) haven't been as plentiful as we believed they'd be. He also has faced defenses keying in on him because JaMarcus Russell can't throw a decent football. A lack of reliable targets also hurts -- which makes the matchup fairly decent for the Texans defense. They might follow suit and key in on McFadden and force Russell to win the game. The Texans' offense had some trouble with the Raiders defense last year, notably Nnamdi Asomugha taking away Andre Johnson . That might happen again this week but the Texans offense should still roll. They'll be balanced with Steve Slaton running the ball and Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels as strong options for Matt Schaub if Johnson is in fact neutralized.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
JaMarcus Russell QB Matt Schaub
Darren McFadden RB Steve Slaton
Michael Bush RB Chris Brown
Louis Murphy   WR Andre Johnson
Darrius Heyward-Bey   WR Kevin Walter
Zach Miller TE Owen Daniels
Sebastian Janikowski K Kris Brown
Raiders   DST Texans
N.Y. Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Arrowhead Stadium
This should be another one-sided game favoring the Giants. Expect New York to continue their game plan from last week: Run effectively, throw when needed. Unlike last week, the Giants' receivers have a better matchup as Kansas City's cornerbacks aren't as talented or crafty as Tampa's. Thus, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham should be good plays. Brandon Jacobs should wreak havoc as should Ahmad Bradshaw , if his foot lets him ( Gartrell Johnson would get his reps otherwise). The Chiefs have their work cut out for them here as the Giants will stack to stop Larry Johnson and force Matt Cassel to pass. Dwayne Bowe presence will help the Chiefs, but you could tell last week that they're going to start getting creative with their pass plays. We saw Jamaal Charles get involved last week, and Dwayne Bowe needs to help open some things up in the passing game. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see Cassel throw a touchdown or two. Just don't count on him or any Chiefs if you can help it this week.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Eli Manning QB Matt Cassel
Brandon Jacobs RB Larry Johnson
Ahmad Bradshaw RB Jamaal Charles
Mario Manningham WR Dwayne Bowe
Steve Smith WR Bobby Wade
Kevin Boss TE Sean Ryan
Lawrence Tynes K Ryan Succop
Giants DST Chiefs
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Interesting dilemma for the Titans, who have yet to win a game by leaning on their passing game but face a Jaguars team that has been destroyed by the pass through three weeks. Head coach Jeff Fisher knows he needs a win this week, so the Titans might opt to get back to the offense that saw them streak to 10-0 last season and run the ball a ton with Chris Johnson and LenDale White . If they're successful there, then they can use that to set up the pass. They're getting back tight end Bo Scaife this week, and between him, Nate Washington and Kenny Britt , they'll have some playmakers Kerry Collins can target when they're away from Rashean Mathis . Look for the Titans to be smart about their passing but focused on their run game. Jacksonville will do the same with Maurice Jones-Drew , but the team also cannot deny their matchup against a banged up and beaten Titans secondary. This could be a solid week for Mike Sims-Walker , who has six catches in each of his last two games and easily is the Jaguars' best target. Expect the Titans to key in on him while stacking against MJD, which might force David Garrard to lean on Torry Holt -- not that that's a good thing. The Titans have been good against the run, but the Jaguars must get Jones-Drew going if they're going to win this game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kerry Collins QB David Garrard
Chris Johnson RB Maurice Jones-Drew
LenDale White RB Greg Jones
Nate Washington WR Mike Sims-Walker
Kenny Britt WR Torry Holt
Justin Gage WR Mike Thomas
Bo Scaife TE Marcedes Lewis
Rob Bironas K Josh Scobee
Titans DST Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins
Sunday, 1:00 pm, FedEx Field
Josh Johnson takes over for the Bucs at quarterback, and while he's a very raw passer, he does bring a decent arm, good intelligence and solid mobility to the offense. He could keep some plays alive with his legs and has fair accuracy. That said, this is a tough matchup in which to make your first NFL start as the Redskins' secondary is solid and the Bucs' receiving corps is underwhelming. Look for Johnson to lean on his run game and target safe options like Kellen Winslow and Cadillac Williams out of the backfield. The Bucs' run game will be in trouble with Derrick Ward out, but Earnest Graham might serve as a life preserve since he's fairly fresh and could carve out a few runs. The Redskins won't find this matchup easy, and they can't copy the Giants' game plan because Clinton Portis can't be trusted for 20-plus carries, especially if he doesn't play. He'll put in his reps, and if he can't then Ladell Betts will, but this will come down to Jason Campbell playing well and having his receivers find the end zone. Chris Cooley should excel here as the Bucs' safeties aren't playing great, so there's a matchup that could be exploited. Santana Moss won't have it as easy as he did last week as the Bucs won't alligator-arm many of their tackles, nor will Moss get behind their secondary as easily. If Johnson can lead the Bucs to some scoring drives, we might be on the verge of another long week -- and season -- in Washington.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Josh Johnson   QB Jason Campbell
Cadillac Williams RB Clinton Portis
Earnest Graham RB Ladell Betts
Antonio Bryant   WR Santana Moss
Michael Clayton   WR Antwaan Randle El
Kellen Winslow TE Chris Cooley
Mike Nugent K Shaun Suisham
Buccaneers DST Redskins
N.Y. Jets at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Superdome
This matchup looked easier for the Jets a month ago, but the Saints have done a great job making opponents one-dimensional thanks to their strong run defense. The Jets haven't been running particularly well anyway, so look for Mark Sanchez to be tested early and often in this one. New Orleans' secondary is improved but they're still giving up chunks of passing yardage (in spite of last week's drubbing of the Bills). Look for Dustin Keller to move the chains and Jerricho Cotchery to be leaned on -- the one advantage is that the Jets should be able to give Sanchez time to throw as the Saints' pass rush only looked good last week against a bad Bills offensive line (two sacks in the first two weeks for New Orleans). Drew Brees might not have as much time to throw as the Jets will definitely be aggressive with their blitz. Unless they try to negate it with the run, which could also be tough for Pierre Thomas and the Saints, look for Brees to lean on short- and mid-range passes to Reggie Bush and Marques Colston . Lance Moore is a good play for this week too if he's healthy enough to go. The Saints will try some deep shots to Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem too, especially since the Jets' secondary is thin after Darrelle Revis (who will probably be assigned to cover Colston). It won't be easy for Brees, but he should get a shot at posting some good numbers after falling short in that area last week.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Mark Sanchez QB Drew Brees
Leon Washington RB Reggie Bush
Thomas Jones RB Pierre Thomas
Jerricho Cotchery WR Marques Colston
Chansi Stuckey WR Devery Henderson
Brad Smith   WR Lance Moore
David Clowney   WR Robert Meachem
Dustin Keller TE Jeremy Shockey
Jay Feely K John Carney
Jets DST Saints
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Land Shark Stadium
The Dolphins' front seven probably cannot wait to exploit the Bills' O-line and run game, which should happen almost right from first possession. The Bills' best chance is to run their no-huddle pass attack, try and tire out Dolphins pass rushers Joey Porter and Jason Taylor , and take smart shots downfield. With Marshawn Lynch back but lining up for only limited reps in the same spot, look for Fred Jackson to do some serious damage as a slot receiver. He's got great hands, and the trio of Jackson, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans will leave the Dolphins' secondary vulnerable. Trent Edwards might have a decent outing since the no-huddle will negate some of that Miami pass rush and keep his passes simple. Miami will start strong-armed quarterback Chad Henne , and he's got a great matchup. Not only will he face a Bills defense that ranks 28th vs. the pass, but three of their four starting defensive backs are hurt. His pass protection should be fine, so don't be surprised to see him connect short with Anthony Fasano and Davone Bess as well as deep with Ted Ginn . Plus, the Bills might be gearing up to stop Ronnie Brown , which might mean plenty of beatable single coverage for the Dolphins' receivers. Should be a nice start for Henne. As for Brown, he'll get his fair share of work and could see ample carries throughout the game, especially when the Dolphins try to protect a lead.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Trent Edwards QB Chad Henne
Fred Jackson RB Ronnie Brown
Marshawn Lynch RB Ricky Williams
Terrell Owens WR Ted Ginn
Lee Evans WR Davone Bess
Derek Fine TE Anthony Fasano
Rian Lindell K Dan Carpenter
Bills DST Dolphins
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Candlestick Park
The Rams' offense will be in the hands of Kyle Boller , who is more mobile than Marc Bulger . However, neither passer is exactly the picture of solid quarterbacking. Boller will likely play it safe and hand off a bunch to Steven Jackson , making use of his tight ends more than his receivers as the offense goes with a ball-control approach. Randy McMichael and Daniel Fells might each catch five passes; Donnie Avery is still a long ways from being a good addition for the Rams offense. Jackson does have a good history against the 49ers, but the team is playing solid run defense right now (fourth-best vs. the run, no rush TDs allowed) and will definitely be geared to slowing him down. Look for the 49ers to battle back with a healthy dose of Glen Coffee . The rookie wasn't great last week, but the 25 carries suggests that the coaching staff isn't afraid to run him a lot, and a week of preparation and practice reps should help him be up to the challenge of running through St. Louis. Shaun Hill should also continue to pass efficiently, and this might be the week to consider Josh Morgan a sleeper as the Rams have been beaten badly by the deep ball and also won't put much pressure on Hill. Vernon Davis should also get his fair share of targets, but Coffee should lead the charge.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kyle Boller QB Shaun Hill
Steven Jackson RB Glen Coffee
Kenneth Darby   RB Michael Robinson
Donnie Avery WR Josh Morgan
Keenan Burton   WR Isaac Bruce
Randy McMichael TE Vernon Davis
Daniel Fells TE Delanie Walker
Josh Brown K Joe Nedney
Rams DST 49ers
Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Invesco Field at Mile High
The Broncos' run defense is ranked seventh in the league, but expect the Cowboys to test them anyway. Denver has done well against weaker running teams with weaker offensive lines but will have its hands full against Dallas. Thus, Tashard Choice could be the main element to the Cowboys' offense, though he will split reps with a returning Marion Barber (my hunch is that Barber won't see as many touches as Choice since he's coming back from a quad injury). Expect the Cowboys to use the run to set up their passing game, though that will be a tough task for them. The Broncos are getting great play from Brian Dawkins and also are enjoying their improved secondary around Champ Bailey , so it's not a slam dunk that Romo will find wide-open targets. Jason Witten might especially have a hard time if he's not force-fed the ball within a short- to mid-range. Denver might have to abandon the run game and take to the air in the offense we envisioned them having back in the preseason. Dallas' run defense has shored itself up after Week 1 and could make things tough for Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter . Thus, look for Orton to spread the ball around as he has been for much of the year. Brandon Marshall could have a decent week but there's no guarantee he'll be the primary receiver here as the team likes Jabar Gaffney a lot and might even bring Eddie Royal out of mothballs. Also, if the Broncos fall behind, Orton will be passing, so don't count on Moreno or Buckhalter to be gems this week. Don't be surprised if this is a low-scoring game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tony Romo QB Kyle Orton
Tashard Choice RB Knowshon Moreno
Marion Barber RB Correll Buckhalter
Roy Williams WR Brandon Marshall
Patrick Crayton WR Jabar Gaffney
Miles Austin   WR Eddie Royal
Jason Witten TE Daniel Graham
Nick Folk K Matt Prater
Cowboys DST Broncos
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 8:20 pm, Heinz Field
Have the Chargers learned what kind of a team they are without LaDainian Tomlinson , and will it matter now that Tomlinson should return to the field? The Steelers continue to be strong against the run and Tomlinson is coming off an ankle injury. He'll have a hard time breaking away from the front seven, so expect Philip Rivers to take matters into his own hands. The Steelers secondary can be beat through the air, and no one is playing as consistently as Vincent Jackson . He should do well, and Antonio Gates might break his recent schneid against the Steelers with Troy Polamalu sidelined. As for Darren Sproles , the Steelers had a hard time with Cedric Benson when he ran to the outside, and that's where Sproles excels. Perhaps he can be a useful option. Pittsburgh should be focused on running the ball here, but the backfield is still in a state of flux: Willie Parker has a toe injury and is doubtful for the game, so Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore will see his reps and try to replicate his success against a shoddy Chargers run defense. Look for Mendenhall to work on running downs and at the goal line while Moore works the passing downs and the no-huddle offense. But even with these running backs playing, Roethlisberger will have to carry the load and should still have time to pass. While Quentin Jammer might occupy Santonio Holmes , Hines Ward and Heath Miller should be excellent options with deep passes to Mike Wallace mixed in. This should be a fun game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Philip Rivers QB Ben Roethlisberger
Darren Sproles RB Rashard Mendenhall
LaDainian Tomlinson RB Mewelde Moore
Vincent Jackson WR Santonio Holmes
Chris Chambers WR Hines Ward
Malcom Floyd   WR Mike Wallace
Antonio Gates TE Heath Miller
Nate Kaeding K Jeff Reed
Chargers DST Steelers
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Monday, 8:30 pm, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Aaron Rodgers has not fared well in his two starts against the Vikings and still has a tough matchup here. Ryan Grant history against the Vikings is fairly good considering their stiff run defense, but he hasn't broken out of his typical early-season slump yet and might have some trouble. That puts the ball back in Rodgers' hands, and with an offensive line that might not be able to protect him from the Vikings' pass rush, he could be in for a tough night. If he's ineffective, then Greg Jennings and Donald Driver , who each will face good cornerbacks in Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin , will also be challenged. The Packers might lean on their tight ends much like the 49ers did last week with Vernon Davis , and that could open things up for Rodgers. The Vikings' offense is in a quandary this week: Do they let Brett Favre loose to throw against his old team, or do they pound the Packers' weak run defense with Adrian Peterson ? AP has three 100-yard games in four tries against Green Bay and should get a fourth. Favre can use Peterson's runs to set up looks downfield, utilizing Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe , since neither receiver is expected to be blanketed by Charles Woodson or Al Harris . The funny thing about this matchup is that both teams run a similar offense and both have most of the same strengths on defense. The difference might be in the Vikings' pass rush vs. the Packers' pass rush.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Aaron Rodgers QB Brett Favre
Ryan Grant RB Adrian Peterson
DeShawn Wynn   RB Chester Taylor
Greg Jennings WR Percy Harvin
Donald Driver WR Bernard Berrian
Jermichael Finley TE Visanthe Shiancoe
Mason Crosby K Ryan Longwell
Packers DST Vikings
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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