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. You should be able to compare the ratings for the players on your team and make an educated pick on who should start -- and sit -- in your lineup .

Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
If Knowshon Moreno is out again, the Broncos are going to have to ride the arm of Kyle Orton . Though the Titans did give up some good yards and scores to Darren McFadden and Ahmad Bradshaw this season, the fact is that Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter are not in the same class. Don't expect much from them, but look for the Broncos to continue to vary their passing offense and look for mismatches against rookie cornerback Alterraun Verner and nickelback Vincent Fuller . You're gonna roll your eyes at this, but all the Broncos' receivers could be equals statistically. If two have a chance to play bigger than the rest, it's Eddie Royal (slot presence) and Jabar Gaffney (matched up on the 5-foot-10 Verner). You know what the Titans are going to do, and don't expect them to get away from giving Chris Johnson a lot of work. The Broncos have a Top 10 run defense and they've been impressive, but I don't think they can keep up with Johnson. The Titans better come up with a ground game; with the Broncos' cornerbacks healthy again and Champ Bailey locked in on Nate Washington , it could be a tough week for Vince Young . The door is open for Kenny Britt to score again, though -- he has all seven of his catches including a touchdown haul over his last two games.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kyle Orton QB Vince Young
Laurence Maroney RB Chris Johnson
Correll Buckhalter RB Javon Ringer
Jabar Gaffney WR Kenny Britt
Eddie Royal WR Nate Washington
Brandon Lloyd WR Justin Gage
Demaryius Thomas WR Lavelle Hawkins
Daniel Graham   TE Bo Scaife
Matt Prater K Rob Bironas
Broncos DST Titans
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Penalties and some spotty play from Carson Palmer has handcuffed this offense; look for them to be more focused on the fundamentals in this game. The one thing they can typically rely on is their running game, so expect a healthy dose of Cedric Benson . There is one solid matchup to exploit: Chad Johnson against either rookie cornerback Joe Haden or veteran Eric Wright . Ochocinco did well at Cleveland last year and given how the Ravens exposed Wright last week, he's ripe to be picked on again. Expect the Browns to lean on Peyton Hillis on the ground and as a receiver. He'll kill the clock, he'll move the chains and he'll be a threat to the Bengals defense. The team talked this week about getting Mohamed Massaquoi more involved in the offense, but Josh Cribbs has been the more consistent threat. Still not a great matchup for the Browns' receivers or tight end Benjamin Watson as the Bengals' secondary has overcome a tough start at New England and played well recently.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Carson Palmer QB Seneca Wallace
Cedric Benson RB Peyton Hillis
Bernard Scott RB Jerome Harrison
Chad Johnson WR Josh Cribbs
Terrell Owens WR Mohamed Massaquoi
Jermaine Gresham TE Benjamin Watson
Mike Nugent K Phil Dawson
Bengals DST Browns
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Not many people know much about new 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, but he's called plays before and like any fresh coordinator is expected to lean on the pillars of his offense. One hint: Johnson was the quarterbacks coach before getting promoted, so don't be shocked if we see a lot of plays designed for Alex Smith to get the ball into Vernon Davis hands. Johnson also has spent a lot of time learning the spread offense, and that could help Michael Crabtree, who is familiar with the scheme from his college days. Don't expect miracles, but at the very least Davis and Frank Gore should see big roles in this game, especially since the Falcons have been susceptible to the big run and were exposed by Jeremy Shockey last week. The Falcons will surely test that 49ers defensive front, much like they did last year in San Francisco when Michael Turner scored three times and ran for 97 yards. They should be successful there as well as through the air. Roddy White should get his, and look for Tony Gonzalez to once again put up big numbers against the 49ers' struggling safeties. San Francisco has yielded touchdowns to tight ends in their last two games and Gonzalez should make it three in a row.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Alex Smith QB Matt Ryan
Frank Gore RB Michael Turner
Brian Westbrook   RB Jason Snelling
Michael Crabtree WR Roddy White
Josh Morgan WR Harry Douglas
Vernon Davis TE Tony Gonzalez
Joe Nedney K Matt Bryant
49ers DST Falcons
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
An extremely challenging matchup for the Ravens' offense. They have not been able to run the ball well all season and the Steelers have been strong against the run. They're healthy, unlike the last time these teams met and Ray Rice went bananas. Rice is banged up, so expect his role to be limited and for Willis McGahee to take on a bit more work. But the ball will end up in Joe Flacco hands, and this will have to be a game where the addition of Anquan Boldin pays off. The Ravens got him for the specific purpose of spreading defenses and forcing them to not stack up against the run. Boldin should do about as well here as he did against the Jets in Week 1, so don't be afraid to start him. That doesn't mean Flacco will play big here -- in fact, his entire five-game history against the Steelers (postseason included) has been mostly bad: Four touchdowns, six interceptions, three fumbles lost and one game over 200 yards passing. Even with Boldin on his team, it's not going to be as easy as it was last week. The Steelers also have their hands full, but they have to have liked what they saw when Peyton Hillis racked up 144 yards last week. Look for the Steelers' O-line and other blockers to make it a point to flush linebacker Ray Lewis out of plays and give Rashard Mendenhall every chance to keep the chains moving and crack this run defense. Charlie Batch threw two fluke-ish touchdowns last week, but the Steelers do have a real good history of using their fastest receivers against the Ravens. Santonio Holmes used to be a lock to score in every game against the Ravens; Mike Wallace could be that man here.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Joe Flacco QB Charlie Batch
Ray Rice RB Rashard Mendenhall
Willis McGahee RB Mewelde Moore
Anquan Boldin WR Mike Wallace
Derrick Mason WR Hines Ward
Todd Heap TE Heath Miller
Billy Cundiff K Jeff Reed
Ravens DST Steelers
N.Y. Jets at Buffalo Bills - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Stunningly, the Jets' passing game is ahead of their running game, but that's going to change. Head coach Rex Ryan will take one look at the Bills' sorry defensive front and attack with a deluge of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene . The Jets shouldn't have to pass a whole bunch here. Buffalo's offense is in the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick now, and he's more of a gutsy gunslinger than Trent Edwards . Lee Evans has been as exciting as a turtle race so far this year but that could change with Fitzpatrick under center and the growing threat of rookie C.J. Spiller out of the backfield. The Jets will still be without a healthy Darrelle Revis and Evans is just as likely to burn them as Brandon Marshall was. He and Spiller might be all the Bills have as their run game is going to get stuffed like Thanksgiving turkey by the Jets run defense.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Mark Sanchez QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
LaDainian Tomlinson RB Marshawn Lynch
Shonn Greene RB C.J. Spiller
Braylon Edwards WR Lee Evans
Jerricho Cotchery WR Roscoe Parrish
Dustin Keller TE Jonathan Stupar
Nick Folk K Rian Lindell
Jets DST Bills
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
Let's be honest: The only Lions you're interested in here are Jahvid Best and Calvin Johnson . Funny, so are the Packers. Playing without Best for much of last week, Johnson was double- and triple-teamed by the Vikings, leading to a six-catch, 56-yard game. Best is expected to play on Sunday, but he'll be hindered by his turf toe injury and the Packers' solid run defense. With that being the case, look for the Packers to swamp Megatron. That will open the door for Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew to attract some targets, but they'll still be covered by the Packers' tough safeties. Detroit's offense should pop again when Matthew Stafford and Nate Burleson get healthy. Meanwhile, I'd be shocked if Aaron Rodgers didn't have a big game. The Lions' secondary is very soft and the Packers, even on a short week, should throttle them. John Kuhn is especially appealing this week because he's been doing a decent job running the ball and could plop into the end zone for an easy score, maybe in garbage time.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Shaun Hill QB Aaron Rodgers
Jahvid Best RB John Kuhn
Maurice Morris RB Brandon Jackson
Calvin Johnson WR Greg Jennings
Bryant Johnson   WR Donald Driver
Tony Scheffler TE Jermichael Finley
Jason Hanson K Mason Crosby
Lions DST Packers
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
The Panthers have to run it a ton here. What else can they do effectively? And, what else could the matchup possibly dictate? The Saints are giving up 145.0 rush yards per game on average and have had their hands full historcially against DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart . Granted, it's easy to defend against the Panthers now with Jimmy Clausen under center -- double-team Steve Smith and bring the safety in to focus on the run -- but Carolina seems to consistently give the Saints fits. You can't help but think they'll put up a fight here. New Orleans' run game is gimpy with a hobbled Pierre Thomas and rookie Chris Ivory likely to share work. Thomas is a game-time decision; if he's out then Ivory is likely to have a pretty decent role. That will put plenty of the game plan on Drew Brees shoulders, and with a sore knee of his own he could have some issues. Some. This Panthers secondary is decent, but they've given up six passing touchdowns on the season. With little-to-no pass rush to speak of, Brees will have time to hit his targets, and if that happens then there will be some big gains through the air. One player who might not get many is Marques Colston , who has been taken away by defenses this season and doesn't have a glowing history against the Panthers (two catches in his last two games against them). Lance Moore was called a sleeper in this space last week and is again this week, along with Devery Henderson .
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jimmy Clausen QB Drew Brees
DeAngelo Williams RB Pierre Thomas
Jonathan Stewart RB Chris Ivory
Steve Smith WR Devery Henderson
Brandon LaFell   WR Marques Colston
David Gettis   WR Lance Moore
Dante Rosario TE Jeremy Shockey
John Kasay K John Carney
Panthers DST Saints
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams - Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
The biggest mistake the Redskins made last week was giving up on their ground game too early against St. Louis. The Seahawks should learn (and benefit) from that mistake and give Justin Forsett another legitimate chance to be their primary ball carrier. Forsett's versatility was on display last week and it should be here too -- he's clearly been the best back in Seattle's stable and only should lose some touches on longer third downs to Leon Washington . Forsett should also benefit from the return of offensive linemen Russell Okung and Chester Pitts this week -- a big help. Expect him to get close to 20 touches, and that will take pressure off of Matt Hasselbeck to bring this one home for the Seahawks. FYI, John Carlson is the most targeted player on the Seahawks, followed by Deion Branch , followed by Mike Williams . The Rams have done pretty well against tight ends but not receivers, giving Branch some sleeper potential. St. Louis doesn't have a big-play receiver, though Mark Clayton is getting close. He's managed to put up pretty good stats in every game this season and should be a factor in Week 4. Seattle's pass defense is ranked 30th and got exposed last week by the Chargers. Sam Bradford might have a bit of a pass rush in his face, but so long as Steven Jackson is in the game and providing a huge rushing threat, the Rams will have chances to move the ball through the air.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Hasselbeck QB Sam Bradford
Justin Forsett RB Steven Jackson
Leon Washington   RB Kenneth Darby
Deion Branch WR Mark Clayton
Mike Williams WR Danny Amendola
John Carlson TE Daniel Fells
Olindo Mare K Josh Brown
Seahawks DST Rams
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars - Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Would you believe that Jacksonville's secondary is actually worse than it's been in the past for this AFC South duel? It's true, and Peyton Manning should have his way with the Jaguars defense. In fact, Jacksonville had no defense for Antonio Gates two weeks ago and should be equally inept against Dallas Clark here. If there's a strength to Jacksonville's defense, it's in the run game, though it's only marginally better than their pass defense. Joseph Addai is questionable for the game, but he should play and play a good amount with Donald Brown expected to be sidelined. Addai could find the end zone. To me, this is a do-or-die game for the Jaguars: A win evens them at 2-2 and shows the hometown fan base that they can compete with the top dog in the division. A loss drops them to 1-3 and puts everyone on the hot seat. Expect the Jags to lean heavily on Maurice Jones-Drew , which they've done in the past against the Colts and had incredible success. MJD has burned Indy for nine touchdowns in eight games with an average of over 120 total yards. The Colts' run defense has shown some weakness this season against good running backs, so the Jags' offensive game plan starts and ends with Jones-Drew. No one else on Jacksonville looks appealing, mainly because David Garrard has been playing poorly.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Peyton Manning QB David Garrard
Joseph Addai RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Mike Hart RB Rashad Jennings
Reggie Wayne WR Mike Sims-Walker
Austin Collie WR Mike Thomas
Blair White WR Tiquan Underwood
Dallas Clark TE Marcedes Lewis
Adam Vinatieri K Josh Scobee
Colts DST Jaguars
Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders - Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
The only Texan this matchup looks promising for is Arian Foster , who has at least 120 total yards in every game this season and has come through for owners who rolled the dice on him. The Texans' O-line matches up well with the Raiders front seven and should give Foster plenty of holes to hit hard. Now, remember the game vs. Indianapolis when Foster had a bazillion yards and Matt Schaub didn't have to throw much? That could happen here -- especially if Andre Johnson plays at less than 100 percent while covered by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha . The Texans would fail miserably if they couldn't run the ball well in this game and then pass when necessary. The Raiders have a great matchup for their passing game, which is beginning to come around. Louis Murphy did a number on the Cardinals last week and should have another good game here. Darrius Heyward-Bey is also beginning to show some improvement, but Zach Miller isn't perfect here as the Texans have done well against opposing tight ends. Houston's run defense still hasn't been properly tested, either -- Darren McFadden could give them a real jolt. Oakland could win this game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Schaub QB Bruce Gradkowski
Arian Foster RB Darren McFadden
Steve Slaton   RB Michael Bush
Andre Johnson WR Louis Murphy
Kevin Walter WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Jacoby Jones WR Johnnie Lee Higgins
Owen Daniels TE Zach Miller
Neil Rackers K Sebastian Janikowski
Texans DST Raiders
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles - Sunday, 4:15 p.m.
Andy Reid probably knows more about Donovan McNabb than the Redskins do. What chance does Washington have here? Their run game is in the tank, their best receiver has been stopped by the Eagles for the better part of his career and their tight end has been improved but so have the Eagles against opposing tight ends. Furthermore, if McNabb couldn't solve the Rams last week, and they're coached by a guy with strong ties to the Eagles' defensive architecture now, how will he solve his former team? Between all this and his banged-up offensive line, I don't like McNabb to play big this week; he's better suited to extract revenge on the Eagles later on this season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has new life with Michael Vick , and he should continue his strong play against a Redskins secondary possibly going without DeAngelo Hall . Two reasons for Vick's success this year: DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin . They're as red hot as he is and should have the speed to out-run the Redskins' secondary. Vick's done a good job of reading defenses and making good throws, so expect the party to keep going for the Eagles' receivers. The matchup is decent, not great for LeSean McCoy ; last week was a killjoy since he had only 11 carries, an occasional negative to playing in Reid's offense.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Donovan McNabb QB Michael Vick
Clinton Portis RB LeSean McCoy
Ryan Torain RB Mike Bell
Santana Moss WR Jeremy Maclin
Joey Galloway   WR DeSean Jackson
Chris Cooley TE Brent Celek
Graham Gano K David Akers
Redskins DST Eagles
Arizona Cardinals at San Diego Chargers - Sunday, 4:15 p.m.
With their receiving corps reduced to a hobbled Larry Fitzgerald and a trio of undrafted rookies, this is a good week for the Cardinals to turn into a running team. Beanie Wells looked great last week against the Raiders and Tim Hightower still can pack a punch on the ground. It wouldn't be a shock if both guys got upwards of 15 touches or more this week in an effort to control the clock and keep Philip Rivers off the field. Does this mean Fitzgerald will be limited? Look, someone has to catch the ball for Arizona, but the Chargers will double-cover him and make it hard for Derek Anderson to connect. The deepest of sleepers is tight end Ben Patrick , whose targets could rise in the wake of Steve Breaston torn meniscus surgery. The Chargers will likely get Ryan Mathews back this week, and while this is a good matchup for him chances are the team will limit his workload. Expect him to see 15 or so touches, leaving the field in spots for Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles (Tolbert's goal-line work could make him better than Mathews, but only by a hair). The gem sleeper in this game is Legedu Naanee , who will likely see Cardinals cornerback Greg Toler lined up against him since Malcom Floyd deep speed makes Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie more apt to cover him. Toler's been fair, but he's also been picked on ( Louis Murphy the latest benefactor); look for Philip Rivers to do the same and thus give Naanee a chance to make some plays. San Diego should be able to outscore the Cardinals.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Derek Anderson QB Philip Rivers
Beanie Wells RB Ryan Mathews
Tim Hightower RB Mike Tolbert
Larry Fitzgerald WR Legedu Naanee
Stephen Williams WR Malcom Floyd
Ben Patrick TE Antonio Gates
Jay Feely K Nate Kaeding
Cardinals DST Chargers
Chicago Bears at N.Y. Giants - Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Some call the Bears a sham. Others call them opportunistic. One thing is for certain: Jay Cutler has a real good idea of what to do in Mike Martz's offense, which has been surprisingly flexible. For all the Giants' pass rushers, they have six sacks through three weeks and don't provide the kind of pressure that Dallas and Green Bay did against Cutler over the last two weeks. This is a great matchup for Cutler against a Giants' secondary that has looked good because two of their three opponents had awful passing games. Look for the Bears to exploit seam matchups and catch their receivers streaking against the Giants' safeties. Devin Hester might beat Corey Webster on a couple of fly patterns, too. The Giants are going to test the Bears' top-ranked run defense for certain with a dose of Ahmad Bradshaw . He's so versatile and can accumulate yardage a bunch of ways, so he's tough to sit here. Plus the Bears have been run on only 56 times through three games yet have allowed three rushing scores. If the Giants can establish the run then their game plan will become more aggressive with Eli Manning making plenty of mid-range connections to Hakeem Nicks , Steve Smith and Kevin Boss . So long as the Giants can protect Manning from Julius Peppers , not tip passes into the hands of waiting defenders and not get penalized a ton like a certain team from Wisconsin did last week, they should give the Bears a big battle.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jay Cutler QB Eli Manning
Matt Forte RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Chester Taylor RB Brandon Jacobs
Devin Hester WR Steve Smith
Johnny Knox WR Hakeem Nicks
Earl Bennett   WR Mario Manningham
Greg Olsen TE Kevin Boss
Robbie Gould K Lawrence Tynes
Bears DST Giants
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins - Monday, 8:30 p.m.
The Dolphins are going to take their game plan from last week and re-apply it here. If the Bills can pass with some success against the Patriots, anyone can. The Dolphins have burned the Pats before with heavy doses of Davone Bess , but now Brandon Marshall will take over as the go-to guy. Chad Henne 's arm will lead the charge and Marshall should have another big game like he had last week. I'm skeptical that Ronnie Brown will put up numbers here; the Pats are giving up 119.0 rush yards per game but no one player has had more than 79 rush yards. New England has yielded just one touchdown on the ground and ultimately has done a good job against the Bengals, Jets and Bills thus far. Brown and the Dolphins are next. Like the Dolphins, the Patriots will see the secondary they're facing as a delicious weakness and attack. Especially look for Aaron Hernandez to be a yardage beast for the third week in a row as the Dolphins' safeties will struggle to contain him as well as keep tabs on Randy Moss and Wes Welker . The guy to watch -- not necessarily start -- is BenJarvus Green-Ellis , who is slowly but surely gaining steam and confidence in the New England offense. He had 16 carries last week -- 10 more than any other Pats running back. He could continue to carve out a decent role in the offense. In fact -- scratch what I said about not starting him. If Fred Taylor out with an injury, this guy is going to turn heads and be a possible 100-total-yard back.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tom Brady QB Chad Henne
BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB Ronnie Brown
Sammy Morris RB Ricky Williams
Randy Moss WR Brandon Marshall
Wes Welker WR Davone Bess
Aaron Hernandez TE Anthony Fasano
Rob Gronkowski TE Mickey Shuler
Stephen Gostkowski K Dan Carpenter
Patriots DST Dolphins
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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