The first Bye week of the 2014 National Football League regular season is especially harsh on fantasy football owners. Peyton Manning. Russell Wilson. Marshawn Lynch. The defenses of the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.
All will be unavailable to fantasy football owners in Week 4.
Teams having the week off aren’t the only obstacles in the way of owners planning to set their fantasy football lineups. Injuries around the league are piling up. Filling roster holes gets more difficult as the season goes on, and how you do so will determine whether or not you make fantasy football playoffs come December.
Here are 5 players you should start and 5 you should sit out of week 4 of the NFL fantasy football season.
10. Start ‘Em: QB Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears
Cutler won’t complete 87.5 percent of his passes a la Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He won’t go for over 400 yards on a weekly basis. Those looking for a top-level fantasy football quarterback won’t be blown away by Cutler’s production.
None of those statements mean that you shouldn’t start him for Week 4.
The Bears have been a roller coaster ride in 2014, meaning that Cutler may have to air it out against the Green Bay Packers to bring Chicago back from behind. Cutler has multiple phenomenal weapons at his disposal. The Bears will be back at home after back-to-back road games. Ride Cutler in your fantasy football lineups until he gives you reasons not to.
9. Sit ‘Em: QB Tom Brady – New England Patriots
Brady, the 199th overall pick back in 2000, is perhaps the greatest draft find in NFL history. He is an all-time great. The Pro Football Hall of Fame can begin dedicating a wing to the Patriots starting quarterback.
Brady has also been a fantasy football liability this September, and those playing in one-QB fantasy football leagues have no business starting Brady for the time being.
The fact of the matter is that Brady hasn’t looked right since the 2014 AFC Championship Game. He is giving fantasy football owners one touchdown per game. Brady hasn’t yet thrown for over 250 yards in a contest this season.
He is at best a low-end QB1 until he and the New England offense return to form.
8. Start ‘Em: RB Donald Brown – San Diego Chargers
Brown’s stats don’t jump out at you. He is averaging 2.0 yards per carry. He hasn’t yet found the end zone in 2014. Brown was never intended to be No. 1 on the San Diego depth chart.
He’s now essentially all the Chargers have at the position.
Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead are both injured. Brown is set to be the workhorse for the Chargers. Blake Bortles is starting at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but that offers little help to what has been a lousy defense. Brown is a safe bet for Week 4.
7. Sit ‘Em: RB Chris Johnson – New York Jets
Benching Johnson is becoming a weekly tradition for fantasy football owners. The speedster hasn’t looked like the player of old in 2014. He is averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Chris Ivory has taken over as the No. 1 running back for the Jets. Johnson faces a terrible match-up versus the run defense of the Detroit Lions.
But wait. There’s more.
The streaky play of the Jets combined with Detroit’s form suggests that Gang Green will be playing from behind at home. All indications are that Johnson will see diminishing touches in Week 4. Fantasy football owners are taking a leap if they start him.
6. Start ‘Em: TE Owen Daniels – Baltimore Ravens
Go grab him right now if Daniels is somehow available in your fantasy football league.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lit up the Carolina Panthers last Sunday night, and that was in Carolina. Baltimore consistently plays well at home, and Daniels should see more involvement against the Panthers than he did versus the Cleveland Browns a week ago.
5. Sit ‘Em: TE Larry Donnell – New York Giants
Donnell has a touch of “fool’s gold” about him heading into Week 4. Giants quarterback Eli Manning, like Joe Flacco, has a history of targeting tight ends in the red zone. The Big Blue offense (finally) showed signs of life in Week 3 against the Houston Texans.
Donnell seemed like a reliable fantasy football option after the first week of the campaign. He is now a reach.
Donnell hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Victor Cruz finding the end zone last Sunday for the first time in almost a calendar year should lead to Cruz seeing more targets in scoring situations. The Giants will be away for a Thursday night game, which often means bad times for players’ fantasy football stats. Start Donnell if you must, but make sure a better option isn’t available before doing so.
*Update: Sorry folks; can’t always be spot on. Donnell scored 3 touchdowns this Thursday as the Giants trounced the Redskins in Washington. We stood by our logic and sat LD on our fantasy teams. We feel your pain.
4. Start ‘Em: WR Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers
I get it. Fantasy football owners who grabbed Allen in drafts are disappointed and rightfully so. Allen has been slowed by a groin injury. He has faced some tough match-ups in September. He has zero receiving touchdowns.
Keep the faith for Week 4.
The defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars is awful. Maybe, just maybe, Blake Bortles will help Jacksonville be more competitive on Sunday, which could result in San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers having to air it out more than expected. This is theoretically the ideal week for Allen to experience a jump-start to his season.
3. Sit ‘Em: WR Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
Tate is like Allen in that both have been fantasy football disappointments, and both could have their best games of the season to date this coming Sunday. The secondary of the New York Jets is, to put it politely, lackluster. Tate and Matthew Stafford have good chemistry. What’s not to like?
That he isn’t making plays downfield is a start. Tate hasn’t scored a touchdown in 2014. Stafford has a history of being inconsistent when on the road (see Week 2 at the Carolina Panthers). There are better spot-start options than Tate for Week 4.
2. Start ‘Em: Indianapolis Colts Defense
You’re without your starting defensive unit for the first time this season because of a Bye. The five-star and four-star units are snatched up by other fantasy football owners. You feel stuck.
Let the Colts get you through Week 4.
Indianapolis is hosting the “meh” Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Jake Locker is banged up but expected to play as of the posting of this piece. Locker has two interceptions in each of his last two games. It’s a great match-up for the Colts.
1. Sit ‘Em: New Orleans Saints Defense
Some would consider this a no-brainer considering the below-average play of the New Orleans secondary, but it’s worth mentioning due to the perception that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is a turnover machine. Romo has been a better fantasy football quarterback at home than when on the road, and Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is always a few seconds away from potentially taking the ball to the house.
The Saints are a tempting defense due to the inconsistent play of the ‘Boys. The Indy defense is the safer fantasy football play for Week 4.