Reports of Atlanta RB Michael Turner's demise have been exaggerated as he continues to put together a strong season. (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
Questions likely uttered by more than one fantasy owner on Sunday:
“Where's Ryan Mathews, and why is Jackie Battle getting so many carries?”
“Why is Domenik Hixon getting so many targets? Isn't Ramses Barden the one who dominated in place of Hakeem Nicks last week?”
“Who's Brandon Bolden?”
“Brian Hartline has how many yards?”
“Of course Chris Johnson has a good game when he's on my bench!”
OK, so that last one wasn't a question, but you get the point. Strange things happen every week in the NFL, and Week 4 was no exception. For the above examples, there were a few hints throughout the week and dating back to last week's games that something might be up with these players, but ultimately, you would've needed a crystal ball to see what was coming. And that crystal ball would've needed to be from the future and have the ability to speak.
Either way, weeks like this are what makes fantasy football fun and frustrating. Let's look at more fallout from each offensive position.
Fourteen quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards last week, though there were two notable signal-callers who didn't: Josh Freeman and Carson Palmer. Both had favorable matchups, and combined, they trailed for all but 1:39 in their respective second halves. To be fair, Freeman threw for 299 yards (but only one touchdown), so it's really a matter of semantics with him, but Palmer's 202 passing yards were a huge disappointment given the situation.
Both Freeman and Palmer are likely being held onto as bye-week fill-ins, but after relatively lackluster performances against poor pass defenses, it might be time to look elsewhere.
Notable Riser: Robert Griffin III, Redskins. Griffin only accounted for one TD against the Bucs, but he was about a half-foot away from getting another when he fumbled on the goal line. Regardless, it was another exceptional day for Griffin, who's now scored at least 23.2 standard fantasy points in each game. Most encouraging is that the Redskins clearly love calling his number in goal-to-go situations. Griffin has six rushing attempts inside the 10-yard-line this year -- tied for eighth most among all players and second only to Cam Newton (9) among QBs.
Notable Faller: Tony Romo, Cowboys. Romo actually didn't play that poorly on Monday night, but his five INTs will be tough for fantasy owners to forget. The Cowboys' offensive line has issues and Romo can have communication problems with his receivers, but he still has some of the best weapons in the NFL at his disposal. The turnovers are a worry, but Romo still has major upside.
The RB theme this past week was playing through injuries. Both Bills' starters, Fred Jackson (knee) and C.J. Spiller (shoulder), returned earlier than expected, as did Reggie Bush (knee), Matt Forte (ankle), Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and Willis McGahee (ribs).
It's tough to bench any of these guys when they're active, but the committee situations for the Bills, Bears and Giants will continue to give owners headaches. Bradshaw and Forte remain more valuable than their respective teammates, but Jackson and Spiller figure to see a 50/50 split going forward. Spiller's big edge in age and slight edge in talent figure to give him a little more value.
Notable Riser: Michael Turner, Falcons. Turner had his first 100-yard game of the season and scored the first receiving TD of his career last week. He's now scored in three straight games. Turner has taken advantage of some good matchups, but it's clear that he's still Atlanta's best running option. Don't expect many more games like this, but Turner is still a decent RB2. The same can probably be said for Chris Johnson, who finally got some decent blocking and looked good hitting the hole for the first time this year.
Notable Faller: Doug Martin, Buccaneers. Martin received just eight of Tampa's 15 RB carries last week, and for the first time this season, he ceded goal-line duties to LeGarrette Blount, who plunged in a short score. Martin is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, and since Week 1, he has just four catches for 30 yards. At this point, it looks like Blount will at least be the short-yardage back, which could really eat into Martin's value. Blount is worth an add this week, as is Jackie Battle, who likes like he'll have a similar role in San Diego, at least in the short term. The Jets' Bilal Powell, who played 14 more snaps than Shonn Greene last week, is also worth a free-agent pickup.
Three sets of wide receiver teammates both hit the century mark last week (Tampa's Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson, the Giants' Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon, and Miami's Davone Bess and Brian Hartline), and there would have been four if Baltimore's Torrey Smith had gotten three more yards to join Anquan Boldin in the 100-yard club. The fact that none of these duos were the usual cast of characters (e.g. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson; Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson) shows that in today's NFL, even seemingly uninspiring teammates can have fantasy relevancy in any given week.
Notable Riser: Wes Welker, Patriots. It helped that Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and Julian Edelman (hand) were both inactive, but Welker registered a season-high nine catches last week for 129 yards. Over the past two weeks, Welker ranks tied for seventh in targets (21) and is tied for the league lead in catches (17). Clearly, he'll be just fine after his slow start. Same goes for Larry Fitzgerald, who scored a touchdown for the second straight week and is tied with Welker with 17 catches over the past two games. Marques Colston (9-153, TD), also showed signs of life and should be fine going forward.
Notable Faller: Brandon LaFell, Panthers. Santonio Holmes (foot) and Greg Jennings (groin) were both sidelined with injuries, and Holmes could miss an extended period, but among healthy receivers, LaFell disappointed for the second straight week. After catching just one pass in Week 3, LaFell was shut out in Week 4, and his fantasy value is quickly plummeting. Much like other preseason WR sleepers, Titus Young, Robert Meachem and Leonard Hankerson, LaFell looks expendable in most formats.
It was a relatively quiet week for most notable tight ends -- not unusual for the position -- but a quick scan of the target leaders reveals three familiar names: Jason Witten (14), Rob Gronkowski (11) and Jimmy Graham (9). The fourth name at the top of the list is Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew, who tied Graham with nine targets and ranks second to Graham in total targets (35). Pettigrew has had problems with drops throughout his career -- and he had a big drop in the end zone last week -- but any TE getting that many looks will always have fantasy value.
Notable Riser: Scott Chandler, Bills. Chandler's numbers through four games this year: 12 catches, 175 yards and four TDs. Chandler's numbers through four games last year: 11 catches, 97 yards, four TDs. Clearly, he's no stranger to hot starts, but unlike last year, Chandler looks like more than just a red-zone option. He still gets plenty of looks in that area, which is a big plus, but Chandler showed last week that he can also stretch the field with two 20-plus-yard TDs. He should continue to be a decent option.
Notable Faller: Antonio Gates, Chargers. Last week's game featured a lot of turnovers/short fields for the Chargers, so Gates' relative lack of production wasn't totally his fault. But he's yet to score this season, and his six targets per game seem a little light for someone of his ability. Gates should pick it up soon, but he's not a sure thing anymore.
Cardinals at Rams
Stat to know: The Rams improved pass defense is allowing just 16.4 fantasy points per game to WRs, good for third fewest. Larry Fitzgerald is still a must-start, but last week's heroes, QB Kevin Kolb and WR Andre Roberts, are much riskier plays.
Sleeper: Rams D/ST (Cardinals giving up 13th-most FPPG to D/STs; Rams had 6 sacks and 3 takeaways against Arizona last year).
Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage at http://fantasysource.sportingnews.com/football/free?affiliate_code=sn_navigation