NFL Wild Card 2013: Bengals vs Texans

Las mejores fotos la victoria en duelo de Comodines que se llevó Houston por marcador de 19-13 sobre Cincinnati, rumbo al Super Bowl XLVII.
Tras el triunfo en Wild Card, los Texans se medirán ante los New England Patriots, en la Final de la Conferencia America, el 13 de enero.

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 05: Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans runs the ball against Nate Clements #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at Reliant Stadium on January 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Deshaun Watson’s Unique Rookie Season Continues; Jets-Patriots Goal-Line Call Will Live in Infamy

Three fat grafs about Sunday’s semi-important things...

• Deshaun Watson is as unique a rookie as I remember in the NFL. Think of Watson since he’s been drafted. He worker-beed his way through training camp, giving deference to nominal starter Tom Savage. He donated his first game check to three lunch ladies with the Texans who suffered losses in the big Houston flood. He struggled to beat the Bengals in his first start, dueled Tom Brady to a close loss in his second start, then threw 12 touchdown passes in his past three games. As you read this, Watson, who might have spent the year on the bench if Savage had torn up foes in September, leads the NFL in TD throws, with 15. And on Sunday, before the game against Cleveland, he wore a Warren Moon jersey in honor of the best quarterback in franchise history. “So much he did for this organization—I just wanted to show my appreciation for everything he’s done, and for paving the way for future quarterbacks,” Watson told me after the game. That’s what I mean: He says the right things, does the right things, and plays the right way. He said he isn’t surprised at his early success, and he doesn’t know why his adjustment has been so seamless. I’ll give you one clue: There’s one person on this planet who’s twice thrown for 400 yards against a Nick Saban-coached defense—Watson, at Clemson. Football’s football. “The reason I’m not surprised is because of the preparation and the mindset I have,” Watson said. Watching him now, he still might lock onto his first read too regularly, but he’s so confident and plays so fast that you figure his progressions will come in time. In his last three games, he’s playing to a 118.3 rating, ridiculous for a rookie. But postgame Sunday, what he was thinking about was the pick-six he threw to Cleveland cornerback Jason McCourty, even after his fourth straight strong performance. “I’m really upset about that pick-six,” he said. “I was pissed off. I hate turning the ball over. That’s going to stick with me.” Music to his coaches’ ears.

• A call that will live in infamy for Jets fans. New England led the Jets 24-14 with 8:31 left in the game when Josh McCown threw to Austin Seferian-Jenkins near the left pylon at the goal line. Seferian-Jenkins caught the pass, and as he was going to the ground near the pylon he juggled the ball in his hands. But Seferian-Jenkins hit the pylon, and then the ground, with the ball looking to be his grasp. The official ruled it was a touchdown. On the review, ref Tony Corrente, in consultation with the officiating command center, ruled there was enough evidence to show Seferian-Jenkins had not re-established possession of the ball through the time he fell to the ground. So Corrente ruled a fumble, a touchback, and no touchdown. The Jets lost by seven. Huge call, obviously, one that separated the Jets and Patriots from the tie in the division entering the weekend to a one-game lead for New England at the end of the day. I reached NFL officiating vice president Al Riveron, who insisted they’d seen enough evidence. “As the runner is going to the ground,” Riveron said, “he loses control of the football. In order for him to re-establish control, he has to have the ball when he touches the ground, and he has to survive the ground—when he hits the ground he must retain control of the ball … He must complete the process of control of the football as he’s going down, and he never regains full control of the ball while he is inbounds.” When I finished with Riveron, I went back and watched the play with all the replay reviews about 10 times. I saw what appeared to be a loose ball Seferian-Jenkins was trying to control, and then seemingly controlling it as he fell. I never saw the clear loss of the football, as both Corrente and Riveron said they saw. On Fox, the last VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, said: “It has to be clear and obvious. It just didn’t seem to me that this was.” My bone to pick is the same as always: I think to reverse a call, you’ve got to be absolutely certain that the visual evidence is there. It seemed Seferian-Jenkins bobbled it going to the ground, but could I swear to it? No. It could be that Riveron saw a different view than I did, though usually in time the replays will be available in full. Riveron never had to deal with the angst and the anger from fans and coaches and teams as the deputy under Blandino. Now he will.

• Yup, that’s the same Adrian Peterson we used to know. Pretty basic question I had for Adrian Peterson: What’s the difference for you between New Orleans and Arizona? “Remember that first game with the Saints, opening night in Minnesota?” he said. “First snap of the game, I gain nine, and then a play later, I’m out of the game. Here, I got nine on my first carry [eight, actually], and I stayed in, and the opportunities came.” Peterson ran left for eight yards on the third play, around the left end for 11 more on the fourth play, and through a left guard-tackle crease on the sixth play for 27 yards and a fairly easy touchdown. Peterson was as motivated for this game as he’d been for any in a while—even the opener as a Saint back in Minnesota. The results: 26 carries, 134 yards, two touchdowns. “Pretty much fun,” he said. “I go from playing maybe eight snaps a game to most of the game. I knew, I KNEW I would show up and show out.” It’s a pretty instant fit too: Peterson’s good friends with Larry Fitzgerald, and he’ll be staying in the guest house behind Fitzgerald’s house for as long as he wants. How long? Well, Peterson made it clear to me this won’t be his last season, and he made it clear this won’t be his last dominant game of the season. The Cards, and a quarterback who’d been getting hit a lot, Carson Palmer, need him to salvage their season. “What the moral of your story?” I asked. “Control your own destiny,” he said. “Don’t let anyone else control it. It was a little bit mind-boggling to me to listen to guys who played the game, Hall of Famers, who basically thought it was over for me. That stung a little. Disheartening. But that was just more motivation for me.”

Deshaun Watson’s Unique Rookie Season Continues; Jets-Patriots Goal-Line Call Will Live in Infamy

Three fat grafs about Sunday’s semi-important things...

• Deshaun Watson is as unique a rookie as I remember in the NFL. Think of Watson since he’s been drafted. He worker-beed his way through training camp, giving deference to nominal starter Tom Savage. He donated his first game check to three lunch ladies with the Texans who suffered losses in the big Houston flood. He struggled to beat the Bengals in his first start, dueled Tom Brady to a close loss in his second start, then threw 12 touchdown passes in his past three games. As you read this, Watson, who might have spent the year on the bench if Savage had torn up foes in September, leads the NFL in TD throws, with 15. And on Sunday, before the game against Cleveland, he wore a Warren Moon jersey in honor of the best quarterback in franchise history. “So much he did for this organization—I just wanted to show my appreciation for everything he’s done, and for paving the way for future quarterbacks,” Watson told me after the game. That’s what I mean: He says the right things, does the right things, and plays the right way. He said he isn’t surprised at his early success, and he doesn’t know why his adjustment has been so seamless. I’ll give you one clue: There’s one person on this planet who’s twice thrown for 400 yards against a Nick Saban-coached defense—Watson, at Clemson. Football’s football. “The reason I’m not surprised is because of the preparation and the mindset I have,” Watson said. Watching him now, he still might lock onto his first read too regularly, but he’s so confident and plays so fast that you figure his progressions will come in time. In his last three games, he’s playing to a 118.3 rating, ridiculous for a rookie. But postgame Sunday, what he was thinking about was the pick-six he threw to Cleveland cornerback Jason McCourty, even after his fourth straight strong performance. “I’m really upset about that pick-six,” he said. “I was pissed off. I hate turning the ball over. That’s going to stick with me.” Music to his coaches’ ears.

• A call that will live in infamy for Jets fans. New England led the Jets 24-14 with 8:31 left in the game when Josh McCown threw to Austin Seferian-Jenkins near the left pylon at the goal line. Seferian-Jenkins caught the pass, and as he was going to the ground near the pylon he juggled the ball in his hands. But Seferian-Jenkins hit the pylon, and then the ground, with the ball looking to be his grasp. The official ruled it was a touchdown. On the review, ref Tony Corrente, in consultation with the officiating command center, ruled there was enough evidence to show Seferian-Jenkins had not re-established possession of the ball through the time he fell to the ground. So Corrente ruled a fumble, a touchback, and no touchdown. The Jets lost by seven. Huge call, obviously, one that separated the Jets and Patriots from the tie in the division entering the weekend to a one-game lead for New England at the end of the day. I reached NFL officiating vice president Al Riveron, who insisted they’d seen enough evidence. “As the runner is going to the ground,” Riveron said, “he loses control of the football. In order for him to re-establish control, he has to have the ball when he touches the ground, and he has to survive the ground—when he hits the ground he must retain control of the ball … He must complete the process of control of the football as he’s going down, and he never regains full control of the ball while he is inbounds.” When I finished with Riveron, I went back and watched the play with all the replay reviews about 10 times. I saw what appeared to be a loose ball Seferian-Jenkins was trying to control, and then seemingly controlling it as he fell. I never saw the clear loss of the football, as both Corrente and Riveron said they saw. On Fox, the last VP of Officiating, Dean Blandino, said: “It has to be clear and obvious. It just didn’t seem to me that this was.” My bone to pick is the same as always: I think to reverse a call, you’ve got to be absolutely certain that the visual evidence is there. It seemed Seferian-Jenkins bobbled it going to the ground, but could I swear to it? No. It could be that Riveron saw a different view than I did, though usually in time the replays will be available in full. Riveron never had to deal with the angst and the anger from fans and coaches and teams as the deputy under Blandino. Now he will.

• Yup, that’s the same Adrian Peterson we used to know. Pretty basic question I had for Adrian Peterson: What’s the difference for you between New Orleans and Arizona? “Remember that first game with the Saints, opening night in Minnesota?” he said. “First snap of the game, I gain nine, and then a play later, I’m out of the game. Here, I got nine on my first carry [eight, actually], and I stayed in, and the opportunities came.” Peterson ran left for eight yards on the third play, around the left end for 11 more on the fourth play, and through a left guard-tackle crease on the sixth play for 27 yards and a fairly easy touchdown. Peterson was as motivated for this game as he’d been for any in a while—even the opener as a Saint back in Minnesota. The results: 26 carries, 134 yards, two touchdowns. “Pretty much fun,” he said. “I go from playing maybe eight snaps a game to most of the game. I knew, I KNEW I would show up and show out.” It’s a pretty instant fit too: Peterson’s good friends with Larry Fitzgerald, and he’ll be staying in the guest house behind Fitzgerald’s house for as long as he wants. How long? Well, Peterson made it clear to me this won’t be his last season, and he made it clear this won’t be his last dominant game of the season. The Cards, and a quarterback who’d been getting hit a lot, Carson Palmer, need him to salvage their season. “What the moral of your story?” I asked. “Control your own destiny,” he said. “Don’t let anyone else control it. It was a little bit mind-boggling to me to listen to guys who played the game, Hall of Famers, who basically thought it was over for me. That stung a little. Disheartening. But that was just more motivation for me.”

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert out for season with back injury

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert runs the ball in the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Why Andrew Luck Should Play In 2017

Dec 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) carries the ball during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportsShould Andrew Luck return in 2017? Colts fans haven’t seen their quarterback on the field in over nine months, and with his return date set in November, a lot of people are starting to ask, why bother? The Colts currently sit 2-3 and face the Titans, Jaguars, Bengals, and Texans in upcoming weeks, and unless […]

The Morning Huddle: Ben Roethlisberger Wonders If He’s Washed Up

After turning in one of the worst performances of his career in a 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger (no touchdowns, five interceptions, 37.8 rating) told a media scrum, “Maybe I don't have it anymore.” Now, it's important to note that Roethlisberger seemed to be more dismissive of the idea than self-contemplative. But to take him at his word: Does the 35-year-old quarterback have a point?

Roethlisberger shocked Steelers fans two days after his 2016 season ended, when he hinted at the possibility of retiring. After reporting to training camp, he told The MMQB’s Tim Rohan, "I am definitely just going one year at a time." And now, this. He ranks No. 25 in yards per pass attempt and No. 22 in completion percentage. The Steelers, who on paper have the league's most loaded offense, are No. 19 in points per game.

Worst Case Scenario: Pittsburgh quickly falls out of Super Bowl contention and finds itself trying to navigate a Favreian purgatory—unable to plan for the future without upsetting a franchise legend, unable to win with a QB past his prime.

Best Case Scenario: Roethlisberger has been known to court drama. He knows he's better than he played on Sunday, and the two-time Super Bowl winner simply wants his inevitable return to form to be treated appropriately.

Current Case: Despite Sunday's loss, the Steelers still sit atop the AFC North. But heading into a marquee matchup against the undefeated Chiefs, the spotlight now shines brightly on the quarterback. And the questions loom large.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Peter King on Vice President Mike Pence’s leaving Indianapolis early ... Gary Gramling presents his weekly FreakOut ... Robert Klemko and Kalyn Kahler visited Minnesota for our most recent installment of Football in America... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit previews Vikings-Bears ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Packers 35, Cowboys 31. Dallas and Green Bay went back and forth during a 30-point fourth quarter, but it was Aaron Rodgers who got the last laugh, finding Davante Adams in the end zone with 11 seconds left. Millions of fantasy players are now trying to pick up Aaron Jones, the Packers’ running back who tallied 125 yards and a touchdown. Run, do not walk, to the waiver wire.

2. Jaguars 30, Steelers 9. Enough about Big Ben's troubles. Let's talk about the Jags! Jacksonville now leads the league in takeaways and points scored off them (by 27 points). But Blake Bortles is still Blake Bortles; he had 95 passing yards.

3. Chiefs 42, Texans 34. Deshaun Watson bolstered his stats as Houston scored three times in the fourth quarter, but Kansas City was in control on the road. The Texans also lost J.J. Watt with a tibial plateau fracture in his left knee; his season is reportedly over.

4. Panthers 27, Lions 24. After back-to-back road wins at New England and Detroit, Carolina deserves to re-enter the contender conversation. Cam Newton displayed MVP form, finishing with three touchdowns and 355 yards, while the defense is now third in yards allowed per game (274.0).

5. Chargers 27, Giants 22. This battle of winless teams started with four punts and a safety. It ended with an Eli Manning interception after Los Angeles scored the go-ahead touchdown off a Manning fumble. On the play before that fumble, Odell Beckham Jr. broke his ankle. Hard to imagine things getting worse for New York, but then again, there are 12 weeks to go.

6. Seahawks 16, Rams 10. A missed field goal by Los Angeles in the third quarter altered this one. The Rams ultimately came up just short of a statement home win when Cooper Kupp failed to corral a pass in the end zone on the second-to-last play after Jared Goff marched the offense into scoring range.

7. Ravens 30, Raiders 17. Oakland cut the deficit to seven late in the third quarter, but EJ Manuel & Co. couldn't get closer while Joe Flacco completed 73% of his passes. At the moment, these are two teams going in opposite directions.

8. Colts 26, 49ers 23. Indianapolis's first overtime drive ended with a Jacoby Brissett interception, but San Francisco couldn't do anything with the ball, and the Colts kicked a game-winning field goal on their next drive. Rookie running back Marlon Mack emerged as a weapon for Indy, finishing with 91 yards, including a 35-yarder on the final drive.

9. Eagles 34, Cardinals 7. Philadelphia handled its business at home. Carson Wentz continued a strong sophomore season with four touchdowns to four receivers.

10. Dolphins 16, Titans 10. Jay Cutler struggled (12 for 26, for 92 yards), but he was good enough to get the win over Tennessee backup Matt Cassel.

11. Bengals 20, Bills 16. Tyrod Taylor threw a costly interception on Buffalo's final drive in Cincinnati; the Bengals’ defense held its visitors to 221 yards.

12. Jets 17, Browns 14. New York led by double digits until Cleveland got a late touchdown. Next Sunday, in the Meadowlands, the surprisingly 3-2 Patriots take on the surprisingly 3-2 Jets. (Browns fans looking for hope: Myles Garrett had two sacks in his debut).

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

THE KICKER

The Los Angeles Chargers got their first win Sunday since 1960 when they beat . . . New York.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

The Morning Huddle: Ben Roethlisberger Wonders If He’s Washed Up

After turning in one of the worst performances of his career in a 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger (no touchdowns, five interceptions, 37.8 rating) told a media scrum, “Maybe I don't have it anymore.” Now, it's important to note that Roethlisberger seemed to be more dismissive of the idea than self-contemplative. But to take him at his word: Does the 35-year-old quarterback have a point?

Roethlisberger shocked Steelers fans two days after his 2016 season ended, when he hinted at the possibility of retiring. After reporting to training camp, he told The MMQB’s Tim Rohan, "I am definitely just going one year at a time." And now, this. He ranks No. 25 in yards per pass attempt and No. 22 in completion percentage. The Steelers, who on paper have the league's most loaded offense, are No. 19 in points per game.

Worst Case Scenario: Pittsburgh quickly falls out of Super Bowl contention and finds itself trying to navigate a Favreian purgatory—unable to plan for the future without upsetting a franchise legend, unable to win with a QB past his prime.

Best Case Scenario: Roethlisberger has been known to court drama. He knows he's better than he played on Sunday, and the two-time Super Bowl winner simply wants his inevitable return to form to be treated appropriately.

Current Case: Despite Sunday's loss, the Steelers still sit atop the AFC North. But heading into a marquee matchup against the undefeated Chiefs, the spotlight now shines brightly on the quarterback. And the questions loom large.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Peter King on Vice President Mike Pence’s leaving Indianapolis early ... Gary Gramling presents his weekly FreakOut ... Robert Klemko and Kalyn Kahler visited Minnesota for our most recent installment of Football in America... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit previews Vikings-Bears ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Packers 35, Cowboys 31. Dallas and Green Bay went back and forth during a 30-point fourth quarter, but it was Aaron Rodgers who got the last laugh, finding Davante Adams in the end zone with 11 seconds left. Millions of fantasy players are now trying to pick up Aaron Jones, the Packers’ running back who tallied 125 yards and a touchdown. Run, do not walk, to the waiver wire.

2. Jaguars 30, Steelers 9. Enough about Big Ben's troubles. Let's talk about the Jags! Jacksonville now leads the league in takeaways and points scored off them (by 27 points). But Blake Bortles is still Blake Bortles; he had 95 passing yards.

3. Chiefs 42, Texans 34. Deshaun Watson bolstered his stats as Houston scored three times in the fourth quarter, but Kansas City was in control on the road. The Texans also lost J.J. Watt with a tibial plateau fracture in his left knee; his season is reportedly over.

4. Panthers 27, Lions 24. After back-to-back road wins at New England and Detroit, Carolina deserves to re-enter the contender conversation. Cam Newton displayed MVP form, finishing with three touchdowns and 355 yards, while the defense is now third in yards allowed per game (274.0).

5. Chargers 27, Giants 22. This battle of winless teams started with four punts and a safety. It ended with an Eli Manning interception after Los Angeles scored the go-ahead touchdown off a Manning fumble. On the play before that fumble, Odell Beckham Jr. broke his ankle. Hard to imagine things getting worse for New York, but then again, there are 12 weeks to go.

6. Seahawks 16, Rams 10. A missed field goal by Los Angeles in the third quarter altered this one. The Rams ultimately came up just short of a statement home win when Cooper Kupp failed to corral a pass in the end zone on the second-to-last play after Jared Goff marched the offense into scoring range.

7. Ravens 30, Raiders 17. Oakland cut the deficit to seven late in the third quarter, but EJ Manuel & Co. couldn't get closer while Joe Flacco completed 73% of his passes. At the moment, these are two teams going in opposite directions.

8. Colts 26, 49ers 23. Indianapolis's first overtime drive ended with a Jacoby Brissett interception, but San Francisco couldn't do anything with the ball, and the Colts kicked a game-winning field goal on their next drive. Rookie running back Marlon Mack emerged as a weapon for Indy, finishing with 91 yards, including a 35-yarder on the final drive.

9. Eagles 34, Cardinals 7. Philadelphia handled its business at home. Carson Wentz continued a strong sophomore season with four touchdowns to four receivers.

10. Dolphins 16, Titans 10. Jay Cutler struggled (12 for 26, for 92 yards), but he was good enough to get the win over Tennessee backup Matt Cassel.

11. Bengals 20, Bills 16. Tyrod Taylor threw a costly interception on Buffalo's final drive in Cincinnati; the Bengals’ defense held its visitors to 221 yards.

12. Jets 17, Browns 14. New York led by double digits until Cleveland got a late touchdown. Next Sunday, in the Meadowlands, the surprisingly 3-2 Patriots take on the surprisingly 3-2 Jets. (Browns fans looking for hope: Myles Garrett had two sacks in his debut).

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

THE KICKER

The Los Angeles Chargers got their first win Sunday since 1960 when they beat . . . New York.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

The Morning Huddle: Ben Roethlisberger Wonders If He’s Washed Up

After turning in one of the worst performances of his career in a 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars on Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger (no touchdowns, five interceptions, 37.8 rating) told a media scrum, “Maybe I don't have it anymore.” Now, it's important to note that Roethlisberger seemed to be more dismissive of the idea than self-contemplative. But to take him at his word: Does the 35-year-old quarterback have a point?

Roethlisberger shocked Steelers fans two days after his 2016 season ended, when he hinted at the possibility of retiring. After reporting to training camp, he told The MMQB’s Tim Rohan, "I am definitely just going one year at a time." And now, this. He ranks No. 25 in yards per pass attempt and No. 22 in completion percentage. The Steelers, who on paper have the league's most loaded offense, are No. 19 in points per game.

Worst Case Scenario: Pittsburgh quickly falls out of Super Bowl contention and finds itself trying to navigate a Favreian purgatory—unable to plan for the future without upsetting a franchise legend, unable to win with a QB past his prime.

Best Case Scenario: Roethlisberger has been known to court drama. He knows he's better than he played on Sunday, and the two-time Super Bowl winner simply wants his inevitable return to form to be treated appropriately.

Current Case: Despite Sunday's loss, the Steelers still sit atop the AFC North. But heading into a marquee matchup against the undefeated Chiefs, the spotlight now shines brightly on the quarterback. And the questions loom large.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Peter King on Vice President Mike Pence’s leaving Indianapolis early ... Gary Gramling presents his weekly FreakOut ... Robert Klemko and Kalyn Kahler visited Minnesota for our most recent installment of Football in America... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit previews Vikings-Bears ... and more. Stay tuned.

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Packers 35, Cowboys 31. Dallas and Green Bay went back and forth during a 30-point fourth quarter, but it was Aaron Rodgers who got the last laugh, finding Davante Adams in the end zone with 11 seconds left. Millions of fantasy players are now trying to pick up Aaron Jones, the Packers’ running back who tallied 125 yards and a touchdown. Run, do not walk, to the waiver wire.

2. Jaguars 30, Steelers 9. Enough about Big Ben's troubles. Let's talk about the Jags! Jacksonville now leads the league in takeaways and points scored off them (by 27 points). But Blake Bortles is still Blake Bortles; he had 95 passing yards.

3. Chiefs 42, Texans 34. Deshaun Watson bolstered his stats as Houston scored three times in the fourth quarter, but Kansas City was in control on the road. The Texans also lost J.J. Watt with a tibial plateau fracture in his left knee; his season is reportedly over.

4. Panthers 27, Lions 24. After back-to-back road wins at New England and Detroit, Carolina deserves to re-enter the contender conversation. Cam Newton displayed MVP form, finishing with three touchdowns and 355 yards, while the defense is now third in yards allowed per game (274.0).

5. Chargers 27, Giants 22. This battle of winless teams started with four punts and a safety. It ended with an Eli Manning interception after Los Angeles scored the go-ahead touchdown off a Manning fumble. On the play before that fumble, Odell Beckham Jr. broke his ankle. Hard to imagine things getting worse for New York, but then again, there are 12 weeks to go.

6. Seahawks 16, Rams 10. A missed field goal by Los Angeles in the third quarter altered this one. The Rams ultimately came up just short of a statement home win when Cooper Kupp failed to corral a pass in the end zone on the second-to-last play after Jared Goff marched the offense into scoring range.

7. Ravens 30, Raiders 17. Oakland cut the deficit to seven late in the third quarter, but EJ Manuel & Co. couldn't get closer while Joe Flacco completed 73% of his passes. At the moment, these are two teams going in opposite directions.

8. Colts 26, 49ers 23. Indianapolis's first overtime drive ended with a Jacoby Brissett interception, but San Francisco couldn't do anything with the ball, and the Colts kicked a game-winning field goal on their next drive. Rookie running back Marlon Mack emerged as a weapon for Indy, finishing with 91 yards, including a 35-yarder on the final drive.

9. Eagles 34, Cardinals 7. Philadelphia handled its business at home. Carson Wentz continued a strong sophomore season with four touchdowns to four receivers.

10. Dolphins 16, Titans 10. Jay Cutler struggled (12 for 26, for 92 yards), but he was good enough to get the win over Tennessee backup Matt Cassel.

11. Bengals 20, Bills 16. Tyrod Taylor threw a costly interception on Buffalo's final drive in Cincinnati; the Bengals’ defense held its visitors to 221 yards.

12. Jets 17, Browns 14. New York led by double digits until Cleveland got a late touchdown. Next Sunday, in the Meadowlands, the surprisingly 3-2 Patriots take on the surprisingly 3-2 Jets. (Browns fans looking for hope: Myles Garrett had two sacks in his debut).

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

THE KICKER

The Los Angeles Chargers got their first win Sunday since 1960 when they beat . . . New York.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

Police: Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd had drugs in crashed car

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2016, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) walks along sideline during warmup before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Houston. Boyd was charged Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, with owning a vape pen containing the active ingredient in marijuana, that police say they found when Boyd's friend crashed Boyd's car in the Pittsburgh suburbs in July. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, FILE)

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2016, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) walks along sideline during warmup before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Houston. Boyd was charged Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, with owning a vape pen containing the active ingredient in marijuana, that police say they found when Boyd's friend crashed Boyd's car in the Pittsburgh suburbs in July. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, FILE)

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2016, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) walks along sideline during warmup before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Houston. Boyd was charged Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, with owning a vape pen containing the active ingredient in marijuana, that police say they found when Boyd's friend crashed Boyd's car in the Pittsburgh suburbs in July. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, FILE)

FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2017, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looks to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Cincinnati. The Bengals are 0-2 at home, playing in front of thousands of empty seats. Sunday's Oct. 8 home game against the Buffalo Bills is a pivotal, early game in the season. (AP Photo/Frank Victores, File)

Deshaun Watson: The Houston Texans Future

Ater a shaky start to his career, rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson has quickly turned it around and proven to be the quarterback of the future for the Houston Texans. Through his first three starts, Watson is 2-1 and has taken the league by storm. Against the Jaguars and Bengals, Watson was 27-47 passing for 227 […]

Fantasy Football Week 5: Rams Have Morphed Into a Possible Offensive Juggernaut

This is always about the time of year when we start to see headlines about how wild and wacky this NFL season is. Well, the only predictable part of every NFL season is its unpredictability. The only predictable part of any sport’s season is its unpredictability. That’s sort of the point.

Of this season’s many unpredictable developments, the most unpredictable has been the Rams developing into a possible offensive juggernaut. Last year, the Rams scored 224 points—40 fewer than the next-worst offense in the league, and just 14 points per game. In four games this season, they’re already more than halfway to that total with 142 points. At 35.5 points per game, the Rams are the highest-scoring team in the league.

Even the most ardent Sean McVay supporter could not have presaged how immediate or how dramatic the Rams offensive turnaround would be. Sure, the Rams made real investments in the offense during the offseason, trading for Sammy Watkins, signing Robert Woods and drafting Cooper Kupp to improve one of the league’s worst groups of wide receivers. They also brought in veteran linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, turning an average unit into a strong one. Still, the growth of the offense hinged on Jared Goff, and he has aced every test to this point of his second season.

For the purposes of this Goff evaluation, we’re going to look at three elements of his game: how well he has played with a clean pocket, when throwing the ball deep and on playaction. Every great quarterback needs to perform with pressure in his face, but they also must pick apart defenses when their line protects them. The great ones are also lethal when pushing the ball down the field for big plays. The playaction part of the equation speaks to how successful the run game has been, and how inventive McVay has been with play design, scheme and play-calling.

Through four games, Goff is one of only two quarterbacks to rank in the top five in QB rating with a clean pocket, on deep balls, and on play action, according to Pro Football Focus. The other is Alex Smith. Goff leads the NFL with a QB rating of 128 with a clean pocket. He’s 59-of-76 for 738 yards, 9.71 yards per attempt, six touchdowns and one interception without pressure in the pocket. For sake of comparison, Matt Ryan had a 128.9 QB rating when kept clean last season.

Goff has attempted 16 deep passes, defined as traveling at least 20 yards in the air. He has completed nine of those for 304 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, translating to a QB rating of 121.9. That ranks fifth in the league behind Smith, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins.

Finally, Goff has thrown 31 passes off playaction, completing 20 of them for 364 yards, 11.74 YPA, one touchdown and zero picks. Only Smith and Brady own better playaction QB ratings than Goff’s 111, and only Cousins has thrown for more YPA among quarterbacks who have started all of their team’s games this season.

Goff’s play is at the center of the Rams resurgence this season, and his performance with a clean pocket, on deep passes, and on playaction is at the center is at the center of his personal breakout. With McVay at the helm, a confident Goff under center, a reborn Todd Gurley, improved weapons out wide, and a revamped offensive line, there’s reason to believe in this Rams offense all season.

With that, let’s get to the rest of the Week 5 Target and Snap Report. Remember, you can get all the target, snap, touches and red-zone data you need to get an edge on your league from our partners at 4for4.

The other best clean quarterbacks

Right behind Goff in QB rating when clean are Cousins and Brees. Cousins is at a 123.2 quarterback rating when clean, while Brees’s QB rating in such situations is 121.1, according to Pro Football Focus. Cousins has thrown for 817 yards, 9.28 YPA, six touchdowns and zero interceptions with a clean pocket. His accuracy rate, completions plus drops divided by attempts, is just north of 80%. Brees, meanwhile, has 1,014 yards, 8.24 YPA, eight touchdowns, zero picks and an accuracy rate of 82.5% when the defense doesn’t get any pressure on him. Those are gaudy numbers from both quarterbacks.

Of course, we should expect those numbers from guys like Brees and Cousins. What’s more interesting, then, is the frequency with which they’re getting to throw from a clean pocket. Brees has been free of pressure on 78.8% of his dropbacks this season, the second-highest rate in the league. Cousins isn’t that free quite that often, but his clean-pocket rate of 68.4% is the seventh highest for all quarterbacks.

This jibes with PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency numbers. PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency measures sacks, hits and hurries against dropbacks, and weights sacks more heavily than the latter two types of pressure, to spit out a number that allows us to compare lines on an apples-to-apples basis. The Saints o-line ranks fourth in pass-blocking efficiency, while the Redskins check in at ninth. With that, coupled with the pass volume in both offenses, Brees and Cousins are strong bets to finish the season as top-five fantasy quarterbacks.

Ameer Abdullah’s time is here

I know, you’ve heard this before, but hear me out. There are few things a running back can directly control. They can’t control how well their blockers do for them. They can’t control play-calling. They can’t control where quarterbacks go with their reads. Sure, they can influence all those, but they can’t move them on their own. One of the few things backs can control is missed tackles and yards after contact. On those two elements of the game, Abdullah grades quite well.

Abdullah has forced 12 missed tackles on 66 carries this season, ninth most in the league. He has averaged 2.97 yards after contact per carry, the fourth-highest total among all running backs. Abdullah is one of only five backs in the top 10 in both statstics. The other four are Kareem Hunt, C.J. Anderson, Dalvin Cook and Jay Ajayi.

On top of that, Abdullah is not hurting for opportunity. He has had at least 14 carries in every game this season, and has 11 targets to go along with his 66 rushing attempts. His 77 touches plus targets comes out to 19.25 opportunities per game, which compares favorably with players the fantasy community recognizes as RB1s. What’s more, Theo Riddick had a season-low 25.7% snap rate last week, and Abdullah out-touched him 23 to five. With Abdullah running better than he ever has, and Riddick not quite the threat he was perceived to be entering the season, the former is set for the star turn we’ve been predicting for years.

Concern for Jay Ajayi

Days before the Dolphins 20-0 loss to the Saints last week, Miami offensive coordinator Clyde Christiansen had some troubling words for Ajayi owners. He told the assembled Dolphins beat writers that the team would look to get him rest on third downs, working in Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams in obvious passing situations. So far, Christiansen has been good to his word, and it seemingly began in Week 3.

Ajayi has received just 13 touches in Miami’s last two games. You have to go all the way back to Week 5 of last season to find his last game with fewer than 19 touches before the last two weeks. Ajayi played just 52% of the Dolphins snaps in Week 3, and 62% last week, according to 4for4’s snap data. Since taking over as the starter in Miami, Ajayi had just one game with a snap rate less than 62% before Week 3 of this season, and it was the final game last year when the Dolphins were already locked into the No. 6 seed in the playoffs.

Ajayi’s talent is undeniable but, like any back, volume is just as important to his fantasy stardom. Without it, he may not be the RB1 his owners need him to be.

A silver lining for the Black and Gold

The Steelers are 3–1 this season, though the offense hasn’t popped the way that should be expected for an offense that employs Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, as well as an offensive line that ranks seventh in pass-blocking efficiency. The Steelers rank 21st in yards per game, 16th in pass yards per game and 18th in points per game. There’s reason to believe a turnaround is on the horizon.

First and foremost, let’s start with the schedule. Three of the Steelers first four opponents this season—the Ravens, Vikings and Bears—rank in the top 14 against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric. They’ve also been on the road for three of their four games, and Roethlisberger’s years-long struggles away from Heinz Field are now the stuff of legend.

That Bell finally looked like Bell is the second factor working in Pittsburgh’s favor. The best running back in the league had his best game of the season last week, piling up 144 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, and catching four passes for 42 yards. It took longer than anyone expected, but Bell is Bell again.

That fact should help open up a passing game that could certainly use a little breathing room, but already has some under-the-radar forces supporting a breakout on the horizon, notably from a fantasy perspective. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen stats, Roethlisberger ranks fourth in the league in average intended air yards at 10.7 yards per pass attempt. Only four quarterbacks have attempted more deep passes than Roethlisberger.

Meanwhile, Martavis Bryant leads all receivers in targeted air yards at 21.7 yards per target. Antonio Brown checks in at 13.5 air yards per target, and while that might not seem high, his sheer volume of targets obscures how often Roethlisberger is attacking deep down the field with Brown on the other end. Among receviers with at least 30 targets, Brown’s 13.5 air-yards-per-target mark ranks fourth. Bryant and Brown are tied for second with 10 deep targets, trailing only Stefon Diggs’s 12.

So let’s add this all up. The Steelers have played three good-to-great pass defenses, and three games on the road, where Roethlisberger historically struggles. They didn’t get a vintage Bell game until last week, and the passing game is taking more than its fair share of shots down the field. This is a group that is set to explode, and the just so happens to be returning to Pittsburgh this week, favored by 10 points against the Jaguars.

Fun with Blind Resumés!

Below are the 2017 resumés of two receivers. They are teammates, and they both joined their current team within the last 18 months. One of these players was a first-round pick, the other was an undrafted free agent. One was acquired for a first-round pick, and one was signed with little fanfare. See if you can guess who is who.

Receiver A: 13 catches, 24 targets, 294 yards, two touchdowns, zero red-zone targets

Receiver B: 15 catches, 26 targets, 214 yards, four touchdowns, eight red-zone targets

Receiver B certainly seems like the guy who cost two different teams first-round picks. After all, his current team is making him a focal point all over the field, as well as in the red zone. Receiver A has more yards, but his teammates seems to have a more lucrative role in the offense.

Alas, it is Receiver A who was the first-round pick, and Receiver B who was the undrafted free agent. Any guess as to their identities? The former is Brandin Cooks, and the latter is Chris Hogan. It has undoubtedly been a frustrating season for Cooks owners. The overall numbers are fine, but he has just one game with double-digit points in standard-scoring leagues, and he has been held south of 40 yards twice. Hogan, meanwhile, has delivered double-digit points in each of his last three games, totaling at least 60 yards and a touchdown in all of them.

There’s good reason to believe that Cooks worst quarter of the season is behind him. For one thing, Tom Brady’s QB rating when targeting Cooks is 126, the third-best for any quarterback-receiver duo in the league. For another, Cooks has 10 deep targets, and has pulled down five of them for 187 yards and both of his scores. No quarterback has gone deep more often than Brady this season, and only two have done so with more success, at least in terms of QB rating. In other words, Cooks remains a perfect fit for what Brady wants to do, it just hasn’t come through fully in the numbers just yet. The bet here, though, is that it will, and sooner rather than later.

An unexpected name among the usual suspects

There’s that word again. “Unexpected.” It really is the unofficial word of Week 5 of every NFL season.

This time, we’re talking about receivers who have helped their quarterbacks do quite well this season. Specifically, we’re looking at QB rating when throwing to a specific receiver. You’re always going to find the best receivers in the league at or near the top of this list, which makes sense. QB rating sort of convoluted, but it is derived from completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and interceptions. It stands to reason that the best receivers, who rack up catches yards and touchdowns, will help their quarterbacks produce the best ratings. Still, there’s always a conspicuous name or two, and this season’s first candidates are beginning to emerge.

First, though, the usual suspects. Inside the top 10 you’ll find Stefon Diggs (first), Brandin Cooks (third), Michael Thomas (fifth), Jordy Nelson (sixth) and Doug Baldwin (10th). You’ve also got the aided-by-an-elite-quarterback duo of Chris Hogan (fourth) and Davante Adams (ninth). Tyreek Hill is second, with Alex Smith’s QB rating when throwing to Hill at 132.6. Hill’s a surprise, to be sure, but one that is unlikely to last. He’s here thanks largely to two big plays which drive up the QB rating, especially in a small sample of four weeks. Adam Thielen is eighth, but that’s not as big a surprise as it might seem. Thielen finished third in the same category last season, and the Vikings offense has clicked in two of their four games.

That leaves our current seventh-place receiver in QB rating. His team’s offense hasn’t been great, he was outside the top-50 receivers in average draft position, and he entered this season as the third receiver on his own team. Still, Sterling Shepard has overcome those odds to catch 21 of his 27 targets for 254 yards and one touchdown, resulting in a QB rating for Eli Manning of 118.2. Shepard also leads the NFL in receptions and yards out of the slot and despite a large sample of targets driving down his rate stats, he’s still fifth in the league in yards per route run from the slot at 1.68.

With Brandon Marshall a shell of his former self and the Giants offense finally finding some rhythm over the last two weeks, Shepard is set for an increased role in the offense.

Sundry data I find interesting that I think you will, too.

Odell Beckham missed Week 1 and shook the rust off in Week 2. In Week 3, he had 13 targets. In Week 3, he had 15 targets. The rest of the season is going to be an all-you-can-eat buffet of targets for Beckham and, to a lesser extent, Shepard.

Andre Ellington didn’t have a role in Arizona’s offense until David Johnson’s injury. He has run the second-most pass routes of all running backs. I’m not sure what’s more interesting, that fact, or the fact that the guy he trails is Ezekiel Elliott.

The bottom-five receivers in yards per route run? Amari Cooper (0.86), Brandon Marshall (0.89), Jaron Brown (1.18), Davante Adams (1.3) and Chris Hogan (1.32). This is even more reason to believe in Sterling Shepard and Brandin Cooks.

Leonard Fournette’s 55% snap rate ranks 20th among running backs, but he has handled 64% of Jacksonville’s backfield touches. His 60% touch per snap rate first among starting running backs. For sake of comparison, Todd Gurley, who leads all backs with 106 touches, has a 50.5% touch per snap rate. The only other back with at least 65 touches and a touch rate north of 51%? Ameer Abdullah.

Committee of the whole

Mining the 4for4 RBBC Report for fantasy-relevant stats on backfield timeshares…

Arizona: We’ve got a clear picture of this one after last week. Chris Johnson is the runner. Andre Ellington is the receiver. Neither is a great fantasy option, though Ellington has some juice in PPR leagues.

Chicago: This is why we don’t overreact to a game or two, especially when the overreaction leads us to selling a guy who ran for 1,313 yards on a terrible offense a year ago. Not only is Jordan Howard in firm control of this backfield, he’s a safe RB1/2 play. You’re going to have to pick your spots with Tarik Cohen, though I still believe he puts up top-24 numbers over the course of the full season.

New Orelans: Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are both playing well. Adrian Peterson looks like a 32-year-old with two significant knee injuries in his rear-view mirror. Please stop the madness, Sean Payton.

New York Giants: Wayne Gallman brought a little spark to the offense last week, totaling 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. Meanwhille, let’s check in on Paul Perkins:

Philadelphia: LeGarrette Blount was great again last week, running for 136 yards on 16 carries. Still, Wendell Smallwood got six targets and 10 carries, and Corey Clement ran the ball 10 times, as well. Blount and Smallwood can be started in the right circumstances, while Clement remains a hold.

Baltimore: Like Arizona, we’re getting a clear picture of what’s going on in Baltimore. Alex Collins is the primary runner, and Javorius Allen is the primary receiver. Like Arizona, does anybody really care?

Cincinnati: Joe Mixon again led the Bengals in snaps, carries, targets and, obviously, touches, but he turned those 24 touches into 48 yards. Giovani Bernard had a 61-yard touchdown on one touch. The premium on Mixon is looking like one of this season’s big busts.

Houston: Lamar Miller had six targets in the Texans first three games. He had five last week, catching four of them for 56 yards and a touchdown. He has always been at his best when he’s getting involved in the passing game. D’Onta Foreman still played just shy of 30% of the snaps, netting 13 carries, but, remember, the Texans waxed the Titans to the tune of 57-14 last week.

New York Jets: It was a 2-to-1 breakdown in snaps and touches last week, with Bilal Powell on the long end of the platoon, and Elijah McGuire on the short end. Should that breakdown hold, Powell will be in the RB2 discussion, while McGuire will be a depth back in most fantasy formats. Matt Forte remains out with a toe injury.

Fantasy Football Week 5: Rams Have Morphed Into a Possible Offensive Juggernaut

This is always about the time of year when we start to see headlines about how wild and wacky this NFL season is. Well, the only predictable part of every NFL season is its unpredictability. The only predictable part of any sport’s season is its unpredictability. That’s sort of the point.

Of this season’s many unpredictable developments, the most unpredictable has been the Rams developing into a possible offensive juggernaut. Last year, the Rams scored 224 points—40 fewer than the next-worst offense in the league, and just 14 points per game. In four games this season, they’re already more than halfway to that total with 142 points. At 35.5 points per game, the Rams are the highest-scoring team in the league.

Even the most ardent Sean McVay supporter could not have presaged how immediate or how dramatic the Rams offensive turnaround would be. Sure, the Rams made real investments in the offense during the offseason, trading for Sammy Watkins, signing Robert Woods and drafting Cooper Kupp to improve one of the league’s worst groups of wide receivers. They also brought in veteran linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, turning an average unit into a strong one. Still, the growth of the offense hinged on Jared Goff, and he has aced every test to this point of his second season.

For the purposes of this Goff evaluation, we’re going to look at three elements of his game: how well he has played with a clean pocket, when throwing the ball deep and on playaction. Every great quarterback needs to perform with pressure in his face, but they also must pick apart defenses when their line protects them. The great ones are also lethal when pushing the ball down the field for big plays. The playaction part of the equation speaks to how successful the run game has been, and how inventive McVay has been with play design, scheme and play-calling.

Through four games, Goff is one of only two quarterbacks to rank in the top five in QB rating with a clean pocket, on deep balls, and on play action, according to Pro Football Focus. The other is Alex Smith. Goff leads the NFL with a QB rating of 128 with a clean pocket. He’s 59-of-76 for 738 yards, 9.71 yards per attempt, six touchdowns and one interception without pressure in the pocket. For sake of comparison, Matt Ryan had a 128.9 QB rating when kept clean last season.

Goff has attempted 16 deep passes, defined as traveling at least 20 yards in the air. He has completed nine of those for 304 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, translating to a QB rating of 121.9. That ranks fifth in the league behind Smith, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins.

Finally, Goff has thrown 31 passes off playaction, completing 20 of them for 364 yards, 11.74 YPA, one touchdown and zero picks. Only Smith and Brady own better playaction QB ratings than Goff’s 111, and only Cousins has thrown for more YPA among quarterbacks who have started all of their team’s games this season.

Goff’s play is at the center of the Rams resurgence this season, and his performance with a clean pocket, on deep passes, and on playaction is at the center is at the center of his personal breakout. With McVay at the helm, a confident Goff under center, a reborn Todd Gurley, improved weapons out wide, and a revamped offensive line, there’s reason to believe in this Rams offense all season.

With that, let’s get to the rest of the Week 5 Target and Snap Report. Remember, you can get all the target, snap, touches and red-zone data you need to get an edge on your league from our partners at 4for4.

The other best clean quarterbacks

Right behind Goff in QB rating when clean are Cousins and Brees. Cousins is at a 123.2 quarterback rating when clean, while Brees’s QB rating in such situations is 121.1, according to Pro Football Focus. Cousins has thrown for 817 yards, 9.28 YPA, six touchdowns and zero interceptions with a clean pocket. His accuracy rate, completions plus drops divided by attempts, is just north of 80%. Brees, meanwhile, has 1,014 yards, 8.24 YPA, eight touchdowns, zero picks and an accuracy rate of 82.5% when the defense doesn’t get any pressure on him. Those are gaudy numbers from both quarterbacks.

Of course, we should expect those numbers from guys like Brees and Cousins. What’s more interesting, then, is the frequency with which they’re getting to throw from a clean pocket. Brees has been free of pressure on 78.8% of his dropbacks this season, the second-highest rate in the league. Cousins isn’t that free quite that often, but his clean-pocket rate of 68.4% is the seventh highest for all quarterbacks.

This jibes with PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency numbers. PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency measures sacks, hits and hurries against dropbacks, and weights sacks more heavily than the latter two types of pressure, to spit out a number that allows us to compare lines on an apples-to-apples basis. The Saints o-line ranks fourth in pass-blocking efficiency, while the Redskins check in at ninth. With that, coupled with the pass volume in both offenses, Brees and Cousins are strong bets to finish the season as top-five fantasy quarterbacks.

Ameer Abdullah’s time is here

I know, you’ve heard this before, but hear me out. There are few things a running back can directly control. They can’t control how well their blockers do for them. They can’t control play-calling. They can’t control where quarterbacks go with their reads. Sure, they can influence all those, but they can’t move them on their own. One of the few things backs can control is missed tackles and yards after contact. On those two elements of the game, Abdullah grades quite well.

Abdullah has forced 12 missed tackles on 66 carries this season, ninth most in the league. He has averaged 2.97 yards after contact per carry, the fourth-highest total among all running backs. Abdullah is one of only five backs in the top 10 in both statstics. The other four are Kareem Hunt, C.J. Anderson, Dalvin Cook and Jay Ajayi.

On top of that, Abdullah is not hurting for opportunity. He has had at least 14 carries in every game this season, and has 11 targets to go along with his 66 rushing attempts. His 77 touches plus targets comes out to 19.25 opportunities per game, which compares favorably with players the fantasy community recognizes as RB1s. What’s more, Theo Riddick had a season-low 25.7% snap rate last week, and Abdullah out-touched him 23 to five. With Abdullah running better than he ever has, and Riddick not quite the threat he was perceived to be entering the season, the former is set for the star turn we’ve been predicting for years.

Concern for Jay Ajayi

Days before the Dolphins 20-0 loss to the Saints last week, Miami offensive coordinator Clyde Christiansen had some troubling words for Ajayi owners. He told the assembled Dolphins beat writers that the team would look to get him rest on third downs, working in Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams in obvious passing situations. So far, Christiansen has been good to his word, and it seemingly began in Week 3.

Ajayi has received just 13 touches in Miami’s last two games. You have to go all the way back to Week 5 of last season to find his last game with fewer than 19 touches before the last two weeks. Ajayi played just 52% of the Dolphins snaps in Week 3, and 62% last week, according to 4for4’s snap data. Since taking over as the starter in Miami, Ajayi had just one game with a snap rate less than 62% before Week 3 of this season, and it was the final game last year when the Dolphins were already locked into the No. 6 seed in the playoffs.

Ajayi’s talent is undeniable but, like any back, volume is just as important to his fantasy stardom. Without it, he may not be the RB1 his owners need him to be.

A silver lining for the Black and Gold

The Steelers are 3–1 this season, though the offense hasn’t popped the way that should be expected for an offense that employs Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, as well as an offensive line that ranks seventh in pass-blocking efficiency. The Steelers rank 21st in yards per game, 16th in pass yards per game and 18th in points per game. There’s reason to believe a turnaround is on the horizon.

First and foremost, let’s start with the schedule. Three of the Steelers first four opponents this season—the Ravens, Vikings and Bears—rank in the top 14 against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric. They’ve also been on the road for three of their four games, and Roethlisberger’s years-long struggles away from Heinz Field are now the stuff of legend.

That Bell finally looked like Bell is the second factor working in Pittsburgh’s favor. The best running back in the league had his best game of the season last week, piling up 144 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, and catching four passes for 42 yards. It took longer than anyone expected, but Bell is Bell again.

That fact should help open up a passing game that could certainly use a little breathing room, but already has some under-the-radar forces supporting a breakout on the horizon, notably from a fantasy perspective. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen stats, Roethlisberger ranks fourth in the league in average intended air yards at 10.7 yards per pass attempt. Only four quarterbacks have attempted more deep passes than Roethlisberger.

Meanwhile, Martavis Bryant leads all receivers in targeted air yards at 21.7 yards per target. Antonio Brown checks in at 13.5 air yards per target, and while that might not seem high, his sheer volume of targets obscures how often Roethlisberger is attacking deep down the field with Brown on the other end. Among receviers with at least 30 targets, Brown’s 13.5 air-yards-per-target mark ranks fourth. Bryant and Brown are tied for second with 10 deep targets, trailing only Stefon Diggs’s 12.

So let’s add this all up. The Steelers have played three good-to-great pass defenses, and three games on the road, where Roethlisberger historically struggles. They didn’t get a vintage Bell game until last week, and the passing game is taking more than its fair share of shots down the field. This is a group that is set to explode, and the just so happens to be returning to Pittsburgh this week, favored by 10 points against the Jaguars.

Fun with Blind Resumés!

Below are the 2017 resumés of two receivers. They are teammates, and they both joined their current team within the last 18 months. One of these players was a first-round pick, the other was an undrafted free agent. One was acquired for a first-round pick, and one was signed with little fanfare. See if you can guess who is who.

Receiver A: 13 catches, 24 targets, 294 yards, two touchdowns, zero red-zone targets

Receiver B: 15 catches, 26 targets, 214 yards, four touchdowns, eight red-zone targets

Receiver B certainly seems like the guy who cost two different teams first-round picks. After all, his current team is making him a focal point all over the field, as well as in the red zone. Receiver A has more yards, but his teammates seems to have a more lucrative role in the offense.

Alas, it is Receiver A who was the first-round pick, and Receiver B who was the undrafted free agent. Any guess as to their identities? The former is Brandin Cooks, and the latter is Chris Hogan. It has undoubtedly been a frustrating season for Cooks owners. The overall numbers are fine, but he has just one game with double-digit points in standard-scoring leagues, and he has been held south of 40 yards twice. Hogan, meanwhile, has delivered double-digit points in each of his last three games, totaling at least 60 yards and a touchdown in all of them.

There’s good reason to believe that Cooks worst quarter of the season is behind him. For one thing, Tom Brady’s QB rating when targeting Cooks is 126, the third-best for any quarterback-receiver duo in the league. For another, Cooks has 10 deep targets, and has pulled down five of them for 187 yards and both of his scores. No quarterback has gone deep more often than Brady this season, and only two have done so with more success, at least in terms of QB rating. In other words, Cooks remains a perfect fit for what Brady wants to do, it just hasn’t come through fully in the numbers just yet. The bet here, though, is that it will, and sooner rather than later.

An unexpected name among the usual suspects

There’s that word again. “Unexpected.” It really is the unofficial word of Week 5 of every NFL season.

This time, we’re talking about receivers who have helped their quarterbacks do quite well this season. Specifically, we’re looking at QB rating when throwing to a specific receiver. You’re always going to find the best receivers in the league at or near the top of this list, which makes sense. QB rating sort of convoluted, but it is derived from completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and interceptions. It stands to reason that the best receivers, who rack up catches yards and touchdowns, will help their quarterbacks produce the best ratings. Still, there’s always a conspicuous name or two, and this season’s first candidates are beginning to emerge.

First, though, the usual suspects. Inside the top 10 you’ll find Stefon Diggs (first), Brandin Cooks (third), Michael Thomas (fifth), Jordy Nelson (sixth) and Doug Baldwin (10th). You’ve also got the aided-by-an-elite-quarterback duo of Chris Hogan (fourth) and Davante Adams (ninth). Tyreek Hill is second, with Alex Smith’s QB rating when throwing to Hill at 132.6. Hill’s a surprise, to be sure, but one that is unlikely to last. He’s here thanks largely to two big plays which drive up the QB rating, especially in a small sample of four weeks. Adam Thielen is eighth, but that’s not as big a surprise as it might seem. Thielen finished third in the same category last season, and the Vikings offense has clicked in two of their four games.

That leaves our current seventh-place receiver in QB rating. His team’s offense hasn’t been great, he was outside the top-50 receivers in average draft position, and he entered this season as the third receiver on his own team. Still, Sterling Shepard has overcome those odds to catch 21 of his 27 targets for 254 yards and one touchdown, resulting in a QB rating for Eli Manning of 118.2. Shepard also leads the NFL in receptions and yards out of the slot and despite a large sample of targets driving down his rate stats, he’s still fifth in the league in yards per route run from the slot at 1.68.

With Brandon Marshall a shell of his former self and the Giants offense finally finding some rhythm over the last two weeks, Shepard is set for an increased role in the offense.

Sundry data I find interesting that I think you will, too.

Odell Beckham missed Week 1 and shook the rust off in Week 2. In Week 3, he had 13 targets. In Week 3, he had 15 targets. The rest of the season is going to be an all-you-can-eat buffet of targets for Beckham and, to a lesser extent, Shepard.

Andre Ellington didn’t have a role in Arizona’s offense until David Johnson’s injury. He has run the second-most pass routes of all running backs. I’m not sure what’s more interesting, that fact, or the fact that the guy he trails is Ezekiel Elliott.

The bottom-five receivers in yards per route run? Amari Cooper (0.86), Brandon Marshall (0.89), Jaron Brown (1.18), Davante Adams (1.3) and Chris Hogan (1.32). This is even more reason to believe in Sterling Shepard and Brandin Cooks.

Leonard Fournette’s 55% snap rate ranks 20th among running backs, but he has handled 64% of Jacksonville’s backfield touches. His 60% touch per snap rate first among starting running backs. For sake of comparison, Todd Gurley, who leads all backs with 106 touches, has a 50.5% touch per snap rate. The only other back with at least 65 touches and a touch rate north of 51%? Ameer Abdullah.

Committee of the whole

Mining the 4for4 RBBC Report for fantasy-relevant stats on backfield timeshares…

Arizona: We’ve got a clear picture of this one after last week. Chris Johnson is the runner. Andre Ellington is the receiver. Neither is a great fantasy option, though Ellington has some juice in PPR leagues.

Chicago: This is why we don’t overreact to a game or two, especially when the overreaction leads us to selling a guy who ran for 1,313 yards on a terrible offense a year ago. Not only is Jordan Howard in firm control of this backfield, he’s a safe RB1/2 play. You’re going to have to pick your spots with Tarik Cohen, though I still believe he puts up top-24 numbers over the course of the full season.

New Orelans: Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are both playing well. Adrian Peterson looks like a 32-year-old with two significant knee injuries in his rear-view mirror. Please stop the madness, Sean Payton.

New York Giants: Wayne Gallman brought a little spark to the offense last week, totaling 50 yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. Meanwhille, let’s check in on Paul Perkins:

Philadelphia: LeGarrette Blount was great again last week, running for 136 yards on 16 carries. Still, Wendell Smallwood got six targets and 10 carries, and Corey Clement ran the ball 10 times, as well. Blount and Smallwood can be started in the right circumstances, while Clement remains a hold.

Baltimore: Like Arizona, we’re getting a clear picture of what’s going on in Baltimore. Alex Collins is the primary runner, and Javorius Allen is the primary receiver. Like Arizona, does anybody really care?

Cincinnati: Joe Mixon again led the Bengals in snaps, carries, targets and, obviously, touches, but he turned those 24 touches into 48 yards. Giovani Bernard had a 61-yard touchdown on one touch. The premium on Mixon is looking like one of this season’s big busts.

Houston: Lamar Miller had six targets in the Texans first three games. He had five last week, catching four of them for 56 yards and a touchdown. He has always been at his best when he’s getting involved in the passing game. D’Onta Foreman still played just shy of 30% of the snaps, netting 13 carries, but, remember, the Texans waxed the Titans to the tune of 57-14 last week.

New York Jets: It was a 2-to-1 breakdown in snaps and touches last week, with Bilal Powell on the long end of the platoon, and Elijah McGuire on the short end. Should that breakdown hold, Powell will be in the RB2 discussion, while McGuire will be a depth back in most fantasy formats. Matt Forte remains out with a toe injury.

Backup NFL Quarterbacks

Backup NFL QuarterbacksBackup NFL Quarterbacks Bills: Nathan Peterman and Joe Webb Dolphins: Matt Moore Patriots: Jimmy Garropolo Jets: Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg Ravens: Ryan Mallett Bengals: AJ McCarron Browns: Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler Steelers: Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs Texans: Tom Savage Colts: Jacob Brissett(s) and Scott Tolzien Jaguars: Chad Henne and Ryan Nassib Titans: […]

NFL Odds: Opening Betting Lines for Week 5, Game Trends Roundup

There are four teams still looking for their first win heading into Week 5 of the NFL season, and one of them is virtually guaranteed to earn a victory.

That is because the Los Angeles Chargers (0-4) are visiting the New York Giants (0-4) in one of the 14 games on the slate, with the visitors listed as 3.5-point road underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. A tie of course would keep both of the teams winless.

The Chargers are 3-0 straight up and against the spread in the past three meetings with New York. In addition, the Giants have failed to cover the spread the last five times they have hosted a West Coast team.

The Cleveland Browns (0-4) are also favored to win their first game on Sunday, as they host the surprising New York Jets (2-2) as 1.5-point home favorites. The Jets have put together back-to-back wins following an 0-2 start, and they have won the past four meetings with the Browns both SU and ATS.

Cleveland has dropped 20 of its last 21 early afternoon games, going 2-11-1 ATS in the team’s previous 14 overall.

The fourth team with a shot at winning in Week 5 is the San Francisco 49ers (0-4) visiting the Indianapolis Colts (1-3) as 1.5-point road dogs. The 49ers are 3-1 ATS in the past four road meetings with the Colts. However, Indy has won the last three games between the teams and is 3-1 SU in its previous four when hosting a West Coast team.

As for the undefeated teams, only one remains following Week 4, with the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) set to visit the Houston Texans (2-2) in the Week 5 Sunday Night Football matchup. The Chiefs are coming off a 29-20 home win over the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, so this will be their second consecutive prime-time game.

Kansas City is listed as 1.5-point road chalk on the NFL Week 5 odds and has won three of the past four meetings. The Texans are just 3-21-1 ATS in their last 25 prime-time games.

The Atlanta Falcons were unbeaten prior to last week, and they are on a bye after falling to the Buffalo Bills at home. The Bills (3-1) lead the AFC East over the Jets and New England Patriots (2-2), and they now visit the Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) as 3-point road dogs. Buffalo is 11-3 SU and ATS in the past 14 meetings with Cincinnati.

As for the Patriots, they kick off Week 5 by visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) as 5.5-point road chalk on Thursday Night Football.

Both of New England’s two losses so far have shockingly come at home while the team has won nine in a row on the road (8-1 ATS) dating back to last season, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. Tampa Bay has won six straight at home (4-2 ATS).

The Morning Huddle: A Giant Disappointment

Football has three phases, and the Giants are failing in all of them. First it was the offense that scored just three points at Dallas in Week 1. Then the special teams gave up a back-breaking 88-yard punt return to the Lions in Week 2. And this week, in Tampa Bay, the defense had its turn in a 25-23 loss. What was supposed to be one of the league's top units surrendered seven yards per play to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. And in crunch time, that ballooned to 11.9 yards per play as the Bucs marched for a go-ahead score and then—after the Giants’ offense reclaimed the lead—moved 62 yards to set up a game-winning field goal as time expired.

In part, New York has been unlucky—it'll face a losing squad for the first time next week when the Chargers come to town. But this is a team that finished in the top five in defense last year and that brought in new weapons for a supposedly Hall of Fame caliber quarterback (Eli Manning), who still has arguably the league's most talented player (Odell Beckham Jr.). And here that team is, in October, losing the battle of New York to a Jets team that is trying to tank . . . by two games! In a season that's seen several other projected contenders start slow (Patriots, Seahawks, Cowboys), New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers called the Giants "far and away the No. 1 flop of the first month of the NFL season." Then he went further. "This truly might be the most disappointing and underachieving Giants team of all time," he wrote. Now that's saying something.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

* * *

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Gary Gramling freaks out over a thrilling Sunday afternoon ... Peter King reports on a "surreal, slightly insane day" in Baltimore ... Michael Beller covers the Bills' emergence ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit previews Chiefs-Washington ... and more. Stay tuned.

* * *

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Bills 23, Falcons 17. Introducing your AFC East leading Buffalo Bills. Matt Ryan drove Atlanta 65 yards, but needing just one yard to set up a first-and-goal in the final minute, he threw two incompletions that led to a turnover on downs and a home loss. Buffalo's defense had another impressive showing, headlined by rookie corner Tre'Davious White's 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown, ultimately the difference in the upset.

2. Panthers 33, Patriots 30. New England officially has a defensive crisis. After being held to 13 points at home last week, Carolina exploded for 33 on 444 yards at Gillette Stadium, sealing the win with a last-second field goal.

3. Texans 57, Titans 14. Holy moly, Deshaun Watson. The rookie scored five times (four through the air plus one on the ground). On the other side, Marcus Mariota is getting an MRI on his hamstring today that will set the timetable for his return.

4. Lions 14, Vikings 7. A left knee injury knocked rookie running back Dalvin Cook out and Minnesota’s offense stalled. On one side of the two-minute warning, Case Keenum took a sack on third-and-goal from the three—killing that drive. On the other side, Adam Thielen fumbled with 1:51 left to end the home team's final push just as it was beginning.

5. Broncos 16, Raiders 10. The big story coming out of this one is the health of Derek Carr after the Raiders’ QB left with a back injury in the third quarter (it sounds like he'll be fine). Enter E.J. Manuel, who played decently before throwing a game-ending interception at the Denver eight-yard line just after the two-minute warning.

6. Rams 35, Cowboys 30. L.A. running back Todd Gurley outdid Ezekiel Elliott, finishing with 215 scrimmage yards and a score; the Rams’ offense overall committed no turnovers and ended the day leading the league in points per game.

7. Saints 20, Dolphins 0. Sunday started with New Orleans' defense reviving the team's season. The Saints return stateside 2-2 after two road victories, while Adam Gase is now answering questions about whether Jay Cutler will stay as QB.

8. Steelers 26, Ravens 9. Le'Veon Bell returned to form (186 scrimmage yards) for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Baltimore's offense struggled again, this time at home. It now sits 30th in the league in yards per game.

9. Seahawks 46, Colts 18.? Seattle entered halftime trailing Indianapolis, 15-10, staring at what would have been one of the worst home losses of the Pete Carroll era. But then both sides of the ball found their form en route to a 36-point second half.

10. Buccaneers 25, Giants 23. Congrats to New York coach Ben McAdoo for finding a new way to lose. This time, on a soggy Raymond James field, Odell Beckham Jr. was called for stepping out of bounds on a two-point try, leaving the door open for Tampa Bay to drive 59 yards and kick a game-winning field goal. The Giants return home 0-4.

11. Eagles 26, Chargers 24. Los Angeles didn't suffer a last-minute loss this time because it didn't allow itself to. Instead, Philadelphia wound out the final 6:44 after a Chargers touchdown, converting three third-and-shorts to move to 3-1.

12. Jets 23, Jaguars 20 (OT). These guys traded five punts in overtime, and we nearly had our first tie with the new extra period rules, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Paul Posluszny put New York in field goal range. Josh McCown's game-winning drive: four plays, two yards. But hey, 2-2.

13. Cardinals 18, 49ers 15 (OT). The only touchdown of the day came on the final play: a 19-yard connection between Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald.

14. Bengals 31, Browns 7. Nothing like a game against Cleveland to get your confidence back. Andy Dalton threw four touchdowns as Hue Jackson dropped to 1-19 during his Browns tenure.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

* * *

THE KICKER

You are either a Jay Cutler split out wide, or a Matt Ryan in the same role (I think I'm more Matt).

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

The Morning Huddle: A Giant Disappointment

Football has three phases, and the Giants are failing in all of them. First it was the offense that scored just three points at Dallas in Week 1. Then the special teams gave up a back-breaking 88-yard punt return to the Lions in Week 2. And this week, in Tampa Bay, the defense had its turn in a 25-23 loss. What was supposed to be one of the league's top units surrendered seven yards per play to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. And in crunch time, that ballooned to 11.9 yards per play as the Bucs marched for a go-ahead score and then—after the Giants’ offense reclaimed the lead—moved 62 yards to set up a game-winning field goal as time expired.

In part, New York has been unlucky—it'll face a losing squad for the first time next week when the Chargers come to town. But this is a team that finished in the top five in defense last year and that brought in new weapons for a supposedly Hall of Fame caliber quarterback (Eli Manning), who still has arguably the league's most talented player (Odell Beckham Jr.). And here that team is, in October, losing the battle of New York to a Jets team that is trying to tank . . . by two games! In a season that's seen several other projected contenders start slow (Patriots, Seahawks, Cowboys), New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers called the Giants "far and away the No. 1 flop of the first month of the NFL season." Then he went further. "This truly might be the most disappointing and underachieving Giants team of all time," he wrote. Now that's saying something.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

* * *

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Gary Gramling freaks out over a thrilling Sunday afternoon ... Peter King reports on a "surreal, slightly insane day" in Baltimore ... Michael Beller covers the Bills' emergence ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit previews Chiefs-Washington ... and more. Stay tuned.

* * *

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Bills 23, Falcons 17. Introducing your AFC East leading Buffalo Bills. Matt Ryan drove Atlanta 65 yards, but needing just one yard to set up a first-and-goal in the final minute, he threw two incompletions that led to a turnover on downs and a home loss. Buffalo's defense had another impressive showing, headlined by rookie corner Tre'Davious White's 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown, ultimately the difference in the upset.

2. Panthers 33, Patriots 30. New England officially has a defensive crisis. After being held to 13 points at home last week, Carolina exploded for 33 on 444 yards at Gillette Stadium, sealing the win with a last-second field goal.

3. Texans 57, Titans 14. Holy moly, Deshaun Watson. The rookie scored five times (four through the air plus one on the ground). On the other side, Marcus Mariota is getting an MRI on his hamstring today that will set the timetable for his return.

4. Lions 14, Vikings 7. A left knee injury knocked rookie running back Dalvin Cook out and Minnesota’s offense stalled. On one side of the two-minute warning, Case Keenum took a sack on third-and-goal from the three—killing that drive. On the other side, Adam Thielen fumbled with 1:51 left to end the home team's final push just as it was beginning.

5. Broncos 16, Raiders 10. The big story coming out of this one is the health of Derek Carr after the Raiders’ QB left with a back injury in the third quarter (it sounds like he'll be fine). Enter E.J. Manuel, who played decently before throwing a game-ending interception at the Denver eight-yard line just after the two-minute warning.

6. Rams 35, Cowboys 30. L.A. running back Todd Gurley outdid Ezekiel Elliott, finishing with 215 scrimmage yards and a score; the Rams’ offense overall committed no turnovers and ended the day leading the league in points per game.

7. Saints 20, Dolphins 0. Sunday started with New Orleans' defense reviving the team's season. The Saints return stateside 2-2 after two road victories, while Adam Gase is now answering questions about whether Jay Cutler will stay as QB.

8. Steelers 26, Ravens 9. Le'Veon Bell returned to form (186 scrimmage yards) for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Baltimore's offense struggled again, this time at home. It now sits 30th in the league in yards per game.

9. Seahawks 46, Colts 18.? Seattle entered halftime trailing Indianapolis, 15-10, staring at what would have been one of the worst home losses of the Pete Carroll era. But then both sides of the ball found their form en route to a 36-point second half.

10. Buccaneers 25, Giants 23. Congrats to New York coach Ben McAdoo for finding a new way to lose. This time, on a soggy Raymond James field, Odell Beckham Jr. was called for stepping out of bounds on a two-point try, leaving the door open for Tampa Bay to drive 59 yards and kick a game-winning field goal. The Giants return home 0-4.

11. Eagles 26, Chargers 24. Los Angeles didn't suffer a last-minute loss this time because it didn't allow itself to. Instead, Philadelphia wound out the final 6:44 after a Chargers touchdown, converting three third-and-shorts to move to 3-1.

12. Jets 23, Jaguars 20 (OT). These guys traded five punts in overtime, and we nearly had our first tie with the new extra period rules, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Paul Posluszny put New York in field goal range. Josh McCown's game-winning drive: four plays, two yards. But hey, 2-2.

13. Cardinals 18, 49ers 15 (OT). The only touchdown of the day came on the final play: a 19-yard connection between Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald.

14. Bengals 31, Browns 7. Nothing like a game against Cleveland to get your confidence back. Andy Dalton threw four touchdowns as Hue Jackson dropped to 1-19 during his Browns tenure.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

* * *

THE KICKER

You are either a Jay Cutler split out wide, or a Matt Ryan in the same role (I think I'm more Matt).

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

The Morning Huddle: A Giant Disappointment

Football has three phases, and the Giants are failing in all of them. First it was the offense that scored just three points at Dallas in Week 1. Then the special teams gave up a back-breaking 88-yard punt return to the Lions in Week 2. And this week, in Tampa Bay, the defense had its turn in a 25-23 loss. What was supposed to be one of the league's top units surrendered seven yards per play to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. And in crunch time, that ballooned to 11.9 yards per play as the Bucs marched for a go-ahead score and then—after the Giants’ offense reclaimed the lead—moved 62 yards to set up a game-winning field goal as time expired.

In part, New York has been unlucky—it'll face a losing squad for the first time next week when the Chargers come to town. But this is a team that finished in the top five in defense last year and that brought in new weapons for a supposedly Hall of Fame caliber quarterback (Eli Manning), who still has arguably the league's most talented player (Odell Beckham Jr.). And here that team is, in October, losing the battle of New York to a Jets team that is trying to tank . . . by two games! In a season that's seen several other projected contenders start slow (Patriots, Seahawks, Cowboys), New York Daily News columnist Gary Myers called the Giants "far and away the No. 1 flop of the first month of the NFL season." Then he went further. "This truly might be the most disappointing and underachieving Giants team of all time," he wrote. Now that's saying something.

Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.

* * *

HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Gary Gramling freaks out over a thrilling Sunday afternoon ... Peter King reports on a "surreal, slightly insane day" in Baltimore ... Michael Beller covers the Bills' emergence ... and more.

LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit previews Chiefs-Washington ... and more. Stay tuned.

* * *

PRESS COVERAGE

1. Bills 23, Falcons 17. Introducing your AFC East leading Buffalo Bills. Matt Ryan drove Atlanta 65 yards, but needing just one yard to set up a first-and-goal in the final minute, he threw two incompletions that led to a turnover on downs and a home loss. Buffalo's defense had another impressive showing, headlined by rookie corner Tre'Davious White's 52-yard fumble return for a touchdown, ultimately the difference in the upset.

2. Panthers 33, Patriots 30. New England officially has a defensive crisis. After being held to 13 points at home last week, Carolina exploded for 33 on 444 yards at Gillette Stadium, sealing the win with a last-second field goal.

3. Texans 57, Titans 14. Holy moly, Deshaun Watson. The rookie scored five times (four through the air plus one on the ground). On the other side, Marcus Mariota is getting an MRI on his hamstring today that will set the timetable for his return.

4. Lions 14, Vikings 7. A left knee injury knocked rookie running back Dalvin Cook out and Minnesota’s offense stalled. On one side of the two-minute warning, Case Keenum took a sack on third-and-goal from the three—killing that drive. On the other side, Adam Thielen fumbled with 1:51 left to end the home team's final push just as it was beginning.

5. Broncos 16, Raiders 10. The big story coming out of this one is the health of Derek Carr after the Raiders’ QB left with a back injury in the third quarter (it sounds like he'll be fine). Enter E.J. Manuel, who played decently before throwing a game-ending interception at the Denver eight-yard line just after the two-minute warning.

6. Rams 35, Cowboys 30. L.A. running back Todd Gurley outdid Ezekiel Elliott, finishing with 215 scrimmage yards and a score; the Rams’ offense overall committed no turnovers and ended the day leading the league in points per game.

7. Saints 20, Dolphins 0. Sunday started with New Orleans' defense reviving the team's season. The Saints return stateside 2-2 after two road victories, while Adam Gase is now answering questions about whether Jay Cutler will stay as QB.

8. Steelers 26, Ravens 9. Le'Veon Bell returned to form (186 scrimmage yards) for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Baltimore's offense struggled again, this time at home. It now sits 30th in the league in yards per game.

9. Seahawks 46, Colts 18.? Seattle entered halftime trailing Indianapolis, 15-10, staring at what would have been one of the worst home losses of the Pete Carroll era. But then both sides of the ball found their form en route to a 36-point second half.

10. Buccaneers 25, Giants 23. Congrats to New York coach Ben McAdoo for finding a new way to lose. This time, on a soggy Raymond James field, Odell Beckham Jr. was called for stepping out of bounds on a two-point try, leaving the door open for Tampa Bay to drive 59 yards and kick a game-winning field goal. The Giants return home 0-4.

11. Eagles 26, Chargers 24. Los Angeles didn't suffer a last-minute loss this time because it didn't allow itself to. Instead, Philadelphia wound out the final 6:44 after a Chargers touchdown, converting three third-and-shorts to move to 3-1.

12. Jets 23, Jaguars 20 (OT). These guys traded five punts in overtime, and we nearly had our first tie with the new extra period rules, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Paul Posluszny put New York in field goal range. Josh McCown's game-winning drive: four plays, two yards. But hey, 2-2.

13. Cardinals 18, 49ers 15 (OT). The only touchdown of the day came on the final play: a 19-yard connection between Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald.

14. Bengals 31, Browns 7. Nothing like a game against Cleveland to get your confidence back. Andy Dalton threw four touchdowns as Hue Jackson dropped to 1-19 during his Browns tenure.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

* * *

THE KICKER

You are either a Jay Cutler split out wide, or a Matt Ryan in the same role (I think I'm more Matt).

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

Fantasy Football Week 4 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Chris Raybon: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are still performing at the high level we have come to expect from them, but has age finally caught up to many of the second-tier fantasy quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning are all 36 or older, and all three sit outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring at the position. Big Ben seems allergic to having good games on the road, Rivers appears obsessed with throwing the ball to the other team, and Manning doesn't sniff good numbers unless his receivers bail him out with spectacular plays. Cam Newton is only 28, but his body has looked 10 years older, perhaps explaining why he has cracked the top-20 in just one of his past five games. All four of those formerly productive passers will face defenses in Week 4 that gave up big passing numbers last week. Delivering for fantasy owners this week would go a long way toward showing they can still be counted on, whether as a season-long options or viable streamers.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

Fantasy Football Week 4 Player Rankings

Five Facts to Know for Week 4 DFS

The Top DFS Values in Week 4

Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

Week 4 Fantasy Football Streaming Options

And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.

Fantasy Football Week 3 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

Fantasy Football Week 4 Player Rankings

Five Facts to Know for Week 4 DFS

The Top DFS Values in Week 4

Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

Week 4 Fantasy Football Streaming Options

And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.

Fantasy Football Week 4 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Chris Raybon: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are still performing at the high level we have come to expect from them, but has age finally caught up to many of the second-tier fantasy quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning are all 36 or older, and all three sit outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring at the position. Big Ben seems allergic to having good games on the road, Rivers appears obsessed with throwing the ball to the other team, and Manning doesn't sniff good numbers unless his receivers bail him out with spectacular plays. Cam Newton is only 28, but his body has looked 10 years older, perhaps explaining why he has cracked the top-20 in just one of his past five games. All four of those formerly productive passers will face defenses in Week 4 that gave up big passing numbers last week. Delivering for fantasy owners this week would go a long way toward showing they can still be counted on, whether as a season-long options or viable streamers.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

Fantasy Football Week 4 Player Rankings

Five Facts to Know for Week 4 DFS

The Top DFS Values in Week 4

Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

Week 4 Fantasy Football Streaming Options

And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.

Fantasy Football Week 4 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Chris Raybon: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are still performing at the high level we have come to expect from them, but has age finally caught up to many of the second-tier fantasy quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning are all 36 or older, and all three sit outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring at the position. Big Ben seems allergic to having good games on the road, Rivers appears obsessed with throwing the ball to the other team, and Manning doesn't sniff good numbers unless his receivers bail him out with spectacular plays. Cam Newton is only 28, but his body has looked 10 years older, perhaps explaining why he has cracked the top-20 in just one of his past five games. All four of those formerly productive passers will face defenses in Week 4 that gave up big passing numbers last week. Delivering for fantasy owners this week would go a long way toward showing they can still be counted on, whether as a season-long options or viable streamers.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

Fantasy Football Week 4 Player Rankings

Five Facts to Know for Week 4 DFS

The Top DFS Values in Week 4

Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

Week 4 Fantasy Football Streaming Options

And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.

Fantasy Football Week 4 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Chris Raybon: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are still performing at the high level we have come to expect from them, but has age finally caught up to many of the second-tier fantasy quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning are all 36 or older, and all three sit outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring at the position. Big Ben seems allergic to having good games on the road, Rivers appears obsessed with throwing the ball to the other team, and Manning doesn't sniff good numbers unless his receivers bail him out with spectacular plays. Cam Newton is only 28, but his body has looked 10 years older, perhaps explaining why he has cracked the top-20 in just one of his past five games. All four of those formerly productive passers will face defenses in Week 4 that gave up big passing numbers last week. Delivering for fantasy owners this week would go a long way toward showing they can still be counted on, whether as a season-long options or viable streamers.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

Fantasy Football Week 4 Player Rankings

Five Facts to Know for Week 4 DFS

The Top DFS Values in Week 4

Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

Week 4 Fantasy Football Streaming Options

And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.

Fantasy Football Week 4 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Chris Raybon: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are still performing at the high level we have come to expect from them, but has age finally caught up to many of the second-tier fantasy quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning are all 36 or older, and all three sit outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring at the position. Big Ben seems allergic to having good games on the road, Rivers appears obsessed with throwing the ball to the other team, and Manning doesn't sniff good numbers unless his receivers bail him out with spectacular plays. Cam Newton is only 28, but his body has looked 10 years older, perhaps explaining why he has cracked the top-20 in just one of his past five games. All four of those formerly productive passers will face defenses in Week 4 that gave up big passing numbers last week. Delivering for fantasy owners this week would go a long way toward showing they can still be counted on, whether as a season-long options or viable streamers.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

Fantasy Football Week 4 Player Rankings

Five Facts to Know for Week 4 DFS

The Top DFS Values in Week 4

Week 4 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

Week 4 Fantasy Football Streaming Options

And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.

Fantasy Football Week 4 Cheat Sheet: Preparing for Week 5 Byes

The fantasy game changes next week. The first byes of the season are in Week 5, not including the hurricane-forced ones in Week 1, with the Falcons, Broncos, Saints and Redskins all taking a seat. That’s a cruel way to start the bye-week portion of the season, given how much fantasy power is on those four teams. Even by the most conservative count, fantasy owners will lose three regular starting quarterbacks, two starting running backs, anywhere between five and seven receivers, and a tight end. That’s a great way to introduce this season’s bye weeks.

As such, fantasy owners are going to have their depth tested, starting next week, all the way through the final byes of the season, which don’t occur until Week 11. That makes this a crucial week for looking around the league and uncovering hidden value wherever you can. You’re going to need as much of it as you can scrounge and hoard over the next seven weeks.

With that in mind, SI.com’s fantasy experts tackled the following question for Week 4.

This is the last week we'll have all 32 teams in action until Week 12. What fantasy storyline is top of mind for you before byes begin next week?

Michael Beller: I’m going to spend a lot of time on Sunday, and in the early part of next week, trying to identify realistic buy-low players. This is on my mind for two reasons. First, desperation kicks in at this time of the season, and desperation creates buying opportunities. Second, with depth more important than ever now that byes are on the horizon, 2-for-1s and 3-for-2s become easier to execute, and those are the types of trades that can really move the needle if you can acquire the best player in the deal.

Everyone understands the principle of buying low and selling high, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I don’t care how short Le’Veon Bell has been of expectations through the first three weeks of the season, no one is selling him at a discount. The same goes for guys like Amari Cooper and LeSean McCoy. You’re not smooth-talking your way into a sweetheart deal for players of their caliber.

On the other side of this coin, no one cares if you’re willing to trade Isaiah Crowell or Lamar Miller for 80 cents on the dollar. There was good reason to be concerned about them, and other players like them, heading into the season, and the worst-case scenario is playing out before our eyes. Their owners are likely just going to have to grit their teeth and decide if they can continue running them out in their lineups.

So, yes, buy low, sell high. You don’t get to wish those trades into existence. You need to identify players that owners are willing to sell, and you need to include assets in your side of the deal that people want to acquire. Some guys on my buy-low radar who I’d like to see put up another bad game this week to lower the price even further include Mark Ingram, Terrelle Pryor and Martavis Bryant.

T.J. Hernandez: In the coming weeks, I'm curious to watch the evolution of the Bengals offense under Bill Lazor. In Lazor's first week calling plays, we saw a much more concentrated scheme than the Bengals showed the first two weeks of the season. A.J. Green saw 50% of the team targets, and Joe Mixon played a season-high 56% of snaps, accounting for almost two-thirds of Cincinnati's backfield touches. While the Bengals faced very tough defenses in Weeks 1 and 2, it's worth noting that Andy Dalton's 9.33 adjusted yards per attempt was his best of the short season and his highest since Week 12 of last season. After Cincinnati's Week 6 bye, four of the six teams they face rank in the bottom half of the league in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses. If Lazor continues to feed his best players, there could be plenty of fantasy goodness leading up to the playoffs.

John Paulsen: In my draft rankings, I had Marcus Mariota ranked inside my top five at his position, which at the time seemed aggressive but reasonable given his rookie- and sophomore-year production. In the first three games, he has quietly been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback, and I’m interested to see how he performs on the road against the Texans in Week 4. I wouldn’t say it’s a make-or-break game for him, but a good showing would certainly boost my confidence in Mariota as a solid QB1 heading into the next three weeks, when he faces the Dolphins, Colts and Browns.

Jennifer Eakins: Heading into Week 4, the Broncos’ backfield is intriguing from both a real-life and fantasy perspective. C.J. Anderson has been the lead back, putting up 46.5 PPR points through the first three weeks, followed by Jamaal Charles at 20.9 points. Anderson started out the season in a workhorse role, with 21 and 28 carries, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Last week in Buffalo, Anderson was limited to just 10 touches, the same amount as Charles, who is coming off a major knee injury this season. Charles has had exactly 10 carries in each regular season game.

I am interested to see if they are capping Charles at this set number of touches to keep him fresh and healthy through the season, or if they’ll let him run a bit more this Sunday heading into Denver’s bye in Week 5. There is also the impending return of Devontae Booker, who has been practicing following a wrist injury he suffered pre-season. The Denver backfield could get a bit crowded, and it’s unclear if there are enough fantasy points to go around.

Chris Raybon: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are still performing at the high level we have come to expect from them, but has age finally caught up to many of the second-tier fantasy quarterbacks? Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning are all 36 or older, and all three sit outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring at the position. Big Ben seems allergic to having good games on the road, Rivers appears obsessed with throwing the ball to the other team, and Manning doesn't sniff good numbers unless his receivers bail him out with spectacular plays. Cam Newton is only 28, but his body has looked 10 years older, perhaps explaining why he has cracked the top-20 in just one of his past five games. All four of those formerly productive passers will face defenses in Week 4 that gave up big passing numbers last week. Delivering for fantasy owners this week would go a long way toward showing they can still be counted on, whether as a season-long options or viable streamers.

Fantasy Football Start ’Em, Sit ’Em Week 4

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Fantasy Football Week 4: Christian McCaffrey Boasts Value as a Receiver

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And lastly, here are 4for4's DFS Optimizer and stat projections.