The Steelers will be without their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, for a few weeks, but will still have Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, who can produce with backup Michael Vick in the QB’s absence. As a result, the Ravens should be playing from behind most of the game, and that means opportunities for fantasy points from Flacco.
Flacco completed 32 of 49 passes for 362 yards, two touchdowns and an interception during Sunday’s heartbreaking loss to the Bengals. According to Chase Stuart’s game script, the Ravens trailed by an average of 7.5 points for the game, forcing Flacco to throw on 49 or the 66 plays run that day (74.2 percent).
Flacco spread the ball around to nine receivers, although Steve Smith Sr. was the highlight, catching 13 of 17 passes thrown his way for 186 yards and two touchdowns. And he has clearly become Flacco’s most looked-at receiver to date.
That means targeting all of the Steelers’ defensive backs, particularly Antwon Blake, who if healthy will be moving around the field: he has allowed 12 catches in the 15 times he has been targeted in coverage for a 101.9 passer rating against.
Martellus Bennett, tight end, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a team in disarray. They are 0-3 on the season after their loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 and have the league’s longest losing streak (eight in a row) dating from Week 13 last season, putting them at the bottom of most power rankings.
Jimmy Clausen takes over under center for an injured Jay Cutler, but ranks dead last in ESPN’s QBR metric at 8.9. The next lowest QBR, which values quarterback on all play types on a 0-to-100 scale, belongs to Alex Smith at 22.9. So, yea, that’s pretty bad.
But there is a bright sport this week, and that’s the Bears will go up against the Oakland Raiders’ defense.
According to Football Outsider’s Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent, the Raiders rank 26th of 32 teams for defensive prowess. And they have been especially susceptible to opposing tight ends.
In Week 1, Bengals’ tight end Tyler Eifert was targeted 12 times, making nine catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
In Week 2, Ravens’ tight end Crockett Gillmore caught 5 of 6 for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
In Week 3, Browns tight end Gary Barnidge (who? exactly) caught six of the nine passes thrown his way for 105 yards and a score.
This week it should be Bennett’s turn.
Jordan Matthews, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews has been one of the few bright spots on the Eagles offense this year.
The sophomore is tied for 10th in the league in receptions with 22 and has 231 receiving yards. Last week in a win against the Jets, Matthews caught six of his eight targets for 49 yards. Overall, Matthews has 30 targets while no other Eagles wide receiver has more than 12 (rookie Nelson Agholor).
This week’s opponent, the Washington Redskins, will be without corner DeAngelo Hall and will instead have to rely on Chris Culliver, Bashaud Breeland and Will Blackmon to slow down Matthews.
Breeland was picked apart by Eli Manning in Week 2. Odell Beckham Jr. wen 5 for 6 against Breeland in coverage for 60 yards and a touchdown. Rueben Randle was 4 for 4 for 65 yards and a score, contributing to Breeland’s 142.3 passer rating against so far this season.
Lamar Miller, running back, Miami Dolphins
Miller has been slowed by an ankle injury and was limited to 38 yards on seven carries in Sunday’s 41-14 loss to the Bills. He did catch all three of his targets for 27 yards, but he and the entire Dolphins’ offense is struggling to produce.
He is averaging 3.5 yards per carry, has just one run of more than 15 yards and hasn’t scored a touchdown. To make matters worse, Jonas Gray is now stealing his run snaps and doing more with them (5.4 yards per carry).
No matter who is rushing the football in Week 4, they will have to do it against a stout Jets defense that is allowing just 3.5 yards per carry with just one touchdown on the ground.
Jets’ defensive tackle Damon Harrison has five stops behind the line of scrimmage against the run and defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams have added nine and six more, respectively. Linebackers Quinton Coples (five), Demario Davis (nine) and David Harris (seven) also help make this Jets squad one of the toughest to run on.
And to make it even more difficult, Ryan Tannehill and the passing game have to go up against cornerback Darelle Revis, who is holding passers to a 44.2 rating against in coverage.
If the Dolphins’ passing game struggles against the Jets, Miami should be playing behind early, reducing Miller’s opportunities. If the Jets defense shows up as advertised, Miller’s productivity should be minimal.
If Miami’s running game gets clicking early, it will most likely be a time share between Miller and Gray.
None of these scenarios is optimistic for Miller, so keep him on your bench this week.
Jameis Winston, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs like what they saw in Winston during Week 3 against the Texans. He set career highs with 36 passing attempts, 17 completions and 261 yards.
Those “bad plays” are occurring mostly on third down, where the rookie quarterback went 2 for 2 for 31 yards and an interception last week. Winston has also struggled on his throws within 15 yards, resulting in a 51.5 percent completion rate, the lowest mark in the league.
He is also focusing too much on receiver Mike Evans, targeting him 17 times in Week 3 but only completing seven of those. If Winston makes it that easy for opposing defense, his struggles to produce fantasy points will continue.
Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
Cooks, who played in 10 games last season before injuring his hand on a helmet during a punt return, finished with 53 catches for 550 yards and three touchdowns, making him part of the elite rookie receiving class of 2014.
This year has been less filled with success with 16 catches for 190 yards and zero touchdowns for the 0-3 Saints.
The good news is with Luke McCown replacing Drew Brees under center, Cooks had a team-high seven catches against five different defenders in primary coverage for 79 yards Sunday against the Panthers. The bad news is his scoring slump will linger as long as he is overlooked in the red zone.
Through three weeks of the season, Cook has been targeted once inside the 20-yard line, with Willie Snead getting the majority of the passes (three).
Cooks is also feasting in garbage time, seeing 151 of his 190 yards coming when the team is trailing and 123 yards in the fourth quarter alone. This week they are favored against the Dallas Cowboys at home, and any lead could mean more touches for running back Mark Ingram and less reliance on gaining yards through the air.