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Bryant, Rice no-go at WR
The football world celebrated the return of “real” officials on Thursday night. The referees actually received a standing ovation prior to kickoff. That feeling of warmth dissipated quickly as the penalties mounted. There were 18 flags in all.
The story of the day was the continued dominance of Torrey Smith in the short week. Smith scored his third touchdown in two games (six receptions for 97 yards) and received great support from veteran Anquan Boldin (nine receptions for 131 yards).
Fantasy owners now turn their attention to an intriguing Week 4 slate. The marquee games in the Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening and Monday slots feature teams with a ton of national interest and huge question marks. Who doesn’t want to watch the Packers-Saints, Eagles-Giants or Bears-Cowboys games?
Before I delve into this week’s “Lineup Calls” for the wide receiver position, I must note that Hakeem Nicks of the Giants and Kenny Britt of the Titans are unlikely to play in their respective games. Keep it locked on FOXSports.com for all the latest news and information ahead of kickoff.
Dwayne Bowe vs. SD
Alas, fantasy owners didn’t receive the huge point total that they anticipated from Bowe in Week 3 against the Saints. He finished the game with seven receptions for 79 yards, a disappointing follow-up to his 102-yard, two-touchdown performance from Week 2.
The Chargers posted solid efforts in Weeks 1 and 2 against the Raiders and Titans before Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ high-octane offense eviscerated them at home. Take the high target count (16 and 15 targets in the past two weeks) and balance with Jamaal Charles at home.
Stevie Johnson vs. NE
Johnson hasn’t been dominant, but he’s found the end zone in each of the Bills’ first three games while amassing 13 receptions for 172 yards (26 targets). He’s in a strong spot here against the Patriots, a team still struggling in the secondary. Johnson caught 12 passes for 134 yards with two touchdowns in two games against the Patriots last season. The Buffalo passing game is clicking in the early going as it did in 2011. Ride the streak.
Steve Smith at ATL
Smith played hard until the final minutes of the Panthers’ Week 3 debacle against the Giants. It offered little consolation to hand-wringing fantasy owners. Smith finished with four receptions for 86 yards and was shut out of the end zone again. He’s averaged 98.7 receiving yards per game, but has yet to score.
The Falcons have allowed the fifth-fewest points to opposing wide receivers, surrendering 12 receptions and 146 receiving yards per game with one touchdown. I expect a better effort from Cam Newton and the Carolina offense in this divisional battle. Smith caught 11 passes for 191 yards in two games against the Falcons last year. However, he did not score. He rates as a back-end WR1 this week.
Jordy Nelson vs. NO
To say that the New Orleans defense is struggling would be a gross understatement. It’s the perfect tonic for a Green Bay offense looking to shake off a gruesome loss and a tough early-season schedule (San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle).
Nelson has been targeted 19 times this season, producing 13 receptions for 167 yards. With Greg Jennings still recovering from a groin injury, Nelson stands as the top option this week against this New Orleans defense (12 receptions and 193 yards per game to opposing wide receivers with two touchdowns). This shapes up as a classic “get right” game for the Green Bay offense.
Demaryius Thomas vs. OAK
Eric Decker racked up yardage late in the Broncos’ failed comeback against the Texans, much to the chagrin of Thomas’ anxious fantasy owners. Decker rates a strong WR2 play this week, but Thomas is knocking on WR1 territory against the beleaguered, depleted Oakland secondary. The Raiders have allowed 13 receptions, 175 receiving yards and one touchdown per game to opposing wide receivers.
Vincent Jackson vs. WAS
As we expected, Jackson struggled against the physical Dallas cornerbacks in Week 3. He was invisible all day and finished the game with one reception for 29 yards (seven targets). I still don’t trust Josh Freeman’s accuracy, but Jackson rates a strong play this week against the injury-ravaged, big-play susceptible Washington back-seven.
The Redskins have allowed the second-most points to wide receivers (15 receptions, 255 receiving yards and two touchdowns per game).
Malcom Floyd at KC
Floyd celebrates his new three-year contract extension with a fantastic matchup against the Chiefs. He’s been targeted 23 times this season, producing 13 receptions for 227 yards with one touchdown. The Chargers look to rebound from a dismal Week 3 performance against the Falcons against the 28th-ranked Kansas City defense (33 points per game).
Floyd is line for a strong stat line this week against a Kansas City defense that is still finding its way. The Chiefs surrender 10 receptions and 156 receiving yards per game to opposing wide receivers (four touchdowns).
Jerome Simpson at DET
Simpson returns from his suspension in time for a glorious matchup against the struggling Detroit secondary. Jake Locker passed for nearly 400 yards in a wild shootout in Week 3. I certainly don’t assume that Christian Ponder will be flinging the ball with reckless abandon as Locker did last week with Adrian Peterson dominating the ground game. However, it’s impossible to ignore the potential of the Minnesota offense as Ponder gets comfortable with Percy Harvin and red zone beast Kyle Rudolph. Simpson makes for an intriguing deep WR3 option this week as the Lions attempt to contain Peterson and Harvin.
Ramses Barden at PHI
Barden gets another crack at a huge role with news that Hakeem Nicks experienced swelling in his knee. Domenik Hixon will also factor into the offense, but Barden’s breakthrough game in Week 3 puts him in line for a big target count against the Eagles opposite Victor Cruz.
Jon Baldwin vs. SD
Baldwin has yet to find his way this season, producing just six receptions on 10 targets for 98 yards through three weeks. If Dexter McCluster is unavailable because of the elbow injury sustained in Week 3, Baldwin creeps into a WR3 or WR4 slot against the Chargers.
Randall Cobb vs. NO
For my final “Sleeper” of the week, I’m going deep. The Packers struggled to move the ball through three weeks because of a difficult schedule and offensive line woes. As a result, I’m anticipating a bigger role for Cobb in an advantageous matchup against the heretofore terrible Saints defense.
Brandon Marshall at DAL
Marshall posted a huge game in Week 1 against the Colts. The honeymoon ended quickly when Clay Matthews ran wild over the Bears line in a fashion similar to “Hulkamania.” Marshall’s produced just seven catches for 95 yards in the Bears’ past two games.
He’s no better than a mid-WR2 coming into Week 2 against the Dallas cornerbacks. The Cowboys have limited opposing wide receivers to 25 receptions for 307 yards and have yet to cede a touchdown reception. Marshall’s a fantasy starter this week, but I’m not optimistic that you’ll be doing much fist-pumping.
Greg Jennings vs. NO
Jennings was limited in practice on Friday, but received a “probable” tag on the injury report. As a result, he’ll slide into fantasy lineups as a WR2 for a fantastic matchup against the Saints. I’m still fearful that his groin injury affects his ability to create space and that he offers little support off of the short week. The matchup dictates that Jennings makes your lineup, but I caution you to consider your other options carefully.
Sidney Rice at STL
Rice draws “The Agitator,” Cortland Finnegan, in this week’s matchup. The 6-foot-4 former fantasy hero in Minnesota has corralled just eight passes for 91 yards this season. Golden Tate is Russell Wilson’s preferred target right now, leaving Rice firmly on fantasy benches nationwide.
Dez Bryant vs. CHI
Bryant has been shut down through three games. He was set to post a huge breakthrough season, but it hasn’t happened yet. Bryant has caught 13 passes for 164 yards without a touchdown reception on 20 targets.
The Chicago offense has its questions (see the Marshall analysis above), but the defense has played well out of the gate. Bryant rates a mid-WR2 slot for me this week. Miles Austin is a better play.
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