Patrick Daugherty

Goal Line Stand

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Week 4 Rankings

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Updated 9/29/2013 at 2:40 PM ET. Kenny Britt deleted from ranks. 

Arian Foster is out-touching Ben Tate 57-35. So why does he have just 21 more yards from scrimmage?

Film review reveals a player who isn’t emerging from piles with as many extra yards as we’re used to seeing. Houston’s run blocking actually appears improved on it's down — by its standards — 2012, while Foster has been typically making the right reads. He simply isn’t getting to the second level as easily as he once did. It’s to be expected for a player who pushed his touch odometer past 1,000 the past three seasons, and led the league in carries in 2012. That being said, Foster hardly looks out of gas. In fact, he looked as good as he had all season in the first half of Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, but didn’t get a chance to get into a second-half groove and wear down the defense with Houston falling behind 24-9 early in the third quarter.

Truth be told, there hasn’t been much difference between Foster and Tate since Week 1, where Tate looked shot out of a cannon against San Diego’s terrible run defense and Foster looked tired. Since, Foster has actually appeared a tad more slippery, with Tate looking a bit sluggish, particularly Sunday. Since Tate’s 60-yard scamper on his first carry of Week 2 — where he got run down by (admittedly athletic) Titans LB Zach Brown — Tate has averaged just 4.05 yards on 17 carries. Foster, meanwhile, has averaged 4.29 yards on 31 totes since Week 2. We’re doing some serious cherry picking here, but the point is, the emerging narrative that Foster is on his last legs while Tate is being unjustly reduced to second fiddle is overblown.   

What’s not overblown are Foster’s usage concerns. This is very much a committee for the time being, one that’s running into the Seahawks’ buzzsaw defense this weekend. With Foster-Tate in essentially a 60-40 timeshare, neither are particularly high-upside plays in a game where the Texans could again fall behind early. Foster is an RB2, Tate a shaky FLEX option. But Foster owners shouldn’t give up hope. Perhaps his RB1 days are behind him. The film suggests he’s going to hit fewer home runs than he did in 2010-12. What it also suggests, however, is that he still has plenty of useful football left in his 27-year-old legs. It just might not be elite.   

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $30,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 4. It's just $5 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Click here to enter.

Week 4 Quarterbacks

Rank Player Name Opponent Notes
1 Peyton Manning vs. PHI -
2 Drew Brees vs. MIA -
3 Michael Vick at DEN Probable (foot)
4 Robert Griffin III at OAK -
5 Tony Romo at SD -
6 Matthew Stafford vs. CHI -
7 Matt Ryan vs. NE -
8 Russell Wilson at HOU -
9 Tom Brady at ATL -
10 Andrew Luck at JAC -
11 Colin Kaepernick at STL -
12 Philip Rivers vs. DAL -
13 Jay Cutler at DET -
14 Ben Roethlisberger at MIN -
15 Eli Manning at KC -
16 Joe Flacco at BUF -
17 Ryan Tannehill at NO -
18 Sam Bradford vs. SF -
19 Alex Smith vs. NYG -
20 Matt Schaub vs. SEA -
21 Andy Dalton at CLE -
22 Carson Palmer at TB -
23 Brian Hoyer vs. CIN -
24 E.J. Manuel vs. BAL -
25 Jake Locker vs. NYJ -
26 Geno Smith at TEN -
27 Matt Cassel vs. PIT -
28 Blaine Gabbert vs. IND Probable (-)
29 Mike Glennon vs. ARZ -
30 Matt Flynn vs. WAS -

QB Notes: Peyton Manning might as well build a beach house and putting green in the Eagles’ secondary. This could get ugly. … Drew Brees has yet to throw for fewer than 322 yards in a game this season. A touchdown avalanche is coming. … Michael Vick is predictably taking a ton of hits, but has thus far been standing and delivering, both to his wideouts and fantasy owners. He’s out-pointed every quarterback not named Peyton Manning. … Robert Griffin III’s play has hardly warranted a top-five ranking, but he’s been just good enough, and is facing a Raiders defense allowing a mind-boggling 76.5 completion percentage. Throw in Oakland’s soft front seven, and all the ingredients are there for an RGIII breakout outside of garbage time. … Tony Romo is off to a slow-ish start, but eased by the Rams in Week 3 and is facing a Chargers defense that’s allowed the most passing yards in the league through the season’s first three weeks (1,022). Start him with confidence.

The Patriots’ pass defense looks to be for real, but with Roddy White finally trending back toward full health, Matt Ryan remains a safe QB1. The game is at the Georgia Dome, where Ryan boasts a career 34-5 record compared to 23-19 on the road. … Russell Wilson’s 9.10 YPA is third in the NFL. … After one week in the QB2 wilderness, Brady is back in QB1 territory. Is the promotion warranted? It’s hard to say. He’d be no better than No. 11 were Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton not on bye, while his 5.5 YPA is the worst in the NFL. Brady is coming off a good game against a great defense, however, while he finally appeared to be on the same page with rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson in Week 3. Throw in the possible return of Rob Gronkowski, and you have a future Hall-of-Famer who’s not worth betting against in a dome versus an injury-decimated defense.

The Colts are likely to go run heavy against the Jaguars’ league-worst run defense, but playing as sound of football as any quarterback in the league, you don’t bench Andrew Luck against a team missing both of its starting cornerbacks. Luck’s usage has been frustrating — his 93 pass attempts are 25th in the NFL — but talent always wins out. Luck shouldn’t even need more than 25 attempts to put up QB1 numbers against the Jags. … Philip Rivers’ numbers — 70.0 completion percentage, 7.98 YPA, 116.2 QB rating and 8:1 TD:INT ratio — are great, but it’s easy to forget he’s surpassed 200 yards just once in three games. That was against the Eagles, who should surrender 200 yards to most quarterbacks before halftime this season. Facing a Cowboys team on the road that’s forced seven turnovers through three games, Rivers’ hot start will be put to the test.

Quarterbacks never blame their supporting cast for slip ups or poor performances. That’s Quarterbacking 101. But if Colin Kaepernick were allowed a moment of honesty? He’d probably say something like, “how am I supposed to guide this team to more than seven points when Vernon Davis is out and Kyle Williams is starting?” Outside of Anquan Boldin — who doesn’t win with separation, but toughness — Kaepernick flatly didn’t have a receiver capable of getting open last weekend, and the Colts responded by bearing down on the box and eliminating his running lanes. Kaepernick has been far from perfect the past two weeks, as his six turnovers would attest. But what’s he supposed to do? Hole up in an Alex Smith-like shell as the 49ers defense gets embarrassed by Seattle and run all over by Ahmad Bradshaw? Maybe Kaepernick has been forcing the issue. It would be tough to pin all six turnovers on his teammates. But someone needs to try to make plays for the 49ers while they wait on Davis — who should be back this evening — and Kaepernick has continued to do so, perhaps at the expense of your fantasy matchup. Maybe he’ll break back out tonight, maybe he won’t. It’s going to be tough in a short week on the road. But to suggest that defenses have figured Kaepernick out is a lazy assumption devoid of context. There are few better buy-low targets.

Terrelle Pryor (concussion) could be absent from these rankings by this time tomorrow if he doesn’t gain clearance, but the early signs suggest he’ll play against the Redskins, and the season-long signs suggest he’ll shred them. Washington has allowed a hard-to-believe 1,464 yards through its first three games, and is 31st both against the pass (333 yards per game) and run (155). If there was ever a week to start Pryor in a one-QB league, this is it. … Jay Cutler is off to a strong, if measured, start under new coach Marc Trestman. 300 yards might not be in the offing against the Lions, but there are few stabler plug-and-play QB2s. … Eli Manning’s 931 yards are sixth in the NFL, but coming off a game where he absorbed a preposterous seven sacks, he might not make it out alive against the Chiefs’ league-leading pass rush on the road. … Maybe Ben Roethlisberger will survive the year as a solid QB2, after all. How he fares against the Vikings’ shaky secondary and pass rush will be a huge indicator.

Lace Joe Flacco up against the league’s most injury-ravaged defense, which permitted 11.4 yards per attempt to Geno Smith last Sunday. … The fantasy numbers aren’t quite there yet for Ryan Tannehill, but the peripherals (66.4 completion percentage, 7.73 YPA) suggest they soon will be. He needs to stop fumbling and taking so many sacks, however. Only (vastly) improved protection will ensure that. … Sam Bradford: Pretty Sam Bradford-y thus far in 2013, though — as usual — he’s been hurt immensely by drops. Per Pro Football Focus, his pass catchers have already muffed 12 passes. … Alex Smith: What quarterbacking at 55 miles per hour looks like. … Game-manager Matt Schaub has watched his yardage totals go from 346 to 298 to 194. Don’t be surprised if he sets another new low vs. Seattle this weekend. … Although they’re both coming off strong fantasy efforts, start Geno Smith and Brian Hoyer at your own risk.

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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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