Wondering whether or not to start Jamaal Charles and Andre Johnson, or to bench Blaine Gabbert and Ronnie Brown? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 4 of the 2012 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills vs. Patriots. The Buffalo gunslinger has thrown multiple TDs in each game this season, while New England is having trouble slowing down opposing passers. With questions swirling around the Bills’ ground game, Fitzpatrick will need to be at his best to give his team a chance.
Cedric Benson, RB, Packers vs. Saints. Thanks in large part to Jamaal Charles, the Saints’ run defense is statistically the league’s worst. Benson won’t approach 200 yards in this matchup, but it’s a good bet he’ll reach the century mark for the first time this season. At least one trip to the end zone is likely as well, as the Packers look to take the pressure off their struggling pass protection.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals at Jaguars. He has seized the workhorse role in Cincinnati, but hasn’t done a whole lot with it just yet. That should change this week against the sieve-like Jaguars run defense. Look for the Law Firm to score his third TD of the season, and rack up his best yardage totals as a Bengal.
Eric Decker, WR, Broncos vs. Raiders. Willis McGahee has been limited with sore ribs, and the Raiders’ pass defense was abysmal last week. Look for Peyton Manning to air it out early and often, leading to big games for both of his starting wideouts.
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders at Broncos. With Darrius Heyward-Bey obviously out for some time after his scary concussion, Moore becomes an even more essential weapon in Oakland’s aerial attack. The Raiders will be facing the same secondary that just surrendered four TD passes to Matt Schaub, so look for Carson Palmer and Moore to flourish in this contest.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, Carson Palmer; RBs Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Mikel Leshoure; WRs Stevie Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Demaryius Thomas, Dwayne Bowe, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Wes Welker.
Roll ‘em back
Matt Stafford, QB, Lions at Vikings. All signs point to Stafford giving it a go on Sunday, despite sitting out practice with his ailing hamstring/hip. But even if he starts, he’ll be at high risk of an early exit should the injury flair up again, especially with the capable Shaun Hill waiting in the wings. Minnesota’s pass defense has been solid as well, so it’s best to avoid this QB tandem this week.
Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins at Buccaneers. One of the surprises of the early season, Morris has nearly earned must-start status. But heading into Tampa Bay, which boasts the league’s stingiest run defense, think twice. His quarterback is liable to have more rushing success than Morris, though Ryan Grant’s addition shouldn’t be a factor just yet.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams vs. Seahawks. Sure, he’s a tough hombre that will play through pain. But just because Jackson suits up with his groin injury doesn’t mean he should be in your lineup. He hasn’t looked right all season, and backup Daryl Richardson is getting more and more carries. Not to mention, Seattle’s run defense is playing at an elite level.
Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys vs. Bears. He has yet to make a fantasy impact in 2012, and a breakthrough game against the stout Chicago defense does not appear to be in the cards. Bryant has taken a back seat to both Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree, and he is clearly having trouble getting in sync with Tony Romo.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears at Cowboys. Dallas’ beefed-up secondary has done an outstanding job of shutting down opponents’ top receivers to date, and Jay Cutler has been fairly adept at keeping Marshall’s production in check as well. Given the tough matchup and his QB’s lackluster play, Marshall is a bad bet to give you a Monday night lift.
More thumbs down: QBs Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo; RBs Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, Doug Martin, Andre Brown, Willis McGahee, Fred Jackson, Michael Bush, Mark Ingram, Daniel Thomas, Ryan Williams; WRs Kenny Britt, Ramses Barden, Marques Colston, Brian Hartline, Brandon Lafell, Julian Edelman, Laurent Robinson.
TAKING A FLIER
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Redskins at Buccaneers. He has been elevated to a starting job during Pierre Garcon’s extended absence, thanks to his quick rapport with Robert Griffin III. With no other obvious No. 1 target in Washington’s aerial attack, and the league’s worst pass defense on the other side, Hankerson is worth a flier if you need receiver help.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…waits until the last minute to address your bye-week roster issues. Only two teams, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, are off in Week 4. But over the following seven weekends, four to six teams, and their fantasy stars, will rest. Planning ahead to fill open slots with free agents will give you more options and could help avoid burning your waiver wire priority.