Wondering whether or not to start LeVeon Bell and Julio Jones, or to bench Geno Smith and Donnie Avery? 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 2014 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys vs. Saints. He’s not the swashbuckling Romo of old, but his back is holding up (so far) and he’ll be facing one of the NFL’s most generous pass defenses on Sunday night. Dallas’ new-found commitment to the run will be tested in this one, as Romo is likely to be chasing Drew Brees & Co. in this tasty primetime tilt.
Donald Brown, RB, Chargers vs. Jaguars. With San Diego’s depleted backfield virtually to himself, Brown couldn’t ask for a better foil than the visiting Jags. Though Philip Rivers should be able to pass at will, he’ll slow it down enough for Brown to have perhaps his best game in more than a year.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills at Texans. Spiller is getting more carries than backfield mate Fred Jackson, though not as many passes are headed his way. Against Houston’s soft rush defense, look for Spiller to take his turn in the spotlight (and the end zone).
Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints at Cowboys. Consider Cooks a proxy for the entire Saints offense, which is poised to exploit Dallas’ mediocre defenders. The Saints will move the ball at will against this overmatched unit – they racked up 625 total yards against them last season! – and every starting receiver is a threat to take it to the house.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers vs. Buccaneers. After a 97-yard debut in Week 1, Wheaton has been fairly quiet the last two games. That will change Sunday as Pittsburgh hosts a secondary that was just shellacked by the Falcons. The second-year wideout could have a breakout game, including his first trip to the end zone as a pro.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Stafford, Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick; RBs Eddie Lacy, Pierre Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw, Fred Jackson; WRs Marques Colston, Keenan Allen, Michael Crabtree, Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews, Cecil Shorts, Julian Edelman, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne, DeAndre Hopkins, James Jones.
Roll ‘em back
Tom Brady, Patriots at Chiefs. Tom Terrific hasn’t lived up to his nickname thus far, tossing just one TD per game while failing to pass for more than 250 yards. The Chiefs pose arguably his toughest challenge to date on the road, so don’t expect a breakout performance on Monday night.
Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers at Steelers. It speaks volumes that even when his backup fumbles twice the week before, Martin is still expected to split carries with Bobby Rainey upon his projected return this week. Pittsburgh’s run defense isn’t anything special, but neither is Martin.
Reggie Bush, RB, Lions at Jets. You saw how the Jets shut down Matt Forte, right? Bush is coming off his best performance of the season, but he’s unlikely to find as much room to roam against the league’s stingiest run defense. Having to share with Joique Bell only makes his job tougher.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons at Vikings. After sitting out Week 3 with a hamstring injury, White is on track to suit up Sunday. But he’s no spring chicken and Minnesota’s above-average secondary could keep a less-than-100-percent White in check.
Kendall Wright, WR, Titans at Colts. It’s bad enough when he has to rely on Jake Locker, who has fallen apart since an encouraging opening day performance. With Locker expected to miss Sunday’s game with a strained wrist, Wright may be stuck with Charlie Whitehurst at the controls. Despite the favorable matchup, he’s not worth the risk.
More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Flacco; RBs Bernard Pierce, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Toby Gerhart, Knile Davis, Bishop Sankey, Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Shane Vereen, Alfred Blue, Darren Sproles, Joique Bell; WRs Eric Decker, Dwayne Bowe, Allen Hurns, Mike Evans, Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola, Torrey Smith, Brian Hartline.
TAKING A FLIER
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins at Raiders. I’ve been saying it for more than two years: Miller’s next big game will be his first. So this is going out on a thin limb for me, but given Miami’s struggles at quarterback and against Oakland’s pathetic run defense, I am predicting Miller’s first outing with both a TD and 100-plus yards. It’s fitting that it will happen on foreign soil.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…benches Drew Brees just because “he doesn’t play well on the road.” Dallas’ sorry secondary will be very hospitable and besides, Brees is a Texas boy (he was named for Cowboys great Drew Pearson). AT&T Stadium is his home away from home.