“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” Those famous words were spoken by Jim Valvano in April 1993 after receiving the first ESPN-created Arthur Ashe Courage Award. He died from cancer less than two months later. Although we’re playing a game, that inspirational message rings true for fantasy football. The season is one-fourth complete depending on your league settings. If you’re winless, you can still come back. This is also the first bye week (Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Washington) so playing the correct matchups with lesser-known players is pivotal. No matter what your record is don’t dismiss the positives that can come from hitting the waiver wire, proposing trades and submitting the best lineup each week.
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay (vs. New England)
Under normal circumstances, supporting a quarterback who threw three interceptions in a game two weeks ago would not seem wise. Fortunately for Winston owners, he had 332 passing yards and three touchdowns against the New York Giants and will host New England on Thursday. New England has the league’s highest-scoring offense and last-ranked defense. Because Tom Brady and company average 32.2 points and 423.8 yards per game, and Tampa Bay has the third-worst defense at 394.3 yards, New England should score often and force Winston to keep pace. The New England defense gives up 32 points and 456.8 yards per game. What’s even more in Winston’s favor is how inept New England’s secondary has been, allowing last-ranked passing stats at 324 yards per game and 11 touchdowns this season. Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton passed for more than 300 yards against New England. That makes sense considering New England allows a league-worst 9.4 yards per reception.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay (at Dallas)
Injuries to Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams thrust a third-string rookie into Green Bay’s lead back role. In his Week 4 debut, Jones rushed for 49 yards on 13 attempts (3.8 average) and a touchdown at Chicago. Multiple reports say Montgomery’s rib injury may not be as bad as initially thought, and with 10 days rest from the Thursday night game, he might start in Week 5 at Dallas. If Montgomery plays, going out on a limb for Jones will be a moot point. As of now, I expect Montgomery to miss at least one game to heal. This would be great for Jones considering the Dallas rushing defense was exposed against Denver and the Los Angeles Rams. The only running backs Dallas stopped were against Arizona and the New York Giants, the two-worst rushing offenses. Hopefully you acquired Jones off waivers, and if you did, don’t be afraid to flex him – even if it’s just for one week. The Dallas defense is too vulnerable not to exploit.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati (vs. Buffalo)
This is Maverick and Iceman “Highway to the Danger Zone” territory because the Buffalo rushing defense has allowed 3.9 yards per carry and 0.75 touchdowns per game this season. My thinking is Mixon’s been given a heavier workload for two consecutive weeks with a new offensive coordinator and quarterback Andy Dalton could struggle stretching the ball downfield against a secondary that allows 212.8 passing yards per game with one touchdown and six interceptions this season. Mixon’s best bet is receiving out of the backfield because as stout as Buffalo’s defense has been, opposing running backs have made their greatest impact – albeit small – through the air. In Weeks 1-4 Matt Forte and Bilal Powell combined for eight receptions and 37 yards; Christian McCaffrey had four receptions for 35 yards; C.J. Anderson was held to a 3.5 average on two receptions; and Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman tallied six receptions for 85 yards. While those numbers aren’t mind-blowing, in a bye week pinch it’s start worthy, especially if a full- or half-point is earned per reception. Week 3 at Green Bay was Mixon’s first full workload, gaining 62 yards on 18 attempts and three receptions for 39 yards. He then underwhelmed at Cleveland, gaining 29 yards on 17 attempts and four receptions for 19 yards. Count on Mixon to see the most snaps, attempts and receptions of any Cincinnati running back – and during a bye week that’s all a fantasy owner can hope for.
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco (at Indianapolis)
My previous negative thoughts about Hyde were wrong, because despite being on a bad team he continues to be fantasy relevant every week. Hyde was RB6 though three weeks, averaging 14.5 points and 18.5 points per game in non-points per reception leagues and points per reception leagues, respectively. The Indianapolis rushing defense has played well, averaging 3.3 yards per carry over three games. After getting steamrolled by Seattle, that average is up to 4.0 yards. San Francisco has the best ground game Indianapolis has faced. San Francisco has averaged 4.4 yards per carry this season, tied for 11th. The main reason San Francisco is ranked No. 18 at 104.5 yards on 23.5 attempts per game is due to playing from behind. This will be a low-scoring game that most people will only watch if they are fans of the teams or have a fantasy interest. Being that points should be at a premium, expect Hyde to be a workhorse.
Other Players To Like
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas (vs. Green Bay)
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay (vs. New England)
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets (at Cleveland)
Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami (vs. Tennessee)