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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 4

Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, which is a matchup guide for all of this weekend’s (and Monday’s) NFL contests. While this piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used for some of those decisions as well.

In each of the NFL Week 4 game profiles below, players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious concerns, and need to have expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Saints Dolphins
Quarterback 2nd 18th
Running Back 3rd 23rd
Wide Receiver 7th 16th
Tight End 9th 7th
Defense/Special Teams 31st 13th
Vegas Line: Saints -3
Vegas Over/Under: 50
Drew Brees has as good a matchup as he’ll get all season, as the Dolphins’ pass D cannot stop anybody right now, allowing Philip Rivers to throw for 331 yards in Week 2, and Josh McCown to do whatever he pleased in Week 3. Jay Ajayi followed up his 122-yard Week 2 effort with a 16-yard stinker last Sunday. Expect Ajayi to get back to pummeling opposing defenders against Saints, who are allowing 203.3 total yards per game to RBs. DeVante Parker should continue to be be the apple in QB Jay Cutler‘s eye for at least another week, as the Saints have allowed the 2nd-most pass plays of 20+ yards this season. Michael Thomas has steadily eclipsed 80 receiving yards the past two weeks, and will look to do so again against a Dolphins secondary that has given up 184 receiving yards per game to WRs.
Mark Ingram is averaging 4.5 yards-per-carry (YPC) on the season, but can’t seem to break free of the three-way committee Saints head coach Sean Payton has him chained to. Ingram still warrants a start this week as a lead RB in what projects as a high-scoring affair. Coby Fleener is in another “streamable” spot, as the Dolphins have allowed 66 yards per game to tight ends through their first two contests. As with teammate DeVante Parker, deep ball specialist Kenny Stills is worth a dart-throw given the Saints’ propensity to give up big plays in the passing game.
Brandon Coleman is on a two game scoring streak, but Willie Snead‘s return from suspension potentially puts a damper on Coleman’s usage. Snead himself is no lock to immediately return to the starting lineup after a three game layoff per head coach Sean Payton. Jay Cutler‘s miserable Week 3 performance was somewhat salvaged by a last-second junk time touchdown against a weak Jets team. The Saints’ have been the fantasy gift that keeps on giving to opposing QBs not named Cam Newton, but there are plenty of other streaming options out there besides Smokin’ Jay. Adrian Peterson is only averaging 8.3 touches per game, and appears miscast in the Saints’ offense. Two weeks after leading all Saints RBs in snaps, Alvin Kamara seems to be just the third option in the Saints’ backfield. Julius Thomas appears no better than 4th in the Dolphins’ target pecking order, and appears completely touchdown reliant right now.

Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Panthers Patriots
Quarterback 27th 1st
Running Back 29th 1st
Wide Receiver 25th 6th
Tight End 29th 2nd
Defense/Special Teams 10th 26th (tied)
Vegas Line: Patriots -9
Vegas Over/Under: 
49
The Panthers’ strong stats vs. opposing QBs are buoyed by facing Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor in Weeks 1 and 2, neither of whom would be confused with Tom Brady. At the conclusion of Week 3, Tom Brady led the league in passing touchdowns, despite not throwing any in Week 1. Look for Brady to emphasize the short passing game to keep Carolina’s athletic linebackers at bay. The Panthers only allow 24.6 yards per game to tight ends, but Rob Gronkowski has proven immune to poor matchups in the past…#StudAlert.
Kelvin Benjamin (knee) is banged up, but if he’s able to play, he will be the primary receiving option against a secondary that has bled yardage all season. Devin Funchess carries sleeper appeal as the Panthers’ second option in the pass game, with double-digit target upside if Benjamin sits. The Panthers run defense led by stud LB Luke Kuechly are not forgiving to enemy RBs, but the Patriots’ Mike Gillislee is always a threat for a goal-line score, especially in a game where his team is heavily favored. Last week, Brandin Cooks finally showed why the Patriots traded for him as he ripped the Texans for 131 receiving yards and two scores on just five catches. However, with the Panthers allowing just the 5th-fewest receiving yards to WRs, the big plays figure to be few and far between. Chris Hogan has three touchdowns in his past two games, but be wary that he’s at best the third option in New England’s passing attack. James White should see more than the single target from last Sunday, especially if the Patriots’ run game struggles. Expect White’s numbers to be somewhere in between his Week 1 and Week 2 stats. Danny Amendola figures to be another beneficiary if the Patriots decide to use the short passing game as an extension of their rushing attack. The Patriots have allowed the 2nd-most receiving yards to RBs, so that combined with them being 9-point Vegas favorites sets this matchup to be a Christian McCaffrey game.
Even in a golden matchup, Cam Newton does not look healthy right now, and should be benched in all formats after face-planting against the defensively inept Saints last Sunday. Despite only allowing an average of 251 offensive yards per game this season, Carolina’s D/ST belongs on the bench against Tom Brady in Foxborough. Conventional wisdom may lead you to believe the Patriots D/ST are a streaming option against the bumbling Panthers offense, but the Pats have allowed the most points of any NFL team so far this season, making them a fade for me. Jonathan Stewart is still averaging 15 carries per game, but he tends to take a backseat once the Panthers’ enter comeback mode, which could happen early this Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Jaguars Jets
QB 32nd 11th
RB 21st 7th
WR 31st 5th
TE 3rd 19th (tied)
D/ST 30th 14th
Vegas Line: Jaguars -3.5
Vegas Over/Under:
 38
The Jaguars D/ST has had two standout weeks with a dud sandwiched in between. While the Jets don’t allow as many fantasy points to opposing D/STs as the fantasy community would like to believe, Jacksonville’s is brimming with talent and should be a top option for Week 4. Leonard Fournette has scored a touchdown in each of the first three games of his NFL career, and will continue to serve as the centerpiece of the Jaguars offense. Even with last week’s stonewalling of Miami factored in, the Jets have allowed an average of 149.7 total yards to RBs.
Marqise Lee has averaged 5.5 catches for 70.5 yards in the two games since fellow WR Allen Robinson was injured, while Allen Hurns has scored a touchdown in each of those contests. Both are worth WR3 dart-throws if you need the help, although Lee is expected to see alot of CB Morris Claiborne, who has been a rare bright spot in the Jets’ secondary.  While on the topic of dart-throws, Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned from suspension in Week 3, and wasted no time getting involved in the offense. As the arguably most talented pass-catcher on the Jets, those desperate for tight end production may want to give him a look.
Don’t bother chasing Marcedes Lewis‘ touchdowns from Week 3. Prior to last Sunday, Lewis had not been a consistent fantasy contributor since 2010. Aside from ASJ, nobody on the lowly Jets offense is worth using this week, as Jacksonville’s defense allows just 259.7 total yards per contest. That includes Bilal Powell, who still seems destined for for a committee role even with the injury to Matt Forte (toe).

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Titans Texans
Quarterback 3rd 8th
Running Back 17th 28th
Wide Receiver 4th 10th
Tight End 13th 15th
Defense/Special Teams 32nd 2nd
Vegas Line: Titans -2
Vegas Over/Under:
 44
Marcus Mariota has been quietly solid this season, even in tough matchups like Seattle last Sunday. Mariota should be able to continue his run against the Texans, who are still missing standout CB Kevin Johnson (knee). DeAndre Hopkins is the current NFL target leader, averaging 12.3 per game, and now gets to face the NFL’s 4th worst defense at containing opposing WRs.
DeMarco Murray appeared no worse for wear last week against the Seahawks, after missing most of the team’s practice reps leading up to the game. He still remains as Tennessee’s lead back, and although Houston has allowed just the 4th fewest fantasy points to RBs, they have given up an average of 86 rush yards per game to the position. With Corey Davis (hamstring) on the shelf, Rishard Matthews has continued to hold down the fort as the Titans’ no. 1 receiver as he did last season. In 19 games as a Titan, Matthews is averaging 4.2 catches for 60.3 yards and 0.5 touchdowns. Deshaun Watson hits the fantasy radar as a streaming option at QB against the 3rd worst defense at containing opposing QBs. Watson’s rushing upside doesn’t hurt either, as he’s averaging 41.3 rush yards per game. Lamar Miller received just 15 touches in Week 3, after receiving 40 combined the prior two weeks. Miller is still the top banana in Houston’s backfield, but his bell-cow status is tenuous at best given the increasing usage of rookie D’Onta Foreman.
Derrick Henry appears relegated to clear backup status with DeMarco Murray‘s re-emergence last week. Eric Decker has just 10 catches for 91 scoreless yards on the season, and needs to show some signs of life before he can be used anywhere except as a bench stash. Avoid Houston’s D/ST this week, as the Titans are dead last in fantasy points allowed to the position. Will Fuller (collarbone) is expected to make his 2017 debut, but it’s not clear if he’ll be reinstalled as a starter right away.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.