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What to Watch For: Week 4

Detroit

@

Chicago – 1:00 FOX

Lions: Well, well, well they finally got a win. I wasn’t surprised to see them beat the Redskins, but the team did face a big loss when Kevin Smith went down with a shoulder injury. As of right now, it still isn’t sure whether or not Smith will go, but if he can’t

Detroit will have lost its biggest weapon. Maurice Morris is listed second on the depth chart so if you own Smith and can spare a roster spot, drop that extra kicker and sign Morris as an insurance policy.

Bears: Jay Cutler did it again last week when he pulled out another victory in the fourth quarter, and if he can do it against the Steelers and Seahawks in consecutive weeks I have no reason to believe that he won’t ruin Detroit’s victory party. Cutler has thrown for 483 yards and five touchdowns to just one interception since his Week 1 debacle and looks to be comfortable in the Bears offense now. He won’t put up Drew Brees-esque numbers this week, but is definitely worth the start.

Cincinnati

@

Cleveland – 1:00 CBS

Bengals: The Bengals passing attack was supposed to be the reason that

Cincinnati’s offense was revitalized in 2009. Don’t look now, though, because Cedric Benson is the third-leading rusher in the NFL while Carson Palmer ranks 23rd in the league in QB rating.

Cincinnati got a big win last week against the Steelers, which put the team at 2-1 with what has been a mediocre passing attack. Joe Flacco torched the Browns last week and Palmer should be able to do the same.

Browns: I honestly believe that right now the Browns are the worst team in football. Eric Mangini has made a mess of this team and now they are facing the same QB controversy that they had to deal with throughout the entire preseason. Derek Anderson will start Sunday, but Brady Quinn is looming in the distance. After putting up a good fight with the Vikings in Week 1, the team has just gotten worse and worse. There is no end in sight for fantasy owners of any of this team’s players.

Oakland

@

Houston – 1:00 CBS

Raiders: How bad is JaMarcus Russell? Maybe the fact that last week he had one passing yard in the second half disgusts you. Or maybe it was the idea that he is averaging just over five yards per completion this year. But really, the thing that kills me is that Russell is ranked 33rd in the league in QB rating this year. Can I remind you that there are only 32 teams? The Raiders franchise is drowning and Russell needs to get it together quick or people might be calling him the next Ryan Leaf.

Texans: I think that I just need to keep saying the Texans need to step it up. First I said Andre Johnson had been a disappointment and then he broke out in Week 2 against

Tennessee. Last week I said that Steve Slaton has been lackluster and needed to get it together. Lo and behold, he put up over 100 total yards against

Jacksonville. All in all, with Kevin Walter back in the lineup and everyone performing up to snuff, there is no reason why

Houston cannot be a playoff team this year. They took a tough loss to the Jaguars last week, but now that all the pieces are together (and they’re playing

Oakland) the Texans will get back on track.

Seattle

@

Indianapolis – 1:00 FOX

Seahawks:

Seattle is clearly missing something without Matt Hasselbeck in the lineup. While Seneca Wallace threw for 261 yards last week and only threw one interception, he averaged less than six yards per completion. Unfortunately, the team is not sure if Hasselbeck will be back in the lineup this Sunday. That means that more of the responsibility will fall on Julius Jones’ shoulders which, while strong at times, are shaky at best.

Seattle faced a heartbreaker last week against

Chicago, but will be made to look silly by

Indianapolis.

Colts: Peyton Manning continued his aerial assault on every defensive back he faces last week against

Arizona. Everyone is in love with what Drew Brees is doing, but Manning has thrown for more yards, has the same amount of interceptions and has just two less touchdowns.

Seattle has been a Top 10 passing defense so far in 2009, but Manning has looked like he is sitting in the huddle with the opposing defense lately. I expect that to continue on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium to the delight of his owners.

Tennessee

@

Jacksonville – 1:00 CBS

Titans: The free fall continues for

Tennessee and one of the main reasons is because of their awful pass defense. Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin were supposed to be staples of a stellar defense, but instead the Titans rank 29th in overall pass defense and quarterbacks have been averaging a QB rating of over 100 against them. David Garrard has been one of the least intimidating quarterbacks in football this year so

Tennessee’s defense should have a chance to rebound this week.

Jaguars: Well the MJD express finally came to town last week. After what had been a mediocre start to the season for the consensus second overall pick, Maurice Jones-Drew busted off almost 150 total yards and three rushing touchdowns. While the aforementioned Titans pass defense has been below average, their rush defense is a completely different story (allowing only 2.2 yards per rush, and yes you read that right). Jones-Drew is the key to opening up the

Jacksonville offense, so if he doesn’t get it going early and often, it could be a long day for the Jaguars.

New York

Giants @

Kansas City – 1:00 FOX

Giants: The Giants flat out made the Buccaneers look terrible last week. They held them to 86 total yards on 36 plays, and on top of that they ran all over Raheem Morris’s defense. Ahmad Bradshaw racked up 104 yards, Brandon Jacobs tromped for 92 of his own and Eli Manning threw for two scores. This team was thought to have taken a step back coming into the year, but they are firing on all cylinders right now. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham are making fans forget about Plaxico Burress pretty quickly and the balanced passing attack is making defenses pay. Manning will have a huge game this week against a frail

Kansas City defense.

Chiefs: At one point in last week’s game against the Eagles, the Chiefs trailed 14-7 and had put together a pretty nice drive, but that’s as close as it got. Matt Cassel has been anything but a franchise-saving quarterback for the Chiefs thus far, and to top it all off Larry Johnson has done nothing to prove he can still be a starter in the NFL. The Chiefs are just bad all around and seeing as they gave up an NFC Player of the Week performance to Kevin Kolb who was playing with a bunch of backups, I think the Giants will manhandle them even more than the Eagles did. Don’t watch this game if you have a weak stomach.

Baltimore @ New England – 1:00 CBS

Ravens: I think most of us thought that Matt Ryan would be the clear leader of the 2008 draft class for many years to come, and seeing as he has all of those weapons in Atlanta there was no reason to believe otherwise. However, Joe Flacco is currently ranked fifth overall among fantasy quarterbacks and is also fifth overall in QB rating. Flacco is taking advantage of the dominant combo of Willis McGahee and Ray Rice in the backfield and using it to exploit defenses.

New England is ranked 10th overall in rush defense and they have faced some stellar runners in Fred Jackson, Thomas Jones and Michael Turner. However, they haven’t yet gone up against what is arguably the best 1-2 punch of 2009 in McGahee and Rice, which will make for an interesting matchup.

Patriots: Tom Brady was supposed to be completely healed and ready to guide

New England to an easy Super Bowl trip. However, Brady has only tossed three touchdowns (to two interceptions), and despite being ranked third overall in passing yards, is ranked 22nd in QB rating. That means he is getting the ball to receivers, but isn’t doing it very efficiently.

Baltimore has been a middle-of-the-road pass defense this year giving up an average of 232 yards per game, so Brady had better get back into stride this week before

New England fans start panicking even more than they already are.

Tampa

Bay @

Washington – 1:00 FOX

Buccaneers: The honeymoon with Byron Leftwich ended abruptly and the Buccaneers looked like they missed a healthy Cadillac Williams a little more than some expected last week. Josh Johnson is now the main man under center, but one has to believe that the team is close to putting in rookie Josh Freeman. The

Tampa offense had been running smoothly prior to last week in terms of yardage gained and will have a chance to redeem themselves against a Redskins team which has been almost just as bad. If Johnson falters early, don’t be surprised to see Freeman thrown in at quarterback for good.

Redskins: Well eventually one team had to lose to

Detroit and it just so happened to be this Redskins team which has been ridiculed from the get-go. Jim Zorn’s pupils look confused on the field at times and have fallen out of NFC East contention already in the eyes of many. Jason Campbell managed to throw for over 300 yards last week, but got no support from the ground game as Clinton Portis tallied a meager 42 yards on 12 carries. Portis is only averaging 61 yards per game (he hasn’t scored yet either) thus far and that’s not good enough for a running back who is considered to be one of the best in football.

Tampa ranks 31st in rush defense this year so if there was ever a time for him to break out for your fantasy squad, it’s this week.

Buffalo @ Miami – 4:05 CBS

Bills: Maybe age is finally catching up to Terrell Owens or maybe he just hasn’t developed any chemistry with Trent Edwards, but as of right now, Owens ranks 90th in receiving yards with only 98 on five catches. He does have one score, but that 32.7 yards per game is sickening. Owens came out and passive aggressively addressed the media this past Sunday, which led head coach Dick Jauron to say that Owens needs to get the ball more.

Miami has been god awful as a pass defense so now is a better time than ever for Edwards to dial Owens’ number over and over. Plus, if Owens gets shut out again like he did last week, he might not be so passive when he speaks with the media this Sunday.

Dolphins: After a miracle turnaround season in 2008 thanks to the Wildcat offense, head coach Tony Sparano’s club is circling the drain already in 2009. The news got worse this week when Chad Pennington went down for the season, but that might be a blessing in disguise. Chad Henne now becomes the starter for the team, and seeing as Henne has been billed the team’s quarterback of the future for a couple of years now, he will be given a chance to prove himself. Pennington was 30th in the league in QB rating so Henne can’t do much worse than his predecessor. The Bills have gotten to opposing quarterbacks five times this year so Henne should have plenty of time to make throws and do his best to lead

Miami to its first win.

New York

Jets @

New Orleans – 4:05 CBS

Jets: I’m not going to jump on the Mark Sanchez bandwagon like other writers, but this kid continues to amaze me. His poise in the pocket is phenomenal, he is making the right reads most of the time and his completion percentage is right around 60. The only thing he has to do better this week if he wants to keep his team in it is spread the ball. Last week he threw eight of his 17 completions to Jerricho Cotchery while Dustin Keller only caught two passes. The

New Orleans defense is better than most people think and is actually tied for the lead league in interceptions with seven. If Sanchez can get the ball to several of his weapons, it will keep the Saints guessing and will help him to keep up if this game turns into a shootout.

Saints: Drew Brees looked remarkably human against

Buffalo and actually threw for under 200 yards while not throwing a single touchdown pass. However, he was aided by the strongest running attack the Saints have had all year as the team combined for over 200 yards on the ground and all three

New Orleans’ touchdowns. It will be another rough week for Brees, though, and that is simply based off of what the Jets’ defense was able to do to Tom Brady in Week 2. Rex Ryan will be sending as many different defenders as he can to knock Brees off balance. The Saints offense will have a tough go at it this Sunday so don’t expect giant numbers from Brees.

Dallas

@

Denver – 4:15 FOX

Cowboys: All the hype in

Dallas is always focused on Tony Romo and how he either looked fantastic under center or how he lost the game for his team. Underneath all that, the trio of running backs that grace the roster are doing all the hard work and getting none of the credit. With Marion Barber out, Felix Jones ran for 94 yards, but then Jones went down, too. In stepped Tashard Choice, who managed to gain 82 yards on 18 carries.

Denver has been one of the top pass defenses in all of football this season, but rank near the bottom of the league in rush defense. Therefore, expect a heavy dose of effective power football from the Cowboys no matter who is lining up behind Romo.

Broncos: Josh McDaniels is 3-0 in

Denver, and if you would have told me that before the season started I would have laughed in your face. Kyle Orton has started to step it up a bit and his rating right now puts him in the Top 10 of the league. The problem (especially for fantasy owners) is that he is not taking advantage of his best weapons in Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall, but is instead flinging the ball to Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney. In fact, Royal only has six catches for 42 yards.

Dallas will be the first truly tough test for the Broncos as they started the season against

Cincinnati,

Cleveland and

Oakland, and in order to get the win, Orton will have to make use of all of his receivers.

St. Louis @ San Francisco – 4:15 FOX

Rams: I’ve been preaching about how great Laurent Robinson has been for St. Louis for a couple of weeks now. Well don’t you know that the bad times just keep getting on worse for the lowly Rams. Robinson was put on IR this week, which shoves Keenan Burton into the starting spot across the field from Donnie Avery. However, the team received some good news (in my opinion) when Marc Bulger injured his shoulder. Bulger might still go this week despite a bruised rotator cuff, but in my mind, Bulger should be riding the pine at this point. He ranks just ahead of Kerry Collins, Brady Quinn, Matthew Stafford, Jake Delhomme and JaMarcus Russell in QB rating. On top of that, backup Kyle Boller threw for two touchdown passes last week,

 which is more than Bulger can say for the entire season. Bulger is a must-sit this week and I think that he is a must-dump if you own him.

49ers: The Niners are one amazing Brett Favre throw short of being 3-0 right now and I can guarantee that Mike Singletary will have his players fired up to take their aggressions out on the Rams this week. The team lost their best player in Frank Gore to an ankle injury on Sunday, but luckily they have rookie Glen Coffee backing him up. While Coffee may have looked less-than-impressive against

Minnesota, he led the league in rushing in the preseason and was one of the best handcuff picks you could find in fantasy drafts. Plug Coffee in if Gore is typically your starter and expect him to get just as many touches.

San Diego

@

Pittsburgh – 8:20 NBC

Chargers: Last week we finally saw what having Darren Sproles as a feature back does to hinder

San Diego as a rushing unit. Sproles gained just 55 total yards (41 on the ground) against

Miami’s top-otch rush defense and the task isn’t any easier this week when he faces Dick Lebeau’s Steelers defense on Sunday night. Philip Rivers has been carrying the team on his back so far and is currently leading the league in passing yards with 991 through the first three games. The Chargers have a bye in Week 5 and going into it with a 3-1 record would be much different than sitting at 2-2 in the division they were supposed to run away with. LaDainian Tomlinson is supposedly making progress and walking without a limp. If he can go on Sunday, it would be a huge boost to

San Diego’s already-potent offense.

Steelers: Most people have come to realize that the team that loses the Super Bowl has gone on to mediocrity in the following season, but for the Steelers to start out 1-2 is just absurd. This unit barely lost any starters from last year but still has faced two gut-wrenching losses in as many weeks against

Chicago in Week 2 and

Cincinnati last Sunday. My eyes this week will be on second-year wide receiver Limas Sweed, who coming into the season was said to have looked more like the college version of himself which would have meant big things for

Pittsburgh’s offense. However, as the No. 3 receiver, he has only five receiving yards this year. Head coach Mike Tomlin said this week that if this play keeps up, he will have no problem benching Sweed, which will mean increased reps for rookie Mike Wallace and veteran Shaun McDonald. If that doesn’t light a fire under Sweed’s backside, I’m not sure what will.

Green Bay @ Minnesota – Monday 8:30, ESPN

Packers: After posting a goose egg in Week 2, Greg Jennings was located again on fantasy radar screens last week when he put up over 100 yards on just two catches. The 100 yards is great, but it scares me that he only had two grabs.

Jennings is a No. 1 receiver on most fantasy rosters and being targeted only three times against a weak

St. Louis secondary is downright frightful. No one wants one of those all-or-nothing guys on their fantasy team (a la Santana Moss), but so far in 2009, that’s all

Jennings has been.

Minnesota has been a Top 5 passing defense so

Jennings will have to do more than turn and burn if he wants to help his team give

Minnesota its first loss of the season.

Vikings: I must admit that Favre’s numbers so far look pretty good. He has a solid rating of 94.5 and has only thrown one interception compared to five touchdown strikes, including one hell of a throw to Greg Lewis to win last week’s game. The problem I have with it all is that he has not played a pass defense that ranks in the top half of the league yet. He’ll finally get that chance against

Green Bay which is currently giving up 207 yards per game (13th in the league). Prior to this week, he has faced

Cleveland (16th),

Detroit (30th) and

San Francisco (24th). Adrian Peterson can help to make any quarterback look good, but Favre’s stellar rating has to partially be attributed to the lack of talent he has gone up against. The Packers defense will surely be hungry to put Favre on his back and will be reading every one of his throws as he looks downfield, which will lead to a tough night for No. 4.

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