By Chance Smith
The NFL season is well underway and fantasy football owners everywhere are clamoring at the chance to win everything from league championships to daily match-ups on DraftKings. The goal for all leagues is the same: pick the best players.
Week three was dominated by the play of big names like Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green and Atlanta wideout Julio Jones, who each caught two touchdowns to lead their teams to undefeated records. Devonta Freeman, a backup running back for the Falcons, plowed his way through the league’s best rushing defense (Dallas) with three touchdowns. Who’s going to be the Devonta Freeman of week four that gives your fantasy squad the win? Here’s who to play and who to sit in order to be successful this week.
WHO TO START
Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts RB vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts had a busy offseason on the free agency wire, making noise with the acquisitions of Gore, Andre Johnson and Trent Cole, among others. No Colts fan could have predicted that Gore would be ranked 55th among active fantasy running backs in points per game. (In standard leagues, Gore is averaging about 8.7 points a game.) However, he was able to find some comfort in the Colts’ backfield against a struggling Titans’ defense Sunday with 86 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
With Gore accounting for over 70 percent of the Colts’ running game, expect him to put up similar numbers against an atrocious Jaguars’ rushing defense that gave up three rushing touchdowns to the Patriots last Sunday. In order for the Colts to be successful, Gore needs to step up and take pressure off of his quarterback, Andrew Luck, who has been sacked five times and thrown seven interceptions in three games this season.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals QB vs. St. Louis Rams at home.
There is definitely reason to believe the hype behind the 35-year-old Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback. Palmer is currently ranked third in fantasy points among all quarterbacks behind Tom Brady and recently injured Ben Roethlisberger. Palmer has won 14 of his last 16 games dating back to the 2013 season.
If you’re thinking long-term though, be wary: The veteran quarterback has had a terrible run-in with injuries during his NFL career, including a season-ending ACL injury on Nov. 9 of last season. Palmer started his 2014 campaign with five wins before his season was cut short against NFC West rivals, the St. Louis Rams. Look for Palmer to connect with fellow veteran Larry Fitzgerald and running back Andre Ellington, who is expected to return from injury, as he seeks revenge against the Rams this Sunday.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders WR at Chicago Bears.
The rookie out of the University of Alabama has shown a glimpse of why he was a first-round draft pick this season. After catching a 68-yard touchdown against the Ravens in week two, fantasy owners everywhere were clamoring at the opportunity to pick him up as a strong flex option. Cooper continued his big-play style against his toughest one-on-one match-up of the season Sunday against Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns. The young receiver proved that he can be a number-one option on fantasy rosters with 134 yards on eight catches against a formidable defense. Expect Cooper to be quarterback Derek Carr’s first option against a Bears’ defense that has allowed seven receiving touchdowns in their first three games of the season.
WHO TO SIT
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins RB vs. Philadelphia Eagles
While the Eagles have struggled against the run at times, don’t expect Morris to be a number one option this Sunday. Morris started off the season strong with 121 yards on 25 rushing attempts against a depleted rush defense in the Miami Dolphins. However, Morris’ workload has lightened as similar-styled young running back Matt Jones has put up decent numbers. In fact, Morris saw six carries opposed to Jones’ 11 against the Giants on Thursday. Leave him on the fantasy bench while the Redskins proceed to do the same in real life.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers RB vs. Baltimore Ravens
DeAngelo Williams started off his 2015 campaign with a bang as the number-one running back for the Steelers. Williams recorded 204 yards and three touchdowns on 41 rushing attempts in the first two games of the season. However, with Le’Veon Bell returning from suspension for the Steelers’ week three bout against the Rams, Williams assumed a very obvious backup role. He rushed for two yards on one carry, compared to Bell’s 62 yards on 19 carries. Expect Williams’ fantasy spurt to dwindle in coming weeks.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR vs. Carolina Panthers
Vincent Jackson just doesn’t look capable of having a season like 2011-2012 where he had over 1000 receiving yards. Although Jackson did have a touchdown in the week two match-up against the Saints, do not expect the offensive production to continue.
Tampa Bay’s other prime receiving target, Mike Evans, returned from injury in week two and was virtually non-existent with zero fantasy points in the performance, but he turned it around in week three with 101 reception yards on seven catches. Jackson finished the game with only two receptions. Expect the strong pass rush and defense of the conference rival Panthers to slow down Jackson’s offensive prowess.