Week 4: Player Downgrades
(Editor's note: This downgrade becomes applicable after Cincinnati's Week 4 bye.)
Dalton was a top-five fantasy quarterback last season, yet he was drafted in most leagues as a low-end QB2 heading into 2014. There's a reason for that. Dalton is a good NFL quarterback, but last season was somewhat of an anomaly. Anomalies happen. Remember when WR Mike Furrey led the NFC with 98 receptions in 2006? OK, Dalton's 2013 season wasn't that big of an anomaly, but it was still something we should not expect to see again. The bottom line is Dalton is not a consistent fantasy quarterback and after the team's Week 4 bye, Dalton will be facing the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, who are giving up 9.9 and 15.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, respectively. The good news for Dalton is that his star wide receiver, A.J. Green, made it out of Week 3 and into the bye without his foot injury becoming worse. Dalton could also get WR Marvin Jones back for Week 5. That would be great news for Dalton, because he's going to need all the help he can muster.
If you were thinking of picking up Manuel to use as a bye-week filler in the next few weeks, rethink that strategy. To his credit, Manuel hasn't been terrible. He has led his team into a tie with New England atop the AFC East. He's averaging a little more than 200 passing yards per game, 15 rushing yards per game and has four total touchdowns with only one turnover – an interception in Week 1. But it's going to get rough very quickly for the former first-rounder. The Bills' next four games are against teams that are all allowing fewer than 16 fantasy points per game to QBs. They play Houston (15.5), Detroit (12.0), New England (9.9), and Minnesota (12.8). That's going to be a tough stretch for the young quarterback.
(Editor's note: This downgrade becomes applicable after Denver's Week 4 bye.)
Ball is off to a slow start and surely has his fantasy owners questioning whether he was really worth the first- or second-round pick they spent to get him. He has yet to surpass 90 yards from scrimmage in a game and has as many fumbles as touchdowns -- one. The Broncos have a Week 4 bye and then embark on a stretch in their schedule that is brutal for running backs. Their next three opponents, the Cardinals, Jets and 49ers, all rank in the top four against the run and are allowing fewer than 12 fantasy points per game to running backs. Ball will likely still be in your lineups for each of these games, but tempered expectations are in order.
New England's offense has been good enough for the Patriots to share first place in the AFC East, but it is far from the fantasy juggernaut it used to be. And no part of it has been more disappointing than its running backs, specifically Vereen. Heading into the season, Vereen was being drafted well ahead of running mate Stevan Ridley. After three games, Ridley has 52 carries to Vereen's 20. While that hurts his fantasy owners enough, the fact that Vereen has only nine catches is downright devastating since he figured to be a PPR madman this season. His lack of action and the Patriots' upcoming schedule mean Vereen deserves a downgrade from his original expectations. The Pats will face Kansas City, Cincinnati, Buffalo and the New York Jets over the next month. All of these teams give up fewer than 16 fantasy points per game to running backs.
Wright has good matchups coming in the next few weeks. However, his running backs have it even better. The Titans face the easiest schedule versus the run in Weeks 4-6 as the Colts, Browns, and Jaguars are giving up an average of 27.5 fantasy points per game to running backs. It would make sense if Tennessee uses this opportunity to continue utilizing RB Shonn Greene and giving rookie RB Bishop Sankey more opportunities. That way, they won't have to rely on quarterback Jake Locker.
In a game that saw Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, Ertz saw only three targets against Washington, catching two of them for 15 yards. Simply, there may be too many mouths to feed in this offense for Ertz to be a consistent producer. Foles already has two top backfield weapons in LeSean McCoy and, Mighty Mouse, Darren Sproles. It can be almost guaranteed that McCoy is going to be heavily involved and looking to prove a point in Week 4 after he managed only 22 yards on 19 carries Sunday and didn't register a reception for the first time since Week 3 of last season. Foles has also shown that he's more than comfortable looking to his WRs. He targeted Jeremy Maclin,Jordan Matthews and Riley Cooper a combined 26 times in the Eagles' win over the Redskins. On top of all this, the Eagles' next three opponents, the 49ers, Rams and Giants, are giving up fewer than seven fantasy points per game to tight ends.