Week 4 Sleepers

A look at the best under the radar starts for Week 4.

Quarterback

Eli Manning, NYG (at TB) - We’re ready to let Manning back into our circle of trust for this week with almost half of the Buccaneers defense hurting. If Case Keenum can slice and dice them, Manning should have a strong day with a new quick passing approach. The Giants also have no running game to speak of, so the offense is going to fall on Manning’s shoulders.

Deshaun Watson, HOU (vs TEN) - Watson grew up quickly in Foxboro against Bill Belichick, so he should be able to handle the vulnerable Titans secondary. He was calm when flushed by the pass rush last week, which is the strength of Tennessee’s defense. The Titans have already given up seven passing scores and Watson’s legs help raise his fantasy floor to make him a safer play.

Cam Newton, CAR (at NE) - So it has come to this. Newton’s Week 4 is a “fantasy last stand” game against the woeful Patriots defense. No quarterback has failed to score at least 25 points in standard scoring against New England this year, and that includes rookie Deshaun Watson and conservative Alex Smith. Newton doesn’t look quite right, but he’s likely to have to air it out against a Patriots team that should open up a lead against a Panthers defense that Drew Brees took apart last week.

Jay Cutler, MIA (vs NO - London) - Cutler was still asleep for the matchup against the Jets last week, so let’s hope the alarm clock works in his London hotel this week. Yes, the Dolphins offense was abysmal last week, but we saw Adam Gase figure out how to get things going early last year after a similar start, and he is aided by the matchup against the Saints. Everything worked against the Saints pass defense before Cam Newton faltered against them last week, so Cutler is likely to have success throwing to his talented wide receiver trio this week.

Running Back

Chris Carson, SEA (vs IND) - Carson might be an obvious start as the Seahawks lead back at this point, but he is included here just in case because of the home primetime matchup against the bottom-dwelling Colts. CJ Prosise is out and Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy have been non-factors, so look for Carson to accumulate carries and goal-line opportunities in the likely romp over Indianapolis.

Joe Mixon, CIN (at CLE) - Mixon seemed to pull away from Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill last week in a good sign for his Week 4 workload in what should be a winnable game for the 0-3 Bengals. Opposing running backs have touched the ball at least 33 times in each of the last two Browns games, so Mixon is in line for 20 touches and a breakout game.

Bilal Powell, NYJ (vs JAX) - Matt Forte is battling turf toe and should be limited or out in this game. The Jaguars are a tough matchup, but Powell had at least 25 touches in three of the four games Forte was limited or out for last year, and he managed 74 total yards in the other game. Despite their sometimes dominant defense, the Jaguars have allowed 82 total yards or more to at least one running back in every game this year.

Mark Ingram (vs MIA - London) - Adrian Peterson might still play on Sunday morning against the Dolphins, but he tweaked his knee and has been playing a marginal role in the Saints backfield so far this year. Ingram has at least 70 total yards in every game this year, and he’s in line to be the finisher if the Saints get a lead on the Dolphins. He is also the favorite for any goal line carries.

LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, PHI (at LAC) - The Eagles lost Darren Sproles for the season, somewhat clarifying a crowded backfield. Blount should get most of the between the tackles work and goal-line looks, while Smallwood will be a fresh change of pace and inherit the targets vacated by Sproles. The Eagles offense worked well with more balance last week, and they should stick with that against the Chargers, who have allowed at least 120 rushing yards in every game this year.

Duke Johnson, CLE (vs CIN) - Johnson was clearly the best offensive player on the field for the Browns last week, so if Hue Jackson is rational, he will be used more often this week. He and DeShone Kizer seemed to get on the same page in terms of time and short target accuracy against the Colts. The Bengals have allowed at least six running back receptions in two of three games this year, and Danny Woodhead had three on one drive before exiting in Week 1.

Andre Ellington, ARI (vs SF) - The Cardinals have lacked a clear #2 target behind Larry Fitzgerald so far this year, but Ellington staked his claim to that role in Week 3 against the Cowboys with five catches for 59 yards, displaying excellent hands and run after catch ability. He was also their most effective runner, and could benefit from Mike Iupati and DJ Humphries returning to restore the starting offensive line in a matchup against the 49ers defense that has allowed four scores to running backs this year and at least 85 total yards to the opposition’s leading running back in every game this year.

Wide Receiver

Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, SEA (vs IND) - Doug Baldwin’s Sunday night status will come down to his practice participation on Friday, but even if he can go, the Seahawks would be smart to rest their #1 receiver for a game that should be a win without him. Richardson has been more involved in the red zone, and Lockett has been getting more snaps with more deep ball potential. Even if Baldwin plays, he could draw Vontae Davis and still free up targets for Richardson and Lockett. Now that Russell Wilson has found his game, there should be wide receiver production there against a defense that allowed at least 194 receiving yards to opposing wideouts when they weren’t facing DeShone Kizer.

Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, NYG (at TB) - Marshall and Shepard both had their best games of 2017 when the Giants devoted their game plan to getting the ball out of Eli Manning’s hands quickly. That shouldn’t change this week against a Tampa defense that has a banged up starting corner and two injured defensive lineman, including all-pro defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. The Tampa secondary allowed a 5-98 game to Adam Thielen last week even though #1 receiver Stefon Diggs had a gaudy 8-173-2 line, so there can be at least one other strong wide receiver play for the Giants even if Odell Beckham Jr gets his on Sunday.

Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, JAX (vs NYJ) - The Jets have already allowed five wide receiver touchdowns this year (six if you count Cordarrelle Patterson’s rushing score), so there is a good chance Lee or Hurns scores this week. Blake Bortles settled down for one of his best games as a pro in Week 3 against the tough Ravens defense and one of the best Jets defenders - DE Muhammad Wilkerson - is playing through a shoulder injury.

Devin Funchess, CAR (at NE) - Funchess was open a lot more often than his Week 3 stats suggest. Against a Patriots defense that could be in prevent for a lot of the second half if the Panthers can’t find a way to defend the downfield passing trio of Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, and Chris Hogan, Funchess should be getting a lot of targets from Cam Newton. A wide receiver has scored against New England in all three games against the Patriots, and they have also allowed at least 150 receiving yards to opposing wideouts in every game.

Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, LAR (at DAL) - The Cowboys secondary was one of the league’s shakiest to begin with this year, and they have been battling injuries to Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, and Chidobe Awuzie already. In each of the last two games, the Cowboys have allowed multiple scores to wide receivers and Sammy Watkins may not play after he suffered a concussion in Week 3. Both Woods and Kupp have already had big games once this year and at least one should benefit greatly from the matchup this week.

Tight End

Ryan Griffin, HOU (vs TEN) - Griffin emerged last week as one of Deshaun Watson’s favorite complementary targets while defenses focus on DeAndre Hopkins in the Houston passing game. He should be able to have a strong game against a Tennessee defense that just allowed ten catches for 125 yards and a score to Seahawks tight ends last week and 5-56 to Jared Cook in Week 1.

Cameron Brate, TB (at NYG) - The Giants have been a very reliable matchup for us against tight ends in the recent past, and that hasn’t changed in 2017. A tight end has scored and caught at least five balls against them in every game this year. Brate came on with four catches and a score for the Buccaneers last week, and the state of the Tampa running game probably means the offense will run through Jameis Winston this week. Janoris Jenkins could make it hard to find Mike Evans and the Giants pass rush will make downfield passing to DeSean Jackson difficult, so it just makes sense that targets will be funneled to Brate this week.

Jared Cook, OAK (at DEN) - Cook was the only thing that worked in the Raiders offense last week and Week 4 could see a repeat against the “no fly zone” in Denver. The Broncos have already allowed two scores to opposing tight ends in three games, and both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree were greatly limited by Washington corners last week, forcing Derek Carr to target Cook, who is the best tight end he has had so far when going up against a Broncos defense that usually frustrates him.

Ed Dickson, CAR (at NE) - If you have to dig deep on the waiver wire for a tight end this week, Dickson could be your man. The Panthers expressed a desire to get him more involved in Week 4 as they go into Foxboro to face a Patriots defense that has allowed a score and at least six receptions to opposing tight ends in every game this season.