CLEVELAND IS GETTING OFFENSIVE
Heading into Week 4, the Bengals defense did a fantastic job holding Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers in check. All three were limited to less than 251 passing yards. As a group they combined for four touchdowns and four interceptions. Then Cincinnati traveled to Cleveland to take on a Brian Hoyer-led Browns squad. I feel I can speak for the masses in saying nothing much was expected from this offense.
Well the old saying “that’s why they play on Sunday” truly applied here, as Hoyer completed 25-of-38 passes for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has guided the Browns to a pair of wins in each of his starts, with 48 points. Brandon Weeden led the offense to just 16 points in a pair of losses to the Dolphins and Ravens. I think it’s safe to say Hoyer has wrestled the starting job away from Weeden based on his ability to consistently move the offense.
While Weeden’s arm is a better fit for the offense, Hoyer’s mobility and decisiveness make him the man for the job. He already knows the guys that are going to make plays for him in the passing game. He has peppered Josh Gordon (28 targets) and Jordan Cameron (23 targets) with 55.4 percent of his pass attempts.
The trade of Trent Richardson has left this team without a viable threat at running back. Because of this the Browns have turned to the passing game. Expect this trend to continue. This locks Cameron is a bonafide TE1 and Gordon is a WR2 with upside moving forward. Hoyer is now completely viable in leagues that start two quarterbacks and he is entering the QB two range in 12 team leagues.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid wanted Alex Smith as his quarterback because he knew he would be able to handle his West Coast scheme. Four games and four victories later he has made him look like a genius. What hasn’t changed with Smith, though, is his inability to throw the ball downfield. I use the word inability because he just can’t bring himself to take the chance and turn the ball over. Because of this Jamaal Charles is going to have a career year. He already has seen 35 targets out of the backfield, tops among all running backs. It leaves him on pace for 140 targets on the season. To put that into perspective, Darren Sproles led all running backs in targets last year with 104.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker suffered an injury to his hip against the Jets. While watching I didn’t think it was all that bad of a hit, but his reaction to it afterward is what had me thinking it was a significant injury. He moved his head and arms, but his lower body was completely locked into place. At the time I didn’t know it was his hip, but it completely makes sense based on his reaction. The team has already announced they are expecting Ryan Fitzpatrick to start for the “coming weeks”, so it is safe to assume Locker will be on the shelf for quite some time. From what I have seen of Locker this season, he has morphed into a game manager at quarterback. He habitually leans on short and intermediate pass routes and only takes occasional shots downfield. Fitzpatrick, as we all know, is a gunslinger, albeit one with a substandard gun. While many will view him as a downgrade, I actually like him being inserted into the lineup. Their passing game should be better from a Fantasy perspective, which is what he are all here for right?
Pittsburgh dropped to 0-4 on the season across the pond in London, but it wasn’t because of the play of rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. Heading into this week I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect after the very unspectacular endorsement provided by Ben Roethlisberger heading into Bell’s first start of the season. After what I saw, I think it’s pretty safe to say Big Ben was using the media as a motivational tool. Bell was an every-down back fresh off his Lisfranc injury. Pittsburgh running backs accounted for 26 touches on the afternoon, 21 of them went to Bell. With the ball in his hands he had a glide about him. He always had his eyes up the field while sliding down the line of scrimmage looking for a hole to pierce through. He gave me an Arian Foster type vibe. That being said, the Steelers offensive line is brutal. Bell will have to work for every yard. Consider him a rock-solid RB2 moving forward. Those of you out there in keeper or dynasty leagues should be salivating.
A big question heading into this season when taking a look at the Broncos acquisition of Wes Welker was how would Peyton Manning be able to keep all of his receivers Fantasy worthy. Through four games, it’s safe to say that Demaryius Thomas (29-393-4), Eric Decker (35-340-1) and Welker (26-266-6) are all going to do just fine. For good measure Manning has also treated us to the emergence of Julius Thomas (18-237-4) as a weekly start at tight end as well. This foursome has accounted for 15 of Manning’s 16 passing touchdowns. Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in every game, and is on pace to throw for 5,880 yards and 64 touchdowns. He won’t maintain this pace, but he realistically could threaten his career best in yardage (4,700) and touchdowns (49). Like a fine wine, the 37 year-old Manning just keeps getting better with age.
Things got interesting in Buffalo on Sunday, as both C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (MCL) both were forced out of their win against Baltimore. Jackson returned to the game after a brief trip to the locker room to finish out the contest. The explosive Spiller now missed parts of games due to ankle and quad injuries. He also has been in a pretty strict time share with Jackson throughout the team’s first four games. Jackson has actually thoroughly out-performed him to date. With Buffalo playing on Thursday night, it’s looking very possible Spiller misses the contest entirely. Jackson has a history of playing through pain, so I expect the 32 year-old to man up and hit the field against Cleveland. Should this play out as I expect, Jackson becomes an RB2 this week. On a side note, with both of these guys banged up, Tashard Choice becomes an advisable pickup. Should both not be able to suit up he would easily see 20-plus touches and also be on the radar as an RB2.
First-round draft picks that don’t perform up to expectations almost always mean your team struggles. Doug Martin owners out there are probably agreeing with me right now, as he has racked up just 377 total yards and a touchdown over his first 107 touches. Three games loading eight men in the box against Josh Freeman was followed up with another game of loading the box against Mike Glennon. Expect this theme to continue, with plenty more tough sledding for the man they call Muscle Hamster. The Bucs are on bye next week, but resume action in Week 6 against the Eagles. It’s a tasty matchup for Martin and one that will likely result in his best game of the season. If you are a Martin owner, I would seriously consider dealing him. A look at their schedule reveals plenty of tough opponents against the run.
*All statistics include the games of Sunday, September 29.
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