We’re heading into the quarter pole of the season, let’s dive into the top 10 things to watch for in Week 4.
1. Brandin Cooks has just 18 targets in three games, a 96-target pace. But he’s averaging an NFL-best 25.6 yards per reception and a scintillating 14.2 per target. That’s just one more target than Chris Hogan but still second-best on the team, as Tom Brady is really spreading things around. Cook’s average air yards per reception is an insane 21.2. That’s nearly five yards more than the second best on the list Martavis Bryant (Travis Benjamin is third with 15.7). Note for context that a similar speed receiver, Amari Cooper, is, shockingly, at just 4.4 air yards per reception.
2. Jared Goff is looking like a starting QB in one-QB leagues, averaging a league-best 10.1 yards per attempt. That typically would be a league-leading TD% but Goff’s 6.2 is only sixth. While he’s thrown just 81 times, the Rams are a heavy passing team even when the game is within one score — that just hasn’t happened much with the Rams. Goff needs one more week with a YPA of at least 8.0 for me to go all in and treat him like a top-10 QB. Yes, the sample is small but you also have to look at the weight of the sample, too.
3. The Vikings are looking like a QB-proof team given their outstanding skill players, led by game’s top fantasy WR so far, Stefon Diggs. But maybe Case Keenum, who may be playing a few more weeks at least given the slow recovery of Sam Bradford’s knee bone bruise, an injury that kept Bryce Harper out seven weeks in baseball, is not a bad quarterback. Sure, he limped along to just a 6.8 yards per attempt last year but we excused epic inefficiency by Todd Gurley to Jeff Fisher’s archaic offense; why not give Keenum the same consideration? Detroit’s pass defense has not been bad so this is decent test to see if Keenum can string together consecutive solid games.
4. If Deshaun Watson has another big game, this week against the Titans, the concerns about his arm strength can be eased. His velocity at the combine was so low relative to average that it was analogous to a pitching prospect being promoted in baseball with an 80 mph heater. But we just don’t know what the minimum requirement for NFL arm strength is since no one has ever been recorded this low in the 10 years where velocity has been measured at the combine.
5. As I said on Tuesday, teams like to run against the Falcons when the score allows it and the Bills are one of the league’s most run-dominant units. So LeSean McCoy despite the heavy underdog status looks to be a good play this week and I would not be surprised if this game was hotly contested given how the Bills’ strengths play into Atlanta’s defensive weakness (29th in yards allowed per carry). McCoy has had 30 yards on his last 26 carries so his owners need an explosion.
6. The Giants are so pass dominant at 72.7% that Sterling Shepard is a good play. But let’s look deeper to see if this stat is mostly a product of the Giants being 0-3 and usually needing to throw. When the game is within one score, the Giants are still pass heavy (65.1%, trailing only Tampa Bay and Green Bay, through Week 3). So not only should you play Shepard with confidence as a WR3, but tight end (but really wide receiver) Evan Engram deserves starting consideration, too. Brandon Marshall is not someone to play however until he demonstrates that his skills are intact (which may be never).
7. I said on Twitter this week that Tyrell Williams is a hold given he leads all the Chargers WRs in snap percentage. He is a bad guy to bet on given his depth of reception though, which is down to 7.6 from 9.1 last year. Keenan Allen’s is 6.7. So Williams is pretty much sharing the same depth of the field with Allen while Benjamin (15.7 average depth of reception) has the deep area all to himself. I think Benjamin could have fantasy relevance this year but on our Breakfast Table podcast this week, my Yahoo colleague Scott Pianowski disagreed.
8. Cooper owners would like a big game but this is a tough spot. Career vs. Denver, four games, Cooper has just 14 catches for 142 yards and a TD. That’s 3.5-37-0.25 on average — 7.7 PPR points. Yuck. Cooper is very talented on paper but his hands this year are slippery given he’s already dropped either 9, 6 or 2 passes this year depending on the site tracking it. But this is a concern with the team given drops have plagued Cooper throughout his career.
9. Chris Carson is the must-play this week in a dream matchup against the Colts as 13-point favorites and with no one really threatening him for touches, especially with C.J. Prosise out. Carson is slightly above average in yards before contact (2.2) but very good in yards after contact (2.7, sixth overall). I think both stats are equally important because avoiding contact by finding openings in the defense is job one for a running back. But most people focus on the contact stat.
10. We have to wait all the way until Monday to see Kareem Hunt and what he has in store for us now after having one of the most auspicious debuts in NFL history. The bad news is that this isn’t the predictive. The good news is that even given that, the projection for Hunt over the full season is about 1,300 more scrimmage yards. I will go against the computer here and bet the over.