Week #4: The Inside Slant
John Holler - 9/28/2021

Not that you can sleep through the rest of the slate of Week 4, but prime time is where it’s at. During the day Sunday there are some intriguing games, including Carolina at Dallas, Cleveland at Minnesota, Kansas City at Philadelphia, Baltimore at Denver and Arizona at the Rams, but this week is all about prime time.

NBC may set a record with Tom Brady’s return to New England and the week ends with the Raiders and Chargers – one looking to improve to 4-0 and the other looking to take control of the division with early wins over the Chiefs and Raiders.

There is a lot to like about Week 4, but the NFL is saving the best for last.

 

THURSDAY NIGHT GAME

 

JACKSONVILLE AT CINCINNATI

 

Jacksonville RB James Robinson – The Bengals run defense has been downright oppressive against good running backs this year, including Dalvin Cook (20-61-1) David Montgomery (20-61) and Najee Harris (14-40). The Jags don’t have a great run game, but if you’re considering taking Robinson, you may want to think twice before pulling the trigger.

 

Cincinnati WRs Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins (shoulder) and Tyler Boyd – The Jaguars pass defense is brutal and have given up huge receiving games all season so far, including Brandin Cooks (5-132), Courtland Sutton (9-159), Christian Kirk (7-104) and A.J. Green (5-112). The only problem here is deciding which one is going to go off. They all have that opportunity and it’s very possible that more than one of them will have a big fantasy day.

 

SUNDAY EARLY GAMES

 

CAROLINA AT DALLAS

 

Carolina WR D.J. Moore – The Cowboys have been allowing big plays to receivers in all of their games, including Chris Godwin (9-105-1), Rob Gronkowski (8-90-2), Antonio Brown (5-121-1), Keenan Allen (4-108), Mike Williams (7-91-1) and Dallas Goedert (2-66). The Cowboys have an offense that can put up 35 points a game, but with the back end of this defense, they may have to because receivers are putting a hurting on them far too consistently.

 

Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott – The Panthers have been very strong against the run this season, including the Jets run game (17-45), Alvin Kamara (8-5) and Houston’s run offense (17-42). Elliott has been having issues of his own with Tony Pollard cutting into his workload, but he is going to have to be on the top of his game to end the strong start the Panthers are off to in run defense.

 

CLEVELAND AT MINNESOTA

 

Cleveland RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt – Minnesota’s defense has been hit relatively hard on the ground to start the season by strong run games, including Joe Mixon (29-127-1), the diverse Arizona run game (21-103-1) and Chris Carson (12-80-1). The Browns are likely going to force-feed both of their talented running backs at the Vikings because, until they prove they can stop the run, teams are going to continue to exploit this weakness.

 

Minnesota WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen – The Bears offense was a hot mess last week as Justin Fields was overwhelmed – completing just six passes. But, the Browns have been vulnerable to big-play receivers, including Tyreek Hill (11-197-1) and Brandin Cooks (9-78-1). Jefferson and Thielen are different style players, but both are capable of making huge plays and Kirk Cousins will be sure to be seeking them out early and often.

 

DETROIT AT CHICAGO

 

Detroit QB Jared Goff – The Bears haven’t been able to contain any of the QBs they have faced this season, including Matthew Stafford (321-3), Joe Burrow (207-2) and Baker Mayfield (246-1). The good news for the Bears is that the numbers are improving, but they’re not good and Detroit may need to press the panic button because Chicago looks beatable. Very beatable.

 

Chicago WR Allen Robinson – The Lions have been carved up by receivers in every game this season, including Deebo Samuel (9-189-1), Davante Adams (8-121) and Mark Andrews (5-109). Robinson is off to a very slow start and the Bears QB situation is a bad revolving door joke. While A-Rob is likely being benched in a lot of leagues where owners have depth, this could be his breakout game with whichever QB is healthy enough to play.

 

HOUSTON AT BUFFALO

 

Houston QB Davis Mills – As if you didn’t need a reason to bench Mills, the Bills have yet to let a QB do much damage to them, including Ben Roethlisberger (188-1), the combination of Tua Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett (182-0) and Taylor Heinicke (212-2). Buffalo is likely going to force Houston to pass a lot because they could be the most prohibitive point spread of the 2021 season – now or down the line.

 

Buffalo QB Josh Allen – Houston hasn’t been able to shut down a quarterback yet this season, including Trevor Lawrence (332-3), Baker Mayfield (19 of 21, 231-1) and Sam Darnold (304-0, 2 rush TDs). This has all the makings of an extreme blowout and Allen could be padding his case for MVP if he has another monster game.

 

INDIANAPOLIS AT MIAMI

 

Indianapolis RB Jonathan Taylor – The Raiders haven’t been able to stop a running back all season, Damien Harris (23-100), Devin Singletary (13-82-1) and Peyton Barber (23-111-1). Taylor has got off to a slow start, but this defense looks like what could be the cure to his problems.

 

Miami WRs Davante Parker and Jaylen Waddle – The Colts didn’t give up a lot of passing yards to receivers last week because the Titans ran 37 times for 180 yards and didn’t have to pass. But, they have been gashed by those who do, including Tyler Lockett (4-100-2), DK Metcalf (4-60-1) and Cooper Kupp (9-163-2). The Dolphins offense is a struggling work in progress, but the Colts provide the type of opponent that can get them healthy in a hurry.

 

KANSAS CITY AT PHILADELPHIA

 

Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes – We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Eagles pass defense, but they have limited the yardage of every QB they’ve faced, including Matt Ryan (164-0), Jimmy Garoppolo (189-1) and Dak Prescott (238-3). With the Chiefs in sole possession of last place in the AFC West with two key division/conference losses, don’t expect Mahomes to take his foot off the gas, but the numbers speak for themselves.

 

Philadelphia RB Miles Sanders – The Chiefs defense isn’t good (by design with a quick-strike offense), but running backs have had their way with them, the combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (21-116-3), Lamar Jackson (16-107-2), Ty’Son Williams (13-77) and Austin Ekeler (11-55). The Eagles have been trying to make this Jalen Hurts’ offense, but Sanders is a potentially dominant back who may need 20 carries or more if the Eagles want to keep Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines and have a chance to win.

 

NEW YORK GIANTS AT NEW ORLEANS

 

New York RB Saquon Barkley – The Saints have a history of being a soft defense, but they have been extremely good against the run this year, including Aaron Jones (5-9), Christian McCaffrey (24-72-1) and the diverse Patriots run game (17-49). Barkley is going to have to step up because he hasn’t been the bell cow he needs to be if the Giants are going to get off the schneid.

 

New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara – The Giants have had struggles stopping running backs, including Melvin Gordon (11-101-1), Antonio Gibson (13-69) and Mike Davis (12-50). Nobody has given them a full dose of 20 carries and, if Kamara does, the return should be impressive.

 

TENNESSEE AT NEW YORK JETS

 

Tennessee RB Derrick Henry – You can take just about anybody playing against the Jets and expect points, but New York has struggled with runners throughout the year, including Christian McCaffrey (21-98), the Patriots run game (24-101-2) and the combination of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams (30-90-2). Henry has been getting a killer workload and, given the Jets can’t stop it, he will likely continue his trend.

 

New York WR Corey Davis – The Titans have allowed big days to too many receivers, including D’Andre Hopkins (6-83-2), Christian Kirk (5-70-2), Tyler Lockett (8-178-1), Freddie Swain (5-95-1) and Michael Pittman (6-68). The Jets pass offense has been pretty hideous, but somebody has to step up in the pass game and it may as well be Davis.

 

WASHINGTON AT ATLANTA

 

Washington QB Taylor Heinicke – There aren’t any parades scheduled for Heinicke, but the Falcons have yet to keep a quarterback from carving them up, including Jalen Hurts (264-3), Tom Brady (265-5) and Daniel Jones (266-0). At this rate, Heinicke should throw for 267 yards with touchdowns to be determined.

 

Atlanta WR Calvin Ridley – The Washington defense has been embarrassingly bad against receivers this season, including Keenan Allen (9-100), Mike Williams (8-82-1), Sterling Shepard (9-94), Cole Beasley (11-98) and Emmanuel Sanders (5-94-2). Ridley has been struggling to emerge out of the shadow of Julio Jones, but this may be the game we see him take the first big step.

 

SUNDAY LATE GAMES

 

ARIZONA AT LOS ANGELES RAMS

 

Arizona WR DeAndre Hopkins – The Rams defense is aggressive and one of the byproducts of that is that the big-day potential for a receiver. It has happened the last two games from Michael Pittman (8-123) and Mike Evans (8-106). If anyone is going to get fed what the Rams give opposing quarterbacks, it will be Hopkins – despite other viable targets.

 

Los Angeles WR Cooper Kupp – The Cardinals have done a good job of keeping the obvious receiver from hurting them, including A.J. Brown (4-49-1), Julio Jones (3-29), Justin Jefferson (6-65-1), Adam Thielen (6-39-1) and Marvin Jones (6-62). Kupp is off to an incredible start, but the Cardinals have found ways to keep name receivers from hurting them.

 

BALTIMORE AT DENVER

 

Baltimore RB Latavius Murray – There are still questions as to who the top running back is in Baltimore, but the Broncos have bottled up every run game they faced, including Saquon Barkley (10-26), James Robinson (11-47) and the Jets run game (13-43). Everybody knows that the Ravens run games starts with Lamar Jackson, but doesn’t look overly positive for the Baltimore run game.

 

Denver TE Noah Fant – The Ravens kept T.J. Hockenson quiet last week, but have been hit hard by tight ends Darren Waller (10-105) and Travis Kelce (7-109-1). Fant is another AFC West tight end looking for a big day and don’t be too surprised if he comes up big in this one.

 

PITTSBURGH AT GREEN BAY

 

Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger – The Packers are seemingly hitting their stride, but have given up a ton of quarterback points, including Jameis Winston (148-5), Jared Goff (246-2) and Jimmy Garoppolo (257-2). Big Ben may be regretting coming back for another season, but against Aaron Rodgers, he will likely be slinging it to keep up.

 

Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers – The Packers have been consistently hit enough by opposing quarterbacks that there isn’t reason to consider benching one of them,, including Josh Allen (270-1), Derek Carr (382-2) and Joe Burrow (173-3). Rodgers is looking for a third straight win and having the Steelers at home will be a huge edge.

 

SEATTLE AT SAN FRANCISCO

 

Seattle WRs Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf – The Niners are known for their defense, but have been hit hard by receivers all season, including T.J. Hockenson (8-97), Quez Watkins (2-117) and Davante Adams (12-132-1). Both Metcalf and Lockett can be lethal, so it’s likely going to be a situation where owners of both will play them with confidence.

 

San Francisco RB Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) – He’s currently a question mark, but the 49ers hope he’s good to go sooner than later. In their last two games, Seattle has been gutted on the ground by Derrick Henry (35-182-3) and Alexander Mattison (26-112). When the 49ers are winning, they have a steady run game. Injuries have hurt it, but not killed and, if Mitchell is back, he’s got a great chance of having a big game.

 

SUNDAY NIGHT GAME

 

TAMPA BAY AT NEW ENGLAND

 

Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady – Why not Tom Brady? Anyone who has Brady would be an idiot not to play him in first game against the Patriots. But, that said, New England has clamped down on opposing quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa (202-1), Zach Wilson (210-0 with four interceptions) and Jameis Winston (128-2). Those guys aren’t worthy of swimming in Brady’s wake, but the Pats defense is doing something right.

 

New England WR Jakobi Meyers – The Bucs have been hit hard by receivers all season, including Amari Cooper (13-139-2), CeeDee Lamb (7-104-1), Calvin Ridley (7-63-1), Cooper Kupp (9-96-2) and DeSean Jackson (3-120-1). Meyers has been the best receiver on the team, but you can bet owners with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are likely throwing their hats in the ring.

 

MONDAY NIGHT GAME

 

LAS VEGAS AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

 

Las Vegas RB Josh Jacobs (ankle) – Once again, we play the waiting game as to whether he can go this week. But, he might want to be back for the Chargers, who have struggled against backs in run defense, including Antonio Gibson (20-90), the combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard (29-180-2) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (17-100). The Raiders saw last week that Peyton Barber could get the job done, so Jacobs may need to come back sooner to reclaim his spot.

 

Los Angeles QB Justin Herbert – The Raiders have limited every quarterback they have faced, including Lamar Jackson (235-1), Ben Roethlisberger (295-1) and Jacoby Brissett (215-0). Herbert is on a tear and with the Chiefs at the bottom looking up, nobody wants to let them catch up, so expect Herbert to come out throwing and putting the Raiders on the spot to back up their hot start.

 

End.

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