The thing about players coming back from injury that you have to keep in mind is, even if a player is active, it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be their usual selves. We saw that with both Aaron Jones and Christian Watson Thursday night, as both players made their returns from hamstring injuries, but neither played a full role in the Packers loss.
Jones had just five carries and one catch and was coming out of the game pretty regularly, including in the second quarter, where he was spotted getting some treatment. Watson had the better game for Fantasy, but only because he caught a touchdown on one of his two catches; otherwise, it would have been a pretty meager showing as Watson played only 26 snaps.
That's something to keep in mind with the likes of Austin Ekeler and Saquon Barkley potentially making their returns this week. I'm starting both if they're active, but there's always the chance that they come back at something less than 100%, or worse, suffer a setback that turns it into another multi-week absence.
You can't always just play scared, of course. You have to take some chances, and in Watson's case, he did enough to not be a total zero. But you should just know that there's always a bit of added risk when dealing with players coming off injuries.
This Sunday's newsletter is going to be a bit different, by the way. Because we have a 9:30 am ET kickoff between the Falcons and Jaguars, we're going to try to get the newsletter into your inbox before lineups lock for that game. Unfortunately, that means we might have less injury news for Sunday morning than usual. To make up for it, I'll be answering some of your questions Sunday morning – both here and on the Fantasy Football Today YouTube channel starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. Join Adam Aizer and me Sunday morning to get your questions answered, or email me directly at Chris.Towers@Paramount.com with the subject line "#AskFFT" to be included.
Now, here's today's newsletter, starting with the Thursday Night Football recap before I give some of my favorite DFS and prop plays for Week 4:
TNF recap: Lions 34, Packers 20
- The big takeaway: Jahmyr Gibbs might be more explosive. He might be more fun to watch. Heck, he might even be the best player in the Lions backfield. Right now, none of that matters. Gibbs ran the ball well Thursday, picking up 40 yards on his eight carries, and yet David Montgomery was the clear lead back in his return from injury, and it wasn't even close. Montgomery ran the ball 32 times for 121 yards and, of course, three touchdowns. The case for Montgomery was that he could step into the Jamaal Williams role, while actually being a better player than Williams, and that's looking like a pretty good call right now. Montgomery will never be a model of efficiency, but he has five touchdowns in three games, so it just doesn't matter. He looks like a must-start RB in this offense. There's plenty to like about Gibbs, who had 12 touches of his own Thursday, enough to make him Fantasy relevant. But as long as Montgomery is healthy and has the coaching staff's trust like this, he looks like the better option here -- albeit one who might disappoint those weeks when he doesn't find the end zone.
- Winner: Romeo Doubs. There was some chatter in the preseason that Doubs might just lead the Packers in catches, and that sure looks like it's going to happen. He had nine of them Thursday for 95 yards on a team-high 13 targets, giving him 25 over the past two games and 33 for the season. Christian Watson still should be the better option for Fantasy in the long run, but Doubs has three games with 18-plus PPR points in four games, and is certainly going to matter.
- Loser: Jordan Love. Love actually had a decent Fantasy game Thursday, scoring 17.82 points, so you could make a case this was actually a pretty promising day for him from a Fantasy perspective because he did not play well and still had a not-terrible game for Fantasy. But the bigger takeaway here is that the Lions were consistently able to generate pressure without blitzing, and Love was completely frazzled. He's struggled with accuracy, and the Packers haven't helped him out by drawing up easy passes -- he entered the game with the highest average intended air yards in the NFL. His aggression gives Love a high weekly ceiling, but it's also going to lead to some pretty ugly lines. I still view him as a QB2 until he shows more.
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Top DFS picks
Before you read my rankings, make sure you head over to SportsLine, where Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs have their rankings and top plays available to peruse at your leisure. They'll help you out quite a bit.
Based on my projections and analysis for Week 4, here are my top stack targets and my favorite plays at each position:
The Dolphins are the sexier pick coming off their 70-point game last week, and we'll surely see plenty of De'Von Achane in tournament lineups, which I can't argue against -- the upside he showed last week makes him worth chasing if you're looking for upside.
But I like focusing on the other side of that game. The Bills had 170 offensive snaps in their two games against the Dolphins last season, which is just a massive number for an elite offense that helped lead to 497 and 446 yards of total offense. This tends to be a very concentrated passing attack, with Stefon Diggs seeing huge volume and Gabriel Davis always a threat for a long touchdown. I'd like James Cook even more if he wasn't so obviously losing opportunities near the goal line. The rest of his role is super valuable, however, and it hasn't led to a massive game yet, so if he breaks off one long touchdown run, he could be hugely valuable at what might be a lower roster rate.
I'm not all the way back in on Watson yet, but I liked how he played in Week 3. The Browns played the fifth-most snaps with at least three WRs on the field in Week 3, 82% of their offensive snaps; this was a team that spent just 58% of its snaps with three or more WRs on the field last season, so it is clearly trying to lean into what Watson is comfortable with, especially after Nick Chubb's injury. I don't expect Watson to get back to his Houston levels, and the matchup here isn't ideal, but he's my No. 8 QB on the slate and he's the 11th-most expensive QB, so I think he's a good option if you want to save a few bucks.
Stafford hasn't been great for Fantasy this season, and you saw why in Week 3, as the Rams offense repeatedly stalled out in the red zone. Stafford is just 4 for 13 in the red zone right now, the fourth-worst completion percentage for any QB in the red zone this season, which explains most of why he hasn't been great for Fantasy this season -- he's also had two completions to Puka Nacua where he was tackled inside the 5-yard line. Stafford is likely to have a pretty low roster rate as a result, but I still think he's looked pretty great so far and is due for some touchdown regression. It wouldn't surprise me if we got that this week, and I like him as a low-priced pivot to pair with Nakua coming off a (relative) down game.
- Miles Sanders vs. MIN $5800
- Alvin Kamara vs. TB $6100
- Rachaad White @NO $5600
- Zack Moss vs. LAR $6000
- Joe Mixon @TEN $6400
Mixon's role hasn't been quite as valuable as last season, mostly because he has touched the ball just 10 times inside of the 10-yard line, the so-called "Green Zone" -- last season he had 31, third-most in the NFL despite missing three games. The Bengals aren't moving the ball nearly as well as they did last season, obviously, but Mixon is still about as good a bet for 15 carries and five targets as any RB in the league, and his price really doesn't reflect it. It's a tough matchup, which will scare some off, but the touchdown potential and passing game role still make him a decent bet.
- Tony Pollard vs. NE $8400
- Alvin Kamara vs. TB $6500
- Joe Mixon @TEN $7400
- Miles Sanders vs. MIN $6600
- Christian McCaffrey vs. ARI $9700
Even with a tough matchup on the way, Pollard probably needs to be more expensive than $8400, especially with how much McCaffrey costs. Pollard hasn't had a truly massive game for Fantasy yet, but it's coming as long as his role remains what it has been. Pollard leads all running backs with 68 expected Fantasy points, per ESPN's metric, and he's somehow managed to turn 15 touches inside the 10-yard line into just two touchdowns. We know Pollard is an explosive back and we don't really have much reason to expect him to struggle near the goal line -- he scored four times on 14 such touches last season, a fine rate. He might have the most valuable role in Fantasy right now, and it's going to lead to a 30-point game at some point.
- Tank Dell vs. PIT $4600
- Adam Thielen vs. MIN $4500
- Amari Cooper vs. BAL $6100
- Puka Nacua @IND $6700
- Michael Thomas vs. TB $5200
These guys are all relatively cheaper options, and I think my preference might be to save money at WR on DraftKings by focusing on two of these guys to pair with at least one high-end WR and RB. If I'm going to spend up at WR, it would probably be on Stefon Diggs as part of a stack with Josh Allen, though Justin Jefferson is also a perfectly reasonable option if you end up with the money for it -- Jefferson is my top projected non-QB player for the week, after all, and you can never go wrong with him. I like the idea of pairing him and Adam Thielen -- the Vikings are favored but still figure to throw a bunch even if they're up, while Thielen should fare well in a chase script.
- Justin Jefferson @CAR $9400
- CeeDee Lamb vs. NE $7500
- Stefon Diggs vs. MIA $8700
- Puka Nacua @IND $7500
- Michael Thomas vs. TB $5900
On FanDuel, I like the high-end options a bit more across the board, and that's especially true of Lamb, whose price is way too low at this point. He hasn't been great so far, but we also saw in Week 2 how high his ceiling can be, as he had 11 catches for 143 yards. The Cowboys have been shockingly conservative so far -- they have the fifth-lowest pass rate over expectation so far and the lowest intended air yards, leading to a passing game that hasn't created much value. Yet.
There's no Travis Kelce on the Sunday main slate, and five of my top-nine ranked players at the position in total aren't on the slate, so there's definitely a limited crop of options to choose from. Goedert is my favorite if you're going to spend up, though that is a relative term, as he's just the fifth-most expensive option on the slate. Otherwise, I like Knox as a low-roster-rate part of a Bills stack, or just hoping for Ertz to receive the kind of volume he did in the first two games, when he caught 12 of 18 passes thrown his way. The Cardinals should be trailing, so it's not a bad bet.
I'm a bit more willing to pay up for those higher-end options on FanDuel than I am on DraftKings, and I feel very good about Goedert having a bounceback game at some point. This Eagles passing game hasn't quite clicked yet, but after just one target in Week 1, he's earned seven in each of the past two games, so the volume has been there. Goedert has gone from 10.6 yards per target in 2021 and 2022 to just 4.2 so far, so unless he's just totally lost it as a 28-year-old, I feel pretty good about him breaking out soon. And given his performance so far, he's unlikely to be a high roster rate guy.
Sample DraftKings lineup
- QB Josh Allen $8200
- RB Alvin Kamara $6100
- RB Kenneth Gainwell $5200
- WR Stefon Diggs $8100
- WR Puka Nacua $6700
- WR Adam Thielen $4500
- TE Dawson Knox $3100
- FLEX Michael Thomas $5200
- DST Texans $2900
I've got the Bills stack in there with the cheap Dawson Knox play, hoping for a touchdown in a high-scoring game. The one spot I don't necessarily love is Gainwell in the RB2 slot, but he's probably going to get double-digit carries behind maybe the best run-blocking line in football. He's not D'Andre Swift, and that'll be held against him in Fantasy, but he should be a useful option, with some upside if he gets a goal-line touchdown instead of Swift.
Sample FanDuel lineup
- QB Matthew Stafford $6600
- RB Tony Pollard $8400
- RB Alvin Kamara $6500
- WR Stefon Diggs $8700
- WR Puka Nacua $7500
- WR Tutu Atwell $6300
- TE Dallas Goedert $5900
- FLEX Tyjae Spears $4800
- DST 49ers $4700
I'm paying up for a DST for now, mostly because I don't love any of the lower-end pivots. There are two I might go with if I want to get someone like Javonte Williams or Jahan Dotson into my lineup instead of Spears: The Texans vs. the Steelers ($3700) or the Chargers vs. the Raiders ($3900).
Some player props I like
Head over to SportsLine to check out Alex Selesnick's (aka PropStarz) prop picks. Here are some props I like this week:
Kyle Pitts OVER 33.5 receiving yards -119
This number is just so low that Pitts could pass it with one play. If Desmond Ridder can get him the ball one time on a deep throw, something he whiffed on last week. Still, even with a pretty aggressive downgrade in my projection this week, I still have Pitts down for 42 yards. This has been a frustrating start to the season for sure, but Pitts is still worth betting on when the cost is this low.
Trevor Lawrence OVER 1.5 passing touchdowns -117
I've been pretty notably skeptical of Lawrence, but I actually came away from my research this week feeling pretty good about him. I still don't view him as an elite Fantasy QB, so two touchdowns per week is never a sure thing, especially against a Falcons team that wants to limit possessions and slow the game down. But he's also had the most drops in the NFL, including multiple would-be touchdowns, and several others where a WR was just unable to get a second foot down. Lawrence is going to be just fine, and I think he gets his second multi-touchdown game of the season Sunday morning.
Robert Woods OVER 34.5 receiving yards -131
Nobody is excited about Woods for Fantasy, but he's topped this number two times in three games and was at 34 in the other. He has 25 targets through three games and figures to remain a big part of this offense, even if we like Nico Collins and Nathaniel Dell more.
Mike Evans UNDER 59.5 receiving yards -139
Evans has played 10 games against the Saints with Marshon Lattimore active, and he's only reached this mark four times in those games. In his six games since the start of 2019 against the Saints with Lattimore active, Evans has one game of 64 yards and another of 61; he has 64 yards total in the other four games. This has been a nightmare matchup for Evans, and I'm avoiding him in Fantasy if I can.
Adam Thielen OVER 4.5 receptions -103
We love a revenge game narrative, don't we, folks? I don't actually think the fact that Thielen used to play for the Vikings should matter a ton, but I do think there's a little extra motivation here. But the real reason I like Thielen here is that the Panthers have just been funneling targets to him, with 23 going his way the past two games, for seven and 11 catches. DJ Chark is more of a low-volume deep threat, while rookie Jonathan Mingo (concussion) may not play this week, so Thielen could continue to see a bunch of targets as the Panthers likely trail in this one. He's a viable WR3.