Brain games: Week 4 offers a reprieve for Daniel Jones, the Bears’ ground game and more

Even though it lasts for 16-17 weeks, sometimes fantasy football can feel like a one-minute thrill ride. You’re up, you’re down, your stomach is in your throat and you’ve lost your voice from screaming at the TV. From the highs of the Dolphins, Bills, Chiefs and Chargers to the lows of the Cowboys, Falcons, the Jets and one particular Charger, Week 3 was quite the ride. Reacting to every new performance and piece of news with emotion and instinct is what we do, myself included.

Our personal stake is a driving force in how we interpret wins, losses, injuries, targets, drops, etc. It’s easy to have knee-jerk reactions, like overbidding on free agents, accepting manipulative trades, deleting your account (but not this account, of course). Worse, I’ve seen people just pull away, ignore their league for days, or even weeks, after upsetting and unexpected things happen to their fantasy team.

There are two saving graces that help me avoid such extremes. Playing in multiple leagues dilutes the impact of any one piece of information. Sure, I have my “favorite” and “most important” leagues, and I’m heavier on some players than others, but no one event is going to make or break my overall fantasy season. That helps me see the news for what it is: information to use or discard. That’s right, not every piece of data is actionable for every fantasy manager (you don’t have to break the bank to add De’Von Achane or Tank Dell if they don’t improve your roster).

Also, writing this piece every week gives me the time and excuse to put my in-the-moment reactions aside and justify my thoughts and opinions with actual data. Time and distraction are the antidote to gut reactions. I’m not going to tell you to bench a guy because he cost me a matchup without providing solid evidence that he’s likely to do so again. This is the NFL, and anything can happen any given week.

We’re here to help everyone make the best decisions possible — to put ourselves in the best position to win based on the data we have. What happens after that is the fun part. No one enjoys going on the same thrill ride over and over and over unless you’re nine years old.

With that said, let’s get to a few players you might be tempted to bench after disappointing Week 3 performances, but whose prospects are looking up for Week 4. For those of you with the golden touch who simply can’t stop tweaking a perfectly good lineup, I have some suggestions that allow for managerial intervention without unnecessary risk.

Don’t Overthink: 

Daniel Jones, QB, NYG — A preseason favorite pick of mine, and many others, Jones has been 80 percent awful and 20 percent inspirational. That doesn’t make up for his 6.5 and 5.0 fantasy point tallies in Weeks 1 and 3, respectively, but I encourage you to keep the hope alive for one more week. The Giants have run a gauntlet of difficult defensive matchups — maybe seeing Arizona stomp on Dallas makes Jones’ second-half comeback performance in Week 2 even more impressive — but there is a light in the tunnel. It comes from the Pacific Northwest as Seattle visits the Giants on Monday Night Football. Seattle continues to be a panacea for all that ails struggling franchises. They are the fourth-most generous fantasy matchup overall, with rankings of eighth to QBs, 10th to RBs, and second to WRs. Jones should have a lot more time in the pocket to make the best throw thanks to the Seahawks’ low pressure rate, and he can hopefully boost his stats with some designed runs or scrambles off play-action.

Najee Harris, RB, PIT — Look, Jaylen Warren is a legit concern for Harris’ managers. He’s been utilized to a greater extent in the passing game and it’s shown up in the box score (though neither back has scored yet). I’m giving Harris one more week to do something for the following reasons: His volume is going up — from 6 carries in Week 1 to 10 carries in Week 2 to 19 carries in Week 3. He’s averaging a mediocre 4.0 YPC for the season, with his best efficiency coming against the toughest run defenses — San Francisco and Cleveland. For the first time, Harris and the Steelers will face a Top 5 fantasy rushing matchup in the Houston Texans. Kenny Pickett is coming off his best game of the season in a friendlier passing matchup against the Raiders (235/2, zero interceptions) and has developed a nice connection with George Pickens. This all bodes well for Harris to package the volume of Week 3 and efficiency of Weeks 1-2 and turn it into his first touchdown of the season. Depending on the depth of your league, I like Warren as a Flex this weekend, too.

CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL — I won’t dwell on the gross loss to Arizona, but I will say that Dak Prescott and the offense looked lazy, tired and out of sorts in that game. I think it was a blip. If losing to an objectively less talented team doesn’t light a fire under you, you don’t belong at the top of your division, and that’s definitely where this Dallas team wants to be. While Prescott targeted Lamb seven times last weekend, that number needs to be higher. In the Week 2 win over the NY Jets, Lamb was targeted 13 times, catching 11 for 143 yards. No Cowboys WR has scored yet this year — I believe that changes in Week 4 with Lamb getting at least one touchdown.

Tinker With:

Khalil Herbert or Roschon Johnson, RB, CHI — De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert… ‘nuff said? Neither Dolphins player possesses an otherworldly skill set that enabled them to combine for 100 fantasy points in Week 3 vs. the Broncos. They’re fast, yes, and I’m not saying Mostert isn’t on pace for 19 touchdowns this season after scoring in all three games so far, but even third-stringer Chris Brooks managed 7.3 YPC vs. Denver. Note that both Commanders backs also had their best 2023 performances vs. Denver (with Brian Robinson scoring twice on the ground). One way for the Bears to get Justin Fields going is to run the ball effectively, as they did in Week 1. I acknowledge they’ve had tough matchups vs. Tampa Bay and, surprisingly, KC, but Denver is a chance to get Herbert and Johnson (and Fields) back to fantasy relevance. Herbert has generally seen slightly more volume, but Johnson has seen higher utility in the red zone, especially within five yards of the goal line… not that the Bears have been there often. I’m calling a Bears breakout game in which either back could tilt the scales in your favor.

Josh Downs, WR, IND — While we wait to see if Anthony Richardson makes it through concussion protocol this week, as expected, consider whether your starting lineup has room for Downs this week. The Colts are favored over the Rams at home, and for our purposes the fantasy matchup is pretty neutral. Richardson and Downs clicked over the summer, and while Michael Pittman Jr. is the only Colts receiver to see double-digit targets in every game so far, Downs had 12 in Week 3 with Gardner Minshew at the helm. He caught eight of them for 57 yards as the Colts beat the Ravens in overtime. Regardless of who’s quarterbacking this team, I like Downs’ chances to be a high-volume option with 8/95/1 upside. The floor is reasonable at 4/50.

Gerald Everett, TE, LAC — Donald Parham Jr. won the box score in Week 3, but Justin Herbert looked to Everett six times. Everett made good on all of those targets, helping LA to its first victory. With Michael Williams out for the season, people are scrambling to fill in the gap. Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnston (my choice) are popular pickups, but if you need help or don’t mind going risky at TE, Everett is going to be easier to get and perhaps more predictable. While Justin Herbert is looking for his giant Parham in the end zone (four targets, three touchdowns), Everett is available all over the field to help him pick up key first downs. I’ll take the volume Everett offers over the touchdown-dependency of Parham in any PPR league.

(Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

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