Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Week 4

Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Byes: Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterbacks - Start of the week


Peyton Manning vs. Oakland Raiders: Manning has had an inconsistent start to the season, throwing for an average of 274.6 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions in his first three contests. But with a very favorable matchup against the Raiders, who have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, next on the schedule, Manning should post a solid stat line.

Start 'em


Matt Ryan vs. Carolina Panthers: This week's matchup against the Panthers isn't overly favorable based on the defensive totals, but Ryan remains a terrific start in fantasy land. The veteran has thrown for a combined seven touchdowns in his last three games against the NFC South opponent. Furthermore, Ryan has thrown for multiple scores in his last four games at the Georgia Dome.

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. New England Patriots: Fitzpatrick has quietly been solid this season, averaging 17.48 fantasy points in his first three games. That makes him a viable option against the Patriots,who allowed 369 yards and two touchdowns to the Amish rifle in a comeback win last season. Fitzpatrick is still a free agent in over 70 percent of NFL.com leagues, so he's out there to add.

Philip Rivers at Kansas City Chiefs: If you started Rivers on your fantasy team last week (I did too), you know that his stat line was far less than impressive. I still think he's well worth a look in Week 4, however, as the Chiefs defense has given up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Rivers has also averaged 301 yards in his last eight games against this AFC West opponent.

Sleeper alert - Josh Freeman at Washington Redskins: Freeman has had a slow start to the season in the stat sheets, ranking a mere 29th in fantasy points among all quarterbacks. With that said, he's still worth considering if you're hurting at the position or need a bye-week replacement. The Redskins have allowed the third-most fantasy points, including nine touchdowns, to signal-callers.

Quarterbacks - Sit of the week


Jay Cutler at Dallas Cowboys (Mon.): Remember all the talk of Cutler being a No. 1 fantasy quarterback? Eh, not so much. He has fewer fantasy points than Blaine Gabbert and Brandon Weeden, and this week's contest against the Cowboys is anything but favorable. In their first three games, the Pokes have surrendered three touchdown passes and the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Sit 'em


Tony Romo vs. Chicago Bears (Mon.): Admittedly, I'm a little worried about Romo this week. The Cowboys have major issues on the offensive line, which have left him vulnerable to big hits. This week he goes up against DE Julius Peppers and the Bears, who have surrendered the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. If you do start Romo, you need to temper your statistical expectations.

Jake Locker at Houston Texans: Locker is coming off the best fantasy performance of his career, throwing for 378 yards with two touchdowns while scoring 24.62 fantasy points. Of course, that came against the Detroit Lions. He won't find that much success against the Texans, who have surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Locker should be rostered, but not started.

Sam Bradford vs. Seattle Seahawks: Over the last two weeks, the Seahawks have allowed a combined 22.56 fantasy points to the duo of Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers. If you're doing the math, that's not even 12 points per game to a couple of terrific passers. That doesn't bode well for Bradford, who has been inconsistent this season and shouldn't be trusted as more than a No. 2 fantasy option.

Owners beware - Michael Vick vs. New York Giants: It's tough to bench Vick because of his upside, but owners with a solid second option should consider it. The versatile quarterback has struggled in his first three games, and this week's contest against the Giants isn't favorable. In their last two games, their defense held the combination of Freeman and Cam Newton to 24 fantasy points.

Running backs - Start of the week


Ryan Mathews at Kansas City Chiefs: Mathews put up mediocre numbers in his first game, recording 76 scrimmage yards with a lost fumble against the Falcons. His prospects for this week are brighter, though, as the Chiefs have allowed an average of around 20 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. Mathews also posted 261 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in 2011.

Start 'em


Frank Gore at New York Jets: When we think of the Jets, we typically think defense (OK, maybe Tim Tebow too). But this unit has actually been awful against the run this season, allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs and the second-most rushing yards overall. That's good news for Gore, who should see more than his share of opportunities in this inter-conference battle.

Michael Turner vs. Carolina Panthers: I'm still not in love with Turner this season, but it's hard to discount the fact that he's productive on his home field. The Burner has scored in eight of his last 10 games at the Georgia Dome, and he's been an absolute beast against the Panthers. In his last four home games against them, Turner has a combined 428 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis at Jacksonville Jaguars: The Law Firm has had a respectable start to the season, averaging better than 11 fantasy points over the first three weeks. He's a viable No. 2 fantasy runner or flex starter against the Jaguars, who have allowed six touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs. The Jags have also given up the fifth-most rushing yards.

Sleeper alert - Cedric Benson vs. New Orleans Saints: Just a few weeks ago, Benson was a free agent waiting for a phone call from an NFL team. Now heading into Week 4, he's a nice flex option in all leagues. He has totaled 180 yards and one score in his last two games, and this week's matchup against the Saints is very favorable. No defense has allowed more fantasy points to runners.

Running backs - Sit of the week


Chris Johnson at Houston Texans: As someone who has Johnson in two leagues, I'm hoping that putting him in this section of the column causes a positive response from the fantasy gods and he breaks out of his abysmal slide. But here are the facts: Johnson is averaging 1.4 yards per carry, ranks 50th in fantasy points among backs and faces one of the best defenses in the league in Week 4.

Sit 'em


Andre Brown at Philadelphia Eagles: Brown has been a fantasy football darling over the last week plus, but he's now expected to move back into a reserve role with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw. As a result, it's tough to advise starting him against an Eagles defense that has allowed an average of just 13 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Clearly, Brown is now a gamble.

DeAngelo Williams at Atlanta Falcons: Williams has been largely unproductive outside of one week. With Jonathan Stewart expected to come back from injury, he is also likely to see a decreased role. Facing a tough Falcons defense on the road makes Williams an even less attractive fantasy starter.

Mark Ingram at Green Bay Packers: Remember all the hype around Ingram when he was drafted? Well, so far the hype has far outweighed his actual production. He's 46th in fantasy points among running backs and losing work to both Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. Furthermore, Ingram faces a Packers defense that has allowed just 24.10 fantasy points to backs in the last two weeks.

Owners beware - Steven Jackson vs. Seattle Seahawks: There are a lot of struggling running backs around the league, and Jackson is right near the top of the list. He's not in the top 30 at his position in fantasy points (Shaun Draughn has more points), and Jackson's matchup against the Seahawks is a tough one. Their defense has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to backs.

Wide receivers - Start of the week


Vincent Jackson vs. Washington Redskins: Jackson, who was in the sit 'em portion of this column last week, has been anything but consistent over the first three games. Still, it's tough not to like this week's matchup against what is a patchwork Redskins defense. This unit has allowed six touchdown catches and the most fantasy points to wideouts, so keep Jackson in your lineup.

Start 'em


Demaryius Thomas vs. Oakland Raiders: Thomas has recorded a combined 222 yards and two touchdowns over the first three weeks of the 2012 season. He's a terrific No. 2 option against the Raiders, who have given up an average of close to 24 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Consider both Thomas and Eric Decker in your starting lineups in what could be a real shootout.

Brandon Lloyd at Buffalo Bills: Unless you're in a PPR league, Lloyd hasn't been the best fantasy option over the first three weeks of the season. Still, he's seeing more and more targets from Tom Brady and should post a nice stat line this week against the Bills. Their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including six touchdowns, in 2012.

Greg Jennings vs. New Orleans Saints: Jennings has not had the best start to the 2012 season, posting 69 yards with no touchdowns and a mere 6.9 fantasy points. However, I would stick with him this week against the Saints in what could turn into a shootout at Lambeau Field. I'd also start his teammate, Jordy Nelson, who has been a disappointment himself for fantasy owners.

Sleeper alert - Malcom Floyd at Kansas City Chiefs: Floyd is coming off his worst stat line of the season, posting 52 yards and no touchdowns in a loss to the Falcons. I see him bouncing back in Week 4, though, as he'll go up against a Chiefs defense that has allowed an average of close to 24 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Consider him a very solid No. 3 option.

Wide receivers - Sit of the week


Dez Bryant vs. Chicago Bears (Mon.): Bryant has done a disappearing act in the stat sheets, averaging a mere 54.6 yards with no touchdowns in his first three games. He'll be hard pressed to change his fortunes against the Bears, who have allowed just two scores to opposing wide receivers. Unless you absolutely have to start him, consider Bryant a candidate to be on your fantasy bench.

Sit 'em


Danny Amendola vs. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks defense is no joke, which was more than evident in Monday night's win over the Packers. This unit has been particularly stingy against wideouts, allowing a mere two touchdown catches and the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the position. That's bad news for Amendola, who should be benched in leagues with standard scoring systems.

Santonio Holmes vs. San Francisco 49ers: Holmes went off for 147 yards against the Dolphins last week, but that's no reason to rush him back into your starting lineup. In fact, that was his first 100-yard performance since November 2010! This week Holmes will face a Niners defense that has allowed one touchdown to wide receivers and will be more than salty after being whipped last week.

Kenny Britt at Houston Texans: Britt is seeing more opportunities in the pass attack, but he's still not producing on the level it takes to be active in standard fantasy leagues. This week he goes up against the Texans, who have allowed one touchdown and the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Owners with viable alternatives should keep Britt on the fantasy sidelines.

Owners beware - Brandon Marshall at Dallas Cowboys (Mon.): Most fantasy owners can't afford to sit a wideout the caliber of Marshall, but he has quite a tough task ahead of him. Coming off two games where he scored a combined 9.50 fantasy points, Marshall now has to face a Cowboys defense that has held the opposition's No. 1 wideout to an average of just 3.3 fantasy points in 2012.

Tight ends - Start of the week


Antonio Gates at Kansas City Chiefs: Gates has not been good this season, and that's an understatement. Guys like Matthew Mulligan and Jeff Cumberland (who?) have more fantasy points! However, I'll preach patience with Gates based on a matchup against the Chiefs. He has dominated this team for most of his career, and K.C. has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2012.

Start 'em


Tony Gonzalez vs. Carolina Panthers: Gonzalez appears to have found the fountain of youth, because he's producing on the level of a player 10 years his junior. The veteran has already scored three touchdowns and ranks second in fantasy points at his position with 39.40 on NFL.com. I'd keep him active against a Panthers defense that has surrendered two touchdowns to tight ends in three games.

Brandon Pettigrew vs. Minnesota Vikings: Pettigrew had a nice stat line last week, catching an impressive eight passes in a loss to the Titans. He should remain active in most leagues (and all PPR formats) against the Vikings, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Pettigrew also shredded them for a combined 17 catches, 169 yards and one touchdown in 2011.

Owen Daniels vs. Tennessee Titans: Daniels has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners, posting 13 catches for 160 yards and one visit to the end zone. He'll remain a viable option against the Titans, who have given up league highs in receptions (28), yards (288) and touchdowns (5) to tight ends after three weeks. Daniels is still a free agent in over 70 percent of NFL.com leagues.

Sleeper alert - Kyle Rudolph at Detroit Lions: One of the hottest tight ends in fantasy football, Rudolph has scored three times in his last two games. Still a free agent in countless leagues, the former Notre Dame standout has a terrific matchup this week against the Lions. Their defense has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends after three weeks.

Tight ends - Sit of the week


Jared Cook at Houston Texans: Cook was one of the top-scoring fantasy tight ends last week, posting 77 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Lions. Unfortunately, the sledding will be far rougher against a Texans defense that has given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Cook has also averaged just 41.7 yards and scored once in his last four games against Houston.

Sit 'em


Fred Davis at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It was good to see Davis back involved in the pass attack last week, as he caught seven passes and recorded 90 yards against the Bengals. He has a tougher test on paper this weekend against the Bucs, who have allowed an average of just 6.5 fantasy points to their opponent's top tight end. I'd consider Davis a low-end, risk-reward option as a result.

Greg Olsen at Atlanta Falcons: Olsen is coming off his best stat line of the season, catching seven passes for 98 yards in a loss to the Giants. While that increases his value, it doesn't make him a rock-solid fantasy starter by any stretch. In fact, this week's matchup against the Falcons isn't favorable. Their defense has surrendered the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.

Jermaine Gresham at Jacksonville Jaguars: Much like Olsen, Gresham posted his best numbers of the young season in Week 3 with 64 yards and his first touchdown of 2012. This week's opponent, the Jaguars, have allowed the second-most receptions to tight ends. However, their defense also hasn't surrendered a touchdown and has given up an average of just 6.07 fantasy points to the position.

Owners beware - Jason Witten vs. Chicago Bears (Mon.): Thirty-four. That's the number of tight ends who have scored more fantasy points than Witten this season. The usually sure-handed tight end leads the league in dropped passes as well, so his value is in a serious state of emergency. Unless he starts showing signs of his former glory, it's tough to start Witten with confidence.

Kickers - Start of the week


Mason Crosby vs. New Orleans Saints: Crosby has had a disappointing start to the season, ranking just 23rd in fantasy points among kickers after three weeks. With that said, he'll be in a great position to greatly improve his rankings in what figures to be a shootout against the Saints. Their defense has allowed 10 field goal conversions and the most fantasy points to kickers.

Start 'em


Matt Bryant vs. Carolina Panthers: Bryant wasn't much of a factor last week, scoring a mere three fantasy points on three extra points. That's no reason to bench him, though, as this week's contest against the Panthers is one of the more favorable among kickers. Carolina's defense has surrendered a combined 10 field goal conversions and the second-most fantasy points to kickers.

Blair Walsh at Detroit Lions: We're seeing a lot of young kickers make an impact in fantasy land this season, and Walsh is among them. The fifth-best kicker based on fantasy points after three games, the rookie has made all seven of his field-goal attempts and should continue to shine against the Lions in what could be a high-scoring game. Walsh is still a free agent in many leagues.

Sleeper alert - Shayne Graham vs. Tennessee Titans: Graham, a tremendous fantasy kicker earlier in his career, is back on the radar as a member of the Texans. Among the top 12 kickers based on fantasy points, the veteran is well worth a look off the waiver wire as a one-week option against the Titans. Their defense has given up the third-most fantasy points to kickers after three weeks.

Kickers - Sit of the week


Ryan Succop vs. San Diego Chargers: Yes, Succop has emerged into a viable fantasy option this season. In fact, he's seventh in fantasy points among kickers after three games. I see his value taking a bit of a tumble this weekend, though, as Succop goes up against a Chargers defense that has surrendered just two field goals and the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers in 2012.

Sit 'em


Greg Zuerlein vs. Seattle Seahawks: Another one of those young, strong-legged kickers, Zuerlein has had a hot start to the season with 30 fantasy points in his first three NFL contests. While he could very well end up as a legitimate No. 1 fantasy kicker by the end of the year, he's not an attractive choice against the Seahawks. Only the Falcons have allowed fewer points to kickers.

Rob Bironas at Houston Texans: Bironas opens Week 4 as the 16th-best kicker in fantasy football based on points, so he's not much of an option unless you're in a deeper league. This weekend's matchup against the Texans won't help his fantasy prospects, as their defense has surrendered an average of just six points per game to opposing kickers. Keep Bironas on the fantasy sidelines.

Owners beware - Robbie Gould at Dallas Cowboys (Mon.): This NFC battle has all the looks of a defensive struggle, as both units are among the top six (Dallas is No. 1) in the NFL. That will mean that opportunities could be few and far between for Gould, as the Cowboys have allowed an average of just six fantasy points per game to opposing kickers. He's a risk, at least for this week.

Defense - Start of the week


Cardinals defense at Miami Dolphins: Ladies and gentlemen, the Cardinals defense is a legitimate fantasy option this season. Ranked second in points at the position on NFL.com after three games, this unit has held Tom Brady and Michael Vick in check over the last two weeks. As a result, shutting down rookie Ryan Tannehill and the punchless Dolphins offense shouldn't be an issue.

Start 'em


Giants defense at Philadelphia Eagles: What team have defenses scored the most fantasy points against in the first three games of the season, you ask? Well, it's the Eagles. Between Vick's turnovers and a questionable offensive line, defenses have feasted on the Birds in 2012. That makes the G-Men, who will be well rested after playing last Thursday, a very attractive fantasy option.

Falcons defense vs. Carolina Panthers: You might not realize it, but the Falcons are in the top five in fantasy points among defenses heading into Week 4. This week they'll host Cam Newton and the Panthers. In the first three weeks, defenses have scored the ninth-most fantasy points when facing this struggling offense. Surprisingly, the Falcons are still available in 70 percent of NFL.com leagues.

Sleeper alert - Seahawks defense at St. Louis Rams: Aside from what was a very questionable call at the end of the game, last Monday's win over the Packers proved just how good the Seahawks are on the defensive side of the football. This unit, which is still available in plenty of fantasy leagues, should dominate Sam Bradford and the Rams. If you need a defense, look for the 'Hawks.

Defense - Sit of the week


Bills defense vs. New England Patriots: The Bills have been impressive over the last two weeks, scoring a combined 27 fantasy points in games against the Chiefs and Browns. However, their next matchup, a home game against Tom Brady and the Patriots, is far less than favorable. In fact, defensive units facing the P-Men have scored the third-fewest fantasy points after three weeks.

Sit 'em


Eagles defense vs. New York Giants: After scoring a solid 14 fantasy points in Week 1, the Eagles have combined to post a mere nine over the last two games. That includes just three in a loss to the Cardinals. Next on the schedule is a date with the Giants, who haven't been a defensive whipping boy. In fact, defenses have scored the sixth-fewest fantasy points against Eli Manning's crew.

Lions defense vs. Minnesota Vikings: Last season, the Lions were one of the top-scoring defenses in fantasy football. That was then and this is now, however. After three weeks, only three defenses have scored fewer fantasy points than these Motor City cats. Defenses going up against the Vikings have averaged a mere five fantasy points per game, so the Lions are a questionable option.

Owners beware - Jets defense vs. San Francisco 49ers: As if the loss of CB Darrelle Revis wasn't enough to make the Jets less attractive in fantasy circles, now comes a matchup against the Niners at MetLife Stadium. This unit should be motivated to produce at a high level after being beaten in Minnesota last week, and Alex Smith doesn't make many mistakes. Keep the Men in Green benched.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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