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Chris Carson to shine in fantasy football Week 4

The FedEx Air & Ground fantasy preview is back!


In case it slipped your mind, NFL football fans have the opportunity to vote on top performers at the running back and quarterback position following every regular week of action.

The candidates at quarterback last week were Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum. At running back, Kareem Hunt, Jordan Howard and Todd Gurley were all featured. You can check out the Week 3 winners here and cast your vote every week.

Now, without further ado, let's dive into some players who could have huge games in Week 4, both through the air and on the ground.

Air Analysis:

Carson Palmer vs. 49ers

The veteran quarterback got off to a slow start but has been getting better as the season goes on, despite the Cardinals offensive line play seeming to deteriorate around him. Carson Palmer has been sacked 11 times, tied for fourth-most in the league thus far, but his play has improved each week. Palmer posted a 53.1 passer rating in Week 1, jumped to an 82.2 passer rating in Week 2 and posted his best performance, 94.5, against Dallas in Week 3.

Palmer seems to be adapting to life without David Johnson, who accounted for nearly half of Arizona's offense by himself last season. On that note, without Johnson, the Cardinals run game has been absolutely anemic.

The lack of backfield production has forced Palmer to throw more. In fact, he has the second-most pass attempts in the league and the third most passing yards. It's also led the Cardinals to have the third-highest red zone passing percentage in the league, per Graham Barfield of That means when the Cardinals get near the end zone, they don't trust the backfield to get into the paint, so they have Palmer dropping back to sling it.

Consider the matchup against the 49ers this week, that's all good news for Palmer's fantasy outlook. San Francisco is coming off a game where the defense allowed 292 pass yards, three touchdowns and 23.58 fantasy points to Jared Goff. The 49ers are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks through three weeks, and that includes limited performances by Cam Newton in Week 1 (13.14 pts) and Russell Wilson in Week 2 (15.32 pts). Palmer's in an ideal spot to put up a solid number as a streamer or sleeper at home on Sunday afternoon.

Eli Manning at Buccaneers

Odell Beckham is back, and his healthy return in Week 3 (he played 78 percent of Giants' snaps), combined with an effort by Eli Manning to get the ball out faster against the Eagles resulted in a much better offensive performance for the New York. For a more in-depth look at how Manning's time to throw affected his efficiency last week, check out Matt Harmon's NextGenStats preview for Week 4.

But back to Manning's fantasy outlook. Manning really got cooking in the fourth quarter last week, leading his team to four scoring drives and averaging 11.5 yards per play overall in the final 15 minutes of playing time. New York will look to keep that momentum rolling against the Buccaneers. Much like the Eagles last week, Tampa Bay is dealing with significant defensive injuries. Those holes showed up last week when Tampa Bay surrendered a big game to Case Keenum and the Vikings offensive attack.

While it looks like cornerback Brent Grimes will return as he was a full participant in practice, linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David didn't practice, along with safety T.J. Ward. That should again leave some gaping holes for the Giants receivers to get open the entire game. If Manning can keep up his level of play from last week, it's a good spot to consider him as a streamer in a favorable matchup.

Ground Analysis:

Chris Carson vs. Colts

This is it people. The Chris Carson era in Seattle starts now.

For three straight games, the rookie has played as Seattle's clear-cut primary back. Carson has led all Seahawks' backs in offensive snaps in each game this year, with 25 (52.1%), 48 (60.8%) and 41 (56.2%) in Week 1 through Week 3 respectively.

In Week 4, he's in an ideal spot to blow the roof off during a home game against the Colts.

We already know that Seattle's pass-catching back, C.J. Prosise, is on the shelf with an ankle injury. We also already know that Carson is adept at catching passes out of the backfield - something he displayed in his preseason work.

That leaves Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy as Carson's only competition for snaps. Rawls and Lacy combined for one snap against the Titans last week. Lacy was a healthy scratch in Week 2 and Rawls played just 16 snaps. This is no longer a trend, kids. It's what's happening.

Yes, some may point to the fact that the Colts run defense is actually playing pretty well this year, and those folks are not wrong. Indy is allowing 85.7 rush yards per game, that's 10th-best in the NFL so far. But Indy has been susceptible to allowing fantasy points to backs. In Week 1 they gave up an RB6 performance to Todd Gurley. Week 2 was a game against a David Johnson-less Cardinals, so it's tough to take that seriously. And last week, Duke Johnson posted an RB9 performance against Indy.

Carson is already averaging 4.5 yards per carry behind a, let's call it mediocre, Seattle offensive line and he scored his first career touchdown last week on the receiving end of a Russell Wilson throw. Look for Carson to shine as Seattle's feature back in Week 4.

LeSean McCoy at Falcons

A perennial elite fantasy running back, LeSean McCoy has posted just 30 rush yards combined over the course of his last two games. But his game against the Falcons in Week 4 feels like a prime bounce-back spot.

It's no secret that McCoy is a dual-threat out of the backfield. In fact, he leads the Bills in targets with 20 on the season. The Falcons seem to have a weakness for pass-catching backs as the Atlanta defense allowed the second-most receiving yards to backs in 2016 and are a bottom-five defense in the same stat so far this year.

In Week 1, Atlanta gave up two top-15 fantasy performances to Bears backs Tarik Cohen (RB4) and Jordan Howard (RB13). In a Week 2 home game, Ty Montgomery put up an RB3 performance against them, with two touchdowns and 75 receiving yards. And last week, the Falcons gave up 86 scrimmage yards to Ameer Abdullah. The Atlanta defense is allowing a 4.5 yards per carry average to opposing backs this season.

This is an interesting game from a script standpoint because Buffalo's defense has played lights out this season, while Atlanta's offense has so many weapons and seems to play better in home games, as many teams do. But McCoy is the kind of back who, due to his dual-threat capabilities, is game-script immune. If the Falcons have a big lead in the second half, McCoy should see an uptick in passing work. If it's close, expect the Bills to use McCoy more as a runner. Even after two letdown games, McCoy is still averaging nine standard fantasy points per game.

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