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Expert fantasy football advice: Week Four starts & sits

Quarterback

Start

Carson Palmer, QB, ARI and Jay Cutler, QB, MIA – We hate to be redundant in this spot, but two QBs who are generally available to stream on waiver wires are the two QBs we've recommended the past two weeks: Palmer and Cutler.

Palmer should see lots of high-quality opportunities. With David Johnson getting hurt in Week 1, the Cardinals have adopted a pass-heavy approach that has seen Palmer attempt 48, 36 and 48 passes. The pass-heavy approach should continue given an ineffective complementary ground game that ranks 27th in the NFL in YPC at 3.1.

This pass-heavy approach for Palmer and the Cardinals meets a San Francisco 49ers defense that has allowed a lot of plays to opponents: 76, 63 and 60. They haven't been successful at stopping those plays, ranking 30th in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA. Throw in a high 26 team total, and Palmer is shaping up as a stable T0p 10 QB who also can be used as cap relief in all formats on DFS sites.

Cutler was horrific in a good matchup against the Jets last week, so the risk profile is heightened here. However, he does have talent around him: a good ground game led by Jay Ajayi, a possession receiver to move the chains in Jarvis Landry, and big-play threats in Devante Parker and Kenny Stills.

This week Cutler faces the hapless Saints defense that has allowed the seventh most adjusted fantasy points per game according to 4for4.com. If he can't get it done this week, send him to the waiver wire for good.

Sit

Matthew Stafford, QB, DET and Derek Carr, QB, OAK – Once again there are some similarities to past weeks here. Stafford faces the Vikings defense that we recommended sitting Jameis Winston against last week. Carr faces a Broncos defense that we avoid like the plague with opposing QBs.

It's tough to bench these two given where you may have drafted them, and their name recognition, but both Palmer and Cutler (above), and even someone like Tyrod Taylor (BUF), project a little bit better this week.

Of the two, Carr is the clearer sit. Denver has been one of the leagues best defenses against the QB position for several years in a row, featuring a strong pass rush led by Von Miller and great outside CBs in Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. Here are Carr's performances since 2015 against Denver compared to his performances against the rest of the league, courtesy of the RotoViz Game Splits App:

Running Back

Start

Chris Carson, RB, SEA – Now is the time to buy on Carson if you still have the chance. The seventh-round pick has quickly ascended up Seattle's depth chart, making a once-crowded backfield look small. Eddie Lacy has been a healthy scratch on back-to-back weeks after playing just seven snaps Week 1. Rawls, who was hurt Week 1, returned Week 2 and played 19.51 percent of snaps. In the most obvious sign of the coaching staff's faith in Carson, Rawls was then reduced to playing a single snap in Week 3.

Over the past two weeks, Carson has received 31/39 RB carries (79 percent). Now pass catching back CJ Prosise is hurt, which could funnel an extra target or two Carson's way. Carson recorded a receiving TD last week.

Carson takes his lead back role into an elite matchup this week against a bad Colts defense/team, that will increase Carson's TD probability (Vegas implied team total of 28) and rush attempts (-14 favorites at home). He's a strong start in both season-long and DFS formats.

Sit

Chris Thompson, RB, WAS – Admittedly, this is more of a sell-high recommendation than a sit in season-long leagues. Thompson is roughly a Top-20 PPR back and Top-25 back in standard leagues, so he's still a viable RB2, depending on roster makeup, in 12-team leagues or deeper.

Thompson is going to value in PPR leagues all season long, recording target totals of 5, 7, and 7 through three weeks. However, his role is going to cap his upside, making him a good trade candidate for someone like Carson (above) or Joe Mixon (CIN), who has not produced much yet from a fantasy perspective but has the potential for a much more valuable workload.

Thompson's current stats look gaudy, but they are predicated on unsustainable efficiency. According to JJ Zachariason of NumberFire, the average RB has scored a TD just once every 147 rushing yards and once every 37 attempts thus far this season:

Thompson has somehow scored two rushing TDs on just 14 attempts and 119 yards. He's also added two receiving TDs off of 19 targets. Thompson, who has never scored more than two receiving TDs in a season, previously averaged two TDs every 46.8 targets heading into 2017.

Aside from the unsustainable TD rate, Thompson is averaging 17.8 yards per catch. His career mark is 8.2. Given that you likely drafted Thompson late in drafts, you're playing with house money. Still, it doesn't hurt to test the trade market, and he's a good fade in DFS leagues this week given an escalating price tag and ownership.

Wide Receiver

Start

Tyrell Williams, WR, LAC – Williams has had a tough start to the season. His 16.2% MS of targets should rise closer to 20 as the season moves along. That could happen as quickly as this week against a Philadelphia team that, according to SharpFootballStats.com, has allowed the fourth most pass attempts to opposing WRs. That's not a surprise given the injuries to their secondary: Ronald Darby and Corey Graham are out, and Jaylen Watkins and Rodney McLeod are questionable.

Williams won't ever be the PPR monster that teammate Keenan Allen is, but he does have a good combination of size (6'3) and speed (80th percentile height-adjusted speed score according to PlayerProfiler) that allows him to make high fantasy point plays vertically and in the red zone.

Sit

Jeremy Maclin, WR, BAL – Joe Flacco is struggling mightily for the third consecutive season. He averaged just 6.1 and 6.0 adjusted yards per attempt the previous two seasons. It's a small sample size, but that number has dipped to 3.6 this season. While we certainly don't expect that number to last, it's notable that it's the worst mark in the entire league.

While Flacco's struggles hurt Maclin's efficiency, it's the impact on playcalling that may be more worrisome. The Ravens are dead last in pass attempts per game at just 26.0. It's quite literally the worst possible combination of quality and quantity.

The final nail in the coffin is that Maclin's MS of targets sits at just 18%, a modest mark for a team's first WR and not nearly enough to overcome the other systemic issues here. In Week 1 in this space, we noted that historically Baltimore tends to spread their targets around.

Specifically to this week, there's nothing in the matchup to ease the bleeding for Maclin. Although much of this is schedule related, Pittsburgh has allowed the least fantasy points per game to the WR position.

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