Best of the Best: NFC Week 4
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Despite their season not exactly going as planned, the Atlanta Falcons (1-3) are undoubtedly happy with their first-round draft selection, Calvin Ridley. This is a player I was very high on going into the year and caught some flack for. I may not have been high enough. Through four weeks, the rookie receiver from Alabama leads the NFL in touchdowns with six. He’s collected 264 receiving yards, as well. These numbers put him on pace for 1056 yards and 24 TDs.
The TD numbers are unsustainable, but Ridley has arrived as Matt Ryan’s WR2. One-thousand-plus yards is definitely achievable and 10+ touchdowns is believable. Even crazier… he’s out-scoring Julio Jones from a fantasy standpoint. Jones leads the league in receiving yards with 502 but has yet to score a TD (surprise, surprise). With #11 distracting the top corners, Ridley will continue to feast. He could legitimately finish 2018 as a better fantasy receiver than his All-Pro teammate. That would be something.
Looking ahead to this week’s action, in the early afternoon, I’m tuning-in to watch the Packers lose to the Lions in Detroit. Calling it. The games between Green Bay (2-1-1) and Detroit (1-3) have been competitive the last few years. The Lions are coming off a heartbreaker, losing to the Cowboys in the final seconds as Brett Maher’s kick sailed through the uprights. I really believe this team is better than their record and they should be focused this week, looking to punish their divisional rivals at home.
For the late afternoon slate, the matchup between Minnesota (1-2-1) and Philadelphia (2-2) is interesting to me. These are two teams who are, let’s call it what it is, severely underperforming. The Eagles can’t seem to get their offense moving. This should fix itself in time, but when? Carson Wentz is just returning from an ACL injury, still getting used to being out there again. He knocked off some more of the rust last week in a loss to Tennessee (3-1) and next up, he gets to face a Vikings defense that has really not been as good as we all expected.
The Vikings allowed 27 points to Buffalo (1-3) in Week 3 and 38 to the LA Rams (4-0) in Week 4. That’s not even to mention the 29 points the Packers scored in Week 2. That said, Minnesota’s offense has looked stellar each game so far, aside from Week 3. And that defense is bound to start clicking eventually, right? This contest could truly go either way, and it feels like a turning point game for both these teams, good or bad. Who emerges victorious and gets their 2018 campaign back on track?
In speaking of campaigns on track, if you had any of these players starting, chances are you won your fantasy leagues this week. This is the Best of the Best in the NFC from Week 4. Oh, and just real quick... I will no longer cover “obvious starters” here, like the Saquon Barkeys and OBJs of the world. Those guys are superstars. Greatness is expected. Alright, let’s get on with it.
QB Mitchell Trubisky, CHI - 19/26 passing, 354 yards, 6 touchdowns; 3 carries, 53 yards.
The second-year QB torched Tampa’s defense time and time again on Sunday, making Bears history in the process. I was skeptical of the hype around the Bears before the season began, and being unsure of Trubisky’s improvement from year one to year two was a large factor in that. I’m starting to become a believer. Chicago is on Bye in Week 5, so don’t install him as your starter just yet. He should be rostered in all formats, however, especially if you’re in need of another option at QB (like us suckers who drafted Russell Wilson).
RB Mike Davis, SEA - 21 carries, 101 yards, 2 touchdowns; 4 receptions, 23 yards.
A Seattle running back has gone over 100 rushing yards two weeks in a row, which is impressive given how bad their offensive line is. That’s what it is. Their line is offensive. Davis got the start over rookie first-rounder Rashaad Penny, which says a lot about their feelings toward said rookie. The former South Carolina runner made the most of his opportunity, guiding the Seahawks to a win with a big-time performance. He appears to be the RB to own in Seattle in Chris Carson’s absence.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI - 13 carries, 53 yards; 7 receptions, 121 yards, 1 touchdown.
In a game that looked prime for a huge Jordan Howard performance, we got the inverse. Cohen was all over the field for Chicago last week, making play after play after play. I like his game. He runs big for a 5’6”, 180 pound running back. Plus, he’s fast, shifty, difficult to cover out of the backfield and is a great receiver. The coaches are recognizing his value and versatility. They’ll keep finding ways to get him the ball. I see Cohen having weekly flex value with RB2 upside.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR - 9 receptions, 162 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Here’s another guy I was preaching to people in the preseason. Kupp showed great chemistry with QB Jared Goff last year and it only made sense that connection would improve in year two together. Kupp is turning into one of the league’s best slot receivers and is on pace for 96 receptions, 1392 yards, and 16 TDs. Those numbers seem unlikely but he’s off to a hot start and that offense isn’t slowing down. He needs to be started every week.
WR Golden Tate, DET - 8 receptions, 132 yards, 2 touchdowns.
The Lions have an interesting situation at the receiver position. They have three viable, solid fantasy options, the other two being Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. All three have weekly starter value, but it appears who will have the top performance will be a dice roll. Last week, it was Tate who stood out from the group with a huge performance in a losing effort to the Cowboys. This week against the Pack, it could be anyone.
TE George Kittle, SF - 6 receptions, 125 yards, 1 touchdown.
A couple more games like this and Kittle might be too obvious of a starter to include on this list. He’s been a fixture on here and in the weekly Start/Sit piece, has shown himself to be quarterback-proof, and is developing into one of the league’s better tight ends. Kittle is currently the 49ers’ top receiving target and should be owned in all formats. He has TE1 upside.
Jared Goff, QB, LAR - 26/33 passing, 465 yards, 5 touchdowns; 2 carries, 7 yards.
You know some other poor, hapless defense really suffered when a QB with that stat line is merely an “Honorable Mention”. As impressive as Trubisky was against Tampa Bay, what Goff did to Minnesota and their vaunted defensive unit may be even more impressive. Through four weeks, Goff is putting up MVP-type numbers. If he’s available in the free agent pool for some reason, pick him up. You might want to consider starting him while you’re at it.
Taylor Gabriel, WR, CHI - 7 receptions, 104 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 carry, 10 yards.
Gabriel is a talented, athletic player, and is faster than most of the other players on the field. Sunday against the Buccs was his first big performance of the year but he’s received at least five targets in each game so far (at least 7 each since week 2). Gabriel should at least be rostered to see if he continues to receive a similar or larger target share.
Players to Watch
Aaron Jones, RB, GB - 11 carries, 65 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 17 yards.
After being firmly on Team Jamaal Williams for Green Bay’s backfield, it may be time to admit he’s not the best running back on the roster. Jones, the former UTEP runner just looks more explosive than his teammate from BYU. He sat out due to suspension to start the year but is back now and poised to take control of the lead-back job for the Packers offense. Snag him off the waiver wire if he’s available.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, DET - 9 carries, 55 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 1 yard.
Here is another young NFC North running back in a good position to seize the lead-back job, if he hasn’t done that already. Johnson, the rookie from Auburn, ended the Lions’ painful 100-yard rusher drought in Week 3 by gaining 101 yards against New England. He followed that up with a strong effort against Dallas in a game where he was under-utilized. The Lions found themselves a very good running back and right now, his usage is the only question.