Fantasy football: Week 4 starters, benchwarmers

Ladd Biro
Special to Packer Plus
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Wondering whether or not to start Todd Gurley and Michael Thomas, or to bench Josh McCown and Mike Wallace? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 4 of the 2017 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals vs. 49ers: Arizona’s running game has been grounded since David Johnson was lost, forcing Palmer to carry the team on his arm. He’ll continue to do that Sunday as the porous 49ers secondary heads to the desert. Getting J.J. Nelson back at 100 percent sure would help, but Larry Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown and Andre Ellington can get the job done in this matchup.

Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots vs. Panthers: After a stellar start as a Patriot, Gillislee disappeared last week in the aerial firestorm with the Texans. This week’s matchup should be notably less-pass happy, allowing the lead back to play a more integral role in the game plan. Look for Gillislee to return to his goal-line bulldozing ways.

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals at Browns: Cincinnati’s new offensive coordinator did what everyone hoped he’d do in his first game at the helm: he elevated Mixon to the lead role in the Bengals’ crowded backfield. The rookie responded with 101 combined yards. Look for the progression to continue on Sunday, with more touches and his first NFL touchdown.

Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans at Texans: Marcus Mariota has been a big disappointment to his owners thus far, but his favorite wideout is exceeding expectations. Matthews has caught 14 of his 24 targets in the first three games, and he has a string of strong outings against the Texans he is sure to build upon this weekend.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins vs. Saints: After a 13-reception opening game, Landry took several steps backward against the Jets. Look for a nice rebound for the most reliable receiver in Miami, as the Dolphins get their running game back on track and the offense stays up-tempo to keep pace with the Saints in London.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Matt Stafford, Russell Wilson; RBs Jay Ajayi, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Leonard Fournette, Jacquizz Rodgers, Chris Thompson, Mark Ingram, Dalvin Cook, Paul Perkins; WRs Chris Hogan, Larry Fitzgerald, Emmanuel Sanders, Dez Bryant, Golden Tate, Sammy Watkins, Adam Thielen.

Roll ‘em back

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers at Patriots: The good news is that New England has surrendered more than 300 passing yards to every quarterback it’s faced this season – including Alex Smith and rookie Deshaun Watson. The bad news is Newton looked downright pitiful against the sorry Saints last week. With Greg Olsen out, Kelvin Benjamin nursing a gimpy knee and Newton’s own shoulder woes, he can’t be trusted even in this matchup.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders at Broncos: After a promising start, Lynch is now stuck in Least Mode. His coaches are determined to preserve the aging back, giving him ample relief with the youngsters below him. If Lynch doesn’t score early, he’s unlikely to produce satisfactory fantasy numbers. This week, he’ll face a Denver run defense that has surrendered a league-low 60 rushing yards per game and no TDs.

Bilal Powell, RB, Jets vs. Jaguars: Matt Forte (toe) will likely sit this one out, but I still wouldn’t bank on Powell. Not only has he failed to reprise last year’s strong showings, but he’ll be facing a stifling Jaguars run defense.

Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers at Cardinals: Garcon had his best game in years last week against the Rams, but don’t expect to see that again any time soon. Not only is Brian Hoyer still under center, but Patrick Peterson will be blanketing Garcon throughout this game. Seattle held him to 26 yards on three catches in Week 2, which sounds about right for this week.

Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders at Broncos: Coming off a game in which he caught a six-yard pass – and that’s it – Cooper is hard to trust against the Broncos’ talented secondary. He has been plagued by drops all season, and his connection with Derek Carr is not what we remember from 2017. It’s a risk, but Cooper should be benched until he rediscovers his mojo.

More thumbs down: QBs Derek Carr, Ben Roethlisberger, Trevor Siemian, Jameis Winston, Blake Bortles, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor; RBs LeGarrette Blount, Buck Allen, Lamar Miller, Derrick Henry, Ameer Abdullah, Isaiah Crowell, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Theo Riddick, Chris Carson; WRs Allen Hurns, Travis Benjamin, Jeremy Maclin, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jermaine Kearse, Eric Decker, Terrelle Pryor, Mohamed Sanu, Cooper Kupp.


Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans vs. Titans: It may be time to give this rookie some fantasy love. His stellar performance in New England last weekend was well-documented, and he’ll face another generous secondary this weekend. Watson has built a strong rapport with DeAndre Hopkins, and his running ability makes him a dual threat in the red zone.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…forgets about the latest London game scheduled for this Sunday. The Dolphins and Saints kick off at 9:30 a.m. ET – that’s 6:30 a.m. for those on the left coast – so don’t oversleep on Sunday and neglect to check the inactives or other late-breaking news that could affect your starting lineup.

Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

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