News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Week 4 Recap: Tom Brady and Joe Mixon go off, Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen show chemistry

Week 4 of the NFL season is almost complete, with a double-header set for Monday Night Football remaining. The games from Sunday's action-packed slate have already provided us with enough new information to start considering fantasy football action items as we head into Week 5. Keep in mind that scheduled bye weeks start this week (Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers).

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So let's dig into Sunday's action with an eye toward improving next week. I'll hit on snap counts, routes run, goal-line usage, targets and target shares to make sure we're ready to roll as waiver deadlines approaches on Wednesday and Week 5 sit/start decisions loom. Consider this a crash course on Week 4. 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

Chest injury? No problem for Joe Mixon, who finally found the end zone in Week 4 — not only once but thrice. He saw over 30 touches, rushed for 151 yards and had six receptions for 30 yards. 

Mixon highlighted my Week 4 fantasy football preview because of his heavy workload thus far this season. The Jacksonville Jaguars entering this week had allowed the most red-zone touches to opposing RBs. Mixon had eight in Week 4.

If you bought low on Mixon before this game, you should be ecstatic. Giovani Bernard, who some thought would continue to eat into Mixon’s workload, was a non-factor in this game. Bernard ran fewer routes (23 vs. four) and barely played any snaps (16%). 

The pass-game usage is what is most encouraging, and I would expect that to continue because the coaches know that Mixon is their long-term running back. They're moving away from using veterans like Bernard and — most noticeable over the past two weeks — A.J. Green.

Green had just one catch for three yards on five targets in Week 4. Tee Higgins was more productive for the second-straight week (four catches for 77 yards). The days of Green being the No. 1 in Cincinnati are over. Higgins and Tyler Boyd are the future and the only Bengals WRs worth rostering right now in fantasy football. 

Passes to Green this season have produced the league’s worst passer rating (52.5) and completion percentage (42.4%) among wide receivers with at least 25 targets. 

James Robinson continues to be the workhorse for the Jaguars’ offense. He totaled 18 carries for 76 yards and was the only Jags running back to see any carries. He was also the only running back to see any targets (four) and ranked fourth on the team in routes run.

Robinson’s heavy usage and the upcoming bye weeks are going to make him a fringe RB1 play each week. 

D.J. Chark Jr. returned to form after missing Week 3 — eight catches for 95 yards on a team-leading nine targets. His outlook was shaky after the first few weeks, but after a solid outing in Week 4 and a great upcoming schedule, Chark needs to be locked into lineups. 

Rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. was second in team targets but is still just a bench stash at this point. He is still running fewer routes than Keelan Cole (37 vs. 22) and playing fewer snaps (75% vs. 56%). 

But the fact that he has nine carries on the year and that he's been efficient with his targets (3.91 yards per route run), still warrants the roster spot. Shenault could prove very serviceable down the stretch as he has averaged 11.6 fantasy points per game in limited capacity.

BALTIMORE RAVENS @ WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Lamar Jackson returned to his 2019 form versus the Washington Football Football Team, scoring 25 fantasy points on the back of 50-plus rushing yard score and two passing touchdowns. His two TD passes went to Mark Andrews, who seemingly only scores touchdowns in bunches.

Gus Edwards led the team in both carries (nine) and snap percentage (40%), further muddying this backfield situation. Edwards is also viewed by the coaches as the “closer,” which basically means that any time the Ravens get up on a team, it will be Edwards down the stretch.

That leaves Mark Ingram as a prime “sell-high” candidate. He scored the lone rushing touchdown among Ravens running backs, so I would be looking to capitalize — he just isn’t seeing enough work right now.

Rookie J.K. Dobbins would still be a buy-low because we know the type of upside he would offer should an injury happen to either Ingram or Edwards. 

I doubted that Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin would be able to post numbers in this matchup, but they proved me wrong. McLaurin went over 100 receiving yards and Gibson compiled over 100 yards from scrimmage.

The rookie running back saw 59% of the team’s carries and hauled in a screen pass for 40 yards. J.D. McKissic was still involved in the passing game as well (seven catches for 40 yards on eight targets), but considering the team is so needy of offensive weapons, Gibson should continue to see passing work moving forward.

That, combined with his role as the early and goal-line back (three carries inside the 5 in Week 4), makes Gibson look like a locked-and-loaded RB2 moving forward. 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert “only” threw for 290 yards on Sunday, which broke his streak of two-straight 300-yard passing games. Herbert more than impressed in Week 4 against a stout Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, completing 80% of his throws and peppering Keenan Allen with targets.

Oct 4, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) celebrates with teammates after throwing a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyron Johnson (not pictured) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter of a NFL game at Raymond James Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The veteran wide had another double-digit target game (12) — there’s no reason to think that won’t continue unless Tyrod Taylor were to unexpectedly return as QB1.

The worst news of this game was another top-tier running back injury — Austin Ekeler went down with what PFF’s injury expert Mario Pilatio believes is a serious hamstring injury.

Joshua Kelley took over as the starting running back but was ineffective, rushing just nine times for seven yards. The stats are egregious, but considering Kelley lost a fumble for the second-straight game and the team still went back to him is a good indication he’s the guy moving forward. 

Running back Justin Jackson should also see more work in Ekeler’s absence and will be on the waiver wire radar ahead of Week 5. 

Tom Brady broke out for 369 passing yards and five touchdowns — to five different receivers. Mike Evans resumed his alpha WR1 status with no Chris Godwin (seven catches for 122 yards and one touchdown), but Ronald Jones actually led the team in total targets (nine). He also had two drops.

But, it wasn’t all bad for Jones — he rushed for 111 yards (5.5 yards per attempt). This would be a prime spot to sell high on Jones — took both Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy being out for him to post his best stat line of the season. 

The Buccaneers play on Thursday night this week, so there’s a chance Fournette and McCoy could be held out in a short week, making Jones easier to sell off a big game. Not to mention, rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn was involved for the first time all season and hauled in one of his three targets for a touchdown.

Tight end O.J. Howard is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles, which would give slight bumps in production to both Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate.  

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

Tyler Lockett had a down game in Week 4 (5.9 fantasy points) after averaging 24.6 fantasy points per game the three weeks prior. Still, this is no cause for concern considering Lockett still ran the most routes on the team and he gets to face the Minnesota Vikings’ pitiful defense in Week 5. 

Despite not throwing a single touchdown, Ryan Fitzpatrick still turned out a solid fantasy performance in Week 4 because of his legs. The veteran rushed for a team-leading 47 yards and a touchdown, which vaulted him to 21-plus fantasy points. 

Preston Williams only saw three targets in a smash spot, so he needs to be dropped. He has not had more than two catches in a game yet this season and is way too low in the target pecking order to be worth a roster spot. Meanwhile, slot wide receiver Isaiah Ford saw 10 targets — he'll be a name to keep tabs on the waiver wire. 

Myles Gaskin saw solid volume in this game (13 touches) but struggled to produce, like most running backs have failed to do versus Seattle in 2020. But we chase volume, so consider Gaskin’s dip in production an invitation to buy low. 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ HOUSTON TEXANS

If you still aren’t convinced about buying-in on rookie Justin Jefferson, well, let his Week 4 performance speak for itself. He went for over 100 yards for the second-straight week, and it came against press coverage.

Rookie wide receivers often struggle against press coverage, but Jefferson has passed the test with flying colors over the past two weeks. No Vikings wide receiver has seen more snaps versus press than Jefferson – and yet, he leads the team in receiving yards and PFF receiving grade (94.8).

I don’t see how Jefferson can be worse than a WR3 next week versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Will Fuller reminded us why we loved him so much, posting his second 100-yard game of the season in Week 4 while commanding a 23% target share. In the games when Fuller has been 100% healthy this season, he has commanded a 26% target share. 

The return of Duke Johnson Jr. cut into David Johnson’s usage in Week 4. David went from running 30-plus routes per game to just 15 in Week 4. His percentage of the team’s carries also fell from 75% to 62%. 

Tight end Jordan Akins left the game with a concussion; should he miss time, Darren Fells would be the target off the waiver wire. 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ DETROIT LIONS

When Michael Thomas has missed games, Tre’Quan Smith has been the main beneficiary, filling the “X” receiver role. But once Jared Cook was hurt last week, that's when we started to see more of Emmanuel Sanders involved. 

Sanders’ increased role without Cook in the lineup was on full display on Sunday when he commanded a 36% target share and a team-leading 93 receiving yards. 

Smith ended up with the two touchdown scores, so that makes him the sell-high Saints receiver to move on from prior to Thomas’ eventual return. 

Rookie Adam Trautman was a popular play in DFS this week because Cook was inactive, but he put up a goose egg. He only ran 13 routes, which was fewer than he ran in Week 3 (16). I think this has to do with the Saints’ game plan — they ran 42 times versus 25 pass attempts, so there really wasn’t much opportunity for Trautman.

If Cook misses in Week 5, I’d expect Trautman to be more involved should the Saints elect to go more pass-heavy versus the Los Angeles Chargers. Los Angeles just gave up five passing touchdowns and 369 passing yards to Tom Brady

T.J. Hockenson’s four targets hardly stand out, but what’s noteworthy is that two of them were end-zone targets — one of which Hockenson brought down for a score.

So much of the tight end position in fantasy football is just about who scores, so that’s why you need to continue to keep rolling out Hockenson weekly. His four end-zone targets over the last two weeks are tied with Greg Olsen for the most at the tight end position.

ARIZONA CARDINALS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

Kenyan Drake has now busted in back-to-back plus matchups. He failed to get it done against the Lions and failed again versus the Carolina Panthers’ atrocious run defense. I talked about him as a fade in DFS and I was spot on. 

His lack of pass-game usage in favor of Chase Edmonds was a red flag for me, and that proved to be an issue on Sunday. Edmonds’ five catches on six targets in Week 4 was equivalent to all of Drake’s receiving production in the first four games. He averaged a putrid 2.7 yards per attempt against a team that was allowing five yards per attempt to running backs. 

It’s time to hit the panic button on Drake. 

Panthers' third-string running back Reggie Bonnafon was much more involved in Week 4 behind Mike Davis. His running back carry share increased substantially from Week 3 (13% to 39%) and he took two targets away that would have probably gone to Davis. 

Oct 4, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) pursues Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Robby Anderson has just one game with fewer than 11 fantasy points scored this season, and D.J. Moore has just one game with more than nine fantasy points. 

It’s too early to push the panic button on Moore (he has Atlanta in Week 5), but we are going to see the gap between Anderson and Moore’s fantasy rankings ahead of Week 5 narrow based on their first four weeks of production. 

Among wide receivers with at least 25 targets, Anderson leads the NFL in yards per route run (2.86). Moore ranks 15th (2.06). 

NEW YORK GIANTS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS

Devonta Freeman didn’t produce much in Week 4, but was used as the clear lead back. He led all running backs in routes run (21), targets (four), carries (11) and snap percentage (53%). These all increased from the week before, so there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to surge in a cake matchup versus the Dallas Cowboys’ defense in Week 5.

Evan Engram led all Giants in targets (10), which gives me some semblance of hope he can turn things around with the Giants schedule easing up over the next few weeks. 

In shocking a twist, Darrell Henderson was regulated to backup duties behind Malcolm Brown in Week 4. He played fewer snaps (22 vs. 35), saw fewer carries (eight vs. nine) and ran fewer routes (22 vs. six).

The one good takeaway for Henderson owners is that he saw both carries inside the 10-yard line. Other than that, it’s just a reminder that the Rams’ backfield is a running-back-by-committee and things will only get more confusing when Cam Akers returns. 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ CHICAGO BEARS

This might be the end of T.Y. Hilton in fantasy football, folks. In Week 4, he failed to surpass 55 receiving yards for the fourth-consecutive week. He was out targeted by Zach Pascal (eight) and his outlook is not going to improve in Week 5.

The Colts are going to play the Browns, which means it’s going to be a run and cloud of dust over and over again. 

Mo Alie-Cox is going to be hard to play on a weekly basis if he continues to only run seven routes per game. He has made it work by catching touchdowns, but that's going to be hard to sustain when the other Colts tight ends, Jack Doyle and Trey Burton, are running more routes/seeing more targets.

Darnell Mooney is a name to remember for the waiver wire. Nick Foles was looking for him often in Week 4 (nine targets). He hauled in five catches for 52 yards. The rookie wide receiver has also played more snaps than third-year wide receiver and frequent resident of the Matt Nagy doghouse, Anthony Miller, over the past two weeks. 

BUFFALO BILLS @ LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Josh Allen came up just short of his fourth-consecutive 300-yard game (288) but still managed to find a way to get it done for fantasy managers. He and Devin Singletary both scored a rushing touchdown.

Oct 4, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) carries the ball in the first quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Singletary could find rushing scores tough to come by moving forward. Zack Moss has been inactive over the past two weeks, which has created an opportunity for Singletary to see goal-line work. Upon his return, his role there may be minimized. 

Rookie wide receiver Gabriel Davis is making his presence on the field felt. In Week 4, he actually ran more routes than Cole Beasley (19 vs. 14) and he brought in his lone target for a 29-yard touchdown score. 

Beasley reportedly suffered a foot injury; should the veteran miss time, Davis would be an easy plug-and-play WR3 option. When he filled in for an injured John Brown in Week 3, Davis had four catches for 81 yards on four targets. 

Josh Jacobs continues to be leveraged as a pass-catcher in the Raiders' offense — he ran 22 routes, saw four targets and had three catches, which were the most among all Las Vegas running backs. Jacobs is going to play a big role in the passing game when the Raiders are faced with a negative game script against the Kansas City Chiefs this week.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Teams are locking in on stopping Zach Ertz. He ranked second on the team in targets (five), but what he did with those targets — four catches for nine yards — doesn’t fill me with confidence moving forward. If anything, Greg Ward leading the team in overall targets (seven) confirms my priors on him — he could fill-in as the No. 1 option among all the injuries.

Now, Ward didn’t post a great stat line, either — four catches for 38 yards — but his target share might warrant use as a cheap option in DFS.

Jerick McKinnon has now scored in every game this season and was the clear No. 1 running back in the 49ers’ offense. Jeff Wilson Jr. had just three carries and ran three routes. McKinnon had 14 carries and ran 39 routes. 

Raheem Mostert’s return will obviously lower McKinnon’s upside, but he has shown enough the first four weeks to be a viable weekly FLEX player. That’s because he is the best pass-catcher among all the 49ers’ running backs. He finished Week 4 with seven catches for 44 yards on eight targets. 

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