News & Analysis

NFL Week 4 PFF Preview: Players to watch, fantasy football advice and betting projections

PFF provides every fan with the right information to best prepare for Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season. We offer advanced stats and grades on key players to watch, fantasy football advice and links to PFF Greenline predictions for all 16 NFL games on the schedule for this week.

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Thursday, September 26

Philadelphia Eagles @ Green Bay Packers

NFL Players to Watch

Packers’ Preston Smith and Jaire Alexander finished Week 3 as the team’s two highest-graded players against Denver, earning 90.7 and 87.4 single-game overall grades, respectively. And now through Week 3, Alexander leads all qualifying cornerbacks in coverage grade (90.2) and Smith leads a Packers pass-rush that leads the NFL in pressure percentage (48.4%).

Fantasy Football Preview

Davante Adamsworst fantasy game of 2018 featured 16.0 PPR points. His three games so far have totaled 7.6, 17.6, and 9.6 points. It’s been a slow start for one of the top-drafted fantasy receivers. But Week 4 could be a get-right week, as the Eagles' defense has been particularly susceptible to the deep ball for more than a year now (third-worst 28.3 PFF grade, 106.4 passer rating allowed on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield since the start of 2018), and now Ronald Darby will miss Thursday’s game.

Greenline Preview

The 3-0 Packers host a struggling Eagles squad on Thursday night. With both teams in the top half of our offensive rankings, this total has surprisingly fallen from an opening of 47.5 down to 45.5. The four-point spread falls in line with Greenline models, but if we see any moves in either direction, check with Greenline for available plays.  

Sunday, September 29

Tennessee Titans @ Atlanta Falcons

NFL Players to Watch

Surprising no one, Julio Jones is still one of the league’s best receivers. Through Week 3, Jones ranks second behind Keenan Allen (86.9) in receiving grade at 84.8. Jones also ranks 10th in yards per route run (2.39) and tied for third in total receptions of 15-plus yards or more (8). He faces an easy matchup against the Titans’ secondary in Week 4, as well. Tennessee has allowed a 75.7% completion percentage and a 111.7 passer rating when opposing offenses have targeted outside receivers, two figures that rank inside the bottom-10 in the NFL through three weeks.

Fantasy Football Preview

It’s been a painfully quiet start to the year for Dion Lewis. Since Derrick Henry’s breakout in Week 14 of 2018, Lewis has 188 scoreless yards from scrimmage across seven games. Week 3 was his best game so far this year, and it was only for 20 yards. In Week 4, though, the Titans draw a Falcons team that has allowed 456 receptions to running backs over the last five seasons — 66 more than any other team. That includes allowing the most receptions to the position in every single year in that span. If Lewis is ever going to get it started, Week 4 is the time.

Greenline Preview

The spread and total have both dropped a full point since the open with the Titans finding some backing from bettors. One play that may not have caught up is the moneyline, with Greenline seeing some potential value depending on price. 

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

NFL Players to Watch

Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram earned 86.0-plus overall grades against Kansas City, combining for 156 yards, eight first downs, three touchdowns (all Ingram) and eight forced missed tackles in the process. Both backs averaged more than 4.7 yards after contact per attempt, as well. The duo’s efforts weren’t enough to pull off the win, but they still lead a Ravens rushing attack that ranks second in the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per rush at 0.181.

Fantasy Football Preview

If NFL games were half as long, we might not be talking about Baker Mayfield’s disappointing second season quite so much. Mayfield has an 86.0 PFF grade in the first quarters of games so far this season, best among qualified quarterbacks. That drops to a still-good 80.9 in second quarters, 69.1 in third quarters and a 40.0 in fourth quarters that is the fourth-worst at the position. Mayfield’s going to have to fix his endgame performances in a hurry.

Greenline Preview

Both Cleveland and Baltimore are coming off tough losses in Week 3. This spread opened at -5.5 but has moved considerably out to -7 after the Browns performance on Sunday night. Check Greenline to see if this move was justified or offers some value with a market overreaction. 

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

NFL Players to Watch

After earning sub-60.0 passing grades in Weeks 1 and 3, Bills second-year quarterback Josh Allen ranks 18th among the 28 quarterbacks with 75 or more dropbacks in passing grade (64.3), with just three big-time throws and seven turnover-worthy plays. His 77.6 passing grade from a clean pocket ranks just 17th in the NFL, and his 44.8 passing grade under pressure ranks 20th.

Fantasy Football Preview

The loss of James Develin to injured reserve isn’t likely to have that great an impact on the Patriots as a whole, but it could hurt Sony Michel, who has gotten off to a slow start, averaging 2.4 yards per carry through three weeks. Michel scored without Develin as his lead blocker in Week 3, but before that, Michel’s last 10 touchdowns had come with Develin in front of him. Michel isn’t droppable (yet?), but it’s not looking good for him.

Greenline Preview

New England has dropped the hook in most spots with juice added to the Bills line at +7. The real line movement has come via the total with an opening of 44, it has dropped to 41.5. Continue to check with Greenline if it falls to see when the over becomes a potential play.  

Kansas City Chiefs @ Detroit Lions

NFL Players to Watch

Marvin Jones Jr. earned a game-high 90.0 overall grade across 50 offensive snaps against Philly in Week 3, catching six passes from nine targets for 101 yards, four first downs and a touchdown in the process. The 29-year old veteran now ranks 10th in receiving grade (79.8) with five contested catches from six contested-catch opportunities and seven receptions of 15-plus yards.

Contributing to Jones’ success this season has been the play of veteran signal-caller Matthew Stafford. Now in his 11th NFL season, Stafford has improved his passing grade each week to start the season and logged a 77.1 passing grade against the Eagles’ defense on Sunday. Among the 36 quarterbacks with at least 30 clean-pocket dropbacks this season, Stafford ranks fifth in passing grade (84.2) and tied for fifth in yards per attempt (9.1).

With another strong outing against the Ravens on Sunday, Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes ranks fourth in the NFL in passing grade (83.2), with an NFL-high 11 big-time throws and just three turnover-worthy plays. Mahomes ranks first in yards per attempt (10.5) and tied for seventh in adjusted completion percentage (78.7%). He also leads the NFL with 526 passing yards and seven touchdowns on passes of 20-plus air yards; no other quarterback has more than 343 passing yards or five touchdowns on such throws.

Fantasy Football Preview

T.J. Hockenson put himself on the map in Week 1 with an explosive, 131-yard performance. Apparently that map location was the Bermuda Triangle, though, given that he’s totaled eight yards in two games since. There are brighter days ahead for the Lions’ first-rounder, but it’s possible his big Week 1 was more about his opponent (Arizona) than his own immediate dominance.

Greenline Preview

The total continues to hold between 53.5 and 54 with market consensus falling in line with the opening price. The spread has fluctuated between 7 with added juice and 6.5 with the Chiefs slotting in as touchdown favorites on the road. Greenline likes a certain side of this spread, making it one of our favorite plays of the week. 

Carolina Panthers @ Houston Texans

NFL Players to Watch

Among the 32 NFL quarterbacks with 20 or more dropbacks in Week 3,  the Panthers’ Kyle Allen ranked second behind just Kirk Cousins in passing grade at 86.5. He also ranked fourth in yards per attempt (10.0) and sixth in adjusted completion percentage (84.9%), all while owning a respectable 9.4 average depth of target. Allen was especially impressive throwing downfield, as he led all quarterbacks with 10 or more throws of 10-plus air yards in passing grade (95.6) this past week, completing 11-of-14 such attempts for 203 yards and three touchdowns in the process.

Houston has allowed pressure on a whopping 36% of their dropbacks so far this season, a figure that ranks 29th in the NFL. Panthers rookie edge defender Brian Burns leads a defensive unit that ranks inside of the top half of the NFL in pressure percentage (36.8%), and the former Florida State product has improved his pass-rush grade every week. Burns currently ranks third in pass-rush win percentage (17.9%) and second in pass-rush grade (79.6) among all rookie defenders.

Fantasy Football Preview

There are eight active NFL quarterbacks who were No. 1 overall picks in their respective years. The Panthers employ one, in Cam Newton. Eli Manning has been benched. Who knows if we’ll ever see Alex Smith again. That leaves five No. 1 picks the Panthers could face, and in Weeks 1-3 they faced three of them. Despite that (playing Jared Goff in Week 1, Jameis Winston in Week 2, and Kyler Murray in Week 3), the Panthers have allowed only 189.0 passing yards per game, second-best in the league. This week, the Panthers don’t face a No. 1 overall pick but, in Deshaun Watson, might face their toughest test nonetheless.

Greenline Preview

The market has held steady to both the opening spread and total price in this game. With Kyle Allen set to start again for Carolina, check Greenline to see if any plays can be unearthed. 

Oakland Raiders @ Indianapolis Colts

NFL Players to Watch

This contest will feature two of the most conservative quarterbacks in football. Derek Carr and Jacoby Brissett rank 31st and 34th, respectively, in average depth of target when kept clean this season. Also, neither player has thrown more than 10 passes 15 or more yards down the field. And the results for each of the team’s passing attacks have been underwhelming as a result. Oakland and Indianapolis enter Week 4 outside the top-20 in average yards per pass play and explosive pass play percentage.

Fantasy Football Preview

The Raiders got picked apart by the Vikings' running backs (6.4 yards per carry) in Week 3 and the Broncos' (4.6) in Week 1. The team has the third-worst PFF run-defense grade in the league through three weeks, better only than Houston and Kansas City. In Week 4, they face Marlon Mack who, despite playing Week 3 on a gimpy calf, leads the league in carries at 61, two more than anyone else. With T.Y. Hilton a question mark in this game, Mack could have a heavy workload.

Greenline Preview

Not many would have predicted the Colts hot start after the retirement of Andrew Luck. Bookmakers seem to be somewhat surprised with this spread printing anywhere from -6.5 to -7.5 for the Colts. Greenline sees a little value on one side of this line, but you will need to check Greenline to see if the cover probability beats the vig price with it fluctuating so much between markets. 

Los Angeles Chargers @ Miami Dolphins

NFL Players to Watch

Chargers veteran wideout Keenan Allen leads all receivers with 80 or more routes run this season in receiving grade (86.9), yards per route run (3.26) and target share (38%) through Week 3. He’s going to do unspeakable things to a Dolphins defense that ranks 31st in yards per pass play allowed at 10.3.

Austin Ekeler should also have a field day through the air and on the ground. He currently ranks sixth in overall grade (78.1) and first in receiving grade (92.4) among all running backs with 100 or more snaps played this season. He also ranks ninth among all running backs with at least 20 touches (carries + targets) in yards per touch (6.46) through Week 3.

Fantasy Football Preview

The Dolphins have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs. They’ve allowed the second-most to quarterbacks and the third-most to tight ends. They’ve allowed easily the most to defenses. The team has been relatively successful (by their standards) to wide receivers, and even then they’ve allowed the ninth-most points to the position. And even at that, Marquise Brown and Amari Cooper have both had two-score games against them. Start players against the Dolphins. Start all of them.

Greenline Preview

The question continues to be can you stomach backing the Dolphins as huge dogs in 2019. For the first time this year, the Dolphins spread hasn’t moved against them since the open with this opening at +17 and settling in now between +16 or +16.5. With the Dolphins the third-worst team in both offensive and defensive rankings, does the total present a better line of attack?

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

NFL Players to Watch

Scary Terry will be a nightmare for the Giants' secondary this weekend. Redskins' Terry McLaurin leads all rookie wide receivers with at least 60 routes run in receiving grade (81.8) and passer rating when targeted (141.8) after catching more than five passes in every game so far this year. Meanwhile, New York is dead last in the NFL in yards allowed per pass play (10.5) and 31st in percentage of passes resulting in gains of 15 or more yards (24.2%).

Fantasy Football Preview

One player in the league has allowed four touchdowns in coverage so far, and he carries a big name. Josh Norman has struggled mightily to this point, allowing a 121.9 passer rating in coverage and managing a 43.4 coverage grade that ranks 97th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks. Daniel Jones might not be able to put up as electric a fantasy performance in his second start as he did in his first, but then that’s an impossible standard. Still, Week 4 could be a nice follow-up to his debut.

Greenline Preview

Before crowning Daniel Jones world-beater, we may want to see how he performs in his second week of action. With the total opening at 47.5 and moving out to 49, Greenline seems some value on a certain play in this game. 

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals

NFL Players to Watch

Russell Wilson should carve up a Cardinals defense that currently ranks 26th in EPA per play allowed (0.123) and yards per play allowed (6.4). Wilson currently ranks fifth in passing grade (80.6) among the 24 NFL quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks this season. He also ranks tied for second in total big-time throws (8) and has yet to record a turnover-worthy play.

Fantasy Football Preview

Through three weeks, Arizona has allowed the TE2 (Week 1, T.J. Hockenson), TE1 (Week 2, Mark Andrews), and TE2 (Week 3, Greg Olsen) and allowed a Hayden Hurst Week 2 touchdown to boot. The Cardinals are allowing almost 11 points more to the position per game. Will Dissly’s Week 3 touchdown might have been the most garbage-time score of all time (a touchdown on an untimed down to end a game that was out of reach) and he might not be playing as many snaps as the elite at the position, but he couldn’t ask for a better opponent.

Greenline Preview

After an uninspiring performance at home, the Seahawks have surprisingly moved out from an opening spread of four to their current price of five. Greenline finds agreement at that price but offers a potential play on the total, which has also moved out a full point since the open.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams

NFL Players to Watch

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Bucs' two highest-graded players on the offensive side of the ball through Week 3, need a big game on Sunday to even have a chance at taking down the undefeated Rams on the road. Evans leads the team in yards per route run at 2.61 after an absolutely stunning performance against the Giants this past week. Godwin, meanwhile, has impressed with his contested-catch ability and already has seven receptions of 15-plus yards.

Of course, it'll be tough sledding for Evans and Godwin going against Aqib Talib and the rest of Los Angeles' secondary. The Rams currently rank sixth in EPA per play allowed and yards per reception allowed when opposing offenses target wide receivers.

Fantasy Football Preview

Through three weeks, only the Patriots (who have faced Pittsburgh, Miami, and the Jets) have a better run-defense grade than the Buccaneers’ 81.9, and Tampa Bay has faced a much more competent slate of backs (San Francisco, Carolina and a few plays of Saquon Barkley). Tampa Bay has 21 tackles for a loss or no gain, two more than the second-most team and five more than third. Todd Gurley could be in for a rough week.

Greenline Preview

After Tampa Bay’s offensive display last week, both teams now rank in our top 10 for offensive rankings. This total has moved up at least a full point if not 1.5 points in some spots. Greenline sees some value on a certain side of the total with the spread falling right in line with market consensus. 

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

NFL Players to Watch

Coming off an impressive performance against the Raiders in Week 3, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook leads all NFL backs in rushing grade at 91.4. The 2017 second-rounder finished this past week ranked second in forced missed tackles per carry (0.44) and total yards per carry (6.9) among the 34 running backs with 10 or more attempts in Week 3. He’s now rushed for an NFL-high 375 yards on his 57 carries and ranks inside the top-five in forced missed tackles per carry (0.26) and yards after contact per attempt (4.1).

Fantasy Football Preview

Last year’s Seahawks were the first team in three years to run the ball on more than 50% of their offensive plays, hitting a league-leading 52.4%. Through three weeks, the Vikings are obliterating that total, sitting at a 61.3% run-play percentage. They’d be the first team since 2004 to top 60% over a full season. That has wrecked the values of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Those two totaled 69 targets and 526 yards in Weeks 1-3 last year, numbers that have dropped to 27 and 277 this year.

Greenline Preview

According to Greenline, this game offers some of the best value in Week 4. The spread has dropped from an opening -3 down to -2.5 even printing -1 in a couple of spots. The total has held steady, but Greenline finds value on certain sides with both the spread and total playable in this game. 

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Denver Broncos

NFL Players to Watch

In just his second career start, Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew earned an impressive 80.5 passing grade that ranked eighth among the 30 signal-callers with 20 or more dropbacks in Week 3. He also completed 16-of-23 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns across his 24 clean-pocket dropbacks in the contest and ranked third in clean-pocket passing grade (87.6) as a result.

What Minshew lacks in arm talent, he makes up for with great throw anticipation and accuracy. Among the 35 quarterbacks with 30 or more attempts from a clean pocket this season, the Washington State product ranks tied for third in percentage of targets charted as uncatchable inaccurate (8.6%). Only Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins rank ahead of Minshew. And when pushing the ball 10-plus yards down the field, Minshew has completed 16-of-23 passes for 352 yards and five touchdowns en route to an NFL-high 95.8 passing grade on such throws through Week 3. The mustache is alive and well in Duval County, Florida.

Fantasy Football Preview

Dede Westbrook is the clear slot receiver in Jacksonville, running more than three times as many slot routes as any other Jaguar through three weeks. Well, the Broncos defense isn’t what it once was, but it’s still strong against the slot — take out Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s 40-yard score in Week 3, and the Broncos have allowed 101 yards to the slot all season. Westbrook might get back on track yet, but Week 4 isn’t likely to be the time.

Greenline Preview

With the spread holding steady, this total has risen slightly to 39 from an opening 38. There is little value to be found in this matchup of teams in the bottom third of our rankings. Markets expect a defensive battle with a suggestion to viewers to tune in elsewhere unless you are hyped on mustache mania. 

Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints (Game of the Week)

NFL Players to Watch

After connecting for six receptions, 88 yards and two touchdowns against Miami, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are two of the most productive players at their respective positions through Week 3. Prescott ranks second among the 28 NFL quarterbacks with 75 or more dropbacks this season in passing grade (86.0). He also ranks second in yards per attempt (9.8) and first in adjusted completion percentage (81.4%). Cooper ranks eighth among all wideouts with 60 or more routes run through Week 3 in yards per route run (2.51), and he ranks fifth in passer rating when targeted (152.4).

With Prescott and Cooper producing and new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore pulling the strings, Dallas’ offense is one of the best in the NFL. Only the Ravens have averaged more expected points added (EPA) per play than the Cowboys through the first three weeks of the season. Dallas leads the NFL in successful play percentage on third and fourth downs, as well.

Totaling 126 yards on his 16 touches, Tony Pollard earned a 91.0 overall grade in the Cowboys’ Week 3 win over the Dolphins. He currently ranks tied for 11th in forced missed tackles per touch (0.24) among the 46 NFL backs with at least 20 touches on the year.

Three of Dallas’ starting offensive linemen – La’el Collins, Tyron Smith and Zack Martin – made PFF’s Week 3 Team of the Week for their efforts on Sunday. Smith led the group with his 91.1 overall grade, 86.5 pass-blocking grade and 90.4 run-blocking grade in the contest. Collins and Martin each allowed a pressure in the game, but none of the Dolphins’ defenders could beat Smith for a pressure in this one.

Fantasy Football Preview

In their first week without Drew Brees, the Saints leaned on their studs. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara combined for 33 carries plus targets against the Seahawks in Week 3, with all other Saints skill players combining for 11. With Teddy Bridgewater starting, Kamara and Thomas should be fine, considering that level of usage, but the values of the Saints’ secondary weapons — Jared Cook, Latavius Murray, Ted Ginn, Tre’Quan Smith — are all but gone.

Greenline Preview (Game of the Week)

PFF’s Game of the Week will get a full writeup from George and Eric later this week. With two teams ranked in our top five, can Teddy continue his magical ride for another week?

Monday, September 30

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Players to Watch

Cincinnati ranks third in the NFL in pressure percentage at 40.9% through Week 3, but the team’s secondary has really struggled when opposing quarterbacks are working from a clean pocket. The Bengals rank 29th in passer rating when targeted (136.8) and forced incompletion percentage (0%) as a team when defending quarterbacks working from a clean pocket. The unit also ranks tied for 30th in yards allowed per reception (13.6) on such downs.

The Bengals’ rushing attack couldn’t get much worse. After averaging just 3.5 yards per carry against Buffalo in Week 3, Cincinnati ranks dead last in the NFL in yards per carry (2.4) and yards before first contact per attempt (0.3). The team also ranks 30th in expected points added (EPA) per rush and 28th in yards after contact per attempt (2.1).

Fantasy Football Preview

The Bengals are a bad team this year, but fantasy managers could still wrangle some value out of Andy Dalton. Because of poor gamescripts, Dalton has had to throw the ball at a pace unlike any in his career — he’s averaging 43.3 pass attempts per game through three weeks, well above his previous career-high of 36.6. He’s also blowing away his previous career-high in passing yards per game (326.0, previous best was 268.3). In a pinch, Dalton’s sheer quantity of throws, even if there isn’t quality, could make him a fantasy streaming option.

Greenline Preview

Monday night offers another enticing matchup pitting the red rocket against backup Mason Rudolph. Both the spread and total have held steady with Greenline seeing only one option with how to play this Monday night matchup. 

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