I write the column in two parts.
As you might guess, I write the “opening story” and then I write all the player write-ups. The order in which I write them is entirely dependent on the open. If I have a good idea for the open, I write that first. If I have no idea what I'm going to write, I write the players first and hope a decent idea comes to me. The opening story is always the hardest part of the column to write, it's the thing I dread most all week long, and it's the thing that, when fans come up to me in public, is the first thing they mention. I believe a large part of my success is due to the “open.”
At any rate, it's never easy, and some weeks I spend almost as much time on the opening story as I do the player write-ups, hours spent pouring over every word, re-writing every turn of phrase, moving paragraphs around as I play with structure, laying out the story as I have it in my head.
This is not one of those weeks.
The column is a two-plus day affair, starting on Tuesday afternoon once my initial ranks are in. I don't do my ranks until I have done research and have a good feel for every matchup that week. Once I have an overview and my ranks are in (usually late Tuesday night) I start creating the “Love/Hate“ list for that week and, if I am feeling ambitious, start writing some of it on Tuesday night. But whether I start or not, the majority of the column is written during the day and well into the night on Wednesday, often early into Thursday morning. I pull all-nighters almost every week. Candidly, I'm not sure how much longer I can keep doing that, but that's a topic for another column.
But I can't write right now. My player stuff was done Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, you'll notice because it's my usually jokey, upbeat stuff. I had a whole different idea for the open that I was planning on doing tonight.
But I can't.
I've spent the last three hours staring at two things: a blank computer screen and my TV, as I've been watching non-stop coverage of Hurricane Ian.
I catch a TV interview with Nick Underwood, an engineer for the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Hurricane Hunters. He's been hunting hurricanes and supporting science missions for the last six years. Nick tells his TV interviewer something very similar to what he tweets here:
That he has flown into hurricanes 76 times over the last six years. And that Hurricane Ian is the worst one he's ever seen.
The stats coming across the screen are staggering. A Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 150 mph, over 2.5 million people without power, people stranded in their homes, or worse, having to flee their homes because it's about to be blown away. Images of flooded streets, destroyed homes, and reporters having to grab hold of poles to not be blown away themselves are gripping.
I'm as transfixed as the rest of the nation, hoping people are safe. This is real life-threatening stuff as some try to escape the elements and others are trapped in their homes, unable to get to safety and more importantly, “safety” unable to get to them.
I see interviews with rescue crews, saying they are unable to get out to help folks and are having to stay back for their own safety. I see social media pleas for anyone to help those who are stranded, and a quick scroll of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok shows very real images of roofs being torn off, streets being flooded, and houses legitimately halfway under water. Truly apocalypse movie type stuff come to real life.
But beyond being concerned as we all are, I have extra reason for worry. My wife and I have family and dear friends in the Ft. Myers/Naples/Bonita Springs area. We visit there multiple times a year and truly love it. Southwest Florida is a special place. It's where my wife and I went on our first vacation together when we were dating. It's where we got engaged. And it's where we are going to retire.
So it's personally very devastating to me to see all of this going on.
Let me be clear here. The most important thing is everyone is safe. Material things – even houses – can be replaced – so I am not trying to minimize that the biggest tragedy of this is the loss of life.
But there are people who have lost their homes. Our dear family friend who lives there full-time sent a picture midday yesterday. She and her husband had to grab whatever they could and get out of there ASAP. It happened very suddenly, they said. Heavy rain and wind and then all of a sudden… they saw it really coming… so they quickly grabbed what they could and drove away.
As they looked out the rearview mirror, they literally saw their house blow away. They sent a picture of a now empty lot.
“My home is gone.”
Talking to her directly I got a first-hand account. But news is few and far between.
That's one of the craziest parts of all this. While we see all the TV video and social media posts, the truth is the power is out, the internet is out, and we are in the total dark as to what is happening. Our family and friends down there say they are trapped in their own homes, and the roads are unsafe to travel on. So we are working on getting help to them.
I've spent the evening talking with my wife and our friends and family down there. I am on eight billion text chains it seems like, people checking in and asking questions, all of us trying to share scraps of information we can decipher from online.
It's scary and it's unknown and the only thing I know for sure is all of this is awful. We have other friends that were looking to move down there. And, prior to this, because of a lack of materials due to the pandemic and significant demand with people wanting to move to Florida, it was a two- to three-year wait to build something. And now this?
Once everything settles down, I just don't know how long it will take to rebuild everything. Years upon years. Decades maybe. I don't know. I just know this is awful and scary and the not knowing part of it makes the nightmare even worse somehow.
So anyways, that's what I've been doing tonight. Thinking, calling, worrying, texting, investigating, trying to help and NOT writing.
I'm praying for everyone in Florida and anyone else that has been or will be affected by Hurricane Ian. Brutal stuff and fantasy football is more insignificant than ever with that backdrop.
But that's the gig and I'm here to help. So let's get to it.
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 4:
Joe Burrow vs. Miami
In what most consider a slow start to his season, Joe Burrow has still put up at least 16 fantasy points in every game and is QB9 overall. Burrow's bad days still result in 200 passing yards, whereas my bad days involve me constantly being put on podcasts next to people with much better hair. My point is: life is not fair. My other point is that I should really wear more hats on air. And my third point is that Burrow is playing a Miami defense this week that was on the field for 90 plays on Sunday against the Bills and will have to travel on a short week to play three days later. The Dolphins have allowed the second-most passing yards in the league through three weeks and are tied for the fourth-most deep completions allowed. And that's before facing Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Burrow, who is putting the ball up an average of 41.7 times per game. Burrow is my QB7 in Week 4.
Russell Wilson at Las Vegas
We're three weeks into the season and already Josh McDaniels was called in for a closed-door meeting with team owner Mark Davis. Yikes. That means McDaniels is already on thin ice. The next step is firing him or possibly even giving him the worst punishment of all: an appointment with Mark Davis' barber. (In fairness, I wish I had enough hair to get a bad haircut.) Anyway, McDaniels and the Raiders now have to face Russell Wilson, and while Wilson may not be at his peak, the Vegas defense can't even see the peak. They rank dead-last in sack rate on the season and have allowed the sixth-highest completion rate to quarterbacks so far. They've also allowed 260-plus passing yards in every game. Wilson can't possibly have four bad games in a row, right? Plus, the Broncos made me look smart last Sunday. Let's ride! I have Wilson nervously inside my top 10 QBs this week and Mark Davis' barber again on the bench.
Jared Goff vs. Seattle
Through three weeks of the season, Jared Goff is QB11 in fantasy (18.5 FPPG) while Matthew Stafford is way down at QB25 (12.3 FPPG). Now, am I really saying the Rams made a mistake picking Stafford over Goff? You better believe I'm saying that! (Because as a Washington fan, I long ago convinced myself that fantasy production — not Super Bowl rings — is what matters.) Goff is averaging 37.3 pass attempts per game this season and has seven touchdown passes so far, leading Detroit's offense to 409 yards per game — third-best in the league. Meanwhile, the Seahawks give up a league-worst 8.8 yards per attempt and the fourth-most yards per play. I have Goff as my QB11 this week, one spot ahead of that failure Matthew Stafford.
Others receiving votes: Chip Kelly is undefeated while Marcus Mariota is putting up numbers with his arm and his legs, just as the Spread Prophets once foretold. While Kelly and UCLA get No. 15 Washington this week, Mariota has a Browns defense giving up the second-highest aDOT to opposing quarterbacks this season. And now Cleveland might be without Myles Garrett. It won't be pretty – it never is with Mariota – but Atlanta has scored at least 23 points in every game this year, and the rushing keeps his fantasy value afloat … Geno Smith has 17-plus points and multiple touchdowns in two of his three games this season, and now he faces a Detroit defense allowing the eighth-most passing yards. That's right. That's where this fantasy life has led us this season: Geno Smith versus Jared Goff is a big fantasy quarterback matchup here in Week 4 of 2022 … Zach Wilson returns this week and the Jets (the Jets!) lead the league in pass attempts so far this season. Wilson should have plenty of time to add to that total against a Pittsburgh defense that is tied for 24th in quarterback pressures since T.J. Watt's injury.
Quarterbacks I Hate in Week 4:
Trevor Lawrence at Philadelphia
This game is going to be a huge test for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. Through three weeks, Philadelphia's defense is allowing opposing quarterbacks to put up just 11.0 FPPG. The Eagle D is top 5 in yards per pass attempt, completion rate, passer rating against and yards per play. They are also second in sacks and third in quarterback pressures. Yes, this will be a very tough test for the Jaguars. I'm talking even harder than the tests that Urban Meyer administered when he taught a character and leadership class at Ohio State. (Yes, that is a real thing that happened.) I am a believer long-term in both the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence as a fantasy QB1 this year, but in Week 4, Lawrence is just outside my top 15 at QB.
Carson Wentz at Dallas
You know how I wrote that as a Washington fan, I have learned to care about fantasy production more than real football championships? Well, Carson Wentz can't even give me consistent fantasy production. Over 27 fantasy points in Weeks 1 and 2, but just 8.6 in the disaster against the Eagles. And now Wentz faces a Dallas defense that is allowing just 13.6 FPPG to opposing quarterbacks this season — and that includes games against Tom Brady and Joe Burrow. Dallas also leads the league in sacks and is second in quarterback pressures while a week ago, Wentz took nine sacks and was pressured 23 times. If your league gives positive points to quarterbacks when they're sacked, Wentz is my QB1 this week. If not, I have him outside my top 15. Similar to Lawrence, I actually believe Wentz will be good for fantasy a lot more than not this year, just not this Sunday.
Running Backs I Love in Week 4:
Alvin Kamara vs. Minnesota (in London)
Back on my old ESPN show, we did a bit with Alvin Kamara early in his rookie year in which we promoted him to fantasy managers as a PPR Flex option. Alvin was a natural on camera and really fun to work with. Unfortunately, we quickly had to stop airing the piece because Kamara immediately ascended from a PPR Flex option to, well … Alvin Kamara: fantasy superstar. But fast-forward five seasons later, and Kamara is just RB53 overall so far in fantasy, averaging a paltry 7.4 fantasy points in his two games. Those numbers are not even acceptable for a PPR Flex option. But I say this is the week Kamara gets back to being the Alvin Kamara of 2017-2021. Minnesota has allowed 85-plus scrimmage yards to a running back in every game this season, and the Vikings defense is bottom-10 in both rushing yards and receiving yards allowed to the position. Considering that in the two games he's played this year, Kamara has seen 73% of running back carries and a 15.5% target share, there's every reason to believe we see a vintage Kamara performance in Week 4, regardless of who is under center for the Saints.
Khalil Herbert at New York Giants
In this, the season of fantasy RB hell [thunder and lightning fill the sky] maybe Khalil Herbert will be our savior. Last week, with David Montgomery going down to injury, Herbert had 22 touches, 169 total yards and two touchdowns. That was good for 30.9 fantasy points and RB1 on the week. Montgomery, by the way, has never scored that many fantasy points in a single game in his career. You can't call Herbert's Week 3 a fluke either. In two starts last season, he averaged 18.8 FPPG and averaged 22 touches in those games. He produces when he gets touches. With the New York Giants giving up the third-most rushing yards to running backs this season (5.6 YPC) and my expectation that Montgomery misses this game, I have Herbert inside my top 10 for the week.
Jamaal Williams vs. Seattle
That high-powered Detroit Lions offense lost D'Andre Swift to injury last week and didn't miss a beat. Did I just write a sentence calling the Detroit Lions “high-powered” and not mean it ironically? I think I did. Yes, it does feel weird, thanks for asking. I'm going to need a minute.
Okay, I'm back. With Swift leaving early last week, Jamaal Williams put up 87 rushing yards and two scores on an increased workload of 20 carries. He also grabbed two passes for 20 yards. Williams is also RB8 now on the season in FPPG (15.9) and is tied for the most goal-to-go carries in the league. With Swift likely out this week, I love Williams against a Seattle defense that has allowed 100-plus scrimmage yards to a back in all three games this season.
Others receiving votes: Speaking of increased workload, Devin Singletary got a season-high nine carries last week and posted career highs in both receptions (9) and targets (11). This week the Bills play a Ravens team allowing 5.0 YPC to running backs and the third-most receptions to the position … The Steelers rank bottom-10 in yards per reception allowed to running backs this season, while Breece Hall has 60-plus scrimmage yards in all three games this season and a 14.2% target share … Rashaad Penny has played on nearly 70% of snaps in two of three games this season, which sets up for a nice day against a Lions team allowing a league-high six rushing scores to running backs this season … When Aaron Rodgers gets bored of glaring at his receivers, he can turn his scorn to a Green Bay defense allowing 5.4 YPC to running backs this season. Now the Packers have to face New England's Rhamondre Stevenson coming off a game in which he had 16 touches, 101 yards and a score. Stevenson also got 62% of snaps last week, which means I have him ahead of teammate Damien Harris in my rankings.
Running Backs I hate in Week 4:
Miles Sanders vs. Jacksonville
The Philadelphia Eagles lead the NFL in yards per game and are fifth in points per game, and yet Miles Sanders is still only RB23 on the season and has just one touchdown after (in)famously having zero all of last season. So if Sanders isn't exactly lighting it up in fantasy now, what will happen if Philly's offense takes a step back? Or if Sanders has a particularly tough matchup? This week he faces a Jaguars team that is tied for the fewest rushing yards allowed to running backs this season in addition to giving up zero running back touchdowns. I mean, against Jonathan Taylor and Austin Eckler, Jacksonville gave up just 59 rushing yards combined! The Jaguars do allow the most receiving yards to backs on the season … but Sanders only has 13 receiving yards this season on just two targets. I love what the Eagles offense is doing this season, but I hate Sanders in Week 4. He's outside my top 25 for the week and remains a “sell high” if you can find someone to give you decent value for him.
Cam Akers at San Francisco
I try to avoid personal attacks in my work. I do. But I have to get this off my chest: the ancient Greek demigod Achilles is a real a-hole! And I'd say it to his stupid chiseled face, too. Because in Cam Akers' eight games (including playoffs) since returning from his Achilles injury last season, he's averaging just 6.4 FPPG and has yet to crack 11 fantasy points in even one of them. I know Sean McVay expressed confidence in Akers and said, even after last week's bad fumble, he would have gone back to him if need be at the end. But just because McVay would go back to him doesn't mean you have to, especially as he'll still split time against a top-5 San Francisco run defense giving up just 2.9 YPC to backs for far.
J.K. Dobbins vs. Buffalo
It was great to see J.K. Dobbins back in action last week and now I have nothing but good things to say about him … JK! Get it? I'm “just kidding” about having only good things to say about Dobbins because I actually have him on the Hate list. And the abbreviation of “just kidding” is “JK." Like the initials in Dobbins' first name. Do you get it? Okay, look, if you thought that joke was bad — and it was, it really really was — I've got some stats for you that are arguably even worse. For example, Dobbins got just 44% of offensive snaps last week and only 54% of the carries. That will increase going forward … but how quickly? And even if Dobbins gets more work this week, it will be hard to make a big dent against a Bills defense that is allowing just 2.66 YPC to running backs this season. I expect to love Dobbins a lot late this season, but in Week 4? He's outside my top 30.
Pass Catchers I Love in Week 4:
CeeDee Lamb vs. Washington
CeeDee Lamb scored his first touchdown of the season on Monday night. His receptions have increased every game so far. His receiving yards have increased every game, too. His fantasy points have gone from 4.9 in Week 1 to 15.1 in Week 2 to 22.7 in Week 3. Anyone with even a basic understanding of how trend lines work can see that CeeDee Lamb will be averaging over 100 fantasy points per game by December. Wow! But for those of you who aren't Graph Science experts like me, I have some other stats that should at least convince you Lamb is in line for another big game in Week 4. For example, Lamb has 11-plus targets in all three games this season. That gives him a very high floor week-to-week. And in the two Cooper Rush starts, Lamb has a 38% target share and is averaging 18.9 FPPG. Now he faces a Washington defense that ranks bottom-five in catches, yards and touchdowns allowed to receivers. So while CeeDee Lamb may not be on pace to hit triple-digit fantasy points this week (#GraphScience), I won't put it past my Commanders to let him do it either. Lamb is a top-12 WR in Week 4.
Michael Pittman vs. Tennessee
The Titans may have lost A.J. Brown and Julio Jones from their roster since last season, but that doesn't mean they don't still have a thing for big-play receivers. In fact, Tennessee has allowed six touchdowns to wide receivers this season, tied for the most in the league, and the fourth-most yards to the position. Titan up (your coverages)! Now, that porous Tennessee secondary has to try to slow down Michael Pittman, who has eight receptions and a target share of more than 25% in each of the games he has played this season. Tennessee might fix their pass defense eventually, but it will be hard to do it this week. I have Pittman as a top-14 receiver this week.
Gabe Davis at Baltimore
Gabe Davis is once again expected to play this week, and when he's in uniform, he's plenty active. He's played on 97% of snaps in games he's been in the lineup. You'll want him in your lineup against a Baltimore defense that has allowed 150-plus yards performances to three different receivers so far this season (Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVante Parker). Baltimore has also allowed a league-high 17 deep receptions through three games, and 45% of Davis' targets this season have come on deep balls. I think Davis has a great chance this week to carve his name on that list of receivers who have carved up the Ravens. I know, I know. Whatever. It's Week 4. I need a bye week soon.
Chris Olave vs. Minnesota (London)
I love what Chris Olave is doing so far. In fact, I may just change the name of this feature to my weekly Olave-Hate column, a column I write each week while eating lunch at the Olave Garden, an Olave Garden that sits beside an active volcano that spews hot, molten Olave. My point, if you're wondering, is that I think Chris Olave is good at football. Over his past two games, Olave has 26 targets along with a 33% target share and a league-high 498 air yards. With Michael Thomas yet to practice this week (as of Thursday morning) there are potentially even more targets for the rookie — and those targets will come versus a Minnesota defense that has allowed the sixth-most yards to wide receivers this season. Even if Andy Dalton is under center, Olave should be busy this week. I have Olave as a top 25 play. I think Olave will have a fantasy performance as strong as Popeye, whose wife was named Olave Oyl. Okay, I probably did one too many there. Maybe four too many, if I'm being honest. But I Olave my audience for their patience.
T.J. Hockenson vs. Seattle
That's right. A quarterback, running back and pass catcher for the Detroit Lions are all on the Love list. Up is down. Left is right. Dogs are cats. On is Goff. It's a wild time to be alive. But I'm not just jumping on that 1-2 Lions bandwagon. The numbers suggest Hockenson should have a nice game on Sunday. Seattle allows the third-most yards to tight ends on the season and a league-high 11.6 aDOT to the position. Now Hockenson, who has seven targets or a touchdown in all three of his games, gets a turn against the Seahawks.
Others receiving votes: Jacksonville allows 14.8 yards per reception to wide receivers, seventh-highest in the league, while DeVonta Smith has seven-plus receptions and 80-plus yards in each of his last two games, including a team-high 29% target share … The Lions rank bottom-10 in receptions and yards allowed to wide receivers and, over his past two games, Tyler Lockett has 20 targets and 18 receptions. With Jeff Okudah likely to shadow DK Metcalf, Lockett is the Seahawks receiver you want in Week 4 … Greg Dortch sounds like the name of a guy who owns a local plumbing company. But can your plumber average 15.3 FPPG and have at least 55 receiving yards in each one of his games? I mean, if he can, he should probably take a hiatus from plumbing and suit up for an NFL team. You might feel better about putting him in your lineup if he had a cool nickname. How about starting… The Human Dortch! Or… use Greg, you can go Dortched Earth on your opponent this week… You see that? I just Dortched you in flames is the kind of thing you can say to your opponent this week. One too many again? Don't answer. I know, I know. (FYI - Rondale Moore practiced yesterday, so if he is active, I would lower expectations for "The Human Dortch.") … David Njoku is playing on 90% of pass plays so far this season. And while I'm not saying he's going to duplicate the 9-89-1 line he posted against the Steelers last week on 10 targets, he is facing a Falcons defense that ranks bottom-five in receptions, yards and catch rate allowed to tight ends … Jets tight end Tyler Conklin out-snapped CJ Uzomah 62-27 in Week 3 and now has seven-plus targets in all three of his games. If you're a tight end streamer, Conklin is someone to keep an eye on (and maybe even enter into a long-term relationship with … I'm rooting for you two kids!).
Pass Catchers I hate in Week 4:
Allen Robinson at San Francisco
Yeah. I know. It's almost bullying Allen Robinson to put him on the Hate list at this point. But it's okay. I mean, he's getting zero attention from Matthew Stafford, so it's only fair he gets some attention here. Because despite playing 93% of offensive snaps so far this season, Robinson only has a 12% target share. He's only being targeted on 11% of his routes. Maybe Stafford remembers Robinson is on the team at some point this season, but I doubt it happens against a 49ers defense that ranks top-5 in fewest receptions and yards allowed to wide receivers.
Brandin Cooks vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The only thing Brandin Cooks so far this season is a big pot of turd stew. Through three weeks he has a career-low 5.5 yards per target. His catch rate is a paltry 44%. And he has zero red zone or end zone targets on the season. Zero! Because I can't rank Cooks as a zero this week, I'll instead put him outside my top 25 WRs.
DK Metcalf at Detroit Lions:
As mentioned in the Tyler Lockett write-up, the expectation here is emerging corner Jeff Okudah will shadow Metcalf for much of this contest. Okudah was a big reason Justin Jefferson struggled last week, and much as I like Metcalf as a player, he is not Justin Jefferson. Hashtag analysis. While I think Seattle-Detroit has sneaky shoot-out potential, I'm much higher on Lockett and the running backs here than Metcalf, who has under 40 yards receiving in two of three games this year and has yet to clear 65 yards in any game. He'll need a touchdown to pay off, so if you're starting him that's what you're banking on. He's certainly got a shot at that, but as a touchdown-dependent WR3 with a tough shadow, I merely have him as WR30 in Week 4.
Darnell Mooney at New York Giants
Four receptions for 27 yards is a bad game. It's not even a very good half. And yet, that's what Darnell Mooney has done for the entire season! It's not all his fault, it's likely not even most of his fault, but I put him on this list because not only should he not be started this week, he shouldn't be on rosters. Yes, he was one of the most dropped players on Yahoo this week and yet… he's STILL rostered in 57% of leagues. That needs to be zero. There is no evidence of the Bears passing attack becoming competent anytime soon, and I don't see it happening this week against a Giants secondary that is quietly top 10 in the NFL in fewest passing yards allowed.