Week 4 Fantasy Football: Last-Minute Lineup Advice

Jamaal Charles

For important game-time decisions, here are exclusive reports on all things fantasy football. Make informed choices about all your last-minute start and sit lineup options. Make sure to check on the status of all players before locking your final roster.

Roddy White missed week three with a hamstring injury, but is expected to play Sunday in Minnesota. Head coach Mike Smith said the four-time Pro Bowler “absolutely” would start. White is officially designated as probable.

Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, and Lorenzo Taliaferro are all healthy for Baltimore’s 1 p.m. game against the Panthers. “They’re all going to play,” offered offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. “We’re going to keep a fresh guy on the field — that’s what we’re going to do — and if we feel like one guy has the hot hand, so to speak, then obviously he’s going to go back out. I want them all to prepare as if they’re starting.”

Through three games, Pierce has run for an average of 56.5 yards, while Forsett has created 63.0 yards per game, and Taliaferro has averaged 30.3 yards. Taliaferro and Forsett have each scored once this year.

Dennis Pitta dislocated his right hip for the second time in 15 months, and underwent surgery earlier in the week. The young tight end was placed on injured reserve, which should open plenty of targets for veteran Owen Daniels. So far this season, Daniels has 10 catches for 70 yards and two scores. Before his injury, Pitta had made 16 receptions for 125 yards.

Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are up to their same old tricks in 2014. So it’s time to play “DeAngelo and J-Stew,” everyone’s favorite weekly installment. Stewart sprained his knee last week, and Williams will be returning as the healthy starter. Mike Tolbert was placed on the short-term injured reserve list last week, while Stewart may be sidelined for about a month. Since Stewart joined the team in 2008, Williams has played 17 games without his counterpart. During those starts, Williams has averaged 16.5 touches for 94.3 total yards and 0.4 scores.

Steve Smith, Jr. said in March to “put your goggles on because there’s going to be blood and guts everywhere” when his old team comes to town this Sunday. The impassioned 5-foot-9 receiver spent 13 seasons with Carolina before being cut last offseason. Williams made sure to throw on his goggles Thursday when talking to the press. This has all the makings of a unique and intense game, unlike anything since Dallas’ Terrell Owens was given a dedicated sideline security detail for his return to Philadelphia. Baltimore’s just a short trip down 95 from the city of battery snowball love.

Brandon Marshall is questionable for Sunday’s 1 pm game against the Packers. Lucky for his fantasy fans, it’s Chicago’s first afternoon game since week one. Alshon Jeffery is absent from the injury report, after struggling through hamstring problems earlier in the season. The two mammoth wideouts have taken turns in productivity, as Marshall erupted for three touchdowns in week two, followed by an eight-catch, 108-yard effort from Jeffery a week ago. Eyes will be fixed to their devices Sunday at noon for the team’s official active/inactive announcements. Follow the XN Player Updates pages for breaking news.

Calvin Johnson was limited this week with an ankle issue, and has a questionable tag for Sunday’s kickoff against the Jets. Betting against Megatron may be a losing cause, as the four-time Pro Bowler has missed only five games in the last six seasons. There aren’t many more durable players in the game today. “It was good to see him moving around a little bit,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said after the wideout practiced Friday.

By contrast, one of the NFL’s least-reliable Pro Bowl starters is Arian Foster, who has started 16 games just once in his six-year career. Head coach Bill O’Brien said he would “definitely” be a game-time decision. Should Foster rest his hamstring for the second straight week, Alfred Blue would start again. After three weeks, the rookie has rushed 25 times for 118 yards (4.7 yards per carry).

Blake Bortles is preparing for his first professional start this Sunday in San Diego. Last week in relief, the rookie completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Rookie Marqise Lee has been ruled out, and Allen Hurns is probable. The Jaguars’ website still lists Lee starting opposite Cecil Shorts on the official depth chart. Hurns and Allen Robinson have each started all three games so far, while Shorts started his first game last week. The abysmal Jaguars currently rank 30th in pass defense, 32nd against the run, 30th on run offense, and 25th in passing. The team also ranks 31st overall on offense and dead last on defense, while allowing the most points (39.7 points per game) and scoring the 30th most (14.7 per game). Expect plenty of Air Bortles, as the Jaguars will likely be playing behind for most or all of their remaining games. Oh, and prized free agent acquisition Toby Gerhart has amassed 82 yards on 34 carries this season (2.4 yards per attempt), good enough to rank 52nd in the NFL so far.

Jamaal Charles practiced three straight days leading up to Monday Night Football against the Patriots. The late start may cause hesitation for millions of fantasy owners, but reason for optimism remains. When asked if his starter would be able to return this week, head coach Andy Reid said, “Yeah, I think so.” Since his reconstructive ACL surgery in 2011, Charles has missed only two games (including last week). Knile Davis made the spot start a week ago, and rushed 32 times for 132 yards and a touchdown. The second-year back also has three scores on the season.

Lamar Miller has been running well since a week two injury derailed Knowshon Moreno‘s season. Early predictions were that Moreno (dislocated elbow) would return in four to eight weeks, but Berry Jackson of the Miami Herald said this week that his return “isn’t too far off.” Miller had a career day last week, producing 108 yards on 15 carries (7.2 yards per rush). That may be underwhelming for a career day, but such has been the life for Miller, once highly touted by running back guru Pete Bommarito as “the fastest running back I’ve ever seen.” Bommarito Performance Systems boasts some of the greatest backs in the NFL today, including Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jonathan Stewart, and Ben Tate, to name a few. Dolphins fans still have hope.

Teddy Bridgewater will make the first start of his NFL career Sunday, hosting the Atlanta Falcons. Replacing the injured Matt Cassel (broken foot) last week, the rookie completed 12 of 20 passes for 150 yards, with no scores and no turnovers. The Vikings are likely to feed the ball to Matt Asiata, who has been averaging 16.5 touches for 85.0 yards and 0.5 touchdowns since taking over for Adrian Peterson. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (groin) underwent surgery this week, and may miss about six weeks. Cassel had surgery on his foot and is done for the year. Bridgewater is going to need a lot of help from offensive coordinator Norv Turner to find creative ways to move the ball. Minnesota ranks 29th in offense (273.0 yards per game) and 28th in scoring (16.7 points per game).

The Gronk Watch is on, and Patriots Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski is expected to make a fourth consecutive start Monday night. That means only 317 games remain between the tight end and Brett Favre, who owns the NFL record with 321 consecutive starts. Check back for weekly updates as the gap continues to narrow.

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said that Darren McFadden will start again Sunday, with Maurice Jones-Drew ready to return to the lineup. Jones-Drew had hand surgery following Oakland’s week one loss to the Jets. The Raiders’ website still officially lists Jones-Drew atop the running backs depth chart. The Raiders are the NFL’s worst offense, averaging 254.3 yards and 12.3 points per game.

Donald Brown will make his second straight start for San Diego. Last week, Brown used 36 touches to create 89 yards of offense, but has yet to reach the end zone this year. Starter Ryan Mathews may miss about a month, and scat-back Danny Woodhead broke his leg in week three, putting an end to his season. Of all 2013 running backs, only Pierre Thomas (77) caught more passes than Danny Woodhead (76). The heavy workload will continue for the Chargers backfield, as Jacksonville brings the league’s worst defense to town. This season, the Jaguars have given opponents permission to run 160.0 yards each week. Keenan Allen (groin) has been struggling in his second season, which tends to be common among breakout receivers after defenses have an offseason to study their tendencies. The second-year wideout should have his first solid game of the year, after failing to puncture the 55-yard ceiling yet this season. So far in 2014, Allen has made 12 receptions for 109 yards and no scores.

Vincent Jackson suffered a small fracture in his wrist during last week’s blowout loss to the Falcons. He is probable to play in Pittsburgh this week, telling Buccaneers writer Greg Auman he’ll be ready. Rookie tight end prospect Austin Seferian-Jenkins is preparing to make his second career start. In his week one debut, the 6-foot-6 youngster caught one of his two targets for 26 yards. The Steelers rank 11th against the pass, but have also allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Through three games, opposing tight ends have made 6.0 catches for 72.3 yards and 1.0 touchdown against Pittsburgh.

Jake Locker is questionable to face Indianapolis Sunday, but Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt says he should be considered “closer to doubtful/out.” Journeyman Charlie Whitehurst will start in his stead, and face the Colts’ 27th-ranked defense. Indianapolis ranks 24th in points allowed and 26th against the pass. Hosting the Colts last week, Blake Bortles and Chad Henne combined for 256 yards, two scores, and two interceptions.

Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, footballguys.com, and espn.com.

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Dave Major
Senior Fantasy Analyst for @XNSports. While not wasting immeasurable time as a stand-up comic in New York, Dave Major can be found watching three football games at once and telling people how to live their fantasy lives. If you're out of ideas, use your one phone call on !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');