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NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Preview

NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Preview
Streeter Lecka/Jonathan Daniel/Sam Greenwood, Getty Images

The beauty of fantasy football is that owners can ignore such petty issues as referee-union disputes and terrible replacement-official calls. Of course, you might also be one of the tens of thousands of armchair players who lost their Week 3 game thanks to last Monday night’s officiating disaster. If you happen to be one of those unlucky souls, try not to lose too much sleep over it. The 2012 season is still in its infant stages, and there’s plenty of time to make a move in your league’s standings. These Week 4 fantasy notes and tips should help you get started.

Story Line To Watch: Cam Newton’s Struggles

Cam Newton
Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

It’s a little early in the season to be pushing the panic button, but Cam Newton is starting to make his supporters a tad uncomfortable. Last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year is off to slow start in 2012, recording just two touchdowns against an ugly five interceptions. Newton’s ground game has fallen off as well, as he’s averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry over the season’s first three games. After last Thursday’s brutal performance against the New York Giants, Superman needs to step up and show that he won’t be dragged down by the dreaded sophomore slump. The next four weeks will define Newton’s second season in the league, but with games against tough defenses in Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas, and Chicago, it will hardly be an easy road.

Lock of the Week: Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Bengals

Maurice Jones-Drew
Al Messerschmidt, Getty Images

Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew could teach Chris Johnson a thing or two about how to stay in shape during a holdout. Despite missing the entire 2012 preseason, MJD has hardly missed a beat, ranking fifth in running back scoring for standard formats. During last week’s showdown with the Colts, Jones-Drew recorded a ridiculous 177 yards rushing, and added a touchdown for good measure. None of this is good news for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are currently allowing a gross 5.8 yards per carry. Considering Jacksonville’s lack of a reliable passing attack, Jones-Drew is a lock for 30-35 touches and all of the fantasy joy that comes with them.

Others Locks: QB Aaron Rodgers vs. New Orleans, RB Marshawn Lynch vs. St. Louis, WR Stevie Johnson vs. New England, WR Roddy White vs. Carolina, TE Fred Davis vs. Tampa Bay, Arizona D/ST vs. Miami

Bust of the Week: Bears QB Jay Cutler Vs. Cowboys

Jay Cutler
Joe Robbins, Getty Images

The first three weeks of the 2012 season have not gone according to plan for Jay Cutler. Most fantasy pundits predicted a breakout season for the former Vanderbilt star, given the acquisition of weapons such as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Instead, the Bears offense has dissolved into a quagmire of turnovers, missed opportunities, and finger-pointing. Unfortunately for Cutler owners, things aren’t going to get much better during Chicago’s Week 4 clash with the Dallas Cowboys. Through the first three games of the year, Dallas has allowed just 137 passing yards per contest and is the sixth-best defense against fantasy quarterbacks. By the end of the game, Cutler will likely have spent more time on his back than in the end zone.

Other Busts: QB Carson Palmer vs. Denver, RB Steven Jackson vs. Seattle, RB Alfred Morris vs. Tampa Bay, WR Santonio Holmes vs. San Francisco, TE Jared Cook vs. Houston, Minnesota D/ST vs. Detroit

Sleeper of the Week: Packers RB Cedric Benson vs. Saints

Cedric Benson
Joe Robbins, Getty Images

From a fantasy perspective, Packers running back Cedric Benson has never been a sure thing. Still, he’s run the ball relatively well since signing with Green Bay, racking up nearly 200 total yards and a score through three games. In Week 4, he’ll be enjoying the hospitality of a New Orleans Saints defense that couldn’t stop a Pop Warner running back right now. The Saints have allowed more rushing yards per game (215) and rushing touchdowns (6) than any other team in football, culminating with Jamaal Charles’ 233-yard thrashing in Week 3. The Packers are going to be playing angry (we can’t imagine why), and will absolutely shred the Saints’ defense. Plug Benson in as a RB 2 or Flex option and watch the points roll in.

Other Sleepers: QB Christian Ponder vs. Detroit, RB Ryan Williams vs. Miami, WR Leonard Hankerson vs. Tampa Bay, TE Brandon Myers vs. Denver, San Diego D/ST vs. Kansas City

Under the Radar: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings

Kyle Rudolph
Hannah Foslien, Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings are one of the NFL’s pleasant surprises in 2012, and Kyle Rudolph is a big reason why. Like so many other young quarterbacks, Christian Ponder has leaned on his tight end as both a security blanket and a red zone target, leading to three touchdowns in as many weeks for Rudolph. The second-year player out of Notre Dame is fast, athletic, and is one of the few Vikings receivers that can get open on a regular basis. Even better, Rudolph is still flying under the radar and will be available in many fantasy leagues. Minnesota is a run-first team, though, so don’t expect Gronkowski-like numbers just yet.

Other Players To Watch: Vikings QB Christian Ponder, Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Colts WR T.Y. Hilton, Giants WR Ramses Barden, Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson, Raiders TE Brandon Myers

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