Heading into Week 4, here are the best picks for another 16-game slate (in PPR leagues, unless otherwise noted).
Boom: Brandin Cooks
Cooks might be the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL. Since 2016, he has had 1000-plus yard receiving seasons with four different teams — the Saints, Patriots, Rams and Texans — and on Thursday, he put on a receiving clinic to the tune of 112 yards with rookie quarterback Davis Mills against an elite Panthers defense. Against the Bills this week, they could start Mills, a lucky fan from a raffle or even Deshaun Watson, and regardless, Cooks will put up numbers.
Bust: Robby Anderson
From 2018 to 2020, Sam Darnold on the Jets was probably the worst quarterback in the league. In 2021, we’ve begun to see the rebirth of his career in the Panthers’ defense-heavy 3-0 start. Unfortunately, Anderson, who was also a Jet with Darnold in 2018 and ’19, hasn’t achieved the same success. In two of three games so far, Anderson has had three or fewer targets and only one reception in each — numbers lower than he saw in any game of the 2020 season. Anderson’s fantasy breakout came last year when he left Darnold; Darnold following him to Carolina may have stymied that breakout.
Boom: Washington Football Team defense/special teams
The Washington defense has been one of the most disappointing units of the 2021 season thus far. Expectations were high for a unit that ranked fifth in yards allowed in 2020 and has a defensive line stocked with four first-round picks — including reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. Their fantasy season has unfortunately had about as bad a start as a defense can have, with performances of one, two and negative eight points. A Week 4 match-up against the struggling Falcons could be the opportunity they need to show some life, as they should be able to terrorize an aging Matt Ryan behind Atlanta’s weak offensive line.
Boom: Nyheim Hines
Last year, Colts rookie Jonathan Taylor exploded onto the NFL scene — finishing the year with 1,169 yards after an incredible 253-yard performance in Week 17. As such, he spent the offseason as one of the most hyped running backs for 2021. His 2021 season has had a slow start, in large part due to Hines’ passing game. With 12 receptions and 16 targets, Hines should continue to produce in the passing game against Miami, and is a safe start.
Bust: Ravens running backs
We’ve all heard the “Lamar Jackson is a running back” line repeated over and over since his MVP season. For the time being, however, that may as well be true for Baltimore. With J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards injured, there’s no reason to trust Latavius Murray or Ty’Son Williams to take enough carries from Jackson to put up reliable fantasy numbers. Realistically, their only hope of fantasy relevance would come from stealing the occasional touchdown. With the risk way higher than the reward, leave them on the bench.
Boom: Buccaneers pass catchers
Tom Brady is a scary man. At age 44, he might be playing the best football of his career. On Sunday, he comes home to Foxborough for the first time since leaving in 2020 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This game, more than anything else, might be the ultimate test of Brady’s IQ versus Bill Belichick’s defensive genius. Brady is going to ace that test and will come to Gillette Stadium with a mission in mind — and when he has a mission, he typically succeeds. His entire receiving core — Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski — will be the primary beneficiaries of this and should thrive in fantasy.
Best value bets
(Using FOX Sports odds at the time of writing. Disclaimer: Picks are merely the opinion of the author. Gambling involves financial risk. The author is not responsible for losses incurred from gambling.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Win/cover spread (Spread: -7.0)
- This spread feels like a joke to me, or perhaps a sign of respect for a legendary coach in Belichick. But … please. The Patriots just lost at home to the Saints by 15 points. They have a rookie quarterback and mediocre weapons, all while missing former DPOY Stephon Gilmore. Against the most stacked receiving core in the league, this will not be a one-touchdown game.
Indianapolis Colts: Win outright (Odds: +105)
- The Colts are easily the best of the 0-3 teams, with losses against the Seahawks, Rams, and Titans. A 0-3 start is hard to bounce back from — an 0-4 start feels like a death knell. The Colts should be able to handle Miami and walk away with their first win.
Las Vegas Raiders: Cover spread (Spread: +3.0)
- The Raiders are off to a 3-0 start, all against teams that had at least 10 wins last year. The Chargers looked incredible against the Chiefs last week, but the 2021 Raiders are a team that will fight till the very end. This game could go either way, but if the Raiders lose, I don’t think it’ll be by more than a field goal.
Washington Football Team @ Atlanta Falcons: Under 47.5 points
- This comes down to a lack of faith I have in Atlanta’s offense. The talent is there between Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts, but they don’t look like a team with an offensive identity. Washington should rebound and pull off a low-scoring victory.
Cleveland Browns @ Minnesota Vikings: Over 51.5 points
- The Vikings and Browns are averaging 29 and 28.7 points per game, respectively. Both teams’ defenses have potential, but it’s their offenses that will steal the show on Sunday.