NFL Fantasy Week 4: Start ‘em, Sit ‘em- Running Backs

Adrian Peterson scored a league-best 24 NFL fantasy points in Week 3. The good news is his owners don’t have to worry about whether to rest him or wonder if his erratic production warrants a seat on the bench because Peterson, Chris Thompson, and all the Redskins have an early Bye Week.

Carolina joins the Redskins, taking Christian McCaffrey off the table for Week 4, too. We’re still waiting for news on Leonard Fournette, Rex Burkhead, Marlon Mack, and others. So who else can we talk about starting or sitting?

Well… there’s these guys:

Start this guy: Chris Carson (at Arizona)

There is a subtle feeling of dread in starting someone based on Pete Carroll’s word. I have been burned so many times by his misdirecting statements. But, Carroll did make the running game a big part of the Seahawks’ offense against the Cowboys like he said he would.

Carroll had to see how it well it worked, helping control the clock and buying Russell Wilson a split second on play-action. He also had to see that Rashaad Penny needs to stay on the bench. Mike Davis can spell Carson here and there if needed, but like Carroll has been saying for months, Carson won the right to be a bell-cow back.

So, I’m starting Chris Carson a week after his RB-6 performance. I just hope Carroll doesn’t decide to add CJ Prosise to the mix.

Sit this guy: Sony Michel (vs Miami)

New England could enter Week 4 with Sony Michel and James White the only two active rushers. That should have a lot of people betting on a breakout from the Patriots’ rookie.

Rex Burkhead’s neck injury gave Michel a chance to prove himself in Week 3. He was given 14 of the 18 running back carries and 3 passing targets. He turned that into 50 yards (3.6 yards per carry) and one catch for a loss of a yard.

That was against the Detroit Lions’ generous run defense. Miami is in the bottom third of NFL Fantasy defenses against running backs, but it allows 6 points less per game than Detroit.

New England wants to re-establish itself as a power in the NFL and let Miami know it will not be easy to maintain their current status as leaders of the AFC East. They will do what they do best and ask Brady to throw them out of their funk. James White is the better play in that scenario.

Start this guy: Aaron Jones (vs. Buffalo)

It’s easy to look at Buffalo’s outstanding effort of Week 3 and decide not to start any rusher against them. However, the number that should stand out in Minnesota’s offense is not the 14 yards rushing, but rather the 6 total attempts, including 2 by the quarterback.

Even if a repeat performance puts the Packers down 14-0 (or 27-0), Aaron Rodgers will not be asked to throw 55 passes and eschew the run in his current physical condition.

That said, it is not likely to happen again. Buffalo’s run defense is above average, yielding 3.8 yards-per-carry. But, they also gave up 157 receiving yards to rushers and a total of 6 touchdowns in the first two weeks.

Aaron Jones was limited in his return last week but averaged almost 7 yards per run. He will be cut loose this week in an effort to save Rodgers from having to do too much. That equals a good NFL Fantasy day for Green Bay’s lead rusher.

Sit this guy: Kerryon Johnson (at Dallas)

Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions rusher to top 100 yards on the ground since the Earth started spinning, or around there sometime. He did so in an entertaining and very exciting game in front of the home fans.

This week, he faces the Cowboys in the spacious confines of Dallas. Dallas allows 16 points to running backs through three weeks. There are a few other barriers to Johnson’s next 100-yard game.

Dallas has to win this game. Against the Lions, they will revert to a formula that worked for them in their recent past. They will exploit the Lions’ awful run defense and control the ball on the ground for much of the game.

This will reduce opportunities overall. Johnson will have to fight for touches with Matthew Stafford and LeGarrette Blount. Johnson will be the Lions’ lead runner soon enough. He will have a nice stat line, but not enough to be a top-24 RB in Week 4.

Start this guy: Lamar Miller (at Indianapolis)

Houston couldn’t escape the dreaded 0-3 start, thanks largely to the Giants' total shut down of Lamar Miller and the running game. Miller salvaged his week with a late touchdown catch after racking up only ten yards on ten carries.

Deshaun Watson has William Fuller V back to make DeAndre Hopkins and the receiving game more effective. But the Texans know they win when they get good contributions from the running game.

When Watson was at his best last season, Miller picked up almost 5 NFL Fantasy points per game. In a winnable, must-win game, the Texans will get Miller back on track.

Sit these guys: Isaiah Crowell / Bilal Powell (at Jacksonville)

This could be another field goal affair as the surprising Jets defense goes head-to-head with one of the best.

Sam Darnold will be challenged to win this one for the Jets. Jacksonville will stack the box and take the running game out of the equation. Darnold looked flustered and confused when the Browns’ defense turned up the heat last week.

Crowell and Powell’s most important role might be keeping the rookie passer upright long enough to find a receiver. Neither is a good starting option in Week 4.

As time winds down…

Josh Rosen might inject some life into a dismal offense in Arizona. While I am pulling for Steve Wilks and the NFL Fantasy future of Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, I just can’t see starting Johnson with a rookie against a top-five defense against rushing and receiving backs.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore boast the fifth and sixth-best NFL Fantasy defenses against running backs, holding opposing runners to about 12.5 points per game.

But I am only sitting the Ravens rushers. I believe James Conner will get enough rushing yards behind the Steelers’ blockers and add on a big pass or two that will push him into a top-24 running back position.

Alex Collins and Javorius Allen will both stay on my bench, even though Allen is risk to catch a touchdown pass.

Full disclosure: Ouch.

Misery loves company, so I’m not completely embarrassed to admit I got sucked into Week 3’s Kenyan Drake and Latavius Murray hype. Corey Clement’s limited usage made it a clean sweep of my featured start ‘ems. I did salvage two correct picks (White, D Johnson) in my overtime section and two of my three sit ems were accurate.

But 40-percent won’t cut it in most sections of society, and NFL Fantasy football is no exception. It was my first off week, so watch for the rebound, even as I go against many of my peers with my Week 4 start ‘em and sit ‘ems.

This article was originally published on sports