Fantasy Football 2014 Week 4, TNF – Giants at Redskins


Sep 14, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback

Kirk Cousins

(8) throws the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night games give fantasy football owners the chance to get off to an early lead against their opponents. However, they also come with a high degree of risk due to the shortened practice week. Week four of the 2014 NFL season will kick off tonight when NFC East rivals meet in the nation’s capital. The Washington Redskins and New York Giants are each looking to even their record and work their way back into the divisional race. Tonight’s winner will stay out of the NFC East cellar, while the loser will fall 2.5 games behind the Eagles (3-0), even before Sunday’s games are played.

The Giants put forth an excellent team effort in last week’s 30-17 win against the Texans. After the offense sputtered throughout the preseason and into the first two games of the regular season, fans and analysts alike were starting to wonder if the Ben McAdoo experiment as a play-caller had already failed. McAdoo kept the game-plan simple last week, leaning on the run game, and putting quarterback Eli Manning into position to make quick and high percentage passes. Manning completed 21/28 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns, resulting in a sparkling 75% completion rate. His efficiency has led many Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson fantasy owners to consider using Eli as their bye week replacement. Against the Redskins 10th ranked pass defense, Manning is still better left on fantasy benches or your league’s waiver wire. Only in deep two-QB leagues would I consider starting him as a mid-range QB2. Wide receiver Victor Cruz finally had his first breakout game on the young season last week when he hauled in five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. Cruz owners who invested a 4th or 5th round draft pick on the salsa-dancing receiver should feel much better slotting him into their lineups tonight as high-ceiling WR2. Meanwhile, fellow wide receiver Rueben Randle also equaled Cruz’s reception mark last week with five, but was only able to parlay those catches into 27 yards. Ultimately, Randle’s value will continue to hinge on scoring touchdowns, but a breakout game could be on the horizon for the LSU product. His ceiling is higher than most other WR3/Flex options. Although the yardage totals have yet to come (22 yards per game this season), Randle has seen enough targets (17) over the last two weeks to warrant consideration in your lineup – especially if you are faced with multiple receivers on bye. Tight end Larry Donnell has played his way into the TE1 conversation after posting three solid box scores to open the year. Donnell is actually leading all Giants players in targets through the first three weeks (23), and has been able to turn those looks into a respectable 18 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown. Expect those target trends to continue in McAdoo’s quick hitting passing attack. Running back Rashad Jennings stole the show in last week’s win, racking up 176 rushing yards and a score on 34 carries. Jennings only had 34 combined carries during the first two weeks of the season. It is clear the Giants will need to establish a strong running game throughout the year in order to stay in games. The sledding will be much tougher tonight against a Redskins rush defense that is only allowing 64.7 yards per game on the ground – 3rd best in the entire league. Jennings is firmly on the RB1 short-list going forward, but owners should not be surprised if he only produces RB2 numbers tonight. If you are a Jennings owner, you are starting him regardless.

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After a gut-wrenching 37-34 road loss to the Eagles in week three, the now Kirk Cousins led Redskins hope to rebound this week within the friendly confines of FedExField. Their week two win against the Jaguars is starting to look less and less impressive considering Jacksonville’s overall ineptness this year. Cousins has provided a spark to the Washington offense since filling in for “presumed” starter Robert Griffin III. Even in last week’s loss, he threw for an incredible 427 yards and three touchdowns. While he won’t necessarily need to replicate those numbers tonight to have a chance at beating the Giants, but fantasy owners who swooped in on Cousins are certainly hopeful that he continues his hot play. Clearly in the low-end QB1 discussion, Cousins warrants starting consideration in nearly all formats. The Giants pass defense is improved from 2013, but they have also been burned by several big plays already this year. (See: Calvin Johnson week one highlights) Wide receiver Pierre Garcon rebounded from a miserable week two (one catch for 12 yards) to post a monstrous 11 catches for 138 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. Cousins and Garcon exhibited nice chemistry late in 2013 as well, and I fully expect Garcon to lead the Redskins in targets again tonight. Averaging just under 11 targets a game, Garcon is a bona fide WR1, and should be considered a borderline top 10 play this week. On the other side of the field, DeSean Jackson had to be happy with his performance for his first game back in Philadelphia. Jackson averaged a whopping 23.4 yards per catch on his five receptions, which also included an 81 yard touchdown. Fantasy owners were equally as happy to see Jackson torch his old team at less than 100% health. This week, Jackson is back squarely on the WR2 radar, if only for the fact that he does present some “boom-or-bust” qualities. While his stats from last week look good, he did only manage to secure five of his 11 targets. For this reason, Garcon is still clearly the receiver to start for week to week consistency. Tight end Niles Paul has filled in admirably for the oft injured Jordan Reed. He also got into the mix last week, coming down with six catches for 68 yards. Paul has recorded at least 68 receiving yards in every game so far this year, and similar to New York’s Larry Donnell, he is squarely on the mid-range TE1 radar, even after Reed returns. Alfred Morris paced the Washington ground attack last week with a typical Morris line – 23 carries for 77 yards. After getting nicked up late in last week’s loss, he has practiced this week and is fully expected to suit up and start tonight. Morris is on the RB1 radar against a Giants defense that ranks in the bottom half. Additionally, in two games against New York last year, Morris rushed 44 times for 244 yards (5.5 YPC).

Score Prediction: Redskins 23, Giants 20