Sunday NFL preview: Who to start, sit in fantasy football

1m - NFL
Don't bench Andrew Luck

NFL Nation reporters Paul Gutierrez and Mike Triplett deliver some fantasy tips for week 4.

NFL Nation reporters look ahead to what Sunday has in store for each team.


Buffalo Bills: The Bills will be without LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins (calf) for Sunday's game, giving Karlos Williams and Percy Harvin a chance to rack up fantasy points against a middle-of-the-pack Giants defense. There might be a temptation among fantasy owners to take a gamble on No. 2 running back Boobie Dixon or No. 3 wide receiver Chris Hogan, but don't overthink it. Williams, Harvin, Robert Woods and Charles Clay will be the main cogs in the Bills' offense without Watkins and McCoy. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins (1-2) take the field against the Jets (2-1) with a lot of pressure on coach Joe Philbin and the rest of the coaching staff. A loss would be three in a row and could make owner Stephen Ross contemplate changes. A win would get Miami back to .500 and provide momentum entering the bye week. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: The Patriots are on a bye this week. They face Dallas in Week 5. -- ESPN.com staff

New York Jets: After 58 pass attempts last week in a loss, the Jets will try to regain offensive balance. The return of running back Chris Ivory (quadriceps) will help. So will the Dolphins' 31st-ranked run defense. They may not have wide receiver Eric Decker (knee), so establishing the run is vital. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens: Two days after beating the Steelers, the Ravens have plenty of drama at wide receiver. Baltimore announced Steve Smith Sr. (back injury) is "week-to-week" and also traded a 2017 seventh-round pick to the Rams for Chris Givens, who replaces Michael Campanaro (injured reserve, herniated disc). Givens has only 12 catches in his past 17 games, but he gives Joe Flacco a much-needed deep threat. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton has played well so far this season because he has a healthy complement of offensive weapons around him. Unlike last season when injuries forced Dalton to play without four of his top skill players, Cincinnati has been relatively injury-free this season. That has allowed a different playmaker to go off each week. In the opener, tight end Tyler Eifert was a fantasy owners' dream. In Week 2, Giovani Bernard made those who started him look like geniuses. And last week, receiver A.J. Green's 34 points (in ESPN's standard scoring system) made fantasy owners swoon. Will Green have another big day Sunday against the Chiefs? Or is it some other playmaker's turn? -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: Injuries figure to be a factor Sunday in San Diego. The Browns have a banged-up secondary, the Chargers a banged-up offensive line. With Philip Rivers, the Chargers may be best poised to take better advantage of the Browns' injuries. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers: When the Steelers emerge from the haze of the overtime loss to Baltimore and the perpetual kicking issues, they'll realize they need to get the ball to Heath Miller, who had one catch for one yard against the Ravens. He's a big target in the middle of the field that should be friendly to Michael Vick on Monday Night Football at San Diego. Also, Martavis Bryant gets set for his first practice action. He returns from a four-game suspension. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans: Although Texans coach Bill O'Brien called Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan elite this week, his defense has had a lot of success against the pass so far this season. Houston has allowed the lowest completion percentage of any team so far. Opposing quarterbacks complete only 53.8 percent of their passes this season. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts: It might be a good idea to avoid receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief because of the uncertainty surrounding Andrew Luck's status for Sunday's game against Jacksonville due to a shoulder injury. You can expect the Colts to use running back Frank Gore as much as possible to help ease the load of the quarterbacks Luck or Matt Hasselbeck. Gore is coming off a performance where he rushed for 86 yards on 14 carries against Tennessee. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: It may be a good idea to stay away from wide receiver Allen Robinson. Without wide receiver Marqise Lee and tight end Julius Thomas, defenses are going to concentrate on stopping Robinson. New England did that last weekend, and Robinson managed just four catches for 68 yards. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: The Titans are on a bye this week. They face Buffalo in Week 5. -- ESPN.com staff


Denver Broncos: Until the Broncos show they can get their running game going, their backs are not a great play. But Gary Kubiak did sit down with C.J. Anderson this week, and the message was the team needs more from Anderson and that the running back needs to "just cut loose and play." -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin's slump may not be over just because of his big finish in last week's loss to Green Bay. Quarterback Alex Smith acknowledged the Chiefs were able to get the ball to Maclin so frequently late in part because the Packers backed off in coverage. Maclin, though, will be an important part of the game plan each week. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: Raiders' rookie receiver Amari Cooper is almost becoming an irresistible fantasy play. The No. 4 overall pick has put together mind-blowing stats. His 290 yards in three games is the most by a rookie at that point in his career in 12 years. He is one of two rookies in the past 30 years to put together two 100-yard games in his first three NFL games. The Alabama product also has 175 yards after the catch in the past two games. How can he be ignored? -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: The Browns travel to San Diego with an ailing secondary. Shutdown corner Joe Haden is expected to play, but he has bruised ribs. Free safety Tashaun Gipson is questionable due to a groin injury, and slot defender K'Waun Williams won't play because of a concussion. Expect San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers to take notice and look to get the passing game going. -- Eric D. Williams


Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten is quarterback-friendly regardless of the quarterback. In 16 games without Tony Romo since Romo became the starter in 2006, Witten has 93 catches for 951 yards and seven touchdowns. Sunday night's opponent, New Orleans, has given up 17 catches for 268 yards and three touchdowns to tight ends this season, and Carolina's Greg Olsen had a big day last week. With the need to get the passing game going, Witten figures to play a big part against the Saints. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: The Giants plan a significant role in Sunday's game for running back Shane Vereen, whose primary value is as a pass-catcher. Watch for Vereen to line up in the backfield on passing downs but also to move around the formation a bit, possibly splitting out wide or in the slot to show different looks. The Giants are concerned about Buffalo's run defense and believe their best bet for sustaining drives is to get Vereen in space and get him the ball. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor has caught only four passes so far this season and was shut out against the Jets last week. But ESPN Stats & Info says the Eagles should be able to get the ball to outside receivers at Washington. Washington has been successful against slot receivers but has allowed an 82-percent completion percentage to receivers lined up on the right side of an offense. That's Agholor's most frequent spot. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The Redskins know they'll need plenty of patience vs. the Eagles' run defense, that they'll have to settle for lots of short gains in the hope of breaking a few longer runs. Last year, for example, running back Alfred Morris carried 44 times against the Eagles' defense -- only two went for 10 or more yards, and 15 were for one yard or less. But the Redskins hope using more inside zone runs to pair with the outside zones will lead to a more consistent attack against Philadelphia. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears: Tight ends torch Oakland's defense. With that in mind, Sunday is probably the appropriate time for Bears tight end Martellus Bennett to have a breakout game. One of the best tight ends in the league, Bennett caught 90 balls last year. He's off to a productive start this year with 13 receptions for 118 yards and one touchdown. Bennett should be a frequent target of Jimmy Clausen or Jay Cutler, depending on whom the Bears start at quarterback. The fear with Cutler is he may re-injure the hamstring, which can cause further damage. Cutler's ability to move is the key to his availability in Week 4. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: The Lions travel to Seattle on Sunday in advance of the Monday Night matchup against Seattle, but for fantasy purposes, avoid a lot of Detroit players. Joique Bell (ankle) is out and Zach Zenner is going to take his place. Normally, Zenner could be an interesting boom-or-bust guy but not likely against the Seahawks. However, this is an opportunity for him so he could be worth bench-stashing just in case he has a good game and continues to win carries throughout the rest of the season. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers: It looks as if the Packers will be short-handed again on offense after receiver Davante Adams was downgraded on Saturday to doubtful against the 49ers. That will mean more falls on rookie Ty Montgomery, who showed against the Chiefs he could handle it. He caught his first NFL touchdown pass. The good news is Eddie Lacy's ankle injury appears to have gotten better this week so he could be in line for more than the 10 carries he got Monday. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: With Charles Johnson out and Jarius Wright questionable for Sunday's game in Denver, this could be the week the Vikings lean more heavily on Mike Wallace and Kyle Rudolph, who have been used sparingly in the Vikings' first three games. The Broncos' pass defense is formidable enough that the Vikings figure to base their offense around Adrian Peterson, but especially if Teddy Bridgewater is under pressure, he could look for Wallace on screens and treat Rudolph as a safety blanket. -- Ben Goessling


Atlanta Falcons: Devonta Freeman said he has most impressed when he's able to pick up the tough yards, like he did numerous times last week against the Cowboys. So if the Falcons are able to drive the ball easily against the Texans and get into some goal-to-go situation, I expect Freeman to rack up some fantasy points with some short touchdown runs. He just has to avoid J.J. Watt, who can stuff the run, too. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: This should be a good matchup for running back Jonathan Stewart against a Tampa Bay defense ranked 30th against the run. The Bucs should respect quarterback Cam Newton's ability to stretch the field vertically after his passing performance (20-for-31 for 315 yards and two touchdowns) last week, so it will be difficult to load up the box to stop the run as other opponents have. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees shouldn't be limited much by his shoulder injury. He took most of the reps in practice every day this week and told ESPN's Ed Werder he is capable of making every throw after the inflammation went down and the strength returned early in the week. The bigger concern is how the entire Saints offense has been a bit pedestrian this year. But you should still start Brees with confidence in fantasy unless you have another top-10 option available. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Don't anticipate Tampa Bay finding much success on the ground against Carolina. That means wide receiver Mike Evans should become a major part of the Bucs' offensive game plan. Quarterback Jameis Winston targeted Evans 17 times last Sunday in Houston, and even though coach Lovie Smith spoke about a need to destribute the ball better, Evans still should see many passes come his way. -- Andrew Astleford


Arizona Cardinals: Even though Andre Ellington will be returning, Chris Johnson will be the starting running back Sunday against the Rams. He's averaging 21 carries per start this season. The last time he averaged 20 or more carries per start was in 2009 with Tennessee when he ran for 2,006 yards. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams: The Rams would like to get the running game going but know that figures to be a tall order against Arizona's run defense. That could mean a lot of opportunities for quarterback Nick Foles to score points. Foles is a risky proposition, though. The Cardinals intercepted Colin Kaepernick four times last week, including two for touchdowns, and Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson has scored six touchdowns in eight games against the Rams, either on defense or special teams. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: Yes, the offensive line Colin Kaepernick is running (for his life?) behind is different from the powerful unit he had in three dominant performances against the Packers before. But Kaepernick does have 1,175 net yards against them in those games. Plus, he's exuding a quiet confidence, and Reggie Bush making his return can only help Kaepernick. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are one of three teams without an interception this season. Monday night will be a good time to change that as Matthew Stafford and the Lions come to town. Only Andrew Luck has been picked off more than Stafford (five INTs). Richard Sherman's matchup against Calvin Johnson will be one worth watching. -- Sheil Kapadia