Green Light: Andrew Luck vs. GB; Joe Flacco @ KC

Andrew Luck vs. GB:

The Packers defense may rank well against the pass statistically speaking, but a closer look at things reveals they haven’t shut down their opponents passing attacks as well a quick glance may lead some to believe.

While it’s true the Packers allowed just 467 passing yards through the first three games of the season it really shouldn’t be all that surprising when you consider the teams they played. Not San Francisco, the Chicago Bears, nor the Seattle Seahawks are passing oriented offenses. In fact, two of those three squads prefer to move the ball on the ground rather than through the air.

When the Packers went against the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, however, their secondary faced their first true test of the season – and they didn’t pass. Brees finished the afternoon with 446 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.

In fact, outside of the 4 picks Green Bay had against Jay Cutler – and let’s face it, what team doesn’t record an interception against Cutler – the Packers haven’t recorded any interceptions this season.

Furthermore they have surrendered 8 touchdown passes already despite facing three opponents that aren’t known for their passing attack.

When you take those numbers into account along with Luck’s productive start to the season (846 yards passing with 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions through 3 games) there is fair reason to believe he’ll post no less than 260 yards passing on Sunday with the chance to add two more scores to his totals.

Red Light: Ryan Fitzpatrick @ SF

Ryan Fitzpatrick @ SF:

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 12 touchdown passes in four games has him off to a hot start, but he is yet to face a defense that is up to par with the San Francisco 49ers. It’s also worth noting that while he played the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns in weeks two and three he hadn’t thrown for more than 208-yards until last week’s blow-out loss against the Patriots.

Another noteworthy consideration is that in the opener against the New York Jets (the only defense Buffalo has faced of any significance) two of Fitzpatrick’s three touchdown passes didn’t occur until after Darrelle Revis left the game with a concussion.

When you factor these statistics together with the fact the 49ers have already turned in impressive performances against quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford things really don’t bode well for Ryan Fitzpatrick this week.

It also doesn’t help any that the Bills well be traveling cross country for this contest as the game is being played at San Francisco.


Green Light: Cedric Benson @ IND; Frank Gore vs. BUF; Alfred Morris vs. ATL

Cedric Benson @ IND:

Upon a late signing with the Green Bay Packers during the offseason not too many fantasy owners were thrilled with delight about his prospects for his 2012 campaign. Following a 9-carry, 18-yard performance against San Francisco in the opener fewer still believed Benson would function as any better than a BYE week replacement.

As it turns out, however, Benson has given owners reason to believe he can function as a worthwhile #2RB when dealt a favorable match-up. In Week 2 he put together an impressive performance against the stout Chicago Bears defense as he rumbled for 81-yards on 20 carries and added 35 more on receptions.

He then traveled to Seattle (2nd overall against the run through 4 weeks) where he was limited to 45-yards on 17 carries. He did manage to punch one into the end zone though. He was also targeted in the passing game with another four catch performance – this time for 19 yards.

Last Sunday against a Saints defense that ranks worst in the league against the run Benson averaged 4.7 yards per rushing attempt as he ran for 87-yards on 17 carries. And he once again came away 4 receptions (for 22-yards).

While those outings haven’t been outstanding they have been worthy #2RB production for owners in PPR leagues. And even in non-PPR formats it is hard to scoff at a running back that has totaled more than 100-yards in two of his last three games and managed to find the end zone in the one that he didn’t.

This Sunday Benson faces a Colts defense that has allowed 4 rushing touchdowns in three games while yielding an average of more than 130 rushing yards per contest. With that being the case, along with Benson’s production the last three weeks, it’s hard not to believe he stands in line for a 100-yard afternoon with a touchdown added for good measure.

Red Light: Chris Johnson @ MIN; Fred Jackson @ SF

Chris Johnson @ MIN:

It was great so see Chris Johnson “bust-loose” for a 141-yards on the ground while finishing the afternoon with more than 150 total yards against the Texans last Sunday, but the celebration amongst his fantasy owners may be short lived.

Not only is it worth noting Johnson’s numbers were a bit inflated due to the fact he gained about 60-yards rushing after the game was well out of hand, but it can be argued he didn’t even achieve those statistics against a defense that had defended the run as well their ranking prior to Week 4 indicated.

It is true that the Texans hadn’t allowed any back to rush for more than 69-yards against them through their first three games, but Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew did combine for 129-yards rushing against Houston on just 26 carries during the first two games of the season. That’s an average of nearly 5.0 yards per carry.

Had the Dolphins and Jaguars defenses managed to keep their respective offenses in the game chances are Reggie Bush and MJD would have received quite a few more carries and surpassed the 100-yard plateau with ease.

As Johnson prepares for this Sunday’s game in Minnesota he faces a run defense that has yielded just 3.3 yards per carry (ypc) to their opponents. That said, they have been aided by contests against the Indianapolis Colts hapless rushing attack and another against the Detroit Lions who have had difficulties running the ball successfully themselves. Nonetheless it’s hard to argue with that 3.3ypc figure.

While I wouldn’t completely rule out the use of Johnson this week, his owners shouldn’t expect him to have another high-tier #1RB type of performance.

If the Titans can get him another 20 carries or so than Johnson may push 100-yards on the ground. More likely than not, however, he’ll need to pick up his first touchdown of the season (the Vikings have only allowed one rushing TD so far though) and / or come away with quite a few receptions (or on that he breaks loose with) to produce any better than a mid-to-low level #2RB this week.


Green Light:

Brian Hartline @ CIN; James Jones @ IND; Anquan Boldin @ KC; Donnie Avery vs. GB

Brian Hartline @ CIN:

While some may feel this is an obvious call, there are still some owners that doubt whether or not Hartline will be a worthwhile starter on a weekly basis this season. They point to his monster outing last Sunday (12/253/1) and rather than see it as reason to put their faith in the fourth-year wide receiver out of Ohio State they prefer to state what an obvious anomaly it was.

Well yes, it was an anomaly. But it wasn’t just an anomaly for Hartline. Any receiver in the league could have had a performance like that without anyone believing they would approach that many receptions with that much yardage in a single game again. Ever!

In that regard Hartline’s amazing production may have worked against him in the eye’s of some fantasy owners. It was too good to be true, so there is no way in the world he’ll actually be useful more than two or three times over the remainder of the season… right?

My response to that would be a resounding “No!”

Hartline has been targeted an outstanding 48 times through the first 4 games. He has clearly become rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s favorite target – and there is no reason to think that trend won’t continue.

In PPR leagues this makes Hartline no less than a very strong #3WR throughout the remainder of the year. In non-PPR formats his likely lack of touchdowns may lower his value by a significant amount, but even then he makes for a great #4WR (more likely a low-end #3WR).

This Sunday Hartline faces a Bengals defensive unit that has allowed less than stellar wide-outs to put up some pretty decent numbers against them. Anquan Boldin posted 4 for 63 and a touchdown against them in the opener (admittedly he is legit, but still past his prime). Mohamed Massaquoi and Greg Little then combined for 10 receptions, 147 yards, and a score versus Cincinnati in Week 2. Leonard Hankerson had 4 for 56 against them two weeks ago. And this past Sunday Justin Blackmon finally managed his first somewhat notable outing in the NFL as he caught 6 passes for 48-yards against the Bengals.

If receivers of that caliber have had decent outings against Cincinnati than Brian Hartline shouldn’t fair any worse.

Red Light: Stevie Johnson @ SF

Stevie Johnson @ SF:

Stevie Johnson managed to come away with a touchdown in each of his first three games to start his season off on the right foot, but last week he was nearly blanked against the New England Patriots as he was held to two receptions for just 23-yards.

Things aren’t likely to go much better for him this Sunday as he and the Bills head out west to do battle against one of the best defenses in the league.

San Francisco ranks 6th in the NFL against the pass by holding the opposition to a little less than 200-yards passing per contest. They’ve also limited opponents to a league best 6.0 yards per pass attempt, which means its unlikely Johnson will be hauling in many – if any – deep balls this week.

If you have depth at the position it may be best to keep Johnson on your bench on Sunday for Week 5.


Green Light: Jacob Tamme @ NE; Jermaine Gresham vs. MIA

Jacob Tamme @ NE:

We listed Scott Chandler as a strong play at the tight end position last week in large part due to the opponent he was facing – the New England Patriots. He ended up delivering with an even bigger day than expected as he found the end zone twice while catching 4 passes for 62-yards.

Chandler’s performance was simply further demonstration of the difficulties New England has had defending the position this year. Prior to Chandler’s big day New England had allowed Jared Cook, Todd Heap, and Dennis Pitta to combine for 14 receptions, 176-yards, and 1 touchdown against them over the first three games of the season.

Aside from Week 1 Tamme hasn’t produced like his fantasy owners had hoped upon drafting him, but he should come through with a starter worthy outing this week against the Patriots.

Jermaine Gresham vs. MIA:

Gresham hasn’t been nearly as productive through the first four games of 2012 as some owners hoped he would be, but he has shown signs of life the last two weeks.

In Week 3 he posted his first touchdown of the year while catching 5 passes for 64-yards. He followed that up with a 5 catch, 47-yard performance last Sunday. It wasn’t a great outing, but it was still better than the first two games he played.

In his contest against the Dolphins this week he goes up against a secondary that ranks 30th in the league against the pass (they’ve allowed just under 300-yards passing per game). More notably as it pertains to Gresham, Miami has given up significant yardage to the tight ends they have faced.

Owens Daniels posted 4 receptions for 87-yards against them in the opener while the Raiders Brandon Myers had 6 for 86 against the fish in Week 2. This past Sunday Arizona’s Robert Housler and Jeff King combined for 4 receptions and 70-yards against the Dolphins in Todd Heap’s numbers.

Gresham has achieved the status where anything can be guaranteed with him, but the numbers suggest he should have a strong outing in Week 5.

Red Light: Heath Miller vs. PHI

Heath Miller vs. PHI:

It was two weeks ago that I slapped the “red light” tag on Heath Miller only for him to have his best game of the season with an 8-catch, 60-yard, and 2 touchdown effort against the Raiders. That outing marked his third straight game with a score to start off the season.

It’s clear that new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has found a way to work Miller into the offensive game plan again after a couple of lackluster seasons from the former first round pick, but I’m going to bet against the big tight end out of Virginia scoring in a fourth consecutive game.

The odds are against him. There’s no way he can do it, is there?

Aside from that the Eagles have defended tight ends fairly well this season after years of surrendering more than their fair share of fantasy points to the position.

Dennis Pitta had a notable effort against them in Week 2 (for those in PPR leagues anyhow), but he collected his 8 receptions for 65-yards in large part due to the fact he was targeted 15 times. Chances are Miller won’t even be targeted even half that many times.

Ride him while he’s hot if you must, but I wouldn’t expect much from Miller this Sunday.