Week Four in the NFL featured many long-term milestones. Kansas City’s Andy Reid became the first head coach to win 100 games with two franchises with a win over his former team in Philadelphia, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady became the all-time passing leader in a win over his former team in New England, and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers tied Dan Marino for sixth all-time in passing touchdowns in a win over Pittsburgh and their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw his 400th touchdown pass in the loss.
Those numbers helped make it an interesting weekend, but other events will have a far greater impact on the season moving forward. Season-ending injuries were limited in Week Four, but shorter-term injuries to quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) and Teddy Bridgewater (DEN), running backs David Montgomery (CHI) and Joe Mixon (CIN), wide receiver Will Fuller (MIA), and tight end Logan Thomas (WSH) will impact both the gambling and fantasy landscapes moving forward. This article will address those developments but will start with a look at the AFC South, which has officially wrested the title of worst division away from the NFC East.
Titans lose to 0-3 New York Jets, Atop AFC South at 2-2
Tennessee was missing its receiver duo of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones for this game, but the AFC South leader losing to the Jets, who had scored 20 points in three games before they scored 27 on Sunday, does not bode well for the division moving forward.
The Colts did pick up their first win over the Miami Dolphins behind a strong performance from running back Jonathan Taylor, but the Jaguars allowed the Bengals to come back from a 14-0 halftime deficit and the Texans were throttled 40-0 by the Bills. The Texans have one win over the Jaguars and the Titans one over the Colts, which leaves Tennessee’s victory over a Seattle team that collapsed in the second half as the most impressive of the AFC South’s two out-of-division wins.
It’s a significant fall for a division that put two teams (Indianapolis and Tennessee) in the playoffs last season, but the Colts and Titans have dealt with numerous injuries in the early part of the season that will persist for at least the next few weeks. Expectations were low for both the Jaguars and Texans, and while Houston exceeded expectations with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, they’ve been terrible without him, and Jacksonville underperformed in the first three weeks before showing signs of life against the Bengals.
As crazy as it sounds, the 1-3 Colts and 0-4 Jaguars are still in contention for this division, which is shaping up to send an 8-9 or 7-10 unit to the playoffs. It’s tough to bet this division, but the Buffalo Bills, who play the AFC South in addition to three talent-deficient teams in the AFC East, have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, particularly as A.J. Brown may not be back when the Bills face the Titans in two weeks.
After this week’s matchup against Kansas City, Buffalo has three AFC South matchups and five AFC East matchups remaining, and their only formidable opponents are Tampa Bay and Carolina. The road to the over on 12.5 wins, which is priced at +110 at DraftKings, does not look like a difficult one for the Bills.
Quarterback Injuries: Jimmy Garoppolo, Teddy Bridgewater Injured
There are NFL teams that have worse plans at backup quarterback, but San Francisco’s Trey Lance and Denver’s Drew Lock were unable to get wins in their relief appearances on Sunday. Both quarterbacks took over to start the second half, with the 49ers tied 7-7 with the Seahawks and the Broncos trailing 17-7 against the Ravens.
Lance’s performance was the more anticipated of the two but was a dud in many respects. Lance hit receiver Deebo Samuel for a long touchdown pass on a dropped coverage by Seattle but looked uncomfortable processing the passing game. He frequently held the ball too long, which is likely to limit the offense to clearly defined pass concepts against Arizona next week. Lance did make some plays in the designed run game and scramble game with his legs, and head coach Kyle Shannahan set him up with several easy throws in the screen game, but Lance still finished the game with a 50% completion rate. Running back Trey Sermon may be a good fantasy play against Arizona, as he was productive in the Lance-centric run game, but Lance is a very high-risk option and he lowers the expectations for all of San Francisco’s receivers. The line against Arizona shifted from ARI -2.5 to ARI -5.5 between the Cardinals’ win over the Rams and Lance’s debut.
The Drew Lock-led Denver offense managed drives of 22, 13, 5, and 0 yards before Lock led them on a 70-yard drive that ended with an interception in the dwindling moments of the loss to Baltimore. To be fair, the Broncos’ offense did not have much more success with Bridgewater at the helm, but they did manage a touchdown drive.
Denver will now make a trip to Pittsburgh to face quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had an abysmal performance after his early touchdown pass against Green Bay. This never profiled as a high-scoring affair and bettors are more down on it after Bridgewater’s injury, which is reflected in the current DraftKings total of 40 for the over/under. Both defensive units will be looking to score in this game to swing the tide, which makes them interesting DFS options.
Denver’s skill players should only be slightly downgraded, as Lock may not be a significant drop-off from Bridgewater, but Lock should be avoided as a quarterback option. The line shifted from DEN -2 to PIT -1 after this weekend, a reasonable shift given the heightened likelihood that the Denver quarterback will make a critical error with Lock at the controls instead of Bridgewater.
Chicago running back David Montgomery headlines injury list
Chicago’s David Montgomery was having a terrific performance against the Detroit Lions before a knee injury forced him to exit Sunday’s contest. Early reports are that Montgomery avoided a major injury but will be out for a few weeks, which erases some of the optimism that would have come out of Chicago’s competent offensive performance against Detroit after their Week Three debacle.
Damien Williams was productive as Montgomery’s replacement and will be an interesting short-term option in fantasy football in Montgomery’s absence, though the ceiling on Chicago’s offense limits his projected outlook. Expectations for the Bears offense were already limited entering a stretch against the Raiders, Bucs, and 49ers, and the loss of their best offensive player doesn’t help matters. The Bears are 2-2 now but could find themselves in a hole by the end of October.
Joe Mixon is also week-to-week after a fantastic performance in Cincinnati’s comeback win over Jacksonville. His injury does not appear to be severe but will leave the fantasy world down two bell-cow backs as Mixon and Montgomery work to recover. Samaje Perine is likely to get most of the work carrying the ball, while Chris Evans could see more work as the receiving back, which will make both backs relevant only as low-cost options in DFS. The Bengals offense will miss Mixon’s versatility against Green Bay this week and they will hope receiver Tee Higgins can return to give Burrow enough weapons against a Green Bay secondary that may be without All-Pro caliber cornerback Jaire Alexander, who exited the Pittsburgh game with a shoulder injury.
Will Fuller broke a finger in Miami’s loss to Indianapolis, the latest setback in a disappointing start for the free-agent signee. Fuller missed the first two games due to suspension and a personal matter and now could miss time with the broken finger. The “bright” side is that the Dolphins seem unable to maximize their deep cast of skill players given their issues at quarterback and on the offensive line, so Fuller’s absence should not dramatically impact any expectations, but Miami fans may be unable to see this silver living given their expectations following last year’s reasonably successful season.
Jacksonville’s D.J. Chark was not as fortunate as the other skill players on this list, as the broken ankle he suffered Thursday Night will keep him out for an extended period. Chark’s absence allowed Laviska Shenault to have a breakout performance and Shenault should continue to see more opportunities alongside Marvin Jones Jr., who leads the team in targets. It also opens an opportunity for the newly acquired tight end, Dan Arnold, to carve out a role in this offense. Chark is a talented player, but given how bad Jacksonville was for the first three weeks with him in the mix, their expectations on offense should rise after Thursday’s encouraging performance despite Chark’s injury.
Tight end Logan Thomas exited on the first series in Washington’s win over Atlanta, a game that also saw Washington lose star right guard Brandon Scherff and rookie receiver Dyami Brown to knee injuries. Washington faces New Orleans and their standout defensive line this week, and quarterback Taylor Heinicke is likely to miss Thomas both as a blocker and short-area receiver. Washington has Ricky Seals-Jones at tight end, who could see red-zone targets and might snag a touchdown as a low-cost DFS player but won’t command the targets that Thomas does. These injuries won’t derail Washington’s offense but do result in a slight downgrade to the unit.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions lost their best defensive player, defensive end Romeo Okwara, to an Achilles injury. Okwara’s presence didn’t make the Lions a great defense, but he and his younger brother Julian were both off to strong starts that had made this defensive line one of the team’s few strengths. He will be difficult to replace.
The Seahawks lost defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, to a turf toe injury that will likely keep him out of the Thursday night game against the Rams. Seattle has depth on their defensive front, but Dunlap had generated some pressure against the 49ers and his absence doesn’t help a unit that lacks pass rush talent. Dunlap’s injury is a bonus for Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has a prime opportunity to rebound from his disappointing performance against Seattle’s questionable defense on Thursday.
This article recapped developments around the NFL from Week Four. For more of The Professor’s content, including his DFS Fantasy Football Targets for Week Five, check him out on BeerLife Sports!