The NFL and the regular referees have struck a deal. The officials we have loved to hate since we started watching the game when we were little will be retaking the field tonight for the Ravens-Browns game. After this weekend's debacles, culminating in the controversial finish in the Seattle-Green Bay game, most people around the league agreed that this had to happen.
On the fantasy side, I look for one major difference with the regular refs return. Expect the traditional dominant passing games such as the Saints and Packers to return to the top of the totem pole as the game will once again be called to help offenses move the ball and denying defenses the opportunity to be physical with receivers downfield, which should open up a lot of passing games and vastly decrease the odd number of interceptions we have seen out of the game's elite quarterbacks.
But that's all I have to say about that. We have all heard enough about the referees, let's focus on the game... The fantasy game that is.
Here are my LIKES and DISLIKES as we head into week 4.
Robert Griffin III
I'll admit, not the best matchup. Tampa Bay's defense has given up the ninth fewest points to passers in the young season, including stifling Tony Romo last week, but I don't see the Bucs slowing down Griffin. RG3 has scored 24, 31, and 24 points respectively in Yahoo standard scoring leagues over his first three weeks, good for the top spot among quarterbacks. His role in the running game is only increasing. Griffin rushed 12 times for 85 yards and a score last week. With the possible return of his top target Pierre Garçon and the Redskins' defensive struggles, Griffin is bound to be in another shootout. He is comfortably in my top five this week and unless you have Brees, Brady, Rodgers and possibly Ryan on your squad, start the rookie.
Projection: 25 points
The Denver offense has shown glimpses of greatness in the second half of each of its three contests this season and it has been largely due to the field general. Manning has thrown for 438 yards and 4 touchdowns in his second half work, a far cry from his horrid first half performances. Granted, a lot of those numbers are coming as theBroncos have been scrambling to get back into games but it can also be attributed to an increased comfort level with his receivers as the game goes on. I have no doubts about his arm, he is fine. Against Oakland, I don't foresee any early struggles. Look for Denver to jump on the Raiders, who have given up the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year. Also, with Willis McGahee banged up, Denver could place less onus on the run game and I look for Peyton to deliver with some short yardage touchdowns as Denver may be lacking a healthy short-yardage back.
Projection: 22 points
Don't look now, but the Bengals' quarterback is looking more and more like a top ten fantasy option. His last two performances (23 and 25 points) were not against top-tier competition (Cleveland and Washington, respectively), but Dalton has looked impressive and is creating a nice repoire with his targets. Tight end Jermaine Gresham is a red-zone threat and speedster Andrew Hawkins is eating up yards between the twenties to compliment superstar AJ Green. Look for Cincinnati to go to the air early and often as Dalton continues his roll against the surprisingly game Jaguars.
Projection: 18 points
Christian Ponder has yet to throw an interception this year for the surprise Vikings. Couple that with his matchup against Detroit, who gave up 44 points to a tame Titans' offense a week ago, and he becomes playable. In the same game, Shaun Hill is worth a start in deep leagues if Matthew Stafford is unable to go for the Lions. While Minnesota's defense was stout against San Francisco, its secondary is young and the Viking corners made Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck look like MVP candidates in the first two weeks.
The Cowboys offense has issues. The Bears defense has given up the least amount of points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Chicago will bring pressure to the Cowboys' signal caller and I expect a few turnovers out of Romo.
Projection: 8 points
Dallas' pass defense is nearly as good as Chicago's and Cutler's struggles have been far worse than Romo's. Cutler faced what appeared to be decent matchups in recent weeks and has been pedestrian at best. He should not be considered a starting option at this point in one-quarterback leagues.
Projection: 6 points
The Giants' running back was admirable filling in for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw last week, carrying the ball for 113 and a score against Carolina. Brown has shown good vision and power and I don't expect him to lose many opportunities this week when the thus far ineffective Bradshaw returns to the lineup. Coughlin said Bradshaw will start but Brown has "earned a role". That role will be a big one. The Giants will to continue running the ball effectively against Philadelphia Sunday night and they will look for Brown to take the bulk of the carries. I have Brown in my top 15.
Projection: 15 points
Tate struggled last week, rushing for only 26 yards with a fumble on eight carries. It's important to remember that though he is a talented runner, Tate is behind arguably the best back in football and most of his work will come when the game is not on the line. I expect there to be a fair amount of garbage time this week as the Texans take on a Titans' defense that has given up the fourth most points to RBs this season. Consider Tate a solid #2 back or a high flex this week as he should run all over Tennessee late.
Projection: 16 points
Many speculated Turner's legs had run out of juice following his 32 yard performance week one. He has bounced back since, scoring 10 and 14 points in his last two games. Turner averaged 5.2 yards per carry Sunday against San Diego and received a strong endorsement from head coach Mike Smith Monday. Couple that with the fact that the Panthers have been abysmal against the run and he could be in line for another good showing. With Atlanta's high-powered offense, at the very least the goal line opportunities should be there all season for "the burner".
Projection: 15 points
Jacquizz Rodgers continues to have a solid role in the Atlanta offense, racking up 10 carries behind Turner last Sunday and recording a receiving touchdown. There should be enough to go around in the Falcon run game against Carolina's struggling defense.Ryan Williams was effective against Philadelphia for the Cardinals following Beanie Wells' departure with a toe injury. Williams could be a focal point against Miami this week, making him a solid flex option at worst.
Michael Bush / Matt Forte
This is not a knock against Bush or Forte, who have been nothing less than solid when given opportunities. I just do not see how Chicago is going to move the ball against the Cowboys' defense. Cutler is not going to move them down the field and I do not think the Bears' offensive line will be able to create the holes necessary to make the running game effective.
*Projection is based on Forte playing Monday, which coach Lovie Smith is hopeful for.
Forte Projection: 7 points
Bush Projection: 4 points
Bush said he expects to play Sunday against Arizona. I am not buying that he will be 100 percent after injuring his knee last week against the Jets. He faces the task of running against a Cardinals' defense that has relinquished the fifth least amount of fantasy points to RBs this season. I think Miami struggles as a whole and Bush falls casualty to a top-three defense.
Projection: 7 points
If anyone was planning on starting Johnson sheerly on the fact that you wasted a high pick on the Titans' back, don't. Cut your losses, at least this week. Johnson has been a non-factor, only recording 24 yards on a day his team put up 44 points in its overtime win over Detroit is deflating. This week Johnson takes on the vaunted Texans' defense and it won't be pretty.
Projection: 3 points
Decker had been getting target numbers from Peyton Manning comparable to what his teammate Demaryius Thomas was getting in the first few weeks, but the production was not there. That changed in week three against the Texans. Decker was thrown to 11 times and reeled in eight balls for 136 yards. He appeared to establish a sense of trust between himself and Manning that I expect to continue against a Raider secondary that was torched by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense last week.
Projection: 13 points
Moore seems to be one of Saints' quarterback Drew Brees' favorite targets, which is a good thing for Moore's fantasy owners. He recorded his second double digit fantasy performance of the year against Kansas City, pulling in four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. I expect the Saints to trail throughout Sunday's matchup with Green Bay, so look for Brees to be forced to throw a lot. Expect Moore to sneak by the Packers' secondary for a score at some point.
Projection: 14 points
I am not in love with Josh Freeman or the Tampa's passing game. Consistency will be an issue all season for them, but the matchup is good here. The Redskins' secondary has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers through three weeks and you know Freeman will look to get Jackson the ball.
Projections: 20 points
Denarius Moore scored last week for Oakland and has a surprisingly good matchup this week against an underachieving Denver secondary. Look for Palmer to find Moore a lot with Heyward-Bey out and the Raiders likely having to play in catch-up mode. Detroit's Titus Young is coming off of a week with deceivingly good numbers following his "hail mary" catch to end regulation against the Titans. He should be able to find some holes in the Vikings' Tampa 2 defense, especially with a lot of attention placed on Calvin Johnson. This could be the week Titus Young legitimately breaks out.
Refer to Jay Cutler and Michael Bush. If it has not been made clear yet, I do not like Chicago's offense Monday night.
Projection: 6 points
He has had a few good weeks and appears to have a strong connection with Titans' quarterback Jake Locker, but the Texans have given up the third fewest points to wideouts so far and Washington is not the type of talent that can be trusted to buck the trend.
Projection: 4 points
He has scored in all three games and recorded three double digit fantasy performances. The Falcon tight end that many labeled as "too old" before the season has proven he is still a top-five tight end. Start him if you got him.
Projection: 13 points
Has been disappointing this year, but so has the entire Packer offense. The Saints' defense should be just the cure for their troubles. Rodgers has targeted Finley often and I don't expect that to change. Look for Green Bay to get on track and explode, with Finley taking full advantage.
Projection: 17 points
Kyle Rudolph scored twice for the Vikings last week. Christian Ponder doesn't have many options around the goal line so Rudolph should be a consistent threat to get into the end zone. He is still available in 47% of Yahoo leagues, so anyone not sold on their tight end should consider plugging Rudolph into the lineup.
Nice showing against the Bengals as Davis had seven grabs for 90 yards. But the possible return of Garçon to the Skins' offense likely means fewer targets for Davis and Tampa does a nice job covering the tight end.
Projection: 5 points
The Cardinals' defense is the second-highest scoring squad in Yahoo standard scoring and is still available in 25% of leagues. Arizona plays the rookie Tannehill this week and a banged up Reggie Bush. If the red birds are out there in your league, pick them up!
Projection: 16 points
Refer to Jay Cutler. The Cowboys are a good play this week.
Projection: 15 points
New York Jets
The Jets' defense has been solid again this year, but I don't like the matchup. San Francisco is coming off of a disappointing game against Minnesota and they will be ready for this one. Look for a heavy dose of Frank Gore and few, if any, mistakes from Alex Smith.
Projection: 8 points
I would like to emphasize that these are nothing more than educated guesses. I have had success in my fantasy career but I have made just as many mistakes in this game as the next guy has. It is important to listen to others and gather information, but trust your gut. As always, thanks for reading.
Any additional fantasy inquiries can be sent to Frederick on Twitter at @Spacejace27