NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Ekeler a must-start, Saints defense to squash Giants on Superdome return

By Sports Desk September 29, 2021

The NFL season is heading towards the quarter mark and it's likely desperation time for those fantasy owners who are yet to claim a win.

Thankfully there are several matchups in Week 4 that figure to be very high scoring and deliver huge fantasy performances.

Which players should you be looking at slotting into your lineup for the upcoming slate of games?

Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense that can help propel you to glory this week.

 

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets

Tannehill followed up a 300-yard performance in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks with a three-touchdown display in a win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jets' defense is the strength of their winless team but still ranks 17th in the NFL in yards per pass play allowed with 6.79.

Given the ineptitude of New York's offense, which has committed the second-most turnovers in the NFL (7) through three games, the Jets' defense is likely to eventually wear down and provide Tannehill with plentiful opportunities to enjoy another strong fantasy outing.

Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Chargers have their own problems with run defense, allowing the highest rushing average in the league at 5.8 yards.

However, fourth on that list are the Raiders, who have given up 4.81 yards per carry through three games.

Ekeler's yards after contact per attempt average of 2.5 is sixth among running backs with at least 10 carries and he is again a focal point in the passing game having made 15 receptions over the last two games. 

In a game likely to be dominated by high-powered offenses, Ekeler figures to play a pivotal role and, taking the favourable matchup into account, is a must-start in points per reception fantasy leagues.

Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Lockett has never had a 100-yard game against the 49ers, but caught 12 of 14 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season finale against San Francisco last year.

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where is targeted, on 68.4 per cent of his targets Lockett is second among wide receivers that have been thrown to at least 10 times with a burn yards per target average of 19.29.

Going up against a banged-up San Francisco secondary, Lockett's ability to create consistent separation could prove pivotal in a matchup where Seattle may have to get into a shootout to prevail given the porous nature of the Seahawks' defense.

Tight End: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans

Still the most difficult position in fantasy football to judge, managers can often find themselves in a difficult spot if they do not own one of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller.

However, those lacking a dependable option at tight end may find Knox a worthwhile pickup for this week. He has a touchdown in each of his last two games, hauling in four of his five targets last week against the Washington Football Team, and gets an extremely enticing matchup in Week 4.

The Texans are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends and, with the Bills' offense beginning to fire on all cylinders, Knox could prove an extremely astute addition to fantasy lineups if he is still available on your waiver wire.

Defense: New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants

The Saints' defense had a field day in Week 3, picking off rookie Mac Jones three times, including one interception returned for a touchdown, in a bounce-back win over the New England Patriots.

This week, New Orleans gets to play a game at the Superdome for the first time this season, and the impact of a raucous home crowd will surely only make things more difficult for the Giants' offense and quarterback Daniel Jones.

He has been pressured 53 times already this season, the Giants allowing the 11th-most in the NFL, while the Saints' defense has racked up 56 pressures, putting New Orleans seventh in the league.

While the Giants' signal-caller has only committed one giveaway in 2021, that is a recipe for a disastrous day for a quarterback known for his lack of ball security. Should this go to form, the Saints will make life miserable for a quarterback named Jones for the second successive week.

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  • 49ers star Samuel not too concerned over groin injury 49ers star Samuel not too concerned over groin injury

    San Francisco 49ers star Deebo Samuel is not overly concerned about the severity of a groin injury he suffered in Sunday's victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

    Samuel, whose breakout season has seen him emerge as one of the most valuable offensive players in the NFL, again produced an instrumental display as the Niners claimed their third straight win.

    The versatile wide receiver surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season and had 66 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a thrilling 34-26 victory for San Francisco, which moved the Niners to 6-5.

    Samuel now has 1,209 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns but was emotional coming off the field late in the third quarter after injuring his groin on a carry.

    However, he was soon smiling on the sidelines and was in good spirits speaking to the media after the game, indicating he did not return to the action in order to avoid a more serious injury.

    Asked about the level of concern over his injury, Samuel replied: "Not too much concern. I got an MRI and stuff in the morning. We'll just go see how it goes.

    "My groin got kind of tight once I went to make a move. So I was just like, let's not make anything worse. And that's why I just went down."

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan believed Samuel's initial response was mainly down to frustration, saying: "I think he was just disappointed. We have no idea what it's going to be like.

    "I don't think it's as bad as you worry. We're hoping it's a low strain. He feels that it might be, he felt it, which that's what happened to Deebo on the first play of the game versus Washington last year. I think that's what happened to him in the fourth quarter versus New England.

    "You can tell when he feels something, he stops right away. That's why I knew right away on the first step of that, that something was there, but by the time that he got to the sidelines, you feel like you saved a real bad injury. We'll have to find out tomorrow [Monday]."

    The 49ers moved up to the six seed in the NFC playoff picture with the win, but head coach Kyle Shanahan cited the Niners' coronavirus-enforced late-season move to Arizona last year as an example of the unpredictability that prevents him from looking too far ahead.

    "It's way too early to care. You look at that stuff at the end of the day, but what do we have left six games? Six games," he added. 

    "There's a lot left to be played. Last year at this time we were moving to Arizona, this Tuesday night. So, I'm fortunate for that. Hopefully these next two days nothing changes, but we were there for a long time."

  • Cowboys head coach McCarthy to miss Saints clash due to COVID-19 protocols Cowboys head coach McCarthy to miss Saints clash due to COVID-19 protocols

    The Dallas Cowboys have confirmed head coach Mike McCarthy will not take be able to attend Thursday's game against the New Orleans Saints due to COVID-19 protocols.

    ESPN reported on Monday that McCarthy, whose side have lost three of their last four games following a six-game winning streak, had tested positive for coronavirus.

    The reports stated the Cowboys had suffered an outbreak of COVID-19 within their team camp, with starting right tackle Terence Steele, three offensive coaches and two strength coaches having to withdraw from Thursday's game.

    Dallas subsequently confirmed McCarthy would not take to the field against the Saints due to COVID-19 protocols, though did not state if he had contracted the virus.

    The statement also confirmed the team would conduct its Monday meeting virtually, with McCarthy cleared to carry on working in a remote capacity ahead of the game.

    Dallas (7-4) sit top of the NFC East heading into Week 13, while New Orleans are third in the NFC South with a 5-6 record in 2021.

  • Patriots blocking out the noise after stretching win streak to six Patriots blocking out the noise after stretching win streak to six

    The New England Patriots are ignoring the noise surrounding their six-game winning streak after maintaining that run by brushing aside the Tennessee Titans.

    A dominant second-half showing propelled the Patriots to a 36-13 win over a banged-up Titans team that had previously been the top seed in the AFC.

    It is now the Patriots who have their eye on the number one seed after displacing the Titans, with only the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) above the 8-4 Patriots in that race.

    But head coach Bill Belichick and his players are giving little regard to talk of their playoff positioning with five games still to play in the regular season.

    "Eight games – look, eight games isn't enough to clinch anything or win anything," said Belichick. "We have a long way to go."

    Edge rusher Matthew Judon, who registered another sack to take his tally to 11.5, insists the Patriots are in the same place mentally as they were prior to the winning streak and rejected claims of this being a statement victory for New England.

    "It is the same confidence. We didn't change, we won't waver and it is the same confidence we had when we were 2-4," Judon replied when asked about their confidence level.

    "It doesn't matter if it is a tight game or a blowout, our confidence won't change and we won't waver as a team, as a unit and as players. We come in this building to work every day and we are only going to continue to get better."

    "I think someone asked me that a couple weeks ago and the statement or whatever you want to call it, is we have to come out here and win every single game.

    "One week at a time so if we don't give up any points and no yards, that game is a statement and every week we have to strive for a statement win.

    "If you want to call this a statement or if you just want to call it the next game, we just have to take it week by week and go out there. The statement for us is on to the next week."

    The Patriots face the Buffalo Bills, whom they have leapfrogged for the AFC East lead, in Week 13.

    And wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who scored two touchdowns against the Titans, believes that could be the game to give a clear picture of where the Patriots stand.

    "I don't think there is a ceiling at all. We try to emphasise that. [Matthew] Slater just talked to us after about not getting overzealous about ourselves," said Bourne. "Just being in the moment and playing each game, each week, and thinking about that game.

    "We're onto Buffalo now and that's the focus. That'll be good for us to just certify ourselves."

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