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Fantasy Football: Week 4 Tight End Matchup Report

Here’s all you need to know about the fantasy tight end landscape last week: Marcedes Lewis was fantasy’s leading scorer among tight ends with 24.2 fantasy points in Week 3. That might not sound so strange until you consider that Lewis had more fantasy points in Week 3 than he had in either of the past two seasons. Lewis was joined as a TE1 in Week 3 by such obvious names as Ryan Griffin, Vernon Davis, Luke Willson, and Lance Kendricks. Oh, and Jason Witten and Travis Kelce, top-3 tight ends through the first two weeks of 2017, scored less than half a point combined. It was an interesting week, indeed. As many fantasy owners try to shake off Week 3, let’s look ahead to Week 4 and see which matchups we can attempt to exploit or avoid.

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago BearsMartellus Bennett has been a disappointment to fantasy owners early on in 2017. He has not yet exceeded 50 yards in a game this season and has also not reached the end zone. In fact, the aforementioned Lance Kendricks leads the Green Bay Packers in fantasy points among tight ends through three weeks. However, I expect all of those things to change on Thursday night against the Chicago Bears. The Bears have given up 194 receiving yards to tight ends thus far this season, third-most in the NFL. Despite the slow start, Bennett is still an important part of Green Bay’s offense. He’s already been targeted a healthy 21 times, and his production will surely improve as he and quarterback Aaron Rodgers continue to develop their chemistry. I expect Bennett to get off the schneid in Week 4 and get into the end zone against his former team.

Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders vs. Denver BroncosJared Cook finished Week 3 as the overall TE7 by virtue of his 43 yards and a touchdown in Sunday night’s debacle at Washington. Cook now faces a Denver Broncos defense that has struggled against the tight end recently. Over their last two games, Denver has allowed 17 receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns to opposing tight ends. With Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Jr. at cornerback to cover wideouts, and with Denver’s defense allowing a league-best 2.6 yards per run, offenses have decided to target tight ends with great frequency against the Broncos. I believe that Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders will follow suit. Cook has been targeted at least five times in each game this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him approach double-digit targets in this matchup. That type of potential workload makes Cook an extremely enticing Week 4 tight end option.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Giants – Cameron Brate caught all four of his targets for 33 yards and a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s Week 3 loss to Minnesota. After finishing 2016 as the overall TE6, Brate has seen only seven targets through two games, splitting reps with first-round pick O.J. Howard. However, Brate now takes on a Giants squad that has allowed a tight end to catch a touchdown pass in every game this season. New York tends to funnel passing attacks towards tight ends due in large part to the prowess of cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins will have his hands full with Buccaneers’ receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, but quarterback Jameis Winston may look for Brate a little more than usual this week. I believe Brate is the Buccaneers’ tight end you want in this matchup, as Howard frequently lines up as a blocker. I think Brate will get into the end zone and reach double-digit fantasy points for the first time this season.

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams – Jason Witten still sits as the overall TE3 through the first three weeks of the season, despite his one-catch, three-yard performance in Week 3. Witten faltered in a difficult matchup in Week 3, and I see another tough test for him in Week 4. The Los Angeles Rams currently rank eleventh against tight ends in fantasy points, having allowed just 111 receiving yards to tight ends on the young season. Perhaps more important in this particular matchup, however, is the Rams’ struggles defensively against the run. The Rams have given up an NFL-high 399 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs. Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott looked more like his normal self during a bounce-back game in Week 3, and I expect Dallas to feed Elliott the ball early and often on Sunday. As Dallas is favored by roughly a touchdown, I don’t foresee this being a game in which they will need to throw the football very often. I would not count on Witten getting more than four or five fantasy points this week.

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins at Kansas City ChiefsJordan Reed missed Washington’s Week 3 tilt against the Oakland Raiders. Washington now travels to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs. Kansas City has usually been very tough against tight ends, and this season they have continued that trend. They held Rob Gronkowski to just 33 yards in Week 1, and the Los Angeles Chargers’ duo of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry to just 30 yards last week. In addition to the difficult matchup, Reed’s health is a huge question mark as well. Reed is currently dealing with an assortment of injuries. He has a broken toe that he suffered in training camp, in addition to more recent chest and shoulder ailments. Reed is currently listed as day-to-day, but he’s no sure bet to play. Further complicating matters is that this game will be played on Monday night. Owners of Reed will likely have to make the decision on whether or not to play him without knowing his status. Even if Reed suits up in Week 4, I don’t see him as a trustworthy option this week.

Evan Engram, New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Evan Engram has been a bright spot in a New York Giants offense that has sputtered at the start of the 2017 season. He has at least four receptions and 40 yards in each of his first three NFL games. He has been a model of consistency in an otherwise inconsistent offense. This week he and the Giants head to Tampa Bay to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has played only two games so far this season, but they’ve been very stingy against tight ends to this point. They’ve allowed tight ends to account for only seven catches and 46 yards, including holding the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph to just four yards last week. After seeing the way Minnesota torched the Buccaneers’ secondary last week behind Case Keenum of all people, I look for the Giants to challenge Tampa Bay vertically this week. Engram is still an ancillary piece of the offense, and I don’t feel he will warrant a starting position this week.

Ben Watson, Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh SteelersBen Watson scored 7.2 fantasy points in Baltimore’s Week 3 loss to Jacksonville. Watson’s 7.2 points tied for twelfth-best among tight ends last week, but it was not exactly an awe-inspiring performance by any means. He had just 12 yards but salvaged his day with a garbage-time touchdown. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was dreadful, and the entire Ravens offense looked completely disjointed and uninterested in London. Perhaps being back at home will provide a boost to Baltimore’s offense, but I can’t trust any Raven player in fantasy lineups after seeing that performance. Regarding the matchup itself, Pittsburgh ranks in the top-10 in the NFL in fewest yards allowed to tight ends. This should be a tightly-contested affair, and it’s hard to trust Watson as anything more than a low percentage dart throw. Ben Watson does not need to be in fantasy lineups in Week 4.

Ryan Griffin, Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans – Ryan Griffin emerged from Houston’s Week 3 loss to New England with 61 receiving yards and a touchdown. This was Griffin’s first start alongside rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, and the two appeared to be in sync. Griffin will have ample opportunity to continue to establish that rapport with Watson, as fellow tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is on injured reserve. Even with Fiedorowicz in the fold last season, Griffin quietly amassed 50 receptions. Griffin will now face the Tennessee Titans in Week 4. Tennessee has already allowed three tight ends to exceed 50 receiving yards this season, including being gashed for 125 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 3 by the Seattle Seahawks’ combination of Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson. I believe Ryan Griffin will prove that last week’s output was no fluke and score double-digit fantasy points for a second consecutive week.

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