The Week 4 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em fantasy advice for quarterbacks, tight ends, and defense special teams (DSTs) comes with a reminder of the "circle of life" of the NFL. In 1983, John Elway was the first player who refused to play for the team that drafted him. In his case, the Baltimore Colts. Quite a bit has happened to both Elway and Baltimore's football franchise since then. The former went on to play for Denver, led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles, became the president of football operations for the team, and has already helped bring another Lombardi Trophy to the Mile High City (Super Bowl 50, when he also was the GM).
Meanwhile, Baltimore watched helplessly as the Colts snuck out of town early on the morning of March 28, 1984 to go set up shop in Indianapolis. The city suffered without football for years, saw the Ravens come to town, and has since enjoyed two Super Bowl victories (2000, 2012 seasons).
And that brings us to this week's Baltimore at Denver game. I think that's actually a more interesting game than the "highly anticipated" Buccaneers-Patriots game on "Sunday Night Football." The books support my opinion, as the former is a one-point spread and the latter is a touchdown. But don't worry, both games will be touched on below.
A quick review of the criteria for this article. This column focuses on the options in the "QB2/TE2/DST2" range, i.e. those ranked that week from around 13 to 24. That's the tier I will be evaluating. And more often than not, I'll try to give you a lower-ranked option for whom to start and a higher-ranked option for whom to sit when possible. With the rules out of the way, let's get to John Elway and the QB options this week.
START This QB
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys
Remember when everyone thought Darnold would never make it in this league? Again, the circle of life of the NFL. Sometimes you just need to be a little patient. But we see it all the time, including folks currently getting a little too excited about the Cowboys and all the turnovers their defense has generated.
Yet Dallas is still giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including 331 passing yards per game, which is second-most. Meanwhile, Darnold has the Panthers sitting at 3-0 with six total touchdowns already. (He had a total of 11 in 12 games with the Jets last season.) Will Darnold get the Panthers to 4-0? I don't know. But I do know that Darnold is a great bet to throw for more than 250 yards and account for at least two TDs. That makes him quite start-worthy.
SIT This QB
Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens
And now we arrive at the Baltimore-Denver game. Bridgewater has looked like a steal by Elway and the Broncos. Bridgewater has the Broncos 3-0 with four touchdown passes and no interceptions while completing 77 percent of his passes. However, I can't help but note the irony with my prediction that Bridgewater will hit a bump in the road on Sunday courtesy of the team from the same city that Elway spurned decades ago.
Baltimore has already been in a couple of high-scoring games, one of the reasons why the Ravens are in the middle of the pack in the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. This defense is still figuring things out after losing cornerback Marcus Peters to a season-ending injury. But some reinforcements will arrive in time for Sunday's game.
Justin Houston had eight sacks last year. Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike are both younger players who will immediately bolster Baltimore's defensive line. I suspect all three will make life difficult for Teddy B this week. I own Bridgewater in one of my 2-QB leagues, and this feels like a great week to leave him on the bench.
START This TE
Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans
If you checked out Week 4 tight end rankings, it should come as no surprise that Knox gets mentioned here. Nothing has changed, except I think his floor might be a little higher now than it was earlier in the week. Knox is definitely a top-20 fantasy option at T this week.
SIT This TE
Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Meanwhile, you know who won't be in my top 20 TEs this week despite being found in that territory on multiple other outlets? Smith. And to me, it's fairly obvious why I'm going against the apparent grain.
First off, Hunter Henry has out-snapped Smith by nearly a third with both posting similar receptions numbers. But it seems like Henry may slowly be taking over the TE1 mantle on his team. Secondly, while the Buccaneers are dealing with some injuries in the secondary, the team just signed veteran Richard Sherman earlier this week. Even if he doesn't play on Sunday, he's already passing along his experience and insight to his new teammates, so don't be surprised to see that show up on the field right away. Smith is an easy fade for me this week.
START This Defense/Special Teams (DST)
Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals
Yes, it's only three games, but look at Kyler Murray's track record against the Rams. Yes, he had a leg injury in one of those games, but he has four interceptions in his last three games against the NFC West rivals.
Plus, the Rams are tied for seventh in the league with nine sacks and are in the top 10 in scoring defense again. The pressure is helping create turnovers as well, to the tune of an interception per game. I don't think the Rams finish in the top 10 in fantasy scoring this week, but they are still certainly worth starting if you don't have a better option.
SIT This Defense/Special Teams (DST)
Denver Broncos vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Broncos' defense is back in fine form and has been an early revelation for fantasy managers, but the ride could come to an abrupt stop this weekend. On paper, this matchup against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' fourth-ranked total offense seems risky. But Jackson's back issue must be taken into consideration, especially if he ends up sitting this one out. So it really comes down to how risk-averse are you when it comes to filling your DST spot? Don't forget that this game is in the late Sunday afternoon window.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.