Kickoff: Sunday, October 1st, 1:00 PM ET
Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville Tennessee
Betting Odds: TEN +2.5, 41 total via PFF.com
Writer: Justin Mello (@JustinMelloNE on Twitter)
Joe Burrow (Start QB2)
It has been a pretty rough start for Joe Burrow thus far this season. The calf injury is seemingly making him uncomfortable and unconfident. An unimpressive 563 passing yards and a 2:2 touchdown touchdown-to-interception ratio have left those with Burrow disappointed through three weeks. The Titans have allowed the tenth most points to the quarterback position this year, but they also have a top-ten pass rush according to PFF which could cause major issues for the hobbled and immobile Burrow. There aren’t enough quality QBs to remove Burrow from the QB2 conversation, but it may be best to take a wait-and-see approach with his injury before feeling confident with him as your QB1 again.
Joe Mixon (Start, RB2), Trayveon Williams (Sit)
There aren’t too many workhorse running backs left in the NFL, but Joe Mixon is pretty close. He is one of only ten backs who has played over 70% of his team’s offensive snaps. Even with that snap share, he only has 238 all-purpose yards through three games as the offense has struggled to move the ball. The Titans have a stout run defense which ranks as the 7th best per PFF. They also have allowed the 6th-fewest points to RBs this season. The matchup pushes Mixon slightly outside of RB1 territory, but he is still a great RB2 option given his volume and the reliance his offense has on him with a quarterback who is playing hurt.
Back-up Trayveon Williams is only playing 22.4% of snaps and has just five touches on the year. He should never be started as long as Mixon is healthy.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Ja’Marr Chase (Start, WR1), Tee Higgins (Start, WR3), Tyler Boyd (Start, FLEX), Irv Smith Jr. (Sit)
Third-year receiver Ja’Marr Chase finally put together an elite day of production in Week 3 where he hauled in 12 receptions for 141 yards. He became the centerpiece of the Bengals’ offense in their first win of the season, and Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan would be wise to force-feed him again in Week 4. The Titans have allowed the 4th most fantasy points to wide receivers this season which makes this an especially juicy spot for Chase. On the contrary, first-year Titan Sean Murphy-Bunting has operated as Tennessee’s top corner and has earned PFF’s seventh-highest coverage grade of all cornerbacks. The good news is that he has played about 98% of his snaps on the outside, and Chase was utilized heavily out of the slot in Week 3 to create mismatches on short routes where Burrow could get the ball out of his hands quickly. The Titans slot corner, Roger McCreary, has a solid but less impressive rank of 25th overall in coverage. Expect Chase to operate out of the slot frequently on Sunday and be peppered with quick and easy throws. You should feel comfortable with him as your WR1.
Even with the Bengals picking up their first win and Chase enjoying a nice statistical outing, Tee Higgins had a day to forget which was filled with ugly drops. Despite the poor performance, it is important to not overreact and remember that Higgins is an incredible talent who should bounce back. It just might not be this week though. With Burrow still nursing his calf injury and Higgins likely lining up across from Murphy-Bunting for much of the afternoon, I wouldn’t count on a huge day from the fourth-year receiver. He still has the talent and the upside to be a boom or bust WR3 though.
Tyler Boyd is the third of the Bengals receivers but still plays over 80% of snaps and has a 17% target share. If Boyd is heavily used out of the slot, where he’s played 89% of his snaps, as a safety valve, he could return value as a decent FLEX in Week 4.
As for Irv. Smith Jr. who is coming off a hamstring injury and is only averaging 2.5 receptions per game, he can remain on the bench against a Titans defense which has allowed the 11th fewest points to tight ends this season.
Ryan Tannehill (Sit)
For the second time in three weeks, Ryan Tannehill had a miserable performance on Sunday. The Tennessee offense has really struggled to move the ball, and Tannehill has only eclipsed 5 fantasy points once this season. The Bengals offer a decent matchup for the former Aggie as they have allowed the 12th most fantasy points to QBs this season, but I don’t think it matters. Tannehill is completing under 60% of his passes and only has 548 yards and one passing touchdown through three games. He also has thrown three interceptions. He cannot be trusted in your lineup.
Derrick Henry (Start, RB2), Tyjae Spears (Sit)
There are some legitimate reasons for concern with Derrick Henry. He has been out-snapped by rookie Tyjae Spears twice in the first three weeks of the season. Despite his typical workhorse treatment, Henry has only played 53.4% of offensive snaps. This can largely be attributed to the Titans playing from behind and needing better pass-catching options on the field for much of the game. After all, the one game that the Titans won was the one where Henry got the bulk of the work and churned out RB1 production. The usage isn’t the only issue though.
Henry is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and hasn’t looked as explosive as he used to. These concerns do limit his RB1 upside going forward, but it is important to remember that he was playing a top-10 run defense (per PFF) in each of his two poor performances this year. Cincinnati is middle of the pack against the run which could allow for a bounce-back week for Henry if the Titans don’t fall behind early. He is a high-end RB2. His counterpart, Spears, has been on the field more than anticipated, but he is only averaging just over 7 touches per game and hasn’t topped 7.5 fantasy points yet. He can safely remain on the bench.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
DeAndre Hopkins (Start, WR3), Treylon Burks (Sit), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (Sit), Chigoziem Okonkwo (Start, TE2)
Newly acquired receiver DeAndre Hopkins has not had the elite start that many had hoped for. The offense as a whole has struggled to move the ball and stay on the field which has made it difficult for anyone to produce fantasy points. Perhaps the most concerning and surprising statistic for Hopkins is his snap share. He has been out-snapped by both Treylon Burks and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in all three contests so far. The saving grace is his targets per route run. He is being targeted on 28% of his routes compared to Burks at 17% and Westbrook-Ikhine at 12%. Given his target share, Hopkins can still be considered the top receiver on this putrid offense for what it’s worth.
The matchup in Week 4 is encouraging given that Chidobe Awuzie is PFF’s highest-ranked Bengals cornerback (min. 20 snaps) at 39th overall out of 117. In other words, the Bengals don’t have anyone who can lock up Hopkins for 60 minutes of play. This makes Hopkins a WR3 with limited upside in the Titans’ offense.
Even in a favorable matchup, neither Burks nor Westbrook-Ikhine are involved enough in the offense to have real fantasy appeal. Both are averaging under three receptions per game despite seeing the field quite a bit. They should remain benched.
Their tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo only has 7 receptions for 42 scoreless yards this year which has made him feel invisible at times. The Bengals have allowed the 6th most points to the tight end position though, so Okonkwo could be played as a low-end TE2 with upside if you’re in a pinch.