Week Four of the Battle of the Brands is upon us, and we've decided to present the preview with a good news-bad news theme. Zach Warren of the sports analytics firm numberFire is joining us to select each team's flex starter. Be sure to check out numberFire's all-new Player Comparison Widget, which you can use to determine the best player to start on your fantasy team. And away we go...
Game 1: Team adidas (2-1) vs. Team Nike (1-2)
Good news: A favorable matchup for Robert Griffin III is good news for his teammate Leonard Hankerson, who gets his first start in the Battle of the Brands season.
Bad news: Injuries will keep RBs C.J. Spiller and Reggie Bush out of action in Week Four.
- QB: Robert Griffin III (@ TB)
- WR: Titus Young (vs. MIN)
- WR: Leonard Hankerson (@ TB)
- RB: DeMarco Murray (vs. CHI)
- RB: Frank Gore (@ NYJ)
- TE: Jimmy Graham (@ GB)
- Flex: Kendall Wright or Kyle Rudolph?
numberFire: Since Kenny Britt returned to the lineup, Wright has gotten more looks, including a season-high 11 targets last week. But until Tennessee runs him on deeper routes (his 7.3 yards per catch is 49th among the top 50 players in targets), give me the tight end. At least 25 percent of starting tight ends have reached double-digit fantasy points each week this season, and Rudolph hasn't scored lower than six points. There's less risk with him.
Selection: Kyle Rudolph (@ DET)
Good news: Alex Smith has been steady for Team Nike, and bringing Matt Ryan into the starting lineup should provide an uptick in points compared to the conservative Smith.
Bad news: Team Nike's bench is too deep to effectively manage. Deciding who to start and sit and projecting who will have the best week is close to impossible, as evidenced by the points left on the bench in the early going this season.
- QB: Matt Ryan (vs. CAR)
- WR: Calvin Johnson (vs. MIN)
- WR: Larry Fitzgerald (vs. MIA)
- RB: Ray Rice (vs. CLE)
- RB: LeSean McCoy (vs. NYG)
- TE: Jermichael Finley (vs. NO)
- Flex: Marshawn Lynch or Adrian Peterson?
numberFire: Despite facing three defenses ranked in the top half of the league, Lynch is 11th among running backs with 36 fantasy points so far this season. The Rams have been decent defensively—numberFire has them at No. 13—but have given up at least eight fantasy points to some not-so-scary running backs (Kevin Smith, Alfred Morris and Michael Bush). The Lions are much weaker in the secondary than the front seven, which should result in a bigger day for Vikings QB Christian Ponder as opposed to AP.
Selection: Marshawn Lynch (@ STL)
Game 2: Team Reebok (1-2) vs. Team Under Armour (2-1)
Good news: Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Jamaal Charles appear to be returning to form after leading Team Reebok to its first win of the season last week.
Bad news: The flex options are limited for Team Reebok this week, as WRs Antonio Brown and Reggie Wayne are on their bye week.
- QB: Peyton Manning (vs. OAK)
- WR: Roddy White (vs. CAR)
- WR: Brandon Marshall (@ DAL)
- RB: Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. CIN)
- RB: Jamaal Charles (vs. SD)
- TE: Antonio Gates (@ KC)
- Flex: Ahmad Bradshaw or Santonio Holmes?
numberFire: How much do you trust Bradshaw's health? If he plays, numberFire has him as the No. 23 RB, playing in a newly minted timeshare with Andre Brown. Add that to the fact that the Eagles aren't a great matchup for any opposing running back (they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher yet this season), and you can do better than Bradshaw. The chances of Holmes putting up 147 yards again are slim, but his 33 targets are in the top ten of all receivers. He'll get his chances.
Selection: Santonio Holmes (vs. SF)
Team Under Armour
Good news: Team Under Armour is 2-1 despite Cam Newton's early-season struggles. That, and Tom Brady is still on the bench.
Bad news: Team UA may have the best back in football in Arian Foster, but production has been sorely lacking from its No. 2 RB position.
- QB: Cam Newton (@ ATL)
- WR: Julio Jones (vs. CAR)
- WR: Steve Smith (@ ATL)
- RB: Arian Foster (vs. TEN)
- RB: Stevan Ridley (@ BUF)
- TE: Vernon Davis (@ NYJ)
- Flex: Torrey Smith or Miles Austin?
numberFire: Smith's breakout game Sunday night against New England is the feel-good story of the season. But can he sustain it? Joe Flacco has been extremely generous spreading the ball around, but that does not help Smith; his 10 targets in Week Three were more than he saw the first two weeks combined. And although Cleveland isn't the best defense in the world, their secondary has not allowed a single 100-yard receiver (and only one over 80 yards) all season. Austin does not have the best matchup against Chicago, but he's consistently put up at least 10 points per week.
Selection: Miles Austin (vs. CHI)
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