On Wednesday, I sent the following text to a bunch of my ESPN friends and colleagues. This is what it said:
Doing a goofy thing for my column tomorrow where I am asking various colleagues to ask me one question -- a self-made interview, if you will -- and I will answer them in my column with attribution.
So, if you have a moment, can you ask me one question? Ask anything you want ... about me, about fantasy, about you, about literally anything you might be slightly curious about me or anything else. I'll print under your name and answer. That cool?
I got so many great questions, I am actually saving some of them to do this again. But here are some of the unedited questions I got back -- and my responses:
Tim Hasselbeck (NFL analyst, Fantasy Football Now co-host): I'm sure you get a ton of people telling you that you have the greatest job in the world, being able to talk fantasy all of the time. What is the best part and worst part of the "job"? Also, are you worried about losing to me in Red Zone this year?
TMR: As two-time champ of our Fantasy Football Now (Sundays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET on ESPN2) Red Zone competition, I'm good for now, though you are off to a hot start. Talk to me midseason. With the understanding these are all very high-class problems, the "worst" parts of my job: The schedule is demanding. I work seven days a week; being in the public eye means you always have to be "on" and answer someone's questions about their team even if you're exhausted, look like crap and just want to grab a late-night taco or use a public restroom at a concert. I love this column, but it's like a 5,000-word term paper due every week. Many facets of social media are also taxing, along with the idea that I am supposed to win every league I'm in or nail every single prediction. I'm human.
The best parts of my job are way too numerous to mention, but here's a quick list: people I've met both at ESPN and because of the job, the best podcast fans anywhere in the world, the absolute blast that is the daily TV show, getting to do things like FF Now on Sunday and then watch football all day with NFL legends, walking the halls of ESPN every day. I mean, hell -- the fact that I actually get paid to talk fantasy football all day. It's stupid how lucky I am.
Adam Schefter (ESPN NFL Insider): How do you handle the inevitable disappointment of not batting 1.000 on each of your starts and sits each week?
TMR: If the process and analysis were good, I'm bummed but can live with it even if the result wasn't what I predicted. Process > Result. But I get mad when I've missed something in the data or film that would have helped me get to a better prediction. But I'm human and always learning. I make more than 200 calls on players a week, so it's impossible to nail them all. So I try to remember that and forgive myself. Also, staying off social media helps. But yeah -- when you have a big miss (and I had a few doozies last week), it sucks.
Matt Barrie (SportsCenter): What was your legitimate reaction when you heard an anchor with the same name was getting hired?
TMR: Honest answer is I was legit upset. I have a whole issue with my name, and I thought ESPN wouldn't hire someone else named, say, Jay Bilas or anyone they cared about. So I thought it was ESPN sending me a message. Then I saw you on air and met you and I was like: Great, he's really good on air. And he's super nice. I can't hate anything about this guy. It was, and remains, super annoying.
Michelle Beadle (NBA Countdown/SportsNation): If you had to remove the "dame" from one of them, whom would it be? Dame Judi Dench OR Dame Helen Mirren. And there is definitely a right answer here.
TMR: It's Judi Dench. Obviously. Have you ever Googled Helen Mirren? She's had a crazy life. No disrespect to Judi Dench, but Helen Mirren is super awesome. By the way, starting a petition now for "Dame Michelle Beadle."
Bill Barnwell (ESPN writer, The Bill Barnwell Show): What is one rule that is standard on another fantasy site that you wish was standard in ESPN leagues?
TMR: Tough one! I actually don't play anywhere else but ESPN. I have in the past, but it's been a number of years since I've played elsewhere, so I'm not sure what else is out there. I've mentioned this before, but a rule I've played with (in a league we kept by hand) was the potential for two wins every week: one head-to-head against your opponent and another for the top five scorers (assuming a 10-team league) in a given week. So every week you either go 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2. That evens out good or bad teams being helped or hurt by scheduling. I am second overall in points in the 12-team internal staff league we have here but 1-2 because of awful scheduling luck. Drives me nuts.
Lisa Kerney, (SportsCenter/FF Now host): What's the most romantic thing you've ever done for your beautiful wife?
TMR: I would probably say my marriage proposal, which was on a beach two years to the day we first met, in the town that we went to on our trip together, but I figured this was a better question for my wife. So here's what Beth said when I asked her:
"When I was eight months pregnant with the twins and I felt just disgusting and needed help even getting off the couch I was so enormous, we were watching TV one night and you put your hand on my belly, turned to me and said, 'I don't think you've ever looked more beautiful than you do right now.'"
Chris Mortensen (ESPN senior NFL analyst): For all the good insight you pass along to fantasy wonks, what is the worst advice you regretted most?
TMR: Michael Vick No. 1 overall in 2011. Not close. He was a first-rounder that year in terms of ADP on all sites, and almost everyone had him as a first-rounder in their ranks, but only I had him No. 1 overall. I'm sure I've made worse calls, but that's the one I'm known for the most. Definitely should have been more tempered in the analysis.
Jemele Hill (The Six): Hey Matthew, long-time reader, first-time writing into the Love/Hate column. I know you've taken your lumps for writing "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles." You have a chance to redeem yourself. What's the one movie that doesn't have a sequel that deserves one? I'll hang up and listen.
TMR: My favorite movie of all time (also my favorite book) is "The Princess Bride." So yeah, give me more of that, please. People say another chapter of Westley and Buttercup is inconceivable, but I do not think it means what they think it means.
Mina Kimes (ESPN The Magazine senior writer): Who's the most surprising person to ever ask you for fantasy advice?
TMR: I've told this story before, but six years ago I got a call. "Hey, we're big fans. Can you come to our draft?" I'm like, hey, I'm flattered, but I don't really do that -- "It's for Jay Z's league."
"What time do you need me?"
So I went, and I've gone for the past six years now. So the idea that Jay Z would ever have any idea who I am, let alone have me at his draft every year? Nuts. So it's him. By far. I mostly just go and hang out at the draft. It's a great group of guys and Jay doesn't need anyone's help, but every once in a while he'll ask my opinion on a player or a potential trade.
Stephania Bell, (Injury analyst, every single show I do): If you sat down to write a letter to your younger self, what advice would you give yourself about navigating through the ups and downs, the successes and the failures, of your life?
TMR: Wow. Great question. I've enjoyed the series The Players Tribune has done with this premise, and I've thought I should do one as a column intro, so my first piece of advice is not to blow a potential intro on one question! You have 18 of them to write every year. When you have a good introduction, grab it! But specific to your question, I would tell my younger self (and maybe my current self) not to take everything so seriously, that everything happens for a reason, that some of the biggest disappointments you will have will ultimately lead to some of the greatest joys, that often many of the issues you will encounter are self-inflicted and to take pause more often than not. Rushing to a response, an action or a reaction is often not the right answer and leads to more complications. Take a beat. You'll figure out what to do in due time. Handle success with grace and realize no journey is taken alone, so give help and credit wherever you can. And finally, don't take crap from anyone. Don't swallow your pride; the people you are doing it for won't help you anyway, and you'll just resent them. Better to stand up for yourself and move on. Oh, and it has a happy ending.
Elle Duncan (SportsCenter): Is a hot dog a sandwich?
TMR: No. It's a hot dog. Category all its own, with its own bun and everything.
Let's get to it. A huge thank-you to everyone who submitted questions. I got way too many to use in one column (I didn't expect such a great response!), so the others will come in a future column. Thanks, as always, to Jacob Nitzberg and Kyle Soppe for the help at various points and a reminder: This is NOT a start/sit column. This is based on general expectations. I don't list "obvious" guys here for that reason. If you want to know how I feel about one guy versus another, always check my ranks. Here we go.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 4
Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Since 2015, Wilson is averaging 20.5 fantasy points per game at home (versus 17.5 on the road). Since 2015, he's averaging 19.8 fantasy points per game from October through the end of the regular season (versus 16.5 in September). So, yeah, in Wilson's Oct. 1 home game against an Indy team that has given up more than 300 yards or multiple touchdown passes in every game this season -- against the likes of Jared Goff, Carson Palmer and DeShone Kizer -- he's a top-three play for me.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: If you can't stomach putting him in your lineup after last week, hey, I get it. But I'm back in. The Eagles' secondary is already really banged up and now it looks like Fletcher Cox won't play either, helping keep the pocket clean for Slingin' Philip Rivers. The Eagles helped resurrect Eli Manning last week and were a contributing stop on the Alex Smith fantasy superstar tour. Rivers is currently sixth in the NFL in pass attempts, so the volume will be there for him to exploit a Philly defense that has allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns during the past 17 NFL weeks.
Deshaun Watson, Texans: Watson impressed the hell out of me last week, almost beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on the road (or, in fact, beating them, depending on your thoughts about Brandin Cooks' final catch). Anyway, there will be some rough spots, but I like the high floor that comes with that skill set (67 yards and a touchdown on the ground in Week 2 and eight rushing attempts last week), so I'll take my chances with him against a Titans defense that has allowed the second-most QB points since the start of 2016 and the fourth-most rushing yards to QBs this season.
Others receiving votes: I thought Andy Dalton looked much better last week in Lambeau than he did during the first two games this season, so Bill Lazor seems to be having a positive effect on the Red Rifle. In Dalton's past four games against the Browns, he's got a 72.5 percent completion rate, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Browns' defense is better than years past, but not enough to scare me away from using Dalton if you need help outside the top 10. ... Speaking of rushing QBs, in the past two games Cincy has allowed opposing QBs to rush nine times for 90 yards. It won't be pretty, but expect another decent fantasy day from DeShone Kizer, who has the third-most rushing attempts and fourth-most rushing yards by a QB this season. ... If you're sensing a theme, you're right. I love me those rushing quarterbacks, which is why Tyrod Taylor is a legit option for me this week in what should be a high-scoring game in Atlanta. The Falcons are giving up more than 9 yards a scramble.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 4
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: 13.5. That is the number of fantasy points per game you've been able to expect from Big Ben when he's on the road since 2015. You want to know who averages more than 13.5 points per game since 2015 (all games, not just road ones)? Jay Cutler. And Ryan Fitzpatrick. And Josh McCown. In his nine career games at the Ravens, Roethlisberger has never thrown for 300 yards, has 8 TDs against 12 INTs, and the Steelers have reached 20 points in only one of those games. Oh, and in his past three games at Baltimore? Just one touchdown and four interceptions. I expect the Ravens to show up after being humiliated by the Jaguars last week, keeping Ben outside my top 15.
Carson Wentz, Eagles: I'm a Wentz believer, but I don't love this spot. Since the beginning of last season, the Chargers have pressured the quarterback on 31 percent of dropbacks (third-highest rate) and Wentz has yet to display comfort when feeling the heat. For his career, he has completed just 44.4 percent of passes against pressure while throwing for just two touchdowns with six picks (the second-worst TD-to-INT rate among qualified QBs who have made at least 16 starts in that stretch). Losing Darren Sproles doesn't help this passing game, either. I love Wentz for the season, but this week he's a low-end QB2 for me.
Running backs I love in Week 4
Joe Mixon, Bengals: It's only one week, but promoting Bill Lazor to offensive coordinator seems to have this offense moving in the right direction, and by right direction I mean giving the rock to Mixon. He accounted for 61.8 percent of the running back touches last week (up from 42 percent the first two weeks) and should be in for significant work against a Browns team that just made Frank Gore look 25. A breakout game is coming for Mixon and I say it's this week. Last chance to buy low.
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers: With Greg Olsen out and Kelvin Benjamin either out or likely at less than 100 percent, expect the Panthers to try to get the ball in the hands of their best remaining offensive weapon. It's not shocking considering his pass-catching ability, but McCaffrey accounts for 78.3 percent of the Panthers' RB points when Carolina is trailing. Which, for the record, I believe they will be on the road against the Patriots. Even without taking game flow into account, only the Saints have given up more receiving yards to opposing running backs than the Pats this season and no team has allowed more receiving touchdowns to RBs than the Patriots. They also allow the second-most yards per carry this season. McCaffrey is a top-15 play for me.
Tarik Cohen, Bears: The rookie is averaging a crazy 4.6 yards per carry before contact this season, second only to my fantasy ride or die, Kareem Hunt. This is important because the Packers allow the sixth-most yards before contact per carry in the NFL. Cohen is getting work even when Jordan Howard is right (16 touches last week), and he also leads all running backs in targets and receptions, meaning he's in there if the Bears are winning or getting blown out. A top-20 PPR play for me this week.
Others receiving votes: James White disappointed in Week 3, but overall the usage has been solid. The Panthers are tied for the fourth-most receptions allowed to opposing running backs, so I like White as a flex this week. ... With Adrian Peterson still stewing on the sidelines and the Saints yet to really unleash Alvin Kamara (just three total carries the past two weeks), I like Mark Ingram's chances to get into the end zone this week against a Dolphins team that has given up a rushing touchdown in both games this season. ... The Steelers have allowed 23 receptions to opposing running backs, third most in the league, and have given up 152 yards after the catch to RBs as well, sixth most in the NFL. On a Ravens team that is still looking for weapons, I'm back on Javorius Allen this week as a flex, despite the disaster that was London last week.
Running backs I hate in Week 4
Marshawn Lynch, Raiders: I still believe in Lynch long term, but the triumphant return to fantasy glory is unlikely to be this week. The Broncos' corners are so good they can stack the box whenever they want and despite facing Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy, Denver has allowed opposing RBs just 2.45 yards per carry, fewest in the league, and no rushing TDs. They've also given up just the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing RBs this season. I can't imagine starting him with any sort of confidence this week.
Lamar Miller, Texans: Every week, Miller's touches and snap percentage reach a new season low and D'Onta Foreman continues to impress in limited action. Right now volume is the only thing Miller has going for him, as his 3.6 yards per carry and lack of red zone usage are uninspiring. Facing a Titans teams that is a top-seven unit in rushing yards, yards per rush and rushing touchdowns since the beginning of last season and is giving up just 3.7 yards a carry (and 92 total rushing yards per game) this season, it seems unlikely Miller breaks out this week. He's merely a low-end RB2/flex play for me.
Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, Lions: OK, so Le'Veon Bell rushed for 87 yards on 27 carries against Minnesota in Week 2. All other RBs have combined for 84 yards on 29 carries against the Vikings this season. The longest rush the Vikings have allowed this season is 11 yards. This duo is splitting touches and neither guy is scoring unless it's on a longer play with some broken tackles, so this does not look like a good spot for either player against a Vikings squad that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Neither guy should start for you in a 10-team league.
Wide receivers I love in Week 4
Golden Tate, Lions: With Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes expected to spend most of his time on Marvin Jones, Tate should have another nice day out of the slot. The Vikings are tied for allowing the most receptions, receiving yards and fantasy points to opposing WRs this season. Tate's a solid WR2 this week.
DeVante Parker, Dolphins: You had me at Saints. Their secondary is getting better, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore's return helps, but still. New Orleans has allowed the second most receptions and receiving yards and tied for the most receiving touchdowns allowed on passes thrown 15-plus yards downfield this season. Parker and Kenny Stills, for that matter, each have nine targets on deep passes this season, tied for sixth most in the league despite playing one fewer game than 30 other teams.
Rishard Matthews, Titans: With fellow receiver Corey Davis out in Week 3, Matthews had a 31.3 percent target share on his way to a 20.7-point day. Davis will sit out this weekend, too, so I'm firing Matthews up once again. In two games against Houston last season, Matthews had 11 catches, 196 yards and a touchdown, including a reception of 50-plus yards in both contests. The Texans have allowed the third most deep completions through three weeks this season, and I suspect Mr. Mariota knows that.
Others receiving votes: Despite his performance last Thursday, Cooper Kupp remains the Rams' primary slot option, and since the beginning of last season, the Cowboys are allowing opponents to complete a league-high 74.8 percent of passes to the slot, including Larry Fitzgerald absolutely gashing them on Monday night. I'm not saying Kupp is Fitz, but I do think he has PPR flex appeal this week. ...Mohamed Sanu is just one of six WRs (A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins are the others) to produce at least 10.7 PPR points in all three weeks this season. He and the Falcons face a Bills team that allowed the eighth most slot touchdowns a year ago, something that raises the ceiling for a player with an already high floor (he has eight slot receptions and no other Falcon has more than three). ... You're already starting Keenan Allen and you know I'm on Rivers, but as Mike Clay and I discussed on The Fantasy Show this week -- 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Watch ESPN, now available on demand in the ESPN App as well -- Tyrell Williams should see a lot of Jalen Mills in this game, and that's been a very good thing for opposing wide receivers this season. If not now, Tyrell, then when?
Wide receivers I hate in Week 4
Amari Cooper, Raiders: After a big Week 1, Cooper has slowed down some, and I don't see it getting better on the road against the Broncos. In five career games against them, quarterback Derek Carr has averaged just 184 passing yards on 5.04 yards per attempt, completing 58 percent of his passes for six TDs and four INTs. In the two games he's played in Denver, he's averaging 146.5 yards per game on just 4.51 yards per attempt. Could he dink and dunk his way to a respectable PPR week? Of course. And there's always a chance he scores, but the way Oakland's offense and Denver's defense are playing right now, I don't love Cooper's chances at a top-20 day.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts: The ESPN consensus ranks without me have Hilton as a top-20 play, but I just don't see it. It's one thing to have a great game at home against Cleveland; it's another to do it on the road against the Seahawks. You wanna trust quarterback Jacoby Brissett on the road? Go ahead. He certainly made some plays last week. But against an angry Seattle team coming home off a tough loss? Hilton's not a top-20 guy to me.
Pierre Garcon, 49ers: Despite last week's heroics, I'd prefer someone else to Garcon this week. He'll see a lot of Cards cornerback Patrick Peterson on Sunday. Though not exclusively defending them, Peterson helped hold outside receivers Marvin Jones Jr. to two catches for 37 yards in Week 1, T.Y. Hilton to four for 49 in Week 2 and Dez Bryant to two for 12 in Week 3. Dez had just two targets in Week 3 after accumulating 25 in the first two weeks this season.
Tight ends I love in Week 4
Charles Clay, Bills: He's a bit touchdown-dependent for me, but aren't most tight ends? And so, with that, why not go with one who has now scored in six of his past seven games dating back (ding!) to last season and is the second-best tight end in fantasy during that span. With more receptions than any Bills WR has targets, Clay is Tyrod Taylor's No. 1 choice and in a game where Taylor will have to throw to keep up, I like Clay's chances at a top-10 week once again. He's still available in a lot of leagues.
Jimmy Graham, Seahawks: Graham is tied for second in the NFL among tight ends in red zone targets. He needs to be healthy, of course, but as Russell Wilson's passing came alive last week, so too did Graham's game with a solid seven catches for 72 yards. Doug Baldwin may have to miss this game (or be limited), so Graham may very well lead the team in receiving in a very favorable matchup with Indy.
Others receiving votes: I don't think the five catches and six targets (tied for the team lead) for Austin Seferian-Jenkins in his 2017 debut was an accident. The Jags have great corners and excel at pressuring the quarterback, so it should be no surprise that the dump-off pass to the TE has been a common way to attack them (fourth-most TE points allowed this season). I like ASJ quite a bit this week. ... Through two games this season, Cameron Brate is running a route on 69.5 percent of his snaps (compared with 38.5 percent for O.J. Howard) and the Giants have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, including a score in each game, plus they also are tied for most receptions allowed to tight ends. ... With C.J. Fiedorowicz out, Ryan Griffin is starting to get some run and now gets a Titans team that gave up 10 for 125 and a score to tight ends last week.
Tight ends I hate in Week 4
Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, Chargers: The only TE since the start of last season to top five receptions or 55 receiving yards versus the Eagles is Travis Kelce in Week 2. Because these two are splitting snaps, this isn't a great matchup, as only the Cardinals have given up fewer fantasy points to TEs than the Eagles since the start of last season.
Jack Doyle, Colts: If you can't get it done at home against the Browns, I sure don't have confidence in you on the road at Seattle. Ultimately, I like him this season, but it's hard to imagine significant production here.
Defenses to stream in Week 4
Cincinnati Bengals (at Browns, 28 percent available); Pittsburgh Steelers (at Ravens, 45 percent available), Baltimore Ravens (vs. Steelers, 53 percent available); Tennessee Titans (at Texans, 94 percent available).
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