Week 4 has kicked off and is fast approaching around the corner with our first London game of the season.
Let's dive into the most questionable players in Week 4, and who may step up for their respective teams.
Game status: Doubtful
Injury: back, ankle
As of today, it appears Winston won't suit up in Week 4. The gunslinger is dealing with a broken back and an ankle injury, both of which he played through just last week. With Winston likely sidelined, that clears the way for veteran Andy Dalton to draw the start in London. Dalton shouldn't be a stranger to this situation, though — he started eight games last year and has 148 total starts in his career. This is how the Saints differed philosophically last season with and without Jameis on the field:
Of course, Dalton wasn't on the team in 2021, but he and Winston are two different quarterbacks, with Dalton aligning much more with Trevor Siemian and Ian Book — both of which started last season.
The lower average depth of target and yards per attempt figures bode well for running back Alvin Kamara and slot receiver Jarvis Landry. In addition, Michael Thomas has already been ruled out of this game because of a toe injury, freeing up even more targets for Kamara, Landry, and rookie Chris Olave.
Game status: Out
As we mentioned above, Thomas is not going to play in Week 4. The veteran receiver suffered a toe injury in Week 3 and never returned to the contest. While the Saints haven't looked good offensively, Thomas has been one of the few bright spots. One area where the team will need assistance is inside opposing 10-yard lines. Thomas leads the way with three targets and three receptions in that area of the field. It remains to be seen who may inherit those valuable targets, but we know Thomas won't be an option this week.
Looking at the on and off splits, no receiver has performed better with Thomas off the field (sans Deonte Harty). Sure, there will be more available targets for Landry and Olave, and more playing time for someone like Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, or even Harty, but Thomas is an alpha who demands great coverage. The Saints will no longer have that in their passing offense.
Thomas took just 20.2% of his snaps in the slot this season, with 79.8% of them coming outside of the numbers. The most logical replacements for those alignments are Olave (79.0% outside) and Harty (53.8% outside). Expect this to be a group effort.
Game status: Out
Injury: ankle, shoulder
Like Thomas, Swift has already been ruled out of this contest. It's full-go for Jamaal Williams from here on out. Going back to last week, Williams narrowly out-snapped Swift, 35 snaps to 32, with Craig Reynolds mixing in 13 snaps of his own. It appears that the split will go between Williams, who is likely slated for the majority of the work, and Reynolds, who will mix in and give Williams a breather.
Last year, when Swift missed time between Weeks 13-16, Williams was able to scoop up two starts in between those weeks. He didn't play more than 50% of the offense's snaps in either game, but he had 17 rushing attempts and one target in the first contest, and 19 rushing attempts in the second. Not to mention, this is a different Lions offense that has actually been really productive through three contests.
Williams is a surefire fantasy start this week and should be in a position to produce RB2 production. While he may not play more than 75% of the snaps, he likely won't need to. He's earmarked for a ton of usage either way.
Game status: Out
The Lions are severely banged up going into this game. Both Swift and St. Brown have already been ruled out, and receivers Josh Reynolds and D.J. Chark Jr. are listed as questionable for this game. It appears both Reynolds and Chark will probably suit up, with the former having a better chance to do so.
It doesn't take a genius to know there will be a lot of available work sans St. Brown. He leads the team with a dominant 29.5% target share through three weeks. The next closest player is Chark, who has just 18 targets, along with tight end T.J. Hockenson.
St. Brown does a lot of his damage in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field. He sports just a 5.8 average depth of target (aDOT) figure, which is nearly identical to Hockenson's 5.6. Logically, Hockenson should be in a position to inherit a lot of that work over the short middle portion of the field, though Reynolds and Chark could force quarterback Jared Goff to throw the ball deeper than usual in this game.
Every player on this offense will receive a bump without St. Brown. He's that much of a target hog. While the offense is likely to be far less productive without him, there could be some startable fantasy players that come out of this game.
Game status: Questionable
There is no reason to believe McCaffrey will miss this game, though his name even being on the injury report is likely to strike fear into fantasy managers' hearts. Head coach Matt Rhule has stated the team is very hopeful McCaffrey will be able to go, and all signs point towards the stud running back suiting up in this game.
In the shocking event that he doesn't go, we'll need to look at backups D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard to help decipher how they may split time. In the preseason, Foreman and Hubbard had very similar statistics:
Foreman: 15 snaps, 13 rushing attempts, 27 rushing yards
Hubbard: 14 snaps, 14 rushing attempts, 37 rushing yards
Hubbard has been with the team much longer than Foreman, though Foreman was a signing the front office elected to target this past free agency period. Neither player has taken any snaps inside the red zone, and both players have a combined nine snaps and eight rushing attempts through three weeks. It's fair to assume they'd likely split time nearly 50/50 in the event that McCaffrey misses this game. It's just a guess, but Foreman is probably better suited for goal-line and short-yardage work, while Hubbard may get more of the receiving work.
Game status: Questionable
Last but not least is the speedster known as MVS. Valdes-Scantling was signed to a big-money contract this offseason to help replace the loss of Tyreek Hill. Through three games, he ranks third on the team with 15 targets, hauling in 10 of those for just 105 receiving yards.
Logically speaking, Mecole Hardman's skillset best matches what Valdes-Scantling can do. Both are vertical field stretchers that work their game based on their ability to eat up cushions and blow by defensive backs with world-class speed. Hardman's 11.7 aDOT and MVS' 10.5 are fairly similar, too, indicating they're used in somewhat of a similar fashion.
My best guess is Hardman would slide into a much larger role with more snaps sans MVS, though there doesn't appear to be a ton of concern that Valdes-Scantling will miss this game. If he does, second-round rookie Skyy Moore is also likely to be featured more in the offense after playing just eight snaps in Week 3, and two snaps in Week 2.
NYG DT Leonard Williams (knee) - Out
IND LB Shaquille Leonard (back) - Questionable
IND DT DeForest Buckner (elbow) - Questionable
LAC C Corey Linsley (knee) - Questionable
CLE DE Jadeveon Clowney (ankle) - Questionable
CLE DE Myles Garrett (shoulder, biceps) - Questionable
BUF S Jordan Poyer (foot) - Questionable
BUF DT Ed Oliver (calf) - Questionable
BUF C Mitch Morse (elbow) - Questionable
BAL LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle) - Questionable
ARI DE J.J. Watt (calf) - Questionable
ARI C Rodney Hudson (knee) - Questionable
GB CB Jaire Alexander (groin) - Questionable