Week 4: 10 things to watch
Ronnie Brown's workload. Thought I was going to bring up Daunte Culpepper here, didn't you? Sure, Culpepper's performance at Houston bears watching, but that's a cut-and-dry situation. If he capitalizes on the great matchup, like the Redskins' Mark Brunell did last week, then he's back to being a safe matchups play; if he doesn't, he earns a permanent spot on the "risky" fantasy pile. Of greater concern is Brown's performance, because Dolphins coach Nick Saban already has hinted that he wants to lighten his starter's workload, yet he went out and handed the second-year back 26 carries in Week 3. Brown, who hasn't scored since the season opener at Pittsburgh, in which he was a goal-line machine, really could use a standout effort in order to re-establish himself as the workhorse back that helped push him into the first round in most drafts this season. It's a fine matchup for him to snap his streak of nine consecutive games with double-digit carries in which he has failed to top 100 yards; he has averaged only 3.2 yards per carry in his past eight games overall. Long term, Brown's performance has an impact on Culpepper's fortunes, and vice versa, so this is an important game for them to both get back on track.
The Panthers' offense at full health. Steve Smith surprised the fantasy world with his healthy return to the Carolina lineup in Week 3, but one thing that didn't surprise me was that he stepped right back in as a standout receiver. (OK, he was so good, I was a bit surprised.) Ultimately, having Smith back at or close to full health makes the Carolina offense far, far deeper, and with him back, this should be the week Jake Delhomme and his teammates return to elite fantasy status. I'd say Sunday night is too late to buy-low on these guys, but at least we'll know by then how high this team's upside could be.
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