NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Ekeler a must-start, Saints defense to squash Giants on Superdome return

By Sports Desk September 29, 2021

The NFL season is heading towards the quarter mark and it's likely desperation time for those fantasy owners who are yet to claim a win.

Thankfully there are several matchups in Week 4 that figure to be very high scoring and deliver huge fantasy performances.

Which players should you be looking at slotting into your lineup for the upcoming slate of games?

Stats Perform looks at four offensive players and a defense that can help propel you to glory this week.

 

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans @ New York Jets

Tannehill followed up a 300-yard performance in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks with a three-touchdown display in a win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jets' defense is the strength of their winless team but still ranks 17th in the NFL in yards per pass play allowed with 6.79.

Given the ineptitude of New York's offense, which has committed the second-most turnovers in the NFL (7) through three games, the Jets' defense is likely to eventually wear down and provide Tannehill with plentiful opportunities to enjoy another strong fantasy outing.

Running Back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Chargers have their own problems with run defense, allowing the highest rushing average in the league at 5.8 yards.

However, fourth on that list are the Raiders, who have given up 4.81 yards per carry through three games.

Ekeler's yards after contact per attempt average of 2.5 is sixth among running backs with at least 10 carries and he is again a focal point in the passing game having made 15 receptions over the last two games. 

In a game likely to be dominated by high-powered offenses, Ekeler figures to play a pivotal role and, taking the favourable matchup into account, is a must-start in points per reception fantasy leagues.

Wide Receiver: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Lockett has never had a 100-yard game against the 49ers, but caught 12 of 14 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the regular-season finale against San Francisco last year.

Registering a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup on a play where is targeted, on 68.4 per cent of his targets Lockett is second among wide receivers that have been thrown to at least 10 times with a burn yards per target average of 19.29.

Going up against a banged-up San Francisco secondary, Lockett's ability to create consistent separation could prove pivotal in a matchup where Seattle may have to get into a shootout to prevail given the porous nature of the Seahawks' defense.

Tight End: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans

Still the most difficult position in fantasy football to judge, managers can often find themselves in a difficult spot if they do not own one of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller.

However, those lacking a dependable option at tight end may find Knox a worthwhile pickup for this week. He has a touchdown in each of his last two games, hauling in four of his five targets last week against the Washington Football Team, and gets an extremely enticing matchup in Week 4.

The Texans are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends and, with the Bills' offense beginning to fire on all cylinders, Knox could prove an extremely astute addition to fantasy lineups if he is still available on your waiver wire.

Defense: New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants

The Saints' defense had a field day in Week 3, picking off rookie Mac Jones three times, including one interception returned for a touchdown, in a bounce-back win over the New England Patriots.

This week, New Orleans gets to play a game at the Superdome for the first time this season, and the impact of a raucous home crowd will surely only make things more difficult for the Giants' offense and quarterback Daniel Jones.

He has been pressured 53 times already this season, the Giants allowing the 11th-most in the NFL, while the Saints' defense has racked up 56 pressures, putting New Orleans seventh in the league.

While the Giants' signal-caller has only committed one giveaway in 2021, that is a recipe for a disastrous day for a quarterback known for his lack of ball security. Should this go to form, the Saints will make life miserable for a quarterback named Jones for the second successive week.

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    Formula One has arrived at the most prestigious race on the calendar, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc would be desperate to end an awful run of form at his home race.

    Born and raised in Monaco, Leclerc's string of bad luck on the historic circuit dates back to his days in Formula Two, where he set the F2 lap record in 2017 before suspension problems caused a DNF.

    The next year, in F1, he was in the points for Sauber before brake failure led to a crash with Brendan Hartley.

    After poor strategy and Q1 elimination in his first Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari in 2019, Leclerc charged up the field early on but pushed a little too hard and collided with Romain Grosjean at Rascasse.

    In 2021, he surprisingly stuck an inferior Ferrari on pole position but crashed at the end of Q3, and extensive drive-shaft damage led to him cruelly retiring on the formation lap.

    The 24-year-old became the first Monegasque to claim pole, but his three DNFs – from as many F1 entries – are his most at any circuit.

    Despite ending up in the barriers on a demonstration lap in Niki Lauda's Ferrari last week, another pole could finally put Leclerc on the top step in his home race.

    Twelve of the past 17 winners at Monaco have started from pole, as little room to overtake with bigger cars on Monte Carlo's notoriously tight streets makes track position critical.

    It would be a welcome way for Leclerc to buck his trend of failing to convert poles into race victories, winning only four times from 13 starts at the front of the grid.

    The title race adds another dimension, with Max Verstappen taking a six-point lead from him in the drivers' standings after successive victories at Imola, Miami and Barcelona.

    In-form Red Bull with records in sight

    Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, and this weekend could bring a number of records for the team.

    This weekend could see Red Bull claim their highest number of race wins (six), pole positions (six), podiums (24, with both drivers) and points earned at a circuit, surpassing the 356 collected in Spain.

    Meanwhile, reigning world champion Verstappen has the chance to record the longest winning streak of his career, beating last year's three wins between France and Austria.

    Ricciardo in need of renaissance

    Daniel Ricciardo has come under criticism from McLaren team principal Zak Brown for his recent performances, with a clear need for improvement.

    The 32-year-old suffered one of the lowest points of his career last year in Monte Carlo, when he was lapped by teammate Lando Norris.

    Ricciardo is suffering his worst streak of finishes outside the points (three) since 2012, when he had five consecutive empty-handed returns for Toro Rosso.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 110
    2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 85
    4. George Russell (Mercedes) 74
    5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 65

    Constructors

    1. Red Bull 195
    2. Ferrari 169
    3. Mercedes 120
    4. McLaren 50
    5. Alfa Romeo 39

  • French Open: 'He made his mark on the sport' – Federer, Djokovic and Nadal pay tribute to 'charismatic' Tsonga French Open: 'He made his mark on the sport' – Federer, Djokovic and Nadal pay tribute to 'charismatic' Tsonga

    Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have paid tribute to the "charismatic" Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after the 37-year-old brought his 18-year professional career to a close.

    Tsonga, who reached a career-high ranking of world number five in 2012, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

    That duly came in the first round on Tuesday as he bowed out to world number eight Casper Ruud 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

    He retires having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

    Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

    He is also one of three players, alongside Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

    A video tribute was played on court after his defeat to Ruud, which featured messages from the sport's most iconic players.

    Federer said: "I wanted to congratulate you on an amazing career and it was a pleasure to share the court with and play against you, even to lose against you!

    "We had some great battles. Enjoy the moment in Paris with all your friends and family, in front of all your adoring spectators."

    Djokovic added: "Jo is one of the most charismatic tennis players ever to play the game. I was very happy to share the court with him many times.

    "We get along well and he's a really nice guy. He brought a lot of positive attention and popularity to our sport not just because of his dynamic game style, but also his charisma and his personality, so it's a big loss for professional men's tennis to have him retire.

    "I wish him all the best, and he definitely should be happy about his career and his achievements. He's made his mark and his legacy in our sport."

    Nadal said: "He is very charismatic. I've known him since we were kids; he is a good guy and I think he brings a lot of positive things to our sport so I'm sad to see him going but we are getting old so it's going to happen for everyone."

    Speaking at a media conference after his defeat, Tsonga said he would now spend some time relaxing before focusing on the development of his tennis academy.

    He said he will miss the adrenaline of playing on court, as well as how he was able to express himself completely when competing.

    "It's adrenaline, to step onto a big court like this one," he said. "It's adrenaline you can feel when you have 15,000 people shouting out your name, supporting you on the court.

    "This is what I'm going to miss – the contact with the crowd. And with those who have been supporting me for all these years.

    "You know, in real life, it's sometimes difficult to be intense. You don't want to shock, you don't want to be too rude, you don't want to hurt somebody.

    "You always try to act to be nice, to be sociable. But, you know, on the court, you can express your fever. You can express everything about you, and it's sometimes freeing."

  • French Open: Tsonga wraps up 18-year career, finishing on 464 Tour-level wins French Open: Tsonga wraps up 18-year career, finishing on 464 Tour-level wins

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brought his 18-year professional career to a close on Tuesday, after his first-round loss to Casper Ruud at the French Open.

    Tsonga, who reached a high ranking of world number five, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

    For the 37-year-old, that was short-lived, as he bowed out to world number eight Ruud.

    Tsonga gave it his all, taking the lead and forcing a tie-break in three of the four sets, but Ruud had too much and prevailed 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

    That confirmed the end of Tsonga's long career. He bows out having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

    Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

    He is also one of three players (also Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych) who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

    Tsonga also became the first player since Guillermo Canas in 2002 to defeat four straight top-10 players at a Masters 1000 tournament when he triumphed in Toronto in 2014.

    "It's tough for me and all the players that you're stopping. You've been an inspiration to me and so many of the other players, so thank you for the memories," Ruud told Tsonga after the match.

    "[I have] so many good memories watching Jo on TV. He's such a great guy [and] nice person on and off the court. He's a good example of what a player should be."

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