Let’s delve into the fantasy implications of each matchup in week 7, the midpoint of the fantasy season…
Though the Seahawks lost at home last week, fantasy owners invested in Seattle were happy with what they saw. For the first time all year, Jimmy Graham looked comfortable on the field and seemed to take a step forward in chemistry with Russell Wilson, knowing when to break his route and improvise when Wilson was out of the pocket. We have may have just seen Graham’s best game, or last week was just the beginning of the Jimmy Graham we expected. Marshawn Lynch also made an appearance, running for a score, though he struggled going against the Panthers defense that is one of the best in the league. This may be the last week to buy low on Lynch if you believe he’ll regain his form for the second half of the year.
For the Niners, Colin Kaepernick strung together his second straight strong performance, albeit against another weak defense in the Ravens. Kaepernick is not a bad second QB to have, whether in a two QB league, or just as insurance for bye week and injury. Likewise, Anquan Boldin put together his second straight game over 100 yards, as he continues to be a reliable WR3 that elicits little excitement out of fantasy owners. The rest of the Niners offense is hit or miss. Torrey Smith will always be a boom or bust option, whose value largely hinges on whether he reels in a deep ball or not, and Carlos Hyde’s stock has continued to drop since his monster week one performance.
With no Tyrod Taylor last weekend, the only relevant fantasy players on the Bills were LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, the former just returning from injury and the latter succumbing to injury once again. McCoy looked healthy for the first time all year and turned in a solid performance, scoring a TD to go along with 90 yards. Watkins, perennially snakebitten by injury, left the game with an ankle injury on the play where he scored a TD in what looked like a routine play.
The Jaguars, in a turn that almost no fantasy owner expected at the beginning of the season, are replete with important fantasy contributors. Blake Bortles is just an average QB in real life, but in fantasy, he’s one of the more reliable QBs, who will throw for plenty of yards, have a few nice runs that tally up, in addition to a couple TDs. He has thrown for the sixth most yards this year, he has tossed seven TDs in his last two games, and he always adds some yards on the ground as well. He will always add an INT (or two or three), but he makes for up it everywhere else. His two favorite targets Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are both having breakout seasons. Robinson, as long as he stays healthy, will be a top 12 WR and Hurns is a top 20 WR, having now scored a TD in four straight games. And in Julius Thomas’ second game back from the finger injury suffered in preseason, he reeled in a score to go with 73 yards. It is not particularly pretty, but through sheer volume, all Jacksonville pass-catchers have a place in starting lineups in fantasy.
Remember when everyone laughed at those who got excited about Travis Benjamin after what people assumed were fluky TDs in the opening weeks of the season? Well, it looks like Benjamin is no fluke. He has received more and more targets in the past few weeks, and he is currently a top 5 WR in fantasy, whether PPR or not. There should be no questions after putting up over 100 yards against Denver, who easily has the toughest defense in the league. Even if he regresses like everyone expects, Benjamin looks like a legit top 15 WR.
The only player on the Rams in the eyes of fantasy owners right now is Todd Gurley, who looks like a top 5 RB every week from here on out. He’s massively talented and the Rams are committed to giving him 25+ touches every week, it seems. Two weeks ago – the Rams were on bye last week – Nick Foles tossed four INTs, but as long as he is merely competent, defenses won’t be able to completely load up the box. The Rams just need Foles to not be terrible. It’s a low hurdle to clear and a necessary one for Gurley to remain as effective as he has been.
26 carries for 60 yards is what you’d expect out of Trent Richardson, not Adrian Peterson. But there’s no reason to worry about AP. He is arguably the steadiest RB in fantasy and he has a high floor every week. More interesting this week is the emergence of rookie WR Stefon Diggs, who now has 19 targets, 13 catches, and 216 yards in his first two games since being activated by the Vikings. First, the caution: the Vikings are a run-heavy team and that caps the upside of any Minnesota WR. OK, now the reason for unabashed optimism and delusion: Diggs, in case you weren’t aware, possesses A LOT of ability. He was ranked the 13th best recruit out of high school and could have played anywhere in college, but chose to stay home and play for Maryland. When he played. Diggs was great. He suffered injuries in college and slipped to the 5th round of the draft, but the talent is there. He is the most talented WR on the roster. Mike Wallace compared Diggs to Antonio Brown and Terrence Newman apparently thinks Diggs could end up in the Hall of Fame! Now, chances are, both statements are enormous overreactions, but the point here is that Diggs has the talent. He should be a solid WR2 for the rest of the year.
Finally. Finally, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson had the type of game everyone had been waiting for. Of course, it came against one of the worst defenses in the league, Chicago, but still. If Megatron didn’t light up the Bears, it would have officially been time to press the panic button. Instead, Calvin had a monster game, and it looks like he just had to endure a brutal schedule to open up the year before reaping the rewards of a soft schedule from here on out. The Lions have absolutely no run game and the defense is porous. Both of those factors should keep Calvin a top 10 WR with the volume of opportunities he receives.
Who could’ve guessed DeAndre Hopkins would be this good? He’s on pace to shatter the record for targets in a season and it seems like forever ago that Julio Jones and Antonio Brown were the vying for the top WR spot in fantasy. Right now, Hopkins is running away with the top spot. The Texans offense revolves around him and Arian Foster, who is about as bell cow as a running back can be nowadays. Foster is locked in as an RB1 from here on out easily.
Joe Philbin is who we thought he was. When the Dolphins fired Philbin, Lamar Miller owners rejoiced and deservedly so. In his first coach under new coach Dan Campbell, Miller received 15 touches in the first half! That’s more touches than he received in any game with Philbin as the coach. Miller owners who were patient will be happy with his production from here on out. The coaching change shouldn’t have a huge effect on Jarvis Landry, who will continue to be a staple in the offense.
No matter who surrounds him, Drew Brees will do his thing. He’ll throw for 300ish yards and some TDs. He is startable as ever, though with a lower ceiling due to his dearth of weapons. Beyond that, you can count on a handful of targets for Willie Snead, a solid fantasy output from Mark Ingram, and disappointing production from Brandin Cooks, who looks like one of the bigger busts this season.
For the first time all season, Andrew Luck, in his first game back from injury, looked like the guy people thought they were drafting back in August. Though the Colts lost, Luck was pretty flawless, at least from a fantasy perspective. The Colts offense should flourish with a relatively weak schedule moving forward. Frank Gore ran well and would have topped 100 yards against the Patriots, if not for game flow. Also, with the return of Luck, T.Y. Hilton looks like a sure bet to be a top 12 WR for the rest of the year.
Sticking with the theme of a return to relevance, Martavis Bryant gashed the Cardinals. Bryant is a physical freak, who had the play of the week, bringing home an 88-yard TD that was almost entirely his own doing, requiring several cuts. Bryant, ever the redzone threat with his size, brought home another impressive TD, barely fitting both feet in bounds. There’s no question Bryant is a special talent and it’s impossible to sit him this week after last week’s performance, but even with a tasty matchup against the exploitable Chiefs, you should probably keep your expectations in check. He oozes upside, but his value is, for the moment, tied a lot to TDs. When Big Ben comes back, I’d feel more comfortable starting him every week. And the return of Ben can’t happen soon enough for Antonio Brown owners, who have seen the top WR in fantasy turn into a weak start in Roethlisberger’s absence. Of course, that is due entirely to the ineptitude of Mike Vick, and not any fault of Brown’s. One has to think even Landry Jones will be an upgrade over Vick for Brown owners.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, are running out of relevant fantasy pieces. A week and a half ago, Jamaal Charles tore his ACL and last week, Jeremy Maclin suffered a concussion. One would expect Travis Kelce to take up much of the production, but it will be hard when he’s the only real weapon on the field, as long as Maclin is out. That is, if Maclin misses any time for the concussion.
If I told you before the season that Chris Ivory would be a top 5 RB and Brandon Marshall would be a top WR, you’d laugh. Both guys are among the surest players in fantasy right now, and there is no reason to expect that to change. Ivory is one of the YAC (yards after contact) leaders in the NFL so far, and Marshall has returned to his pre-2014 form. Eric Decker is also a consistent producer, always seeming to score a TD along with 40-60 yards.
The Patriots will see the return of Brandon LaFell in the coming weeks. He’ll only add to the juggernaut that is the Patriots offense, currently supporting Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis, and LeGarrette Blount. All five guys are must-starts every week, but the RB situation depends more on game flow. But people seem to have figured out which games are ‘Blount games’ and which are not.
The targets have been there for Mike Evans, but the production has continued to lag since he came back from injury. Unfortunately his value has taken enough of a hit that there is little his owners can do, except be patient and wait for him to turn it around. Speaking of selling high, Doug Martin’s value will likely never be higher, so if you don’t expect him to continue producing, or if the memory of him tumbling for 3 yard runs the past fews haunts your memory, then now is the time to deal him.
Remember a couple weeks ago when everyone was convinced Matt Jones was the waiver add of the season? At the moment, there is not one player on the Redskins, who should be started for fantasy purposes, unless it is a very deep league. Perhaps, Pierre Garcon if it is a PPR league. Besides him, avoid this team at all costs.
Any Julio Jones owner who says he isn’t at least a little concerned right now is lying. Aside from Julio’s lingering hamstring that is undoubtedly slowing him down, the Falcons are becoming more of a running team by the week. Or, at least more centered on Devonta Freeman, who could be the top overall RB by year’s end. Matt Ryan trails only Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton in passing yards this year, but Ryan has thrown for only 8 TDs in the 6 games. One would expect Ryan to regress and start throwing some more TDs as the season progresses, but that does little to comfort Ryan owners, who are tired of seeing him move the chains up until the redzone, only for Freeman to score a TD.
The Titans are nearing fantasy wasteland territory. Marcus Mariota had been a solid QB option but struggled on Sunday before suffering a knee injury. Delanie Walker is not a bad option at TE – he has a solid floor, but his ceiling isn’t high. The only other real player of relevance is Kendall Wright, who has struggled in consecutive games after posting two games over 90 yards in the first three weeks.
Everyone in the fantasy community jumped on the Raiders bandwagon after their win on the road against the Browns, but since then, the offense has cooled. Latavius Murray has looked less and less like a bell cow RB the past few weeks, and it’s worth noting he’s only rushed for over 65 yards once this year. The sell high window may have already passed. And while Amari Cooper is going to be a superstar in the next few years, it’s curious that he’s losing out targets to Michael Crabtree. Last year, everyone laughed at Jarvis Landry for only catching short passes, but right now, Cooper’s average depth per target is near Landry’s, at the bottom for all qualified WRs, per Pro Football Focus. To make matters worse, the Raiders schedule is absolutely brutal from here on out. Trading Cooper may not be a bad idea right now.
So, Philip Rivers threw for over 500 yards at Lambeau. There’s a lot to like about Rivers’ situation. So, let’s go through it all. OK, only Alex Smith has a shorter average depth of target than Rivers, which would be a red flag for Rivers, except that Rivers has the most attempts of any QB in the league. Rivers has a poor line, so he only has time to throw short passes, but with all the attempts, Rivers is leading the league in passing yards. Further, with Melvin Gordon’s fumbling problems, the Chargers will continue to be a passing team. Rivers has a very soft schedule moving forward and the return of Antonio Gates should help fix the Chargers’ woes in the redzone. Also a boon to Rivers is that Keenan Allen has put his now inexplicable sophomore slump in rearview and looks better than ever.
Right now, you can count on Odell Beckham Jr. to be a stud, but aside from that, there is not much in the Giants offense that is reliable. Eli Manning looks great one week, horrible the next. That has always been the knock on Eli: he’s incredibly inconsistent. Manning should be fine most weeks though, as long as OBJ’s hamstring is healthy.
Christine Michael truthers will finally get to see him in action this week, as Michael is apparently set to get the start this Sunday. It won’t be easy. Even with a great offensive line, Michael will have to run well with Matt Cassell as his QB, and without Dez Bryant in the lineup. Michael is one of the more hyped up lottery tickets this year and outplaying the ever average Joseph Randle shouldn’t be too difficult.
Right now, the only salvageable Eagle may be DeMarco Murray, who looks to have possibly turned the corner into being the every week stud people drafted him to be. Aside from him though, the Eagles offense is a dumpster fire most weeks. Sam Bradford was hyped up all offseason, but he hasn’t justified any of the excitement. Same goes for Jordan Matthews, whose drops have become something you expect at this point. Riley Cooper has made himself fantasy relevant in the past few weeks, reeling in long TDs
QB is always full of serviceable options, but it seems like Cam Newton has not received the attention and praise he deserves. He’s running more than ever and that’s great news for fantasy owners. Also, consider that aside from TE Greg Olsen, Cam has no real weapons in the air. Tedd Ginn and Devin Funchess are Newton’s top wideouts. Yet, Cam hovers around 20 points most weeks, with the upside to finish in the high 20s because of his running TDs.
Everyone knows Steve Smith is superhuman. He should be started every week, even coming off broken bones in his back, apparently. He is the Ravens only weapon in the air and defenses still can’t stop him. Along with him, the Ravens rely heavily on Justin Forsett, who has been back on track the past few weeks. Even last week, when he struggled to 62 rushing yards off 17 attempts, he had decent totals because of adding nearly 40 yards out of the air.
The Cardinals are one of the best teams to invest in this year, after the Patriots. Carson Palmer is having a career year, Larry Fitzgerald is having a renaissance year as one of the top WRs, and John Brown is having a true breakout season, on pace for over 1300 yards. If only there was a little more clarity in the backfield. It appears to be Chris Johnson’s job, but everyone is treating it like a matter of time before Andre Ellington cuts into the carries and creates a dead split. Further mucking things up is David Johnson vulturing TDs almost every week.