Week 7 is Monday night’s matchup away from being in the books, and that means we’re gearing up for the second half of the fantasy season. Though many matchups may still hinge on what happens tonight between the Cardinals and Ravens, in many leagues, some teams are starting to realize their season is a few weeks from ending, while others are starting to look ahead to the playoff stretch run.
Seahawks 20, 49ers 3
The window to buy low on Marshawn Lynch may be closed after his first great performance of the season, racking up 122 yards and a TD. Seattle’s offense still doesn’t look completely in sync, and Russell Wilson had a few uncharacteristic INTs, off of some poor decisions, but at least Lynch looks like a safe bet to return to RB1 form for the rest of the year. There are still more questions than answers when it comes to Jimmy Graham though, whose usage and involvement seems to fluctuate weekly. More often than not, it seems that Graham is not involved enough. Owning any Seattle pass-catcher is risky business.
Elsewhere, Carlos Hyde looks doomed being on a bad team that frequently has to abandon the running game. There’s not much blame to put on Hyde’s shoulders – he is in a barren offense, and Colin Kaepernick’s weaknesses look more glaring by the game. Anquan Boldin can be a nice flex start most weeks since he’s Kaepernick’s top target, but there is not a whole lot of upside tied to anyone on this offense.
Jaguars 34, Bills 31
Just when everyone was ready to jump aboard the Blake Bortles fantasy bandwagon, he turns in his first fantasy clunker since the season opener. Bortles had been terrific in fantasy for the past six weeks, but game flow really limited his opportunities this week. The Jags raced ahead to a 27-3 lead on the Bills, scoring two defensive TDs. For much of the second and third quarters, Bortles was mostly handing the ball off to T.J. Yeldon, who had his most productive day as a pro and his second career game eclipsing the century mark. Yeldon should have had an even more impressive day, if not for the coaching staff inexplicably giving Toby Gerhart four (unsuccessful) cracks from the one yard line. Despite the lead, which eventually evaporated partly because of ultra-conservative play-calling, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns both had nice fantasy outings. Robinson is fully breaking out this season and looks locked in as a WR1 for the rest of the year. Something to the tune of 1500 yards and 10 TDs seems about right for Robinson. Hurns, on the other hand, was mostly absent, before corralling the game-winning TD with under a minute to play, salvaging what would have been an epic collapse by the Jaguars and a total dud of a fantasy performance by Hurns. Lastly, the most disappointing performance of any fantasy starter on either team came from Julius Thomas, who looked like an integral part of the Jaguars offense last week. Thomas had only one catch for four yards – good for a fantasy doughnut in standard leagues.
While E.J. Manuel didn’t have a particularly successful outing in real life, he was fine in fantasy, throwing for a hair under 300 yards to go with a pair of TDs (and INTs). The main beneficiary in the air was Robert Woods, a nice flex play this week as he finished with 84 yards and a TD. Near the end of the game, LeSean McCoy fought his way to the one yard line, before fumbling, and more importantly, suffering what looked like a concussion or at the very least, a “jacked up” type of hit. If McCoy has to miss any time, Dan “Boom” Herron could be next in line, considering Karlos Williams has to yet to be cleared from his concussion that came a few weeks ago.
Rams 24, Browns 6
It appears all of the excitement and hype surrounding Todd Gurley was justified, and he could very easily be the top overall running back for the rest of the season. He really is the Rams offense at the moment and for the foreseeable future. Everyone was anticipating a monster game facing a very weak Browns run defense, and Gurley delivered. He finished with a pair of TDs (his first career pro TDs!) to go along with 128 yards. He’s the only player worth focusing on in St. Louis right now. Tavon Austin and any other Rams receivers are too inconsistent right now.
For the first time all year, the Browns failed to score a TD. They lost their starting QB, Josh McCown in the process, as he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder. The Rams have one of the toughest defenses in the league, so the result was not all that surprising, but it was intriguing that Gary Barnidge continued to produce. He did so without scoring a TD and that makes his performance even more noteworthy since consistent yardage is more reliable than scoring TDs. The other playmaker in Cleveland, Travis Benjamin, had his worst game of the season, only netting 45 yards. It was a tough matchup for the Browns, and Benjamin should still be a strong start, considering how few weapons Cleveland has.
Vikings 28, Lions 19
A few hours before game time, everyone learned that Adrian Peterson’s status had been in doubt because he accidentally swallowed his tobacco. He finished with a hair under 100 yards, 75 of which came on one carry. What’s most intriguing though is the emergence of Stefon Diggs, the 5th round rookie sensation, who now has back-t0-back games over 100 yards. What’s more, Diggs scored his first career TD on an impressive diving snag. Diggs has a lot of talent, and anyone who’s seen his precise routes and sharp cuts knows he can continue to produce as long as he’s healthy. He looks like a safe bet to be the top wideout on the Vikings from here on out.
What a mess the Lions are, huh? On the first drive of the game, Matt Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for a 47 yard pass, and then Calvin scored a few plays later on the one-yard line on a fade route. It looked like Calvin was about to put up a performance similar to last week. Then, the passes seemed to stop coming Megatron’s way, until the game was all but over. Eric Ebron posted a nearly identical stat line to Megatron, finishing with 89 yards and 1 TD (to Johnson’s 86 yards and TD), and Stafford played well, considering his offensive line’s woes.
Dolphins 44, Texans 26
Fire Joe Philbin, they said. It will rejuvenate the ‘Phins, they said. The new coach has to give the ball to Lamar Miller more, they said. Well, it looks like they were right. Head coach Dan Campbell has the Dolphins looking like a playoff team since he took over a few weeks ago. Last week, the Dolphins routed the Titans 38-10, and today, the Dolphins were up 41-0 at half (!!!). If you started anyone on the Dolphins, you were a happy camper. Lamar Miller had 236 total yards at the half and two TDs, including an 85-yard scamper and a 55 yard screen pass. For context, Miller had only 218 total yards in four games under Philbin. Jarvis Landry had what may have been the most impressive score of the day – a 50-yard TD, where he caught a 12-yard pass and ran across the entire field before reaching the end zone. Rishard Matthews also got in on the action, finishing with 75 yards and a TD. That is Matthews’ fourth solid fantasy outing out of six weeks. Also, if all these long TDs were scored, Ryan Tannehill must have a good outing, right? If you call 18/19, 282 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs good, then yes. Oh, and he did that by halftime too.
The game was over at half, but the Texans tried to manipulate the final score into looking a little less pathetic. In doing so – the Texans outscored the Dolphins 26-3 in the second half – the Texans lost Arian Foster for the season to a torn achilles. It made no sense for Foster to be in the game with the game over by halftime, but Bill O’Brien kept feeding Foster. It’s a terrible blow to any football fan. Foster is one of the top backs in the NFL when he’s healthy, but he suffers non-contact injuries year after year. Obviously pure speculation, but one has to wonder if Foster would retire midseason. For the first time all year, Nuk Hopkins looked like a mere mortal only bringing in 50 yards. Today’s first garbage time MVP candidate was Nate Washington, tallying up 127 yards and 2 TDs, most of it in the second half once the game was over.
Saints 27, Colts 21
If you only saw the final score, you would assume some of the Saints pass-catchers had big games, but it was all about Mark Ingram, continuing to produce great fantasy numbers, though on one seems to talk about him. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it means he’s so consistent that there is nothing to talk about. Ingram had a hyper efficient 14 carry, 143 yards, and a TD game. It could have been a monster game, if not for a pair of Khiry Robinson short yard vulture TDs. Perhaps we’re just lowering our expectations for Brandin Cooks, but he had a decent outing with over 80 yards. That’s OK, right? Drew Brees had a disappointing performance playing in a dome against an average defense. You can usually pencil in Brees in for 300+ yards a TD or two, but he notched just over 250 yards with only one TD.
How many times have we seen the Colts sleepwalk through games before furiously marching back in the second half? The Colts were sitting pretty with a doughnut by their name for most of the game, and then Andrew Luck connected with T.Y. Hilton twice. While Luck’s turnover woes continue – he had two INTs – he 333 yards and 3 TDs, 150 of those going to Hilton, including one 87-yard bomb. On the long TD, it looked like the corner covering Hilton tripped, leaving no one near Hilton. Elsewhere, it was a stinker for Frank Gore mostly because of game flow, as he only accumulated nine carries. It’s hard to imagine the Colts not figuring out things soon, but we’re running out of time.
Chiefs 23, Steelers 13
No Jamaal Charles, no Jeremy Maclin, no problem. Jeremy Maclin was a surprise scratch a few hours before game time because of a concussion sustained last week. Charcanderick West had an impressive game against one of the league’s best run defenses, notching over 100 yards and a TD, while TE Travis Kelce had a decent yardage total just under 75 yards for the game. From a fantasy perspective, there was not much more going on in Kansas City, though in deeper leagues, Albert Wilson had pretty nice outing, and Alex Smith had the most Alex Smith game ever.
This may be the last before Big Ben comes back and the Steelers really missed him. Landry Jones had an ugly game, while Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown had the types of games we expect from them. Both guys were over 100 yards, though without any scores. When Big Ben is back, Brown will go back to being one of the top fantasy options at any position. TD magnet Martavis Bryant scored again this week after scoring twice last week. He is an every-week starter, and Ben Roethlisberger’s return will only help Bryant.
Patriots 30, Jets 23
Without late scratch Dion Lewis, the Patriots basically abandoned the run game (literally… LeGarrette Blount had -3 yards) and Tom Brady aired it out over 50 times. The usual suspects benefitted from Brady’s expertise. Rob Gronkowski had a career high 11 catches to go with over 100 yards and a TD, and
Julian Edelman Danny Amendola finished with 86 yards and a TD as well. Brandon Lafell returned for the first time all year from a foot injury and was noticeably rusty, dropping six (!!) passes, while Julian Edelman had just over 50 yards and an uncharacteristic drop in the end zone. Some people may begin to worry and/or panic about Edelman, seeing Lafell cut into his targets. Just remember: Brady and Edelman have one of the better rapports of any QB-WR duo in the league and Edelman put up good numbers last season with Lafell on the field.
Everyone is used to seeing Bill Belichick and the Patriots embarrass the Jets (read: Rex Ryan), but this week’s game was close the whole way – maybe because Rex is gone! Ryan Fitzpatrick had an impressive INT-less game to go with a couple TDs around 300 yards, though he did lose a fumble in the first quarter. For the first time since the season opener, Brandon Marshall failed to surpass 100 yards. Marshall should have had a better outing, but had an unfortunate, uncharacteristic drop in the end zone that cost the Jets and his fantasy owners. Meanwhile, Eric Decker continued to be a serviceable WR3/Flex, leading the Jets in the air with just under 100 yards. Chris Ivory, while kept in check on the ground, still salvaged another nice fantasy start, scoring a TD through the air.
Redskins 31, Buccaneers 30
For the 0.01% of fantasy owners who started Kirk Cousins, congratulations. Cousins was the high-scoring QB in week 7! His go-to-guy, Jordan Reed scored two TDs off of 11 catches and 72 yards. Reed is now averaging more targets than Gronk. As long as Reed is healthy – and that is often not the case – he is a must-start TE. Earlier in the season, everyone clamored to pick up Matt Jones. With an injured Chris Thompson, everyone expected Jones to get plenty of touches today, but Washington never got the run game going.
Jameis Winston had a solid fantasy outing. Somehow him and Cousins combined for zero turnovers. This was the game Mike Evans owners have been waiting for all season. He notched 164 yards and a TD, as he was the only real option once Vincent Jackson went down with a knee injury midway through the game. Doug Martin continued his renaissance year, with three straight games now over 100 rushing yards. Considering how many RBs have been busts this year, Doug Martin is a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 from here on out. Most likely the latter.
Falcons 10, Titans 7
What a stinker. Matt Ryan owners (I am one) should start exploring other options, if possible. Ryan has several plus matchups coming up, but anyone who has watched the Falcons play the last two weeks knows Ryan hasn’t passed the eye test. He has struggled in the redzone and he has rarely thrown for more than one TD this year. One would expect that to shift eventually because Ryan is too good to not throw more TDs. Still, Ryan’s performances against bad defenses the past few weeks is disconcerting. For the first time in a couple weeks, Julio Jones was apparently healthy, and he had a workmanlike 92 yards a TD. Devonta Freeman did his thing and rushed for over 100 yards for the third straight week, but he didn’t reach the endzone for the first time since taking the starting job.
There was not a whole lot going on fantasy-wise for the Titans. Zach Mettenberger filled in for the injured Marcus Mariota, and Mettenberger was his average (eh, below-average) self. Kendall Wright scored the other TD in the game to go along with 46 yards. Security blanket Delanie Walker also had 7 catches for 55 yards.
Raiders 37, Chargers 29
Every few games, the Raiders remind you just how good they can be. They were firing on all cylinders Sunday and pretty much any Raider who is a viable fantasy player produced. Superstar Amari Cooper led the way with 133 yards and a TD, while sneaky good fantasy contributor Michael Crabtree added over 60 yards and a TD of his own. Under center, Derek Carr tossed 3 TDs and just under 300 yards. Carr has looked really solid in several games this year. Also, for the first time in a few weeks, Latavius Murray came away with a nice fantasy start with 85 yards and a TD. Cooper and Murray are every-week starters and Crabtree should be starting more weeks than not.
HOLY SMOKES, Philip Rivers must need to ice his shoulder like an MLB pitcher after today. He tossed the pigskin almost 60 times! He added 3 TDs in garbage time to go with a couple INTs. He is on pace to break the record for passing yards in a season. He is a top 5 QB for the rest of the season as long as he continues throwing the ball this much, which he probably will. With Antonio Gates out with a MCL sprain, Danny Woodhead had a monster fantasy performance catching 11 balls for 75 yards and two garbage time TDs. Woodhead is our second candidate this week for garbage time MVP. He is a PPR superstar and a very good starter in standard leagues. Ladarius Green caught the other TD filling in for Gates, and Keenan Allen did his usual thing with nine catches for around 90 yards. He should have had a TD to his line as well but inexplicably was called for pass interference. Melvin Gordon missed today’s game with an ankle injury, and even when he has played, San Diego’s run game has been ineffective, so any Chargers pass-catchers are strong starts.
Giants 27, Cowboys 20
There wasn’t a whole lot going on here, unless you owned Giants defense, who scored both of the Giants’ TDs. Maybe hampered by a lingering hamstring issue, Odell Beckham Jr. had his worst game of the season. He had only 35 yards on the day. Eli Manning had only 170 yards and was TD-less, but New York’s running game was interesting as previously unknown rookie Orleans Darkwa had 8 carries for 48 yards and a TD.
With Tony Romo sidelined until week 11, the Cowboys haven’t been able to find anything that works at QB. Matt Cassel filled in for Brandon Weeden today and tossed three picks. The Christine Michael train was fun while it lasted, but it should be out of service now, after Michael received only five carries on the day. Meanwhile, Darren McFadden exploded for over 150 and a TD off 29 carries. The Joseph Randle days look to be coming to an end. Always consistent, Jason Witten added 73 yards and Terrance Williams had 70 yards. Next week should be different with the possibility of Dez Bryant’s return.
Panthers 27, Eagles 16
Though coming out with the win, Cam Newton had his roughest game of the season, throwing three picks. He didn’t have a horrible fantasy start since he ran for a TD and threw for a TD, but it was not the Cam we expect at this point. He’ll be fine moving forward with his rushing yards and TDs. Mike Tolbert vultured two TDs and Jonathan Stewart had his second straight solid outing. Stewart had 125 yards against one of the league’s toughest run defenses. And as always, if there’s anything you can count on, Greg Olsen lead the Panthers in receiving yards, albeit with just 65 yards.
Before the season, everyone rushed to anoint Sam Bradford as this year’s sleeper QB, but week after week, it becomes clearer that he’s not the player people thought he was. Bradford was held out of the end zone and he threw a pick, though he outproduced his equally overhyped counterpart Jordan Matthews, who only came away with 14 measly yards. The bright spot for the Eagles was Ryan Matthews, whose 63-yard scamper nearly equaled Demarco Murray’s work from the entire night, as Murray had just 65 yards off 18 carries. The Eagles may be this year’s most disappointing fantasy team.