With the underperforming Eddie Lacy and C.J. Anderson on byes, Jamaal Charles out for the season and a few other running backs dealing with injuries, the last thing we wanted to see in Fantasy Week 7 was more attrition at the position. We're already thin on running backs and reliable Fantasy options are few and far between even when everyone is healthy.
Unfortunately, the Texans threw caution to the wind in their attempt to ... well, I don't know what they were trying to accomplish. After going down 41-0 to the Dolphins Sunday, the Texans kept their starters in the game throughout the second half, a move that ultimately backfired in predictably disastrous fashion when Arian Foster went down with what looks like a season-ending Achilles injury late in the game. In a game the Texans lost by 18 despite outscoring the Dolphins by 23 in the second half. What a disaster.
Here are our biggest takeaways from Week 7, leading with Scott's take on what the Texans offense becomes in the wake of Foster's injury.
1. Brian Hoyer is the king of garbage time
That Hoyer could begin a game 1 for 13 with an interception, putting his team in a 41-0 hole, and still finish with huge numbers pretty much tells the story. He may not be good, but he's capable. He can make every throw the playbook prescribes, and when you have arguably the game's best wide receiver at your disposal and are perpetually playing from behind, that's enough to tally some numbers. And tally he has, throwing for multiple scores in four consecutive games now, two of which he didn't start but relieved an ineffective Ryan Mallett and was, therefore, playing from behind. Given their inexplicably bad defense and loss of Foster, the Texans will have to continue to pass their way back into games, so I don't expect Hoyer's production to suffer too much. And with Mallett settling into the dog house, most recently missing the team flight to Miami, Hoyer could survive a few more 1-for-13 starts. -Scott White
2. You missed your buy-low chance with Calvin Johnson, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown
Entering Week 6, Evans, Brown and Johnson had just six double-digit Fantasy scoring games between them in 16 possible games, three of which had come in Brown's first three games. All three of them projected to finish the season as No. 1 Fantasy receivers, but had so far failed to live up to expectations for a myriad of reasons. Of course, none of those reasons seemed like reason enough to totally derail their seasons moving forward, which made them prime buy-low candidates. Evans was recovering from a hamstring injury and still getting on the same page as rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Johnson had a terribly tough stretch from weeks 3 through 5. Brown's slump coincided perfectly with Michael Vick's time as the team's starting quarterback.
In Week 7, Brown went off for 124 yards on 6 receptions and has Roethlisberger coming back next week, Johnson has responded to the schedule with 11 catches for 252 yards and two scores in his last two games, and Evans completely dominated Washington's outmatched defensive backs and seems to be on the same page as Winston. You should bet on all three to be top 10 wide receivers from this point on, so you might want to consider Randall Cobb or Dez Bryant if you want a buy-low option at receiver. -Chris Towers
3. You need an upgrade on Matt Ryan
It's not that Matt Ryan is bad, necessarily. He's just so unreliable. After opening the season with 65 Fantasy points in his first three games, he has 16, 6, 22 and 12 in his last four, against some pretty light competition. Ryan has just one multi-touchdown game in those four games and has now been picked off twice in his last three games. If you are starting Ryan, he's a perfectly decent Fantasy quarterback, especially with matchups against the Buccaneers and 49ers coming in the next two weeks. However, he probably isn't the type of quarterback you just pencil into your lineup every week without thinking about it at this point. Owning another option you can play matchups with is probably a necessity with Ryan at this point. For a quarterback with his pedigree, that's a disappointment. -Chris Towers
4. Darren McFadden was Christine Michael all along
Michael was the Cowboys running back Fantasy owners were adding during the team's bye week because of vague reports about him getting more involved. And he did get more involved Week 7 at the Giants. He carried the ball five times instead of none. He wasn't the breakout star, though, when starter Joseph Randle went down early with a back injury. No, that honor went to McFadden, who presumably snatched the job of lead back away with 29 carries for 152 yards and a score. It nearly doubled the Cowboys' previous high for rushing yards, reminding them what they've been missing with the departure of DeMarco Murray. There's a chance McFadden loses some of his luster against the Seahawks next week, which is why you may not want to drop Randle or Michael yet, but against that defense, it's not like either is going to do to McFadden what he just did to them. He's clearly the Cowboys running back to own now. -Scott White
5. Dion Lewis is the only reliable Patriots RB
With Lewis sidelined by an abdominal injury, this should have been a perfect opportunity for LeGarrette Blount to step into a bigger role. However, Bill Belichick basically abandoned the run in this one, and Blount saw the field for just eight snaps on offense, compared to 43 for little-used reserve James White. White took on Lewis' role, but didn't do much with it, finishing with 30 all-purpose yards on five touches. Belichick has now abandoned the running game in matchups against the Jets and Bills, two of the tougher defenses on the ground around, which could be the pattern moving forward. With a passing game built around short, high-efficiency throws, the Patriots can get the benefits of a running game without having to run directly into some of the tough defensive lines in the game. Blount is completely dependent on getting a healthy amount of carries, so this usage won't benefit him against the right matchups. When Lewis is healthy, you have to start him every week. He's the only player here you can say that about. -Chris Towers
6. Charcandrick West has something to offer after all
I more or less dismissed West's chances of making a Fantasy impact in this very space a week ago, so of course then he does in Week 7 what we were all hoping he'd do in the first place, rushing 22 times for 110 yards and a score. He looked particularly strong on a fourth-quarter run where he bulldozed a couple defenders for a 36-yard gain. Granted, he may not have gotten so many carries if Ben Roethlisberger had started and put the Steelers ahead by a couple scores, but that shouldn't diminish the accomplishment. The Steelers defense had actually been one of the better at stopping the run and has still allowed the third-fewest Fantasy points per game to running backs this season. If nothing else, West put the timeshare with Knile Davis (who had only one carry) to rest, becoming an every-down back for an offense built to run and an advisable Fantasy option for any matchup where the Chiefs figure to hang with the competition. -Scott White
7. The Alfred Morris era in Washington is over
Of Washington's three-headed running back quagmire, only two have been available in each of the last two games; Matt Jones sat out two weeks ago with a toe injury, while Chris Thompson was forced to sit out in Week 7 with a back injury. Despite those absences, Morris, the team's former workhorse, has just 17 carries in those two games. And it's hard to argue he deserves more, as he has just 26 yards on those 17 carries, to go with a 3.3 yards per carry mark for the season. Among 55 running backs tracked at ProFootballFocus.com, Morris ranks just 39th in yards per carry after contact, and his three broken tackles on 97 touches represent by far the lowest rate in the league. It was hard to understand why Morris kept losing work in previous years, especially near the goal line, but it isn't hard to make sense of anymore. He's just not very good, and he is probably droppable in his current role. -Chris Towers
8. Jordan Reed is Kirk Cousins' BFF
To be fair, Week 7 was just an exceptional game for Cousins. He threw for three scores after not even throwing for two in any of the Redskins' first six games, and Reed was active for four of those. But the way Cousins went right back to favoring Reed after a two-week layoff tells me Reed is going to be too involved to sit in Fantasy. So does the history between these two. Three of the four most productive games of Reed's career prior to this year came with Cousins under center, and you may remember Cousins was a backup for most of that stretch. Reed now leads all tight end in targets per game this season, so even though you can't trust him to score a touchdown every week, much less two, you can't deny the opportunity is as good for him as for any tight end this side of Rob Gronkowski. -Scott White
9. Gary Barnidge remains unstoppable
At the height of his powers in New Orleans, Jimmy Graham had one five-game stretch in 2011 where he had 35 catches for 564 yards and two touchdowns. He had another with 37 catches for 593 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Rob Gronkowski had one with 27 catches for 492 yards and nine touchdowns, and another with 34 catches for 501 yards and five touchdowns. These are the best five-game stretches of arguably the two best Fantasy tight ends of all time, and Gary Barnidge is at least in the conversation with his current stretch, which has seen him haul in 29 passes for 459 yards and five touchdowns. He hasn't been quite that good, which is hardly any kind of knock on what Barnidge has done. It's hard to put up a five-game stretch like this and have it be a fluke, so you kind of have to treat him like an elite Fantasy option at this point. Of course, with Johnny Manziel potentially taking Josh McCown's place in Week 8, you have to be somewhat concerned about Barnidge's chances of keeping this up in the short term. Third stringer Austin Davis might be the better option for Fantasy players. -Chris Towers
10. Doug Martin is a big deal again (and so is Lamar Miller)
How's this for a blast from the past: Martin just turned in his third straight game with more than 100 rushing yards. Only two other running backs have achieved that feat this season, and they're the same two you've probably been kicking yourself for not drafting: Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley. Of course, speaking only of Martin's rushing accomplishments sells him short. He had a combined 11 catches in those three games. It's possible the Buccaneers won't be as competitive in the weeks ahead, costing Martin carries as happened earlier this season, but rookie quarterback Jameis Winston is improving by the week and has enough weapons in the receiving corps to keep defenses honest. I've lumped Miller in with Martin just because I don't want to overlook his turnaround the last two weeks, but at their highest, the expectations were higher Martin. Expectations should be as high as ever for both now, though. I'm confident they'll be top-10 the rest of the way. -Scott White