Fantasy Football Week 7 Stealing Signals Thursday Night Football recap, plus news and notes

Welcome to Stealing Signals, your look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency and everything in between. Stealing Signals is a game-by-game breakdown of everything you saw in your Fantasy box score, identifying what is signal and what is noise to help you make decisions for future weeks.     

Week 7
Chiefs 30 - Broncos 6

Snap Notes: Tyreek Hill: 87% (+34% vs. Week 6 return from injury), LeSean McCoy: 43% (+4% vs. season average), Darrel Williams: 30% (+18% vs. last week) , Damien Williams: 28% (-10% vs. last week's season low), Royce Freeman: 63% (+1% vs. previous season high), Phillip Lindsay: 40% (-5% vs. previous season low)

Key Stat: Patrick Mahomes — league-leading 9.0 yards per attempt, 15 passing touchdowns

This season feels cursed. 

It's the most important position in sports, and Fantasy is wildly reliant on it. First it was Andrew Luck, who retired after his body failed him. Then Cam Newton and Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Sam Darnold got mono. For every Gardner Minshew uncovered, there are five Chase Daniels replacing injured starters.  

But at least we had Mahomes. The old adage is there aren't 32 people in the world good enough to play quarterback at an NFL level, but in just 24 career starts Patrick Mahomes has already established he plays it at a level that makes one wonder whether he could someday be considered the best to ever do it. He already has one of two 5,000-50 passing seasons in league history. He can throw a mile or without looking at his target, both accurately. 

And now we await an MRI after a knee injury last night being described as a kneecap (patella) dislocation. Three weeks is reportedly a best-case timeline. The Chiefs have a Week 12 bye, which means if they hold him out four games, they could buy him a month and a half of recovery time. 

I'm tentatively not expecting to see him until Week 13 on Dec. 1, at the earliest. A scheduled MRI Friday will determine more, including the possibility for surgery that could potentially end his season. 

I gave an initial reaction during the game last night that basically goes like this: Matt Moore is a relatively capable backup, you start Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill while we see how things play out, LeSean McCoy is a low-end bye-week RB2 or Flex, and you probably can't start anyone else right now, with the possible exception being a healthy Sammy Watkins

As far as what to expect, the situation is still Fantasy-friendly. Moore steps into a role with plenty of talent around him and one the league's most creative offensive play-callers — both were on display on a long touchdown to Tyreek Hill last night where Hill ran a drag route then cut up the opposite side of the field that had been cleared out. That may have been a read to break it up field as Troy Aikman suggested on the broadcast, but the timing was so on point with a backup quarterback that it looked to me like something that had been practiced. 

And for as great as Joe Flacco and the Broncos made the Chiefs' defense look last night, it's struggled to stop teams, which could put Moore in passing situations. We did see more running back involvement last night, with LeSean McCoy's 12 rushes setting a season high. He continued to lead the backfield and also caught two passes, but his touchdown-scoring potential takes a significant hit with the quarterback change. It's also quite notable that the Chiefs ran the ball four times in the green zone, and Darrel Williams led the backs with two attempts, while McCoy had just one and Damien Williams got the fourth. McCoy still leads the team with 10 touches in that area of the field for the season, but Darrel has six and Damien four; McCoy's only seen half of the team's opportunities down there. 

After playing just seven snaps last week, Darrel Williams was far more involved in Week 7, and Damien Williams played a season-low snap share and frankly didn't do much to look like he deserved more time, gaining 6 yards on 11 touches, many of which came in garbage time. Neither Williams is startable, though both are worth stashing where you can as potential upside Fantasy playoff options if Mahomes does return. For as frustrating as the situation has been, it's worthwhile to target backs in good offenses that utilize the position in the passing game as much as the Chiefs do. 

Hill was mostly quiet outside his long touchdown as the Broncos made him a focus. Travis Kelce led the receiving corps with an 8-6-44 line. The Chiefs had a season-low 271 yards of total offense and 191 yards of passing offense, and the overall volume getting split among the receiving weapons substantially decreases without a 5,000-yard passer under center. 

Courtland Sutton continued to be the lead receiving option for a Denver team that struggled throughout and mounted little in the way of a comeback attempt. He produced early and finished with an 8-6-87 line, but didn't have a catch in the fourth quarter as Flacco frankly quit pushing the ball downfield, taking underneath throw after underneath throw when the Chiefs backed off with their lead. Flacco also took eight sacks. 

Royce Freeman continued to be the preferred passing downs back and stretched his receptions lead over Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay started and was plenty involved, but Freeman got the rush attempt from the 1-yard line and converted for his first touchdown of the season. Lindsay had previously been dominating that work, and did come in for a similar attempt on a 2-point try. One attempt hardly qualifies as a changing of the guard, but Freeman unquestionably had the better Fantasy workload in Week 7, generating five high-value touches to Lindsay's one and easily leading in snaps. 

Noah Fant saw five targets and 91 air yards but couldn't bring in multiple catchable deeper throws, though none were what I'd describe as accurate passes from Flacco. He continues to be both involved and unproductive. 

Signal: Damien Williams — taking a back seat; Chiefs — going to generate far less offense without Mahomes

Noise: Chiefs DST — Flacco did a good job of making a below average unit look elite

Friday news and notes

  • Alvin Kamara missed practice again Thursday and looks like a legitimate questionable for Sunday. Kamara played through what was reported as an ankle tweak in Week 6, but appeared to aggravate it and/or suffer a more significant injury. What was listed as just an ankle on the team's official Week 6 injury report is listed as both an ankle and knee issue on the Week 7 report, and has been described as more of a high ankle — i.e. more significant — injury. His status needs to be monitored but it seems very possible he sits Week 7. 
  • Sterling Shepard won't be cleared for Week 7 after suffering his second concussion of the season back in Week 5. Shepard has looked good when on the field thus far in 2019, but repeat head injuries justifiably require caution. We'll monitor his status next week ahead of Week 8. 
  • None of Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Jimmy Graham practiced Thursday for Green Bay. It's difficult to know who might suit up, but Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard could both be in line for extended Week 7 reps. We'll get more information Friday about whether any of these receiving options has a chance to suit up. 
  • Deebo Samuel has missed multiple practices this week with a groin injury, and his status for Week 8 in Washington is in doubt. Dante Pettis has seen his snap share continue to rise since the bye, and Pettis, Samuel and Marquise Goodwin have been the lead trio of wide receivers over the past two weeks. If Samuel is out, it would mean Pettis' best Fantasy expectation of the season in a plus matchup.  
  • Mitchell Trubisky remained a full participant at Thursday's practice and appears ready to return for the Bears' Week 8 matchup with the Saints. He's not a preferred Fantasy option outside of SuperFlex or 2QB leagues.
  • Both Will Fuller and Kenny Stills were full participants in Thursday's practice. Fuller had an early-week questionable tag but will be good to go for Week 7, while Stills looks likely to make his return. Stills saw a decent share of the team's air yards over the first few weeks, while Fuller's downfield opportunity has exploded with Stills out. Fuller is still a strong play this weekend with four teams on a bye, but the downfield target split will be something to monitor going forward. 
  • Christian Kirk is still practicing in a limited basis. He looked on the favorable side of questionable last week before not being able to suit up, so while it seems likely he'll also give it a go, it's also a bit concerning he's not yet practicing in full. Friday's injury report will be important. 
  • George Kittle and David Johnson were two high-profile Fantasy options who appeared to just have their practice reps monitored with missed Wednesday practices, as both returned to limited practices Thursday and are on track to play. 
  • Devin Singletary has been a full participant at Bills practices this week and looks likely to return this week after the team's Week 6 bye, and just in time for a great matchup with the Dolphins. 

Who should you sit and start this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 7 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.

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