Week 7 Fantasy Cheat Sheet
Who should be in your starting lineups as we arrive at Week 7? Our Dave Richard has an opinion on every Fantasy relevant option from every game in his Fantasy Cheat Sheet.
Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week $500,000 Fantasy Football contest for Week 7. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $40,000. Starts Sunday, October 19th at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now to play with Dave.
This week's confidence scale is based on all-time Steelers, for better or for worse. Steelers fans: This is NOT a Top 10 list of all-time Steelers players, just a list that show the range of my confidence in Fantasy players for Week 7. How else could I get away with any list without Lynn Swann on it?
1. Limas Sweed: The second-round pick had the potential to be the
most productive Steelers receiver since Lynn Swann. He turned out to be
a mega-bust. Had the Steelers traded up four spots they could have had DeSean Jackson, or waited about 150 spots and taken Steve Johnson instead.
2. Kendrell Bell: He went from the rookie of the year in 2001 to off the team by 2005. Knee injuries shortened what looked like a very bright career.
3. Neil O'Donnell: O'Donnell played for four teams but was the Steelers' starting quarterback for their Super Bowl XXX team. Fun fact: He never lost to the Steelers after he left them in 1996.
4. Joey Porter: Porter was fun to watch and probably not as much fun to play against. He amassed 98 sacks in 13 years, 60 with the Steelers.
5. Antonio Brown: Hey, we had to have at least one active Steeler on the list. Brown is on his way to being a great receiver for them but is still roughly halfway to matching John Stallworth's career total.
6. Dermontti Dawson: A 12-year veteran who made seven Pro Bowls and has made it to the Hall of Fame. He'd be the greatest player in the history of some franchises but not the Steelers.
7. Hines Ward: We're going out on a limb and suggesting Ward will make the Hall of Fame some day. He's certainly the most accomplished receiver in Steelers history.
8. Terry Bradshaw: Big Ben is still two rings shy of getting as many as Bradshaw, who led the Steelers in the 1970s. Many would argue he's the best draft pick the Steelers ever made, taking him No. 1 overall in the 1970 draft.
9. Joe Greene: The most dominating defensive player in Steelers history, making 10 Pro Bowls and twice named defensive player of the year. Fun facts: His real first name is Charles, and he was the team's No. 1 pick in the 1969 draft, the year before they got Bradshaw. Pretty good picks.
10. Franco Harris: The most dominating offensive player in Steelers history, making nine Pro Bowls and still holding the record for most rushing yards in Super Bowl games. If you thought picking Greene and Bradshaw with first-round picks were smooth, Harris became part of the Steelers in Round 1 of 1972. And, my mom likes his tush.
Six rings or not or six Fantasy wins or not, let's hammer home a W in Week 7.
Bengals at Colts, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
This is going to be the toughest challenge to date for the Colts offense. Cincinnati has the horses to match up with the Colts receivers while making things tough on Luck's offensive line. The key should be the Colts tight ends, who have the size/speed mismatch factors to make some plays against the Bengals linebackers and safeties. Watching Luck in the red zone has been wonderful -- he's really becoming a master. He'll more than likely deliver a big game, but it remains to be seen how much his receivers will contribute. Expect to see a lot of up-tempo, short-range stuff.
Andy Dalton (5.4): If A.J. Green were healthy he'd have a chance. The Texans went after Colts cornerback Greg Toler a bunch and were able to scheme up some nice screen plays for Arian Foster. Dalton will do similar things but going on the road has always been hard on him (20-plus Fantasy points in four of his last 10 on the road).
Andrew Luck (9.4): Everyone will start Luck, but the Bengals have allowed just two quarterbacks this season to get multiple passing scores in a game (Cam did it last week). Expect Luck to get there along with at least 275 yards passing.
Giovani Bernard (8.8): If Cincinnati is smart, they'll stick with the run like the Texans did last week against Indy. The Colts run defense has been a consistent issue all season, allowing plenty of yards and touchdowns per game. Expect a big dose of Gio.
Jeremy Hill (4.4): Hill had a touchdown and 35 total yards last week but has topped 10 touches in a game just once in five games. Because this isn't expected to be a Bengals blowout, Hill shouldn't be considered a reliable Fantasy option.
Ahmad Bradshaw (7.2), Trent Richardson (5.2): Those who have been starting Bradshaw have been getting by on his receiving scores keeping his numbers afloat. Without those touchdowns, he'd have seven Fantasy points or less in each of his last four games. Richardson has scored in two of three to deliver at least 10 Fantasy points, but this is going to be a touch matchup for him as well. The Bengals have been solid against the run, but their linebacking corps will certainly get tested this week. It gives Bradshaw a chance as a No. 2 Fantasy rusher and Richardson a whirl as a contender for a No. 3 spot.
Mohamed Sanu (7.3): By traditional or radical means, Sanu has delivered 10-plus Fantasy points in four of five games, but last week was his best work yet, thanks to a 34-yard touchdown in which a Carolina cornerback was basically in his face when he leaped for a jump ball. True, the Colts pass defense has been good, but if Sanu is going to keep getting targeted a ton and the Bengals are forced to eventually throw to play from behind, he makes for a good No. 2 Fantasy receiver and a great PPR option.
T.Y. Hilton (7.8): I'm pretty sure the Bengals will be on high alert to contain Hilton after he exploited the Texans secondary last Thursday. And yet we've seen some of this season's hottest playmakers deliver quality stats against the Bengals (Steve Smith, Julio Jones and Kelvin Benjamin). Hilton is due for a letdown game but he's registered nine targets, at least six catches and at least 90 yards in three straight. I couldn't sit him if I tried.
Reggie Wayne (6.2), Hakeem Nicks (3.2): Take away his 28-yard touchdown against the Titans and Wayne's been pedestrian. He's seen at least eight targets in three straight but still has only one game in standard leagues with 10-plus Fantasy points. I would expect the Bengals cornerbacks to have no problem covering Wayne one-on-one, which could lead to a lot of targets and catches but not necessarily a lot of breakaway plays or touchdowns. More of the same. Nicks has come up with six-plus targets in three straight but less than 30 yards in three straight. We might see more two-tight end sets from the Colts in Week 7.
Dwayne Allen (7.7), Coby Fleener (5.5): Last week, the Colts tried to get Allen involved beyond the red zone and early on it worked before the Texans caught on. They also had him guarded near the goal line, but not Fleener. The Bengals linebackers are beat up and their safeties aren't always great in coverage -- the Patriots and Panthers tight ends have done well in consecutive weeks. Allen is still the quality starting choice but Fleener (touchdowns in three of his last four) could also come through. I like Fleener if you're replacing Jimmy Graham.
Bengals (2.7): This DST has three Fantasy points total over the last two weeks. And now they play Andrew Luck without at least one starting linebacker. I know the Colts have allowed opposing DSTs to finish as Top 12 options in each of the last two weeks, but the Bengals are bad news in Week 7.
Colts (5.4): The Bengals have put up plenty of points this season, including 34 in regulation against the Panthers last week. There are better options.
Panthers at Packers, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The stats say this should be a very good game for the Packers running backs. Problem is, which back will it be?! I can't believe we're even at this point, but Eddie Lacy simply hasn't been himself this year, as he has less than 15 carries in all but one of his games. He was basically in a tandem last week with James Starks, who continues to eat into Lacy's playing time. You have to figure that at this point, the Packers will take a hot hand approach with the running backs.
Cam Newton (7.8 if Kelvin Benjamin plays, 6.1 if Benjamin is out): Did Cam run last week because it was part of the game plan or was it because there was no run game to speak of for Carolina? Whichever the reason, that element of Newton's game should remain against a Packers defense that has a history of struggling against running quarterbacks. Newton's passing has been on point this season and Green Bay's secondary is a major question mark with starting corners Sam Shields and Tramon Williams banged up. I'm finally comfortable calling Newton a Top 12 quarterback this week.
Aaron Rodgers (9.5): Only one quarterback hasn't thrown multiple touchdowns against the Panthers this year. Each of the last three quarterbacks to play Carolina have posted at least 22 Fantasy points. Giddyup!
Jonathan Stewart (5.7): If Stewart can make it through practice all week then he'll likely play, and boy do the Panthers need him. Panthers running backs have found the end zone in each of their last two games but have averaged 2.75 yards per carry in the process. Green Bay has allowed a back to get at least 10 Fantasy points in all but one game this season. Put Stewart on your radar as a sneaky flex or desperation starter if it looks like he'll play on Sunday.
Eddie Lacy (7.9), James Starks (4.6): Signs of a timeshare: Lacy had 14 touches on 39 snaps last week while Starks had 10 touches on 38 snaps. In the Packers blowout the week before against the Vikings, they each played 27 snaps and Starks had two fewer touches (and many fewer stats). Starks is clearly the two-minute back for the Pack -- he lost just four total snaps when Rodgers upped the tempo in their last nine minutes in their win over Miami, though Lacy was on the field when they got inside the 10. The hunch here is that the Packers are willing to begin games with Lacy, but if he can't produce then he'll lose work to Starks. The Panthers have become undone against the run, giving up at least 11 Fantasy points to every single running back that has had at least 13 carries this season. Lacy has had 13 carries or more in four of his last five.
Kelvin Benjamin (7.2, assuming he plays): Top receivers have done moderately well against the Packers -- and that's with healthy cornerbacks. If Shields and Williams miss the game for the Packers, Benjamin will line up across from Casey Hayward and Davon House, who are pretty good cornerbacks but still not shut-down types that could corral Benjamin. His potential is just too rich to pass up.
Jordy Nelson (9.5), Randall Cobb (8.0), Davante Adams (4.1): Nelson and Cobb are no-brainers at this point, but I'm ready to start considering Adams as a bye-week replacement. Over the last two weeks we've seen the Packers start to get him more involved as he'd had 12 targets, seven catches, 88 yards and a touchdown. He's still someone to keep an eye on and potentially use as a bye-week replacement. The Panthers secondary has not played particularly well.
Greg Olsen (8.8): Olsen has scored and delivered at least 12 Fantasy points in four of six games this season. Jimmy Graham can't say that. The Packers have done well against most of the tight ends they've played, but the only real threat they've faced has been Martellus Bennett, who had over 130 receiving yards against them. Every other tight end they've taken on has had five targets or less.
Panthers (2.6): The Panthers DST enters the week ranked 14th in standard leagues, surprising because they've played poorly of late. Playing at Lambeau shouldn't inspire much confidence.
Packers (4.8, 5.1 if Benjamin is out): The Panthers haven't allowed a DST to finish in the Top 12 against them over the last two weeks. The Packers might also play without their top two cornerbacks and have a nasty history against rushing quarterbacks. Try to pass them up this week.
Dolphins at Bears, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Bears defense looked great last week picking off Matt Ryan once and holding the Falcons to 13 points and under 300 total yards. But really it was the Falcons decision to run the ball just five times in the second half that made it easy on a Bears defense to get after the quarterback. The perception is that the Dolphins aren't as explosive as the Falcons but they have a better offensive line and are typically more dedicated to the run. They'll make life harder on the Bears defense and potentially steal one in Chicago.
Ryan Tannehill (5.0): Quietly, Tannehill has exploited bad defenses in consecutive weeks and wound up with at least 21 Fantasy points in each game. The Bears don't have a tremendous secondary, but they have held five of six quarterbacks to 18 Fantasy points or less this season. That's pretty impressive. I wouldn't use Tannehill unless I had to.
Jay Cutler (8.7): Cutler's 20-point streak is alive and well and should continue against a Dolphins secondary that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in three straight and over 250 yards passing in two straight. Cutler has to continue avoiding pressure, though -- the Dolphins pass rush is pretty good, but it's not enough to even think about sitting Cutler.
Lamar Miller (8.2): Is the Bears run defense back just because they've held opposing rushers to 3.2 yards per carry over their last three games? Dig deeper -- they've taken on the Packers, Panthers and Falcons, all of whom struggled to create a good run game on their own and combined for 47 carries. Also, each team had a back score on the Bears. This isn't a scary matchup -- expect a good game from Miller. He'll be a part of my one-week league teams.
Matt Forte (9.1): Forte has been unstoppable over the last two weeks and will take on a run defense that has looked great against the Raiders and Packers over their last two games (88.5 total yards per game allowed). Forte presents much more of a challenge.
Mike Wallace (6.5): It's hard to get away from Wallace because he's scored in four of five games this season. Really, he needs a touchdown to be helpful for Fantasy, and I can't remember the last time he's been on a streak like this. He's due for a letdown and the Bears pass defense has come up aces against receivers over the last two weeks. This isn't as bad of a pass defense as some might think and they'll focus on containing Wallace. There's some risk here.
Brandon Marshall (8.4), Alshon Jeffery (7.7): There's not enough evidence to suggest one or both of these receivers will struggle after the Packers left a lot on film on how to break through against the Miami secondary. In the week prior the Raiders had mild success with their receivers against this Dolphins defense. Expect the Bears to challenge deep against Miami safeties Louis Delmas and Reshad Jones.
Martellus Bennett (8.0): So far the Bennett Calendar Omen (a.k.a the BCO) has proven true, but a sneaky feeling this week suggests he'll resurface. The Bears will look at the matchups against Dolphins linebackers and safeties and test them. Besides, the Dolphins track record against opposing tight ends is ugly.
Dolphins (4.6): While I wouldn't be surprised if the Dolphins racked up a handful of sacks and an interception or two in this game, the Bears' penchant for points makes them a risky choice. Call 'em a low-end replacement for the Eagles DST or for those who use different DSTs from week to week.
Bears (4.3): They were awesome last week against the Falcons and could put some pressure on Tannehill, who could turn the ball over a couple of times all by himself. But I'm still not convinced they're even a good defense, much less a great defense. I suspect they'll allow at least 20 points.
Titans at Redskins, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
This should be a good game for the Redskins to get back to a balanced attack. Over the last couple of weeks they've tried to run but faced tough run defenses, ultimately leading to Kirk Cousins throwing downfield. The Titans run defense isn't as good as it looked last week and the Redskins should lean on Alfred Morris to help pace Washington to a win. The Titans and their hodge-podge run game can't do the same.
Charlie Whitehurst (4.0): The matchup is great but the quarterback is tough to trust, even though his passing yardage has increased over each of his last two games and he doesn't have a turnover in two weeks.
Kirk Cousins (6.7): Just how reliant have Cousins' stats been on DeSean Jackson's production? Over the last two weeks, nearly 43 percent of his passing yards and half of his touchdowns have been thanks to D-Jax. Eventually that gravy train will slow down, but it might not be this week as the Titans have allowed eight passing touchdowns over the last three weeks (three to receivers) with an average of 340.0 yards allowed over that span. Cousins is a nice one-week fix.
Bishop Sankey (5.4): I'm tired of recommending a running back who doesn't come through for my own Fantasy teams, much less yours. Sankey had the opportunities last week and still couldn't pull out a nice game. Losing goal-line work to Jackie Battle was tough to stomach and losing passing downs to other backs limits his potential. Tack on a difficult matchup against Washington and it's all bad.
Alfred Morris (8.1): I would count on a big bounceback from Alf. The Titans run defense has given up six rushing touchdowns in their last five (seven touchdowns to running backs total) and on the year they're giving up 112.2 rush yards per game to backs, 23rd in the league on the season. Morris has already delivered a pair of solid games at home this season and should have a good chance to come through again against Tennessee.
Kendall Wright (4.6), Justin Hunter (4.2): It stinks that neither guy had a big game against the Jaguars weak secondary last week, but the Titans didn't end up needing them. Hunter had five targets, Wright had one. That's gross, but a bounce-back game for both is possible as the Redskins have allowed five receivers to spill over the 10-point barrier over their last four games. They're both OK as one-week replacements.
DeSean Jackson (7.0): There's a little concern that the Redskins might not have to throw a lot in this game because they'll be able to grind out a win on the ground. And technically speaking, the Titans have been pretty decent against receivers on the year -- three have scored over their last three games and four total on the season. Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton did pretty well in two games against Jay Gruden last season when Horton coached the Browns defense and Gruden the Bengals offense, plus Horton has a good track record containing Jackson going back to his Steelers days (he also did a nice job limiting A.J. Green last season). Thing is, the Titans secondary has been burned by the deep ball a bunch lately, from guys like T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne to Taylor Gabriel and even Cecil Shorts. Jason McCourty has been on the other end of some of those too. Of Jackson's 16 targets over the last two weeks, five have been on passes that traveled longer than 15 yards and three connected -- all against Seattle. He's the same ol' wild card for Fantasy lineups but can't be considered a must-start despite his success.
Pierre Garcon (5.2): If Jackson draws coverage or has the Titans safeties tilt his way, then theoretically Garcon will have single coverage and can beat it. But even with a touchdown last week his numbers have been really brutal. He had 32 targets in his first three games, 15 in his most recent three. If he's a touchdown-dependent receiver then it's tough to count on him to deliver a big game against a Titans defense that's done pretty well against opposing receivers.
Delanie Walker (7.5): The last two weeks have been lame, but at least he has 12 targets over those games with eight last week. He also would have had a long catch for a potential score had Whitehurst thrown with accuracy on one specific play. The Redskins have cleaned up their act against tight ends in their last two games after Larry Donnell bashed them for a big game, but they haven't really been challenged by a legit threat. This seems like a good spot for Walker to bounce back.
Jordan Reed (8.7): Tennessee already has a lot of work to do to balance defensive coverage against Washington's receivers -- adding Reed into the mix could stretch them too thin. They've also allowed touchdowns to tight ends in three straight.
Titans (5.0): It took a late touchdown for the Cardinals DST to lock up a Top 5 finish against the Redskins last week, but even without it they would have finished in the Top 12. Two of the last three DSTs to play Washington have been in the Top 12. I don't really like the Titans DST but they're in my Top 12 this week by default.
Redskins (3.2): There will be a temptation to use the Redskins DST because of the matchup. Don't do it. The Titans haven't let any of the defenses they've played in the last two weeks finish in the Top 12 against them, and the Redskins haven't delivered a big game since Week 3.
Browns at Jaguars, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
It's pretty clear that the Browns would prefer to lean on their run game and coast to a win similar to what they did last week. Jacksonville's run defense on the season isn't pretty and when they've run into capable effective backs, especially those working in a zone run schemes, they've struggled. It should bode well for the Browns in an effort to control the clock and limit turnovers.
Brian Hoyer (2.5): As far as a guy who can manage games and throw when needed, not because he has to, Hoyer's been impressive. But because he's not expected to throw a ton, Fantasy owners can't seriously consider him.
Blake Bortles (2.6): Bit by bit, Bortles is coming around for the Jaguars. A matchup like this might have looked good a couple of weeks ago, but the Browns pass defense really hasn't been terrible save for a random game against the Titans. If you throw out the Titans game, then no passer has posted more than 19 Fantasy points on Cleveland this season.
Ben Tate (8.3), Isaiah Crowell (6.7): We'll all start Tate, but Crowell continues to show flashes and get work even with Tate as the main back. There's concern about Crowell after he fumbled twice last week (losing possession once) but even after the fourth-quarter turnover he still had a couple of carries. I might flinch if Terrance West is active on Sunday or if reports suggest Crowell could get benched for his fumbilits, but otherwise there should be chances for Crowell to deliver a score.
Storm Johnson (4.8): I know Johnson scored last week, but what did he do that Toby Gerhart couldn't have done? Maybe with more experience he can get better, but the Jaguars offensive line is really holding the ground game back, plus Johnson's not sniffing the field in passing situations. Even with the Browns D-line beaten up it's not a great matchup.
The Browns usual group (3.4 avg.): Andrew Hawkins is still the leading target getter among the Browns wideouts by a wide margin but if he's the best, most trustworthy receiver on the Browns, then none of them are good Fantasy choices this week.
Cecil Shorts (5.3), Allen Robinson (3.7): Wasn't the Browns secondary supposed to be in some sort of a tailspin? On the year the Browns have allowed five touchdowns to receivers, but three came in one game at Tennessee. Against the Steelers twice, the Saints and the Ravens, this unit has allowed just two scores, but also 164.3 yards per game. I might consider Shorts in all leagues and Robinson in PPR formats as potential low-end starters this week.
Jordan Cameron (7.2): I had a nice blurb written about how the Jaguars seem to have turned the corner on opposing tight ends, holding Antonio Gates, Heath Miller and Delanie Walker to a combined 133 yards with no touchdowns over the last three weeks. But the reality is that the Jaguars were very sloppy with Walker last week and if it weren't for errant throws from Whitehurst he would have had a big game. I'd start Cameron and expect some good results.
Clay Harbor (2.6): Harbor has 12 targets in the three games since Blake Bortles has taken over for the Jaguars. That might seem like a lot, but it's actually the fourth-most among Jaguars pass-catching options. Cleveland has managed to shut down opposing tight ends except for Jimmy Graham and Harbor is no Graham.
Browns (7.2): You know the drill -- every DST to play the Jaguars has finished in the Top 12 in a given week. It's a trend worth sticking to.
Jaguars (2.5): The Browns are the opposite of the Jaguars -- none of the defenses to play them have finished in the Top 12 in Fantasy points the week of their games. It's a trend worth sticking to.
Vikings at Bills, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
It's been a while since the Bills had a "gimme" game at home -- this seems to be one. On the strength of the defense, Buffalo should be able to contain the Vikings offense while finding ways to put points on the board. Don't expect the Bills to veer from their bread and butter, which is running the ball, but they could try and get Sammy Watkins downfield against a Vikings secondary that's struggled with receivers for much of the year.
Teddy Bridgewater (2.0): The rookie was a mess last week against a defense with a dominating defensive line and sharp safeties. He'll have issues with the D-line again this week as Buffalo's front is among the best in football. Even though the Bills allowed four passing touchdowns to the Patriots last week, this isn't a safe spot to go with Bridgewater.
Kyle Orton (2.8): All Orton has done in the two weeks since taking over for E.J. Manuel is pass for 299 yards or more per game, earn a 66.7 completion percentage and throw three touchdowns. Sure, the matchup is good for Orton but it's tough to expect, say, 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Jerick McKinnon (5.3), Matt Asiata (3.4): The coach might ask for more of a 50-50 split between McKinnon and Asiata, but it's clear now that McKinnon offers more explosion on the field, even if he didn't deliver last week. Neither guy should do great this week as the Bills still haven't allowed a touchdown to a running back and are allowing 2.7 yards per carry to backs on the season.
Fred Jackson (7.8), C.J. Spiller (5.6): Figure that the Bills run it up on a Vikings run defense that has really come apart. Jackson's the best bet to score but the Bills could try giving Spiller 15-plus carries too. He's a risky play as always, but I might include him among this week's wild-card choices, meaning he's worth using as a low-end No. 2 back or a flex if you need to take a chance or if your lineup is stacked and you can afford to be a little frisky.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Greg Jennings (3.6 avg.): The Vikings are trying with Patterson: Of his eight targets, one was headed into the end zone but was intercepted, two were tipped at the line of scrimmage (one was intercepted), one was dropped by Patterson, one was a throw-away pass that Patterson had no shot at, one was thrown wide of Patterson (he actually got a hand on it, as did a defender behind him), one completion was on a slant and one was his longest completion, 9 yards, coming with less than a minute in the game against soft prevent defense. I suspect the Vikings will keep working on getting on the same page with Patterson, and this matchup really isn't that bad for the Vikings receivers, but Bridgewater has to get his act together and that will be tough to do against this aggressive defense.
Sammy Watkins (6.8), Robert Woods (4.8): The Vikings will have their hands full -- over the last three weeks we've seen Woods pick up a lot of targets in two games, finally breaking through with a touchdown and 78 yards last week against the Pats. That's thanks in large part to defenses keying in on Watkins. Before last week, the Vikings had allowed seven touchdowns to wideouts over four games including four to No. 1 guys, which should bode well for Watkins. The catch is that Buffalo might not have to throw a lot to overpower Minnesota, so there's some risk in both players.
Scott Chandler (1.9): Ready to buy into Chandler after he dropped 100 yards on the Patriots last week? Don't be. Chandler had six catches for the first time all season, nine targets for the first time since last November and 100 yards receiving for the first time since ... ever. It's not time to buy into Chandler.
Vikings (3.4): The Vikings have a great defensive mind in head coach Mike Zimmer but much of his personnel stinks. The Bills should find a way to get more than 21 points and tally over 300 yards.
Bills (7.6): This might be the best streaming option you can get in Week 7, as the Vikings have not only allowed four DSTs to end the week with a Top 12 finish in their last five, but three of them have been the very best unit in Fantasy. Double-check to make sure they're not on waivers in your league, and make sure to consider them in one-week formats.
Saints at Lions, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
To call this a huge game for the Saints is an understatement. Coming off the bye the Saints will take on a Lions defense that has stifled everyone (allowing 13.7 points per game). It will be interesting to see how Sean Payton utilizes his offense in this game without Jimmy Graham on the field. Adding to the problem is new Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who worked for five seasons with the Saints and probably knows plenty about the opposing quarterback (Drew Brees) his defense will face and the defense his new quarterback (Matthew Stafford) will face. I think this will be a big statement game for the Lions.
Drew Brees (7.0): I can't remember the last time I was nervous about starting Brees in Fantasy, but his play through the first few weeks of the season and the Lions amazing defensive front will make things tough on him like they've done on other quarterbacks. And he won't have Jimmy Graham. The wrinkle that history has thrown at us this week has to do with Brees coming off the bye. He's not just good off the bye, he's epic. He has at least four touchdowns in each of his last five post-bye games and at least 330 yards in each of his last six post-bye games. You should know that only two of those games came on the road and several came against inferior competition (last year was against Buffalo, the year before was at the Buccaneers). Brees is fine as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, not anything more.
Matthew Stafford (5.1): It's another week without Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron is out too (for whatever that's worth), so it's another week where we can't feel good about starting him, even if the Saints went into the bye allowing five total touchdowns to Tony Romo and Mike Glennon in their two previous games. The Lombardi factor could help Stafford out, but his track record without a full allotment of receivers is pretty black and white.
Pierre Thomas (6.4), Mark Ingram (3.9), Khiry Robinson (2.9), Travaris Cadet (1.8): Ingram and Robinson will split that running downs role for the Saints, but both will get a whole lot of nothing against a Lions run defense that's been rough on opposing running backs. This is the kind of game where Brees will need pass-catchers out of the backfield, and that should mean a lot of Thomas and maybe a little of Cadet.
Joique Bell (7.7), Reggie Bush (6.5): Expect the Lions to lean on their running backs, if only because their passing game is missing a slightly important piece. There's only one game all season where a back hasn't scored on the Saints. That's good for Bell. And over their last three games they've allowed 9.8 yards per catch to opposing running backs. That's good for Bush, who will play his very first game against the team that drafted him -- it wouldn't surprise me if he had a hand in beating them.
Brandin Cooks (6.0), Marques Colston (5.7): We saw the Saints try to get Cooks going before the bye when he totaled 27 targets in three games, finishing with 22 catches for only 161 yards. I suspect the Saints will have some tricks up their sleeve to get Cooks even more productive. That could stretch the Lions defense and get Colston open to make some short- and mid-range plays (he has 10 catches on 22 targets over his last three games). The Lions haven't allowed more than 87 yards to a receiver this season and have given up just two touchdowns to the position. Both players are better in PPR formats than standard leagues.
Golden Tate (7.4): The targets have been there for Tate, but in a cruel twist of irony he hasn't converted enough of them and certainly saw his receiving average tumble last week. He had a couple of drops that cost him some quality numbers. I suspect the Lions won't be shy about getting Tate a lot of work this week and would consider him a Top 15 starting option against a struggling secondary.
Benjamin Watson (4.0), Josh Hill (2.7): I don't mind Watson as a cheap replacement option for those who lost Graham, with Hill sticking in the No. 2 tight end role he's normally had. Watson had seven targets in basically three-and-a-half quarters without Graham back in Week 5, Hill had three. Hill is more athletic (had a 37-yard catch-and-run in Week 5) but Watson will land the playing time.
Saints (4.2): The Lions offense hasn't been red hot but neither has the Saints DST, collecting five Fantasy points or less in four of five games.
Lions (7.7): It's weird to call a defense a must-start against the Saints, but this is one. Heading into the bye last week the Saints allowed three of four opponents to finish as a Top 12 DST. The Lions have been red hot and will present a huge challenge to this offense. I'd start them without hesitation.
Falcons at Ravens, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Last week we were worried about the Ravens hanging in there on the road against the Bucs. Little did we know that Gary Kubiak would tell Joe Flacco to just chuck it again and again. The Ravens attacked a Bucs secondary starting multiple backups. You'd think it's unlikely that they'll try it again, but look at how he's put together big games against non-conference opponents this year, tallying three scores and 327 yards versus the Panthers back in Week 4 (even if there were some fluky plays) and then last week's smashing of the Bucs. The Falcons run defense is worse than their pass defense, but it's possible the Ravens pick on Robert Alford or Kemal Ishmael to bring home another win and huge stat line for Flacco.
Matt Ryan (6.0): The blueprint is out: Attack the line of scrimmage, make Ryan uncomfortable and force some turnovers. It didn't help last week that his receivers dropped a bunch of passes. I might imagine a diligent game plan from the Ravens to contain Julio Jones and force Ryan to go in another direction. The Ravens have allowed each of the last two quarterbacks they've faced to notch 22 Fantasy points, but only one of them threw multiple touchdowns. I'd try to sit Ryan this week.
Joe Flacco (7.2): The most dangerous part about Flacco's five-score performance was how many numbers were left on the field off of near-catches and the like. The Ravens also did a nice job of using the same sort of routes a number of times in the game (Torrey Smith ran slants and post routes all game long) and there's familiarity with Mike Nolan's defensive scheme. Expect more tricks up Flacco's sleeve -- I don't think we've seen the last of his arm. I like his matchup way more than Drew Brees'.
Antone Smith (4.9), Steven Jackson (4.3): The Falcons would be wise to give Smith some additional snaps if only to prove that when they put him on the field that it doesn't mean he's going to touch the ball. He played 11 snaps last week and got six touches. Not much of a decoy there. Smith deserves more work and the hunch is that even if the Falcons give it to him, Baltimore's defense will be wise to his presence. It is a tough matchup for both backs.
Justin Forsett (8.0): Forsett is must-start material against a Falcons run defense that has gone from so-so to bad to "bwahahahaha look at them!"
Bernard Pierce (6.8): It's a risk, but Pierce should be able to wreak havoc on the Falcons, especially in clock-killing mode in the second half. If you're in a pinch at running back this week, grab Pierce and hope for a score.
Julio Jones (8.1), Roddy White (5.8): Jones has 44 catches on 69 targets on the year but his last 36 targets in his most recent three games have resulted in 21 catches, 255 yards and no scores. White's track record in that span is even worse -- drops contributed to his faulty play last week. The reason to start them is because the targets should be there and the Falcons will have to throw in a play-from-behind effort.
Steve Smith (8.5): Smith has been awesome against his old NFC South foes, first decimating his old team and then cashing in on a long bomb last week. He'll get another one in the Falcons and they're awful against the pass. Bank on Smith.
Torrey Smith (5.5): As much as I'd like to say otherwise, it feels like you're chasing touchdowns with Torrey. Last week was a blast, but he's among the most inconsistent receivers in Fantasy. He scored in back-to-back games once last year and twice two years ago. Only because the matchup is so good, play it safe and consider him no better than a No. 3 Fantasy receiver.
Owen Daniels (4.4): Daniels dropped a touchdown pass last week on the play before Torrey Smith scored for the second time. The Falcons have actually done a nice job against tight ends this season -- none have scored on them thanks to their varying coverage (usually it's a safety but sometimes Desmond Trufant takes on a tight end). I wouldn't be surprised if Daniels made amends for last week's drop, but I still wouldn't use him in Fantasy unless I had no other choice.
Falcons (1.8): Banged up and beleaguered, there's no way you should trust your Fantasy team to this group, especially at Baltimore.
Ravens (6.4): It's a little counterintuitive to start a DST against the Falcons, but if you had done so last week you would have had a Top 12 unit. I'd call the Ravens a good enough option for this week.
Seahawks at Rams, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
I noticed this week that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked up his commitment to running the football, telling the St. Louis media "We want to run it a bunch. In the games we win we run it 36-37 times, we understand that. We're just committed to that style of play." They weren't committed at all last week and they lost, so I might expect the Seahawks to lean on Beast Mode even though the Niners tried to do the same thing and ended up taking to the air to win on Monday.
Russell Wilson (6.6): Hand in hand with the above note on the Seahawks running the ball against the Rams is the lack of Wilson's numbers in four career games with the Rams. One time at home he delivered a couple of touchdowns and a lot of yardage, but he came up short in the other three games. Tack on the Percy Harvin trade and this doesn't look like a brilliant week for Wilson. I am a little nervous.
Austin Davis (2.7): Clock struck midnight on Cinderella last week as the Niners harassed Davis and forced him into some turnovers. You don't have to trust him in this game but it is worth noting that four straight quarterbacks have posted multiple touchdowns on the Seahawks secondary including Kirk Cousins two weeks ago and Romo last week. I wouldn't be surprised if Davis tried finding Brian Quick more often after practically ignoring him on Monday night.
Marshawn Lynch (9.0): So here's a fun trend: Every single time over the last three seasons when Marshawn Lynch has had a game with 15 carries or less, he's bounced back with a big stat line the following week. Most times it also comes with more work (over 15 carries) but not always, yet the numbers are still there. Lynch should roll.
Zacy CunningMason (4.0 avg.): It's feeling like the Rams are back to square one with their running game. Benny Cunningham looked better than Zac Stacy last week and they finally unearthed Tre Mason. I imagine there will be a three-headed monster in this backfield, each of whom taking just enough work to make the others mediocre for Fantasy. I wouldn't start any of them but if I had to, Cunningham would be my pick to do the best. Mason is definitely worth stashing -- he was the Rams running back coming out of halftime on Monday.
Jermaine Kearse (4.45), Doug Baldwin (4.05): Harvin's departure opens the door for Kearse and Baldwin, Seattle's two-most accomplished receivers, to get more targets. There will be a third guy in the mix too (maybe rookie Paul Richardson), and this is a good matchup for them as the Rams pass defense doesn't exactly handle speed well. That's why I like Kearse over Baldwin, though Baldwin was one of my favorite players from offseason film review.
Brian Quick (6.9): Quick's bad game had as much to do with Austin Davis not looking his way than the matchup itself. The Niners pass defense is good, but early on they weren't double-teaming Quick and he was getting open. ProFootballFocus.com says Quick's best numbers have come on the left side of the field and in the middle, not on the right, which hints that the Rams will try to keep Quick on the left side away from Richard Sherman. Of course, that's assuming Sherman doesn't stick to Quick like glue, which is a possibility but not a probability based on his track record. If Quick finds himself up against the likes of Marcus Burley, we might see Quick rebound quickly in Week 7 against the Seahawks' not-so-shutdown secondary, be it because the Rams use him more in the game plan or because they're trailing and are forced to throw. I'm still impressed with him and consider him a fair No. 2 receiver.
Seahawks (8.3): Everyone is down on the Rams offense after last week and for good reason. But if the 'Hawks are playing without Bobby Wagner in the middle of the defense and with backup cornerbacks opposite Richard Sherman, there's a chance the Rams could take advantage. The Seahawks are still a Top 12 option but I might not expect them to deliver big.
Rams (3.8): The lack of a pass rush getting home and a secondary that fell apart last week makes the Rams DST tough to trust this time around.
Chiefs at Chargers, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
The Chiefs come back from their bye healthier in the secondary with Eric Berry back at practice. He'll provide some much-needed support as he'll be tasked with slowing down Antonio Gates. In the game Berry was active in last season, Gates' numbers were in the pits. In the game Berry missed (Week 17) Gates had a touchdown. It'll open up the rest of the Chiefs defense to properly cover the rest of the Chargers offensive weapons, which could help out a lot.
Alex Smith (6.5): Andy Reid's track record of being prepared and productive coming out of the bye is pretty well documented by now. Last year the Chiefs hung tough with the Broncos and lost, but Smith had a good game and Fantasy owners were happy. Now he takes on a Chargers defense that might play without cornerback Brandon Flowers, a perk considering how good he's been this season. Smith is a boom-or-bust quarterback play and he won't throw deep bombs like Derek Carr did last week, but he can make up for it with dump-off passes and rushing totals. Smith had three touchdowns in his lone game against these Chargers last year.
Philip Rivers (9.2): Kansas City has held three straight quarterbacks to under 20 Fantasy points, including Tom Brady (back when he stunk) and Colin Kaepernick. I'm not buying it.
Jamaal Charles (8.9): Obviously the Chargers defense will focus on Charles first, the rest of the Chiefs second, and their run defense has stood up for much of the season. But Charles should be very involved and is too dangerous to get cold feet over.
Branden Oliver (8.5): For now it looks like the Chargers will keep playing the kid. The matchup is weird because Kansas City's run defense is allowing just over 150 total yards per game to running backs, but none have scored this season. That's fine -- even if we rely on Oliver for yardage he should put up good numbers between his carries and catches.
Dwayne Bowe (3.1): So because Brandon Flowers might miss the game, Bowe could have a real shot at being a hero in Week 7, right? I doubt it. On the year Bowe has 14 catches on 24 targets for 195 yards and ... what am I doing? Writing about Bowe? Like you're going to start him?! Man, sometimes I'm so silly.
Malcom Floyd (5.6), Eddie Royal (4.5), Keenan Allen (4.4): Right now, the difference between Allen and the other Chargers receivers is that they're able to use their speed and quicks to get open. Allen isn't blowing past anyone, which makes me think he's not at full speed right now. Allen has the most targets over the last three weeks with 25 but also the fewest Fantasy points in that span. If all three play, Floyd and Royal are who I'd choose for potential flex work on my Fantasy team. The Chiefs are allowing 160.4 yards per game to receivers and exactly one touchdown to them per game (and it's been a non-No. 1 receiver in each of their last three).
Travis Kelce (6.8): Not only has Kelce been part of the plan for the Chiefs so far this season, but the coaching staff probably conjured up more ways to use him coming out of the bye week. Frankly, part of the reason why I'm fine with Smith as a starter is because of Kelce. This will be the toughest test the Chargers have faced at tight end so far this season.
Antonio Gates (7.8): The last time Gates had more than 10 Fantasy points against the Chiefs was in 2010 when Eric Berry was a rookie -- but Berry won't play Sunday which should open up Gates for a big game.
Chiefs (2.4): You can't use this unit, even if Berry is back. The Chargers have been a nightmare for opposing DSTs, scoring 27.3 points per game on average.
Chargers (6.0): Four straight DSTs have finished outside the Top 12 in games against the Chiefs. The Chargers should end up being the fifth.
Giants at Cowboys, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
Life after Victor Cruz will take some getting used to for the Giants -- without him defenses will have an easier time planning for Eli Manning and his weapons. This might suggest that they lean on Andre Williams and hope he can sustain drives, if only to keep the Cowboys offense from milking the clock and ultimately scoring. Dallas is second in time of possession with 34:43 per game; the Giants are tied for 11th with 30:55 per game, but have averaged 28:00 per game in three losses.
Eli Manning (6.4): I'm not buying that Eli is "done" just because Cruz is out for the season, but I am buying that he won't fare well against Dallas. Over the last two weeks, the Cowboys have settled down against quarterbacks and haven't allowed a touchdown pass or even 200 yards passing against Houston and at Seattle. The key is how well the Giants O-line holds up against the Cowboys pass rush -- if they can get to Manning then he'll struggle, just as he had in losses against the Lions, Cardinals and Eagles (sacked 12 times in those games, hit 18 times). The catch is that the Cowboys have just six sacks (but 30 quarterback hits) on the year. Manning can thrive if he has time. The hunch is that he'll have a good game but not a great game, so you can get away from starting him this week.
Tony Romo (8.0): There's a little concern about how his offensive line will hold up after both of his tackles suffered injuries (left tackle Tyron Smith should play), but the matchup is good otherwise. The Giants were solid against quarterbacks until last week when Nick Foles threw two. They'll play without cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, which helps Romo's cause. He's thrown multiple touchdowns in four straight games and at least 250 yards in three straight.
Andre Williams (6.6): If the Giants are smart they won't give up on Williams too soon against a Cowboys run defense that's allowed at least 4.6 yards per carry to backs of every team they've faced. What's weird is that opposing backs have averaged just 19.0 carries against Dallas, and only two backs have had at least 15 carries against the 'Boys this season. The Giants have had a back get at least 15 carries in five of their last six against the Cowboys and in every game so far this season, including Williams getting at least 15 carries in three straight. You have to assume he'll have a chance to get some nice yardage.
DeMarco Murray (9.3): The Murray touch watch is on after he had a lot of work last week against the Seahawks. Everyone will start him, but if you're not backing him up with Joseph Randle you are playing with the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products (I got that from Wikipedia).
Rueben Randle (5.1), Odell Beckham (4.3): Take away two defensive breakdowns against the Rams and the Cowboys haven't allowed a touchdown to any receiver, period. This includes an astonishing three-game streak against the Saints, Texans and Seahawks wideouts. This makes me jittery to start Randle and Beckham -- consider them both low-end starters.
Dez Bryant (8.6), Terrance Williams (7.5): Both are safe starting choices against a Giants secondary that isn't expected to have one of their starters available. Williams has at least 11 Fantasy points in each of three home games so far this season.
Larry Donnell (6.7): Because he's not a terrific run blocker, and because he's not needed to help the Giants offensive line, expect to see Donnell targeted way more than the three times we've seen over the last two weeks. The Cowboys have been bad against every notable tight end they've faced. Expect a bounce-back week for Donnell, and he's sneaky in one-week leagues too.
Jason Witten (5.4): Witten has been an animal against the Giants, catching two touchdowns in each game last season and grabbing 18 passes for 167 yards back in October, 2012. Is it enough to start him against a Giants defense that was beat up by Eagles tight ends last week? It's a close call because Witten hasn't been great this season, so he's barely good enough to start.
Giants (3.0): It's a little hard to believe, but the last two DSTs to play the Cowboys have finished as Top 12 choices (Houston and Seattle). I'd say it's risky to use the Giants this week when units with more favorable matchups are out there.
Cowboys (5.2): I actually think there's some sleeper potential here given the Giants new deficiencies at receiver. Dallas' DST hasn't been great, but I'd still take them ahead of bad defenses in semi-favorable matchups (Bears, Titans, Redskins, etc.).
Cardinals at Raiders, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The Raiders are supposed to be afraid of Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, but he just hasn't been himself this season. We saw last week that the Raiders will not be afraid to throw downfield and they'll be sure to keep it up this week. Andre Holmes figures to get a lot of work against a Cardinals defense that has allowed 309.0 pass yards per game, worst in the NFL.
Carson Palmer (8.5): Expect Palmer to stay upright (Raiders have five sacks this season) and fire willingly into a bad Raiders secondary. Oakland has allowed eight passing touchdowns in their last four games and each of the last two quarterbacks to play against them have posted at least 24 Fantasy points.
Derek Carr (4.1): You have to love the matchup for Carr as the Cardinals have been bad against the pass -- not only are they the worst in the league in pass yards per game but they rank 27th in Fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Last week was proof that the Raiders were getting smarter about throwing the ball and protecting Carr. It wouldn't be a shock to see him play well -- having the confidence to start him is a different story.
Andre Ellington (8.7): He's a must as the Raiders have allowed a touchdown to a back in four of five games. Every single starting running back except the Patriots' guys have posted at least 14 Fantasy points on the Raiders so far this season. That includes guys with 10, 12 and 13 carries. Ellington has averaged 16.2 carries and 20.0 touches per game. I love him in one-week leagues.
Darren McFadden (6.0): The Cardinals pass defense is weak but they've been great against the run. On the plus side, they are allowing 8.8 yards per catch to running backs this season and McFadden has 10 grabs in his last three games. He's a decent option as a bye-week replacement.
Michael Floyd (7.9), Larry Fitzgerald (7.1), John Brown (4.7): Oakland's pass defense is starting to get tested, allowing 379 yards and three touchdowns to wideouts in their last two games against the Dolphins and Chargers. Expect the Cardinals to use a bunch of play-action to help throw downfield. Floyd's best numbers have come on the right side against left cornerbacks, which means he'll have to beat Carlos Rogers for targets -- an easy win. Fitzgerald can win on crossing patterns in the middle of the Raiders defense and Brown will definitely get targeted against Oakland's safeties on deep passes. They're all appealing but Floyd and Fitzgerald should reliably help Fantasy owners.
Andre Holmes (6.1), James Jones (4.9): You have to admit that both guys are playing well. Holmes has taken advantage of added playing time, catching just nine of 20 targets over his last two games for a ridiculous 195 yards and three touchdowns. Jones has always played plenty, delivering at least eight Fantasy points in four of five games this season (the bad game came at New England). Averaging six targets, nearly five catches and over 60 yards per game in his last three, Jones isn't a bad choice in PPR formats. Both receivers will take on a struggling Cardinals defense and could come out of the game with nice numbers. In case you were wondering, ProFootballFocus.com ranks Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson as the 13th worst cornerback among those that have played at least 300 snaps.
Mychal Rivera (2.0): We'll list him if only because of the matchup against the Cardinals, who have allowed eight or more Fantasy points to tight ends in four of five games. Can we expect the Raiders to catch on and give Rivera the workload? Probably not -- despite playing a ton of snaps he has 11 targets and four catches over his last three games and zero red-zone targets on the season.
Cardinals (6.8): The Raiders have allowed four DSTs to finish as Top 12 options, but not last week against the Chargers. It feels like the Raiders will give the Cardinals a fight and potentially put up some points but the Cardinals defense should wind up finishing as a Top 12 choice.
Raiders (1.4): Their DST has had 10 points or less in every game and six points or less in three of four.
49ers at Broncos, Sun., 8:30 p.m. ET
The third of the Broncos' NFC West matchups could end up being one of the toughest, though they'll catch a break not going up against Patrick Willis. The 49ers are going to have a hard time putting pressure on Peyton Manning, meaning that they're probably going to struggle keeping points off the board. Antoine Bethea has played real well this season but Manning will be able to find good matchups away from him and poke some holes in this defense. It'll force the 49ers to play from behind, as most teams do against Denver.
Colin Kaepernick (7.6): I know Kap had a big game on Monday and has four games with 20-plus Fantasy points already but it feels like he's very matchup dependent. That said, the Broncos rank 20th in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and that's with three games against Alex Smith, Drew Stanton and Geno Smith. Kaepernick should be trusted to tally at least 20 Fantasy points again, particularly since he'll have to attempt a lot of passes. His track record with 30-plus pass attempts over his career is very good (7 out of 11 games with at least 20 Fantasy points including 2 for 3 this year).
Peyton Manning (9.3): Unrelated-to-Peyton note/embarrassing fact about the author, Vol. 6 of 16: You're reading the work of the 1984 Ravisloe Club Most Improved Swimmer of the Year! Take that, Matt Porter!
Frank Gore (5.9): I began the week considering Gore as a sneaky Fantasy start because the Broncos run defense had allowed six total touchdowns to running backs before they demo'd the Jets duo. Plus Gore has seen a steady diet over the last three weeks, averaging nearly 20 carries per game. All three running backs that have had at least 16 carries against the Broncos totaled over 20 Fantasy points but receiving stats came into play. Still, all three scored and would have been worth nine Fantasy points just on their rushing alone. That might be Gore's ceiling here since he's not promised to keep that workload if the Broncos pull ahead after halftime. Call him a borderline low-end No. 2/good No. 3 Fantasy running back.
Ronnie Hillman (7.6): As much as the Niners might love to dare Manning to throw at them, they'll probably adopt a gameplan similar to the Jets and play the pass first. That worked out great for Hillman, who got the nod 24 times and racked up 100 yards against the Niners. Now he'll play them without Patrick Willis in the middle of their defense -- he'll be replaced by rookie Chris Borland. It's a very good matchup for Hillman, believe it or not.
Anquan Boldin (5.9), Michael Crabtree (5.4): Our research went back to 2012 when the 49ers took on the Patriots. Aqib Talib played for New England then and didn't necessarily stick to any one Niners receiver. Fast forward to this season and Talib seems to stay on the left side of the defense/right side of the offense. So unless there's a philosophical shift, we'll see him in one spot and the Niners can focus away from him if they want to. Over the last three weeks Crabtree has nine catches on 20 targets for 108 yards including 32 of them coming on a late touchdown on Monday where a double move in single coverage got him in for six. He still looks a little slow to me and would need to convert more targets to have a big week. As for Boldin, he has 16 catches on 24 targets in his last three for 228 yards and a touchdown last Monday. I think he's the better bet for PPR. By the way, of the eight receivers with at least seven targets against the Broncos this season only two have posted nine or more Fantasy points. But, two of the three receivers with at least 10 targets account for those nine-plus Fantasy points. Based on the last three weeks Boldin is more likely for 10 targets than Crab.
Demaryius Thomas (9.0), Emmanuel Sanders (7.6), Wes Welker (3.9): We'll all start the usual suspects for the Broncos regardless of the matchup. I'm still jittery over Welker in standard leagues, especially after he was so limited last week (one target). One heads up: The Niners haven't allowed a touchdown or even 60 yards to a receiver in three straight weeks ... but they played the Rams and Chiefs as part of that stretch.
Vernon Davis (7.3): Davis botched plenty of moments last week including a potential touchdown for teammate Vance McDonald. Since opening the season with two touchdowns in Week 1 he has caught 8 of 12 targets for 77 yards and no scores in three games. You have to figure the 49ers will lean a little more on Davis after the Broncos defense gave up 68 yards and a touchdown to Jace Amaro last week. Three of four tight ends with at least five targets against the Broncos have delivered at least eight Fantasy points.
Julius Thomas (9.4): Guess which NFC West team has allowed seven touchdowns to tight ends in their last five games? That's right the Seahawks -- but the Niners have allowed three in their last five, which isn't bad.
49ers (3.6): Without Patrick Willis and playing at the Broncos is the perfect equation for disaster. The Niners go on bye after this game so dropping them right now isn't the worst idea so long as you remember to pick them back up when waivers run after Week 8 (or on the Sunday morning just before Week 8).
Broncos (6.1): I won't fight you on the Broncos DST this week as a low-end starting unit. We've seen some bad play from Colin Kaepernick when the pressure is on him, plus the Niners don't seem likely to load up on the ground.
Texans at Steelers, Mon., 8:30 p.m. ET
It feels like Ben Roethlisberger is ready to erupt for another big game, but that's hard to believe considering what he's done the past two weeks. Against the Jaguars and Browns, Roethlisberger has totaled over 500 yards passing but with two touchdowns. These struggles can be partially pinned on his receiving corps beyond Antonio Brown. Look for the Steelers to make some changes in how they operate, including in the red zone. Worse yet for Ben, the Texans are coming with J.J. Watt and potentially Jadeveon Clowney breathing down his neck. This might not be pretty.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (2.4): The Bearded Wonder/Helium Balloon/Grizzly Adams has never played well against the Steelers scheme. Granted, Pittsburgh's defense is a yucky mess but Fitzpatrick shouldn't touch any Fantasy rosters.
Ben Roethlisberger (5.3): Four straight quarterbacks have tallied multiple touchdowns against the Texans, three of them getting over 20 Fantasy points. That's a big plus for Roethlisberger, but he still needs receivers to catch his touchdowns. That's been a problem.
Arian Foster (9.2): The Steelers run defense is in the pits as they lost more starters to injury last week. Even if Ryan Shazier comes back I wouldn't expect Foster to get tripped up.
Le'Veon Bell (8.4): If the Steelers are smart they'll use Bell as a receiver even more than they have. The Texans are vulnerable there, or I should say just as vulnerable there as they are on the ground.
DeAndre Hopkins (6.7), Andre Johnson (6.6): Weeks earlier we saw defenses focusing on Johnson and Hopkins put up nice numbers. Last week the Colts cheated toward Hopkins and Dre went off for his first big game of the season. Before we compliment the Steelers on not allowing a receiver to score in each of the last two weeks note that they've played the Browns and Jaguars. Not exactly a whirlpool filled with bubbly receivers. The Texans can establish the run and then attack downfield with both guys. I still think Hopkins is the better playmaker and would start him over Johnson, but it's real close. Both could end up as Top 24 receivers.
Antonio Brown (9.4): Brown's the only Steelers receiver you can confidently start -- he's been the best receiver in Fantasy. Kind of obvious, but that's what I'm here for!
Heath Miller (4.8): The Steelers should try to get him involved like he was three weeks ago when he had 11 targets against the Bucs. That might have been in reaction to the Bucs' old-school defense and thus not something we can openly hope for. No tight ends have posted 10 or more Fantasy points on the Texans this season and only one has had eight points.
Texans (6.5): I'd look for a lot of sacks along with a turnover or two here from the Texans. They qualify as a low-end starting option this week even though the Steelers offense hasn't allowed many Top 12 finishes from opposing defensive squads.
Steelers (4.0): The Steelers could pick up a turnover or two -- that's sort of what Ryan Fitzpatrick does, but I wouldn't expect them to hold the Texans to under 20 points.
Jets at Patriots, Thu., 8:25 p.m. ET
This has the look of another Thursday clunker with the Jets averaging 16.0 points per game and the Patriots posting nearly 27 points per game. History suggests otherwise as the Jets have played the Patriots close or beaten them three times in their last four meetings. In fact the last time the Jets lost by 10 points or more to the Patriots in their first divisional matchup was 2005 -- before Rex Ryan came to New York. The Jets hung tough with the Broncos last week but ultimately were overwhelmed. Expect the same thing to happen here.
Geno Smith (1.0): Smith is averaging 12.5 Fantasy points per week and the Patriots are allowed 16.7 Fantasy points per week to opposing quarterbacks. It would be stunning to see Smith come through with a big game.
Tom Brady (8.2): It's been more than a calendar year since Brady has posted multiple touchdowns against the Jets. Every single quarterback to play the Jets this season has delivered at least two scores, five of six have posted at least 20 Fantasy points. So long as the weather cooperates Brady will run the no-huddle and keep the Jets secondary on the skids.
Chris Ivory (4.7): Ivory started the year with a monster game against Oakland and has seen his Fantasy point totals drop or stay even in every game since. He had one point in standard-scoring leagues last week. Defenses have caught on to how to play the Jets -- focus on the run and take their chances with Smith throwing the ball. It's hurting Ivory's production for sure. The Patriots haven't been great against the run and Ivory could be part of the Jets game plan until they fall behind but he's simply too touchdown reliant. If he doesn't score, he'll hurt your team's chances of winning.
Chris Johnson (2.5): CJ0k had five catches in Week 1 and five catches over the five games since. Johnson also had 25 carries in the Jets first two games and 26 carries in the four games since. So long as the Jets keep misusing him (that's right -- this time it's not all his fault he's not productive) he'll have no shot at helping your team.
Shane Vereen (5.8), Brandon Bolden (5.5): In a perfect world, the Patriots would put more work on Vereen's plate and give him a chance to be a 15-to-20-touch back. But he really hasn't earned it -- as recently as last week Vereen had carries against the Bills after Stevan Ridley's departure and couldn't gain ground. He's either averaged a lot of yards per carry or barely any and his receiving numbers are underwhelming, so there doesn't seem like a big chance here for him. Bolden was similarly ineffective last week but has come up big before for the Patriots, namely in their comeback victory over the Broncos last season when Ridley fumbled. Bolden had 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He also offers some more flexibility out of the backfield (21 catches last season). The Jets normally are tough to run on but Branden Oliver and Ronnie Hillman got a bunch of opportunities and each posted over 100 total yards on them. Bolden might be helpful if he picks up a ton of carries over the course of the game, which can happen if there's a blowout.
Eric Decker (5.0): Decker has scored in three of his last four games, propping up his Fantasy production in the wake of really lousy receiving totals (51.6 yards per game). I suspect the Patriots will keep their focus on him, especially once the Jets have to throw more in the second half. Decker had one catch against the Patriots last year when he played them with the Broncos.
Julian Edelman (6.3): I might expect a solid week from Edelman as the Patriots are sure to continue on with their no-huddle approach against a Jets defense that stinks at covering and stinks at tackling. He should come close to if not get a bit more than 10 Fantasy points. He's at least a third receiver for Fantasy.
Brandon LaFell (4.0): Slowly but surely, LaFell has become a versatile player for the Patriots offense. He's not only a good blocker and decent route runner but he also is willing to cross the middle of the field and can work as a deep threat. He scored on both such kinds of plays against a bad Bills secondary last week.
Jace Amaro (5.3): It would be dopey of the Jets to sit Amaro down now after letting him get out there for 57 percent of the snaps last week. In fact it's kind of telling that Amaro was targeted on 12 of the 36 snaps he played on. Expect him to rack up a lot of catches as a safety valve for Smith.
Rob Gronkowski (9.0): Gronk was an offensive holding penalty away from getting a touchdown to count last week and extending his consecutive touchdowns streak to four games. The Jets have allowed multiple touchdowns to tight ends in three of their last four and at least one touchdown to a tight end in each of those last four.
Timothy Wright (5.0): Did you not just read the part about the Jets allowing a ton of touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Figure Wright to get involved in the red zone when the Jets turn their focus to slowing down Gronkowski first.
Jets (2.8): You might actually be better off starting the Eagles DST on their bye week.
Patriots (8.5): No doubt, losing Jerod Mayo for the year will hurt the Patriots but it won't show up in this week's matchup like it will down the line. Each of the last four DSTs to play the Jets have finished as a Top 12 option.
Fantasy Football Today Newsletter
Get tips, advice and news to win your league - all from the FFT podcast team.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Who's standing out this preseason? Who's not? Dave Richard breaks down everything from Week...
SportsLine simulated the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times and identified must-draft Fantasy football...
SportsLine's 2019 Fantasy football draft bible can give you a huge edge in your league.
The SportsLine Projection Model reveals Fantasy football tiers for the major skill positio...
SportsLine simulated the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times and identified must-draft Fantasy football...
SportsLine simulated the 2019 NFL season 10,000 times and identified Fantasy football busts...