Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 7
I went wakeboarding for the first time this past summer. And I found out that I'm better at many things -- namely all of the things -- than I am at wakeboarding.
Considering how below average I was at snowboarding the couple of times I went, this wakeboarding revelation wasn't shocking. Even still, as I went to the lake more and more with friends throughout the summer months, I expected to at least get to a place where I was competent at it.
Time after time, I did see improvement. I went from not being able to get up to being able to get up and move a bit. But, in the end, I was still awful at it. I'd still, each time the boat would get going, feel liquid rush up my nose as I smacked my face against the water.
I'm not a good wakeboarder.
When it comes to getting better at something, time is your friend. But time also can't magically make Markus Wheaton a bankable wide receiver in fantasy football, and it certainly can't turn Jay Cutler into an elite quarterback.
Time couldn't make me a good wakeboarder.
We're now about halfway through the fantasy football regular season, and every owner needs to realize that time is running out. We're past the point of waiting for Tajae Sharpe's rookie-season breakout. We should be finished with the thought about Rashad Jennings having a late-career revival. The chances are small, and time is limited.
So when you make your start-sit decisions this week, keep this all in mind. Don't play a guy because he's going to eventually have a big game. With such limited time left, that game may not come.
Start Kirk Cousins (at Detroit): The Lions have the softest secondary in the NFL, according to schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, and that's certainly been exploited in fantasy football. We saw it just last week with Case Keenum, as the league's worst starting quarterback entering the week (again, per NEP) posted nearly 30 standard fantasy points in Detroit, the second-highest total of the week.
This has been the norm for the Lions. On the season, every quarterback they've faced has thrown at least two touchdown passes, while four of the six signal callers that've gone up against the Lions' pathetic secondary have finished as a top-seven fantasy quarterback. Cousins is truly a top-five option at the position this week, and our projections agree.
Sit Carson Wentz (vs. Minnesota): Unlike Detroit, Minnesota has been brilliant against the pass this season, ranking third according to our schedule-adjusted numbers. Among their five quarterback opponents, two have thrown for zero touchdowns (Cam Newton and Eli Manning), while Marcus Mariota is the only passer to throw for multiple scores on them. Wentz is coming off a Week 6 game that saw him look like a rookie for the first time all year, completing just 11 of 22 passes against Washington. He's at home this week, which is a plus, but the Vikings' defense is just too good, and Wentz's fantasy production has been too volatile (QB23 in Week 2, QB29 last week) to really trust.
Start Colin Kaepernick (vs. Tampa Bay): Tampa Bay's defense has been beatable through the air for a couple of years now, and they rank in the bottom half of the league against the pass, says NEP, already this year. So how have they been fairly good against fantasy quarterbacks this season, ranking 17th in fantasy points against? Because, outside of Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer, the Buccaneers have gone up against Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, and Derek Anderson.
Even if Kaepernick can't post crazy passing yardage totals, we all know his upside surrounds rushing. Prior to being benched, Blaine Gabbert was averaging over 34 rushing yards per game, which essentially takes away a turnover and a half in standard-scoring leagues. Kaepernick ran 8 times for 66 yards last week against Buffalo, already showing that he's got more potential -- obviously -- than Gabbert in that facet of the game.
Sit Carson Palmer (vs. Seattle): As usual, Seattle has a top-five pass defense this season. And, as usual, they've been really good against fantasy quarterbacks, failing to allow a top-10 performance so far this year. Palmer has been struggling -- he's outside the top-15 in Passing NEP -- and he hasn't scored more than 12.4 fantasy points since Week 2. There's no chance you should trust him this week, especially after he flopped in a plus-matchup in Week 6.
Start Tevin Coleman (vs. San Diego): Coleman owners may be looking to sell him right now, and I can understand why. Teammate Devonta Freeman has outperformed him, and Freeman is seeing double the workload over the last couple of weeks.
Coleman's a pretty interesting play this week, though. He should still see 5 to 8 touches on the ground -- which he's seen over the last few weeks -- but his volume through the air is what you're banking on here. Averaging nearly four targets per game, he gets a Chargers' defense that has surrendered the most receptions and the second-highest yardage total to running backs this season. In fact, the Chargers have given up just 25 more rushing yards to backs than receiving yards to the position. Despite his usage of late, don't completely write off Coleman.
Sit Matt Forte (vs. Baltimore): Forte could do no wrong during the first two weeks of the season, scoring 20.5 points in points per reception (PPR) formats in Week 1 and then a league-high 30.9 points in Week 2. Since, he's been outscored by teammate Bilal Powell in each of their last four games. Forte also saw just 39% of the team's snaps this past week.
Against Baltimore, he could struggle. The Ravens have allowed just 11.6 standard fantasy points per game to opposing backs, which is the second-fewest in the league. Only two running backs have ended a week as an RB2 (top 24) or better in PPR formats. In shallower leagues where it's possible to shy away from a starting running back, Forte can find the bench.
Start Jacquizz Rodgers (at San Francisco): With the news that Doug Martin will be out at least in Week 7, Rodgers makes for an awesome play. The 49ers have given up at least 100 yards rushing to each of the last five running backs they've faced. The competition has been tough -- aside from Fozzy Whittaker in Week 2 -- but it's still something to note. Our schedule-adjusted numbers say they have the seventh-worst rush defense, so it's not like this horrible feat is to based solely on the fact that they've seen guys like LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott.
If you recall, the Bucs used Rodgers in Week 5 like he was the Terminator, as he ran the ball 30 times. For reference, only one running back -- DeAngelo Williams in Week 2 -- has seen more than 30 carries in a game this season. Given the depth at the position (not a lot) for Tampa Bay, Rodgers could be in store for a nice outing.
Sit Ryan Mathews (vs. Minnesota): Let this sink in for a second: Ryan Mathews played 21% of Philadelphia's snaps this past weekend, despite seeing nine carries on the ground. Sure, it was a negative game script. I get that. But he's also yet to hit the 50% mark all season long, despite the fact that he's seeing some volume in the Eagles' offense.
That volume is sporadic, and it's not something I want to back when he's facing a Vikings' defense that's allowed just one top-20 PPR performance to backs this year, and it was to DeMarco Murray. Leave Mathews on your bench.
Start Chris Ivory (deeper play, vs. Oakland): There's really no reason to list obvious plays at running back anymore. Because if a running back is breathing and getting any sort of touches in today's game, he's a worthwhile look in fantasy. So let's dig a tad deeper than surface-level guys and analyze Chris Ivory.
In Week 6, Ivory saw a decent amount of work, out-touching teammate T.J. Yeldon 11 to 6 on the ground. They also had the same number of targets with two. Yeldon did play a higher number of snaps (62% versus 40%), but Ivory saw the all-important goal line touches, scoring a touchdown.
This week, Ivory gets an Oakland Raiders squad that ranks dead last against the run, according to our numbers. They've also got some regression coming in terms of giving up touchdowns to opposing backs: they've allowed 751 rushing yards, which is the second-most in the NFL, but just 5 touchdowns, which is tied for ninth-most. Perhaps Ivory finds the end zone this weekend?
Start Ty Montgomery (vs. Chicago): Montgomery played 22 of his 33 snaps from the backfield in the Green Bay Packers' Week 6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, catching 6 of his 10 receptions from that spot. That was with Eddie Lacy playing for a chunk of the game. On a short week and with Knile Davis -- a guy they just traded for earlier this week -- slated as the team's top back, Montgomery should see plenty of opportunity as the Packers' "running back" once again. Consider him a very, very strong flex play in Week 7 against a below-average Bears' defense.
Sit Tyrell Williams (at Atlanta): Williams has been solid in Keenan Allen's absence, but given his new status in the Chargers' offense, he's bound to see tougher matchups. That's going to happen this week, as Falcons' cornerback Desmond Trufant could end up shadowing him. At the very least, Trufant should see a good bit of Williams on the outside. That's enough to make me stay away.
Start Julian Edelman (at Pittsburgh): Edelman would be a stronger play if Ben Roethlisberger wasn't sidelined, just because the Patriots-Steelers contest would project to be a massive shootout. Instead, we have to look strictly at the matchup and realize that the Steelers can be beat in the slot, which is a good thing for New England's slot wideout.
For reference, Jamison Crowder saw 10 targets against the Steelers in Week 1. Tyler Boyd saw eight against them in Week 2. Jarvis Landry, in a positive game script, had nine last week. All three are primarily slot receivers.
With Pittsburgh's outside corners playing relatively well -- they have average ratings, according to Pro Football Focus -- expect Edelman to right the ship this weekend after a miserable start to the season.
Sit DeAndre Hopkins (at Denver): I know, I know -- start your studs. But is Hopkins still a stud? He's finished higher than 17th in weekly PPR scoring just once this season, and he's hit double-digit targets in just two games. It's going to be difficult to bench him, totally understandable, but he should see a lot of Aqib Talib, who's been arguably the best corner in the league to start the year. He's not a must start at all.
Start Breshad Perriman (deeper play, at New York): This play is dependent upon two things happening: Joe Flacco playing and Steve Smith not playing. Both guys missed practice on Wednesday, and it does look like Flacco has a more optimistic outlook for the weekend.
Perriman gets down the field, and the Jets have allowed the fourth-most 30-plus yard passing plays this season. When you combine that with Perriman's 18 targets over the last three weeks -- he had 8 last week, too -- there's some intrigue. He's a good boom-or-bust option this week for those who want to live a little dangerously.
Start Cameron Brate (at San Francisco): In the three games without Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Cameron Brate has seen 10, 8, and 3 targets, respectively, for the Bucs. He's finished as a top-12, TE1 in two of those games. Now, Tampa Bay is also without Vincent Jackson, who landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL. That means more volume could go Brate's way, especially in a matchup against a fast-paced 49ers team.
Sit Coby Fleener (at Kansas City): The Chiefs have been good against the tight end position in recent memory, and that's continued in 2016, as they've allowed the fourth-fewest yards to the position. (Granted, they've had their bye.) The Saints also aren't nearly as good on the road as they are at home -- especially quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown for 1.21 fewer touchdowns and 59 fewer yards per game on the road versus at home since the start of 2013. That means Fleener could be in trouble this week.
Start Jack Doyle (at Tennessee): Dwayne Allen is listed as week to week, which could open up a lot of opportunity for the dad runner himself, Jack Doyle. Without Allen this past week against Houston -- Allen left the game on the first drive -- Doyle played 89% of the team's snaps while catching 4 balls for 53 yards and a score. Those were TE7 numbers for the week in PPR leagues. If Doyle gets that sort of chance again this week, he could easily finish as a top-15 guy with top-10 upside.
Start the Atlanta Falcons (vs. San Diego): The high game total in this one will turn folks off, but Atlanta is a heavy home favorite against a team that turns the ball over and allows sacks -- the Chargers rank second in giveaways this season and have allowed 2.2 sacks per game. That's enough for me, during a week with bad streaming defenses, to feel OK with using Atlanta's D.
Sit the Washington Redskins (at Detroit): Washington's defense has been strong the last three weeks, ranking as a top-12 unit in fantasy football in each contest. But they're going to Detroit in Week 7, and the Lions haven't been overly friendly to opposing defenses this season, ranking eighth-best (or worst, I guess) in fantasy points allowed per game. No thanks -- not this week.
Other defenses to start: Baltimore Ravens (at New York), Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Cleveland)
Other defenses to sit: Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. New England), Detroit Lions (vs. Washington)