I rarely feel locked in when it comes to certain fantasy players and their matchups. To lack flexibility and a realistic sense of how the NFL works won’t help you win fake football leagues. It never does.
But man, I was really locked in with Torrey Smith last week. After five straight weeks of at least four receptions and 85 yards, Smith had a juicy matchup against the Packers – a team that had been surrendering the 24th-most points to opposing receivers. It was a match made in heaven.
And then the NFL happened. Smith finished with just one catch for 12 yards, forcing a single tear to fall down my right cheek as I lost multiple daily fantasy matchups. It just goes to show that the NFL, even with the right logic, has no certainties.
Let’s hope there aren’t many Torrey Smith-like instances this week.
Stuart Scott: Booyah! (Solid Starts)
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
If you’re worried about Romo after his fantasy performance against the Redskins, it’s time to stop the panic. Romo faces the Eagles this week, a team that ranks 27th in pass defense according to our metrics and one that’s given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
Outside of Alex Smith, every quarterback that’s faced the Eagles has posted two touchdowns, including a three-touchdown performance from Philip Rivers and a four-touchdown game by Peyton Manning. Romo is our fourth-best quarterback option this week in fantasy.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady’s combined to score just 20 fantasy points over his last two contests, but he’s faced the Bengals in a Cincinnati monsoon and the Saints who rank fourth-best in pass defense efficiency.
Tommy boy will see the Jets this weekend, who have given up a passing touchdown in every contest this year. Brady did score just 11.2 standard points against them earlier in the season, but with more experience at receiver and the hopeful return of Rob Gronkowski, Brady should be a low-end QB1, at least, this week.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
Though DeAngelo Williams still has as many touchdowns as you and me this season, he still ranks as a high-end RB3 in most fantasy leagues. Among 50-plus attempt runners, the veteran back has performed fairly average in terms of rushing net expected points as well. In other words, DeAngelo Williams has been the most ordinary running back option you could find so far this season.
But when ordinary meets brutally bad, ordinary wins. The Rams, Williams’ opponent in Week 7, rank 31st against fantasy running backs this year, and have allowed a staggering 642 running back rushing yards and four touchdowns over the last four weeks alone. Even if Williams doesn’t score, he should get close to 100 on the ground.
Danny Woodhead, RB, San Diego Chargers
As I mentioned a little over a week ago, Danny Woodhead is one of the few elite pass-catching running backs in football. His abilities continued during Week 6, catching five passes for 47 yards in the Chargers win against the Colts.
He may look like a 16-year-old guitarist, but Woodhead now has 36 receptions through the first six weeks of the season. He’s on pace to destroy his previous best in the receptions category (40 in 2012).
This week, Danny brings his six receptions per game average to Jacksonville. The Jags have given up double-digit fantasy points to opposing running backs in every game this season, including four weeks – that’s all but two games – of 20 or more fantasy points. Woodhead is a great play, especially in PPR leagues.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The rookie runner has had just two sub-double-digit fantasy days in half-point PPR leagues so far this season, and is coming off a 15-carry, six-catch performance against the Bills. Bernard’s been good from a fantasy perspective due to his pass-catching ability, and this is especially evident when you see that he ranks in the bottom half of our rushing metrics.
The Lions are his opponent this week, and they’re not exactly a formidable one. They’ve given up the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs this season, and have allowed three receiving touchdowns to backs, the most in the league. Start Gio, our 19th-best running back option, as an RB2 this week.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Only the Eagles, Bills and Raiders have given up more yards to wide receivers this season than the Chargers, Justin Blackmon’s Week 7 opponent. Over the last two weeks – the two since his return from suspension – Justin Blackmon has 326 yards receiving. You do the math.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
It was the Brandon Marshall show against the Giants last week, but expect Alshon to even things up with a solid game against the Redskins this weekend. Though Washington held Tony Romo to just 170 yards through the air a week ago, they’ve still allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season, and aren’t immune to giving up the big play, something Alshon's good at getting.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns
If not for some garbage time, Jordan Cameron’s Week 6 would’ve been Jimmy Graham-like. Fortunately, Cameron will face a Green Bay defense this week that’s been bad against the tight end position, having surrendered at least five receptions to tight ends in every game this year, including four touchdowns.
Run DMC: It's Tricky (Sneaky Starts)
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Trusting Eli in fantasy football is completely different than trusting him on the real gridiron. While he’s been dreadful (the fourth-worst passer according to our analytics), Eli has done alright fantasy-wise given a solid matchup. We saw that Week 1 against the Cowboys (30 fantasy points) and Week 5 as well against Philly (15). He’s the 22nd-ranked fantasy passer points scored-wise, but will face the Vikings who rank 29th in terms of giving up fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Foles’ efficiency since Michael Vick’s injury has been through-the-roof good, and it should continue this week against the Cowboys. No team has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks this year, and last week against Washington was the first time the Cowboys defense didn't allow a passing touchdown. They’ve given up three 400-yard games to quarterbacks this year. Three! Foles is a solid start if you need passing help.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill’s been fantasy consistent this season. He’s yet to score fewer than 10 standard fantasy points, but hasn’t reached anything more than about 17. He’s had a touchdown pass in every game, and gives you a potential bonus with his running ability. This week, Tanny goes up against Buffalo, who give up two touchdown passes a game on average. Expect a solid outing once again from the Dolphins passer.
Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you need an even deeper sleeper at quarterback this week, Mike Glennon could be your guy. After posting just five fantasy points in his first start against the Cardinals, Glennon came out of the Buccaneers bye week with a 273-yard, multi-touchdown performance versus the Eagles. Perhaps he can be a serviceable matchup play this year, which would be the case this week against Atlanta, the league’s worst secondary according to our numbers.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
If Jacobs can suit up, there’s a chance he can do some more damage on the ground for the G-Men. After his surprising 106-yard, two-touchdown game, Jacobs will face the Vikings – a team allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Plug him in if you're desperate, but make sure you pay attention to his health leading up to the game.
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys
I haven’t been insanely high on Randle’s talent, and our analytics agree. His top comparable right now is Jason Wright, a running back who played seven years in the NFL and only carried the ball 168 times for a 3.8 average yards per carry. But if you really need to dig deep for a fantasy play, there are worse options. The Eagles are better at defending the run than the pass, but they have had games where they’ve allowed 20-plus points to a runner this season. We have Randle as a high-end flex play this week.
Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins
I liked Ryan Tannehill, so I’ll naturally like Brian Hartline this week, too. The Bills have allowed the second-most points to fantasy wide receivers this year, giving up double-digit receptions to wideouts in every game but one (Week 5 against Cleveland, nine receptions). A wide receiver has scored a touchdown in every 2013 game against Buffalo, too, and while scoring isn’t Hartline’s forte, the stat does provide nice upside.
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills
Scott Chandler has been underrated this year. He’s the ninth-best tight end in terms of reception net expected points, a measure that looks at how many points a player is contributing towards his team’s output, and he’s the 12th-best fantasy tight end this year, on pace to break his personal best stat line.
This week, Chandler will face a Dolphins team that ranks 22nd in team defense when adjusted for strength of schedule, allowing over 23 points above expectation. Moreover, the Dolphins defense hasn’t been able to stop any tight ends, as they’ve allowed at least five receptions and a touchdown in every game outside of Week 5 against Baltimore. And we all know that Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson haven’t been real options at tight end this year.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
The rookie tight end for the Eagles had his highest target total of the season this past week, and played more snaps than teammate and fellow tight end Brent Celek. In fact, Ertz is now listed as a co-starter in the offense.
If you need a deep tight end play, Ertz could be it, as the Cowboys have been terrible against tight ends, ranking 30th against the position in fantasy.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
It’s understandable if you’ve been disappointed in Fleener’s performances over the last two weeks. He has just five catches for 31 yards, and has looked like the lost tight end we saw in the preseason. In Week 7, however, Fleener has a chance to right his wrongs against a Denver defense that gave up eight tight end receptions to the Ravens, 11 against the Giants and nine against the Cowboys.
Defense to Start: San Diego Chargers (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
Cinnamon Challenge: Pfft, Good Luck (Risky Starts)
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Guys, Sam Bradford’s the eighth-best fantasy quarterback through Week 6. He has three games with three touchdowns, and has thrown at least one scoring toss in every game this year.
But don’t get excited about him against the Panthers. Carolina’s allowed just four passing touchdowns all season long (albeit against moderate competition), and has the numberFire power ranked fourth-best defensive unit. You can do better given the solid waiver wire quarterback matchups this week.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Why Flacco is still rostered in over 54 percent of ESPN.com leagues is beyond me. And actually, his owned percentage went up by 0.7 percent after Week 6. Why? Because you want to play him against the Steelers, a defense that’s given up over 250 yards passing just once and has held two opponents to fewer than 160 passing yards? It’s going to be a blood bath, as always, in Pittsburgh. Sit Flacco. Better yet, cut Flacco.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
I’m sure you had a welcome back party in your living room last week as a Stevan Ridley owner, but don’t dub him an every-week starter just yet. Ridley will face the Jets rush defense this week that’s been third-best on a per play basis against the run according to our metrics. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise, as they’ve allowed no more than 80 rushing yards to running backs in a game this year, and have only surrendered three rushing touchdowns.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals
It’s time to take a good look in the mirror if Rashard Mendenhall is still in your 10-team league fantasy lineup. He’s been a bottom-10 runner in terms of rushing efficiency, and has been outplayed heavily by teammate Andre Ellington; who, for the record, is a top-10 efficient runner. Against Seattle? No way, Jose.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
I’ll give you the exact same analysis on Bowe as I did last week:
Somewhere over Dwayne Bowe, things aren’t miserable. Do you know how many games Dwayne Bowe has had with over four receptions? Zero. Do you know how many games Dwayne Bowe has had with over 60 receiving yards? Zilch. Do you know how many times you should start him, regardless of a favorable matchup? You got it.
He doesn’t have a favorable matchup this week, either. It’s actually one of the worst you could find.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Anquan Boldin’s Week 1 stats: 13 receptions, 208 yards, one touchdown.
Anquan Boldin’s Weeks 2-6 stats: 16 receptions, 213 yards, one touchdown.
Because he’s the only legitimate wide receiver option on the team, the team has had a little trouble getting him the ball. And this week, Boldin suits up against Tennessee – a refined defense (number 10 in our power rankings) that’s allowing the fourth-fewest points to opposition wide receivers.
Seattle Wide Receivers
Regardless of who Patrick Peterson covers, it’d be tough to feel confident starting any of the Seahawks receivers on Thursday night. Golden Tate hasn't had more than five catches and 88 yards in a game this year. Sidney Rice has just one game with more than two receptions. And the rest of the wideouts? Well, they should only be considered in 20-team formats.
Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans
I sincerely think there are better days coming for Garrett Graham, who will assume a larger role in the Texans offense with the absence of Owen Daniels. However, he didn’t get off to a good start last week as the top tight end for Houston, catching two passes for 25 yards. This week Graham gets Kansas City, the best team in the NFL at defending the tight end position.
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
If you’ve read my columns in the past, you’d know that I’m a huge fan of Charles Clay. He just gets it done. I’m a little skeptical against Buffalo, though. While their secondary is beaten up and hasn’t performed well (which is why Tannehill and Hartline are mentioned above), they actually have done well against the tight end position this season. The only team to score a substantial amount of tight end points against the Bills defense was Carolina in Week 2. I’d look at other streaming options if possible.
VHS Tapes: Useless (Don't Even Bother)
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Tennessee Titans
He’s on here because deep leagues do exist, and he’s being started in 0.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues. If you’re one of those four out of a thousand, you’ve got to put him on the bench against San Fran this week.
Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns
If you need evidence as to why Willis McGahee isn’t a “thing” this year, look at his Week 6 game against Detroit. The great matchup produced just 37 yards rushing. Now he faces the Packers, who defend the rush better than they do the pass. The Browns will be throwing, and that’s what you should be doing with McGahee: passing.
Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals
There was a point in time when Andre Roberts was the talk of the fantasy football world, but that point was clearly just a fantasy. Since his solid Week 1 performance, Roberts has a combined six receptions for zero touchdowns, and is listed as the 88th-best fantasy receiver. Yet, 17.3 percent of you still own him. Stop the madness!
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
It appears that Hopkins has fallen with Matt Schaub, as he’s done barely anything from a fantasy standpoint since Week 3. He’ll face Kansas City this week, who own the best defense in the league according to our metrics, allowing 71 fewer points than an average team would have in their situation thus far. Hopkins is a risky, risky play, and one with little upside.
Dallas Clark, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Clark actually had a solid game in Week 6, catching four passes for 81 yards and a score. But don’t be fooled: Dallas is still a dangerous play each week. Against the Steelers – a team giving up the third-fewest points to tight ends – there should be better options.
Defense to Sit: Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Detroit Lions)
For any other start or sit questions, visit numberFire’s Questions section and take a look at our weekly rankings.