6 Fantasy Football Stars to Start or Sit for Week 7
The Seahawks-49ers matchup leaves something to be desired for those who like a little Fantasy Football Drama in their Thursday night game. If you have Frank Gore or Marshawn Lynch, you're starting them. That's not a question. Both backs are currently being started in over 90% of ESPN leagues, and numberFire has both players in the top 20 of running backs this week. Vernon Davis, same deal: he is one of two tight ends started in over 90% of leagues this week, and he's numberFire's #9 projected tight end.
But there's still a bit of intrigue at the receiver spot. Both the 49ers and the Seahawks have as vaunted passing attacks as most Big East football teams, and even their #1 receivers are weekly game-time decisions. And this week, with both San Francisco and Seattle's defenses firmly entrenched in the top ten, that decision should be a resounding "Nuh-uh!"
Below, we took a closer look at the only start/sit option for each team in tonight's game, as well as some other players around the league, below in numberFire's very receiver-heavy Thursday Start/Sit.
Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 7
Michael Crabtree - San Francisco 49ers
Week 7: 7.75 Projected Points (#25 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 46.0%
Verdict: Sit Him
Michael Crabtree's not a terrible option. At the very least, he won't Chris Johnson you (my new favorite metaphor for singlehandedly imploding your team). But this week, as the Niners play numberFire's No. 7 opponent-adjusted defense, there are clearly better options available.
The issue with Crabtree isn't targets; he leads the 49ers with 44 on the season and has received at least six in every single game. The issue isn't catch rate, either; his 68% rate is one of the best among all receivers. Poor Crabtree just can't seem to get the yards to support starting-status. Despite his team-leading 30 catches, he still sits behind Vernon Davis for team receiving yards. His three receptions of 20+ yards ranks 58th in the NFL, giving him very little upside potential. And to top off the sad salad, he only has brought in one touchdown on the year, while Vernon Davis is the main red zone target with four. Add in San Francisco's penchant for pounding the ball (over half of their offensive plays are rushes), and Crabtree's upside is too low for me to consider starting him.
Sidney Rice - Seattle Seahawks
Week 7: 6.89 Projected Points (#32 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 25.7%
Verdict: Sit Him
Don't jump the gun with Seattle's new "Open Air Attack" they debuted against the Patriots last week. In reality, that Open Air strategy was actually, "Well, maybe we'll just crack the window a little."
The passes themselves may have been longer downfield (Wilson's 10.9 yards per attempt was one of the best in the NFL last week), but Seattle still only threw the ball on 51% of their plays. And that was an increase from the low, low 43% of plays they have thrown the ball the season, and still nowhere near the league average now hovering close to 60%. Seattle has been a grind-it-out team this entire season; Russell Wilson's 27 passing attempts from last week was his most since Week 1. And if anybody's going to be hurt by this trend, it's Wilson's receivers.
Sidney Rice has led Seattle in targets each of the past two weeks, but your fantasy team isn't a "Who is the best Seahawk?" team, but rather a comparison to the entire NFL. And in that category, he's not doing so hot. His "Team-Leading" target total from the past two weeks was only six looks a piece, and he was only able to convert those looks into eight combined catches and one touchdown. And the last two weeks were actually two of his three best fantasy performances of the season. Stay away until the Seahawks passing game as a whole shows more consistency.
Denarius Moore - Oakland Raiders
Week 7: 9.23 Projected Points (#18 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 35.7%
Verdict: Start Him
So you're now sitting both Rice and Crabtree, top receivers on run-heavy offenses who are playing top ten defenses this week. That's good. But what about a #1 receiver on a pass-heavy offense (passing 65.4% of all offensive plays) who is facing off against numberFire's #28 opponent-adjusted defense? Easy, right? Apparently not, because Denarius Moore is currently being started in barely one-third of ESPN leagues.
Denarius Moore may not be the most sure-handed receiver, as his current 49% catch rate can surely attest. But right now, he represents just about all Carson Palmer has in the receiving corps. Last week against the Falcons, Moore led the team nine targets; that was 27% of all Carson Palmer throws. The game before, Moore led the team with eight targets; that was 24% of all Palmer throws. The game before than, Moore led the team with 10 targets; that was 29% of all Palmer throws. I'm seeing a trend here.
Against a Jacksonville team that has allowed an opposing receiver to reach at least 17 FP in each of the past three games, I want Moore on my side. If somebody other than Darren McFadden is going to be fantasy-relevant on this Raiders team, it's this guy.
Steve Johnson - Buffalo Bills
Week 7: 10.86 Projected Points (#12 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 65.5%
Verdict: Start Him
If Pierre Garcon will be numberFire's season-ending Least Valuable Player for "Most Times I've Said to Sit Him in an Article", then it's distinctly possible that Stev(i)e Johnson will win the opposite award for most times he's been recommended to start. The Bills receiver may be coming off three straight single-digit fantasy point outings due to a touchdown-less streak, but as a Johnson owner, this Titans matchup has me absolutely salivating.
Not much went right for the Steelers last week against Tennessee, but the passing game was not one of those sob stories: Roethlisberger finished with 363 passing yards, and Mike Wallace had a 15 FP day. That's not out of the ordinary for this Titans secondary. In six games this season, six different receivers and four different tight ends have been able to post double-digit fantasy days against numberFire's #30 opponent-adjusted defense.
If there's a candidate to raise that number even higher on the Bills, Johnson is the only sure bet. His 56 targets are 75% more than the next closest Bill (Scott Chandler's 32), and he has led the Bills in targets every single game so far this season.
Shonn Greene - New York Jets
Week 7: 11.42 Projected Points (#13 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 54.6%
Verdict: Start Him
A single week of high fantasy points? Count me in!
Wait, doesn't that run counter to how we do things at numberFire? Don't we usually like to wait for an entire body of work before anointing someone as a "must start" for a particular week, lest we get Kevin Ogletree'd?
Yes. And luckily, we have that entire body of work. As I noted on Monday, Shonn Greene has only had a few games with a high number of carries: Week 1, Week 3, and Week 6. And in those games where he has received more than 11 carries, Greene has had two double-digit fantasy outings, a 3.8 yards per carry average, and two combined touchdowns. That's not bad at all; he just needs to have the opportunities.
And against New England, those opportunities shall be laid on a silver platter before him. Opposing teams have had at least 20 rushing attempts in each of the past five games against New England; if Greene maintains his 62% of all Jets rushes, then at minimum he should expect 12.4 rushing attempts. For what it's worth (a lot), numberFire projects him at 16.69 attempts this week.
Alex Green - Green Bay Packers
Week 7: 7.70 Projected Points (#27 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 27.9%
Verdict: Sit Him
But there's only room enough for one fantasy-relevant Green(e) in this town. Shonn Greene may not have only one game to base his projection on, but know who does? Green Bay running back Alex Green. And he finds himself mired far down low in this week's projections because of it.
Coming into the week with numberFire's #9 opponent-adjusted defense, the Rams have surprisingly sent opposing running backs running for the Saint Francois Mountains so far this year. The past two opposing running backs they've faced, Ryan Williams and Reggie Bush, combined for a grand total of 50 yards rushing on 26 carries. Only Marshawn Lynch has been able to put up over 90 yards rushing on them so far this season. And running backs have only scored two touchdowns on them in the past five weeks.
Green wasn't all that effective against the Texans' #2 opponent-adjusted defense; he only had 65 yards and no TDs on 22 rushing attempts. All the Packers' work was done through the air. And if they hope to beat the Rams' D this week, the gameplan will likely have to be the same.