Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 7

Is Drew Brees an automatic start in fantasy football?

I went golfing this past Saturday - probably the last time I'll hit the links before next golf season. I'm not a fantastic player - perhaps the Matt Asiata of golf - and I usually consider a good round below the 90 mark.

We were setting up at the 18th tee box when I realized that I needed a bogey to hit an 89. Not a huge deal. I set up to tee off, and crushed one just off the right side of the fairway, giving myself a good opportunity for said bogey.

After a pretty horrible second shot, I was on in three, putting a 50-footer for par.

That wasn't happening.

After my first putt sailed past the hole, I knew I only had one more shot to get 89.

Nope. Three-putted. Double Bogey.

After getting into my cart feeling like I just fumbled the football in an NFL game, I looked at my scorecard and realized I did some poor math. I actually did break 90, thanks to incorrectly adding 28 and 5.

Good thing I write for an analytics website.

Sometimes, luck - because you were an idiot in the first place - happens. Sometimes your incorrect moves end up creating a pleasant surprise.

This same thing happened to me in fantasy football just a couple of weeks ago, when I "accidentally" started Eli Manning over Teddy Bridgewater. You know, the game where brother Peyton was actually wearing an Eli Manning costume on Thursday night. That week.

It's still not optimal. Being ill-prepared, whether it's in fantasy football or having no idea what your real golf score is on the 18th, is never sustainable. So while I certainly hope luck is on your side in Week 7, let's at least spend a little time ensuring your lineups look perfect.


Start Russell Wilson - Wilson owners are probably upset about last week's poor 126-yard showing against the Cowboys. I know I was. But things should get better here in Week 7.

The Seahawks will travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams. That's great news, because the Rams defense hasn't been strong in 2014. In fact, they've been historically bad in terms of pass rush, sacking the quarterback just once through their first five games.

Russell Wilson usually doesn't have a lot of time behind his offensive line, so the lack of pass rush will do wonders. Add in the fact that the Rams rank 26th against the pass according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, and you've got yourself a recipe for a nice game from Wilson.

Sit Eli Manning - Once upon a time, the Cowboys defense was exploitable. That time wasn't in the year 2014.

Dallas now has the eighth-best defense in the NFL per our metrics, and continue to crush fantasy football hopes and dreams with their ability to control the ball. They haven't even had their bye, yet have seen the sixth-fewest plays against in the NFL. The five teams in front of them each have played one fewer contest.

Fantasy football is a cumulative, volume-driven game, and the Giants probably won't see that volume this week. And it's not like the Cowboys defense is playing poorly anyway.

Start Carson Palmer - If you need a streaming option at quarterback this week, Palmer's your man. In his two games this year, he's posted 21 and 17 fantasy points, ranking as the 5th- and 16th-best quarterback, respectively. A game against his old team is nice, as Oakland ranks 25th against the pass this year per our NEP numbers. There should be some concern about his shoulder, but given his weapons, Palmer looks like a safe play.

Sit Drew Brees - There are plenty of quarterbacks I'd play over Brees this week, because there are plenty of factors working against him. He's away from home, where he's averaged fewer than two touchdowns per game since 2010 versus the three he sees in New Orleans. He'll be without favorite target Jimmy Graham, too, which makes that statistic even more alarming.

And he's also facing a defense that's been relatively unstoppable this season. Detroit ranks second in schedule-adjusted pass defense, and have allowed just one quarterback to rank higher than 20th at the position in a given week this year. That was Cam Newton back in Week 2. And it's not as if the Lions haven't faced anyone significant - Eli Manning put up 6.52 fantasy points points against them, Aaron Rodgers saw 10.48, and last week, Teddy Bridgewater scored 2.62 points more than you and I did.

It's not like Brees has been stellar this year anyway. He's had exactly one top-12 (QB1) performance, where he ranked eighth against Minnesota. And among quarterbacks with 80 or more drop backs this year, Brees is 13th in Passing Net Expected Points per pass.

Though our algorithms still like Brees this week, there are lots of quarterback options this week with plus matchups who can replace him.

Other Players to Start: Kirk Couins, Joe Flacco
Other Players to Sit: Geno Smith, Tony Romo

Running Back

Start Justin Forsett - Forsett's easily been the Ravens best runner this year. And actually, he's been the best running back in the entire NFL in terms of Rushing NEP, adding 15.36 points to the Ravens expected output.

Because he can catch passes, his low volume - roughly 9 or 10 carries per game - isn't much of a turn off. Against a Falcons team that's allowed the most fantasy points to running backs, Forsett's a great play.

Sit Jerick McKinnon - I'm a huge fan of McKinnon, but it's tough to love him this week against Buffalo. According to our metrics, the Bills have the fifth-best run defense when adjusted for strength of schedule in the entire NFL. And in terms of fantasy points against, no unit in the league has allowed fewer points to the running back position. In fact, so far this season, the Bills have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown, and they've held players like Alfred Morris and Lamar Miller to pedestrian fantasy days.

McKinnon is a great add off the waiver wire this week, and we should expect him to continue to be involved in the Minnesota offense. But in Week 7, I'd bench him.

Start Ben Tate - Tate made this list last week and ended up scoring a pair of touchdowns against the Steelers. He'll face a rush defense in Jacksonville that's analytically better than Pittsburgh's, but has given up the fifth-most points to opposing backs. This has a lot to do with the fact that opposing teams see a lot of volume against Jacksonville - the Jaguars have faced the seventh-most run plays in the league through six weeks, while teams ahead of them, outside of Philadelphia, have already had their bye.

Expect Tate to get a couple of goal-line touches in this one, hopefully punching one in for a score.

Sit Khiry Robinson - Robinson hasn't been bad since Mark Ingram's injury, but with Ingram potentially returning, he's no longer a volume play. The Lions defense is typically strong against the run, too, making the entire New Orleans rushing attack a mess in Week 7.

Start Alfred Morris - The Redskins face the Titans this week, which is good news - finally - for Morris owners. Tennessee ranks 25th against the run according to our numbers, and have allowed a touchdown to opposing running backs in four of their six games. Morris is oftentimes game-flow dependent, as Roy Helu steals looks when the team is down. Given Vegas favors the Redskins by 5.5 points, I fully expect Morris to see quality snaps.

Other Players to Start: Fred Jackson, Joique Bell
Other Players to Sit: Andre Williams, Brandon Bolden

Wide Receiver

Start Kelvin Benjamin - I get far too many Kelvin Benjamin start/sit questions, so this is just your friendly reminder that he should mostly always be started (barring injury, of course). Green Bay hasn't been bad against the pass this year, but Benjamin continues to see volume - he now has 26 more targets than any other wide receiver on the Panthers. With an over/under of 48.5 against the Packers, Benjamin should continue to perform.

Sit Marques Colston - On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, we'll see Marques Colston and his inconsistency against the Lions this weekend. Colston has yet to rank higher than 37th at wide receiver in a given week in PPR leagues, despite seeing five or more targets in all but one game this year. Against a defense that ranks first in wide receiver points surrendered, I'm staying far, far away.

Start Michael Floyd - With Carson Palmer back, Michael Floyd finally scored a touchdown. It's about time.

As noted above, the Raiders rank 25th against the pass this year, though they haven't allowed a ton of fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Something interesting with them, however, is that number-two wideouts tend to see just as much success as number-one pass-catchers do, giving Floyd a nice edge this week.

Sit Rueben Randle - As mentioned with Eli Manning above, it's tough to get excited about offenses against Dallas given their tendency to control the clock. In addition, the team has allowed just one wide receiver to rank higher than 28th in a given week in PPR leagues (Anquan Boldin ranked 15th in Week 1). Randle has a lot of upside moving forward without Victor Cruz in the picture, but he's a bad start in Week 7.

Start Golden Tate - Calvin Johnson hasn't been fully healthy over the last three weeks. During that time, Golden Tate's ranked 11th, 4th and 38th in PPR scoring at the wide receiver position.

In Week 7, the Lions face the Saints and a secondary that, despite having high expectations entering the year, ranks 30th against the pass according to NEP. We've seen 12 difference receivers get 5 or more targets against the Saints this year, and only one of them, Cordarrelle Patterson, scored fewer than 10 PPR fantasy points. He still was fine, posting 9.4.

Tate has an enormous floor this week, and should benefit once again from Johnson's injury.

Other Players to Start: Andre Holmes, Doug Baldwin
Other Players to Sit: Markus Wheaton, Dwayne Bowe

Tight End

Start Dwayne Allen - No team in the NFL has given up more points to tight ends this year than Cincinnati. We've seen Dennis Pitta post 18.3 fantasy points (PPR) against them, Delanie Walker get 9.4, the pair of tight ends in New England snag a combined 41.5 and, just last week, Greg Olsen torch them for 18.2 more. It's a solid group of tight ends, sure, but Allen is no slouch - he has four touchdowns this season and ranks third among all 15-plus target tight ends in per target efficiency according to our numbers.

Sit Owen Daniels - Daniels was a smart, logical play last week, but Joe Flacco didn't look his way often despite throwing for five touchdowns. The matchup appears to be solid this week against Atlanta, but teams have been exploiting the Falcons defense on the outside, not down the middle of the field. So far this year, Atlanta's allowed the second-fewest points to tight ends, and only Jimmy Graham has posted a top-12 tight end game against them.

Start Josh Hill - If you need a deeper play, look at New Orleans' backup tight end, Josh Hill. Detroit's been average against the position this year, allowing four double-digit PPR tight end performances versus five to wide receivers. And if you're worried about Hill as a player, know that he compares physically to Tyler Eifert according to Among tight ends with five or more catches this year (sample size alert), Hill ranks second in efficiency on a per target basis. He's not a bad desperation play in an offense that spreads it around.

Other Players to Start: Jordan Cameron, Jared Cook
Other Players to Sit: Heath Miller, Scott Chandler


Start the Buffalo Bills - The Bills are performing really well this season - they're the seventh-best unit in the league, per our metrics - considering they lost defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to the Browns, Jairus Byrd to the Saints and Kiko Alonso to injury. They'll face a young Vikings offense that turned the ball over often against Detroit last week, and one that ranks 30th in terms of fantasy points allowed to defenses.

Sit the San Francisco 49ers - Come on, you know better than this. You don't play a defense facing Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Never. The 49ers have a solid unit, but in Week 7, they're not worth the risk.

Other Defenses to Start: Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots
Other Defenses to Sit: Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs