Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 7
You ever drink hot sauce and beer at the same time? Neither have I. But it does seem bold.
Not to be confused with baldness, boldness would be sporting a mohawk at the ripe young age of 75. In an unrealistic football analogy, boldness would be trading the best receiver in football for a washed-up running back with a huge contract. Ehhh, no one would be that stup... oh, nevermind.
For this article, we'll focus the boldness on fantasy football. Think of this piece like Taco Tuesday -- it's better when it's spicy, but the spiciness is not what it's all about; it's there to add flavor. The point here is not to hit on 100% of the predictions. After all, I'm not a vomiting hippo. The goal here is to uncover insights that can help us win some dough in fantasy.
Now, let's go drink a bottle of Tabasco.
(All predictions are for half-PPR and Yahoo scoring for quarterbacks.)
1. Matthew Stafford Finishes as a Top-5 Quarterback
Someone not named Albert Einstein once said, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" -- by that definition, I am insane. I predicted Matthew Stafford ($7,300) to finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback last week, and he ended up as the ... [checks notes] ... QB21. So naturally, I am going right back there in Week 7.
Despite the fact that he's finished higher than QB15 just once all season, Stafford finds himself in a matchup where it's damn near impossible for him to fail. Facing the Atlanta Falcons is like taking a class where your professor grades on a curve and an F becomes a C. To date, Atlanta has allowed 3.9 more fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers than the next closest team. This is a team that's on pace to allow 5,523 passing yards and 56 total touchdowns to quarterbacks in 2020. Yeah, you read that right. The Falcons rank dead last Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play -- they're worse than the New York Jets in that category, and being worse than the Jets in anything takes talent.
One of the reasons for Stafford's limited fantasy production this season has been the Detroit Lions' commitment to the run and the fact that they haven't been running many plays on offense. The Lions have the 14th-lowest pass-to-run ratio in 2020, and they've run the third-fewest plays to date. Now, those are two categories that should reverse in this matchup.
Atlanta is one of the pass-funneliest defenses in the league. While they rank last against the pass, they're actually fourth-best in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they've faced the fifth-highest pass-to-run ratio in the league. As for plays -- only two teams have seen more passes attempted against them than the Falcons. Stafford should be dropping back to throw plenty in this matchup.
With this game having the third-highest total on the slate, Detroit's offense could be in for some fireworks this week. Eleven quarterbacks have a higher salary than Stafford on FanDuel's main slate -- take advantage of that value.
2. Drew Brees Ranks Outside the Top-18 at Quarterback
On the opposite spectrum of Atlanta's defense sit the Carolina Panthers. Carolina has the seventh-best mark of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, while they're ninth-worst in the rushing counterpart of that metric. That's definitely been reflected in that fantasy world -- the Panthers have surrendered the fourth-fewest point to opposing quarterbacks and the fourth-most points to the opposition's backfields.
While we'd usually be all over Drew Brees ($7,700) in a home matchup with the Panthers, that's not the case this season. Carolina has limited Derek Carr, Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Matt Ryan to an average of 11.7 fantasy points per game. Of the 42.4 combined fantasy points they allowed to Kyler Murray and Nick Foles, more than a third of it came on the ground.
Brees has been outside the top-18 at quarterback in three of his five games this season, and Week 7 should up that number to four.
3. D'Andre Swift Finishes as an RB1
Week 6's RB3 -- D'Andre Swift ($6,100) -- is in a great spot again in Week 7. Yes, I know -- I spent the first few paragraphs talking about how Atlanta funnels to the pass, but that's exactly why this is a pristine matchup for the rookie.
On the season, the Falcons have allowed 79.8 half-PPR points to running backs through the air. That's 16.9 more points than the next-closest team. In fact, those 79.8 points make up 60.1% of the fantasy production they've surrendered to the position. That's one of the three highest marks in the league. Atlanta has allowed at least 12.5 half-PPR points to four different running backs just through the air alone.
Swift's snap percentage is nowhere close to where we want it to be (under 40% in all but one game) -- if it was, this wouldn't a bold prediction. However, it's worth noting just how much better he's been than the other backs in this backfield. Among the 64 backs to have logged at least 20 carries this season, none of them have a higher Rushing NEP per carry than Swift's 0.31. He also ranks second in Rushing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of carries that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense). Meanwhile, both Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson rank in the bottom half of that list in each of those categories.
If there's ever a matchup for the incompetent Lions' coaching staff to ride Swift, this is it.
4. Terry McLaurin Posts 100+ Yards and 2 Touchdowns
Terry McLaurin ($7,100) has been "MEHry Terry" more often than he's been "Scary Terry" this season, posting fewer than 11.0 half-PPR points in four of his six 2020 outings. That said, an explosion could be coming in Week 7.
A matchup with the Dallas Cowboys is the Motrin to a receiver's headache. On the season, Dallas has ceded the third-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. The Cowboys have allowed at least 100 yards to five different receivers, and they've surrendered multiple scores to a wide receiver four times already this year.
To date, Dallas ranks seventh-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and the teams they've faced have run the third-most plays in the league. That might not keep up without Dak Prescott in the fold, but a team like Washington should still be forced to drop back and throw against Dallas quite a bit.
Look for McLaurin to take advantage of this blow-up spot.
5. T.J. Hockenson Finishes as a Top-3 Tight End
Starting to see a trend? Yes, this is the third Detroit player on this list. And, yes, you absolutely should stack them.
The Falcons have been utterly atrocious against tight ends in 2020. A matchup with the Panthers and their nonexistent tight end group cover up the stink of Atlanta's defense against the position. The Falcons have surrendered at least 19.3 half-PPR points to an opposing crop consisting of Dalton Schultz, Jimmy Graham, and Robert Tonyan -- yikes. Even Greg Olsen managed 10.4 half-PPR points against this defense.
T.J. Hockenson ($5,900) is currently second on the Lions in target share, and his eight red zone targets lead the team and are tied for fifth-most in the league. At a position that's almost as putrid as Adam Gase's creativity, Hockenson is a refreshingly solid play.