Hell. Pure, unadulterated football hell.
There’s no other way to describe Week 7 of the season.
Injuries piled up, as owners may have witness the most injury-plagued week of any season in recent memory. Players with good matchups faltered and, of course, people had to watch that Monday night game, which was hell in itself. Let’s just forget about the ugliness and prepare for Week 8.
Byes: (BAL,CHI, HOU, IND, SD, TEN)
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Robert Griffin III @ Denver Broncos: We appear to see RG3 turning the fantasy corner, and owners couldn’t be more thrilled. Griffin posted his first 30-point fantasy game of the season on Sunday, throwing for 298 yards and two scores. However, fantasy owners are must excited to see the return of his legs, as he carried the ball 11 teams for 84 yards. The sophomore quarterback vowed to start running more, and head coach Mike Shanahan is clearly on board. His 20 carries over the last two weeks is more than his total carries between weeks one and four (18). During these last two weeks, he’s totaled 161 yards on the ground, seeing 16 designed runs. He only saw eight designed runs through his first four games combined. A matchup against a Denver defense that is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing signal callers won’t hurt. Garbage time points will ensue, Griffin owners will reap the benefits.
Carson Palmer vs Atlanta Falcons: Yes, I am suggesting starting Palmer this week. But come one, give me a break. Six teams are on a bye, and in a favorable matchup, Palmer is worth a look as a spot-start. Atlanta is currently allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (24.87 per game), and just allowed rookie signal caller Mike Glennon to post a strong fantasy outing. More importantly, the Falcons hardly get to the quarterback (25th in sacks), which is crucial to Palmer’s success. Sure, Palmer has thrown 11 interceptions over his last five games, but Palmer does have strong weapons on the outside who can dominate this Atlanta secondary.
Geno Smith @ Cincinnati Bengals: Bye week blues, folks. Smith has been strong in his rookie campaign thus far, and he could be worth a start this week in Cincinnati. The Bengals and their beat up secondary have surrendered 576 passing yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks. I mean, Thaddeus Lewis posted 26 fantasy points against them in Week 6. They’ve allowed 11 touchdowns through the air thus far, and have just lost top cornerback Leon Hall for the season. Smith has been making plays for the Jets this season, despite the lack of talent around him. There are far worse options out there.
Mike Glennon vs Carolina Panthers: Don’t go chasing points. Glennon has averaged 22 fantasy points over the last two weeks, and is connection with Vincent Jackson has been beautiful for fantasy. He’s looked much better than the quarterback we saw make his debut back in Week 4, but heavily temper expectations this week. Carolina comes to town, also known as one of the most underrated defenses in the league. This unit is allowing just 11.59 fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers, which is easily the lowest among any team in football. The Panthers have only been scored on five times through the air this season, which is also the lowest in the league.
Colin Kaepernick @ Jacksonville Jaguars: Kaepernick obviously isn’t a bad option this week. In fact, we may see him return to the QB1 tier very shortly, thanks to the read-option. He rushed 11 times for 68 yards and a score last week, and it was good to see Jim Harbaugh take the reigns off. However, against Jacksonville, is Kaepernick really going to need to throw the ball a lot? The 49ers currently rank fourth in rushing attempts per game (33.1) and that won’t change on Sunday against a Jaguars defense that is dead last against the run, allowing 153.3 yards per game. Meanwhile, Kaepernick hasn’t thrown the ball more than 29 times since Week 1, and while he may get a touchdown or two, I just don’t see a lot of volume in what should be a blowout. You likely can’t afford to bench him, but temper expectations a bit.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
Stevan Ridley vs Miami Dolphins: Two weeks in a row Ridley has been friendly to fantasy owners, a site we aren’t used to seeing. He carried the ball 11 times for 50 yards and a score on Sunday, but it could have been an even better day. Brandon Bolden swiped a goal line touchdown from him, and the Patriots ugly 23:40 time of possession limited his work. Over his last two games, Ridley has rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, and is once again worthy of a start, especially against the Dolphins. In his last game against Miami, Ridley found the end zone three times. The Dolphins are also allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing rushers this year.
Darren McFadden vs Pittsburgh Steelers: With a week off to heal his hamstring, McFadden is ready to roll against the Steelers. As long as Terrelle Pryor is under center, I like McFadden’s chances to succeed much more than in year’s past. The Steelers defense comes into town, and while they have been better against the run lately, they still are allowing over 20 fantasy points to opposing backs per contest, and simply haven’t been as stout as we have been accustomed to seeing. And last year, when Oakland hosted the Steelers, McFadden went off for 113 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown. He averaged 6.3 yard per carry in that game.
Mike Tolbert @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Six teams are on a bye, folks. On a Thursday night game, where running backs tend to thrive more than any other position, Tolbert is actually looking like a strong play this week. Jonathan Stewart may be close to a return, but he stated that a Week 9 debut is more likely. Meanwhile, Tolbert has carried the ball 21 times over the last two games, and has found the end zone in each of the last two games. When Carolina is inside the five yard line, it’s either Tolbert pounding his way into the end zone, or Cam Newton taking off himself. Want to know how bad the running back position is this year? Tolbert is currently tied for ninth in touchdowns (3). Still, he is on pace to double his attempts from last season, and on a Thursday night game, this feels like a night where Tolbert scores multiple times.
Mike James vs Carolina Panthers: Many owners rushed to their waiver wire to acquire James, as Doug Martin could be out for the rest of the season. He is definitely one of the must-adds of the week, but even with a depleted running back position this week, it would be hard for me to start him this week. First of all, Martin couldn’t even produce much in this offense, so why should we believe that James, a far inferior talent, can suddenly explode? We just haven’t seen anything from James, a rookie out of Miami. Meanwhile, the Panthers defense is no joke, currently ranking as the fourth-best run defense in football. Opposing backs are averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, and Carolina has only surrendered two rushing scores all season long. You may not have a choice but to plug James into your lineup, but temper expectations.
Willis McGahee @ Kansas City Chiefs: Running back is rough this week, but I still wouldn’t start McGahee against the Chiefs. The plodding veteran is averaging an ugly 2.9 yards per carry, and facing the best defense in football won’t help his fortunes. Kansas City is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs this season (14.77 per game), and have also only surrendered two rushing touchdowns on the year. Meanwhile, Chris Ogbonnaya is actually destroying him in snaps, averaging 45.4 per game, compared to McGahee’s 29.6. Also, Ogbonnaya is the clear-cut pass-catching back, and considering Cleveland will likely be behind in this one, McGahee may not see the field all that much.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Marques Colston vs Buffalo Bills: Colston has been atrocious for fantasy owners this season, but if there is any week to trust him, it’s this one. The Bills come to the Superdome, and with that, their weak pass defense. Buffalo has allowed at least one touchdown to opposing wideouts in every game this season, and are currently allowing the second-most fantasy points to the position. Both Buffalo and Philadelphia are the only two teams that are giving up over 40 fantasy points per game to receivers. Also, tight end Jimmy Graham is banged up right now, and if he doesn’t play, Colston will get a ton of looks.
Jarrett Boykin @ Minnesota Vikings: I added Boykin in my league and am immediately plugging him into my starting lineup. Unless you have better options, you should too. Boykin looked terrific last week, hauling in eight of 10 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown. He gets the Vikings atrocious secondary this weekend, and even though the Giants struggled in that awful Monday night game, I was sold that Minnesota’s defense is terrible when Eli and company opened the game with a drive lasting longer than nine minutes (NYG one of the worst possession teams in football). The Vikings are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to wideouts, and it’s looking like James Jones (knee) is still iffy for Week 8.
Rueben Randle @ Philadelphia Eagles: Randle could very well be flirting with must-start territory right now, and a matchup against the Eagles won’t do anything to change that status. Even in a more limited role, Randle has been one of the most productive fantasy wideouts over the past three weeks. During that span, Randle has scored four touchdowns, and he could very well match that number in this week alone. Okay, maybe not, but Randle certainly has the Eagles number. In Week 5′s matchup, Randle saw 14 targets, caught six balls for 96 yards and two scores. It was his second straight game with two touchdowns against Philadelphia. Hakeem Nicks is dealing with a finger issue, and hasn’t been good anyway. Randle’s stock is on the rise. Start him.
Dwayne Bowe vs Cleveland Browns: Bowe has been awful for fantasy, Alex Smith refuses to throw the ball down the field oh, and shutdown corner Joe Haden plays for the Browns. I’ll pass. Besides, Kansas City shouldn’t have to throw the ball very much in this game anyway, so there are higher upside options than Bowe this week.
Steve Smith @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Smith has struggled in the past against Tampa Bay. During his last five meetings, he has failed to find the end zone, and during his last eight games against them, has only posted more than 80 receiving yards once. He’ll likely draw coverage from Darrelle Revis, and considering it’s a Thursday night game, he’s a risky option.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Jordan Reed @ Denver Broncos: Welcome to tight end one territory, mister Reed. The rookie tight end had his breakout game on Sunday, catching all nine targets for 134 yards and a score. He was dominant, resembling the physical attributes of an Aaron Hernandez. Reed has been impressive all season, passing veteran tight end Fred Davis as the starter, and considering Davis is now on the trading block, the Redskins clearly have all the confidence in the world in Reed. Reed is a top-seven tight end this week against a Broncos defense that is allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per contest this season. Washington should have to throw the ball a lot in this game, and Reed will be very productive.
Kyle Rudolph vs Green Bay Packers: I hate Rudolph in fantasy, but with six teams on a bye, it’s hard to avoid starting him this week. He did have nine targets during Monday’s mess, but the quarterback situation is a mess. Josh Freeman overthrew 16 receivers, and to make matters worse, suffered a concussion during the game. If he can’t go, it’ll be Christian Ponder once again under center, which at this point, may be an upgrade. Who knows? Still, it’s a good matchup for Rudolph, as Green Bay is allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year (15.15 per game).
Jared Cook vs Seattle Seahawks: Since Week 1, Cook is averaging an ugly six fantasy points per game, and with Kellen Clemens likely to be under center after Sam Bradford suffered a torn ACL, things probably won’t get much better. He hasn’t posted more than 45 receiving yards or a touchdown since Week 1. Good luck against Seattle.
Brandon Myers vs Philadelphia Eagles: Another guy who hasn’t done anything since the first week of the season, Myers can’t be trusted in fantasy, especially when you look at how poorly Eli Manning is playing. He posted over 16 fantasy points in that game, but since, has averaged about four fantasy points per game, including two doughnuts. The Eagles are pretty tough against tight ends, allowing just 8.60 points per game.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Packers defense @ Minnesota Vikings: Have you seen their offense? Regardless of who is under center for the Vikings, the Packers should post a respectable fantasy day defensively. Sure, they are banged up, but as the Giants demonstrated on Monday night, if you shut down Adrian Peterson, this offense falters. The Vikings are allowing opposing defenses to average 9.67 fantasy points per game, which is the 10th-most in football.
Cardinals defense vs Atlanta Falcons: The Cardinals have been a solid fantasy defense through seven weeks. They have posted three double-digit fantasy outings, including a 24-point performance back in Week 5. Arizona has players that can make plays for fantasy defenses, including Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, but I don’t like their chances this week, even against a banged up Atlanta offense. Opposing defenses are scoring just 4.17 fantasy points per game this season. Only the Broncos are allowing fewer.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.