Fantasy Football: Eli Manning Leads 'Early Guide to Week 7 Success'
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The following countdown serves as a roundabout primer for NFL Week 7, a time when fantasy leagues are starting to show real separation between title-contending clubs and the also-rans, who are in need of a fortuitous reversal of fortune—just to make the playoffs.
This tone-setting piece, set to run Tuesday mornings, should be yet another supplement to the countless positional rankings and strategy-oriented posts that run daily on The Fantasy Blog.
Enjoy the show!
Stars Primed for Week 7 Greatness
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1. WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
Skinny: There is no bigger lock for Week 7 greatness, among receivers, than Brandon Marshall against the Lions.
In his reunion season with QB Jay Cutler and passing-game guru Jeremy Bates, Marshall (35 catches, 496 yards, 3 TD) has re-established himself as an elite fantasy talent—for both standard-scoring and points-per-reception leagues.
In his five games with Chicago, Marshall (19 catches/282 yards/2 TD in his last two games) has notched double-digit targets three times. And in that span, he tallied 100 yards and one touchdown in Weeks 1, 4 and 5.
Throw in the fact that Marshall rolled for 10 catches and 102 yards in his last meeting with Detroit (December 2010)...and it's easy to see why he's in a position of unrivaled success on Monday night.
2. QB Eli Manning, Giants
Skinny: How long do you think coach Tom Coughlin has had this one circled on his calendar?
Yes, the Giants became the first 9-7 team to capture a Super Bowl title last year. And yes, they're just days removed from a 26-3 road romp of the title-contending Niners—the most impressive victory of any team this season. Bar none.
But in the haze of those warm, fuzzy memories come the painful recollections of two disappointing losses to the Redskins in 2011—a humbling season sweep that nearly vanquished the Giants' playoff hopes.
And so, Eli Manning and Co. might have the NFL world at their feet right now, but they probably won't let the Redskins slide on last year's upset wins—even if rookie QB Robert Griffin III had nothing to do with either game.
Manning (1,772 yards passing, 11 TD) may be on pace for 4,725 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he has actually attempted fewer passes than last year at this time.
But against Washington, the league's worst pass defense, fantasy owners can expect at least 40 passes, 320 yards and three touchdowns from Manning.
3. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
Skinny: From a rushing perspective, there are two showcase games on the weekend docket—one obvious (Ray Rice vs. Arian Foster)...and one that looked more appealing in August (Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller vs. Chris Johnson).
For this discussion, though, let's focus on the latter.
Heading into Week 7, the Bills (No. 32) and Titans (No. 24) each possess a defense among the NFL's 10 worst, and both teams' quarterbacks (Ryan Fitzpatrick/Matt Hasselbeck) have been erratic of late.
This sets the stage for one big-name tailback to post monster numbers on Sunday...maybe even two.
Among the trio, let's ride Jackson (211 total yards, 1 TD in four games) for the most fantasy points.
He looked sharp against the Cardinals last week (83 total yards, 1 TD) and may finally be ready to dominate for four quarters, just six weeks removed from a knee injury.
Prominent Waiver-Wire Pickups
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1. RB Felix Jones, Cowboys
Skinny: With DeMarco Murray (foot) out with an apparent week-to-week injury, the pressure shifts to Felix Jones to fill the short-term void in the Cowboys' backfield.
Luckily for fantasy owners, that's a role Jones has already played to some acclaim. For Week 6, Jones tallied 105 total yards (92 rushing) and one touchdown against the Ravens.
And last year, after Murray had become an overnight sensation but then suffered a season-ending injury in Week 14, Jones racked up 77 or more yards in three of the final four games—including two outings of 130-plus yards.
2. RB William Powell, Cardinals
Skinny: With all due respect to the Bills (uh, not really), it's hard to project William Powell's seasonal fantasy worth based on one strong effort (78 total yards on 14 touches) against the NFL's worst run defense.
Yes, Powell ran smoothly and powerfully in his first bit of sustained NFL action last week. But we'll have a better idea of his fantasy talents—a thicker scouting book, if you will—after his encounter with the gritty Vikings on Sunday.
In the meantime, savvy owners will snag Powell off Wednesday waivers, on the hope that he'll be a 'lottery ticket' at fantasy football's most vital position.
3. QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Skinny: Sports advertisers and Madison Avenue execs obviously love the abridged Russell Wilson story—an undersized, good-looking rookie quarterback with Doug Flutie charisma, taking the city of Seattle by storm.
But heading into Week 6, fantasy owners were less reluctant to endorse Wilson as anything more than an emergency consideration on waivers.
Well, things have changed after Wilson passed for 293 yards and three touchdowns—highlighted by a game-changing bomb to Sidney Rice—in the Seahawks' high-profile win over the Patriots.
(Of equal importance, Wilson eclipsed New England's Tom Brady in TD passes.)
Does Sunday's comeback make Wilson a starter in fantasy? Hardly.
But it may have been enough for him to merit a permanent roster spot in 12-team leagues.
Surefire Fringe Starters for Week 7
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1. WR Donnie Avery, Colts
Skinny: Donnie Avery (21 catches, 258 yards, 1 TD) might not have gaudy stats in his first year with the Colts, but that day of modest fantasy reckoning is fast approaching.
Here are four reasons to support this rationale:
a. For starters, Avery has collected eight or more targets in all five games—including a season-high 12 last week.
b. Rookie QB Andrew Luck (1,488 yards, 8 total TD) has attempted 44 or more passes in four of his five games.
c. It's reasonable to assume Indy would struggle in the running game without an injured Donald Brown, prompting more targets for polished receiving talents like Avery and Reggie Wayne.
d. The Browns, the Colts' Week 7 opponent, currently rank as the 30th defense against the pass (294 yards per game).
2. QB Jay Cutler, Bears
Skinny: Forget about Cutler's so-so stats (1,209 yards passing, 5 TD) to date, compared to the other NFL quarterbacks with just five games under their belts (due to injury or bye week).
For the season, Cutler has crossed the QB-elite threshold of 275 yards passing and/or three touchdowns three times (Weeks 1, 4 and 5). And of equal importance, he draws the Lions at home Monday night, in a divisional matchup that screams high scoring for both teams.
It also helps that Brandon Marshall (36 catches, 496 yards, 3 TD) has raised his own game to 2008 levels, posting three outings of double-digit targets and 100 yards receiving.
3. WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
Skinny: From any angle, Justin Blackmon (13 catches, 119 yards) has struggled in his first NFL campaign.
By extension, his fantasy value has tumbled since the preseason, when some gurus believed the Oklahoma State star was primed for an immediate rookie impact.
But there a few seeds of optimism here: In his last two games, Blackmon has enjoyed back-to-back outings of 40-plus yards. He has also averaged nine targets in that span.
One more reason to believe in Blackmon's Week 7 fate: The Raiders surrendered at least 338 yards passing in Weeks 3 and 4.
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1. RB Trent Richardson, Browns
Skinny: Did you hear that audible-from-three-states-away sigh of relief throughout Northeast Ohio on Monday once word had spread of Trent Richardson's (only) mild rib injury?
With this positive development, Richardson (526 total yards, 5 TD) could possibly return to the Browns' lineup on Sunday (against the Colts) and maintain his standing as a top-10 tailback, regardless of scoring rules.
But just to be safe, Richardson owners should handcuff the dynamic rookie with Cleveland backups Montario Hardesty or Chris Ogbonnaya.
2. LB Ray Lewis, Ravens
Skinny: The no-brainer Hall of Famer tore a triceps muscle against the Cowboys last week and will miss the rest of the season. At this point, no one knows whether the 12-time Pro Bowler will return for an 18th NFL campaign (2013).
Lewis's absence will undoubtedly affect Baltimore's defense from a real-world standpoint, but it's hard to gauge the immediate impact of the loss in fantasy circles.
After all, kick-return touchdowns (courtesy of Jacoby Jones) have a knack for covering up a fantasy defense's shortcomings.
3. WR Pierre Garcon, Redskins
Skinny: I've never heard of an "inflamed capsule" under someone's toe...but it sounds very painful nonetheless.
The above injury forced Garcon to miss the Redskins' thrilling comeback win over the Vikings on Sunday.
More important to fantasy owners, it may also lead to Garcon (8 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD) skipping the much-anticipated road clash with the Giants.
Stealth Starts in Points-Per-Reception Leagues
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1. WR Kendall Wright, Titans
Skinny: The lightning-fast Wright (33 catches, 285 yards, 2 TD) has been a sturdy contributor in the first six weeks, but he might only be scratching the surface of his immense fantasy potential.
a. From Weeks 2-6, Wright collected between eight and 11 targets in all five games.
b. In his six total outings, Wright has already racked up seven catches, 80 yards and/or one touchdown four times.
c. Given the wild production swings of Nate Washington and Kenny Britt, Wright could emerge as Tennessee's primary target by season's end.
2. WR Randall Cobb, Packers
Skinny: Cobb (not to be confused with the late boxer/actor, Randall 'Tex' Cobb) has been a reasonable facsimile of the injured Greg Jennings (groin) this season, collecting 29 catches, 346 yards and one touchdown.
Going further, Cobb already boasts three games of eight-plus targets, three games of seven-plus receptions and four outings of 66 receiving yards or more.
For good measure, he's also of one of the NFL's most explosive kick/punt returners.
3. WR Andre Roberts, Cardinals
Skinny: I'm prepared to hand out a free pass to Roberts (22 catches, 286 yards, 4 TD) for his pedestrian effort last week (two catches, 18 yards)...on the promise he won't replicate such a clunker against a middling defense anytime soon.
Only 18 yards against Buffalo? It's a good thing I don't own a goat farm or have $2 million in the bank...because I would have bet both items on Roberts' behalf prior to Sunday's game.
After all, Arizona's rushing attack has been decimated by injuries to Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells. And opposing defenses, theoretically speaking, tend to roll their coverages toward Larry Fitzgerald—creating cushy route-running lanes for Roberts.
But I remain optimistic and appreciative of Roberts' PPR talents, especially against the Vikings this week.
For the season, Roberts has five games of six-plus targets and three outings of nine-plus targets.