Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 7: Last-Minute Advice for Fantasy Football Owners
The weekend brings clarity on injury situations heading into Week 7's games, such as the report from ESPN's Adam Schefter that New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham did not accompany the Saints to Tampa Bay and has been downgraded to out.
As we watch for more clues about players like Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant and New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, we can still make confident calls about the situations that are clear on Sunday.
Here are some of the best decisions you can make when you double-check your lineups before the games kick off.
START: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
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Eli Manning posted a weak stat line vs. the 49ers last week, and he has generally been up and down this season. But this is a week to expect an "up" from him.
The Redskins can't generate a pass rush without Brian Orakpo, and their secondary is one of the weakest in the league. No quarterback has thrown for fewer than 299 yards against them this year. That includes the likes of Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and Christian Ponder.
The Redskins have also allowed multiple passing touchdowns in every game but one. With Hakeem Nicks as healthy as he has been all season, the Giants' passing game is in for a field day.
SIT: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
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Sure, Aaron Rodgers threw for six touchdowns against the vaunted Texans defense last week. Starting quarterbacks not named Rodgers or Peyton Manning have thrown for three touchdowns against seven interceptions in four games vs. Houston, with an average of fewer than 175 yards passing.
Joe Flacco has had his moments this year, but he's nowhere near the level of Rodgers or Manning. Perhaps the Texans' pass defense is on the decline without Brian Cushing, but you shouldn't gamble on that by starting Flacco this week.
START: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
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Jay Cutler isn't one of the best starts of the week, but if you own Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Michael Vick or Philip Rivers, and you're looking for a waiver-wire quarterback to fill in, you can't do much better than Cutler.
He might not have been dropped by his owner, but if he was going into his Week 6 bye, you can pick up Cutler for a very good matchup against the Detroit Lions. Except for two games when the opponent went hyper-conservative after the Lions staked them to a big lead, they have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in the other three contests, including 300-plus-yard games to Michael Vick and Jake Locker.
Cutler should shine on Monday night.
SIT: Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota
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Christian Ponder had a big game last week, but most of that came when the Redskins went into prevent-defense mode up 31-12. The Vikings are actually a conservative team on offense, reflected in the three straight early trips to the Redskins' red zone that ended in field goals.
This week, the John Skelton-led Cardinals aren't going to run away and hide from the Vikings, which will keep the team playing it safe. The Cardinals defense is still one of the best in the league. They have only allowed five passing touchdowns in six games, and half of the quarterbacks they have faced couldn't even muster 160 passing yards.
Don't make Ponder your waiver-wire sub for your normal starting quarterback.
START: Stevan Ridley, RB, New England
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Stevan Ridley looked like one of the surest bets going at running back after a hot start, but worries about his fumbles in Weeks 4 and 5 and then a poor game vs. the Seahawks last week might have his owners wondering what the right move is this week.
As the Boston Herald reported, backup running back Brandon Bolden is out after not practicing all week with a knee injury. That should ensure that Ridley gets at least 20 carries and all of the goal-line work against a defense that has allowed eight rushing touchdowns this year.
The Jets have also allowed two 150-plus-yard games, so you won't want to leave Ridley's upside on your bench.
SIT: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
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No fantasy running back has been better over the last two weeks than Ahmad Bradshaw. But he should be on your bench this week unless you don't have anyone else to turn to.
As ESPN New York reported, Bradshaw missed practice on Friday with a foot problem, and he is questionable for the game vs. the Redskins. Bradshaw has struggled with foot/ankle issues for his entire career, and the Giants are a team that has designs on winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
They'll take it easy on Bradshaw even if he does play, because Andre Brown is back from his concussion and rookie David Wilson is earning more trust every week.
START: Felix Jones, RB, Dallas
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Felix Jones hasn't been the most trustworthy fantasy running back, but this week he's worth the gamble.
Besides going for more than 100 total yards and a touchdown in a little over a half last week vs. Baltimore, Jones is facing one of the worst run defenses in the league at Carolina. They allowed Doug Martin's highest rushing total of the season. Pierre Thomas rushed for more than 100 yards against the Panthers on only nine carries, and Mark Ingram actually scored a touchdown against them.
Andre Brown rushed for more than 100 and scored twice at Carolina. Michael Turner even surpassed 100 yards rushing and took a screen pass to the house against the Panthers.
You want Jones in your lineup if you picked him up this week.
SIT: Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
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After being slowed by a groin injury earlier this season, Steven Jackson appears to be back to full speed, but his weekly workload hasn't joined him in returning to previous form.
Jackson had only 12 carries to rookie Daryl Richardson's 11 last week against the Dolphins, and Richardson still out-gained him by 24 yards on the ground. That should do nothing to discourage the Rams from moving toward a 50/50 split at running back.
The Rams also face Green Bay this week, which is coming off a game in which it held Arian Foster to 29 yards on 17 carries. If the Packers don't jump out to a lead and render the Rams' running game irrelevant, they are situated to make life tough for Jackson this week.
START: Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
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Hakeem Nicks has battled foot and knee issues all season, but he participated in practice on Wednesday, which was a first this year. That means he is as healthy as he has been all season, which is perfect timing heading into the divisional matchup against the Redskins.
Washington has allowed six 100-yard games to wide receivers this season, and receivers have torched its secondary for nine touchdowns. It has even allowed at least 50 yards to two wide receivers in every game this year.
Nicks is a very safe play, but also one with a very high ceiling this week.
SIT: Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England
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Brandon Lloyd is the New England Patriots' best wide receiver who lines up outside, and that means he'll be drawing the newest member of the shutdown-corner club, Antonio Cromartie.
The talented cornerback put the clamps on Michael Crabtree and Andre Johnson, holding them to a combined three catches for 40 yards in Weeks 4 and 5. Last week, Cromartie held Reggie Wayne to two catches for 19 yards until the mid-fourth quarter, when the Colts were down 19 points and the Jets went to a less aggressive approach on defense.
If there's any garbage time in this week's Jets game, it won't be the Patriots playing catchup football.
START: Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans
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Two of the New Orleans Saints' main targets in the passing game went into the bye nursing injuries. One, tight end Jimmy Graham, did not improve enough to even make the trip with the team to Tampa Bay. The other, Lance Moore, was practicing on Wednesday and appears to be over the hamstring trouble that cost him Week 5.
Moore can run the short and intermediate routes to exploit weaknesses in the Buccaneers' coverage, and he can also run the short routes at the goal line that Drew Brees loves to hit on quick passes.
Moore should be in line for a big game on Sunday.
SIT: Steve Smith, WR, Carolina
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A lot of things are working against Steve Smith in this game. He hasn't scored a touchdown yet this year, and only put up a combined seven catches for 92 yards in the two games heading into the Panthers' Week 6 bye.
Their Week 7 opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, has seen its secondary improve greatly with the addition of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. The only receiver to have any success against the Cowboys this year was Brandon Marshall, and none of the deep-ball threats like Vincent Jackson, Torrey Smith, Mike Williams and Hakeem Nicks even eclipsed 50 yards receiving against them.
In this tough passing matchup, the Panthers should look to get the running game on track out of the bye.
START: Miles Austin, WR, Dallas
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Miles Austin had his worst game of 2012 last week, but there are reasons to think that he'll have his best of the season this week vs. Carolina.
Fellow starting wideout Dez Bryant is questionable with a groin injury and could be limited even if he does play. The Panthers' No. 1 corner, Chris Gamble, is out, so Austin should get to feast on diminutive Captain Munnerlyn or inexperienced rookie Josh Norman.
Austin's hamstring problems from the preseason are also getting smaller in the rearview mirror. Head coach Jason Garrett said Austin is "getting healthier and healthier," according to Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas, which reveals that Austin hasn't been 100 percent in recent games.
Even a 90-percent Austin should get free vs. the Panthers with ease.
SIT: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit
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Brandon Pettigrew started the season as one of the top fantasy tight ends; now, he might not even be the best on his team.
Fellow Lions tight end Tony Scheffler reeled in a deep ball to key the Lions' comeback win against the Eagles last week and outproduced Pettigrew in the process. Pettigrew tied his season low for catches with only three last week, and he has dropped multiple passes in the end zone this year, which could be causing Matthew Stafford to lose faith in him.
The Lions could be in for a rough night at Soldier Field on Monday, and Pettigrew's owners could be, too.
START: Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants
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After a torrid start, Martellus Bennett has been cold the last three weeks, mostly due to a knee injury he suffered in Week 5 vs. the Browns. He is clearly over the injury, however, as Bennett wasn't even listed on the injury report this week leading up to the game against the Redskins.
Bennett is facing a team that has allowed a touchdown by an opposing tight end in five out of its six games, with only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who barely use Dallas Clark in the passing game, being the exception.
Bennett was a major presence in the red zone before his injury. That trend should pick back up this week.