Week 7 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More
We're at the halfway point for most fantasy seasons, and from the looks of many of the leagues you see around, there are a great many teams at 3-3 and in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot.
It's time to take a hard look at your roster and make sure you are positioning yourself not just for this coming week, but down the road for the fantasy playoffs.
Normally I would list my hits and misses here, but this week saw some scheduling conflicts, and I didn't have time.
So assume all my picks were genius or ridiculous disasters depending on which way you normally lean.
Now let's take a look at a whole bunch of new starters and benchwarmers for the Week 7 games.
START: Ryan Tannehill vs. Buffalo Bills
While Buffalo isn't the worst pass defense in the league, it's in the bottom half, ranked as No. 22 on NFL.com and allowing 270 yards per game.
The downside—especially for Ryan Tannehill behind an offensive line that tends to get its wig blown back on a regular basis—is that the Bills have accumulated 21 sacks so far this year, third most in the league. The secondary is tied for the most interceptions in the NFL as well, so you might wonder why I'd say to start Tannehill.
While the sacks are a concern, I'm more interested in the production Tannehill has had despite that, especially the way he can use either Brian Hartline or Mike Wallace to hurt you.
Tannehill has been calm under fire and does a good job finding the open receiver. He's been a reliable start, and with the exception of the three-turnover debacle against New Orleans, he has been a start who won't kill you—in fact, he will score well for you.
The Bills are dealing with plenty of secondary injuries in a unit which has allowed 300-plus yards passing in three of its six games, including 331 to Geno Smith of the Jets who isn't exactly torching the league on a weekly basis.
Ryan Tannehill can do just fine against this defense, sacks or not.
SIT: Doug Martin vs. Atlanta Falcons
Things haven't been all that great for Doug Martin and his owners this season, as he has very rarely lived up to his top-10 fantasy pick status.
It's not all on Martin—in fact, most of it probably isn't on him. There's only so much you can do when you have the issues he's had at quarterback, an offensive line which has allowed him to be hit too often at or behind the line and a team around him that has been in chaos all season.
The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a bye week they went into after a shocking loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. They're apt to be pretty fired up to redeem themselves, and the defense was already ranked as No. 6 against the run, according to NFL.com.
It's not a good situation for Martin, and he's a guy who shouldn't be in your lineup this week if you've got any choice.
START: Kenbrell Thompkins vs. New York Jets
It's official—Tom Brady is over Wes Welker. He has a new best friend in rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, and while it's not all sunshine, rainbows and puppy dogs, the two hook up for some large plays.
While Thompkins struggled against the Cincinnati Bengals, he has otherwise found the end zone with great frequency and has had some decent yardage totals as well.
Right now, the Jets secondary is banged up. Antonio Cromartie struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while he told reporters for the New York Jets website that his knee was fine, he sure looked a little gimpy.
Meanwhile, Kyle Wilson struggles in coverage, and rookie Dee Milliner hasn't seen a snap since Week 3. Overall this secondary isn't in great shape. The defensive line will get after Tom Brady—it's what the Jets do against the Patriots—but Brady will find a way to get the ball to his receivers.
Thompkins has been a guy who Brady is looking for with greater frequency. He'll do so again early and often against the Jets next weekend.
SIT: Andy Dalton vs. Detroit Lions
The Lions bring a lot of pressure to the table, though it doesn't always result in sacks. It will be enough to stymie Andy Dalton.
While he blew apart the Buffalo Bills this past weekend, his previous games this season were largely mediocre, and he's turning the ball over almost as much as he's throwing touchdowns.
The Lions are a solid pass defense that generates turnovers and limits yards and touchdowns—expect that to continue against Dalton this coming weekend and keep him out of your lineup.
START: Philip Rivers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
We saw against Denver this past week that the Jacksonville Jaguars can be trouble, especially against a San Diego offensive line which has had issues.
However, head coach Mike McCoy has the Chargers offense humming, and Rivers looks about as good as he ever has before. The emergence of rookie Keenan Allen has helped an awful lot as well, as has the continued solid play of Antonio Gates, the addition of Danny Woodhead and a defense which doesn't put them behind the eight ball early by allowing early points.
Rivers will have a very good day against a Jacksonville defensive unit which, while maybe not as bad as we thought, still isn't all that good.
SIT: Sam Bradford vs. Carolina Panthers
Sam Bradford has been finding the end zone of late but hasn't passed for close to 300 yards since Week 2, when he passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns.
This call might depend on your scoring. If it's a six point-per-touchdown league, he might be a marginally better start, but the Panthers are a tough out. They bring the No. 3 overall defense, No. 4 against the run and more importantly the No. 7 pass defense in the league with 15 sacks and eight interceptions.
Yes, Bradford hasn't turned the ball over in two games, but those two games were against the Houston Texans (just two interceptions) and Jacksonville Jaguars (just three interceptions).
Against teams like San Francisco and Arizona—both of whom have eight interceptions—Bradford turned the ball over.
I don't much like the matchup this week, and while Bradford might have some good games worth starting him on your fantasy team, this isn't one of them.
START: Keenan Allen vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
It's two straight 100-yard, one touchdown games for rookie Keenan Allen, and he is swiftly becoming a mainstay in your starting lineup. He's still on a ridiculous amount of waiver wires, so the first thing you should do (if you didn't listen to me the last few weeks in other columns) is go grab him.
As with Philip Rivers, he faces a defense which can rise to the occasion at times but will be overmatched by his size and physicality. He beat up the Colts secondary and will do the same to the Jaguars.
Get him on your roster and in your lineup. For two weeks in a row he's led you to really good points, and this week should be no different.
SIT: Houston Quarterbacks vs. Kansas City Chiefs
It hasn't been a very good season for Matt Schaub, and now he is dealing with injury issues on top of it. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports says he might still start on Sunday (video) against the Kansas City Chiefs, or it could be T.J. Yates—who struggled on Sunday in relief—or Case Keenum, who has been inactive all year.
None of them are good choices because the Kansas City Chiefs have a legit top defense right now, and it will hammer whatever quarterback lines up under center.
If it's Schaub, he's likely going to throw a pick-six and multiple other interceptions, while Yates didn't look any better last week against St. Louis and added two of his own picks. Keenum is an interesting option—after all, what do the Texans have to lose right now—but he isn't all that polished.
The quarterback who ends up in charge will have some good weapons, but the fierce Chiefs defense makes a start by any one of them too risky.
START: Josh Gordon vs. Green Bay Packers
While the Packers defense hasn't given up many 100-yard receptions, when it happens, it's usually a big number—Anquan Boldin had 208 in Week 1, Pierre Garcon had 143 in Week 2.
The secondary is once again among the bottom of the league in interceptions (just two so far), and overall the defense is ranked as the No. 28 pass defense in the league, according to NFL.com.
On top of that, both Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are out, and the Packers will have to continue to look in different places for a pass rush. They have been effective getting after the quarterback (they have 17 sacks so far), but the Cleveland Browns have a solid offensive line.
Josh Gordon is tremendously talented and has been putting up either big numbers, touchdowns or both since he returned from suspension.
Expect the Browns to get him involved early and often and for the Packers to struggle to contain him. It should be another big week for Gordon.
SIT: Pierre Garcon vs. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have allowed just one receiver (A.J. Green) and one tight end (Jimmy Graham) to top 100 receiving yards against them in six weeks and boast a pass defense which has generated nine interceptions so far.
It's going to be a tough match for Pierre Garcon, who has struggled for most of this season as his quarterback has been trying to come back from a catastrophic knee injury.
As Robert Griffin III is having a down year, so is his main receiver.
Garcon puts up decent points here or there but will struggle to find the room needed against the Bears secondary.
While never more than a No. 2 or 3 wide receiver, this week Garcon shouldn't even be that. He's going to have a really long day and should have it while on your bench.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.