Week 7 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Matchups to Exploit and Avoid on Sunday's Schedule

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2016

Week 7 features fantasy stars in monster matchups.
Week 7 features fantasy stars in monster matchups.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With Week 7 one game deep, fantasy football owners know full and well the benefits of understanding the matchups to exploit and avoid each week. 

To summarize, play almost any New England Patriots weapons in any scenario. Play anyone and everyone against the Cleveland Browns. Rookie quarterbacks? Go for it.

Humor aside, the 2016 season has thrown some interesting wrinkles at owners, but by and large, an analytical dive with a splash of sense and trends can help owners prevail on a week-to-week basis.

Let's compare some of the best matchups to pinpoint the best value before zooming on notable ones to know and avoid.

        

Quarterback

MatchupVerdict
Drew Brees (at KC) vs. Matthew Stafford (vs. WAS)Drew Brees
Marcus Mariota (vs. IND) vs. Eli Manning (at LA)Marcus Mariota
Andrew Luck (at TEN) vs. Matt Ryan (vs. SD)Matt Ryan
Andy Dalton (vs. CLE) vs. Tyrod Taylor (at MIA)Andy Dalton
Tom Brady (at PIT) vs. Philip Rivers (at ATL)Tom Brady
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Kirk Cousins, WAS (at DET)

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins isn't the most popular guy around (73 percent owned), but he should be in Week 7.

As a guy with 16 or more points in four games this year, it's clear Cousins is a great matchup-based play, making Sunday epic—he's the latest quarterback blessed enough to encounter the Detroit Lions.

Detroit has allowed the most points to opposing quarterbacks on average this year. Every set of quarterbacks the Lions have encountered has tossed a minimum of two touchdowns. In Week 6, even Case Keenum of the Los Angeles Rams threw a trio of scores and landed at 28 points.

So yes, Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson or not, Cousins could easily land as the top-scoring quarterback of Week 7.

      

Matchup to Avoid: Russell Wilson, SEA (at ARI)

Oct 16, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during a NFL football game at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Falcons 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sport
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of a 24-point outburst in Week 4, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been a major fantasy disappointment while dealing with injuries this season.

In a great matchup against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, Wilson only mustered 10 points, which is about par for the course, seeing as he's hit on a maximum of 13 points in four of his five appearances in 2016.

Wilson has to deal with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7, a defense allowing the fourth-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, with only one opposing team able to throw for more than one touchdown in a game.

Stuck in what should be a defensive-minded affair, there's little reason to trot out Wilson when quarterback remains the easiest position to project.

      

Running Back

MatchupVerdict
LeSean McCoy (at MIA) vs. Lamar Miller (at DEN)LeSean McCoy
Jay Ajayi (vs. BUF) vs. Christine Michael (at ARI)Jay Ajayi
Terrance West (at NYJ) vs. Spencer Ware (vs. NO)Spencer Ware
David Johnson (vs. SEA) vs. LeGarrette Blount (at PIT)LeGarrette Blount
DeMarco Murray (vs. IND) vs. Le'Veon Bell (vs. NE)DeMarco Murray
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Devonta Freeman, ATL (vs. SD)

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

Last year, Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman was a must-start option regardless of the opponent.

This year, mired in more of a committee approach, his owners have to remain mindful of the matchup. He failed to reach double digits in each of his first two games, then exploded for 26. But he has yet to hit the 20-point mark again this season, capped off by a five-point showing in Week 6 against Seattle's defense.

The clouds will part for Freeman owners in Week 7, though. He gets the laughable San Diego Chargers run defense, which has conceded seven rushing touchdowns already, with four sets of opposing backs hitting 21 or more points.

Outside of running, Freeman has also received five targets in three of his last four games, meaning his versatility will let him run roughshod against the struggling Chargers.

     

Matchup to Avoid: Matt Forte, NYJ (vs. BAL)

Somehow, some way, New York Jets running back Matt Forte remains owned in 98.5 percent of leagues.

Until this changes, he'll keep coming up in sit columns. Forte is a shell of his former self from a fantasy standpoint. It didn't look like it at first—he exploded out the gates with 14- and 28-point performances.

Since then? Forte hasn't scored more than six points in a game. His usage has gone down as well at a steady clip, so much so he only received nine carries and totaled one point against the stingy Arizona defense in Week 6.

Which, of course, makes Week 7 look terrible. Forte has to deal with the Baltimore Ravens, a team allowing the second-fewest points to backs. Only two opposing backfields have cracked double digits against the Ravens—and only two have scored.

Forte, bottled up by usage as well as bad matchups, won't put a dent in Baltimore.

      

Wide Receiver

MatchupVerdict
Odell Beckham Jr. (at LA) vs. Julio Jones (vs. SD)Julio Jones
Kenny Britt (vs. NYG) vs. Brandin Cooks (at KC)Brandin Cooks
Amari Cooper (at JAC) vs. Mike Wallace (at NYJ)Mike Wallace
Mike Evans (at SF) vs. DeAndre Hopkins (at DEN)Mike Evans
Brandon Marshall (vs. BAL) vs. A.J. Green (vs. CLE)A.J. Green
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Mike Evans, TB (at SF)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans might have fallen a bit under the radar thanks to a bye, but his Week 7 return couldn't come in a better scenario. 

After scoring a touchdown in four of his first five games, Evans seems set to erupt against the exploitable San Francisco 49ers, whose defense has coughed up a pair of touchdowns to three opposing sets of wideouts in a row.

In fact, all but one set of opposing wide receivers have tallied 21 or more points against the unit. San Francisco simply can't keep up with wideouts on the outside, so it should be funny to watch the 6'5" Evans go to work.

Those who own him better get the popcorn ready.

      

Matchup to Avoid: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs. SEA)

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is the perfect example of why owners cannot look at one stat and call it a day.

Fitzgerald is fantasy's seventh-highest scorer at wideout so far, even above Evans. It's deceptive, though, because he has posted a pair of 20-point performances and little else in other matchups. In fact, he has outings of six, six and four points.

Thanks to Richard Sherman and others over the past few years, it should go without saying, but the Seattle secondary doesn't give up much in the way of fantasy production. The unit permits the fourth-fewest points to wideouts on average and has only allowed three touchdowns all year.

Fitzgerald looks more and more like a matchup-based play, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But owners have to realize which numbers to pay attention to and why.

      

Tight End

MatchupVerdict
Rob Gronkowski (at PIT) vs. Jimmy Graham (at ARI)Rob Gronkowski
Coby Fleener (at KC) vs. Hunter Henry (at ATL)Hunter Henry
Gary Barnidge (at CIN) vs. Jacob Tamme (vs. SD)Gary Barnidge
Travis Kelce (vs. NO) vs. Delanie Walker (vs. IND)Travis Kelce
Zach Ertz (vs. MIN) vs. Dennis Pitta (at NYJ)Dennis Pitta
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Travis Kelce, KC (vs. NO)

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

If Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will ever pen an official apology to the 97.9 percent of all fantasy football players who own him, it will happen in Week 7.

Kelce needs to say sorry because he has made just one trip to double digits this year despite some juicy matchups. Week 7 is another strong one, as his Chiefs take on the New Orleans Saints, a team that has allowed a touchdown and 12 or more points to the last two sets of opposing tight ends it has encountered.

Given the fact a Chiefs-Saints game could go the way of a shootout in a hurry, Kelce might benefit the most and make an appearance near the top of a leaderboard.

       

Matchup to Avoid: Jimmy Graham, SEA (at ARI)

Saying Kelce looks like a start and advising owners to avoid Seattle's Jimmy Graham shows how volatile the tight end position can be on a weekly basis.

Graham has had his moments this year, scoring highs of 14 and 11 points. But those two outings get sandwiched between mediocre bookends of single-point production. The tail end figures to add another when the Seahawks encounter the Cardinals in Week 7.

Arizona allows the fewest points to tight ends on average this year. No tight end has scored against the unit, and no opposing set has totaled more than five points. Heck, only one set of opposing tight ends has broken past the two-point barrier.

This isn't to say Graham doesn't have the talent to make an impact. But it's not likely, and start 'em, sit 'em decisions rely on analysis of the situation, not wishful thinking.

         

All scoring info and statistics courtesy of ESPN.com standard leagues, as are points-against info and ownership stats.

Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.

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