Week 7 of your fantasy football season is right around the corner, and with it comes the bye week of many fantasy studs.
Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Arian Foster, Jahvid Best, and LaDainian Tomlinson will all spend Week 7 on their respective couches, watching the games just like you and me.
So let's take a look around the league at some players that may be available on your waiver wire, or might be sitting on your roster just waiting for the opportunity to make an impact.
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Joe Flacco enters Week 7 coming off a solid performance against a mediocre New England Patriots defense, posting 285 yards and two touchdowns.
Flacco is still developing. He struggles against tough defenses, while dominating weaker ones.
In Week 7, Flacco will feast on the Buffalo Bills' defense, which allows 17 fantasy points to quarterbacks every week, good for fifth-most in the NFL.
While Flacco has yet to string together consecutive good starts, this should be the week that he finally rewards fantasy owners for back-to-back starts.
I was wrong last week when I wrote that "[t]his will probably be one of the few times, and maybe the last, that Cassel will appear in a reaches and sleepers column."
Cassel is back, baby!
Just to be clear, he's back in my column, not "back" in the sense of being an every-week starter for your squad. Sorry to disappoint.
Cassel threw for just 200 yards in Week 6, but squeezed in three touchdowns against the NFL's worst pass defense of the Houston Texans. While most fantasy owners are rightfully not impressed with 200 passing yards, they will take three touchdowns any Sunday.
Week 7 brings the Jacksonville Jaguars to Kansas City, along with a defense surrendering 20 fantasy points per week to quarterbacks. With many quarterbacks on a bye this week, and many others simply not preforming—I'm looking at you, Donovan McNabb—Cassel presents a fairly solid option in Week 7.
Fantasy owners should also take note that going forward, Cassel faces only one defense for the rest of the season that is giving up below-average fantasy points to quarterbacks—Week 14 at San Diego.
So fantasy owners may want to store Cassel on their bench in case of emergency later in the season.
Marshawn Lynch failed to wow fantasy owners in his Seattle Seahawks debut in Week 6, rushing for just 44 yards and a touchdown.
But that was against a Chicago Bears defense that is surrendering only 84 yards on the ground per game.
Week 7 brings a much better matchup, when the Arizona Cardinals visit Seattle on Sunday.
The Cardinals are allowing opposing running backs 140 yards on the ground while giving up 21 fantasy points to rushers every week.
During Lynch's Week 6 trot to the end zone, he displayed more power than he has in years. He appears rejuvenated, which of course is great news for fantasy owners and the Seahawks' running game.
Fantasy owners should also take note of Lynch's schedule during the fantasy playoffs from Week 14 through Week 16—@San Francisco, v. Atlanta, @Tampa Bay.
Of those teams, only Atlanta gives up fewer fantasy points to running backs than an average defense, and Tampa Bay allows eight points per week more than the average defense.
Knowshon Moreno returned in Week 6 from his three-week hiatus just in time to face off against the New York Jets' fourth-ranked rush defense.
While Moreno didn't put on a rushing clinic, he did manage to average 4.0 yards per carry against a defense that only allows 3.5 on average.
Moreno and the Broncos face off against the Oakland Raiders' Swiss-cheese rushing defense in Week 7.
The Raiders are just giving away fantasy points—24 per game—to running backs every week, and this is your week to capitalize as a Moreno owner.
The Raiders give up one touchdown on the ground every week. Unless that touchdown is stolen by the otherwise-pious Tim Tebow, Moreno should be able to claim it for himself.
After fumbling—er, stumbling—out of the gate during his first three professional games, Ivory made a splash in Week 6 against the inept Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, abusing them for 158 yards on only 15 carries.
Even after that performance, Ivory is owned in only 14 percent of fantasy football leagues.
The potential for a repeat performance presents itself this week, as the Cleveland Browns travel to New Orleans on Sunday. The Browns actually rank near the top of defenses in terms of least fantasy points given up to running backs.
So why feel good about tickling the Ivory on Sunday?
The Browns give up few points to running backs because they have only allowed one rushing touchdown the entire season.
What the Browns do give up, however, are plenty of yards on the ground. 120 yards per contest, to be precise.
Sometimes being at the right place at the right time is far more beneficial than earning your way to the top.
WR Patrick Crayton can attest to that.
During a Week 6 contest in which the Chargers lost both stud TE Antonio Gates and rising star WR Malcom Floyd to injury, Crayton stepped in.
Crayton caught six balls for 117 yards in a losing effort in St. Louis. But in Week 7, this time as a starter, Crayton tangles with a New England Patriots defense that is allowing wide receivers to score a whopping 25 points each week.
With both Gates and WR Legedu Naanee missing practice, and Floyd almost certainly out on Sunday, Crayton should receive a full complement of opportunities to make an impact.
If you are grasping at straws, take a flier on Crayton.
***UPDATE*** Steve Breaston is inactive, and will not play today.
Starting WR Steve Breaston in Week 7 is about as risky as going all in on a stone-cold bluff holding 6-2 off-suit under the gun.
Breaston is returning to game action this week for the first time since undergoing minor knee surgery three weeks ago. The last time Breaston started a game, he was the leading wide receiver for the Cardinals, and Derek Anderson was under center.
How things have changed.
With QB Max Hall now starting, there may be timing issues that Breaston has to work through as he gets comfortable with Hall. Of course, that may impact his production this week, and in weeks to come.
But as mentioned above, prior to the surgery, Breaston was the most productive receiver in Arizona.
The upside is bountiful in Week 7, with the Seahawks allowing 25 fantasy points per game to wide receivers.
Yes, Breaston is a risky play. But some owners may not have other options due to injuries and bye-week conundrums.
So start him if you must, but know you're taking a chance.
My therapist says to let it all out, so here it goes: I have a man crush on Mike Williams.
There, I said it.
This guy is phenomenal, and not just for a rookie. Williams has scored in three out of five games thus far, and is averaging 60 yards and nine targets per contest.
As an example of just how involved Williams is in the Buccaneers' offense, consider this: for every one pass target acquired by any other Bucs wide receiver, Williams gets one for himself.
In case that statistic didn't win you over, here is another. Williams accounts for 25 percent of the Buccaneers total passing targets, and ranks 14th in that category among all NFL players.
While Williams won't be successful every week, he does have a rather enticing matchup on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams defense has improved, but they are still allowing 21 points to wide receivers every week.
Williams is available in 47 percent of fantasy football leagues.
While that number is shrinking, it is still nowhere near where it should be. If you have a roster spot available, take a chance.
By the simple process of elimination, courtesy of LB James Harrison, TE Ben Watson remains the lone reliable pass-catching option for rookie QB Colt McCoy.
Watson currently ranks in the top 10 among tight ends, and is on pace for career-high numbers in both receptions and yards. Week 7 grants Watson the opportunity to face off against a New Orleans Saints defense that ranks eighth in points allowed to tight ends.
With the current plague of injuries knocking out top options at tight end— Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, and Jermichael Finley—Watson is a player that should not be on any waiver wires.
However, he is owned in only 23 percent of fantasy leagues, so he is likely available for pickup at your leisure.
If you have learned one thing through six weeks of fantasy football action, it should be this: start your players against the Buffalo Bills.
Todd Heap is no exception.
The Bills have allowed an NFL-worst 12.6 fantasy points per game to tight ends, and there is no reason why that trend should not continue on Sunday.
Heap isn't a guy you want in your lineup every week. But if I needed a guy to fill in for one week due to injury or bye, I'd happily plug in a player facing off against the league's worst defense.
You could do worse.