Fantasy Football Week 7: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
Week 7 is a rough one for fantasy managers.
It's not just a matter of some teams sitting at 2-4 or 1-5, teetering on the brink of disaster with the injuries that continue to wreak havoc on fantasy lineups.
There are half a dozen teams taking Week 7 off: the Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. That means big names at every position are unavailable to fantasy managers who are navigating more lineup dilemmas than ever.
This column aims to help solve some of them.
Just as I do every week here at Bleacher Report, I have looked through questions on the B/R app and selected some that will hopefully aid both the fantasy managers who asked them and others in setting their Week 7 lineups.
Now let's see if we can't shake off the bye week blues.
I'm in a PPR league. Should I go with Mike Davis versus a weak Dolphins defense or stick with Khalil Herbert even though Damien Williams is most likely returning? Bonus question—I have Josh Allen on bye so I'm starting Taylor Heinicke. Should I feel comfortable with him or look to the waiver wire?—@mattlank92
OK, first things first. Mike Davis of the Atlanta Falcons has possessed all the explosiveness of a wet bottle rocket in 2021, averaging a measly 3.3 yards per carry. However, while the seventh-year veteran has been pedestrian, he has been consistently pedestrian, getting at least 15 touches in every game this season.
As things stand, we don't know if Damien Williams will play in Week 7, as he's still on the COVID-19 list. What we do know is that whether Khalil Herbert is Chicago's lead back or part of a time share, it will be against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has given up all of 54.8 yards per game on the ground this season.
Many teams don't even try to run the ball on the Buccaneers, and the Bears could easily find themselves playing from behind. That gives the edge to Davis, even if he isn't a play that inspires cartwheels.
Speaking of not inspiring cartwheels, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke is averaging 215 passing yards over the last two weeks and has one touchdown and three picks over that span. He also doesn't have an especially favorable matchup Sunday on the road at Green Bay, although there is some garbage time potential present.
Teddy Bridgewater of the Denver Broncos, Sam Darnold of the Carolina Panthers, Carson Wentz of the Indianapolis Colts and Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers aren't great fantasy options, but all four have top-10 fantasy matchups for the position in Week 7.
At least one should be available.
The Calls: Start Mike Davis, Sit Taylor Heinicke
The Monday Night Conundrum
Full PPR WR2 and flex plays—(Jakobi) Meyers, Tim Patrick, (Tyler) Boyd, (Alex) Collins, (Rhamondre) Stevenson?—@fsjetset23
Given all the injuries and the six teams on bye in Week 7, this really isn't a bad set of options.
We'll start by ruling a player out. Tyler Boyd of the Bengals is a talented wide receiver, but he hasn't been a big part of the Cincinnati offense of late. He has just five catches for 31 yards on eight targets in the past two games combined. He's a pass.
So is Rhamondre Stevenson of the New England Patriots. The rookie amassed 62 yards and a touchdown last week against the Dallas Cowboys, but he did so on just eight touches. With Damien Harris gobbling up the majority of the backfield snaps, Stevenson is a no-go here as well.
This could be a situation where circumstances dictate the rest. If Seattle Seahawks running back Alex Collins was a full-go Monday night against the New Orleans Saints, then he would be an easy "yes." He's coming off a 101-yard effort against the Steelers and would lead this entire group in touches if healthy. But Collins got dinged up late in the Steelers game, and with Seattle not playing until Monday, a late scratch could leave you staring at a goose-egg in the lineup. The Saints are also a bad running back matchup, ranking 23rd in points-per-reception points per game given up to the position.
If Collins practices this week and is clearly going to play, you start him alongside Denver's Tim Patrick. Patrick has a better fantasy matchup than Jakobi Meyers of the New England Patriots and is more likely to find the end zone, given that Meyers still hasn't caught a touchdown in his professional career.
But if there's any real question about Collins' availability, play it safe and go with Meyers and Patrick.
The Calls: Alex Collins, Tim Patrick
Wild World of Wideouts
Pick 3 .5 PPR…(Tyler) Lockett, (Jaylen) Waddle, Tee Higgins or Allen Robinson?—@jackfitchie
Remember when this would have been an easy call? Those were good times.
That there's a shred of doubt regarding starting Allen Robinson II of the Chicago Bears speaks to just how miserable a season the veteran receiver is having. Even so, Robinson is a "go" here—only two teams in the league have allowed more PPR points to wide receivers this year than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Bears will likely have to play catch-up Sunday.
The weirdness continues with the second slot. It goes to the guy who would have ranked at the bottom of this quartet a few months ago. In his first game back from injured reserve in Week 6, Tua Tagovailoa targeted Jaylen Waddle of the Dolphins a whopping 13 times, hauling in 10 for 70 yards and two scores. With an Atlanta Falcons team up next that has given up the ninth-most PPR points to receivers in 2021, the hottest hand of this bunch needs to be in the lineup.
That leaves Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals and Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks. Over the first two weeks of the season, only Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams had more fantasy points than Lockett. Since then, Lockett has ranked outside the top 50. He hasn't caught more than five passes, had 60 receiving yards in a game or scored a touchdown in a month.
Higgins hasn't been any better, with just eight catches for 76 yards over the past two games. But while Higgins will be facing the Baltimore Ravens this week with Joe Burrow as his quarterback, Lockett has been saddled with Geno Smith for the next several weeks.
Last week, that led to Lockett catching just two of seven targets.
Higgins gets the final spot.
The Calls: Tee Higgins, Allen Robinson II, Jaylen Waddle
Hurts So Good
Cordarrelle Patterson or Darrel Williams? Also (Derek) Carr or (Jalen) Hurts?—@DBizzle
The first part of this question is actually a close call.
In his first game as Kansas City's lead back last week, Darrel Williams averaged less than three yards a carry. That is not an impressive number, but Williams still got 21 carries and found the end zone twice, finishing the week seventh in PPR points among running backs.
Cordarrelle Patterson of the Atlanta Falcons isn't going to get 21 carries Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He probably won't get 21 touches. But what Patterson has lacked in quantity this season, he has more than made up for in quality. In each of his last three games, Patterson has eclipsed 100 total yards, and he has found the end zone five times in as many games.
With the Dolphins surrendering the most fantasy points to running backs in the AFC, fantasy football's most surprising player in 2021 could have his best yardage day of the year.
The quarterback question is a much easier call. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles offense looked absolutely atrocious last week. Yes, Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders just torched the Denver Broncos for 341 yards and two scores.
But while the passing hasn't always been pretty, Philly's Jalen Hurts is the only quarterback in fantasy football with at least 20 fantasy points in every game this season.
Hurts is a locked-in every-week starter.
The Calls: Cordarrelle Patterson, Jalen Hurts
Surviving the Byepocalypse
12-Team Full PPR. Need 2…Michael Carter, Elijah Mitchell, A.J. Dillon or Amon-Ra St. Brown? #BYEPOCALYPSE—@Klutch36
The only thing that will get your question published quicker than a little humor is shamelessly sucking up to me.
Between all the injuries and the six-team bye, this is a week where you have to laugh to keep from screaming.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is an easy pass here. It's generally wise when dealing with flex spots to defer to running backs. It's simply a matter of touches, which equals opportunity. That St. Brown plays for a winless team with a terrible offense seals it and then some.
On the other hand, San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell is a relatively easy "yes." The potential return of Jeff Wilson Jr. could muddy the backfield waters in San Francisco. For now, at least, Mitchell is the No. 1 option for a run-first team, and while the Colts aren't a good RB matchup that lead back status (and the touches that come with it) is too good to pass up.
Then things get tricky. AJ Dillon of the Green Bay Packers is the clear backup to Aaron Jones, but Dillion has still notched double-digit touches in three straight. Michael Carter of the Jets has moved to the head of New York's committee attack, but he's yet to have even 60 rushing yards in a game.
Carter has, however, found the end zone in each of his last two games. That and a slightly better fantasy matchup against the New England Patriots puts him over the top.
The Calls: Michael Carter, Elijah Mitchell
Tua (Tagovailoa)/(Carson) Wentz/(Jameis) Winston. Help me.—@herrerajose01
With guys like Dak Prescott, Josh Allen and Kirk Cousins on vacation, quite a few fantasy managers are sifting through middling options looking for a guy to get them through the week. And all things considered, this isn't a terrible trio to choose from.
Jameis Winston of the New Orleans Saints has an intriguing stretch of matchups against bad defenses coming up: at Seattle, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, at Tennessee. But of that group, Seattle is actually the worst matchup in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and Winston has thrown for over 275 yards just once in five games.
Carson Wentz of the Indianapolis Colts has rebounded somewhat from a rocky start, with 625 passing yards and four touchdowns (without an interception) over his last two games. He also draws a San Francisco 49ers team giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2021.
But the play here is the youngster of the bunch. Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins didn't show any ill effects from his layoff last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, throwing for 329 yards and two scores. The Dolphins are dead last in the league in rushing, so Miami has to throw to move the ball. And they face an Atlanta Falcons team in Week 7 that has surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season.
It's Tua time.
The Call: Tua Tagovailoa
.5 PPR. (Darrell) Henderson, Chuba (Hubbard), (Joe) Mixon and Darrel Williams. Pick 3.—@TheSG
I'm not sure if this is a legitimate question or showing off. Lord knows I have multiple teams that are exponentially worse off at running back than this. In the King's Classic Snake Draft this year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, my first three picks were (and I kid you not) Nick Chubb, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Kareem Hunt.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. is a must-start in Week 7. Henderson has at least 80 total yards in every game he's played in, has found the end zone in four of five games and gets a Detroit Lions defense at home that ranks 26th in the league against the run.
Similarly, Chuba Hubbard of the Carolina Panthers is a guy who needs to be in starting lineups. He ain't Christian McCaffrey, but Hubbard has averaged 20 carries per game the past two weeks and draws a leaky Giants defense allowing the eighth-most PPR points per game to running backs.
The matchup isn't nearly as rosy for Joe Mixon of the Bengals, who takes on the Baltimore Ravens and their third-ranked run defense this week. For Darrel Williams of the Chiefs, the matchup is better but not markedly so. The Titans are ninth in run defense at 107.7 yards allowed per game.
Were there a larger disparity in matchup here, sitting Mixon to duck Baltimore might actually be on the table. But with the Titans also playing the run well, Williams' "edge" just isn't big enough to justify rolling those dice.
The Calls: Darrell Henderson Jr., Chuba Hubbard, Joe Mixon
DraftKings DFS Question of the Week
With so many running backs hurt or on a bye, what's the best value play at the running back position in the DraftKings Week 7 Fantasy Football Millionaire contest? -- @DFSSOS
Value is a relative concept in both season-long fantasy football and DFS. So in the interest of offering DK managers some versatility, I'll point out a solid play at three price points.
Over $7,000: Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans [DK DFS VALUE: $9,200]
King Henry isn't cheap, and dropping all that cabbage on him means you'll have to hit the bargain bin elsewhere. But Henry is the closest to a sure thing you'll find at running back. He has at least 20 carries and at least 110 rushing yards in five straight games and has scored three rushing touchdowns in three of those games. The Chiefs are not exactly a stout defensive team, either.
$6,000-$7,000: Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles Rams [DK DFS VALUE $6,500]
There may not be a running back play I like more in Week 7 at DraftKings than Henderson. His salary isn't exorbitant, the Lions are giving up more DK points to running backs than any team in the NFL, and we saw last week what a Henderson stat line in a Rams blowout might look like: 107 total yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Under $6,000: Damien Harris, New England Patriots [DK DFS VALUE: $5,700]
Harris carries a little risk in that he's battling a rib injury. But that didn't stop him from racking up 101 rushing yards and a score on 18 carries. That effort came against a much better defense than the one he'll be running against Sunday. For the season, the Jets have given up the fourth-most DK points to running backs.
As is the case every week, we'll wrap up this week's Start/Sit mailbag by slamming out some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.
One minute and 45 seconds left on the clock. Two timeouts. Down four points.
Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.
Sterling Shepard or Tyler Lockett? -- @eligaull
This one is both easy and an example of how things can change from September to October. The Giants are hardly an offensive powerhouse, but Sterling Shepard is the last man standing among an injury-ravaged wideout corps. Last week against the Rams, that translated into 14 targets and 10 catches. Lockett's value isn't there with Geno Smith under center. Shephard is the safer play.
T.J. Hockenson or Kyle Pitts? -- @omarfigueroa24
Hockenson's eight catches for 74 yards last week against Cincinnati was his best yardage production since Week 1. But the Rams could do what so many other opponents have and bracket Detroit's only legitimate receiving threat. After having the best game of his young career two weeks ago in London (nine receptions, 119 yards and a score), Pitts has more Week 7 upside.
Sad this is even a question, but start D'Ernest Johnson or Tyler Lockett this week? -- @jjhakim
OK, we've hit the tipping point with Lockett. I've made it quite clear that I'm not high on Lockett in Week 7, but the Cleveland Browns are a hot mess of unknowns now that Case Keenum is starting against the Denver Broncos. We also don't know what the touches split will look like between Johnson and Demetric Felton. Start Lockett and hope for a long score.
Allen Robinson or Kenyan Drake in a flex spot? -- @CLF520
If it makes you feel any better, I have some flex decisions this week that are much worse than this. With that sad (not a typo), while I generally defer to running backs, Drake has 10 total touches in the last three games combined. Last week's two-score outing screams "fluke." Go with Robinson against a Tampa secondary that's starting an equipment manager and a parking lot attendant.
Better D this week…Indy or Denver? -- @NorthSideSoxFan
It has happened with very little fanfare, but the Indianapolis Colts are a top-five fantasy defense six weeks into the season. Much of the shine has come off the Denver defense over the past few weeks, but in Week 7, the Broncos face a Cleveland Browns offense completely eviscerated by injuries. Team defenses are all about matchups. Roll with Denver.
Standard league. Need a flex. (Chris) Godwin, (Tee) Higgins or (Courtland) Sutton? -- @andrewrayvaughn
This call comes down to Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos. Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals just isn't getting the target share to merit consideration over that duo. It's a close call, and Sutton has a much better fantasy matchup. However, the Buccaneers are just a better offensive team, which gives Godwin the most upside and the edge here.
Javonte Williams or Melvin Gordon full PPR? -- #chrism24
This backfield is as muddied as you'll find in the NFL, and until something changes, this backfield will be difficult to decipher. Nonetheless, Gordon has been the higher-scoring of the two Denver running backs, out-pointing Williams in four of six games and by an average of just over two fantasy points per game. The veteran gets the nod.
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Fantasy points allowed and scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.
Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.