By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Welcome to week 7 of the NFL and your fantasy football season. This tends to be the time you find out how well you drafted or how well you use the waiver wire comes into play. This is the fourth week of the season where you may need to pull out a W without some of your top play makers due to bye weeks or injuries.
Philip Rivers: As it always seems to be, Rivers is again having another outstanding season and not getting the respect he deserves. With a rather weak offensive line, underperforming defense, and no real semblance of a running game, Rivers continue to carry his team to give them a chance to win. Last week Rivers sat back and picked apart what was being touted as a talented defense in Green Bay. Although they made a big play when it mattered, Rivers made them look mediocre at best throwing for over 500 yards for the first time in his career and 2 TDs and no picks. With San Diego hosting the Raiders this is an extremely important game for the Chargers and their playoffs hopes even though the season isn’t even half over. Rivers has played well this season and is clearly the engine that makes the Chargers engine run I see him having a big game this week to keep his team in the hunt for a Wild Card position for later in the season. It is important to note that star WO Keenan Allen may not play is a major loss, Rivers still has more than enough ability and weapons to have a great game this week.
Matt Ryan: Believe it or not, Tennessee has a decent overall defense they are trotting out on the field on a weekly bases especially against the pass (6th according to footballoutsiders.com). What will help Matt Ryan come out and have a big game this week will be Devonta Freeman. The Titans struggle against the run and Freeman has been an absolute beast carrying the ball so far this season and I see the Falcons running the ball early to draw 8 or maybe even 9 in the box to stop the run and Ryan will take advantage of his outstanding play action abilities (I feel Ryan is one of the best in the game at play action), and pick apart a decent Titans secondary. With Julio Jones seemingly back to full health, Ryan will have his best and favorite target back to 100% and looking to get back on the insane pace he was on when the season first started.
Jameis Winston: Last week Winston had an OK game last week versus the Jaguars, passing for over 200 yards, a TD, 68.4 completion %, and 0 interceptions, there is something important that is missing from these stats; the Jaguars can’t get after the QB. This week the Bucs will face a very talented and vaunted Redskins front 7 that can rush the passer and force a rookie QB who has struggled when under pressure all season, into making significant mistakes. He will take some sacks and turn the ball over multiple times. Play another QB.
Sam Bradford: It is no secret that Bradford is struggling in his first season as the Eagles starting QB. He is completing 63.2% of his passes which is not bad, but he also has as many TDs and interceptions (9), and has struggled to put together any consistency in a week by week basis. This week Bradford will face a fierce and dominate Panthers defense. One thing that Chip Kelly’s offense is predicated upon is speed, tempo, and quick passes, which is a successful formula for many teams that run, if they can run it effectively. Here is the problem, the Bradford has struggled with consistent accuracy all season and the Panthers defense not only a stout secondary, they also have 2 of the game’s best cover LB’s in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Both Kuechly and Davis are more than capable of covering most teams TE’s or RB’s out of the backfield which will slow and frustrate Bradford into a lot of mistakes this week. Bench him!
Sleepers: Drew Brees, Landry Jones, Carson Palmer
Devonta Freeman: Freeman has been an absolute monster this season and it is going to continue this week. At the start of the season there was a lot of questions in Atlanta as to whether their starting RB was going to be Freeman or teammate Tevin Colman, Freeman has not only taken the job, he has flat out took it and run away with it (no pun intended). This week Freeman will face a weak Titans rush defense and will establish the Falcons offense tomorrow to help them get back on a winning track. Expect Freeman to rush for over a 100 yards for the 3rd straight week and at least 1 TD. Freeman is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield which makes him extremely valuable in PPR leagues.
Todd Gurley: The rookie has arrived! Well, this isn’t news for some, but the highly touted back out of Georgia is finally back to full health from his offseason knee surgery and in his 3rd full professional game. Gurley will face off against one of the league’s worst run defenses in Cleveland, and will look to be the Rams whole offense and put up some great stats. The Rams still struggle to move the ball in the passing game and with Gurley running like one of the best backs in the league even this early in his young career, Gurley will see the ball early and often, he will rush for over 100 yards again and I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2 or more TDs.
Joseph Randle: Unless you have Randle in a PPR league (He does have value as a dual threat back, especially with a check down type QB with the Cowboys playing Matt Cassel), I sit Randle this week. Despite what the Eagles were able to do to the Giants defense last week running the ball, the Cowboys offense is not Philly’s offense, the Giants have been outstanding against the run all season. Randle will probably see a lot of carries to try and help the 3rdstarting QB for the Cowboys this season already, but do not expect him to have much success as the Giants will get their run defense back on track and stop Randle in his tracks.
Knile Davis: As much as I like Davis and the success he has had in the past playing in spots for an injured Jamaal Charles, Davis may not even be the #1 back in KC with Charles out for the rest of the season. Even if Davis earns the bulk of the time in the game this week as the Chiefs #1 back, KC is going to struggle to move the ball on the Steelers. This may surprise some, but the Steelers have quietly progressed as the season has gone on and have done a nice job stopping the run. KC’s offensive line has struggled all season and even with a healthy and skilled Davis in the backfield the Chiefs including Davis is are not going to have much success running the ball this week against the Steelers.
Sleepers: LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Danny Woodhead
Chris Hogan: The Buffalo Bills face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London this week and they are decimated by injuries especially on the offensive side of the ball. With the Bills missing arguably their top 2 Wide Receivers going into the game, this is a great opportunity for Hogan to step up and prove his is as good as some of us know he is/can be. Hogan has been given the nickname “Seven-Eleven” because he always seems to find a way to get open. With a significant amount of the Bills offensive talent out or hobbled due to injuries, Hogan will have a big day, and could be a steal in your fantasy league as a “one week wonder” due to the circumstance the Bills are facing on offense.
Pierre Garcon: Even with having a nightmare as a QB, Garcon has the skills and ability to get open, catch the ball, and rack up some nice YAC. With the Redskins facing Tampa Bay this week, who does not have a strong defense and a rookie QB that will probably give the Redskins extra possessions, Garcon will have plenty of opportunity to get his catches, yards, and even into the end zone for a TD this week.
Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson: Yes, I am telling you to sit both of these players as the Jags will go head to head against the Buffalo Bills and their under-appreciated defense this week. The Buffalo Bills have arguably the two best cover corners in the game so far this season with Stephen Gilmore and Ronald Darby doing much more than they are given credit for. Both Darby and Gilmore have been knocking down pass, making critical open field tackles stopping teams for significant YAC, and even picking up a few interceptions, these two WO’s will struggle to catch the ball this week. After last weeks’ disappointing performance against eh Bengals the Bills are going to pull out all the stops this week and shut down the Jags passing game and 2 of its 3 most dangerous and important weapons.
Jordan Matthews: The Eagles visit the Panthers this week, and it is not going to be a fun day for the Eagles offense, especially Jordan Matthews. Matthews will more than likely be shadowed by Josh Norman who has been an absolute monster shutting down opposing teams passing offenses, often times being given the assignment of covering the opponents #1 WO. Matthews is listed as and often sees enough targets per game to be considered the Eagles #1 WO and will draw the tough task of making Norman look average which is highly unlikely. Being successful in Fantasy has a lot to do with picking smart match ups for your players, this is not one of them if Matthews is on your team.
Sleepers: Josh Brown, Amari Cooper, Julian Edelman
Charles Clay: Rather than given Clay a ton of accolades as to why you should play him (which he is more than deserving most of the time), but he is a player due to his team’s pure lack of offensive talent right now, mainly due to injury, that will benefit as an individual because of it. Clay as stated in previous weeks is a match up nightmare for most teams; too big and strong for CBs and Safeties, and to fast, quick, and agile for LBs Clay has the ability and right situation to have a monster day as a fantasy TE and for his team to leave London with a “W”.
Jason Witten: Facing a similar situation as Charles Clay, Jason Witten could have an outstanding game this week, as the Cowboys face off against a vulnerable and banged up Giants pass defense. The Cowboys will be playing their 3rd different starting this week when they trot Matt Cassel out on the field, Cassel as many may already know is well known for his inability to push the ball downfield so he relies heavily on his ability to make smart passes and gets his pass out fast and often short to RBs and TEs. Witten at 33, is still one of the NFL’s best pass catching TEs in the league and should draw plenty of favorable match-ups this week against the Giants pass defense. Even if Witten draws extra attention as he often does, he is a very smart veteran that knows how to get open. Witten should see plenty of passes go his way due to his reliability and his new starting QBs’ ability to make quick, short, but accurate passes.
Larry Donnell: Donnell who blew the lid off the fantasy world last year with back to back impressive showings, catching multiple TDs and plenty of yards, has been at best inconsistent since then. This week the Giants face a rested and healthy Cowboys defense that will look to shut down the Giants passing attack to give their team a chance to climb back into the sad race in the NFC East. The Cowboys will be back to full health (minus top CB Orlando Scandrick who is and has been out of the season due to a significant knee injury), and are being underrated. The Cowboys will have both of their top pass rushers back in the line-up looking to make Eli Manning’s day a bad nightmare. The Cowboys will also be back to full health with Rolando McClain who seemed to finally live up to his draft hype last season for the Cowboys, Sean Lee is healthy again, and Anthony Hutchens. These linebackers are fast, smart, have great instincts. All three have the ability to stop the run, or drop into coverage and be effective. With the Cowboys secondary needing to focus on the always dangerous Odell Beckham JR even though he seems to be a little banged up, the LBs will be crucial in stopping the Giants TEs and backs in the passing game, and Donnell will not win many battles against this strong group.
Jordan Reed: Although it appears that Reed, who start the season on fire, has been cleared to play since missing the last 2 games due to several injuries will struggle in his initial return to the field. One of Reed’s injuries was a concussion, an injury that the NFL still does not give it its correct due, and make these players sit longer and receive better care for the injury before allowing players to return to the field, has a significant effect on players when they first return to play. When a player from the NFL returns from being cleared to play, they have a high propensity of having lingering effects or even suffering additional immediate concussion for this reason. Reed hopefully won’t suffer this same fate, but he will not be as effective as he was to start the season in his first week back.
Sleepers: Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Antonio Gates
Buffalo Bills: I maybe in the minority in believing the Bills defense has been unjustly underrated and criticized this year. Much of that may be because of the teams’ boisterous coach, pre-season expectations and promises, and past successes in 1 or 2 statistical areas, mainly sacks. Even though the Bills haven’t racked up sacks like they have over the past 2 season in which the lead the league both seasons, it is important to note that besides games against Tom Brady and Andy Dalton, the Bills defense have been able to at least get pressure against the opposing teams QB and force them into incompletions, poor accuracy, and interceptions. After last weeks’ breakdown, some players coming out publically about wanting the teams’ defensive scheme to change, the Bills will make this game a statement game and flat out dominate the Jacksonville Jaguars. While in know the Jaguars are a team the Bills should beat and dominate anyway when you look at each teams rosters and records, it is important to note that Blake Bortles has shown improvement over last years’ performances, and the fact that they do have 3 legitimate threats in their passing game with Allen Hurns, Allen Robsinson, and Julius Thomas, this is a better offense than most give them credit for being. The Bills will get back to what most thought they would be at the beginning of the season and get after Bortles early and often, shut down an already weak rushing attack with #1 back rookie TJ Yeldon likely out for this game, and lead the Bills to victory.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins record (2-3) and offensive play thus far is deceiving representation of what the Redskins can do on the defensive side of the ball. The Redskins have an outstanding front 7 with the likes of Terrance Knighton, Jason Hatcher, and pass rushing stud Ryan Kerrigan in the mix of this group, they have the ability to stop the run before it ever even gets going against them and get after an opposing teams QB in a hurry and often. The Redskins will play Tampa Bay this week, a team that has a lot of issues on the offensive line and a rookie QB that has already shown he has issues and will make mistakes when he is under pressure so far in his young short career. Washington will stop the run, pin their ears back and get after Winston early and often forcing sacks and an opportunity for a bunch of turnovers.
New York Jets: So far this season the Jets defense has been impressive and flat out dominate at times so far this season helping the Jets to a fast and impressive start of 4-1 under new head coach Todd Bowles. All of these great accolades will be put back in check this week as the Jets will face the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. Brady is playing out of this world efficient this season, pick apart two very good defenses in Buffalo and Dallas, and dismantling 3 other opponents to the tune of more than 36 points per game. The Jets do have the ability to slow this offense down, but they will not stop it. The Patriots are the best in the league and finding and exploiting weaknesses in a team and at making in game adjustments to maximize their production and this week will be no different. Sit the Jets simply by virtue of who they have to play and find another defense that can get you more points.
Baltimore Ravens: With the loss of Terrell Suggs to start the season, the Ravens defense seems to have also lost its way. A group that was thought to good enough to be a part of a team that was favored to push to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year is a shell of its former self. With one of the NFL’s most potent and highest scoring offenses hosting the Ravens this week, do not expect a major turnaround. The Cardinals are well balanced on the offensive side of the ball, and beat most teams with their rushing game and/or passing game any week. The Ravens struggle at stopping both which will make for a long day for the Ravens defense as it will attempt but fail to stop the Cardinals from dropping at least 28 points on them.
Sleepers: Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams
Survivor League Pick: Washington Redskins