The injury bug has bitten once again, this time hitting Ben Roethlisberger and Eddie Lacy, putting fantasy owners in a tricky situation for Week 7. There are conflicting reports about how long Big Ben will be out, with the timetable for return as soon as Week 9 following their bye, and the latest being around Week 11. Lacy is out for "several weeks," and nobody seems to have a feel for just how long that will be.
With Lacy out, and James Starks expected to miss a month, the Packers traded for RB Knile Davis. Davis is someone you can grab if you need RB help, but he is going to be this week's Justin Forsett in fantasy terms. You can add him, but don't play him! Ty Montgomery is the guy you want to play from the Packers this week. Remember that name… TY MONTGOMERY.
The Steelers are forced to run with Landry Jones at quarterback, which is a big downgrade for Antonio Brown and the rest of the pass-catchers. I've gotten a lot of questions about people wanting to trade Brown, and I will go on the record and say that is risky. Roethlisberger will push to return as soon as possible with Jones not the answer to win games while he is gone. If he can deal with the pain, Brown will have value just as the fantasy playoffs are going on.
Word broke on Wednesday that Doug Martin suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury, putting him out for Week 7. That means Jacquizz Rodgers will be the lead RB for the Bucs, and someone to own in ALL formats. As if that wasn't bad enough, LeSean McCoy's hamstring tightened up on him in practice and he was unable to finish the session. The coaching staff is saying it is a wait-and-see outlook there, so go grab Mike Gillislee just in case.
Matt Ryan – Falcons: Matty Ice has been nothing short of amazing for owners who were able to take him in the 14th round on average. I don't think anyone expected him to be ranked #1 overall in fantasy football with his 2,075 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 52 rushing yards, 2 2-point conversions, and 1 lost fumble. Ryan is having a career year, and fantasy owners are reaping the rewards.
This week he takes on a Chargers defense that gives up 22.0 PPG to fantasy QBs this season, 10th-most in the NFL. They've allowed 10 TD passes so far, which is also the 10th-most in the league. And through 6 games this season they have allowed 300-plus passing yards in four of them. I'm looking for Ryan to make it five this week.
Andy Dalton – Bengals: Dalton has been better than the national media want to give him credit for, managing to rack up 1,757 passing yards, 6 TDs, and 2 INTs. The reason they are beating him up is due to the lack of touchdowns, but the return of Tyler Eifert is sure to fix that problem. Nobody gives Eifert credit for just how much he opens up A.J. Green, and how much more respect defenses have to show for the passing game in general, thus opening up the running lanes.
It also helps that Dalton gets the Browns this week, a team I have been trying to just play whomever they play every week. This is the week Dalton goes off; so it is said, so it shall be!
Spencer Ware – Chiefs: The Chiefs sure did catfish fantasy football last week when they activated Jamaal Charles, but gave him just 11 touches for 47 yards and a touchdown. On Monday, Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said this about Charles carrying a full load: "Is he ready to carry it every down? I don't think that's where we're at right this minute."
That puts Ware in the driver's seat against a Saints defense that is the worst in the NFL at limiting fantasy running backs. So far they are giving up an average of 28.7 PPG in standard formats, and 34.5 in PPR formats. Ware is a RB1 this week at home.
LeGarrette Blount – Patriots: The Steelers offense is in real doubt following the meniscus injury, and subsequent surgery, to Roethlisberger. That means their defense is going to have to step up if they want to stay in games until he returns. This week, however, they face the Patriots and an angry Tom Brady, who I am positive will jump out ahead early into the opening coin toss. That means a heavy dose of the running game should they elect to not run up the score.
Enter LeGarrette Blount into the RB1 picture. Blount has been a RB1 all season, but has relied on touchdowns more than yards over the past 3 games. This week I think he reaches the century mark in rushing yards, and has the potential to score a TD or two.
Ty Montgomery – Packers: My sleeper pick of the week, the one those Big-Box websites won't tell you about until Tuesday, is… Ty Montgomery of the Green Bay Packers. Montgomery is going to handle the RB duties for Week 7, meaning you get a WR who will get RB touches.
Nothing fancy here, just stick him in that WR3 or Flex position and watch him make me look smart.
Alshon Jeffery – Bears: Jeffery is a guy that people expect a lot from, being the No. 1 WR and a WR1 in fantasy drafts. The problem he is having this year is the move from a gunslinger QB in Jay Cutler, to a game-managing one in Brian Hoyer. Jeffery has still had some nice games, but has yet to catch a touchdown this season.
This week he hits the road to take on the Packers, a defense that is generously giving up 28.7 PPG to fantasy WRs this season, the most in the NFL. The Bears have a weak defense, and this could be the week the Packers passing game comes alive. If that happens, the Bears will need Jeffery to score.
Hunter Henry – Chargers: Henry has taken the TE job from Antonio Gates, if not on the depth chart, in the actions of Philip Rivers. Henry is riding a 3-game streak of catching a touchdown pass, and has averaged 62.0 YPG this season.
The Falcons are giving up 12.3 PPG to fantasy TEs this season, 4th-most in the NFL. That may not sound like much, but if you can get 12-13 points from your TE, it was a GREAT week for them. Look for Henry to finish with TE1 stats in Week 7.
Cincinnati Bengals defense: The Bengals defense has been a hard one to play this season, outside of the Miami game, because of the 109 points they've allowed in 5 of their 6 games. This week they get a choice matchup against the Browns, whose offensive line has given up 19 sacks this season (2nd-most in the NFL). I'm not trying to insinuate anything by saying this, but you have to imagine there is a little extra bounce in the Bengals' step this week as they face Coach Hue Jackson. Jackson left Cincinnati this offseason to take over as Head Coach in Cleveland.
The smart idea is to play whatever defense the Browns face week-to-week, and this week it is the Bengals. It's unlikely the Browns accomplish the impossible and run the table, in reverse, this season. But I don't think this is the week they break into the win column either.
Carson Wentz – Eagles:Wentz started off his career as a starter hot, throwing for 1,007 yards, 7 TDs, and just 1 INT through his first 4 games. The first rule of the NFL is rookies struggle; the second rule of the NFL is ROOKIES STRUGGLE! Wentz didn't do that, until he faced the Redskins in Week 6. The Eagles didn't need him because of their defense and special teams, but he only completed 50 percent of his passes (11-22) for 179 yards and no touchdowns.
This week he draws an elite Vikings defense coming off a bye. The Vikings give up just 17.2 PPG to QBs this season, the 8th-lowest average in the NFL, and have allowed just 4 passing TDs to their 7 INTs. Chances are Wentz isn't your QB1, so play the other guy you have if at all possible.
Sam Bradford – Vikings:Speaking of the Vikings, Bradford is facing an Eagles defense that gives up the fewest fantasy points to QBs this year at 15.2 PPG. The Eagles have been pretty much lights out this year on defense, shutting down Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Eli Manning in Weeks 2-4.
Looking at the opponents the Eagles have faced so far, Wentz could be most closely associated with Marcus Mariota or Brock Osweiler in terms of WR talent. When they played the Eagles, Mariota had a 271/2/1 line, and Osweiler had a 184/1/1 line. I'd look for Wentz to finish somewhere between them in terms of stats.
Matt Forte – Jets:Where to begin with Forte? He started off hot for his new team, racking up 196 yards (3.77 YPC) and 3 TDs through his first 2 games. But it looks like that production came at a cost, given the 52 carries he also had. In the 4 games since Week 2, he has managed to total just 164 rushing yards on 50 attempts (3.28 YPC). A drop of 0.49 YPC may not seem like a lot, but half a yard every time he runs the ball adds up quick.
Forte is losing touches to Bilal Powell because his production is trending in the wrong direction. On top of that, the Jets are benching Ryan Fitzpatick and starting a QB who has shown he deserves to have a clipboard in his hand, not a football—Mr. Geno Smith. Forte is teetering on cut material with the numbers he is showing, and the move to Smith is only going to make it worse.
Jay Ajayi – Dolphins:After Ajayi torched the Steelers for 204 rushing yards and 2 TDs last week, fantasy owners are going to go nuts starting him this week. Remember when Julio Jones lit up the Panthers for 300 yards and a touchdown back in Week 4? What did he do in Week 5? Anyone? He caught 2 of 6 targets for 29 yards and no touchdowns. Here is a little secret about football, at ANY level: after a player has a big game, defenses watch film and make SURE he doesn't do it against them the following week.
Week 7 is where the Buffalo Bills plan for Ajayi, and shut him down. I don't think you have to worry about Ryan Tannehill as much as you used to, since he looks like he has peaked in his potential. The gameplan on Sunday for the Bills is going to be shut down Ajayi and let Tannehill make mistakes throwing the ball.
Doug Baldwin – Seahawks:Baldwin came into this season with fantasy owners hoping he could recreate 5 of his final 6 games last season when he racked up 484 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. The problem with that is you don't catch lightning in a bottle very often, and you certainly don't catch it twice!
Baldwin is a victim of Russell Wilson's knee just not looking like it is fully healed. And, on top of that, Tyler Lockett is pretty much MIA in the offense, allowing DBs to focus solely on Baldwin. Until Wilson finds another gear with his production, Baldwin is going to be a hit-or-miss fantasy WR. This week he gets a Cardinals defense that gives up just 17.0 PPG to QBs, the 7th-fewest in the NFL.
Golden Tate – Lions:Tater Tot was a colossal bust this season until the Lions force-fed him the ball in Week 6, when he finished with 8 catches, 165 yards, and a touchdown. Remember, the previous 5 games he managed just 17 catches, 134 yards, and no touchdowns. Now is the time where you sell high on Tate to a WR-needy team.
Marvin Jones is the No. 1 WR in Detroit, not Tate. On top of that, the Redskins give up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to WRs this season at 21.9 PPG. With just one good game under his belt this season, I wouldn't trust Tate as anything more than a risky WR3 on my team.
Zach Ertz – Eagles:Ertz has been a bust this year, outside of his mediocre Week 1 line of 6/58/0. Wentz's prospects this week aren't high, putting Ertz's prospects in the same boat. The Vikings have given up a total of 297 yards and no touchdowns to TEs this season. Seeing as how Ertz has just 4 receptions, 59 yards, and no touchdowns since returning, I wouldn't bet on him being the first TE to score on the Vikings.
If you are in desperate need of a TE this weekend, consider guys like C.J. Fiedorowicz or Jack Doyle.
Oakland Raiders defense:Because the Raiders play the Jaguars this week, you are going to see those Big-Box websites jump all over their defense in fantasy rankings. I'm not so sure I would buy into the hype though, seeing as how the Raiders are giving up 24.1 PPG to QBs (5th-most in the NFL), 23.7 PPG to RBs (4th-most), 27.7 PPG to WRs (3rd-most), and 9.9 PPG to TEs (9th-most) this year. Apparently the only guys the Raiders don't let score are DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, and Clive Walford!
The Jaguars have a good group of offensive weapons; they just haven't found their groove and put it all together yet. Given how generous the Raiders have been on defense this season, this could very well be that week. I would look elsewhere if you are streaming defenses. Perhaps the Bengals, Ravens, or Bucs, in that order.