Another week down in the NFL, and two more starters are out. This week it was Carson Palmer and Jay Cutler who were bitten by the injury bug. Palmer broke his arm, and is out for the remainder of the season, while Cutler suffered some cracked ribs that will keep him sidelined for 2-3 weeks. As always, an injury to a QB creates ripples that will be seen all the way down the depth chart.
The Cardinals are already without David Johnson, so another injury of this caliber is devastating. Arizona traded for Adrian Peterson, but at 32 years old he clearly isn't the RB he once was. With Palmer out, the Cardinals are going to "stick with" Drew Stanton according to Coach Bruce Arians. There will be those who throw out Colin Kaepernick's name, but with Blaine Gabbert already on the roster, it would just be more of the same.
You can knock Larry Fitzgerald down a peg from the WR2 to the WR3 rankings, while praying he is at least the lone safety net for Stanton in the passing game. John Brown, Jaron Brown, and J.J. Nelson become unusable in any format, regardless of league size. Peterson will see 8-man fronts going forward, knocking his fantasy outlook down for me. I expect more of Week 7 than I do Week 6, in terms of statistical output going forward.
As for Miami, they will turn to longtime Dolphins backup Matt Moore. Not that he is any sort of upgrade, but he did manage to throw for more yards (188) in just two quarters, than Cutler has in his previous four games! Expect a heavy dose of Jay Ajayi against the Ravens, with Jarvis Landry being a target monster on the shorter passing routes. As long as DeVante Parker is sidelined with an ankle injury, Kenny Stills can be viewed as a WR3.
Derek Carr – Raiders: Carr took a tough divisional matchup against the Chiefs and turned in one of the best fantasy performances this season with 417 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. He was able to put up over 400 passing yards thanks to his 52 passing attempts, the most Carr's attempted since Week 15 of the 2014 season.
Carr isn't likely to throw this much again this season, but he is sure to throw a lot in Week 8 with Marshawn Lynch set to serve a 1-game suspension. He's worth a look against the Bills, so keep his name in the back of your mind.
Dak Prescott – Cowboys: Prescott didn't do as much throwing (25 passing attempts) as Carr did, less than half in fact. But going up against a 49ers team that looks as lost on defense as they do on offense, he was able to rack up 234 passing yards, 26 rushing yards, and 4 touchdowns against them.
As much as some Cowboys fans may not like Prescott as a QB, this week wasn't even his best fantasy performance of the season. If you remember, back in Week 5 he managed to put up 251 passing yards, 37 rushing yards, and 4 TDs against the Packers at home. He'll continue to be a QB1 as the Cowboys go on the road for a rivalry game against the Redskins in Week 8.
Aaron Jones – Packers: The Packers' 5th-round rookie has taken over RB duties, rendering T.Y. Montgomery useless in fantasy terms. Jones was the lone bright spot for Green Bay as he put up 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He also added 3 catches for 7 yards for those in PPR formats, but passing isn't going to be the focus of the offense with Brett Hundley now under center.
While he had a monster game this week, his owners can't forget that a lack of a quality QB means defenses will stack the line to stop the running game. With the Lions coming to town in Week 8, Jones is a RB2 play on the surface. But if the Lions focus on stopping the run, Jones will have a tough day ahead of him. He's a true boom-or-bust play every week.
T.J. Yeldon – Jaguars: With Leonard Fournette out with an ankle injury, it was Yeldon's first active game of the season. Even though Chris Ivory got the start, and had himself a quality fantasy day with 47 yards and a touchdown, it was Yeldon who made the most of his opportunity as he churned out 137 total yards (122 rushing, 15 receiving) and a touchdown on Sunday.
The Colts have one of the worst defenses in the NFL these days, but Yeldon looked ready to rock with his fresh legs. The Jaguars are on a bye in Week 8, and Fournette is expected to be 100 percent for Week 9. It will be interesting to see how Yeldon and Ivory are handled coming out of the bye. But from a fantasy perspective, neither is worth owning as long as Fournette is healthy.
Amari Cooper – Raiders: Cooper finally came alive this week, hauling in 11 of 19 targets for a monster 210 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. It's rare for a WR to see 11 targets, let alone 19! The sheer volume of passes thrown his way were a sure-fire recipe for success, and fantasy owners are hoping this was just the jump-start he needed to get his season going.
The Raiders go on the road to take on the Bills next week. Through 7 games, the Bills are giving up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs. With the Raiders down a RB in Lynch, Carr and Cooper could find each other again early, and often.
Kenny Stills – Dolphins: Stills got the start in place of injured DeVante Parker and, like Yeldon, he made the most of his opportunity by reeling in 6 of 9 targets for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Jets. In the two games he's played in with Parker out, Stills now has 10 catches, 134 receiving yards, and 3 TDs.
The move from Cutler to Moore might not be a bad thing for Stills, as he likely worked more with Moore than Cutler in practice. As I mentioned before, Stills can be used as a WR3 against the Ravens (Thursday night game) if Parker is out (or limited), so keep an eye on the Dolphins injury report in a short week for them.
O.J. Howard – Buccaneers: It's hard for rookies to make a meaningful impact in fantasy leagues, and rookie TEs more so than other skill positions. Through the first five games of the season, Howard managed to average just 21.4 yards per game, but he did score in Week 4. This week, however, Howard was involved in the game plan as he caught 6 of 6 targets for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Bills.
I wouldn't be quick to grab Howard and throw him into your starting line-p. History says that Howard is more of a blocker than a receiver in his rookie season, but all it takes is one game to change that. If you need a TE, you can pick up Howard as a streaming option in the right matchup.
Jacksonville Jaguars defense: Sacksonville was in full effect again this week as the Jaguars added another 10 sacks to their total, giving them a league-leading 33 for the season. While they didn't rack up any INTs or defensive touchdowns, they did shut out the Colts, which gave the Jags defense 20.0 fantasy points for the week.
Jacksonville has the #1 fantasy defense this season with 107.0 fantasy points, which is a full 21.0 points ahead of the #2 defense in the Rams. Calais Campbell added 2.0 sacks this weekend, giving him the league lead at 10.0 this season. Yannick Ngakoue added 2.5 sacks to his total, putting him at 6.5 for the season, tied for 8th in the NFL. Malik Jackson came up with 1.5 sacks, Myles Jack and Sheldon Day each had a sack, and Eli Ankou chipped in a half sack (0.5).
It is hard to find a hole in this Jaguars defense, and they will continue to be an elite fantasy defense as long as they can remain healthy. The Jags are on a bye in Week 8, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Carson Palmer – Cardinals: Palmer managed to throw 18 passes before exiting with a broken arm in the 2nd quarter against the Rams. But he completed just 10 of those passes for 122 yards, no touchdowns, and 1 interception.
It's hard to hold an injury against a player, but Palmer had attempted more passes than any QB in the league heading into Week 7, so expectations where somewhat high for him with me. As I said, the broken arm will keep Palmer out for the remainder of the season, so make sure you drop him in all formats when the waiver wire opens on Wednesday.
Marcus Mariota – Titans: I was high on Mariota heading into the season as THE sleeper in fantasy football this season. The problem is, through 7 weeks of the season Mariota has yet to wake up from his offseason slumber!
Mariota completed 21 of 34 passes on Sunday, but managed just 203 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. Rishard Matthews, a borderline WR2/3 in NFL terms, is making it hard for Mariota to have success with him as the Titans' WR1 this season. Add in an M.I.A. Eric Decker, and you can start to understand why success has been elusive for the 3rd-year QB.
The Titans are a running team, and Mariota is obviously being told to manage the game, not try and win it. He rarely pushes the ball down field, and looks gun shy when it comes to running these days. With the Titans on a bye in Week 8, and Mariota not pushing the ball down field, he is no longer a must-hold player in all but 2QB formats.
Adrian Peterson – Cardinals: When Peterson ran for 134 yards and 2 TDs last week, fantasy owners fell over themselves, screaming "AD is back!" While it was an impressive performance, I knew a game like he had this week was right around the corner. Peterson finished Week 7 with just 21 rushing yards on 11 carries, and added 1 catch for 12 yards.
Peterson is clearly the RB to own in the Cardinals backfield. But with Palmer out and Stanton in, he will face more 8-man fronts going forward. When you add the fact that he has clearly lost a step or two in his 11th NFL season, you have a RB3 most weeks. He does have the 49ers after a Week 8 bye, but his schedule toughens after that with the Seahawks, Texans, Jaguars, and Rams the next four weeks.
Marshawn Lynch – Raiders: Lynch only had 2 carries for 9 yards in Week 7, but that was because he got ejected in the 2nd quarter for grabbing a referee following a play on which Derek Carr took a few hits that Raiders players' took exception to. Lynch ran onto the field from the sideline, and during the pushing and shoving, Lynch grabbed a ref by the shirt and that is a big no-no in sports.
Lynch is suspended for Week 8, and I personally think he got off light since he not only grabbed the ref, but he came onto the field from the sideline. Lynch is the RB version of Eric Decker: a guy who is clearly not the same player we remember. There aren't better options on the waiver wire, so you're kind of stuck with Lynch at this point.
Martavis Bryant – Steelers: After the Steelers talked up Bryant as someone they wanted to get more involved this week, fantasy owners stuck him in their lineup once again hoping for some fantasy gold. As it turned out, the team's version of "involved" ended up meaning Bryant saw 2 targets, catching 1 for 3 yards. He also carried the ball once for 2 additional yards.
To make matters worse, it was reported that Bryant missed mandatory team meetings on Monday because he was visiting a doctor. The Steelers are saying they don't have any plans to trade Bryant, but he obviously is frustrated with his role in an offense where he should be able to make an impact. Keep an eye on this situation in case he is traded into a better situation.
Jordy Nelson – Packers: Oh how the mighty have fallen! Nelson came up with 1 reception for 13 yards against the Saints' normally generous defense. With Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone, Nelson is forced to rely on Brett Hundley to get him the ball for the remainder of the season, most likely.
The Packers are a running team with Hundley at QB, making guys like Nelson and Davante Adams hard to trust in your lineups in the 2nd half of the season. Nelson goes from a WR1 in all formats, to a WR2/3 with a low ceiling.
Martellus Bennett – Packers: Bennett was expected to return to fantasy relevance this season after leaving his backup role with the Patriots, moving to a starting role with the Packers. While he has been solid for a TE with 3.4 catches per game and 33.3 yards per game (in NFL terms, not fantasy), he accounted for just 2 catches and 17 yards in Week 7.
Bennett hasn't scored this season, making him a fantasy TE you are getting almost nothing from. Add to that the downgrade at QB, and you have a TE best suited for the waiver wire. If you just stream TEs for the remainder of the season, you will accidentally do better more often than not rather than starting Bennett each week.
Denver Broncos defense: Not only did the Broncos lose to the Chargers by a score of 21-0, but their fantasy defense also finished as the 21st-ranked fantasy defense thanks to the 21 points allowed, and 3 sacks they managed on the road.
The Broncos haven't been the dominating defense they were last season, with their lone 10-plus point fantasy game coming against the Cowboys in Week 2 thanks to a defensive touchdown. Through 7 weeks of the NFL season, the Broncos have the 20th-ranked fantasy defense. With the Chiefs, Eagles, Patriots, Bengals, and Raiders coming up, things aren't likely to get any easier for them.
If it were me, I would consider adding another defense and benching the Broncos until the fantasy playoffs when they face the Jets, Colts, and Redskins.