Every week, Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett provide their most and least favorite plays for shallow (10-teams) and deep (12- and 14-teams) leagues.
Please note that the “sit” calls in this column are not universal but are more recommendations to consider if you have options that project similarly. As always, our projections should be used as the final call.
This week, the Ravens, Colts, Vikings, and Dolphins are all out on BYE.
Here’s your Week 7 start/sit:
Start: Matthew Stafford at Falcons
In any other matchup, Stafford might be hard to get behind. He ranks 13th in passing fantasy points per pass attempt since getting Kenny Golladay back in Week 3. That’s fine, I guess. But he’s exceeded just 33 pass attempts only once this year – 17 QBs have exceeded that mark 3 times or more. Still, this is the perfect matchup, and enough to lift him to a low-end QB1-ranking this week.
Detroit is the 12th-most run-heavy offense in the NFL (vs. expectation), but Atlanta is far-and-away the top pass-funnel defense in the NFL (+5.4% over expectation). And it’s not hard to see why – they rank 7th-best in YPC allowed (3.66) and 4th-best in rushing FPG allowed (8.8) to opposing RBs, but against QBs… Oh boy. Opposing QBs are out-scoring their per-game average by a league-high 9.9 FPG against them. They rank worst in FPG allowed (29.6), worst in passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.62), and worst in passer rating allowed (114.1).
Sit: Jared Goff vs. Bears
Goff has been pretty average this year, ranking 17th in FPG (19.5) – but expect a far less mediocre performance this week. Chicago ranks best in FPG allowed to opposing QBs (12.9), best in passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.31), and 2nd-best in passer rating allowed (73.5).
Start: Ben Roethlisberger at Titans
Last week, the Steelers demolished the Browns 38-7. Big Ben only had to throw the ball 22 times in the blowout, thanks in large part to Baker Mayfield turning in a terrible first half that resulted in Pittsburgh’s offense not having to keep their foot on the gas. This week will be totally different, though. The Titans offense is red-hot and has scored 30 or more points in four-straight games, which should force the Steelers into a much more pass-heavy game-script this week. The matchup couldn’t be much better for Roethlisberger, too. Tennessee’s secondary is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per pass attempt and the fifth-most yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. We have Roethlisberger pegged at QB12 in our projections.
Sit: Derek Carr vs. Buccaneers
Carr is quietly having a career year in his third season under HC Jon Gruden and is enjoying career-highs in yards per attempt, touchdown rate, and completion percentage. When he’s been on the field, Henry Ruggs has been a true difference-maker for this offense even though he’s only getting a handful of targets. However, this will be Carr and the Raiders’ toughest test of the year against one of the NFL’s actually good defenses. The Buccaneers have held five of the 6 quarterbacks they’ve faced under 14.5 fantasy points as DC Todd Bowles’ unit ranks No. 1 in FootballOutsiders’ pass defense DVOA metrics. There are just far better streaming options than Carr this week, like Justin Herbert (vs. Jaguars) and Teddy Bridgewater (at Saints).
Start: Kareem Hunt at Bengals
Despite getting pulled early in a blowout last week, Hunt has handled 73% of the team’s backfield XFP since Nick Chubb went down. Hunt had little to show for that good usage, but both games came against defenses ranking top-5 in FPG allowed to opposing RBs. Through the first 4 weeks of the season, Hunt ranked 9th in FPG (17.4), and on just 50% of the backfield XFP and 41% of the snaps. This week’s matchup is much better – Cleveland is favored by 3.5-points, and Cincinnati ranks bottom-5 in YPC allowed (5.19). When these two teams faced off in Week 2, Chubb and Hunt combined for 234 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Start: Chris Carson at Cardinals
Carson ranks just 31st in carries per game (12.2), but 11th in targets per game (4.6), 8th in FPG (20.0) and 15th in XFP per game (15.6). Seattle’s defense has been atrocious, forcing them to abandon the run throughout most of their 6 games, while also allowing Russell Wilson to pad his stats in a realistic MVP campaign. This projects as another pass-heavy shootout, but due to Carson’s heavy involvement in the passing game, he’ll never get scripted out of any game. And the more red zone drives for the offense, the more opportunities for Carson to find the end zone. Arizona is slightly better than average against the run, but especially bad against pass-catching backs, giving up the 6th-most FPG to RBs through the air (13.1). You can start Carson with confidence as a low-end RB1 this week.
Note: Carlos Hyde got in a limited practice on Wednesday, but is still questionable to play on Sunday. As explained in the Week 7 XFP Report, if he sits, Carson gets a boost of about +3.4 XFP. Or, enough to make him a mid-range RB1.
Sit: James Robinson at Chargers
Robinson isn’t quite a bell cow, but he is seeing good volume in spite of mostly negative game script, averaging 14.1 carries, 4.3 targets, and 14.0 XFP per game (21st). And he’s been especially productive on that good volume, ranking 10th in FPG (17.4). But he’s still just playing on only 60% of the team’s snaps in losses, capping his upside. Vegas expects Jacksonville to spend most of this game trailing as well (7.5-point underdogs) and the on-paper matchup is brutal – the Chargers are giving up the fewest rushing FPG to opposing RBs (7.9). He’s just a mid-to-low-end RB2 this week.
Start: Justin Jackson vs. Jaguars
Is Jackson or Joshua Kelley the Chargers starter? Well, in their first game without Austin Ekeler, L.A. gave Jackson the lead role against the Saints in Week 5. Jackson out-snapped Kelley (42 to 25), ran more routes (20 to 12), saw more carries (15 to 11), and saw more targets (6 to 1). Keep in mind, it’s not like the Chargers were in a bad game-script in that game. The Saints were actually trailing at the half and had to mount a fourth-quarter comeback to force overtime. Against this Jaguars defense that is allowing the fifth-most yards per carry and the seventh-most receptions to enemy backs, we prefer Jackson to Kelley as the best RB2 / FLEX start out of the Chargers backfield for Week 7.
Start: James White vs. 49ers
Once again, it looks like White is the only Patriots back that is worth starting in fantasy. Over his last two games, White has led the Patriots backfield in snaps and has been targeted 17 times and turned those looks into 15/103 receiving. Even with Cam Newton at quarterback and despite the fact White missed a few games, the Patriots are featuring their running backs heavily in the passing game. Only the Saints (34%) are targeting their backs more often than the Patriots (30%). On a slate where running back is incredibly weak, you have to be comfortable just locking in a floor of 8-10 points as your RB2.
If you're desperate… Start: Jamycal Hasty at Patriots
Look, running back is gross this week. After you get past the top-20 plays, you’re forced to go dumpster diving. On a slate such as this with no Miles Sanders, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, and Myles Gaskin, your RB2 slot may look barren. And that’s ok! If you landed Hasty off of the wire this week, he’s legitimately in play in deep leagues. Without Raheem Mostert for most of the second-half last week, Hasty actually out-snapped Jerick McKinnon (15 to 13). HC Kyle Shanahan has shied away from using McKinnon over the last few weeks and mentioned after their win against the Rams on SNF that Hasty “was up for the challenge” and “gave them some juice.” Unless it’s Tevin Coleman, the 49ers lead runner over the last two years has produced. Last season, the 49ers muddy backfield scored the fourth-most fantasy points in the NFL and this year… they’ve scored the second-most. With Mostert out, Coleman still on IR, and Jeff Wilson (calf) questionable -- Hasty can be safely projected for 10-14 touches.
Sit: Damien Harris vs. 49ers
This matchup just favors White over Harris. In a game where the Patriots trailed throughout last week against the Broncos, Harris played just 21% of the team’s snaps and got just six carries while Rex Burkhead saw 5 and White got 4 attempts. Even though the 49ers have struggled through injuries this season, their run defense has been incredible. San Francisco is allowing a league-low 0.39 fantasy points per carry and they rank seventh-best in FootballOutsiders’ run defense DVOA.
Start: Terry McLaurin vs. Cowboys
McLaurin ranks 19th in FPG (16.6), but he’s seeing much better volume than that production implies, ranking 8th in targets per game (9.7), 9th in air yards per game (110.5), and 11th in XFP per game (18.4). He’s been at a disadvantage due to poor QB play, but he’s also had a brutal schedule to start the year – Darius Slay’s shadow coverage in Week 1, Patrick Peterson’s shadow coverage in Week 2, James Bradberry’s partial shadow coverage in Week 6. He’s also faced the Ravens and Rams, who rank 12th and 1st in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs.
This week’s matchup is just about perfect, against a Dallas defense that’s giving up the 3rd-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (28.7) and the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s. Almost every high-level WR they’ve faced has gone off on them – Robert Woods (20.9 DKFP), Calvin Ridley (32.9), Tyler Lockett (39.0), D.K. Metcalf (24.0), Odell Beckham Jr. (38.4), Darius Slayton (23.9), and Christian Kirk (22.6). The only ones who flopped were Cooper Kupp (8.0) and DeAndre Hopkins (9.3), and their QBs combined to complete just 29 total passes across those two games. Start: Tyler Boyd vs. Browns
Boyd has quietly had a brutal schedule to start the year, with 4 of his 6 opponents ranking top-12 in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs, including shadow coverage from the league’s 2 best slot CBs Chris Harris Jr. and Marlon Humphrey. Just excluding those two shadow games, Boyd is averaging 18.0 FPG on 9.3 targets per game. He gets a much softer draw this week, against a Cleveland defense that ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs. When he faced off against them in Week 2, Boyd caught 7 of 8 targets for 72 yards and a score.
Sit: Cooper Kupp vs. Bears
Kupp has been fairly disappointing this year, ranking just 33rd in FPG (13.7) on 7.5 targets per game. Kupp runs 57% of his routes from the slot, which means we should expect another disappointing outing this week. The Bears are giving a league-low 9.2 FPG to opposing slot WRs. He’s just a high-end WR3 this week.
Start: Jamison Crowder vs. Bills
Do you want to guess who leads all wide receivers in volume? (I know, I know. This isn’t very sneaky.) That’s right. It’s Jamison Crowder. Over his four healthy games, Crowder has seen double-digit passing looks in each outing and leads Allen Robinson (11.0) in targets per game (11.5). This week, he faces a Bills secondary that has been far tougher against outside wide receivers than the slot -- which is where Crowder runs the majority of his routes. Through six games, Buffalo has allowed just 9.5 fantasy points per game to WRs aligned out wide and 21.0 FPG to slot receivers. It also doesn’t hurt that Crowder has absolutely crushed in this matchup in his last three meetings against Buffalo, hitting them for 14/99, 8/66/1, and 7/115/1.
Start: Brandin Cooks vs. Packers
All the Texans needed to do to get Cooks going was to fire Bill O’Brien! Over his last two games, Cooks has turned his 21 targets into 17/229/2 against the Jaguars and Texans. Granted, it was in far tougher matchups -- but Cooks also saw 21 targets in Week 1-4 and he compiled just 10/138 receiving. Cooks is a high-ceiling WR3 in this matchup that has the highest over/under of the week (57.5). The Texans are underdogs (+4), so we should expect Deshaun Watson to continue to throw plenty again this week.
Sit: Michael Gallup at Washington
Gallup has been a massive disappointment this season as 45% of his total fantasy points were scored in one game (against the Seahawks). This week, Gallup is only a boom-or-bust WR4 bet because of the targets that he sees. While Amari Cooper (8.9 air yards per target) and CeeDee Lamb (10.0) aren’t seeing many downfield looks, Gallup’s targets are traveling 17 yards in the air on average. Behind a banged-up offensive line, it’ll be nearly impossible for Andy Dalton to wait for Gallup’s downfield routes to develop against a Washington front-seven that ranks third-best in sack rate.
Start: T.J. Hockenson at Falcons
Hockenson is very clearly not who you drafted him to be – a lock and load TE1. He’s likely something closer to a rich man’s Jimmy Graham, a touchdown-or-bust high-end TE2, who is seeing good target quality but poor target quantity. He ranks 12th in FPG (10.9), 12th in XFP per game (10.5), 2nd in XTD per game (0.8), and 20th in targets per game (5.0). He may not be an every-week TE1, but he will be one this week. The Falcons are getting absolutely eviscerated by TEs. Last week they gave up 17.2 fantasy points to Minnesota’s TEs (on 9 targets). The week before it was Robert Tonyan scoring 33.8 on just 6 targets. The week before that it was Jimmy Graham scoring 24.0 on 10. Before that, Dalton Schultz scored 23.8 on 10. And in Week 1 we saw Greg Olsen score 12.4 on 4 targets. The only TE who flopped was Ian Thomas, because, of course, and he only saw 1 target.
Sit: Evan Engram at Eagles
Through 6 games, Engram is averaging just 3.3 catches, 29.5 receiving yards, and 0.0 receiving touchdowns per game (5.8 targets per game). I think it’s time we called it – coming off of a tough injury, this just isn’t Engram’s year. Or, should we say, FantasyPoints’ own injury expert Edwin Porras called it. In May, he wrote, “Lisfranc injuries reduce NFL offensive players’ on-field production by an average of 21% in the first season following surgery.” In shallow leagues, Engram is much closer to a “drop” than a “start”, even with how bad all other TEs have been this year.
Start: Jimmy Graham at Rams
Unless you have Travis Kelce or George Kittle, you’re playing the TD-or-bust game at tight end every week. At the very least, Graham is getting the money looks we need. Graham leads all tight ends in red-zone targets (11) and is tied with T.J. Hockenson in end-zone targets (6) per PFF. As massive 6-point underdogs, the Bears should have to throw to keep up with the Rams scoring pace, further helping Graham’s overall volume in this spot.
Sit: Hayden Hurst vs. Lions
Unlike Graham, Hurst isn’t seeing high-upside targets. He ranks fourth on the Falcons in both red-zone and end-zone targets as two of Hurst’s 3 touchdowns this season have come from distance. The matchup really isn’t scary here -- the Lions haven’t faced any good tight ends yet -- but Hurst’s lack of involvement is. With Julio Jones back healthy and Calvin Ridley balling out, Matt Ryan is going to continue to funnel the offense through those two against this Detroit secondary that is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. We have Hurst ranked below TEs like Austin Hooper and Dalton Schultz this week.