NFL Week 7 fantasy football start 'em or sit 'em

QUARTERBACKS

START: CAM NEWTON, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

The New England Patriots’ offense looked discombobulated in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos. They scored just 12 points and Newton finished with less than 17 fantasy points.

Neither Julian Edelman nor N’Keal Harry was of much help to their quarterbacks, as the duo combined for just two receptions for eight yards on eight targets.

But Newton’s true fantasy production is tied to his ability as a rusher, and the San Francisco 49ers have been exploited in that aspect against mobile quarterbacks. They have allowed the most rushing yards to quarterbacks this season. 

This also isn’t an example of a small sample size trap — last season they allowed the third-most rushing yards to the quarterback position. 

Fire up Newton with confidence in Week 7, as he leads NFL quarterbacks in rushing attempts per game (11.3).

PlayerAttempts/gameCam Newton11.3Kyler Murray8.5Lamar Jackson8.3Josh Allen6.3Patrick Mahomes5.7Carson Wentz4.7

START: JUSTIN HERBERT, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Justin Herbert must have spent training camp with former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman because the rookie has been nothing but “light outs” in fantasy football. 

Despite facing the second-most difficult schedule to start his NFL career, the 2020 No. 6 overall pick has averaged 27 fantasy points per game through his four starts 


Herbert finally gets the chance to play a team that gives him the advantage. The Jacksonville Jaguars have allowed the fifth-most passing yards and the league’s second-highest yards per attempt (8.6) to quarterbacks this season. 

Look for the rookie to continue rolling as he chases after his first NFL win. 

START: RYAN TANNEHILL, TENNESSEE TITANS

I spoke glowingly of Ryan Tannehill in the NFL Week 7 Preview, explaining how fantasy managers shouldn’t shy away from the quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is based on Tannehill’s ability to perform under pressure.

The Steelers’ formidable defense brings pressure at the highest rate in the NFL (50.7%) while also blitzing at the second-highest rate (47.8%). 

But this is exactly where Tannehill has thrived — he ranks No. 1 in the NFL in passer rating under pressure (110.5) and has a 5:0 touchdown to interception ratio when facing blitzes this season.

Sep 27, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ secondary has also been suspect. They've allowed the third-most air yards per game — before Baker Mayfield laid a total egg against them, they allowed over 20 fantasy points per game to the likes of Daniel Jones, Jeff Driskeland Carson Wentz

With wide receiver Corey Davis back in the lineup, expect Tannehill to pick apart the Steelers’ defense — especially if they are forced to go to the air more because the Steel Curtain slows down Derrick Henry.

Pittsburgh own PFF’s highest-graded run-defense this season (82.3). 

SIT: TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Tom Brady has a solid matchup on paper against the Las Vegas Raiders, who have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the quarterback position this season. But the Raiders’ true weakness is against running backs, as they have allowed the highest fantasy points per game to running backs. 

The Buccaneers have turned into a run-machine over the past two weeks, ranking seventh in the league in yards per attempt (4.8) and 12th in run-play percentage (42.5%), both upticks from the four weeks prior (3.9, 37.3%).

It's no coincidence Brady has averaged 16.3 fantasy points and under 210 passing yards per game over the past two weeks. 

The Buccaneers should be able to impose their will with the run game, and that may limit Brady’s fantasy ceiling, which is already capped by the 43-year old’s “business decision” to not take off and scramble. 

It’s also worth noting that teams coming off bye weeks have held fantasy QBs in check in their first game back so far this season. Those QBs have averaged 17 fantasy points per game and none have scored more than 22 fantasy points. 

SIT: JARED GOFF, LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Chicago Bears have been the No. 1 defense against fantasy quarterbacks this season, allowing under 12 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers.

Jared Goff has been inconsistent in terms of fantasy production thus far, with three games of 29-plus points scored and three games with fewer than 20 fantasy points scored. This matchup is shaping up to be the latter, so Goff needs to be on the bench. 

RUNNING BACKS

START: JUSTIN JACKSON/JOSHUA KELLEY, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Both Los Angeles Chargers’ running backs are in play this week — there should be plenty of fantasy points to go around against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After starting the season solidly against the run, the Jaguars have “shown their spots” and been a punching bag for opposing RBs, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to the position over four weeks. A large contributing factor: They've allowed the most red-zone touches to the position.

So even though Justin Jackson played the majority of snaps (59%) back in Week 5 over Joshua Kelley (35%), the goal-line back role should still be Kelley’s. He saw the lone carry inside the 10-yard line against the New Orleans Saints and led the team with seven carries inside the 10-yard line.

This doesn’t mean to shy away from Jackson, however, as the third-year back reprises Austin Ekeler role. He's going to be involved in the passing game like he was in Week 5 (five catches, six targets) — that alone will provide a solid floor across PPR formats. 

Both should benefit greatly from the potential return of starting offensive linemen Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga. The two have played just eight snaps together this season. 

START: ANTONIO GIBSON, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

The workload split between Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic trended downward in Week 6 in the eyes of Gibson-truthers. McKissic (53%) out-snapped Gibson (38%) and narrowly out-touched him (14 vs. 13). This isn’t exactly what we wanted to see from Gibson considering the coaching staff had talked about getting him more involved.

Ron Rivera took a page out of the Sean McVay playbook (Cam Akers, anyone), but with the Dallas Cowboys on deck, this is the spot where Gibson can deliver a huge game. 

Gibson projects at worst to lead the team in carries, and that may be all he needs to produce against a Dallas defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards to running backs (4.9 yards per attempt) this season.

We know that positive game scripts heavily favor running back production, so considering how small the point spread is, we could finally see AG unleashed with the team up on the scoreboard. So far this season, he has totaled zero rushing attempts when the team has had at least a three-point lead. 

SIT: DEVIN SINGLETARY, BUFFALO BILLS

Devin Singletary has been downright awful over the past two weeks, averaging fewer than 6.0 fantasy points per game despite rookie Zack Moss missing or playing in a limited capacity.

The New York Jets’ matchup would usually present a bounce-back spot for Motor Singletary to get revved up, but his recent lack of pass-game usage is concerning.

Back in Week 1, when these teams first met, Singletary had seven targets but that currently stands as a season-high. Over the past two weeks, he has been featured less in the passing game with just two targets. 

Factor in that Moss will be another week removed from injury. The running back workload looks contingent on returning to another 50/50 split, similar to what we saw in Week 1

There’s also the issue that Singletary has little to no touchdown upside because Josh Allen, and Moss figure to work ahead of him in that area of the field. Allen leads the team with five carries inside the 10-yard line, while Singletary has four —tied with Moss, who hasn’t been healthy since Week 2. 

The matchup looks favorable because the Jets have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns to RBs this season, but Singletary is not likely to take advantage. 

He is going to be subjected to empty rushing attempts between the 20s against an overall underrated run defense. The Jets rank 11th in PFF’s run defense grade (63.2).

WIDE RECEIVERS

START: JAMISON CROWDER, NEW YORK JETS

In this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes and Jamison Crowder cooking in any matchup against the Buffalo Bills. In his last three games against his AFC East rivals, he has averaged 12.3 targets, 9.6 catches and 93 receiving yards.

Crowder has also been one of the most consistent fantasy WRs this season. He ranks fifth in fantasy points per game (19.8), third in expected fantasy points per game (17.8) and has commanded a 30% target share in games he's played this season.

The basic rule of thumb is to always avoid Jets players from starting lineups, but Crowder is the exception to the rule.

START: TEE HIGGINS, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Will the Cincinnati Bengals No. 1 wide receiver please stand up? And no, it’s not A.J. Green. Tee Higgins has emerged as Joe Burrow’s primary pass-catching option since he started playing a full complement of snaps in Week 3.

Since that game, he has commanded a 21% target share and has narrowly edged out Tyler Boyd in fantasy points per game (15.7 to 15.0). 

He now also gets his best matchup to date versus the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. 

Oct 18, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) runs with the ball while Indianapolis Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (26) defends in the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Some naysayers will cite Green’s mini return to relevance in Week 6 (eight catches for 96 yards) as a potential knock on rookie’s shine, but the veteran is going to see cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Terrance Mitchell, who shut him down back in Week 2.

Green saw a combined 10 targets against the CB duo and finished with two catches for 14 yards. 

SIT: ROBERT WOODS, LOS ANGELES RAMS

Jared Goff is listed as a “sit” this week, so naturally one of his wide receivers is going to have to go down with him. Robert Woods has the toughest WR/CB matchup among the Rams wide receivers this week, and the Bears defense as a whole has stifled opposing wideouts. 

They've allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. 

Woods’ usage has also been disheartening so far this season in the Rams’ run-heavy offense. He has only one end-zone target and just three targets of 20 or more yards this season. 

He also ranks fifth among wide receivers in fantasy points scored above expectation (22.3), which is a tell-tale sign that regression is on its way considering he is not seeing any high-value targets.

With passing volume not on his side and Cooper Kupp seeing more targets, Woods won’t offer much outside a low-end WR3 option in Week 7. 

TIGHT ENDS

START: AUSTIN HOOPER, CLEVELAND BROWNS

Austin Hooper has been heavily involved in the Cleveland Browns’ offense over the past three weeks. He leads the team in targets (21) and ranks only behind George Kittle and Travis Kelce in total targets at the tight end position.  

His receiving volume should be safe against the Bengals, who have allowed the second-most targets to the tight end position this season. 

Their defense has also allowed the fourth-most deep targets and sixth-most end-zone targets. These high-value targets should vault Hooper into TE1 status in Week 7. 

START: ROB GRONKOWSKI, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Rob Gronkowski had his best receiving game to date (five catches for 78 yards) in Week 6 and leads the team in targets (13) over the past two weeks. Gronk also stands out among tight ends when it comes to high-value targets — he has six targets inside the 10-yard line and was second among all tight ends in air yards last week.

On the season, Gronkowski ranks fourth among all TEs in total air yards. 

His overall uptick in usage after O.J. Howard’s injury makes him as a startable option against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Player Air YardsTravis Kelce482Mark Andrews410Mike Gesicki381Rob Gronkowski319

SIT: EVAN ENGRAM, NEW YORK GIANTS

Evan Engram makes his second straight appearance in the sit column because there are still fantasy managers starting him weekly. Last week, on only four routes Giants backup tight end Kaden Smith was able to outperform Engram’s abysmal two-catch performance.

Engram can’t be trusted because of his egregious usage this season. The Giants are not letting him run downfield and are coddling him with a role that only tight end Jason Witten would be proud to own.

His aDOT (4.9) ranks 30th out of 32 qualifying tight ends that have played at least 50% of their team’s snaps. 

The matchup looks enticing considering the Eagles have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the TE position, but they have drastically improved these last two weeks. Their defense also just limited Mark Andrews to two catches for 21 yards. 

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