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2021 Fantasy Football: Week 7 Loves & Hates

NFL Week 7 has been full of complaints for fantasy managers—injuries affecting statuses during the weekend and byes that have several fantasy stars on benches have tattooed the headlines. It becomes ever so important to make the right choices on tough start/sit decisions. We need to find the value among the borderline players and fade the duds that could lose you a pivotal matchup. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates. This week’s edition is a few days behind schedule but next week, we will switch back to our usually Thursday morning publications. 

In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).

We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.

More fantasy football fun for Week 7: Waiver Wire | FAAB Guide | Buy-Low, Sell-High Trade Targets | Start & Sit | Loves & Hates | Stock Watch | Sleepers & Streamers | QB Streamers | D/ST Streamers |

Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | Kicker | D/ST | PPR | Flex

Week 6 Review

My Week 6 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.

Quarterback (C+)

The Patriots continue to add to the moral victory column as they keep playing superior rosters really close. This time, they took the Dallas Cowboys to overtime in a game where Mac Jones was not heavy in passing volume. His 15 completions on 21 attempts were season lows but he still threw for 229 yards and two passing touchdowns for the second time this season. Unfortunately, a game-changing pick-6 by none other than Trevon Diggs put a damper on Jones’ fantasy performance and he finished just outside the top 15 at the quarterback position in Week 6. Not quite the ceiling-snatcher we were looking for out of our love of the week.

On the other hand, Derek Carr was facing a Broncos defense that was coming into the week as one of the top fantasy defenses in the NFL against quarterbacks. However, Denver’s mediocre pass DVOA as a defense was on full display in this matchup. Carr led the Raiders to victory by passing for 341 yards on a season-low 27 passing attempts. He threw two touchdowns for the fifth time this season and did not turn the ball over, putting him outside the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks of Week 6. Indeed, he didn’t quite match his projections but was still a serviceable start at the position. 

Running Back (F)

For our running back love of the week, we looked deep in the bag for an unconventional route. On Thursday Night Football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ stingy rushing defense, I was expecting the Eagles to watch Miles Sanders struggle and turn towards the pass-catching ability of Kenneth Gainwell to give their starter, Sanders, some downtime with the short rest. Instead, Sanders was efficient (6.22 yards per carry) but the Eagles just used their running backs in low volume. This is how their backfield shaped out in the matchup.

Offensive snap share Rushing Receiving
Miles Sanders 83% 9 carries, 56 yards, 0 TD 2 catches (4 targets), 10 yards, 0 TD
Kenneth Gainwell 23% 0 carries, 0 yards, 0 TD 1 catch (2 targets), 1 yard, 0 TD

Table 1. Eagles backfield split in Week 6 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sanders was a poor fantasy start, while Gainwell was completely irrelevant in the fantasy game and quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team in rushing (10 carries for 44 yards, 2 TD). That was disgusting and a testament to staying away from the Eagles backfield for the time being.

Meanwhile, our running back hate of the week was supposed to be a reminder that Mark Ingram is not reliable in the fantasy game. Indeed, he didn’t make any major headlines with his final fantasy number but he did outdo his projections by amassing 73 yards on 18 rushes. His 4.06 yards per carry was a season-high and he even sprinkled in his first multi-reception game of the season (2 catches on 2 targets for 8 yards). Ingram hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 and it is fairly obvious that even in an efficient game for his standards, his ceiling is limited in the Texans offense. However, this wasn’t an auto-bench, bottom-of-the-barrel candidate that we had predicted. We need better picks at the running back position. 

Wide Receiver (A-)

Finally, a smash! I used my wide receiver love of the week and my Fantrax staff bold prediction of the week on Jaylen Waddle. Indeed, it was the second straight week a rookie showed out big in an NFL London game. In the return of Tua Tagovailoa, Waddle was a volume and production monster. He finished the game with 10 receptions on 13 targets for a career-high 70 yards. It was the first multi-touchdown game of his young career and he finished as a top 5 fantasy receiver in Week 6.

Waddle is another strong play in Week 7 against a poor Atlanta Falcons secondary with DeVante Parker and Preston Williams both dealing with availability-threatening injury concerns this weekend.

As for my hate pick of the week, it wasn’t as beautiful of a call as my Waddle love but A.J. Brown put up a weird game. I was looking for a lockdown performance from the Bills secondary on the Titans’ #1 wide receiver. Dealing with some illness issues, I was afraid Brown wouldn’t be his full self producing or getting meaningful targets. 

At halftime, this pick was looking prophetic as Brown was held to 0 receptions. With Derrick Henry dominating, the Bills had a lot on their hands to worry about, however, and Brown turned it around completely in the second half of the Monday Night Football matchup, however, and finished the game with 7 receptions on 9 targets for 91 yards, all of which season-highs. He did not score a touchdown so he finished in the WR20 area of Week 6. Still, it was a solid performance and perhaps good enough for your team, depending on your wide receiver depth. 

Tight End (A+)

It literally doesn’t get better than this. If you were to play any tight end other than my love of the week for Week 6, you would have done worse than if you just started Noah Fant. In a loss to the Raiders, Fant set new season-highs in receptions (9), targets (11), and receiving yards (97). He also scored his third touchdown of the season and finished as the TE1 of Week 6. The Broncos continue utilizing him in bulk and in the red zone when the opponents’ secondary lacks the size to match up against the 6’4″ 249-pound Iowa product. The perfect pick of the week there.

As for my hate of the week, my take was more of a public service announcement to not get carried away by an explosive performance. In Week 5, David Njoku racked up a season-high 7 receptions on 7 targets for a whopping 149 yards and his first touchdown of the year. But as predicted, in Week 6, Njoku dropped back down to Earth when he only caught 1 pass on 2 targets for 6 yards. In fact, in Week 7’s Thursday Night Football, he did more of the same against the Broncos, hauled in only 2 receptions on 2 targets for 18 yards. Njoku has been fantasy-irrelevant apart since I made this hate pick and there’s no way to predict if and when he will have another big game as the Browns currently stand on offense. 

Week 7 Loves & Hates

Some spots where we just must step it up and somewhere we can use the lessons we’ve learned and the successes we’ve had to do more of the same and keep increasing those grades. Let’s win us some matchups in the NFL week many are calling the Byepocalypse.


Love: Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

The Falcons sometimes don’t get enough credit for how consistent they are at being atrocious on defense. This season, they have the third-worst fantasy defense against quarterbacks and they rank #30 and #24 in pass and rush DVOA as a defense, respectively. They’ve particularly suffered at restricting quarterback rushing yards as their 50 rushing yards per game allowed to quarterbacks is the fourth-most by any defense this season.

With the narratives around Miami suggesting a possible lack of trust at quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa is here to prove a point and would love to prove his head coach right that quarterback is not the main issue for this 1-5 team. Tagovailoa can annihilate the Falcons with his ability via the arm and legs and clear his projections by plenty, making him one of the easiest starts in the league for any quarterback-streaming fantasy owners.

Hate: Matthew Stafford (LAR)

I’m not saying that if your league is deep and your team identity is not deeply rooted at the quarterback position, you should still seek options other than Matthew Stafford in Week 7. Stafford is likely still a good start given that the Detroit Lions are below average at just about everything that involves guarding other NFL players. My suggestion here is to not fall prey to the matchup and ceiling and stay away from the expensive price in weekly formats and to not expect Stafford to match these lofty fantasy football projections.

In three games where Stafford has thrown fewer than three touchdowns this season, he has finished outside of the top 14 of the week at the quarterback position in each game. The Lions rank bottom 8 in the NFL in both pass DVOA and rush DVOA as a defense and are the worst fantasy defense to running backs in the NFL. Add in the narrative that the Rams (16.5 point favorites) will likely take command of this game and play with a lead. We could see Stafford take a back seat in the fantasy game to his running backs and maybe even his backup quarterback John Wolford late in the fourth quarter and put up just an “okay” performance rather than the boom potential his projections suggest. 

Running Back

Love: James Conner (ARI)

In what is currently advertised as revenge games for J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and David Johnson, I’m going with another man to switch teams this offseason. I feel so good about the ceiling of James Conner that I am using my Fantrax staff Bold Prediction of the Week on him.

The Texans are unsurprisingly atrocious. They actually rank #11 in the NFL in pass DVOA as a defense but make up for any skill in that department by ranking #29 in the NFL in rush DVOA. That type of rushing defense should be no match for the Cardinals, who have the fourth-highest run play rate in the NFL. Arizona should cruise to 7-0 and the biggest fantasy beneficiary should be James Conner, who leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns inside the 5-yard line. In games that the Cardinals have won by multiple possessions this season, Conner has averaged 54.3 rushing yards on 15.3 carries and 1 touchdown. In Week 7, Conner will give Kyler Murray and starting running back Chase Edmonds some rest and surpass those numbers.

Hate: Devontae Booker (NYG)

With Saquon Barkley sidelined due to injury, the backup in Devontae Booker has been used as expected—primarily as a gut rusher to complement Daniel Jones’ dual ability. In two weeks as a starter, Booker has carried the ball 28 times but has not been ultra-efficient, totaling only 83 yards on rushes. He has also sprinkled in some receiving work, with 7 receptions on 8 targets for 44 yards in those two weeks. He scored two touchdowns in Week 5 and has been fantasy-relevant in both games as the Giants’ starting running back.

That has serious danger of ending in Week 7 against the Panthers. While the Panthers are only middle-of-the-pack at restricting the ground game (by receiving yards and rush DVOA), they have completely shut down the PPR value of running backs against them, only allowing 11.8 receiving yards on 2.7 receptions per game. Carolina is the only defense in the NFL to not allow a receiving touchdown by a running back and only five teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns by running backs than this team. They are the #1 defense against running backs by fantasy points for that reason. With not much going for the Giants offense health-wise, the opportunities to score for the Giants will be limited so unless Booker breaks out in efficiency, there isn’t much upside to his fantasy profile this week and could be a bench despite you likely prioritizing a waiver wire pickup on him. 

Wide Receiver

Love: Rashod Bateman (BAL)

I clearly have no issues picking rookie wide receivers in this column. It worked out to perfection with Jaylen Waddle in Week 6 and I think Rashod Bateman’s second career game could be his coming-out party. The matchup of the Cincinnati Bengals defense is certainly no easy one—they rank #8 in the NFL in pass DVOA and are about middle-of-the-pack as a fantasy defense against wide receivers this season. But what the Bengals won’t be able to do is contain Lamar Jackson in the backfield, Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews in the air, and Rashod Bateman’s explosiveness all at once. With the Ravens running back room essentially empty, the Ravens can take control of this game fully via Jackson and Bateman’s volume is certainly not an issue.

In Week 6, Bateman’s NFL debut featured 4 receptions on 6 targets on 65% of the offensive snap share. Bateman, who profiles most similarly to Stefon Diggs on, will be a target hog again and a candidate to score a touchdown for #1 on his career. These projections should be light work to surpass for the rookie out of Minnesota. 

Hate: Allen Robinson (CHI)

One of the most disappointing superstar stories of the 2021 NFL season in fantasy football, many are losing faith in the Bears’ ability to unlock Allen Robinson at all this season. He ranks outside the top 50 in fantasy football at the wide receiver position; to me, it truly cannot get much worse with his talent and experience. The growth of first-round pick Justin Fields should help a bit as he learns to make better decisions and find Robinson when he has his man beat. But Week 7 is not quite the time yet and as blasphemous as it might sound, Robinson is an easy bench for me.

On first sight, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might come across as an easier matchup these days for pass-catchers given the injuries to their secondary. They’ve allowed a ton of production to wide receivers recently and that might continue—but to guys like Darnell Mooney, not to Robinson. Not only is Robinson coming into the game bang up with an ankle-related injury designation but he is also about to be matched up with Jamel Dean, a 25-year-old stud who has held his matchups to a 13.3 QB rating and 36.4% completion rate when targeted, both best in the NFL.

I’m of the philosophy that Robinson should be held because there are certainly at least slightly better days coming this season but not quite yet—you can’t justify playing him with so many limiting factors entering the matchup. 

Tight End

Love: Dallas Goedert (PHI)

For the second straight week, I am targeting a Las Vegas Raiders secondary that just doesn’t have the bodies to handle strong, athletic tight ends that can grab the football and make plays. Last week, Noah Fant stomped on them on his way to the top spot on the tight end rankings in Week 6. This week, Dallas Goedert has an opportunity to try to replicate the productivity, now with Zach Ertz out of the picture due to a trade to the Arizona Cardinals.

In 5 career games without Ertz on the field, Goedert has averaged 53 yards on 4.2 receptions per game and has a couple of touchdowns in those games. The Raiders rank around middle-of-the-pack as a defense per pass DVOA and rank in the bottom 6 as a PPR fantasy defense against tight ends. Fire up Goedert in all formats and expect him to make plays in volume and possibly find the end zone in what should be a competitive game. 

Hate: O.J. Howard (TB)

For the second straight week, I am simply requesting you to not buy high and be okay with starting a largely unreliable fantasy football player simply because he stuffed the stat sheet in the previous week. In a Week 6 matchup against the Eagles, O.J. Howard posted season-highs in receptions (6), targets (7), and receiving yards (49). He scored his first touchdown of the season and was a top 5 fantasy tight end in Week 6. However, before that, in four games, Howard had a total of four receptions on the season for just 51 yards.

It is simply statistically unlikely he comes close to last week’s performance, even with Rob Gronkowski still out and Antonio Brown now ruled out. Tom Brady still has options on the team, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, third wideout Justin Watson, and another tight end in Cameron Brate. Additionally, Leonard Fournette is now leading the running game and doing so productively and the Bears are best on defense against tight ends, where they are a top 5 fantasy defense. Fade Howard and don’t start him if you have any other option with a serviceable floor.

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