Week 7 Start and Sit Recommendations for Fantasy Football
Week 7 has already gotten off to an unexpected start. D’Ernest Johnson, starting in place of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, ran for 146 yards on Thursday night. His 23.8 points in half-PPR scoring put him in the top-20 individual fantasy performances by a running back this year. Not bad for an undrafted free agent making his first NFL start. With all of the injuries around the league and six teams on a bye, Johnson will not be the only under-the-radar player to produce for fantasy managers this week. Conversely, there will be players who will disappoint and fail to meet expectations. I highlight some players who fit both criteria below with my start and sit recommendations for Week 7.
Week 7 Start and Sit Recommendations
Quarterback to Start
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Matt Ryan enters Week 7 as the QB17 overall on a point per game basis. However, he was trending in the right direction before Atlanta’s bye. He posted top-12 finishes in each of his last two games. Ryan’s upcoming opponent, the Miami Dolphins, is hardly one to fear. They have allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL, and opposing quarterbacks have a healthy 13:2 TD: Int ratio on the year. Ryan figures to have a full complement of weapons for the first time in quite a while. Receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage are expected to be active. Ridley missed Atlanta’s last game due to a personal matter, and Gage has been out since Week 2. Add them to a pass-catching group involving Kyle Pitts, Mike Davis, and Cordarrelle Patterson, and Ryan will have no shortage of options to throw to on Sunday.
Ryan also may benefit from a little logistical luck. The Falcons figure to be fresh off their bye. Miami, on the other hand, is coming off a tough loss in London. Most teams get a bye after playing overseas. The Dolphins will not have that luxury. I realize travel for NFL teams in 2021 is not quite the chore it is for most of us plebians, but there is still an adjustment period they will have to navigate after traveling back and forth to Europe in the last two weeks. Combine that with the fact that the Dolphins are simply not playing well, as evidenced by last week’s defeat at the hands of the lowly Jaguars. Their top two outside cornerbacks (Xavien Howard and Byron Jones) are also questionable for this contest. It all adds up to a big day for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense.
Quarterback to Sit
Daniel Jones, New York Giants v. Carolina Panthers
Daniel Jones had 4.08 fantasy points in Week 6 against the Rams. For reference, Brandon Allen’s lone pass attempt last week (a seven-yard touchdown toss in garbage time against the Lions) netted him 4.28 fantasy points. I don’t think we can blame Jones’ concussion suffered the week prior either. The Giants could have very easily pulled Jones once the game became out of hand, but they did not. Because of that, I have to believe that his health was not a concern. That’s more than we can say for the rest of New York’s offensive weapons. The Giants have already ruled out Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, and Kadarius Toney for this week. Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, John Ross, and Evan Engram are all questionable. This is hardly a recipe for success for a fantasy quarterback.
The matchup against the Carolina Panthers is not exactly an easy one, either. Carolina has allowed the fifth-lowest completion percentage and fifth-lowest yards per attempt among all NFL teams. They also excel at pressuring quarterbacks. Their 2.27 seconds of average time to pressure is best in the league, and their 2.45 average time to sack is tied for second-best. Jones has been better against pressure this year than he was in 2020, but that’s not saying much. He has thrown just three touchdowns this year under duress and has eight interception-worthy throws in those situations. Only six quarterbacks have more, and five of the six have started fewer than 17 NFL games. This is not a scenario where I would want to start Jones. I have him myself in a SuperFlex league and may not even start him there.
Running Back to Start
Michael Carter, New York Jets at New England Patriots
A quick sidebar if I may. I was higher than the consensus rankings on D’Ernest Johnson this week. In the interest of full disclosure, I was lower than the consensus on Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. I mention all this because all three of the backs in Thursday’s game were in the general range I target when coming up with my start and sit recommendations. And I was more confident in Johnson exceeding expectations (though I did not by any means anticipate 23.8 fantasy points) than I am in Carter doing so. However, I do still like him this week. He may not reach Johnson’s level of Week 7 output, but I would not be surprised to see him approach and potentially exceed the production that Williams and Gordon provided on Thursday.
Carter is the lead running back for the New York Jets. Being the top running back for the Jets doesn’t have quite the cache it does for most teams, but it is still worth chasing the volume. This may feel like a timeshare, but Carter is the top option. He has had at least 12 opportunities in each of New York’s last four games. Johnson has had 12 opportunities once (back in Week 2), and Coleman’s season-high is nine. Coleman also popped up on the injury report on Friday, so there is a decent chance he misses this game. Carter’s 69.8 PFF run grade is better than those of Antonio Gibson, Najee Harris, and Dalvin Cook to name a few. Please do not get it twisted – I do not want Carter over any of these players. But he is worth starting this week.
The matchup against the Patriots is not an easy one. New England is generally towards the middle of the pack in terms of their rushing defense metrics. They have allowed the ninth-most all-purpose yards to opposing backs, but the 12th-fewest fantasy points. That is because running backs have only found the end zone twice against the Patriots. Carter will likely have to hit paydirt for him to return a top-18 fantasy finish. The odds of him doing so are not great, so this pick could backfire. However, given the landscape of the running back position even before this week’s “Byemaggedon”, Carter could prove worthy of an RB2 slot this week. He is currently my RB22 for Week 7.
Running Backs to Sit
Alex Collins, Seattle Seahawks v. New Orleans Saints
When I started making my notes for this column the other day, I originally had Alex Collins on the “start” list. I even listed him as a top-50 Flex option for Week 7. He impressed me last week, putting up 101 rushing yards and a score against a tough Steelers defense. Collins has now eclipsed 70 scrimmage yards in three straight games. But the closer we get to game day, the more nervous Collins makes me. This will be another tough matchup for Collins to battle through if he is even able to play. The New Orleans Saints have allowed 483 scrimmage yards to enemy running backs this season. That is the lowest mark in the NFL. And that number is even more impressive when you consider they have faced Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, Antonio Gibson, and Saquon Barkley.
Part of my nervousness also stems from Collins’ literal gameday. The Seahawks play the Saints on Monday night, and Collins has yet to practice this week after suffering a groin injury in last week’s game. Collins looks to be trending towards a game-time decision, which gives fantasy managers a tough decision to make. To me, it is not worth taking a potential zero if Collins cannot gut it out. If he does sit, you would have to grab whatever Seahawks running backs are available in your league, and those would certainly be lesser options than players you may have considered benching in place of starting Collins. This is a matchup I would try to avoid even with an established healthy running back. Collins is neither of those at present, which is why I would prefer to sit him in Week 7.
Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I said last week that Khalil Herbert was better than most were giving him credit for. And his performance last week proved that. He turned 22 opportunities into a top-12 fantasy performance. However, I just cannot bring myself to start running backs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I realize that rationale came back to bite me two weeks ago with Myles Gaskin. But Gaskin had 10 catches against Tampa Bay. Call me crazy, but that feels like a bit of an anomaly. Gaskin is one of two running backs to produce double-digit fantasy points against Tampa Bay. The other is Cordarrelle Patterson, who is not exactly your typical running back. On the season, the Bucs have allowed the fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs. They have also allowed just a single rushing touchdown to the position in 2021.
The good news is that Herbert should see plenty of opportunities this week. David Montgomery is still out recovering from injury, and Damien Williams has yet to clear Covid protocols. If Williams is unavailable, Herbert could be in line for another 20-plus touches. That would raise his floor, and I suppose he could be a worthwhile Flex play based on volume alone. However, that is more an indictment on the state of the position this week rather than an endorsement of Herbert. If you are forced to play him, just be sure to temper expectations. I would just not get carried away and expect a repeat of last week’s numbers. It could get especially ugly if the Bears fall behind and are forced to forgo the run. Herbert is a risky play this week, and I just don’t think the upside outweighs that risk considering the matchup.
Wide Receivers to Start
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins v. Atlanta Falcons
I generally try to make a point of giving a returning player a “show me” week on my bench rather than trusting him in my starting lineup upon his return. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and this feels like one of those weeks. 13 of the top 40 wide receivers in year-to-date fantasy points are out on bye this week. So while it may not be ideal to recommend DeVante Parker considering he has missed the last two games with shoulder and hamstring injuries, the position is lacking in terms of proven commodities heading into Week 7. Miami listed Parker as questionable on their latest injury report, so keep up with news as it develops. I expect Parker to play on Sunday. If he does, he could exceed expectations in what could be a low-key shootout against the Atlanta Falcons.
Miami has a reputation as a conservative offense, but they are certainly not afraid to sling it. Only five NFL teams have thrown the ball more this season than the Dolphins. That is noteworthy considering that backup Jacoby Brissett has essentially started in four of the team’s six games. Tua Tagovailoa threw the ball 47 times last week in his return following nearly a month-long absence. That was a game where the Dolphins never trailed by more than four points, so it is not as if game script alone is dictating Miami’s pass-happy tendencies. Just as Miami was not afraid to throw their returning quarterback into the deep end with a voluminous workload, I expect Parker to receive the same treatment if he can play on Sunday.
Atlanta’s top cornerback, A.J. Terrell, usually does not shadow opposing wide receivers. That means Parker could line up against the disappointing Fabian Moreau and unproven Richie Grant on a fair share of offensive snaps. I would give Parker a decided edge over either, and he is also talented enough to get the best of Terrell if he has to. Parker has been targeted at least seven times in each game he has played this year. That gives him a higher floor than most wide receivers whom he is grouped with in the rankings. Because of that, I consider him a WR3 in 12-team leagues this week and believe he has a top-20 ceiling in this matchup despite the layoff.
Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams
Admittedly, I would not go recommending either Kalif Raymond or Amon St. Brown under normal conditions. But the Detroit Lions are 17-point underdogs to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The pair has combined for 34 receptions on 49 targets over the last four weeks. Neither is likely to make a big play deep, as Jared Goff seemingly refuses to challenge defenses downfield. However, the receiving duo could be in line for a decent number of short throws in this game. Detroit is likely to play from behind, and they will want some safe offensive plays to keep the Rams and Matthew Stafford off the field. The ceilings for both Raymond and St. Brown are low, but I could see both being Flex plays in PPR formats, with the potential to post WR3 numbers.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, and Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals v. Houston Texans
I recently discussed the inconsistency of the Arizona Cardinals wide receivers beyond DeAndre Hopkins from a fantasy perspective. Last week was a good week for the quartet, as three of the four scored touchdowns and finished as top-20 options. If you are scoring at home, Hopkins now has four top-24 performances on the year. Christian Kirk and A.J. Green have three, while Rondale Moore has just one. The problem is that when the Arizona wideouts do not hit their ceiling, the bottom falls out quickly. Among the four wideouts, none have posted a single week as a WR3 in 12-team leagues. No Cardinals receiver has 40 targets thus far in 2021, including Hopkins. That lack of volume gives me some pause when considering their other wideouts this week given the surroundings.
Arizona is favored by 18 points against the Houston Texans. They will not need to throw the ball much to win this game. And when they do, I would expect Hopkins to be the primary target. Houston traded Hopkins to the desert 19 months ago in what was panned as one of the most lopsided trades many have seen. While Hopkins seemed to be more upset with former coach Bill O’Brien than the organization itself, he will undoubtedly be motivated to show out against his former team. And dare I say that Houston’s secondary has played pretty well. They have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points and just three touchdowns to opposing wideouts on the year. The consensus says that all four Arizona wide receivers are top-40 options, but I just don’t see it. It is hard for me to trust any of them outside of Hopkins this week.
Tight Ends to Start
Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers v. Washington Football Team
I’m not gonna lie – it feels rather gross to recommend Robert Tonyan as a Week 7 starter. Perhaps I’m just trying to will it into existence. My recommendation is certainly not based on his production to date. Tonyan has just 92 receiving yards through six weeks. Three tight ends had more than that number just last week alone. But Tonyan has a solid matchup against the Washington Football Team this week. Washington has allowed an average of six catches per game to opposing tight ends so far this year. This may be Tonyan’s best chance to regain some of his 2020 mojo. If he does not produce this week, it may be time for fantasy managers (myself included) to cut bait.
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cole Kmet had a season-high 49 receiving yards for Chicago last week. That enabled him to produce a top-20 finish. I expect him to repeat the feat this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has been well documented as a pass funnel defense. That has resulted in the Bucs allowing 40 receptions and four touchdown catches to opposing tight ends. Both numbers are tied for the third-highest in the NFL. Despite Matt Nagy’s insistence on establishing the run, I suspect Chicago will have no choice but to throw the ball a fair amount on Sunday. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is questionable with an ankle injury, and Chicago placed fellow tight end, Jimmy Graham, on the reserve/Covid list. The Bears are also prohibitive underdogs. All of this could lead to even more opportunities for the second-year tight end out of Notre Dame.
Kmet has a winnable individual matchup against linebacker Devin White. White has allowed 1.13 yards and 0.31 fantasy points per route covered so far this year. Both numbers are in the top-seven among linebackers. The Bears also gave Kmet a goal-line carry in last week’s loss. That may not happen again, but it may be worth noting considering Chicago’s lack of depth at the running back position. Kmet may have multiple paths to fantasy production. Consider that if he could have converted on his carry, he would have gone from the TE20 to TE7 just by gaining one extra yard. That makes him an intriguing option in deeper leagues or ones that feature tight end premium scoring. I think Kmet could have a solid fantasy day, and I would not be opposed to starting him in Week 7.
Tight End to Sit
Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals v. Houston Texans
Many of my start and sit recommendations are based on matchups. I try to balance that out with how I see a particular game going. That is why I recommend sitting Zach Ertz despite his pristine Week 7 matchup. The Houston Texans have allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, and no NFL team has ceded more than the handful of tight end touchdowns that Houston has. But, as I stated above when discussing Arizona’s wide receivers, I just do not think the ceiling is there. That does not mean that Zach Ertz cannot score a touchdown this week. He certainly could, just as Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, or Rondale Moore could. I would not be surprised if one or two of them hit their consensus projections this week. However, I would rather shoot for upside, and I do not think Ertz possesses a ton of it this week.
I am fully on board with the DeAndre Hopkins revenge narrative. It would not surprise me at all if Hopkins were to score multiple touchdowns in this game. I could also see fellow former Texan J.J. Watt make a couple of big plays on defense against his former team. Houston has turned the ball over 11 times already this season. Arizona could easily score a defensive touchdown in this game. That would leave even less work than normal for the Cardinals’ pass catchers. I can understand the desire to plug Zach Ertz into your lineup, especially if you have been patiently waiting for him to be freed from his timeshare with Dallas Goedert. I just think you will have to wait at least one more week for your investment to pay off.
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