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Welcome to week 7 of the Fantasy Football Foray! I apologize for not having the time to get one out to you last week, but I'm back and ready to roll.
Throughout our leagues, teams are starting to separate themselves in the standings, with the top, middle and bottom tiers emerging. It's time to jockey for position and make the appropriate moves/changes to get to, and stay at, the top.
(Apologies in advance to those of you that thought this article was about Julia Louis-Drefyus....)
*Ownership percentages are from Yahoo! leagues.
Blake Bortles - Jaguars (63%)
If I were to tell you that there was a QB available in over 1/3 of your leagues that is third in TD passes (13), sixth in passing yards (1,630) and is currently the 5th overall ranked QB (in Yahoo! leagues), now would that be something you'd be interested in? Blake Bortles is said player. Bortles has a saucy setup with weapons like WR Allen Robinson and TE Julius Thomas and a defense that keeps the offense in permanent garbage-time catch up mode. The BB gun is still finding his way in year two (interceptions are one drawback) but the sheer volume of yards and TD's is perfect for fantasy. You'd think a Rex Ryan led Buffalo Bills defense would cause fright this week, but what many thought would be a vaunted unit is currently 23rd in the league against the pass and are coming off 243 yards and three TD's to Bengals Andy Dalton. It may come with a pick or two, but Bortles seems like a great bet for 250+ yards and multiple scores this weekend in London.
Ryan Tannehill - Dolphins (77%)
Tannehill has had an uneven season thus far, dealing with the coaching tension and eventual firing of Joe Philbin in Miami. The team seemed to rally around elevated Tight End coach Dan Campbell last week, and Ryan found some of the mojo that led many to think he was set to break out this year. Last week against the Titans he passed for 266 yards and 2 TD's, adding fourteen yards on the ground. He's no Mike Vick, but he has the legs to get you a point or two each week when a play breaks down. I've mentioned the crowded, but talented pass-catching group in the Miami in previous installments. WR's Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Rishard Matthews and TE Jordan Cameron provide a great group of targets for Tannehill. This week's opponent the Houston Texans, like the aforementioned Bills also has looked scarier on paper (Watt and Clowney and Co) than in reality. Middling in both pass defense (13th) and rush defense (17th) the Dolphins should be able to move the ball. Blake Bortles carved them up to the tune of 331 yards and three touchdowns last week and Tannehill should be able to have a nice day.
Todd Gurley - Rams (96%)
The Browns rush defense is dead last in the NFL giving up nearly 150 YPG and over his last two games Todd Gurley has run for 146 and 159 yards respectively. Rams Offensive Coordinator Frank Cignetti ordered 30 carries for Gurley last game, and would be wise to go extremely run-heavy again this week. With QB Nick Foles and the receiving unit sputtering (31st in PYPG) Gurley is going to get a ton of action and the action should be extremely fruitful. If you've been stashing the Gurley man you've started reaping the rewards over his last two starts and you should be very, very excited about him this weekend. He could prove a week-winner versus Cleveland.
Lamar Miller - Dolphins (95%)
With a change in coaching came a change in philosophy in Miami: get our talented players the ball more. Averaging just over nine carries per game Miller saw his total jump to 19 last week and he rewarded the Dolphins and patient (hopeful?) owners with 113 yards and a visit to the endzone. The Texans are giving up 109 yards on the ground, so as long as the Dolphins keep Miller heavily-involved (last week's win followed three losses, so they should) it should be a productive day for Miller.
Martavis Bryant - Steelers (89%)
You've had Bryant stashed on your bench for a quarter of the season (or you picked him up when someone foolishly dropped him) and boy were you rewarded last week if you put him in your lineup. Showing all the flashy dominance he showed during the home stretch of lats season he hauled in six receptions for 137 yards and two scores. Landry Jones replaced an injured Mike Vick at QB and struck an instant chemistry with Martavis. This is Jones first real look in the NFL after being drafted in the fourth round by Pittsburgh in 2013, so there could be some ups and downs, but if last week is indicative, the Jones to Bryant connection should remain strong until Ben Roethlisberger is ready to play again. This week's foe, the Chiefs, and their 24th ranked pass defense should be exploitable.
John Brown - Cardinals (92%)
Brown was a preseason darling of many fantasy folks (myself included) and while he was productive the first few weeks, he really took off last weekend against the Steelers. The man who QB Carson Palmer called the fastest player in the league saw 14 targets and reeled in ten of them for 196 yards. Brown may play second-fiddle to WR Larry Fitzgerald in the redzone but Palmer has been so locked in and the matchup is so great (Ravens 26th ranked pass D) that it's reasonable to expect another big week from JB. Do keep an eye on this though.
Antonio Gates - Chargers (91%)
In my first article with DN I pleaded for you to pick up Gates, and I'm hopeful some of you were able! He's returned with a vengeance, garnering a total of 27 targets, 18 catches, 187 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games reunited with QB Philip Rivers. This week's opponent, the Oakland Raiders is the worst in the league defending the Tight End. You'll want to double-check his status this weekend though, as he did pop up on the injury report.
Update: Gates did not practice Thursday or Friday, and is listed as Questionable for this weekend. In a game the Chargers probably feel they can win without him, I'm leaning as if he won't. For reasons listed above, his backup Ladarius Green would be a fantastic play if he's on your waiver wire. Redskins Jordan Reed would also be another good option. You could try Saints Ben Watson if he wasn't snatched up after last week's huge performance. Don't go expecting a repeat, but clearly Brees likes him.
Julius Thomas - Jaguars (83%)
Once he became not-Orange Julius anymore (leaving Denver and Peyton Manning who made him a star) expectations dipped for Mr. Thomas. A locked-in Manning elevated Julius to new heights, but he became a question mark after signing in Jacksonville. He's battled his way back from an early-season injury, and a tune-up game during week 5 and made his mark last week versus the Texans. He saw 13 targets and grabbed seven for 78 yards and a score. A big target, Thomas should be a frequent look for QB Blake Bortles and he should be able to find success this week against a Bills defense that is 24th against opposing Tight End points.
Sam Bradford - Eagles (66%)
Bradford had a nice two game stretch from week four to five, but man, if you watched Monday night's game against the Giants it's hard to feel confident about starting him this week, regardless of opponent. Just as the passing game had seemed to pick up (600 yards and three TD's the previous two games) the Eagles established the run following three interceptions from Bradford (a couple of the horrendous variety.) The Panthers run defense is actually stronger as a unit, but the pass defense, led by PFF's top rated CB Josh Norman, won't make things any easier on Sam. I just don't have any confidence in him right now. While Head Coach Chip Kelly says he has full confidence in Bradford now, if he starts the game with a pick, who know what they'll do, and you don't want the fantasy disaster of your player being benched in game.
Chris Ivory - Jets (96%)
Ivory has been flexing lately (312 yards and two TD's last two games), no doubt, and you're not likely sitting him this week but I don't love his matchup with the Patriots. The Pats offense scares me right now, and their defense is strong too, so I could see the Jets getting down early in this one, limiting Ivory's upside quite a bit. He's not a real contributor in the pass game (six catches in four games) so I don't see him being a big part of the catch-up game, if there is one. Like I said, if you've got him, you've probably got to play him (unless you are deep at RB) but I wouldn't expect the world.
Allen Robinson - Jaguars (96%)
I know, you think I'm crazy for recommending Bortles and putting A-Rob here. But, the Bills are pretty stingy against Wide Receivers, ranking 23rd in points per week given up and are especially stingy against opposing teams' number one receiver. Robinson is without a doubt that WR for the Jaguars. He's definitely one of the league's breakout players, and is seeing over eight targets per game, so there is some hope here but this isn't one of those matchups you look at on your screen and lick your chops. I'm not benching him in the one league I've got him due to his target share (unless you're loaded in an eight team league) but I'm a tad worried and tempering expectations.
Steve Smith - Ravens (94%)
Smith is an iron-man of the sport, still churning out chunks of yardage and 100 yard games (three this year.) He returned from a scary back injury last week to toast a 49ers secondary to the tune of 137 yards and a score, but this week probably won't be much fun for Smitty. He's got a date with the Cardinals and shadow CB Patrick Peterson, who is back on top of his game, citing an improved physique and back to shut-down status. The positive for Smith here would be that the Cardinals should jump out to a lead, forcing the Ravens to pass heavily. With all that said, he should see his targets, but I'm not expecting another big game this week.
Brian Hoyer - Texans (14%)
This one won't feel great putting into your lineup, but Hoyer has been fantasy relevant the last two weeks, force-feeding perhaps the game's best WR right now in Deandre Hopkins. I don't feel overly strong about this, but Hoyer has been on a roll of late, throwing for 605 yards and five touchdowns over his past two contests. If you're in a real QB bind, you could stream Hoyer against Miami (a respectable 12th in passing yardage ceded at 238.4 per game) and hope he keeps taking comfort in his "Nuk", the seemingly always-open Hopkins. There's a definite floor here, but in 12-14 team leagues you could certainly do worse.
Christine Michael - Cowboys (52%)
"C-Mike" , this week's cover boy, has been a buzzy dude ever since Mike Mayock called him the most physically gifted Running Back in the 2013 draft. The Seattle Seahawks took him in the second round, but perma-entrenched behind Marshawn Lynch, he never had a shot there. Inconsistency in Seattle, and a need at RB by the Cowboys after losing Demarco Murray spawned a trade. Early buzz this week was that Michael was finally getting his time to shine. Reports of first-team reps and an increased workload, Michael "truthers" were rubbing their hands together. Recent reports though (within the past 12 hours) say to hold our horses, that Joseph Randle will still remain the lead back for now. It seems like a fluid situation, and that Michael could potentially get 5-10 carries, and if he makes the most of them, he could potentially take the job. Earlier in the week I liked him a lot as a sneaky start, but I probably wouldn't play him unless I had some really bad bye week blues, or injury issues. I'd definitely be rostering him though, if you can.
Robert Woods - Bills (3%)
This one is a deep-league, bye week laden, hurting-unit play. Robert Woods hasn't been very fantasy relevant thus far this year, but fellow WR's Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins are both out this week. Woods is the de facto #1 receiver going against a Jaguars defense that is ceding the third most points per game (29.3.) Known as a good route-runner, Woods should attract fill-in QB EJ Manuel's attention quite a bit. With James Jones, Randall Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Marvin Jones, etc on a bye this week Woods could be a solid fill-in this week.
The Purple Play
Stefon Diggs - Vikings (53%)
In my last purple play blurb I recommended picking up WR Stefon Diggs if you had the space. I wish I had heeded my own advice. I'm in a few leagues and I couldn't justify dropping anyone for a guy in a last-place passing offense, but wow did Diggs show he's got a spot in this league (and your fantasy lineups) last week. With Charles Johnson coming back, some wondered if he'd stay in the starting lineup, but it sure seems so, and that's great for both he and the Vikings. If he weren't in the PP section he'd be in the salivatory starts, as the matchup with the Lions (22nd against pass and 24th to WR's specifically) is very attractive. Take some Diggs at your opponent this week.
Sneaky Snags and Slick Strategery
Dorial Green-Beckham - Titans (14%)
The main thing holding back DGB thus far has been the coaching staff, and fantasy-hater Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt. We already loathed his approach on running backs and he's been reluctant to give the tantalizingly talented (6'5'' with 4.5 speed) rookie WR much run. But, his snap percentage has been on the rise and fellow wideout Harry Douglas has been hurting this week, which could open up more opportunity. It sounds like Harry Douglas is likely to miss this game which would elevate DGB to new heights in the playing-time realm. Coming off a six target, three reception for 51 yard game, he'll look to increase those numbers vs the Falcons beatable (he shouldn't get shadow treatment from stud CB Desmond Trufant) secondary. If you've got the space, snag him now and see what he does the next couple of weeks.
Jordan Reed - Redskins (51%)
The story has (and probably always will be) health when it comes to Reed. He got off to a torrid start this year, averaging 80 YPG and grabbing a TD during the first three weeks of the season. He was clearly QB Kirk Cousins favorite target (especially with Desean Jackson out with an injury) before he suffered a concussion during his week four game. He's had a history of those (amid many other injuries) but he has vowed that he is 100% and playing this week. He's only owned in half of Yahoo! leagues so if your TE situation is gross, go with the Reed option.
Brandon LaFell - Patriots (59%)
I've already talked about LaFell, so this will be the last time, but he's still only owned in just over half of Yahoo! leagues. He will still need to shake off rust, but he's off the PUP list, back at practice and very well could be a strong WR3 for your team the remainder of the way. The Patriots and Tom Brady are passing the heck out of the ball and the duo hooked up for 953 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
James Starks - Packers (52%)
Boy has Eddie Lacy had a rough go of things this year. Injuries and ineffectiveness have led to 260 yards rushing and one touchdown through six weeks. Hopeful owners point to his slow start last year as well, and then eventual 1,100 yard, nine touchdown finish, but things seem drab these days. The Packers are hopeful that rest during the bye week is what Lacy needs, but if you can pick up running mate James Starks I would. The difference has been night and day when it's a "Starks drive" this year, Starks having a 4.5 YPC (versus Lacy's 3.9) McCarthy has hinted that he may continue to shuffle the RB's a bit, but if Starks does eventually grab hold of the job, you've got a starter in a great offense for cheap.
Track of the Week
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