It’s Week 7, and there are some prime matchups. Be sure not to get caught up in ‘name’ teams with defenses which have been good in the past, but aren’t so hot this season. For instance, the Baltimore Ravens have been a feared defensive unit for a number of years. While they have rattled off several defensive/special teams scores to placate their fantasy owners, using opposing players against that unit just isn’t as bad as it used to be. When you would see BAL, or @BAL, on the schedule for your running back, for example, you knew it would be a slow week – or you might just reserve the guy completely. This year, not so, as the Ravens have been unable to stop the run. With LB Ray Lewis (triceps) and CB Lardarius Webb (knee) out for the season, the defense took another hit last week against Dallas.
Upward and onward to Week 7′s picks…good luck to everyone, unless, of course, you’re playing against me!
Surprise start of the week: Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (vs. NO): Uhh, what? Fantasy owners reading this might be scratching their heads at the suggestion of Freeman, but he is a great pick-up this week, especially if you’re desperate for a bye-week replacement. Freeman and the Buccaneers will be squaring off against the league’s 26th-ranked pass defense, as the Saints allow 283.2 yards per game through the air. In addition, the Saints have given up 20 pass plays of 20 or more yards, with nine passing scores allowed and just three interceptions. Opposing QBs have a passer rating of 104.5 against the Saints, third-highest in the NFL behind only the Chiefs (106.5) and the Titans (107.9). Last week against said Chiefs, Freeman threw for a season-best 328 yards, three TDs and just one INT. It was his first 300-yard game of the season. Play the matchup, not the name.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (vs. TEN), Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (vs. CLE), Mark Sanchez, N.Y. Jets (at NE)
Sit of the week: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (vs. PIT): Dalton will be matched up against the league’s fourth-stingiest pass defense, as the Steelers allowed just 200.8 yards per game through the air. While they have allowed a rather mediocre nine passing TDs through five games, the Steelers have yielded just 10 plays of 20 yards or more through the air, tied for the best mark in the NFL. Last season, Dalton completed 26-of-54 (48.1 percent) for just 305 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while being sacked three times in two games against the Steelers, both losses.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at HOU), Christian Ponder, Minnesota (vs. ARI), Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (at IND)
Surprise start of the week: Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at BUF): It’s now or never for the running back formerly known as CJ2K. Johnson held out for a huge contract last season, and then has not been anywhere close to his 2009 form (2,006 rushing yards), or even his 2010 form (1,364 rushing yards). In fact, his production has decreased in each of the past three seasons, and he has a career-low 3.3 yards per carry going on this season. So why the ‘must-play’ tag this week. Well, he will be up against the NFL’s worst-ranked rushing defense, as the Bills have allowed 173.5 yards per game on the ground, including nine runs of 20 or more yards, and nine rushing touchdowns. The Bills have been gouged for 5.8 yards per gain every time an opposing runner touches the ball. If Johnson can’t get it done this week, something is severely wrong.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay (vs. NO), Darren McFadden, Oakland (vs. JAC), Stevan Ridley, New England (vs. NYJ)
Sit of the week: Shonn Greene, N.Y. Jets (at NE): Greene electrified the crowd, and surprised fantasy owners, with his career-high 161 rushing yards and 32 carries last weekend against the Colts. But Greene now faces the league’s fifth-ranked rushing defense, and the holes will be a lot harder to come by. The good news is that Greene has virtually no competition for touches in the backfield, as Bilal Powell (shoulder) and Joe McKnight (ankle) are banged up. The bad news is that this is the first of a three-game stretch against a top-six rushing defense.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants (at WAS), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati (at PIT), Ray Rice, Baltimore (at HOU)
Surprise start of the week: Stephen Hill, N.Y. Jets (at NE): Hill is available in approximately 70 percent of fantasy leagues, and he is a great short-term or bye-week replacement. He is facing a New England secondary who cannot stop anyone. In fact, head coach Bill Belichick was so dismayed with his secondary play that he pulled CB Kyle Arrington in favor of rookie Alfonzo Dennard. It didn’t matter, as WR Sidney Rice, who we mentioned as a surprise start in this same spot last week, burned them for a long, game-winning score in the final two minutes. Let’s hope lightning strikes twice. Hill posted three grabs for 23 yards and a score against Indianapolis last week, a team with a very good pass defense. He has three receiving TDs in four games this season.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (vs. TEN), Lance Moore, New Orleans (at TB), Mike Williams, Tampa Bay (vs. NO)
Sit of the week: Steve Smith, Carolina (vs. DAL): Smith and the Panthers offense will be facing a Cowboys passing defense which ranked second in the NFL, allowing just 181.6 yards per game through the air. While the Cowboys have been dinged for 16 plays of 20 or more yards through the air, they have allowed just one really big play of 40 or more yards. Short to intermediate routes will be the name of the game Sunday, and Smith will be lucky to top 50 yards.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Josh Gordon, Cleveland (at IND), A.J. Green, Cincinnati (at PIT), Jordy Nelson, Green Bay (at STL)
Surprise start of the week: Scott Chandler, Buffalo (vs. TEN)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis (vs. CLE), Martellus Bennett, N.Y. Giants (vs. WAS)
Sit of the week: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay (at STL)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Rob Gronkowski, New England (vs. NYJ), Dennis Pitta, Baltimore (at HOU)
Surprise start of the week: Rob Bironas, Tennessee (at BUF)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy play: Josh Scobee, Jacksonville (at OAK)
Sit of the week: Jason Hanson, Detroit (at CHI)
Other who should be riding the fantasy pine: Justin Tucker, Baltimore (at HOU)
Surprise start of the week: Raiders DST (vs. JAC)
Other solid, less- than-obvious fantasy plays: Packers DST (at STL), Vikings DST (vs. ARI)
Sit of the week: Jets DST (at NE)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Giants DST (vs. WAS), Redskins DST (at NYG)