Fantasy Football: Week 7 matchups to exploit and avoid
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Eagles (vs. Washington)
Carson Wentz’s Eagles have soared to the top of the NFC and welcome Washington, against whom they earned their first victory, 30-17, with Wentz throwing for two touchdowns and 314 passing yards. Philadelphia is rested after stealing a win in Carolina on Thursday, where Nelson Agholor scored his fourth touchdown (the first came on a bomb vs. Washington in Week 1). Everything is right in the Eagles’ world when Agholor — WR11 overall — currently looks like the best wideout from 2015’s star-crossed first-round class. Wendell Smallwood returns from a two-game absence to the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing attack, ready to collide with a talented but thinning Washington front. The secondary is in worse shape without Josh Norman, and perhaps Bashaud Breeland, foreshadowing Alshon Jeffery’s breakout.
Must start: Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz
Solid play: LeGarrette Blount, Nelson Agholor
Worth a look: Wendell Smallwood
Titans (at Browns)
Marcus Mariota overcame a balky hamstring that confined him to the pocket in Tennessee’s triumph over the Colts on Monday night — the Titans’ first in 12 tries and second in 18 vs. Indy. Mariota’s fourth career 300-yard outing helped Eric Decker (6-88) to his best night as a Titan. A hamstrung DeMarco Murray cleared the way for new RB1 Derrick Henry’s biggest run and busiest game in the NFL. Been waiting to unleash Decker and Henry? Enjoy. The Browns are still the Browns, having allowed the most touchdowns by opposing quarterbacks — 16 — while shuffling between their own in Kevin Hogan and DeShone Kizer. This should be Tennessee’s coming out party on offense.
Must start: Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, Delanie Walker
Solid play: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker
Worth a look: DeMarco Murray*
Vikings (vs. Ravens)
Suffice to say, Baltimore has missed NT Brandon Williams more than Minnesota has missed RB Dalvin Cook. The Ravens, who have been without their immovable nose guard the past four games with a foot injury, are allowing a franchise-worst 141.3 rushing yards per game, including 231 last week — another Ravens low point. Meantime the Vikings have merely averaged 135.5, as Jerick McKinnon has been an all-purpose monster with 245 yards and three touchdowns, in two games without Cook. Williams could return, but Case Keenum is playing well enough right now to relegate a return to the lineup for Sam Bradford to the backburner. If Williams doesn’t play, we might even consider Latavius Murray against a ‘D’ that’s been ravaged by bigger backs, like Jordan Howard and Le’Veon Bell.
Must start: Jerick McKinnon, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs*
Solid play: Kyle Rudolph
Worth a look: Case Keenum, Latavius Murray
Saints (at Packers)
Only the Patriots have a higher implied point total than New Orleans, who are six-point road favorites and projected to amass 26.8 points against the Brett Hundley-led Packers. Since we promised before the season to keep it real — original, not obvious — in this space, owners looking for a sneaky streaming defense might consider the Saints, a top-three (!) unit during its three-game ascent. Meantime, Adrian Peterson’s departure, while a win-win for all parties so far, makes Mark Ingram a weekly RB1 again and Alvin Kamara a steady RB2 for the first time. And we didn’t even get to what Drew Brees might do against a Packers secondary that finished Sunday with Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pippins playing major minutes at corner with three of the top four options out…
Must start: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram
Solid play: Alvin Kamara
Worth a look: Saints D/ST, Willie Snead, Ted Ginn
Jets (at Dolphins)
The poor Jets might have beaten the Patriots to move into first place in the AFC East if not for the zebras. Hey, at least they chose Josh McCown over Jay Cutler? Miami received another big performance from its defense and Jay Ajayi, and in fairness, Cutler led two second-half touchdown drives to help Miami outscore the defending NFC champs 20-0 after intermission for a huge road upset and perhaps season saver. Because of that sneaky good ‘Phins ‘D,’ about the only aspect of the Jets offense worth tuning in for in this one will be the pregame embrace between Josh and Jay. Miami is only slightly more enticing here, but Jarvis Landry (key touchdowns in two straight) and Ajayi, coming off easily his best 2017 showing, remain weekly starts.
Solid play: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt Forte
Worth a look: Jermaine Kearse
Giants (vs. Seahawks)
It says here (and in Vegas, where Big Blue has the week’s lowest projected point total, 16.3) that Orleans Darkwa and Ben McAdoo can’t do what they did in Denver again, not with a rested Seahawks defense touching down in the Meadowlands. Perhaps Eli Manning gets Sterling Shepard back to give him one receiver capable of succeeding out of Richard Sherman’s shadow. But stud rookie TE Evan Engram will get the Earl Thomas-Kam Chancellor treatment, and Darkwa and Wayne Gallman likely won’t succeed on the perimeter against Seattle’s lightning-fast front the way they did Sunday night vs. the Broncos. But the Giants ‘D’ may be back in the circle of trust this week, even if Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — in his return from a one-game team-imposed exile — still has work to do in returning to McAdoo’s.
Worth a look: Evan Engram, Eli Manning, Orleans Darkwa
Ravens (at Vikings)
Baltimore’s special teams accounted for all 23 points in the overtime loss to the Bears, and the Ravens could be hard-pressed to surpass 17 on the road vs. the Vikings’ No. 5 scoring ‘D.’ It’s in vogue to blame all of the 27th-ranked offense’s woes on Joe Flacco, because of that “elite” 83.8 career passer rating, but he isn’t getting any help from a pass-catching group that was somehow inferior to Chicago’s anonymous cast on Sunday. Teams aren’t gaining traction on the ground vs. Minnesota (3.2 yards per carry), which has also allowed four passing touchdowns by quarterbacks against seven interceptions and an average of 196 yards through the air since Week 3.
Worth a look: Javorius Allen, Alex Collins
Last resort: Mike Wallace, Ben Watson
Bengals (at Steelers)
While Cincinnati rested, Pittsburgh was knocking off the NFL’s last undefeated team not only with its offensive stars shining but a suffocating defensive effort. Of course, anyone who’s managed to avoid being distracted by the Steelers’ weekly distractions knows Pittsburgh has been downright fantastic defensively, with the exception of two power run teams — Chicago and Jacksonville — catching the Steelers flat-footed. The Bengals? They’re ranked 30th in rushing yards per game (31st per attempt) and are 2-4 in Pittsburgh during the Andy Dalton era while averaging 14.8 points.
Must start: A.J. Green
Solid play: Joe Mixon
Worth a look: Andy Dalton, Tyler Kroft, Gio Bernard