Fantasy Football: Week 7 matchups to exploit, avoid

By J.C. TALON – fantasy@profootballweekly.com
Published: Updated:
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) celebrates his running touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) celebrates his running touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) — Elise Amendola

After rushing for 0, 14, 28, 33, and 42 yards in the first five games of 2016, respectively, Jay Ajayi busted out against the Steelers with 204 yards and two scores on 25 carries. Yeah, we all saw that coming. Ajayi is owned in 56 percent of CBS leagues and 43 percent of ESPN leagues. Those numbers will jump dramatically this week. Whether he can become an elite fantasy back is anybody’s guess, but after his Week 6 performance, you can bet he’ll get another opportunity.

The other big fantasy news from last weekend was the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. The loss of Big Ben obviously impacts his owners, but it also will have repercussions for owners of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh is hoping to have their QB back after next week’s bye, but he’ll be out this week against New England.

Backup Landry Jones is one of the worst No. 2 signal-callers in the league. He started two games last year, but played meaningful time in only one of those games. In Week 7 at Kansas City, he was 16-of-29 for 209 with one touchdown and two interceptions. Pittsburgh lost 23-13. On the other hand, Bell had 121 yards rushing and Brown had 124 yards receiving in the game. Although expectations are diminished, both players remain must-starts.

On to Week 7 …

MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT

Bengals (vs. Browns) Sunday, noon

Anything can happen in the NFL, but there is little doubt that the Browns have the least talented roster in the league. Cleveland’s 29th-ranked defense is yielding 403 yards and 29.3 points per game. Their equal-opportunity incompetence has them ranked 26th against both the run and the pass. The over/under in this game is hovering around 46 with Cincy favored by 9.5. That would suggest the Bengals should score about 27 points. A.J. Green is a good bet for a big day and Andy Dalton is an option for owners of Roethlisberger or Cam Newton. The big question mark is the running game. In the past two games, Giovani Bernard has 34 touches and 190 yards while Jeremy Hill has only 18 touches for 53 yards. Those two games were against New England and Dallas – teams far more talented than Cleveland. Hill has also been fighting through some injuries. The uncertainty downgrades both players. Brandon LaFell has three touchdowns in the past two weeks, though he was held to two catches for 13 yards in Foxborough.

Must start: Green

Solid play: Dalton, Mike Nugent, Bengals D/ST

Worth a look: Bernard, Hill, C.J. Uzomah

Last resort: LaFell

Chiefs (vs. Saints) Sunday, noon

If the Chiefs are going to win this game – and they are favored – they will most likely have to score some points. Kansas City’s defense (14th) is OK, but not good enough to shut down Drew Brees & Co. Luckily for K.C., the Saints counter their second-ranked offense (in yards and points) with the league’s second-worst defense. Last week in Oakland, the Chiefs continued to feature Spencer Ware in the running game. Jamaal Charles had nine carries for 33 yards, but Ware had 24 carries and piled up 131 yards and a TD. Both backs had two receptions. Look for Charles’ workload to increase a bit – especially as a receiver – but Ware is the better fantasy play at present.

Must start: Ware, Travis Kelce

Solid play: Charles, Jeremy Maclin, Cairo Santos

Worth a look: Alex Smith

Last resort: Charcandrick West

Stay away: Chiefs D/ST

Bucs (@ 49ers) Sunday, 3:05

The 49ers are giving up nearly 31 points per game – only the Saints have given up more. Roberto Aguayo seems to have worked out his early season issues and is a reasonable option at PK this week. Jacquizz Rodgers is a decent streaming option. He had 30 carries for 101 yards in Week 5 against the Panthers. He also caught five passes for 28 yards. It is also noteworthy that Rodgers averages 4.0 yards on his 43 carries this season compared to 3.4 yards on 25 carries for Martin.

Must start: Mike Evans

Solid play: Cameron Brate, Aguayo

Worth a look: Rodgers, Bucs D/ST

Last resort: Adam Humphries, Vincent Jackson

Patriots (@ Steelers) Sunday, 3:25

News flash … Start your Patriots! Apologies for the obviousness of this call, but Tom Brady & Co. are an especially good play this week against the Steelers and their 29th-ranked passing defense. There is a chance that, sans Roethlisberger, this game gets ugly. In that scenario, the emphasis could switch from Brady and the passing attack to LeGarrette Blount and a ground-and-pound show.

Must start: Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski

Solid play: Blount, Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett

Worth a look: James White

Last resort: Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola

ALSO CONSIDER

Jaguars (vs. Raiders) Sunday, noon

The Raiders are last in the NFL in yards allowed, giving up 25 yards more per game than the 31st-ranked Saints. The Jags’ 29th-ranked offense is struggling, but they have an opportunity to post decent numbers in this game.

Falcons (vs. Chargers), Sunday, 3:05

This contest features the highest over/under of the week (51). San Diego has been extremely competitive in every game and is coming off a 21-13 upset over Denver. Expect a lot of points and yards from both teams.

MATCHUPS TO AVOID

Bears (@ Packers) Thursday, 7:25

We don’t offer betting advice, but the over/under (46.5) in this game seems a bit aggressive. If it gets there, at least 30 of those points will probably have to come from Green Bay. Brian Hoyer, as scouts like to say, is just good enough to get you beat. He dinks and dunks when defenses have to cover the entire field, but once the Bears get in the red zone and coverage tightens, Hoyer has no answers. The journeyman has thrown for over 300 yards in all four of his starts, but the Bears have scored 17 points in three of those games and 23 in the other while losing three of the four. The Packers have problems of their own, but should have little problem putting away an undermanned Bears squad.

Must start: None

Solid play: Alshon Jeffery

Worth a look: Jordan Howard, Cameron Meredith, Zach Miller

Last resort: Brian Hoyer, Ka’Deem Carey, Eddie Royal, Bears D/ST

Stay away: Connor Barth

Eagles (vs. Vikings) Sunday, noon

The over/under in this game (40) is the lowest of the week. Minnesota’s defense is second in yards allowed and first in points – yielding just 12.8 points per game. The Eagles have lost two straight and Carson Wentz has regressed during those games. Last week in Washington, he was 11-for-22 for 179 yards and no TDs.

Must start: None

Solid play: Eagles D/ST

Worth a look: Ryan Mathews, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz

Last resort: Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis

Stay away: Wentz, Nelson Agholor

Texans (@ Broncos) Monday, 7:30

This looks like another low-scoring game. Brock Osweiler was able to rally his team last week against Indy. He won’t find the Broncos' fourth-ranked defense nearly as accommodating. Houston’s best shot is on the ground: Denver is only 22nd against the run and is giving up 4.0 yards per carry.

Must start: None

Solid play: Lamar Miller

Worth a look: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans D/ST

Last resort: Will Fuller*, C.J. Fiedorowicz

Stay away: Nick Novak

ALSO BEWARE

Rams (vs. Giants in London) Sunday, 8:30 a.m.

In case you needed a reason not to plug Rams into your fantasy lineup, the 10-plus hour flight from L.A. to London is a disadvantage. Todd Gurley is the only start here.

Seahawks (@ Arizona) Sunday, 7:30

Considering the Cards have the fifth-ranked defense and Seattle is No. 1, this is not a great fantasy matchup for either team. Last season’s results were a mixed bag: Arizona won a 39-32 shootout in Seattle in November, but the Seahawks returned the favor in January with a 36-6 drubbing. The over/under in this game is hovering between 43 and 44.

*Check injury status

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