Thumbs Up of the Week: Baker Mayfield (@ TB)
He’s coming off his worst game as a pro in a 38-14 home loss to the Chargers, but Baker Mayfield gets a home-run bounce-back opportunity against Tampa Bay on Sunday. So far this season, Drew Brees (439 yards, three touchdowns), Nick Foles (334 yards, one touchdown), Ben Roethlisberger (353 yards, three touchdowns), Mitchell Trubisky (354 yards, six touchdowns), and Matt Ryan (354 yards, three touchdowns) have all absolutely torched the Buccaneers, who just fired their defensive coordinator and are last in the league when it comes to basically any major passing category. I have Mayfield as a top-six play for Week 7.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (@ SF)
Jared Goff disappointed fantasy owners with 201 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception in Denver last week, but that appears to be an outlier for a guy that’s on pace for over 5,100 passing yards and has had a couple unlucky bounces to partly blame for his five interceptions through six games. The 49ers are one of two teams (the league-worst Bucs are the other), to not have multiple interceptions this year, and only Tampa Bay (16:1) has a worse opposing touchdown-interception ratio than the Niners (14:1). Look for Goff to put up comparable numbers to last year’s 41-39 shootout victory in San Francisco when he threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
Thumbs Up: Joe Flacco (v NO)
Baltimore’s hot offensive start has cooled off a bit over the past couple weeks, but a matchup with the Saints presents the perfect opportunity to spark Joe Flacco and the passing attack. Despite only facing one elite, high-volume passer (Matt Ryan in Week 3), New Orleans has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and a whopping 43.9% of their opponent’s pass attempts have gone for a first down, which should allow the Ravens to get in a groove. Flacco is a top-15 option for me this week.
Thumbs Up: Mitchell Trubisky (v NE)
Since hysterically being called a “bust” after three starts under new head coach Matt Nagy, all Mitchell Trubisky has done over the past two games is combine for 670 passing yards and a 9:1 touchdown-interception ratio, also adding 11 carries for 100 yards on the ground. This week, the second-year quarterback will be airing it out in a shootout with Tom Brady and the Patriots, so keep him rolling against a defense that’s allowed at least 350 passing yards and three touchdowns in half their games this season.
Others: Marcus Mariota (@ LAC), Alex Smith (v DAL)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Deshaun Watson (@ JAX)
I know some people are optimistic about Deshaun Watson for Week 7 after Dak Prescott went off in the Cowboys’ 40-7 victory over the Jaguars, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for a repeat by Houston’s quarterback. Not only will Jacksonville be playing with an edge, but they remain the best pass defense in the league—statistically, at least—with just 188 yards per game and five touchdowns allowed through the air this season. Plus, it could be a long day for Watson against a determined front with one of the worst offensive lines in the league protecting him. I’d strongly consider looking elsewhere at a position with plenty of options.
Thumbs Down: Cam Newton (@ PHI)
Rushing production (11 carries for 71 yards and a score) led to a very respectable fantasy performance for Cam Newton last year against the Eagles, but he tossed three interceptions for the third consecutive game against them, and Jim Schwartz’s defense held him to a stingy 4.6 yards per attempt on 52 throws. While Cam can always takeover a game with his legs, I think he should be downgraded to low-end QB1 status on the road because a) Philadelphia’s defense has been outstanding at Lincoln Financial Field in recent years, and b) they have a few extra days to prepare after last Thursday night’s win over the Giants.
Thumbs Down: Philip Rivers (v TEN)
Philip Rivers has thrown for multiple touchdown passes in every game this season and has been the NFL’s underrated MVP candidate through six weeks, but the overall uncertainty about the trip to London makes me wary about him as a fantasy option for Week 7. The Chargers overcame an early start last week in Cleveland, but a trip across the pond for a 6:30 AM PT kickoff is less than ideal, and the Titans have proven to have a top-five pass defense this season. I have Rivers just outside the top 12.
Thumbs Down: Andrew Luck (v BUF)
Garbage time has helped boost Andrew Luck’s fantasy production over the past couple weeks, but I highly doubt that will be the case when Indianapolis hosts Derek Anderson and the Bills this weekend. The Colts were able to establish a running game in Marlon Mack’s return last Sunday, and their superstar quarterback shouldn’t have as much on his shoulder if that continues, especially considering Buffalo is much more vulnerable on the ground than through the air. I’m not counting on the 300-yard, three-score streak by Luck to extend to four games against a defense that’s held Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota, and Deshaun Watson to a combined 32.0 fantasy points since Week 3.
Others: Blake Bortles (v HOU), Sam Darnold (v MIN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Tevin Coleman (v NYG)
What is going on that everyone suddenly doesn’t believe Tevin Coleman is good at football? The same narrative happened with Melvin Gordon at the start of his career, but he’s undeniably been one of the best running backs in the league over the past two or three years. Now, I don’t think Coleman will turn a no-doubt top-five option with Devonta Freeman (groin) on IR thanks to Ito Smith’s involvement, but he should be viewed as a high-upside RB1/RB2 the rest of the way. On Monday night, the guy who once ran for 2,000 yards on a broken foot at Indiana will face a New York defense that’s been shredded by opposing backs, including over 45 receiving yards per game and four receiving touchdowns to the position.
Thumbs Up: Kerryon Johnson (@ MIA)
Since the Lions were blown out in the opener and Kerryon Johnson saw just five carries, the second-round pick has rushed 45 times for 269 yards (6.0 yards per carry), which would be a 1,076-yard season-long pace on less than 200 attempts. He still isn’t seeing close to enough touches for Detroit, but the Auburn product might be featured if he’s healthy coming out of the bye, and Miami’s run defense has expectedly fallen apart following a decent start. I think Kerryon needs to be started in all leagues against a defense that’s allowed 16+ standard fantasy points to running backs in every game this year.
Thumbs Up: Derrick Henry (@ LAC)
It’s a long season, but Derrick Henry is easily my biggest miss thus far, and it’s not really even his fault; while the Titans came into the year banged up on the offensive line, I don’t think anyone expected them to be as bad as they are up front, and it’s led to Henry being consistently met by defenders in the backfield. However, a big game is coming eventually, and fantasy owners are making a mistake by jumping ship already on a monster runner that will only get better as the weather gets colder. This week, he will face a travel-weary Chargers team that’s been biding their time in Cleveland (of all places) before another long flight for this London matchup. The floor is obvious, but a breakout could be coming for @KingHenry_2 in front of fans that are used to supporting royalty.
Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (@ NYJ)
I had Latavius Murray ranked as an RB2 last week, but I wasn’t confident about it due to the fact that Minnesota had simply declined to run the ball over the first five games of the year. That changed against the Cardinals, though, as Murray—who I’ve considered one of the most underrated runners in the league since his time with the Raiders—rushed 24 times for 155 yards and a score, with backups Mike Boone and Roc Thomas handling just one touch each. If Dalvin Cook (hamstring) misses another game, Latavius should be a safe plug-and-play option against a Jets defense that’s allowed over 101 rushing yards per game over the past four weeks. [Update: it looks like Cook is on track to play on Sunday, but Latavius could still be used in deeper leagues if he’s less than 100%]
Others: Matt Breida (v LAR), Ito Smith (v NYG)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Mark Ingram (@ BAL)
Mark Ingram’s season debut following a four-game suspension went about as well as fantasy owners could have hoped for, as he handled 18 touches for 73 yards and two scores, immediately forcing Alvin Kamara into a scaled-back role with nine touches. It was always silly to believe the former Heisman winner would be phased out when he returned, but we should hold off on calling him an every-week RB1 like he was in 2017 after just one game that New Orleans ran away with. This weekend, the Saints will face a Baltimore defense that’s allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs and held powerful early-down runners (Royce Freeman, James Conner, Carlos Hyde, and Derrick Henry) to a combined 3.4 yards per carry.
Thumbs Down: Carlos Hyde (@ TB)
Speaking of Hyde, I think it’s only a matter of time before the Browns—if they want to compete this year—give second-round pick Nick Chubb more touches at the veteran’s expense. Yards per carry can be a misleading stat, but Hyde has just one game with more than 3.7 yards per carry and three games below 2.9 yards per carry, while Chubb has ripped off 173 yards on just 16 attempts (10.8 YPC), including three rushes for 25 yards in Week 6. I think the Georgia product is the best option Cleveland has, and the pecking order could change to reflect that in any given week. The Bucs aren’t an imposing matchup, and maybe a shootout will lead to a big fantasy day for Hyde, but I’d feel more comfortable with him as a low-end RB2/FLEX option than the top-12 play he’s ranked as by most.
Thumbs Down: Alex Collins (v NO)
The Saints have the best run defense in the league through six weeks, and it’s frankly not even close, as they’ve allowed 3.1 yards per carry (Dallas is second at 3.5) and 71.4 yards per game (Philadelphia is second at 79.8), both of which would be the best mark for a season in recent years. Alex Collins scored twice last week, but it was the fifth time in six games that he’s been held below 60 rushing yards, and his status as the goal-line back remains unpredictable at best. The 24-year-old doesn’t crack the top 20 for me.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (v MIN)
Minnesota is the only team in the league to now allow a rush of more than 16 yards, so Isaiah Crowell’s volatility is likely to burn owners for the second week in a row if he isn’t bailed out by a red-zone score. I’ve been advising to sell Crowell before and after his franchise-record 219 rushing yards a couple weeks ago, as he’s a boom-or-bust FLEX option that will likely level off to mostly disappointments with 40 or fewer yards in four of his past five games.
Others: Phillip Lindsay (@ ARI), Wendell Smallwood (v CAR)
Thumbs Up of the Week: John Brown (v NO)
For as good as New Orleans is against the run, they are just as bad against the pass, particularly big plays. Only the Bucs are allowing more yards per attempt that the Saints (9.1 average), and they are among the worst in the league in passes of 20+ yards (21) and 40+ yards (six) allowed despite already having their bye. John Brown was contained against the Titans, but I expect him to have a huge day against a defense that’s been shredded by speedsters DeSean Jackson (5/146/2) and Calvin Ridley (7/146/3). “Smokey” is a low-end WR1 for Week 7.
Thumbs Up: Josh Gordon (@ CHI)
Not only is Josh Gordon coming off a team-high nine targets in a shootout victory over the Chiefs, but he also logged 81% of the offensive snaps, while Chris Hogan (60%), Cordarrelle Patterson (8%), and Phillip Dorsett (4%) all saw their playing time decrease in the former All-Pro’s third game with the Pats. He and Tom Brady still have some things to work out, which is fully expected, but Gordon is trending towards high-upside WR2 status, and the Bears don’t have anyone that can cover him this week.
Thumbs Up: Kenny Golladay (@ MIA)
I don’t know if shutdown boundary cornerback Xavien Howard will be tasked with defending Kenny Golladay, but I’m not sure it matters at this point, as we’ve seen enough from “Babytron” to consider him a weekly WR2 regardless of matchup. Through five games, the second-year receiver has gone for lines of 7/114, 6/89/1, 6/53/1, 4/74, and 4/98/1—which is good for an 86/1,369/9.6 pace—and Miami has been susceptible to downfield throws so far this season. Golladay is my No. 14 wideout coming off the bye.
Thumbs Up: Robert Woods (@ SF)
He’s on a different team and facing a different defense, but remember thatt Monday Night Football game a couple years ago when Robert Woods was with the Bills and he nearly carried them to a victory over Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom? Woods caught ten passes for 162 yards in that matchup, and he also had a standout performance against the 49ers (sans Sherman, obviously) last year with six catches for 108 yards. You were probably starting the USC product already, but don’t be afraid of the matchup after what we saw Davante Adams and the Green Bay receivers do to San Francisco in Week 6.
Others: Sammy Watkins (v CIN), Christian Kirk (v DEN)
Thumbs Down of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins (@ JAX)
For the same reasons Deshaun Watson is a borderline top-20 play, DeAndre Hopkins needs to be downgraded to WR2 status for a matchup in Jacksonville. The 26-year-old will probably be forced to stay in your lineup, but he won’t carry his usual upside this week, as the Jaguars are going to make sure last Sunday’s 40-7 loss doesn’t happen again. It’s worth noting that in two 2017 meetings (a 29-7 defeat and a 45-7 defeat), Hopkins needed a massive 29 targets to combine for 11 receptions, 135 yards, and two touchdowns, with most of his production coming in garbage time. Plus, the Texans have more playmakers this year with Will Fuller healthy and Keke Coutee in the slot, so Hopkins is more of a high-end WR2 than solid WR1.
Thumbs Down: Mike Evans (v CLE)
Is rookie cornerback Denzel Ward already a shy-away matchup for top receivers facing Cleveland? He’s not quite shadowing guys, but over the past two weeks, Ward has limited John Brown and Keenan Allen when he’s lined up against them, and Mike Evans could be next. The size of Tampa Bay’s No. 1 receiver could give Ward issues on downfield passes, but I think he should have help over the top anyway, and Evans will have a difficult time creating separation against the first-round pick’s sticky coverage on all levels of the field. In a spread-the-wealth offense, Evans is just a WR2 this week.
Thumbs Down: Demaryius Thomas (@ ARI)
Facing Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals isn’t the intimidating matchup that it used to be due to Steve Wilks’ zone-heavy scheme, but with Emmanuel Sanders taking most of the looks from the slot, Demaryius Thomas could be forced to contend with the superstar corner on the outside. Overall, I’m not encouraged about Denver’s offense as a whole on Thursday night because of injuries on the offensive line, and DT’s low floor has shown itself already this season with an 18-yard performance and a 24-yard performance. He’s a risky FLEX play in all formats.
Thumbs Down: Kenny Stills (v DET)
Miami’s receiving corps has basically been “big-play-by-committee” this season, and it’s worked for Adam Gase, but doesn’t really benefit fantasy owners since there’s no telling who will have a strong performance in any given week. Kenny Stills had just one grab with Brock Osweiler under center against the Bears, and I doubt the former Denver quarterback challenges Darius Slay—who Stills will mostly do battle against this weekend—as the reigning league-leader in interceptions. The speedster doesn’t need to be owned as a borderline top-50 option despite four teams on bye.
Others: Jets WRs (v MIN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: David Njoku (@ TB)
I was definitely discouraged after a slow start for David Njoku, but since Baker Mayfield took over for Tyrod Taylor, he’s gone for lines of 5/52, 6/69, and 7/55/1 while “dropping” any drop issues in the process. The 2017 first-round pick will now face the bottom-barrel Bucs (12.6 fantasy points per game allowed to opposing tight ends), and he’s not only my No. 4 tight end for Week 7, but also a legitimate FLEX option for desperate owners. Pick Njoku up if he’s somehow available.
Thumbs Up: O.J. Howard (v CLE)
Well, O.J. Howard continues to prove that he’s a force of nature by missing no time with what was called a two-to-four-week knee injury (yes, he did have a bye to rest up), and he should keep rolling against a Browns team that has struggled to defend tight ends under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The 23-year-old has at least 54 yards in every healthy game this season, and he’s a high-upside TE1 option at home.
Thumbs Up: Gerald Everett (@ SF)
If there’s a silver lining to Los Angeles being without Cooper Kupp (knee), it’s that 2017 second-round pick Gerald Everett will have an opportunity to get more looks—potentially taking Sean McVay’s offense to a whole new level when everyone is healthy. The 49ers have the personnel to contain opposing tight ends, but they haven’t played well so far this season, and Everett is immediately on the TE2 radar.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Jordan Reed (v DAL)
Jordan Reed went off for a 10/95/2 line on Thanksgiving of 2016, but that appears to be the exception against the Cowboys, as in seven other career matchups, he’s combined for just 321 scoreless yards. Making matters worse for the star tight end, Sean Lee (hamstring) looks like he could possibly return this weekend, and Leighton Vander Esch provides good insurance even if he doesn’t. Reed remains a TE1 option, but it’s of the low-end variety.
Thumbs Down: Antonio Gates (v TEN)
As I’ve previously said, Antonio Gates will probably have a couple more standout outings to end his illustrious career, but predicting them is the tough part. Against a defense that’s allowing the fewest points per game to the position, Gates is highlight unlikely to pay dividends for fantasy owners (though stranger things have happened overseas).
Thumbs Down: Evan Engram (@ ATL)
People might be eager to get Evan Engram back in lineups—particularly if streaming at tight end has been a struggle—, but New York’s passing attack is a mess, and we don’t know how many snaps the former Ole Miss star will get in his return, which is no sure thing with the Giants playing on Monday night. He’s a TE2 option for deeper leagues, but those playing in standard 10- and 12-team formats should probably wait a week to get him back in lineups.