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Week 7 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Tom Brady (@ LV)

Brady had a quiet fantasy day in last week’s blowout win over Green Bay, but it was by no fault of his own with the Packers being unable to make it a game, and the six-time Super Bowl champion showed pinpoint accuracy when Tampa Bay aired it out. This week, the Raiders will have a difficult time stopping Brady’s supporting cast at full strength, and the continued emergence of Ronald Jones II should open things up for the passing attack. I have TB12 as a top-six option on Sunday Night Football.


Thumbs Up: Matthew Stafford (@ ATL)

He surprisingly didn’t light it up coming out of the bye against Jacksonville, but Stafford gets an even better matchup this weekend against the Falcons, and the Atlanta offense coming alive last week bodes well for the chances of a shootout. Detroit’s franchise signal-caller is due for a huge outing with less than 300 passing yards in every game so far this year, and the Falcons are allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (29.1).


Thumbs Up: Teddy Bridgewater (@ NO)

Bridgewater is another quarterback primed for Sunday shootout, and I think he could actually have an added advantage facing a familiar New Orleans defense that was on the other side of battles in practice last year. Plus, offensive coordinator Joe Brady might have some extra tricks up his sleeve against his former team, and the Panthers have plenty of ways to attack a defense. Bridgewater is worth considering as a strong streaming option for Week 7.


Thumbs Up: Ben Roethlisberger (@ TEN)

Like the aforementioned Brady and Stafford, Roethlisberger also had a quiet game last week relative to team success, but a battle of the final two undefeated teams in the AFC should give him a shot to air it out more. Pittsburgh’s receiving quartet—with Diontae Johnson (back) looking likely to return—is nearly impossible to stop, so Big Ben has all the ammunition needed against a Tennessee secondary that just allowed 335 passing yards and four scores versus Houston’s spread-it-out attack. QB1 range is crowded this week, but Roethlisberger belongs in the top ten.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Jared Goff (v CHI)

As expected, Goff has been somewhat dependent on opponent this year (three games with 23.9+ fantasy points; three games with fewer than 15.0 fantasy points), and this is a spot where you’ll want to look elsewhere considering his past struggles against Chicago (353 yards with a 0:5 touchdown-interception ratio). Over the past three weeks, the Bears have allowed point totals of 19, 16, and 16 with Khalil Mack and the pass rush getting hot.


Thumbs Down: Jimmy Garoppolo (@ NE)

The “Thumbs Down” options at quarterback are relatively straightforward this week, and Garoppolo should be avoided in the first matchup against his former team. Including the five-touchdown performance by Russell Wilson, New England has allowed just 15.6 fantasy points per game to opposing passers, and Raheem Mostert (ankle) being out is a big loss for the balance San Francisco relies on to create space for George Kittle and Deebo Samuel.


Thumbs Down: Gardner Minshew (@ LAC)

Jacksonville is kind of getting a tough break with another game against a team coming off the bye week, and even with all their defensive injuries, the Chargers should present a more difficult matchup than it appears on paper (they’ve had to face Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees already this season). For Minshew, he’s averaged just 16.9 fantasy points per game since starting the year with 20.8+ fantasy points in back-to-back games; I have him as more of a mid-to-low QB2 than borderline QB1 option.


Thumbs Down: Derek Carr (v TB)

In general, the arrow is pointing up for Carr coming off a win over the Chiefs prior to the bye week, but he’s really struggled against consistent pressure over the past few years, and that’s what Tampa Bay is expected to bring on Sunday night. Through six weeks, the Bucs have allowed just one quarterback to have more than 14.4 fantasy points in a game (Justin Herbert), and they just held Aaron Rodgers to 160 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Antonio Gibson (v DAL)

Washington’s backfield rotation has been frustrating, but Gibson remains the best option, and I think his explosive, all-around skillset will lead to a full-blown breakout against a Dallas defense that has really struggled to tackle this year. Also, it’s encouraging that Gibson has seen five targets in each of the past three games, so the rookie will hopefully have some chunk gains after a couple of sub-par outings. Consider him a high-upside RB2.


Thumbs Up: Joshua Kelley (v JAX)

The Chargers starting Justin Jackson and giving him the majority of touches in Week 5 wasn’t what Kelley owners wanted to see, but it was probably due to a couple of fumbles in the previous two games, and I think Anthony Lynn—coming out of the bye week at 1-4—will want to feature his best pure runner. Even if he stays around 12-15 touches, Kelley has the talent to make an impact in a game Los Angeles needs to win.


Thumbs Up: Phillip Lindsay (v KC)

Snow is currently in the forecast for Chiefs-Broncos, and that holding true would benefit Lindsay and the running game for both sides. Last week, the third-year back handled 23 carries with Melvin Gordon (illness) out of the lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start and handle the majority of touches on Sunday against a Kansas City defense that he’s averaged 4.8 yards per carry against in four career matchups. Lindsay—who played his college ball at Colorado—seems like a player that won’t be affected by the elements while defenders are potentially on skates.


Thumbs Up: Jamaal Williams (@ HOU)

I have Aaron Jones as my overall RB2 for this week, but there is room for Williams to also put up numbers, especially if Green Bay decides to get back to the running game after last week’s struggles. The Texans’ issues defending the run have been there since before Derrick Henry’s monster day last week, as enemy backs have gone for 149+ yards on the ground in five-of-six games to start the year. Williams is a solid FLEX play.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Davis (@ NO)

Most of the “Thumbs Down” options at running back are guys that will be widely started, but there aren’t many players to turn away considering the weakness at the position right now. While Davis remains an RB1 option because of his feature role for Carolina, I am lower on him this week against a New Orleans defense that’s allowing just 3.6 yards per carry, and they’ve done a quality job containing backs in the passing game.


Thumbs Down: Darrell Henderson (v CHI)

Henderson looks like the clear lead back in Sean McVay’s offense, though fantasy owners probably aren’t comfortable believing that’s the case, and Chicago’s defensive line controlling the trenches is a big reason for Los Angeles struggling in this matchup. With three capable runners on the roster, it’s unlikely Henderson comes close to the 25 carries Todd Gurley needed to reach 97 yards in last year’s slugfest; I have him as more of a low-floor, low-end RB2.


Thumbs Down: Jerick McKinnon (@ NE)

Since starting the season with a touchdown in each of the first four games, McKinnon has handled just 11 touches for 33 scoreless yards over the past two weeks, and drawing the start on Sunday may not be enough to boost him into the clear RB2 ranks against the Patriots. I would rather play Boston Scott on Thursday night, and even Le’Veon Bell—based on his history of success in the snow—might be worth a look in his Kansas City debut.


Thumbs Down: Frank Gore (v BUF)

Again, it’s tough to be picky at running back this week, but Gore is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry for the 0-6 Jets, and they could be forced to abandon the run if Buffalo gets back on track after two disappointing losses. Before being boosted by four receptions for 24 yards last week, Gore had totaled just two receptions for 11 scoreless yards (on five targets) in five games. The veteran is a low-ceiling FLEX option.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Terry McLaurin (v DAL)

This is more of a DFS call because everyone with McLaurin is starting him, but the second-year wideout has been contained in back-to-back weeks, and Dallas should give him an opportunity to connect on more deep balls after they routinely allowed Arizona’s wideouts to get behind the defense on Monday night. McLaurin is averaging 9.7 targets per game and is due for a multi-score performance with just one score over his past seven appearances dating back to last year.


Thumbs Up: JuJu Smith-Schuster (@ TEN)

While it is understandable to be hopping off the Smith-Schuster bandwagon (he’s on pace for just 621 receiving yards), I have a feeling he could explode this weekend in Tennessee with Mike Vrabel’s defense possibly having extra attention on James Conner and Chase Claypool. Either way, JuJu projects to see plenty of single coverage, and it’s worth noting that the Titans are the only team in the league to allow four games of 39.0+ fantasy points to opposing receivers (and that’s despite already having their bye).


Thumbs Up: Mike Williams (v JAX)

Justin Herbert said this week that he’s going to throw the ball to Williams “anytime” he has one-on-one coverage, and that’s good news for him entering a matchup against a Jacksonville defense that has allowed the second most yards per attempt (8.6) in the league. Last year, the big-bodied wideout went for 63 yards and a score on just three targets in a 45-10 win over the Jags, and they remain in rough shape on the backend. The only concern is Williams not yet putting up big numbers with Keenan Allen on the field and Herbert under center.


Thumbs Up: Jamison Crowder (v BUF)

Sean McDermott’s defense—which is struggling in general this season—hasn’t had an answer for Crowder over the past two years, as he’s gone for lines of 14/99, 8/66/1, and 7/115/1 (from the opener) against them. Somewhat quietly, the veteran has seen double-digit targets in every game this season, and he should remain the only reliable fantasy option for New York in Week 7. I have Crowder back in the top 30 at receiver.


Others: Christian Kirk (v SEA), Tim Patrick (v KC)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Will Fuller (v GB)

I’m not sure “Alexander Island” has been a discovered location yet, but Fuller is expected to have a matchup against shutdown cornerback Jaire Alexander this week, and the speed of Green Bay’s top defender should help him neutralize Deshaun Watson’s favorite target. While the upside is always worth getting in lineups, Fuller is more of a low-end WR2/FLEX play for me, and quiet games have been part of the equation for the Notre Dame product since entering the league.


Thumbs Down: Darius Slayton (@ PHI)

Slayton is another player facing a likely shadow matchup this week, and coming in at less than 100% with a foot injury won’t make beating Darius Slay any easier. Last year, the Eagles really struggled against Slayton in the first matchup (5/154/2), but they limited him to four receptions for 50 scoreless yards in the rematch, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz—for all the team’s struggles—has been able to take away the opponent’s top option. Whether or not Sterling Shepard (foot) returns on Thursday night, Slayton is just a WR3 option for me.


Thumbs Down: Henry Ruggs III (v TB)

As stated, the Buccaneers will bring tons of pressure to test Derek Carr’s ability to take hits from the pocket and distribute the ball effectively, and that will be an even bigger challenge with right tackle Trent Brown now on the COVID-19 list. Ruggs III certainly has the ability to get the ball underneath, break one tackle, and take it to the house, but Las Vegas has mostly used him as a vertical threat so far; this is probably the only time I’ll have the first-rounder here.


Thumbs Down: Julian Edelman (v SF)

Edelman has seen at least six targets in every game, but he’s combined for just seven receptions for 66 scoreless yards since a career-high 179 yards in Week 2, and New England’s passing attack is simply difficult to trust right now. Furthermore, the 49ers likely view Edelman as the weapon they need to take away (similar to Cooper Kupp with the Rams), so he’d probably be a fade even if the Patriots weren’t in the midst of struggles.


Others: Brandon Aiyuk (@ NE), Laviska Shenault Jr. (@ LAC)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Rob Gronkowski (@ LV)

After showing some life in Week 5 with a couple of run-after-catch flashes, Gronk fully came alive last week by catching five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown in a win over Green Bay. The most encouraging part of the performance was Gronk getting a one-on-one target in the end zone that he and Tom Brady converted on, and I think that should continue with opponents needing to worry about Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Keep rolling with the six-foot-six pass-catcher as a surefire TE1 for a primetime game in Las Vegas.


Thumbs Up: Evan Engram (@ PHI)

Engram hasn’t faced the Eagles since his rookie year due to injury, but Philadelphia has really struggled to defend tight ends this season (six touchdowns allowed), and his athleticism should cause problems for the underperforming linebackers and safeties on Thursday night. I’m not overly concerned about a lack of targets over the past two weeks, as Engram is still playing over 80% of the team’s offensive snaps; I have him ranked in the top five for Week 7.


Thumbs Up: Jason Croom (v NYG)

If you need a flier at tight end, Croom caught a touchdown last week and brings more athleticism to the position than Richard Rodgers does with Zach Ertz (ankle) out of the lineup. New York has defended the position well, but Croom is at least worth a look for a Philly offense that lacks healthy weapons. If you really want to swing for the fences, perhaps Hakeem Butler will be involved after making his team debut by contributing on special teams last week.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Higbee (v CHI)

Higbee had a season-high 56 yards on Sunday night, but he’s yet to see more than five targets in a game, and he was held to zero receptions in last year’s matchup against the Bears (on 76% snaps played). With options like Rob Gronkowski and Robert Tonyan emerging and Noah Fant (ankle) hopeful to return, Higbee is basically a low-end TE1 play that you need a touchdown out of.


Thumbs Down: Dan Arnold (v SEA)

The breakout for Arnold doesn’t appear to be in the cards this season, and he isn’t even a recommended TE2 flier at this point with no targets over the past two games. For those who want to hold onto a string of hope, Arizona has a point differential of +48 during that stretch, so maybe a shootout against the Seahawks will allow Arnold to be a bigger factor.


Thumbs Down: Eric Ebron (@ TEN)

Tennessee appears to be a plus matchup for opposing tight ends (Darren Fells just had six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown against them), but Ebron has been quiet in other good spots this year, and I’m worried about what the supporting cast being at full strength might mean for his role. The only other time that was the case was the opener, and the former first-round pick had just two targets.


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