Week 7 fantasy football matchups, starts and sits

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Between meetings and a crazy news week (Aaron Rodgers injury fallout, Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga) I was a bit behind on writing this column. So while I'd typically ramble on a bit up here about some insane topic, I'm going to just skip that this week and dive right into the matchups.

Ah, what the heck. I'm having some coworkers over Friday night to watch "Vampire's Kiss," Nicolas Cage's magnum opus of bat s**t crazy overacting. Seriously, if you think you've seen Cage at his craziest, well, you're wrong. It's a life-changing film and I highly recommend you all check it out for some good laughs. Here's a little teaser to get you interested. Now, to the football!

As always, this is where I go game-by-game and player-by-player for every Week 7 contest. Those looking for quick-hitting start/sit/flex/stream analysis will find that listed for the main players for every team. Below that, I do my best to preview the game with additional insight, stats, and analysis to contextualize my recommendations.

This column wouldn't be possible without our incredible research teams, both @NFLResearch and the fine folks at Next Gen Stats. So thanks to all of you and all that you do.

Now, enough blathering on. We've got lineups to set and matchups to explore. Time to dive in.

BYE WEEKS: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans.

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday)


Redskins
 » Kirk Cousins, QB: START
 » Rob Kelley, RB: See below
 » Chris Thompson, RB: FLEX
 » Terrelle Pryor, WR: FLEX
 » Jamison Crowder, WR: SIT
 » Jordan Reed, TE: START
 » Redskins D/ST: SIT

Kirk Cousins has posted 15-plus points and 280-plus yards in five straight games, and is a solid starter in fantasy. The Eagles have allowed five- straight top-12 fantasy quarterback performances. Rob Kelley is set to return to practice this week and possibly game action this week, which puts him on the flex radar. Samaje Perine has managed just 2.9 yards per carry on 34 carries in relief since Week 3, so Kelley should have no problem absorbing a solid workload if healthy. Chris Thompson came out of the bye and saw 20 touches, with the team intimating that he might finally be receiving the consistent opportunity that would make him a weekly start in fantasy. I'd trust him as a low-end RB2/flex until further notice. The Washington pass-catchers are a talented group, but Sean McVay's offense is predicated on spreading the ball around and as a result, there are no trust-worthy fantasy wide receivers here. Terrelle Pryor leads the way with a meager 18.3 percent of Cousins' targets. For reference, James White currently owns 18 percent of Tom Brady's targets. Jordan Reed is working his way back from injuries and lost targets to Vernon Daivs last week. Still, his ceiling is tantalizing at a tight end position bereft of true studs, so he's worth a start. Players in deep leagues could give Vernon Davis a look, too. The Washington defense was just gashed by C.J. Beathard with no preparation last week. Sit them on the road against Carson Wentz and this high-powered attack.

Eagles
 » Carson Wentz, QB: START
 » LeGarrette Blount, RB: FLEX
 » Wendell Smallwood, RB: SIT
 » Alshon Jeffery, WR: FLEX
 » Nelson Agholor, WR: FLEX
 » Torrey Smith, WR: SIT
 » Zach Ertz, TE: START
 » Eagles D/ST: SIT

The Redskins figure to be without Josh Norman again, which opens things up in the passing game. Carson Wentz has proven capable of overcoming tough matchups thus far (QB3 against Carolina last week) and is a fine start at home. LeGarrette Blount has recorded 12-plus carries and 67-plus yards in four straight games (with just one touchdown). The Eagles are a high-scoring offense so some touchdown regression could be coming for the big back. At worst he's a low-end flex play in standard. Wendell Smallwood and the rest of the backs aren't seeing enough work to really consider for fantasy. We're starting Zach Ertz because he's locked into a top-tier workload and is producing. Plus, Washington allows 81.4 yards per game to opposing tight ends, the most in the league. The Eagles receiving corps is a volatile bunch, but Nelson Agholor has shown some consistency. He's had 58 yards or a touchdown in five of six games, with a touchdown in four separate games. The air yards and overall targets are there for Alshon Jeffery, but he has the most tight-window targets in the league (23, per Next Gen Stats), which limits his upside with such a high volume of low percentage throws. Still, a blow-up game is coming and the Norman-less Redskins could be ripe for the picking. The Eagles defense has two-plus sacks and one-plus turnover forced in three straight games, and has yet to post fewer than four fantasy points in a game. They're a solid option this week with a safe fantasy floor.

COMPLETED GAMES

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders, 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS (Thursday)


Chiefs
 » Alex Smith, QB: START
 » Kareem Hunt, RB: START
 » Tyreek Hill, WR: START
 » Travis Kelce, TE: START
 » Chiefs D/ST: START

Alex Smith disappointed last week, but should be in a decent spot to bounce back against the Raiders. They're allowing 242.7 yards per game to opposing passers and are the only team to not record an interception so far in 2017. It'll help Smith having Tyreek Hill in the lineup as well, who was a full participant in practice on Monday after leaving the game following a big hit on Sunday. Hill (neck) will be a starter as usual. Kareem Hunt had his worst game on the ground this season against the Steelers (nine carries, 21 yards), but their defense is no joke. The Raiders defense should offer up more opportunities for Hunt to get going again, as they currently allow the sixth-most rushing and receiving yards per game to opposing backs. Even in a "bad game" Hunt put up 11 standard fantasy points thanks to his receiving upside (three plus catches in five of six games). Travis Kelce has seven-plus targets in every game, save one. The Raiders are middle of the pack against tight ends statistically (55 yards per game allowed, two touchdowns) but Kelce is a mismatch for their linebackers in coverage. The Raiders offense has been a mess during its four-game losing streak, averaging just 13.3 points per game with a minus four turnover differential. Raiders quarerbacks have been sacked 11 times in that streak, with four touchdowns and five interceptions. The Chiefs defense is a strong start.

Raiders
 » Derek Carr, QB: SIT
 » Marshawn Lynch, RB: SIT
 » Jalen Richard, RB: SIT
 » Amari Cooper, WR: SIT
 » Michael Crabtree, WR: START
 » Jared Cook, TE: SIT
 » Raiders D/ST: SIT

The Raiders offense looked like a fantasy gold mine this offseason, but now it's appearing we've been duped. Derek Carr deserves credit for gutting it out last week with a broken back, but he's not the same quarterback right now and can't be trusted in fantasy. He's averaged under 6 yards per attempt in two of his last three games, and has thrown three touchdowns to four interceptions in that span, with a high of 171 yards. Marshawn Lynch has played just 42 percent of the Raiders snaps this year, and averages under 12 carries per game. He needs the team to be in a favorable matchup and game script to be fantasy relevant, and neither figures to happen this week. Jalen Richard is leading this backfield in yards per rush (4.9) and is the most dynamic pass-catcher in space (13.5 yards per reception, 102 yards after catch). He's a great stash in case the team turns more work over to him, but his 5.6 touches per game are hard to count on for legitimate fantasy production for now. Amari Cooper has had 35 yards or fewer in five straight games and should remain on the bench. If there's reason for optimism, it's that Cooper spends more time at left wide receiver (46 percent of plays) than any other position, which would match him up against the beatable Phillip Gaines a fair amount. Michael Crabtree is the only trustworthy fantasy player in this offense. He's had six catches, 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in four of the five games he's played this year. Jared Cook has had moments this year but is far too inconsistent right now and heading into a bad matchup. There are better streaming options. Speaking of, I wouldn't trust the Raiders defense, even at home on a short week, against the Chiefs offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET on FOX


Buccaneers
 » Jameis Winston, QB: SIT
 » Doug Martin, RB: START
 » Mike Evans, WR: START
 » DeSean Jackson, WR: FLEX
 » Cameron Brate, TE: START
 » O.J. Howard, TE: SIT
 » Buccaneers D/ST: SIT

Jameis Winston suffered an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder last week and his status for Sunday is up in the air. Whether Winston plays or Ryan Fitzpatrick fills in doesn't matter to me, as I'm sitting quarterbacks against the Bills. They've allowed just two passing touchdowns this year versus eight interceptions to go along with 248.8 passing yards per game. Through five games they've allowed QB22, QB22, QB28, QB27, and QB15 performances. I'd still trust Doug Martin against this front, though. The Bills have allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back in each of their last three games, and 90-plus yards to opposing backs in two of their last three games. Martin has handled nearly 80 percent of the backfield carries since his return in Week 5, so he should have plenty of opportunities to produce and score. While the Bills have limited opposing passing touchdowns, they've been generous in terms of yardage to receivers, allowing the 10th-most yards per game to the position (158.2). Mike Evans should be started as usual, as his volume (9.6 targets per game) always puts him in position to score. DeSean Jackson found the end zone last week but didn't have the big game we thought he might. He'll get another chance against the Bills, who have been beaten for 330 yards and a touchdown this year from the right wide receiver position (where DJax lines up 42 percent of the time). Cameron Brate is tied for first in tight end receiving touchdowns with four and is sixth in receiving yards, despite playing one fewer game than everyone ranked ahead of him. He's a locked-in TE1 regardless of matchup. His eight red-zone targets are tied for second among all tight ends. The Tampa Bay defense is banged up, on the road, and getting whooped up and down the field. Hard pass.

Bills
 » Tyrod Taylor, QB: START
 » LeSean McCoy, RB: START
 » Bills WRs: SIT
 » Bills TEs: SIT
 » Bills D/ST: START

This would be a great spot for Tyrod Taylor if his pass-catchers were healthier, but with Charles Clay out for this game, his ceiling is lowered. Still, Taylor will be a low-end streamer as he plays way better at home this year (18.3 fantasy points per game) than on the road (10.64 fppg). LeSean McCoy currently leads all running backs in terms of most touches (114) without a touchdown. He's certainly #due, and is getting the volume to give him a chance this week against the Bucs. With Jordan Matthews (thumb) questionable and no Clay, this passing attack is one to avoid in fantasy as it's just too unpredictable. Whether it's Winston or Fitzpatrick under center, the Bills defense is a solid start at home against a turnover-prone passer.

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on CBS


Ravens
 » Joe Flacco, QB: SIT
 » Ravens RBs, RB: SIT
 » Jeremy Maclin, WR: SIT
 » Mike Wallace, WR: SIT
 » Benjamin Watson, TE: SIT
 » Ravens D/ST: START

Javorius Allen has played over 100 more offensive snaps than Alex Collins the last four weeks, yet has a one-point edge in standard fantasy scoring (28.3 vs. 27.3). Allen's saving grace is in PPR formats, as he has 23 receptions in that span to Collins' zero. Neither is a great start this week against a Minnesota defense allowing the fifth-fewest total yards to opposing backs. Joe Flacco and the entire passing attack are, well, not great, Bob. If you're starting members of this aerial assault in fantasy your squad is truly facing hard times and my heart goes out to you. The Baltimore defense could be a sneaky play against Case Keenum and the Vikings, as he's averaging just 199 passing yards and one touchdown per game over his last three (though that includes his relief appearance when Sam Bradford started on Monday night against the Bears).

Vikings
 » Case Keenum, QB: SIT
 » Latavius Murray, RB: SIT
 » Jerick McKinnon, RB: START
 » Stefon Diggs, WR: SIT (OUT)
 » Adam Thielen, WR: START
 » Kyle Rudolph, TE: STREAM
 » Vikings D/ST: START

Case Keenum has only thrown multiple touchdowns in one of five games this year, and only crossed 240 yards in one of five games. Sit him against a stout Ravens defense. Latavius Murray will continue to eat into Jerick McKinnon's workload, but not enough to warrant starting consideration against the Ravens. He's averaged 2.2 yards per carry on his 27 attempts the last two weeks. McKinnon, on the other hand, is a fine play given his passing game work (six targets in both games since Dalvin Cook's injury). The Ravens are allowing 124.5 yards per game on the ground to opposing backs. Stefon Diggs will be sidelined again with a groin injury so leave him on the bench. Adam Thielen was a target vacuum with Diggs out last week, inhaling 34 percent of Keenum's pass attempts. He's a safe play as he's seen eight or more targets in five of his six games. Kyle Rudolph has seen nine targets in each of the last two weeks, which have coincided with Diggs' injury. The Ravens have been gashed by tight ends though, both in the now infamous Marcedes Lewis game and last week when both Dion Sims and Zach Miller found the end zone. Rudolph is a fine streamer. The Baltimore offense is struggling to move the football right now and Joe Flacco has just one touchdown and six interceptions over his last four games. Start the Minnesota defense.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET on FOX


Jets
 » Josh McCown, QB: STREAM
 » Jets RBs: See below
 » Jermaine Kearse, WR: SIT
 » Robby Anderson, WR: SIT
 » Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE: STREAM
 » Jets D/ST: SIT

Josh McCown played the Dolphins back in Week 3 and put up 249 and a touchdown and was the QB22 on the week. To date, only one quarterback has thrown for more than one touchdown against the Dolphins (Drew Brees, Week 4). McCown is a low-end streamer this week, as the Dolphins' stingy run defense could force the Jets to take to the air to win. Speaking of that run defense, no one player has rushed for more than 70 yards against the Dolphins this year, and they're allowing just 76.2 yards per game to opposing backs. With the Jets featuring a timeshare between some combination of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, I'd leave all three on the bench. If you're truly desperate for a wide receiver, Robby Anderson at least has the big-play in his arsenal and is seeing more targets than Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley. Since returning to the team in Week 3, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is tied for the team lead in targets with 29 and is the TE11 in standard scoring. He's close to graduating from a streamer to an every-week starter. The Jets defense was the second-highest scoring unit the last time they faced the Dolphins, but the Miami offense is starting to get it's act together and is at home this time around. I'd stream a different group.

Dolphins
 » Jay Cutler, QB: SIT
 » Jay Ajayi, RB: FLEX
 » DeVante Parker, WR: SIT
 » Jarvis Landry, WR: FLEX PPR
 » Kenny Stills, WR: SIT
 » Dolphins D/ST: SIT

Please tell me you aren't seriously considering starting Jay Cutler in fantasy? He's yet to throw for more than 230 yards this season and has multiple touchdown passes in just one game. He's also tossed an interception in four straight games. Jay Ajayi has shouldered 51 carries over the last two weeks, and remains an RB1 on volume alone. DeVante Parker missed practice Wednesday with his ankle injury and his status remains in question for Sunday. With Parker out/limited, Jarvis Landry has gobbled up 40.7 percent of the targets in Weeks 5 and 6. All that's netted him is 106 yards (and two touchdowns), but he's still flex-worthy in PPR. In standard leagues, you're praying for a touchdown. Kenny Stills has just six targets during the span of Parker's injury. He found the end zone last week but a low volume wide receiver on a dysfunctional offense isn't ideal for fantasy. The Dolphins defense is a solid real-life unit but isn't ideal for fantasy purposes. They've had five or fewer fantasy points in four of five games.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET on FOX (LONDON)


Cardinals
 » Carson Palmer, QB: STREAM
 » Adrian Peterson, RB: START
 » Larry Fitzgerald, WR: START
 » John Brown, WR: FLEX
 » Cardinals D/ST: SIT

The arrival of Adrian Peterson and the healthy return of John Brown has concentrated the Cardinals offense for fantasy purposes. Peterson is the only back to have on rosters and start in Arizona, and an upcoming matchup against a Rams defense allowing 122 rushing yards per game to back (fourth-most) should allow him to pick up where he left off last week. Larry Fitzgerald has seen double-digit targets in four of six games, with a touchdown in three of his last four as well. The Rams are middle of the road at defending wideouts, so there's no reason to worry about Fitz this week. John Brown is a risky flex play, but he has found the end zone in each of the last two weeks, even though he's only seen 11 targets. He's jumped Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson in playing time, only trailing Fitzgerald in snap percentage (92 to 76). Carson Palmer has been solid in fantasy, but the emergence of a running game lowers his already depressed ceiling. There's also a concern that Aaron Donald wrecks the Cardinals offensive line. I'd consider Palmer a low-end streamer against a Rams stop unit that's only allowed two top-10 quarterback performances this year. Opposing defenses score on average 4.5 fantasy points against the Rams, and the Cardinals have just one double-digit fantasy outing to their name this season. There are better streamers available.

Rams
 » Jared Goff, QB: START
 » Todd Gurley, RB: START
 » Sammy Watkins, WR: SIT
 » Robert Woods WR: FLEX PPR
 » Cooper Kupp, WR: SIT
 » Rams TEs: SIT
 » Rams D/ST: STREAM

Jared Goff is back in our good graces with a plus matchup this week. The Cardinals have given up four top-10 fantasy performances to opposing passers, as they lack a pass rush and their secondary struggles outside of Patrick Peterson, who is currently battling a quad injury. Goff should be able to put up strong totals abroad. Todd Gurley's eight rush attempts inside an opponent's 10-yard line trail only Carlos Hyde through six weeks, and his seven total touchdowns are tied for the most in the league among running backs. The Cardinals allow just 74.2 rushing yards per game to opposing backs, but Gurley should be locked into starting lineups for his scoring upside and pass-catching floor (four-plus targets in five games). The Rams pass-catchers are by and large pretty hard to predict, but rather quietly Robert Woods has five-plus catches and 66-plus yards in three of his last four games. He has the fifth-most targets in the league without a touchdown (tied with Julio Jones), so statistically, he's #due. Woods is a sneaky play this week against a suspect Cardinals secondary. Cooper Kupp is tied for second on the team with two touchdowns, but his target totals have been up-and-down. Sammy Watkins, meanwhile, has 10 targets, two catches, and 28 yards since his 106-yard, two-touchdown bomb on Thursday Night Football. We know his ceiling is sky high, but that floor is frighteningly low. The Rams continue to deploy a tight end committee that needs to be avoided for fantasy purposes. Their defense is a fine start across the pond. The Rams have two-plus sacks in five of six games, while Carson Palmer has been sacked two-plus times in five of six games and has thrown a pick in four games.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET on CBS


Jaguars
 » Blake Bortles, QB: SIT
 » Leonard Fournette, RB: START (if active)
 » Chris Ivory, RB: START (if Fournette is out)
 » Allen Hurns, WR: SIT
 » Marqise Lee, WR: SIT
 » Jaguars D/ST: START

Blake Bortles and this passing attack are only (possibly) viable for fantasy in severe negative game scripts, and this doesn't figure to be one. Leonard Fournette dodged a serious injury last week, but could have gone back into the game and should be good to go on Sunday. The Colts allow just 91.2 rushing yards per game, but are tied for second with the most total touchdowns allowed to the position with seven. Fournette hasn't practiced all week and is questionable for the game. If he's available, add Chris Ivory before Sunday, as he would fall into a MASSIVE workload if Fournette is a gameday scratch. This is a situation we have to monitor closely Sunday morning. Whenever you can take a trip to "Sacksonville" in fantasy it's a must. The Jaguars lead the league with 23 sacks and Jacoby Brissett has been taken down three-plus times in four of his five starts.

Colts
 » Jacoby Brissett, QB: SIT
 » Frank Gore, RB: FLEX
 » Marlon Mack, RB: SIT
 » T.Y. Hilton, WR: SIT
 » Donte Moncrief, WR: SIT
 » Jack Doyle, TE: SIT
 » Colts D/ST: SIT

The Jaguars pass defense is legit and needs to be feared in fantasy. Not only are they allowing just 183.8 yards per game with four touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are the best shutdown duo in the NFL. Through six weeks they've combined to allow just 35 catches on 81 targets for 431 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions for a passer rating of 43.8. Oh, and last year they covered T.Y. Hilton for four games and allowed the following (on 49 coverage plays): six catches, 76 yards, 76.3 passer rating. So, yeah, I'm sitting Jacoby Brissett, Hilton, and the rest of the pass-catchers. You might think tight ends are solid against this unit, but through six weeks the Jags have allowed just 36.8 receiving yards per game to the position and two touchdowns. The Colts defense is at home, but unless they force Blake Bortles to take to the air frequently, the odds of putting up a solid fantasy outing are minimal. Frank Gore is (maybe) the only player I'd remotely trust here. The Jaguars are allowing the second-most rushing yards per game (130.5) and Gore remains (for now) the featured-ish back in Indy. I'm not certain the loss of Robert Turbin automatically gives more touches to Marlon Mack, as he's struggled in pass protection. Instead, at least early, it might result in Gore's role increasing even more.

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET on FOX


Saints
 » Drew Brees, QB: START
 » Mark Ingram, RB: START
 » Alvin Kamara, RB: START
 » Michael Thomas, WR: START
 » Willie Snead, WR: SIT
 » Coby Fleener, TE: SIT
 » Saints D/ST: SIT

The Saints offense took a back seat to the defense last week, but I'd anticipate a more typical performance from Drew Brees and co. on Sunday against the Packers. The Packers secondary is tremendously banged up, setting Brees up for a fantastic matchup. Michael Thomas should bounce back, as well. Week 6 was his first game of the year with fewer than eight targets. He'd posted 87-plus yards in his three prior games, with two touchdowns. Aside from Thomas, though, I'd largely avoid this pass-catching corps. Willie Snead is still battling through a hamstring injury and is playing minimal snaps, while Coby Fleener has pulled a disappearing act and the Packers have done pretty well covering tight ends this year. Ted Ginn could be worth a dart throw, as the Packer secondary is prone to big plays. If you start Ginn you should know what you're getting into, though. This backfield now features two weekly starters in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, both of whom have nice matchups. Ingram is the workhorse who should be able to weave his way through a Green Bay defense allowing 102.8 yards per game to opposing backs. Kamara, meanwhile, could be a mismatch out in space. The Packers are tied with three other teams to lead the league with three receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs. The Saints defense might have been a trendy add after their dominant performance last week, but I'd be hesitant to use them here. Brett Hundley will have had a full week of practice reps, is playing at home, and could have some of his lineman back as well (three were missing in the second half last week).

Packers
 » Brett Hundley, QB: STREAM
 » Aaron Jones, RB: FLEX
 » Ty Montgomery, RB: FLEX
 » Jordy Nelson, WR: START
 » Davante Adams, WR: START
 » Randall Cobb, WR: SIT
 » Martellus Bennett, TE: SIT
 » Packers D/ST: SIT

Brett Hundley is not Aaron Rodgers, but the young quarterback could overperform this weekend in his first NFL start, and is one of the best streaming options to replace Rodgers. The Saints defense is improving, but still allows 290.6 passing yards per game, fourth-most in the NFL, and their 4.89 touchdown rate allowed is the 13th-highest in the league. Hundley's playing at home with a full complement of weapons in the passing game with bonus some Konami Code appeal thanks to his rushing ability (averaged 43.7 rush yards per game in college). I'd anticipate the Packers committing to the run early to help their young quarterback, but Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery are clearly in some sort of committee now. I think both can be flexed in what should be a high-scoring game, with Montgomery being the more favorable option in PPR formats. As for the wide receivers, in his relief appearance last week Hundley pummeled his Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams with nine and 10 targets, respectively. Both are strong starts with that type of projected volume to go along with their red-zone prowess (nine combined touchdowns there this year). Randall Cobb and Martellus Bennett are too inconsistent right now to trust in fantasy, though it wouldn't surprise me to see Cobb worked in more to give Hundley an outlet. Still, I'm not starting him. The Packers defense is banged up and facing an elite offense. No thank you.

Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET on CBS


Panthers
 » Cam Newton, QB: START
 » Christian McCaffrey, RB: FLEX PPR
 » Jonathan Stewart, RB: SIT
 » Kelvin Benjamin, WR: SIT
 » Devin Funchess, WR: START
 » Ed Dickson, TE: STREAM
 » Panthers D/ST: START

Cam Newton is riding three straight 20-plus fantasy point outings into Chicago and is a solid start this week, as well. It's troubling that Kelvin Benjamin (knee) could be out, but Cam can get it done on his own, especially if he adds some rushing yards and a score (two rushing touchdowns in his last three games). The Panthers rushing attack is an absolute disaster right now. The return of Ryan Kalil could help, but Jonathan Stewart simply cannot be started. Christian McCaffrey leads all running backs in targets (50) and catches (37), and makes for a fine PPR flex play. His 50 targets would put him ninth among all wide receivers in the NFL, for what that's worth. Benjamin's knee injury might be reason enough to sit him even if he's "active" on Sunday. This should funnel more targets to Devin Funchess and Ed Dickson, though, who both make for fine plays against the Bears defense. Speaking of defense, the Panthers boast a good one and even though they're on the road, I'd fire them up against Mitchell Trubisky. He's thrown one interception already on just 31 pass attempts and has been sacked five times. Don't overthink the fact that Luke Kuechly (concussion) will miss this game. The Panthers still have a dominant defense.

Bears
 » Mitchell Trubisky, QB: SIT
 » Jordan Howard, RB: START
 » Tarik Cohen, RB: LOW-END FLEX
 » Bears WRs: SIT
 » Zach Miller, TE: SIT
 » Bears D/ST: SIT

The Bears passing attack is not even worth considering in fantasy against the Panthers. Zach Miller has found the end zone in back-to-back weeks, but I'm not trusting him against the Panthers. Truthfully, the only player to trust in this offense is Jordan Howard. He's handled 55 carries over Trubisky's two starts, and amassed an impressive 243 yards on those totes. Tarik Cohen had been losing playing time to Benny Cunningham, but last week he played 26 snaps to Cunningham's one on offense, and saw 17 opportunities. I'd consider him a low-end flex this week, but managers should be prepared for a frighteningly low floor. The Bears defense is a surprisingly frisky unit this year, but I'm not starting them against Cam Newton and this offense. Even at home.

Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET on FOX


Titans
 » Marcus Mariota, QB: START
 » DeMarco Murray, RB: SIT
 » Derrick Henry, RB: START
 » Eric Decker, WR: SIT
 » Rishard Matthews, WR: FLEX
 » Delanie Walker, TE: START
 » Titans D/ST: START

Thank the hamstring gods Marcus Mariota appears to be healing up this week. After gutting out a solid performance on Monday night last week, he's been practicing fully. No team allows touchdown passes more frequently than the Cleveland Browns (7.65 percent of attempts), so Mariota will be in a great spot to put up big-time numbers. The hamstring gods giveth, and then they taketh away. Head coach Mike Mularkey indicated on Thursday that DeMarco Muray, who is also battling a hamstring injury, is no guarantee to play on Sunday. Murray has been dogged by this injury all year, and this level of concern on Thursday is enough for me to recommend sitting Murray. Also factoring into that decision is the recent play of Derrick Henry, who the team will likely lean on this week. Henry rumbled for 131 yards on 19 carries last week, and should be able to find space against a Browns defense who isn't as stout against the run as the numbers might tell you. Eric Decker led the way in targets last week, but color me skeptical about this being a turning point for the veteran. I'd leave him on the bench, but would be OK starting Rishard Matthews, who had been Mariota's preferred target earlier in the season (team-high 32 targets in Weeks 1-4). The Browns have allowed the second-most yards and touchdowns (402, five) to tight ends, putting Delanie Walker into focus. The Titans defense isn't a great unit overall yet, but we're always starting fantasy defenses against the Browns. DeShone Kizer is back under center and he's been a turnover machine thus far in his young career.

Browns
 » DeShone Kizer, QB: SIT
 » Isaiah Crowell, RB: SIT
 » Duke Johnson, RB: FLEX
 » Browns WRs: SIT
 » Browns TEs: SIT
 » Browns D/ST: SIT

The Titans have typically been a secondary to target for fantasy purposes, but this is the Browns passing attack we're talking about. Or not talking about, rather, as I wouldn't stream DeShone Kizer or any of his pass-catchers. Sure, this is technically a revenge game for Kenny Britt, but forgive me for not believing this will turn him into a stud. The only fantasy player I want to consider is Duke Johnson. He's outgained Isaiah Crowell 386-324 on 36 fewer touches and has found the end zone three times in his last five games. Other than that, there's not much to discuss in this, especially with Seth DeValve and David Njoku splitting up the tight end work into a frustrating and unpredictable committee.

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. ET on FOX


Cowboys
 » Dak Prescott, QB: START
 » Ezekiel Elliott, RB: START
 » Dez Bryant, WR: START
 » Cole Beasley, WR: FLEX
 » Jason Witten, TE: SIT
 » Cowboys D/ST: SIT

As usual, we're starting the Dallas triplets in our fantasy squads: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant. Three of the last four quarterbacks to face the 49ers have finished as top-10 options on the week. Zeke and Bryant are locked-in starters regardless of matchup thanks to their volume, but an under-the-radar start could be Cole Beasley. He found his way into the end zone twice in Week 5 against the Packers, and the 49ers have been gashed this year by slot wide receivers, allowing 366 yards and four touchdowns. Beasley has played 86 percent of his snaps in the slot thus far. On the year, the 49ers have allowed just 196 yards to the tight end position, and they've faced some good players, too (Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis). However, Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed did combine for seven catches and 102 yards last week. Jason Witten's target totals have been all over the place (three games with nine-plus, two games with four or less), so he's a rather risky play. I'm sitting him in leagues where I have him. The Dallas defense would be on my streaming radar if they were at home, but I'll give the 49ers the benefit of the doubt here. The upside, if you do want to stream Dallas, is their revitalized pass rush (11 sacks in last three games) against a rookie passer.

49ers
 » C.J. Beathard, QB: STREAM
 » Carlos Hyde, RB: START
 » Matt Breida, RB: SIT
 » Pierre Garcon, WR: START
 » Marquise Goodwin, WR: SIT
 » George Kittle, TE: STREAM
 » 49ers D/ST: SIT

We've entered a new era of 49ers football, folks: The C.J. Beathard Era. The rookie out of Iowa came in off the bench last week against a pretty good Washington defense and moved the team right up and down the field, throwing for 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He finished as the QB16 and is definitely on the streaming radar against a Dallas secondary that has allowed a top-14 fantasy performance from every non-Eli Manning quarterback to face them. Carlos Hyde reasserted himself as the leader of this backfield last week, and should be a solid start against the Cowboys, who allow 153.2 total yards per game to opposing backs. Pierre Garcon is one of two wide receivers with 50-plus targets to not have a touchdown yet (Adam Thielen), but his volume keeps him in the weekly mix, especially in PPR formats. George Kittle was targeted seven times by his former teammate at Iowa (Beathard) last week and is a streaming option this week, as well. Rather quietly, Kittle leads the 49ers in red zone targets (eight) but he's only found the end zone once. That could change this week. The 49ers defense shouldn't be started against Dallas' ball-control offense.

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS


Broncos
 » Trevor Siemian, QB: SIT
 » C.J. Anderson, RB: FLEX
 » Jamaal Charles, RB: SIT
 » Demaryius Thomas, WR: START
 » Bennie Fowler, WR: DEEP FLEX
 » Broncos D/ST: SIT

Trevor Siemian has turned back into a fantasy pumpkin of late. After posting back-to-back 22-point outings to start the season, he's failed to eclipse 16 points in three straight games, with two sub-12-point games. He's battling a shoulder injury and will be without one of his top pass-catchers (Emmanuel Sanders). I'd look elsewhere for a quarterback. C.J. Anderson should have been in a good spot to produce last week, but he and Jamaal Charles sputtered against the Giants. There are rumblings that Charles could receive more touches, but I'd still be OK with rolling out Anderson in the flex this week. The Chargers cannot stop the run, and the last time he had single digit carries (Week 3) the team responded by saddling him with 24 touches the following week. Demaryius Thomas is also playing hurt (lower calf bruise) but is fully expected to play on Sunday. He saw a season-high 14 targets last week with Sanders suffering his injury, and should dominate the targets once again. Bennie Fowler is on the deep sleeper radar, as he also saw a season-high in targets (eight) last week, and he currently is tied for the team lead in red-zone looks with six ... with Sanders. He's a dart throw, but one you can see having a solid outing. I'd sit the Broncos defense on the road here. Rivers has only been taken down more than once in two games this year, and aside from his horrific three-interception outing against the Chiefs, he's only tossed two picks on 190 attempts. The opportunities for fantasy points could be few and far between.

Chargers
 » Philip Rivers, QB: START
 » Melvin Gordon, RB: START
 » Keenan Allen, WR: START
 » Tyrell Williams, WR: SIT
 » Travis Benjamin, WR: SIT
 » Hunter Henry, TE: STREAM
 » Antonio Gates, TE: SIT
 » Chargers D/ST: STREAM

Philip Rivers tossed three touchdowns against the Broncos in Denver in Week 1, so a "home" matchup this time around should serve him well. The Denver secondary is still an elite unit, though, so temper expectations for Rivers. Melvin Gordon is back to his true workhorse ways now that his knee injury is in the rearview mirror. He's seen 45 carries and 20 (!) targets over the last two weeks, and can be trusted here, even against a tough Denver run defense. Keenan Allen remains a PPR machine, with four-plus catches in every game this season, though he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 1. Still, his volume remains consistent (averages over 10 targets per game) so he's worth starting. Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams are splitting up the scraps, and with Mike Williams coming back soon, this group can't be trusted in fantasy. Hunter Henry is taking over this tight end group now that Antonio Gates has the tight end touchdown record. In the last two weeks, he edges the veteran in playing time (79 percent to 55 percent), targets (15 to four), and pretty much every other possible stat. The Broncos have been beaten by tight ends this year, allowing the third-most yards per game (66.6) and three touchdowns to the position. Start Henry and hope his ascension continues. Trevor Siemian is playing through a minor shoulder injury, but he's been sacked three or more times in four of his five starts and has thrown at least one interception in four as well. With Emmanuel Sanders out, the Chargers could harass Siemian into a few turnovers and produce a solid fantasy outing.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS


Bengals
 » Andy Dalton, QB: SIT
 » Joe Mixon, RB: FLEX
 » Giovani Bernard, RB: SIT
 » A.J. Green, WR: START
 » Tyler Kroft, TE: STREAM
 » Bengals D/ST: SIT

The Steelers defense has been brutal for opposing quarterbacks, with only two passers posting top-10 fantasy outings through six games (DeShone Kizer in Week 1, Alex Smith in Week 6). Andy Dalton is coming off his bye, but trusting him on the road against this stalwart stop unit seems dicey. The Bengals have averaged just 16.9 points against the Steelers since 2011 (including the postseason), which limits Dalton's fantasy upside. Joe Mixon has handled 62 percent of the backfield opportunities over the last two weeks and is leading the Bengals backs in playing time with 52 percent of the snaps (Giovani Bernard has 33 percent, Jeremy Hill has 18). Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game to opposing backs (112.2) at a 5.0 yards per carry clip to go along with five rushing scores. Mixon looks like a solid flex option. We're trusting A.J. Green as per usual, as he's had five-plus catches in every game this season, and has caught a touchdown in three straight games. Tyler Kroft is an interesting streaming option. He's played 88 percent of the snaps the last two weeks with Tyler Eifert out and is second on the team in targets with 12 in that span. The Bengals defense is a formidable unit, but a risky fantasy start on the road against a Steelers offense that figures to try to control the clock and run the ball a ton.

Steelers
 » Ben Roethlisberger, QB: SIT
 » Le'Veon Bell, RB: START
 » Antonio Brown, WR: START
 » Martavis Bryant, WR: SIT
 » Jesse James, TE: SIT
 » Steelers D/ST: STREAM

Ben Roethlisberger has failed to score 15 fantasy points in four straight games, and his season-high output is 17.52. The Bengals defense is strong, too, so I'd avoid Big Ben. Le'Veon Bell is averaging nearly 157 scrimmage yards per game over the last three weeks, and the Steelers will likely lean on him once again. I'm not sure if you knew this but Antonio Brown is EXTREMELY good at football. He's a constant lock into lineups. With nearly 55 percent of the targets going to Bell/Brown over the last three weeks, there's been little room for Martavis Bryant or JuJu Smith-Schuster to thrive. Smith-Schuster could be taking over some of Bryant's snaps, too, and I'd advise sitting both during this transition. The Steelers defense has multiple sacks and at least one turnover/safety in every game this season. The Bengals allow 10.4 fantasy points per game to opposing defenses as well, so the Steelers represent a nice streaming target.

Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS


Seahawks
 » Russell Wilson, QB: START
 » Seahawks RBs: See below
 » Doug Baldwin, WR: START
 » Tyler Lockett, WR: SIT
 » Paul Richardson, WR: SIT
 » Jimmy Graham, TE: START
 » Seahawks D/ST: START

The Giants secondary has been impressive, but it's hard to turn away from Russell Wilson who was hot heading into his bye with two 27-point plus outings in his last three games. Two of the last three quarterbacks to face the Giants have thrown for 250-plus yards and three touchdowns. The Seahawks backfield figures to have some fantasy relevance soon, but right now we have no idea who will be the lead dog between Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise. Desperate owners could take a stab here, but I'd try and wait as this game could reveal a lot about what to expect from this group moving forward. Doug Baldwin was battling a groin injury but should be healthier now and is a locked-in starter. He's averaging just around eight targets per game during a "slow" start. He's had four-plus catches in five of six games. Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett are high-upside, but risky plays. They've seen 27 and 24 targets, respectively, though Richardson has found the end zone twice. Jimmy Graham had nine yards TOTAL during his first two games, but has bounced back, averaging 7.7 standard fantasy points per game over the last three weeks. The Giants typically get smashed by the tight end position, so Graham is a great start. Aside from the Week 3 debacle against the Titans, the Seahawks defense has had seven-plus fantasy points in every game, with back-to-back double-digit outings prior to their bye. The Giants offense is missing nearly every playmaker they started the season with, so the Seahawks should have solid upside.

Giants
 » Eli Manning, QB: SIT
 » Orleans Darkwa: START
 » Giants WRs: SIT
 » Evan Engram, TE: START
 » Giants D/ST: SIT

After losing four receivers to injury in Week 5, the Giants turned to a run-first, defensive approach that netted them a much-needed win, but limited Eli Manning to just 19 pass attempts. Facing another tough defense in Seattle, Manning must be benched. Orleans Darkwa might be the answer for the Giants in the backfield. Last week was used on 50 percent of the offensive plays, and took his team-leading 21 rushes for 117 yards and added 13 more on one reception. Per Next Gen Stats, despite facing eight-plus defenders in the box on a league-high 81 percent of his carries in Week 6, Darkwa managed the sixth-highest yards gained after a defender closed within 1-yard of him at 4.97 per carry (minimum 10 carries, league average 3.86). The Seahawks present a strong matchup as well, allowing 4.8 yards per carry and the 11th-most rushing yards per game to opposing backs. Evan Engram saw a whopping 48.6 percent of the Giants' intended air yards last week, far and away the most among tight ends. This is great news for his outlook this week (he also led the team with seven targets, five catches and 82 yards last week), though it literally takes the air out of the passing game for the wideouts. Sterling Shepard might be back, but I'd advise a wait-and-see approach before rolling him back out confidently. Engram is the only pass-catching option to trust. The Seahawks offense coming off a bye should be able to move the ball and put up points on the Giants. I'd look for a streamer elsewhere.

Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC


Falcons
 » Matt Ryan, QB: START
 » Devonta Freeman, RB: START
 » Tevin Coleman, RB: FLEX
 » Julio Jones, WR: START
 » Mohamed Sanu, WR: FLEX
 » Austin Hooper, TE: STREAM
 » Falcons D/ST: SIT

Matt Ryan currently sits as the QB25 on the year, but should be able to improve his stature against the woebegone Patriots defense. They're the first team in NFL history to allow six straight individual 300-yards passers. They rank dead last in total defense and passing defense. Devonta Freeman is a must-start, as this figures to be a game loaded with scoring chances and he's seen the ball 15 times (with five scores) in the red zone for the Falcons this year. With points expected to be essentially raining down from the sky in this game, Tevin Coleman could make for a solid flex play as well, but his workload is hard to rely on (averages 9.6 touches per game). Julio Jones is tied with Robert Woods for the fifth-most targets without a touchdown among wide receivers. This would be a good spot for him to get going, as the Patriots allow the second-most receiving yards per game to the position (198.5), with six touchdowns allowed as well. If Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) plays, he'll be a deeper dart throw, and if he's out, Taylor Gabriel could be in the mix as well. Austin Hooper is a top streamer this week, as four of the last five tight ends to face the Patriots have scored a touchdown, while three of the five have gone for 60-plus yards. This is not a game to start fantasy defenses in.

Patriots
 » Tom Brady, QB: START
 » Mike Gillislee, RB: SIT
 » James White, RB: FLEX (PPR)
 » Dion Lewis, RB: FLEX
 » Brandin Cooks, WR: FLEX
 » Chris Hogan, WR: START
 » Rob Gronkowski, TE: START
 » Patriots D/ST: SIT

You shouldn't need me to tell you to start Tom Brady, but if you need encouragement he's averaging 326.5 yards per game with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. Mike Gillislee should ride the pine this week. He hasn't had more than 12 carries or 52 yards since Week 2, and this profiles as a game that should feature more targets for James White and even Dion Lewis. Lewis has seen seven and 11 carries in the last two weeks, with 50-plus yards in each outing. He'll be a nice flex play in this potential shootout. Watch Rex Burkhead's status, he's been practicing on a limited basis this week and could muddle this backfield's outlook if he returns in Week 7. We want to start both Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan, who have been relatively consistent fantasy options. Cooks has 85-plus yards in four of six games, while Hogan has a touchdown and 60-plus yards in four of his last five games. He suffered a rib injury last week, but has been practicing and should be good-to-go here. Danny Amendola's target totals have been up and down, making him a low-end and risky flex play in PPR. When Rob Gronkowski plays, he plays for your fantasy squad as well. Again, this isn't a game where we want any part of these fantasy defenses as it's projected to be the highest-scoring of the week.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar or "Like" his page on Facebook for more NFL and fantasy analysis.

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