Every week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com focuses on key recent trends and numbers, and tells you how they will affect your fantasy outlook for the upcoming week.
FEELING THE HEAT:
Players who have positive numbers following them into Week 7.
Ryan Torain, RB, Washington
Stat: In five games with 19 or more rushing attempts, Torain has averaged 119.4 rushing yards per game.
Analysis: Torain was a big disappointment in Week 6, but you have to give him another opportunity to help you in Week 7. The Redskins fell behind last week and had to abandon the ground game, but this time, with John Beck at QB, Washington will likely depend heavily on their running game. Carolina is also 31st in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.
Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle
Stat: Rice has averaged 114 yards per game with three total TDs in his past four games against AFC opponents.
Analysis: With Joe Haden hurting, the Cleveland pass defense looks much more vulnerable. Seattle's offense is showing true signs of life, and Rice is the top target and playmaker no matter who plays quarterback. Start Rice as a WR3 with confidence this week.
Willis McGahee, RB, Denver
Stat: McGahee is shooting for his third consecutive game with 100-plus rushing yards, and he is averaging 7.4 yards per carry in his past two games.
Analysis: McGahee is a South Florida native and University of Miami alum who loves to play in front of the "home folks." He has averaged 85.7 rushing yards per game in nine career games versus Miami. McGahee will be fired up for this week's matchup and is a nice No. 2 RB start.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, New York Jets
Stat: Tomlinson needs one reception to become the fourth RB in NFL history with 600 catches.
Analysis: Tomlinson would probably love to reach the milestone against the team he spent his glory years with, the San Diego Chargers. Tomlinson will certainly be highly sparked to perform well against his old team, and the brash Rex Ryan will likely tell his staff to give him the opportunities to make some significant plays. You must always take note when players face their former teams, and Tomlinson will get chances to score this week. Go with him as a flex play if you need a bye week filler.
Kevin Walter, WR, Houston
Stat: Walter had seven catches for 79 yards and a TD in his last meeting with the Titans.
Analysis: With Andre Johnson still out, Walter is one of the most dependable targets Matt Schaub can turn to. Walter produces his best numbers in PPR formats, as he is not a high-upside player. He does get looks in the red zone, and is a respectable option if you need a bye week replacement at WR.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh
Stat: In his past two games, Roethlisberger has six TD passes and one interception.
Analysis: Roethlisberger threw five TD passes in a Week 5 romp over Tennessee, and now faces the Cardinals, which rank 20th in the league in passing yards allowed per game. Pittsburgh's offensive balance could prove to be too much for the Cardinals, making Roethlisberger one of the better QB starts of Week 7. Mike Wallace is dealing with a hamstring issue, which could make Antonio Brown a top option for Roethlisberger.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay
Stat: Jones will be shooting for his fourth game in a row with a TD reception.
Analysis: Because of bye week issues, Jones will be a popular start in leagues larger than 10 teams. If you are really desperate for WR help this week, though, do not forget about Jones' teammate, Donald Driver. The 36-year old WR can still score, as evidenced by his two TD receptions in the past three games.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
Stat: Smith is averaging 26.3 yards per reception.
Analysis:Joe Flacco has started to take his chances downfield with the rookie, and has seen some spectacular results. Flacco must continue to target Smith to keep defenses from blanketing Anquan Boldin. Use Smith as a bye week plugger with potentially sparkling returns. He is boom or bust at this point of his career, but you have to hope for the boom when bye circumstances dictate.
SEARCHING FOR SPARKS:
These players will look to turn some negative outlooks around in Week 7.
Greg Little, WR, Cleveland
Stat: Little does not have an 80-yard receiving performance or a TD catch yet.
Analysis: This should be the week when the rookie finally breaks through. The Browns need their potential playmaker to get more involved in the offensive flow, and with Seattle losing CB Marcus Trufant for the season, this is a good matchup for Little. Start him as a WR3 this week if you need the bye week sub.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami
Stat: Marshall has one TD reception this season.
Analysis: Another case of a player facing his former team, with much promise. There is nothing more Marshall would like to do this week than to stick it to the Broncos, and you can bet he will get more than one opportunity to score.
Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego
Stat: Tolbert has scored once in his past four games.
Analysis: Tolbert appears to be ready to play after being cleared from a concussion, and faces a Jets defense that has allowed eight rushing TDs, tied with three other teams for the most in the NFL. He will likely still be a goal-line area threat for San Diego and can be considered as a flex option.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
Stat: Jackson does not have a rushing TD since the season opener.
Analysis: Jackson is not likely to find the end zone against Dallas' top-ranked rush defense, which has allowed one TD. The versatile Jackson does have a TD reception, but he no longer runs with the same authority that once made him special, and you can only expect adequate all-around totals at best this week.
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay
Stat: Williams has one TD catch this year, none in his past five games.
Analysis: The Buccaneers have their chance to get Williams back in the end zone this week. Williams has been a big disappointment, but you may have to go with him this week, and Josh Freeman had an encouraging performance last week that only adds more hope.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
Stat:Philip Rivers has six TD passes and seven interceptions in 2011.
Analysis: The Jets have allowed a league-low three TD passes, but as evidenced by the rushing scores allowed, and the fact that they are 16th in total defense, they are certainly not as formidable as hoped. Rivers has frustrated his owners so far, but his top offensive colleagues are rounding into better health and he is a solid Week 7 option.
Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit
Stat: Morris has averaged 33.7 rushing yards per game in his career against Atlanta.
Analysis: Morris is a historically mediocre veteran who does not excite anyone in fantasy circles. But the Lions trust him to at least fill the void left by Jahvid Best, and many fantasy owners are scrambling for decent replacement options this week. Activate Morris if you are desperate, and hope for adequacy.
Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland
Stat: Palmer has thrown four TD passes in four career games against the Chiefs.
Analysis: Such past numbers may seem meaningless, but can be applicable when you consider Palmer's long layoff and hasty insertion into the Raiders' starting lineup. Do not start Palmer this week if you can help it, as rust and not being in true football condition could certainly override his pedigree.
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