It’s officially BYEWEEK SZN – a critical time for average and below-average teams to sneak up on an unsuspecting juggernaut weakened by a star player on bye. If you’re one of those middling teams, it’s time to take a few chances, hoping that one of these unknown guys will blow up for a week and put you back in the race.
As always, the primary function of this column is to help you secure the bottom half of your starting lineup.
Fantasy football is won and lost in WR2/RB2 and FLEX spots. The goal is to avoid being the person tweeting screenshots of a 30-point performance sitting on their bench.
Racks: Players that are in a good position to outperform their typical projections. If they’re on your squad, then Rack them into your lineup and don’t look back.
Rests: These are players facing tough weeks, whether due to matchup or other circumstances. Rest them for this week.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo vs. Tampa Bay: In Buffalo there are two camps: the ‘TyGAWD Taylor’ camp and the ‘Tyrod Is The Worst Thing To Happen To Me And My Family And He’s Ruining My Life’ camp. I come down somewhat closer to the latter. Taylor supporters point to his low turnover numbers and lack of supporting cast, but I’d argue the low turnovers are a result of his failure to throw to any receiver with a defender within ten yards, and that the supporting cast never gets a chance to flash with him under center. From a fantasy perspective, Taylor has been a viable option because of the extra 4-5 points he can garner with his legs and a penchant for big plays. In 2017 both of those positives to his game have evaporated, leaving him a below average option unless faced with a poor secondary like Tampa brings to Western New York in Week 7 (31st per Football Outsiders). Start him this week and see if he can start to build momentum long enough to keep intriguing rookie Nathan Peterman off the field.
Josh McCown, New York Jets vs. New England: Josh McCown: Flex On ‘Em darling! He capitalized versus a weak New England secondary last week, even after leaving 6 points on the table after having gotten robbed, beaten, and left naked on the side of the road by whichever replay nerd called this a touchback. Week 7 opponent Miami fields an equally-weakened secondary that should allow McCown to continue to thrive for fantasy teams looking for a replacement QB1.
Dion Lewis, New England vs. Atlanta: Last week’s speculation that Rex Burkhead would be the guy to have in the Patriots’ backfield backfired, as expected. This week I’m going to continue my run of blindly predicting which of these guys is worthy of a Rack and recommend Dion Lewis, who both carried and caught the ball last week, and should at least equal last week’s production versus an Atlanta defense struggling against the run.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: The Colts continue to get the ball to Gore a stunning 17 times per game, despite the middling return of a half-point per touch. Meanwhile, Marlon Mack, who scores nearly a full point per and looks far more capable while doing so, gets fewer than ten touches per game. With Andrew Luck already broken, I don’t see the point in the pass protection argument for Gore, either. With the touch disparity between he and Mack in his favor, you’ve got to run with Gore this week, especially with the enigmatic Jacksonville run defense in town. I’d expect at least 20 touches and 12 yards for Gore, but an endzone plunge directly after Mack breaks five tackles on a 25 yard run, at the end of which he gets tackled at the half-yard line.
Matt Breida, San Francisco vs. Dallas: Even with Sean Lee potentially available, who likely has more sports injury stories to share than the entire NHL combined, the Cowboys’ defense is proving to be as porous as any other team in the league. Enter Breida, who is mired in a timeshare with Carlos Hyde, but who is seeing enough opportunities (nine per game) to think he can be serviceable with a good BYEWEEK SZN matchup like he’ll have at home this week versus Dallas.
Marshawn Lynch, Oakland vs. Kansas City: Regular Flex On ‘Em readers (there are dozens of them!) know about my wet blanket disdain for Lynch both on and off the field. But with a Kansas City defense that gives up yardage in the run game, a must win game at home, and a healthy Derek Carr along for the ride, this has to be Lynch’s week to reward Skittles fans who drafted him.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee @ Cleveland: The same thought process I had last week applies: even in a 50/50 timeshare with DeMarco Murray, Henry is Rackable. His explosive, shut-the-door run in Week 6 turned heads, and I think he continues to see his role burgeon. Cleveland is surprisingly efficient against the run (see more on that below), but Henry is far too talented to Rest – particularly during BYEWEEK SZN.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay vs. New Orleans: Starter Ty Montgomery returned in Week 6, but Jones out-touched him 14-11 and continued to look like the better running back. With Aaron Rodgers out for the foreseeable future, it’ll be interesting to see how hard Green Bay leans on their run game with Brett Hundley under center. You’ve got to really feel for Rodgers, who for the first time ever can’t use the “I have work” excuse to blow off holidays with the family.
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants vs. Seattle: Darkwa has steadily wrested control of the RB1 spot for the rudderless Giants, and now he gets a Seattle team that will stop the pass at the expense of giving up rush yardage. How much focus they’ll have to put on a receiver corp that would be lucky to have Cooper Manning join its ranks remains to be seen, but the opportunities for Darkwa will be there.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona: With Sammy Watkins continuing his Terrell Owens impersonation (without the production to back it up), Kupp has quietly emerged as the only Rams receiver producing at a consistently Rackable rate. I expect Arizona’s already-strong run defense to focus on Gurley, and their below average secondary to let Kupp, who will likely avoid lockdown CB Patrick Peterson, rack up respectable yardage.
Jermain Kearse, New York Jets @ Miami: Kearse and quarterback Josh McCown continue to develop chemistry and turn in serviceable numbers on a Jets team that is, unfortunately, proving doubters wrong. In a divisional matchup against one of the league’s worst pass defenses in Miami, Kearse is certainly Rackable, BYEWEEK SZN or not.
De’Anthony Thomas, Kansas City @ Oakland: Last week it was Albert Wilson who was expected to lead the depleted Kansas City receivers, but Wilson did not finish the game and looks to be a scratch for Thursday Night Football against an Oakland secondary so poor that the people of Oakland are becoming more and more apathetic about the team skipping town. Thomas should step into the Wilson void and see enough opportunities to warrant a BYWEEK SZN Rack.
Zay Jones, Buffalo vs. Tampa Bay: Like De’Anthony Thomas, Jones’s appearance in Flex On ‘Em is the product of injuries to all of the other viable receiving options on his team. The Bills will be without TE Charles Clay and likely without WR1 Jordan Matthews. I get that Jones has had more ball drops than an all boys secondary school, but Taylor has to target someone against Tampa’s 31st-ranked pass defense.
Eric Decker, Tennessee @ Cleveland: Marcus Mariota will have had another week to get back to form and Decker has been quietly productive, scoring 0.66 points per target this this season. He’s not spectacular to watch until he takes his helmet off, but Decker is a solid option against the worst secondary in the NFL.
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: The outlook for Andrew Luck’s 2017 campaign is trending in the same direction as HC Chuck Pagano’s employment outlook: black diamond level downward slope. Brissett has emerged as a competent starter both in reality and in fantasy, but he should stay on your bench in a matchup against the NFL’s best pass defense.
Case Keenum, Minnesota vs. Baltimore: Like Brissett, Keenum has been a pleasantly capable injury replacement in October – even keeping fantasy breakout seasons for receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen chugging along. Week 7 brings Baltimore’s 2nd-best pass defense to Minnesota, so expect a far more typical Case Keenum week, stat-wise.
Matt Forte, New York Jets @ Miami: Even with Bilal Powell likely sidelined again, Forte owners shouldn’t expect him to turn the extra opportunities into a Rackable performance against the league’s 2nd-best run defense. This is Josh McCown’s game; which is a statement you can confidently make in 2017 and further confirmation that football is entirely unpredictable.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee @ Cleveland: I recommended backfield-mate Derrick Henry as Rackable this week; so why the Rest designation for Murray? I don’t know, is it the fact that he hasn’t topped 60 yards this month or the fact that Henry is flat-out the better player right now? Typically, you see Cleveland and think “Auto-Rack” but the Browns’ run defense has been a top-5 unit that hasn’t given up more than 50 yards rushing to any one player yet this season.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore @ Minnesota: The Ravens’ running backs, like the team as a whole, continue to underperform against good defenses. The Vikings are a top-5 group against the run and only get stronger at home, where they’ve yet to give up 100 yards rushing in a game. The Buck stops here (zing!).
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay @ Buffalo: Martin’s production has been on a steady decline since the first half of his first game off suspension two weeks ago, and he now heads north to face Buffalo’s 11th -best run defense, whose defensive line is fully healthy for the first time since early September. That sentence did more running on than I expect Martin to manage this week.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh: For the 7% of owners that still own Hill, keep him out of your lineup this week and next week and the week after, at least until Joe Mixon retires or Hill moves on to another team.
Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: Moncrief’s dropped touchdown pass on Monday Night Football nearly sent John Gruden into a mental tailspin from which he couldn’t recover, and I’m sure fantasy owners were ready to strap into the falling plane with him. While he’s capitalizing on the few targets he gets (over a point per), there are too often plays like that drop that give him a jackpot-or-bust feel. With Jacksonville’s top-ranked pass defense in town, any expectation of a productive Week 7 is the equivalent of picking a number between one and a million and expecting a hit.
Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota vs. Baltimore: Pretty much the opposite circumstance for Treadwell as discussed with Moncrief, with the same expectation. His one-handed grab in Week 6 dominated the highlight reel and may inspire owners to Rack him with only that play in mind, despite that he’s facing the NFL’s 2nd-best pass defense and still has Case Keenum throwing him the ball.
Jaron Brown, Arizon @ Los Angeles Rams: Brown caught a poorly-defended touchdown pass to save what was another low-impact fantasy day in Week 6. He’s not seeing enough targets to warrant a Rack, particularly against the Rams’ top-6 pass defense.
Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore @ Minnesota: Likely shadowed by stud corner Xavier Rhodes all day and still having decidedly not elite quarterback Joe Flacco in a pass-throwing funk, look elsewhere for production.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay vs. New Orleans: Death, Ben Roethlisberger playing possum, and Racking your receivers against the New Orl….wait, the New Orleans pass defense has been quietly efficient and can build on that progress by facing a Packers team reeling after the Rodgers’ injury? What are you going to tell me next? That ESPN and Barstool are working together? That the fashion disaster that was the 80s is now more fashionable than ever? That Donald Trump is President? That’s right. Combine the deep receiving corps in Green Bay and the competent New Orleans pass defense, and you’re going to want to Rest Cobb this week. Packers fans: I’ll be at a wedding in Wisconsin this weekend, so I’ll keep my eyes out for any Brett Favre or Colin Kaepernick sightings. Ed Werder is going to be jelly.
(Future) Fantasy Ghost Of The Week
Each week I’ll highlight a typical fantasy star that will likely under-produce. This doesn’t mean they’re automatic “Rests” – but be prepared to be disappointed.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota vs. Baltimore: Despite the spotty availability (and ability) of his quarterbacks, Diggs has exploded into one of fantasy’s top wide receivers in 2017. With that being said, Week 7 brings Baltimore’s 2nd-best pass defense to Minnesota in a must-win game for the Ravens. Diggs owners shouldn’t expect what has been surprisingly consistent production out of Diggs this week.
Tweets Of The Week
As always, a pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (2-1)
Oakland +3 vs Kansas City
Atlanta +3 @ New England
Philadelphia -5 vs. Washington
*ALL DEFENSIVE RANKING REFERENCES PER FOOTBALLOUTSIDERS.COM
**PLAYER STATISTICS VIA PROFOOTBALLREFERENCE.COM