Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start or bench. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 7
Tracking my predictions: 3-2-1
Win: Player produces ≥ 80% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >80% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected or leaves with an injury
I continue my trend of being right every other week and exceeding the mark when correct, while being glaringly wrong when I miss. Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift was the choice last week, which played out slightly different than imagined. I had projected a more balanced approach, but he took over on the ground, which was discussed as a possibility.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs. Seattle Seahawks
The future Hall of Famer is off to the worst start of his career and on pace for what will be by far a personal worst in production. Entering Week 7, Fitz is on a trajectory for 94.4 PPR points, averaging 5.9 per game. His previous career-low average was 10.9 in 2012, and he has not even found the end zone in six games.
Fitzgerald experiencing a drop-off in targets shouldn’t have surprised anyone after the Cards traded for DeAndre Hopkins. Wide receiver Christian Kirk is on the upswing, and Arizona drafted Andy Isabella in Round 2 a year ago. At 37 heading into the season, Fitz clearly was on the downside of his illustrious career. However, if anyone expected it to be this bad … I call BS. He hasn’t seen fewer than 109 targets in a full year, which came last season, but he’s on pace for only 76. For perspective, Allen Robinson leads the NFL right now with 66 in six games. The Cardinals’ Air Raid offense was supposed to light up scoreboards week in and week out, and while Arizona hasn’t struggled to put up points most weeks, Kyler Murray has thrown it only 205 times, which is just 10th in the league. Teddy Bridgewater has more attempts for cryin’ out loud.
All of that hoopla aside, no one should care what Fitz has done to date but instead be focused on what he can do against the worst defense of his position. Much like with Swift’s inclusion last week, this isn’t some out-there notion that a player will perform well vs. a poor defense. It is, though, all about expectations, and anyone who gambles or golfs knows managing expectations drives every savvy decision.
In five contests, Seattle has given up the most PPR points per game in 2020 by a margin of 12.1 more than the next closest team, but how have receivers racked up the points should be examined. Minnesota is the second-place team, having allowed five more touchdowns than Seattle’s seven. I’m no math wizard, but that immediately tells me the ‘Hawks must be conceding a boatload of catches and/or yardage.
Yes, to both, is the correct answer.
Receivers have averaged an insane 21.6 catches for a crazier 294.4 yards vs. Seattle in only five outings. Both are easily tops in the league, and the next closest figures are 16.4 catches (Tennessee) and 217.5 yards (Atlanta). Ridiculous. But the rate of one touchdown every 15.4 receptions is tied for the 11th-lowest frequency. What that suggests is a receiver doesn’t have to find the end zone to produce relevant fantasy results, especially in PPR.
Is that result of insane volume against Seattle? Not really. Three other teams have given up seven touchdowns in five games, and only one of them has permitted more than 12.8 catches a game. That says Fitz doesn’t need to be reliant on volume to matter, because he won’t be targeted enough for that to be the outcome anyway.
I loathe relying on past statistics vs. a team, because so much tends to change year over year — heck, week after week — that it’s mostly irrelevant. Occasionally patterns develop, and some players tend to do well vs. opponents the see frequently, such as between these divisional rivals. Fitzgerald has at least four catches in his last three games vs. Seattle, and he found the end zone in two of those contests. Interpret that as you will.
There are several other things worth touching on, like Seattle having extra time to focus on how to stop Hopkins, or Arizona likely struggling to run the ball effectively after Kenyan Drake has shown life in the last two weeks, but it boils down to Arizona will have to throw the ball to keep up with Russell Wilson, and three of the four times Murray has put it up more than 35 times this year have resulted in the top three target counts for Fitz.
My projection: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 59 yards, 1 TD (16.9 PPR points)