Week 7 brings a tough week for fantasy starting lineups with the Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Chargers, Vikings, and Steelers off and plenty of injuries all around the league. There’s an interesting slate of running backs as starters since so many are either on bye or injured. And yet, for all the games that have been played this year, we’re still not to the halfway point of the fantasy season. You still have time to turn around your playoff hopes, assuming you could fill out a full starting lineup this week,
There’s just one undefeated team in the Cardinals and just one winless team of the Lions. Plus, the Texans and Dolphins are on five-game losing streaks. We’re almost to the trade deadline in Week 8, and there’s no telling what will happen in the final moment. But there’s going to be a constant churn of fantasy starters for the next seven weeks of byes.
Every week always serves up a few players and situations to track that could help stay ahead of what is happening.
1.) Saints wideouts – The Saints passing effort started out unspeakably bad for a franchise that had long been an elite offense under Drew Brees – or even Teddy Bridgewater. They faced a weak Washington defense and finally threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns for their first notable passing game. They still lack any 100-yard receiver, but Marquez Callaway finally stepped up for the last two weeks. And Alvin Kamara is getting more work as a receiver.
But Michael Thomas is expected back in a couple of weeks. And Tre’Quan Smith was designated to return from injured reserve and started practicing this week. He’s more likely to play in Week 8. But the Saints passing offense seems to have figured out better how to use Jameis Winston and the next opponents are Seattle, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Tennessee. Plenty of reasons to throw, mostly average or worse secondaries, and an improving Saints effort. Taysom Hill being out may help. But they face a weak secondary of the Seahawks on Monday night. Be nice to see them repeat Week 6’s success and set the stage for Smith and Thomas to step into a functioning passing attack.
2.) TE Zach Ertz (ARI) – The Cardinals are in the third season with head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and they ranked in the Bottom-5 for tight end production the first two years. Maxx Williams was a surprise through Week 4 but he was lost for the season with a knee injury. They traded for Ertz last week after he scored a touchdown against the Buccaneers.
It will be interesting to see how much they use him this week. Williams’ best games came when they faced their toughest opponents. In Week 2, The Vikings held DeAndre Hopkins to only four catches for 54 yards, but Williams turned in seven receptions for 94 yards. When the Rams held the starting wideouts to moderate production, Williams caught five passes for 66 yards and a score. They won’t need Ertz this week against the Texans but may want to “try him out,” and the opponent won’t get in the way much with the No. 32 defense versus tight ends. But it could pave the way for continued usage in the following weeks against the Packers, 49ers, and Panthers.
3.) TE Dallas Goedert (PHI) – The Eagles traded away Zach Ertz as the only other tight end with a catch. It was expected since last summer, and Goedert was destined to be the primary tight end. But over their first five games of the year, Goedert (15-216-2) wasn’t that much more productive than Ertz (14-160-1). The only other tight end on the active roster is undrafted free agent rookie Jack Stoll from Nebraska, who has shined as a blocker.
The uneven play of Jalen Hurts will always be a weekly factor, but now Goedert is in line for more targets and was just activated from the COVID-19 list that kept him out. The Raiders sport the No. 28 defense against tight ends, so this week should be indicative of how much boost, if any, that Goedert sees from Ertz’s departure.
4.) WR Van Jefferson (LAR) – Trends are always interesting, and there’s certainly been one with Van Jefferson as the No. 3 wideout for the Rams. DeSean Jackson’s turned into just one catch every week, and even Robert Woods is well off the expected pace. But Jefferson should be productive this week since his three best games were all at home. The three worst were in away games when he usually had just one catch. The last two home games were against the Buccaneers (4-48, TD) and the Cardinals (6-90, TD). Both came in with weaker secondaries that applied enough to Kupp and Woods that it opened up more for Jefferson.
The game offers the added intrigue of both quarterbacks facing their old teams. Matt Stafford seems likely to look for any fast wideout streaking down deep.
5.) WR Russell Gage (ATL) – Matt Ryan is one of the better passers in the NFL each year. The new offense under head coach Arthur Smith got a slow start, and Calvin Ridley also experienced a down year. Gage was lost in Week 2 to an ankle injury but hasn’t been on this week’s injury report and should return. That could change up the offense. Cordarrelle Patterson really stepped up as a receiver in the four games that Gage missed, and Kyle Pitts finally showed up with a monster performance against the Jets last week.
Gage was a solid producer in the second half of 2020 and was a reliable third-down target. The offense was already going to shift with the addition of Kyle Pitts, but now that Patterson has become a vital part of the passing offense, what happens with Gage back into the equation? He won’t be a critical need against the Dolphins this week but could come into play again more with the following opponents of the Panthers, Saints, and Cowboys. At this point, does he add to the offense or reduce what has already fallen into place?
6.) RB DeeJay Dallas (SEA) – Chris Carson is on injured reserve for the next couple of games, and Alex Collins filled in with 20 rushes for 101 yards and a score at the Steelers. But he was injured at the end of the game with a hip issue that is now termed a groin injury. Head coach Pete Carroll said there was a chance that Collins could play in Week 7, but he hasn’t practiced yet. Collins will get today and Saturday practice to indicate if he can play. The backfield already has Travis Homer who has not seen more than two carries in any game. And DeeJay Dallas saw an increased workload with four rushes for 17 yards and five receptions for 33 yards at the Steelers.
Rashaad Penny will be activated from the injured reserve, which means he may have a chance to play, but it would be a shock if he were given more than a few touches. It is also notable that the Seahawks tried out two free agent running backs this week (B.J. Emmons and Dexter Williams). The Seahawks face the Saints this week, and that could lead to more passes to Dallas. And they host the Jaguars in Week 8 when the primary back will see success regardless which player that is for the week.