By Matt Citak
With another week of the 2017 NFL season behind us, it seems like this year has seen more devastating injuries to significant fantasy players than ever before. Aaron Rodgers is the latest to fall victim of the injury bug when he suffered a broken collarbone against the Vikings, likely ending his season. Rodgers joins the likes of Dalvin Cook, Odell Beckham Jr., Tyler Eifert and others who will be watching the remainder of the season from the sidelines.
We are only in Week 7, which means we are about halfway done with the fantasy football season. Although you might have lost one (or more) of the players mentioned above, it is still too early to give up on your season.
That being said, here are CBS Local Sports’ Week 7 Fantasy Football Starts and Sits.
QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
There is no doubt that Ryan has been a disappointment this season. Through five games, the quarterback has thrown for 1,357 yards on a 65.9 completion percentage, but has only six touchdowns to go with six interceptions. Talk about a Super Bowl hangover… Ryan actually has less fantasy points in five games than Tyrod Taylor, Trevor Siemian, and Case Keenum. That’s rough. But if there were ever a time for him to turn his season around, it would be this week. Ryan gets a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl in Week 7 when Atlanta heads to New England for a Sunday night matchup against the Patriots. New England is allowing an average of 28.3 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Look for Ryan to force the ball to Julio Jones and finally finish with more than 20 fantasy points for the first time this season.
QB: Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills
Taylor hasn’t been great this season, but facing the Buccaneers and their struggling pass defense at home coming off a bye is enough to cure any player’s early-season struggles. The 28-year-old QB has scored 21 points in each of his two home games this season, and dating back to the 2016 season, has averaged just over 21 fantasy points in his last 10 games in Buffalo. Taylor is aided by his rushing stats, as he averages the second-most rushing attempts per game among quarterbacks with 6.4. Add in the fact that he will be facing Tampa Bay, who’s defense ranks fourth-worst in passer rating allowed (104.0) and has surrendered an average of 22.8 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year, and all signs point to Taylor having a strong performance on Sunday.
QB: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Goff has been another frustrating fantasy player to own in 2017. After scoring at least 18 points in three of his first four contests, Goff has combined for just 17 fantasy points in his last two games. Keep in mind though that those two games were against Seattle and Jacksonville, who have two of the strongest pass defenses in the NFL. The young quarterback gets a plus matchup this week against a Cardinals defense that has surrendered at least 26 fantasy points to four of six opposing quarterbacks this season. Sammy Watkins will see a lot of Patrick Peterson, so look for Goff to target Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who have both proven to be able to step up when needed. If you’re looking to stream a QB this week, don’t shy away from Goff.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
His struggles from Weeks 3-5 led to many people doubting he could have any success this season, but Ajayi showed this past Sunday that he is still a very talented running back. The Dolphins fed the ball to their lead back 26 times against the Falcons, and he turned that into 130 yards (5.0 yards per carry). Ajayi has now gotten 53 touches over the last two weeks, more than double the amount of touches he had in Weeks 2 and 3 (26 total touches). The volume is there, and although the Dolphins offense is not blowing anyone out of the water, they have started to show signs of improvement. The Jets may have shut Ajayi down in their Week 3 matchup, but New York has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season, including Ajayi’s dud in their first meeting. Don’t bench Ajay this week.
RB: James White, New England Patriots
White could be in for a huge game with a Super Bowl rematch on Sunday Night Football. While he certainly does not play a large role in the run game, the fourth-year back is incredibly important in the passing game. Tom Brady has targeted White 28 times over the past three weeks, which ranks as the sixth-most among ALL players during that span. Atlanta’s defense has struggled mightily in stopping running backs from racking up receiving stats – the Falcons allow a league-leading 14.4 receiving fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. He hasn’t accrued more than five carries since Week 1, but his receiving stats make him a strong play, especially in PPR leagues.
RB: Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
It seems as if Larry Fitzgerald shared the location of Arizona’s secret fountain of youth with Peterson as soon as he touched down in Glendale. In his first game with the Cardinals, Peterson wowed with 134 rushing yards on 26 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. The veteran running back looked like his old, explosive self, and all of a sudden is very much in the fantasy picture. The Cardinals face a Rams defense in Week 7 that has been surprisingly strong against the pass, ranking 11th in the league in opposing passer rating. However, they have struggled against the run, allowing 4.72 yards per carry, which comes in at the sixth-worst mark in the NFL. Arizona is going to give Peterson a lot of carries again this week, and if the blocking can hold up, the 32-year-old could be in for another big game.
WR: Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
Since DeVante Parker went down with an injury early in Miami’s Week 5 win over the Titans, Landry has been a target machine. Over the last two games, both Dolphins victories, Jay Cutler has targeted Landry 24 times. The receiver out of LSU has caught 13 of those targets for 106 yards and two touchdowns, which represents half of his touchdown production for the entire 2016 season. With Parker still not practicing this week, it seems unlikely that he will be ready to go for Miami’s AFC East showdown with the New York Jets on Sunday. This means the Dolphins will lean heavily on Landry yet again, who by the way has scored at least 16 fantasy points in a standard league in two of his last four contests against the Jets.
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles
When Jeffery signed with the Eagles during the offseason, many thought it would lead to a true breakout campaign for both him and Carson Wentz. While the quarterback has been great, the same cannot be said about his No. 1 receiver. Jeffery has caught only 24 receptions for 317 yards and two touchdowns in six games, but a large reason for that has been his brutal cornerback schedule to start the year. The 6-foot-3 receiver’s luck will likely change on that front this week, as it looks like Josh Norman will not suit up on Monday. In a game that is expected to be a shootout, Jeffery has the chance to go off and finally reward his frustrated fantasy owners.
WR: Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
Don’t look now but since Greg Olsen’s injury in Week 2, Funchess ranks eighth among all players in targets with 35. Unfortunately that did not result in much production last week, as the young receiver caught just three of nine targets for 36 yards against a soft Eagles secondary. This week’s matchup is just as good, if not better, than last week’s. The Panthers travel to Soldier Field to take on the Bears this Sunday. Chicago has struggled to cover wide receivers lined up to the right of the quarterback, giving up the third-most fantasy points per game in that category. Funchess averages around 46 percent of his routes on the right of Cam Newton. With Kelvin Benjamin banged up, Funchess could see double-digit targets for the second time this season.
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets
Seferian-Jenkins has been great ever since he got back on the field following his suspension. The tight end has caught 23 of 29 targets for 152 yards and two touchdowns in only four games. Among the league’s tight ends, ASJ ranks third in targets per game, first in targets inside the 10-yard line per game, and fifth in fantasy points per game. Miami has not been able to defend the tight end this season, and have allowed three different tight ends (in five games) to score at least seven fantasy points. ASJ may be the only trustworthy option in the Jets’ passing game.
TE: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Rudolph has seen his role in the offense increase ever since Dalvin Cook went down with a season-ending knee injury. Over the last two games, the big tight end is averaging a whopping 9.0 targets per game, 33.0 routes run per game, and has stayed in to block on only 8.3 percent of his passing snaps. In comparison, before Cook’s injury, he averaged 3.8 targets per game, 25.5 routes run per game, and blocked on 20.3 percent of his passing snaps. Facing a Ravens defense that has surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, Rudolph is in line for another big game. He will be covered by safety Tony Jefferson, who leads all safeties with four touchdowns allowed in his coverage this season.
QB: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
When he went down with a back injury in Week 4, Carr was expected to miss 3-6 weeks. Yet after missing just one game, the fourth-year quarterback was back on the field against the Chargers in Week 6. Carr didn’t look like his normal self, throwing for only 171 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in a Raiders loss. Oakland has a short week this week as they take on the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Carr’s career numbers against Kansas City are another reason to avoid starting him this week. In his six career games against the Chiefs, Carr has yet to top 13.3 fantasy points or have a passer rating above 81.1. Despite having a good matchup, I’d probably give Carr at least one more week before firing him up in my lineup.
QB: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston scared fantasy owners last week when he left in the first half of Tampa Bay’s 38-33 loss to the Cardinals and did not return. However he was able to avoid a serious injury, and signs are pointing towards him taking the field this Sunday. Even so, I would still stay away from Winston this week if possible. The Buccaneers are traveling to Buffalo to face a Bills team fresh off their bye. Buffalo’s defense has also allowed just 9.0 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, including games against Cam Newton and Matt Ryan. Sean McDermott, the former defensive coordinator of the Panthers and now head coach of the Bills, seems like he knows how to handle the QBs in his former division. This matchup worries me for Winston.
QB: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has looked like a new quarterback ever since the Bengals switched offensive coordinators after Week 2. Dalton has thrown for 826 yards, with a 70.8 completion percentage, seven touchdowns and two interceptions in Cincinnati’s last three games, with the Bengals winning two of those three contests (the lone loss came in OT to Green Bay). He’s averaged 23.3 fantasy points per game during that span. But that trend is going to end this week, as the Bengals will take on the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday. Pittsburgh’s defense has been amazing against the pass this season, limiting opposing quarterbacks to just 10.3 fantasy points per game. Dalton is an easy fade this week.
RB: Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders
Despite coming off his best performance (13 carries for 63 yards, 4.8 yards per carry) since Week 1, it’s hard to trust Lynch right now. The veteran back ranks 26th in the NFL in carries per game and 53rd in targets per game, as he has yet to have more than 13 total touches in any of Oakland’s last five contests. The matchup against Kansas City on Thursday Night Football is actually a good one – the Chiefs have allowed the sixth-most rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season. However, the volume is simply not there, meaning Lynch’s fantasy production is almost entirely dependent on touchdowns. The gameflow will likely work against Lynch this week, as the Chiefs could easily go up big early-on. Start him if you must, but I’d look for another option at RB this week.
RB: Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
Talk about a tease. After bursting out of the gate with four touchdowns in the first two games of the season, Gillislee has been a huge disappointment since. The back has yet to find the end zone since Week 2, nor has he topped 52 rushing yards. You would be hard-pressed to find a running back more dependent on touchdowns than Gillislee. Through New England’s first six games, Gillislee is yet to be targeted in the passing game. You read that right- in six games, he has zero targets. The 26-year-old running back had a bad fumble against the Jets last week, which landed him in Bill Belichick’s doghouse for most of the rest of the game. With it looking like Dion Lewis may have leapfrogged him on the depth chart, Gillislee should remain on your bench this week.
RB: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
Would you believe me if I told you that in addition to surrendering just one rushing touchdown this year, the Saints defense has allowed only one running back to rush for more than 70 yards? Well believe it or not, it is true. This does not bode well for Jones, who has actually looked very good this season. But when you consider the injury to Rodgers, and the likelihood that New Orleans will stack the box against the Packers this weekend, Jones looks like a player to stay away from in Week 7.
WR: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Despite being the most talented player in the Indianapolis offense, Hilton was targeted only four times in the Colts’ Monday night loss to the Titans. He was only able to catch one of those four targets for 19 yards, which turned this into a nightmare for fantasy owners. Things are unlikely to get any better this week as the Colts will battle the Jaguars and their elite pass defense. Jacksonville ranks third in the league with 166 passing yards allowed per game, led by the superb play of corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Hilton is likely to garner shadow coverage from Ramsey this week, who ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 corner in the NFL. He may be tough to bench, but fade Hilton if you can.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams
Watkins’ presence in this section is quite simple – he is expected to be shadowed by Patrick Peterson. Peterson has shut down some of the league’s top wide receivers, and Watkins falls quite short of that category. The Rams No. 1 receiver has totaled just two receptions for 28 receiving yards over his last three games, with Goff only targeting him six times. Watkins has no business being in any fantasy lineups this week.
WR: Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
Whether or not the rumors are true that he requested a trade out of Pittsburgh, Bryant does not deserve to be starting in fantasy lineups. The 6-foot-4 receiver has not had more than 48 receiving yards since Week 2, and has also been held out of the end zone during that span. Not only is he not producing, but he is also beginning to play less and less. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster has played on 35 more snaps and has 50 more receiving yards than Bryant over the last four weeks. The Bengals are giving up the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season, meaning Antonio Brown is the only Steeler receiver that should be starting for fantasy owners in Week 7.
TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Witten has had a very up and down season. After two strong performances to start the year, the veteran tight end disappointed in Weeks 3 and 4, combining for just two receptions for 12 yards. Then in Dallas’ Week 5 loss to the Packers, Witten led the Cowboys with 10 targets, catching eight of them for 61 yards. This week, Dallas travels to San Francisco for a battle with the 49ers. While that may sound like a good matchup on paper, the 49ers have actually been incredibly stingy against opposing tight ends. Tight ends have scored 5.4 fantasy points per game fewer than their expectation against San Francisco, who has shut down Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, and Jordan Reed this year. The targets may be there for the veteran, but I am not optimistic on Witten this week.
TE: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed has been one of the biggest busts in all of fantasy football this season. Appearing in four of Washington’s five games, the tight end has managed to catch only 18 passes for 142 yards while being held out of the end zone. Since missing Week 3, Reed has not seen more than five targets from Kirk Cousins, and still does not appear to be 100 percent. Washington’s Week 7 matchup against the Eagles on Monday Night Football could end up being a shootout, so there is a chance this could be the game that Reed finally goes off. But until he proves himself, Reed is staying on my bench.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.