The NFL Handbook – Week 7

Another week, another handbook to help you dominate your fantasy leagues, (possibly) make some money, and most importantly, look like the smartest person at the water cooler come Monday morning.

I’ve analyzed the data for each of the 15 NFL games on tap for Week 7, and have compiled this handbook to help you identify which match-ups to target in your fantasy leagues and the best bets should you happen to be in Vegas this weekend.

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the you just aren’t benching, or the ones with favorable match-ups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who you may not start typically, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or guys who’ve been playing well, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to just avoid these guys in your lineups.

Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from sportsinsights.com. A lot of the lines have moved in reaction to the money, injuries, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary. If you have any questions regarding the updated odds, feel free to comment, shoot me an email: leonard@maximizeyourodds.com, or hit me up on Twitter: @maxingyourodds

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3, 1-4 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (3-2, 4-1 ATS)

Spread: BUF -3

O/U: 44

The Bucs have yet to announce their starting QB for this one, but even with a healthy Jameis Winston they have just two wins… Against the Giants, and Bears. Anyone impressed?

I’m not.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
TB 19.97 (30th) 17.80 (15th) 31.18 (32nd) 5.82 (8th) 2.60 (3rd) 7.60 (12th)
BUF 10.13 (3rd) 14.66 (7th) 17.78 (11th) 4.86 (4th) 6.80 (14th) 8.20 (18th)

While the Bills defense has been impressive – allowing the fewest points per game (14.8) – only five teams are averaging fewer than the 17.8 points per game they’ve contributed to their side of the scoreboard so they find themselves in a bit of a catch-22.

Only Miami has accounted for fewer yards through the air than Buffalo, and Charles Clay – the Bills leading receiver who’s accounted for 28% of Tyrod Taylor‘s passing yards – is out indefinitely. Making matters worse, their #1 receiver – Jordan Matthews – is still out with a thumb injury. And, adding insult to injury, the Bills just signed Deonte Thompson; who was released by the Bears of all teams.

Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy‘s 3.2 yards per attempt rank 40th among qualified backs, and I now see why they can’t score. Kinda hard when you can’t move the ball.

Yes, I’ll admit, I have a tendency to be a glass half empty kind of guy. But, there isn’t a much better matchup to be had offensively than the Buccaneers D which is like a partially broken phone charger… Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. The one that you have to hold just right in order for it to charge, and sometimes it works flawlessly while others, you’re left frustrated as hell because you’re running out of juice but need to send out that fire Tweet.

Yeah, that’s the Bucs defense.

After dominating the Bears in Week 2, they looked apathetic against the Vikes in Week 3. They held Tom Brady and the Patriots to just 19 points in Week 5, then allowed Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald to combine for 272 yards while giving up 31 points in a little over a half on Sunday.

I would dive deeper, but there’s not much of a point. I think Taylor, McCoy, and this Bills offense will show some sign of life this week.

*Speed Round*

Fitzpatrick and Winston have combined to throw five interceptions on the season, and through five games the Bills have intercepted the opposing QB eight times. Doug Martin has looked good since returning from suspension, but Buffalo presents the stiffest challenge he’s faced thus far. Buffalo has not allowed a receiving TD to a TE on the season, so Cameron Brate is likely in for a quiet Sunday afternoon…

Bringing it all together, the question really isn’t whether Fitzpatrick or Winston starts, but whether Tampa’s defense can do enough to keep them in the game since it’s not likely that their offense will find much success.

And, the answer to that question is another question, “Define keep them in the game?”

Bucs 17 – Bills 24

Ballers: Doug Martin, Mike Evans, Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy

Under the Radar: Andre Holmes

Temper Expectations: Adam Humphries, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, Jordan Matthews

Bums: Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers, Zay Jones, Nick O’Leary

Carolina Panthers (4-2, 3-3 ATS) at Chicago Bears (2-4, 4-2 ATS)

Spread: CAR -4

O/U: 41

Cam Newton‘s passes were being dropped on Thursday night like his endorsement deals. Yeah, the three interceptions jump off the page, but in reality, the onus doesn’t completely fall on his shoulders.

His receivers were bad, but at least he has some. Which can’t be said for his counterpart this weekend.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
CAR 15.26 (16th) 13.88 (5th) 20.35 (20th) 7.52 (16th) 7.33 (18th) 8.50 (20th)
CHI 13.98 (9th) 18.53 (17th) 19.68 (15th) 7.45 (15th) 11.17 (29th) 9.17 (27th)

Last time we saw Mr. Trubisky he wasn’t doing much besides snapping the ball, and putting it into Jordan Howard’s chest; as the Bears leaned on their run game and defense to come away with the W. An effective strategy against a Ravens D which has struggled to defend the run, yes. But, the Panthers have allowed just 66 rushing yards per game to opposing backs on the season; 3rd fewest.

They’ll have to take Mitchell’s reins off this week if they want to stand a chance.

Yes, I do believe Jordan Howard has to be considered matchup proof at this point. However, give him 36 carries this week against this Panthers front, and he might not make it to see Monday. Yes, Luke Kuechly might miss this one, and yes, he’s one of the best linebackers in the game. But, seeing how the Panthers haven’t had an interception since Week 1, and have allowed 10 passing TDs over the past 4 weeks, I’ma need about half of those carries to be passes; regardless of Kuechly’s status.

On the season, Trubisky has completed a little over 48% of his passes; dead last among QBs with at least 1 start. There’s part of the reason he has just 41 pass attempts. However, Carolina has allowed opposing QBs to complete over 67% of their passes, and only four teams have allowed a higher completion percentage so maybe it’s give the guy a chance?

If so, realistically, he’ll probably wind up somewhere in the middle, around a 58% completion rate. So, let’s say he attempts 25 passes, at 58% that’s 14.5 completions. He’s averaging a far from robust 12.05 yards per completion, so that puts him at about 175 passing yards. Or, seven fantasy points. The Panthers are allowing just 216 yards per game through the air, so that seems like a fair estimate.

The question now becomes, who’s going to be on the receiving end? And, can they find the end zone?

Well, through two starts, 44% of his passes have targeted his tight ends Zach Miller, and Dion Sims. That’s cool and all, but no tight end – not named Rob Gronkowski – has reached the 30 yard mark against this Panthers defense. Zach Ertz – who’s been otherworldly to start the season – was held to 2 catches for 18 yards. Charles Clay – who was balling before injury – 3 catches, 23 yards. Coby Fleener, Darren Fells, George Kittle… All similar fates.

On the bright side, the Panthers have allowed multiple TDs to tight ends in back-to-back weeks. And, as I mentioned, Kuechly might be out again this week making the matchup even more suitable for the youngster. Problem is, the Lions and Eagles have receivers to make plays and get the ball down the field to put their TEs in position to catch 4-yard TDs. And, Chicago had one, uno, a lone solitary receiver receive a target Sunday against the Ravens. His name is Kendall Wright, and he brought in two passes for 36 yards.

Obviously, special teams, turnovers, etc play a role, and by these means, Trubisky could very well find himself in a position to add a TD or two through the air. But, it’s hard to bank on that. At the very best, you’re looking at around 17 fantasy points. Which, to me, makes him worth the risk if you’re in a jam and need a streamer.

The downside, though? His floor is the 9 points he’s put up in each of his two starts. At the same time, if he can go into Baltimore – in his 1st career road start – and put up 9 fantasy points against that secondary. You have to figure his floor is a bit higher at home in a much more favorable matchup.

Defensively, the Bears have been one of the bigger surprises this season. Over the past three weeks, they’ve held Aaron Rodgers to 179 yards, Case Keenum + Sam Bradford to 176, and Joe Flacco to 180. On the season, they’ve yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, and the 95.67 yards per game they’re allowing on the ground to opposing backs is just slightly above the league average.

They’re one of the more underrated units in the league.

Cam Newton owners would be wise to take heed because the 4 TDs we saw Rodgers hang on them a few weeks back seem like a distant memory, and no other QB has managed to put up more than one against them. A list that includes names like Ryan, Roethlisberger, and Winston.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a Top-12 fantasy QB, but don’t expect the 20+ points we’ve seen these past three weeks. Unless, of course, he gets a TD on the ground; I mean he does have three rushing TDs over the Panthers last 4 games.

Long story short, if you like defense and punting, be sure to tune into this game. If you’re looking for fantasy value, it’s probably best you look elsewhere. Christian McCaffrey is a no-brainer in PPR leagues, and for the most part, #1 receivers have found success against the Bears so you’re rolling with Kelvin Benjamin. But, outside of those two, it’s a dice roll.

In reality football, Chicago has been blown out twice on the season, and they had four turnovers in each of those losses. On a per game basis, the Panthers have the fewest takeaways (a total of 4), so chances are the Bears will be able to take care of the football here, and when they’ve been successful in the turnover category, they’ve been successful as a whole. I like them to cover the 4.

Panthers 23 – Bears 20

Ballers: Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Howard

Under the Radar: Mitchell Trubisky, Zach Miller

Temper Expectations: Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart, Devin Funchess, Kendall Wright

Bums: Ed Dickson, Tarik Cohen, Josh Bellamy, Tre McBride, Dion SIms

Tennessee Titans (3-3, 3-3 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (0-6, 1-5 ATS)

Spread: TEN -5

O/U: 46.5

I’ve made a gang of bad calls in my lifetime: buying a $40k sports car at 21, putting partying above academics throughout college, wearing clothes three sizes too big for a good 10 year stretch…

Suggesting that Kevin Hogan would have a good game against Houston last week.

Thankfully, I’m still breathing, and none of my decisions have been too life threatening. But, it was tough to breathe as I watched the Browns offense flounder on Sunday. I can only imagine how Hugh Jackson felt on the sideline, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with the decision to go back to Kizer.

The Browns are a mess.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
TEN 19.28 (27th) 17.17 (14th) 23.65 (23rd) 6.45 (9th) 6.83 (16th) 10.33 (29th)
CLE 20.53 (31st) 15.33 (10th) 19.93 (17th) 11.73 (31st) 12.83 (32nd) 6.00 (3rd)

It would appear to be a favorable matchup for Kizer, but I refuse to go back down that path for two reasons:

  1. The man was just benched in favor of Kevin Hogan, and
  2. Tennessee’s pass defense has actually been less than terrible recently

With regard to #2, the Titans have given up a total of 304 yards through the air over the past two weeks while allowing just two passing TDs, and grabbing 1 INT. No, neither Brissett nor Cutler are dominant QBs, but if you had to pick one to start one game tomorrow between those two and Kizer, who would you go with?

My point exactly.

If Kizer is to have any value this week it’ll come from his legs. Thing is, the Titans have held Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Jacoby Brissett to a combined 65 yards rushing. So, unless he finds his way into the end zone, those 2 points aren’t worth consideration.

Oh, and did I mention the Browns running backs have accounted for a lousy 378 rushing yards this season? None of their backs have managed to exceed the 60 yard mark on the ground, and seeing how Tennessee has allowed just 84.8 yards per game to opposing backs, the odds of that changing this week are slim to none.

If there’s one glimmer of hope for this Browns offense, it’s the fact that 4 of the 7 tight ends – who’ve received at least two targets against the Titans – have reached the 50 yard mark, and Seth Devalve has the 3rd most receiving yards for this Browns “offense”.

I’m reaching, so just suffice it to say, if you’re starting a Brown this week, you’re doing it wrong. But, for the Titans, the advice is a bit more complicated.

Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing yards per game to opposing backs than the 72.17 allowed by Cleveland; they’ve also allowed just two rushing TDs. And while they have shown some vulnerability to backs from the receiving perspective, Murray looks to be less than 100%, and Henry has a grand total of two receptions on the season.

Not exactly a favorable matchup.

Through the air, the Titans receivers showed signs of life with Mariota back under center against the Colts, but he’s obviously less than 100% as well. Being another week removed from the injury, you have to figure he’ll look a bit sharper this time out, but over the past three weeks Cleveland has held A.J. Green to 63 yards, and DeAndre Hopkins to 19. Granted, they allowed 5 passing TDs to WRs over that stretch, but the yardage hasn’t quite been what you might think.

Two of Mariota’s four passing TDs on the season have gone to his WRs – Matthews caught one in Week 3, and Taylor another last week – so expecting a Titans receiver to ball out all of a sudden isn’t exactly a safe bet. Delanie Walker, however, is about as close to a lock as you’ll see as the Browns have been miserable against opposing tight ends.

I’m not expecting much offense in this one – specifically, when the Browns have the ball – and while I wish I could come up with some possible scenario which the Browns keep this game within 10 points…

I just can’t.

Titans 27 – Browns 13

Ballers: Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker

Under the Radar: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Ricardo Louis

Temper Expectations: DeMarco Murray, Duke Johnson

Bums: Derrick Henry, DeShone Kizer, Isaiah Crowell, Kasen Williams, Kenny Britt, David Njoku, Seth Devalve

New Orleans Saints (3-2, 3-2 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (4-2, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: NO -5.5

O/U: 48

Backup QBs – on good teams – very rarely see the field, but their primary responsibility is to be prepared to conduct the offense should the starter go down. However, when you’re Brett Hundley – an unproven, 3rd year guy who’s played behind one of the all-time greats your entire career – human nature suggests that you’re expectations on seeing the field any given Sunday are probably next to none.

Just sit back, enjoy the perks of being in the NFL, and more importantly, count the checks.

That said, I’m not going to put too much stock in Hundley’s 1 TD/3 INT performance against the Vikings. Not only is that one of the toughest defenses in the league, but I can’t imagine his mind being in the right place when called upon early in the 1st quarter. He went from searching the crowd for groupies, to starting QB for the Green Bay Packers in a matter of minutes. Surely, his mind was blown.

He’s now had some time to process the situation, and a full week of preparation, so let’s hold off on passing judgement for the moment.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
NO 17.04 (21st) 17.88 (16th) 24.48 (27th) 7.98 (19th) 3.00 (4th) 8.00 (14th)
GB 14.50 (13th) 20.33 (25th) 20.28 (19th) 3.23 (2nd) 8.83 (25th) 8.67 (21st)

The good news for the Packers is that there’s not a much better situation for a QB to be groomed in than that which Hundley has seen to start his career. He gets to learn from and observe one of the greats on a daily basis, has one of the best receiving corps in the league at his disposal, and plays in a prolific offense.

The bad news is, this Saints defense has finally turned the corner.

Over their past three games, this unit has allowed just 3 passing TDs while compiling 7 INTs, 13 sacks, and forcing/recovering 2 fumbles. They’ve held opposing QBs to an average of 220 passing yards per game (well below the league average on the season), haven’t allowed a single RB to put up 60 yards against them (or find the end zone), and have given up an average of 15 points per game.

And, they didn’t face scrubs.

The Packers have their work cut out for them, and unfortunately, the injuries don’t begin or end with Mr. Rodgers. It’s not all bad for this offense, however, as the Saints have allowed 69.6 receiving yards per game to opposing backs. Having a healthy Montgomery means plenty of dump offs which could bode well for Hundley’s confidence. Still, it’s probably best to take a wait and see approach with your Packers from the fantasy standpoint.

The same can’t be said for the Saints.

Last week I mentioned how trading AP would result in addition by subtraction for this run game, and they made me look exponentially smarter than I am. All told, Ingram and Kamara combined to put up 189 rushing yards; easily the Saints highest rushing yardage total of the season. And, this week? They get this Packers team which has allowed more rushing yards per game to opposing backs than all but 9 teams.

With Rodgers at the helm, this game would be a toss-up. Without him, I don’t see them scoring enough to keep up. Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?!

Packers 13 – Saints 34

Ballers: Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams, Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas

Under the Radar: Alvin Kamara, Saints DST

Temper Expectations: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Martellus Bennett, Brandon Coleman, Ted Ginn, Willie Snead

Bums: Brett Hundley, Aaron Jones, Coby Fleener

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3, 3-3 ATS) at Indianapolis Colts (2-4, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: JAX -3

O/U: 44.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
JAX 7.19 (1st) 20.72 (27th) 13.32 (2nd) 8.20 (20th) 5.67 (11th) 8.17 (17th)
IND 19.69 (29th) 22.73 (31st) 24.22 (24th) 8.92 (26th) 12.00 (31st) 12.17 (32nd)

On paper, this game looks to be a blowout. The Jags have shut down every QB they’ve faced (Jacoby Brissett is around the bottom of the list of QBs they’ve faced this season in terms of pedigree), they’re also allowing the 7th fewest points per game at 18.3 (the Colts aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut), and the Colts defense ranks among the worst in every fantasy, real life, or really any measurable metric this season.

Yet, the line opened at a measly 3? What gives?

I’m really not sure, but one thing I’ve learned in my years of looking at Vegas odds, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. There’s a reason the Jags didn’t open up as 6, or even 7, point favorites and I believe it begins with that aforementioned shut down defense.

What kryptonite is to Superman, the opposing run game is to this Jags defense; only the Chargers have allowed more rushing yards per game to opposing backs. And, while the Colts run game has been far from dominant this season, Frank Gore is still productive and Marlon Mack has shown signs of promise. That’s part one of my hypothetical reasoning.

Part two has little to do with the Colts, more to do with sheer luck, and is merely an opinion. Fournette is currently listed as questionable, but if I had to bet, I’d say he plays. Thing is, the future of this franchise – from an offensive perspective – is largely dependent on him being on the field. It would be wise to decrease the amount of work he receives in an effort to ensure he’s available not only later in the season, but for seasons to come.

That said, logic suggest that we may see more Chris Ivory this week than we’ve seen in weeks past. Sure, he’s been an effective change of pace back this season, but history says the Jags offense will take a step back if this is how the game plays out. Whether that be due to more Ivory, less Fournette, more Bortles or any combination of the such.

Which leads me to part three, more Bortles. Ideally, facing a Colts defense which has allowed an average of 308 passing yards per game would be a good thing. The problem with that line of thought is the fact that only 9 QBs have thrown more passes to the opposition than Bortles this season, and surprisingly, the Colts rank 5th on the season in INTs.

There’s a reason the Jags have more rushing attempts than any other team this season.

Again, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. And, (part four) the Colts have been a noticeably better team at home. True, that’s a lot of things that need to go right for the Colts to compete, but I thought the same thing about the Jets against these same Jags a few weeks back.

PS – If you need a QB streamer this week, you could do worse than Bortles. However, unless you’re in a league which doesn’t penalize interceptions, I wouldn’t go overboard with the expectations.

Jags 16 – Colts 17

Ballers: Leonard Fournette

Under the Radar: Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Chris Ivory, Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, Jack Doyle

Temper Expectations: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief

Bums: Marcedes Lewis, Jacoby Brissett, Kamar Aiken

Arizona Cardinals (3-3, 1-5 ATS) at Los Angeles Rams (4-2, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: LAR -3

O/U: 47.5

The Cardinals are officially on my shit list. All season I’ve rationalized their performance, and when I finally cut ties and call it wrap, they come out and ball their asses off. What in the tarnation is really going on?!

Who knows, but one thing is for sure, AP looked good. And, you have to like his odds at making it two straight impressive performances as he’ll face a Rams D which just allowed Fournette to drop a buck thirty.

Oh, joy… Just realized this was another one of those London games *sarcastic yay*

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
LAR 14.84 (15th) 25.72 (32nd) 16.58 (8th) 6.67 (12th) 4.50 (8th) 7.17 (10th)
ARI 19.47 (28th) 15.10 (8th) 26.77 (30th) 8.40 (23rd) 8.50 (23rd) 8.00 (14th)

Like I said, AP has a pretty good chance at making it two straight, but the biggest issue with having any real confidence in a repeat performance from this Cards offense is the high probability that Carson Palmer does not look like he’s at USC again this week.

Although, the Rams do call Los Angeles home.

Through six games, the Rams have allowed a QB to throw multiple TD passes just twice, and the 230.2 yards they’re allowing per game through the air is slightly below the league average. On the other hand, the Bucs D Palmer faced last week is one of the league’s worst in defending the pass.

So yeah, he capitalized on a good matchup, but at the same time, his 22 pass attempts were his fewest of the season. Why that matters? Well, to this point in the season, much of his production has come as a direct result of volume. In fact, no QB has attempted more passes than Carson on the year. And, now that AP is in the fold, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Palmer’s yardage totals consistently fall below the 300 yard mark as his passing volume will surely decrease.

The QB on the other sideline, Mr. Jared Goff, has come back down to Earth a bit these past two weeks after impressing in three of the Rams 1st four games. Yeah, well, matchups with the Seahawks and Jaguars will do that. The Seahawks are allowing an average of 11.5 fantasy points to opposing QBs, and the Jags? 7.2.

Add them together and you still don’t match the 19.5 the Cards have allowed to QBs on the year.

Goff will be fine, but it’ll be interesting to see who Patrick Peterson lines up against. When Sammy Watkins received the weather upgrade, I think everyone assumed he’d be the #1 receiver in this offense. Well, we’re through six weeks, and he sits 4th on the team in not only receiving yards, but targets. It seems crazy to cut bait with Watkins this early in the season, but at this point, Woods is clearly the receiver to own. Especially, if Watkins is going to continue to draw the oppositions top corner.

We’ve now come full circle.

49, 12, 31… The yardage totals put up by T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant, and Alshon Jeffery against 6x Pro Bowler P2. Thing is, the Cardinals have still managed to give up the 6th most receiving yards to opposing WRs. Translation: Woods, and Kupp will continue to eat while Watkins fades further into the land of irrelevance.

Sad.

Cardinals 23 – Rams 31

Ballers: Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley

Under the Radar: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp

Temper Expectations: Jaron Brown, John Brown, Sammy Watkins

Bums: Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, J.J. Nelson, Jermaine Gresham, Tavon Austin, Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee

New York Jets (3-3, 4-2 ATS) at Miami Dolphins (3-2, 3-2 ATS)

Spread: MIA -3.5

O/U: 38.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
NYJ 16.06 (19th) 21.45 (29th) 19.45 (14th) 8.78 (25th) 8.00 (20th) 4.00 (1st)
MIA 14.10 (10th) 15.20 (9th) 19.22 (13th) 7.92 (18th) 8.80 (24th) 6.40 (5th)

Raise your hand if you saw the AFC East being arguably the most competitive division – top to bottom – this season. If your hand is up, you’re probably lying, but that’s ok. Nobody has to know.

The Patriots were supposed to run away another division crown, yet they’re a “fumble” away from starting 0-1 in the division. I think most of us figured Miami would be the next closest contender; their offense is atrocious. The Bills cleaned house, yet have managed to exceed even the most optimistic of projections. And here we are with a Jets/Dolphins matchup that actually matters… In Week 7.

Who saw that coming?

Nobody. Thing is, nobody really cares either. Sure, this game has meaning to the players, coaches, and fans of these teams, but for the rest of us? It’s just a game featuring two weak offenses, and 50 shades of green.

I’ll keep it overly complexly simple.

The Dolphins defense is good, so if you were starting any Jets you’re not this week, but you probably weren’t anyway because the Jets offense is bad. The Jets defense is ok, but the Dolphins offense is torpid, so you’re not starting any Dolphins this week because their listless offense will probably make the Jets ok defense look good.

Dolphins avoid being swept. The end.

Jets 10 – Dolphins 14

Ballers: Jarvis Landry

Under the Radar: Jermaine Kearse, Julius Thomas

Temper Expectations: Josh McCown, Matt Forte, Robby Anderson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jay Cutler, Jay Ajayi, Kenny Stills

Bums: Elijah McGuire

Baltimore Ravens (3-3, 3-3 ATS) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: MIN -4.5

O/U: 39.5

With Teddy Bridgewater cleared to practice, the Vikings QB situation just become even more interesting.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Ravens.

I’m not thinking there are many of you left, but those of you still holding out hope on Joe Flacco returning to form… Yeah, it’s probably not going to happen this week.

… Back to Teddy.

Case Keenum has played well for the Vikes, and actually well might be an understatement. He sits 13th in completion percentage, 11th in QB rate, and has just one interception on the season (fewer than every QB with at least three starts who’s not named Alex Smith). Keenum’s predecessor, Sam Bradford, had the best season of his career in 2016, and looked poised for a repeat – completing 84% of his passes for 346 yards and 3 TDs in Week 1 – before injuring his knee.

Frankly, Bridgewater may be the odd man out given the uncertainty on how he’ll perform after dislocating his knee AND tearing his ACL at the same time. But, let’s not forget, the Vikings drafted Teddy in the 1st round of 2014’s draft and he rewarded them by claiming Rookie of the Year honors.

Like I said, it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. But, for now (and the foreseeable future) Keenum is the guy, and deservedly so.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
BAL 10.91 (4th) 21.22 (28th) 13.68 (3rd) 11.05 (30th) 9.33 (28th) 7.00 (7th)
MIN 12.23 (6th) 11.70 (2nd) 20.78 (21st) 7.77 (17th) 3.33 (6th) 7.67 (13th)

Here lies the problem(s) with trusting Keenum this week. The Ravens have allowed fewer passing yards per game than all but three teams while allowing more rushing yards than all but two. Surely, the Vikings coaching staff has taken notice, and seeing how the Vikings have the 6th most rushing attempts heading into the week, I think it’s safe to assume a big day for Jerick McKinnon (who’s looked incredible in Cook’s absence).

While we’re on absences, Stefon Diggs is dealing with a gimpy groin, missed last week’s game, and is yet to practice this week. Further suggesting you should look for other options this week if you’ve been rolling with Keenum as a streamer.

The injury bug hasn’t been kind to Baltimore either, and in fact, they may have been hit harder than any other team to this point in the season. As of now, they’re down to four healthy receivers – Wallace, Campanaro, Moore, Whalen – with Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) and Breshad Perriman (concussion) questionable. And, to make matters worse, Mike Wallace missed Wednesday’s practice.

Yikes.

Luckily for Baltimore, their ground game has been their saving grace offensively; ranking 7th in rushing offense. Well, just in case you needed more reason to condemn this Ravens offense this week, Minnesota has allowed just 71.8 yards per game to opposing backs this season; fewer than all but four teams.

It took two special teams TDs, and two turnovers for this Ravens team to remain competitive last week. Buuuut, they still lost. To the Bears.

Sorry Ravens fans, but this one is already over.

Ravens 10 – Vikings 17

Ballers: Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Rudolph

Under the Radar: Ben Watson

Temper Expectations: Case Keenum, Adam Thielen

Bums: Joe Flacco, Javorius Allen, Alex Collins, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Nick Boyle, Latavius Murray, Laquon Treadwell

Dallas Cowboys (2-3, 2-3 ATS) at San Francisco 49ers (0-6, 4-2 ATS)

Spread: DAL -6

O/U: 47

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
DAL 18.64 (25th) 20.12 (23rd) 24.42 (26th) 6.88 (13th) 5.20 (10th) 8.80 (23rd)
SF 19.03 (26th) 22.60 (30th) 22.63 (22nd) 3.13 (1st) 5.83 (12th) 11.83 (31st)

The 49ers have lost five straight games by three points or less; which is beyond impressive on several fronts.

For starters, the fact that they’ve been that competitive – for that long – is an unexpected turn of events. Sure, I think most expected they’d be improved given their regime change, roster construct, and draft picks.

But, they’re still the Niners.

Secondly, they’re 0-6. Maybe it’s just me, but for you to have a chance to win five games, and come away with zero? Well, that takes talent. I mean even the most unluckiest of the unlucky would have come away with at least one W. And, the fact they’ve failed to do so deserves some respect.

The close Ls were fun while they lasted.

San Francisco traded away Navorro Bowman, and have four starters currently listed as questionable (or out) Sunday against Dallas. Not good considering they weren’t very good defensively to begin with. What is good, though? The C.J. Beathard experiment.

After watching Hoyer struggle mightily through a quarter and a half – and most of the season for that matter – Shanahan decided to turn to the rookie. His decision was rewarded by the 49ers erasing a 17 point deficit and nearly leaving Landover with a W… Nearly.

Well, Beathard will get another shot at that victory as he draws his 1st career start this week. Makes sense, Shanahan really has no other choice than to find out whether or not the former Hawkeye can really ball, and you have to like his odds this week given the matchup.

The Cowboys have allowed QBs the 11th most passing yards per game, the 6th highest QB rate, only four teams have given up more passing TDs, and just three teams have allowed more points per game. Can’t ask for a much better look. As a rookie. Making your 1st career start… On the road.

Problem is, they’re facing a 2-3 Cowboys team who find themselves in a proverbial “must-win” situation as they watch Philly run away with the division.

Not a good look.

49ers 20 – Cowboys 31

Ballers: Carlos Hyde, Pierre Garcon, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant

Under the Radar: Terrance Williams

Temper Expectations: George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten

Bums: C.J. Beathard

Seattle Seahawks (3-2, 2-3 ATS) at New York Giants (1-5, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: SEA -7

O/U: 39

New Yorkers have a tendency to overreact, and haters have a tendency to hate. Well, both have been justified in voicing their displeasure with this New York Giants football team. Thing is, when looking at these two strictly in terms of quality football, Seattle really hasn’t been much better.

Sure, they’re 3-2. But, two of their three wins came against the 49ers and Colts and neither team is too far removed from the SEC. In fact, in Seattle’s three games not played against Alabama and Georgia, they’re 1-2 with a -6 point differential.

Not very good.

So, yeah. The records suggest that Seattle is the much better team, but if we take a look at the schedules, it’s clear that the Giants have faced a much tougher road. They’re also at home, and as I’ve pointed out ad nauseam, the Seahawks aren’t nearly as terrifying away from CenturyLink.

QB RB WR TE DST K
SEA 11.50 (5th) 16.10 (11th) 17.70 (10th) 7.26 (14th) 3.20 (5th) 8.00 (14th)
NYG 17.90 (24th) 18.88 (19th) 16.20 (7th) 13.87 (32nd) 7.67 (19th) 8.33 (19th)

The Giants D – which has been their staple in recent memory – just hasn’t looked up to par. The 258.3 yards per game that they’ve given up through the air are the 10th most, the 105.5 yards they’ve surrendered on the ground to RBs are the 7th most, and they’re giving up a healthy 22 points per game.

While the matchup seems to be there, this ‘Hawks offense has been tough to rely upon this season itself, and it starts with Russell Wilson. Through five games, he’s had one great game, an ok game, a couple meh games, and one Jay Cutler game. So, expecting him to ball out on Sunday afternoon brings with it a gang of uncertainty. Especially considering the Giants secondary is healthy, and DRC is back from suspension.

Well, they’ll be able to run the ball, right?!

Sure, theoretically. In reality, their RBs have combined to rush for over 100 yards just once this season, put up a grand total of one rushing TD, and their leading rusher – Chris Carson? Well, he’s out with an ankle injury leaving Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls – who have combined to average 2.6 yards per carry – as their primary ball carriers.

Oh, and their already suspect offensive line is now without two starters… Maybe the Giants will give us some offense?

Not likely.

Sterling Shepard should return this week, giving them one competent receiver, and that’s about the only positive to be had. Well, that and the fact that Orleans Darkwa is the 2nd coming of Walter Payton. Jokes obviously, but over the Giants last two, he’s put up 186 yards – averaging 6.4 yards per carry – and found the end zone; the Giants 1st rushing TD of the season (from a RB).

Now Seattle’s run D has been vastly improved over their last two contests, and Giants C Weston Richburg is out with a concussion. But, seeing how Denver has allowed the 2nd fewest rushing yards per game to opposing backs and Darkwa ran for a buck seventeen on them, it’s not completely ridiculous to expect the Giants to find some success on the ground here. Darkwa is a high risk/high reward play this week should you need a bye week fill-in.

All told, I don’t expect much offense in this one, but I think the Giants cover the 7 and actually have a decent chance at picking up their 2nd straight win.

PS – The Giants have allowed a TD to a tight end in every game this season.

Seahawks 19 – Giants 16

Ballers: Jimmy Graham

Under the Radar: Orleans Darkwa

Temper Expectations: Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Doug Baldwin, Wayne Gallman, Evan Engram

Bums: Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Eli Manning, Shane Vereen, Sterling Shepard

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3, 3-2 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: PIT -6

O/U: 41

QB RB WR TE DST K
CIN 12.92 (7th) 13.50 (3rd) 15.56 (6th) 4.88 (5th) 9.20 (27th) 7.00 (7th)
PIT 9.82 (2nd) 20.17 (24th) 11.43 (1st) 5.22 (6th) 8.00 (20th) 5.00 (2nd)

The AFC North: Home of the hard-hitting, low-scoring, old school battles.

Both defenses rank in the Top-5 in terms of fewest points allowed per game, both Dalton and Roethlisberger rank among the Bottom-15 QBs in QB rating, and while Pittsburgh has struggled to defend the run, only the Buccaneers and Cardinals have fewer rushing yards this season than Cincinnati.

The only positive to be had for this game offensively is the fact that the Bengals will be without Adam Jones; opening the door for Martavis Bryant as an under the radar play. If you have Bell, Brown, or Green you’re rolling with them and hoping for the best. But, outside of that, there’s not much to be excited about here from the fantasy side of things.

However, as far as real football goes, this one should be a good watch.

You ever know someone who’s word isn’t worth a damn? You know, the super flaky cat? The one you make plans with, but always schedule a backup because undoubtedly, they’ll cancel about an hour before?

That’s the Steelers; flaky as a croissant.

But, having won seven of the last eight, few teams have owned an opponent in the manner which the Steelers have owned the Bengals in recent years. And, an ugly win is still a win no matter how you slice it.

Bengals 16 – Steelers 23

Ballers: Le’Veon Bell

Under the Radar: Joe Mixon, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster

Temper Expectations: A.J. Green, Antonio Brown

Bums: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Kroft, Ben Roethlisberger, Jesse James, Vance McDonald

Denver Broncos (3-2, 2-2-1 ATS) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4, 2-3-1 ATS)

Spread: DEN -1

O/U: 43.5

QB RB WR TE DST K
DEN 14.50 (13th) 10.62 (1st) 16.66 (9th) 10.26 (27th) 8.40 (22nd) 9.00 (26th)
LAC 14.30 (11th) 19.37 (20th) 24.38 (25th) 4.00 (3rd) 4.50 (8th) 8.67 (21st)

Yet another divisional matchup pairing two teams who are very familiar with each other’s antics. It’s like a magician trying to impress another magician…

They both know what to expect.

While these types of games tend to come down to turnovers, field position, penalties – you know, all the ancillary things (Denver is one of the least penalized teams in the league, but the Chargers hold the edge in turnover margin on the season) – this series has been pretty one-sided for quite some time.

Going back to 2011, the Broncos have won 11 of 13 – including a 24-21 victory in Week 1 – and, it’s not like the Chargers have been rolling out scrub teams. Yes, they’ve been plagued by injuries, but sometimes, a team just has your number. Hopefully, the Chargers regime change can reverse their recent fate, but if that’s going to start on Sunday, they’ll have to do a better job against the run.

C.J. Anderson ran for 81 yards on the Chargers in Week 1, and it’s been bad news ever since. Jay Ajayi: 122 yards, Kareem Hunt: 172 yards, LeGarrette Blount: 136 yards… They even allowed the Giants woeful offense to rush for 100 yards for the 1st time this season. On the season, they’re allowing 5.19 yards per carry to opposing backs; only Jacksonville has been more generous.

They’ve also allowed opposing WRs to catch more TDs than every team except Kansas City. In fact, a WR has caught a TD pass in every game against the Chargers, and they’ve allowed multiple TDs to the position in 3 of their 6 games this season.

Denver’s offense looks to have a great opportunity to bounce back following their disappointing performance Sunday night, but they’ll have to do so with a makeshift offensive line and without the services of Emmanuel Sanders. Look for Bennie Fowler – who saw 8 targets last week – if you’re in need of WR help this week.

Meanwhile, the Broncos D has been as good as advertised. They’re the only team to have not allowed a rushing TD, they’ve allowed the 5th fewest passing yards per game, and – to make matters worse – Keenan Allen is questionable.

Remember that mention of turnovers, field position, and penalties? Yeah, the Chargers are going to need a bit of luck on their side too. Something which they haven’t seen much of in recent years.

Broncos 20 – Chargers 23

Ballers: C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas

Under the Radar: Devontae Booker, Bennie Fowler, Tyrell Williams

Temper Expectations: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen

Bums: Trevor Siemian, Jamaal Charles, A.J. Derby, Antonio Gates

Atlanta Falcons (3-2, 2-3 ATS) at New England Patriots (4-2, 2-4 ATS)

Spread: NE -4.5

O/U: 53.5

QB RB WR TE DST K
ATL 14.38 (12th) 18.60 (18th) 18.14 (12th) 5.80 (7th) 6.00 (13th) 11.00 (30th)
NE 24.19 (32nd) 20.55 (26th) 27.53 (31st) 10.77 (28th) 1.83 (2nd) 7.17 (10th)

Yeah, we all know the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead; the internet will never let that, the Warriors 3-1 collapse, or the crying Jordan meme die (I actually don’t mind the latter). But, that was last season, this is this week, and these aren’t the Pats of yore. At the forefront, their defense has been miserable. But, their offense has been equally concerning. Neither the Jets nor Bucs are imposing, but the Pats have averaged just 21.5 points against them.

Something is off.

Well, I have a feeling they’ll bounce back this week. Though the numbers might suggest otherwise. Three of the Falcons five games have come against QBs who rank among the league’s worst in passing yards, and one is no longer a starter (Mike Glennon, Tyrod Taylor, Jay Cutler). The two Pro Bowl QBs they faced, though (Rodgers and Stafford)? Well, they combined to average 303.5 passing yards, with a total of 3 TDs and 1 INT.

I think Brady and co will be just fine. No need to even address the Falcons side; this game has the highest point total of the week for a reason.

Falcons 27 – Patriots 26

Ballers: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Austin Hooper, Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Rob Gronkowski

Under the Radar: Mohamed Sanu, Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee

Temper Expectations: Tevin Coleman, James White, Rex Burkhead, Danny Amendola

Bums: Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy

Washington Redskins (3-2, 2-3 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-1, 4-2 ATS)

Spread: PHI -5

O/U: 48.5

QB RB WR TE DST K
WAS 15.41 (17th) 17.08 (13th) 14.38 (4th) 10.86 (29th) 6.80 (14th) 8.80 (23rd)
PHI 17.59 (22nd) 13.73 (4th) 24.53 (28th) 6.50 (10th) 3.50 (7th) 6.50 (6th)

Every week I find myself thinking, “Philly can’t really be this good, can they?” And, every week, the Eagles come out and impress.

It’s time to start accepting why they’re this good, instead of questioning whether or not they are. That conversation begins with their run D; which has allowed a league-low 40 yards per game on the ground, and a microscopic 2.9 yards per carry to opposing backs. In Week 1 – against these same Redskins – they allowed just 34 yards on the ground (RBs), and that was with a 100% Rob Kelley.

I don’t know much, but I know that if Washington’s offense is going to move the ball on Monday night, it’s likely to be the result of Cousins’ arm. And lucky for them, he’s starting to show signs of the “you like that!” guy we saw last season.

Over his last three, Cousins is averaging 305 passing yards, 2.3 TDs, and has consecutive 20+ point fantasy performances. And, on the flip? Just four teams have allowed more passing yards per game than the Eagles, but they’ve shown improvement over their last two, and are getting healthy.

In fact, QBs facing the Eagles have an 85.7 QB rate, and Philly has allowed the 13th fewest passing TDs with four of the six QBs they’ve faced being held to just one… The matchup might not be as tasty as it seems on the surface.

Something like a kale filled cupcake.

Expect Cousins’ numbers to look a bit better than they did in Week 1 (240, 1 TD, 1 INT), but expecting too much more just might leave you disappointed on Tuesday morning.

Wentz owners may want to lower their expectations as well, as the Redskins haven’t allowed another multi-TD game to an opposing QB since the 2 he put up on them in Week 1. In fact, if we take away Alex Smith’s 56 rushing yards/TD in Week 3, this defense has allowed the 8th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs at 13.1 per game.

Obviously, you’re playing both Wentz and Cousins unless you own a viable backup, but they’re probably less than ideal DFS plays if you’re in a contest which includes MNF.

PS – Washington’s run D has been pretty solid as well. Only the Broncos and Eagles, of course, have allowed fewer rushing yards per game to opposing backs.

Seven of the last ten between these two have gone over the projected point total, but I’m thinking there might be a bit more defense in this one than one might expect. And the better defensive unit belongs to the boys from Washington, but they’ll be without possibly 5 starters on D.

Redskins 13 – Eagles 23

Ballers: Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz

Under the Radar: Terrelle Pryor, Wendell Smallwood

Temper Expectations: Kirk Cousins, Chris Thompson, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, LeGarrette Blount, Nelson Agholor

Bums: Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine, Corey Clement, Torrey Smith

As always, thanks for reading! Be sure to check out my complete Week 7 rankings, and subscribe/follow @maxingyourodds on Twitter to keep up with the latest insight.

 

*Thursday Night Football*

Kansas City Chiefs (5-1, 5-1 ATS) at Oakland Raiders (2-4, 2-4 ATS)

Spread: KC -3

O/U: 47.5

The Raiders signed NaVorro Bowman. I like it, but it doesn’t address the elephant in the room…

This offense.

Through six games, the Raiders have averaged 20.7 points per game; 18th in the league. Over their last four, that number drops to 13.3 points per game (they lost all four, by the way). They have fewer rushing yards on the season than all but eight teams, and fewer passing yards than all but five. And – just in case that wasn’t enough – Amari Cooper has ran for less yards before, during, and after catching a football than Antonio Brown did individually on Sunday (Cooper has 146 receiving yards in 2017, AB put up 155 on Sunday).

None of this is good. The objective of this game is to score more points than the other team.

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
KC 17.83 (23rd) 16.47 (12th) 25.93 (29th) 6.52 (11th) 1.50 (1st) 6.17 (4th)
OAK 15.91 (18th) 20.07 (22rd) 15.38 (5th) 8.67 (24th) 7.17 (17th) 9.33 (28th)

Well, there’s always a silver (and black) lining. And in this case, it’s the Chiefs injury report. This makeshift Chiefs secondary has surrendered multiple TD passes in two of their last three games while allowing the 8th most passing yards per game, and the 9th most on the ground.

One problem, though.

Derek Carr.

Sure, he completed 70% of his passes Sunday… He also threw for a mere 171 yards (8.14 yards per completion), with 1 TD to 2 INTs. Then, there’s the part about this game being played just four days following his 1st start since missing about a game and a half due to a back injury. I’m sure he’s fine – or they wouldn’t risk it – but while the numbers suggest the Raiders could get it going this week, there’s an easily justifiable concern.

Meanwhile, the Raiders have allowed 108.2 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs (6th most), 55.8 receiving yards per game to opposing RBs (6th most), and three of the TEs they’ve faced this season have put up at least 75 yards receiving. Well, you might have noticed, but Kareem Hunt leads all RBs in rushing yards, is 5th among RBs in receiving yards, and Travis Kelce ranks a modest 3rd among TEs in yardage.

Speaking of Hunt, Marshawn Lynch and the Raiders have averaged a less than impressive 93.7 rushing yards per game; good for the 9th fewest. And, as you can see from the fantasy points allowed to RBs by Kansas City, they’re pretty damn good against the run. Scary part is, they’re actually better than the numbers suggest.

For starters, the Chiefs are allowing about a TD per game to opposing RBs. 0.83 TDs per game to be exact, but the number itself is trivial. What matters is that it’s the 3rd highest rate in the league. Thing is, Mike Gillislee dropped 3 TDs on them in Week 1, but in their five games since, they’ve allowed just two rushing TDs. Secondly, outside of Le’Veon Bell‘s 179 yards Sunday, no opposing RB has rushed for more than 80 yards against this Chiefs D on the season.

Translation: Two performances – which are not likely to be repeated – have inflated the numbers, and they’re still one of the best teams against the run.

Looks like there were actually three problems.

The Raiders have lost four straight games, and if we learned one thing from the Giants Sunday night, it’s that teams tend to play well when they have nothing to lose and have their backs against the wall.

It just won’t be enough.

Chiefs 26 – Raiders 17

Ballers: Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, Derek Carr, Michael Crabtree

Under the Radar: Amari Cooper

Temper Expectations: Tyreek Hill, Marshawn Lynch

Bums: Charcandrick West, De’Anthony Thomas, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jared Cook

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