Bye weeks, like it or not, keep hitting hard. This time you won’t be able to start anyone from Carolina (Christian McCaffrey), Cleveland (Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield), Pittsburgh (JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner), or Tampa Bay (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin). With all of those players out of the equation, decisions get harder when it comes to who to start and who to sit from your fantasy football roster. Now is the time when you must prove yourself as the best GM of your league by playing a lineup full of win-not-kill studs for Week 7.
Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10- or 12-team league, you must have doubts about who to put in that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how you could address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options you should consider.
Jacoby Brissett, IND (vs HOU) - START
This happens every time we hit bye-week time: someone disappears for a week and when he comes back no one seems to remember he’s a great asset to have in consideration. Brissett fits the profile to a tee this weekend. The last time we saw him on the field he was the leader of a Colts team that started the Chiefs’ downtrend by defeating them—in Kansas City, no less. Brissett might not be a league winner, but he’s the QB12 overall in fantasy points per game (19.9) and he’s got consistent outcomes weekly without much variation. Actually, his worst game came against Kansas City in a game manager role, but other than that he’s been able to throw for two or more touchdowns in four out of his five games (he’s got 10 touchdowns on the season already) and has only been intercepted three times. Houston has given up 230-plus to every opposing QB this season and allowed 11 touchdowns in six games (seventh-most). Expect Brissett to get back to his average 20 FP this weekend against a team that is allowing 25.4 on average to QBs.
Josh Allen, BUF (vs MIA) - START
Another returner from a bye, another start this week. Allen is not a weekly must-start, but against the Dolphins you shouldn’t have any doubt in mind while deciding what to do with him. You set it and forget it. The Dolphins have been scored on at least twice through the air in every game they’ve played—including Week 1 when they let Baltimore throw six (!) touchdown passes—and only have one interception in six games. Allen is not what you think of when discussing great quarterbacks, but his profile is similar to that of Lamar Jackson—that of the five touchdowns against Miami—with his running upside. The last time he played, in Week 5 at Tennessee, Allen finished the game with two passing touchdowns and a season-best 71.9 completion rate (23 of 32 passes for 219 yards). Pretty much like Brissett (read above), Allen has a solid floor of 20-plus fantasy points and against Miami he will have the chance to put on his best performance of the season so far, both passing and rushing the ball.
Philip Rivers, LAC (at TEN) - SIT
I have been a Philip Rivers supporter all season long. He’s a veteran and not the sexiest option at the position, but he usually gets the job done. This week, though, I’m passing on him. First of all, Tennessee looks like a scary opponent. Yes, the Titans are 2-4 this season, but they haven’t allowed any team to score more than 20 points on them. The O/U for this game comes in at a paltry 40 total points, second-lowest on the main slate. To that we should add that Rivers has been a little bouncy this season with a couple of 10- and 15-point performances (both without a touchdown) and has been picked six times already. The fact that Rivers had his two bad performances against the two best teams he’s faced doesn’t seem random, and Tennessee’s defense against QB is the ninth-best league-wide (they’re allowing just 18.7 points per game to the position). Sprinkle a few disappointing performers at the receiver position in Mike Williams and Keenan Allen and you have the perfect recipe for failure.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (at WAS) - SIT
It’s been decades—for real, the last time it happened was in 1990—since the 49ers started a season 5-0. Incredible run by Garoppolo at the helm of this team, right? Wrong. It is not that San Francisco is not scoring, as they have put up 24-plus points in four of their five games, it is that more points have come from the ground than the air. A lot has been said of Kirk Cousins and Minnesota’s run-heavy approach, but Garoppolo is actually a virtual clone of the Vikings QB. Among quarterbacks with five starts, Garoppolo has attempted the fewest passes (146), has the second-fewest completions (102), the fifth-fewest passing yards (1,163) and a worrying 7:5 TD:INT ratio. While Washington is a cupcake, it might work against Garoppolo’s upside. He only has one performance of more than 18 fantasy points this year and has yet to reach 300 passing yards in a game. If San Francisco takes the lead early—as expected—and the game becomes a walk for the 49ers, you know what Garoppolo will be up to — minimizing risks and getting what the defense gives him to cruise to a 6-0 record. Good in real life, not so much for fantasy GMs.
Devonta Freeman, ATL (vs LAR) - START
Freeman’s weekly progression has finally turned me into a believer. I thought he would put up massive numbers from the get-go, but he didn’t. During his last three weeks, though, he’s had a couple of 18-point performances along with a season-high 26.8 effort just last week against Arizona. While Freeman has yet to rush for more than 88 yards in a game, he’s stepped up in the receiving game, racking up 142 yards on 16 receptions combined in his last three contests to go with three receiving touchdowns. Atlanta’s RB2 Ito Smith is almost out of the equation and Freeman has all the backfield for him to work and will keep getting all the opportunities he can handle. The matchup against the Rams this week can’t look better for Freeman. Los Angeles is in the midst of a three-game streak in which they have given up four touchdowns (three on the ground, one receiving) to opposing running backs while all those backfields have logged 117-plus yards from scrimmage each for an average of 26.5 fantasy points per game. All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned how this game has the highest total points of the slate at 54. Freeman is as solid a bet as any other this weekend.
Frank Gore, BUF (vs MIA) - START
I’m sorry but I’m not going to tolerate you calling me a cheater for putting another Bill in my column. I have a strong case to make for playing Gore this week against the Dolphins, other than the Dolphins being the Dolphins I guess. Gore and all of his 36 years of age has rushed for 60-plus yards in his last four games and scored a couple of touchdowns. He has reached 16 fantasy points two times, and 10 points in two other games. He has been as solid as any other running back. He enters Week 7 rested after having his bye in Week 6. By the way, do you know what happened in Week 6? Adrian Peterson rushed for 118 yards on 23 carries. I mention Peterson because he played against Miami and that marked the only time this season he rushed for more than 37 yards. I’d be surprised if Gore doesn’t reach 100 yards this weekend and hangs a couple of scores on Miami’s defense. Even with Devin Singletary likely returning from injury, Gore is a great start.
Joe Mixon, CIN (vs JAX) - SIT
Enough is enough. I’m here for the game, not the name. And you should too. Yes, I know you paid a high price to draft Mixon back in August (Mixon’s ADP was around 20 overall on average), but he has produced as an RB3 this season and he’s not even averaging 10 fantasy points per game. Were it not for his name and you holding onto false hopes, you’d have cut it from your team a while ago. The Bengals offensive line isn’t helping matters, but even in his best game (Week 5 against Buffalo) he could only rush for 60 yards and add 34 receiving yards. Mixon has not scored a single rushing touchdown through six games and it’s about time to stop giving him chances. Jacksonville isn’t the worst of matchups but Mixon has already put on some duds against other average-ish defenses and Cincinnati will probably turn to Andy Dalton and the passing game to try and at least put up a fight against the Jaguars. I’m sorry for those of you who banked on Mixon (I did, too), but he’s just unplayable these days.
David Montgomery, CHI (vs NO) - SIT
Before talking about Montgomery, let me introduce you to the Saints defense. Something clicked for them in Week 3. From that weekend on they have surrendered 228 rushing yards combined to running backs and no more than 73 in any game—all that while facing studs like Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette. Now about Montgomery, it must be said that he’s been used more by Chicago as the season has progressed (to the point Mike Davis has disappeared from the equation) but his production hasn’t been up to the expectations. Even facing bad defenses against the run (Green Bay and Washington), Montgomery couldn’t rush for more than 67 yards, and his last game against a good unit (Oakland in Week 5) ended with him rushing for a mediocre 25 yards on 11 carries. For someone taking on RB1 duties for his team (Tarik Cohen is more a wideout-hybrid nowadays), Montgomery has been widely disappointing. Mix his numbers with a strong defense against the run and things don’t look very bright for the rookie this weekend.
Michael Gallup, DAL (vs PHI) - START
The Cowboys No. 1 option at wide receiver, Amari Cooper, has been dealing with injuries from the first week of the season and he looks more banged up than ever entering Week 7. That is not to say Michael Gallup has not had his own share of health issues, though, and although he’s been limited in practices he is the healthiest of Dallas’ wideouts. In his two games since coming back, he has racked up 161 yards and a touchdown on just 11 receptions. He’s in line to have another monster day (he’s already averaging 17.1 fantasy points per game) against an Eagles defense that has been horrid stopping the passing game. Philadelphia surrendered 270-plus yards to both Green Bay’s and Minnesota’s (!) wide receivers, has been scored on 11 times through six games and is allowing a league-worst 47.1 fantasy points per game to WRs. Even if Cooper makes it to the game, Gallup will still have ample chances of putting up big numbers this weekend.
Golden Tate, NYG (vs ARI) - START
The Giants’ pecking order at wide receiver pencils Sterling Shepard in as the No. 1 option. Luckily for Tate, Shepard is nursing a concussion that kept him out of last week’s game against New England and is threatening his availability this weekend. Although Tate’s first game after coming back from his suspension ended in a dud (13 yards on three receptions, 4.3 fantasy points) he took advantage of Shepard’s injury against the Patriots and had a tremendous performance against the best defense in the league, catching six of nine targets for 102 yards and a touchdown. Now the Giants host Arizona and the Cardinals have allowed the most touchdowns and fantasy points to QBs through six games. That bodes well for Tate as he will be (other than Evan Engram if he makes it to Sunday’s game) the go-to option on offense and Arizona has allowed 190-plus yards and at least one touchdown to receivers in back-to-back games. Add a tasty 50.5 total—main slate’s highest—and you’re in for a week-winning performance from Tate.
Terry McLaurin, WAS (vs SF) - SIT
Everybody loves a fresh story, and what better than a hot rookie? McLaurin entered the league as a third-rounder but even with a murky team like Washington he’s been able to turn into one of, if not the best rookie receivers in the league. He leads all newcomers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. His raw numbers are great, but looking a little deeper he’s also been a tad bit lucky. McLaurin’s best fantasy performances have come against Philadelphia (worst defense against WRs) and Miami (ninth-worst), and in the other three games he has played (all against above-average defenses) he’s been limited to 70 receiving yards at most. Two of those games finished with McLaurin scoring 17.2 and 19 fantasy points but it was all due to him scoring a touchdown, making him a little score-dependent. San Francisco is waiting this weekend and with a bare-bones Washington receiving corps to cover they could easily double their efforts on stopping McLaurin. The 49ers have a stout defense, will pressure Case Keenum all game long, and are allowing just 29.1 fantasy points per game to WR units (sixth-best mark).
Allen Robinson, CHI (vs NO) - SIT
If you read David Montgomery’s blurb above, you already know New Orleans has been great at stopping running backs. They have not performed to such heights against receivers, though, allowing the 12th-most points per game to their units so far. That would mean Robinson should be happy with his matchup, but that’s not really the case. Although the Saints surrendered 742 yards to wide receivers in the first three weeks of the season, they have only given up 326 in the last three. Not only that but also Robinson will most likely see shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore. In case you are not aware, Lattimore has limited D.J. Chark, Mike Evans, and Amari Cooper to nine, 25, and 48 receiving yards respectively in the past three weeks. Those three were able to score 16.2 fantasy points combined. If I was Robinson I would be scared of Lattimore, and if I was a Robinson owner I’d fade him more than any other player this weekend.
Hunter Henry, LAC (at TEN) - START
Hunter Henry is back, folks! And oh boy did he let us know about it. After hanging ten fantasy points to the tune of 60 yards and receptions on Indianapolis in Week 1 and missing four weeks, Henry made it back to the field in Week 6 to face Pittsburgh. His final stat line? 100 receiving yards on 8-of-9 receptions to go with a couple of touchdowns. All in all, a mere 30 fantasy points. No big deal, right? Henry looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat—actually, you might even think injuries make him better or something—and there is no reason to not starting him while he remains healthy. It sounds ridiculous, but Henry is the TE19 (40 total fantasy points) and he has played just two games! The next-best player at the position with only two games played is David Njoku and he has a minuscule 13.7 points in comparison. It was about time something good happened to a mediocre the tight end position this season, yikes.
Darren Fells, HOU (at IND) - START
Do you know who Darren Fells is? Well, I wouldn’t blame you, considering he played basketball professionally from 2008 to 2012 and didn’t debut in the NFL until 2014. Fells is having his best season to date. He’s on pace to finish the year with 40 receptions, 424 yards and eight touchdowns, all of which would be career-best marks. Fells sits at TE13 currently in PPR leagues and has three 12.9-plus points performances in his last four games. Although he is in a timeshare with Jordan Akins (Fells has played 49.7% of the Texans snaps and Akins 43.5%) he is being used more and has gotten almost every red zone pass, which has translated to touchdowns and better fantasy performances. The tight end position is as volatile as ever this season but the combination of a hot player in Fells and a bad defense against TEs in that of the Colts (third-most points allowed, 16.7) calls for a start here.
Eric Ebron, IND (vs HOU) - SIT
On the other side of this weekend’s Houston versus Indianapolis matchup will be Eric Ebron. The 2018 do-it-all tight end had a season for the ages and has regressed hard this season. Ebron has logged just 136 yards through five games, has scored two touchdowns, and is a low-end TE2 at best in points per game. While he’s been better than Jack Doyle, the latter has played 110 more snaps than Ebron so far and is cutting Ebron’s upside whether he likes it or not by limiting his opportunities. Ebron’s two 10-plus points games this season came with a touchdown attached to them, once again proving how touchdown-dependent he is. Houston sits at the other end of the spectrum compared to Indianapolis when it comes to stopping tight ends: the Texans are giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to the position (a ridiculously low 7.3 per game) and have yet to allow any single tight end a touchdown.
T.J. Hockenson, DET (vs MIN) - SIT
Hockenson had the 10th-best fantasy debut (including QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs) since the year 2000 by scoring 25.1 points in PPR-format leagues. From Weeks 2 to 6, though, Hockenson has scored 20.6 combined points. Welp. Other than that complete outlier of a game, Hockenson has been average at best. He has one touchdown in his last four games and he has fallen short of 10 receiving yards two times (the other two games he finished with just 21 and 27). Although his two best performances came against the worst and the fourth-worst defenses in fantasy points allowed to the position and he now faces Minnesota (seventh-worst, 14.1 points per game), it looks to me that you’d be playing Hockenson more for his name value than his actual production. Hockenson’s was a nice story to kick the season off but you know growing pains are part of rookie tight ends.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is chapulana) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.