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The Primer: Week 7 Edition (2021 Fantasy Football)

Oct 21, 2021
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Week 7 of the 2021 fantasy season is winter at Valley Forge. How can we be expected to fight without adequate supplies?

There are six teams on bye: the Bills, Cowboys, Vikings, Chargers, Steelers and Jaguars. That’s an awful lot of unavailable firepower. We’re down three top-10 quarterbacks (Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert), five star-caliber running backs (Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, Ezekiel Elliott, Najee Harris and James Robinson), about a dozen starting-caliber wide receivers (too many to list), and the two most pleasant tight end surprises of the season (Dawson Knox, Dalton Schultz).

Oh, and did I mention the injuries? NFL training rooms are starting to look like Civil War infirmaries, except with more soft-tissue injuries and less dysentery.

I’ve been playing this silly little game of ours for a long time, since the era of manual score tabulation, and I can’t remember a week when it harder to put a starting lineup together. Putting in all my waiver claims this week took hours – it was like an extra workday.

Just one example: In the FantasyPros Invitational Dynasty League, a 12-team superflex league, I’m in pretty decent shape at quarterback. I’ve got Justin Herbert, Kirk Cousins, Trevor Lawrence and the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick. Alas, all but Fitz are on bye this week, and not even FitzMagic can score fantasy points with a dislocated hip. I lucked my way into one usable QB, bidding on Case Keenum in the Tuesday-night waiver run in case Baker Mayfield was ruled out. I got Keenum, and Mayfield was indeed ruled out on Wednesday. I’m still unable to play two quarterbacks in a league where I’m entitled to, and I’m going to get clobbered, but hey, I like to savor the small victories.

That’s not the worst positional quandary I’ve seen. Not even close. Twitter has been awash in screenshots of decimated rosters. It’s an ugly week for a lot of fantasy managers. I know someone who’s going to be starting Kyle Juszczyk this week. He’s a fullback, for crying out loud.

I get a lot of questions about start/sit and waiver wire dilemmas, and it seems like there’s a genuine sense of despair in some corners of the fantasy community this week. If you’re feeling serious anguish over the tattered condition of your fantasy roster, step back and take a deep breath. This is an inconvenience, not a hardship.

People take fantasy football seriously. Very seriously. I know this to be true, because the obsession with fantasy football helps pay my mortgage.

Hey, I take fantasy football seriously, too, but I can’t get too worked up about it when there’s real-world stuff to fret over. People lose jobs. People go broke. People have accidents. People lose friends and family members. I went to two funerals this month for friends who died way too early. Just this week, our 10-month-old pup got so sick that I worried we might lose him. He’s fine now – sleeping as my feet as I type this, in fact – but seeing him barely able to sit up on his own scared the hell out of me.

OK, enough of the heavy stuff. You know what I’m getting at. Lost loved ones = hardship. Starting wide receivers with tender hamstrings = inconvenience.

In the end, it’s going to make a good story, isn’t it? “Hey, remember that time in 2021 when there were six teams on bye and a ton of injuries and none of us could field a decent lineup? I lost six starters that week.”

A couple of years ago, I was on a winter trip to Vegas with some friends. We were due to fly back to the Midwest the next day but learned our flights had been canceled due to a polar vortex that was bringing record cold to Chicago and Milwaukee. A couple of guys couldn’t afford to go back a day later because of pressing job obligations, so we immediately rented a Suburban and drove home. Seven guys stuffed into an SUV for 30-plus hours – not ideal. But we had some laughs on the way home, and we have a good story to tell.

That’s what Week 7 is. It’s an inconvenience.

And it’s a good story for future tellings.

– Pat Fitzmaurice

MATCHUP LINKS:

KC vs. TEN | WAS vs. GB | CIN vs. BAL | CAR vs. NYG | ATL vs. MIA | NYJ vs. NE | PHI vs. LV | DET vs. LAR | CHI vs. TB | HOU vs. ARI | IND vs. SF | NO vs. SEA |

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Kansas City Chiefs vs Tennessee Titans

Date/Time: Sunday October 24, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Chiefs -5.5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 57.5 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Chiefs 31.5, Titans 26

Quarterback

Patrick Mahomes: With the Kansas City defense in ruins, forcing Mahomes into near-weekly shootouts, the Chiefs’ quarterback in on pace for 5,346 passing yards and 51 TD passes … and 23 interceptions. It’s not necessarily a recipe for efficiency, but the sorry state of the Chiefs’ defense can only be viewed as a good thing by Mahomes investors. This week, Mahomes faces a Titans defense that has been scorched repeatedly this season. The Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and the Bills’ Josh Allen were the top-scoring QBs in fantasy in the weeks when they played Tennessee, and Russell Wilson and Trevor Lawrence both finished as top-10 quarterbacks when they faced the Titans. Expect a big week from Mahomes.

PRISTINE MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Each week, we’ll pick a matchup of the week, presented by Pristine Auction. For Week 7, Patrick Mahomes is our Pristine Matchup of the Week.

Ryan Tannehill: It’s been a disappointing season for Tannehill, who enters Week 7 as the QB19 in fantasy scoring and has only enjoyed one week in TE1 range. But this could be a get-well spot for Tannehill, who faces a Chiefs defense that’s giving up 25.6 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, the second-highest total in the league behind only the Washington Football Team. On the injury front, the good news is that Tannehill got WRs A.J. Brown and Julio Jones back from hamstring injuries last week. The bad news is that Jones aggravated his troublesome hammy, and starting tackle Taylor Lewan seems unlikely to play after being carted off the field Monday night with a concussion. I have Tannehill ranked QB8 this week. With his wide range of possible outcomes, I like him as a GPP play at $6,400 on DraftKings but not as a cash-game play.

Running Backs

Darrel Williams and Jerick McKinnon: With Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined with a sprained MCL, Williams took over as the lead RB and paid off for his fantasy stakeholders, with 21-62-2 rushing and 3-27-0 receiving, good for an RB6 finish on the week. Williams served as a true workhorse, playing 59 snaps – 10 more than Edwards-Helaire had played in any game this season. With CEH out again, Williams is a must-start against a middle-of-the-road Tennessee run defense. He ranks RB8 this week and is an excellent DraftKings value at $5,800. McKinnon played 28% of Kansas City’s offensive snaps in Week 6 and had 3-10-0 rushing and 1-5-0 receiving (on four targets). He’s the RB51.

Derrick Henry: The guess here is that younger fantasy managers have a greater appreciation of Henry than older fantasy managers. The grizzled fantasy veterans who were playing in the early 2000s experienced something similar with Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, and LaDainian Tomlinson, giants of the era who routinely produced mammoth seasons and carried fantasy teams to championships almost singlehandedly. But there have been few saviors at the RB position in the generation since, so perhaps the young’uns are more in awe of Henry’s greatness than the graybeards are. At the moment, the point differential between Henry and the RB2 in half-point PPR fantasy scoring is greater than the pint differential between the RB2 (Austin Ekeler) and the RB16 (Antonio Gibson). This week, Henry should feast on a Chiefs defense that ranks 31st in DVOA against the run and is giving up 5.2 yards per carry.

Wide Receivers

Tyreek Hill: A quad injury limited Hill to a season-low 47 offensive snaps last weekend, but he accomplished a great deal in his smaller role, catching 9 of 12 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. This looks like a great spot for Hill, with the Titans allowing 30.4 fantasy points per game to wide receivers, the second-highest total in the league. Tennessee has given up 10 touchdowns to WRs. If he’s active, you’re certainly playing him in season-long leagues. But with the soft-tissue injury looming as a potential issue, I don’t know if I can bring myself to spend $8,600 on Hill in DraftKings contests.

Mecole Hardman: Hardman has been straddling the periphery of fantasy relevance this season. Over his last two games, he’s had 13-138-0 on 17 targets. In an offense as good as Kansas City’s Hardman is at least worthy of WR3 or flex consideration with six teams on bye. But if Tyreek Hill is unable to play due to a quad injury, Hardman instantly becomes a must-start and a free square in DraftKings contests at only $4,300. (Even if Hill plays, Hardman is going to find his way into at least one of my DraftKings lineups at such an affordable price.)

A.J. Brown: It had been a slow start to the season for Brown, who was quiet in Weeks 1-2, sustained a hamstring injury in Week 3, missed Week 4, and did little in Week 5. He was held without a catch in the first half of the Titans’ Week 6 game against the Bills, but then AJB came alive in the second half, catching seven passes for 91 yards. Should we be ready to trust Brown again? The verdict here: yes. A game matchup with the Chiefs could turn into a potential track meet, and with Julio Jones continuing to deal with a hammy problem, Brown should see plenty of targets in Week 7. He’s my WR13 this week, and I think he’s a terrific DraftKings value at $6,300.

Julio Jones: You’ll have to check the practice status of Jones in the run-up to Saturday’s game against the Chiefs. He was back in action in Week 6 after missing Weeks 4-5, but Jones aggravated the injury and didn’t practice on Wednesday. In his return, Jones had an acrobatic 48-yard reception on a ball that bounced off a defender’s helmet, managing to get both feet inbounds after making a diving grab. But it was a quiet night overall: 3-59-0 on five targets. The injury makes Jones a risky proposition even if he plays. He’s a back-end WR2 this week.

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce: Kelce was bothered by a stinger in Week 6, but “bothered” is a relative term for the star tight end, who still managed to finish with 8-99-0 on 11 targets. He once again leads all tight ends in fantasy scoring, and – news flash – he’s ranked as the TE1 this week. Not surprisingly he’s a pricey $7,600 on DraftKings but is still one of the top values at the position.

Anthony Firkser: Blocking TE Geoff Swaim played 72% of the Titans’ offensive snaps Monday night against the Bills, leaving Firkser with just a 28% snap share. Firkser had one catch for 11 yards, and with A.J. Brown and (maybe) Julio Jones back from hamstring injuries, it seems there’s little left for Firkser to do. He’s not a fantasy consideration this week.

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Washington Football Team vs Green Bay Packers

Date/Time: Sunday October 24, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Packers -9.5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 49 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Packers 29.25, Washington 19.75

Quarterback

Taylor Heinicke: After a promising start to his long-term relief stint in place of injured starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, Heinicke has turned in two clunkers in a row. He had a dreadful zero-TD, two-INT game against the Saints in Week 5, then threw for 182 yards with one TD and one INT against the Chiefs in a Week 6 game that seemed to be dripping with shootout potential. Can we trust Heinicke against the Packers? With six teams on bye, some fantasy managers may have no choice. Green Bay has held opposing quarterbacks to 15.6 fantasy points per game, the fourth-lowest total in the league, due in part to the fact that the Packers rank 30th in offensive pace. The Packers prefer a leisurely game, and that reduces overall play volume. Green Bay is still dealing with some key injuries on defense, including edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and CB Jaire Alexander, but few opposing quarterbacks have been able to take advantage lately. Heinicke checks in at QB16 this week.

Aaron Rodgers: The possible return of stud left tackle Davis Bakhtiari, who’s been recovering from a torn ACL, could be terrific news for Rodgers as he prepares to face a dangerous Washington pass rush. If Rodgers gets adequate protection, the future Hall-of-Famer should be able to slice and dice a porous Washington secondary. The Football team is yielding 30.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. That’s the highest total in the league by 5.3 points per game. Ever since a rare Week 1 debacle against the Saints, Rodgers has been his typically efficient self, throwing 12 TD passes and only one interception over his last five games. I have Rodgers ranked QB7 this week, but his ceiling is higher than usual.

Running Backs

Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and Jaret Patterson: Gibson’s status is in question this week. He has a stress fracture in his shin and was shuffled in and out of action last week against the Chiefs, resulting in a disappointing 10-44-0 rushing day against a bad Chiefs run defense. Washington draws another favorable running-game matchup this week, taking on a Packers run D that ranks 30th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. If Gibson suits up, you’re probably compelled to play him in the Week 7 bye-pocalypse. But of course, there’s a chance that the Football Team dials back his snaps again after limiting Gibson to a 39% snap share last week. McKissic figures to get ample work this week regardless of Gibson’s status. McKissic has played 46% of Washington’s offensive snaps this year and had a season-high 61% snap share last week. He also had a season-high eight carries for 45 yards, although that’s probably the absolute single-game carry ceiling for McKissic. What you really care about if you’re a McKissic investor is the passing-game usage, and he’s averaged a healthy 5.4 targets a game since Week 2. McKissic is a low-end RB2 this week and is appealing in DraftKings contests at an affordable cost of $5,000. If Gibson is out, Patterson becomes an interesting option for Week 7. The rookie from Buffalo looked good in the preseason and would be in line for significant early-down snaps if Gibson were to be shut down.

Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon: Jones’ usage has been fairly predictable this season not counting a Week 1 blowout loss to the Saints where the Packers held the ball infrequently and sent starters to the bench early. Since Week 2, Jones has had 13-17 carries and 2-6 catches every week. He’s the RB6 in fantasy scoring and the RB5 if you take away Week 1. That dependable usage and a favorable home matchup with Washington make him a high-end RB1. He’s also a core cash-game pillar at a price of $7,500 on DraftKings. The Packers have ramped up Dillon’s usage in recent weeks. He’s played at least 33% of the Packers’ offensive snaps in each of the last three weeks, averaging 11.3 carries over that span. Against a mediocre Washington run defense that’s yielding 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs, Dillon checks in as a playable midrange RB3 in a bye-strewn week.

Wide Receivers

Terry McLaurin: Packers CB Jaire Alexander is unlikely to return from a shoulder injury this week, which is good news for McLaurin investors. The Green Bay pass defense has managed to stay afloat without Alexander, but the Packers don’t have another cornerback capable of keeping a stud like McLaurin under wraps. The greater concern is the hamstring injury McLaurin has been dealing with, so check his status throughout the week. After ranking as the WR6 through the first four weeks of the season, McLaurin has 8-74-0 over the last two weeks. He checks in at WR9 in the rankings, though I’m shying away from him in DFS due to the uncertainty involved with a soft-tissue injury.

Dyami Brown: The rookie logged an 80% snap share last week and figures to see a lot of playing time this week with Curtis Samuel likely still out with a groin injury and Terry McLaurin dealing with a hamstring injury. Brown’s six targets and three catches in Week 6 matched season highs, but Brown still hasn’t topped 34 yards in any game. I have him ranked WR69 but will move him considerably up if McLaurin doesn’t play.

Davante Adams: What happens when the NFL’s best receiver encounters arguably the league’s worst defensive backfield? We’re about to find out. Adams is leading the league in receiving yards, averaging 111.3 per game. His 46 receptions have him tied for the NFL lead, and he’s second in targets with 66. Washington, meanwhile has allowed 1,857 passing yards and 16 TD passes, both league highs. This is an absolute smash matchup, and Adams sits atop the WR rankings this week. At $8,900 on DraftKings, he’s certainly not cheap, but you could also make the case that you can’t afford not to pay up for him.

Allen Lazard: He hasn’t topped 42 yards in a game this season, but with six teams on bye and a compelling matchup against a terrible Washington pass defense, Lazard is borderline playable in Week 7. He ranks WR53. All bets are off, however, if Marquez Valdes-Scantling is back from a hamstring injury.

Randall Cobb: Only once this season has Cobb seen more than three targets in a game. He’s worth mentioning in a week with so many good players on bye and a favorable matchup against Washington on tap, but he’s ranked WR60, and you’d have to be pretty desperate to play him in season-long leagues.

Tight Ends

Ricky Seals-Jones: Washington is dealing with myriad injuries to ball carriers and pass-catchers, and Seals-Jones missed practice on Wednesday due to a new quad injury. He’s been solid the last two weeks, with 9-99-1. Seals-Jones has been playing nearly every offensive snap the last three weeks and running routes on the vast majority of dropbacks. With other Washington skill-position players banged up, RSJ will sneak into low-end TE1 territory if he plays, and he offers DraftKings value at just $3,700.

Robert Tonyan: Tonyan has had 10 or fewer receiving yards in 5 of 6 games. He’s droppable at this point. In fact, fellow Packers TE Marcedes Lewis has had more receptions (four) and yards (51) than Tonyan the last two weeks.

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Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens

Date/Time: Sunday October 24, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Ravens -6
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 47 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Ravens 26.5, Bengals 20.5

Quarterback

Joe Burrow: Yards per attempt isn’t a perfect stat, but it’s a pretty good back-of-the-envelope measure of how effective a quarterback is. Burrow is currently fourth in YPA among quarterbacks who’ve started at least three games, averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. He’s thrown multiple TD passes in every game this season, and Burrow has averaged 300 passing yards over his last three contests. The second-year QB will face a middle-of-the-road Baltimore pass defense that has been up and down this season. This will be a third straight home game for the Ravens, who were torched for 402 passing yards and two touchdowns by the Colts’ Carson Wentz in the first before clamping down on Justin Herbert in the second, holding him to 195 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception. Burrow is the QB9 this week. As good as he’s been, though, his $6,200 price on DraftKings is too steep for a QB walking into a tough divisional road game.

Lamar Jackson: It’s interesting that the average depth of target on Jackson’s throws this season is 9.9 yards. His average depth of target in his three previous seasons: 8.7, 8.8., 8.6. Jackson is also averaging 8.7 yards per attempt, nearly a full yard better than his previous high of 7.8 yards per attempt in 2019. So Jackson has been a more aggressive, more effective passer so far this season. Will it last? Two reasons to be pessimistic: (1) Every pass defense the Ravens have faced this season ranks in the bottom half of the league in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric with the exception of their opponents last week, the Chargers, against whom Jackson had his worst passing game of the season; (2) the Ravens just lost ace left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a season-ending ankle injury, and it’s bound to affect the overall functionality of the offense. Jackson faces another respectable pass defense this week, the Bengals, who ranked eighth in DVOA. Maybe Jackson will simply use his legs more. In six career starts against the Bengals, he’s averaging 73.7 rushing yards. Jackson is the QB3 this week, and despite the Stanley injury, he’s worth the $7,400 price tag on DraftKings.

Running Backs

Joe Mixon: Backups Samaje Perine and Chris Evans have chimed in with notable performances in recent weeks, but Mixon is still the straw that stirs the drink in the Bengals’ backfield. He’s averaging 18 carries a game and ranks fourth in the league in rushing with 480 yards. The Ravens have been a middling fantasy matchup for opposing running backs this season, but they’ve had Mixon’s number throughout his career. In seven career games against Baltimore, Mixon is averaging 55.1 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry, and he’s scored only one TD.

Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and Ty’Son Williams: Latavius Murray is out with an ankle injury. The Bengals have given up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs. Bell and Freeman could split work 50/50, but the Ravens might also activate rookie Ty’Son Williams for only the second time in the last four weeks and work him into the backfield rotation. It’s an inscrutable situation, and it’s not worth starting any of these guys against a Bengals’ run defense that ranks fourth in DVOA and has given up the ninth-fewest rushing yards in the league.

Wide Receivers

Ja’Marr Chase: Chase’s rookie season has been so good that it qualified as a mild disappointment when he “only” had a 4-97-0 game against the Lions last week. Chase currently ranks WR5 in fantasy scoring. He’s averaging a preposterous 13.5 yards per target, trailing only Henry Ruggs (13.9), among receivers with at least 25 targets. Start Chase with confidence against the Ravens this week, and consider paying the $6,200 freight for him in DraftKings contests.

Tee Higgins: Higgins hasn’t been able to get going since missing Weeks 3-4 with an ankle injury, posting 8-76-0 in his first game back. He’ll also draw the tougher matchup of the Bengals’ two outside receivers, running a majority of his routes against Marlon Humphrey, while Ja’Marr Chase primarily draws Anthony Averett. Still, Higgins is uber-talented, and he’s ranked as a back-end WR2 this week.

Tyler Boyd: In the two games Tee Higgins missed, Boyd had 4-36-1 and 9-118-0. In the four games that Higgins, Boyd, and Ja’Marr Chase have all played together, Boyd is averaging 3.8 catches for 34.0 yards. It’s a small sample size, but it’s fair to wonder if the arrival of Chase is going to put a major dent in Boyd’s fantasy value. He’s a midrange WR3 this week and not someone I’m looking to use in DFS.

Marquise Brown: There’s no reason for Brown investors to panic just yet, but it’s at least worth noting that rookie Rashod Bateman has six targets last weekend in his NFL debut – he missed the first five games of the season while recovering from a core injury – while Brown had five targets. Granted, it’s a narrow margin and a small sample size in a game where the Ravens led comfortably throughout and Lamar Jackson attempted only 27 passes. Brown is the WR6 in fantasy scoring, so it might seem silly to worry about a rookie encroaching on his fantasy value, but, well … Bateman is good. I don’t think Brown’s 4-35-0 stat line in Week 6 is a reason for panic, but beware the possibility that Bateman might steal some of Brown’s value. Brown is nevertheless a solid play for Week 6, checking in at WR16.

Rashod Bateman: Bateman’s NFL debut in Week 6 was a mixed bag. Returning from a core injury, the first-round draft pick from the University of Minnesota tied for the team-high in targets with six, but he caught only four of them for 29 yards, and his bobbling of a Lamar Jackson throw resulted in an interception. It’s a bit too early to trust Bateman for fantasy purposes, though some managers might not have a choice in the Week 7 bye-pocalypse. Bateman is a midrange WR4 and not a consideration for DFS.

Tight Ends

C.J. Uzomah: He had his third TD catch of the season last weekend, but Uzomah has only cleared 16 yards once in the last five weeks. The 5-95-2 explosion in Week 4 still looks like an anomaly. Uzomah is just a midrange TE2 this week.

Mark Andrews: Since Week 2, Andrews has led all tight ends in fantasy scoring. He’s had three TD catches in his last two games, and he’s averaged 97.8 receiving yards over his last four. Andrews is the TE2 in the rankings this week, but at $6,000 on DraftKings he’s a better value than Kelce at $7,600.

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