1:00PM ET Games
Chicago @ Washington
Quietly trending toward offensive juggernaut status, the Bears rank 11th in the league in total yards and third in points scored under first-year coach Marc Trestman, with red-hot Jay Cutler leading the way. Through six games, Cutler is the No. 6 overall fantasy quarterback on pace for a 32:16 TD-to-INT ratio with career highs in completion rate (65.9) and passer rating (95.2). It may seem unnatural, but Cutler is a reliable weekly fantasy starter and high-end QB1 play this week against Washington's burnable defense. The Redskins rank 25th against the pass, are yielding a 10:3 TD-to-INT ratio to enemy passers, and allow the second highest yards-per-pass-attempt average in football. Cutler has completed 64 of his last 89 throws (71.9%) for 759 yards (8.53 YPA) with a 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio and two successful two-point conversions. ... Cutler's target distribution during that two-plus game hot stretch: Alshon Jeffery 23, Brandon Marshall 20, Martellus Bennett 18, Matt Forte 13, Earl Bennett 9. ... Jeffery is coming off a slow game (1-27) two Thursday nights ago against the G-Men, but was inches from a pair of deep connections and has played himself into every-week WR3 value. Even including the Week 6 hiccup, Jeffery leads all receivers in fantasy points over the past three weeks. ... Marshall's brief buy-low window slammed shut against the Giants (9-87-2). He's an obvious top-five wideout play against the Redskins.
The Bears have enough firepower and Cutler is playing well enough to support three every-week fantasy starters in their pass-catching corps. In Week 7, Martellus takes on a Redskins defense with perhaps the worst safety play in football. This game has sneaky shootout potential, which would give Martellus' outlook an assist. ... Washington is even more vulnerable on the ground than in the air, ranking 27th in the league in run defense with six rushing scores allowed through five games and a generous 4.38 yards-per-carry average against. After Chicago's Thursday night win over New York, Forte has had a long week to rest his heavily-utilized legs in preparation for a cakewalk matchup. Forte is on pace for career highs in total yards (1,830) and receptions (88) in Trestman's running back-friendly attack. He has at least 95 total yards and/or a touchdown in each of the Bears' first six games. ... Michael Bush is worth rostering in 12- and 14-team leagues as a stash, but isn't threatening Forte's workload whatsoever. Bush has played 11 or fewer snaps in four of the Bears' last five games. He totaled just 14 yards against the Giants.
Just as the Bears' offense peaks under Trestman, their aging and injury-ravaged defense breaks down. DTs Henry Melton and Nate Collins are lost for the year with ACL tears. MLB D.J. Williams joined them on the shelf this week with a ruptured pectoral. 33-year-old RE Julius Peppers has been a shell of his old self, ranking 31st of 47 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' 4-3 defensive end pass-rush grades. RCB Charles Tillman (knee) has been in and out of the lineup and ineffective when he's played. Chicago is exploitable both in pass and run defense. Fire up your Redskins. ... In Week 6, the Bears got steamrolled on the ground by washed-up 31-year-old street free agent Brandon Jacobs for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 runs. Per PFF, Jacobs averaged 2.6 yards per carry before contact, meaning the Bears' front was simply getting blown off the ball. Alfred Morris' fantasy numbers haven't yet caught up to his on-field performance, but they will soon. On his last 61 carries, Morris has scored three touchdowns and gained 337 yards, good for a 5.52 YPC average that is an improvement on Alf's 4.81 rookie-year mark. If there's still a buy-low window available on Morris, go get him. There isn't a running back in the NFL more likely to turn his stats around and put fantasy teams on his back. ... Albeit an effective one, Roy Helu is a change-of-pace and third-down back and nothing more. His ten Week 6 touches are not a sign of workloads to come. Helu simply played more than usual because the Redskins fell behind.
Robert Griffin III's accuracy is still a work in progress, but after their Week 5 bye the Redskins played RG3 more aggressively at Dallas than they had during the season's first month. The zone read was reintroduced, as Griffin set season highs in carries (9) and rushing yards (77), and was mere feet from a touchdown on a designed red-zone quarterback draw. Chicago's defense is generating very little pressure (30th in sacks) and ranks 23rd against the pass. For RG3, a hot stretch is coming and it's likely to start this weekend. ... Griffin's Week 6 target distribution, after the bye: Pierre Garcon 15; Jordan Reed, Leonard Hankerson, and Helu 6; Santana Moss 3; Josh Morgan and Morris 1; Fred Davis 0. ... Garcon dominates targets in Washington's passing attack and is an every-week WR1/2. ... Reed has formally passed Davis as the Skins' No. 1 tight end. The Hernandezian third-round rookie played a season-high 56-of-79 (70.9%) snaps against the Cowboys and warrants low-end TE1 consideration this week. The Bears are allowing the third most catches and fourth most yards to tight ends. ... Hankerson remained Washington's starting "Z" receiver coming out of the open date, but that position has rarely translated to big numbers in the Shanahans' offense. Hankerson hasn't cleared 50 receiving yards or scored since Week 1.
Score Prediction: Bears 28, Redskins 24
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Dallas @ Philadelphia
The Cowboys and Eagles are both playing top-four scoring offense. Philly's defense ranks last in yards allowed, while Dallas' defense is decimated by injury. So it's no surprise Boys-Birds has the second highest over-under of Week 7 at 55.5 points. Fantasy owners should be excited to start players in this game. ... Since a stout early-season showing, the Cowboys' run defense has sprung leaks. In Week 4, Chargers backs combined to tag Dallas for 112 yards on 27 runs. In Week 5, Knowshon Moreno touched up Monte Kiffin's crew for 93 yards and a TD on 19 carries (4.89 YPC). Last Sunday night, Shanahan & Son re-implemented the zone read and the Redskins lit up the Cowboys for a combined 216 yards and an Alfred Morris score on 33 runs (6.55 YPC). I'd rank LeSean McCoy as the No. 1 running back play in fantasy this week. ... It's also worth noting Eagles coach Chip Kelly has had Kiffin's number dating back to their college days. Kiffin coordinated USC's defense, while Kelly coached the Oregon Ducks. Kelly's offenses eviscerated Kiffin's defense for 1,204 total yards in their final two college meetings. ... Of particular concern for Kiffin this week is the absence of future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware (quadriceps), stripping Dallas' second starting defensive end after losing LE Anthony Spencer to microfracture surgery. Simply, there is every reason to believe the Eagles will have Week 7 offensive success.
And that's why we're taking Nick Foles seriously as a Week 7 QB1. Foles has appeared in three games this season, completing 41-of-61 throws (67.2%) for 542 yards (8.9 YPA) with a 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio and 127.9 rating. Foles has concrete feet, but Kelly still uses him on designed runs because it's a critical part of the scheme, and Foles scored a four-yard rushing touchdown on a draw in last week's win over Tampa. With Ware out of the picture, there is little or nothing imposing about the Dallas defense. There are only eight quarterbacks I'd use over Foles this week: Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Matthew Stafford. ... Foles' target distribution on the season: DeSean Jackson 14, Jason Avant 10, Zach Ertz and Riley Cooper 7, McCoy 6, Bryce Brown 5, Brent Celek 4, Jeff Maehl 3. ... It's probably time to take D-Jax seriously as a matchup-proof WR1 when he's on pace for 91 catches, 1,571 yards, and 14 touchdowns. There isn't a corner in Dallas' secondary who can run with him. ... Cooper's Week 6 stat line of 4-120-1 is hard to take seriously because he did a huge chunk of the damage against Bucs rookie CB Johnthan Banks, who's been battling a MRSA staph infection. Cooper's 47-yard TD came on a blatant push-off of Banks that was simply missed by the refs. Prior to Week 6, Cooper hadn't cleared 30 yards all season. ... Tight end-desperate owners should give Ertz a look this week. The second-round pick from Stanford played a season-high 42-of-68 snaps (62%) against Tampa and tied D-Jax with a team-most six targets. Only the Cardinals and Dolphins have given up more fantasy points to tight ends than the Cowboys.
The Eagles have played the run better than given credit for this year. They're 16th in run defense and permit 4.01 YPC, which aren't great numbers but certainly not the cupcake popular opinion makes them out to be. Philly is atrocious against the pass. Last in the NFC in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush metrics, the Eagles are 25th in sacks with a 13:6 TD-to-INT ratio against. They made Mike Glennon look like a future franchise quarterback last week. This is every bit a cupcake for Tony Romo, who's already producing like an elite QB1 with the fifth most fantasy points among quarterbacks through six weeks. ... Philly gets destroyed on a weekly basis by underneath and crossing routes. The latest beneficiary was Bucs undrafted rookie TE Tim Wright, who dropped seven catches for 91 yards on the Eagles last week. Philadelphia has permitted the eighth most receptions and seventh most yards to tight ends this season. Jason Witten is set up for a big game. ... Dez Bryant will play snaps versus both LCB Bradley Fletcher and RCB Cary Williams on Sunday. We already have a near-full game's worth of data on the Bryant-Williams matchup after Dez physically manhandled Williams snap after snap in last October's meeting with the Ravens. Bryant finished with a stat line of 13-95-2. I'd rank Dez as the No. 1 fantasy wideout in Week 7.
Romo's target distribution this season: Bryant 54, Witten 48, DeMarco Murray (injured) 27, Miles Austin 25, Terrance Williams 21, Cole Beasley 13, Dwayne Harris 9. ... Austin has regained his starting job, but played fewer snaps than Williams in Week 6 against Washington and failed to secure any of his four targets. Coach Jason Garrett conceded publicly this week that Austin was ineffective, suggesting the Cowboys may lean more on their fast-developing third-round rookie moving forward. Williams is a superior WR3 in this matchup. Debilitated by hamstring woes, Austin can't be trusted until he puts something in the box score. ... Joseph Randle will be Dallas' Week 7 lead back in place of Murray, with Phillip Tanner likely rotating in. The Cowboys still don't trust Randle in pass protection, where he also struggled at Oklahoma State. Lance Dunbar (hamstring) will not play. View Randle as an intriguing, if shaky flex play who figures to only pay dividends if he finds pay dirt. There is a decent enough chance of that because the Cowboys are a virtual lock to move the ball on offense and generate scoring opportunities. I still think Tanner will end up playing a lot more in this game than expected because he can protect Romo. Before Week 6, Randle had not played a snap on offense all season due to his blitz-pickup inadequacy.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Eagles 27
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta
Matt Ryan has been a quarterback elevated by his teammates rather than the other way around through five-plus NFL seasons, so it's going to be interesting to see what kind of production he's capable of without Julio Jones (foot surgery) the rest of the way. Roddy White (hamstring, ankle) has been a non-factor beyond decoy routes this season, while Tony Gonzalez is a 37-year-old box-out power forward at this stage of his career. Atlanta's pass blocking has been abysmal. Ryan could still be buoyed into QB1 dividends based on sheer pass-attempts volume in certain weeks, but I think he will struggle for top-15 fantasy quarterback production going forward. He's a shaky standard-league start against Tampa Bay's No. 16 pass defense. Glass-half-full Ryan owners can point to Steven Jackson's (hamstring) continued absence, the Georgia Dome, and Nick Foles' Week 6 game (296 yards, 4 all-purpose TDs) against these same Bucs as reasons for Week 7 optimism. ... Atlanta's lone stable weekly fantasy play left is Gonzalez, who averaged 9.2 targets a game before the Julio injury, and could now push for 11-12 per week with Jones out of the picture. The Bucs have allowed the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends, so this is an above-average matchup for Gonzo as his volume inevitably rises. "Obviously there might be more things up with Tony featured as the No. 1 guy," playcaller Dirk Koetter stated on Tuesday. "That's a no-brainer."
LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, and Foles combined to soften the Bucs for 138 yards and a score on the ground last week, but otherwise Tampa has played stingy run defense. The Buccaneers still haven't allowed a rushing touchdown to a tailback, and only permit 3.81 YPC. Since Steven Jackson strained his hamstring in Week 2, Jacquizz Rodgers has handled 66 touches compared to Jason Snelling's 42. Rodgers has played 179 snaps to Snelling's 118. Both are mid-range to low-end flex plays in this matchup, with Quizz as the preferred fantasy start. ... Harry Douglas is worth a WR3 look based on the fact that he may see 8-11 targets with Julio on I.R., but veteran fantasy leaguers are understandably skeptical because he's so often disappointed in previous opportunities like this. Slot receiver Douglas has started six games over the past three seasons, registering statistical lines of 5-68, 5-48, 2-57, 4-62, 4-51, and 1-3 without a touchdown. Lacking playmaking ability, Douglas just isn't that good. He's to be viewed as a low-ceiling WR3/4 going forward. ... Rookie TE Levine Toilolo and reserve receivers Kevin Cone and Drew Davis can be monitored for potentially expanded roles going forward, but can't be trusted in fantasy lineups.
Friday Update: I received a bunch of Friday questions about whether Douglas will be "on Revis Island," and wanted to address them. The Revis factor would be the least of my concerns. Douglas primarily plays slot receiver, and Darrelle Revis has only been used at outside corner this year. Additionally, the Buccaneers are playing zone in the back end, so Revis is not manning up opposing No. 1 wideouts. The concern I have with Douglas is his own talent level. It's not Revis, and it's certainly not opportunity.
Facing a pass rush-bereft Eagles defense assuredly played a role, but Mike Glennon showed continued signs of improvement in last week's start, operating coolly in the pocket and surveying with plus vision. He kept the chains moving on the strength of an 84.7 QB rating, 273 passing yards, and 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio with the pick coming on a bad route by Tiquan Underwood. Like Philly, Atlanta's defense has struggled to scrounge up quarterback disruption, which explains why Geno Smith picked apart the Falcons in Week 5, prior to the Week 6 bye. Atlanta is 27th in the league in sacks. Glennon is on the low-end two-quarterback-league radar and his progression bodes well for Tampa's other skill-position players. He's already an upgrade on Josh Freeman. ... Glennon's target distribution through two appearances: Vincent Jackson 25, Tim Wright 13, Mike Williams 6, Underwood 4, Brian Leonard and Jeff Demps 3, Erik Lorig 2. ... The Bucs use V-Jax at split end and in the slot, where his Week 7 matchups are favorable versus rookie RCB Desmond Trufant and slot CB Robert McClain, who's been a weekly burn victim. Slot receivers versus Atlanta over the last four games: Tavon Austin 6-47-2; Brandon Gibson 6-49; Julian Edelman 7-118; Jeremy Kerley 5-68-1. V-Jax is more likely to produce rest-of-season WR2/3 stats, but I'd treat him as a borderline WR1 this week. Glennon is peppering him with footballs.
Martin is a recommended buy-low target. Current owners have anxiety because he hasn't hit pay dirt since Week 1, but his pass-game involvement has increased in three straight games, while Glennon's improvement bodes well for Tampa's run-game outlook. Martin has at least 20 touches in every game this year. The Falcons rank sixth in run defense, but are allowing the tenth highest YPC average (4.23) in football, so this matchup isn't as difficult as meets the eye. Martin owners should start him as a borderline RB1. Non-Martin owners should look to buy. ... Undrafted rookie TE Wright has added a new dimension to Tampa Bay's passing attack as a short to intermediate presence with a chain-moving skill set. He's secured 13 of the 17 balls thrown his way this year. Atlanta has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends, giving Wright some desperation TE1 appeal in standard leagues. He's worth owning in 14- and 16-teamers as a TE2. ... Williams is coming off a hamstring injury and projects to square off with Falcons top CB Asante Samuel on most of Sunday's snaps. Samuel never moves off his left corner island, and Williams primarily runs pass routes at LCBs. Williams has mostly disappointed in recent matchups with Atlanta. His last four stat lines against the Falcons: 5-43, 1-31, 3-28, 6-65-1. I'd try to find a different WR3.
Score Prediction: Falcons 21, Bucs 20