The Predictalator has run every Week 7 2014 NFL game 50,000 times. Below we present the up-to-date top three at each fantasy position for the week, a sleeper likely to have a breakout game (generally chosen as the best $/FP value on daily fantasy sites), a player to avoid (the worst $/FP value) and some injury situations to monitor heading into the week. Also, check out free projections for every player in every future week in our Rest of Season Fantasy Football Rankings.
1. Andrew Luck 26.3 FPs (IND vs. CIN) – The Bengals' defense is starting to fall apart due to injuries and Andrew Luck has some extra time after playing previously on Thursday to prepare for what have become fairly predictable Paul Guenther schemes. Luck leads the NFL by averaging 31.5 fantasy points a game. He should maintain that lead through the week.
2. Aaron Rodgers 25.1 FPs (GB vs. CAR) – Like Cincinnati, the Panthers are beat up on both sides of the ball, making it unlikely that they will be able to sustain enough drives to keep Rodgers off the field or do enough on defense to contain him. In his last three games, Rodgers has averaged 241 passing yards and 3.3 touchdowns with no interceptions.
3. Joe Flacco 24.9 FPs (BAL vs. ATL) – A week after throwing five touchdown passes in his game's first 16 minutes, Flacco returns home to face an even worse pass defense. Whereas Tampa Bay (last week's opponent), ranks second-to-last in pass defense with 8.2 yards-per-pass allowed, Atlanta ranks last at 8.3.
Breakout Candidate: Kirk Cousins 21.2 FPs (WAS vs. TEN) - Cousins is a much better fantasy football player than actual football player. He has thrown multiple interceptions in two of his last three games, and yet is averaging 330 yards passing and two passing touchdowns a game as a starter - which includes games against top five pass defenses in Seattle and Arizona.
Must Avoid: Drew Brees 16.9 FPs (NO @ DET) – Drew Brees is coming off a bye week, playing inside on turf and the total in this game is in the 50s. Must start, right? Not really. Brees will likely be without Jimmy Graham, his best overall weapon, in this game and Detroit has been stellar defensively. The Lions have allowed just 6.3 yards-per-attempt and have notched a sack on 8.8% of their opponents' passing plays.
1. DeMarco Murray 20.5 FPs (DAL vs. NYG) – He is not slowing down yet. Murray is projected to best all other running backs in fantasy scoring by almost four points.
2. Arian Foster 16.6 FPs (HOU @ PIT) – Playing for a team in Texas and getting an inordinate (and ultimately unsafe) number of touches in a game as the unquestioned focal point of his team's offense, Foster and Murray are similar players. That's a good thing for owners for this week (yet not a great proposition for either player in the long run).
3. Jamaal Charles 16.5 FPs (KC @ SD) – Charles is back off of a bye week and presumably healthy as the Chiefs head into San Diego. As has been the MO of the Chiefs this season, especially when facing elite passing teams, Kansas City will lean on the run game to control the ball and tempo of the game. Expect Charles to lead that charge and thrive in doing so.
Breakout Candidate: Bishop Sankey 14.3 FPs (TEN @ WAS) - Sankey, a rookie out of Washington, had a career high 19 touches and 61 yards rushing in his first NFL start last week. This week, Sankey faces a Redskins' defense that has allowed 453 yards rushing in the last three weeks.
Must Avoid: Zac Stacy (STL vs. SEA) – Rams' coach Jeff Fisher appears committed to a running back by committee approach with Stacy, Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason. In addition to that, the Rams play in a division with three of the five best run defenses in the league. The Rams also play from a deficit often, increasing their need to pass. Stacy may not be worth owning in most formats.
1. Jordy Nelson 15.6 FPs (GB vs. CAR) – After another excellent performance for Nelson last week with the Packers in Miami, he has at least nine receptions and double-digit targets in four of the team's six games this season. He has also scored four touchdowns in the last three games.
2. Golden Tate 14.0 FPs (DET vs. NO) – Assuming Calvin Johnson does not play, look for another impressive game from Lions' wide receiver Golden Tate. Even with Johnson healthy for much of the season, Tate has at least six targets and five catches in every game this season, including 22 catches and 32 targets in the last three weeks. New Orleans ranks 31st against the pass in our defensive efficiency metrics.
3. Antonio Brown 13.3 FPs (PIT vs. HOU) – Even though the Steelers offense only generated ten points in Cleveland last week, Brown still topped 100 yards receiving on ten targets. Brown is averaging over ten targets and 100 receiving yards a game on the season, never falling below 84 receiving yards and catching at least five passes in each contest.
Breakout Candidate: Cecil Shorts 8.2 FPs (JAX vs. CLE) – Shorts is rarely at or near 100% (he is rarely on the field), but when he plays, he needs to be started. Shorts has played in two through just two games this season and has been targeted at least ten times in each. At Tennessee last week, Shorts had ten catches for 103 yards on 16 targets. He emerged from the game healthy and should be strong again at home against Cleveland this week.
Must Avoid: Michael Crabtree 6.3 FPs (SF @ DEN) – A bevy of weapons for the Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers has really helped the team on the field, but it has hurt Crabtree's productivity. Even with a touchdown last week, Crabtree is being out-performed by Stevie Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Lloyd at wide receiver on his own team. Denver ranks fourth in the NFL allowing just 6.2 yards-per-pass. This is a bad matchup and bad timing for Crabtree.
1. Antonio Gates 11.3 FPs (SD vs. KC)
2. Jordan Reed 11.0 FPs (WAS vs. TEN)
3. Travis Kelce 10.0 FPs (KC @ SD)
Breakout Candidate: Eric Ebron 8.8 FPs (DET vs. NO)
Must Avoid: Scott Chandler 5.4 FPs (BUF vs. MIN)
1. Justin Tucker 12.8 FPs (BAL vs. ATL)
2. Billy Cundiff 10.1 FPs (CLE @ JAC)
3. Chandler Cantanzaro 10.0 FPs (ARI @ OAK)
Breakout Candidate: Dan Bailey 9.9 FPs (DAL vs. NYG)
Must Avoid: Sebastian Janikowski 5.4 FPs (OAK vs. ARI)
1. Buffalo Bills 11.3 FPs (BUF vs. MIN)
2. Arizona Cardinals 10.3 FPs (ARI @ OAK)
3. Seattle Seahawks 9.0 FPs (SEA @ STL)
Breakout Candidate: Washington Redskins 7.6 FPs (WAS vs. TEN)
Must Avoid: Cincinnati Bengals 2.4 FPs (CIN @ IND)
Injuries to Watch
1. Jimmy Graham - Despite playing a position that does not generate nearly as many points as most others, Graham was a borderline first round draft choice in fantasy leagues due to his dominance among tight ends. This week, it does not look like he will play due to a shoulder injury and the tight end rankings look very interesting without him (Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce and Eric Ebron are in the top ten). Unfortunately for Graham owners, there is not an obvious replacement on the Saints. With Graham out, Josh Hill and Ben Watson will likely split targets among tight ends in the passing game, while Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston may get one or two more looks each. More importantly, look for the Saints to run the ball more without Graham, especially getting Mark Ingram back and healthy (likely) at running back.
2. Star Wide Receivers - Injuries to Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Victor Cruz have massive impacts on this week's projections. With each of them expected to be out (Cruz is already on the IR), Golden Tate, Mohamed Sanu and Rueben Randle (in that order) are strong options to start in most fantasy points. Remarkably, if the currently injured star were to play at full health, none of those three would even warrant much consideration to play in fantasy leagues. The succession plan from these three starters is fortunately straight-forward. Be as prepared as possible for their absences.
3. Panthers, Skill Position Players - Even after his best game of the season, Cam Newton does not look like a starting option at quarterback against the Packers this week. It's not as much his fault (hey, he finally appears to be healthy) as it is the fact that everyone else on his team is hurt. Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen and literally all six Panthers' running backs who have played this season are banged up to some degree. We expect Benjamin, Olsen and Jonathan Stewart to play, which would be a best case scenario for the Panthers at 100% for each player. Unfortunately, even with those players in our projections, no Panther looks like a safe starter this week. Benjamin ranks #20, Olsen #10 and Stewart #27 respectively at their positions in our rankings for the week. Those are fringe starting players even if they all do play.
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