On a non-fantasy note, Colts punter Pat McAfee was arrested early Wednesday morning after he reportedly “took a pre-dawn swim in a canal in a nightlife district.” When the Colts return to action in Week 8, if the Lucas Oil Stadium sound system doesn’t play Nightswimming by R.E.M. every time McAfee punts, it’ll be very disappointing.
As noted previously, each position below will have a list of weekly “must starts” to go along with the usual recommendations. They’re players that warrant “no-think” fantasy status due to talent, workloads or both, regardless of opponent. The lists are subject to change, but additions and deletions will be made sparingly. Also, if a player is ever “removed until further notice,” it doesn’t mean you need to bench him; it just indicates that his status has become a week-to-week proposition that depends on the rest of your roster.
If you disagree with any of the selections, or want to offer some of your own, please post a comment at the bottom of the page. We’ll be here every Thursday until the end of your fantasy season.
Week 7 byes: Lions, Texans, Colts, Jets
Almost there: Ben Roethlisberger
Removed until further notice Matt Schaub
Start him: Matt Cassel, Chiefs
Wasn’t Cassel in this spot last week? Yep, but he needs to be again with a home matchup on tap against the 28th-ranked Jaguars’ defense. Cassel had a solid game against the Texans in Week 6, completing 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He’s a spot starter in fantasy terms, and just happens to be in a second consecutive good spot.
Sit him: Donovan McNabb, Redskins
McNabb is currently the No. 16 quarterback at FOXSports.com, but three of the guys ahead of him (Manning, Schaub, Mark Sanchez) have byes this week, and two more (Shaun Hill, Michael Vick) are injured, so you might be tempted to start him. This week, the ‘Skins will visit the Bears, who have allowed 220 yards passing per game (18th in the NFL), but have also given up just three touchdown passes and held opponents to six yards per pass attempt. The Bears aren’t likely to fall victim to an aerial assault, so you might want to keep McNabb on your fantasy bench.
Also: See the Knowshon Moreno entry below for reasons why Kyle Orton might not be such a great start this week.
Pick him up: Matthew Stafford, Lions
Stafford is due back from his shoulder injury in Week 8, and since he’s owned in just 46.8 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, you should check your free-agent pool to see if he’s available. We thought during the preseason that Stafford would be a top-notch fantasy backup worthy of some matchup starts, and that hasn’t changed. His backup, Shaun Hill, put up some solid numbers over the past five weeks, and Stafford should pick up where Hill left off. Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Nate Burleson comprise a strong receiving corps that will be ready to help Stafford hit the ground running – er, passing – against the 31st-ranked Washington pass defense on Halloween.
Must starts (10): Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, LeSean McCoy (Note: Arian Foster is usually in this space, but he has a bye in Week 7.)
Start him: Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
It seemed more likely to see a Kardashian date a nuclear scientist than to have a Bronco back run for four yards per carry against the Jets last week, but that’s what Moreno did. Twelve carries for 48 yards didn’t exactly put you over the top in your fantasy matchup, but Moreno and the Broncos will host a struggling Raider run defense in Week 7. The Ponies can’t spend the whole season letting Kyle Orton throw on every down, and more importantly, third stringer Kyle Boller might start at quarterback for the Silver and Black in place of the injured duo of Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell. If that happens, the Broncos could be looking to run the clock to protect a second-half lead, finally making Moreno a fantasy asset.
Sit him: Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
Brown splits the ‘Fins workload with Ricky Williams, and he’s been fine so far, with 352 yards from scrimmage on 77 touched (67 carries, 10 receptions) in five games. Unfortunately, Brown and the Dolphins host the Steelers and their ferocious, league-best run defense this week. If the Dolphins announce the signing of a bulldozer to block for Brown – you know, the huge John Deere kind – you should start him. Otherwise, give him the week off.
Pick him up: Chris Ivory, Saints
Want to hear a Pro Bowl quarterback say nice things about his team’s rookie running back? Drew Brees praised Ivory, who ran for 158 yards against the Bucs in Week 6.
“He’s surprised a lot of people in our building with the way that his speed and ability to pull away from the pack as he comes around the corner. We see him as a big back, a big, powerful, physical back. He got on the edge a few times and there are guys on the other team with speed and he’s getting to the corner on them or he’s pulling past them, so not only did he surprise them, he surprised some of us with that with his speed, straight line speed,” he told the Bayoubuzz News.
The Saints are hoping to get injured RB Pierre Thomas back this week, and If they do, it will certainly affect Ivory’s playing time. Still, as well as Ivory has been running, it’s hard to imagine the Saints burying him any time soon, so he should retain some fantasy value while sharing the workload with Thomas (and in a couple more weeks, with Reggie Bush as well). If Thomas can’t come back for Week 7, Ivory is a great fantasy start against the Browns.
Must starts (9): (WR – 6) Randy Moss, Miles Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Anquan Boldin; (TE – 3) Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Zach Miller (Note: Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are usually in this space, but they have byes in Week 7.)
Removed until further notice: Jason Witten
Start him: Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
Yeah, we know. Maclin is a top-10 wideout in most fantasy formats, with 25 receptions, 416 yards and six touchdowns so far. But we’re not sure most of you know it, since he’s currently listed as a starter in just 20.2 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. With Jackson out, Maclin is a no-doubt fantasy starter unless you already own a trio like Austin, White and Marshall. And if you own those guys … what are you doing here looking for advice?
Also: Let’s stick with the Eagles and make TE Brent Celek a starter this week as well. Celek is a favorite target of QB Kevin Kolb, with his targets increasing since Kolb replaced the injured Michael Vick. As with Maclin, Celek’s stock goes up for as long as Jackson is out.
Sit him: Donald Driver, Packers
Driver has just been kinda sorta OK this season. Statistically, he’s been a top-25 fantasy receiver, and he’s 27th in targets, but … only one game over 61 yards? And with the Vikings’ solid pass defense coming to Lambeau Field this week? Driver’s not an exciting fantasy wideout to own, but he seems particularly unexciting right now.
Antonio Gates might not play with his sprained toe, and Malcom Floyd probably won’t play due to a hamstring injury. The pass-happy Philip Rivers has to throw to someone, and the widely available Davis and Crayton look like good short-term fantasy options. Crayton caught six passes for 117 yards against the Rams in Week 6, but Davis (three receptions, 39 yards, TD) was targeted eight times to Crayton’s seven. If you own Floyd, DeSean Jackson or one of the big bye-week wideouts like Wayne, Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson, either Charger could serve as a solid fantasy fill-in against the permissive Patriots’ pass defense (273.4 yards per game). We like Davis a little better than Crayton, and if you need to bid on free agents in your league, Davis will probably be cheaper.
Also: There’s one more Eagle to consider, as possession receiver Jason Avant caught five passes for 62 yards in Week 6. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but with Jackson absent, Avant is worth your consideration as a free-agent pickup and possible starter.
Good luck in Week 7!
John Halpin writes his “Wide Write” fantasy football column every week during the NFL season for FOXNews.com. He also writes fantasy columns and early-morning blogs four days a week at FOXSports.com/fantasy, and co-hosts a daily fantasy podcast. You can receive more fantasy news and contact John by >following him on Twitter (@jhalpin37), or e-mailing him at email@example.com.