Greetings from Charlotte, N.C., where I’ve been looking everywhere for Panthers WR Steve Smith. Grocery stores, shopping malls, the neighborhood YMCA – you name it. If you happen to see Smith anywhere, please call 1-800-GIVEHIMTHEDAMNBALL.
As always, all this week’s recommendations aren’t included below. There will always be a few more players you need to know about, and to find out who they are, you’ll need to watch the weekly Wide Write video blog by clicking here or in the column at the right.
Read on for your Week 7 fantasy football recommendations. If you have any questions, comments or insults, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who’s off in Week 7: Ravens, Broncos, Lions, Jaguars, Seahawks, Titans
Start him: Jay Cutler, Bears
Since Cutler’s arrival, the Bears have become more of a pass-first team – they’ve thrown the ball 59 percent of the time this season (it was 55 percent last season). Cutler has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each of his last four games, and he had his first 300-yard game last week. This week’s opponent, the Bengals, are giving up 255 passing yards per game. That’s 28th in the league, and an attractive matchup for Cutler.
In fantasy, Cutler is sort of a tweener – not exactly Tom Brady, but not Kerry Collins, either. You don’t reflexively start him all the time, and I think people shied away from him in drafts because of the perception that the Bears are offensively challenged. With Cutler at the helm, they and your fantasy squad will be fine this week.
Sit him: The second stringers – just about all of them
In this week’s Wide Write video blog, I suggested benching Donovan McNabb against the Redskins. After that, most of the “play ‘em sometimes” types are either off or have bad matchups, and the usual starters have pretty good Week 7 matchups.
Here’s an overview of the second dozen quarterbacks (in terms of percentage of ownership) on FOXSports.com:
13. Eli Manning, Giants (already recommended starting him in this week’s Wide Write video blog)
14. Carson Palmer, Bengals (vs. Bears)
15. Brett Favre, Vikings (at Steelers)
16. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (bye)
17. Joe Flacco, Ravens (bye)
18. Matt Cassel, Chiefs (vs. Chargers)
19. David Garrard, Jaguars (bye)
20. Kyle Orton, Broncos (bye)
21. Trent Edwards, Bills (at Panthers)
22. Jake Delhomme, Panthers (vs. Bills)
23. Mark Sanchez, Jets (at Raiders)
24. Jason Campbell, Redskins (vs. Eagles)
After Manning, do you see any really appetizing options there? I know Favre has been terrific, and I keep getting egg on my face when recommending his benching, but playing him at Pittsburgh is a tough call. Unless one of these guys is your No. 1 QB – and I hope that’s not the case for most of you – don’t strain for reasons to start one. Unless you want to root for Sanchez while he throws five more interceptions, anyway.
Pick him up: Vince Young, Titans
The Titans are 0-6, and Collins completed two of 12 passes for minus-seven yards against the Patriots in Week 6. It’s hard to imagine that he’ll keep starting if the Titans keep losing, since the team probably has to re-evaluate Young at some point. I’m not saying that Young will come in and dazzle everyone, but the lure of potential rushing TDs from the fantasy quarterback position makes him worth a flier. If your starter has already had his bye week, VY (who has a bye this week) is worth a shot. Haven’t you been looking for a QB to put up stats like this: 7-for-19, 82 yards, INT, 2 rushing TDs.
By the way, the Titans are home in Weeks 14 through 16 (Rams, Dolphins, Chargers), which probably coincide with your fantasy playoffs. I’m just saying …
Start him: Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Stewart was in this spot last week, but since he’s still unowned in more than a quarter of FOXSports.com leagues, I thought he needed to be here again. Stewart finally broke out against the Bucs, with 17 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown. If you watched the Bills give up 318 rushing yards against the Jets last week, you must be salivating at the thought of starting Stewart against them.
Sit him: Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
I’m not saying, “bench Mendenhall no matter what,” especially since Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin hinted on Tuesday that Mendenhall had “earned the right to take the majority of the snaps as we proceed,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Just remember that A) Willie Parker is still around, B) the Vikings’ run defense is still pretty good (ninth in the NFL), and C) the historically smashmouth Steelers are throwing the ball more than 55 percent of the time, with QB Ben Roethlisberger leading the league in passing yards. You might have some better options than Mendenhall in Week 7.
Pick him up: Laurence Maroney, Patriots
Because we’re talking about the Patriots, we have no idea what the status of Sammy Morris’ knee injury is. Morris hadn’t practiced through Wednesday, and I think Bill Belichick locked him in a trunk in an equipment trailer in Rhode Island so nobody would find out how hurt he is.
We do know that Maroney looked great last week, with 123 yards and a TD, and that if Morris’ injury will indeed keep him out for awhile, Maroney is by far the Pats’ best remaining backfield option. He could be behind Morris again soon for all we know, but he has huge upside, and is available in about half of FOXSports.com leagues. Maroney could be a terrific start this week against the Bucs if Morris can’t play.
If you’re thinking, “I’ve been burned by Maroney before,” I don’t blame you. But if Morris is out for awhile, it’s not like Kevin Faulk will get 20 carries a game. And BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Please.
Start him: Steve Breaston, Cardinals
Since being deactivated in Week 1 due to a knee injury, Breaston has caught 23 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown in four games. He’s on pace to be in the same statistical ballpark as last year (77 receptions, 1,006 yards, 3 TD), and that’s pretty good for a fantasy WR3. There’s a decent chance that Anquan Boldin’s sprained ankle could keep him out against the Giants this week, which would bump Breaston up from a good start to a no-brainer.
Sit him: Santana Moss, Redskins
Moss’ overall stats look pretty good, but almost half his catches (10) and yards (178) came in one game. In the other five, he has 12 receptions for 201 yards and a TD. The Washington offense might change with a new playcaller, but do you want to put Moss in your fantasy lineup against the Eagles to find out? If you do, good luck.
(Note: I’m probably biased, because I hate Moss. He’s burned a couple of my fantasy teams in the past, and I can’t stand the sight of him. In a draft, I think I’d pick Art Monk before Moss, and Monk has been retired for 14 years.)
Pick him up: Hakeem Nicks, Giants
The first-round draft pick is starting to play well. He’s scored in each of the last three games, and caught five passes for 114 yards in the Giants’ blowout loss against the Saints. The G-Men haven’t been shy about throwing the ball, with Eli Manning averaging 31 pass attempts in his five complete games (he threw only 10 times in one half against the Raiders). Nicks appears to have a nice matchup against the Cardinals’ weak pass defense this week, and if he keeps playing well, he should have decent matchup value in the second half of the season.
Also: I was right about telling you to sit Seahawks RB Julius Jones last week, wasn’t I? Sure, I had him listed with the wide receivers and tight ends, but otherwise I nailed that one … Steelers PK Jeff Reed was arrested earlier this week for, among other things, public drunkenness. This isn’t Reed’s first brush with the law on such an issue, and while he’s scheduled to play this week, beware of a suspension later in the season … Raiders RB Justin Fargas carried 23 times for 87 yards in Week 6. This week, the Raiders play the Jets, who just lost NT Kris Jenkins for the season. Hmm … RB Mike Bell returned last week for the Saints, and got some goal-line carries among his 15 attempts. I still like Pierre Thomas better than Bell , but Bell has plenty of fantasy value.
Thanks for reading, and once again, make sure to watch this week’s edition of the Wide Write video blog by clicking here. Share it with your friends, post it on your Facebook page – really, I’d like to be just about everywhere if it’s OK with you.
John Halpin writes Wide Write and hosts an accompanying video blog every week throughout the NFL season. He also writes fantasy columns and early-morning blogs four days a week at FOXSports.com/fantasy. You can receive more fantasy news and contact John by following him on Twitter (@jhalpin37).