Johnson: Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em For Week 7

By Stephen Johnson–

(CBS) “Sit ‘Em, Start ‘Em” is a breakdown of some of the best and worst fantasy football matchups to help you navigate setting your lineups for the week.

Week 6 brought a bag of surprises with top-10 position performances by the likes of Chris Ivory, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Michael Hoomanawanui (Who doesn’t enjoy the opportunity to scream out Hoomanawanui?). And with some teams facing significant lineup changes in Week 7, a fair amount of fantasy matchups could be affected.

Bye Weeks: Detroit and Houston.

Quarterbacks

START – Tyrod Taylor, Bills (vs. Buccaneers) There’s something about New Era Field that brings out the best in Taylor. Since 2016, Taylor has a 16-to-4 touchdown-to-interception-ratio at home while putting up 22 fantasy points per game. Tampa Bay is 28th against quarterbacks this season, giving up 308 yards through the air and two touchdowns on average. Taylor isn’t known for his arm by any means, but when you’re facing a defense giving up 300-yard games to the likes of Case Keenum and Mike Glennon, be prepared for a solid offensive output – especially with a bye week to help prepare.

SIT – Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (vs Bengals) Roethlisberger at home always seemed to be that lock for fantasy lineups, but he’s been no guarantee here in 2017. His last game at Heinz Field was one of the worst of his career, throwing five interceptions against Jacksonville. This week’s against the Bengals isn’t much easier, as they allow just 12.7 points per game to quarterbacks to go along with the second-fewest passing yards. And Roethlisberger’s last four games against Cincinnati? Five touchdowns against six interceptions. It’s been a mixed bag with little success.

Running backs

START – Adrian Peterson, Cardinals (vs. Rams) Los Angeles has been a turnstile against running backs this season, allowing seven rushing touchdowns, the most in the NFL. The Rams are also tied for giving up the most rushing plays of 20 yards or more. The returns of D.J. Humphries and Alex Boone to the Cardinals’ offensive line were grossly underappreciated last week, specifically Humphries’ run-blocking skills. Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn have been sub-par against the run this year for the Rams, leading to the team allowing 122 yards per game on the ground, the fourth-most in the league.

SIT – Demarco Murray, Titans (vs. Browns) The Browns defense has been on fire the past two weeks against the run. Take out a D’Onta Foreman 39-yard scamper last week, and the Browns have given up an average of 2.2 yards per carry in that stretch. As for the season? Just 3.09 per carry and a season-high of 66 yards allowed to a single runner, the Ravens’ Javorius Allen. Murray is averaging a paltry 44 yards from scrimmage on the road in 2017. Couple that with the Derrick Henry timeshare, and it’s not looking good for the former Offensive Player of the Year in Week 7.

Receivers

START – Dez Bryant, Cowboys (vs. 49ers) Bryant’s start to the season didn’t come without difficulty, facing the Giants, Broncos and Cardinals in three of the team’s first five games. Coming off the bye is a different story however, as Dallas travels to San Francisco, where Bryant will have a good opportunity to notch his first 100-yard game of the season. The Niners rank 22nd against wide receivers in points per game, but that’s not the biggest stat that sticks out in this matchup. When faced against a bottom-tier cornerback like San Francisco’s Dontae Johnson, Bryant flourishes, nearly doubling his points per target to 3.3 points dating back to 2015. Everything points to a big day for Bryant.

SIT – Alshon Jeffery, Eagles (vs. Washington) Washington’s secondary has been lights out against wide receivers this season, allowing the fifth-fewest points to the position. Jeffery is only catching half of his targets this season, tied for 98th among receivers in catch percentage. A main contributor? Twenty-one of Jeffery’s targets have been contested by the defense, resulting in only eight catches in such situations. Washington held Jeffery to 38 yards on three catches in Week 1, relying on double coverage. It’s hard to image the Redskins wandering away from that plan in Week 7, making for a difficult tilt regardless of Josh Norman’s status.

Tight ends

START – George Kittle, 49ers (vs. Cowboys) The fifth-round pick out of Iowa, Kittle has emerged as a serious fantasy candidate with a combined 17 targets over the Niners’ last two contests, seven of which came in the red zone. Rookie C.J. Beathard now has the reigns as starting quarterback for San Francisco, and he also happens to be the player who was throwing Kittle the ball at Iowa for four years. That college connection is alive and well as seven of Kittle’s eight targets came from Beathard in last week’s loss to Washington. Kittle ranks 10th across all positions in expected fantasy points over the last two weeks thanks to the attention he’s getting on offense. The opportunities are starting to become consistent, and he will only get better as the season continues.

SIT – Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. Bills) Brate has been playing like a man with a death grip on his job with O.J. Howard breathing down his neck. He faces his toughest test this week in a Buffalo defense that allows just 10 points per game in PPR leagues to tight ends, good for fifth-best in the league. Speaking of tests, you could call it his first real test of the year. The Bucs have yet to face a team ranked higher than 14th against tight ends this season. Regression may come this week as Brate is currently third in points scored among tight ends yet is 14th in targets.

Stephen Johnson is 670 The Score’s 2017 Fantasy Football Expert winner. He’s a weekly guest on “Chicago’s Fantasy Football Today,” every Sunday morning during football season from 8.a.m.-9 a.m. CT on WSCR-670 and 670thescore.com/listen. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Roto.

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