By Jack Thomason-
(CBS) So far this football season, there has been an abundant amount of injuries and underperformers. That isn’t anything new in comparison to other years, but it does leave us fantasy owners struggling to fill lineups. Add in bye weeks (Tampa Bay and Philadelphia this week), and we have a recipe for disaster, especially for those teams on the cusp of trying to stay competitive.
Here are some sleepers you can look to for Week 7 if you’re in the aforementioned predicaments.
Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals) – There’s concern about the nerve in Palmer’s shoulder, but according to coach Bruce Arians, after Sunday’s game, Palmer “feels great.” Palmer has a plethora of weapons surrounding him and in two starts has averaged 276 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Oakland ranks fourth against the pass but has allowed nine touchdowns with only two picks. The Raiders’ highly ranked pass defense seems to be more attributed to their poor run defense than sporting a surefire secondary. The Raiders have only five sacks on the season, which suggests Palmer will have time to throw.
Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Bortles has attempted at least 36 passes in each of his last three games. In that span, he has thrown for more than 250 yards twice, including a 336-yard performance last week. In three of his last four games, he’s added 24 or more yards on the ground. Bortles isn’t going to be your savior, but if you are looking for a spot start, Cleveland is ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in sacks and the bottom third in passing yards allowed per game. If there is one thing the Jaguars do well, it’s play from behind, and that allows Bortles to throw plenty.
And did I mention the Jags are dead last in rushing yards per game?
Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers) – In the game in which Stewart got hurt, he was starting to heat up. He had five carries for 31 yards while chipping in three catches for 19 yards. This is more of a gut feeling than anything else, but one that has some promise. Green Bay is allowing a league-worst 154.5 yards per game on the ground. Plus, there’s little competition for Stewart in the Carolina backfield with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert still sidelined. Stewart practiced in full Wednesday, which means he should be a go for Sunday’s juicy matchup. With Cam Newton getting his legs under him, his ability to run will open lanes for Stewart.
Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns) – The Browns own one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and their philosophy for winning is ground and pound. Ben Tate has been a bell cow since he’s returned to the lineup, but there’s plenty to go around in the league’s third-ranked run game. Cleveland is averaging 33 attempts and 146.4 yards per game. As evidenced by last week’s 11 carries and Terrance West being a healthy scratch, Crowell is and will be a significant part of this offense. Add all of that with his talent and a date with Jacksonville’s 21st-ranked run defense and you should have yourself a nice RB3 with upside.
Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Two Jaguars on the list? Crazy, I know, but when Shorts plays, he produces. In his only two healthy games this year, Shorts has 25 targets, 15 receptions, 138 yards and one touchdown. During those games, he’s received elite target percentages, accounting for 33 and 34 percent of the Jags’ aerial assault. Also, as I mentioned, the Jaguars are terrible at running the ball. Against a mediocre Browns pass defense, you could do a lot worse than Shorts. He’s a WR2 this week.
Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers) – In a powerful offense, the second-round pick out of Fresno State has seen his snaps increase throughout the season. In my Week 7 top 10 waiver adds piece, I wrote about Aaron Rodgers seeing Adams gain separation on film and how it translated to six catches on eight targets for 77 yards last week. I expect that to continue against Carolina’s 23rd-ranked pass defense that’s allowing 252 passing yards per game and 12 touchdowns overall on the season, third-worst in the NFL. Adams is a big, physical wide receiver and with opposing defenses locked in on Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Adams will get his.
Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams) – The Rams’ passing offense has been better since Austin Davis took over at quarterback. In that time, Cook has no fewer than four receptions and 44 yards. Last week, it was four catches for 74 yards, and he had another 21-yard gain called back. That offensive pass interference call was very suspect. He’s playing more consistent than we have seen him play before, and Seattle is giving up second-most points to tight ends.
Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati Bengals) – This one is for those Jimmy Graham owners desperate to find a streaming replacement. Gresham is listed here because of targets by default. With A.J. Green likely to miss Week 7, Gresham will once again be the second option in the passing game. In Week 6, he caught six of seven targets for 68 yards. This one is an admitted hail mary, but given the target situation and that the Bengals will have to keep up with the league’s top offense in the Colts, you could do worse.
Other considerations: Brian Hoyer, Kyle Orton, Darren McFadden, Bernard Pierce, Brandon LaFell, Andre Holmes, Clay Harbor and Josh Hill.
Jack Thomason was the winner of the 2014 Bud Light Fantasy Expert Contest and is the co-host of Fantasy Streamers. Follow him on Twitter @jthomason77 and feel free to ask fantasy questions.