With Week 7 approaching, we’re officially reaching the halfway point of most fantasy seasons. And it’s getting tough to tell who you can trust around the NFL. Are the Dallas Cowboys really this good? Well, they do have the hottest running back in the league and they did just beat up on the Seahawks in Seattle, so you have to give them some respect. Plus, it’s not December, Jason Garrett hasn’t completely run DeMarco Murray into the ground yet (on pace for 424 carries though) and they’re not facing any high pressure situations at the moment so yeah, you can probably trust them for now.
It’s not just the Cowboys, though. Joe Flacco threw four touchdowns in the first quarter of his game against the team formerly known as the Buccaneers. The lesson? Trust anyone playing Tampa Bay. And T.Y. Hilton — normally a boom-or-bust player whose value typically hinges on big plays — is now No. 5 in the NFL with 40 receptions and No. 4 overall with 604 receiving yards. Over the last three weeks alone, he’s hauled in 24 catches for 418 yards. If he’s going to show consistency in an offensive attack led by Andrew Luck, you have to believe in him.
And then there’s the big names who have struggled. Sure, LeSean McCoy got off to a slow start this season, but we all knew he’d be back at some point. Sunday night, he ripped off 149 rushing yards as the Eagles trashed the Giants. The line in front of him is getting better, and he’s seeing more touches again. In other words, your opportunity to buy low on Shady has passed. Along the same lines, Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense looked about as exciting as a documentary on the history of cardboard two weeks ago. Since then, Brady has thrown for 653 yards and six touchdowns — against two of the better defenses in football.
On the other hand, there are plenty of high picks who have simply vanished and probably should be benched until they actually put up numbers again. Cordarrelle Patterson is electrifying when he has the ball in his hands. Problem is, he never has the ball in his hands. And even his coach suggested he needs to “get open” if he wants to be more involved. Very succinct. Meanwhile, Keenan Allen just seems to be wandering around the field. He’s gone over 55 receiving yards exactly once this season, and it came against the Jaguars so I’m not even sure it really happened. He’s a decent player, but he’s just not making plays. Worse yet if you’re a fantasy owner with Allen on your team: the Chargers are winning so it’s not like they’re suddenly going to switch up their offense to focus on feeding him the ball.
With that in mind, it’s imperative to trust the consistent guys while being able to cut the cord on the players who received preseason hype but simply aren’t doing much. That doesn’t necessarily mean dropping them, just not starting them. Of course, the quickest path to fantasy success is to find the strong players that are facing weak opposition and cash in. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 7…
QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB (v CAR). The Packers are rolling, it’s all because of Rodgers and now he faces a team that has allowed as many passing touchdowns (12) as the Jaguars. Don’t overthink it.
Honorable Mention: Matthew Stafford, DET (v NO). Only five teams allow more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Saints, and this game has all the makings of a shootout — especially indoors. But there’s some risk here with Calvin Johnson likely to miss his second straight game. If that’s the case, then replace the words “Matthew Stafford” with “Tom Brady”, and make up your own joke about how bad the Jets’ secondary has been this season. Here’s some help: Julius Thomas could be heard yelling out “it’s SO EASY” after his second touchdown reception against them last Sunday. Can’t make this stuff up.
RB: Ben Tate, CLE (@ JAX). No one has ever questioned Tate’s talent, just his ability to stay on the field. And no one has ever questioned the strategy of starting players against Jacksonville, period. Tate’s healthy now, the offense is running through him and he has rushed for 202 yards and a pair of scores over the last two weeks. He’s becoming trustworthy.
Honorable Mention: Andre Ellington, ARI (@ OAK). Ellington hasn’t really had a monster game yet, but he’s been pretty solid across the board. Because he’s so involved in the passing attack, his floor every week seems to be at least 80 total yards. In a way, he’s like a mini-Matt Forte. So why not just put Forte here? Because, honestly, we could probably list him in this spot every week. And because Ellington’s playing the Raiders.
WR/TE: Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (@ GB). The Packers are pretty good at stopping opposing tight ends (only three teams have given up less points to the position this season). Why does that matter? Well, because Cam Newton really only has two options when he drops back to throw: Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin. The 6-foot-5 rookie out of Florida State is already an enticing target to throw to. If Olsen is actually covered, Benjamin may become the only option against a secondary that just allowed Jarvis Landry to go off for 75 yards and a score.
Honorable Mention: Jordy Nelson, GB (v CAR). Three weeks ago, we noted that Aaron Rodgers was about to heat up. Since then, he’s tossed 10 touchdowns without throwing a pick, and Nelson is clearly his No. 1 option. Especially on third and fourth downs, when everyone on the other team just decides to leave him wide open for some reason.
D/ST: New England Patriots (v NYJ). Sloppy Thursday Night Football plus Geno Smith and the Jets equals success for one of the higher scoring fantasy defenses around. Oh and they’re tentatively expecting rain in Foxborough, too. Enjoy.
Honorable Mention: Seattle Seahawks (@ STL). They haven’t been producing the big plays we’ve come to expect, but they did manage a touchdown against the Cowboys. And now they’ll be angry following a home loss. Plus, they face Austin Davis and a Rams team that has literally given up more fantasy points to opposing defenses than anyone. In the world.
The Fantasy Football Fix podcast is available on ArizonaSports.com every week during the NFL season, with Luke Lapinski, Jordan Byrd and Paige Dimakos giving you all the insight you need to rise to the top of your league.