Take their pictures off your dartboard and clear off a spot in your starting lineup. With the season not even into November yet, it's too soon to hold grudges. Week 7 offers some matchups for disappointing players to get back in your good graces. Here are five fantasy stars who should bounce back this week:
DeAngelo Williams vs. the 49ers: Sure, the Panthers' running backs have amounted to "Double Trouble" for anyone who: A) drafted them; and B) expected actual points. But come Sunday, expect Williams to change some of that thinking. After a week off to think about being winless, not to mention a quarterback change with Matt Moore back, Williams should blow up on an up-and-down visiting San Fran defense.
Jay Cutler vs. The Redskins: Facing the second-to-last pass defense in the league, one allowing almost 300 yards a game, the Bears' passing game should be back in a big way. Cutler's outing last week against the Seahawks was concerning, but count on him Sunday for at least 250 yards and two touchdowns.
Knowshon Moreno vs. the Raiders: Most of this year has been a wash for Moreno but after getting back into the lineup last week, he's got a custom-made matchup waiting for him Sunday. As potent as the Broncos' Mile High Offense is through the air, look for a healthy Moreno to go BOOM against the league's 31st-ranked rush defense.
Eli Manning @ the Cowboys: After a sub-200-yard outing against the lowly Detroit Lions (yes, those Lions), expect Manning to be at his best in what should be a nationally televised shootout. Manning and the Giants' receivers will put the top-ranked pass defense in the league to the test, as the Cowboys will try to halt the mudslide that's quickly become their season.
Marques Colston vs. the Browns: The former top-15 receiver is scoreless and without a single 100-yard game. Yet, this matchup is crazy enough to work. Cleveland is 25th against the pass, and despite the surge of teammates Lance Moore and recent spike of production by Robert Meachem, Colston led the Saints in targets last week (six) and leads the team overall. It's make-or-break time for Colston, who should be hitting your waiver wire next week if he can't come through against the Browns.
Going off the grid isn't just necessary sometimes, it's survival. Whether a player has been benched, is injured or on a bye, those absences are eating up your team's depth, so take a shot with one of these not so obvious players for a fantasy spark to any lineup. Here are four options ready to surprise:
Jordy Nelson vs. the Vikings: Donald Driver is questionable with a thigh injury, and even if he plays, will be limited. Nelson is coming off a promising Week 6 outing in which he tied for a team-high seven targets.
Matt Cassel vs. the Jaguars: Most likely not even a backup on many teams after a mediocre start this year, Cassel should carve up the 30th-ranked Jags' pass defense, which is tied for 32nd in the league in allowing 14 (!) touchdown passes this year.
Jason Avant at the Titans: It's a sad but true reality -- one fantasy owner's injury loss is another's waiver wire gain. With DeSean Jackson out, Avant moves into the starting lineup and should benefit from a Philly offense that's clicking, no matter who lines up under center.
Cadillac Williams vs. the Rams: He's a likely free agent in most leagues under 14 teams, but don't close the book on Williams just yet. The Bucs' backfield situation is a mess at times and he's been a main culprit with some poor showings, but it's hard to ignore this good matchup. Cadillac faces an average Rams' un defense on the heels of a 17-touch game that saw him pile up 81 total yards against the Saints.
One of the best ways to gauge the value of a receiver is the number of Targets or times a quarterback throws to them in a game. Here are the top 20 receivers who lead the league in overall targets through six weeks.
1. Roddy White, Falcons 692. Reggie Wayne, Colts 653. Brandon Lloyd, Broncos 644. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins 635. Terrell Owens, Bengals 616. Hakeem Nicks, Giants 577. Santana Moss, Redskins 557. Andre Johnson, Texans 557. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 557. Calvin Johnson, Lions 5511. Steve Smith, Giants 5411. Danny Amendola, Rams 5411. Austin Collie, Colts 5414. Jabar Gaffney, Broncos 5315. Anquan Boldin, Ravens 4715. Marques Colston, Saints 4715. Eddie Royal, Broncos 4718. Miles Austin, Cowboys 4619. Wes Welker, Patriots 4519. Michael Crabtree, 49ers 45
In the "Back From the Dead Department", the Cowboys' much-maligned (by me) Roy Williams has five touchdowns -- one more than the all-world fantasy duo of Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson put together (four). Miles Austin is still the WR1 in Big D, despite his power shortage of two TDs. But it's probably Dez Bryant's development and Jason Witten's chances to touch the ball that have been the biggest victim of Williams' resurgence. Can he keep this up? No. But he'll probably do just enough to damage the value of Bryant and Witten..
Going forward I love Marshawn Lynch's prospects as a great flex play or a low-end RB2. Last week in his Seattle debut, he totaled 20 touches and will be the go-to guy at the goal line the rest of the way. Justin Forsett isn't going away anytime soon, but Lynch has the higher upside and the better size. And through the air, Mike Williams looks like the beneficiary of the Deion Branch trade. After a weak month of September, his targets have risen steadily and topped out at a Danny Amendola-esque 15 last week in a breakout performance.
It's hard to get a read on the Patriots' backfield, but I stubbornly stand by my earlier pronouncements that of the running backs in play, stick with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He'll handle the goal line work in a Sammy Morris-type role while Danny Woodhead does his best Kevin Faulk 2.0 impression as a scatback, and third-down target. With that said, Woodhead is an intriguing PPR flex-play and all-around yardage threat who shouldn't be left on the waiver wire by now. Plus you have to love a guy rocking dual position classification at receiver and running back, nice!
It only took two months and a half-dozen games to reduce everyone's once mighty preseason draft checklists to rubble. At about the midway point for most fantasy regular seasons, it's hard to believe how different my top 25 list might look if a draft were held today.
1 RB Chris Johnson, Titans2 RB Arian Foster, Texans3 RB Matt Forte, Bears4 RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles5 QB Phillip Rivers, Chargers6 TE Antonio Gates, Chargers7 QB Kyle Orton, Bronco8 RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets9 RB Adrian Peterson, Viking10 RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers11 QB Peyton Manning, Colts12 QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers13 QB Drew Brees, Saint14 RB Frank Gore, 49ers15 RB Peyton Hillis, Browns16 WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles17 WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants18 WR Austin Collie, Colts19 WR Brandon Lloyd, Broncos20 RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants21 WR Calvin Johnson, Lions22 RB Ray Rice, Ravens23 WR Reggie Wayne, Colts24 RB Jahvid Best, Lions25 WR Roddy White, Falcons
These are based on stats, future projections and personal preference, although some of these guys probably won't stay on this list as the season wears on -- Austin Collie, I'm looking at you with your impending surgery.