Living in the daily game world for any sport requires a lot of work with little reward for the casual player unless the stars align for one magical day. Most daily owners need to decide whether to be a grinder or a swing-for-the-fences player. One path keeps you alive for more days of action with the idea of building your bankroll slowly. The other has a donation feel while offering a pot of gold at the end of a distant rainbow.
Since the daily sites started offering the million-dollar overall prize, I’ve been trying to find my get-out-of-jail-free card. The goal is to handicap the main football slate on Sunday and invest in the best possible combination of foundation players. If my key players have success, I will be in the hunt with many teams. Each football season, I expect to be in the mix in four or five weeks.
All players listed are for the main slate of games on Sunday.
After seeing 15 running backs score over 20.00 fantasy points in PPR leagues in Week 5, only 10 backs reached that mark in Week 6. Jonathan Taylor (28.80 fantasy points) led all backs on Sunday despite only two rushes in the first half.
My Bengals’ stack broke down quickly when Joe Burrow tossed two touchdowns to his running backs rather than his stud wideouts. He finished with only 29 passes, but his stats (291/3) were still good enough to rank sixth for quarterbacks on the main slate on Sunday.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
Murray has been a nonfactor in the daily games since Week 2 (38.10 fantasy points). In addition, his pass attempts declined over the past four weeks (36, 34, 32, 31, 30), along with his yards per pass attempt (11.1, 9.3, 8.4, 7.7, 7.6). After gaining six yards per rush over the first two years in the league, Murray hasn’t been running as much this year (37/116/3) while struggling to find daylight at the second level of the defense (3.1 yards per carry). His completion rate (73.8) is elite, and Murray is gaining 8.9 yards per pass attempt.
The Texans allow almost 29 points per game, with offenses successfully running the ball (179/848/11) and passing (1,569/9 – 8.4 yards per pass attempt). They’ve given up four rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks despite holding them to 2.47 yards per rush (30/74/4). Houston has risk defending tight ends (35/497/5), so the addition of Zach Ertz may shine through in this matchup.
The downside of playing Murray would be a no-show on offense by the Texans. Davis Mills threw the ball better in his last two matchups (312/3 and 243/0 – 69.4 percent completion rate), but his success will take a step back if Arizona can force Houston to be a one-dimensional offense (pass only). SI Sportsbook has the Cardinals favored by 17.5 points, inviting a lot of runs in the second half by Arizona. Quarterbacks have 25 completions over 20 yards against the Texans. I expect Murray to have a rushing touchdown and hit on a 50-plus-yard touchdown.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
A bad defense by the Chiefs creates plenty of passing chances for Mahomes. Over his last two starts, he’s thrown the ball 101 times, leading to 65 completions. In addition, Mahomes has been more active as a runner over his previous four games (20/163 – 8.2 yards per rush). Turnovers (8) have been a problem over this span. On the year, he averages 345 combined yards with 3.2 touchdowns.
Tennessee ranks 28th in quarterback defense (25.74 FPPG) with massive issues defending the pass in two matchups (ARI – 309/5 and BUF – 379/3). Their secondary struggled in four games against wide receivers (17/246/4, 19/326/2, 15/264/2, 24/296/2). Overall, wideouts gain 14.50 yards per catch (98/1,418/10).
With an over/under of 57.5, the winning daily ticket in Week 7 should have a couple of pieces from this game. A Mahomes double stack with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce should be a fun follow, but finding enough value pieces to backfill that roster will be challenging.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
The combination of Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Darrell Henderson scored 87.94 fantasy points in Week 6, giving daily players an excellent start to their team build. The Rams have another ideal offensive matchup against Detroit this week. For the first time, Stafford faces his former team while being on a career pace in passing yards (5,208 – helped by an extra game) and 45 touchdowns. He’s gaining 9.2 yards per pass attempt, and his wide receivers already have 100 catches for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns on 152 targets.
Last week, I focused on beating the Lions’ pass defense (9.8 yards per pass attempt) with Burrow. Unfortunately, Cincinnati hit on a pair of scores in the passing game to their running backs (8/108/2) at the expense of their wideouts (9/155/1). In addition, the Lions struggled to move the ball and score points.
Detroit sits 17th in wide receiver defense (22.38 FPPG), but quarterbacks average only 27.5 passes against them.
Los Angeles will get plenty of production from their running backs with a chance at multiple scores (RBs have 12 scores against the Lions). The key to Stafford’s success requires Jared Goff to lead the Lions to a minimum of 20 points, something they haven’t done over their last five contests (17, 17, 17, 17, 11 points scored).
I will, in some way, try to recover some of my lost bankroll on the Bengals in Week 6 by stacking the Rams’ offense. However, the wiser side of me believes Henderson and the Rams’ defense make more sense.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It will be tough to get away from the success of Brady and Tampa’s offense at home in Week 7. Over their 36 possessions in three home games, the Bucs scored 134 points thanks to 17 touchdowns and two field goals. Brady passed for 1,107 yards and 14 touchdowns against Dallas, Atlanta, and Miami. Overall, he averages just over 300 combined yards and three scores.
The Bears tend to hold their own against the run (163/673/4 – 4.1 yards per carry). Stafford had the most passing success (321/3). Chicago has 20 sacks on the year, but their secondary does have risk defending wide receivers (75/1,055,7) if the pass rush doesn’t close the passing window. The Bears allow 8.1 yards per pass attempt, and three offenses scored over 45.00 fantasy points at wideout (LAR – 14/236/2, CIN – 15/187/2, DET – 16/224/2).
The Bucs’ defense ranks poorly defending quarterbacks (30th) and wide receivers (28th), but they’ve allowed only 264 rushing yards to running backs with no touchdowns (three by quarterbacks). The downside for Brady comes from the Bears lacking the quarterback play to take advantage of a favorable passing matchup. Chicago gains only 6.1 per pass attempt while averaging 24.9 passes and scoring 11 touchdowns in six contests.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
After trending up in the passing game from Week 3 to Week 5 (287/1, 316/1, and 442/4), Jackson finished with 167 yards, one score, and two interceptions against the Chargers, where Baltimore dominated in the run game (38/187/3). Over his six starts, he averaged 281 passing yards (196 yards in 2019 and 2020) and 65 rushing yards (74 yards over the previous two seasons). Jackson finished with 393 combined yards with five touchdowns against the Bengals last year in two games.
In three games, Cincinnati allowed over 300 passing yards (MIN – 362/2, PIT – 318/1, GB – 344/2), but quarterbacks gain only 6.5 yards per pass attempt on the year. In addition, the Bengals try to keep wide receivers to short gains (91/1,028/4 on 131 targets – 11.3 yards per catch). Running backs rushed for 423 yards on 117 carries (3.6 yards per rush) with four scores. The Bears and Jaguars had the most success running the ball with their quarterbacks (20/92/1).
The Ravens scored 101 points in their three home games (four offensive touchdowns in each matchup). They want to run the ball (190/931/9), but Jackson does look improved passing the ball. Cincinnati also tries to establish the run while playing better defense than expected. Baltimore will try to pressure Burrow with the blitz, but he has the wide receiver talent to beat the Ravens for long plays. The matchup has sneaky shootout upside if the Bengals can jump out to an early lead.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Since his disastrous first game (133/0), Rodgers has scored between 22.00 and 29.50 fantasy points over his next five starts while averaging 261 passing yards with 14 touchdowns. He has two passing touchdowns in each of his past four matchups, plus a pair of rushing touchdowns. Rodgers’ best two games came at home (29.35 and 26.60 fantasy points).
Washington remains last in quarterback defense (31.22 FPPG). They’ve allowed 28.95 fantasy points or more to quarterbacks over the past five matchups. Over the previous four weeks, offenses scored 138 points (17 touchdowns and five field goals). Quarterback gained a combined 2,103 yards with 18 touchdowns against Washington. Three teams have drilled their defense with wide receivers (LAC – 24/278/1, BUF – 23/277/2, K.C. – 19/239/3).
The Rodgers-to-Davante Adams combo should be active this week. Washington scored over 20 points in four of their past five games, pointing to at least a competitive game for the Packers. If Antonio Gibson doesn’t play, it does hurt Washington’s offense.
Foundation Core Players
Last week, I had the top three scoring running backs on Sunday in my group of top 10 core players. CeeDee Lamb (36.10 fantasy points) and Cooper Kupp (34.00 fantasy points) were listed as well, and they finished first and second in wide receiver scoring. In addition, Noah Fant led all tight ends in Week 6 (24.70 fantasy points). The dots were there to connect, but my eyes were in the wrong lane.
RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
This week, Henry has a great matchup, but his high salary leaves fewer identifiable outs at the other positions. I did an in-depth look at his profile in the DFS Report on Wednesday.
I have J.D. McKissic as a possible core player this week, but his playability hinges on the health of Antonio Gibson. He is also mentioned in the DFS article.
Tyreek Hill has an excellent matchup for the second straight game, but he remains on the injury report with a quad issue. The Chiefs had him on the field for a season-low 57 percent of their snaps last week. I have him rated second this week at wide receiver behind Davante Adams.
When building the perfect lineup for Week 7, I tried my best to pair Hill and Adams together. However, I struggled to find the ideal combination of low-value players to make it work. In the end. I decided to start my team with Adams due to him being healthy. His outlook can also be seen in the DFS report.
A.J. Brown rates highly this week, but his ankle issue pushed me away from him in the perfect lineup on Thursday. By Sunday, fantasy owners will have a better update on health.
I settled on Darrell Henderson and Darrell Williams at running back based on the scoring upside of the Rams and Chiefs this week. I have them projected for 18.83 and 14.66 fantasy points. Both players need at least a touchdown to land in playable range. With a second score or the 100-yard bonus, they should score four times their salary.
WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Kupp has been a beast in four games (7/108/1, 9/163/2, 9/96/2, 9/130/2), pushing him to first in wide receiver scoring in PPR leagues (25.55 FPPG). Four receivers (Deebo Samuel – 9/189/1, Davante Adams – 8/121, Darnell Mooney – 5/125, Justin Jefferson – 7/124) gained over 100 yards receiving against the Lions. Detroit allows 16.3 yards per catch to wide receivers. The Lions' lack of scoring in 2021 points to a lack of follow-through by Kupp. In GPP contests, he has to be in the mix at the top end of the wide receiver pool.
WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
Over four games, Ridley has 27 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown on 42 targets. His opportunity remains strong, but he’s gaining only 9.4 yards per catch (15.3 in 2020). Last year, Ridley played better at home (48/766/5) than on the road (42/608/4). Miami fell to 30th in wide receiver defense (90/1,260/8) after getting drilled by the Bucs (23/349/4) and Jaguars (18/232/1) wideouts over the past two games. In addition, Miami may be without their two starting cornerbacks (Xavien Howard and Byron Jones) again this week. The success of Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts should help Ridley find more open space in the Dolphins’ secondary. He looks priced to pay off in this matchup.
TE Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
Last Sunday, I tried to get Waller in some of my starting lineups due to his “due factor” after four quiet games (5/65, 5/54, 4/50/1, 4/45) for the daily market. He caught all five of his targets against Denver for 59 yards while offering no edge. His season started with an impact game (10/105/1 on 19 targets) against the Ravens. Waller has had 34 chances over his last five starts. Tight ends have five touchdowns over the last four games against the Eagles. On the year, they caught 40 passes for 322 yards and five scores on 53 targets. Dalton Schultz had an impact game (6/80/2) vs. Philly in Week 2. Waller owns the talent to post a 30-plus game, and his matchup points to upside in Week 7.
RB Devonta Freeman, Baltimore Ravens
Six games into the 2021 season, the Ravens’ running backs have gained 667 combined yards with seven touchdowns and 17 catches or 125.70 fantasy points in PPR leagues (20.95 per week). In 2020, their backs finished with 2,332 combined yards with 16 scores and 47 catches (23.5 FPPG). Latavius Murray is trending toward not playing on Sunday, and Freeman played well last week (9/53/1) despite finishing with RB3 snaps. He has a gamble feel, but he is priced low enough to pay off if he scores against the Bengals. In GGP leagues, I may use duplicate lineups with Le’Veon Bell as well, with the hopes of one player scoring over 20.00 fantasy points. Baltimore’s running backs ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries against the Chargers. In three matchups, Cincinnati struggled to defend running backs in the passing game (MIN – 11/7, PIT – 15/105, GB – 9/60/1).
WR Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams
In his three homes starts. Jefferson delivered two value games (2/80/1 and 6/90/1) for his salary. Four of his 17 catches gained over 20 yards. In three road contests, he only has five catches for 49 yards on 11 targets. I don’t expect a high-volume target game, but a long score may be in the cards against the Lions.
WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Tennessee Titans
The Titans have A.J. Brown, Julio Jones and Chester Rogers listed as questionable for this week’s game against the Chiefs. If Jones and Rogers don’t play, Westbrook-Ikhine would be in line for starting snaps. The Titans need to pass the ball to win this week, giving him salary-savior value if someone is shopping at this level.
TE Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals
A trade to Arizona should be a win for Ertz going forward. The Cardinals have depth at wide receiver, so his chance at repeating his elite success shown in Philly from 2015-2019 (431 catches for 4,572 yards and 28 touchdowns) would be a lot to ask. His matchup details can also be seen in my DFS Report on Wednesday.
Here’s my perfect lineup for Week 7:
The Week 7 projections are up at Sports Illustrated, with a second update coming Saturday morning after all practices close Friday night.
More fantasy coverage: