- Josh Gordon offers an extremely wide range of fantasy outcomes, but he's worth a shot in your lineup. Plus more start/sit recommendations at every position.
Earlier this week, I wrote that Josh Gordon is the most interesting receiver in the league, purely from a fantasy rankings perspective. We know what the ceiling is; we saw it in 2013. We know what the floor is, even though this is his first “normal” season since that monster 2013 campaign. No player who isn’t dealing with an injury has as wide a range of realistic outcomes for the rest of the season as Gordon. The bet here is that his rest of season starts off on the right foot.
Gordon and the Patriots visit Chicago in Week 7, where they are 3.5-point favorites against the Bears. The Bears’ defense showed its first real cracks last week, allowing 541 yards and 31 points to a Dolphins offense led by emergency starter Brock Osweiler, four words that have typically resulted in disaster when strung together. The Patriots, meanwhile, dropped 43 points and 500 yards on the Chiefs, and enter this game with an implied team total of 26.5 points. Those facts, however, only get us a portion of the way through the case for starting Gordon.
Gordon caught five passes for 42 yards in the win over the Chiefs last week. He also set two important high marks during his short tenure with the Patriots, both of which are more important to his future value than bottom-line production. Gordon got nine targets in the win, three more than he had in his first two games combined with the Patriots. He also played more than 80% of the team’s snaps, after being on the field for about one-fourth of them in his first two games. Gordon comfortably out-snapped Chris Hogan in Week 6, getting the third-most snaps on the team among skill players, behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
Volume always was, and still remains, an issue for Gordon in New England. If he’s going to play four of every five snaps, though, and if he can secure a target-share ceiling of 25.7%, which he had last week, then he is going to be worth playing more often than not. Chicago’s defense has thrived by getting after the quarterback, but it might be without Khalil Mack this week after the star linebacker hurt his ankle. Even if he does play, receivers have made the Bears’ secondary look silly after the catch, most recently Albert Wilson on his 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown last week. Gordon can make this secondary look just as bad on Sunday, and he’ll have an opportunity to do so in the game with the fifth-highest over/under on the board. There should be a great scoring environment in Chicago this week, and Gordon is trending in the right direction. He should be, at worst, a WR3, and always carries WR1 upside. Get him in your lineup.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the Week 7 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em.
Deshaun Watson, Texans (at Jaguars)
There are multiple concerns with Watson this week that are conspiring to push him down to a consensus ranking of 17th among quarterbacks on FantasyPros. First is the chest issue that he’s been dealing with for two weeks, and likely was part of the reason that he had just two rushing attempts in the win over Buffalo last week. Second is the Jacksonville defense, which isn’t playing like the superhero villain it was last season, but it still 13th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric. Third is Houston’s offensive line, which remains a mess and could be in for a long afternoon. While understandable based on that logic, benching Watson this week is a mistake. Before last week’s win over the Bills, Watson had four straight games with at least 8.5 yards per attempt. He had multiple scores in three of those games, and topped 300 yards in all of them. In two of those, he faced the Titans and Cowboys, teams ranked 10th and 12th, respectively, in quarterback aFPA, and in another he played the Colts, who are ranked third in the NFL with 19 sacks. Watson can get it done against tough defenses despite the circumstances surrounding him.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (at Buccaneers)
Mayfield and the Browns get the best matchup a passing game could hope for this week, visiting the Buccaneers in Tampa. The Bucs rank 32nd in quarterback aFPA and 31st in receiver aFPA. They’ve faced Drew Brees, Nick Foles, Ben Roethlisberger Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Ryan this season. All five have thrown for at least 334 yards, and four of the five—all but Foles—racked up at least three touchdowns. Mayfield can keep the bad times rolling for the Buccaneers’ pass defense this week.
Drew Brees, Saints (at Ravens)
Like Watson, Brees is being downgraded because of what is admittedly a tough matchup. The Ravens rank fifth in quarterback aFPA, and Brees long has done his best work at home or indoors. Chances are if you own Brees you don’t have any other quarterback on your roster, and you’re rolling with him no matter what. The fact that he’s ranked 12th on FantasyPros, though, suggests to me that some owners may be looking for a streamer to avoid the Ravens. Doing so would be too cute by half. Brees isn’t one of my top-three quarterbacks this week, but he has the Saints offense rolling, and with Mark Ingram back in the fold this unit is even stronger than it already was. I understand playing someone like Jared Goff or Tom Brady over Brees, but chances are you don’t have both of them. I’m playing Brees over the likes of Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins and Cam Newton, and I’m certainly playing him ahead of attractive streamers like Mayfield, Joe Flacco and Mitchell Trubisky.
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (vs. Patriots)
I may have Trubisky behind Brees, but I’m still starting him with confidence in two-quarterback leagues. He followed up his dismantling of the Buccaneers by throwing for 316 yards, 10.19 YPA and three touchdowns in last week’s loss to the Dolphins. In his last two games, he has 670 yards, 11.75 YPA and nine touchdowns against one interception. Trubisky is starting to put things together in Chicago’s offense, and New England has been league-average against quarterbacks from a fantasy perspective this season.
This is a new section, specifically for quarterbacks, that we’re calling “Start, but…” Basically, the quarterback position is so deep that it’s hard to find interesting players to talk about as sit candidates, especially during the heavy bye-week portion of the schedule. A player who is a Start, but…is someone you can generally trust, but for whom your expectations should be tempered.
Andrew Luck, Colts (vs. Bills)
Luck keeps proving me wrong from a bottom-line perspective standpoint, but his efficiency remains terrible. He has 1,130 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last three games, but just 6.89 YPA with five interceptions in that time. Production is all that matters in the fantasy game, but he can’t keep playing this inefficiently while simultaneously delivering for his fantasy owners. He’s likely to get T.Y. Hilton back this week, but the Bills present him with arguably his toughest matchup of the season, ranking second in quarterback aFPA.
Joe Flacco, Ravens (vs. Saints)
Flacco gets a great matchup this week against a Saints defense ranked 31st in quarterback aFPA, and 32nd against wide receivers. The Ravens are favored by 2.5 points in this game, and an over/under of 50.5 translates to an implied total of 26.5 for the home team. Still, Flacco is no sure thing, totaling 1,788 yards, 6.77 YPA and nine touchdowns against four interceptions in six games this year. The Saints easily represent his best matchup of the season, but you shouldn’t be starting Flacco based entirely on matchup. In addition to the players listed above, Luck included, I’d play Carson Wentz and Jameis Winston over Flacco. I’d take Flacco, however, over Trubisky, as well as the three players we’re about to discuss.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at Redskins)
Prescott took care of business against the Jaguars last week, throwing for 183 yards, 6.78 YPA and two scores, and running the ball 11 times for 82 yards and another touchdown, in a dominant 40-7 win. Contextually, though, Dallas-Washington sets up as a bad game for offense. The over/under is a paltry 41.5, and both defenses are in the top 12 in quarterback aFPA, with Washington ranking seventh. The Cowboys are finding ways to win, but Prescott has thrown for just 6.69 YPA with seven touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He’s nothing more than a fantasy backup, and outside the top 20 at the position this week.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars (vs. Texans)
Things have been ugly for Bortles the last two weeks, during which he has thrown for 6.66 YPA and two touchdowns against five interceptions. He volumed his way to 430 yards in a Week 5 loss to the Chiefs, but that doesn’t do very much for fantasy owners when it’s offset by four picks. Bortles has had fewer than 7.0 YPA in three of his six games this season, and has thrown just one more touchdown (nine) than his interception total (eight). Houston’s pass rush could make his life a nightmare on Sunday, especially if T.J. Yeldon is out because of foot and ankle injuries.
Alex Smith, Redskins (vs. Cowboys)
Remember everything you just read about Prescott? Most of it applies to Smith, too. Taken out of Andy Reid’s powerful Kansas City offense, Smith is back to his old ways, throwing for 1,205 yards, 7.05 YPA, six touchdowns and two interceptions in five games. Pair that style of play with a strong defense and running game, and you can win plenty of games in the NFL. It doesn’t move the needle very much in the fantasy game, though.
Marlon Mack, Colts (vs. Bills)
We’ve been beating the drum for Mack for weeks now. We’re not about to stop now that he’s back in the starting lineup. Mack rushed for 89 yards on 12 carries in his return from a hamstring injury last week, bringing some much-needed life to a listless Indianapolis rushing attack. Neither Nyheim Hines or Jordan Wilkins will stand in his way, giving him a 12-touch floor on Sunday. The Bills have been great against the pass but susceptible to the run, ranking 23rd in running back aFPA. The Colts are favored by 7.5 points playing at home, which could mean plenty of volume for Mack. If this game plays to the script the oddsmakers expect, Mack could see 20-plus touches.
Corey Clement, Eagles (vs. Panthers)
Clement played well in the Eagles’ first game without Jay Ajayi, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and catching three passes for 26 yards. Wendell Smallwood led the team with 18 carries, but got just 51 yards, and caught one pass that went literally nowhere. Smallwood played 44 snaps to Clement’s 26, but part of that may have owed to the fact that the latter was returning from quad injury. Clement was clearly the superior back last week, and he’s one week further removed from the quad issue. He’s the Philadelphia back you want to play this week.
Matt Breida, 49ers (vs. Rams)
It’s hard to figure out what was a bigger surprise regarding Breida last week: that he played well, or that he played at all. Breida was expected to be out all week after suffering an ankle injury in Week 5. He was surprisingly active, and then turned 14 carries into 61 yards and a touchdown. He split the backfield with Raheem Mostert, essentially cutting Alfred Morris entirely out of the offense. With the ankle injury mostly behind him, Breida can re-assert himself as the lead back in San Francisco’s offense this week.
Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake, Dolphins (vs. Lions)
Gore and Drake both got going against the Bears last week. The former ran for 101 yards on 15 carries, while the latter picked up 57 yards on 13 totes and caught four balls for 21 yards. If you own both, you’ll only want to start one, and should lean in Drake’s direction. While Gore has led the team in carries all of the last four weeks, Drake brings far more to the table as a receiver, and the fact that he got 13 rushes last week suggests Adam Gase is ready to trust him a bit more in the run game, as well. Still, both backs are getting plenty of volume and bring top-30 upside at the position to the table. That has both on the flex radar this week.
Wendell Smallwood, Eagles (vs. Panthers)
Take the Corey Clement capsule above, reverse it, and apply it here. Smallwood simply didn’t do enough with his lead role in the backfield last week to engender much confidence this week. We have to assume that Clement will get a larger share of the touches coming out of the backfield, and he brings more to the offense as a receiver, too. Smallwood is a fringy flex option, at best. I’d play every other player we’re about to discuss over him this week, as well as Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Tarik Cohen and Lamar Miller.
Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry, Titans (at Chargers)
Speaking of a lack of confidence, how can anyone believe in the Titans offense, especially the backfield, at this point? The Titans rank 30th in the league in scoring, 30th in passing offense, and 20th in rushing offense. Dion Lewis has 62 yards from scrimmage in his last two games. Derrick Henry is rushing for 3.3 yards per carry and has yet to score a touchdown. There’s nothing to like about this offense, and this game in London could get out of hand.
Ito Smith, Falcons (vs. Giants)
I broke down the future of the Atlanta backfield with Devonta Freeman on IR earlier this week. In short, there may be no member of the fantasy industry more bearish on Smith than I am. I don’t understand what we’re supposed to love here. Is it that he has scored a touchdown in the last three weeks? That’s great and all, but he has 62 yards on 21 carries in that time. He brings little to the table as a receiver, and is comfortably behind Tevin Coleman on the depth chart. I expect him to get 10 to 12 touches per game, but he’s going to need to keep scoring touchdowns to justify being a fantasy starter, and that’s not a bet I want to make.
Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (vs. Browns)
Barber had his best game of the season last week, running for 82 yards on 13 carries, catching four passes for 24 yards, and scoring his first touchdown of the year. That’s great. Now forget it, because it isn’t instructive for the rest of the season. Barber did all that against an Atlanta defense ranked 31st in running back aFPA. This week, he faces a Cleveland defense that is far superior as a whole, and is league-average against the running back from a fantasy perspective. Remember, before last week, Barber had 148 yards on 50 carries and all of two receptions on the season. That’s who he really is.
Will Fuller, Texans (at Jaguars)
Fuller has gone quiet the last two weeks, catching four passes for 48 yards, but benching him would be a swing too far in that direction. A lot of what we discussed earlier with Deshaun Watson applies here. Sure, this is a tough matchup, but the Jaguars’ defense is far from infallible. It has been carved up by the Chiefs and Cowboys in recent weeks, and from a standpoint of pure explosiveness, the Texans fall somewhere between those two teams. The greater worry for Fuller is his target share. He has just 11 looks from Deshaun Watson the last three weeks, and that could hold him back even more than a bad matchup. Still, there’s enough reason to bet on the Texans’ offense bouncing back this week to get Fuller into your lineups.
Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (vs. Bengals)
This is a bet on the Chiefs offense more than it is on Watkins, the player. Put simply, the Chiefs have delivered every single week. They lead the NFL in points, rank third in total yards, and second in yards per play. They’ve scored at least 27 points in all six of their games, at least 30 in five, and 38 or more in four. They’ve racked up 400-plus yards in all of their last three games, and four of six on the season. That’s an offense you want to invest in almost any way you can, and Watkins gives you a good line into it this week.
Taylor Gabriel, Bears (vs. Patriots)
Gabriel put together another big game last week, catching five passes for 110 yards. In his last two games, he has 12 grabs for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and he has 29 targets in his last four games. Gabriel has a larger role in Chicago than he ever had in Atlanta, serving as a true No. 2 receiver behind Allen Robinson, who isn’t dominating target share in the way Julio Jones does for the Falcons.
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (vs. Browns)
Godwin has scored touchdowns in four of Tampa Bay’s five games this season, turning himself into a go-to player when the team gets into the red zone. He topped out at 74 yards, which makes his fantasy value a bit touchdown-dependent, but Tampa Bay has provided a great base for fantasy scoring, ranking eighth in the NFL in points per game. The Browns can get after the quarterback, but Godwin gets a bit of a boost by likely avoiding star rookie corner Denzel Ward in this game.
Nelson Agholor, Eagles (vs. Panthers)
It may be hard for some of Agholor’s owners to sit him this week, especially after he racked up 91 yards against the Giants in Week 6. He did that on just three catches and five targets, and has a total of nine targets the last two weeks. In the three games for which Alshon Jeffery has been active this season, Agholor has 12 catches for 156 yards and zero touchdowns. He’s just a fringe starter when Jeffery and Zach Ertz are healthy.
Keelan Cole, Jaguars (vs. Texans)
Outside of one big game this season, Cole has been largely non-existent in the fantasy world. It seemed he was heading in the right direction when he got 10 targets two weeks ago, but he was back to five looks from Blake Bortles last week, catching four of them for 41 yards. Cole, Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief are essentially on equal footing in Jacksonville’s offense, but it’s hard to trust any of them as anything more than a WR4 from week to week.
Kenny Stills, Dolphins (vs. Lions)
Stills has fallen off the map the last three weeks, totaling six catches for 92 yards in that time. Expected to be the clear No. 1 receiver in Miami, Stills has shared the load evenly with Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant. That’s working just fine for the 4-2 Dolphins, but it isn’t working at all for fantasy owners. Stills needs to show us a bit more consistency before we can trust him again as a fantasy starter.
Antonio Callaway, Browns (at Buccaneers)
Callaway is getting plenty of volume in the Baker Mayfield era, netting 24 targets the last three weeks. Volume is great, but, at some point, a receiver has to prove he can do something with it, and Callaway has yet to get there. He has turned those 24 targets into eight catches for 85 yards and zero touchdowns, plus one egregious drop. Don’t be tempted by the great matchup, here. Jarvis Landry and David Njoku will benefit and are easy starts, but Callaway should be plastered to the bench.
Chester Rogers, Colts (vs. Bills)
Rogers has turned into Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver with T.Y. Hilton out, getting 32 targets in the last three games, and catching 20 of them for 206 yards and a touchdown. Hilton is expected to return this week, though, which will take a huge chunk out of Rogers’ volume. Additionally, the Bills have one of the best pass defenses in the league, ranking first in wide receiver aFPA, and second in quarterback aFPA.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals (at Chiefs)
Two weeks ago, Uzomah shared tight end duties with Tyler Kroft, catching both of his targets for 43 yards. Last week, with Kroft joining Tyler Eifert on the sidelines, Uzomah hauled in six of seven targets for 54 yards. That, paired with a great matchup against a Kansas City defense ranked 30th in tight end aFPA, is enough to make Uzomah a worthy play this week.
Austin Hooper, Falcons (vs. Giants)
Hooper is starting to come into his own, racking up 22 targets the last two weeks, and catching 19 of them for 148 yards and a touchdown. The third-year player out of Stanford now has 30 catches for 273 yards and two scores on the season. Hooper was a third-round pick back in 2016, and tight end has long been considered one of the hardest positions to learn at the pro level. It seems things are coming together for Hooper this year.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (at Jets)
Rudolph has to take what he can get playing alongside Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but he has made the most of his opportunities this season, catching 27 of 31 targets for 266 yards and two scores. The Jets have been burned by receivers this year, though, ranking 24th against the position in standard-league aFPA, and 28th in PPR formats. Kirk Cousins should spend most of his day attacking the outside of the field, and that will funnel looks away from Rudolph.
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. Browns)
On the plus side, Brate scored a touchdown in Week 6, and that was enough to make him a TE1. On the down side, O.J. Howard made a quicker recovery than expected from a sprained knee, and the touchdown was Brate’s only target. Howard, meanwhile, caught four passes for 62 yards and a score of his own. With Howard healthy and Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin all active, there just aren’t enough targets to go around to make Brate fantasy-relevant.