News & Analysis

Jeff Ratcliffe's fantasy football focus: Facts, predictions, and tips for Week 7

Jan 5, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in action during an NFC Wild Card playoff football game between the Cowboys and the Seahawks at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Fantasy Focus is a weekly column that breaks down everything you need to know to set your fantasy football lineups. Make your start and sit decisions with fantasy facts, injury information, matchups stats, predictions for the week and more.

There’s an old saying in fantasy football that goes something like this: “Don’t get cute. Start your studs.” We usually see this somewhat cliché maxim surface in December when the fantasy playoffs are in full swing, but it’s a mantra that really should be put into practice every week when you make your start/sit decisions.

It’s easy to overthink your fantasy lineups. Heck, I do it sometimes too. But the key isn’t making the exact perfect play every time. That’s impossible. Rather, it’s to make the play that has the highest percentage chance of being successful. You won’t be right every time, but you don’t need to be. You just need to be right more often than your wrong, and you’ll be a winner over the long haul.

So let’s say you own Carlos Hyde. He’s coming off a big Week 6 performance where he ranked second among running backs in fantasy scoring. It’s easy to like that sort of production, but we’ve also seen very low efficiency out of Hyde.

In this case, you wouldn’t want to force Hyde in your starting lineups over someone like Joe Mixon. Yes, Mixon has been frustrating to own this season, but he’s still a good player who is clearly the lead back on his team. He also comes with a much higher fantasy ceiling. That’s why he’s ranked higher than Hyde in our staff rankings for this week.

Will this play be right every time? No. But if we played this week out 100 times, I’m willing to place my chips on Mixon being the better play more often than he isn’t. Admittedly, this isn’t the sexiest approach to making start/sit decisions. But it’s one that will help you avoid getting cute with your lineups and win more often than you lose.

LA Rams @ Atlanta

Greenline: LA -3.2, O/U 54.3

Fantasy facts: Last week was ugly for the Rams passing game, but the writing was on the wall for a down week from Jared Goff. So far this season, only 6.1% of Goff’s passing attempts have traveled at least 20 yards in the air. That’s the lowest rate of any starting quarterback in the league. Goff’s lack of shots down the field means limited fantasy upside, and that’s especially concerning for anyone who owns Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods.

Matchup upgrade: But there’s good news for the Rams wideouts this weekend. The trio of Woods, Cooks, and Cooper Kupp get a massive WR/CB matchup upgrade this week against a shaky Falcons secondary. Through the first six weeks of the season, Atlanta corners have allowed 60 catches on 83 targets. That’s a massive 73% catch rate. Receivers are also averaging a healthy 14.1 yards per catch against this groups of corners with nine receiving scores on the season.

Matchup downgrade: Todd Gurley is trending toward getting back on the field after sitting out last week with quad injury. While that’s certainly good news, his matchup isn’t nearly as good as what the passing game gets this week. The Falcons currently allow 3.97 yards per carry to opposing running backs, so it may not be the most efficient day for Gurley.

Key injuries: However, the good news for Gurley owners is that he should be in store for a lot of work. Backup Malcolm Brown popped up on the injury report this week, missing Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury. Gurley could be in store for nearly all the early-down work if Brown isn’t able to suit up.

Miami @ Buffalo

Greenline: BUF -13.7, O/U 40.5

Fantasy facts: It’s no secret Josh Allen is one of the best streamers of the week with a major upgrade on tap against the Dolphins. While Allen is far from an elite passer, his ability to rack up yards on the ground gives him a solid fantasy boost. Allen is currently tied for the league lead with 23 scrambles, and he finished second last season with 50. His propensity to tuck the ball and run means Allen is going to continue to pad his fantasy stats with rushing yards.

Matchup upgrade: It’s no secret that you should start your fantasy options against the Dolphins. Most weeks, Frank Gore offers minimal fantasy appeal due to his low ceiling. However, he’s very much in play in this matchup. The Dolphins allow a league-high 149.2 rushing yards per game to opposing backfields, and only the Bengals allow more fantasy points per game to running backs. Gore is very much in the flex conversation. However, Devin Singletary owners shouldn’t get too carried away. Singletary has big-play potential, but his touches will likely be limited in a Gore-friendly gamescript.

Matchup downgrade: Not that you’re likely to be starting any piece of the Dolphins offense, but this certainly isn’t the week to roll those dice. The Bills enter the week as the No. 30 matchup for quarterbacks, No. 23 for running backs, and No. 29 for wide receivers.

Key injuries: None

Jacksonville @ Cincinnati

Greenline: JAX -3, O/U 44

Fantasy facts: Fantasy owners know all too well that Tyler Boyd is coming off a poor outing in Week 6 with just three catches for 10 yards against the Ravens last week. While bad games happen, there’s a more important number that should raise some fantasy concerns. So far this season, Boyd has seen zero end zone targets. With 57 targets on the season, that makes Boyd the most heavily targeted receiver to not see at least one end zone target this year. That lack of work in the most important area of the field puts a major cap on Boyd’s fantasy upside.

Matchup upgrade: Two of the most important things in fantasy football are matchups and opportunities. And Leonard Fournette is in the plus column for both this week. Fournette gets the fantasy cheat code against a putrid Bengals run defense that is currently allowing the most fantasy points per game to running backs with opposing backs averaging a massive 5.1 yards per carry. Fournette is also second in the league in touches per game with an average of 23.5 heading into Week 7.

Joe Mixon also gets a favorable draw on the other side of this contest. The Jags are giving up chunk yards to opposing running backs with a league-high 5.4 yards per carry surrendered to the position. Mixon has been tough to trust this season given the overall state of the Bengals offense, but he’s worth firing up as an RB2 this week.

Matchup downgrade: Tyler Boyd isn’t likely to be shadowed, but the Jags do allow the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Even with Jalen Ramsey out of the mix, Boyd is still going to see his share of A.J. Bouye. Boyd is coming off a fantasy dud last week and could be in store for another clunker.

Key injuries: There appears to be no return in sight for A.J. Green. The veteran receiver has yet to suit up for a practice this season, and one has to wonder if it’s even worth hanging onto him in fantasy leagues right now. … Dede Westbrook popped up on the injury report on Thursday with a shoulder injury. It’s worth keeping an eye on his status heading into this weekend.

Minnesota @ Detroit

Greenline: MIN -2.2, O/U 43.9

Fantasy facts: Kenny Golladay is currently leading the league in contested targets (20) and contested catches (11). His 55% contested catch rate is well about the league average of 40%. Of course, you don’t get any points for contested catches in fantasy football, but Golladay’s ability to play above the rim bodes well for success in the red zone. It’s no surprise that Golladay also leads the league with eight end zone targets, converting two for scores. Golladay’s ability to make plays in contested situations gives him big-time touchdown upside going forward.

Matchup upgrade: While the big game didn’t come for Aaron Jones this past week, we still saw the Lions give up a lot of yards to Jamaal Williams. This has been a theme this season with Detroit entering the week as the No. 3 fantasy matchup for running backs. Dalvin Cook is the top play on the board at the position this week.

Matchup downgrade: After a downright ugly start to the season, Stefon Diggs exploded against the Eagles last week, racking up three scores against the putrid Philly secondary. While it’s tempting to assume that the good times are going to continue to roll, fantasy owners may want to pump the brakes this week. Diggs is likely to see a shadow from Darius Slay in this contest. Slay has been rock solid in coverage this season, allowing a 59% catch rate with zero touchdowns scored in his coverage.

Key injuries: None

Oakland @ Green Bay

Greenline: GB -5.9, O/U 47.3

Fantasy facts: Aaron Rodgers has thrown eight passing scores this season. However, based on his expected production, Rodgers should have 14.9 passing scores which is tied with Patrick Mahomes for the league lead in that stat. What does this mean for fantasy? Well, Rodgers is underperforming, but we can expect some of his missed opportunities to start converting going forward. Rodgers owners shouldn’t cut bait just yet.

Matchup upgrade: The Raiders have fed Josh Jacobs so far this season, giving the rookie back a healthy 18.8 touches per game. With little competition for work in the Oakland backfield, expect that volume to continue. Better yet, he faces a Packers defense that has been friendly to opposing backs with the fourth-most fantasy points surrendered to the position. Only the Jags (5.39), Chiefs (5.21), Bengals (5.05), and Browns (4.99) allow more yards per carry to running backs than the Packers (4.92) through the first six weeks of the season.

Matchup downgrade: Derek Carr isn’t an option in 1QB leagues, but those in 2QB formats may also want to fade him this week. While you can run on the Packers, it’s been tough to get much done through the air against them. Green Bay currently allows the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Only five defenses have allowed fewer passing scores per game this season.

Key injuries: The Raiders look likely to be without Tyrell Williams again this week, as the wideout has yet to practice with a heel injury. … Likewise, the injury bug has struck the Packers wide receivers. Davante Adams has missed the last two weeks with a toe injury and looks iffy for Week 7 after not practicing on Wednesday or Thursday. Geronimo Allison is in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to suit up. And Marquez Valdes-Scantling has yet to practice this week with an ankle injury. That means we could see former Iowa State wideout Alan Lazard as the Packers No. 1 receiver this weekend. Yikes.

Houston @ Indianapolis

Greenline: IND -0.7, O/U 47.2

Fantasy facts: DeAndre Hopkins hasn’t been what a lot of fantasy players signed up for as a first-round fantasy pick, but Hopkins has been far from a terrible options this season. Sure, last week he only managed 55 receiving yards, but Hopkins did see a healthy 12 targets. All those opportunities bode well going forward. That being said, the fact that Hopkins has only seen one end zone target so far this season is a bit concerning. He tied for second in the league in that stat last season with 18. If we don’t see Hopkins’ work in the red zone increase, it’s likely that his lackluster fantasy production will unfortunately continue.

Matchup upgrade: With the Colts coming off the bye, T.Y. Hilton looks to be all healed up and ready to roll. It’s a great time to get him back, as Hilton draws an extremely favorable WR/CB matchup against the Texans. Johnathan Joseph sat out last week with a hamstring injury but has gotten limited work in at practice this week. Joseph has seen a massive nine targets per game thrown into his coverage. Rookie Lonnie Johnson Jr. isn’t see as much work, but he has struggled and currently grades out as the fourth-worst corner in the league.

Matchup downgrade: Tight end has been absolutely terrible this season for fantasy purposes and that isn’t likely to chance any time soon. If you aren’t one of the lucky owners who is sitting with an every-week starter at the position, don’t look for help this week from the Indy tight ends. Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle will be streamers at various points this season, but Houston enters the week as the fourth-worst fantasy matchup for tight ends.

Key injuries: The Colts will likely be without rookie wideout Parris Campbell, who is dealing with an abdominal injury.

Arizona @ NY Giants

Greenline: NYG -3, O/U 49.9

Fantasy facts: Entering the season, a lot of football pundits pushed the narrative that the Cardinals were going to be a fast-paced team this season, and to some extent they were right. Arizona has run no huddle on 35.5% of their plays. That’s over double the second-place Bears with 17.3%. However, just because a team gets plays off quickly doesn’t mean they’re going to always run a lot of plays. Despite the pace, the Cards rank eighth in offensive plays per game with 71. The Ravens currently lead the league with 77.8 plays per game.

Matchup upgrade: Kyler Murray is starting to heat up. The rookie signal-caller finally flashed that big-time upside that helped propel him to the Heisman Trophy last year. Murray has anchor appeal this week with a plus matchup on tap against a susceptible Giants secondary that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Murray also gives you added fantasy upside with his legs. Through the first six weeks of the season he ranks second among quarterbacks in rushing yards with 238.

After a hot start to the season, Larry Fitzgerald has cooled off over the last month. But that doesn’t mean we should be sitting Fitzgerald this week. The future Hall of Famer gets a fantastic WR/CB matchup against the Giants. Fitzgerald will see plenty of second-year man Grant Haley out of the slot. Haley has allowed a catch on 23 of the 28 balls thrown into his coverage and is coming off a Week 6 performance where Patriots receivers notched 101 yards in his coverage.

Matchup downgrade: Believe it or not, the Giants have fared well against the run, and currently allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. You certainly aren’t going to bench David Johnson in season-long leagues, but you may want to consider fading him in DFS. Johnson also hasn’t been the most efficient back after contact with an average of just 1.99 yards after contact per attempt. Only Sony Michel has a lower number among running backs with at least 50% of their team’s carries.

Key injuries: An ankle injury has sidelined Christian Kirk since Week 3. The Cardinals wideout has a chance to suit up this week after getting limited work in at practice on Wednesday and Thursday. … The Giants will be much better off this week with Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Wayne Gallman all back on the field. It looks like Sterling Shepard will also return after missing time with his second concussion of the season.

San Francisco @ Washington

Greenline: SF -8.3, O/U 41.2

Fantasy facts: The 49ers have faced base defense on 51.1% of their plays, which currently leads the league. That isn’t a common stat people discuss for fantasy football purposes, but it’s an important one for anyone with Tevin Coleman on their rosters. More base defense means a lower advantage for running backs on a per-play basis because running backs tend to gain more yards against subpackage defenses (nickel and dime). That said, this isn’t a reason to go dropping or trading Coleman. Rather, it’s wise to just tuck this information away in case we see some inefficient performances out of him going forward.

Matchup upgrade: You can’t rely on Jimmy Garoppolo as a fantasy starter every week, but the 49ers signal-caller is very much in the streamer conversation in this contest. Washington enters the week as the No. 9 matchup for quarterbacks. Opposing signal-callers have completed a league-high 72% of their passes against the Redskins with an average of 2.3 passing scores per game.

Matchup downgrade: Adrian Peterson looks like he’ll be good to go for this weekend after missing practice earlier in the week, but that doesn’t mean you should start him in your season-long leagues. San Francisco’s defense has shut down opposing running backs and is currently the worst fantasy matchup for the position.

Key injuries: Peterson’s teammate Chris Thompson is dealing with turf toe and is all but guaranteed to miss this week’s contest. Look for Wendell Smallwood to see some work behind Peterson. … The 49ers could be without rookie Deebo Samuel, who has yet to practice this week with a groin injury.

LA Chargers @ Tennessee

Greenline: TEN -1.3, O/U 41.8

Fantasy facts: There’s something interesting going on in the Chargers passing game that may not make Keenan Allen owners happy. Over the last two weeks, Mike Williams is tied for fifth among wide receivers in targets with 21. Allen has just 11 targets over that span. Of course, that’s an extremely small sample size, and may just be a simple blip on the radar. However, it is worth monitoring over the next few games.

Matchup upgrade: He’s far from the sexiest fantasy option, but Derrick Henry has been solid this season and currently ranks 15th in PPR scoring. Henry is in play as a fringe RB1 this week with a plus matchup on tap against the Chargers. LA’s defense is allowing 4.6 yards per carry to opposing running backs and enter the week as the No. 12 fantasy matchup for the position.

Matchup downgrade: Believe it or not, Ryan Tannehill under center is a good thing for Corey Davis. It’s wise to pick the Titans wide receiver up if you have the room. However, we aren’t starting him this week, as there’s a very strong possibility that the Chargers use Casey Hayward to shadow Davis. Hayward has been one of the league’s best shadow corners over the last handful of seasons, so it’s likely going to be a quiet day for Davis. That said, he does offer upside over the second-half of the fantasy regular season.

Key injuries: None

New Orleans @ Chicago

Greenline: CHI -2.3, O/U 39

Fantasy facts: Michael Thomas is on pace to top 140 catches this season, but believe it or not, he doesn’t really offer much fantasy upside. Thomas enters the week with an average depth of target of just 7.97 yards. Out of the top-30 wideouts in fantasy scoring, only Cooper Kupp has a lower aDOT (6.94). While Thomas certainly has one of the highest floors in fantasy, a lower aDOT number means a lower fantasy ceiling.

Matchup upgrade: It looks like Mitchell Trubisky will be back under center for the Bears this week, which is a favorable time to return. While New Orleans hasn’t necessarily been an elite fantasy matchup for quarterbacks, they are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to the position. Trubisky is a risky play, for sure, but he offers deep streamer appeal for anyone in need at quarterback this week.

Matchup downgrade: After a down year in 2018, Allen Robinson has managed to rebound so far this season, and enters the week as a top 25 fantasy wideout. But Robinson looks like a fade this week with shadow coverage likely to come from Marshon Lattimore. The Saints corner got off to a sluggish start to the season, but he’s picked up steam. Over the last three weeks, Lattimore has bottled up Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, and D.J. Chark.

Key injuries: Alvin Kamara owners should have a backup plan in place. The Saints running back is dealing with a high-ankle injury and missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If Kamara sits, Latavius Murray would be a top-15 option at running back. … Jared Cook has found the end zone in each of the last two weeks, but that streak could end. Cook is dealing with an ankle injury, which caused him to miss both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practice sessions.

Baltimore @ Seattle

Greenline: SEA -3.8, O/U 48.3

Fantasy facts: Is Russell Wilson and elite fantasy option? Yes, he is. But that isn’t because he enters the week as the leader among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. As Dak Prescott showed us earlier in the season, sometimes a good schedule can make a player appear to be a lot better than he really is for fantasy purposes. But that isn’t the case with Wilson. As we seen over the last several seasons, Wilson’s efficiency is the byproduct of his eyes for the end zone. Wilson currently leads the league with a massive 22 end zone throws. He ranked second in this statistic last season with 48. All of these shots to the end zone means Wilson is going to continue his productive ways.

Matchup upgrade: Tight end has been far from a stable fantasy football position this season, but we have seen some intriguing players emerge at the position, including the Ravens TE Mark Andrews. He’s second in fantasy scoring at the position through the first six weeks of the season and is a good bet for another productive day. The Seahawks have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season.

Matchup downgrade: The Ravens made a move to shake up their secondary this week, acquiring Marcus Peters from the Rams. Peters’ presence certainly could change the dynamic in the secondary, however we do think there’s a solid possibility that the Ravens use Marlon Humphrey to shadow Tyler Lockett. Humphrey has been tasked with shadowing the opposing No. 1 receiver in each of the last four weeks and has allowed just a 50% catch rate with just 10.0 yards per reception in shadow situations.

Key injuries: Keep an eye on Marquise Brown’s status heading into the weekend. The rookie wideout has an ankle injury that caused him to miss last week’s game. … Will Dissly will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn Achilles last week. The Seahawks will now roll with Luke Willson, who is not worth adding for fantasy purposes.

Philadelphia @ Dallas

Greenline: DAL -1.6, O/U 48.8

Fantasy facts: Last week certainly looked good for Miles Sanders, as the rookie ranked 10th among running backs in fantasy scoring for the week. It’s easy to be encourage by his production, but be careful. Sanders put up this numbers while playing just 19 of the Eagles 65 offensive snaps. Jordan Howard was on the field for 40 snaps. And Sanders’ six touches was just two more than Boston Scott saw. There’s still potential for Sanders to offer fantasy upside down the stretch, but his fantasy owners need to exercise patience.

Matchup upgrade: With Amari Cooper banged up, Michael Gallup could find himself as the top receiving target in the Dallas offense this week. That’s great news for anyone with Gallup on their fantasy rosters. Gallup gets a fantastic WR/CB matchup this week. Philadelphia is coming off an ugly Week 6 performance where Stefon Diggs went absolutely nuts, racking up seven catches for 167 yards and three scores, with a long of 62 yards. That play came against Rasul Douglas, who should be matched up plenty against Gallup this week.

Matchup downgrade: The Eagles run defense has been one of the league’s stingiest units, allowing just 2.98 yards per carry to opposing backs in 2019. They’re also the fourth-worst fantasy matchup for the position. Now, that doesn’t mean you bench Ezekiel Elliott in season-long leagues. Studs are starters regardless of the matchup. However, Elliott is much less appealing in DFS contests this week. He’s a fade this week, especially in cash game lineups.

Key injuries: In addition to Cooper, Randall Cobb is trending toward not playing again this week. Look for the Cowboys to use Gallup along with Tavon Austin and Devin Smith against the Eagles. … DeSean Jackson is nearing a return, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this week.

New England @ NY Jets

Greenline: NE -9.7, O/U 44.1

Fantasy facts: The Patriots have again leaned heavily on Sony Michel, feeding the second-year back 100 carries through the first six weeks of the season. That’s certainly good volume, which typically bodes well for fantasy production. However, despite ranking ninth in carries, Michel currently sits a lowly 27th among running backs in PPR scoring. A big part of the problem has been his inability to generate yards independent of his blocking. Michel is currently averaging just 1.97 yards after contact per attempt. That’s the lowest average of all running backs who have seen at least 50% of their team’s carries. For fantasy purposes, this unfortunately means minimal upside can be expected from Michel.

Matchup upgrade: Josh Gordon was banged up in last week’s contest, but he’s coming off the mini-bye with the Patriots playing on Thursday night in Week 6. That extra time should help him get on the field this week, which is good news for fantasy owners. If he plays, Gordon draws a fantastic matchup versus the Jets secondary. Darryl Roberts has seen a massive 41 targets thrown into his coverage already this season, and surrendered a whopping eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown when these teams last met back in Week 3.

Matchup downgrade: Sam Darnold returned last week and provided an instant spark for the Jets offenses, and that’s especially true for Robby Anderson. The Temple University product exploded for 125 yards and a score on five catches. While Anderson is certainly a player to add in season-long leagues, it’s tough to trust him as a starter this week. The New England secondary has been outstanding so far this season and currently allow the second-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers. That also means we downgrade Jamison Crowder in this contest.

Key injuries: Chris Herndon was activated this week, but the Jets tight end is dealing with a hamstring injury and is considered week-to-week. That means there’s a good chance he isn’t on the field until at least Week 9. Those who added Herndon might want to look elsewhere for tight end help.

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