Fantasy managers knew Week 7 would be brutal when it came to byes, and yet it still hit them pretty hard. Between the injuries and the frees, my benches were empty and my results were in disarray. Getting the season high score in one league and only scoring half of my season average in another league was a rollercoaster experience for me. Now, as we look ahead to a normal week with no releases, we face a different challenge.
What do we do with last week’s heroes who saved us? Do they deserve a place in our starting XI, even with the regular players back in action? What about the guys who played like they were goodbye (Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Calvin Ridley, Gabe Davis)? Who got burned by the Bye Week guys?
A lot of FAB was spent on Zach Evans and Craig Reynolds just for the Rams to signal they wouldn’t rely on Evans against the Steelers long after waiver claims came and went during Detroit Finally woke up and got Jahmyr Gibbs the ball (not that it mattered for the Lions).
Let’s look at the unexpected good and bad aspects of the seventh week to find out what we can trust in the future.
D’Onta Foreman, Chicago Bears
My DFS lineups would like to know where that was in Week 6, but better late than never for whoever could add Foreman after all the Bears’ running back injuries. They gave him the ball with 16 carries and five targets, which he converted into over 100 yards and three touchdowns. Five of his touches came in the red zone. The Raiders aren’t exactly known for their defense, but they weren’t a walk in the park for Foreman either. He averaged 5.6 YPC, an improvement from his 4.3 YPC in Week 6, and he continues to outperform Darrynton Evans. Tyson Bagent seemed very comfortable throwing him the ball and will likely be back in action in Week 8 when the Bears take on the Chargers on Sunday Night Football. It’s a great matchup for opposing defenders. So you can still use Foreman wherever you need RB help.
Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns
Welcome back to Cleveland, Mr. Hunt. With three rushing touchdowns in two games – both wins – Hunt will also be reinstated in the fantasy lineup. He hasn’t been as efficient as Jerome Ford (in YPC), but he’s seeing almost as much work (22 rushes and four targets compared to Ford’s 28 rushes, six targets in the last two games). In the red zone, it was all Hunt (three attempts from inside the five-yard line in Week 7, three more in Week 6). Seattle isn’t a bad matchup for the Browns’ running backs in Week 8, and Ford injured his ankle in the win over the Colts and will likely miss time. Overall, it’s the touchdown possibility and potential for extra work that tip the scales for Hunt if you’re looking for an upside RB play for Week 8.
Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
I admit that I dropped Harris outright after his fourth 5-6 PPR fantasy point performance in Week 5. It was in a family league with eight teams and a very flexible roster, but still. So he scored his first touchdown of 2023 in Week 7 and I’m sure some people are happy they drafted him, but I’m not optimistic about his future prospects. Jaylen Warren was superior to Harris in the passing game, but also scored his first touchdown of the season in a surprise win over the Rams. This is a clear and feared division of the backcourt for a team that doesn’t score very often. Jacksonville is the fourth stingiest rushing defense, allowing opponents just 80 yards on the ground per game. For those who have that luxury, Harris can remain on the bench.
Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts
Downs is the real deal and it doesn’t matter who his QB is. He has now scored in back-to-back games and topped 100 receiving yards for the first time in Week 7 after coming oh-so-close in Week 5 (97 yards). He is currently the WR25 of fantasy players, with much of his productivity coming with Gardner Minshew at QB. With Minshew likely to stick around (see below), Downs is a player fantasy managers across leagues should take note of (and add). The Colts have faced some above-average defenses this season, but Downs had his best fantasy day (21 half-PPR points, WR3 in Week 7) against the (former) best of the best Cleveland Browns. He is anchored in my starting lineup in the leagues in which I field him.
Jake Bobo, Seattle Seahawks
The biggest surprise in this game wasn’t Bobo, but DK Metcalf missing his First always NFL game due to injury. This is wild health! Of course, these things are related, as both Bobo and fellow rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba scored for the Seahawks in Metcalf’s absence. JSN led the team with seven goals, while Bobo and Tyler Lockett each scored five. The bad news here is that Bobo will be forgotten once Metcalf returns. Don’t bother picking him up unless we hear something unexpected about Metcalf this week.
Marques Valdes-Scantling, Kansas City Chiefs
Let me start with the fact that MVS is only in 3% of Yahoo leagues, so his 3/84/1 line probably didn’t help anyone. The fantasy performance of this one game exceeded that of the previous six contests combined. On a day when Patrick Mahomes was ruled out, Valdes-Scantling still only saw five targets. Rashee Rice is the only starting wide receiver for the Chiefs, especially since they won’t face the league’s best fantasy matchup again until Week 18.
Darren Waller, New York Giants
Waller isn’t in the same category as most of these bye-week players. They still start it every week, but the Giants are the team that has me grinding my teeth in my sleep this season. They finally look like a semblance of what everyone was expecting this summer, and it took Tyrod Taylor to make it happen!?! More on Taylor below, but Waller went 7 of 8 for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win over Washington. This was really great to see for those who can’t understand how the Giants consistently fail to get their best receiver the ball week after week. After Waller publicly complained about it (26 goals in the last three games), we got a taste of things to come, but finally getting into the end zone is a sigh of relief for Waller’s manager. However, there are a few reasons to take the breaks as it is a sign of bigger things to come. First, the Giants are still the lowest-scoring team in the league. Second, when they get into the red zone, they usually think they’re going to run or pass to Saquon Barkley. Third, and this is very similar to the first, they don’t go into the red too often. So we need to keep expectations in check for Waller, as we do with all TEs not named Kelce.
Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
There’s a lot about this Bills game that I don’t understand, especially the final score, but it’s clear that Kincaid is exactly who the Bills hoped/thought he would be. Kincaid caught all eight of his targets for 75 yards this week, making him the TE7 of the week. Importantly, he outscored Dawson Knox 8-3 and Knox now has to undergo wrist surgery. Kincaid is the TE on the Bills’ roster, but after Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen, performance is as difficult to predict as Buffalo’s probability of victory.
Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts
With Anthony Richardson on IR, it’s Minshew’s show in Indianapolis. In a super-sized league that I run with my students and colleagues at the University of Rochester (Brain Lovers League), we use Team QB. Minshew was one of the main reasons I drafted the Colts because, in addition to Richardson’s obvious potential, he is one of the best backup QBs in the league. In Week 7, he needed just 15 completions to surpass 300 passing yards against what was previously considered the worst fantasy matchup (Browns). Following Richardson’s book, he even stormed two points behind an offensive line that was mostly up to the task of handling Cleveland’s formidable defensive front. Minshew’s downside is his four turnovers in the last two games. The Saints won’t be as aggressive on defense as the Browns, but I expect that to be a key sticking point in the Colts’ practice this week. With all 32 options on the table for Week 8, Minshew may not get the starting call-up for guys in standard 10-team leagues, but after consecutive 300-yard games and five total touchdowns, he should be considered for anything bigger or bigger SuperFlex format.
Tyrod Taylor, New York Giants
Count me among the desperate ones in a SuperFlex league who had to start with Taylor because of byes and injuries, only to realize that he was essentially the only reason I was even remotely competitive in my match. Taylor wasn’t perfect and had the benefit of Barkley being back on the field, but he looked much better than Daniel Jones in his last two starts. Sacks and turnovers are down significantly, while big plays are up (six completions of over 20 yards in Week 7). All signs still point to Jones being the starter as soon as he’s able, and if that’s not the case in Week 8, Taylor could still struggle against a Jets defense that has a good chance has to get Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed back for the season game. I’m sure you’ll find a better QB2 option!