They don’t happen often but when they do, they’re usually great.
I’m talking about communal experiences. Moments when so many of us are experiencing the same thing, at the same time. Reacting in real time to something new, something where we don’t know the ending.
The Super Bowl. The last episode of “Game of Thrones.” That time every day on Twitter when someone says something stupid.
This week, it’s a moment happening in fantasy football.
It’s a weird thing because, while fantasy football is built on community, it’s really micro communities. Leagues of all sizes. Groups of people on social media, message boards or the Scott Fish Bowl. People who play a specific style of game, like high stakes, best ball or dynasty. Fans of a particular website, app or podcast.
But it almost never happens for the entire fantasy community. We are many, many millions strong, and the things we disagree on are the things that makes fantasy football great. Differences of opinions about players, strategy and styles of play set us apart from one another, no matter how much we all love this game we play and appreciate our fellow men, women and children who play with us.
Sure, we can all have individual requests for a #MondayNightMiracle or marvel at the greatness that is Derrick Henry, but with different teams, matchups and interests, we rarely see eye-to-eye.
Except this week.
This week, and maybe only this week, we are all in this together.
Week 7, 2021. Since the advent of the internet, this is the worst week ever to play fantasy football.
As you are no doubt aware, we have six teams on a bye. Oh yeah, the NFL extended the season by a week and yet here we are, with six teams on a bye.
And not just any teams. The Bills. The Cowboys. The Chargers. The Vikings. The Steelers. The Jaguars. We’re actually missing the Jaguars!
That means no Josh Allen (QB1), Justin Herbert (QB7), Dak Prescott (QB9) or Kirk Cousins (QB10 on the season!). Those in superflex/OP leagues are even missing Ben Roethlisberger and Trevor Lawrence.
That means no Austin Ekeler (RB2), Najee Harris (RB4), Ezekiel Elliott (RB6), James Robinson (RB11), Dalvin Cook (RB15 in limited games) or the usually flex-worthy Zack Moss (RB22).
That means no Mike Williams (WR5), Justin Jefferson (WR8), Diontae Johnson (WR10), CeeDee Lamb (WR12), Adam Thielen (WR13), Stefon Diggs (WR17), Amari Cooper (WR22) or Emmanuel Sanders (WR24), plus Keenan Allen, Chase Claypool, Marvin Jones Jr, Cole Beasley and Laviska Shenault Jr.
Dalton Schultz (TE4), Dawson Knox (TE6) and, yes, even Jared Cook (TE15) are sitting this one out.
I’ve been calling it “Bye-mageddon” on the podcast this week, but it’s really a lot more than bye-week guys.
Week 7 will also definitely not feature Russell Wilson or 2-QB league starter Baker Mayfield.
No Christian McCaffrey (RB5), Kareem Hunt (RB13), Nick Chubb (RB14), David Montgomery (RB18), Chris Carson (RB23) or regular fantasy starters Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Miles Sanders. What? (Looks away, holds hand to ear). Ah. Yes. Thank you. (Turns toward camera). Apologies. I’ve just been told that apparently Miles Sanders has been active this whole time. Never mind on him.
We’ll do without JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney, and Will Fuller, and Michael Thomas. George Kittle and Logan Thomas are still nowhere to be found.
And just when you think you can’t take anymore, here comes an even longer list of players whose playing status as of this writing are in legitimate doubt.
Guys like Saquon Barkley, Antonio Gibson, Alex Collins, Julio Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jerry Jeudy, DeVante Parker, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rob Gronkowski and even deeper-league guys like Teddy Bridgewater.
Whoever we are, however we play, wherever we play, we are all affected in some way by Week 7, 2021.
Maybe not as bad as this guy.
IR spots are only for Covid, not allowed to use it for injured players. 4 out of my first 5 picks are on IR. Will have to play this week missing 2 spots. Fantasy gods hate me. pic.twitter.com/eH4KbpyMO3
— Adrian Capric (@acapric50) October 19, 2021
But yeah, we are all in this together.
Four of the top eight picks by ADP. Eight of the top 15. Sixteen of the top 35.
In terms of scoring, we are missing four different top-10 quarterbacks. We’re likely missing five of the top 12 tight ends. And by the time inactives roll around, we’ll likely be missing 11 to 14 of the wide receivers who would usually be among the 25 started in ESPN standard leagues.
And we are most likely missing 13 of the top 25 running backs. That’s right. We have more top-25 running backs unavailable this week than in our starting lineups.
I’ve been playing fantasy football since I was a teenager and I’ve never seen anything like this. So I have a few words of caution for you.
Remember, bad as this week is, it’s just one week. Lotta season left to play. And most every team will be playing at less than 100%.
So if you have a good record — 6-0, 5-1, even 4-2 — and are hit especially hard by byes this week, don’t do anything stupid. Don’t overreact and make a one-week trade or drop a good player on a bye to field a full lineup this week. You can afford a loss. Just get through this week and you’ll have your players back next week and for the rest of the season.
Speaking of having a good team, if you are in the upper half of your league, take a look at the teams with poor records to see about potential trades. Teams that are 1-5, 2-4 … they HAVE to win this week, bye weeks be damned. So they might give you a discount on a star player on a bye this week in a deal just to take someone decent who is playing. Be active in trade discussions this week. You might just trade away a win this week for one or more in the playoffs.
And hey, if you are a team that is 1-5, 2-4, maybe even 3-3 but behind on points, don’t dismiss trade offers without thinking them through. You know your league better than anyone else. If you lose this week, what are your chances at making the playoffs? If this week is a must-win, then focus on that and deal with the rest of the season later. Survive and advance, baby.
Can you get something really good for Christian McCaffrey? George Kittle? A player on a bye this week? It’s not ideal, but do what you gotta do this week to win, especially against teams that might be weaker than normal. Again, this is only if you are in a desperate must-win situation. Because if not, in general, I’d rather stay put and let the chips fall where they may for one week.
Finally, remember to check the waiver wire all week long. Some teams crunched by the bye week will drop fantasy-viable players. And if you have to drop someone, drop them on Sunday morning so an opportunistic manager will need to wait for that player to go through waivers and you have shot at getting them back too.
We are in extraordinary times this week, and extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions.
I’ve been writing the weekly Love/Hate column since 1999. This is year 23 of the column and in the more than two decades if writing, it I have never done what I am doing this week.
There will not be “hates.”
The purpose of Love/Hate is to be helpful, of course. Even when an obvious player is discussed, it’s an indication that I anticipate a better-than-expected performance from the player, which can be helpful for DFS, prop betting and even some shallower leagues. Not everyone is in a 12-team keeper league with 10-deep benches, and I like to help as many people as possible. Same for “hates” — players I expect to fall short of expectations, even if you’d never sit them.
But as I sat to research this week and started in on my rankings process, I realized that the theme of the week is basically “next man up.” Anyone with a pulse. Seriously. Teams are so decimated by byes and injuries that if there’s a player who is touching the ball in any reasonable way, he is likely getting started this week. So I’m not putting a useable player on the hate list. So then you’re left with, like, the players who aren’t rostered in any league. What do you want me to do? Put Fabian Moreau on the hate list? Tell you Freddie Swain is not likely a good play? Tell you I’m nervous about Tevin Coleman’s viability this week? Exactly. That helps nobody.
(How is that different than this column every week? Ha. Beat you to it).
Listen, I didn’t want to force a “hate” because of some assumed column convention. Not this week. This is a week of making tough choices and setting your lineup with your eyes closed and nose pinched.
So yeah. No players on the hate list this week. It’s Bye-mageddon. We are all on this ship together. Hold your loved ones tight and hope for the best.
Deep breath, and let’s get to it.
(Thanks, as always, to Damian Dabrowski and Kyle Soppe for their help at various points in this column.)
Quarterbacks I love in Week 7
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Lions)
Stafford has played 171 career games in the NFL, compiling 46,947 passing yards and 298 touchdowns over that time. Those are impressive numbers. But most impressive of all, he has been able to do it without once playing the Detroit Lions. Not once! The Detroit Lions, the franchise that is the real-life “rookie” difficulty setting for opposing teams. So will Stafford match his career total of 298 TD passes against the Lions on Sunday? Uh … probably not? But I do think it’s a good bet he at least hits the 300 TD mark for his career, as Detroit allows TD passes at the second-highest rate and Stafford is tied for third in TD passes for the season. So congratulations, Matthew Stafford: After 12 years of torching the Lions’ defense in practice, you finally get to face it in a real game.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (vs. Washington)
Can I give you a lot of stats about how Rodgers is awesome? I sure can. I own many stats like that, just as Rodgers owns the Bears and their fans. But instead I want to rant about my pathetic Washington Football Team and how they have managed to ruin yet another fall for me. Remember how the WFT was supposed to be one of the top defenses in the league this season? Well, WFT indeed. This is a franchise that spent five of its past six first-round picks on defense (and one on Dwayne Haskins … sigh). This is a franchise that signed Landon Collins (in 2019) and William Jackson to deals that could be worth more than $124 million total and at least $52 million guaranteed (per OverTheCap.com). And what do they have to show for all that investment? Washington is allowing a league-high 309.5 passing yards per game. And, no, this isn’t a defense that gives up a lot of yards and then stiffens in the red zone. I’d love a bend-but-don’t-break defense. But not my WFT. They’re just broken. They’re giving up a ton of yards AND a ton of touchdowns. They’ve given up 16 passing touchdowns so far this season, also worst in the league! Five of the six quarterbacks to face Washington this season have scored at least 22 fantasy points. All the opposing quarterbacks facing Washington’s, ahem, “defense” have combined to average 26.9 PPG, most in the league. That means the highest-scoring QB in fantasy football is literally whoever is playing against the WFT. In fact, the only player in all of fantasy football to average more points per game than “QB facing Washington” is Derrick Henry. That’s it. That’s the whole list. It goes Derrick Henry and then any quarterback facing my favorite team. And now Washington is about to face Aaron freaking Rodgers! Good times. You know how I wrote in the open that six teams are on a bye this week? The reason I didn’t include the WFT defense is because it’s not just this week. They’re always on a bye. Rodgers is a top-three play this week.
Others receiving votes: Every non-rookie quarterback to face the Dolphins this season has thrown multiple touchdown passes against them. Matt Ryan — breaking news alert — is NOT a rookie. But in an addition to playing for a long time, Ryan has actually been playing well recently, putting up 25.3 PPG over his past two games. He’s also averaging 40.8 pass attempts per game, third most in the league, so he should put it in the air a lot this week against a banged-up Miami defense that is recovering from air travel of its own, to and from London. … Believe it or not, Derek Carr trails only Tom Brady in passing yards this season. He also has multiple touchdown passes in five of his six games and four games on the season with at least 21 fantasy points. As Bye-mageddon quarterbacks go, you could do a lot worse than Carr. … You already know I like Matt Ryan to put up points on Miami, so don’t be surprised if this game has sneaky shootout potential. Atlanta is bad in its own right, ranking bottom six on the season in passing touchdowns allowed per game and fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The jury is still out on Tua Tagovailoa as an NFL quarterback, but along with the jury, a ton of quarterbacks are out this week, too. So Tua, who threw the ball 47 times in his first game back from injury last week, is a solid emergency option. … Finding a quarterback for Bye-mageddon is like putting lipstick on a pig, but Jimmy Garoppolo is not only quite handsome, this week he gets a Colts defense allowing passing touchdowns at the highest rate in the league. With two weeks to prepare for a home game against the Colts, consider the lipstick applied.
Running backs I love in Week 7
D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (at Rams)
Perhaps I was a little harsh on the Detroit Lions franchise earlier. I mean, they do have Swift, and he’s really good, right? And just think how much better he’ll look one day when he gets to play against the Lions, too! But until then, he’s going to lose — a lot — and in fact, his team is likely to get crushed on Sunday by the Rams in a game in which the Lions are 15-point underdogs. OK, I feel like I’m still accidentally piling on the Lions. So here’s the good news: They likely won’t lose on a last-second field goal again! They should be down by a lot in the fourth! Actually, that’s probably not helping. OK, how’s this? When the Lions trail late in games, Swift is their guy. He has 33 fourth-quarter touches this season, third most in the NFL. He has at least four catches and five targets in every game this season. And when he gets touches, good things happen: Swift is fifth among running backs on the season in fantasy points per touch (minimum 50 touches). Considering the Lions will likely be down big in this one, the possibility for extra touches makes him a top-five play for me in Week 7, a week in which Daniel Dopp’s Detroit Lions are just going to get absolutely annihilated. OK, I think I’m done. Apologies again.
Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs (at Titans)
I said last week when I put Williams on the Love list that he would be a more productive back from a fantasy standpoint than Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been, and what happened? It rhymes with “Told you so.” (Because it is “Told you so.”) Williams put up 23.9 fantasy points last week and not only that, he had 24 touches, five more than CEH has had in any game this season. Williams also saw 100% of Kansas City’s red zone and goal line carries, too, another area in which CEH has been lacking. In a game with an over/under north of 55 and a matchup with a Titans defense that gives up more than 21 points per game to opposing RBs, Williams is a top-10 back for me during Bye-mageddon and is a locked-in fantasy starter for as long as CEH is out (and maybe even longer!).
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Colts)
That’s right, Bye-mageddon is so bad I love a sixth-round rookie running back who has played in one game over the past four weeks. But Mitchell should be fully healthy thanks to San Francisco having its bye last week. And so far this season, Mitchell is averaging 16.3 touches per game and has 67% of the team’s running back touches in the games in which he has played. He out-snapped Trey Sermon 40-2 in Week 5, and nothing from that game makes me think anything has changed. When you consider every running back to get more than 10 touches against the Colts this season has produced at least 80 total yards, I will very happily experience Bye-mageddon with Mitchell at my side, thank you.
Others receiving votes: The undefeated Arizona Cardinals are 17-point favorites over the mostly defeated Houston Texans this week, and James Conner is averaging 16.3 touches in the four games Arizona has won by 10 or more points this season. He also has 11 goal-to-go carries — tied for third most in the NFL among running backs — while Houston has allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns to running backs this season. … I know, you’d obviously rather have Cordarrelle Patterson (that feels weird to write), but Mike Davis has at least 15 touches and 10 fantasy points in every game this season, and Miami is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Just remember, you don’t actually have to watch the game to use the fantasy points from it. … Damien Harris is one of just five running backs with at least 55 rushing yards and a touchdown in each of the past two weeks. Considering it seems like he’s also just one of five backs actually playing this week, he deserves to be in starting lineups. Note that Harris did get banged up toward the end of the game last week, so monitor his health. If for some reason Harris were to miss this game, I’d like Rhamondre Stevenson as an upside, fill-in play against a Jets team that gives up 32.8 fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL. … Antonio Gibson is banged up and as you read in the Aaron Rodgers write-up, it’s very likely the WFT will be trailing the Packers by a large margin Sunday. Very Lions-esque now that I think of it (OK, that’s the last one! Promise!). So anyway, J.D. McKissic has definite high-end flex or low-end RB2 value for Bye-mageddon. McKissic had a season-high eight receptions and 110 scrimmage yards last week, while the Packers have allowed the third-most receiving touchdowns to running backs this season.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 7
Terry McLaurin, Washington (at Packers)
You all can dress up in your “Squid Game” costumes this Halloween, but I’m going as something really scary — a Packer assigned to cover McLaurin. And when trick-or-treaters come to my house, I’m not giving out candy, I’m giving out helpful fantasy statistics like these:
The Packers have allowed nine touchdowns to wide receivers this season, third most in the league.
Green Bay is allowing touchdowns to wide receivers at the second-highest rate in the league.
McLaurin has a 28.2% target share this season, sixth highest in the league.
I’m not worried about his bad week last week. Back in for a junk-time extravaganza!
Hey, stop egging my house! Nice throwing arms, though. Care to try out at quarterback for my WFT?
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Colts)
Samuel is a target monster. Hey, there’s another free Halloween costume idea for you! Samuel has a 32.3% target share this season, fourth highest in the league, and at least eight targets in every game. He should get a ton of targets Sunday against a Colts defense allowing the fourth-highest catch rate to wide receivers this season and a league-high-tying 10 touchdowns to wide receivers, too. Yes, this week I expect Samuel to give the Colts’ defense nightmares. (Hey, another Halloween reference! #topical)
Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Bears)
I’m not the kind of guy to say, “I told you so.” That’s a different guy who wrote the paragraph above about Darrel Williams. I’m the kind of guy to simply remind you that I said all preseason that Brown would have a huge season and that he was being massively undervalued. Over his past three games, Brown is averaging 23.0 PPG and 10.7 targets. He also has at least seven receptions in each of those games. It’s sustainable production, too. Because even in an offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brown is Brady’s clear favorite. He has been targeted on 29% of his routes this season, compared to 19.6% for Evans and 17.9% for Godwin. All of that is to say: I told you so. Ha! I fooled you! It really was me all along! I am that guy. And I got away with it, despite your efforts, you meddling kids! Hahaha.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Bears)
While I love Brown against the Bears, I also see Godwin having a nice day. Evans likely will be shadowed by Jaylon Johnson, so he doesn’t make the Love list. But Godwin, who quietly already has 12 red zone targets this season, will work out of the slot. Chicago ranks bottom 10 in yards per game and catch rate allowed to the slot this season.
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (vs. Falcons)
It’s rare to get consistent fantasy production from any tight end in fantasy, and it’s especially rare to get it from Gesicki, one of the most boom-or-bust players in the game. So when Gesicki flashes some consistency, ride it. Over the past four weeks, he has a 20.9% target share and at least 16 fantasy points in three of those games. As of this writing, I don’t know the injury status of Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker, but even if he plays I expect the volume to be there for Gesicki. The Dolphins can’t run the ball and they can’t play defense. So a week after catching six slot targets against the Jags, Gesicki gets a Falcons defense that ranks bottom 10 in completion rate and yards per pass attempt to the slot.
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (at Raiders)
Goedert is finally and officially Ertz-less. That fact alone should be enough to get Goedert a start for Bye-mageddon, but in case you’re still having second thoughts, consider this: Philadelphia tight ends have 11 red zone targets this season — tied for second most in the league — and Ertz got 55% of those red zone looks. How about now? OK, well did you know the Raiders allow the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season? Still not convinced? Seriously? OK, now you’re just being stubborn.
Others receiving votes: A healthy Giants receiver? Sounds suspicious. But Sterling Shepard (currently) has a clean bill of health and, in the past three full games he’s played, he has averaged 12.3 targets and 19.8 PPG. … Teams facing Tampa Bay this season average 24.0 wide receiver targets per game, tied for fourth most in the league, and Darnell Mooney leads the Bears in target share this season. Mooney, welcome to Bye-mageddon consideration! … Mecole Hardman … whoa, whoa, don’t close the column just yet. Stay with me here. I know it’s hard to trust Hardman in fantasy. But he does have 60-plus yards in each of his past two games and at least one red zone target in four straight. For Hardman, that’s consistency. … Tyler Boyd has been the odd man out in the Bengals’ wide receiver trio lately, but Baltimore is allowing the second-most yards per attempt to the slot this season. … Jamison Crowder is available on the wire in a lot of leagues and has 16 targets and 11 receptions in his two games this season, in addition to getting a 35.7% red zone target share. In a week like this, that résumé is about as good as it gets. … Since taking over the starting job in Logan Thomas’ absence, Ricky Seals-Jones is averaging 12.5 PPG and is TE10. Admittedly, it’s a two-game sample, but I’m doing my best here, OK? … Zach Ertz is finally and officially Goedert-less! He also looked to be getting back to the Ertz of old before he was traded, with at least six targets in four straight games. He now joins a Cardinals offense in which Maxx Williams scored 15-plus fantasy points in two of the four full games he played.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 7
Jared Cook, TE, Los Angeles Chargers: Some habits die hard.