This is a particularly rough bye week in fantasy land, so there will be an unusually high amount of owners scrambling to make waiver-claims or scouring the bottom of their depth charts looking for anybody with a pulse to fill those empty roster slots. Here are a few names to keep in mind when you look to fill in your starting lineup for this week and be sure to check our Week 7 start ’em sit ’em here.
Matt Hasselbeck (QB)- Hasselbeck’s days of being a reliable fantasy QB are long gone, but there’s still enough tread on the tires to provide the occasional moment of fantasy usefulness. Sunday looks like one of those occasions. The Titans’ beleaguered receiving corps is finally getting healthy and they have a prime match-up with a Buffalo Bills pass defense that is currently ranked dead last in the NFL, surrendering 27.5 fantasy-points-per-game to opposing signal-callers.
Josh Freeman (QB)- Maybe Tampa’s Week 5 bye really helped Freeman, or it was the nice match-up with Kansas City’s lousy secondary, but Freeman is coming off his best game of the season. He passed for 328 yards and three touchdowns last week at home and this week’s tilt against New Orleans’ horrendous secondary might be an even more appealing pairing. Freeman scored over 18.0 fantasy points-per-game against New Orleans last season, so even if this game gets out of hand for the Bucs, there’s the potential for garbage-time scoring for Tampa’s passing attack. The Saints are allowing 25.9 points-per-contest to opposing QBs, fifth worst in the league.
Danny Woodhead (RB)- Bill Belichick seems to love reiterating his brilliance over his peers. More specifically, he loves to take other team’s cast-offs and find a way to better utilize their talents. This is especially true for Belichick when it comes to his AFC East rival, Rex Ryan. Woodhead, recall, was dumped by the Jets in 2010 after one game in New York. The Patriots then scooped the former Jet up and put him in a position to make plays in New England’s more dynamic offense. In his first game against New York, Woodhead had 104 receiving yards. For this week, reserve RB Brandon Bolden has already been ruled out, so Woodhead should see more work behind Stevan Ridley, especially on passing downs. There’s a very good chance that Danny Woodhead will see 10-15 touches on Sunday, and that makes him a solid fantasy play, particularly in a PPR format.
Jonathan Dwyer (RB)- With injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Issac Redman, Dwyer will be pressed into duty as the starting running back this week. Baron Batch and Chris Rainey will also see action, but Dwyer is expected to take the majority of first and second down work and at 229 lbs. is the leading contender to take the goal line carries. As luck would have it, the Steelers are facing a Cincinnati Bengals defense that has already surrendered eight touchdowns to opposing running backs so far in 2012.
Felix Jones (RB)- Overall, Jones has been a bit of a fantasy bust, but this is the reason that you kept him stashed on your bench for the past six weeks. Carolina might be coming off of a bye, but they still have the fourth-worst fantasy defense when it comes to defending the run. The Panthers are giving up 24.5 points a game to opposing RB’s and Jones will be in-line for the vast majority of those carries in relief of the injured DeMarco Murray. All indications are that Murray will return next week, so this may be the only time that you can use Jones this season. He looked good when pressed into action last week, so if he can produce solid numbers this week, try trade him to an anxious Murray owner.
Donnie Avery (WR)- How is this guy only owned in 10% of ESPN fantasy leagues? Avery’s 47 targets rank in the top 25 of the NFL and he’s coming off a strong Week 6 performance where he caught four passes for 60 yards, but was targeted 12 times.Â For Week 7, the Colts will be home for a matchup with a Cleveland Browns defense that is surrendering 33.4 fantasy-points-per-game to wide receivers, including an NFL-high 12 touchdowns in six games. Avery makes an excellent flex play for those missing their regular receivers.
Mike Williams (WR)- After an impressive debut season in 2010, Big Mike Williams was a huge disappointment last year, dipping to 771 yards and three touchdowns. But it’s starting to look like Williams has returned to his rookie-season form. Through five games, Williams is the 22nd ranked receiver in the game, averaging 10.2 points per contest and has put together back to back weeks of over 113 yards receiving. In less than a third of the regular season, Williams has already matched last year’s lowly touchdown number. For Week 7, the Bucs host a New Orleans pass defense that is ranked 30th, surrendering 30.5 points-per-game.
Jacoby Jones (WR)- If you’re in a league that also includes return yardage, then Jones could be your guy. Jones isn’t making a big impact as a receiver, catching only 11 balls on the season. But he does remain an excellent returner, as he showed last week with a 108 yard return touchdown. Another reason to consider Jones is the “revenge factor”. The Texans unceremoniously dumped Jacoby this offseason and this will be his first game against his former squad. Maybe John Harbaugh and company try to get him a few extra targets to stick it to Houston. Only those is very deep leagues that do include kick and punt return yardage should probably consider playing Jones this week.
Scott Chandler (TE)- Last week was a dud for Chandler, as he dipped to one catch for four yards. But there’s a good chance Chandler bounces back this week as the Bills play host to a Tennessee secondary that is giving up 15.3 points and has already allowed seven touchdowns to tight ends so far this season. Chandler also has a tendency to play a little better at home, producing his two highest yardage totals, and three of his four touchdowns at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Jody Smith was the leading fantasy football analyst for Week 6 and for the entire 2012 season at www.fantasypros.com. His rankings can be viewed here and be sure to follow him on twitter @JodySmith_