Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia and San Diego are all on bye in Week 7. That’s a lot of fantasy firepower owners won’t be able to call on. But this is why you put so much preparation into your draft and you watch your league’s waiver wire like a hawk, right? So if you can’t use a Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Brian Hartline or Tony Gonzalez, who can you turn to? Here are a few options that may be able to pick up the slack in Week 7.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland at Indianapolis
Gordon was taken by Cleveland in the second round of the supplemental draft, so chances are he has been flying under the radar, if you were even aware of him, this season. That may soon change, however, as he is quickly establishing himself as not only a legitimate deep threat, but as quarterback Brandon Weeden’s favorite target. Gordon has three touchdowns in his last two games, and two of these scoring strikes were plays of more than 60 yards. For the season he is averaging 22.8 yards per catch and is starting to get more opportunities thrown his way. He has a total of 12 targets in his last two games, after seeing 14 in the first four combined. Indianapolis has done a decent job of limiting the amount of damage done by opposing wide receivers in terms of yardage, but they have been burned several times on the long ball. Everyone knows about the Browns’ two first-round draft picks, Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, but if Gordon continues what he’s done recently, the team may have just hit the trifecta when it comes to impact offensive players it can build around.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee at Buffalo
Hasselbeck will make his third, and probably final, start this week in Buffalo in place of Jake Locker. Locker has been sidelined the past three weeks with a shoulder injury, but he returned to practice this week and Titans head coach Mike Munchak has already said the second-year player will get his job back from the veteran Hasselbeck when he’s healthy. So if this will be Hasselbeck’s last start (provided Locker stays healthy), what better way for him to go out than to get the NFL’s worst defense, no? Prior to last week, Buffalo had given up more than 1,200 yards and 97 points in a span of two games. While the Bills’ D looked much better in the overtime win in Arizona, this unit still has its share of issues. In fact, this game features two of the bottom three defenses in the entire league, so chances are this game will feature plenty of offensive fireworks. I like Hasselbeck to go back to the bench swinging, if you will, as the Bills are allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. If Chris Johnson can take advantage of the Bills’ rush defense (worst in the league), that should open up things even more for Hasselbeck, who has multiple weapons in the passing game in receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright as well as tight end Jared Cook. The Titans may not win, but if you decide to start Hasselbeck, I think you will at least like that outcome.
Felix Jones, RB, Dallas at Carolina
The Cowboys had little trouble running on the Ravens last week, as DeMarco Murray got things started with 72 yards in the first quarter alone. Murray would finish with a total of 93 yards on the ground, but he wasn’t able to finish the game. He suffered a foot injury before halftime and only carried the ball one more time in the third quarter before leaving for good. Enter Jones, who scored on a 22-yard run in the first quarter, and finished his day with 92 yards on 18 carries. After the game, the team learned that Murray suffered some ligament damage in his left foot, which will sideline him for at least a week. With Murray out, Jones will get his first real start since Week 15 of last season. In that game, Jones rushed for 108 yards and he will be looking for similar results on Sunday against Carolina. Jones has disappointed many a fantasy owner in the past with his untapped potential and injury-prone nature, but I think this time it will be different. He looked pretty good against the Ravens last week and should find some running room against the Panthers this week. Carolina is allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs and is giving up an average of 127.4 yards on the ground per game. In many ways, it’s now or never for the former first-round pick, as he will be a free agent at the end of the season. If he’s still a free agent in your league, I recommend picking him up and getting him into your lineup this week.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit at Chicago (Monday)
Chicago’s defense is No. 2 in the league overall, first in both rushing and scoring defense and fifth against the pass. So why am I picking a Lion as a “Start” option, you ask? As good as the Bears’ defense has been (and it has been VERY good, especially in terms of fantasy scoring as a DST), its one weak spot to this point has been defending the tight ends. The Monsters of the Midway are allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, while the 35 receptions by them are the fourth-most. Enter Pettigrew, who is second only to All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson in terms of targets for the Lions. He has 26 receptions, which ties him with wideout Nate Burleson for second, along with 261 yards and a touchdown. Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford is certainly keeping Pettigrew heavily involved as the 6-5, 265-pounder has seven or more targets in all but one of the team’s five games. In two games against the Bears last season, Pettigrew had a total of 14 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. As good a job as the Bears have done pressuring the quarterback (18 sacks) and shutting down opposing wide receivers (3 TD catches), Stafford may have no choice but to look Pettigrew’s way early and often come Monday night.