Offensive Sleepers: Week 7

A look at the best under the radar starts for Week 7.

Quarterback

Blake Bortles (vs BUF - London) - Bortles might have shed his sleeper status and moved into QB1-ville, but the Buffalo matchup looks foreboding. Going into the season, the Bills were considered an elite defense, and they made Andrew Luck the same way they made Aaron Rodgers look in Week 16 last year, much to the chagrin of his owners. The Bills defense doesn’t seem to be so scary now, giving up three passing touchdowns to three of the last five quarterbacks they faced. Bortles should have Allen Robinson after an injury scare in Week 6, and Julius Thomas is full speed now. The running game is non-existent so Bortles should fill the foggy London air with footballs.

Jameis Winston (at WAS) - The only hitch here is that the Bucs might come out of the bye so strong that Winston is turned into the game manager he has been in the two Tampa wins this year. If he tests the Washington defense, he should find success. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Sam Bradford each accounted for three scores against them, and Eli Manning had one of his best games of the season. Washington’s secondary is banged up and both Bucs starting receivers present matchup problems.

Tyrod Taylor/EJ Manuel (vs JAX - London) - No matter who starts at quarterback for the Bills against the Jaguars, they’ll have a nice outlook for Week 7. Both Bills quarterbacks can run and when they throw, they’ll be facing a defense that has allowed nine scores against no interceptions and an average of 300 passing yards in the last five games. The Bills will likely be without their top two receivers, so there is some risk of a sputtering passing game if Charles Clay, Robert Woods, and Chris Hogan can’t get it done.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (at NE) - The Patriots defense has actually been very stingy when the game is still hanging in the balance, but that hasn’t stopped most quarterbacks from putting up good numbers against them. They have given up nine passing touchdowns and a rushing score to quarterbacks not named Brandon Weeden in four games, and Fitzpatrick has the receivers to make hay in garbage time. If Jets defense is up to the task of slowing New England down, Fitzpatrick could be a dud, but he has top five upside this week if the Patriots jump out to a big lead.

Running Back

Andre Ellington/David Johnson (vs BAL) - Both backs have big passing play upside against a Ravens defense that will encourage an already pass-happy offense to take more shots downfield. Chris Johnson looked like he was slowing down last week at Pittsburgh, and Bruce Arians could (should?) turn to the youth in the backfield. He could use either or both more. Even if he doesn’t, there should be a lot of room to operate all night for the Cardinals, giving Ellington the chance for a long score and David Johnson opportunities for goal line scores, not to mention garbage time carries.

Christine Michael (at NYG) - It’s Christine Michael week! Sure, this could be a party he doesn’t show up for if all of the bye week buzz is nothing but hot air, but multiple beat writers and the team’s running back have said Michael has earned a bigger role coming out of the bye. If he gets hot early, he could literally run away with the job. The Giants are reeling right now, and if Matt Cassel is just a little better than Brandon Weeden, Michael might be in for a 15-20 carry night.

Theo Riddick (vs MIN) - Riddick is a last man standing in the Lions backfield when it comes to trust and performance. Ameer Abdullah can’t stop fumbling, Zach Zenner on injured reserve, and Joique Bell is on his last legs. Riddick is already a very dangerous receiver out of the backfield, but he showed more prowess running inside than he has in the past when Abdullah was basically benched for part of the win over the Bears. Week 7 could be his chance to bubble up to the top of this backfield.

Charles Sims (at WAS) - Sims is a backup to Doug Martin in the bread and butter running game, but he has been basically the third option in the passing game this season, and he is converting those opportunities into good numbers. Jameis Winston is excellent at utlilizing his checkdown, which is often Sims, and Sims has more speed than he showed at West Virginia now. Devonta Freeman and Chris Ivory have run all over Washington the last two weeks, and the Bucs downfield receivers should make it hard for Washington to put eight in the box and deal with Sims on dumpoffs and screen plays.

Rashad Jennings (vs DAL) - Jennings is the back the Giants should go forward with as a primary back, as they did early last year. Jennings is the only back on the roster that can play in any situation, and he has already made one game-clinching play for the team when he got more work after the led instead of plodder Andre Williams. Dallas has allowed six running back touchdowns in the last three games, including two through the air. Jennings should have his best game of the year in this one.

Wide Receivers

Dorial Green-Beckham (vs ATL) - Scratch this one if Marcus Mariota plays - and things seem to be trending in that direction. If Zach Mettenberger starts, Green-Beckham should have his best chance yet to show his ability to be unstoppable in a one-on-one situation when the ball is in the air. Mettenberger is a bolder decision-maker, and the team should be a lot more willing to use him on five and seven step drop passing plays that would allow Green-Beckham to run more downfield routes.

Pierre Garcon/Jamison Crowder (vs TB) - It’s hard to be excited about playing any receiver that has to depend on Kirk Cousins being effective, but the bar for fantasy points from wide receivers against the Bucs seems to be pretty low this year. They have given up multiple wide receiver touchdowns in three of five games, and they gave up at least 200 receiving yards to wideouts in the two games they didn’t give up multiple scores. Washington’s running game is getting bogged down, so Crowder, Garcon, and Jordan Reed (if he’s back) represent the best means to move the ball.

Tavon Austin (vs CLE) - The Rams have been doing a good job getting the ball to Tavon Austin in situations that he can use his speed and quicks to his advantage, including in the red zone and as a runner out of the backfield. With a bye to reset a sagging offense, Austin should be even more prominent against a Browns defense that is prone to lapses.

Robert Woods (vs JAX - London) - On one side, you have the potential for the Bills passing game to stall out without its top two receivers, and possibly without its starting quarterback. On the other, a Jags defense that is allowing on average over 30 points a game in the last four contests. Woods has a good chemistry with both possible Bills quarterbacks, and he could strike for a big play if the Jaguars overplay LeSean McCoy and the run to challenge the passing game to come through.

Malcom Floyd (vs OAK) - Floyd has scored each of the last four times he has faced Oakland, and he also notched his career high in yards (213) against them in 2010. Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson both have a chance to play, but both are dealing with injury recovery. The Chargers running game can’t get going, and the team likely to rely on Philip Rivers for first downs and points, although maybe not to the tune of his 65 pass attempts last week.

Stefon Diggs (at DET) - Is there a new #1 receiver in town for the Vikings already? Diggs has taken a huge piece of a very small passing pie in the conservative-minded VIkings pass offense. This week against the Lions slumping defense, but newly wide open pass offense, the Vikings could be forced to pass more against a defense that held Matt Forte in check but allowed 250 yards to wide receivers last week.

Michael Floyd (vs BAL) - Unless the Ravens are facing Michael Vick, they allow opposing receiver have at least good, if not great games. Eight receivers have gone over 75 yards against them in the last four non-Vick games. While Floyd is the #3 for Arizona, he got enough targets to be a WR1 for fantasy last week if he had converted in the red zone, which should be easier against this ailing secondary. The Cardinals should put on an air show Monday night in front of the home crowd.

Rishard Matthews (vs HOU) - While everything swirls around him in winds of change, Matthews has mostly been a steady force in the Dolphins passing game. Going into the bye he took a back seat to Kenny Stills as the Dolphins surrendered to the Jets in London, but he was basically the #1 receiver in the first game after the bye once again. The Texans let old man Andre Johnson get open at will against them two weeks ago. Matthews should find room to operate.

Tight End

Dwayne Allen/Coby Fleener (vs NO) - The Colts offense finally started to resemble what we had hoped for last week, and that trend should only continue against the hapless Saints defense. Andrew Luck can make both of his tight ends viable plays this week with two TE1s on bye (Martellus Bennett and Tyler Eifert) in a rough year for the position outside of the top ten. The Saints have already given up four touchdowns to tight ends this year, and Zach Ertz had his best game of the year against them. Most everything the Colts try against New Orleans should be successful this week.

Jordan Cameron/Dion Sims (vs HOU) - Both Dolphins tight ends scored and caught at least three balls coming out of the bye in the reset offense, and there’s no reason to think they will fade this week against the Texans. Julius Thomas found lots of green in the middle of the field last week as he caught seven balls, and this Texans defense also allowed Travis Kelce’s massive Week 1 game. Even while the offense was struggled, tight end Jake Stoneburner scored twice, so the Dolphins obviously stress the position in the red zone.

Crockett Gillmore (at ARI) - Gillmore made another acrobatic catch in his return last week, and he should only be more ready to make a big contribution now that he has knocked off the rust and hopefully put his calf injury behind him. The Ravens are likely to fall behind on the road on Monday night and rely on the pass, which gives Gillmore a chance to get a lot more than the six targets he got last week.

Ben Watson (at IND) - Is it a coincidence that Watson went off without Marques Colston in the lineup? Watson returned to a limited practice to begin the week, so he could return and take some of the oomph out of Watson’s outlook, but it will be difficult for Drew Brees to unsee all of the space left open for Watson in the New Orleans pass offense. The Colts did contain Rob Gronkowski last week with a dedicated game plan, but when they faced the Titans and Jaguars, they gave up a total of 19 receptions to tight ends, with at least nine surrendered in both games. Watson could see a lot of looks again this week.