July 23, 2024

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Fantasy Football Today: Injury news plus Week 7 game previews and a TNF recap

Fantasy Football Today: Injury news plus Week 7 game previews and a TNF recap

Well, they can’t all be winners. And with the number of injuries heading into the game, the cards were stacked against the Broncos-Browns game last night from an entertainment standpoint. 

But D’Ernest Johnson gave us something to cheer for. The former undrafted free agent looked an awful lot like how we hoped Kareem Hunt would before his injury last week, totaling 168 yards on 22 carries and two catches with a touchdown, while seemingly breaking multiple tackles with every touch. He was a revelation, and while there’s obviously a shelf life on Johnson’s value for Fantasy, he could stay relevant even when Nick Chubb is back as long as Hunt is out. As I said on Friday’s episode of Fantasy Football Today in 5, he’s earned that

Of course, if you didn’t start Johnson or you went against him, you might be in a hole, given the way the rest of the game went. And my Week 7 game previews are here to help you dig out of it. I’ve got answers to the toughest lineup decisions you’re facing and some key storylines for each game along with the latest injury news you need to know in today’s newsletter. 

And if that doesn’t answer all of your lineup questions, send them my way at [email protected] with the subject line “#AskFFT” and they’ll get included in my Sunday morning mailbag — plus, you can catch the Fantasy Football Today YouTube stream Sunday morning at 11:30 am where Adam Aizer and I will be answering all of your lineup questions before the games. 

Get ready for Week 7 with all of our preview content here:  

And here’s what the rest of today’s newsletter has in store to help you get ready for Week 7:

  • 🏈TNF Fantasy Recap: Browns 17, Broncos 14
  • 🔍Week 7 Game Previews: Vegas notes, lineup decisions, and injury updates

🏈TNF Recap: Browns 17, Broncos 14

  • The big takeaway: If Chubb and Hunt miss another game, this is Johnson’s backfield. He benefited from the Broncos offensive incompetence, to be sure, but Johnson played 69{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the snaps in this one, while Demetric Felton played 21 and John Kelly played three. Felton has shown some interesting skills as a playmaker, but he lined up in the backfield just seven times on his 21 snaps, so the Browns clearly view him as more of a playmaker than a running back. 
  • Winner: Can I choose Johnson again? This was a really ugly game otherwise, with Odell Beckam (shoulder) and Jarvis Landry (ankle) both leaving the game early — Beckham would return but was in and out, while Landry did not return after leaving in the fourth quarter. Case Keenum was aggressively fine, but there really aren’t any positives to take away from this game besides Johnson on the Browns side. And, while Javonte Williams scored a nice touchdown and caught six passes, he actually ran one fewer route (15) than Melvin Gordon (16) while playing nine fewer snaps. The Broncos seem perfectly content to use both backs, and while I still expect it to happen at some point, you won’t find me trying to predict it until they tip their hand. Williams and Gordon remain touchdown-dependent RB3s. 
  • Loser: Teddy Bridgewater. Really, the whole Broncos passing game. Bridgewater was dealing with a foot injury that had him visibly limping during the leadup to the game and led the offense to fewer than 100 yards in the first half and yet the team still didn’t turn it over to Drew Lock. If that wasn’t the moment to do it, it feels like that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the faith this coaching staff has in him. That is why Bridgewater really needs to play better moving forward after throwing five interceptions in his past three games. Other teams won’t be able to consistently bring pressure with just four linemen the way the Browns were able to, and the return of Jerry Jeudy (ankle) will certainly help too. But it’s hard not to be discouraged about the state of this passing game right now. Luckily, Washington’s disappointing defense awaits them in Week 8. 

🔍Week 7 game previews

There’s something to watch in every game on the NFL schedule every week, even if you have to squint to see it sometimes. This week, however, there are so many unanswered questions that it’s hard to settle on just one thing for each game. Here’s a look ahead at every Week 7 game, with some notes on what Vegas is expecting to see, some lineup help and one thing to watch for from each game:

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook. 

Panthers at Giants

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Line: Panthers -3; 43 O/U 
  • Implied totals: Panthers 23-Giants 20

With two quarterbacks with big trouble protecting the ball facing off, the line comes down to having more faith the Panthers can overcome whatever mistakes Sam Darnold makes. With Daniel Jones missing so many weapons, that’s probably a safe bet. 

  • Injuries: OK, buckle in, and Giants fans, avert your eyes … Sterling Shepard (hamstring) — Oh no! Shepard was also added to the practice report as a limited participant Thursday, presumably with the same hamstring injury he returned from last week. What we don’t know is whether this was a de facto rest day, or if he suffered the injury during practice, which would obviously be much, much worse. Start making plans in case you were relying on Shepard, who is a top-15 WR for me this week if he plays … Saquon Barkley (ankle), /Kenny Golladay (knee), Kadarius Toney (ankle)/ and Evan Engram (calf) — All missed practice Thursday. Engram was a new addition to the injury report with an old injury, which might indicate it was an aggravation, putting his status for this week in jeopardy. Barkley, Golladay, and Toney also missed Wednesday’s practice as well as last week, and all seem unlikely to play in this one as well … Darius Slayton (hamstring) — Slayton remains limited at practice, and his chances of playing in Week 7 are up in the air right now. With John Ross also limited by a hamstring injury and Kaden Smith dealing with a knee issue, that leaves the healthy wide receivers and tight ends on the roster as: Kyle Rudolph, Dante Pettis, and Collin Johnson. That’s the list, though they also have Chris Myarick, David Sills V, and Travis Toivonen on the practice squad, so it’s not all bad. Oh wait, no, it is literally all bad right now … Terrace Marshall (concussion) — Marshall has yet to practice this week, and he’s the only Fantasy relevant player on the Panthers on the injury report right now. Robby Anderson has been a disaster this season — 37.5{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} catch rate, 4.8 yards per target — but he’s also going to get a bunch of targets against a bad defense, making it hard to sit him. I would prefer to, but admittedly, I can’t say you definitely should. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Devontae Booker — Start. I mean, who else is going to touch the ball? Booker lost some touches late last week but still played 72{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the snaps, so I’m going to assume he’ll be the lead back yet again. He may find it hard to do much with so little help around him, but I don’t have the luxury to sit a running back who seems almost guaranteed to have 15-plus touches. If you do, by all means, but Booker probably has to be a top-20 RB this week. 
  • What we’re watching for: The Giants have so many injuries that I’m really not sure we’re going to be able to learn much from this one. Maybe Pettis has another decent game, but are we really going to want to use him at any point in the future? Probably not. On the Panthers side, Sam Darnold has been a disaster since Christian McCaffrey went down, and I wonder if Matt Rhule might not try to find some way to replicate what McCaffrey brings to the passing game by setting up more easy throws for Darnold when the pressure comes. Rhule also said he wants to get the run going in this game, so that should mean good things for Chuba Hubbard, and maybe it means Royce Freeman gets some more opportunities to contribute. Hubbard is a top-12 RB in this one. 

Bengals at Ravens

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Line: Ravens -6.5; 46.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Ravens 26.5-Bengals 20

I’m surprised the Ravens are favored by this much, though it’s hard to buy into the Bengals having a top-five defense, admittedly. They’ve faced two good offenses and allowed 24 and 25 points to them, and I think we’ll see something similar from the Ravens.  

  • Injuries: Samaje Perine (COVID) — Perine was activated from the reserve/COVID list Thursday and should be good to play. That might be bad news for Joe Mixon’s Fantasy value. Mixon should continue to see a big role in the running game, but Mixon ran his third-highest number of routes in Week 6 with Perine sidelined. Perine ran 25 routes to just eight for Mixon in Week 5, and while Mixon was dealing with an ankle injury, there’s no question the presence of both Perine and Chris Evans has limited Mixon’s usage in the passing game. That would be a bad thing if the Bengals fall behind early … Latavius Murray (ankle) — Murray hasn’t practiced yet this week, so I’m not expecting him to play in this one. Devonta Freeman may get a crack at the lead back role for the Ravens, but Le’Veon Bell and Ty’Son Williams will surely be involved as well. I would prefer to not have to deal with any of the Ravens backs unless and until one emerges as a clear leader of the backfield. I don’t expect that to happen … Sammy Watkins (thigh) — Rookie Rashod Bateman stepped into Watkins’ role in his first NFL game in Week 6, and I expect much of the same this week. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Tee Higgins Start. Maybe if there weren’t six teams on bye, I could advise sitting Higgins, but I can’t do it here. It’s not the easiest matchup and Higgins has been a disappointment so far, but he’s also been targeted on a higher share of his routes than any other receiver for the Bengals, so the shoulder injury that cost him two games could explain some of that. As he gets further away from the injury, I expect Higgins to play a higher snap share, and I definitely expect him to be better than his 5.9 yards per target in the last two games. 
  • What we’re watching for: Both of these teams would probably prefer to run the ball a lot, which could lead to a limited number of plays and depressed Fantasy scoring across the board. But I also think both teams are perfectly capable of putting the ball in the air and being effective, so hopefully they’ll bring the best out of each other. On the Bengals side, I’d like to see Mixon involved in the passing game like he was last season, and I’d like to see Higgins more involved. On the Ravens side, we’ll be watching the backfield split to see if Freeman or someone else can really emerge as a true leader, and I’d also like to see a bounce-back game from Marquise Brown. One down game alongside Rashod Bateman is excusable, but it wouldn’t be ideal to see a second. I have a lot of faith in Brown being a must-start Fantasy WR moving forward, so my faith isn’t shaken, but I’d like to see my faith rewarded. 

Chiefs at Titans

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Line: Chiefs -4.5; 57.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Chiefs 31-Titans 26.5

Derrick Henry against a defense allowing 5.2 yards per carry and the second-most touchdowns in the league on the ground. Patrick Mahomes against a defense allowing the fifth-highest yards per attempt through the air. Buckle up. 

  • Injuries: Tyreek Hill (quad) — Hill has not practiced yet this week with the injury he played through last week. I’m assuming he’ll play through it yet again, but just make sure you have a replacement ready in case he isn’t able to play … Travis Kelce (neck) — Kelce has been limited so far this week, but it doesn’t sound like there’s much risk that he’ll have to miss time. Just check in tomorrow to make sure there aren’t any discouraging reports … Julio Jones (hamstring) — Jones was upgraded to a limited participation in practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s, which is a positive sign. It doesn’t mean he’ll play, of course, and given the way this season has gone, I’m not sure you’d want to trust Jones even if he does … A.J. Brown (illness) — Brown was out both Wednesday and Thursday, but it’s not clear there is much risk of him not playing after he played through this same issue last week. It is, of course, a bit concerning that he seems to still be dealing with food poisoning after a week or more. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Ryan Tannehill – Start. Tannehill has been a disappointment so far, with multiple passing touchdowns in just one of six games. That includes matchups against the Jaguars and Jets in two of the last three games where he scored just 17.4 points per game. But you should probably start him in this one, with the vulnerable Chiefs defense and a game with a gigantic over/under. You shouldn’t feel good about it, but hey, Matt Ryan and Tua Tagovailoa are top-10 options this week, so we’re not exactly overflowing with options here. Give Tannehill a try. 
  • What we’re watching for: On the Chiefs side, it’ll be interesting to see if Darrel Williams gets another 20-plus touches, something we’ve rarely seen in Kansas City since the days of Kareem Hunt. He’s a borderline No. 1 RB this week, and that could remain the case moving forward if he continues to get that kind of work. I’d also like to see the Titans get Brown involved in this one earlier than last week, when he did nearly all of his damage after halftime — and if Jones actually does play, I’d sure love to see him make it through a game without issue for the first time since Week 2. But the thing about this game is, you pretty much know who to start, and the only questions are about guys like Tannehill and Mecole Hardman. Given the expectations for this one, you might want to err on the side of starting them. 

Jets at Patriots

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Line: Patriots -7; 42.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Patriots 24.75-Jets 17.75

I’m going to steal a joke from someone I saw on Twitter a few weeks ago (sorry, I can’t remember exactly who!): “The over/under is 42.5, but I just can’t see the Patriots scoring 43.” The last time we saw these two teams, Zach Wilson threw four interceptions and the Jets managed two field goals as they got booed by their home fans. At least they probably won’t hear any booing in this one?

  • Injuries: Brandon Bolden (thigh) — Bolden has been limited to start the week in practice, and maybe that’s an opening for Rhamondre Stevenson to build on his three-catch game in Week 6. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Michael Carter — Start. Carter is by no means a must-start. He’s RB25 for me, so if you have someone like James Conner, Elijah Mitchell, or Khalil Herbert, I’d probably start them ahead of him — and hopefully you did the same with D’Ernest Johnson last night, too. However, Carter has played at least 50{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the snaps and has a touchdown in two straight games and now he’s coming out of the bye, a spot where we often expect rookies to see an increase in role if it’s coming. It’s a tough matchup, obviously, but Carter actually had 10.8 PPR points in the previous game against the Patriots, and that might be enough in Week 7. 
  • What we’re watching for: I’ll be keeping an eye on the Patriots backfield, given what we saw in Week 6. Damien Harris was and is still the lead back (as long as he can manage to stay healthy), but Rhamondre Stevenson showed surprising chops in the passing game, leading the Patriots running backs in routes run and catching three passes for 39 yards. If he’s a focal point in the passing game again, that could really hint at some huge upside if Stevenson ever gets a chance to start if something happens to Harris. I would like to see Zach Wilson take even a small step forward coming out of the bye, because it’s been a pretty miserable start for him — he has just four touchdowns and nine interceptions in five games. The Jets actually have an interesting collection of pass catchers in Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Elijah Moore — another second-half breakout candidate — but Wilson obviously has to play better. 

Falcons at Dolphins

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Line: Falcons -2.5; 47.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Packers 24.5-Bears 19.5

The Dolphins being home dogs to the Falcons is just an incredibly tough look for our guys down in Miami. Expectations are actually pretty high for Fantasy for this one, with both Matt Ryan and Tua Tagovailoa considered starting-caliber Fantasy QBs by pretty much the whole FFT team. That’s mostly because we view both of these defenses as pretty incompetent, but … are we sure these offenses are good enough to rely on? It’s a fair question!

  • Injuries: Calvin Ridley (personal) — Ridley has returned to the team and is expected to play his usual role after missing Week 5’s game against the Jaguars in London … DeVante Parker (shoulder/hamstring) — Parker has been limited in each day of practice so far, which means he at least has a chance of returning after missing the previous two games. It’s still not assured, and I wouldn’t really want to start him, though he would give Tagovailoa one more option in the passing game, which is nice. I have Jaylen Waddle as a top-20 WR, and I wouldn’t change his ranking much if Parker plays. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Myles Gaskin — Sit. Or start. I don’t know. I could see a scenario where the Dolphins find themselves in a shootout and Gaskin ends up with a big game through the passing game. He just did it two weeks ago against a much better defense. However, he sandwiched that game in between two where he was effectively benched for long stretches. Do you really want to rely on someone who is routinely losing playing time to Malcolm Brown? Well, obviously not. But you’re probably starting someone you don’t want to rely on this week. If I can, I’d rather avoid the headache, but there is still some upside thanks to his pass-catching. 
  • What we’re watching for: The Falcons seemed to have figured some stuff in the two games before the bye, and I’m interested to see how they use Cordarrelle Patterson especially. He played some extra snaps at wide receiver in Week 5, but with Ridley and Russell Gage expected back, will he be relegated to more of that backup running back role? He’s been productive in that role, obviously, but in a lot of unsustainable ways. An expanded role would help him sustain it. I have both him and Mike Davis as top-10 running backs this week. On the Dolphins side, I’d love to see them trust Tagovailoa enough to throw it a bunch and let him take shots downfield. Whether he is the QB of the future for them or not, if they want to salvage this season, they might as well let Tagovailoa push it and see what he can do. This is the perfect matchup for it. 

Washington at Packers

  • Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
  • Line: Packers-7.5; 48.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Packers 28-Washington 20.5

I’m actually a little surprised the Packers aren’t favored by more against a pretty bad Washington team that sports the league’s worst scoring defense. Taylor Heinicke has shown flashes, but they just lost by 18 to the Chiefs and 11 to the Saints the week before, both at home. I don’t get it. 

  • Injuries: Antonio Gibson (shin) — Gibson was upgraded to a limited participation in practice Thursday after sitting out Monday’s game. I guess the MRI on Monday didn’t show anything alarming, so I’m assuming he’ll continue to play through the injury … Terry McLaurin (hamstring) — McLaurin missed Wednesday’s practice but is in line to play through the injury in Week 7, just like he did in Week 6. You’re still starting him … Ryan Fitzpatrick (hip) — There were reports last week that Fitzpatrick could be cleared to return this week, but I haven’t seen anything one way or the other, so I’m going to assume he’s going to remain sidelined for at least this week. Whether he’ll even return as the starter remains to be seen, but Heinicke isn’t exactly covering himself in glory lately. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Antonio Gibson — Sit. I don’t feel good about saying that. Ron Rivera said Gibson won’t be on a pitch count as long as he plays Sunday, which means there’s obvious upside here for a guy who has big play potential and a locked-in goal line role. However, he also was in and out in Week 6 as a result of this lingering injury, and it probably isn’t going to go away until he’s able to give it time to heal, so there will continue to be risk. But even beyond that, this just doesn’t set up to be a game where Gibson gets a ton of work, since J.D. McKissic so often handles third-down and two-minute duties. If the Football Team finds itself down early, expect more of McKissic than Gibson. He’s more of an RB3 for me this week. 
  • What we’re watching for: We pretty much know what to expect from both teams at this point, at least in terms of how they would like their offense to operate. For Washington, however, Heinicke’s play is the wild card — he has just one touchdown while averaging 5.4 yards per attempt over the past two games, and if he doesn’t play better, it’s hard to get excited about much on that offense. So, it’s all about whether Heinicke can turn things around. The Packers are going to have a lot of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, and AJ Dillon has been getting more involved of late, but that’s about it right now. 

Eagles at Raiders

  • Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
  • Line: Raiders -3; 49 O/U
  • Implied totals: Raiders 26-Eagles 23

These are two offenses that have been really hit or miss so far, especially with the passing game. Neither has really been able to get the running game going, and you wonder if that might start to change at some point. 

  • Injuries: Dallas Goedert (Illness) — Goedert was activated from the COVID-19 list Thursday, a good sign for his chances of playing even if he didn’t practice Thursday. As long as he plays he’s a top-five tight end, but obviously you want to see him on the practice field Friday. One symptom of COVID is persistent shortness of breath even after getting past the illness, so that is something to watch. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Miles Sanders Start. I try not to give Fantasy analysis that is predicated on trying to predict what coaches will do, because I have no say in that kind of thing. They aren’t going to listen to me! However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that the Eagles might try to establish the run a little more in this one, given the easier matchup than they’ve had recently. You shouldn’t necessarily start Sanders expecting it to happen, but this is probably the best opportunity the Eagles have had to get the running game going, so let’s hope they do. Given the dearth of other options at the position, it’s worth starting Sanders anyway. 
  • What we’re watching for: For the Eagles, it’ll be the run-pass split. The Eagles have thrown 77 times more than they’ve run, and that’s with Jalen Hurts averaging nearly nine carries per game. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but I would guess they’ll be a little more balanced moving forward. Let’s see if it happens this week and if Sanders can take advantage of it, because there should still be enough pass volume to keep Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert relevant. It’ll also obviously be worth watching how they use Goedert, because expectations are very high. On the Raiders side, I’d like to see the passing game figure out some of their issues, and that starts with getting Darren Waller more involved. Since his massive 19-target game in Week 1, Waller’s target share is down to 19.3{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809}. That’s way too low for a guy who was at 26{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} last season and is this offense’s clear best weapon. I’d also like to see Josh Jacobs get going. The workload hasn’t been as steady as the previous two years, and he hasn’t exactly earned more touches, so you wonder if the injuries from earlier in the season are still bothering him. 

Lions at Rams

  • Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
  • Line: Rams -15; 50.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Rams 32.75-Lions 17.75

D’Andre Swift, Garbage Time Hero, get ready. 

  • Injuries: T.J. Hockenson (knee)/D’Andre Swift (groin) — Both players have been dealing with their injuries and playing through them for weeks, and barring a setback, both will continue to do so … Sony Michel (shoulder) — Michel was upgraded to a limited participation Thursday, a good sign after Sean McVay said he expects Michel to be fine. He’s clearly just a handcuff for Darrell Henderson at this point. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Robert Woods Start. Ugh. I thought we were past this. Woods’ 12-catch, 150-yard game in Week 5 was supposed to silence out concerns. And then he goes out and has just two catches for 31 yards the following week — it’s a good thing he caught a touchdown or people would be panicking. And maybe they should be? Woods has six or fewer targets in four games already, something that happened just five times in 18 games in 2020. Of course, the tough thing about sitting him is, at any point, the Rams could just decide to feature him and he could be a No. 1 WR for Fantasy. That’s why you’re starting him. But it should feel better than this. 
  • What we’re watching for: During the first three quarters this season, Jamaal Williams has actually outscored Swift this season, 57.5 to 43.4. The fourth quarter is, of course, the only time that offense ever actually looks functional, so I will continue to beg the Lions to simply treat Swift like the kind of offensive focal point he should be. This is another one of those games where there just aren’t that many moving parts for Fantasy, and it doesn’t really feel like we have that much to learn about them. Maybe that’s unfair to the Lions, but they’ve earned it. It will be interesting to see if the Lions follow through on Dan Campbell’s veiled threats to bench Jared Goff, though to be clear, it wouldn’t be the good kind of interesting to see David Blough out there against this defense. Start your Rams, start Swift and Hockenson, and let’s move on. 

Texans at Cardinals

  • Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
  • Line: Cardinals -17.5; 47.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Cardinals 32.5-Texans 15

You don’t usually see 17.5-point spreads in the NFL. It takes special circumstances. And these are special teams.  

  • Injuries: Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) — Taylor is getting close to a return, but it won’t happen in Week 7. That means at least one more start for Davis Mills, who has five touchdowns and seven interceptions in four starts. I’m assuming Taylor will return as the starter soon, but that’s not guaranteed. It would be better for the Texans offense, however.  
  • Toughest lineup decision: Chase Edmonds – Start in PPR. Edmonds has been playing through a shoulder injury, which might explain his reduced role over the past two weeks. He has 16 touches in that span, or the same number of carries James Conner had in Week 6 alone. Conner is going to get more carries than Edmonds most weeks, but Edmonds is simply the much more dynamic player, so hopefully they get back to giving him double-digit carries along with a healthy passing game role. Edmonds was a must-start back early on, and I hope we’ll see him more involved as he moves on from the injury.   
  • What we’re watching for: The key thing to watch for the Cardinals will be how they integrate Zach Ertz into their offense. I think he’s worth starting but isn’t necessarily a must-start tight end — this is an awfully crowded offense that runs just 72.4{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of its plays with a tight end on the field. Will that change with Ertz on-board? I hope not. He can be a useful red zone option, but taking away targets from their wide receivers overall would be a pretty bad idea. I expect Ertz is still a touchdown-or-bust tight end in his new home. On the Texans side, I just hope they continue to feed Brandin Cooks a massive number of targets, and it’ll be interesting to see if they integrate rookie WR Nico Collins in more as the No. 2 after he had four catches for 44 yards and played 57{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the snaps in Week 6. Collins is a deep sleeper. 

Bears at Buccaneers

  • Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
  • Line: Buccaneers -12.5; 47 O/U
  • Implied totals: Buccaneers 29.75-Bears 17.25

Boy, we’re not expecting many competitive games in the late slate, huh? 

  • Injuries: Antonio Brown (ankle) — Brown has missed both days of practice so far, so this may not just be something he can shrug off. You’re starting Mike Evans and Chris Godwin no matter what Brown’s status is, so the intrigue here mostly lies in whether Brown plays … O.J. Howard (ankle) — Howard was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday, a step up from Wednesday’s missed practice. With Rob Gronkowski (ribs)  likely still out, Howard is in the TD-or-bust tier of tight ends in a pretty good offense for it … Allen Robinson (ankle)/Darnell Mooney (groin) — Both were limited in practice Thursday, and both played through their injuries last week. Expect more of the same here. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Khalil HerbertStart. In a normal week, you’d be sitting Herbert. Yes, even after his impressive Week 6. Teams just don’t run on the Buccaneers — they have 20 fewer rush attempts against them than any other team, including those that have only played five games. I’m sure Matt Nagy would like to be the one who bucks that trend, but the Buccaneers also allow just 3.4 yards per carry, and their offense almost never gives opposing offenses the chance to establish the run. So, I’d like to sit Herbert. But he’s probably going to play 80{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809}-plus of the snaps if Damien Williams (COVID) remains out, so I’m not sure you can. But my expectations are muted for this one, relative to last week. 
  • What we’re watching for: With Leonard Fournette established as the lead back, there’s not much to keep an eye out for this Buccaneers offense — assuming he keeps that job. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bucs keep Howard involved after his Week 6 breakout, but most of the intrigue in this one is on the other side of the ball. Justin Fields continues to not do very much, with just two passing touchdowns and only one game with more than 12 rushing yards. That was Week 6, but it nearly all came on scrambles, as the Bears continue to run a fairly straightforward vanilla offense. I’d like to see them try something different this week, and the matchup against the Buccaneers seems likely to force Fields into a career-high in pass attempts — his current is just 27. This could be a breakout game for Fields, Robinson, and Mooney against a defense that has been pretty bad against the pass, but it’s not something you can count on. But I’m hoping for it. 

Colts at 49ers 

  • Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
  • Line: 49ers -4; 44 O/U
  • Implied totals: 49ers 24-Colts 20

Both of these teams would love to run the ball up and down the field, and whichever has more success in that part of the game is probably going to win.  

  • Injuries: Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) — Garoppolo has been limited at practice this week, and with Trey Lance (knee) being held out both days to date, it seems all but certain Garoppolo will be back this week. That’s probably good news for Deebo Samuel, the only 49ers passing game option you can rely on … T.Y. Hilton (quad) — The Colts have mostly downplayed the injury, but it’s not a great sign that he hasn’t practiced yet. Hilton could still play, but you probably don’t want him in your lineup. Maybe on your bench, though, after his impressive debut.  
  • Toughest lineup decision: Elijah Mitchell — Start. Mitchell hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since becoming the starter, totaling 85 yards on 26 carries with 30 yards added on four receptions. Of course, he was coming back from a shoulder injury in Week 5, so maybe that isn’t really a mark against him. The 49ers have clearly treated him like the lead back when he’s been healthy, with Trey Sermon playing just two snaps in Week 5, so while I’m not convinced Mitchell is a lock to remain the starter forever, he should be it this week. And you start Kyle Shanahan’s lead back if there isn’t ambiguity about the role. 
  • What we’re watching for: On the 49ers side, it’ll be interesting if the bye week afforded Sermon and Brandon Aiyuk the opportunity to sort of hit the reset button on their disappointing starts. I’ll be watching them closely, especially Aiyuk, who could still step up in a big way with George Kittle (calf) still out. It would be nice to see him have a big game before Kittle is eligible to return in Week 9. On the Colts side, we’d like to see Michael Pittman get re-established as the lead WR — he had just three targets in Week 6 with Hilton back in the fold. Of course, they threw it just 20 times, so that probably shouldn’t be taken as a knock on Pittman. If it happens again, it might be. 

Saints at Seahawks

  • Monday, 8:15 p.m.
  • Line: Saints -4.5; 42.5 O/U
  • Implied totals: Saints 23.5-Seahawks 19

Jameis Winston. Geno Smith. All my inaccurate friends are here on Monday night. 

  • Injuries: Taysom Hill (concussion) — It’s important to remember that Thursday was just the first day of practice for these teams, so Hill still has time to get cleared, but it’s concerning that he still isn’t coming out of the bye …  Alex Collins (groin) — Pete Carroll downplayed this injury earlier in the week, but it’s not a good sign that Collins wasn’t able to practice. We’ll be watching this one closely, but you might want to add Rashaad Penny, who is expected to be activated from IR after recovering from a calf injury this week. If Collins doesn’t play, Penny figures to be the most likely person to lead the team in carries, with Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas having a role as well. None would be a recommended starter unless Collins is able to play … Michael Thomas (ankle) — It does not seem as if Thomas is going to be activated this week, and it may not be another couple of weeks until we see him. 
  • Toughest lineup decision: Tyler Lockett Start. But I’d rather not have to! How many times have I typed that today, huh? Smith was largely unwilling to push the ball down the field in his first start, and if that remains the case, it’s going to be hard for Lockett and DK Metcalf to contribute much for Fantasy. I’ll give them one more start, with my expectations higher for Metcalf, who has at least shown a better connection with Smith so far, with nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets in the game and a half he has played. Lockett has caught just three of 11 passes for 42 yards from Smith.   
  • What we’re watching for: Well, Smith has to play better than he did in Week 6 against the Steelers, and this is yet another tough matchup for him. It’s hard to trust anyone in this Seahawks offense right now. On the other side, I’d like to see the Saints be willing to throw the ball a little more, with Winston setting a season-high with just 30 attempts in his last game. However, as long as he keeps using Alvin Kamara as his No. 1 target, that’s all that really matters. Kamara is the only Saints player in the top 80 of my FLEX rankings.