Most seasons, we have to wait until November before weather becomes a meaningful matchup concern of the order of venue and opponent. But in Week 7, we are in for a treat. Denver is forecasted for a rogue October cold front on Sunday that will drop the high temperatures from 67 degrees Fahrenheit the day before to just 21 degrees on game day. There may even be snow on the ground. That would be fun for any potential matchup, but it seems particularly appealing with Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs coming to town. In general, cold weather cuts passing rates by half a percent, completion rate by 2%, and passing yards per target by 5%.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) — home and road and dome and outside — the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
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|Best Week 7 Matchups – Quarterbacks|
I laughed like everybody else at the “Who let DeAndre Hopkins make the Texans’ schedule?” jokes before I dismissed them, but I did that without looking past their first three opponents — the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers — that accelerated Bill O’Brien’s firing. Deshaun Watson’s fantasy splits have made me reconsider the conspiracy. Facing that trio of top-eight DVOA pass defenses, Watson managed just 17.5 fantasy points per game, outside the top 15 at the position. But since, Watson has found his typical top-five form with a 25.3-point average, and that trend seems like to continue in Week 7 as the team faces the Packers at home in Houston. The story of the Packers’ four-touchdown loss to the Bucs last week was the Bucs’ No. 1 DVOA defense, but Watson should benefit from a Packers defense that is 30th overall and 25th against the pass. They are a top-10 booster of both completion percentage and yards per attempt for the position. Add that to his traditional 1.8-fantasy point home/road split and Watson is once again my No. 1 projected quarterback in a good matchup.
He may not earn the top spot, but Aaron Rodgers should enjoy similar success facing a Texans defense that is a top-10 booster of completion rate, yards per attempt, and touchdowns per attempt. Hopefully all of the unbelievable “Rodgers hasn’t thrown a pick-six since…” tweets instructed you to treat his performance last week as an anomaly. But for what it’s worth, Tampa Bay entered last week as the sixth-highest increaser of opponent interceptions at 45%. In contrast, the Texans cut them by 73%, second-most in football.
New Orleans is letting fans into the Superdome for the first time on Sunday, but I’m skeptical that 3,000 Saints fans can snap a defense that has allowed 7% and 92% increases to their opponents’ passing yards and touchdowns per attempt back to their 2019 level. Teddy Bridgewater is a true-talent QB2, but you don’t need to be scared of him in his return to New Orleans. Even if the Panthers fall behind against what is likely to be a superior overall opponent, Bridgewater could rely on the game script to reach fantasy value with volume. He’s in the top 10 of all quarterbacks with 206 attempts this season, and the Panthers haven’t even fared as poorly as expected.
|Worst Week 7 Matchups – Quarterbacks|
I’m unsure how much I should believe in the typical matchup levers for Patrick Mahomes given that he, for the most part, has defied them in his career. Denver is one of the most difficult places to play, as much because of its altitude as the Broncos’ No. 6 DVOA defense that cuts passing yards and touchdowns by 27% and 34% per target. But Mahomes has produced in cold weather like he is forecasted to see this week in the playoffs before. And he has scored 4.1 more fantasy points per game on the road than at home in his career, an extreme total that runs counter to the typical home-field advantage that quarterbacks enjoy for fantasy. Even if you assume the standard adjustments, Mahomes falls from first to just fourth at the position this week. That won’t have you sit him in any full-season league, although I would argue that the matchup makes him a bad choice for daily fantasy. His salaries tend to be inflated by his MVP-season fantasy productivity and his real-life value as a quarterback. But Mahomes was “just” sixth in fantasy points per game last season and is fourth so far this year.
Cam Newton’s 157-yard, two-interception performance against the Broncos in Boston last week may be a compelling reason to fear the Broncos defense. I’m curious how much he might have been affected by Covid, both in terms of conditioning and sharpness. Relying on my intuition, I expect a strong bounce back, but that may not happen this week because of the Patriots’ matchup with the 49ers. Kyler Murray may be evidence that the 49ers have a particular weakness against quarterback runs. He has gashed them for 158 yards and two touchdowns rushing in their last two meetings. But I don’t believe Murray’s scramble speed and quickness are an apples-and-oranges comparison to Newton and his typically designed runs. With Newton, the Patriots are a power-running team, and the 49ers are one of the biggest cutters of opponent run plays at 11%. And if Newton must rely more heavily on his arm, he may struggle to find openings against a defense that cuts passing yards and touchdowns by 10% and 23%, respectively.
After failing to take advantage of a Cardinals matchup that at least at the time looked promising for quarterback production, Andy Dalton is a clear sit in Week 7 on the road in Washington. A bad offense has made it difficult to see, but Washington may be enjoying a similar defensive renaissance after drafting Chase Young this season that the 49ers did with Nick Bosa last year. Washington is up to seventh in overall defensive DVOA, and they have a clear strength against the pass (-6.4%, sixth) versus the run (-10.8%, 17th). That disparity and the team’s typical deficit has led Washington’s opponents to a 10% increase in runs plays and 6% decrease in pass plays. That’s exactly the formula the Cowboys will want to follow to take advantage of their sudden relative strength running versus passing.
|Best Week 7 Matchups – Running Backs|
The Panthers defense made some serious progress in Week 6, stopping David Montgomery on consecutive attempts from the 1-yard line before Nick Foles snuck one in on third down. I would charitably consider Sunday to be the team’s second time in three games to prevent a rushing touchdown. But that still doesn’t flip the narrative in my mind. The Bears and Cardinals both have middling run-blocking lines with 4.34 and 4.20 adjusted line yards. The Panthers will need to shut down Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray before I change my tune on their 13% boost in opponent yards per carry and 89% boost in opponent touchdowns per carry.
Much like their quarterbacks, running backs David Johnson and Aaron Jones should duel for big fantasy days across from each other in the dome in Houston this weekend. The Packers are just as bad against the run (3.2%, 25th) as they are against the pass (18.8%, 25th), and that has helped opposing backs run for 12% more yards per carry and score 93% more touchdowns per carry. And while Jones is too good to need a plus matchup to justify a fantasy start, it won’t hurt him to face a Texans defense that increases their opponents’ run plays by 17% as well as their yards and touchdowns per carry by 39% and 47%, respectively.
If I am forced to retire my Panthers run defense bit, I am at least relieved to know that the Raiders can inherit their mantle. A bye week put the streak on pause, but the Raiders have allowed exactly two rushing touchdowns in all five of their games this season. Unsurprisingly, they are now the No. 1 booster of rushing scores by 121% per attempt. And while Christian McCaffrey (23-92-2) and Alvin Kamara (13-79-2) routinely post similar fantasy-friendly rushing lines, Rex Burkead (6-49-2) and Devin Singletary (18-56-1) each enjoyed standout days in this fantasy matchup. The timing couldn’t be better for Ronald Jones, who has emerged as a trustworthy fantasy option with a position-leading 149 rushing DYAR and with Leonard Fournette less than fully healthy. Even with Fournette playing, I see Jones as comfortable RB2 this week with his increased chance to score a touchdown.
|Worst Week 7 Matchups – Running Backs|
With 69.1% and 58.6% carry shares that are both top 10 at the position, James Robinson and David Montgomery make compelling arguments for every-week consideration. And even in bad matchups on the road, I have both backs as shallow-league starts this week. But Robinson and Montgomery will likely suffer in facing the two Los Angeles teams. The Chargers are a top cutter of both run plays at 16% and rushing touchdowns at 108%, and the Rams sharply cut both rushing (58%) and receiving touchdowns per target (32%) to running backs.
Kenyan Drake likely assuaged his fantasy managers’ concerns with a 164-yard, two-touchdown outburst against the Cowboys in Week 6. But keep in mind that Dallas was a plus matchup. Drake sees a heavy workload, but he isn’t a top-20 true-talent back in PPR formats in my mind. And that could manifest this week as Drake faces a Seahawks team cuts run plays by 11% and rushing yards and touchdowns by 14% each per carry. That Cardinals can hang with the Seahawks, but it will likely require an excellent Kyler Murray effort to take advantage of a defense that is much weaker against the pass (22.4% DVOA, 29th) than the run (-18.1%, ninth).
|Best Week 7 Matchups – Wide Receivers|
Speaking of that Cardinals passing attack, DeAndre Hopkins salvaged a day when his team did not need his help to throttle the Cowboys with a late 60-yard catch. He leads all wide receivers with a 31.9% target share and has yet to have a bad fantasy day with his new team. I don’t think one is coming this week, either. The Seahawks are generally bad at defending the pass, but they are particularly ill-equipped to handle a player like Hopkins. They boost No. 1 receiver catch rates by 15% and yards per target by 21%.
Brandin Cooks has had about as big a fantasy turnaround as Deshaun Watson has the last three weeks. In that time, he has a 23.3% target share that, while trailing Will Fuller’s 25.2% share, still has him in the top 20 at the position. Both Texans receivers could fare well this week against the Packers, but I think Cooks is the safer choice to beat his true-talent standard. That’s because he’s the likelier of the two receivers to avoid shadow coverage from Jaire Alexander, who is fifth among the 90 cornerbacks with 10 or more targets in allowing just 4.0 yards per target this season.
He’s a less extreme version of Cooks so far this season, but DJ Moore frustrated fantasy players playing second fiddle to Robby Anderson to start the season and failing to score a touchdown the first four weeks. Funny how matchups can change things. In Week 5 against the porous Falcons pass defense, Moore exploded for 93 yards and a touchdown, and he’ll have a similarly enticing dome matchup against the division-rival Saints this weekend. I don’t view Marshon Lattimore as a shutdown cover corner, but it should still help Moore to avoid the likely defensive attention his teammate Anderson will earn. The Saints cut No. 1 receiver catch rates and yards per target by 15% and 13%, respectively. But they boost those rates for No. 2 receivers by 7% and 62%, the latter being the most in football.
|Worst Week 7 Matchups – Wide Receivers|
Sterling Shepard’s possible return to action in Week 7 doesn’t bump Darius Slayton from my top 40 wide receivers on its own, but a bad matchup for deep targets against the Eagles does. The Eagles have now suffered a string of major injuries for three straight seasons, but this time, they haven’t compromised their secondary. That could stick Slayton with his defensive doppelganger Darius Slay and other good coverage defensive backs who have collectively cut their opponents’ deep yards and touchdowns per target by 31% and 132%, respectively.
Despite their lesser-seeming quarterbacks, Breshad Perriman and Tim Patrick have teased deeper-format fantasy potential, the former coming off an ankle issue and the latter likely benefiting from injuries to the Broncos’ normal top receiving options such as Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. Both players are worth a pickup, but I wouldn’t want to start them this week unless I had to. The Bills’ 28th-ranked DVOA pass defense (21.2%) has been much worse than expected, but strong safety play has still made it tough on deep threats such as Perriman. Meanwhile, Patrick will have to contend with a Chiefs defense that limits yards per target for every type of receiver and generally cuts pass plays by 5% as opponents aim to take advantage of their weaker run defense. Expect the Broncos to try the same with or without Melvin Gordon.
|Best Week 7 Matchups – Tight Ends|
A trio of excellent fantasy tight ends in Hunter Henry, T.J. Hockenson, and Evan Engram should benefit from what have been the most obvious excellent positional matchups this season. Henry draws a Jaguars team that increases tight end yards and touchdowns per target by 49% and 228%. Hockenson scored against those Jaguars last week, and this week, he’ll face a similarly friendly Falcons defense that boosts tight end yards and touchdowns by 25% and 135% per target. And finally, Engram faces an Eagles defense that allowed three touchdowns to Tyler Higbee in Week 2 and 183 yards and a touchdown to George Kittle in Week 4.
I’m not sure Washington belongs with the worst of the tight end defenses. They’ve allowed some big games to the position this year, but the biggest were to Dallas Goedert (8-101-1) and Mark Andrews (3-57-2), two standout players at an otherwise weak position. But at least through one week, Dalton Schultz looks like one of Andy Dalton’s favorite targets, which keeps him in the true-talent TE2 range while the other Cowboys receivers fall more sharply in my rankings. Even though I expect the Cowboys to run frequently this week, Schultz isn’t a terrible deep-league and DFS choice against a top-five booster of tight end yards and touchdowns per target.
|Worst Week 7 Matchups – Tight Ends|
You won’t be benching Travis Kelce or George Kittle for their poor Week 7 matchups, but normal TE1 starters Jonnu Smith and Rob Gronkowski could be different stories. Smith’s biggest issue may be the minor ankle sprain he suffered on Sunday and seems likely to make him a game-day decision. But a difficult matchup against a Steelers defense that cuts tight end catch rate by 26%, yards per target by 25%, and touchdowns per target by 80% make this a good week to leave Smith on your fantasy benches and evaluate his health for future weeks. Meanwhile, Gronkowski is a reemerging TE1 after more than doubling his 9.3% target share from the first four weeks to 20.6% the last two with O.J. Howard out. But he faces a tough opponent in the Raiders as well. They aren’t as extreme, but they are top-half cutters of catch rate, yards, and touchdowns per target to the position and drop Gronkwoski to 14th among tight ends for me this week.
|Best Week 7 Matchups – Kickers|
Rookie Rams kicker Sam Sloman is in bad need of a good day on Sunday after his team signed veteran Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Sloman has missed two field goal and three extra point attempts this season. And while I can’t speak for the misses or makes, Sloman does seem poised for some extra chances this week. The stout Bears defense is particularly strong in the red zone, which has helped boost their opponents’ short field goal attempts by 34%, the most in football.
The other matchup-boosted kickers this week — Michael Badgley, Zane Gonzalez, and Cody Parkey — take the easier route of facing bad defenses in the Jaguars, Seahawks, and Bengals that are as likely to add long attempts as short ones. Meanwhile, Badgley and Gonzalez have the added advantage of playing at home in their respective domes in Los Angeles and Arizona.
|Worst Week 7 Matchups – Kickers|
The Steelers hardly needed Chase Claypool’s emergence to regain their standing as an elite offense. But at least so far, he hasn’t hurt. Chris Boswell has taken and made five extra point attempts in back-to-back games. That may be tougher this week on the road in Tennessee. The Titans aren’t a top-flight defense (5.1% DVOA, 22nd), but they are the No. 3 offense and are excellent at controlling clock. Those traits give their opponents fewer opportunities to score and demand more touchdowns over field goals when they do have the ball, and that makes Boswell an uncharacteristic sit this week in typical formats. And Stephen Gostkowski across the field will likely fare no better. The Steelers are an exceptional defense (-19.4%, second), and that has helped them limit short and long field goal attempts by 62% and 33%, respectively.
Playing at home normally offers Brandon McManus a substantial advantage. But the likely cold weather and possible snow in Denver on Sunday will likely counteract the distance gains the altitude typically confer. Meanwhile, the Broncos may not be able to settle for field goals against the Chiefs like they did on all six of their scoring drives against the Patriots last week. With a good defense and dangerous offense that demands matching touchdowns, the Chiefs cut their opponents’ short field goal attempts by 32%, fifth-most in football.
|Best Week 7 Matchups – Defenses|
With normally top-shelf fantasy defenses in Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Pittsburgh facing productive offenses, this is a good week to play the matchups. And despite their flaws, the Chiefs, Eagles, Browns, and Bills should be excellent choices this week. Starting quarterback Drew Lock returned to the Broncos on Sunday, and he should be a boon to their offense relative to backups Jeff Driskel and Brett Rypien. But Lock can’t fix a Broncos’ line that is bottom-10 with a 7.9% adjusted sack rate. Poor pass protection is a problem for the Bengals (9.2%, 31st) and Jets (8.1%, 27th), as well. And while the Giants are marginally better (7.0%, 19th), they still match up poorly with an Eagles defense that despite its injuries is fourth in football with an 8.5% adjusted sack rate on defense. Expect some sacks and a possible fumble or two from Daniel Jones this Thursday.
|Worst Week 7 Matchups – Defenses|
The Bucs, Bears, and Steelers aren’t total stay-aways, whatever their matchups this weekend. The former proved that by holding Aaron Rodgers and his fourth-ranked DVOA offense to 10 points and scoring themselves on a pick-six on Sunday. But despite expectations, that could be a tougher task for the Bucs this week on the road in Las Vegas. The Raiders are a top-six DVOA offense themselves, and their more conservative nature tends to limit both their interceptions (Derek Carr has just one in five games) and their sacks. Relative to a typical offense, the Raiders cut opposing sacks per pass attempt by 31%.
Meanwhile, the Bears and Steelers travel to face the Rams and Titans this week. Like the Raiders, those teams have standout offensive lines. The Rams are second and the Titans are third with 4.0% and 3.8% respective adjusted sack rates on offense. The Steelers may have the better chance of the two to get home for some sacks given Ryan Tannehill’s proclivity to hang onto the ball too long and the Titans’ loss of left tackle Taylor Lewan. But the Steelers defense remains a risky proposition dealing with their own significant injury to linebacker Devin Bush and, like every team, challenged to try to stop running back Derrick Henry.