Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.
We have six teams on a bye in Week 7, so it is time to scramble to fill out your lineups. I have highlighted five players who have the chance to deliver for you this week as well as
Get 'em active ...
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (vs. DET)
Current own/start %: 88/30
I'd start him over: Matt Schaub (vs. BAL), Andy Dalton (vs PIT), Matthew Stafford (at CHI)
In three road games this year the Lions have been extremely generous to opposing quarterbacks. In Week 2, Alex Smith threw for 226 yards and two scores en route to a 21-point performance. In Week 4, the Lions traveled to Tennessee to take on Jake Locker, who threw for 378 yards with two scores and two interceptions as he produced 28 Fantasy points. Last week, the Lions went to Philadelphia and allowed Michael Vick to throw for 311 yards with two scores and two interceptions as he produced 25 Fantasy points. The opposing quarterback has been a Top 12 finisher at the position in every Detroit road game and they have averaged 24.67 points per game. Jay Cutler has produced 20-plus points in three games this year, including each of his last two games. He thrives when he does not have to face too much pressure and so far the Lions are averaging less than two sacks per game on the road. When a quarterback has time, he can abuse this Detroit secondary, which has given up a lot of big plays. In fact, the average passing touchdown against the Lions has been a ridiculous 38.7 yards. Cutler did not light up the Lions last year, but he has had a couple of monster games since joining the Bears and I expect Cutler to post his fourth game of 275 or more yards and two scores in 2012.
Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders (vs. JAC)
Current own/start %: 73/27
I'd start him over: Joe Flacco (at HOU), Matthew Stafford (at CHI), Christian Ponder (vs. ARI)
Despite two stinkers this year, Carson Palmer is averaging a very healthy 287 yards passing per game. Three times this year he has thrown for at least 297 yards and he has twice topped 350 yards. The only reason that he has not really blown up is that he's thrown for multiple touchdowns in just one game. Well, if you are without Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, or Vick this week, perhaps Palmer is the answer for you. The Jaguars have given up multiple passing touchdowns in three straight games and they are giving up 283 yards passing per game during that span. Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler averaged 25 points per game against the Jags during that span and Palmer has a great shot to go over 20 points this week after a very strong showing of 353 yards and a one score against a tough Falcons pass defense in Week 6. He is a good "Bye Week Broski" because the Jags can't rush the passer (league low three sacks) and the Raiders still like to air the ball out even with Darren McFadden in the backfield.
Other QBs with favorable matchups: Eli Manning (vs. WAS), Tony Romo (at CAR), Ben Roethlisberger (at CIN), Andrew Luck (vs. CLE), Josh Freeman (vs. NO), Bye Week Broski: Matt Hasselbeck (at BUF), Brandon Weeden (at IND), Matt Schaub (vs. BAL)
Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots (vs. NYJ)
Current own/start %: 100/87
I'd start him over: Marshawn Lynch (at SF), Frank Gore (vs. SEA)
Stevan Ridley is coming off of his worst game of the season, when he was held to just 34 total yards against the stout Seattle Seahawks. With Brandon Bolden banged up and the Patriots getting a lot of flack for abandoning their successful running game in the stunning loss in Week 6, look for Ridley to get back to being the bell cow in Week 7. Ridley has not scored fewer than 20 Fantasy points when he receives 20 carries in a game this year. It has happened three times and I bet you will be shocked to learn that the Patriots are undefeated in those games. They have not won a game yet when Ridley has not gotten going on the ground and Bill Belichick knows that. Add in the fact that the Pats should be able to grind down the Jets in Week 7 and it is a recipe for success. The Jets blew out the Colts in Week 6 and Indianapolis never was in a position to establish the ground game. That will not happen to the Patriots and I expect Ridley to get back to putting up big Fantasy points. The Dolphins, Texans and 49ers ran the ball a combined 117 times against the Jets this year and that produced 479 yards, five touchdowns and 83 Fantasy points for their running backs. You should not have any reservations about starting Ridley this week.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans (at BUF)
Current own/start %: 100/79
I'd start him over: Steven Jackson (vs. GB), Rashard Mendenhall (at CIN), Darren Sproles (at TB)
I know, I must be crazy to have Chris Johnson as a start this week, but I think he can actually have his third solid game out of the last four. Johnson produced 157 total yards against Houston in Week 4 and then came back with a solid 114 total yards in Week 6. He sandwiched those nicely around a zero in Minnesota, but I think Johnson should be able to take advantage of the Bills in Week 7. Even William Powell of the Cardinals was able to average 5.4 yards per carry against this Bills defense last week, which is more impressive when you consider that the Cardinals were averaging 2.7 yards per carry entering the game. Buffalo boasts the league's worst run defense and they are giving up 173.5 yards per game on the ground on a league high 5.8 yards per carry. The Bills have also allowed a league high nine rushing touchdowns this year and opposing runners are averaging a healthy 22.7 points per game. In the last four weeks alone, eight running backs have produced at least seven points against the Bills and four have topped double digits. The Bills have not stopped anyone and it sure does look like you can start Chris Johnson with confidence for the first time all year.
Other RBs with favorable matchups: Felix Jones (at CAR), Alfred Morris (at NYG), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. WAS), Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller (vs. TEN), Darren Sproles (at TB), Doug Martin (vs. NO), Darren McFadden (vs. JAC), Maurice Jones-Drew (at OAK), Bye Week Broski: Steven Jackson (vs. GB), LeGarrette Blount (vs. NO), Vick Ballard (vs. CLE), Danny Woodhead (vs. NYJ)
Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers (vs. NO)
Current own/start %: 83/48
I'd start him over: Steve Smith (vs. DAL), Sidney Rice (at SF), Randall Cobb (at STL)
Mike Williams needs to be known as Big Play Mike from now on as he has been reborn as a deep threat now that Vincent Jackson is in Tampa Bay. In his first two seasons, Williams had just three catches of 40-plus yards in 32 games. In five games this year, he already has three catches of more than 40 yards and two of them have gone for touchdowns. He is averaging a league-high 11.9 yards per target and his 1.83 Fantasy points per target trails only James Jones. Even better for his Fantasy owners is that Williams has produced 100 yards or a touchdown in four of his five games this year and is currently averaging 10 points per game. He should be able to hit double digits again in Week 7 against the Saints, who enter the game allowing 29.2 points per game to receivers, third most in the league. Opposing secondary receivers have already caught five touchdowns against the Saints this year -- fourth most in the league -- so there is a good chance that Williams has a chance to keep up with V-Jax, who will also have a big day. In fact, the Saints have given up more than 200 yards to receivers and more importantly allowed multiple receivers to score in each of their last two games. Williams is starting to look like a legit No. 3 receiver for your teams on a weekly basis and this is the perfect week to go with him in what should be a high scoring game for the Buccaneers.
Other WRs and TEs with favorable matchups: Denarius Moore (vs. JAC), Vincent Jackson (vs. NO), Hakeem Nicks (at WAS), Dez Bryant (at CAR), Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace (at CIN), Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright (at BUF), Steve Johnson (vs. TEN), Brandon Lloyd (at NYJ), Jordy Nelson and James Jones (at STL), Kyle Rudolph (vs. ARI), Jason Witten (at CAR), Greg Olsen (vs. DAL), Scott Chandler (vs. TEN) Bye Week Broskis: Justin Blackmon (at OAK), Chris Givens and Brandon Gibson (vs. GB), Stephen Hill (at NE), Josh Gordon (at IND), Devery Henderson (at TB), Martellus Bennett (vs. WAS), Brandon Myers (vs. JAC), Jared Cook (at BUF)
Ride the pine ...
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions (at CHI)
Current own/start %: 100/69
I'd rather start: Josh Freeman (vs. NO), Joe Flacco (at HOU), Carson Palmer (vs. JAC)
Stafford has never produced 20 Fantasy points in a game against the Bears. In two tries last year, Stafford threw for 548 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions. Let's not forget that Stafford was a Fantasy beast that season and so far in 2012, he does not even have multiple passing scores in a single game. He is always a danger to explode, but taking on an excellent Chicago pass defense when it has two weeks to prepare does not sound like a recipe for success for Stafford. After all, the Bears have scored five defensive touchdowns the last three weeks and are currently surrendering a league low 8.2 points per game to opposing quarterbacks. No quarterback has produced 20 points against this defense and they held Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Tony Romo to a combined 41 points in their three toughest tests of the year. The Bears have intercepted a ridiculous 13 passes, forced two quarterback fumbles and have given up only four passing scores all year. So quarterbacks are producing almost four times as many turnovers as they are touchdowns against this unbelievable defense, which has scored more touchdowns itself than it has allowed! I am not messing with Stafford this week if I can avoid it, because no defense is playing better than Da Bears at the moment.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals (vs. PIT)
Current own/start %: 96/43
I'd rather start: Matt Schaub (vs. BAL), Andrew Luck (vs. CLE), Ben Roethlisberger (at CIN)
Dalton has been great in some games and pretty bad in others this year, but I think he will struggle against the Steelers. He did throw for 381 yards and three scores against the Browns last week but turned the ball over four times and now has six turnovers in his last two games. He will need to be turnover free to score against a Steelers pass defense that is giving up just 17.6 points per game to opposing quarterbacks. In two career games against the Steelers, Dalton has just 305 yards passing and three scores, so he has not had any startable Fantasy days. A.J. Green is playing at an out-of-this-world level right now, so Dalton will likely have a decent day against the Troy Polomalu-less Steelers, but there are plenty of other options with more upside for this week.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (at NE)
Current own/start %: 96/55
I'd rather start: Felix Jones (at CAR), Vick Ballard (vs. CLE), Steven Jackson (vs. GB)
Last week was a magical one for Shonn Greene as he rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the Jets win over the Colts. He was the No. 1 ranked Fantasy running back for the week with 34 points and he outscored such luminaries as Jamaal Charles, Rashard Mendenhall, Marshawn Lynch, Stevan Ridley, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Trent Richardson and Michael Turner combined! What a difference a week makes. If you can sell Shonn Greene right now, stop reading! Consider for a moment that in the four games prior to his explosion, Greene had totaled 12 Fantasy points. Those four games were all against run defenses in the Top 12 in terms of points allowed to opposing runners. Now consider that Greene will face a Top 6 run defense in each of the next three weeks and it starts in Week 7 with the Patriots, so there is not a whole lot to be excited about here. The Pats have not allowed a rusher to reach 60 yards or the end zone against them in three straight games. In fact, they are giving up just 68 yards per game on the ground to running backs on just 3.2 yards per carry this year and they have allowed only one running back rushing score all season. Ray Rice is the only runner to produce 10 Fantasy points against this defense all year and the Pats just held Marshawn Lynch to a season low 41 yards in a loss last week. Just to refresh your memories, before Week 6, Greene had run for 23, 40, 34 and 26 yards respectively in the four prior games. It could be another one of those weeks, so I am staying away from Greene if I can during this bye week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals (vs. PIT)
Current own/start %: 99/70
I'd rather start: C.J. Spiller (vs. TEN), Felix Jones (at CAR), LeGarrette Blount (vs. NO)
The last time that Green-Ellis scored 10 Fantasy points was Week 2 against the Browns, when he produced 10 right on the number. Since then, Green-Ellis is averaging just 5.75 points per game, which is not helping anyone. Furthermore, BJGE is picking up a pathetic 49 yards per game on the ground and is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. That becomes even scarier when you consider that two of his opponents during this drought were the Jaguars and the Browns. The Steelers have allowed three straight opposing starters to hit double figures on them, but the Law Firm does not possess any of the skills that allowed those runners to make it. Darren McFadden's points all came on a 64-yard touchdown run in Week 3, which would be tough for Green-Ellis to do considering he has a season-long rush of 20 yards. LeSean McCoy scored on a receiving touchdown and produced eight of his 13 Fantasy points from his pass catching. Green-Ellis has a grand total of four receiving points this year. Chris Johnson utilized four plays of 10 or more yards against the Steelers to get to his 11 Fantasy points, but Green-Ellis has three such gains in his last four games. The Steelers are the No. 10 run defense in the NFL and only two runners have eclipsed the 60-yard mark against them. It will be a tough one for the Law Firm, especially when you consider that Cedric Benson did not rush for 60 yards once and averaged just 6.5 points per game in his last four as the featured back for the Bengals against the Steelers.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers (vs. DAL)
Current own/start %: 100/45
I'd rather start: Mike Williams (vs. NO), Kendall Wright (at BUF), Denarius Moore (vs. JAC)
Is it time to start asking if Steve Smith is still an elite Fantasy receiver? I'd say yes it is. In his last 13 games, Smith has just three touchdowns and has topped 100 yards receiving only three times. That is especially scary when you consider that in the first eight games of 2011, Smith had five games of 100 yards receiving and scored four receiving touchdowns. He has not scored in 2012 and after two games over the century mark to start the year, Smith has been held to 11 catches and 178 yards in his last three games. Only two receivers have eclipsed 60 yards receiving against the Cowboys this year and only Brandon Marshall has reached double-digit Fantasy points. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are some of the notable receivers who have not gotten to 10 points against this pass defense that is expected to have Morris Claiborne available for Week 7. With six teams on a bye, I am still starting Steve Smith in all three-receiver leagues, but in a league where you only have to start two receivers, I bet you can find more upside this week than Smith against the Boys.
Good luck this week!