Even top fantasy football stars have off days, folks.
As always, it’s the harsh reality of start ’em, sit ’em decisions, but especially going into Week 7. Last week, those who blindly threw Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson into lineups got just six points.
Of course, it’s never easy to bench a star, especially one an owner drafted in the opening rounds. Sometimes it winds up as a necessity, though, and could be the difference between a win or loss.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable decisions facing owners this weekend and how to treat some of the game’s top stars.
Star to Know: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (vs. NO)
This didn’t take long—Andrew Luck is back to his usual self.
The Indianapolis Colts quarterback returned in Week 6 for a showdown with Tom Brady and threw for 312 yards and three scores, good for 27 points. He’s going to continue throwing as much as possible to compensate for an iffy defense, so the numbers aren’t as crazy as one would think.
Next up for Luck is a home date with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what should be a high-scoring affair. Considering the Saints allow the second-most points to quarterbacks with 11 touchdowns surrendered in six outings, Luck figures to at least hit a floor of 20 points.
Star to Bench: Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles (at CAR)
Sam Bradford and the Philadelphia Eagles continue to turn things around on a two-game tear, but it has more to do with a recommitment to the ground game than Bradford’s production.
In fact, Bradford posted 17 points in Week 5 and then fell off a cliff with just nine last weekend. Despite the success of the team, he’s sinking owners thanks to five total interceptions during the streak.
Things only figure to get worse on the road against the Carolina Panthers, a team surrendering the fourth-fewest points to quarterbacks with five touchdowns allowed. This looks like a run-heavy game, and Bradford’s turnover woes are concerning, so it matters little that he’s executing a Chip Kelly offense.
Star to Know: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (at DET)
Peterson served as the example in the intro, but his trip to fantasy struggles should be short-lived thanks to a matchup with the struggling Detroit Lions.
In the three games before his six-point showing, Peterson tallied at least 15 points. That’s the bare-minimum floor against a Lions defense surrendering the seventh-most points to backs this year.
In fact, Detroit has already let up nine touchdowns to backs in six games, and four of six backfields have scored at least 22 points. Peterson might be good for that number on his lonesome.
Star to Bench: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (vs. NYJ)
New England Patriots starter Dion Lewis stands as one of fantasy‘s breakout stars this year, and he even has a shiny new contract extension to reinforce the notion.
None of the above means he’s a must-start player in any situation.
Lewis stumbled to just three points last week. Afterward, ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss revealed an injury may have played a role in his rough outing:
Now would be the time to ignore Lewis, especially going into a matchup with the New York Jets, a defense surrendering the fewest points to backs on average.
Running backs have only scored once on the Jets, a fact combining with a possible injury to make Lewis a must-avoid star.
Star to Know: Brandon Marshall, New York Jets (at NE)
The career-revival tour continued for New York Jets wideout Brandon Marshall in Week 6.
Marshall caught another seven passes for 111 yards and a score, good for 15 points. It was his fourth consecutive game with at least seven catches and 101 yards receiving. He’s scored four times overall and hit double digits in every outing so far.
In other words, expect a floor of seven catches and double-digit points against the Patriots. New England does a lot right on the offensive side of things, but not on the opposite end, where the defense allows the eighth-most points to wideouts and just let up three scores to the position last week alone.
The definition of a target hog, Marshall will see plenty of chances, especially if the Jets fall behind.
Star to Bench: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders (at SD)
Owners haven’t seen Oakland Raiders rookie Amari Cooper for a while thanks to a Week 6 bye.
It’s easy to forget Cooper has reached double digits in all but two games. One saw quarterback Derek Carr leave early with an injury, the other came against the elite Denver Broncos defense.
In other words, Cooper is a star, but he still needs matchup-based play treatment for now. A trip to San Diego for a date against the Chargers is one to avoid, as the hosts allow the third-fewest points to wideouts.
Cooper will become a plug-and-play option no matter what in time, but owners don’t want to jump the gun here.
Star to Know: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. PIT)
It has been a rough go of it for owners of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Kelce hasn’t scored a touchdown since his 22-point outburst in Week 1 and has hit double digits just once since. Over his last three games, he’s totaled just 13 points.
Owners have to roll the dice on Kelce at some point, and this looks like a great weekend to do so. He’s got a matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a defense struggling to defend much of anything these days.
Pittsburgh allows the third-most points to tight ends, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Kansas City funnel its offense through one of the league’s best.
Star to Bench: Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns (at STL)
The borderline-eerie Gary Barnidge stardom has to end at some point.
Owners should bank on it being this weekend. Barnidge hits the road to take on the St. Louis Rams, a team that has allowed just one touchdown to tight ends this year.
So while it’s great that Barnidge has scored five times over his last four outings, this one has the look of a run-first, defensive affair. He isn’t going anywhere as a whole, but Barnidge won’t keep up his epic pace thanks to the matchup.
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