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Early Position Ranks, Week 7

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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This week, six teams have official byes (DEN, DET, TEN, SEA, JAC, BAL) and two offensive juggernauts have semi-byes (IND at STL, NE vs. TB). The NFL slate is also loaded with matchups that are either one-sided or no-sided, such as…

Arizona's high-volume passing attack (42.2 attempts per game, 297.2 YPG) versus New York's league-best pass D (147.3 YPG allowed);

Buffalo's user-friendly rushing defense (5.3 YPC, 181.3 YPG) versus Carolina's Delhommophobic run-heavy offense (131.2 rush YPG);

Kansas City's non-existent running game (3.4 YPC, zero TDs) versus San Diego's non-existent rushing D (141.0 YPG);

Miami's endless Wildcattery (177.0 rush YPG) versus New Orleans' run-resistant defense (3.8 YPC, 83.4 YPG).

Additionally, we'll get to see Thomas Jones(notes) and Leon Washington(notes) – two running backs who combined for 309 rushing yards in Week 6 – attack an Oakland defense that allows 145.3 yards per game on the ground. (Curiously, the Eagles went with a run-pass ratio of 14/46 against the Raiders). And the NFL's leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, will face Pittsburgh's dominant run defense in the immovable object/irresistible force battle of the week.

This is really a terrific week to watch football, and a messy week in which to rank players for fantasy purposes. Colts and Patriots were easy to slot; everyone else was problematic.

Here's a rough draft of my board for Week 7…

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If you told me that Jim Sorgi(notes) was going to run the option against St. Louis, I might rank him No. 1. Peyton Manning(notes) was an easy call. ... Over Green Bay's last two games, Aaron Rodgers(notes) has demonstrated that he can deliver excellent fantasy stats (742 yards, 4 TDs) while being absolutely pummeled (13 sacks). That's important information, because Packers LT Chad Clifton(notes) aggravated his ankle injury in the Week 6 win over Detroit. Clifton didn't practice on Wednesday and he's hardly a lock to face Cleveland on Sunday. ... Eli Manning(notes) left many points on the field in last week's loss to New Orleans – some of us could have really used the near-TD to Steve Smith in the first quarter, for example – but the matchup improves this week. Arizona ranks No. 31 in the league in pass defense, allowing 265.2 yards per game. ... Matt Cassel(notes) and the Chiefs were dealt a brutal first-half schedule, beginning with Baltimore, then hitting every team in the NFC East. But things improve in Week 7, as Kansas City is at home facing a Chargers D that allows 27.2 points per game. Note that in Weeks 14-16, the Chiefs get Buffalo, Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Running Backs

Frank Gore(notes) returns in time to face Houston, a team that's given up 10 rushing TDs (worst in the league). The Texans also allow 4.9 yards per carry. ... Sammy Morris(notes) reportedly didn't practice on Wednesday, which would seem to leave Laurence Maroney(notes) with a substantial workload against a bad Tampa defense (28.0 PPG, 370.2 YPG). BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) could poach a touchdown, but Maroney is a very strong play against the NFC's worst run D (171.7 rush YPG). ... There's a solid case to be made for Leon Washington against the Raiders. He's coming off a week in which he gained 145 total yards, and it seems unlikely that the Jets are looking to lean too heavily on Mark Sanchez(notes). ... When you factor revenge into your Cedric Benson(notes) rank, I ask only that you consider the possibility that a few Bears (or their fans) might be eager to hit him, too. ... Tashard Choice(notes) is clearly the healthiest of the Dallas running backs, though Marion Barber(notes) (thumb, quad) is expected to start against Atlanta and Felix Jones(notes) (knee) should make a cameo. ... The Panthers have allowed 5.0 yards per carry and 149.2 yards per game, so if Marshawn Lynch(notes) is ever going hit 100 70 yards, this is the week.

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Wide Receivers

Minnesota CB Antoine Winfield(notes) suffered a foot injury in Week 6 and it doesn't sound like he'll be available for the matchup with Pittsburgh. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "teammates didn't seem overly optimistic the Pro Bowl cornerback will be able to play Sunday at Pittsburgh." That's clearly good news for all elements of the Steelers' passing game. ... It would be fair to say that we're bullish on the Giants passing attack this week. Hakeem Nicks(notes) delivered a great line against the Saints (5-114-1), though all the stats arrived in the second half and the touchdown pass was thrown by David Carr(notes). Still, I could be talked into a (much) higher rank on Nicks. ... As we've noted in the past, the Bengals defense has done some fine work against No. 1 receivers all year. But as we've also noted, Chicago's receiving corps lacks a clear hierarchy. Five Bears have caught at least 15 passes, but nobody has caught more than 20. ... On Wednesday, Anquan Boldin(notes) declared himself to be a game-time decision. Note that the Cards are playing on Sunday night, so your options will be limited if Boldin is inactive. Steve Breaston(notes) and Jerheme Urban(notes) would obviously get bumps in the ranks. DO NOT put yourself in a position where you're desperately searching for a free agent to replace Boldin at 6:30 pm on Sunday, because at that point you'll find only a pileup of useless Washington receivers. ... Jerricho Cotchery(notes) has returned to practice for the Jets, but it's tough to get excited about New York's passing attack at the moment, while Sanchez is in such a giving mood (eight picks and one TD in three games).


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