We've hit the seventh week of the 2022 NFL season and what have we learned? As far as I can tell, the only thing we know is that we still don't know much.
There are three absolutely, without-a-doubt good teams -- Philadelphia, Buffalo and Kansas City. There's Dallas, which is pretty good, but still has a question or two to answer. The Giants and Vikings are each 5-1 and no one can fully explain how. The Jets are intriguing at 4-2, but because they're the Jets, we're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then there's everyone else. The NFL has always strived for parity. After six weeks, it's found it.
The same applies to the fantasy game.
We have a handful of elites at each position -- notably at quarterback and tight end -- who are running away from the pack. Every other player is an uncertain roll of the dice each week. Then there's this week's slate of games. Have you looked at it? I mean, really looked at it. The "Game of the Week" (at least on paper) is between the 3-2-1 Colts and the 3-2 Titans. Not exactly a great follow-up to Bills-Chiefs. We also have two of the league's top-scoring offenses on bye (Buffalo, Philadelphia) ... plus the Vikings and Rams. Sometimes winning fantasy leagues is a war of attrition. Here are some names that can hopefully help you survive.
Welcome back, Matty Ice. Get comfortable and stay awhile, why don’t you? Ryan’s 389 passing yards in Week 6 was the most he’s had since Week 1 of the 2020 season. Though it belies the fact that he’s put up some gaudy yardage numbers this year -- even if it hasn’t translated to fantasy points. Three times this season he’s gone over 350 yards, yet he’s averaging a paltry 13.92 points per game because he’s been plagued by turnovers.
The good news is that this week’s opponent, the Titans, hasn’t been great at taking the ball away. Tennessee has forced just seven turnovers with a mediocre 13 sacks. The Titans have also allowed four 300-yard passing games. Including one to Ryan in Week 4. With Alec Pierce emerging as a true complement to Michael Pittman, Jr., the Colts offense has become more multi-dimensional and harder to defend. That makes Ryan a more attractive option than he was a couple of weeks ago.
In the first six years of his NFL career, Elliott has never been anything resembling a sleeper. Then 2022 happened. Zeke is on pace for just over 1,000 yards. But even that number was helped by his last two games where he rushed for a combined 159 yards. He’s splitting snaps with Tony Pollard. With their powers combined, they’d be the RB5 just behind Christian McCaffrey. Separately, they’re not even in RB2 range.
But this week, the Lions come calling. That’s good news for an offense looking to rebound after a tough Week 6 against a tough defense. It’s also good news for fantasy analysts looking for a soft target to pick on. Detroit has no longer surrendered the most rushing yards. But that’s only because the Giants, Bears and Seahawks have each played an extra game. The Cowboys are still very committed to featuring Zeke in the offense. This is a week that you can start him with confidence.
We wanted Drake to be a nice stopgap option in the Baltimore backfield at the start of the season. It didn’t quite work out. But he did fill in nicely last week in place of J.K. Dobbins, who was limited when his knee stiffened up on him. Drake tallied 127 total yards with a rushing touchdown in relief against a Giants defense that hadn’t surrendered a lot of fantasy points to running backs. Dobbins’ situation is a reminder that the Ravens could continue to take it slow with a player coming off an ACL tear as he’s played more than 50 percent of the snaps just once this season.
That opens the door for Drake to again see a significant amount of work in Week 7. It comes at a good time against a Browns run defense that hasn’t offered much resistance this year. Cleveland’s interior defensive line has been pushed around to the tune of 131 rushing yards per game with a league-worst 11 rushing scores. If Drake can get running downhill again this week, he could be usable as a flex option.
The Cardinals receivers just can’t quite get right. Just when DeAndre Hopkins is ready to make his season debut, Arizona loses Marquise Brown for at least a month with a foot injury. The team added Robbie Anderson in a trade, but the likelihood that he will learn the playbook and be ready to go on a short week is slim. Help us, Rondale Moore, you’re our only hope!
OK, that's being a bit dramatic. However, Moore is earning a good number of opportunities since returning from an early-season hamstring injury. His route participation has been at 88% or above in each of the last three weeks. He’s also had at least 20 percent of Kyler Murray’s targets in each of the last two games. Most notably, Moore’s route depth is more than 3.5 yards deeper than a year ago. Huzzah! He’s more than just a wide receiver screen option. The matchup is tough this week, but hopefully volume and a few deeper targets (by his standards) can win the day.
The Packers receivers have been a confounding bunch this year. That’s in part because the Packers offense has been a mess. Aaron Rodgers has fallen out of fantasy favor and his pass catchers have been a roller coaster. But not in the fun way. It’s been hard to figure which guy will have a day in any given week. And some weeks, the answer has been “neither."
But this week could be a case of taking what the defense gives. In Washington’s case, that’s been a lot. The Commanders have been particularly vulnerable along the seams, allowing seven touchdowns on such throws. The benefit for Doubs is that’s where he’s been the most productive this year. And it could be where he runs most often this week with Randall Cobb out. Let’s roll with Doubs for the dub!
We like narrowly funneled passing games. That’s what the Browns have. Amari Cooper and David Njoku have garnered a lot of attention, but we shouldn’t overlook Peoples-Jones. He’s had 50 or more receiving yards in three straight games with nearly 20 percent of the targets and more than a quarter of the air yards. He’s still looking for his first touchdown of the season, but touchdowns are fickle beasts. One is likely to arrive anytime.
It could be this week against a Ravens defense that has improved from where it was early in the year, but is far from being a lockdown unit. Baltimore’s zone looks have consistently given up the middle of the field. That’s the area where Peoples-Jones has been heavily targeted this season. It might not be the highest-scoring game of the week, but if the Ravens can move the ball against a suspect Cleveland defense, it could put the Browns in catch-up mode.
There was always a universe in which Hurst was destined to be a productive fantasy tight end. That universe didn’t exist during his early years in Baltimore. The Ravens were overcrowded at the position. Ultimately, Mark Andrews separated himself from the pack, making Hurst the odd man out. Now he’s landed in Cincinnati. He’ll never be a target hog in an offense with Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, but so far, he’s carved out a nice role for himself.
That bodes well for this week’s matchup against the Falcons. Five tight ends have had top-12 weekly finishes against Atlanta’s defense -- four of them have finished inside the top seven. The Dirty Birds are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, and it could be even worse. Atlanta has seen tight ends targeted 12 times in the red zone, yet somehow have only allowed one touchdown. The odds are ever in Hurst’s favor for a nice week.
This is your weekly reminder that the fantasy tight end position is gross for the 37th year in a row -- give or take a decade. The gap in scoring between TE2 (Mark Andrews) and TE3 (Zach Ertz) is bigger than the gap between TE3 and TE18 (Irv Smith, Jr.). That means starting anyone beside the top two guys is a crapshoot every week. Enter Johnson.
All of the metrics we like to look at are favorable. Johnson has a large snap share (70%) and decent route participation (69%). He’ll also have less competition at the position with Adam Trautman having been ruled out. Sure, Taysom Hill is listed as a tight end but you and I both know that he’s not really a tight end. Johnson is seeing a decent number of targets and is working the middle of the field left open with Chris Olave and Marquez Callaway running more downfield routes. The only thing missing has been touchdowns. Then again, you could say the same about most tight ends.
Starting the Packers defense would have been a good idea even if Carson Wentz was starting for the Commanders in Week 7. Alas, it’s Taylor Heinicke who will be under center for Washington this week. That alone should be enough motivation to fire up Green Bay’s defense in fantasy. In 16 career starts, Heinicke has a TD-to-INT ratio of 20:18. This week, he’ll stand behind an offensive line that didn’t do much to protect his predecessor. No quarterback has been sacked more that Wentz this season. Even when he wasn’t going down in the arms of a defender, he was generally under pressure. If sacks and turnovers are the lifeblood for fantasy DST scoring, Green Bay is in line for a big week.
It’s been a rough year for the Dolphins defense. A unit that was once one of the up-and-coming groups in the league has been routinely torched through the first six weeks. But there is hope in Week 7 in the form of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kenny Pickett has injected life into the Steelers offense, but he’s also had just one touchdown pass and four interceptions. Of course, Pickett could miss the game if he can’t clear concussion protocol. That would put Mitch Trubisky in the crosshairs, which … is about the same. That’s worrisome for a quarterback who’s likely to see plenty of blitzes this week. Only the Giants bring extra rushers at a higher rate than Miami. If the Dolphins can score and force Pittsburgh into catch-up mode, the Steelers signal-caller could see plenty of fish in his face.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who isn't sure what day it is. Send him your brain fog momentsor fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.