Week 7 Start ‘em/Sit ‘em

Thursday at the National Football Post means it’s time to start looking ahead to the weekend and breaking down which players are solid starts in Week 7 and which ones should be left on the bench.

Just a reminder: Get involved in our upcoming Fantasy Live Chats. We’ll have one today at 3:30 p.m. eastern, and then there’s our Game Day Live Chat, which takes place every Sunday morning from 11 a.m. eastern until noon. Injuries, starts, sits -- you name it, we cover it.

GET ‘EM IN THE LINEUP

Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers: Running back DeAngelo Williams is an obvious start, but J-Stew is a great play this weekend as well. Few teams in the NFL are as bad against the run as the Buffalo Bills, who are giving up 181.8 rushing yards per game (32nd) and 5.3 yards per carry (32nd). In addition, the Bills have allowed eight rushing touchdowns (28th), and no team in the NFL has given up more net rushing yards (1,091).

Still not enough? Opposing offenses KNOW they can run the ball on coach Dick Jauron’s defense. Buffalo’s opponents are averaging 34.3 rushing attempts per game; only one team in the NFL (Tampa Bay) is being run on more.

Also Start: DeAngelo Williams

Ben Roethlisberger QB Pittsburgh Steelers: If you’re a Roethlisberger owner, did you take a look at the schedule this week, see that the 6-0 Minnesota Vikings are coming to town and consider sitting your Pro Bowl quarterback? If so, I’ve got some statistics you’re going to love. (Note: Vikings defensive ranks are in parentheses).

Quarterbacks who have played the Vikings this season have combined for an average QB rating of 91.0 (23rd), are completing 64.9 percent of their passes (26th) and have tossed nine touchdowns (22nd). Overall, Minnesota ranks 24th against the pass (248.3 yards per game). Those are all great numbers for Big Ben, who is currently rocking a QB rating of 104.5 and has thrown for more than 275 yards in five of six games this season.

Also Start: Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes

Johnny Knox WR Chicago Bears: Let me start by saying there are better options on the board this week, and Knox is more of a sleeper WR option for owners in deeper leagues. However, that doesn’t mean the kid won’t produce.

The rookie from Abilene-Christian has found the end zone in three of his past four outings and is averaging 7.8 fantasy points per game. Not outstanding, but great, consistent WR3 numbers. Additionally, Knox is being targeted 6.2 times per game.

The Bengals’ defense has given up nine passing touchdowns (22nd), 1,627 gross passing yards (29th) and is ranked 28th against the pass, allowing 254.8 yards per game. Expect the Bears to establish their passing game early in this one.

Also Start: Jay “Captain Comeback” Cutler

Donald Brown RB Indianapolis Colts: Another rookie cracks the Week 7 start list as Donald Brown gets a shot at the league’s 26th-ranked rushing defense known as the St. Louis Rams (132.5 yards per game).

The Rams have been terrible on defense (and on offense and special teams) and have been getting lit up against the run. St. Louis has already given up nine rushing touchdowns (tied for 30th) and has been run on 195 times, the fifth highest number of carries a defense has faced in 2009.

Once Peyton Manning and the offense put this thing to bed (early third quarter at the latest), look for the Colts to put the ball on the ground and give their first-round draft pick a chance to stretch his legs.

Also Start: Joseph Addai, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon

New England Patriots D/ST: Congratulations to every owner who didn’t dump the Pats’ defense after its less-than-stellar start to the season. You were rewarded with a 59-0 shutout Sunday and have another favorable matchup on the horizon.

New England heads to London (“Do you have anything to declare?” “Yeah, don’t go to England.” What movie is that from?) this week to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa’s offense has been horrible this season, scoring only 14.8 points per game (27th). However, you can’t expect many points to hit the scoreboard when your offense ranks 28th in total yards (277.7 per game) and 22nd in passing yards (178.2 per game).

In addition, the Buccaneers rank 15th in the NFL in negative plays (14). While that stat may not say much, I just stumbled across it this morning and needed to find a place to put it.

Also Start: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney

PUT ‘EM ON THE BENCH

Rashard Mendenhall RB Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s been a great ride with Mendenhall the past three weeks, but this Sunday is not a good matchup for him. The Minnesota Vikings are coming to town, and their defense has been very stout against the run, allowing just 93.5 yards per game on the ground (ninth).

The real concern here will be the battle in the trenches. The Vikings have an elite front-four anchored by stud defensive ends Jared Allen and Ray Edwards. This is a unit that has allowed just two rushing TDs all season (tied for third) and has limited opposing running backs to only 3.87 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh’s average offensive line is going to struggle opening holes and getting an initial surge. Mendenhall is going to have to scratch and claw for anything he gets in Week 7.

Also Sit: None. The rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers are solid plays this weekend.

Marc Bulger & Donnie Avery QB/WR St. Louis Rams: Everybody loves garbage time numbers, but the Colts’ defense has figured out how to limit just how much garbage they want to allow.

Indianapolis has only surrendered two passing touchdowns this season (first), and the defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to a QB rating of 71.0 (seventh) and only 5.46 yards per attempt (first), meaning they aren’t giving up the deep ball. Couple that with the fact Bulger has thrown for less than 200 yards in four games this season and you have a very weak matchup for two players that owners in deeper leagues may have been considering.

**Bonus Start** Get the Indianapolis Colts D/ST in the lineup this weekend.

Miami Dolphins D/ST: I’m going to keep this one short. The Dolphins have been very good on defense this season (301.4 total yards per game, 10th) and are attacking the quarterback and playing sound, fundamental football.

That being said, no defense is a good start against the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees and Co. lead the league in total offense (430.0 yards per game) and scoring (38.4 points per game).

Find a better option.

Also Sit: Ted Ginn, Jr.

Brandon Jacobs RB New York Giants: Outside of the Tennessee Titans, if everyone in the NFL were offered a re-do to the start of the 2009 season, Jacobs would be one of the first in line. The Giants bruiser is averaging a meager 3.6 yards per carry and has found the end zone just once in six games. In addition, he has yet to rush for over 100 yards in a game and has only topped the 70-yard barrier twice.

Add in the fact that the league’s top rushing defense (Arizona Cardinals) is coming to town Sunday and you have another bad matchup for one of the fantasy world’s top preseason running backs. The Cards are giving up just 2.76 yards per rush this season and have allowed only two touchdowns via the ground. Get Jacobs out of the lineup.

Not so fast…D ual-threat running back Ahmad Bradshaw is still being recommended as a start for Week 7. He’s got a similar style to Houston rusher Steve Slaton, who put up 98 total yards on the Cardinals in Week 5.

Steve Smith WR Carolina Panthers: Just like with Brandon Jacobs, I’m sure Smith would love to get a chance to start the season over. The Panthers’ No. 1 wideout has been anything but that this year, having caught just 21 passes through five games. The kicker? Smith still has not found the end zone.

Opposing defenses are doing a great job taking Smith out of the game by having a cornerback jam him at the line and then rolling a safety over the top for help down the field. In simple chapter and verse, Smith is being double-teamed, and his quarterback isn’t good enough to get him the football.

As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, here come the Buffalo Bills. When you finish laughing, I’ll continue.

The Bills have been impressive against the pass, allowing only six touchdowns (seventh) while intercepting 10 passes (tied for third). Additionally, Buffalo has held opposing quarterbacks (including Drew Brees and Tom Brady) to an average QB Rating of 58.5 (second) and a 53.2-completion percentage (tied for first). Add in the fact that Jake Delhomme has already thrown 10 interceptions in five games and you can expect another poor passing day from the Panthers.

Speaking of receivers you should sit…Go ahead and throw Terrell Owens and Lee Evans into the mix as well. The Panthers rank second in the NFL against the pass, allowing just 156.8 yards per game through the air so far this season.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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