Making lineup decisions can be the most frustrating or most rewarding part of fantasy football. Here to help you make those decisions are our start ’em and sit ’em picks. Fantasy decisions will only get more difficult from here on out, so let’s take a look at our early Week 7 start/sit plays.

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Start ‘Em Picks for Week 7

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers (at MIN)

It seems no matter how well Brock Purdy plays, there are those out there waiting for the “real Purdy” to reveal himself. By that, I mean the guy who fell to the last pick of the NFL Draft, and isn’t actually an NFL-caliber starting quarterback.

Last week, Purdy had the worst game of his young career. He threw for 125 yards and one touchdown, while also throwing his first interception of the season. After scoring at least 14 fantasy points in every game this year, he posted just 8.7 against the Cleveland Browns. So, I guess that’s it. Purdy is terrible now.

Of course, that’s not true. Purdy had just one bad game. He is in a great spot to bounce back this week against a Minnesota Vikings defense allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.

It remains to be seen if Purdy will have Christian McCaffrey or Deebo Samuel. I am tentatively expecting the latter to play, and the former to sit. As long he has one of them, Purdy should return to his usual 200-yard, 2-touchdown performances, which is good enough this week.

Roschon Johnson or D’Onta Foreman, RBs, Chicago Bears (vs. LV)

At the time of this writing, we do not yet know where Roschon Johnson is in the concussion protocol. What we do know is that by the time the Chicago Bears play, it will have been 17 days since he was concussed. Based on all of the data we have on return-to-play times, Johnson should be cleared for this week.

If Johnson can go, he likely takes over as the lead back. If not, it will be D’Onta Foreman once again. Foreman played 61% of the snaps last week, carrying the ball 15 times for a respectable 65 yards.

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While Foreman only caught one pass for two yards, the move from Justin Fields to Tyson Bagent will add possible pass attempts, as Bagent won’t run as much as Fields.

Regardless of who ends up starting for the Bears, the matchup is ideal against a Las Vegas Raiders defense that has been a cure-all for struggling running backs. The plodding AJ Dillon got going against the Raiders, and last week, they made both Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott look serviceable. The Raiders allowed all three of them to score. Start Johnson or Foreman this week.

Jerome Ford, RB, Cleveland Browns (at IND)

I am not sure what the general consensus is on Jerome Ford. There isn’t much discourse surrounding him like other running backs. Are fantasy managers happy with him? Do they view him as a clear weekly starter? I really don’t know.

What I do know is they absolutely should. Ford is averaging a very respectable 13.1 fantasy points per game. He is the RB19 on the season (by points per game) among backs with at least three games played.

fantasy start'em
Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford (34) scores a touchdown past Tennessee Titans linebacker Jack Gibbens (50) during the third quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio., Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

The Browns get the Indianapolis Colts this week. The Colts are allowing 23.7 PPG to running backs, the 10th-most in the league. While this is largely due to the fact that they’ve allowed seven rushing touchdowns, this is still a nice spot for Ford.

Even though the Browns are on the road, the Colts are starting Gardner Minshew, who has been prone to turning the ball over. As a result, this game should stay competitive, allowing the Browns to stick to the run game.

Kareem Hunt was more involved last week, but make no mistake about it, Ford remains the lead back. He is an excellent RB2 this week.

Rashee Rice, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LAC)

Did you know Rashee Rice has posted double-digit fantasy points in four of six games this season? I’ve liked Rice for a couple of weeks now but didn’t realize he’s actually been pretty useful already.

The Chiefs are still rotating their WRs at a nauseating rate, so proceed with caution as it pertains to Rice. Regardless, Rice is the only Chiefs’ non-Travis Kelce pass-catcher that even belongs on fantasy rosters, let alone in lineups.

Over the past few weeks, Chiefs coaches have talked up Rice’s progression. He’s still a rookie, so, there is a natural learning curve. But as we push toward the second half of the season, historical trends suggest his usage will increase. And we already see signs of that.

Last week, Rice saw his snap share tick up from 30% the week prior to 49%. He also ran a season-high 22 routes, just one fewer than Skyy Moore. While he was still 11 behind Marquez Valdes-Scantling, we don’t concern ourselves with MVS, whose sole job is to run wind sprints and occupy a defender.

Rice is so clearly the best receiver on this team, and it so clearly isn’t close. He’s improving every week, and now is in a great spot to have a true breakout game in a potential shootout against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing the most fantasy PPG to WRs. Rice is a viable WR3 this week.

Joshua Palmer, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (at KC)

Sticking with the same game, let’s go to the other side of the field and talk up Josh Palmer. With Mike Williams done for the season, Palmer once again finds himself in an every-down role. He played 97% of the snaps last Monday night.

Palmer’s final line was a pedestrian four catches for 60 yards. That probably doesn’t excite you. But aside from Palmer’s excellent role, he actually should’ve smashed last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

Palmer had an early long touchdown erased due to a penalty. Later in the game, he had another pair of receptions wiped out for the same reason. Palmer could have easily collected seven catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown. If he did, there wouldn’t even be a thought as to whether fantasy managers should start him.

The Chiefs have been quite good against the WR position, allowing the eighth-fewest PPG to the position. However, half their games have been against the Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and Denver Broncos.

Justin Herbert and the Chargers are good enough to compete with the Chiefs, and Palmer should be plenty involved. He’s a strong WR3 this week and likely every week.

Luke Musgrave, TE, Green Bay Packers (at DEN)

Unless you have Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, TJ Hockenson, or Sam LaPorta, it gets very difficult to recommend a tight end who should start.

Luke Musgrave played 69% of the snaps in the game prior to the Packers’ Week 6 bye. He caught six of seven targets for 34 yards — I will gladly take that at tight end.

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This week, the Packers get a Broncos defense that sees 26.5% of its total receiving yards allowed go to the tight end position. Playing the Chiefs certainly skews this number, but the Broncos are allowing the most PPG to the position. Musgrave is a borderline TE1 this week.

Sit ‘Em Picks for Week 7

Desmond Ridder, QB, Atlanta Falcons (at TB)

If you’ve been reading this column all season, you know I make a concerted effort to populate these lists with guys who are actually in question. You may look at some of the names on the sit side of things and think they’re obvious sits. I beg of you to go check this week’s Consensus Rankings.

The point at which the lists go from obvious starters to “Really, that guy is ranked in the top 24?” is very early. As a result, Desmond Ridder, who is coming off games of 19 and 26 fantasy points, is a legitimate streaming candidate this week.

Somehow, Ridder has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games. He’s also accounted for two scores in each of his past two. However, those games came against the Houston Texans and Washington Commanders at home.

This week, Ridder travels to face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that is middle of the pack against QBs. Ridder has also produced far better at home than on the road.

Given his penchant for throwing the ball to the wrong team at inopportune times, combined with the below-average matchup, look elsewhere at QB for a Week 7 streamer.

Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, RBs, Baltimore Ravens (vs. DET)

I am just about ready to throw in the towel on the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield. The only thing we know for sure is it’s a two-man show between Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. How much will each play, and who will serve what role? Your guess is as good as mine.

Over the past three games, Edwards’ snap shares have been 69%, 43%, and 62% vs. 12%, 56%, and 38% for Hill. They’ve flip-flopped roles in three straight games.

Edwards is seeing more carries, but Hill has caught all seven of his targets over the past two weeks.

Edwards profiles more as the goal line back, but it’s Hill who has the lone touchdown from short yardage over that span.

All of this is to say it’s a guessing game between two uninspiring options. And this week, they get a Lions defense that is elite against the run.

fantasy start'em
Oct 1, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) runs with the ball during the first half against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions allow the fewest PPG to running backs by a margin of 1.9 PPG. They are allowing 3.1 YPC and have surrendered just two rushing touchdowns all season to the position. Dan Campbell’s defense has also completely shut down running backs in the passing game. Just 8.6% of their total receiving yards allowed have gone to running backs.

Edwards and Hill are unlikely to get anything going on the ground this week and are bad bets to score. Both belong on fantasy benches.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, New England Patriots (vs. BUF)

This one is another example of you probably thinking to yourself, “Who is starting Ezekiel Elliott?” Well, have you seen the options this week?

Elliott’s opportunities by week: 14, 5, 17, 9, 12, 8. That’s not terrible. He is coming off 49 yards and a touchdown last week. I promise some fantasy managers would love that in their RB2 slot this week.

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Unfortunately, the situation couldn’t be worse. The Buffalo Bills are coming off a win, but it sure felt like a loss with how they played. The New England Patriots’ offense looks like the worst in football. If they are going to move the ball on the ground, it will be Rhamondre Stevenson who gets it done. Do not chase last week’s points with Zeke.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (at NO)

Two weeks ago, I faded Calvin Ridley in London. I talked about how overrated he is and how Christian Kirk is clearly the better player. Ridley responded with a 7-122 line.

Last week, I said nothing about Ridley. He caught four passes for 30 yards. Thanks, Calvin!

I am sticking with my post-Week 3 evaluation from here on out — Ridley is just not that good. He’s not bad by any stretch — he’s just not an alpha WR1 or even a WR1 at all.

The Jaguars have played six games this season. Ridley has gone over 100 yards in two of them and had 40 yards or fewer in four.

The Saints are a below-average matchup for WRs, allowing the 13th-fewest PPG to the position. Most concerning, Trevor Lawrence seems poised to miss this game with a knee injury.

Given the state of fantasy with bye weeks and injuries, you probably can’t afford to bench Ridley. I get it. But Ridley on a short week against a good defense with C.J. Beathard under center is not a recipe for success.

Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (vs. GB)

The award for the most smoke and mirrors performance this season has to go to Courtland Sutton. Somehow, Sutton hasn’t even posted WR3 numbers despite scoring four touchdowns. If that doesn’t put into perspective how poorly the Broncos have played, I don’t know what does.

Sutton has posted double-digit fantasy points in all but one game this season. He’s also topped 46 receiving yards just twice and topped seven targets just once.

The Packers allow the seventh-fewest PPG to WRs. Specifically, they shut down outside WRs.

Teams have been beating the Packers by throwing to running backs and tight ends. Just 58.4% of their total receiving yards allowed have gone to WRs.

Coming off their bye, the Packers will likely have Jaire Alexander on Sutton. Unless Sutton finds his way into the end zone once again, he is bound to disappoint fantasy managers.

Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals (at SEA)

Assuming you read the start’em portion of this first, you already read my prognosis on the position. There are four must-starts. Everyone else can reasonably be benched.

Zach Ertz’s name is here because he’s been a serviceable fantasy TE for six weeks, but now his time appears to be coming to an end.

Ertz played a season-low 46% of the snaps last week. He’s now seen a total of nine targets over the past two weeks and caught a total of four passes for 32 yards over that span.

Sophomore TE Trey McBride out-snapped Ertz for the first time this season. That feels like the start of a trend. To make matters worse, the Seattle Seahawks allow the fifth-fewest PPG to tight ends.

This is a bad spot for a declining player. Sit Ertz this week.

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