Our NFL Insiders predict Week 7's biggest upsets and fantasy flops and sleepers. Plus: Who are the league's top quarterbacks now that Aaron Rodgers is likely out for the season? And who will be the NFC's two wild-card teams come January?
What's your top upset pick for Week 7?
Mike Clay, NFL writer: Chargers over Broncos. When these teams met in Week 1, the Chargers fell behind 24-7 before mounting a furious comeback that fell short after a Younghoe Koo field goal was blocked in the final seconds. The Chargers will be at "home" this time around, and a two-game winning streak seems to have them back on track after an 0-4 start. Denver, meanwhile, has lost two of three and could be without Emmanuel Sanders.
Domonique Foxworth, The Undefeated senior writer: Redskins over Eagles. Philadelphia is currently considered the best team in the NFC. The hype is well deserved, but the difference between the Eagles and Washington is minor. This game could go either way, but I like Washington to even the season series with a win in Philly.
Mina Kimes, senior writer: 49ers over Cowboys. The Niners are due for a win. On Sunday, they became the first team in NFL history to lose five games in a row by three points or fewer. Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard seemed to light a fire under the offense, and their defense is holding opposing rushers to just 3.44 yards per attempt, which bodes well for their ability to bottle up the Cowboys' rushing attack.
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Bears over Panthers. This limb I'm walking out on could collapse at any moment, but I'll take a flier on the Bears at home in a physical slugfest against the Panthers. Chicago has played some good teams tough this season, nearly beating Atlanta in Week 1 then knocking off Pittsburgh in Week 3. Perhaps the Bears can steal one here.
Field Yates, NFL Insider: Redskins over Eagles. It's never easy to go on the road and win a division game. So many of the factors leading into Monday's game suggest the Eagles will hold serve: It's in Philly, the team has three extra days of rest after playing last Thursday night, it has already defeated Washington this season and is arguably the league's top team right now. But Washington's evenly balanced offense -- six players are on pace for between 35 to 58 catches this season -- can stress a defense enough to give it fits. Quietly, Washington also has built one of the league's better run defenses.
So, Aaron Rodgers might be out of the season. Who are the league's top three quarterbacks right now?
Clay: Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson. Brady and Brees shouldn't need much explanation as both are again playing at a high level and are well on their way to the Hall of Fame. Wilson was a tougher call with the likes of Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and, dare I say, Deshaun Watson also playing at such a high level. Nonetheless, I'll go with the veteran, who has the Seahawks off to a 3-2 start and positioned for another run at an NFC West title despite major offensive line problems.
Foxworth: Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Dak Prescott. If you ask me again tomorrow, my answer will probably change. I could make a case for about four other quarterbacks. But choices had to be made. So, I took the path of least resistance with my first two selections, then stepped out on a limb with Prescott. Dak hasn't been perfect this year, but in just his second season, he's shown a mental acuity for the game most quarterbacks never reach.
Kimes: Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Alex Smith. While Smith was less effective against a (highly underrated) Pittsburgh defense this weekend, he still has the best passer rating, yards/attempt and completion percentage in the NFL. Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson are knocking at the door, but it's still too early to pick any of the newcomers.
Sando: Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Those are the three I'd pick to play in a must-win game this week. Other quarterbacks might've played better last week or the week before or through September, but those three are the ones I'd bet on right now. Along with Aaron Rodgers, they've earned the most Tier 1 votes over the summer from 50 coaches and evaluators in my 2017 QB Tiers survey. Seeing Roethlisberger bounce back (10.1 yards per attempt) at Kansas City was encouraging.
Yates: Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Alex Smith. (Others knocking on the doorstep include Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford). Quarterback evaluation is not merely the physical skill set that you bring to the table, it's football character and function within your offense. These three are the unquestioned leaders of their offense and idyllic fits for what their teams angle to do on offense. Brady and Brees have long been regarded as top-of-the-league players, while Smith has been a terrific distributor this season. He's helped catalyze the fantastic Chiefs' 5-1 start.
Who's your pick to be the biggest fantasy flop this weekend?
Clay: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers. Allen racked up nine targets and scored a touchdown when Los Angeles faced off with Denver back in Week 1, but the Comeback Player of the Year candidate was limited to five catches for 35 yards. Allen has been terrific this season, but by aligning in the slot on 52 percent of his routes, he'll see superstar cover corner Chris Harris Jr. often on Sunday. When lined up on the outside, he'll see Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby. This has the makings of a "down" game for Allen.
Foxworth: Adrian Peterson, RB, Cardinals. Betting against Peterson is generally a bad idea. He's surpassed expectations and defied odds for his entire career. But, as the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated. I don't expect AD to duplicate his impressive rushing performance. And he has never been a great receiver out of the backfield.
Kimes: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. The team probably will continue to lean hard on Howard while easing rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into the offense, but I don't expect him to produce like he did on Sunday. The Panthers' defense is allowing the fifth-lowest average number of fantasy points to opposing running backs, as well as the fifth-lowest rushing yards per game.
Sando: Derek Carr, QB, Raiders. Carr has averaged 10.2 fantasy points per game in six career games against the Chiefs and has never reached even 14 fantasy points in a single game against them. I'd be surprised if he suddenly lit up Kansas City on Thursday.
Yates: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. I believe the Giants might've found a renewed defensive energy in Week 6. It hadn't been poor through the first five weeks -- offensive woes were the larger root of their issues in an 0-5 start -- but the defense was rock solid in last week's win, catapulting New York past the Broncos. Yes, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders piled up yards, but some of that was dependent upon Denver playing from multiple scores down. I think the Giants' pass rush -- especially if Olivier Vernon returns -- can give Seattle's offensive line fits and lead to a quiet day for Baldwin, who is an exceptional player.
There are eight two-loss teams in the NFC, plus some intriguing teams with three losses. Who are your picks to be the conference's two wild-card teams come January?
Clay: Lions and Saints. The Falcons' struggles have vaulted the Panthers into the catbird seat in the South. The Saints, meanwhile, are finally playing competent defense. Couple that with a Drew Brees-led offense and you have yourself a strong wild card -- if not divisional -- contender. I don't think the Packers can stay in contention without Aaron Rodgers because of their defensive weak spots and injury woes. I now have Minnesota as the favorite to win the NFC North, with Detroit taking the second wild card. By my metrics, the Lions have the league's easiest schedule moving forward, which separates them from likes of the the Rams, Falcons, Redskins and Cowboys.
Foxworth: Rams and Falcons. It feels like the NFC is as wide open as it has ever been. Which is another way of saying that I don't have much faith in any of the teams. But, I think the Falcons and Rams are among the most talented teams in the conference and are well coached, yet they won't win their respective divisions. Wild card is the way in for them.
Kimes: Redskins and Saints. I think the Panthers and Seahawks win their respective divisions, and the Rams will suffer from a difficult schedule down the stretch. I think Washington is a talented, balanced team, and I think the Saints will see continued improvement in their defense as the season goes on.
Sando: Redskins and Panthers. But the Rams and Saints are also intriguing. The NFC is basically a crapshoot at the moment.
Yates: Packers and Falcons. I still believe the Falcons will find a rhythm offensively and settle back in after a slow start, while the Packers need to take advantage of playing three of their first four games without Aaron Rodgers at home. I believe Green Bay finds a way.
Pick a fringe fantasy player who should be started in Week 7.
Clay: Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins. I know, I know. Pryor has been a fantasy bust so far, but consider that he racked up 11 targets with six catches for 66 yards when the Redskins met the Eagles in Week 1. The Washington offense has actually been scoring at a much higher rate since that game, whereas the Eagles perimeter corners continue to get lit up. Receivers who have lined up across from Jalen Mills, whom Pryor saw on 15 of his 34 routes in that first meeting, have been targeted an NFL-high 67 times and have scored 96 fantasy points (second most) this season.
Foxworth: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jets. Austin's production has been on the ascent every week this season. He's emerged as one of the Jets' main red zone targets, scoring a touchdown in each of his past two games. Yet he remains available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN leagues. I expect him to produce again this Sunday, when the Jets take on the Dolphins.
Kimes: Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons. The Patriots' defense has allowed the fourth-most average fantasy points to the position this season (and their statistics would've been worse if Jets tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins' touchdown had counted). Meanwhile, Hooper was targeted nine times last week.
Sando: Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins. Doctson is one to watch against the Eagles on Monday night. He has two touchdowns this season on only four receptions, but with coach Jay Gruden declaring he'd expand the receiver's role, this could be the week Doctson takes off. He faces an Eagles team allowing 14.2 PPR fantasy points per game to starting wide receivers, the third-highest figure in the league behind Tampa Bay and New England.
Yates: Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders. Is it weird to call a player who was once drafted fourth overall a borderline play in fantasy football? That's what it's come to for Cooper, who is off to just an abysmal start this season. But there were some signs of hope last week, including five catches (more than he had in the three games prior to that combined) and a pair of catches negated by penalties. He's just too talented to not eventually bust this slump, and while the Chiefs are a formidable foe, they're in the bottom 10 in terms of passing yards per game allowed and yards per attempt allowed (and have allowed 10 passing touchdowns). Is some of that due to game flow and being up big in previous games? Unquestionably so. But I think Cooper is due for a score -- soon.