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Working the Wire: Week 7 Waiver Picks

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

It wasn't enough that the Giants eked out a win against my Bills, and that I'll hear crap about it from Liss the next time I go on the radio with him, but I also had to face Ahmad Bradshaw in two of my three fantasy leagues, including the Rotowire Staff League, where I had the second-most points this week (with Eli Manning, who lost TDs to Bradshaw, as my QB) yet still lost. If such a thing as "fantasy hell" existed, this would be it - your favorite team loses because it allowed an opposing player to go off, and you also lose in fantasy because that player went off - despite your fantasy team scoring well. Factor in that I had to watch a replay of Norwood's miss wide right in Super Bowl XXV, and it's a wonder my television isn't in 500 pieces right now.

Fortunately, my Sunday was salvaged by a 7-4 showing in Staff Picks, including the Bears, my "bet of the year" at -2.5, blowing out the Vikings 39-10. I'll take some of Vegas' money from that result, but I really wish I had the guts to throw down a lot more. It's rare I think Vegas is wrong on a line - it happens maybe a couple times a year - so when it happens, one must take advantage (especially when four other writers agreed, two of whom also made the Bears their "best bet.") If you don't read our "Staff Picks" regularly, make sure you check it out - our consensus picks have been solid the last two years.

If there was any doubt previously, it's now 100% clear - Andre Johnson makes Matt Schaub look good, not the other way around.

Jason Campbell isn't anybody's idea of the perfect QB, but he looks pretty good now that Kyle Boller sits atop the depth chart. It kind of makes you wonder - if the Raiders were this fearful of Boller having the job (justifiably so, I might add), why keep him as the backup in the first place? Barring an unexpected trade for Carson Palmer, the Raiders passing game isn't going to recover from this, disappointing those who thought Darius Heyward-Bey would emerge in his third season. At this point, I sort of hope to see Terrelle Pryor at QB - it would be fun to see the Raiders, already a great running team, running Wildcat and option plays.

If Peyton Hillis is trying to get a contract extension, this isn't the way to do it.

I like the Rams trade for Brandon Lloyd, even if it was five losses and a Sam Bradford injury too late. But I don't understand this from the Broncos perspective. If you want Tim Tebow to succeed, don't you surround him with the best play-makers possible? Denver must like what it has in Demaryius Thomas, who showed glimpses in his rookie year in 2010 but has been unable to stay healthy.

The Jaguars are headed nowhere in 2011 thanks to an anemic offense led by rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. But their second-half shutout against the Steelers on the road, coupled with respectable showings against the Saints (23 points) and Titans (14 points, in Week 1 when the Titans offense was good), shows the defense is a top-10 unit. The stats bear it out, too - 4.1 YPC and 6.9 YPA are both above-average. I wouldn't avoid fantasy players against the Jaguars, but it's worth noting that the Jags are the rare doormat that doesn't provide plus fantasy matchups.

To all those old-school folks who still say that rushing attempts create wins in the NFL, look closely at the Rams/Packers box score. Yes, the Packers rushed 32 times, but would anyone say this caused or even helped their victory? Obviously not. After halftime, the Packers were content to plow into the line repeatedly and run clock, even as they were gaining just 3.0 YPC. Incredibly, the Packers were so inept at this that the Rams actually outgained them in yardage. Clearly, the victory was all Aaron Rodgers, who is playing at a level the NFL has never seen. He might not break all the single-season passing records, but that's only because he's crushing teams so badly in the first half that throwing in the second half often isn't necessary.

In the history of fantasy football, has there ever been so much disagreement about how to rank players than there is right now with fantasy tight ends? Jimmy Graham is the top dog, as the Packers and Patriots have too many other options in the passing game for Jermichael Finley, Rob Gronkowski, or Aaron Hernandez to be number one. After Graham, though, we could argue this all day long without consensus. It's like what I read recently from someone about polling the public for your three favorite Tom Hanks movies - ask 30 different people and you'll get 30 different responses, all reasonable. FWIW, my list looks like this: Graham, Finley, Witten, Davis, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Pettigrew, Daniels, Gonzalez, Gates.

How can I be a Bills fan and not own Fred Jackson anywhere? It's not that I didn't think Jackson was really talented - it's more that I expected the Bills offensive line to be among the league's worst. Oops. Think of it this way - at this point, who would you rather own than Jackson? Here's my list: Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, LeSean McCoy, then Jackson. That sounds high for Rodgers, but I prefer his guaranteed production to the RBs who have some fleas - Arian Foster's value is too tied to Andre Johnson's health; Adrian Peterson can't do it without any help; Ray Rice isn't getting all the goal line touches; ditto for Ryan Mathews; the Raiders offense is in disarray with Campbell out, so Darren McFadden faces durability concerns and questions about the offense. There's enough room for debate among these guys, though, that I'd prefer to draft in the bottom part of the first round.

Jim Schwartz is right. Jim Harbaugh deserved any and everything he got after "shaking hands" with Schwartz as if he were high-fiving a teammate.

When a crappy offensive team goes into a no-running back set on third and goal from the five, isn't it obvious to everyone they're running a QB draw? I've seen several offenses score a TD out of this formation in recent weeks, including the Jets on Monday night. If this is so predictable to me as a casual (ok, obsessed) fan, then why isn't it obvious to defensive coordinators and defensive players who study film?

This week's Cowboys/Patriots outcome should have surprised nobody - one team's QB always maximizes his talents by finding ways to win, while the other team's QB seems to find ways to lose despite his talents. I don't need to tell you which one is which.

What's the best division in football? Incredibly, you could make a case for five:

AFC East: Pats, Bills, and Jets.
AFC North: Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals.
NFC East: Giants, Cowboys, Redskins, and Eagles.
NFC North: Packers, Lions, and Bears.
NFC South: Saints, Bucs, Falcons.

I'm watching the Monday Night game as I write this, and the Dolphins just punted on 4th and inches from the Jets 40 on their opening possession. I swear, two-thirds of NFL head coaches must be on steroids, as their balls are the size of raisins.

For halftime of the Super Bowl, instead of another tired music act, how about Darrelle Revis and Brandon Marshall in a UFC match? That's one halftime show I wouldn't miss, and it would certainly be better than their NFL matchup, which isn't a fair fight with Matt Moore at QB and Marshall unable to catch a ball in the opposing team's end zone.

Week 7 teams on a bye: Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans: The Titans had a bye last week, so Hasselbeck was cut in a lot of leagues. He's not a bad spot start this week at home against the Texans.

Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Seahawks: This is digging deep, but Jackson has played better recently, throwing for 319 yards and 3 TDs in Week 4 and starting Week 5 on a similar roll before suffering a chest injury. If he's healthy after a Week 6 bye, Jackson has a nice matchup this week against the Browns.

Earnest Graham, RB, Bucs: It's unclear how long LeGarrette Blount will be sidelined, but it's quite clear Graham is a serviceable replacement, both in real life and for fantasy purposes. Graham had 1,200 total yards and 10 TDs in 2007, and expecting similar production on a per-game basis while Blount is out isn't unreasonable.

DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys: Felix Jones has the dreaded high-ankle sprain and has already been pronounced "out" for this week. The Cowboys have a nice matchup, with the Rams, so Murray is a must-add in most formats. Choice is worth adding in deeper leagues, as it's not clear how the Cowboys will divide the carries, especially on the goal line.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: Before the Broncos bye, Willis McGahee took advantage of a Moreno injury to steal the Broncos starting halfback job. Personally, I'd be amazed if McGahee keeps the job all year. Moreno is simply a better player. In fact, on a Tebow-led offense, Moreno has more upside than before (if/when he gets the starting job back) - though he'd lose some rushing TDs, Tebow is going to check it down more than normal, especially with Brandon Lloyd gone, and McGahee has never been much of a receiver. Find a way to stash Moreno on your bench.

James Starks, RB, Packers: A Packers running back is going to score a touchdown eventually, right? Might as well be this week against the Vikings.

Delone Carter and Donald Brown, RB, Colts: Joseph Addai is expected back this week, the Colts don't score much, and the high-powered Saints are their Week 7 opponent. If you haven't claimed Carter or Brown already, there's probably not much reason to do so now.

C.J. Spiller, RB/WR, Bills: As Fred Jackson emerges as a top-five fantasy player, Spiller's upside continues to rise. He needs a Jackson injury for that upside to emerge, but Spiller would undoubtedly be an every-week fantasy starter if Jackson hit the shelf. Plus, check out your league's eligibility requirements. Spiller has been playing a lot of wide receiver lately, and if he qualifies at receiver, that makes him even more appealing.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants: If you didn't watch the game, you may not have realied how involved Manningham was in the offense. He just missed two touchdowns - one that was initially ruled a TD and then reversed and ruled down at the one, and another where he dropped the ball in the end zone as he hit the ground. This may be your last chance to buy Manningham low.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: When I saw a headline saying "Moss Wants Grossman as QB," my first thought was "why is Randy Moss talking about the Redskins QB situation?" If others in your league have forgotten about Santana Moss like I (briefly) did, take a look at him this week. The Panthers allow 8.5 YPC, worst in the NFL, so Moss has a decent shot of scoring from deep this week, regardless of who starts at QB for the Redskins.

James Jones, WR, Jones: Where skeptics see just one target, I see a third straight game with a touchdown. In case you haven't realized it yet, I love guys like this on high-scoring offenses during the bye weeks. I'd rather root for Jones to score one of 4-5 TDs that the Packers will score than, say, root for a Browns receiver to score what may be the Browns only TD of the day.

Steve Breaston, WR, Chiefs: I said last week I'd profile Breaston this week, with the Chiefs returning to action, so let's it this way. Here are players I'd cut, right now, to own Breaston: all Raiders receivers, all Bills receivers except Stevie Johnson (even if David Nelson is better than Breaston, it's not enough of a difference to hold Nelson through his bye), Mike Thomas, Percy Harvin, and Robert Meachem.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers: 15 targets in one week is an enormous amount, especially when that receiver's quarterback threw just 32 passes. But Alex Smith is inconsistent and there are lots of mouths to feed in San Francisco, especially with Braylon Edwards coming back soon. I have to mention Crabtree given the targets, but I don't see him as anything better than a WR3 in bye weeks at this point.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: Thomas has Tebow as his QB, and no, that's not a good thing. But he's big, tall, fast, and a 2010 first-round pick. Best of all, the Broncos must like Thomas or they wouldn't have traded Brandon Lloyd. Thomas was relevant for fantasy purposes for a brief period last year; he could easily out-produce Eric Decker going forward. Watch the Broncos game this week closely - QBs who were backups like Tim Tebow tend to reveal their favorite target early on.

Naaman Roosevelt and Brad Smith, WR, Bills: Roosevelt and Smith are worth mentioning given the injuries in the Bills' receiving corps, but neither is worth claiming now since the Bills enter their bye. Let's revisit these guys next week.

Fred Davis, TE, Redskins: I see Davis as a nice bye-week fill-in, not an every-week starter. The distinction may not matter, though, with this week's matchup against the Panthers.

Cowboys D/ST: Hopefully, someone in your league cut the Cowboys defense because they just played the Patriots, as it would sure be nice to play them against a winless Rams team starting its backup QB.