Kickoff: Sunday, October 23rd at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Betting Odds: CIN -6, 47.5 total via Oddsshark
Marcus Mariota (Sit, QB2)
There are a handful of QBs who perform just well enough to be considered for fantasy purposes but you just don’t feel good about it because of the inconsistency they bring to the table. Marcus Mariota is one of those guys. Mariota wouldn’t even be a consideration if it weren’t for his ability to generate yards on the ground. Mariota has 50 or more rushing yards or a rushing TD in three of his six games this season and has done both twice. His passing stats, on the other hand, border on mediocre as Mariota is 21st in the NFL in passing yards with 1,055 and tied for 17th in passing TDs with six. The injury to Cordarrelle Patterson may have contributed to an uptick in Mariota’s rushing the last two games, and Patterson is going to miss at least two more, but Mariota’s pitiful passing numbers just keep him out of the QB1 tier. I have Mariota as a high-end QB2 mainly because Cincinnati has been stingy in giving up rushing yards to the QB.
Tyler Allgeier (Sit, low-end FLEX), Caleb Huntley (Sit), Avery Williams (Sit)
Since taking over for Patterson as the primary RB, Tyler Allgeier has struggled to produce as well as he did when he was more situational. Allgeier is averaging 3.4 yards per carry with Patterson out and has only two targets on the season so his role in the passing game is virtually nonexistent. The Bengals have yet to surrender 100 rushing yards to a single player this season (Alvin Kamara had 99 last week) and the Falcons have demonstrated they’re comfortable giving Allgeier only about 50% of the snaps each game. A lot is working against Allgeier this week for fantasy managers, but he could return low-end FLEX value if injuries and BYE weeks have hamstrung your roster.
Both Caleb Huntley and Avery Williams are expected to split the other half of the snaps at RB, with Williams being the primary pass-catching back. Huntley and Williams each have a rushing TD this season, something Allgeier has yet to accomplish despite seeing more opportunities. Huntley has shown some promise in his limited action, garnering 152 yards on 35 carries but, like Allgeier, is a non-factor in the passing with no targets on the season. Williams has the highest yards per carry of the three (6.0 yards) but sees little work as a runner with just nine carries on the season. Williams also leads the group in targets with five, but Atlanta is such a low-volume passing offense that hardly makes a dent in his production. Neither sees enough action to warrant serious fantasy consideration, but Huntley looks like he’ll get the bulk of the rushing work if anything were to happen to Allgeier. Keep both on your bench this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Drake London (Start, WR2 with WR1 upside), Olamide Zaccheaus (Sit), KhaDarel Hodge (Sit), Bryan Edwards (Sit), Damiere Byrd (Sit), Kyle Pitts (Start, low-end TE1)
The primary and secondary options for Mariota in the passing game are clear, and it’s not particularly close. Rookie Drake London leads the team with 43 targets, averaging just over seven per game, and has turned them into team-leading 25 receptions for 306 yards and two TDs. Considering Mariota is only attempting an average of 21 attempts per game, getting a 33% share of the targets makes you an intriguing piece in fantasy football. Cincinnati has surrendered just two TDs to WRs this season but has allowed some decent yardage to opposing #1 WRs. If London were on a team that passed more, he’d be an easy WR1 but the limited opportunities and a healthy Kyle Pitts keeps London as a solid WR2 option for fantasy managers in Week 7.
The “other” WR for the Falcons this season has most often been Olamide Zaccheaus as he is the only other WR to have logged more than 200 offensive snaps on the season. Despite his on-field frequency, that hasn’t translated into more opportunities as Zaccheaus has just 18 targets this season. Now, Zaccheaus has done all he can with what he’s gotten, converting those targets into 16 receptions for 271 yards and two TDs, but just hasn’t had THAT game for fantasy managers. Zaccheaus has had between 39 and 58 yards in five of his six games (the other being 21 yards), so he’s dependent on TDs to crack lineups in fantasy leagues because of the low volume of targets. Zaccheaus is a fine bench stash for managers with injuries and BYEs to navigate, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever see the starting lineup except in case of emergency. Keep him on the bench this week.
The trio of KhaDarel Hodge, Bryan Edwards, and Damiere Byrd round out the remaining WRs that see snaps for Atlanta, but none of those three has yet to exceed 21 offensive snaps except Edwards in Week 1 with 35. When you combine a low-volume passing attack with limited snaps, it doesn’t create a recipe for fantasy success and that’s right where we’re at with these three. Hodge is the only one who has seen double-digit targets for the season (12) and also is the only one with more than 100 yards on the season (128). No TDs have been scored among the group and there is simply no meat left on the bone in Atlanta’s passing attack. There is no viable reason any of these guys should be given fantasy consideration unless injuries strike the depth chart above them.
While it wasn’t a rousing success for Kyle Pitts last week, the highly-touted second-year player did score his first TD of the season and, somewhat surprisingly, only the second of his career. Despite missing Week 5 with a hamstring injury, Pitts is still second on the team with 25 targets and is third in both receptions (13) and yards (169). It’s been disappointing watching Pitts put up 19-yard games (he has three this season) but perhaps last week was the turning point for him. The lack of opportunities is concerning, but he is the #2 option for Mariota when healthy and even a handful of targets keeps him in the TE1 conversation as we look at the bottom half of that tier. Could Pitts disappoint again this week? Sure, but Cincinnati has surrendered more than 75 or more yards to three different TEs this season, so there is reason to consider Pitts as a low-end TE1 in Week 7.
Joe Burrow (Start, QB1)
The defending AFC champions haven’t had a great start to the season, coming into Week 7 with a 3-3 record but Joe Burrow is continuing to perform at a QB1 level for fantasy managers despite the rocky start. Burrow is slightly off the pace he set last season when he finished as QB8, but his performance this season has him sitting at QB5 despite the slightly lower stats. Burrow is once again being sacked at one of the highest rates in the NFL, but so far that’s not diminished his performance despite the injury concerns if he keeps taking so many hits. Burrow is on pace to obliterate his career highs in all the rushing categories which is a major contributor to his ranking this season. Atlanta has been dissected by QBs this season allowing nearly 300 yards per game and multiple TD passes in four games. Burrow should continue his strong fantasy season this week and fantasy managers can trust him as a solid QB1 in Week 7.
Joe Mixon (Start, RB1), Samaje Perine (Sit)
It’s been a surprisingly slow start for Joe Mixon this season as he is averaging a career-low 57.8 yards per game despite seeing nearly the same number of attempts as his Pro Bowl season last year (17.3 attempts per game in 2022, 18.3 in 2021). Mixon has seen an uptick in work in the receiving game, however, with career highs in targets per game (5.3), receiving yards per game (24.8), and receptions per game (4.0). Atlanta has been mostly good against opposing RBs, allowing an average of 88 rushing yards per game but has surrendered just three TDs on the ground. RBs have had some receiving success against them, averaging 38.7 yards per game, but again TDs have been hard to come by with just one receiving TD through six games. Cincinnati is projected by Vegas to come away with a victory, so some late-game stat padding could be in store for Mixon this week. I like him to finish as an RB1 for fantasy managers in Week 7.
Backing up Mixon and seeing about 25% of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps is Samaje Perine, but the six-year veteran isn’t involved in the offense enough to warrant serious fantasy consideration behind a healthy Mixon. Perine has more than seven touches just once this season and is averaging only five touches per game on the season. Perine is a fine backup for the Bengals but is only a handcuff for fantasy managers and he can’t be started this week given the low volume he receives.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Ja’Marr Chase (Start, WR1), Tee Higgins (Start, WR2), Tyler Boyd (Sit, low-end FLEX), Hayden Hurst (Start, low-end TE1)
Are we starting to see the Bengals use Ja’Marr Chase in the same way they did during his Rookie of the Year season? Chase finished in the top five at WR in most fantasy leagues last season when he saw an average of 11.4 yards per target en route to more than 1,400 yards and 13 TDs. Before last week, Chase was averaging 6.47 yards per target and exceeded 100 receiving yards just once in Week 1. Last week Chase saw 13.2 yards per target and performed like fantasy managers expected with 132 yards and two TDs. Atlanta placed starting CB Casey Hayward on injured reserve on Tuesday and their other starting CB, A.J. Terrell, left last week’s game early with a thigh injury. There is no update on Terrell’s status as of this writing, but backup CBs could be starting for Atlanta this week, making Chase an even more attractive option for fantasy managers. Fire him up as a WR1 this week.
The second part of one of the NFL’s best 1-2 punches at WR for Cincinnati is Tee Higgins. Higgins burned fantasy managers, myself included, back in Week 5 after being declared active after recovering from a sprained ankle only to see 10 offensive snaps and record zero stats. Fantasy managers were rightfully concerned when Higgins was a game-time decision last week, but he was able to play through the injury and looks to be a full go this week. As mentioned above, injuries at CB make Higgins an intriguing option on an offense that seems to be rounding into form. I like Higgins to bounce back this week and post WR2 numbers for fantasy managers.
There are cases of players being better NFL players than fantasy players and Tyler Boyd falls firmly into that category. Boyd is invaluable to the Cincinnati offense as the team’s primary slot receiver and is seeing the highest ADOT since his rookie season (9.1 yards). The good thing about Boyd is he rarely leaves the field but his opportunities are just not as high as you’d like from a guy who rarely misses a snap. I can see Boyd producing as a low-end FLEX option for fantasy managers this week.
One position the Falcons have struggled to defend this season has been the TE as opponents have averaged 73 yards per game against them. Hayden Hurst has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers this season despite a career-low 7.7 yards per reception. Hurst is on pace to approach the numbers he posted in his 2020 season when he finished as the TE11 in many fantasy leagues. Hurst is fourth on the team in targets and will look to take advantage of a defense struggling to contain TEs this season. Expect Hurst to continue to perform as a TE1 for fantasy managers this week and start him unless you have a better option.