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Chris Ivory, Amari Cooper, & Others With Deceptive Fantasy Matchups in Week 7

Players with good, great, and bad fantasy football matchups for Week 7 of the 2015 NFL season we may overlook.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sorting by "fantasy points against" is not the best way to see whether or not a player has a strong matchup. It can be a great place to start, but touchdowns or specific one-on-one events skew the overall data.

With the Bears, Bengals, Packers, and Broncos on bye in Week 7, there are 15-to-20 fantasy starters sitting on benches. When you figure that in a standard 10-team league which starts two running backs, two wide receivers, and a flex have 70 skill players starting, this is a week where maybe 20% of players in fantasy lineups would normally not be starting.

This makes the daily fantasy sports (DFS) pools smaller and the matchups to exploit more scarce. As seasonal leagues are deeper, finding replacements for these starters becomes even more difficult because more players are rostered. For example: I have to start Robert Woods as my WR3 in a 12-team PPR league where we start three WRs and a flex because almost everyone has five-to-seven WRs on their rosters, forcing me to choose from a pool outside of the top-40.

Once you are outside of the top-25 at RB or top-30 at WRs, everything has more degrees of trash than treasure. In DFS, there are only so many high-priced players we can play and all of these players on bye depletes the middle class and forces us to find more cheap buys for our lineups. Also, in DFS tournaments, we want to avoid being counterfeited. If 60% of lineups play Devonta Freeman, those numbers are a wash that basically has us at a net-zero versus a large portion of the field.

Here are some players whose matchups may be overlooked as good or bad for DFS lineups and some of the better darts to throw for minimum costs or to plug into that lineup where you have multiple players on bye:

Running backs

The obvious matchups to exploit are: Latavius Murray at Chargers; Todd Gurley vs. Browns; and LeSean McCoy vs. Jaguars in London.

Sneaky stud: Chris Ivory at Patriots

The Patriots blow so many teams out that logic tells us their opponents are forced to abandon the run, so the opposing RB is a risky play. This is not true.

Yes, the Patriots are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points per week to RBs (14.98) and only one rushing TD to a RB, but: (a) Ivory has nearly 60% of the Jets total carries through five games, despite missing one; and the Pats are allowing nearly 93 rushing yards per game to RBs all far worse than Ivory:

Primary RBs vs. Patriots
Week Player Att Yds Yds/Att
1 Deangelo Williams 21 127 6.05
2 LeSean McCoy 15 89 5.93
3 T.J. Yeldon 11 33 3.00
5 Joseph Randle 15 60 4.00
6 Frank Gore 13 78 6.00
Total 75 387 5.16

Ivory is averaging over 5.5 yards per carry (YPC) in over 20 attempts per game, including his excellent 20/146/1 slash against the decent Washington run defense in Week 6. His 11 attempts per game up the middle is higher than all of the Pats opposing RBs. They are allowing the fifth-most YPC on runs up the middle (4.97) where Ivory is averaging 5.75 YPC.

Rushing TDs are largely random. The Pats can be run on to get near the end zone. Ivory is one of those beasts we can look to have the better chances of finishing a drive in the end zone running up the gut of the New England front.

Where we have Ivory, we're not considering benching him any week, let alone this one. He is simply a very nice, relatively under the radar alternative DFS play where we are steering away from the likely heavy ownerships of Latavius Murray, Todd Gurley, and the aforementioned Freeman.

PPR flex of the week: Shane Vereen vs. Cowboys

The Cowboys are allowing the second-most receiving yards per game to RBs (75.0). The Giants can't run the ball worth a damn, so this has to be a nice Vereen game. Good player in whom to have DFS shares where you get the full PPR. Hard to trust in standard because there is almost no shot at a TD, so an 8/85/0 day in the passing game is so blah.

If you're desperate: Tevin Coleman at Titans

This is a reach, but the Titans are terrible against the run on all levels. They are allowing the sixth-most YPC (4.7), overall and have allowed a rushing TD in each of their last four games. Without Marcus Mariota, the Titans should get blown out early. Coleman can get a garbage time run similar to that of Terron Ward's 19/72/1 slash in the Falcons' Week 4 blowout over the Texans while Coleman was out nursing injuries to his ribs.

Coleman is worth a flex play in deep standard leagues and for a cheap prayer in DFS, where minimum buys at WR are hard to find this week.

Avoid: Jonathan Stewart vs Eagles and Carlos Hyde vs. Seahawks

Jonathan Stewart gave us that tease in Week 6 with a huge 20/78/2 slash in Seattle. Don't buy it. Those were Stewart's first two TDs of the season and he hasn't scored more than four in any season since 2009. To put that in perspective, that was the season in which Brett Favre took the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game and Cam Newton had not yet committed to Auburn.

To boot, the Eagles have the second-best DVOA against the run (-26.3%), according to FootballOutsiders.com (FO), and are tied with the Jets, allowing the second-fewest YPC (3.5).

In general, Stewart is the RB version of Dwayne Bowe. He'll always be the #1 on his team at the position, but more than nine times out of ten, you're best off ignoring his existence.

Carlos Hyde is easy to ignore in DFS, but tough to bench with Matt Forte, Giovani Bernard, and Eddie Lacy on bye with Marshawn Lynch struggling and Jamaal Charles' injury wrecking so many RB corps, and seeing Stewart score twice in Seattle. But the Seahawks should have Bobby Wagner returning on Thursday night. The improvements of LeSean McCoy, Demarco Murray, and Lamar Miller; the emergences of Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley, and Latavius Murray; with pass catchers like Duke Johnson, Theo Riddick, and Charles Sims picking up steam in PPR, we should get away from Hyde for this week where we can.

Wide Receivers

The obvious matchups to exploit are: DeAndre Hopkins at Dolphins; Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns vs. Bills in London; Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant at Chiefs; T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief vs. Saints; Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown vs. Ravens.

Sneaky stud: Calvin Johnson vs. Vikings

Not sure how sneaky this is, but getting burned so often this year by someone we all know and love may have taking a break until we see him repeat his Week 6. The Vikings play very slow, almost entirely based on running Adrian Peterson into the ground, so the plays per game run by opponents are in the bottom quadrant of the league.

This low overall volume and a decent defense, coupled with Calvin Johnson's very slow start may deter DFS players who see too much risk. But the Lions faced great pass defenses in the Broncos, Seahawks, and Cardinals in Weeks 3 through 5. Exploiting the woeful Bears for a 6/166/1 line was a sign of what is to come.

Matthew Stafford is forced to pass more and more as the Lions prove total ineptitude in running the ball and the Vikings. Johnson had a high-volume 10/83/1 line in Week 2 against them, as Minnesota is allowing 82 yards per game (YPG) to #1 WRs, 11.4 more than the NFL average of 70.6, according to FO. And Johnson is still a well above average #1 WR. Stafford-Johnson is one of the best value-stacks in DFS this week with the prices rising on Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, and Eli Manning.

If you're desperate: Riley Cooper at Panthers

The Eagles are running more often, as they prefer, but Sam Bradford can still sling it 40 times in this affair against a very stout Panthers run defense. With Josh Norman becoming a shutdown corner, who will likely be stuck to the underperforming Jordan Matthews, those targets can go to Cooper, who has 14 targets over the last two week and Nelson Agholor out of the picture. Keep an eye on Cooper's knee injury. If he plays, he is too cheap in DFS to ignore and decent flier for your flex spot in 12-team standard leagues.

Avoid: Amari Cooper at Chargers and Jarvis Landry vs. Texans

As horrid as the Chargers run defense has been, no WR has had more than 79 yards against them this year. This includes shutting down some of the best WRs in fantasy:

#1 WRs vs. Chargers
Week Player Att Yds TD
1 Calvin Johnson 2 39 0
2 A.J. Green 3 45 1
3 Mike Wallace 3 49 0
4 Travis Benjamin 6 79 0
5 Antonio Brown 3 45 0
6 Randall Cobb 2 38 0

This adds to the main concern that Latavius Murray will so dominate the ball that Derek Carr will not be passing much makes Cooper a very high-risk play in 12-team leagues and someone to completely ignore in DFS.

Jarvis Landry has a moderate matchup against the Texans, who are middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed per week to WRs, but he may be getting phased out of the passing attack in Miami. Only four targets to Rishard Matthews' six and Jordan Cameron's eight, despite playing 94% of the snaps. Houston is only allowing 57.2 YPG to #1 WRs, according to FO, to the 75.5 to #2s and 53.0 to TEs. Probably a better week for Matthews and Crawford.

Tight Ends

The obvious matchups to exploit are: Antonio Gates vs. Raiders; Travis Kelce vs. Steelers; Jason Witten at Giants; Jordan Crawford vs. Texans.

Sneaky cheaper DFS play: Delanie Walker vs. Falcons

The Falcons are allowing the most YPG to TEs this season (76.0). Delanie Walker is coming off a week where he was targeted ten times. In Zach Mettenberger's six starts in 2014, Walker played five, being targeted at least nine times in three of those games.

If you're desperate: Kyle Rudolph at Lions and Eric Ebron vs. Vikings

The sheer volume of Lions passing gives Eric Ebron a shot at a nice week. He scored on the Vikings in Week 2 and Minnesota is giving up over 60 YPG to TEs.

Kyle Rudolph isn't the TD machine he used to be, but the Lions have given up four TDs to TEs this year, including one to Rudolph in Week 2. The others were Ladarius Green, Owen Daniels, and Darren Fells, so no world beaters here.

Avoid: Tyler Eifert

Because he's on bye, duh. I don't know whom else. But there is enough upside elsewhere to avoid Jimmy Graham at 49ers and Greg Olsen vs. Eagles in DFS.

Stats via Pro-Football-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.