As we do each Sunday right here, let’s recap the week’s winners and losers from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks of the week’s best and worst.
Will Melvin Gordon keep scoring?
Melvin Gordon might not have the best yards per carry average in the NFL, but he’s finding the end zone. Is his scoring pace sustainable?
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers: Gordon’s “breakthrough” campaign continued on Sunday, as he scored a career-high 29 fantasy points to claim the top spot on the leaderboard among all positions through Sunday. As has been the case in all six of his double-digit fantasy performances this season — those are his only six in his career — Gordon scored a touchdown on Sunday, in fact scoring two. Both were scored on plays within three yards of the Atlanta Falcons’ goal line, bringing Gordon’s performance on those plays to 7-for-9 for the season.
Fantasy-wise, that means 42 of Gordon’s 113 points this season have come on touchdowns scored on goal-line carries, after he scored zero points on such plays in 2015; he was 0-for-1 on carries inside the opponent’s three. It’s the most significant change in Gordon’s game this season, as through seven games he has a 3.34 yards-per-carry average, even lower than his 3.48 mark from 2015. This is largely a role-related shift in Gordon’s fantasy value, though it’s enough to prop him up as a borderline RB1.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins: The fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards in consecutive games, Ajayi followed up his share-of-the-Week-6-lead 32 fantasy points with another outstanding outing, his 27 claiming a share for second-best on the Week 7 leaderboard through Sunday. This was his third career start, and in those three starts he scored a combined 69 fantasy points, which is tied for the eighth most by any running back since the merger:
This was also the first time that a Dolphins running back managed consecutive games of at least 20 fantasy points since Lamar Miller did it in 2014 Weeks 16-17, and be aware that that was the only time in Miller’s career that he had two such games in a row. Ajayi was the most added player in ESPN leagues during the past week, his ownership rising from 42.6 to 74.7 percent, and he was started by his owners in 30.3 percent of leagues. For those curious about what this means for his future prospects, consider this: Arian Foster was active for each of Ajayi’s past two games, yet Ajayi out-touched him, 56-9, in those contests.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: Road success!!! In a week in which Brees’ wide home/road splits generated a fair share of chatter, his 24 fantasy points against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that entering the week had afforded the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks has to be considered a “winner.” That was his best fantasy day in a road game since 2014 Week 15 (27), and it helped narrow his per-game home/road split to 22.4 at home and 16.7 on the road since the beginning of the 2014 season (19 home, 18 road game sample).
Brees was started in 83.4 percent of ESPN leagues, so his owners apparently put little stock in his home/road history, having made him the week’s third most-started quarterback. In fact, dating back to the beginning of 2015, five of Brees’ nine greatest single-week start percentages in ESPN leagues came in road games, including all three of his road assignments this season: 92.1 percent in Week 2 (@NYG), fourth-highest; 94.3 percent in Week 4 (@SD), highest; and this week, ninth-highest.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: The top scorer among quarterbacks, and the individual tied with Ajayi for second overall through Sunday, Luck’s 27 fantasy points were fueled by what was his 12th career game out of 62 with at least 300 yards and three touchdowns passing. He did it against an even less likely defense than Brees, as the opposing Tennessee Titans had allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks entering the week. His fantasy owners took this into account, as his 70.1 percent start rate in ESPN leagues was his second-lowest number this season (58.5 percent, Week 2 at the Denver Broncos).
Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets: For only the second time in his career, Forte was given 30 carries, and just as in the previous occasion (Week 2, 28 fantasy points), he managed to score at least 25 fantasy points — he scored exactly 25 on Sunday. The Jets have been willing to work Forte hard at times this season, but they’ve also been light on his workload at others, leading to extreme inconsistency. To that end, he has managed his fourth- and eighth-best individual fantasy point totals in his nine-year career, but also his worst (1, Week 6) and fifth-worst (3, Week 4) games, already this season.
Landon Collins, S, New York Giants: The star of the Sunday morning game in London, Collins’ eight tackles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, resulted in a 20-point fantasy day in an IDP (individual defensive player) league that awards a traditional one point per tackle and three for an interception. He has 74 points for the season using that scoring, which is only one shy of Zach Brown (75) for the lead among all IDPs. Collins, started in just 52.6 percent of ESPN leagues, which trailed Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson (whose start percentages could shift somewhat by the Sunday night kickoff) among defensive backs, has a DB-leading 10.6 points-per-game average.
Giants defense: Collins’ exploits, coupled with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s two interceptions of his own, helped the Giants to a 20-point fantasy day in London, the team’s best individual performance since 2014 Week 14 (25) and only their second game of 20 fantasy points or greater since their Super Bowl XLVI win. It also tied for the second most in any of the 16 games in London thus far, trailing only the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 22 in 2015 Week 7. Unfortunately, the Giants were started in only 21.6 percent of ESPN leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles defense: The Giants weren’t the week’s top scorers among defensive teams, however, as the Eagles managed 25 fantasy points of their own to capture the position lead through Sunday. They scored their third touchdown in the past two weeks combined, giving them 10 since the beginning of 2015, which trails only the Minnesota Vikings (11) during that time span.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Similarly to Gordon, Evans’ success this season compared to last has been the product of better luck in the touchdown department, as he caught his fifth and sixth touchdowns en route to a 21-point fantasy day on Sunday. That’s his fourth-best individual score in his three-year career, and it pushed his season total to 87 fantasy points, which is more than halfway to his 168 point career best of his 2014 rookie year (15 games) and is 44 shy of his 2015 total (15 games), despite his having played only six games thus far in 2016.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: He might be one of the most frustrating players to own in fantasy football, but Hill has a penchant for big games. He scored 24 fantasy points on Sunday, capped by his 74-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, marking the fifth time in his three-year NFL career that he has scored at least 20. Only six running backs have had more such games since Hill entered the league in 2014: DeMarco Murray (9), Forte (8), C.J. Anderson (7), Foster (6), Miller (6) and Le’Veon Bell (6).
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts: Dwayne Allen’s injury has created an opportunity for Doyle, who, on Sunday, managed his third double-digit fantasy point total this season and second in a row. His 13 fantasy points were two shy of the position lead through Sunday, and he did it while setting career highs in targets (10) and red zone targets (5), both of which were extremely encouraging developments with Allen seemingly due to miss additional time.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots: He scored 24 fantasy points on Sunday, his third-best single-game effort (30, 2013 Week 17; and 26, 2015 Week 3), giving him his second game of at least 20 fantasy points this season, and his fourth (out of six in his career) since the beginning of last season.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles’ struggles are now causing some major concern for Robinson’s owners, who by the way started Robinson in 95.7 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday, sixth most among wide receivers. Robinson delivered a big, fat doughnut on his eight targets, making him only the second player all season to manage zero fantasy points or fewer on that many targets (C.J. Uzomah, zero on eight targets of his own in Week 2). Robinson also has just four fantasy points in his past two games combined, and to put that into perspective, consider that in a 19-game span from 2015 Week 2 to 2016 Week 4, he scored more than that in every individual game. He hadn’t been shut out on the fantasy scoreboard, nor had he scored as few as his two PPR points, since his first NFL game in 2014 Week 1 (0 standard, 1 PPR).
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders: He wasn’t far off Robinson’s performance in terms of fantasy futility, as he was started in 94.1 percent of ESPN leagues, seventh most among wide receivers, and scored only two points (six using PPR scoring). Both were his worst individual scores in seven games so far this season.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: Making his season debut, Eifert was shut out on the fantasy scorecard on two targets. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, most were aware of his prescribed “snap count,” starting him in 7.8 percent of ESPN leagues and preferring to wait for some visual evidence of role and health before activating him.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs: Kelce’s fantasy owners were more aggressive and not much luckier than Eifert’s; Kelce was started in 83.2 percent of ESPN leagues, third most among tight ends, and he scored only two fantasy points on three targets. It was the second consecutive week that he has let down owners who have started him in greater than 80 percent of leagues, as he also had only three fantasy points in Week 6 (81.6 percent started).
Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins: He is quickly becoming a frustrating player to trust from week to week, seemingly alternating good games with bad. Jones scored zero fantasy points for his owners, who started him in a career-high 62.0 percent of ESPN leagues, on 10 carries. Much of that was the result of his sixth career lost fumble, which ties Melvin Gordon (6) for the most rushing fumbles lost since the beginning of 2015.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: His fantasy owners continue to take an optimistic approach to his slow recovery from 2015 ACL surgery, starting him in 61.7 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday despite many pregame cautions that he’d play limited snaps, and Charles unfortunately scored zero fantasy points on one carry. Meanwhile, Spencer Ware, who has done an admirable job filling in for Charles all season, has scored 40 fantasy points combined the past two weeks. Ware’s start percentage, incidentally, was 67.7 percent on Sunday.
Terrance West, RB, Baltimore Ravens: After he dropped a career-best 23 fantasy points on the Giants in Week 6, West’s start percentage leaped to 60.6 percent on Sunday. Unfortunately, his success was fleeting, as the New York Jets limited him to just one fantasy point on his eight carries. In West’s defense, however, backup Kenneth Dixon managed zero fantasy points on two touches of his own, so perhaps this poor outing won’t do much to change the Ravens’ backfield plans going forward.
Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers: The one thing worse than Henry’s one-point fantasy performance on three targets on Sunday was that he was started in a season-high 45.5 percent of ESPN leagues. The opposing Falcons had afforded the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, so starting Henry was an understandable decision, but neither he nor Antonio Gates (started in 26.1 percent of leagues, scored three fantasy points on 10 targets) could get much of anything going.