There are a few truths I hold to be self-evident.
Bruce Allen must be fired.
If you find a good gimmick for a column open, use it again.
Mina Kimes is a rock star.
Mina’s life is about to be even more insanely busy than it already is, as she’s launching a new podcast called ESPN Daily. It’s a 20-minute podcast that comes out every weekday morning, taking a deep dive into a big story in sports. It launches Monday, Oct. 21, and you can get it wherever you listen to podcasts, but why not subscribe now on iTunes and help her launch up the charts? You know how we always say we don’t care if you listen to our podcast, we just want your clicks? Mina’s, you should actually listen to.
Anyways, a couple of days ago I texted Mina and asked her this:
“Hi there! Question and a favor for you. The past few years I have done a gimmick with my column where I ask colleagues to interview me. I’ve done some group ones that you gave me a question for, last year I did one with Jeremy Schaap and before that Michelle Beadle. So, my obvious question is if you’d be willing to interview me for the intro to my column this week? Serious, nonsense and all in between. Ask me whatever you want and I’ll answer.”
Mina, because she’s best, even with all she has going on, responded immediately and sent the following.
Mina Kimes: Why do you go by Matthew instead of Matt? I’ve long wondered this.
Matthew Berry: I’ve written about it before about six years ago, so I encourage you to read about it at the link above if you want all the details. The short TL;DR of it is that when I joined the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) as a young screenwriter, there was already a writer named Matt Berry. So the WGA wanted me to change my name and use a fake name, which, of course, I didn’t want to do. So I had an idea. I had seen this other writer’s credits. A terrific stand-up comedian, he had started writing on the “Roseanne” show. And he listed himself as Matt Berry.
So I asked the WGA if they could ask him if he would agree to always be Matt Berry and I could always be Matthew Berry. Now, Matt Berry had never met me, was there first, and easily could have said “No thanks. Too bad for him,” and there was nothing I could have done about it. But, amazingly, he agreed. Which is incredibly kind and gracious and something I don’t believe a lot of people would do. When I met him a year or so later it was clear that’s just how he is. So even though it has been many years since I have been in Hollywood, it is incredibly important to me that I use “Matthew Berry” and that it is how folks refer to me on air. In deference to my friend Matt Berry and his generosity.
Recently, it has had the added benefit of differentiating myself from another friend and colleague, SportsCenter anchor Matt Barrie.
MK: You’re the hardest working man at ESPN. What would you do if you had a day off with absolutely nothing to do?
MB: Well first, there’s a lot of people that work their tails off here. I would say that’s more the norm than the exception, and that includes a ton of behind-the-scenes people that the public isn’t aware of. I mean, we joke about her boondoggles on the podcast, but as someone who has worked next to Stephania Bell every day for 12 years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone work harder than she does, every day. Field Yates is also a machine. I think about our newsbreakers and reporters like Adam Schefter, Adrian Wojnarowski, Dianna Russini, Josina Anderson, Dan Graziano, Buster Olney, Tim Kurkjian, Cassidy Hubbarth or any of our announcers. Guys like Adam Amin or the legendary Doris Burke, and they are all always flying all over the country. I think about guys like Stephen A. Smith and Dan LeBatard who do TV shows and radio shows every day, I’m sure there are a ton of folks I am forgetting, but the list goes on and on. You don’t get to ESPN without a lot of skills, but a strong work ethic is definitely up there.
But yes, between the three hour-long podcasts a week that are also broadcast live on social and in the ESPN app, the four episodes of The Fantasy Show on ESPN+, the hits on SportsCenter and NFL Live, the 3-hour Fantasy Football Now we do Sunday mornings on ESPN2 (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET!) plus this column and constantly updated rankings … yeah, it keeps me busy.
And the easy answer is just to spend more time with my kids. My twin daughters turn 8 next week and, like every parent of young children, it’s moving way too fast for me. So I definitely get depressed all those nights I’m at the office when they are going to be bed before I get home.
But if I am being really, really honest here … I’m not sure I have ever truly had a day where I’ve had absolutely nothing to do. Because even if I do, the truth is I am a workaholic, and even in days during the offseason where it’s slower and I have no official ESPN duties, I always find one of my entrepreneurial projects to work on. I wish I could relax more, but unless my kids are around, I get antsy and I struggle to just relax and not worry about anything. It’s an issue I am trying to work on – learning how to relax, if you can believe it.
MK: Have you ever felt bad about giving someone fantasy advice that didn’t work out? I hate giving people advice because of the potential for guilt.
MB: All the time. This is actually the worst part of the job. I mean, I feel awful anytime I give advice and it doesn’t work out. When a “Love” or “Hate” goes the other way, it always stinks. But the worst is when someone I have a relationship with asks and it goes wrong. Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, or a celebrity, someone that has my cell number and I can tell they’re excited, and then it goes wrong — I get so depressed. Like they had this special access, and it didn’t work. They are always kind and understanding. They know no one can tell the future so I’m just making very informed predictions and playing the odds. But just because it’s likely that something will happen doesn’t mean it does. But I have to tell you, it just crushes me. Like, my piece of this relationship is to provide good fantasy advice and I’ve let down my part of the bargain.
MK: Does Field Yates ride to work in a sidecar attached to your motorcycle every morning? Don’t answer that — I want to continue believing it’s true. My question is: What’s the skill or talent Field possesses that impresses you the most?
MB: I would love to trash him, but the issue is that the answer is ALL OF IT. He’s incredibly kind and supportive – always. Like I’ve never seen him upset. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Better than I deserve. He’s punctual (I have a huge time-management issue). Like, I do a lot of stuff but at the core it’s all fantasy advice. But he gives fantasy advice. And he also breaks news. And he hosts podcasts and radio. And he works as an analyst on NFL Live and SportsCenter. All of those are entirely different skill sets. So that’s impressive. But if I have to pick one? I am insanely jealous at how good he is at Twitter. For my money, Field and you, Mina, are the two best tweeters at the company and it’s not close. Field is so funny, so quick, so clever on Twitter it drives me crazy. Can’t tell you how many times I see a tweet of his and I’m like “Uh, I should have thought of that” or “Yep, that joke is better than mine.”
MK: What is a piece of content you love — a podcast, a TV show, a song, anything — that might surprise people?
MB: I feel like I’ve written about most of the non-sports content I love. “The Princess Bride” is my all-time favorite book and movie. I love reading mysteries and thrillers. Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Robert Crais are my faves there. I love the Muppets, everything Marvel, Springsteen and Jimmy Buffett, the greatest Christmas movie ever, “Die Hard,” love “Big Brother” and all the classic TV shows like “Sopranos” or “Breaking Bad” but I feel like I’ve written about all that before.
So in terms that might surprise people? I actually really like musical theatre. I love “Into the Woods,” for example. Not every musical, but one of my “When I retire, you know what I want to do?” secret goals is to try to write a Broadway musical. I have some ideas on this – a musical with my own weird spin on it – so that’s probably surprising. I can’t write music, so I’d need help there (I have some ideas there, too), but yeah. I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned that before.
Let’s get to it. Thanks again to Mina Kimes (go subscribe to her podcast! Now!) and thanks as always to the newlywed “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the 06010 podcast and The Stat-a-Pillar Damian Dabrowski of The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ for their help. Here we go:
Quarterbacks I love in Week 7
Josh Allen, Bills (vs. Dolphins): You had me at Miami. He is still available in more than 35% of ESPN leagues, and there aren’t a lot of other QBs I’d rather start this week than Allen at home against the Dolphins. Miami gives up a league-high 36 points per game and allows opponents to complete 70.4% of passes this season (sixth-highest rate). With a rushing TD or at least nine rush attempts in all five games this season, there’s a nice floor for Allen, especially considering I’ve got Buffalo winning this one. Allen has at least 246 total yards in all four of the Bills’ wins this season.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals (at Giants): What do you know, another rushing quarterback. With 21 rush attempts in his past two games, Murray is becoming the true dual-threat QB we saw in college. The accuracy continues to improve as well, as he has completed 68.8% of his passes over the past four weeks (57.4% in the first two weeks). The Giants are tied for the sixth-most red zone drives allowed, and other than the semi-pro Redskins, every team that has faced the Giants this season has seen its starting QB score at least 20.5 fantasy points.
Jared Goff, Rams (at Falcons): Believe me, I don’t feel good about this, either. Last week was, um, eye-opening and scary. But this is me saying the Falcons’ defense is a lot worse than Goff. Atlanta is giving up a touchdown on 7.8% of pass attempts this season (only Miami is worse), and no team forces a three-and-out less often than the Falcons (just 15.3% of the time). Against the second-worst pass defense in the NFL over the past four weeks (and giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs), I believe the Rams come out angry and make a statement here after last week’s brutal beatdown and third straight loss.
Others receiving votes: With more than 16 points in four of five games this season, Jacoby Brissett comes off the bye to face a Texans defense that is the seventh worst against the pass the past four weeks. This game has sneaky high-scoring appeal, as it features two good offenses and two struggling defenses. … I know last week was tough for the Giants and yes, the Cardinals (this week’s opponent) do get Patrick Peterson back this week. But I still like Daniel Jones to bounce back this week in a big way. The Cards give up the third-most passing yards, fourth-most yards per pass attempt, and the third-highest TD rate on passes thrown this season, which puts Danny Dimes back into streamer appeal this week. … With back-to-back 20-point games and facing a Lions team playing on a short week, Kirk Cousins has two-QB league or deeper-league streamer appeal. The Detroit defense is third worst against the pass the past four weeks.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 7
Philip Rivers, Chargers (at Titans): Since Rivers provides no production with his legs, you need him to throw his way to fantasy value. And what have we seen recently that gives you confidence he will do that? A brutal and banged-up offensive line isn’t doing him any favors, nor is the struggling run game. It’s hard to see the Titans getting a big lead here, necessitating a furious comeback, especially in a game with one of the lowest over/under lines on the slate. The Titans are top 10 in yards per completion, interception percentage and fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. No thanks.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Vikings): The last time Stafford had a game with more than two touchdown passes against the Vikings was Nov. 11, 2012. You know, back when “Gangnam Style” and “Call Me Maybe” were the hottest songs around. Facing a Vikings defense that gives up the fourth-fewest total points and only 15.4 points per game to opposing QBs, you can probably do better than Stafford on the waiver wire this week for your Week 7 streamer.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (at Redskins): I know, I know. It’s a pretty brutal week for “QB hate.” But just in case you were thinking of getting cute with Jimmy G because he plays my Redskins … don’t. He has only three touchdown passes in his past three games, as the Niners want to run, run, run (they lead the NFL in rush percentage). With how good this Niners defense is, they aren’t going to need to score much to beat the Skins, so I don’t see heavy passing volume here.
Running backs I love in Week 7
Chris Carson, Seahawks (vs. Ravens): Enjoying the most under-the-radar top-12 season to date, Carson is averaging 21.2 points per game over his past three, and the volume has been insane. At least 26 touches and 104 rushing yards in every game during that stretch, and he’s averaging 4.74 yards per carry. At home in a game with one of the highest expected totals, look for another heavy dose of Carson against a Ravens squad that has allowed 3.4 yards per carry before first contact (the fifth-highest rate, worse than the Redskins) and has yielded eight rushing touchdowns this season, tied for second most in the NFL.
Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (vs. Chiefs): The dreaded Thursday night player, but I’m pretty sure Vic Fangio noticed what the Texans and Colts did to defeat the Chiefs. One of the biggest ways they did it was pound the rock and control time of possession to keep Patrick Mahomes and friends on the sideline. With KC giving up 5.2 yards per carry this season (third most) and eight red zone rush TD (tied for the most), expect to see a lot of Lindsay, who has back-to-back games of 15 carries, as well as four rushing touchdowns in his past four games. He also has four or more catches in four of six games this season.
Josh Jacobs, Raiders (at Packers): My 2019 fantasy ride or die returns from his bye week to face a Packers team that is 25th against the run the past four weeks and is giving up the seventh-most yards per carry inside the red zone this season. Jacobs is a true workhorse for Oakland, and every starting RB that has gotten at least 10 carries against the Packers this season has rushed for a TD. Jacobs has at least 75 rushing yards in four of five games this season, and I certainly expect at least 10 rushes for him in this one. I also love they are starting to use him a little bit in the pass game.
Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida, 49ers (at Redskins): Think the Niners win this one? Me too. As a 10-point road favorite, it’s worth noting the Niners lead the NFL in rush rate when leading (60%). Washington coughs up the sixth-most yards per carry before first contact this season (3.29) and given that San Francisco is second in time of possession (while Washington ranks 31st), I’m good with banking on multiple backs from a run-first offense that projects to have the ball as much as anyone in Week 7. Don’t forget the great 49ers defense: expect a turnover or two, giving San Francisco great field position a few times. I’ll be shocked if at least one of these guys doesn’t score Sunday.
Others receiving votes: With at least 16 touches in four straight games, Devonta Freeman is finding his groove, and as the lead back in what Vegas projects to be the highest-scoring game of the week, give me some Devonta against a Rams team that is giving up more than 20 points per game to opposing running backs. … I’m as surprised as you, but the ghost of Carlos Hyde continues to scare away defensive linemen. Or something like that, because Hyde has gained at least five yards on 40.2% of his carries this season, second best among the 32 RBs with at least 50 carries. With 47 carries the past two weeks, the workload is as good as there is in football recently, and he quietly has scored three times in the past four games. To top it all off, the Colts are tied for the second-worst red zone defense this season. … Remember when I said the Ravens were tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns allowed this season? Well one of the teams they are tied with is their opponent this week, the Seattle Seahawks. Expect Mark Ingram II to get into the end zone on Sunday. … I prefer Phillip Lindsay on Thursday night, but everything I said about KC’s run defense also applies to Royce Freeman, who should get enough work in a good matchup to be flex-worthy. … Certainly not without risk because it’s such a small sample size, but seven of Devin Singletary‘s 10 carries this season have gained 10-plus yards. Healthy and expected to get a decent amount of run against Miami, he’s flex-viable against a Dolphins defense that is giving up 169.6 rushing yards and 1.4 rushing touchdowns per game this season (both second worst).
Running backs I hate in Week 7
Le’Veon Bell, Jets (vs. Patriots): I know. It seems as if every other week I put him on here. But I’ve been more right than not, as he has struggled behind that offensive line and with Luke Falk under center. Now he gets New England, who has been nothing short of elite before first contact this season (third best in the NFL). So the Pats get to backs early and Bell doesn’t break a ton of tackles (he’s 21st among RBs in yards per carry after first contact). The Jets’ offense certainly took a big step with Sam Darnold back last week, but we know New England always takes away a team’s best player. Bell’s 18 carries for 35 yards vs. the Pats in Week 3 doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence, nor does the fact New England gives up only 13 points per game to opposing RBs. That’s why Bell is outside my top 10 for the week.
Kerryon Johnson, Lions (vs. Vikings): Insert RB facing the Vikes here, as Minnesota has given up only 3.79 yards per carry this season (eighth fewest), and Aaron “free him” Jones (23 carries for 116 yards) accounted for much of that. Remove Jones from the equation, and the Vikings are giving up only 3.55 yards per carry this season. They’re a top-5 run defense, and the Lions’ offensive line isn’t helping matters. Johnson is averaging 1.68 yards before first contact (third worst among 39 qualified RBs). It’s unlikely to be a high-scoring game, as Minnesota is the sixth-best scoring defense in the league. I love Johnson, but this is a tough matchup on a short week against one the NFL’s elite run defenses.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers (at Titans): Nothing you saw Sunday night can give you any sort of confidence here. Actually, nothing you’ve seen this entire year with Gordon can give you any confidence. With fewer than 45 scrimmage yards per game and fewer than 14 touches per game behind a really beat-up offensive line, how do you feel confident starting Gordon on the road against the Titans’ seventh-best run defense the past four weeks? Especially with Austin Ekeler there to take about half the touches away. As a road underdog in the Week 7 game with the lowest expected total, Gordon is nothing more than a “hope he falls into the end zone” flex.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 7
T.Y. Hilton, Colts (vs. Texans): With at least 115 yards in four of his past five games against Houston, Hilton couldn’t have gotten healthy at a better time. In fact, his top two career games (and three of his top five) have come against the Texans and it should continue. The majority of Hilton’s fantasy output this season has come when he is lined up out wide, and the Texans have allowed a league-high 10.0 receptions per game to WRs lined up wide.
George Kittle, 49ers (at Redskins): My Redskins have been vulnerable all over the place, and the short pass game (less than 10 air yards) is no exception: fourth-most short yards allowed, fifth-highest short completion percentage, and tied for the fifth-most short TD passes allowed. Why does this matter? Kittle owns a 28.3% short target share this season (second to Michael Thomas among pass-catchers).
Julian Edelman, Patriots (at Jets): Edelman averages 9.5 targets per game this season, and in his past three games against the Jets, he has averaged 19.3 fantasy points and scored a TD in each meeting. Meanwhile, the Jets are allowing the seventh-most yards per game to the slot this season, eighth-most catches per game and sixth-most yards per slot reception.
Michael Gallup, Cowboys (vs. Eagles): Start your pass-catching RB vs. Atlanta, your tight ends against Arizona, your slot receivers against Pittsburgh, and your WR that lines up out wide against Philly. Nine of the 13 passing TDs allowed by the Eagles have been to the receiver lined up out wide (no team has allowed more wide TD passes this season). This season, six receivers have scored at least 22 points against Philadelphia. Those six receivers compiled 89% of their points when lined up out wide. Meanwhile, Gallup has caught 23 of 35 targets this season when lined up wide for 379 yards, and with Amari Cooper banged up, expect Dak Prescott to look for Gallup early and often.
Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, Rams (at Falcons): See Goff, Jared. I’m back in on the Rams’ passing attack in a get-right game against the NFL’s second-worst pass defense the past four weeks. The Falcons allow the third-most yards per pass attempt, they allow opponents to complete passes at the third-highest rate, they have the second-worst red zone defense in the NFL, and allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. I guess what I am saying is they are not very good.
Others receiving votes: Very quietly, Dede Westbrook has seven or more targets in four straight games. That kind of volume against a Bengals secondary allowing the fifth-most yards per pass attempt gives Westbrook legit WR3 value this week. … The Cardinals get Patrick Peterson back this week, and that should help this beleaguered defense. But Peterson rarely goes into the slot, so with Arizona allowing the fourth-most yards to the slot, I like Evan Engram and Golden Tate a lot in this one. Engram is obvious and you were already starting him, but Tate has 15 targets in his first two games back from suspension, albeit likely due to injuries to other top pass-catchers on the team. …You had me at Miami. You already know I’m on Josh Allen this week, so John Brown is very much in play, and if you’re stuck in a PPR league, you could do worse than Cole Beasley. Finally, the Chargers struggle after the catch, and A.J. Brown has shown some nice ability there. Nowhere to go but up for Ryan Tannehill, so this is high-risk territory, but Brown is worth a flier in DFS tourneys.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 7
Terry McLaurin, Redskins (vs. 49ers): In the past two weeks, no player has more than four catches against San Francisco, only one player had more than 27 receiving yards, and in the first five games, teams have entered the red zone against the Niners just 12 times. It’s unreal. Given how poorly the Skins’ offensive line play is, this could get ugly quick. I love McLaurin’s talent, but you’re hoping for crazy volume and some junk time here. That’s because nothing we’ve seen from the Niners’ top-ranked pass defense and the Redskins’ mediocre line play gives you any sort of confidence in this one.
Allen Robinson II, Bears (vs. Saints): The Saints lead the NFL in pressure percentage, and I mention this fun fact because you know who struggles against pressure? Young Mitchell Trubisky. With a shadow from Marshon Lattimore in a game that is expected to be one of the lowest-scoring of Week 7, it’s hard to get excited about A-Rob against the Saints’ top-10 pass defense the past four weeks.
Robby Anderson, Jets (vs. Patriots): Last week was awesome, but the Patriots have allowed just one TD pass this season, and they allow a league-low 5.35 yards per attempt and the third-fewest yards per completion this season (8.63). With an expected shadow from Stephon Gilmore, Anderson is unlikely to have the kind of game he had last week.
Delanie Walker, Titans (vs. Chargers): Hopefully the QB change does something here, because this has been a brutal stretch. Walker has just five catches and 57 yards over the past three weeks, and I’ve seen too much Jonnu Smith getting snaps lately to make me comfortable. Maybe Tannehill is the answer, who knows? (And if he is, what was the question?) But if I can help it, I’d rather find another long-shot free-agent tight end (Josh Oliver, anyone?) than bank on Tannehill initially.