(Editor's note: Every week this season, gay teenage NFL fan Jeremy Brener will give his perspective and predictions for the upcoming week).
Today marks one year since Michael Sam was released by the Dallas Cowboys from their practice squad. Sam still is the only player to come out during his NFL career. In the last 365 days, all of us have been hoping that someone would stand up after Sam, but nobody has answered the bell. Was his decision to come out a mistake? The answer could not be further from no.
I've been writing for Outsports for three months, and none of my articles has received as much positive feedback than my open letter to Texans owner Bob McNair about his donation to a group opposed to an LGBT rights ordinance in Houston. It is an indescribable feeling for me when people appreciate what I have written. As much as I try, it's hard not to smile. The reason I write is to develop a platform. I want people to hear what I have to say . Words matter and everyone's story is important to listen to. I want to use my platform to inspire others, and all athletes and celebrities have this platform.
The reason why Sam's decision to come out was not a mistake is because he has used his platform to promote equal rights and equality. He is a symbol and a sign of inspiration for others, including me. When he retweeted my article on McNair, I was surprised and satisfied. My article meant something. Sam has been through so much scrutiny due to his trail blazer status, and so many unfair expectations have been thrust upon him. When Sam didn't fulfill these expectations, people crowned him a failure. However, the fact that Sam used his platform to promote such a positive message makes me respect him even more.
Sam is one of many people in sports who use their platform to promote a positive message and display a good example for others. J.J. Watt dresses up as Batman for hospitalized kids, Charles Tillman wrote a children's book to raise money for his foundation, Connor Barwin is heavily involved in Philadelphia's inner-city program and Dikembe Mutombo raises money to build hospitals in Africa. These are several examples of sports people that I've looked up to for the simple reason that they are not only enjoying fame, but they are using that fame strategically to promote their positivity for the world. I want to follow into these people's footsteps, and I hope everyone is encouraged to do the same. Thank you Michael Sam for standing up and making a difference.
Here's the things you need to know for Week 7:
Game of the Week
Philadelphia Eagles @ Carolina Panthers
Just when people were about to call the Panthers a fraud despite their perfect record, they went into Seattle and came out with a win in one of the toughest stadiums to play. And after a disastrous 0-2 start, the Eagles have won 3 of 4 and find themselves at the top of the NFC East. I remember a few months ago when everyone wrote off the Panthers after Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL. Now, they are one of five undefeated teams, the most undefeated teams at this stage in the season in 45 years. I think they will remain a member of the unbeaten club after their game Sunday night. The Panthers are riding a big high after their upset in Seattle, and even though the Eagles have won their last two contests, Sam Bradford's poor QB play will soon catch up to him. Carolina's defense is on the verge of elite, and with the chance to have their best start in franchise history on the line, they won't let go of the opportunity. Carolina wins 24-20.
Upset of the Week
Houston Texans over Miami Dolphins
The Texans and Dolphins have both started the season playing beneath the expectations set for them. They have both seen drastic changes since the beginning of the season. The Dolphins fired HC Joe Philbin after their London loss two weeks ago. (I saw that coming in the offseason.) And the Texans started with Brian Hoyer as their QB, and then changed to Ryan Mallett, and back to Hoyer again. Hopefully Hoyer's strong performance against Jacksonville will lead into this week against Miami. DeAndre Hopkins was a big reason for that success, catching 10 balls for 148 yards and two touchdowns. This week, he has a 3-inch height advantage on corner Brent Grimes, so expect Hopkins to have another big game for the Texans as they go into Miami and beat the Dolphins for the eighth time in eight NFL meetings, 27-20.
Fantasy Start of the Week
Raiders RB Latavius Murray vs. San Diego Chargers
Murray gets his best matchup of the season when he faces the Chargers on Sunday. The Chargers are last in the NFL in yards allowed to RBs. Murray has been a decent options as the Raiders' halfback, but I think this is his game to shine. The Raiders are coming off a bye, which gives fresh legs for the offensive line. The Raiders are not the best team when they are one-dimensional. But, when the running game works with the passing game, they are one of the more sneaky good offenses in the league. Murray is a great bargain add in DFS scenarios as well because he might not carry as large of a cap hit as others might. If you start Murray this week, you'll be getting a good bang for your buck.
Honorable Mention: Cardinals WR John Brown vs. Baltimore Ravens
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Chargers RB Melvin Gordon vs. Oakland Raiders
I had such high expectations for the first round pick from Wisconsin. However, he has coughed up the ball three times in six games. He's in Coach Mike McCoy's dog pound already. He has failed to score double-digit fantasy points this season, and last week, he carried the ball just seven times, while Philip Rivers threw the ball 65 times. Antonio Gates has had a positive impact since he rejoined the lineup, and Keenan Allen caught 14 balls last week. The receiving corps is hot for the Chargers, and running the ball is of secondary importance in McCoy's offense. Don't try to trade Gordon because it is still early in the season and fortunes can change. But in regards to this week, he isn't a great choice against the Raiders. If you are going to start a Chargers running back, Danny Woodhead is your guy. But there are still better options out there than a running back from San Diego.
Honorable Mention: Eagles WR Jordan Matthews vs. Carolina Panthers
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Patriots WR Brandon LaFell
LaFell is the deep threat the Patriots offense needs. He was activated off the PUP list this week and should be able to play Sunday against the Jets. LaFell played WR2 for the Patriots last year and caught 74 passes for 957 yards and seven TDs (all career highs). LaFell went under the radar for fantasy this year due to his injury, but now that he is back, he is the secret weapon that Patriots probably don't need but will gladly use.
Honorable Mention: Vikings WR Stefon Diggs
Lock of the Week
Atlanta Falcons over Tennessee Titans
Ever since the Titans made Tampa look silly in Week 1, they have yet to win a game. Rookie QB Marcus Mariota has struggled and he is not playing at 100% with a bum leg. He claims to have played with the same injury at Oregon, so he should be a go for Tennessee when Atlanta comes to town. Atlanta is coming off a long week in which they took their first loss to New Orleans. The Falcons are well-rested and hungry playing against a banged-up quarterback and a team that was thumped by the Miami Dolphins by four touchdowns at home.
Honorable Mention: Arizona Cardinals over Baltimore Ravens
Buzzer's Best Bet
Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.
Atlanta -4 at Tennessee. Pick: Falcons
Atlanta is 5-1 and has had 10 days off since their only loss against longtime rival New Orleans. They will be ready to go against a Titans team with a gimpy quarterback and struggling in all phases. Julio Jones has had time to heal for the Falcons, while Devonta Freeman keeps scoring touchdowns in bunches. I like the Falcons by double digits.
Last week: 0-1. Season: 5-1
Hot Player of the Week
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is finally becoming a household name. After quietly catching 76 passes for 1210 yards last season, Nuk is turning up the music a little bit louder. He's scored five touchdowns this season to go with 52 receptions for 726 yards. He is on pace to go for almost 2,000 yards and shatter the Texans record set by his "big bro" Andre Johnson. Hopkins is tearing up the league by storm with his ridiculous catches and crazy numbers. Hopkins has finally put himself on the map in the NFL landscape, and I don't see much stopping him from continuing this pattern.
Jeremy Brener lives in Houston. He can be reached via email (email@example.com) or Twitter (@BrenerJeremy).
DeAndre Hopkins photo by Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports