Thursday Night Football went about as we expected, inasmuch as Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady both played well in a game the Buccaneers ended up winning. The particulars were a little less predictable -- a two-touchdown game for Leonard Fournette, a return to Fantasy relevance for O.J. Howard, and Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and DeVonta Smith combining for as many catches and only 8 more yards than Antonio Brown, who also had a touchdown, something none of the other three managed.
That's kind of how things go for those two teams, though. Hurts is gonna get his every week, it seems, but it's an open question as to whether there will be enough room for his teammates to be viable starters; Brady is, likewise, going to get his, and he'll definitely carry his teammates along with him; we just won't necessarily know which teammates are coming along for the ride every week.
I broke down the Thursday night's game in more detail in today's newsletter, so make sure you check that out. But what you'll really need to check out are my game previews for the rest of the Week 6 slate, because I've covered every notable injury in the league on there, and folks ... it's a lot. So many big names enter Friday's practices with legitimate question marks, and we may not get answers to some of them until Sunday morning before kickoff. That means you need to know who is at risk now so you can start making plans.
That's what the previews are for, along with answers to the toughest lineup decisions you're facing and some key storylines for each game. And if that doesn't answer all of your lineup questions, send them my way at Chris.Towers@CBSi.com with the subject line "#AskFFT" and they'll get included in my Sunday morning mailbag — plus, you can catch the Fantasy Football Today YouTube stream Sunday morning at 11:30 am where Adam Aizer and I will be answering all of your lineup questions before the games.
Get ready for Week 6 with all of our preview content here:
- Week 6 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: QB | RB | WR
- Starts, sits and sleepers for every game
- Cheat Sheets: PPR | Non-PPR
- Week 6 Position Previews: QB | RB | WR | TE
- My Week 6 Rankings: Flex Top 150 | QB | RB | WR | TE
And here's what the rest of today's newsletter has in store to help you get ready for Week 6:
- 🏈TNF Fantasy Recap: Buccaneers 28-Eagles 22
- 🔍Week 6 Game Previews: Vegas notes, lineup decisions, and injury updates
🏈TNF: Bucs 28, Eagles 22
- The big takeaway: Maybe we really can trust Leonard Fournette. Those are not words I ever expected to type about a Bruce Arians offense, but he had 22 carries and six targets in this one, turning them into 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He played 63% of the snaps and led the team's RBs in routes run. In fact, with 20, he had more than Giovani Bernard (10) and Ronald Jones (8) combined. Arians is a mercurial sort, especially when it comes to his running backs, but Fournette has now played at least 60% of the snaps in three of five games and looks like a legit No. 2 Fantasy RB right now.
- Winner: Besides Fournette, there are a few candidates. Jalen Hurts had 25 Fantasy points in a game where he completed just 12 of 26 passes, and while he didn't throw the ball consistently well, there were also times when his receivers let him down -- most notably on his lone interception. This just speaks to both the high floor and ceiling his rushing game gives him. I'll also shout out Miles Sanders, who didn't have a particularly good Fantasy game but ran the ball well with limited opportunities (nine carries for 56 yards) and had four targets to just two for Kenneth Gainwell. I don't think Gainwell is coming for Sanders' job anytime soon. And one more shoutout to O.J. Howard, who stepped up with six catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in Rob Gronkowski's continued absence. He still ran fewer routes (18) than Cameron Brate (18), but it was a nice sign from a guy who's had tough injuries over the years.
- Loser: You might think I would put Mike Evans and Chris Godwin here, seeing as neither reached double digits in Fantasy points, but I think we know how this works by now -- they won't hit every game, but they hit often enough in this offense that you can't ever really try to play matchups with them. Just leave them and Antonio Brown in your lineups and ride the ups and downs. If you drafted any of them expecting different, that was a mistake. Also potentially a mistake: Relying on anyone but Hurts in this Eagles offense. I have optimism for Sanders and Devonta Smith, but I don't think I can recommend starting any of them confidently right now. This should have been a great spot for Smith, but he ended up with just two catches for 31 yards on four targets. He's a high-upside WR3 type still.
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🔍Week 6 Game Previews
There's something to watch in every game on the NFL schedule every week, even if you have to squint to see it sometimes. This week, however, there are so many unanswered questions that it's hard to settle on just one thing for each game. Here's a look ahead at every Week 6 game, with some notes on what Vegas is expecting to see, some lineup help and one thing to watch for from each game:
All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Dolphins vs. Jaguars
- Sunday, 9:30 a.m.
- Line: Dolphins -3; 46.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Dolphins 24.75-Jaguars 21.75
Another London game, and folks, we're not giving the British our best product here. The Jaguars offense has been executing better over the past few games and the Dolphins are hoping to have Tua Tagovailoa back from his rib injury, so maybe this one won't be as ugly as you think.
- Toughest lineup decision: Laviska Shenault -- Sit. I'm still not sure what the Jaguars are actually doing here. Shenault was third on the team in routes run behind Marvin Jones (naturally) and Jamal Agnew (much less naturally). As talented as I think Shenault is, he's not going to be able to overcome sitting out one-third of his team's passing plays. You'd like to think the play Sunday where he took a 20-yard out and turned it into a 58-yard gain with four broken tackles might convince the coaching staff to use him more, but it took until the fourth quarter to even get that target, his first of the game, so I'm not optimistic. He's a stash, but I'm not starting him until his usage increases.
- What we're watching for: There's actually quite a lot to watch for in this one. On the Jaguars side, we want to see Jones and Shenault get a lot more involved in the passing game after they were targeted just 27% of the time combined in Week 5. We'd also like to see the Jaguars continue to lean on Dan Arnold enough to make him a viable starter. I think he can be. On the Dolphins side, first, we want to see Tua Tagovailoa healthy and active, because the offense has a lot more upside when he's in. We'd also like to see him start to tap into some of that upside, though with a limited receiving corps, expectations will obviously be mild. It would also be nice to see Jaylen Waddle get more involved than his 15% target share over the past two games. It'll also be interesting to see how the Dolphins use Myles Gaskin, who played a season-high 69% of the snaps in last week's blowout loss to the Buccaneers, one week after playing just 23% of the snaps against the Colts. Was last week's usage just a result of Miami abandoning the run early, or was it them re-establishing him as their lead back?
- Injuries: Tua Tagovailoa (ribs) -- Tagovailoa was designated to return from IR earlier this week and practiced both Wednesday and Thursday. We don't know whether he's been limited or not because players who aren't on the active roster don't have to be listed on the official practice reports, but at this point there seems to be optimism about his chances of playing. He wouldn't be a must-start, even in a two-QB league, but the matchup could make him a viable streamer if he does play ... DeVante Parker (shoulder/hamstring) -- Parker has missed both days of practice this week so far and looks unlikely to play in Week 6.
Bengals at Lions
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Bengals -3.5; 47.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Bengals 25.5-Lions 22
Here's an interesting stat for you: 40% of D'Andre Swift's Fantasy points and 49% of his targets have come in the fourth quarter. Coincidentally, 45% of the Lions' points have come in the fourth quarter as well. Why don't they build the whole plane out of Swift's fourth quarter usage?
- Toughest lineup decision: Tee Higgins -- Start. If I had more faith in the Bengals putting the ball in the air more, Higgins would be an easy start call, but I'm still probably keeping him in my lineup this week. He wasn't great in Week 5, his first back after a two-game absence due to a shoulder injury. But he still has a target share north of 25% for the season and I still expect him to be one of the team's primary red zone options, so I'll keep him active against a great matchup, expecting a bounce-back game.
- What we're watching for: On the Bengals side, it'll be interesting to see if Joe Mixon plays a bigger role this week after he was limited to 28% of the snaps in Week 5 due to his ankle injury. Of course, that depends on if he's healthy; if he isn't, we might get our first extended look at rookie Chris Evans, with Samaje Perine on the COVID-19 list. For the Lions, we'll want to see Amon-Ra St. Brown continue to take on a larger role as the team's top target at WR, and we'd really like to see a re-breakout game from T.J. Hockenson, who has been deeply mediocre over the past three games, catching 10 of 13 targets for just 74 yards. I wonder if his knee is bothering him more than he's letting on.
- Injuries: T.J. Hockenson (knee)/D'Andre Swift (groin)/Jamaal Williams (hip) -- All three have been dealing with lingering injuries that have kept them limited at practice recently, but all three have played through it. The only change right now is that Williams missed practice Thursday with an illness, but we have no reason to think that will keep him out of action at this point.
Vikings at Panthers
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Vikings -1.5; 46 O/U
- Implied totals: Vikings 23.75-Panthers 22.25
The Panthers offense has looked a lot less interesting since Sam Darnold turned back into Jets-Darnold over the past two weeks. Kirk Cousins hasn't been particularly great in that stretch either, so both sides are trying to turn things around.
- Toughest lineup decision: Adam Thielen - Start. We'll have to keep an eye on Thielen's status before we make any other decisions, because he has yet to practice this week due to a foot injury. However, if he does play, you're probably starting him as a WR3 or FLEX. I'm down on Thielen, but I still have him as my WR33, because he's still seeing a healthy number of targets (outside of last week) and almost has to be better than he has been on a per-target basis. I'm not expecting him to be a must-start WR2 or anything the rest of the way, but Thielen should still be start-able.
- What we're watching for: We'll want to see both passing games start to turn things around, though the Vikings look like they might be in an especially tough spot with injuries. Hopefully we'll see a fully healthy Dalvin Cook for them, because I do worry about that ankle injury lingering and leading to either more missed games or a smaller role that makes both him and Alexander Mattison less trustworthy. On the Panthers side, we'd like to see a healthy Christian McCaffrey, who should help Darnold deal with the pass rush quite a bit by giving him a reliable option in the short area rather than trying to force the ball in. Darnold really does need to play better than he has the past few weeks, because he left quite a few points on the board with D.J. Moore especially.
- Injuries: Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) -- Uh oh. McCaffrey didn't practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. It's not clear if there was some kind of setback or not, but this puts his status for Sunday's game in doubt after we thought he might have a chance to play. Let's just hope it was a rest day or something ... Adam Thielen (foot)/Justin Jefferson (ankle) -- Both players have missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, so this is officially something to be concerned about. We'll see if we get better news Friday, but at the very least, make sure you're not going into the weekend without a contingency plan ... Dalvin Cook (ankle) -- Cook practiced in full for the first time Wednesday since suffering the injury in Week 2, a good sign that he is starting to get past this issue. When he played in Week 4, he did so without practicing, so hopefully this means the chances of a setback are smaller. Alexander Mattison (shoulder) was also upgraded to a limited practice after missing Wednesday's. It looks like both should play this week ...
Texans at Colts
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Colts -10; 43.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Colts 26.75-Texans 16.75
Obviously, Vegas isn't buying into Davis Mills' strong performance in Week 5. That shouldn't be a surprise
- Toughest lineup decision: Brandin Cooks -- Start. I've been burned by Cooks two weeks in a row, so why don't we just make it three-for-three, shall we? I don't buy that Chris Moore or Chris Conley are going to be viable options, so this passing game is still going to have to be centered around Cooks. That has led to some subpar showings the last two weeks, but the Colts aren't nearly as tough a matchup as either the Bills or Patriots. Cooks gets loose in this one.
- What we're watching for: At some point the Texans have to go away from Mark Ingram as their lead back, right? There's very little upside in this backfield as is, but Cooks brings the ceiling down altogether. On the Colts side, it sure would be nice to see Jonathan Taylor play in more than 55% of the team's offensive snaps and get more carries -- he has topped out at just 17 so far, after having 18 or more in five of his final seven games in 2020.
- Injuries: There are no notable injuries for this game.
Packers at Bears
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Packers -5; 44 O/U
- Implied totals: Packers 24.5-Bears 19.5
Will the likely absence of Damien Williams (COVID) on top of David Montgomery's injury lead the Bears to finally unleash Justin Fields? He has just nine rush attempts since being named the starter, and two of those were kneel-downs. Inexcusable coaching.
- Toughest lineup decision: Khalil Herbert -- Start. Williams has a chance to play Sunday, but it's quite unlikely at this point. That means Herbert is likely to be the lead back, and the Bears showed a lot of trust in him, giving him 18 carries in his first real action in Week 5. He'll have little competition for carries and the Bears would prefer to run the ball a lot, so he does have a very high ceiling for carries in this one. I would start Herbert over Darrel Williams or Devontae Booker among the waiver-wire running backs, and ahead of Myles Gaskin, Chris Carson, and Melvin Gordon among the lower-end RB2 types.
- What we're watching for: Just, like, four designed runs for Fields. Please? I don't want to ask for too much and potentially cause Matt Nagy a fright, but they actually have to let this guy do what he does well, right? Design some runs where he has options -- his only two runs last week came on a designed QB sweep and a draw. Put him in position to succeed and let us see if he can. This offense is not stacked with talent, but the Bears should be doing more than they have been, and maybe with their RB depth challenged, they finally will. I'm not optimistic -- and I'm not starting Allen Robinson until I see it happen -- but I can remain hopeful. It's all I can do. On the Packers side, I'm interested to see if they continue to get A.J. Dillon involved -- he has 12 touches in each of the last two games and has been productive. He makes an already dangerous offense even tougher to deal with.
- Injuries: Allen Robinson (ankle) -- This is a new injury for Robinson, and the fact that he hasn't practiced yet this week means it's something to be concerned about. Robinson may not need to practice to play, but it'll be even harder to trust him if he's dealing with an injury that might limit him, so hopefully he gets out there without issue Friday ...
Chiefs at Washington
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Chiefs -6.5; 54.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Chiefs 30.5-Washington 24
The Chiefs defense has been nearly as bad as the offense has been good, hence the 2-3 record. That's good news for Fantasy, and expectations should be pretty high for this one.
- Toughest lineup decision: Darrel Williams -- Start. Given the injuries and bye weeks at the position, I'm not sure Williams is going to be a tough lineup decision for most people -- you're probably starting him. (J.D. McKissic might be the better fit for this category, and for what it's worth, I'd start him in PPR this week, too). But Williams is a buzzy name coming off being the top waiver-wire target, so I want to talk about what I expect from him. He'll be the Chiefs lead back, but I don't expect him to just take on Clyde Edwards-Helaire's departed role or anything. CEH had at least 13 carries in every game before his injury last week, while Williams' career high for carries is 13. Jerick McKinnon will be involved, and may end up taking on a significant role in the passing game, so Williams is more like a low-end RB2 for me. This offense just isn't all that great for running backs, honestly.
- What we're watching for: For the Chiefs, most of the attention will be on the running back split, and I would recommend putting in some beat-the-waiver-wire bids on McKinnon this weekend just in case he has a bigger role than expected. On the Washington side, it's tough to say what might happen with Antonio Gibson, who tends to not fit in well in situations where Washington is forced to pass -- a situation you might see going up against this Chiefs offense. However, the Chiefs have also really struggled against the run, so Washington's best hope for keeping it close might be a healthy early dose of Gibson. But don't be surprised if he disappoints in this one if the Chiefs hit a few big plays early. Otherwise, injuries will play a pretty big role in how we view this one, especially if Tyreek Hill isn't able to play.
- Injuries: Tyreek Hill (quad) -- Hill has been absent from practice two days in a row now, which officially makes this a concerning situation for people who have him on their teams. If he plays, you play him, but start making contingency plans just in case he doesn't. Mecole Hardman would likely benefit from Hill's absence and would be in the WR3 range, but he's only averaged 10.6 PPR points per game in five without Hill in his career, so don't think of him as a one-for-one replacement, or anything ... Curtis Samuel (groin) -- Samuel has not practiced this week, but he played in similar circumstances last week, so that doesn't necessarily preclude him from playing this week. However, he did appear to re-aggravate the injury last week, so don't expect much from him even if he plays ...
Rams at Giants
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Rams -9.5; 48.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Rams 29-Giants 19.5
I would imagine this line swings a few points in the Giants direction if Daniel Jones ends up playing, but the Rams will be heavily favored regardless.
- Toughest lineup decision: Devontae Booker -- Start. Look, it goes without saying that Booker is no Saquon Barkley, and I don't expect he'll just step in, play 80% of the snaps and have a huge role in the passing game. But I do think he'll be the clear lead back ahead of rookie Gary Brightwell, and as you saw last week, he should be a factor in the red zone when (if) the Giants get down there. He isn't a must-start player, but the situation Booker finds himself in should allow him enough opportunities to end up a top-20 RB this week.
- What we're watching for: Oh, there's a whole lot to watch for on the Giants side, most notably on the injury side of things. It looks like they'll have both Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard, and while you might think that would be bad for Toney, I'm not so sure it is. Shepard has been terrific working out of the slot, while Toney had 154 of his 189 yards in Week 5 while lined up on the outside of the formation. The question for me isn't whether Shepard and Toney can both be productive at the same time -- it's whether the QB play will allow them to against such a tough matchup. I view both as more like WR4/FLEX options, with a slight bump if Jones plays. On the Rams side, I want to see if Sony Michel's expanded role in Week 5 -- 11 carries, 34% snap share, and a goal-line touchdown -- was the start of the Rams being a little more careful with Darrell Henderson's usage. That could limit his upside a bit, though he's still a top-15 RB for me right now and moving forward.
- Injuries: Daniel Jones (concussion) -- Jones was upgraded to a limited participation in practice Thursday, a good sign as he tries to get cleared in time for Sunday. This offense looks a lot better with him in there than Mike Glennon, though I certainly won't want to use Jones against this defense if I can help it ... Sterling Shepard (hamstring)/Kadarius Toney (ankle)/Darius Slayton (hamstring) -- All three practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, but there seems to be some optimism about their chances to play. We'll see what Friday holds ... Saquon Barkley (ankle)/Kenny Golladay (knee) -- Neither has practiced this week and both are expected to sit out.
Chargers at Ravens
- Sunday, 1:00 p.m.
- Line: Ravens -2.5; 52 O/U
- Implied totals: Ravens 27.25-Chargers 24.75
Oh boy, this one should be fun. Six of the 10 games these two teams have played this season have featured at least 52 points, and with the Ravens committing to the pass more lately, we could see a bunch of big plays back and forth. Kind of like the last game the Chargers played, which featured a tidy 89 points. We'll take one more of those, please.
- Toughest lineup decision: Latavius Murray - Sit. Just avoid this backfield. You want a lot of exposure to this game, but the Ravens running game isn't the machine we thought it was, and they seem to still be searching for an answer -- in Week 5, it was Devonta Freeman playing a season-high in snap share and getting involved in the passing game. For all of our sake, I hope the Ravens continue to lean into the passing game with how well Lamar Jackson is throwing it.
- What we're watching for: Well, I want to see the Ravens continue to lean into the passing game. Jackson sure looks like he's made a leap, and Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews are looking like two of the best players at their positions. And first-round pick Rashod Bateman looks like he's going to make his debut this week. I'd like to see the Ravens come out firing to try to get ahead early. On the other side, well I hope the Chargers just keep doing what they've been doing. They're funneling over 50% of their targets to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler is on pace for 300-plus touches. Given how good those players are, why would they go away from it?
- Injuries: Mike Williams (knee) -- Williams has been held out of practice both Wednesday and Thursday, so it looks like there is legitimate risk he won't play this week. I haven't seen much indication one way or the other beyond the practice reports, so we'll want to keep a close on his status Friday and then to any reports over the weekend. But have a contingency plan ready ... Sammy Watkins (thigh) -- Watkins has not practiced this week, which may give Bateman a chance to play a more prominent role in his NFL debut, should it happen. He isn't guaranteed to play and likely won't log a full snap share if he does, but he's a worthwhile stash, especially if Watkins ends up missing multiple weeks.
Cardinals at Browns
- Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
- Line: Browns -3; 49.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Browns 26.25-Cardinals 23.25
This is an interesting contrast in styles. The Cardinals lead the NFL in plays run with four or more wide receivers on the field with 76, while the Browns have run none. The Browns, on the other hand, have run 100 plays with only one or fewer wide receivers on the field, while the Cardinals have run just 22. That's fun!
- Toughest lineup decision: Chase Edmonds -- Start. This shouldn't be a tough one, if you ask me, but there are doubtless many people who are worried following his 34-yard performance in Week 5 -- probably because not everyone believes in Edmonds like I do! Edmonds still played 61% of the snaps in Week 5, so I'm not sure there's really much reason to be concerned here, especially since James Conner only got 10 carries in that one, too. As long as Edmonds is healthy enough to play his normal role, I think he'll continue to be a higher-end RB2.
- What we're watching for: Does Kyler Murray's shoulder injury limit him? He should play despite being limited in practice, but the concern is that it'll limit his rushing the same way a similar injury in 2020 did -- his rush average was effectively halved after his Week 11 injury. I'd also like to see, as I would every single week, Rondale Moore start to play a bigger role -- he had six targets and three carries in Week 5, but still played 48% of the snaps, fourth among the WRs. It'll be hard for him to be a weekly starter for Fantasy until he's playing more, but he is getting close to Christian Kirk in snaps lately. On the Browns side, I want to see Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham figure out how to get on the same page, though I have no real reason for optimism about that after two-plus years. So I'll just hope David Njoku is a focal point in the passing game again if he's healthy.
- Injuries: Kyler Murray (shoulder) -- Murray looks like he's going to play. Let's hope it isn't serious enough to linger and limit him, but that'll be worth watching ... Chase Edmonds (shoulder) -- Edmonds has been limited in practice yet again this week, but I still expect him to play his usual role, as he did last week ... DeAndre Hopkins (illness) -- Hopkins has yet to practice this week due to an illness, and while the Cardinals have reportedly had a COVID-19 outbreak in their building, Hopkins would have been placed on the reserve list if this were related, so hopefully he'll be able to play through this. We'd like to have some details tomorrow, if possible ... Nick Chubb (calf)/Kareem Hunt (wrist/knee) -- Neither Chubb nor Hunt has practiced yet this week, which seems like a pretty big deal. We'll need to keep a close eye on their status on Friday and check back in on reports before Sunday. We'll have updates for you right here Sunday morning either way. Consider adding D'Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton if you don't have any other options if Chubb and/or Hunt are out ... David Njoku (knee) -- Njoku sat out Wednesday's practice, which was concerning coming off his breakout game, but he was upgraded to limited Thursday, so that's a good sign. He's an interesting high-upside streamer if he is able to play his usual role.
Cowboys at Patriots
- Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Cowboys -3.5; 50.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Cowboys 27-Patriots 23.5
This is a suspiciously high implied total for the Patriots, who are averaging just 19.2 points per game and have only topped 23.5 against the Texans and Jets -- and just barely. Maybe Vegas is as skeptical of this Cowboys defense as I am.
- Toughest lineup decision: Damien Harris -- Sit. If Harris was just dealing with a rib injury, maybe it wouldn't be so complicated. But he's now fumbled twice in five games, with both costing the Patriots possession inside of the red zone. That's a big no-no for Bill Belichick, who has benched backs for less. Whether that means Harris' role is really at risk remains to be seen, but he's pretty much a touchdown-or-bust running back in the best of scenarios, so don't take the chance.
- What we're watching for: I'd like to see the Cowboys throw more, and if the Patriots can manage to keep this one close, maybe they'll have to. On the other hand, the Cowboys threw the ball just 27 times in a close win over the high-powered Chargers in Week 2, so if it wasn't a priority then, do we really think it's going to be against this offense? I'm still viewing Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb as top 20 wide receivers, but I really wish I could feel more confident in that. On the Patriots side, how Belichick handles his running backs will be interesting to watch, though I think you're probably best avoiding that situation this week, and I'm not sure there's much upside there whether it's Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson as the lead back. It'll also be interesting to see if Hunter Henry's eight targets in Week 5 turn into a more consistent role as a 1a or 1b target for Mac Jones moving forward. He should be viewed as a top-10 TE this week.
- Injuries: Damien Harris (ribs) -- Harris was upgraded to a limited practice Thursday, so he's on track to play. Don't expect to get many details until Sunday, especially if he's limited Friday.
Raiders at Broncos
- Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
- Line: Broncos -3.5; 44 O/U
- Implied totals: Broncos 23.75-Raiders 20.25
I haven't addressed it yet this week, but obviously, the Raiders players are in a weird spot here, playing their first game since the resignation of coach Jon Gruden after the revelation of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic e-mails he sent as recently as 2018. It's hard to say what kind of impact switching head coaches so suddenly in the middle of a season like this is going to have on a team that has been reeling over the past few weeks, but it's probably less than ideal for the players. With the rest of the coaching staff sticking around and former special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia taking over as interim head coach, there shouldn't be much of a change in offensive philosophy here, so the questions are more about preparation following what was probably a pretty chaotic week around the team.
- Toughest lineup decision: Josh Jacobs -- Start. On the one hand, Jacobs just hasn't been very good so far this season -- he's averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and 3.5 yards per attempt. On the other hand, he had 15 carries and five targets last week, and has consecutive games with five targets for the first time in his career. The usage is extremely promising, and the efficiency will regress in the right direction eventually, why not now?
- What we're watching for: Derek Carr hasn't been nearly as good over the past two games as he was in the first three, but his approach hasn't really changed -- his intended air yards per attempt has been 8.6 and 9.1 yards in those games, right in line with where he'd been prior. That's a good reason to think he'll figure things out, but it'll be hard to trust him against a Broncos defense that ranks second in points allowed. It will be interesting to see if the Raiders try to change up their approach in the passing game to get Carr going -- I wouldn't mind seeing more targets for Bryan Edwards, who is averaging 10.7 yards per target for the season. On the Broncos side, I'd like to see them find more ways to get Noah Fant going, because he's been awfully quiet. He hasn't been his typically excellent self at making big plays coming off shorter throws with the ball in his hands, so maybe let's see if they try to get him going with a deep shot or two. He's too talented to be averaging 8.4 yards per catch.
- Injuries: Melvin Gordon (hip) -- Gordon had been listed on the injury report in recent weeks with a lower leg injury, so this is a new one. Whether it will change how the team splits work between Gordon and Javonte Williams is an interesting question, though not one we're likely to get a satisfying answer to, since Gordon has been dealing with injuries for a while and has remained in a pretty much even time share ... Josh Jacobs (illness) -- Did not practice Thursday. This is probably no big deal, but Peyton Barber has practiced in full and should be ready to go if needed coming off a toe injury.
Seahawks at Steelers
- Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
- Line: Steelers -5; 42.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Steelers 23.75-Seahawks 18.75
We're going to find out, for the first time really, how much Russell Wilson matters to this offense. But I think we already know. If it weren't for Wilson's injury, this line might be in the completely opposite direction.
- Toughest lineup decision: Tyler Lockett -- Start. I think Lockett has earned the benefit of the doubt for one game to see if he can produce with Geno Smith at QB. I'm not terribly optimistic -- he's my WR28 -- but knowing his ability to create big plays, I'll take a wait-and-see approach with Lockett before writing him off.
- What we're watching for: Yeah, let's see what this offense looks like without Russ. He's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history, while Smith ... is not. But we also haven't really seen Smith play since he was 24 back in 2014, so maybe he's improved enough to be passable. I'm not expecting much against a tough matchup, but we'll see. On the Steelers side, I want to see if Week 5 was just a blip on the radar or if Ben Roethlisberger has found an approach that works for him. He had his second-highest intended air yards of the season, though at just 7.7 per attempt, it was still pretty low, and 150 of his 253 passing yards came after the catch. Of course, he has talented playmakers, so hopefully he can just continue to get the ball to them without holding the offense back. It'll also be interesting to see how Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are used with JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season. Johnson had just two targets in Week 5, which is extremely strange for a guy who had 180 targets over his previous 16 games (min. 50% snap share). Hopefully it was just a one-week thing.
- Injuries: Chris Carson (neck) -- There seemed to be some optimism about Carson's chances of playing earlier in the week, but after two straight DNP's, we have to assume Alex Collins is going to start again. He would be around 25th in my RB rankings if he did start, maybe lower ... DK Metcalf (foot) -- Metcalf has been dealing with a foot injury since Week 4, but Thursday was the first time he missed practice entirely as a result of it. It's not clear if he suffered a setback or was just getting a de facto rest day, but seeing it has to cause a little bit of anxiety, right? Hopefully we get some positive news Friday.
Bills at Titans
- Monday, 8:15 p.m.
- Line: Bills -5.5; 54 O/U
- Implied totals: Bills 29.75-Titans 24.25
The Bills sure look like the best team in the NFL right now -- their +108 point differential is tops in the league by more than 40. The Titans, on the other hand, haven't been able to get their passing game on track and are allowing the fifth-highest yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks so far. That's a bad combo against Josh Allen.
- Toughest lineup decision: A.J. Brown -- Start. Yes, the Bills are a tough matchup. They've held Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin, Brandin Cooks, and Tyreek Hill to just 10.0 PPR points per game on 9.25 targets. This is a defense that has been very good at taking away the big play especially. And Brown just hasn't been very good so far this season, coming off a training camp where he dealt with knee issues and then suffered a hamstring injury in Week 3. But, here's the thing: When you drafted A.J. Brown, did you think there was any way you would sit him if he was healthy against any matchup? No way! So if you're sitting him, you must think he isn't healthy, these three-plus games he has played have dramatically changed his outlook moving forward, or the Bills are a much tougher than even your typical tough defense. It's possible some combination of all three things could be true to the point where sitting Brown makes sense, but I just don't see it. I simply have too much faith in his talent to sit him, especially since he's practicing without limitations again.
- What we're watching for: Having said all of that, I'd really, really like to see Ryan Tannehill start to turn things around. Both Brown and Julio Jones are practicing without limitations this week, and I put a lot more into his 67.3% completion percentage and 8.6 yards per attempt over 28 games between 2019 and 2020 than his 63.6% and 7.2 Y/A marks over his first five games. There's still upside for this offense, and while I won't start Jones this week unless I'm desperate, I'll be watching to see if they can turn things around. Derrick Henry's usage -- 31.2 touches per game, the most in NFL history through five games -- probably isn't sustainable even for him. On the Bills side, I want to see if Zack Moss' leap to 74% snap share -- a career-high -- was just a one-week thing or a sign of things to come. He had just four carries before the fourth quarter.
- Injuries: A.J. Brown/Julio Jones (hamstring) -- Both practiced without limitations Thursday and should be able to play Monday, barring any setbacks.