Winning Fantasy Calls for Week 6
Lineup decisions seem to be getting tougher with each week as more fringe options become relevant. Our Dave Richard shares his take on all of your tough calls for Week 6.
Rams at Texans, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Rams had a "get right" opponent in the Jaguars last week but this week they're probably being viewed as a "get right" opponent for the reeling Texans. The Rams defense remains a liability, especially in the secondary. Expect the Texans to get back to their basics and call a clean, high-percentage game for quarterback Matt Schaub.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: My Projection: 12 FPTS
First and foremost, the Texans defensive front is expected to put a lot of pressure on Bradford. Beating the blitz isn't his specialty. Despite Houston's shortcomings, no passer has posted better than 18 Fantasy points over its last four games. Bradford's in trouble.
I'd rather start: Joe Flacco, Geno Smith
Zac Stacy, RB, Rams: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams: My Projection: 5 FPTS
The Texans run defense has been hit hard -- each of the last three opposing running backs scored at least once and the starter had at least 12 Fantasy points. Stacy ran nicely last week against the Jaguars, pushing the pile for extra yardage and playing consistently well. I don't know if he'll get enough reps or have the same kind of opportunities to pick up yardage against this Texans defense. Richardson will take some work away from Stacy, further clouding the issue. Now that Stacy has arrived in the pros, it's hard to feel good about starting him or Richardson.
I'd rather start: Pierre Thomas, Andre Ellington
Austin Pettis, WR, Rams: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Tavon Austin, WR, Rams: My Projection: 6 FPTS
I don't mind Pettis as a one-week replacement option. I don't mind Austin in leagues where special-teams yardage counts. Otherwise these guys just can't be trusted. Pettis has the trust of Bradford, something that can't be overstated. Bradford has looked for him in and near the red zone. Austin leads the Rams in targets and catches but is fourth in receiving yards! Houston hasn't allowed a touchdown to a receiver in three straight.
I'd rather start: Steve Smith, Keenan Allen
Jared Cook, TE, Rams: My Projection: 4 FPTS
JCook's fall from "breakout player" to "Fantasy bust" was ridiculously quick and now he's close to being an auto sit. If it wasn't for Vernon Davis' long touchdown catch last week vs. Houston, there's no way you'd even think about going with Cook. The matchup is kind of appealing since Ed Reed is a shell of his former self at safety and could see plenty of Cook, but we just can't trust him after four weeks of 13 catches, 125 yards and no touchdowns.
I'd rather start: Tyler Eifert, Sean McGrath
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Confidence in Schaub in Fantasy is at an all-time low but you shouldn't be quick to dismiss him after he opened the season with 22-plus Fantasy points in three of his first four. The Rams defense is hardly a buzzsaw -- they've allowed at least two passing touchdowns per week. At the very least figure Schaub to turn in a decent stat line as the Texans give him a simple, low-risk, confidence-building game plan.
Flow chart: Ben Roethlisberger > Matt Schaub > Joe Flacco > Nick Foles
Garrett Graham, TE, Texans: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Of the last 30 touchdowns Schaub has thrown (21 regular season games), tight ends have caught 18 and Graham himself has caught six. He's been acclimated to the offense since his rookie year and has enough experience to handle the full workload. The Rams have been good against opposing tight ends -- none have had more than seven Fantasy points against them. Graham has a chance to be the first.
Flow chart: Greg Olsen > Garrett Graham > Heath Miller > Coby Fleener
Lions at Browns, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
I think the Browns are going to legitimately miss Brian Hoyer, who was playing well before getting hurt last week. Detroit's pass defense doesn't have many big name players, but they've done well against the quarterbacks they've played, holding Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III to three total touchdowns in the last three weeks. Brandon Weeden has his work cut out for him.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: My Projection: 19 FPTS
I'm not that nervous about using Stafford -- unless Calvin Johnson is out again -- in which case I run for the hills. The dilemma I see in the matchup isn't necessarily the coverage on Megatron but the coordinator playing against the Lions. Current Browns coordinator Ray Horton used to call the defense for the Cardinals; last year he did a fantastic job against Stafford with a defense much like the one he's running now. Stafford needs to lean on Reggie Bush and Joique Bell even more to produce a great stat line.
Flow chart: Philip Rivers > Matthew Stafford > Russell Wilson > Colin Kaepernick
Joique Bell, RB, Lions: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Maybe he has a shot at a goal-line score. The Browns have allowed six rushing touchdowns to running backs: all of them have come from 5 yards or closer, four from two yards or closer and three from a yard out. That helps instill a little confidence in Bell as a Week 6 sleeper.
Flow chart: Le'Veon Bell > DeAngelo Williams > Joique Bell > Willis McGahee > Rams RBs
Kris Durham, WR, Lions: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Ryan Broyles, WR, Lions: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Lions: My Projection: 6 FPTS
It used to be assumed that non-No. 1 receivers playing against the Browns would do well. Over the last three weeks no receiver against the Browns has done well -- not even 70 yards! The Browns haven't allowed a touchdown to a wideout since Week 2. It wouldn't surprise me if Calvin Johnson did well (again, if he plays), but his supporting cast shouldn't be trusted.
WRs I'd rather start: Jerome Simpson, Kendall Wright
TEs I'd rather start: Jordan Reed, Brent Celek
Willis McGahee, RB, Browns: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The metrics say the Lions are struggling mightily against the run -- they've allowed at least one rush score to running backs in four of five weeks and at least nine Fantasy points to every starter they've faced. The list is littered with studs but it doesn't take away from their 4.6 yards per carry allowance to backs so far this season. McGahee has a chance to deliver some decent numbers, so don't run from him if you're in a pinch.
I'd start him over: Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns: My Projection: 10 FPTS
The Lions have allowed three touchdowns to receivers in the last two weeks and a 100-yard receiver in each of their last two. Yet the Lions remain one of the top pass defenses in the league. I'm not sure how Detroit does it beyond their pass rush. Last week the Packers picked on cornerback Chris Houston in the second half for big plays and the Browns could follow suit with Gordon.
Flow chart: T.Y. Hilton > Josh Gordon > Danny Amendola > Larry Fitzgerald
Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The Lions have been great against opposing tight ends. Martellus Bennett needed eight catches to land 90 yards against them in Week 4, which isn't bad. You might take that from Cameron. Safety Glover Quin might be assigned to Cameron more often than not -- he'll have his hands full.
Flow chart: Antonio Gates > Jordan Cameron > Martellus Bennett > Heath Miller
Raiders at Chiefs, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
No-brainers: Jamaal Charles
Terrelle Pryor will take the Raiders on his back for another week. This time he'll have to lean on his running because the Chiefs will keep him moving all game long. I'm not sure how well he'll do as a passer -- in some of his previous games he's had time to throw. There won't be much time for him here, especially behind an injured offensive line.
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Raiders: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Pryor has been money in four out of his five starts. The Chiefs haven't allowed a quarterback to throw more than one score in any game this year and they have a four-game interception streak going. The Chiefs pass rush makes me nervous, but Pryor has ways of escaping the blitz with his legs and the yards he gets that way make up for his lack of scoring. Remember, Pryor only has one game this year with more than one passing touchdown.
Flow chart: Robert Griffin III > Terrelle Pryor > Ben Roethlisberger > Cam Newton
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: My Projection: XX FPTS
It sounds like McFadden is going to play after practicing this week. That's a plus for Oakland. Problem is the matchup is dangerous: Only two running backs have scored on the Chiefs and one of them was Chris Johnson last week on a fluky play. Kansas City's run defense might seem stout considering the lack of 100-yard rushers allowed (just one) but the reality is that they're allowing 4.5 yards per carry on the season and 5.3 yards per carry in their last three. But just one rusher has more than 15 carries in a game this season, which is a factor. McFadden should get over that number like he did in Weeks 1 and 2.
I'd start him over: Gio Bernard, C.J. Spiller
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Moore's speed and the likelihood that the Raiders will play from behind make him an asset in this game. A stat I can get behind: Moore has at least 10 Fantasy points in three of four games with Pryor this year and has a touchdown in four of five games with Pryor. He's tough to sit.
I'd start him over: Danny Amendola, Terrance Williams
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: My Projection: 16 FPTS
Three of the best passers in football now have shredded the Raiders for big stats. Two lesser quarterbacks were kept in check. I might give Smith the edge here if he hadn't gone scoreless in two of his last three games. Smith also has completed less than 60 pct. of his passes in three of his last four and has three interceptions in his last two games.
I'd rather start: Nick Foles, Chad Henne
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Oakland has allowed the top opposing receiver in every game to post at least nine Fantasy points. Eight receivers have hit that number through five weeks. If Donnie Avery is out then I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that Bowe gets to at least nine points. I'd feel pretty good about starting him.
I'd start him over: Anquan Boldin, Marlon Brown
Panthers at Vikings, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
There are a lot of interesting quarterback storylines here, none bigger than whether or not Cam Newton is going to play big this week. He's obviously Carolina's best bet to put points on the board, but he simply hasn't been consistent as a passer and his turnovers (six in his last three games and four last week) make him a liability. His offensive line isn't doing him any favors. Worse yet, he's not consistent as a rusher and it's killing his Fantasy production.
No-brainers: Adrian Peterson
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: My Projection: 17 FPTS
If there's a glimmer of hope for Newton it's that the Vikings pass defense is horrid. Three of the four opposing passers have put up 23 or 24 Fantasy points with Ben Roethlisberger the only one to fall short with 17, despite 383 passing yards (two turnovers hurt his plight). They've all had at least 290 yards passing, but the Vikings have eight sacks in their last two games against bad offensive lines. The Panthers are soft there. Expect the Vikings to blitz Cam a ton, particularly since he's not running around as much as in the past.
I'd rather start: Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Three out of four running backs to play the Vikings have posted at least 16 Fantasy points -- only the Browns backs in their first game after trading Trent Richardson couldn't get there. Williams might not get there either, but at the very least he should contend for half of those numbers. I'd put him in the low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back conversation.
Flow chart: Danny Woodhead > Stevan Ridley > DeAngelo Williams > Le'Veon Bell > Maurice Jones-Drew
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
This could be the week for Smitty. Minnesota has allowed 100 yards and a touchdown to a receiver in three straight games. Two of the three have been No. 1 receivers; the third was Jerricho Cotchery, who put up his numbers in a come-from-behind game. The Vikings secondary isn't very good but Smith has left a lot of stats on the field (dropped a touchdown pass last week). He might get going this week.
I'd start him over: Larry Fitzgerald, Terrance Williams
Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: My Projection: 11 FPTS
It's another good matchup for Olsen, who fell short after a hot start last week at Arizona. The Vikings have allowed at least seven Fantasy points to a tight end in every game this season. The defense (not including the kick-block unit) has allowed five scores through four games. Even at less than 100 percent, Olsen has to be in lineups.
I'd start him over: Jermichael Finley, Heath Miller
Matt Cassel, QB, Vikings: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Is Cassel a sleeper? Nope -- the Panthers have yet to allow a passer to notch more than one score against them this year. Cassel had a stunning Week 4 against the Steelers but I wouldn't trust him this week.
I'd rather start: Chad Henne, Andy Dalton
Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The last time Jennings had two touchdowns in a game he scored two more in the one right after (Week 17 last year and the Packers' Wild Card win, both against the Vikings). I don't like that he had just four targets in Week 4 -- I'd like him to have more. The Panthers have allowed two touchdowns to receivers all year and have limited the likes of Victor Cruz and Larry Fitzgerald in consecutive weeks.
I'd rather start: Keenan Allen, Austin Pettis
Eagles at Buccaneers, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Last week, Eli Manning proved that just because you play the Eagles doesn't mean you'll rack up a ton of Fantasy points. But it helps. Four of five passers to play the Eagles have not only thrown two or more touchdowns, but also had at least 325 yards passing. While even that might not be enough to trust Bucs rookie Mike Glennon, it should give Tampa Bay a chance to move the ball consistently through the air. Philadelphia might have a harder time doing just that.
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: My Projection: 17 FPTS
We saw Foles do a terrific job running the Philly offense last week against the Giants, better than his stats would indicate. But that's partially because of the opponent. The Bucs defense is legit, shutting the door on the likes of Drew Brees and Tom Brady already this year. Foles is a decent replacement for Michael Vick, nothing more.
I'd rather start: Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: My Projection: 12 FPTS
The matchup is tough -- the Bucs haven't allowed a receiver to have any more than 87 yards in a game this year -- but it's not as ugly as it was a couple of weeks ago. In the Bucs last two games, they've allowed 298 yards to receivers with three touchdowns. Jackson's best work has come in games where he's catching a lot of passes -- we're talking six or seven. The Bucs have allowed six-plus receptions to four receivers over four games including three in their last two.
I'd start him over: Randall Cobb, Antonio Brown
Brent Celek, TE, Eagles: My Projection: 7 FPTS
If the Eagles are going to have an edge in the passing game beyond D-Jax, it's with their tight ends. Celek is the best bet to deliver against an overly aggressive Bucs defense that played well against teams with poor tight end options (Pats, Cardinals), but have floundered against more appealing ones (Jets, Saints).
Flow chart: Jordan Reed > Brent Celek > Coby Fleener > Brandon Pettigrew
Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Ride 'em. The Eagles defense is a sloppy mess and the Buccaneers offensive line coming off a week's worth of rest should be able to hold up enough for Mike Glennon. Eight receivers have posted at least 10 Fantasy points against Philly through five weeks -- five receivers have posted at least two touchdowns!
I'd start Jackson over: Jordy Nelson, Danny Amendola
I'd start Williams over: Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin
Bengals at Bills, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
No one is talking about it, but the Bills defense is getting healthy in a major way. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd are both practicing this week with intentions of playing on Sunday. That makes for a tough matchup for Andy Dalton & Co. I might expect this game to be a little closer than you might expect.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Four out of five quarterbacks have thrown two touchdowns against the Bills this year, but that's with their secondary a mess. Only one quarterback has exceeded 20 Fantasy points so far against the Bills, however. Dalton is not worth the risk this week.
I'd rather start: Nick Foles, Chad Henne
Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals: My Projection: 10 FPTS
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals: My Projection: 9 FPTS
My initial response to this matchup was that the Bengals would lean on the run game to diffuse the Bills, but the defense's metrics aren't as bad as you might think. They've allowed one rushing score to running backs on the year (Willis McGahee at the goal line last week). They've yielded 13-plus Fantasy points to three backs but nobody else has had any more than eight points. This isn't a pushover run defense. The only way the Bengals' backs dominate is if they're killing the clock in the second half, which, frankly, is very possible given the state of the Bills offense.
I'd start Bernard over: Darren Sproles, C.J. Spiller
I'd start Green-Ellis over: Stevan Ridley, DeAngelo Williams, Willis McGahee
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: My Projection: 15 FPTS
The Bills have allowed eight touchdowns and four 100-yard games to receivers through five games. That's a juicy stat but the return of Stephon Gilmore sort of changes how you should view the Bills defense. Green's been in a cold streak that has left Fantasy owners disappointed, but even this matchup isn't steep enough to even think about sitting him.
I'd start him over: Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: My Projection: 11 FPTS
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills: My Projection: 9 FPTS
You don't have to be Marv Levy to guess the Bills will build their game plan around their running backs. Quarterback Thad Lewis has the experience of one NFL game -- they're not going to lean on him unless they have to. The Bengals run defense looks excellent on paper, but they've taken on soft opponents most of the year. They're beatable.
I'd start Jackson over: Gio Bernard, Darren Sproles
I'd start Spiller over: Trent Richardson, Chris Johnson
Steve Johnson, WR, Bills: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Robert Woods, WR, Bills: My Projection: 6 FPTS
A lack of practice time and a sore back makes Johnson a risk this week. A matchup against the Bengals makes him and Woods very risky plays. The Bengals secondary has allowed two touchdowns to receivers this year, none in the last two games when they've been without top cornerback Leon Hall. An inexperienced quarterback who has a limited track record of modest stats is icing on the cake to pass on these guys.
I'd rather start: Keenan Allen, Golden Tate
Packers at Ravens, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Packers defense could be in some trouble here. Ruled out for the game are linebackers Brad Jones and Clay Mathews (Mathews will be out for a while with a thumb injury). Their replacements are former defensive lineman Mike Neal coming off the edge and likely Andy Mulumba in the middle of the defense. These changes should help out the Ravens since the pass rush doesn't figure to be as threatening. Joe Flacco could end up with a decent game.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
This Ravens run defense is no joke -- they've allowed one touchdown to running backs all season. The one that got it had 14 Fantasy points; everyone else has had seven or less. Unless the Packers plan to give Lacy 25-plus carries, we're probably talking about a good-but-not-great week for him.
Flow chart: Bilal Powell > Eddie Lacy > Le'Veon Bell > Maurice Jones-Drew
James Jones, WR, Packers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
We're pretty close to calling Jones a must-start. I mean the guy has over 100 yards and/or a touchdown in three straight games. So why are people still afraid to start him? Maybe it's the targets -- he has 28, Nelson has 30 and Cobb has 40. It can't be the yardage -- he's ahead of Cobb there and tied with Cobb for second in touchdowns. Mind you, this is all with Jones being shut out Week 1. A problem, and this goes for all the Packers' star receivers: Baltimore has allowed just one score to a receiver in their last four games.
I'd start him over: Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald
Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Surprisingly, tight ends have fared well against the Ravens. Three of five have posted at least nine Fantasy points with only Owen Daniels the only "name" tight end not to succeed against the Ravens (all the Texans were stifled that day). Finley is worth starting unless you have a primo option.
I'd start him over: Brent Celek, Heath Miller
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Until last week, every quarterback to take on Green Bay had thrown for two or more scores and totaled at least 19 Fantasy points. Flacco will have his full assortment of receivers and should play better at home compared to his last two efforts on the road. He's in the mix as a bye-week replacement.
Bye-week QB flow chart: Matt Schaub > Joe Flacco > Colin Kaepernick > Nick Foles
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Smith's Fantasy production over his last five: 9, 8, 9, 22 and 12. Proof he's improving. Last year, Smith never had three straight games with 10-plus Fantasy points, but this could be different. A receiver has scored on the Packers every single week (six total in four games) with four totaling at least 10 Fantasy points. Every No. 1 receiver worth his weight has crushed the Pack. It's Torrey's turn.
I'd start him over: Reggie Wayne, Cecil Shorts
Marlon Brown, WR, Ravens: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Brown is coming off an injury that cost him last week. He's scored in three of his first four games and takes on a Packers defense that has allowed clear-cut No. 2 receivers to land nine or more Fantasy points in each of their last three games.
I'd start him over: Rams WRs, Bills WRs
Steelers at Jets, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
This should be a defensive battle, though the Steelers throw some variables into that mix. So far this season, Pittsburgh's defense has been a shell of itself while the offense has been mostly unsatisfying. A week off to re-tool and to give rookie Le'Veon Bell some coaching pointers after a successful first game should go a long way in attacking a Jets defense that bent badly (but didn't break) against the Falcons late last week.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Two of the last three starters to face the Jets have been great, posting well over 20 Fantasy points. But how well will Big Ben be protected? The Jets' D-line is very strong and the Steelers struggled with pass protection in their last game (five sacks). Another factor is Roethlisberger's track record vs. Rex Ryan coached defenses. It's awful. Only twice in nine meetings going back to 2005 (including the playoffs) has Roethlisberger had a solid stat line for Fantasy purposes. It sounds like Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie will play, which allows the Jets to take some chances to blitz Big Ben. Consider Roethlisberger a decent bye-week replacement unless Cromartie is ruled out in which case he'd be a Top 12 type of passer.
Bye-week QB flow chart: Russell Wilson > Ben Roethlisberger > Matt Schaub > Joe Flacco
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
I wouldn't feel too good about Bell. The Jets were dominant vs. running backs until the Falcons dusted them for three total touchdowns to their backups. It's the type of thing that might refocus the unit for this game. The Jets still have an impressive 2.9 yard rushing average allowed on the season. Bell averaged 3.6 yards per carry in his debut against a bad Vikings run defense.
I'd rather start: Eddie Lacy, DeAngelo Williams
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Steelers: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Whereas the Jets have been great against rushers, they've struggled with receivers. Four have posted at least 11 Fantasy points against them. Each of the four that caught a minimum of six passes against them have delivered a minimum of eight Fantasy points, which isn't so bad. Brown will be the receiver Roethlisberger looks to the most and I like his chances to get away from Antonio Cromartie and make plays all over the field. Cotchery has been a reliable receiver for Roethlisberger, delivering either 50 yards or a touchdown in every game this year. Think bye-week replacement with him.
I'd start Brown over: Josh Gordon, Danny Amendola
I'd start Cotchery over: Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd, Rod Streater
Heath Miller, TE, Steelers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
I don't mind Miller this week. The Jets have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in each of their last three games, not including a 10-catch, 97-yard game from Tony Gonzalez on Monday. Expect a minimum of seven points from Miller.
I'd start him over: Garrett Graham, Coby Fleener
Geno Smith, QB, Jets: My Projection: 15 FPTS
It's real simple: When Smith has time to throw, he's dynamite. If a blitz makes him run or a coverage confuses him, he's atrocious. Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel got some unexpected play from Greg Jennings in Week 4 to help him post a season-best 21 Fantasy points against the Steelers. No quarterback has been within three points of that mark. I'd be cautious in starting Smith.
I'd rather start: Alex Smith, Andy Dalton
Bilal Powell, RB, Jets: My Projection: 9 FPTS
So long as Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson are healthy, Powell's playing time will be limited by comparison to other starting backs. The Steelers have been uncharacteristically poor vs. running backs, allowing seven total TDs to the position over four games with at least 16 Fantasy points to each of the last three starting rushers they've faced. It's a scary proposition to start Powell but if the Steelers struggle, he's the one with the best chance of performing.
I'd start him over: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Le'Veon Bell
Jaguars at Broncos, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
If I'm Jacksonville, I throw the kitchen sink at the Broncos. I go for it on manageable fourth downs, I kick on-sides, I run trick plays (hello, Denard Robinson!) and I lean heavily on my three playmakers: Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and Maurice Jones-Drew. I suspect the Jaguars will try a lot of things but ultimately throw a lot while playing to keep pace. Expect a high-scoring game that finishes within 24 points or so.
Chad Henne, QB, Jaguars: My Projection: 17 FPTS
Henne has a shot to be helpful in Fantasy. As a byproduct of Peyton Manning's perfect offense, the Broncos defense is ranked last in the NFL against the pass and have allowed 20-plus points to the quarterbacks on four of five teams they've faced. Every team has thrown for at least 297 yards but interestingly enough, only two have had multiple passing touchdowns. Henne might finish just shy of the 20-point barrier, but he still qualifies as a one-week replacement.
Bye-week QB flow chart: Matt Schaub > Joe Flacco > Chad Henne > Alex Smith
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Denver has allowed running backs to score eight times this year but have allowed a stunning 2.8 yards per carry. It helps that teams aren't running much on the Broncos, averaging less than 20 carries per week. MJD is no better than a third rusher this week -- it's hard to trust him to be effective as a receiver (where the Broncos have struggled) when he has six catches for 41 yards through five games.
I'd rather start: DeAngelo Williams, Willis McGahee
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars: My Projection: 14 FPTS
The stud receiver came back with a bang last week against the Rams and should have plenty of opportunities to put up some numbers this week. Seven wideouts have posted 10-plus Fantasy points against the Broncos this season, including three last week! Four of five No. 1 receivers have hit at least nine Fantasy points against them. Blackmon is pretty much a must-start.
I'd start him over: Torrey Smith, Andre Johnson
Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars: My Projection: 12 FPTS
If you read up on Blackmon then you'd know just how bad the Broncos have been vs. receivers. But check this out: Non-No. 1 receivers have posted at least eight Fantasy points in four of five games against Denver. Jacksonville's passing game is far from weak. As for Shorts, he has at least 10 targets per game in 2013. I don't mind him one bit.
I'd start him over: Randall Cobb, Antonio Brown
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: My Projection: 13 FPTS
I've turned the corner on Moreno, but it took me longer than it should have. Seeing the Broncos (read: Peyton Manning) lean on Moreno as much as they did last week was impressive. He had 24 touches, double what he had to begin the year. He's had at least 4.9 yards per carry in three of his last four games and faces off against a Jaguars defense that's allowing 4.9 yards per carry to backs this season.
I'd start him over: Frank Gore, Reggie Bush
Titans at Seahawks, Sun., 4:05 p.m. ET
This one should get one-sided rather quickly. Tennessee's offense was pretty rough last week with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. They were saved by a pair of improbable plays -- a flip to Chris Johnson taken to the house for a touchdown and a quarterback sneak for another score. Everything else the Titans did paled in comparison to what they were like with Jake Locker. Heading to Seattle to play a tough defense coming off a loss in a tough environment is a steep challenge.
No-brainer: Marshawn Lynch
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: My Projection: 5 FPTS
The stats say the Seahawks are struggling vs. running backs as they've allowed four touchdowns to the position over the last three weeks. However, one was in garbage time of a blowout, another was also in garbage time and went to a backup, a third went to a backup in a tough game last week and the fourth was a reception by Arian Foster. Seattle is yielding 3.5 yards per carry to rushers this season. Johnson has averaged 3.8 yards per carry or less in all but one game this year. I'd be real careful starting Johnson.
I'd rather start: Stevan Ridley, Maurice Jones-Drew
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Wilson is a tough quarterback to get a beat on. The Titans pass defense is among the stiffest in football as they have allowed just one quarterback to do better than 13 Fantasy points against them. Heck, they've allowed just six passing touchdowns. But the Colts were equally adept last week and Wilson chewed them up for 210 yards passing, 102 yards rushing and two scores. Wilson's rushing game has exploded over the past couple of weeks in big part because of pass rushers getting to him. The Titans' front is pretty good and could make Wilson move out of the pocket quite a bit. But the secondary for Tennessee is quite good. I don't think Wilson can be dominant like he was against Jacksonville, but I can't rule out two scores and some nice rushing yardage. Playing at home, he's worth the risk.
Bye-week QB flow chart: Terrelle Pryor > Russell Wilson > Matt Schaub > Joe Flacco
Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks: My Projection: 7 FPTS
I wouldn't start Tate unless absolutely desperate, but there are some things to point out: One, he's scored seven of his 11 career touchdowns in Seattle. He has at least five catches and 60 yards in two of his last three games. Despite a slow start, he still leads the team in targets with 32. He also happens to be a Nashville native, so maybe there's some added motivation for him.
I'd rather start: Greg Jennings, Kenbrell Thompkins
Saints at Patriots, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
There are so many variables in a matchup that should be high scoring. If the Patriots are indeed without Rob Gronkowski then the Saints defense could take more liberties with its pass rush. That's been a huge secret to their success -- quarterbacks get stuck being forced to pass while playing from behind and the Saints' pass rushers can get to the quarterback. We saw Brady's game sway a little bit last week thanks to the Bengals pass rush.
Darren Sproles, RB, Saints: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Weird: Sproles played just 15 snaps last week to Thomas' 48. Injuries aren't to blame -- the Bears admitted after the game they had a high priority on slowing Sproles down and the Saints didn't want to put him out there much once they had a 23-6 lead in the third quarter and a hot-hand rusher in Thomas. The Patriots might have a similar plan but they're thin on D-line talent with Vince Wilfork out for the year and now veteran Tommy Kelly also set to miss the game with a knee injury. The Pats have allowed nearly 140 total yards per game to backs this season -- that includes when they had Wilfork and Kelly healthy.
I'd start Sproles over: C.J. Spiller, Trent Richardson
I'd start Thomas over: Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson
Marques Colston, WR, Saints: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Colston wasn't needed last week -- the Saints got out to a huge lead and Colston was left to catch both of the two targets sent his way. He never had fewer than six in a game this season and had at least that many in 10 of 16 games last year. After giving up two touchdowns in Week 1, the Patriots haven't allowed a receiver to score since, closing down the likes of Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones and A.J. Green last week. Only Jones has had over 100 yards and only two wideouts have had more than 70 yards against the Pats. It'll take a leap of faith to start Colston.
I'd rather start: Bucs WRs, James Jones
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Quality quarterbacks (Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler) have found a way to post over 300 yards and multiple scores on the Saints this season. Lesser ones (Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill) have fared much worse. Which one is Brady? He hasn't been amazing this year, posting only one game over 19 Fantasy points. His healthy wide receivers shouldn't be as much of a liability as they were last week but it's still tough to completely trust him without Gronk. I've moved him out of my Top 12.
I'd rather start: Matthew Stafford, Terrelle Pryor
Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots: My Projection: 8 FPTS
What's being overlooked is that the Saints defense has allowed 4.8 yards per carry and two touchdowns to running backs in their last three games. No one is willing to stick with the run against the Saints -- only one player has more than 13 carries/16 total touches against them this year! Unfortunately there are no guaranteed carries for Ridley, who is expected to play. He's no better than a cautious low-end option this week.
I'd rather start: Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Be it because of reputation, targets or something else, Amendola seems to be the preferred Fantasy option. Brady did target Amendola nine times last week and Amendola led the Pats in receiving yards -- with only 55. With Amendola and Gronk on the field, expect the targets to grow short for Thompkins and Edelman. New Orleans is coming off a game where it gave up 218 yards to Alshon Jeffery and two touchdowns to receivers.
I'd start Amendola over: Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin
I'd rather start over Thompkins and Edelman: Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald
Cardinals at 49ers, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
This game will be a test for the Niners' run game, which is now their preferred way to move the ball. The Cards haven't allowed a touchdown or a 10-point Fantasy game to a running back yet this year. Frank Gore is a great candidate to challenge them, though -- he's had 10-plus Fantasy points in three straight and the Niners defense should put Gore in a position to grind down the Cardinals into the second half.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Cardinals: My Projection: 4 FPTS
Last week the Cards' backs split reps evenly. This week we could/should see Ellington see a little more work. It's evident he's the passing downs back and the guy with more speed and quickness to his game. Unfortunately the matchup isn't ideal: The Niners have allowed five rushing touchdowns (six total) to running backs this year, but none in the last two weeks -- without Patrick Willis at linebacker.
I'd rather start: Joique Bell, Pierre Thomas
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 9 FPTS
This was supposed to be the year Fitzgerald re-emerged as a Fantasy legend, but it really hasn't been easy for him. In the two games he has scored he's had at least nine targets; in the other three he's had six or fewer and posted 64 yards or less with no touchdowns. It's aggravating. The Niners are going to get in Carson Palmer's grill, making it hard for him to connect with Fitz on long passes. Fitzgerald struggled in both games last year vs. the Niners when he still had quarterback/pass protection issues. Nothing's changing.
I'd rather start: Denarius Moore, Steve Smith
Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers: My projection: 17 FPTS
On one hand, the Niners will do what they do and that's run the ball. But this matchup isn't all roses for the run game and Kaepernick might be asked to make more plays than he has in the last two weeks combined. He's a scary proposition but I really like the matchup for Vernon Davis. Enough to start Kap? Probably not, but it's close. The Cards allowed three straight quarterbacks to post 21-plus Fantasy points before crushing Mike Glennon and Cam Newton in consecutive weeks.
Flow chart: Matt Schaub > Colin Kaepernick > Cam Newton
Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Cardinals have been solid vs. opposing No. 1 receivers -- only two of four touchdowns Arizona has allowed to wideouts have gone to a No. 1 guy -- Calvin had them. Steve Smith nearly had a score last week (drop) but he and others like Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston have been shut down. Only Calvin has had 10-plus Fantasy points this year against the Birds. Boldin will be motivated vs. his former team but if Patrick Peterson covers him a bunch then it's going to be tough.
I'd rather start: Mike Williams, Marques Colston
Redskins at Cowboys, Sun., 8:30 p.m. ET
Expect points. The Redskins are allowing 28.0 points per game and the Cowboys 27.2 points per game. The Redskins are going to have to find ways to score in order to compete because their defense is going to get ripped. Look for the Redskins to try and get Alfred Morris going early to set up play-action.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: My Projection: 23 FPTS
Four of the five quarterbacks to play Dallas have not only posted 20 Fantasy points, they've posted 25 points or more! Dallas has allowed a pair of four-score games (one to each Manning) and a three-touchdown game at San Diego. We haven't seen Griffin's arm really hum but this matchup should do the trick. When he played on a national stage at Dallas last year he threw four touchdowns with 304 passing yards.
I'd start him over: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers
Jordan Reed, TE, Redskins: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Reed is a big-time sleeper. He has five catches in two of three games and a touchdown in the game he didn't have five grabs in. The Cowboys have stunk vs. tight ends, allowing four scores in their five games this season. I suspect we'll see more of Reed.
Low-end TE Flow chart: Heath Miller > Jordan Reed > Coby Fleener > Sean McGrath
Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys: My Projection: 6 FPTS
The hunch here is that Williams retains a lot of playing time and gets some chances to attack the Redskins downfield. Washington has allowed 222.8 yards per game just to receivers with five touchdowns. The Cowboys should throw a lot and Williams and Austin should catch a good amount. The difference is that Austin wasn't very productive even before he got hurt, totaling 15 catches for 125 yards in three games.
I'd start Williams over: Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin
I'd rather start over Austin: Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate
Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Look for another big game from Witten. I was surprised just how effective he wound up being last week, but the Broncos left him open while defending the deep pass. The Redskins defense is a mess so it's tough to expect them taking anyone on Dallas away from Romo. Witten will take on a Redskins defense that has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in every single game they've played thus far, with three of the tight ends getting at least 10 Fantasy points.
I'd start him over: Garrett Graham, Antonio Gates
Colts at Chargers, Mon., 8:40 p.m. ET
There's a pretty good chance both teams forget about running the ball and go to the air against each other. The Chargers' weak link in the defense is their pass rush and pass defense, making Andrew Luck a candidate to be crazy productive. The Colts pass defense is equally strong but Philip Rivers will be the best quarterback they've played. Indy's cornerbacks will have to bring their A game to slow Rivers down.
No-brainers: Antonio Gates
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts: My Projection: 22 FPTS
You can't help but love Luck. The Chargers' pass rush was good last week but I'm not sure they can be as strong this week against Luck and live to tell about it. The Chargers pass defense is a mess -- every quarterback to play the Chargers has posted at least 22 Fantasy points. I really liked how Luck and Hilton clicked last week against a great Seahawks defense -- this game should have more positive results.
I'd start him over: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers
Trent Richardson, RB, Colts: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Richardson actually put together a decent half of football last week vs. Seattle, totaling 54 yards on 12 carries (look -- a 4.5 average!). Maybe it's a sign of a breakout. The Chargers have yielded 4.5 yards per carry to running backs but haven't allowed a single touchdown to a running back, a list that includes Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Chris Johnson and DeMarco Murray. However, all four of those running backs had at least eight Fantasy points (McCoy had 16). Teams have routinely been inside the Bolts' 10-yard line, but it's been touchdown passes and a pair of quarterback runs that have accounted for scores, not rushes from running backs. Just know those opportunities are there and the Colts don't mind running it in.
Flow chart: C.J. Spiller > Trent Richardson > Danny Woodhead > Eddie Lacy
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: My Projection: 13 FPTS
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: My Projection: 11 FPTS
The Chargers have allowed seven touchdowns and six 11-plus Fantasy point games to wideouts. Their cornerbacks stink. Luck found success throwing deep to Hilton last week (about time!) and he's going to test it again this week for sure. Wayne can work everywhere else. Last week, two Raiders receivers each had 11 or more Fantasy points against the Chargers. Both Colts receivers should be starting.
I'd start them over: Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston
Coby Fleener, TE, Colts: My Projection: 6 FPTS
The magic formula for Fleener seems to lie in the matchups, as he did great against the Dolphins and Jaguars, awful against everyone else. How is the Chargers defense vs. tight ends? Since getting blown up by the Texans tight ends in Week 1, this defense has held every tight end they've faced -- including Jason Witten and the Eagles guys -- to 60 yards or less with no touchdowns.
I'd rather start: Jordan Reed, Brent Celek
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Rivers is simply too hot to sit. Yes, the Colts have been outstanding against quarterbacks as only one has thrown multiple touchdowns (Russell Wilson last week). But the Colts haven't played anyone and this is a tough matchup for them. Rivers is still tied for second-best in passing touchdowns with 13 on the year and will give the Colts fits on blitzes.
I'd start him over: Matthew Stafford, Terrelle Pryor
Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Here's the skinny on Woodhead: He has 10-plus touches (including at least five catches) in each of his last four. He has 75 or more total yards in each of his last three. He has three touchdowns in his last two games. The Colts defense will be coached up on him but they'll have to take note of all of San Diego's receivers. Ryan Mathews is expected to play but it shouldn't make a major difference.
I'd start him over: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Eddie Lacy
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Both of these guys are playing a ton and the targets have been there for both. Over the last two games Brown has seen 17 targets and Allen 15. They're getting as much work as Woodhead and nearly as much as Antonio Gates. Indianapolis will be tested.
I'd start them over: Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman
Giants at Bears, Thu., 8:30 p.m. ET
Expect both defenses to take some liberties with their pass rush in an attempt to disrupt the quarterbacks. It's been the common theme to taking down both teams. Given the short week, the state of the offensive line and the lack of run game, I would expect the Giants to have a lot more trouble with the Bears pass rush then vice versa.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: My Projection: 19 FPTS
I gave Eli a nudge before kickoff because of the absence of Charles Tillman. It's enough for me to like his receivers' matchups a little bit more. Playing on a short week on the road against a good defense with the talent to get into his space makes him likely to keep his turnover skid alive, though. I do expect the Giants to pass a ton, so Manning has a chance to fall into production, but it'll come with some sloppy play even without Tillman for the Bears.
I'd start him over: Russell Wilson, Matt Schaub, Colin Kaepernick
Da'Rel Scott, RB, Giants: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: My Projection: 1 FPT
Both of the Giants' backs are physical and slow. Not a good combination. Chicago has allowed two rushing touchdowns to runners through five games and is giving up 3.8 yards per carry to backs on the season. The Giants might look at how the Saints used Pierre Thomas last week and try to apply it with Scott -- who can catch the ball -- but he's no better than a third option. And yet, he shines in comparison to Brandon "2.2 yards per carry" Jacobs.
I'd rather start: Andre Ellington, Ben Tate
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: My Projection: 11 FPTS
There were a lot of positives with Nicks last week. He had 12 targets, nine catches and 142 yards, including a 49-yard haul. Each of the three receivers with nine-plus targets against Chicago has found his way to the end zone and at least 10 Fantasy points. Both Nicks and Victor Cruz will draw plenty of attention but both should wind up being effective.
I'd start him over: Danny Amendola, Larry Fitzgerald
Rueben Randle, WR, Giants: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Randle is in the hunt for some stats, much like he was last week. The Bears typically don't move their corners around, so Manning could find matchups to his liking in the slot against nickel corner Isaiah Frey or to his right against cornerback Tim Jennings. Randle should see a lot of passes thrown his way, just like last week.
Flow chart: Marlon Brown > Keenan Allen > Rueben Randle > Austin Pettis
Brandon Myers, TE, Giants: My Projection: 4 FPTS
The Bears have allowed one touchdown to tight ends all year and last week was the first time they allowed a tight end to more than 60 yards. They're good at taking them away. Myers is a risk.
I'd rather start: Brent Celek, Brandon Pettigrew
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: My Projection: 21 FPTS
Quarterbacks against the Giants have done very well and this week should be no exception. Every single team has accumulated at least 20 Fantasy points at the quarterback spot and each of the last three opponents has racked up at least 28 Fantasy points (the Eagles had two quarterbacks tally 32 points combined last week). It would be a shock to see Cutler struggle, even on a short week, against this defense.
I'd start him over: Matthew Stafford, Terrelle Pryor
Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Most everyone will start Marshall. Should they? The Giants had a nice track record vs. No. 1 receivers until DeSean Jackson crushed them last week (his touchdown came on single coverage against prized corner Prince Amukamara). Teams have tried to take Marshall away with tighter coverage and the Bears haven't been afraid to make them pay with a big dose of Jeffery (some garbage time stats didn't hurt either). I doubt the Giants have the personnel to keep both guys down, but I suspect they won't choose to exclusively double Marshall on every play. That might lower the ceiling on Jeffery while rising Marshall's, but the truth is both should do fine. The Giants have allowed six touchdowns to receivers over their last four games.
I'd start Marshall over: Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson
I'd start Jeffery over: Marques Colston, Anquan Boldin
Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears: My Projection: 8 FPTS
I sense a revenge game for Bennett, who spent 2012 with the Giants. It doesn't hurt that the Giants have allowed at least one touchdown to three of five tight ends this year. Bennett has had at least five catches in three of his last four.
I'd start him over: Jermichael Finley, Heath Miller
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