Fantasy Football Week 6 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Detroit Lions' offense takes a hit with Calvin Johnson hurt
We’ve made a slight change to Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em this week that will hopefully make this column more useful for all the fantasy owners out there. After reading over last week’s version, it felt a bit too inclusive. The point of this exercise is to serve as many owners as possible. The best way to do that is to be more restrictive, not by lumping in a WR39 with a WR21.
As such, here are the new parameters for the Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em on SI.com. The top-12 quarterbacks, tight ends and defenses are listed as start recommendations. To better help you with your flex decisions, there are only 60 combined running backs and receivers listed in the start column. There are at least 24 at each position, with the final 12 spots occupied by the best remaining overall players, regardless of position. Rather than giving you 30 running backs worth starting and another 40 receivers, this should give you a better of the players truly worth plugging into your starting lineup.
And with that, the improved SI.com Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em for Week 6.
Teams on bye: Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
The Jaguars join the Raiders as the only teams to have zero start recommendations in a given week. Toby Gerhart has been dreadful this year, running for 2.6 yards per carry. Blake Bortles is nice in theory and could very well develop into a strong fantasy quarterback, but he isn’t there yet. Both he, individually, and his supporting cast are lacking. Marqise Lee would be intriguing in this matchup, but he’s still dealing with the hamstring issue that has already cost him three games. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are depth guys. No more, no less. With just two teams on bye this week, you should be able to do better.
Titans: Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Titans DST
Hunter officially took over as the "X" receiver in the Tennessee offense last week, and was on the field for 97 percent of the team’s snaps. Unsurprisingly, he had his best game of the season, catching three passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He got just five targets, but he’s the team’s most dangerous weapon, and looks like he’ll play a whole lot for the rest of the season. Expect him to get more targets, going forward. The Jaguars have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to receivers, making him and Wright strong plays this week, even if Charlie Whitehurst starts for the Titans. The Jaguars have allowed the most points to opposing defenses. They haven’t scored more than 17 points in a game, have turned the ball over eight times, and allowed 21 sacks. Stream that Titans defense.
Jaguars: Blake Bortles, Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson, Denard Robinson, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Clay Harbor, Jaguars DST
Keep an eye on how the Jaguars divide the carries among Gerhart (assuming he plays through a foot injury), Johnson and Robinson. The run game clearly isn’t getting it done, so it might be time for the Jaguars to feature someone other than Gerhart.
Titans: Jake Locker, Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington
I am tempted to call Locker a start with the Jaguars allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year, but his hand injury makes me a little wary. After being rather sanguine about Sankey last week, he got just eight carries to Shonn Greene’s 11. Neither is worth starting this week, but there is still plenty of long-term value in Sankey. Eventually, he’ll start getting 12-to-15 touches per game, and you’re going to want to own him when that happens.
Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ravens: Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Owen Daniels, Ravens DST
Flacco is just barely on the inside of the starting class, checking in as my No. 12 quarterback this week. He struggled a week ago, but he should find things a lot easier against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Fantasy owners should be wary of anointing Forsett the only running back worth caring about in the Baltimore backfield based on last week. He did lead the team in carries with six, but Lorenzo Taliaferro had five and Bernard Pierce had four. Forsett is clearly the best receiver out of the backfield, giving him a concrete role in the offense -- he caught seven passes for 55 yards last week. The Buccaneers allow the third-most fantasy points per game to receivers, and that should help Smith bounce back from his worst game of the season. Daniels caught five of his seven targets for 70 yards a week ago, and now has nine catches for 113 yards in two games as the starter. It’s only a matter of time before he finds the end zone.
Buccaneers: Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson
Martin continues to underwhelm, and Bobby Rainey looms as a very capable backup. However Rainey didn’t do too much with limited touches last week, which is good news for Martin owners. The clock is ticking on Martin, and he faces a tough test this week. The Ravens have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Jackson has 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown in two games with Mike Glennon as the starter. He caught his other touchdown pass this year when Glennon relieved Josh McCown against the Falcons.
Ravens: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Bernard Pierce, Torrey Smith
The case against Taliaferro and Pierce is laid out above. Neither gets enough touches to warrant starting in any but the deepest of formats. The good news for Smith is that he got eight targets last week. The bad news is that he caught just three of them for 38 yards. He remains persona non grata in fantasy leagues.
Buccaneers: Mike Glennon, Bobby Rainey, Louis Murphy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers, Buccaneers DST
Glennon had another nice game as the starter last week, throwing for 249 yards 7.8 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and one interception. The Ravens, however, have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, holding Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger in check, and intercepting Andrew Luck twice. You should be able to do better. Hold onto Rainey, who could get another shot if Martin continues to struggle.
Denver Broncos at New York Jets
Broncos: Peyton Manning, Ronnie Hillman, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Broncos DST
Manning is five touchdown passes away from tying Brett Favre for the most all time with 508, and he just might get there this week. The Jets have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, surrendering 12 touchdowns, 1,303 yards and 7.5 YPA, and the sixth-most points to receivers. That’s a dangerous combination when you’re facing Manning and the league’s most lethal passing offense. Thomas, Sanders and Welker are all top-15 options this week. Hillman is the initial favorite to take over as the primary back in Denver, but that’s no more than an educated dart throw. C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson could both be in the mix for Denver, as well.
Jets: Chris Ivory
The Jets are dangerously close to joining the Raiders and Jaguars in what would be an ignominious trio of fantasy futility. Ivory saves them this week, but there is very real concern that this game gets out of hand and the run is squeezed off the call sheet for Marty Mornhinweg. The Broncos have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to backs, but that number is a bit deceiving. Knile Davis scored twice against them, but had just 79 yards on 22 carries. Andre Ellington rode a fluky, “Hey, look what I found,” 81-yard touchdown catch to a big day against the Broncos last week.
Broncos: C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson
Both of these guys should be owned in competitive leagues. Chances are the Broncos are using practice this week to figure out which of their three running backs they want to feature with Montee Ball (groin) out. Hillman is the only one who can be trusted this week, but Anderson and Thompson could very well play themselves into meaningful roles.
Jets: Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Chris Johnson, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, Jace Amaro, Jets DST
No matter who is under center, there are just no downfield weapons for this team when Eric Decker is shelved. Early signs point to him sitting again because of his hamstring injury. That’s a huge hit for this entire offense, as it becomes rather one-dimensional with Decker on the sideline.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Lions: Joique Bell, Golden Tate, Lions DST
Who would have thought that this potent Detroit offense would, at one point this season, have just two recommended starts among its skill players? Bell missed last week’s game after suffering a concussion two weeks ago, and while he has been cleared for activity, he's still waiting to get the go-ahead for contact. All signs point to him being ready for Sunday. He would be a solid play against a Minnesota team that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to running backs, especially if Reggie Bush (ankle) cannot go. Tate had a big game last week with Calvin Johnson gimpy, and he would almost certainly get 10-plus targets if Megatron is out again.
Vikings: Matt Asiata
The Lions have been tough on running backs this year, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game. However, this contest could be very close given the likelihood that Johnson will sit out and the Detroit offense will be without its greatest weapon. In that scenario, Asiata would get the volume he needs to be an effective fantasy player. He’s a solid flex option this week.
Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Jeremy Ross, Eric Ebron
Several of these names rarely hit the "sit" category, but such is the case when Megatron is hurt. He has been a shell of himself the last two weeks because of an ankle injury, and it would be a surprise to see him suit up on Sunday. Stafford threw for just 221 yards, one touchdown and one pick with Johnson essentially out last week. Bush had to leave last week’s loss to the Bills with an ankle injury of his own, and is described as day-to-day. If he is able to play on Sunday, he would be a borderline flex option. He’s the sort of running back who is completely felled by an ankle injury because it severely limits his ability to cut back.
Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, Jerick McKinnon, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Rhett Ellison, Vikings DST
Bridgewater is still working his way back from an ankle injury he suffered in his first start of the season back in Week 4. Even if he is able to play, he’s not a recommended start for fantasy owners, since the Lions have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Jennings and Patterson are both victimized by the new format here. Both are tucked inside my top-40 receivers this week, but are not top-60 overall flex options. While Patterson has been a major disappointment, at some point the Vikings are going to have to force the ball into his hands. Don’t be surprised if that effort begins this week.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Patriots: Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Patriots DST
Gronkowski has seen his snap percentage increase every week, and he put up his best game against the Bengals, going for six catches, 100 yards and a touchdown. The Bills have limited running backs to the third-fewest fantasy points per game this year, but Vereen and Ridley each put up big games against the Bengals, a team that had allowed just one double-digit game to a running back before playing the Patriots.
Bills: Fred Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Bills DST
Jackson again outplayed C.J. Spiller, running for 49 yards on 10 carries and catching seven of his nine targets for 58 yards. This is no longer a coin-toss situation. Jackson will be worth starting in most weeks, while Spiller will be relegated to the bench in most weeks. The Patriots have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Watkins had seven receptions for 87 yards in his first game with Kyle Orton. Perhaps even more important than that were the 12 targets he received. He’s now averaging nine targets per game, with an average of one of those coming in the red zone.
Patriots: Tom Brady, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, Tim Wright
Brady had easily his best game of the season last week, throwing for 292 yards, 8.3 YPA and two touchdowns. The strong performance didn’t erase all the Patriots’ woes in the passing game, and the lack of speed on the outside still makes Brady no better than a borderline fantasy starter. Low-end QB1s who rank higher than him this week include Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. Brady is my No. 14 quarterback this week, so he just misses out on being named a fantasy starter. The Patriots used a lot of two-tight end sets last week, helping Wright to his best game of the year. He’s worth a speculative add, but shouldn’t be started this week.
Bills: Kyle Orton, C.J. Spiller, Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Scott Chandler
Spiller had the same number of carries as Jackson last week, but got a sorry eight yards on his 10 totes. He added 25 yards through the air, but he simply isn’t doing enough to be thought of as anything more than an RB4 at this point. Orton brought some stability to the offense last week, but he remains far from the starting picture in traditional one-quarterback leagues. He’s a low-end QB2, thanks in large part to what Watkins can do for him.
Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals
Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen
Benjamin had his worst game as a pro last week, catching just three passes for 38 yards. He lost a fumble and had a couple drops, but Cam Newton kept feeding him the ball (11 targets total). With that sort of volume, he’s worth starting every week. His running mate Olsen bailed him out last week, with six catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Olsen is a top-five tight end, and should have a nice game against a Cincinnati defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this year.
Bengals: Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Mohamed Sanu, Bengals DST
With A.J. Green likely to sit this week, expect the Bengals to focus heavily on the run this week. Bernard is a top-five play against a defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. With Green out, Bernard will likely be an even greater presence in the Cincinnati passing game than he usually is. Hill also figures to see more get more touches if the Bengals feature the running game against the Panthers. He moves up to a solid flex play. Meanwhile, the Bengals are going to have to throw the ball to their receivers at least occasionally, and that makes Sanu a worthy start this week. Chances are he should get eight-plus targets.
Panthers: Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Darrin Reaves, Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery, Panthers DST
According to the Panthers, Stewart (knee) is closer to returning than Williams (ankle), but neither would be worth starting if they suited up on Sunday. Same goes for No. 3 back Reaves, who had 35 yards on 11 carries in the win over the Bears last week. Newton had a useful game, throwing for 255 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but he still isn’t running at all. He had just nine yards on the ground and 42 total rushing yards this year. That greatly limits his upside.
Bengals: Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham
You’re obviously sitting Green because of his toe injury, but his absence also knocks Dalton from the starting fantasy rolls this week. Just like Matthew Stafford without Calvin Johnson, Dalton’s effectiveness plummets with Green out of the picture. Jones missed last week’s game after injuring his ankle in practice, but he’s finally expected to make his season debut this week. He’s very intriguing and should be owned if you can sacrifice a roster spot to a guy who might not contribute for a week or two.
Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins
Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb
No, I didn’t just cut and paste this from last week -- or the week before, or the week before that, either -- though I probably could do that for the rest of the season. You’re starting each of these four players with extreme confidence every week, and potentially no one else on this team all year long. The Dolphins have been among the better defenses in the league this year, and we have seen Rodgers and the Packers struggle against strong defensive groups; the games against Seattle and Detroit immediately jump to mind. Still, this offense seems to have found itself in wins over the Bears and Vikings in the last two weeks.
Dolphins: Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace
Miller has done everything in his power to hold onto a feature role when Knowshon Moreno returns, which looks like it could be this week. At the same time, Moreno had a monster performance Week 1, and was the unquestioned starter before he dislocated his elbow in Miami’s following game. Joe Philbin has been tight-lipped as to how the Dolphins will handle the situation with both backs active, so the fantasy community is just going to have to wait and see how things shake out this week. Assuming both are out there on Sunday, consider Miller the stronger play with the expectation that the Dolphins ease Moreno back into the mix. The Packers have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to running backs.
Packers: Davante Adams, Jarrett Boykin, Jeff Janis, Andrew Quarless, Packers DST
Adams found the end zone last week, but it was also his only catch of the game. A lot of that had to do with game flow given that the Packers had essentially put the Vikings away by halftime, but Adams needs to do a whole lot more to impress us before he could be thought of as a starting option in fantasy leagues. The good news for him is that he’s clearly ahead of Jarrett Boykin, who was once again a healthy scratch, and Jeff Janis, who didn’t step on the field until garbage time.
Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Knowshon Moreno, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay, Dolphins DST
Moreno has practiced all week, so chances are strong that he gets back on the field on Sunday. If you need help at running back this week, you can feel free to deploy him. If we knew he’d play a significant role in the offense, he’d be a recommended flex play. However, the Dolphins have the luxury of getting his feet wet this week with how well Miller has performed in his stead. Remember, it was just about a week ago that Moreno himself said he was three weeks away from returning. Don’t be surprised if the Dolphins take a cautious approach. Tannehill had his best game of the season in Miami’s last game two weeks ago, shutting up no one less than his own coach, but he’s still just a low-end QB2 with only the Saints and Chiefs sitting down this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller
The Browns defense gets a lot of credit, but it has been susceptible to big fantasy games this year. It has surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and receivers, and the third most to running backs. The Steelers faced a lot of questions about their play calling after an uninspiring 17-9 win over the Jaguars last week, with most of it centered around Bell’s light usage. Expect them to get the ball in his hands at least 20 times on Sunday. Roethlisberger is my No. 6 quarterback this week, ahead of both Jay Cutler and Nick Foles.
Browns: Brian Hoyer, Ben Tate, Jordan Cameron
Hoyer moves up into the starting class at Andy Dalton’s expense due to A.J. Green’s injury. He played a great game against the Titans a week ago, leading the Browns back from a 25-point deficit by throwing for 292 yards and three scores, and now has 582 yards, 9.4 YPA and four touchdowns in his last two games. The Steelers’ defense shouldn’t inspire a whole lot of fear in fantasy owners. Tate returned from a knee injury last week and quickly proved who owns the Cleveland backfield. He ran for 123 yards on 22 carries, while understudies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell combined for 50 yards on 13 totes. They’ll both spell Tate from time to time, but he’s in control of the situation. He’s a strong RB2 for the entire season and for this week, even though the Steelers have been stingy, at least from a fantasy perspective, against running backs. Cameron had just three catches for 33 yards last week, but he got seven targets and played his highest snap percentage of the season. He’s well on his way back to the weapon he was last year.
Steelers: LeGarrette Blount, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Steelers DST
The fantasy community keeps on waiting for Wheaton to break out this year, but maybe it’s not in the cards. In what should have been a great matchup against the Jaguars last week, he got just two targets, catching one of them for 17 yards. Brown has more red-zone targets than he does, and he isn’t making big plays down the field with any consistency. Pittsburgh’s version of the triplets -- Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown -- is among the very best in the league. After those three, however, there isn’t a whole lot for fantasy owners here.
Browns: Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Taylor Gabriel, Travis Benjamin, Browns DST
West got one more carry than Crowell last week, but both of these guys are devoid of fantasy value, absent another Tate injury. Hawkins continues to lead the Browns in targets, but expect that hoarding to decrease with Cameron back at 100 percent.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Chargers: Philip Rivers, Branden Oliver, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Chargers DST
Take a look at the Raiders schedule. How many wins do you see there? Two? One? Maybe zero? This is a team with 1-15 written all over it. That one win will not come on Sunday, with the mighty Chargers in town. You know all about Rivers, Allen and Gates, all of whom will start for you most, if not all, weeks. Oliver is well worth starting this week. He just gashed the previously impenetrable Jets’ run defense, running for 114 yards on 19 carries and catching four passes for 68 yards. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Oliver should have a monster day. The Raiders have turned the ball over nine times in four games. That alone makes any defense playing them worth streaming.
Raiders: Nary a Raider worth starting
Darren McFadden is close, but I’ve got Matt Asiata, Darren Sproles and Joique Bell as better flex options, as well as nine receivers, from Pierre Garcon (my No. 25 receiver this week) through Sammy Watkins (No. 33). This game could get out of hand very quickly. You don’t want to have anything to do with the Oakland offense.
Chargers: Donald Brown, Ronnie Brown, Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal, Ladarius Green
Brown is likely to sit because of a concussion, and Brown was brought in simply as an insurance policy. Floyd and Royal are both intriguing, but they’ll be guys we look at further when there are more than just two teams on bye. There are places on rosters for both of them in 12-team leagues, but they shouldn’t find their way into many fantasy starting lineups in Week 6. There are just too many other superior options.
Raiders: Derek Carr, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, James Jones, Kenbrell Thompkins, Andre Holmes, Mychal Rivera, Raiders DST
The Raiders rank 32nd in the league in total yards per game, 25th in pass yards, 32nd in rush yards and 32nd in points. In case you forgot, there are 32 teams in the NFL. Keep an eye on Thompkins’ role in the offense this week. Otherwise, you won’t want to watch this game unless you’re a Chargers fan or a Branden Oliver owner.
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons
Bears: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett
Can the Bears offense solve its second-half woes this week? Over the last two weeks, the Bears have six turnovers and three points after halftime. All the ingredients are there for the Bears to have one of the best offenses in the league and from a fantasy standpoint, all the players listed above, except for Marshall, have produced in the last two games. Forte is the No. 1 running back on the board this week, going up against an Atlanta defense that has surrendered the most fantasy points per game to running backs. If they can keep it together in the second half, the Bears should put up a huge day all around.
Falcons: Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Julio Jones, Roddy White
The Falcons, too, should have a ton of success on the Georgia Dome turf on Sunday. The Packers and Panthers have torched the Bears defense in recent weeks. If it allows Matt Ryan as much time and comfort in the pocket as it did Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, it’s going to be a long day for the secondary. Jackson is a solid RB2, but understand that he likely won’t get more than 15 touches with Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith all involved in the offense.
Bears: Santonio Holmes, Bears DST
Like their division rival Packers, the Bears have one set of guys you’ll likely start every week, and another set that almost certainly isn’t owned in your fantasy league. This is the latter set.
Falcons: Devin Hester, Harry Douglas, Levine Toilolo, Falcons DST
Hester felt he was wronged on his way out of Chicago, so you know he would love to stick it to the only franchise he knew before this season. He already burned his former coach, returning a punt for a touchdown and scoring another one on a reception against Lovie Smith and the Buccaneers earlier this season. Just how adept is Hester at revenge? We’ll find out on Sunday, but he still belongs on your bench. He just doesn’t get enough targets to justify starting him.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
Cowboys: DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten
Eventually, someone is going to hold Murray to less than 100 yards. The Seahawks, playing at home, are as good a bet as any. Still, Murray has to be started every single week. With the workload the Cowboys are giving him, he could get less than 100 yards and still have a productive day for his fantasy owners. It would be encouraging to see him get through an entire day without putting the ball on the carpet, though. Expect the Cowboys to do what they can to keep Bryant away from Richard Sherman’s side of the field. Witten won’t be held out of the end zone all season, and the Seahawks have allowed five touchdowns to tight ends this year. Witten will finally break through in 2014.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Seahawks DST
Despite his lack of a top-flight receiver, Wilson always seems to be in the middle of the fantasy picture. He did it last week by running for 122 yards and a touchdown against Washington. Oh, and he also threw for 201 yards, 8.4 YPA and two scores in that game, to boot. Harvin had three touchdowns called back because of penalties, but it was encouraging to see him get the ball so frequently. Targets and usage have been an issue for him this year, so while his owners were undoubtedly frustrated with all the flags, they had to at least like that he had such an integral role in the offense. Expect the same thing on Sunday
Cowboys: Tony Romo, Terrance Williams, Cowboys DST
Opposing quarterbacks don’t just roll into Seattle and roll out with a box score they tape up on the refrigerator. The class of start-worthy quarterbacks is very deep this week, evidenced by the exclusion of guys like Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady from the start sections of this column. You should be able to find a better option than Romo at Seattle in Week 6. The Seahawks have done a good job of taking away at least one receiver every week this season. The bet here is that Williams is that guy.
Seahawks: Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Luke Willson
All three of the players above have complementary roles that work well for the Seahawks, but they simply don’t bring anything to the fantasy table.
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
Redskins: Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon
The Cardinals have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this year, but they’ll be without Calais Campbell for the next few weeks after he hurt his knee on a chop block from Julius Thomas last week. That takes a huge bite out of the Arizona run defense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have allowed 70 receptions for 859 yards and five touchdowns to receivers this season. Both Jackson and Garcon should be started in all fantasy leagues. They are both top-25 receivers for Week 6.
Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald
Ellington had a big game against the Broncos last week, but he needed an out-of-nowhere 81-yard touchdown reception to do so. Washington has been tough against the run, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, 3.4 yards per carry, and just one touchdown on the ground. With Logan Thomas likely to start at quarterback, though, Ellington should get plenty of volume. Fitzgerald is a better play than Michael Floyd this week because he does nearly all of his damage in the intermediate part of the field. Thomas will likely be much more comfortable making those types of throws.
Redskins: Kirk Cousins, Roy Helu, Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Redskins DST
Like we’ve talked about with a few quarterbacks already, Cousins is a victim of the depth at the position this week rather than knocked down on his own lack of merit. The Cardinals have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year, but a lot of that owes to Peyton Manning. Cousins is not Peyton Manning. It sounds like Reed will be able to return from his hamstring injury this week, and that would send Paul back to the bench. Both are too risky to consider in Week 6.
Cardinals: Logan Thomas, Drew Stanton, Michael Floyd, John Carlson, Cardinals DST
You know who could really thrive in this game? Carson Palmer. Washington has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, getting torn apart by Nick Foles, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson in the last three weeks. The trio combined for 826 yards and nine touchdowns. Wilson racked up 122 yards on the ground, and he and Manning each ran for scores. Unfortunately, it’s likely the untested Thomas will get the nod. He could be a stream play for those in deeper or two-quarterback leagues, but those of you in one-QB leagues can ignore him. He also kills Floyd’s fantasy value since the Notre Dame product makes his money by stretching the defense vertically.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Giants: Eli Manning, Andre Williams, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell, Giants DST
It’s open season on the Philadelphia defense, which has allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and receivers, and the 12th most to running backs. Manning and the Giants have looked great in the last three weeks, and they should have a field day in Philadelphia. The Eagles have allowed two pairs of receiver teammates to score at least 12 points in two of their last three games (Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in Week 3, Brian Quick and Kenny Britt last week). That bodes well for not only Cruz and Randle, but Manning, as well. Williams steps right into the breach created by Rashad Jennings’ knee injury. He has looked good when given a chance this year. The Giants defense may seem like a risky play, but with the Eagles still down two offensive linemen, they should be able to get some pressure on Nick Foles.
Eagles: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin
Not too many people would have predicted that five weeks into the season Maclin would be the most reliable player on the Philadelphia offense. Such is the case, however, as he has been a rock-solid WR1 all year. He’ll continue that effort this week. This team is still without guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce, and that is making things tougher on Foles and McCoy. They’re both safe starts, but McCoy is a low-end RB1, and Foles is closer to being a sit recommendation than you might guess. The Giants have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to running backs, and the bet here is that the Eagles deploy more of their screen game with the line struggling to keep Foles upright. That would be good for both McCoy and Sproles.
Giants: Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham made his NFL debut last week, catching four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. While his presence would seem to curb Cruz’s or Randle’s value, the very opposite may end up being true. He isn’t going to displace either of the receivers ahead of him on the depth chart, but he does force the defense to cover another legitimate weapon. Ultimately, as we saw with Donnell, this should be a boon for the entire Giants offense. Beckham could become an option in deep leagues as the season progresses, but for now he should be on your bench.
Eagles: Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Eagles DST
Cooper caught his first touchdown of the season last week, but he still had just four catches on five targets for 33 yards. Matthews got two more targets than Cooper, but had the same four receptions for 35 yards. The Eagles’ offensive line is a liability, and it is affecting everyone in the offense. Ertz has a total of nine catches for 96 yards in his last three games. There’s a lot of hype and athleticism here, but not yet too much substance.
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
49ers: Frank Gore, 49ers DST
The 49ers have gotten back to their roots. In other words, they’ve gotten back to feeding Gore and letting him pound the rock. In their last two games, he has 226 yards on 42 carries, both of which were wins. In the two games before that, losses to the Bears and Cardinals, he had a total of 19 carries. You don’t need to be Jim Harbaugh or Greg Roman to figure out what to do here. Expect to see a whole lot of Gore -- literal for the 49ers, figurative for the Rams -- on Monday night.
Rams: Brian Quick
Quick has received at least nine targets in three of the Rams’ four games this year. In those games, he has 19 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns. In the only game he didn’t get nine targets, he still had 62 yards and a score. Quick has quietly developed into a solid WR2, and with Austin Davis looking anywhere from “competent” to “actually good,” Quick should keep on this trajectory all season.
49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Carlos Hyde, Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Steve Johnson, Vernon Davis
The equal and opposite reaction to the action of the 49ers focusing on Gore and the run game is the diminishing of the passing attack. Try as you might, Isaac Newton will always get you. The Rams have also been decent against quarterbacks this year, surrendering the 12th-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. Crabtree seems to still be dealing with a troublesome foot, and Davis may sit again because of his back. That doesn’t leave Kaepernick with the most attractive options.
Rams: Austin Davis, Zac Stacy, Benny Cunningham, Kenny Britt, Austin Pettis, Jared Cook, Rams DST
Stacy suffered an insignificant calf injury against the Eagles last week. He’s expected to play against the 49ers on Monday night, but he belongs on fantasy benches. San Francisco has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this year. In the last four weeks, they’ve held Matt Forte, Andre Ellington, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles to a combined 21.2 points in standard-scoring leagues. On top of that, Cunningham regularly eats into Stacy’s workload. He won’t be a top-30 running back this week. Davis has been great the last two weeks, throwing for 702 yards, 7.7 YPA and six touchdowns against two interceptions, but he hasn’t seen a defense like San Francisco’s just yet. The Niners have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year.