Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning were two of the first three quarterbacks off the board in nearly all fantasy leagues this season. Rodgers and Manning each had nice games on Sunday, but they didn’t come close to matching Joe Flacco. Actually, they didn’t come anywhere near keeping pace with Flacco’s first quarter.
Flacco carved up the Buccaneers on Sunday, throwing for 140 yards and four touchdowns in the first 15 minutes of the game. One minute into the second quarter, he threw his fifth touchdown pass. That was his last score of the game, but it was plenty for anyone wise enough to start him in Week 6. All told, he had 306 yards and 10.6 yards per attempt to go along with his five touchdowns. In standard-scoring leagues, that equates to 32.24 points. Almost unfathomably, he was nearly outdone by a strong finish from the previously left-for-dead Tom Brady.
Brady started off innocently enough against the Bills. He had 81 yards and a touchdown at half, an output that, for at least one week, will be known as the anti-Flacco. He went full Flacco in the second half, though, racking up 280 yards and three more touchdowns to finish with 361 yards, 9.8 yards per attempt and four scores. He ended up just a touch behind Flacco in standard-scoring leagues, going for 30.74 fantasy points. Chances are if you started either of these guys you won. It’s little surprise that their real-life teams won, as well.
It wasn’t all good news for Brady, who apparently has a significant ankle injury. Brady apparently needed a lot of physical therapy to get through to play Sunday, and the rest of his season is apparently in jeopardy. We’ll have to keep an eye on this as the week progresses.
Let’s get to the rest of the immediate reactions from Week 6.
• If Game 1 of the post-Montee-Ball era is any indication, Ronnie Hillman is going to be a very profitable player for fantasy owners over the next few weeks. Hillman carried the ball 24 times for 100 yards in the Broncos’ 31-17 win over the Jets. Just as importantly, Juwan Thompson got just eight carries, while C.J. Anderson didn’t get a touch. Hillman looks like a low-end RB2 in upcoming matchups with the 49ers, Chargers and Patriots.
• The Jets did a good job on Wes Welker (one catch, eight yards) and Emmanuel Sanders (three catches, 38 yards), but Demaryius Thomas carved them up for 10 catches, 124 yards and a score. Remember two weeks ago when some members of the fantasy community were worried about Thomas? Crazy times.
• There was a decent amount of buzz about rookie tight end Jace Amaro coming into the season, and he finally started capitalizing on that promise this week. He caught 10 of his 12 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown. He had a very damaging drop, as well, but that doesn’t take away from what he did for his fantasy owners. It’ll be interesting to take a look at his snap data when it’s available, but he could be an intriguing tight end going forward. A gimpy Eric Decker may have had a little to do with the rookie tight end's usage.
• Bishop Sankey didn’t do much with his first shot as the workhorse in Tennessee. He had 61 yards on 18 carries and caught his only target for seven yards. Given that it was a close game against an underwhelming opponent like the Jaguars, it was a pretty disappointing performance. There’s no telling what the Titans will do when Shonn Greene comes back from his hamstring injury, but hopefully they’re ready to turn the job over to Sankey full time.
• I’m willing to give the Titans' passing game a pass for coming up short against the Jaguars since Charlie Whitehurst started in place of the injured Jake Locker. There’s still a lot to like here with Locker under center.
• The big reason to stay away from the Jaguars’ receivers this week was because of the uncertainty in the hierarchy with all of the four main guys healthy. It was also evident, though, that Cecil Shorts was the No. 1 guy assuming full health. His hamstring looked good on Sunday, as he racked up 16 targets, catching 10 passes for 103 yards. Allen Hurns had just four targets, while Marqise Lee got a measly two. Allen Robinson caught eight of nine targets for 68 yards. It looks like Shorts and Robinson will be the two main receivers for Blake Bortles. That still doesn’t make them any better than WR4s.
• Storm Johnson crashed into the end zone early in the Jaguars’ loss to the Titans, but he quickly calmed down, finishing with 21 yards on 10 carries. He did lead the team in touches, but it’s not like he did enough to push Toby Gerhart or Denard Robinson completely to the side. This is a muddled situation with a low ceiling for all three players involved. Johnson and Gerhart are ownable as depth guys, but you won’t want to count on either of them as starters.
• Torrey Smith finally had a game for his owners, likely long after his owners had lost faith in him. He took advantage of a great matchup with the Buccaneers, catching four passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Smith again had a big day, hauling in five balls for 110 yards and a score. Don’t expect parallel big games for these two too often. The Buccaneers have been terrible against the pass, allowing the eighth-most points to quarterbacks and third-most to receivers through the first five weeks of the season.
• The lesson with the Baltimore backfield should have been driven home last week, but just in case you weren’t convinced, you should be now. Justin Forsett picked up 111 yards on 14 carries, while Bernard Pierce had an anemic 32 yards on 15 carries. Lorenzo Taliaferro, meanwhile, had a grand total of four touches. Forsett is an RB2. Pierce and Taliaferro are barely worth owning.
• There isn’t much to take away from the Buccaneers in this game -- such is usually the case when you allow 35 points in the first 16 minutes of the game. Doug Martin ran for 45 yards on 11 carries, while Bobby Rainey had 42 yards on seven totes. Both were essentially phased out of the game with the Buccaneers trying to chase down a huge deficit. Mike Evans was able to return earlier than expected from his groin injury, and caught four of his eight targets for 55 yards and a touchdown. While Vincent Jackson didn’t have a huge statistical game (four catches, 66 yards) he did get 13 targets.
• Matthew Stafford predictably struggled without Calvin Johnson on Sunday. The Lions won relatively easily over the Vikings, but Stafford had just 185 yards, 5.6 yards per attempt and one touchdown. He averaged 240 yards and one score in two games without Johnson last year, and while three games is a small sample, we can likely expect no better than high-end QB2 numbers from Stafford with Johnson out.
• Theo Riddick is no doubt a talent, but don’t expect him to be a huge part of the Detroit offense going forward. He had five catches for 75 yards and a score on Sunday, but got just three carries. He had a larger role with Reggie Bush out because of an ankle injury, but he’ll be back in a purely complementary role when Bush returns. Joique Bell, on the other hand, totaled 97 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown after missing last week’s game due to a concussion. He has to be at the top of the pecking order in the Detroit backfield.
• There will be better days for Teddy Bridgewater, but it’s hard to trust anyone in the Vikings offense right now. The big news in Minnesota this week was the apparent elevation of Jerick McKinnon. He had 11 carries for 40 yards, while Matt Asiata carried the ball just two times. What’s more, he didn’t even touch the ball until the second quarter. Both of these guys have a low ceiling, but McKinnon might just be the man going forward.
• Stevan Ridley suffered a knee injury Sunday, and the Patriots fear that he tore his ACL. That would likely make Shane Vereen a very valuable player for the rest of the season. Don’t count out a larger role for Brandon Bolden, either. The Patriots have rarely, if ever, trusted just one running back to handle the bulk of the touches out of the backfield. The last true workhorse in New England was Corey Dillon, and that was 10 years ago. Vereen would almost certainly be the primary runner, but Bolden’s role would increase enough to make him a waiver-wire target this week.
• Brandon LaFell got just six targets, but he caught four of those for 97 yards and two scores. With the Patriots offense getting back on track over the last two weeks, LaFell is worth chasing on the waiver wire, especially in deeper leagues.
• C.J. Spiller quite simply is not relevant in most fantasy formats. He had 19 yards on six carries and didn’t catch a pass in the Bills’ 37-22 loss to the Patriots. Fred Jackson didn’t do much more, running for 26 yards on 10 carries and catching four passes for 17 yards, but Spiller has been a complete non-factor for the Bills for five straight games now. Remember, his Week 2 touchdown was on a kick return. There’s essentially no value with him.
• Well, it looks like our old friend Cam Newton is back. He has been throwing the ball decently enough this year, but Newton isn’t Newton unless he’s a threat on the ground. That Newton was back this week, running for 107 yards and a touchdown on 17 totes to go along with his 284 passing yards and two scores through the air. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will undoubtedly take a small bite of his rushing numbers when they return to the field, but the Panthers are at their best when Newton is a real weapon running the football. He should be a rock-solid QB1 next week.
• Mohamed Sanu projected as a strong play with A.J. Green out, and he came through with 10 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. He got 14 targets on Sunday, which isn't likely to hold when Green is back on the field, but with Green out a few weeks, Sanu should be a WR2 against the Colts next week.
• Knowshon Moreno returned from his dislocated elbow ahead of schedule, running for 10 yards on six carries on Sunday. Lamar Miller racked up 53 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and caught all three of his targets for 40 yards. Rust may have been an issue, and Moreno definitely gets a bit of a pass since it was his first game back from injury, but I don’t see how the Dolphins can take the ball out of Miller’s hands at this point. He came into the game with the ninth-most fantasy points per game among running backs, and put up 14.3 points in standard-scoring leagues. Don’t worry about his lost fumble, either, as it was on a desperation lateral on the final play of the game. We’ll have to wait and see how the Dolphins handle the split between Miller and Moreno next week, but for now consider the former an RB2 and latter a potential flex play.
• After another poor yards-per-carry performance in which Eddie Lacy gained just 40 yards on 14 carries, Lacy has to be downgraded to an RB2 for the rest of the year. The Packers won and scored 27 points, with essentially all the production coming from Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack. He’s going to have a solid baseline of production simply by being in such a potent offense, but he’s not the RB1 he was expected to be heading into the year.
• Ben Tate ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Isaiah Crowell added 77 yards and a score of his own on 11 carries. Terrance West didn’t get a touch. His fantasy value is essentially nil. Brian Hoyer attempted only 17 passes, but he didn’t need to do much more with the Browns cruising to a 31-10 victory over the Steelers. Hoyer managed to throw for 217 yards, 12.8 yards per attempt and one touchdown, hooking up with Jordan Cameron on a 51-yard score. The big tight end finished with three catches for 102 yards and the score, putting up his best game of the season. He’s back. Consider him a full go for the rest of the year.
• Cameron’s rise unsurprisingly resulted in the marginalizing of all of the Cleveland receivers. Andrew Hawkins didn’t catch a pass and got just two targets. Travis Benjamin had one target, Taylor Gabriel had four and Miles Austin had three. Hawkins is the only one with fantasy value, and even he’s just a WR4/5.
• Le’Veon Bell went north of 100 total yards again on Sunday, but failed to find the end zone for the fifth straight game. We know he’s going to score at some point this year, but it’s getting frustrating to see him shut out of the touchdown column so significantly. It wasn’t about his usage either, as he had 22 touches. The Steelers offense failed to show up, with Ben Roethlisberger managing just 228 yards, 5.4 yards per attempt, and one touchdown against one pick.
• The late games included their own huge set of quarterback pyrotechnics starting with Philip Rivers (of course) and Derek Carr (wait, what?) in Oakland. Carr had his best game as a pro, throwing for 282 yards, 8.3 yards per attempt and four touchdowns, as the Raiders nearly pulled off a huge upset. Andre Holmes caught four passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, and Carr hooked up with eight different receivers. Is this a blip on the radar or an emerging pattern with Dennis Allen out of town? I’d bet on the former. This doesn’t change Carr’s fantasy value at all. He’s still a low-end QB2.
• Darren McFadden had a respectable game, running for 80 yards on 14 carries. The Chargers entered the game having allowed just the 19th-most fantasy points per game to running backs, so this can be considered a solid performance from McFadden. He’s no more than a depth back, and will be a recommended sit going up against the stout Cardinals defense next week.
• Branden Oliver surpassed the century mark in his first start, rumbling for 101 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He also caught four passes for 23 yards, finishing the day with 18.4 points in standard-scoring leagues. He’s going to have a role in this offense even when Ryan Mathews returns. If the starter is still out next week, Oliver will be an RB2 against the Chiefs.
• Another week, another step forward in Philip Rivers’ MVP case. He threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, and led the Chargers on a game-winning drive in their 31-28 victory over the Raiders. One receiver he did not hook up with on a scoring strike was Keenan Allen. Given Rivers’ propensity to spread it around (Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and Antonio Gates all scored Sunday), Allen looks like no better than a mid-tier WR2 for the rest of the season.
• Jay Cutler put on a show in Atlanta, notching a 381-yard game in helping to lead the Bears to a 27-13 win over the Falcons. He threw for just one touchdown, but he was careful with the ball and put up a huge 10 yards per attempt. Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall each went for more than 100 yards, with Jeffery racking up 136 yards and Marshall putting up 113. Matt Forte led the team with 10 receptions, and had a total of 157 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. It was Forte’s fourth game that he totaled at least 150 total yards. DeMarco Murray has certainly been the best running back in the league this year, but Forte can’t be too far behind.
• On the other side, Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense came up short in a matchup they should have been able to exploit. Ryan had just 271 yards, one touchdown and one interception. As a team, the Falcons ran for 42 yards on 13 carries, with Steven Jackson going for 25 yards on six carries. Julio Jones caught just four of his 12 targets on 68 yards. It was a surprisingly ineffective game for an Atlanta offense that usually plays well in the Georgia Dome. You’ll want Ryan and Jones active against the Ravens next week.
• DeSean Jackson only had three catches, but he doesn’t need much more than that given his big-play ability. He went for 115 yards and a touchdown, the second straight game in which he had at least 115 yards and a score. Pierre Garcon again disappointed fantasy owners, but saved his day with a late touchdown. Still, it was third straight game with 31 yards or fewer, and fourth such game this season.
• Jordan Reed had a big game in his return from a hamstring injury, catching eight of 11 targets for 92 yards. He left the game in apparent discomfort late, but so long as he’s healthy he’s looking like a TE1. It was also encouraging to see him have a strong game with Kirk Cousins under center. The quarterback picked up 354 yards, 9.3 yards per attempt and two touchdowns, but hurt his fantasy owners with three interceptions. He’s going to be a matchup play for the rest of the season, and will be a solid play with at home against the Titans next week.
• The nerve in Carson Palmer’s shoulder started firing again late in the week, freeing him up to return to the field after missing three straight games. The results weren’t huge -- he threw for 250 yards, 5.7 yards per attempt and two touchdowns -- but the mere fact that he was able to play and that his arm looked healthy is enough to give owners confidence in him, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Both receivers got in the end zone this week, something neither had done all season.
• The Cowboys pulled off the upset of the day, going into Seattle and upending the Seahawks, 30-23. They did it, unsurprisingly, behind DeMarco Murray. He joined Jim Brown as the only running backs to run for 100 yards in the first six games of the season, putting up 115 yards and a touchdown. He now has 785 rushing yards on the season, averaging 130.8 yards per game.
• Meanwhile, the Cowboys exposed a few real problems with the Seahawks’ offense on Sunday. Percy Havin was completely ineffective, catching three passes for zero yards, and running once for a loss of a yard. With Harvin a non-factor, the Seahawks have no speed on the outside or downfield threats. Marshawn Lynch got just 10 carries, running for 61 yards -- curious that he didn't get more, given that the game was close throughout. Expect him to be a much bigger part of the gameplan against the Rams next week.
• Heading into Sunday night’s game against the Giants, the Eagles had allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and receivers, making this a seemingly ideal matchup for Eli Manning and the Giants passing game. Of course, since this is the 2014 NFL season, Manning threw for just 151 yards and the Giants didn’t score a single point. At least some of that likely had to do with Victor Cruz suffering a torn patellar tendon in the third quarter that could end his season. Cruz hurt his knee making a leaping attempt to catch a pass in the end zone.
With Cruz out for the year, expect an increased role in the offense for both Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. That’s good for both of their individual fantasy value, but losing Cruz is a major hit for the Giants offense. This was a unit that had really started to click over the last few weeks. With Rashad Jennings expected to miss at least one more week as well, the Giants will be hurting before their Week 8 bye.
• Andre Williams was underwhelming in his first game as the starter, running for 58 yards on 16 carries. He’ll get at least one more game with a featured role, and should be considered an RB2 against the Cowboys next week.
• Finally, LeSean McCoy finally had the sort of game the fantasy community expects from him, rushing for 149 yards on 22 carries. It had to be frustrating for his owners to see Darren Sproles run for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but at least McCoy looked like his old dangerous self while gashing the Giants for 6.8 yards per carry. The Eagles have a bye next week.