- The Steelers facing off against the Chiefs is one of the best NFL matchups this week. But only one of those quarterbacks is worth starting on your fantasy team this week.
Two weeks ago, Willie Snead was set to get back onto the field for the Saints after serving a three-game suspension for a DUI in the offseason. But a few days later, Snead popped up on the injury report because of a hamstring injury, and that Sunday morning, he was a mildly surprising inactive, giving way once again to Ginn and Brandon Coleman. Snead’s debut has been on ice for two weeks, given the team’s bye in Week 5.
This week, Snead is not on the injury report—the hamstring issue that cost him his first game of the season is behind him, and he belongs in your lineup. Here’s what I wrote about Snead ahead of the Saints’ Week 4 game, in which they beat the Dolphins 20–0 in London:
There are definitely playing-time concerns for Snead in his first game after serving a three-game suspension because of a DUI arrest. Still, here are some facts we know about him. In 30 career games, 15 of which he had to fight both Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas for targets, Snead has 141 catches for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s a 16-game average of 75.2 catches, 1,002 yards and 3.7 touchdowns. He’s a more complete receiver than Ted Ginn, who is really just the home-run hitter in this offense. He has regularly outperformed Coby Fleener when both have been on the field. Translation: Even with the playing-time concerns, smart money is on Snead immediately asserting himself as the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Thomas. Last I checked, No. 2 options in passing games led by Drew Brees typically do pretty well.
Snead has always been, at best, the No. 2 option in the Saints’ passing game. Last year, he was the No. 3 option behind Cooks and Thomas, two first-round picks. And yet, he has always delivered, putting up a 16-game average for his career of 122.4 standard-league and 197.6 PPR-league points per season. Despite playing alongside Cooks and Thomas last season, he had six games with a touchdown or at least 80 yards.
Detroit’s defense has been one of the bright surprises in the first third of the season, but it will be the significant underdog this week. After all, we’re talking about an offense led by Drew Brees playing at home and coming off a bye. Everyone tied to this passing game should start in fantasy leagues, especially the No. 2 option in the attack. Snead made his fantasy owners wait for his debut, but he will make it worth their while.
Alex Smith, Chiefs (vs. Steelers)
I had an incredibly easy time ranking quarterbacks this week. Smith should be locked into your lineup until further notice. I detailed in this week’s Target and Snap Report just how good he has been this season when you strip away the surface numbers. He’s playing the best football of his life, and he’s doing so in an inventive, explosive offense. That offense has an implied total of 25.25 points this week. Fire up Smith with a ton of confidence.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (at Cardinals)
Winston was a bit of a disappointment last week against the Patriots, which has been a cushy matchup for most quarterbacks this season. Still, he threw for 334 yards and a touchdown, and didn’t throw a pick for the third time in four games. Teams with extra rest, like the Buccaneers have this week, are 10-0 against the spread this season. The Buccaneers are favored by 2.5 points and have an implied total of 23.75 points. If they keep that trend going and cover the 2.5, Winston is going to have himself a big day.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (at Raiders)
It hasn’t always been pretty, but Rivers has mostly delivered this season. A good case in point was last week, when he completed fewer than half his passes and got just 5.86 yards per attempt, but still had 258 yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders rank 26th against quarterbacks this season, according to 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric, or aFPA. Rivers can keep that going, even in a hostile environment.
Kevin Hogan, Browns (at Texans)
Hogan will make his first career start on Sunday when the Browns visit the Texans. He looked good in relief of DeShone Kizer last week, throwing for 194 yards, 10.21 YPA, two touchdowns and one interception. The Texans will be playing their first game without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, both of whom suffered season-ending injuries last week. The Texans have been torched by Tom Brady and Alex Smith this season, and rank 23rd in quarterback aFPA. No one is putting Hogan even close to within shouting distance of Brady or Smith, but this is a matchup he can exploit.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (at Chiefs)
To be fair to Roethlisberger, he has faced a tough slate of defenses through five weeks. The Jaguars have the best pass defense in the league to date. The Ravens and Vikings are both comfortably above-average pass defenses. The Bears are better than most think, ranking 15th in quarterback aFPA while facing the likes of Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Jameis Winston. Still, it’s impossible to trust Roethilsberger right now, especially on the road. You should be able to do better this week.
Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. Colts)
Just like last week, the call to sit Mariota has a lot to do with circumstances. The Titans and Colts play on Monday night, and Mariota is likely to be a game-time decision. Even if he’s trending in the right direction after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury, the Titans almost certainly won’t make any declarative statements until Monday. If you hold out hope for Mariota, you have to have a backup plan in the form of either Jacoby Brissett or Matt Cassel. The reward simply isn’t worth the risk. Take Mariota out of your plans now, and bet on having him back in your lineup in Week 7.
Derek Carr, Raiders (vs. Chargers)
The thinking with Carr is identical to that with Mariota. The Raiders and Chargers play in the late afternoon slate on Sunday, meaning the majority of starting options will already have played. If Carr ends up being a game-time decision, too many fantasy owners will have to pass on their best backup plans to wait on a quarterback who likely isn’t 100%. This isn’t quite as cut and dried as the situation is with Mariota, since there will be more options on the table. The other quarterbacks playing at 4 pm ET or later this week are Jared Goff, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Carson Palmer, Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Trevor Siemian, Eli Manning, Mariota and Brissett. Even if we already knew Carr were playing, I’d go with Winston, Palmer and Smith over him. If I had Siemian, Goff, Brissett or Roethlisberber on my team, I’d be comfortable enough with one of those players as my backup to roll the dice on Carr—though I’d look for a streamer in place of all but Siemian. If I had Manning or Bortles with Carr, I’d want to find a streamer.
Mark Ingram, Saints (vs. Lions)
My man is back. With Adrian Peterson and his one-third share of the New Orleans rushing game gone, Ingram should get the larger role in the offense he always should have had. Remember, this is a 27-year-old tailback who had the best year of his career two seasons ago, and then cruised past all of those benchmarks last year. Alvin Kamara will still have his role in the offense, and he’ll net some of those carries left behind by Peterson, too, but Ingram is back to being a rock-solid fantasy starter, beginning this week.
Alvin Kamara, Saints (vs. Lions)
Speaking of Kamara, he, too, is worth your attention. He was already getting the job done in the passing game, hauling in 20 of his 28 targets for 147 yards and a score. He hasn’t garnered a ton of work on the ground—just 15 carries in four games—but he has turned that work into 83 yards and another score. Even though Ingram should handle the bulk of the carries for the Saints, Kamara will have a role that has him in the RB2 discussion, even in standard formats, every week. It’d be a shock if he didn’t average 14-plus opportunities per game the rest of the season.
Mike Gillislee, Patriots (at Jets)
Gillislee is undoubtedly a touchdown-or-bust player, and, if you’ve read any of our fantasy coverage, you know that I’m not a fan of players who are dependent on getting in the end zone. There’s a big difference between betting on a touchdown-or-bust player like, say, Frank Gore, who needs the Colts offense to be competent to hit paydirt, and one tied to the offensive machine in New England. The Patriots are favored by 9.5 points against the Jets this week, and Vegas has them pegged with an implied total of 28.5 points. Gillislee is going to have his red-zone opportunities, and the bet here is that he converts at least one of them.
Frank Gore, Colts (at Titans)
Hey, speaking of Gore, here he is again, living on the wrong side of the start/sit discussion. Gore was up to his usual tricks last week, running for 48 yards on 14 carries, his fourth straight game with 3.8 yards per carry or fewer. He did add 38 receiving yards to save some face, but it was yet another game in which he A) didn’t score a touchdown, and B) fell short for fantasy owners. Every week you have to ask yourself if you’re comfortable betting on Gore getting in the end zone. Rarely will I want to make that bet.
Wayne Gallman, Giants (at Broncos)
I’m a big fan of Gallman’s in the long term, even with the Giants offense coming apart at the seams. I own him on a number of my teams, and am excited about what he can do. I’m just not excited about him this week. The Broncos have been one of the best run defenses in the league this season, and this game could get very ugly very early for the Giants. They have an implied total of just 14 points, which is the low mark in the league this season. If this game does play to script, the run will be off the table for the Giants, and Gallman will have to do all of his damage as a receiver.
Elijah McGuire, Jets (vs. Patriots)
McGuire is in an identical position to Gallman. He’s an exciting, young player with a great opportunity, at least in the short term with Bilal Powell and Matt Forte injured. Still, the Jets could find themselves in a big, early hole against the Patriots, and that would force McGuire to show up for his fantasy owners largely based on receiving production. If Powell and Forte are out, which appears likely, McGuire would be the only show in town. Even with the bad matchup, that has him in the flex discussion. I’d still rather find someone else, though, given the possibility that McGuire is totally squeezed out of the gameplan.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns (at Texans)
Good news, Crowell owners. He’s coming off his best game of the season. Bad news, Crowell owners. That “best game” resulted in 60 yards on 16 carries. Crowell has topped a measly 4.0 yards per carry just twice since last Halloween, and one of those was in Week 17 last year against a Steelers defense that rested most of its starters for the playoffs. Not only should Crowell be on your bench this week, it’s hard to imagine a time when you’ll start him confidently the rest of the season.
Mike Wallace, Ravens (vs. Bears)
Wallace has thrown up two consecutive strong games, catching nine passes for 188 yards and a touchdown in that time. He was surprisingly absent from the Baltimore offense over the first three weeks of the year, getting just nine targets while Joe Flacco flailed about. He has 13 targets in the last two games, asserting himself as the go-to receiver in the offense. The Bears defense has been better than you think, ranking fifth in the league in receiver aFPA, but Wallace still has the look of a WR3, with a WR2 ceiling. With all the byes and injuries this week, he should be considered a top-30 receiver.
Danny Amendola, Patriots (at Jets)
When Julian Edelman tore his ACL this preseason, I immediately dismissed the notion that the Patriots would even try Amendola in that role. I didn’t even get to the point where I considered his ability to succeed in it. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and I was way off on this one. Amendola has done an excellent impression of Edelman, catching 23 of 27 targets for 267 yards and a touchdown. He has been useful in three of four games, totaling 100 yards in Week 1, scoring a touchdown in Week 4, and catching all eight of his targets for 77 yards last week. The Jets rank 28th in receiver aFPA in both standard and PPR formats, meaning there should be room for Amendola to deliver again, even if Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan go off.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers (at Chiefs)
I was so confident in Bryant last week that he was the introductory player to the start/sit column. Let’s just hope there isn’t an SI.com start/sit jinx, or Willie Snead is in for a long day in Week 6. I’m going back to the well with Bryant for a few reasons. First, he’s still getting open deep down the field. Second, while Ben Roethlisberger has had no feel for the deep ball this year, it’s hard to imagine he completely lost the touch for it. Third, as good as the Chiefs have been, they rank 29th in receiver aFPA in standard leagues, and 27th in PPR formats. Fourth, the Chiefs have been a machine offensively, and they’re going to force the Steelers to score upwards of 24 or 28 points to stay in this game. As ugly as it has been for Bryant this year, I like the contextual factors surrounding him in Week 6.
Will Fuller, Texans (vs. Browns)
In case this isn’t obvious, Fuller needs to be locked into all but the shallowest of fantasy lineups. Deshaun Watson has completely unlocked the Texans’ offense, and even though Fuller isn’t going to score touchdowns on two-thirds of his receptions all season, he is tied to a passing game that can go off in any given week.
Jeremy Maclin, Ravens (vs. Bears)
Maclin had another ugly game in Week 5, totaling just 48 yards in the Ravens’ 30-17 win over the Raiders. It’s hard to pick out the worst part of his game. Was it the six yards per target? The eight yards per reception? The fact that the struggling Baltimore offense was able to score 30 points while getting marginal contributions from him? I’m not sure which of those is worst, but I know all are bad. Touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season masked what were largely nondescript performances. He shouldn’t be near your starting lineup this week.
Roger Lewis, Giants (at Broncos)
Lewis is the shiny new toy for a lot of fantasy teams, and there’s no question that he has a great opportunity. Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall are out for the season with ankle injuries, while Sterling Shepard is nursing an ankle injury of his own that could have him out this week. Lewis is the de facto No. 1 receiver for the Giants now, and he made an impressive touchdown catch in emergency duty last week. Still, you do not want to run him out there in a matchup with Aqib Talib and/or Chris Harris. The strength of the Denver pass defense remains on the outside, and it’s hard to imagine Lewis winning too many battles with arguably the best cornerback duo in the league.
Sammy Watkins, Rams (at Jaguars)
If Lewis isn’t facing the league’s best cornerback pairing, Watkins is. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye have been a nightmare for receivers this season, helping the Jaguars rank third in receiver aFPA. The Rams’ offense has unquestionably turned a corner this season, but a trip to Jacksonville will be an awfully tough test after dealing with the Seahawks a week ago. Watkins hasn’t been an integral piece of the offense either. While his athletic ceiling makes him the best bet among Rams receivers to show up in a matchup with Ramsey and Bouye, he’s still a bad bet for fantasy purposes.
Ryan Griffin, Texans (vs. Browns)
The Browns were at it again last week, surrendering six catches for 29 yards and a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. They have now allowed the quartet of Jesse James, Ben Watson, Tyler Kroft and Seferian-Jenkins to combine for 26 catches, 229 yards and five scores. Unsurprisingly, the Browns rank last in tight end aFPA. Griffin is more than capable of adding to their misery.
Zach Miller, Bears (at Ravens)
This is not a point-chasing play after Miller scored his first touchdown of the season in Mitchell Trubisky’s debut. As I laid out in this week’s Target and Snap Report, the best tight ends in the league regularly win in the slot, and Miller ranks sixth in yards per route run from the slot among tight ends. With Trubisky under center, Chicago’s offense has a bit more life and a larger playbook. With the team desperate to find playmakers in the passing game, Miller has a real opportunity to turn into his quarterback’s favorite target. The Ravens, meanwhile, rank 28th in tight end aFPA.
Hunter Henry, Chargers (at Raiders)
Henry continued wresting the torch from Antonio Gates last week, catching three of eight targets for 42 yards and a touchdown. Gates, on the other hand, got just three targets, catching two of them for 23 yards. Most importantly, Henry played 59 snaps last week compared with 41 for Gates, the first time there was any real spread in snap rate between the two this season. Henry finally seems to be taking the job from Gates, and that could have him in the top five at the position, if the usage holds.
Jared Cook, Raiders (vs. Chargers)
Cook keeps finding himself ranked right on the TE1/2 border, which is as much a statement about the tight-end position as it is about the player. Let’s be clear here: Cook has 19 catches for 195 yards on the season. He has one game with more than 50 yards. He has one touchdown, and is no better than the fourth option in his offense. He’ll be catching passes this week from a less-than-100% Derek Carr, or E.J. Manuel. Get serious, Cook isn’t a starting option.
Martellus Bennett, Packers (at Vikings)
Like a lot of people in the fantasy industry, I was excited about Bennett as a possible cheap TE1 this draft season. That has not come to fruition, as Aaron Rodgers continues to shower nearly all of his love on his receivers. Bennett, too, is limited in the fantasy world by the fact that he is an excellent blocker, arguably the best at his position. Add it all up, and it makes it hard to trust Bennett in fantasy leagues. If you typically start Jimmy Graham, or if you struck gold earlier this year with Charles Clay, Bennett could be a decent stream option this week. Still, you should look elsewhere, especially with players like Griffin and Miller readily available.