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NFL Skinny: Week 6 preview

Brandon Funston
Roto Arcade

I updated my football Big Board, which attempts to determine a draft ranking for the top 50 fantasy players if a person were planning to do a draft today. I previously updated it in mid-September, and since then there has been some major shake up to the board. Alfred Morris jumps into the top 20, along with teammate Robert Griffin III. Reggie Wayne returns to a prominent position among wide receivers. And Chris Johnson falls out of contention. But that's all rest-of-season sentiments. Check it out if you are inclined, and I'll be making more regular updates to it going forward (you have my word). But I'm guessing right now that you are more concerned with the here and now, that is Week 6. So let's get to it …

Total Week 6 green-light plays by position: 7 QB; 13 RB; 16 WR; 9 TE; 6 DST

Note: Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate where he ranks at his position in per game fantasy scoring

QUARTERBACKS

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Most FPPG allowed (QB): BUF; NE; WAS; CLE; NO

Least FPPG allowed (QB): SEA; DAL; CHI; HOU; PHI

Not only is the Seattle defense tops in fantasy against opposing QBs, but it has limited Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, among others, to less than 13 fantasy points. Admittedly, it would be hard to bench Tom Brady against the Seahawks this week, as he's proven time and again that he can hang 300 yards on anyone. But keep in mind that he's come away with just one passing TD against the three defenses that he's faced this season that rank among the better half in fantasy at limiting opposing QBs (ARI, BAL, DEN). Brady's No. 7 ranking on my board this week is about as low as you'll ever see me drop him.

I have Kevin Kolb at No. 19 this week, but I think it's an exercise in splitting hairs with the "yellow light" group this week, and Kolb has a case to be a borderline QB1 given the matchup. Not only do the Bills allow the most fantasy points to QBs, but they also yield the third-highest yards per attempt (8.8) and the fourth-highest QB Rating (103.6). Even more damning for Buffalo is that four of the five starting QBs it has faced (Mark Sanchez, Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, Alex Smith) rank outside the top 16 QBs in PPG fantasy scoring. If you are a Drew Brees, Cam Newton or Jay Cutler owner looking for a bye-week replacement, Kolb is a pretty attractive waiver target.

Baltimore is tied with Seattle and St. Louis for the fewest QB touchdown passes allowed (2). But the Ravens have allowed the ninth-most passing yards, including 300-plus yards allowed to Brandon Weeden, Michael Vick and Tom Brady. I'm expecting Tony Romo, who averages 287 passing yards and is eighth in the NFL in Comp%, to become the fourth QB to top that barrier against the Ravens this season. Romo, in five career games coming off a bye, has averaged 311 passing yards and has thrown for 11 TDs, only once failing to top 300 passing yards (2008).

The medical watch starts with Robert Griffin III this week. He suffered what was deemed to be a "mild" concussion last week against Atlanta. The early word is that the Redskins believe he'll be cleared for takeoff against Minnesota. Considering that the Purple People Eaters have been a dead-end for opposing running backs, the team will need RGIII to keep the Vikings defense honest. RGIII is a must-start if he plays, but the whispered fears that owners had about his reckless running style became a reality in Week 5. As an owner, you have to wonder if Washington will start asking RGIII to curtail his rush attempts. And you also have to fear the next concussion. History hasn't been kind in that regard to similar dual-threat types like Michael Vick and Steve Young. Perhaps it's a little too early to be worrying too much about either issue, but it might be enough to consider selling RGIII high if he goes off in Week 6, and you have another top shelf QB on roster.

Matt Ryan has more than 4,000 passing yards and 33 TD passes in his past 14 regular season games. He has the top fantasy tight end and two top 12 fantasy wideouts. And he's in a division where the other three teams all rank below average in fantasy against opposing QBs. You can make a compelling case that he now deserves to be the No. 1 fantasy QB if you were drafting today.

Consider Brandon Weeden another worthy dice roll on the waiver wire this week. While he's been hit and miss in fantasy (25th in PPG at QB), he's averaging more than 40 pass attempts per game, and only Drew Brees has thrown more passes this season. And he's facing Cincy in the NFL's first rematch game of the year on Sunday. He hung 322 yards and 2 TDs on the Bengals back in Week 2.

RUNNING BACKS

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Most FPPG allowed (RB): NO; BUF; JAX; NYJ; OAK

Least FPPG allowed (RB): SF; MIN; CHI; SEA; DET

Jamaal Charles has carried 30-plus times in two of his past three games. Surprisingly the Buccaneers have allowed just 3.2 yards per carry, third-best in the NFL, but I'm going to bet on a fully featured Charles against anyone. Charles leads RBs in runs of 20-plus yards (5) and 40-plus yards (3). On an expected 25-30 touches, the odds of him breaking a long one are just too good to pass up.

I have a good feeling about Willis McGahee this week. He's a top 12 fantasy back, to date, and the recent history card plays well — two of his seven 100-yard rushing games from last season came against San Diego. The Chargers have allowed just 3.7 YPC this season, but they've yielded the 16th-most fantasy points to RBs, allowing the second-most fantasy points to RBs in the passing game. McGahee has shown himself to be a factor in that capacity of late, having caught a combined 11 passes for 74 yards in his past two games.

If you haven't yet clued into this fact, the Jets are a team that you now hope your running back gets a chance to face. My, how the times have quickly changed as, under Rex Ryan, the Jets have typically been one of the nastiest run defenses in the league. This year, however, the team has issued 4.9 YPC, fourth-worst in the league. So far, we've seen C.J. Spiller and Arian Foster top 150 rushing yards against the Jets and four other backs (Frank Gore, Daniel Thomas, Kendall Hunter and Isaac Redman) have tallied at least 9.9 fantasy points against them. All of this is to say that Donald Brown, with a healthy 84 rushing yards against Green Bay in Week 5, is a solid FLEX play this week.

Rashard Mendenhall looked better than expected in his return from an ACL injury in Week 5, posting 101 yards from scrimmage and a TD against Philly. But keep in mind that the Steelers did give Isaac Redman 13 carries last week, and a timeshare is expected to continue for the near term to ease Mendenhall back into the swing of things. And, although Tennessee has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs, it has allowed 4.2 YPC, which is about average. And that includes having to face the likes of Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson. Mendenhall is a solid play this week, but I wouldn't call him a slam dunk.

Doug Martin's 3.5 YPC mark is disappointing, especially since he hasn't really faced any lockdown fantasy run defenses. Head coach Greg Schiano gave Martin an endorsement during the team's bye week, but he also had this to say: "The more LeGarrette (Blount) feels good and we keep getting him in there, the more that's a different back and forth different styles, I think that will also help in Doug's production." Martin opened the season looking like a true featured back. But it certainly appears that things could be changing in Tampa, with Blount likely to start seeing 8-12 touches a game, including goal line looks (like Week 4). I'd be leery about Martin this week, even against the Chiefs.

Fred Jackson (22 snaps) and C.J. Spiller (24) had a nearly even workload split last week against San Francisco. And neither could do much of anything against one of the best defenses in the league. This week, they don't get much of a break, as Arizona is not much of a step down from San Francisco on defense. At this point, you can't put much faith in either Bills back.

Speaking of Arizona, the matchup (Buffalo) is ideal for their backfield. But figuring out who is going to get the bulk of the carries now that Ryan Williams is lost for the season with a shoulder injury is pretty tough right now given that La'Rod Stephens-Howling (hip) and William Powell (head) have been dealing with injuries of late. And their other candidate for touches, Alfonso Smith, has yet to have a carry this season. I have Smith highest on the board of the three since he's the healthiest. But if LSH is cleared for Sunday, he'd be the Cards RB that I'd be most inclined to slide into a FLEX spot this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS


Most FPPG allowed (WR): WAS; CLE; TB; BUF; NO

Least FPPG allowed (WR): SF; HOU; DAL; STL; NYJ

I'm not sure what to make of it, but the discrepancy in Julio Jones' home/road splits is too large to ignore. The road warrior has averaged 101 yards and has 9 TDs in 10 career contests away from Atlanta, compared to just a 32.4 yards per game average and 3 TDs in 8 home games. For what it's worth, Jones is home against Oakland's 10th-most generous fantasy defense (against WRs) this week.

Hakeem Nicks, dealing with a knee injury that has knocked him out of the past three games, has hinted that he'll be able to give it a go this week. If so, move him up inside the top 20 on the WR board, around the Floyd/Nelson/Smith area.

Jeremy Kerley has 67 receiving yards or more in three of his past four games, including 94 on Monday night against fantasy's second-toughest defense for opposing WRs, Houston. This week, Kerley gets an Indy defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs. Kerley is available in 69 percent of Yahoo! leagues heading into the Week 6 waiver period. If you need receiving help this week, Kerley is an attractive option.

I'd look to avoid Week 4 hero Brian Hartline this week. The Rams have allowed a devilishly-low QB Rating (66.6) and have yielded just one TD to a WR this season. They've also been among the best at limiting 20-yard and 40-yard pass plays, and with a 17.7 yards per catch rate, big plays have been Hartline's calling card. Another similar effort to his 4/59/0 line in Week 5 is likely.

A.J. Green has the most fantasy points this season among WRs, and he's ranked No. 1 on my WR board this week. But it's worth mentioning that shutdown corner Joe Haden returns from suspension for Cleveland this week. That said, you'd have to expect at least a little rust from Haden after a four-week absence. And Green did score double digit fantasy points against Cleveland in both meetings last season.

I like Sidney Rice's set up this week, as Seattle is unlikely to hold New England's offense to 20 points or less, as it has done with every other opponent it has faced. So there's a good chance we'll see a season-high number of passes from Russell Wilson. Rice posted a decent 5/67 line last week and, although his fantasy numbers have been sub par for the year, that has more to do with the conservative Seattle offense than it does with Rice's play. Facing a New England defense that has allowed 86-plus yards to four different WRs over the past three games, Rice has a great shot to post his first double-digit fantasy tally of the season.

I'd be fine if you wanted to put faith in rookie T.Y. Hilton as a Hail Mary prayer in Week 6. He's had 17 targets in his past two games and, considering that the resurgent Reggie Wayne is going to draw almost exclusive attention from Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, Hilton could draw even more attention from fellow rookie Andrew Luck. Similar jitterbugs like Davone Bess (5/86) and Antonio Brown (7/79) have had the best yardage days against the Jets this season.

TIGHT ENDS

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Most FPPG allowed (TE): TEN; NE; WAS; DET; OAK

Least FPPG allowed (TE): NO; IND; CLE; SEA; PHI

I'm going all in on Fred Davis this week. Only Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen have had more receiving yards over the past three weeks. And Davis has caught 16 of the 17 passes thrown his way in that span. The matchup also plays into Davis' favor, as the Vikings have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

In his past 16 games, Brent Celek has 1,062 receiving yards and 6 TDs. Against a Lions defense that allows the fourth-most fantasy points per game to TEs, that's more than enough reason to start Celek with confidence.

Heath Miller leads tight ends with nine red zone targets. Martellus Bennett, who could be a Week 6 injury casualty, is next with 8 targets. And then comes Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, with 7 apiece. Not surprisingly, Rudolph is tied for the TE lead in TDs (4). He's just No. 20 among TEs in receiving yards but, given his size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) and athleticism, you have to play him whenever you think Minnesota will see plenty of red zone opportunities. The fact that Washington allows the fourth-most yards per play in the league (6.4) has to make you feel good about Rudolph getting another pay dirt opportunity or two this week.

Only Tony Gonzalez is averaging more targets per game at TE than Brandon Pettigrew (8.75). And Pettigrew has produced 60-plus yards in three of his four games. The matchup, on paper, is not ideal against a Philly defense that has yielded the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the TE position this season. But Philly hasn't faced the toughest TE competition, and Pettigrew's heavy target load makes him a viable TE1 this week, in my book.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

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Most FPPG allowed (DST): DET; KC; PHI; DAL; CIN

Least FPPG allowed (DST): OAK; MIN; TB; NE; WAS

WEEK 6 GAME PREDICTIONS
Note: I was 10-4 on my Week 5 predictions

Pittsburgh 27, Tennessee 16
Philadelphia 31, Detroit 27
Cleveland 20, Cincinnati 19
Indianapolis 24, NY Jets 20
Tampa Bay 23, Kansas City 20
Baltimore 26, Dallas 24
Atlanta 34, Oakland 23
Miami 17, St. Louis 13
New England 26, Seattle 20
Minnesota 24, Washington 19
San Francisco 30, NY Giants 27
Arizona 16, Buffalo 14
Houston 31, Green Bay 28
Denver 24, San Diego 23

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