1:00PM ET Games
Green Bay @ Baltimore
The loss of Clay Matthews (thumb) for a month or longer robs Green Bay of its lone high-impact pass rusher and makes life easier for passing offenses that normally would've had to scheme to account for a player with ten sacks over his previous nine games. It won't turn Joe Flacco into a QB1, but certainly helps his two-quarterback-league start-ability. As does the addition of LT Eugene Monroe, who will make his Baltimore debut in Week 6. Expect a cleaner pocket for Flacco, increasing the likelihood of successful downfield shot plays. ... The Ravens' most dangerous vertical receiver, of course, is Torrey Smith, who's on pace for 87 receptions and 1,780 yards. He has at least 85 yards in every game this season and is flirting with WR1 value. Smith runs his routes on the perimeter, where Packers CBs Sam Shields and Tramon Williams have been up and down. ... Flacco's 2013 targets: Smith 51, Dallas Clark 29, Marlon Brown 23, Ray Rice 22, Brandon Stokley 16, Tandon Doss 14, Deonte Thompson 12, Ed Dickson and Vonta Leach 11, Bernard Pierce 5. ... Brown returns from a hamstring injury that cost him Week 5. Brown has not been heavily targeted and could share snaps with Jacoby Jones. This is a fine matchup, but I'd want to see Brown play effectively following the muscle pull before trusting him in fantasy.
As promised by coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens recommitted to Rice as their offensive foundation in last week's triumph over Miami. Restored to RB1 status, Rice handled a season-high 33 touches despite some early-game struggles, including a lost fumble on Baltimore's third drive. Matthews' absence will be felt on the ground, where Pro Football Focus graded him as a top-five 3-4 outside 'backer versus the run. The Packers are also down top ILB Brad Jones, who suffered a significant Week 5 hamstring injury. This is a good matchup for Rice, who can be counted on as an every-week starter. ... Rice dominated the workload against the Dolphins, but Pierce still ran 11 times for 46 yards and will remain an oft-used change-of-pace back, bringing power off the bench. He just isn't a desirable flex play. ... Clark, Stokley, Doss, Thompson, and Dickson are not worth rostering in 12-team leagues. Clark went catch-less against the Fins, playing 46% of the snaps and failing to see a single target. Doss got the start, but only because Brown was inactive. Dickson finally made some catches, but was targeted twice and is not a big part of the Ravens' passing attack.
The Ravens are playing stout run defense and generate a ton of pass pressure, so expectations should probably be checked a bit for Green Bay skill-position players. The good news for Eddie Lacy is he now has the Packers' backfield all to himself. Change-of-pace back Johnathan Franklin didn't play a single snap after losing a second-quarter fumble in last Sunday's win over Detroit, finishing with three carries for one yard and zero passing-game targets. In his first game back from a concussion, Lacy toted the rock 23 times with one reception. Lacy is solidified as an every-week RB2, but running room could be difficult to come by in Week 6. The Ravens have permitted 449 yards and one touchdown on 132 carries (3.40 YPC). They eliminated Miami's rushing attack in Week 5. Lacy owners need to hope for a goal-line plunge. ... Pass rush is Rodgers' primary Week 6 concern. Terrell Suggs, who will meet Packers rookie LT David Bakhtiari on the majority of Sunday's snaps, single-handedly took over last week's game against the Dolphins in the fourth quarter and is up to seven sacks through five games. Elvis Dumervil has three more sacks and will do battle with Packers RT Don Barclay. Rodgers can never be benched in fantasy, but he'll need to get rid of the football quickly on Sunday. As a team, Baltimore is second in the NFL in sacks (19).
Rodgers' target distribution: Randall Cobb 41, Jordy Nelson 30, James Jones 28, Jermichael Finley 22, Andrew Quarless 8, Lacy and Franklin 3. ... The Ravens have surprisingly used Corey Graham at slot cornerback in passing situations this season. It's top CB Lardarius Webb's old job. Graham has struggled inside, grading 71st of 104 qualifying corners in Pro Football Focus' coverage ratings. On pace for 100 receptions, 1,612 total yards, and eight touchdowns, Cobb is an every-week starter with a plus matchup. ... Nelson is a locked-in WR1/2, but gets the toughest draw of Packers pass catchers this week. Nelson is running the majority of his routes against left corners and will line up against Webb on most of Sunday's snaps. ... RCB Jimmy Smith has been Baltimore's worst starting defensive back this year. While we've learned to expect the unexpected out of Jones, his Week 6 matchup is outstanding on paper, and Jones has at least 100-plus receiving yards and/or a touchdown in three consecutive games. He'll deal with Smith for much of Sunday. ... Finley managed 32 scoreless yards in last week's win over Detroit, but secured 6-of-6 targets and will continue to be fed by Rodgers as long as he's playing efficient football. Baltimore has surrendered the 13th most fantasy points to tight ends. Finley remains a low-end TE1.
Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Packers 24
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $50,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 6. It's $25 to join and first prize is $7,500. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
Detroit @ Cleveland
Brandon Weeden's quarterback reinsertion is an inarguable downgrade from Brian Hoyer (ACL tear), but doesn't necessarily torpedo the value of Browns skill players. In the case of Willis McGahee, Weeden could help. Weeden's tendencies to hold onto the football too long and take sacks increase the likelihood of Cleveland committing to a foundation run game. We saw a glimpse of that two Thursdays ago, as McGahee racked up a year-high 26 carries with Weeden playing all but the game's first four minutes. McGahee is 32 years old and has obviously lost quick-twitch lower-body explosion, but his vision is a big plus and he can still eat up blocked yards. Now familiar with Norv Turner's pass protections, McGahee is also likely to play more in the passing game. The Lions rank 26th against the run, and their offense won't walk all over the Browns' top-four defense, keeping this game competitive. I don't love what's left of McGahee's run skills, but I do love his volume and Week 6 matchup. ... Over the final 11 games, Jordan Cameron is more likely to score like a back-end TE1 than the elite starter he had potential to be with Hoyer under center. The Browns aren't going to pass as often, and the overall offensive production will take a hit. The Lions have allowed the seventh most receptions (30) in the league to tight ends, and the 14th most yards. There's nothing discouraging about Cameron's matchup versus Detroit.
Weeden's target distribution on the season: Greg Little 25, Davone Bess 23, Cameron 19, Travis Benjamin 10, Josh Gordon and Ogbonnaya 8, McGahee 2. ... Keep in mind the numbers are skewed by Gordon's two-game suspension, which is when Weeden has played his most 2013 football. They'll normalize as Weeden plays more. ... Little has since been demoted out of the starting lineup, replaced by possession-slot receiver Bess. Little isn't worth a fantasy roster spot. Bess is a WR4/5 in PPR and lacks standard-league value with a weekly ceiling of roughly six catches for 65 scoreless yards. Bess has one TD over his last 19 games. ... Despite plenty of shortcomings, Weeden has superior arm talent to Hoyer and is a better bet to execute vertical shot plays, which are how Gordon butters his bread. Some opposing outside receiver stats versus the Lions through five weeks: James Jones 4-127-1, Alshon Jeffery 5-107-1, Jerome Simpson 7-140, Pierre Garcon 8-73, Brandon Marshall 7-79. Fantasy owners should view Gordon as an every-week WR2. Among wide receivers, only Dez Bryant, Jeffery, and Wes Welker have scored more fantasy points than Gordon over the past three weeks. ... While he does stand a chance to keep Gordon and Cameron fed, Weeden is a two-quarterback-league stretch against a Lions defense that ranks second in the league in interceptions (8) and has been stingier versus the pass than run.
A road test with Cleveland's top-four defense won't remedy what's ailing the Lions' offense. Calvin Johnson's (knee) availability will not be known until Sunday morning, and it'll be dictated by his body's response to late-week attempts to practice. Detroit's offense shut down without Megatron in last week's loss to Green Bay, almost as if the Lions had no fallback plan in the event of Johnson's inactivity. They clearly weren't expecting it. The Browns rank No. 7 against the pass and No. 8 versus the run, and have had ten days between games following last Thursday's 37-24 triumph over Buffalo. ... Matthew Stafford produced as a top-five fantasy quarterback over the first month. His performance went in the gutter without Megatron against the Pack, taking five sacks to nearly double his previous season total, and failing to generate passing offense before late-game garbage time. There's a possibility Johnson will not play Sunday, and also a possibility Megatron will be well shy of 100% even if he does get the start. If I did weekly rankings, Stafford would be out of my top-12 quarterbacks in Week 6. Beyond Reggie Bush, Stafford's supporting cast is well below average when Johnson doesn't play or is ineffective. ... The Lions should at least have a game plan in case Megatron is inactive this week, with Bush as the logical featured player. Although Cleveland has played stout run defense, so too have the Bears (pre-Brandon Jacobs) and Bush lit them up for 173 total yards and a touchdown in Week 4. "Space" backs like Bush can be matchup proof because their teams don't use them to grind between the tackles. They get fed in the open field and rack up yardage in all-purpose fashion. Bush is a fantasy RB1 this and every week.
Stafford's targets since Nate Burleson fractured his arm: Bush, Brandon Pettigrew, and Kevin Ogletree 12; Kris Durham 11; Megatron 10 (missed game); Tony Scheffler 9; Joique Bell 8; Pat Edwards 5; Ryan Broyles 3. ... Guessing Lions box-score stats behind Bush and Megatron is a precarious crapshoot. Pettigrew would seemingly make sense as a beneficiary if Calvin is hobbled or doesn't play, but he's on pace for under 500 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown this year. Enemy tight end numbers versus Cleveland: Kyle Rudolph 5-28; Jermaine Gresham 3-53; Tyler Eifert 3-39; Charles Clay 5-54; Dallas Clark 1-8; Ed Dickson 0-0; Scott Chandler 4-49. No tight end has scored on the Browns. ... Scheffler (concussion) is not expected to play. ... Durham scored a garbage-time TD against Green Bay and has played 96% of Detroit's snaps over the last two games. He's on the desperation WR3 radar, and would likely benefit if Megatron commanded Joe Haden's coverage, allowing Durham to square off with Chris Owens and Buster Skrine. ... If Calvin is active, he's a fantasy must-start despite obvious risk. He has played effectively through nicks before. ... Bell has averaged ten touches for 46.5 yards per game without a touchdown since Bush got healthy following an early-season knee scare. Bell should be held in all leagues as a lottery-ticket stash, but he's not on the flex radar against Cleveland's stout defense. ... The Lions publicly stated Broyles and rookie TE Joseph Fauria would be more involved in Week 6. Although both are worth monitoring, it would be near-impossible to rely on either as a fantasy starter.
Score Prediction: Lions 21, Browns 17
Cincinnati @ Buffalo
A.J. Green's fantasy owners are understandably frustrated with their WR1's production over the past month. Green hasn't topped 61 receiving yards over that span, scoring one touchdown. The Bills have been a slump buster for enemy wideouts all season, so the time to buy low on Green is now. Some wideout stat lines against Buffalo through five weeks: Torrey Smith 5-166-1; Santonio Holmes 5-154-1; Stephen Hill 3-108-1; Ted Ginn 3-62-1, Danny Amendola 10-104, Julian Edelman 7-79-2; Josh Gordon 4-86-1. The anticipated return of Bills top corner Stephon Gilmore (wrist) could make this a tougher matchup than those numbers indicate, but keep in mind this'll be Gilmore's first game action since August. Start Green confidently. ... Andy Dalton is to blame for Cincinnati's pass-game dysfunction. He's been struggling since late last year. Dalton's stats over his last 11 games: 220-of-359 for 2,242 yards (6.24 YPA) and a 9:11 TD-to-INT ratio with four more turnovers on lost fumbles. He's absorbed 33 sacks during that span. Just not getting any better, Dalton is a low-end QB2 even against Buffalo's statistically leaky pass defense. ... Dalton's 2013 target distribution: Green 58, Jermaine Gresham 28, Mohamed Sanu 26, Tyler Eifert 24, Giovani Bernard 18, Marvin Jones 15, BenJarvus Green-Ellis 3. ... Despite all of the defensive attention paid to Green, Sanu has failed to capitalize. He's like the anti-Alshon Jeffery. On pace for 557 scoreless yards, Sanu isn't even worth a fantasy dice roll in plus matchups.
Friday Update: Gilmore practiced "sparingly" Friday and is listed as questionable to face the Bengals. Coach Doug Marrone is calling his top corner a "game-time decision." Green owners shouldn't fear Gilmore's coverage because he may not play, and even if he does could be limited in the game. It sounds like Gilmore is not yet 100%.
Just as feared entering the season, Gresham and Eifert are working against themselves on a weekly basis, eliminating each other's fantasy start-ability. Neither has scored a touchdown or reached the 70-yard mark this year. They're both low-ceiling TE2s. The Bills have allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. ... Bernard seemed to take control of Cincy's backfield in Weeks 3-4. It didn't carry over to Week 5 against New England. Green-Ellis handled 19 carries -- his most since Week 2 -- and executed on a fourth-quarter goal-line try. Bernard only played one fewer snap than Law Firm, but was limited to 69 scoreless yards on 15 all-purpose touches. Gio can't be trusted as more than a flex play until his role formally expands, and the Bengals don't seem to feel any urgency to make that happen. Not involved in the passing game and a plodder on the ground, Green-Ellis' week-to-week fantasy value is wholly dependent on goal-line plunges. Working in each back's favor this week is Buffalo's average to below-average, 22nd-ranked run defense. The Bills have allowed 544 yards on 131 carries (4.15 YPC) to enemy tailbacks through five games. It isn't quite a plus matchup for Bernard and Green-Ellis but isn't prohibitive, either.
On game day against the Bengals, C.J. Spiller will be 14 days removed from suffering his ankle injury and 10 days from gutting out 66 yards on eight carries in last Thursday's loss to Cleveland, including a jump-cutting 54-yard TD despite playing at significantly less than 100%. Although Fred Jackson has scored more fantasy points to this point in the season, Spiller has more all-purpose touches and has started all four of the games for which he's been healthy. Spiller is locked in as Buffalo's lead runner. He is an every-week starter regardless of matchups. ... Cincy's D-Line is stacked on paper, but is more built to shoot gaps and rush the passer than clog running lanes. Two-down NT Domata Peko is the Bengals' only real run stopper up front, and he is easily the Bengals' least effective defensive lineman. Averaging 16.4 touches per game and gobbling up goal-line carries as well as receptions, Jackson is a quality flex starter in this matchup. With E.J. Manuel (LCL) shelved indefinitely and practice squadder Thad Lewis tabbed as his replacement, the only way Buffalo has any shot to stay competitive in games is to ride its rushing attack at a voluminous and steady clip. Bills coach Doug Marrone and OC Nathaniel Hackett believe in this style of football, anyway. No NFL offense has run the ball more than Buffalo through five weeks.
There is a perception Manuel's injury takes the wind out of the Bills' offensive sails, but I don't think that'll necessarily be the case. Manuel wasn't playing very well, and I doubt Lewis will be a major downgrade. Marrone and Hackett are orchestrating high-percentage passing offense, letting Manuel dink and dunk while protecting him with the NFL's highest-volume running game. E.J. struggled mightily on throws outside the numbers, where Lewis' accuracy could not possibly be worse. Last year, Lewis kept the Browns' offense moving in a Week 17 spot start at Heinz Field versus a Steelers team that finished the season ranked No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 versus the pass, and No. 2 versus the run. Lewis completed 69% of 32 attempts for 204 yards and a touchdown to Greg Little. Ben Watson was Lewis' leading receiver. ... As much as I don't think Lewis will crush Buffalo's offense as a whole, I don't think Bills pass catchers can be trusted in Week 6 fantasy lineups against a Cincinnati defense that shut down New England's passing attack a game ago. Rookie Robert Woods and banged-up Stevie Johnson (back) are WR3 shots in the dark. Scott Chandler will probably see his usual 5-6 targets and is a low-end TE2. Hopefully, we'll have a better idea of what to expect from Buffalo's Manuel-less passing game after this week.
Score Prediction: Bills 20, Bengals 17
St. Louis @ Houston
With major quarterback woes, Owen Daniels (fibula) out eight weeks, and a defense not playing as well as its No. 1 ranking indicates, the Texans' likeliest and most sensible recourse is to make a decided commitment to the run game and heating-up Arian Foster. Houston's most effective skill-position player the past two weeks, Foster squares off with a Rams defense that ranks 27th against the run. Over its last three games, St. Louis has been gashed by DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and washed-up Maurice Jones-Drew for a combined 447 yards and three touchdowns on 74 carries (6.04 YPC). I'd rank Foster as the No. 1 fantasy back for Week 6, ahead of Adrian Peterson. ... Ben Tate seems likely to stay involved as a change-up back, but losing his second fumble in as many weeks means there are no guarantees. Tate didn't get an offensive touch following the early-fourth-quarter miscue in last Sunday's loss to San Francisco. He's a boom-or-bust, low-floor flex. ... Daniels' cracked fibula vaults Garrett Graham into Houston's clear No. 1 tight end role, where he has a shot to pay dividends as an every-week fantasy starter. Graham is hardly a dynamic talent -- he ran 4.71 at an H-backish 6-foot-3, 243 coming out of Wisconsin -- but has sure hands and will be an every-down player in a tight end-friendly offense. Graham has a plus Week 6 matchup against St. Louis' weak linebackers and safeties.
Matt Schaub morphed into Jake Delhomme circa Week 14 in Foxboro last season. Over his past 11 games, Schaub has completed 282-of-432 throws for 2,917 yards (6.75 YPA) with an 11:14 TD-to-INT ratio, 25 sacks absorbed, and a 4-7 record. He's thrown a pick-six in four consecutive games, setting a league record, and was benched for T.J. Yates last week. Losing Daniels doesn't help. With his confidence in the gutter, I'd avoid betting on Schaub to bounce back against the Rams. ... Schaub's target distribution on the season: Andre Johnson 57, Daniels 40, DeAndre Hopkins 33, Foster 25, Graham 21, Tate 13, Keshawn Martin 12. ... Noteworthy wide receiver stat lines against St. Louis' porous secondary through five weeks: Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Anquan Boldin 5-90-1; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Larry Fitzgerald 8-80-2. Shake off Andre's slow Week 5 game and start him versus the Rams. ... Hopkins could be a beneficiary of Daniels' absence, potentially moving into the No. 2 pass-option role. The rookie is worth a long look as a WR3 in this prime matchup. ... The Texans figure to stick with their two-tight end offense despite Daniels' loss. Rookie Ryan Griffin will likely play more snaps and is a player to monitor in Dynasty leagues. Griffin stands 6-foot-6, 261 with a basketball background.
Back on the road against the NFL's No. 1 defense both in passing and total yards, Sam Bradford is a risky two-QB-league play. LE/DT J.J. Watt is capable of single-handedly torpedoing offenses, and Bradford's accuracy consistently goes in the gutter under duress. The Texans are limiting opposing passers to the third worst completion rate (53.7%) and YPA (6.2) in football. The Rams likely won't generate much ball movement through the air. ... Bradford's 2013 target distribution: Tavon Austin 40, Austin Pettis 36, Jared Cook 35, Chris Givens 34, Lance Kendricks 19, Daryl Richardson 15, Brian Quick and Isaiah Pead 12, Zac Stacy 1. ... St. Louis' inefficient (58.1% completions), spread-the-wealth passing attack has so far failed to produce a single reliable, every-week fantasy starter at tight end or wide receiver. Cook's Week 1 game has been exposed as a tease, as he ranks 23rd in fantasy tight end scoring over the past three weeks, behind the likes of Mychal Rivera and Levine Toilolo. The Texans have permitted the fewest receptions in the league (11) to tight ends, and the sixth fewest yards (200). Cook is a fantasy TE2-only until something changes. ... Givens has been another disappointment after a big play-filled preseason. Over his last three games, Givens has secured a paltry 8-of-23 targets for 119 yards and has failed to find pay dirt on the season. He's a WR4/5 in fantasy leagues and a poor bet to break out against RCB Johnathan Joseph, who held Anquan Boldin (2-21) in check last Sunday night.
Possession receiver Pettis has caught four touchdowns over the past month, three inside the opposing five-yard line. Most teams run the ball into the end zone when they get deep in scoring position. The Rams throw to Pettis. I'm still not convinced his value or outlook has changed. He's a 6-foot-3, 207-pound wideout averaging 10.1 yards per catch who's cleared 60 yards in 1-of-5 games. If you're starting Pettis, you're betting on a deep red-zone TD. I'd think of him as a low-ceiling WR3. ... Austin has been even less efficient. He's averaging 6.8 yards per catch, has yet to hit the 50-yard mark on the year, has six drops, and has only secured 23 of his 40 targets. He's been a disappointment in real life and fantasy. Others have blamed OC Brian Schottenheimer for Austin's struggles. I think Tavon has a lot of self-improvement to do. ... Stacy asserted himself as St. Louis' clear-cut feature back in Week 5 against Jacksonville, turning in easily the finest performance (14-5.6-78) of any Rams runner to date. Coach Jeff Fisher promptly confirmed Monday Stacy will remain the starter moving forward. Richardson still handled 13 carries, though he was primarily a change-of-pace back on the perimeter. Isaiah Pead did not touch the ball, and all four of Benny Cunningham's runs came on St. Louis' final, garbage-time drive. The Texans' defense is more exploitable on the ground than in the air, permitting 4.20 yards per carry and tying the Rams for 27th versus the run. Stacy is a respectable Week 6 flex play with an arrow pointing up.
Score Prediction: Texans 27, Rams 17
Carolina @ Minnesota
The Panthers' insistence on morphing Cam Newton into a conventional pocket passer is costing them wins and may end up costing Ron Rivera and Mike Shula their jobs. After reinstalling designed quarterback runs both out in the open field and near the goal line in Carolina's Week 3 38-0 drubbing of the Giants, Shula & Co. ostensibly decided during their Week 4 bye to resume the offensive style they played in Weeks 1-2. The result was the same as Weeks 1-2, as well, as the Panthers fell to 1-3 and Cam had his season-worst outing in Arizona, throwing three picks in a pathetic 22-6 loss. Newton's fantasy value is in the hands of Shula. On paper, this is a favorable matchup against Minnesota's 30th-ranked defense. Cam will blow up if Shula calls offense like he did in Week 3, and disappoint if the Panthers play like they did in Weeks 1, 2, and 5. It's a start-Newton-at-your-own-risk scenario. ... Cam's distribution of targets this year: Steve Smith 36, Greg Olsen 32, Brandon LaFell 20, Ted Ginn 18, DeAngelo Williams 8, Mike Tolbert 5. ... Smith ranks a disappointing 58th in per-game fantasy receiver scoring, but if there were ever a matchup to get him back on track, this is it. The game will be played indoors versus Minnesota's No. 29 pass defense, which has submitted ten passing touchdowns through four games and isn't generating up-front pressure, leaving its young secondary vulnerable deep. I don't think Smith's slow start is a sign of diminishing ability. I think he has a chance at a blowup game in Week 6.
This may be owners' last chance to confidently play Williams without fearing an even timeshare with Jonathan Stewart, who is due back from PUP in Week 7. If Stewart's ankles are fixed, he'll immediately upgrade on Williams in terms of big-play ability and versatility. This week, Williams is a quality RB2/flex at Minnesota, which ranks a middling 15th in run defense and permits 4.23 yards per carry. Williams is always a poor bet to score because he gets vultured by Cam and Tolbert, but he's averaging 20 touches a game with a rock-solid 4.46 YPC average. ... In addition to the looming and likely inevitable split backfield, a factor working against Williams and Stewart moving forward will be LG Amini Silatolu's year-ending ACL tear. The 40th pick in the 2012 draft, Silatolu had emerged as Carolina's best lineman and was a top-15 guard in Pro Football Focus' run-blocking ratings as of Week 5. ... Olsen has shaken off an early-week foot scare and will start against a Vikings defense permitting the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. He's a strong TE1 play in Week 6. ... No. 3 pass option LaFell is on pace for 452 receiving yards this season and can't be trusted in fantasy. He's barely worth a roster spot in 12-team leagues.
Matt Cassel is expected to make his final start of the season Sunday before giving way to Josh Freeman, whom the Vikings have signed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the obvious intent of playing sooner rather than later. Christian Ponder (ribs) seems to be out of the picture. Although Freeman is still learning the playbook, it's not out of the question Cassel will be on a short leash against Carolina if he struggles early in the game. And poor early-game performance is a distinct possibility versus the Panthers' No. 8 pass defense, which has held enemy passers to a 3:6 TD-to-INT ratio and bottom-ten QB rating (76.4) on the strength of a top-five defensive front seven. This is not a good matchup for the Vikings' pass game as a whole. ... Cassel's 2013 target distribution: Jerome Simpson 11; Greg Jennings 4; John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, and Cordarrelle Patterson 2; Jarius Wright and Adrian Peterson 1. ... Simpson's stat lines through four starts: 7-140, 2-49, 3-29, 7-124. Does Simpson have some big-play ability? Affirmative. Is it likely Simpson has turned a corner in his career, and will suddenly break out as a sixth-year pro? Negative. Simpson has long been inconsistent on the field and more likely to throw up duds than dominate. He's a crapshoot WR3 option with considerable Week 6 bust potential.
The Vikings "managed" Cassel in his pre-bye start, playing balanced offense (25:25 run-to-pass ratio) as Peterson tore off 140 yards and two TDs on 23 carries. Look for continued run-game reliance to prevent against a deficit, from which Cassel would be unlikely to rally back. Despite an early-season open date, Peterson leads all running backs in all-purpose TDs (6) and standard-league fantasy points per game (20.8). The Panthers' tough run defense can be safely ignored. ... Carolina's secondary has been such an injury-plagued carousel that I'm not really sure who will play where at corner. I prefer Jennings over Simpson as a fantasy start this and every week because the Vikings' slot/Z receiver has a better chance at consistency. Jennings runs higher-percentage routes close to the line of scrimmage, where modest-armed Cassel has a better shot at finding him. Over his last three games, Jennings has posted respectable stat lines of 5-84, 3-43, and 3-92-2. He hasn't been as heavily targeted as I hoped, but isn't a terrible weekly WR3. ... Regardless of who's been under center for Minnesota, Rudolph has been a huge fantasy letdown. He's on pace for 48 catches and 412 yards, and is a low-end TE2 against a Panthers defense that has permitted the fewest receiving yards (100) and second fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Vikings 21, Panthers 20
Oakland @ Kansas City
Terrelle Pryor has earned major kudos for weekly improvement, developing into a legitimate QB1 streamer in plus matchups. This isn't one of them. On the road to face the 5-0 Chiefs at what promises to be a jacked-up Arrowhead Stadium, Pryor will square off with the NFL's No. 1 defense in points allowed and No. 7 in yardage. Kansas City ranks No. 1 in sacks (21), tied for third in interceptions (7), and has the necessary outside-edge presences to confine Pryor to the pocket, where he can't hurt opponents with his legs and is likeliest to struggle. View Pryor as a two-QB-league option only this week. ... Pryor's 2013 target distribution: Denarius Moore 27, Rod Streater 19, Mychal Rivera 12, Darren McFadden 10, Marcel Reece and Brice Butler 9, Jacoby Ford 7, Rashad Jennings 3. ... Historically a left cornerback only, Brandon Flowers is being employed as a defensive movable-chess piece by new Chiefs DC Bob Sutton. He covered the slot in Week 5, although Titans slot man Kendall Wright still finished with a 6-74 stat line. Finally showing signs of consistency, Moore hasn't dropped a pass since Week 2 and is the No. 8 fantasy receiver over the past three weeks. Despite Flowers' likely shadow coverage, Moore is worth a look as a high-ceiling WR3.
The Raiders don't throw enough to support more than one fantasy starter in their pass-catching corps. Possession receiver Streater is coming off an efficient game (3-56-1 on three targets), but lacks upside to be WR3 worthy in a tough matchup. Chiefs RCB Sean Smith has quietly been one of the steals of 2013 free agency. ... Leave out their Week 3 game in Philadelphia and the Chiefs are playing run-tough defense. In its other four contests, Kansas City has held Giants, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Titans tailbacks to a combined 233 yards on 67 carries (3.48 YPC) without a single touchdown allowed. Jennings is tentatively due back from a Week 5 hamstring injury, but wasn't a full practice participant during the week and is likely short of 100%. McFadden (hamstring, questionable) isn't shaping up as a good bet to play. Reece only has 18 touches on the season. Jeremy Stewart could also be in the Week 6 mix. In a difficult road game with an imposing matchup, it's not a good week to hang your hat on Oakland running backs.
Friday Update: Adding to the likelihood of Raiders run-game struggles will be the Week 6 absence of C Stefen Wisniewski, who is listed as out with a knee injury. It's a big concern against dominant Chiefs NT Dontari Poe, who is headed for All-Pro honors this season.
Despite talent shortages, the Raiders have played surprisingly stout run defense early in the year. Oakland ranks 11th versus the run and is only submitting 3.66 yards per carry, although Jamaal Charles' all-purpose involvement makes him a matchup-proof elite fantasy starter. In addition to ranking fifth in the league in rushing yardage (1,271-yard pace), Charles leads all running backs in targets (44) and is tied for second behind Danny Woodhead in receptions (28). ... Oakland is leakier in pass than run defense. The Raiders have a 9:3 TD-to-INT ratio against via the air and are yielding a league-high 72.3 completion rate to enemy passers. The largely bend-but-don't break Raiders defense plays right into dink-and-dunk Chiefs QB Alex Smith's hands. Coach Andy Reid consistently puts Smith in high-percentage passing situations underneath and inside the numbers, playing to his limited quarterback's strengths. Smith ought to be able to dink and dunk all day against Oakland. While Smith's fantasy upside remains capped by a lack of big-play ability, he's certainly worth high-end QB2 consideration in this matchup.
Smith's target distribution: Charles 44, Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery 30, Dexter McCluster 21, Sean McGrath 19, Anthony Sherman 9, Anthony Fasano 7. ... Playing almost all of his snaps on the perimeter, Bowe has an attractive matchup against struggling Raiders CBs Mike Jenkins, Tracy Porter, and D.J. Hayden. Unfortunately, Bowe has consistently disappointed regardless of coverage because the Chiefs' offense is not geared toward pushing the ball outside the hashes or downfield. Bowe has become a total week-to-week crapshoot. He's a dice-roll fantasy WR3. ... I'd still rather play Bowe than Avery, who caught a pair of fluky 40-plus-yard vertical shots from Smith in Week 5, finishing with a 3-91 stat line at Tennessee. Avery suffered an in-game shoulder injury and could barely raise his arm in the locker room afterwards. He is a brittle player and ranks 38th among fantasy wideouts through five games. ... McCluster was not targeted and didn't receive an offensive touch against the Titans. ... McGrath's Beard has caught at least four passes in three consecutive games and will continue to handle Kansas City's every-down tight end duties with Travis Kelce (knee scope) out indefinitely and Fasano (knee, ankle) not yet ready. McGrath has been good for 5-6 targets a week. This is a quality matchup on paper for him if you're desperate. The Raiders gave up seven Week 5 catches to Antonio Gates and miss SS Tyvon Branch (fibula).
Score Prediction: Chiefs 23, Raiders 20
Pittsburgh @ NY Jets
The Jets' backfield officially devolved into a value-sapping three-way timeshare in last Monday's upset of Atlanta. Despite having a lead virtually all game, "starter" Bilal Powell managed a season-low 13 touches. Mike Goodson only played 11 snaps, but totaled 41 yards on four touches and is sure to play more moving forward. Early-down pounder Chris Ivory rushed four times for 27 yards, including a bone-rattling 19-yard run. When the season began, the Jets had designs on featuring Ivory on first and second downs with Goodson in the change-of-pace and passing-back role. They may transition back in that direction from here on out. The Week 6 matchup is right against the Steelers' No. 25 run defense, but the running back workloads and roles are up in the air. Invest in Jets backs at your own risk. ... Geno Smith deserves kudos for picking apart the Falcons' talent-deficient defense in Week 5. He'll face a more imposing Week 6 opponent. Pittsburgh ranks top five against the pass with four passing TDs allowed through four games. The Steelers are coming off a bye and desperate for a win. Smith remains a low-end two-quarterback-league play only.
Geno's target distribution with Santonio Holmes (hamstring) inactive against the Falcons: Jeremy Kerley 6; Jeff Cumberland 4; Stephen Hill, David Nelson, Goodson, and Powell 2; Kellen Winslow 1. ... Holmes is again out this week, giving Kerley the start at slot/Z receiver. In Week 4 -- before Pittsburgh's Week 5 bye -- Vikings slot/Z Greg Jennings dusted Steelers LCB Cortez Allen for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Kerley is the favorite to lead New York in Week 6 receiving, even if he's still a relatively low-end WR3. He should catch no fewer than five passes. ... Coming off a hamstring injury, Hill only played 32 snaps in Week 5 and was a passing-game afterthought, securing two passes for 21 yards. I'd like to see Hill produce again before considering him a potential fantasy starter. He's going to square off with Steelers top CB Ike Taylor on most of Sunday's downs. ... The tight end rotation of Cumberland and Winslow is a fantasy situation to avoid. They've essentially swapped productive games on a week-by-week basis all season, and Week 6 opponent Pittsburgh has allowed the third fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Friday Update: The NFL announced Friday that Winslow has been suspended four games for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cumberland isn't a Week 6 fantasy option against Pittsburgh's tight end-stingy defense, but could flirt with high-end TE2 numbers over the next month. It isn't as if Geno is rich with passing-game alternatives.
The 0-4 Steelers enter Week 6 fresh off an open date sorely in need of a win, but likely to find themselves in a grind-it-out affair against Rex Ryan's No. 2-ranked defense. Steelers-Jets has the week's third lowest over-under at 41 points, and I'd be inclined to bet the under. Ryan's defense has been eliminating running games and playing competitively versus the pass, ranking fifth in the league in sacks (16). This feels like a 17-13 kind of game. I wouldn't be anxious to start many Steelers in fantasy. ... Le'Veon Bell is worth RB2 consideration based solely on volume. In his Week 4 pre-bye NFL debut, Bell played 60-of-79 snaps (76%) and handled 20 touches with a pair of red-zone scores. Bell is unlikely to average many Week 6 yards per carry against the Jets' second-ranked run defense, but he could plunge into the end zone and pay dividends as a fantasy starter. He's already rendered Felix Jones, Isaac Redman, and Jonathan Dwyer complete non-factors. ... Ben Roethlisberger's target distribution since Bell joined the lineup: Antonio Brown 13, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller 8, Jerricho Cotchery 6, Bell and Markus Wheaton 5. ... Wheaton (pinkie surgery) is out indefinitely and only worth stashing in 14- to 16-team leagues.
I noticed playcaller Todd Haley make an adjustment with Brown after Week 2, using him on more diverse routes rather than forcing Brown to run down the sideline like Mike Wallace used to do. Brown has been peppered with pigskins since, seeing 26 targets over his last two games and ranking No. 7 among fantasy wideouts the past three weeks despite missing one due to the Week 5 bye. Brown is an every-week WR2, and his increased movement around the formation will make Brown harder for opposing top corners to shadow. Jets top CB Antonio Cromartie won't be 100% Sunday after hyperextending his knee in Thursday’s practice. Enemy No. 1 receiver stats against the Jets: Julio Jones 8-99, Vincent Jackson 7-154, Nate Washington 4-105-2, Stevie Johnson 6-86, Julian Edelman 13-78. ... Miller is the only other Steelers pass catcher with serious fantasy start-ability. The Jets allowed touchdowns to Scott Chandler and Delanie Walker in Weeks 3-4, and in Week 5 were touched up by Tony Gonzalez for a 10-97 line. Fully back from last year's knee injury, Miller is a full-time player again and will be a big part of Haley's passing attack. ... Sanders' target counts have either dropped or flatlined in every game since Week 1. He's on pace for 924 scoreless yards. Sanders is a WR3 option in PPR leagues only.
Score Prediction: Jets 17, Steelers 13
Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay
The league's carry leader through the season's first month, Doug Martin returns from a Week 5 bye to recuperate for Philly's 17th-ranked run defense. Martin is probably the favorite to lead the NFL in Week 6 touches. Although the Eagles have played productive 2013 offense, they play offense so fast that it puts their ineffective defense on the field for long stretches, and allows opponents to rack up touches and points. The Eagles are 31st in time of possession (26:24), ninth in rushing attempts against, and third in points allowed. Martin is a top-five running back play this week. He has yet to receive fewer than 20 carries in any game this season. ... Rookie TE Tim Wright quietly led Tampa Bay in Week 4 receptions (5) and is worth a look in deep Dynasty leagues. Wright is a converted wide receiver who played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers. At 6-foot-3, 219, Wright ran 4.65 with a 36-inch vertical at the Scarlet Knights' Pro Day.
The Bucs' offense is easy to dissect from a fantasy perspective because there are only three guys on the re-draft radar: Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Williams. This was Mike Glennon's target distribution in his first start: V-Jax 11, Wright and Williams 6, Martin 4, Brian Leonard and Erik Lorig 2. ... So at least Glennon (mostly) knows where to go with the football. Jackson only caught two of his 11 targets for 27 yards against the Cardinals, but he won't have to deal with Patrick Peterson anymore, and should be more on the same page as Glennon after bye-week practices. You know what you're dealing with when considering Jackson and Williams as potential fantasy starters: A big-armed, but rookie quarterback that makes for boom-or-bust scenarios. There are obviously no sure things, but I like V-Jax and Williams' chances of booming rather than busting this week because of the matchup. Philadelphia ranks 29th in pass defense with an 11:5 TD-to-INT ratio allowed. Enemy quarterbacks are completing 64.5% of their passes versus the Eagles.
Nick Foles has appeared in three games this season, completing 19-of-30 passes (63.3%) for 246 yards (8.2 YPA) and three touchdowns without an interception. His QB rating is 122.4. Foles flashed in the preseason, as well. Most of Foles' regular season snaps came against the lowly Giants, but there is reason to believe he can keep Chip Kelly's offense on the move despite lacking injured Michael Vick's dual threat. Foles is on the two-quarterback-league radar. To expect QB1-caliber numbers would be a stretch against a Tampa defense that has played the pass well this season. The Bucs have a 5:6 TD-to-INT ratio against through four games, and are permitting the eighth lowest yards-per-attempt average (6.6) in football. ... Another reason for Foles caution is the fact that the Eagles only have one threatening pass catcher, and DeSean Jackson is likely to be wrapped in Darrelle Revis' coverage for most of Sunday's game. Jackson has enough speed to beat Revis -- Larry Fitzgerald did two weeks ago for a game-winning score -- but the odds are against D-Jax having a truly big game. He's more WR2/3 than WR1/2 in this matchup. ... Foles' distribution of targets on the season: Jackson 8; LeSean McCoy and Jason Avant 4; Brent Celek and Bryce Brown 3; Jeff Maehl 2; Zach Ertz, Riley Cooper, and Chris Polk 1.
Foles' willingness to check down to McCoy bodes well for Shady's outlook while Vick is gone, particularly in this game because the Bucs play such stout defense on the ground. Tampa Bay is No. 9 in the league in run defense, allowing just 3.70 yards per carry. The Bucs are the only NFL team left that hasn't surrendered a rushing score. McCoy remains an elite RB1 play this and every week, but he's not quite in Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson territory in Week 6 due to the rough matchup. ... Avant, Ertz, Celek, and the emerging No. 2 wideout rotation of Cooper and Maehl represents a fantasy football wasteland. One of the above will probably score a touchdown or have a productive receiving game against the Buccaneers, but there's no way to tell for whom it'll be. ... Brown has played 79 snaps this season, while Polk has only played nine. Brown is the best handcuff for McCoy. Polk would likely see change-of-pace carries in the event of a Shady injury.
Score Prediction: Eagles 20, Bucs 17
4:05PM ET Games
Jacksonville @ Denver
In the most lopsided game that will be played this season, the only genuine fantasy concern for Broncos skill-position players is a potentially enormous early-game lead that results in starters resting after a couple of quarters. Denver is a whopping 27-point favorite, setting records in Vegas. The Jags have allowed the second most touchdown passes (12) in football and are tied for 28th in sacks (10). Look for Peyton Manning to bang out first-half touchdown passes before taking a (roughly) third-quarter seat. ... Demaryius Thomas (5-57-0) is coming off the slowest game among Denver pass catchers, which if trends continue means he'll be Peyton's favorite option in Week 6. Keep riding Demaryius, who still leads the Broncos in targets on the season and ranks sixth among wideouts in fantasy scoring. ... Manning's target distribution: Demaryius 44, Eric Decker 43, Wes Welker 42, Julius Thomas 36, Knowshon Moreno 14, Ronnie Hillman 10, Montee Ball 4. ... Virtually every Broncos skill player is at least worth consideration as a Week 6 fantasy play, right on down to Ball if you're desperate in a flex spot. Ball has been Denver's primary garbage-time running back, and this game could produce a large chunk of garbage time.
Moreno was confirmed to be Denver's clear lead back in competitive scenarios during last week's 51-48 win at Dallas. He handled a season-high 24 touches and scored at the goal line from a yard out in the fourth quarter. Change-of-pace back Hillman finished with 11 touches, totaling 59 yards. Moreno is an every-week RB2/flex. ... Through five games, Decker is on pace for 93 receptions, 1,367 yards, and seven touchdowns. He's an every-week WR2. ... Welker is the No. 2 overall fantasy receiver behind only Dez Bryant, and leads the NFL in receiving scores (7). He's a WR1. ... Among tight ends, only Jimmy Graham has notched more fantasy points than Thomas, who is a red-zone machine. Jacksonville has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends.
Fantasy owners willing to gamble on Jaguars skill players in Week 6 are going to hang their hats on garbage-time yards and points. And there could be a lot where that came from. Chad Henne is most effective throwing the ball inside the numbers on slants and skinnies, which are typically tolerated by prevent-type defenses. The Jags will have to throw early and often to pretend they're keeping up with Manning, then keep throwing to limit the deficit. A legit candidate for 50 pass attempts, Henne has more upside this week than meets the eye. He's a gambling man's QB1 streamer and locked-in two-QB-league start. ... Slants, skinny posts, and seam patterns are Justin Blackmon's bread and butter. It's why Blackmon had so much more statistical success playing with Henne in the second half of last season. Coming off a 5-136-1 2013 debut, Blackmon is a very intriguing WR2/3 at Denver and worth a long look in FanDuel's daily leagues. ... Henne's target distribution on the season: Cecil Shorts 35, Ace Sanders and Stephen Burton 12, Maurice Jones-Drew 8, Clay Harbor 7, Allen Reisner and Jordan Todman 4, Blackmon 3. Keep in mind Henne has barely played with Blackmon this year, as he just came off suspension. On those three targets, they did hook up twice for 46 yards in last week's loss to St. Louis.
Certainly not to be forgotten, here are Shorts' nine career stat lines when Henne has been the Jags' primary quarterback in a given game: 8-93, 8-143, 4-79-1, 6-105-1, 3-81-1, 4-105-1, 7-77-1, 6-101, 6-54. Both Shorts and Blackmon are candidates to finish Sunday with double-digit targets. Shorts is every bit as start-able as a WR2/3. ... Sanders played 88% of the Jaguars' Week 5 offensive snaps, but was targeted just once and finished without a catch. Sanders has four drops among 28 targets this season, and has caught 14 passes for 162 scoreless yards. I suppose you could put him on the extreme deep-league radar this week because he's obviously going to be on the field a lot. ... Stranger things have happened than producing against virtually all odds, but on paper this is about the worst possible matchup a Jones-Drew owner could imagine. The Jags haven't used him much in pass-happy comeback mode, frequently installing Jordan Todman and Justin Forsett. The Broncos rank No. 1 against the run and allow just 3.28 yards per carry. It's not really talked about much, but MJD has for much of his career been an every-down back and this year has played only 58.5% of Jacksonville's offensive snaps. On pace for just 666 rushing yards at a 2.81 per-carry clip, Jones-Drew is a risky Week 6 flex play.
Score Prediction: Broncos 37, Jaguars 20
Tennessee @ Seattle
The Seahawks have been gashing opponents on the ground despite a depleted offensive line. RT Breno Giacomini (knee) isn't quite ready, but C Max Unger returns this week from an "upper arm" injury that cost him the past two games. Pro Football Focus graded Unger as a top-three center in 2012, so his return should add juice to Seattle's front five as it takes on Tennessee's No. 14 run defense. The Titans have been slightly more porous on the ground than that ranking indicates, coughing up the ninth highest YPC average (4.34) in football. Expect a big-time rushing effort from No. 5 fantasy running back Marshawn Lynch. ... Russell Wilson seems to be loosening up a bit after a slow start. He's posted a combined 6:3 TD-to-INT ratio over the past three weeks, and his rushing numbers have increased incrementally in back-to-back games. Since Week 2, only six quarterbacks have scored more fantasy points. View Wilson as a high-ceiling, if back-end QB1 against Tennessee. The Titans are playing top-nine pass defense, but Wilson can flirt with matchup-proof value when he's ripping off yardage with his legs and executing in the red zone. ... Here's Wilson's target distribution during his three-game hot run: Golden Tate 24, Sidney Rice 16, Doug Baldwin 15, Luke Willson 9, Zach Miller 6, Lynch 5, Jermaine Kearse 3, Robert Turbin 1.
Tate is the run-first Seahawks' lone wide receiver worth serious WR3 consideration, but gets a difficult Week 6 matchup versus red-hot Titans RCB Alterraun Verner and has been inconsistent to be kind. He's always a dicey play. ... Baldwin is a quality real-life slot receiver, but has cleared 60 yards in just two of his last 15 games and scored one touchdown this season. He's for deep leaguers only. ... Rice's stat lines through five weeks: 2-35, 1-13, 5-79-2, 1-11, 1-8. There's no good reason to start him. ... Miller (hamstring) is expected to miss one more game, giving Willson the nod as Seattle's primary tight end. A long, athletic fifth-round pick out of Rice, Willson played 70.4% of the Seahawks' Week 6 snaps, but only finished with four targets. He's a Dynasty league prospect and nothing more. ... For forward thinkers: Including January's playoffs, Lynch has 375 carries since last September 30. Lynch owners should have Christine Michael rostered as a lottery-ticket/handcuff RB5. Michael isn't playing at the moment, but is Seattle's preferred early-down back over Turbin and could ascend to low-end RB1 value in the event of a Lynch injury.
In Week 5, Chris Johnson's owners were bailed out by a lucky Ryan Fitzpatrick flip-pass under heavy pressure, which Johnson took to the house from 49 yards out. CJ3ypcK was stuffed for 17 yards on 10 carries. The good news for Johnson is Fitzpatrick targeted him a season-high five times against the Chiefs after extremely limited pass-game involvement with Jake Locker under center. Strictly as a ball carrier, Johnson likely won't find any room at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have stymied enemy runners for 59 yards on 33 carries (1.79 YPC). Johnson is a low-floor RB2 in Week 6. ... Jackie Battle will get one more week to serve as Tennessee's short-yardage pounder after getting swallowed up on repeated goal-line carries against Kansas City. Battle did break off a 37-yard run off left tackle. It proved to be the Titans' best run of the day. ... Fitz's targets through one-plus games: Nate Washington 12, Kendall Wright 11, Kenny Britt and Delanie Walker 6, Johnson 5, Justin Hunter and Damian Williams 3, Battle 2.
The Seahawks rank No. 6 in total defense and third versus the pass. Their TD-to-INT ratio against is 5:7, and outside corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are capable of eliminating perimeter passing offenses with physical press coverage that re-routes receivers and disrupts timing. An outside receiver like Washington is going to be in for a long day. … Britt has been one of the least effective wideouts in football and isn't worth a roster spot in 12-team fantasy leagues. ... The one Titans receiver with a chance at Week 6 productivity is slot man Wright, who has at least five receptions in four consecutive games despite a three-week allergy to the end zone. Wright will take on Seattle slot CB Walter Thurmond III and is a low-end WR3. ... On pace for just under 500 receiving yards, Walker will need a red-zone touchdown to pay dividends as a fantasy start. The Seahawks have limited opposing tight ends to the ninth fewest fantasy points through five games.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Titans 17
4:25PM ET Games
New Orleans @ New England
Saints-Patriots is a fun one to try to project. The over-under is 50.5 points, and I feel that's on the conservative side with Tom Brady's weapons finally getting healthier. Although Rob Gronkowski (back) is going to miss one more game, Danny Amendola (groin) is headed toward resuming full-time receiver duties, giving New England a formidable three-receiver package with Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins. ... The Saints opened the year playing tough defense, but sprung leaks last week in Chicago. Jay Cutler toasted New Orleans for 358 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-33 (72.7%) passing, avoiding interceptions. The arrow is pointing up on Brady. You'll want to start him in this likely shootout. ... Amendola played 39-of-63 snaps (61.9%) last week, and still led New England in targets (9). He's likely to see double digits against the Saints and play closer to 90% of the downs. Amendola is a standard-league WR2/3 and must-start in PPR. ... Despite Amendola's return, Julian Edelman remained a staple in all offensive packages against the Bengals last week. He was a 95-percent player, even if his production was down in a slow game for the entire Patriots offense. Edelman isn't quite the WR1/2 he was during Amendola's absence, but he's still very much in the weekly WR3 mix. He's an every-down receiver in a Brady-quarterbacked offense.
Same goes for Kenbrell Thompkins, whose consistency will be an issue but is locked in as an every-snap player at X receiver -- Brandon Lloyd's old position. He's a WR3 with increased attractiveness this week due to the game's high-scoring potential. Thompkins played all but two snaps in Amendola's return. With Gronk not playing, you could argue Thompkins is the likeliest Patriots pass catcher to score a Week 6 touchdown. ... LeGarrette Blount is who we thought he was, and confirmed it in Week 5 at Cincinnati. He averaged 4.25 YPC on 12 carries and lost a second-quarter fumble, which could cost Blount playing time going forward. ... Brandon Bolden has a specialized role as the passing-down back until Shane Vereen (wrist) returns in Week 11. He's averaged nine touches for 59 scoreless yards over the past three weeks. Bolden is a low-end flex option. He's a role player, and no threat to take over as New England's primary back. ... Listed as limited/questionable, Stevan Ridley (knee, thigh) is tentatively due back against the Saints after missing Week 5. New Orleans is most vulnerable on the ground, ceding a league-high 5.43 yards per rushing attempt. Unfortunately, we may not know Ridley's availability for certain until roughly 3PM ET Sunday. And that makes him a risky flex option. On the bright side, Ridley owners should view Blount's Week 5 struggles as a positive. On the off chance Ridley can get back to handling a clear majority of early-down carries, he still has a shot to provide RB2 value the rest of the way.
Over his last three games, Drew Brees has completed 88-of-120 passes (73.3%) for 1,043 yards (8.69 YPA) and a 9:1 TD-to-INT ratio, rushing for a tenth touchdown. New England has been excellent against the pass early in the season, but pouring on points in Brees' specialty. He's the No. 2 fantasy quarterback. ... Brees' target distribution: Jimmy Graham 53; Marques Colston and Darren Sproles 31; Pierre Thomas 30; Kenny Stills 16; Lance Moore 11; Ben Watson and Jed Collins 11; Robert Meachem 5; Nick Toon 3. ... Bill Belichick is famous for designing game plans that eliminate the opposition's best offensive weapon. I'm not saying the Patriots will successfully eliminate Graham, but it's very conceivable that the way they choose to guard him will open up the field for others. Sproles owners need to shake off last week's slow game and start him in Week 6. The Patriots' linebackers are big and bulky, and struggle in pass coverage. They've given up 23 catches for 185 yards to opposing running backs through five games. That's a 77-reception pace to backs, alone. This is a great matchup for Sproles. ... It's also a great matchup for Graham, however. New England has allowed the sixth most catches and 13th most yards to tight ends.
Moore (wrist) is out another game, but to this point Stills has failed to capitalize. The preseason star has failed to clear 40 yards since the opener. ... Colston's start has been slow by his usual fantasy standards, but he's still on pace to top 1,000 yards, and there's nothing that suggests he's suddenly fallen off a cliff. Colston is going to pick it up, so keep starting him. The Pats may use top CB Aqib Talib on Graham, which would put an inferior defensive back on New Orleans' mismatch-creating slot receiver. Despite his to-date stats, Colston remains a weekly WR2. ... Pierre Thomas disappointed in Weeks 1-4. In Week 5, he ripped off 91 yards on a season-high 28 touches and scored twice as a receiver. Thomas is a particularly dicey fantasy play this week because Mark Ingram (toe) may return. When Ingram was active for Weeks 1-2, Thomas only averaged 11 touches for 53.5 scoreless yards per game. Generally speaking, when Ingram is active for games Thomas carries no fantasy value. Nor does Ingram.
Score Prediction: Saints 30, Patriots 28
Arizona @ San Francisco
Carson Palmer started the season hot and has spiraled downward since. Palmer has completed just 78 of his last 138 throws (56.5%) for 833 yards (6.04 YPA) with a 3:8 TD-to-INT ratio. He's a passer who requires pocket space due to nonexistent mobility, and isn't getting it enough behind a Cardinals line that ranks 28th in Pro Football Focus' pass-pro metrics. The 49ers rank No. 2 in pass defense and haven't missed a beat without Aldon Smith (leave of absence) due to improved back-end coverage. Palmer is a low-end two-quarterback-league play at Candlestick. ... Palmer's target distribution since Rob Housler returned from a high ankle sprain in Week 3: Michael Floyd 23, Larry Fitzgerald 21, Andre Ellington 17, Andre Roberts 7, Housler and Rashard Mendenhall 7, Jim Dray 3. ... In addition to Palmer's inefficiency, the big concern for Fitz is he hasn't been heavily targeted like Reggie Wayne was in Bruce Arians' offense last year. I still like Fitzgerald as an every-week WR2/3, and expect him to square off with 49ers slot CB Carlos Rogers on most of Sunday's snaps. 23 of Fitz's 40 targets on the season have come inside the numbers because he's playing in the slot so frequently. Rogers has been San Francisco's weakest cover corner.
Floyd gets a tougher draw versus outside corners Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock and is a low-end WR3 at San Francisco. The 2013 first-rounder is on pace for 68 catches and 964 scoreless yards. ... Roberts' playing time is way down since Housler's return. He played 53% of the Week 5 snaps, saw one target, and can be dropped in re-draft leagues. ... Arians is using more two-tight end sets than expected, likely in an effort to address the deficient pass protection. He's historically a three-receiver coach. Housler and Dray remain off the fantasy radar. The 49ers are stingy in tight end coverage. ... Arians confirmed this week that he envisions Ellington as a committee back only capable of handling 30-32 snaps per week. It's about 50% of a normal game. Mendenhall and to a lesser extent Alfonso Smith will handle the rest of the workload. Although Ellington's involvement has picked up -- he recorded a season-high 11 touches in Week 5 -- the impressive rookie is not yet trustworthy as more than a shaky flex. Mendenhall is still dominating early-down and goal-line carries. Outside of desperate bye-week scenarios, I'd view the Arizona backfield as a fantasy situation to avoid. It's a timeshare behind ineffective blocking. The 49ers rank 20th in run defense, but only give up 3.66 yards per carry and have up-front personnel to dominate the Cardinals in the trenches. Mendenhall has managed 94 yards on his last 39 carries (2.41 YPC).
This one sets up nicely for a Vernon Davis blowup game. Not only are the Cardinals allowing the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends, but Davis projects as Colin Kaepernick's clear-cut go-to option as Patrick Peterson bodies up Anquan Boldin and Arizona trots out a stifling run defense that ranks third in the league and is submitting only 3.32 yards per carry. Davis confirmed his early-season hamstring problems are behind him on a 64-yard scoring sprint down the sideline in last week's win over Houston, and he resumed practicing on a full-time basis ahead of Week 6. Only Jimmy Graham is a theoretically better tight end bet this week, and I wouldn't be surprised if Davis outscored him. ... Although Peterson's coverage is less consistent than popular opinion suggests, at 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds he is built perfectly to match up man-to-man with 6-foot-1, 223-pound Boldin, and almost certainly will on the vast majority of Sunday's snaps. Boldin is still worth firing up as a WR3, but I wouldn't view this as a favorable matchup. Receiver-rich fantasy owners might want to contemplate alternatives. ... Colin Kaepernick's target distribution in Week 5, after the 49ers inserted Jon Baldwin as a starter: Boldin 6, Davis 6, Baldwin 2, Bruce Miller 1.
Kap only needed 15 pass attempts against the Texans because Matt Schaub essentially gave the game to San Francisco. Therefore, it's difficult to hold Kaepernick's weak fantasy results against him as it pertains to Week 6. Kaepernick quietly had his best regular season game against a similar-looking Arizona defense in Week 17 last year, touching up the Cardinals for 276 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-28 passing. Feel free to treat Kaepernick as a borderline fantasy starter until his production picks up, but this an above-average matchup. Arizona ranks 19th versus the pass and 20th in Pro Football Focus' team pass-coverage metrics. They're a much better defense with ILB Daryl Washington back from suspension, but Washington played in that Week 17 game, too. The 49ers know all about him. ... Baldwin failed to secure either of his Week 5 targets and is a fantasy WR5 until something changes. He played 23-of-53 snaps (43%) against Houston, although the Niners pulled their starters early. ... Frank Gore inarguably has a difficult matchup in this game, but he's a top-five fantasy running back over the past three weeks and can never be benched. An every-week RB2, Gore has 316 yards and two TDs on his last 48 carries (6.58 YPC).
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Cardinals 17
Sunday Night Football
Washington @ Dallas
The Week 5 bye came at a perfect time for Robert Griffin III, a film junkie who undoubtedly pored over his shoddy early-season mechanics during the open date while simultaneously getting further removed from January's knee reconstruction. He's a candidate to take off statistically over the Redskins' final 12 games. RG3 ranks tenth in per-game quarterback scoring, so he wasn't hurting fantasy teams in the first place. Lock in Griffin as an elite QB1 in this projected shootout indoors with a week-high 53.5-point over-under. ... Helping RG3's outlook is the healthy return of TEs Fred Davis (ankle) and Jordan Reed (quad), who aren't necessarily standalone fantasy assets but give Griffin chain-moving presences over the middle and down the seams. The Cowboys have allowed the third most fantasy points to tight ends, so you could do worse as a fill-in TE1 than primary pass-catcher Reed. ... Amid Griffin's early-season struggles, Pro Football Focus has graded Washington's offensive line as the second best pass-blocking unit in football, behind only Denver. That'll come in handy against a pressure-oriented Dallas defense. ... Griffin's target distribution through four games: Pierre Garcon 44, Santana Moss 26, Leonard Hankerson 24, Reed 15, Josh Morgan 15, Logan Paulsen 11, Roy Helu 9, Davis 7, Aldrick Robinson 6, Alfred Morris 4. ... Garcon is a man on a mission this season. Soaking up targets, Garcon is averaging 11 of them a game and ranks No. 15 in per-game fantasy receiver scoring. In this plus matchup versus struggling Cowboys CBs Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, Garcon is a borderline fantasy WR1.
On pace for 60 catches, 740 yards, and eight touchdowns, Hankerson is worth a WR3 look in this projected high-scoring affair. Although not heavily targeted, HankTime has big-play potential off play action and has handled 67.8% of Washington's offensive snaps the past two games. ... Slot man Moss is the only other Redskins pass catcher worth any hint of fantasy consideration, though not much. He was targeted three times in the Skins' last game, had one drop, and finished without a catch. Opposing slot receivers versus Dallas over the past month: Wes Welker 5-49-1, Dexter McCluster 2-14, Tavon Austin 6-30, Eddie Royal 3-42. ... The Cowboys rank No. 4 in run defense, albeit a more middling 12th in YPC allowed (3.80). In Week 5, Knowshon Moreno tagged Dallas for 93 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (4.89 YPC). In Week 4, Chargers backs combined to rough up the Cowboys for 112 yards on 27 runs. This isn't a great matchup for Morris, but it isn't a forbidding one, either. In his two career meetings with Dallas, Morris has ripped off 313 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries (5.49 YPC). Healthy after the bye, start Alf with a heaping helping of excitement. ... Helu performed well off the bench with Morris nursing a rib injury in Week 4, but will resume handcuff/third-down back duties against the Cowboys. When Morris has stayed healthy for four quarters this season, Helu has averaged two touches for 18 total yards per game.
The Redskins get back DE Jarvis Jenkins and OLB Rob Jackson from suspension in Week 6, but they're going to need a miracle worker to save Jim Haslett's defense. They're dead last in total defense, 28th against the pass, and second to last versus the run. After last week's pass-happy shootout with Denver, this game is an opportunity for Dallas to reestablish its rushing attack. In addition to its No. 31 run-defense rank, Washington is shelling out 4.66 yards per carry and an average of one rushing score per game. DeMarco Murray has produced like an RB1 to this point in the season, and should be treated like one in Week 6 versus the Skins. ... Miles Austin's expected return from a hamstring injury helps Tony Romo's fantasy cause, but doesn't necessarily restore Austin to fantasy reliability, or remove the wind from Terrance Williams' sails. Due to the recurring nature of this injury for this particular player, it's entirely possible Austin will be "eased" back in, playing slot receiver only on passing downs while Williams and Dez Bryant remain the every-down outside wideouts. Bryant is an obvious WR1 as he squares off with DeAngelo Hall, who admittedly got the better of Dez in their Week 17 matchup (4-71) last year but is highly unlikely to do so again. Williams is a boom-or-bust WR3 play. Fantasy owners should put Austin on a wait-and-see week. If he plays well against the Skins, consider it a plus and start him in Week 7 at Philly.
The Redskins are leaky everywhere on defense. The safety play has been atrocious. Slot CB Josh Wilson is 85th of 104 in Pro Football Focus' cornerback grades, and Hall is 78th. Rookie RCB David Amerson has been highly inconsistent. OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan have been the lone bright spots as pass rushers. If they get heat on Romo, look for Jason Witten to step up as Dallas' primary hot read. Witten's last three stat lines against Jim Haslett's Redskins defense: 7-56-1, 9-74, 3-85-1. To date this season, Witten is the No. 6 overall fantasy tight end. ... Romo is playing some of the best football of his career. He's third in fantasy quarterback scoring behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and over his last eight home starts Romo has a 23:4 TD-to-INT ratio. Among Week 6 fantasy quarterback options, I'd only start Manning and Drew Brees over Romo. He's playing that well and has that attractive a matchup.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Redskins 27
Monday Night Football
Indianapolis @ San Diego
Monday night's over-under is 50 points, meaning the prognosticators anticipate a healthy dose of scoring. They must not be taking Indianapolis' No. 6 pass defense particularly seriously, which makes sense because the Colts have yet to face a high-volume, high-efficiency quarterback through five games. Philip Rivers fits those criteria, however, ranking top ten in pass attempts (38 a game) and No. 2 in completion rate (73.7) with a 13:5 TD-to-INT ratio. This game has shootout potential, and Rivers' early-season performance locks him in as an every-week QB1. ... Rivers' target distribution the past two games: Antonio Gates 20, Vincent Brown 17, Danny Woodhead 16, Keenan Allen 15, Eddie Royal 12, Ryan Mathews 4, Ronnie Brown 3, Ladarius Green 1. ... Racking up receptions in space as Rivers' new Darren Sproles, Woodhead is first-year coach Mike McCoy's best means of manufacturing offense for a team with major O-Line deficiencies and no legitimate downfield passing threat. Clearly, Woodhead is a huge part of the weekly game plans and in line for more carries with Mathews (concussion) seeming likely to be inactive. Due to the way Woodhead is utilized, run-defense matchups don't matter. He's a strong Week 6 flex in standard leagues and an RB2 in PPR. ... Confirming his Weeks 1-2 TD binge was fluky on the regular, Royal ranks 75th in fantasy wideout scoring ever since. I'd drop him in 10- and 12-team leagues. He could score another fluke touchdown on Monday night and I still wouldn't regret it.
The targets trend and matchup both favor Brown over Allen as a Week 6 fantasy start. Whereas rookie Allen will run most of his routes into Colts top CB Vontae Davis' coverage, Brown will deal with more beatable LCB Greg Toler on the majority of Monday night's snaps. It's worth noting that Allen's Week 4 production (5-80) came against struggling Cowboys RCB Morris Claiborne, and in Week 5 Allen had one catch-less target until the Chargers fell behind the Raiders 17-0 at halftime. Allen is an ascendant player, but not quite trustworthy in re-draft leagues yet. ... Brown opened the season playing inefficient football. Over the past two weeks, he's secured 14-of-17 targets for 158 yards. I'd view him as a mid-range WR3 in Week 6. ... Gates and Woodhead are still the every-week favorites for passing-game production in San Diego. Proving to be a draft-day steal, Gates is the No. 4 overall fantasy tight end and ranks second to only Jimmy Graham in tight end yards. The Colts aren't allowing many fantasy points to tight ends, but that's primarily because they haven't played many good ones. Vernon Davis sat out the Indy game in Week 3. In Week 2, Dolphins H-back Charles Clay ate up the Colts for 109 receiving yards on five catches. Otherwise, Indianapolis has faced the likes of Luke Willson, Clay Harbor/Allen Reisner, and Mychal Rivera.
No. 7 overall fantasy quarterback Andrew Luck has a cake Week 6 matchup versus San Diego's No. 27 pass defense, a unit that has surrendered a 10:1 TD-to-INT ratio to enemy quarterbacks and got picked apart by Terrelle Pryor last week. Opponents are completing 69.8% of their throws against the Chargers, who have little or no prayer of generating pass rush after losing Dwight Freeney for the season. Look for a clean pocket for Luck, who can be argued as a top-five QB1 play this week. ... The Colts shouldn't have much trouble generating ball movement on Monday night. It's also an opportunity to kick start their scuffling ground game versus San Diego's No. 24 run defense, which surrenders the fifth highest yards-per-carry average (4.88) in football. Perhaps Trent Richardson isn't the top-five RB1 we envisioned at the season's start, but there aren't ten better running back bets in Week 6. ... Despite Donald Brown's superior per-play production, the Colts aren't showing urgency to make their backfield a committee scenario, and likely won't. Brown only touched the football eight times in Week 5. Brown's three-yard touchdown in last week's win over Seattle isn't a sign of things to come. It came on a shotgun draw play in a specialized personnel package. T-Rich remains the heavy favorite for all Colts goal-line work.
T.Y. Hilton was sensational against the Seahawks, getting behind LCB Richard Sherman for a 73-yard touchdown and flat-out burning RCB Brandon Browner on a 29-yard scoring bomb. Hilton's weekly snap and target counts have been frustrating, but his Week 6 matchup is ideal. Bolts RCB Derek Cox is 91st of 104 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' cornerback ratings, and LCB Shareece Wright is 93rd. ... Luck's target distribution on the year: Reggie Wayne 42, Hilton 35, Darrius Heyward-Bey 26, Coby Fleener 21, Richardson and Brown 5. ... Wayne is the No. 19 overall fantasy receiver this season, and No. 18 over the past three weeks. He's an every-week WR2. Facing Cox, Wright, and similarly struggling Chargers slot CB Johnny Patrick, this might be the most favorable coverage matchup Wayne draws all year. ... The Colts are using Heyward-Bey as a possession-blocking receiver. DHB was targeted six times against Seattle and did not secure any of them, including a brutal drop on a bubble screen. He's miles from fantasy relevance. ... Although Fleener is capable of productive games, he simply hasn't been a heavily-targeted part of Indy's passing offense. San Diego is getting burned on the perimeter, but is 19th in receptions allowed to tight ends (22) and 21st in yards (249). Fleener is mere bye-week filler.
Score Prediction: Colts 28, Chargers 24
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