The Lions finally cut D’Andre Swift loose on early downs. Swift’s 14/116/2 rushing line more than doubled his previous season totals. The Lions’ commitment was real, as they featured Swift both early and late, allowing him to punch in a one-yard score in the second quarter and six-yarder in the fourth.
The first was particularly encouraging since it came after Swift failed to find the end zone on the two previous plays. The Lions wanted to see what they had in Swift, and the answer was unsurprisingly a damn good runner. Adrian Peterson, of course, did not go away, scoring the Lions’ first touchdown and out-carrying Swift 15-14. Kerryon Johnson has gone away, making this three-man committee a more manageable two-back rotation. With his receiving work on top of his enhanced early-down outlook, Swift can now vault from shaky FLEX play to occasional RB2 streamer. Week 7 against the Falcons’ bottom-barrel defense provides an immediate top-24 opportunity.
Five Week 6 Storylines
Struggling Baker Mayfield benched late in blowout. The Browns haven’t needed Mayfield when they’re winning. Fantasy managers didn’t get him when they were losing. Instead of garbage time, it was pine time with the Browns down 31-7 in the third quarter. We can say Mayfield was playing through a rib issue, but the reality is, Mayfield hasn’t been good all season, even as the Browns sprinted to a 4-1 start. Limited creativity to go along with limited poise and limited arm strength has proven to be a terrible troika for a player who entered 2020 at a career crossroads. There may not be enough of a difference between Mayfield and older Mayfield Case Keenum for coach Kevin Stefanski to make a permanent switch — the coach has already said the move won’t be made for Week 7 — but Mayfield’s long-term Browns future is increasingly in doubt. Year 3 is when the cake is baked. It’s time to either start Josh Allening or die trying.
Julio Jones comes back to life as Falcons wax Vikings. It had been 35 days since Jones went 10/157 in the opener. He was apparently itching to remind everyone he’s no A.J. Green or T.Y. Hilton. Decidedly not washed, Jones capped the Falcons’ opening drive with a 20-yard score — his first since last Week 15 — before later adding a 40-yarder. One of the most imposing physical freaks to ever play the game of football, Jones confirmed his recent struggles were entirely injury related, and that the Falcons can still actually move the ball when he’s healthy. Calvin Ridley will continue to make life more difficult than it needs to be for Jones in fantasy, but managers can once again safely plug Jones in as a top-10 option.
Miles Sanders requires MRI for balky knee. Sanders’ knee got bent backward at the end of a(nother) 74-yard run vs. the Ravens. It doesn’t appear that Sanders suffered a season-ending ailment, but his status for Thursday’s short-week tilt with the Giants is in doubt bordering on zero chance of playing. Increasingly big-play dependent in the Eagles’ “Lord of the Flies” offense, Sanders has just 33 carries over his past three games, compensating with his twin 74-yard rumbles. If the risk/reward RB2 sits vs. the G-Men, Boston Scott and Corey Clement will form a low wattage committee, one where only Scott will offer FLEX appeal.
Cam Newton flat in return from COVID-19 list. The cure for coronavirus didn’t include any new receivers for Newton. Making his first start in 21 days, Newton was held under 165 yards passing for the third time in four games, though he compensated with 10/76/1 on the ground. That’s great for fantasy. In real life, it barely band aids an offense that has almost no receiving threat and no set running back rotation. Placed under increasing pressure as a passer, defenses will be free to tighten the vise on Newton’s running. A 49ers defense that revived to shut down Jared Goff on Sunday evening is Newton’s foe for Week 7.
JuJu Smith-Schuster becomes more ghostly as Chase Claypool does more work. JuJu opened the bank vault and let Claypool walk right in. With Diontae Johnson hurt most of the past two weeks, Smith-Schuster had a chance to re-establish himself at the top of the Steelers’ receiver corps. Instead, he’s caught six passes for 34 yards, watching helplessly as Claypool dunks on defenses as both a pass catcher and rusher. If there’s good news, it’s that Smith-Schuster’s latest dud came on an afternoon where Ben Roethlisberger attempted only 22 passes. There will be more volume going forward. It’s just getting harder and harder to spin Smith-Schuster’s short-area, middle-of-the-field usage as Johnson and Claypool dominate and make plays on the outside. Even with a shootout on tap with the Titans, Smith-Schuster has plunged to the WR30-36 range in fantasy.
Five More Week 6 Storylines
Tee Higgins has first 100-yard game as A.J. Green somewhat revives. You could feel it coming for weeks. Higgins led the Bengals’ receiver corps in snaps as he turned eight targets into his first 100-yard game. Higgins’ 6/125 day was a WR1 effort vs. the Colts’ elite defense. The No. 33 overall pick’s yardage totals have been methodically increasing since Week 2. Green’s had been methodically decreasing before he finally showed a pulse in Indy, catching 8-of-11 targets for 96 yards. This, after a phantom “hamstring” injury allowed AJG to reset after he failed to break up or pursue an interception in last week’s thundering loss to the Ravens. With a terrible offensive line and negative game flows all but guaranteed, the Bengals are going to have to keep throwing. Higgins can emerge as a WR2 with Green stabilizing a FLEX floor.
Recently returned from knee injury, Raheem Mostert departs with ankle issue. In a touching Matt Breida tribute, Mostert suddenly can’t stay healthy, attempting to play through minor injuries as he stacks up new ones. He tried to gut through his ankle ailment on the first drive of the second half on Sunday evening, but he was then pulled and ruled out. Perhaps it was the 49ers simply acknowledging the obvious that he wasn’t in condition to handle any more snaps against the Rams, but any time a player is ruled out mid-game, it imperils their odds of suiting up the following week. With Tevin Coleman still nowhere to be found, fantasy favorite JaMycal Hasty could be the next man up on early downs for Week 7 against the Patriots. The 49ers seem to have diagnosed that Jerick McKinnon’s ideal usage does not involve banging between the tackles. Hasty handled nine carries vs. the Rams.
Jonnu Smith injures ankle vs. Texans. Smith drew only two targets before rolling up his ankle, hobbling to the sideline and tossing his helmet in disgust. If there’s good news, it’s that Smith seemed to be trying to return, but he could not get cleared after being labeled “questionable.” If he has avoided a high-ankle sprain, Smith probably won’t miss any time. If he hasn’t, the next month plus is suddenly in question. That would be a huge loss for the Titans but a bigger one for fantasy managers. Smith has emerged as a top-five tight end in this wretched year for the position. It is possible that Smith’s backup Anthony Firkser emerges as a plug-and-play option after crushing for 8/113/1 against the Texans’ awful defense. Even if Smith is cleared early, Firkser is worth a gander on this week’s thin waiver wire.
Already diminished, Zach Ertz leaves game with ankle injury. At first it was raining for the Eagles. Then it poured. Now it’s a slow-moving hurricane camped over the coastline and dumping buckets of rain. Ertz has been playing poorly. He’s also still the Eagles’ No. 1 pass catcher, one whose loss would leave an already lost Carson Wentz even further adrift. Ertz had to be helped off the field before being spirited to the locker room vs. Baltimore. Early reports have him out 3-4 weeks. Even if Ertz has avoided serious injury, he has only four days to get cleared for Week 7 with the Eagles playing on Thursday Night Football. He won't be out there. It is possible Dallas Goedert (ankle) will be. Ertz may be Wentz’s spirit animal, but if he sits while Goedert plays — with Goedert showing out and building chemistry with Wentz — that could be the final stake in Ertz’s TE1 case.
Mark Ingram notches only five carries before injuring ankle. Will this be what finally brings clarity to the Ravens’ backfield? Don’t count on it, speaking afterward, coach John Harbaugh said he didn’t believe the team was dealing with any long-term issues, which means Ingram has likely avoided a high-ankle sprain. In Ingram’s absence, Gus Edwards’ 14 carries were a new season high for any Ravens back, though he pathetically turned them into only 26 yards. The rookie everybody wants to happen, J.K. Dobbins, handled the rock 11 times for 29 yards. As usual, the only consistent, productive back was Lamar Jackson, who turned nine totes into 108 yards and a score. Unless multiple backs get injured, Ravens runners will continue to supply only sporadic FLEX value.
1. They’re 5-1, but what exactly is going on with the Ravens?
2. Is Alexander Mattison canceled? Yes, yes he is.
3. Dan Quinn, how does this make you feel?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Derek Carr (vs. TB), Teddy Bridgewater (@NO), Jimmy Garoppolo (@NO), Nick Foles (@LAR), Kyle Allen (vs. DAL)
RB: Justin Jackson, Boston Scott, Lamical Perine, Gus Edwards, JaMycal Hasty, J.D. McKissic
WR: Chase Claypool, Henry Ruggs, Travis Fulgham, Mike Williams, Christian Kirk, Keelan Cole, Preston Williams, Tim Patrick, Breshad Perriman, Adam Humphries, Darnell Mooney, Devin Duvernay
TE: Dallas Goedert, Trey Burton, Logan Thomas, Irv Smith, Greg Olsen, Darren Fells, Anthony Firkser
DEF: Chargers (vs. JAX), Eagles (vs. NYG), Cowboys (@WAS)
Stats of the Week
Via Adam Levitan: JuJu Smith-Schuster has one game over 84 yards since Antonio Brown left Pittsburgh.
Mike Evans has only drawn 10 total targets in Chris Godwin’s three appearances. It’s a bit of a fluke as Evans has battled injury of his own, but certainly something that will have to change if Evans is to maintain WR1 value.
Damien Harris played only five snaps following his seeming breakout in Week 4. On to the next one.
Cam Akers, meanwhile, played one snap against the 49ers. This three-man backfield is a two-man, for now.
Tweet of the Week from Michael David Smith: Giants and Football Team tied 13-13 late in the fourth quarter, and it feels like a game where it's a real shame that someone has to win.
2060 Presidential Medal of Freedom Awarded To: C.J. Mosley for opting out of the 2020 Jets’ season.