Week 6 Fantasy power rankings and full slate guide: Cam Newton's stock rising

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/car" data-ylk="slk:Carolina Panthers">Carolina Panthers</a>’ <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/24788/" data-ylk="slk:Cam Newton">Cam Newton</a> looks ready to ascend to peak form on another dominant run for the ages.&nbsp; (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)
Carolina PanthersCam Newton looks ready to ascend to peak form on another dominant run for the ages.  (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Here, I’ll run through every Week 6 game and rank them from best to worst from a fantasy perspective. We’ll also look at betting lines to project possible winners and game script, as well as examining one key matchup to watch in each game.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) at New England Patriots (3-2)

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Total: 60
Favorite: Patriots (-3.5)

The Patriots will attempt to hang the first 2018 loss on the Chiefs in Gillette Stadium Sunday night in a game with the highest projected total of the season. New England’s offense is starting to come together with two straight 38-point outings the last couple of weeks. The Chiefs still rank second in points and yards per drive on the year. It’s easy to see why this total is as high as it is. Patrick Mahomes faces his greatest test yet going into Foxboro against Bill Belichick. While the longtime coaching master knows how to “figure out” a young quarterback, it’s hard to imagine this offense being bottled up against a defense that ranks dead last in sack rate. At the very least, those 3.5 points you get with the Chiefs are interesting.

Matchup to watch 

Here we are: the 80th time we have to discuss “the Josh Gordon factor” in just six weeks. Gordon saw his second game of action with the Patriots last week and hauled in a 34-yard touchdown; Tom Brady’s 500th of his career. Gordon should continue to be the top deep threat on the team with a 14.7 average depth of target. He’s a razor-thin margin for error play but makes some sense as an upside WR3. The Chiefs have allowed an NFL-high 22 deep completions this year. Gordon has played almost exclusively on the perimeter (95 percent) and that will pit him against out-of-position outside corners, Stephen Nelson and Orlando Scandrick.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-4)

Total: 57.5
Favorite: Falcons (-3)

The Falcons are giving three points simply because they’re at home, because if you’ve watched this team at all in 2018 you know they aren’t good enough to be a favorite against anyone. The Buccaneers suffered their worst defeat of 2018 heading into their Week 5 bye with Mitchell Trubisky hanging six passing scores on them. Their pass defense is just so hideous, allowing a league-high 10.7 touchdown rate to wide receivers. We may even see Julio Jones get in the box in addition to a Calvin Ridley bounce-back against this “stop” unit. These teams should easily push the total over. The only question is whether Tampa Bay’s switch up at signal caller is enough to not only cover this spread but outright beat the division-rival Falcons.

Matchup to watch

Fitzmagic is a thing of the past and Jameis Winston comes off his Week 5 bye to the starting job. He’s in a prime spot to start hot, too. We all love the idea of Winston taking over this stacked offense manned by a progressive spread-heavy play caller in Todd Monken. Winston looked great this preseason and finished 2017 hot, with a 68 percent completion rate and 96.3 passer rating over his final four games. If you need a high-upside streamer or DFS play, Winston is a pretty perfect bet. Winston has long favored the tight end position, dating back to his days at Florida State. His return brings Cameron Brate back into the fold, who could see a boost in playing time if O.J. Howard is limited despite practicing with a knee injury this week. Atlanta’s defensive injuries up the middle of the field have not borne fruit in production allowed to tight ends, but they have major holes in the areas of the field where Howard and Brate will run their routes.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)

Total: 52.5\
Favorite: Bengals (-1)

An AFC North matchup that features two of the best offenses in the NFL with the Bengals and Steelers ranking fourth and 13th in points per drive, respectively. Both squads are in the top half of the NFL in pace of play in neutral situations, as well. Theoretically, this should be a points-fest, but history does not favor that outcome. Coming into Week 1, the under had hit in 18 of the Steelers’ 22 1:00 pm EST road starts over the last five years. We promptly saw Ben Roethlisberger drop a classic dud in Cleveland to open 2018. Nevertheless, the current iteration of both offenses makes it tough to not be aggressive in deploying fantasy players in this game. The Bengals have been good enough this year as an offensive and pass-rushing team to feel solid with taking them in what amounts to a “pick ‘em” spot.

Matchup to watch

A.J. Green’s cornerback matchup with Xavien Howard was a cause for concern coming into Week 5, but credit the Bengals coaching staff for working around it. Green ran a season-high 44 percent of his routes from the slot to escape the clutches of Miami’s boundary corner and collected more targets (10) and gained more yards (112) than in any other game this year. Green has another tough ask this week with Joe Haden on the docket. Haden is a legitimate difference-maker for this middling Steelers pass defense and is part of the reason Julio Jones went catch-less well into the second half of their Week 5 matchup. Green and Haden have a long history, dating back to the cornerback’s time in Cleveland. The All-Pro receiver has not cleared 51 yards in six of the eight games where this duo dueled.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2-1) 

Total: 44.5
Favorite: Chargers (-1)

The Chargers and Browns come into this just a game, or a half-game, depending on how you want to view a tie, apart in record. Vegas reflected this as well, with the Browns getting just one point at home against the 3-2 Chargers. The 44.5-point total here feels relatively low. Los Angeles has Philip Rivers playing at an MVP-level right now, as he ranks third in the NFL in passer rating and touchdown rate with a 70.1 percent completion rate. The Baker Mayfield-led offense has shown the ability to push 40 total points when facing a middling-to-poor defense, which the Chargers certainly qualify as. Mayfield hasn’t completely hit just yet but has shown the ability to make big plays. The No. 1 overall pick currently carries the fifth-highest yards per completion figure with 13.3.

Matchup to watch

Keenan Allen makes for one of the best buy-low candidates here in Week 6, having slipped down to $24 in Yahoo DFS.  While the running backs have turned into a feature part of the passing game, Allen still leads the team with a 27 percent share of the team’s air yards, but has mostly just been used as a short receiver with a 7.4 average depth of target. Remember, this is an elite receiver who cleared the 97th percentile in success rate vs. man coverage in Reception Perception for both 2015 (77.1%) and 2017 (77.6%). Given how much man coverage Cleveland plays, he gets a great matchup in Week 6 to turn in some high-end WR1 numbers. The Browns give up a 94.9 passer rating in the short middle of the field and their weakest corner lines up in the slot, as T.J. Carrie has allowed a 72 percent catch rate this season.


5. Seattle Seahawks (2-3) “at” Oakland Raiders (1-4)

Total: 48.5
Favorite: Seahawks (-2.5)

The Seahawks are nominal road favorites in their matchup with the Raiders in London. Oakland plays slow on offense (28th in pace of play) and is stocked with some of the streakiest players in the league at their respective positions. Russell Wilson is living off efficiency, ranking 21st in the NFL in pass attempts. He’s also averaging by far a career-low 8.4 rushing yards per game; he once averaged 7.2 yards per carry in a single season. However, he’s primed to keep the scoring up this week against a Raiders team that ranks bottom-three in sack rate and allowed 515 yards and three scores on deep passes this season. Wilson and Tyler Lockett are cooking on deep throws. This game could get high-scoring but Seattle clearly has several matchup edges.

Matchup to watch

While the #RevengeGame narrative will be the talk of the town with Marshawn Lynch facing off against his old team, the current Seahawks running back is in a prime position to steal the show. Chris Carson has cleared 120 total yards in his last two games played while handling a massive workload. The Seahawks are keeping to their offseason promise and are the second-most run-heavy team in the league. Carson should get fed in this spot with his team a 2.5-point favorite. As bad as the Raiders are at defending the pass, they can’t hold down running backs either. The Raiders allow 156.2 total yards to running backs on the year — a bottom-10 figure.

6. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) at Tennessee Titans (3-2)

Total: 42
Favorite: Titans (-2.5)

Baltimore and Tennessee have each offered a handful of flashes that would make you believe they could be true AFC contender. They’ve also handed over public duds. Both teams are coming off Week 5 showings of the latter variety. The Ravens’ defense is without question the best unit in this contest and it’s easier to plot their path to points. The Titans offense has performed at peak form in just one of five games and going against the best pass defense in the league is no recipe for success. However, Tennessee has demonstrated mental fortitude and toughed out uglier wins than this contest projects to be. With them getting 2.5 points at home, they’re a tempting proposition in Week 6.

Matchup to watch

John Brown saw a whopping 14 targets in Week 5 but came in under 60 receiving yards. He’s a prime buy-low in this spot. Brown leads all receivers with 871 air yards on the year. Tennessee should provide him with a soft-landing spot to convert some of that opportunity back into the big plays we all know he can make. The Titans pass defense has vulnerabilities — especially in outside cornerback Malcolm Butler. The prized free agent signing has allowed more yards in coverage (405) than any other cornerback this year.

7. Carolina Panthers (3-1) at Washington Redskins (2-2) 

Total: 45
Favorite: Washington (-1) 

The key to this game lies with how Washington reacts to getting embarrassed on Drew Brees’ record-breaking night in Week 6. The Panthers are hot right now after a miracle finish to their last game when handed the Bengals their only loss of the season. These two teams are stylistically similar from an approach standpoint, ranking inside the bottom-20 in passing play percentage and pace of play in neutral situations. However, whereas Washington is dealing with injuries and lacks a consistent week-to-week identity, the Panthers are only becoming more dynamic and healthier the farther we get into the season. Carolina can take this road spot.

Matchup to watch

Cam Newton is currently pacing to set a career high in rushing attempts, averaging nine carries per game. That gives the former MVP a pristine floor to lean on as a weekly starter. In addition, the Carolina passing game is stocked to the brim with intriguing weapons. Both Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore stuck out against the Giants last week for their ability to make plays in space. Not to mention, Newton looks likely to get his favorite security blanket back for Week 6 with Greg Olsen potentially back in action. Newton’s play-action percentage (28 percent) is back up to his career expectations after it dipped below 20 percent in both 2016 and 2017. His completion rate is a full 14.4 percent better on play-action throws. This is by far the most intriguing offense we’ve seen in Carolina for quite a few years and they’ll take this unit up to Washington for a date with a defense that was absolutely smoked by the Saints.


8. Arizona Cardinals (1-4) vs. Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1) 

Total: 43
Favorite: Vikings (-10.5) 

The Vikings enter this game as massive home favorites against the largely hapless Arizona Cardinals. The 10.5-point spread is the largest of the Week 6 slate. The Cardinals snagged their first win of the season against an excruciatingly banged-up 49ers squad last week but are still one of the least inspiring teams in the NFL. The last time Minnesota was a huge home favorite, they failed to show up against Buffalo and were shellacked 27-6 in the season’s biggest upset. Yet, the passing game has found its groove since then and is playing well enough to get this type of line. Kirk Cousins has been under pressure on a whopping 42.5 percent of his dropbacks this season, per Pro Football Focus, but has managed a stellar 98.4 passer rating on those plays. That’s third-best in the NFL. While we know Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs should smash, if the Vikings do indeed smash this spread, Latavius Murray will come into play if Dalvin Cooks sits again. Cook could use another week of rest and while the Vikings have not cleared 80 yards rushing as a team since Week 1, Murray could get fed if the team lives in positive game scripts. He’s a consideration for DFS tournaments. As of this writing though, Cook had been upgraded to a full participant in Thursday’s practice so there’s a chance he could be back on the field in Week 6.

Matchup to watch 

Life hasn’t been easy for Josh Rosen since taking over the starting job. He’s been under pressure on an outrageous 47.7 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus, which leads all quarterbacks that have started multiple games. The fact that he hasn’t looked overwhelmed while facing heat on almost half of his dropbacks is a marvelous sign. He has found a clear running mate in fellow rookie Christian Kirk at wide receiver. Larry Fitzgerald leads the team in total targets by just one since Josh Rosen took over as the starter in Week 4; Kirk maintains a massive lead in yards with 113. Fitzgerald ranks second with 63. Kirk runs about 40 percent of his routes from the slot and another 30 percent at right wide receiver. That should keep him away from Xavier Rhodes this week, instead putting him in the crosshairs of Mackensie Alexander and fellow rookie Mike Hughes, who have allowed a 100 and 77 percent catch rate, respectively.

Josh Rosen has kept his poise this season even while surrounded by constant pressure. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Josh Rosen has kept his poise this season even while surrounded by constant pressure. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

9. San Francisco 49ers (1-4) at Green Bay Packers (2-2-1) 

Total: 46.5
Favorite: Packers (-10)

The Packers are far from firing on all cylinders but get a cupcake spot against a consistently hurt 49ers squad. It’s a shame. A season that should have been filled with steps forward and hope has been fraught with health misery for San Francisco. The Packers should be able to control this one. Positive game script would bring running back Aaron Jones into focus. Despite a strong matchup, Jones was undone by game script in Week 5, playing the fewest snaps in the backfield with the Packers getting stomped by Detroit. If Green Bay maintains a lead on the Niners, Jones could push for a season-high in carries.

Matchup to watch

A return by Randall Cobb and/or Geronimo Allison would shake things up in the receiving corps, but getting another look at these young wideouts wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Rookies Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling combined for over 150 yards and a score last week. They each took cracks at the slot but Valdes-Scantling was the primary interior receiver, taking 64.3 percent of his snaps inside. He also ran more routes overall (56 to 46) than St. Brown. The 49ers have been smashed in the middle of the field this year, giving up a 113.9 passer rating on those throws.

10. Los Angeles Rams (5-0) at Denver Broncos (2-3)

Total: 52
Favorite: Rams (-7)

Even though it’s a road spot, the Rams as only seven-point favorites over this hapless Broncos team feels generous. What does Denver do well right now? Their defense can’t cover, their passing offense is poor while the pressure and run game come and go in waves. If all goes to script, the Rams could easily smash this team all while giving seven points.

Matchup to watch 

If weather or the home crowd does help keep this game close, the running back duo of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman could make noise here. The Rams willingly sacrifice their run defense in favor of beating back the passing game, but it’s been as bad as advertised. Los Angeles allows five yards per carry to running backs on the year. Freeman and Lindsay are super thin considering the game script concerns and their split backfield, but don’t be shocked if one of them comes away with a big game.

11. Indianapolis Colts (1-4) at New York Jets (2-3)

Total: 45
Favorite: Jets (-2.5)

Despite the one-game gap in their record, you could easily make the case that the Colts are the better team. The Jets have a pair of impressive wins on their resume in Weeks 1 and 5 but in between that sandwich lies three contests where they were largely outclassed. The two squads couldn’t be any more different, as the Colts are the fastest team in the NFL in pace of play in neutral situations and lead the league in pass attempts. Sam Darnold ranks 19th in pass attempts and the Jets are the slowest paced team. Even in a road spot, an Andrew Luck-led team playing with superior pace feels like the play.

Matchup to watch

Eric Ebron is about as locked-in as it gets at tight end right now. Over the last two weeks, he’s tied with Zach Ertz for the lead among all tight ends with 25 targets. His 216 air yards are the most at the position and he collected 145 yards and three scores. If he’s on the field, you’re locking him in despite facing a team that has allowed the fewest catches (15) to the position.

12. Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Houston Texans (2-3)

Total: 41
Favorite: Texans (-10)

Given the spread, you wouldn’t guess these teams have the same record. The Bills have proven to us twice already they are no weekly pushover, with a thumping of the Vikings and a physical win over Tennessee. The Texans certainly have a strong run defense and explosive offense with Deshaun Watson. However, they’re not a good enough team to be giving 10-plus points, even at home. The Bills offense is so hapless that they’re a tough team to wager on with any sort of confidence. Buffalo ranks 32nd in both points and yards per drive. It’s a unit that’s bad enough to get them skunked in any single week. The Packers didn’t play their best offensive game against them and still dropped a 22-0 win. While this offense is bad enough to sink them on any given Sunday, their defense is just respectable enough to keep them in any game and cover a double-digit spread.

Matchup to watch 

Houston’s biggest Achilles heel is the offensive line. Deshaun Watson has been under pressure on 45.7 percent of his dropbacks, second only to Josh Rosen among quarterbacks to start multiple games. He’s been sacked 17 times and has thrown three picks under pressure, per Pro Football Focus. The Bills top pass rusher, Jerry Hughes, is playing lights out football right now, totaling 25 pressures. He trails only Dee Ford among all edge rushers. If the Bills can get to Watson and keep this offense off schedule, they have a chance to — at worst — cover the double-digit spread.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

Total: 41
Favorite: Jaguars (-3)

The Jaguars come into this game after eating their first non-divisional loss of the 2018 season. Dallas enters amid a humiliating overtime loss where the coaching staff went into a painfully conservative shell on a crucial fourth down decision; a call so poor that veteran receiver Allen Hurns spent the week airing his grievances with the offense. Jacksonville and Dallas rank 26th and 27th in points scored per drive. It’s clear to see why this game carries the lowest total of the week. Play volume and overall scoring should be tough to come by in this one.

Matchup to watch

While this game doesn’t have much in the way of sleeper appeal — the fantasy plays are pretty straightforward — it’s worth keeping an eye on two injury situations in Jacksonville. With Corey Grant out of the mix, T.J. Yeldon’s lone competition for touches is Jamaal Charles, who was just signed this week and looked over the hill with Denver last year. If he maintains a 90-plus snap percentage role, Yeldon is an RB1 the rest of the way. Joining Grant on IR this week is starting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. One of the players who could replace him is Niles Paul. It’s been years since he was on our radar but back when he was, he beat out Jordan Reed for the starting tight end job in Washington. It was truly setting up to be Paul’s time to rise had a nasty injury not ended his season. That was eons ago, but the tight end position is so shallow that this is worth monitoring. Dallas is a soft-landing spot, as well, considering they’ve allowed 30 catches to tight ends — fourth-most among NFL defenses.

14. Chicago Bears (3-1) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)

Total: 42
Favorite: Bears (-3.5)

The Dolphins come into this game after dropping two-straight games following a 3-0 start. Their Week 6 opponent is a tough draw coming off a bye. Chicago’s relentless front seven will be rested and ready to rock. Miami has allowed Ryan Tannehill to get sacked on 28.6 percent of his dropbacks — fifth-highest among passers this season. These two teams should keep this contest low-scoring and suck most of the fantasy juice out of this spot.

 Matchup to watch

If you’re thinking about playing Mitchell Trubisky in Week 6 coming off his bye week, you better spend a lot of time meditating on whether his Week 4 eruption was a true sign of progress, or a mere mirage brought on by the hideous Tampa Bay passing defense. The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. As for Week 6, Miami’s pass defense has forced a league-high 10 picks but has given up solid passing game production. While this Bears offense should continue to make the leap in spurts over the course of the season, this might be a slow week in a low-scoring game. I think this all adds up to make Trubisky something of a mid-range QB2 play in Week 6. On the plus side for the matchup, the Dolphins allow a beefy 10.6 yards per pass play over the middle of the field. Chicago’s top weapons in receiver Allen Robinson, speedy Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton all take routes out of the slot and work the middle of the field. You can talk out of both ends on this one.

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