We roll into Week 6, and there are plenty of entertaining matchups. The Dallas-Baltimore game really jumps out at me as being the best game of the weekend, but the Minnesota-Washington game has the potential to be one of the most entertaining from a Fantasy standpoint. Green Bay-Houston should also be a tremendous watch on Sunday Night Football.
Don’t forget, this weekend the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints are on their bye. Fantasy owners might not necessarily miss the Jags, although RB Maurice Jones-Drew will require a replacement, but losing the Saints certainly hurts some owners, even if they have just one win in five tries.
Also, let me apologize to anyone who might have ‘sat’ WR Reggie Wayne. In fact, I feel doubly worse, because I actually still started him in my big-money league and reaped the rewards of his big game against the Packers last weekend. You know, all of the picks listed below will not be correct, and all will not be incorrect. These are just suggestions, nothing written in stone. In addition, the guys we give you as ‘surprise’ starts of the week aren’t typically your usual starter. Sure, it would be easy to say start Tom Brady or Drew Brees, and bench Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman. That’s not what we’re here for. We give you less-than-obvious plays, and go out on a limb trying to suggest usual starters you might not want to use. Will we always be right? Definitely not.
I’ve worked with some of the best, including my mentor and Hall of Fame Fantasy writer Scott Engel, NFL.com’s Michael Fabiano, SI.com’s Eric Mack, ESPN’s Tristan Cockcroft, CBSSports.com’s Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard, and the ever-entertaining David Gonos. Follow all of them for great advice, too. Any one of them will tell you, you’re not right ALL the time. We do the best each and every week to help you avoid pitfalls, but ultimately, the decision is on you. If you disagree with what we write, roll with your own gut instincts. The first, and most important, rule of Fantasy Football, and sports in general, is always go with your first inclination. On Wayne, I was about as wrong as you could possibly be. But, no one ever points out the ones you get right. That’s the nature of the business, and that’s just fine. We write about sports. It could be so much worse.
Anyway, let’s get down to brass tacks.
Surprise start of the week: Christian Ponder, Minnesota (at WAS): Ponder has led the Vikings to a 4-1 record, and a tie atop the NFC North Division standings with the Chicago Bears. Are they a good team, though? We’ll certainly find out in a road challenge against an imperfect, yet still dangerous, Redskins squad. The key to Ponder’s success so far has been his lack of mistakes. He has been picked off just twice through five games, and he has two fumbles. However, his season best is still just 270 yards, and that happened way back in Week 1. He does have two touchdown strikes in three of his past four games, however, and the Redskins rank 31st in the NFL in passing, allowing 328.6 yards per game.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Sam Bradford, St. Louis (at MIA), Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (vs. CIN), Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. New England)
Sit of the week: Ryan Tannehill, Miami (vs. STL): Tannehill has emerged as a dependable Fantasy option, depending on the matchup, and owners might look his way to a perceived easy game against the Rams. However, Tannehill IS still a rookie, so nothing comes easy. And, the Rams own a respectable pass defense, ranking 12th in yardage per game, giving up just 218.2 yards per contest through the air. In addition, St. Louis has given up a league-low two passing TDs through five games, and they rank second in the NFL in opposing passer rating at 66.2.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Joe Flacco, Baltimore (vs. DAL), Carson Palmer, Oakland (at ATL), Michael Vick, Philadelphia (at DET)
Surprise start of the week: Darren McFadden, Oakland (at ATL): Now, wait just a minute. I know Run D.M.C. was a must-start Fantasy pick and an early-round Fantasy guy on Draft Day. But if you’ve taken a trip around the blogosphere lately, you’ll see talking heads with the gall to suggest dropping McFadden completely. Look, he is rested thanks to a bye last week, and he should do well against a Falcons rush defense which allows 142.8 yards per game on the ground. The unbeaten Falcons have also been dinged for six rushing touchdowns. D-Mac has just one rushing score, and one 100-yard game, posting 34 or fewer rushing yards in his other three efforts. So he is far from a must-start these days. But, with a favorable matchup, I am a contrarian, and think he has a chance at his second 100-yard game of the season, and another score.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Reggie Bush, Miami (vs. STL), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati (at CLE), Ryan Mathews, San Diego (vs. DEN)
Sit of the week: Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at MIA): Jackson and the Rams will find a less-than-giving run defense when the wheels touch down in South Florida. The Dolphins rank first in the NFL against the run, allowing a miniscule 61.4 yards per game. Miami has given up just one run of 20-or-more yards, none over 40, and only two rushing scores. In addition, Jackson is banged up, having struggled with a groin injury lately. He has posted 58 or fewer yards rushing in four of his first five games, posting a season-high 76 yards last Thursday in a home win over the Cardinals.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants (at SF), Alex Green, Green Bay (at HOU), Willis McGahee, Denver (at SD)
Surprise start of the week: Sidney Rice, Seattle: Rice might be available off your waiver wire, as he was owned in 64 percent of Fantasy leagues when I picked him up as a bye-week replacement. Rice will be facing a Patriots defense which has been stout against the run, but very lax against the pass. The Patriots have given up 290.0 yards per game through the air, with a whopping 12 passing touchdowns, in just five games. Rice hasn’t exactly lit it up this season, posting 41 or fewer yards in his first four games, but he showed some signs of life with five grabs and 67 yards in Week 5 at Carolina. He might be ready for his first visit to the end zone since Week 1.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Josh Gordon, Cleveland (vs. CIN), Demaryius Thomas, Denver (at SD), Andre Roberts, Arizona (vs. BUF)
Sit of the week: Victor Cruz, N.Y. Giants (at SF): Cruz torched the Browns pass defense for three receiving scores last weekend. I guarantee he won’t have multiple scores against a 49ers pass defense which ranks second in the NFL. In fact, I’ll be surprised if he goes for more than 45 yards and even sniffs the end zone. The Frisco pass defense just doesn’t give up big plays. If Cruz makes a dent, he’ll have to do it with underneath stuff, and hope to shake free. The Niners are a good tackling defense, so owners of Cruz might have to wait another game before seeing his now-famous salsa dance in the end zone.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Anquan Boldin, Baltimore (vs. DAL), Brian Hartline, Miami (vs. STL), Vincent Jackson, TB (vs. KC)
Surprise start of the week: Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati (at CLE)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Scott Chandler, Buffalo (at ARI), Joel Dreessen, Denver (at SD)
Sit of the week: Dennis Pitta, Baltimore (vs. DAL)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets (vs. IND, Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit (vs. PHI)
Surprise start of the week: Blair Walsh, Minnesota (at WAS)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy play: Phil Dawson, Cleveland (vs. CIN)
Sit of the week: Lawrence Tynes, N.Y. Giants (at SF)
Other who should be riding the fantasy pine: Rian Lindell, Buffalo (at ARI)
Surprise start of the week: Bengals DST (at CLE)
Other solid, less- than-obvious fantasy plays: Colts DST (at NYJ), Rams DST (at MIA)
Sit of the week: Seahawks DST (vs. NE)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Packers DST (at HOU), Vikings DST (at WAS)