By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Welcome to week 6 of the NFL and your fantasy football season. This tends to be the time you find out how well you drafted or how well you use the waiver wire comes into play. This is the third week of the season where you may need to pull out a W without some of your top play makers due to bye weeks. Let’s take a look to who is playing and see who you should play, sit, or if available, go pick them up fast!
Carson Palmer: Palmer is having an outstanding season while he is leading his team to an impressive 4-1 start to the season. Palmer has picked up where he left off last season before his season ending ACL injury. Averaging just over 263 passing yards per game and 2.6 touchdown passes per game he is a must start this week if he is on your team. Facing a depleted and banged up secondary in Pittsburgh, expect Palmer to have a 300+ yard game with at least 2 TD passes. The Steelers do have a decent front seven which may limit the Cardinals rushing game putting the ball in Palmers hand more giving him the opportunity to carve up a secondary that might have trouble getting starting jobs in college let alone the NFL.
Matt Stafford: After last week’s embarrassing outing in which he tossed 3 interceptions and was benched due to his play, I expected Stafford to bounce back in a big way against Chicago. It was the first time in his career being benched, and Stafford is the kind of player that is smart and mature enough to take the wake-up call and get things going like he should have been doing all along. With a banged up back field with the exception of rookie Ameer Abdullah, Stafford will have plenty of opportunities to show he hasn’t forgotten how to play catch with his outstanding receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
Michael Vick: If you picked up Michael Vick hoping to see some of that old “Vick Magic”, it’s time to let it and him go. Vick has proven between last season’s play and this year, that his best days are well behind him, and that it was actually not that big of a surprise Vick was jobless until Steelers came along in dire need of a veteran QB for a back-up. Problem with the signing is that over the course of three games is that Vick is only averaging 122 yards per game passing and not even a whole TD pass per game since taking over for the team’s incumbent QB “Big Ben”. With talent all over the field between Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, and Markus Wheaton, Vick has only had one game with over 200 yards passing (74 of which came on one play), and zero games of more than one TD pass. Even with Martavis Bryant returning this week I don’t expect much out of Vick especially against a stout and fast Cardinals defense, and neither should you. Bench him or drop, either way get him off your team or out of your starting QB spot.
Alex Smith: Even though Smith is averaging a respectable 258 yards passing per game this season he still hasn’t done much to make his team to be more respectable. The Chiefs, a team many believed would at the very least would be in contention for a Wild Card spot at the beginning of this year have bigger problems than worrying about if they have a chance at a Wild Card spot after their terrible 1-4 start this year. Much of the team’s struggles can be attributed to the Chiefs anemic offense. With the loss of their top playmaker in Jamaal Charles last week, Alex Smith now has to attempt to get his offense back on track against a young but very fast and underrated Vikings defense without his #1 playmaker in the rushing and passing game. Charles will be replaced by a reliable backup in Knile Davis, one that has proven in the past that he is more than a capable back-up, but Smith still isn’t hitting his upgraded passing weapons enough for me to want him in my lineup as my QB this week.
Sleepers: Peyton Manning, Blake Bortles, Sam Bradford
CJ Anderson: Yes, I am telling you to start a running back that so far this season is averaging a sad 2.6 yards per carry. After such a promising showing last season, it appears as if Anderson may be a one year (or ½ a year) wonder. Expect that to change this week as the Anderson and the Broncos travel to Cleveland face the league’s worst rush defense that will also be missing two pro-bowlers in Tashaun Gibson and Joe Haden in their secondary. Although Manning and Kubiak’s passing attack isn’t really scaring anyone these days, expect the “box” to open up some this week as the Browns will have to leave as many guys in coverage as possible to cover for the missing studs in the back end. With the Browns having to focus on stopping Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it will leave the Broncos running game in favorable six or seven man boxes where Anderson will be able to find some holes and rack up some yards.
Ahmad Bradshaw: I know my “Start’ems” this week seem like reaches, but trust me on these. Bradshaw is returning to an offense he already knows and will immediately be thrust into duty to help energize a poorly performing rushing attack this week as the Colts host the New England Patriots. Last yard, before his season ending broken leg, Bradshaw was arguably the Colts engine that made the running and passing game run. He was a fantasy stud, especially in PPR leagues, and I anticipate that to continue, even with Bradshaw just now getting signed six weeks into the season. There is a reason the Colts are bring Bradshaw back, and he will pay dividends to those willing to take a chance on him early. I am willing to bet that many of the other people in your league don’t even know he’s available. Grab him now before you are regretting it later.
LeSean McCoy: Early reports are suggesting that McCoy is going to play this week, as the Bills hots the undefeated Bengals in Orchard Park. As much as I want to believe the rhetoric coming out of One Bills Dr. especially Rex Ryan, I am not inclined to believe that McCoy is coming back at full health as he promised he wouldn’t due after it was discovered he had a new tear in his hamstring just a little more than a few weeks ago. Even if McCoy is healthy enough to play almost every down and be semi productive, he will be facing a very talented and well balanced Bengals defense. Yes, last week the Bengals were carved up by little known undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls for the Seahawks for 169 yards and a touchdown, rushing at a rate of 7.3 yards per carry, I do not expect that to continue this week for McCoy for several reasons. First and foremost, Rawls is/was 100% healthy, and has been all season. Secondly, McCoy has missed several weeks and will need a week or two to get back into game shape, and the Bengals do have the front seven to force the Bills into being one dimensional and keeping the ball out of McCoy’s hands.
Cleveland’s trio of backs: On any given week you could play either West, Crowell, and/or Johnson and expect to get decent production from either one or even two of the three headed monster from Cleveland. Do not count on much production from any one of these three this week as the Broncos march into town with their #1 ranked all around defense. The Broncos defense have been absolutely dominate thus far this season and can easily be given direct credit for 3 of the Broncos 5 wins so far. Even with the loss of DeMarcus Ware due to back issues, don’t expect the Broncos defense to skip a beat in stopping the run or the pass. The Broncos got Derek Wolfe back from suspension last week and he should be a force up the middle in both the run and pass defense for the Broncos. Add in that the Broncos were being proactive with grabbing reliable edge setters behind stars Ware and Miller, they can rely on rookie Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett to pick up the slack for Ware until he returns. If Cleveland wants to chance to even be in this game they better hope that Josh McCown can continue with his surprising and impressive play over the last few weeks.
Sleepers: Chris Johnson, Thomas Rawls (If Lynch doesn’t play), Ameer Abdullah
Demaryius Thomas: With the Broncos offense struggling while it searches to find an identity that fits Kubiak’s offensive theories and QB Peyton Manning’s strengths, a lot of fantasy owners have been frustrated by the lower production coming from Thomas this season, especially because many of you may have used your first round pick on Thomas. This will change this week as the Broncos travel to face a banged up Browns defense. While head coach Mike Pettine will do what he can to confuse and frustrate Manning with his creative blitz packages, he still is missing too many important horses in his defense to contain a stud like Thomas. Look for the old Manning to Thomas connection many of us got used to seeing over the last few seasons and look for Thomas to put up insane numbers such as 8-11 catches for at least 100 yards and 2 TDs!
Allen Robinson: I have admittedly have been a little too high on Robinson this season, as I thought he was going to be the clear cut #1 in Jacksonville this season. Fellow teammate Allen Hurns has clearly earned that spot this season with QB Blake Bortles preferring Hurns over Robinson for much of the season. But with Hurns a question to even play this week and with the Jaguars playing an expected JJ Watt less defense, expect Bortles to target and connect with Robinson early and often. With Watt out of the game the Jags Bortles should have plenty of time to sit back and take his time with his throws, and even push the ball deep down field for some chunk yardage plays to Robinson in the passing game.
Odell Beckham Jr: As it stands now, Beckham’s presence on the field for MNF is in question. Even if he decides to “tough it out” and play, do not expect Beckham to be a major threat as the Giants travel to Philly to play the Eagles. A player like Beckham needs to have healthy hamstrings, as he relies heavily on his quickness, agility, and ability to cut and change direction to be productive. With injuries to fellow wide outs Reuben Randall and Victor Cruz still not back to full strength, if Beckham does in fact play he will still see his fair share of targets, but don’t expect much productivity, especially in Beckham’s ability to rack up YAC.
Jeremy Maclin: Without the presence of Jamaal Charles to scare defenses into leaving a reliable cover corner or linebacker in on all passing plays versus the Chiefs, expect the Vikings whom themselves already sport a very talented and strong secondary to roll coverage over to Maclin to minimize an potential impact he may have had in this game. Maclin has quietly been a decent fantasy player this year especially in PPR leagues. But with the absence threat of Charles and Smith’s inability to push the ball down field where Maclin could still do damage even in double coverage, do not expect much production from Maclin this week.
Sleepers: Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julian Edelman
Charles Clay: With backup QB EJ Manuel more than likely to start this week due to injuries to the Bills starting QB Tyrod Taylor, and the likely return of running and receiving threat LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay can expect to have some very favorable matchups this week as the Bills host the Bengals. Clay, who is having a decent 1st season as a Buffalo Bills is the prototypical modern NFL TE; too big and strong for most CBs, and to fast and quick for LBs. The difference from Clay and many of his counter parts, is that he is actually a decent blocker as well. With Manuel coming in to play in relief and the Bengals having a great pass rush, Manuel will be looking Clay’s way early and often as he will need to get the ball out fast and hope of YAC to move the ball on the Bengals.
Delaine Walker: With the Titans being the first team to have the face the “New” Miami Dolphins, I expect the Dolphins to come out flying on defense and sending wave after wave of pass rushers to try and make a statement against the Titans’ rookie QB Marcus Mariota. What this will do is increase Walker’s chances of seeing quick outlet passes to slow down the pass rush of the Dolphins. Walker is a talented TE and has the ability to be a game changer, this should be a week where his presence is noticed on the stat sheet.
Gary Barnidge: You might be asking yourself, “GARY WHO”? Well unless you are a Browns fan; that would be a fair statement. Before the last few games Barnidge was a little known 30 year old TE out of Louisville. Over the last 3 weeks he has become one of Josh McCown’s favorite targets, racking up over 300 yards receiving, 20 receptions, and 3 touchdowns. With the Broncos coming to town with the #1 rated overall defense, I do not see Barnidge being the force in the passing game he has been in recent weeks. The Broncos have an outstanding secondary being led by TJ Ward, Aquib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and two middle linebackers in Marshall and Danny Trevathan that are more than capable of dropping into coverage. Expect Barnidge and the Browns to struggle big time to get anything going in the passing game.
Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen: As Colts nation breathes a sigh of after winning two straight division games with their 40 year old backup QB Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck should be back behind center looking to turn his season around. Playing the New England Patriots it seems plausible that Luck can put together a nice outing and some impressive stats as the Colts barring some kind of surprising chain of events, will be playing from behind and passing the ball all over the place. One position that will struggles against the Patriots will be the Colts’ TEs. The Patriots have done a great job shutting down TEs all season long, including last week when the Patriots limited the Cowboys TEs to a combined 5 receptions for 33 yards and 0 TDs (All catches and yards went to Jason Witten). Expect much of the same this week as the Colts will have to rely on their Wide Outs and Running Backs to pick up the slack in the passing game if the Colts want a punchers chance to stay in this game, let alone win it.
Sleepers: Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Denver Broncos: Seems like a very easy choice, but keep in mind Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns have put up over 300+ passing yards in the last 3 straight weeks. Even with an injured DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos won’t skip a beat. A fast and overwhelming front 7 plus an incredibly strong secondary will make for a long day for the Dawg Pound. Cleveland does have a good offensive line that sports 2 All Pro linemen in LT Joe Thomas and Center Alex Mack so the Broncos may not rack up the sack numbers they are used to, but they will still do enough to rattle McCown and force turnovers that the Browns can’t afford if they want to knock the Broncos off their undefeated stool.
New York Jets: Returning from their bye week giving a couple of their defensive stars some much needed rest in this young season. Darrell Revis need the rest after hurting his hamstring, Stud LB David Harris who has been ailing from a strained quadriceps are healthy (or in better shape) and ready to get back on the field and dominate much like they had for their first 4 games of the year helping the team to a surprising 3-1 start to 2015. Will the Jets defense continue to force an average of 3.25 turnovers per game? More than likely not, but they do have a solid all around defense from the front all the way back to the secondary. I expect the Jets defense to give the Redskins offense all they can handle and to pressure Kirk Cousins to make several mistakes in this game that he usually does anyway.
New York Giants: After struggling to start the season the Eagles offense seems to have found its stride in the last 2 weeks and will host the current NFC East division leader NY Giants. The Giants defense has been outstanding in stopping the run this season, but struggle mightily in pass defense, largely due to the lack of a semblance of a pass rush. The combination of an Eagles offense that is finding its stride and a weak Giants pass defense, this is not the week to play start the Giants as your defense. The Eagles pass to set up the run, unlike most teams that run to set up the pass. Expect the Eagles to rack up plenty of yards and points against the Giants defense this week.
San Diego Chargers: If having to face the best QB in the whole league this week in Aaron Rodgers, the Chargers have bigger problems as they face a beat up, but still very strong Packers offense. Every game this season the Chargers defense has allowed at least 24 points in every game they have played this season. When you are a defense you can rank as high as you want in every statistical category there is, but if you can’t stop the other team from scoring points, it doesn’t mean a thing. When you are allowing an average 26.8 points per game, it says a lot about how good your defense is. After the Packers have won their last 2 games by scoring 24 or less points it has a lot of people wondering if the book is out on stopping the Jordy Nelsonless Packers offense, the answer is a clear cut NO! Aaron Rodgers and company will march up and down the field against this Chargers defense making them a team you do not want in your lineup.
Sleepers: Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers
Survivor League Pick: Baltimore Ravens