Week 6 Primer: Analyzing All 14 Games (Fantasy Football)
Now that the Giants, 49ers, and the Browns are the only teams without a win, we have to start talking about No. 1 pick potential. It’s hard not to say the Giants don’t have a chance now that Odell Beckham is out for the season, and on top of that, they’re dealing with injuries to Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. It’s only right that they’d have to head out to Denver to play the Broncos, who have had two weeks to prepare, right? The end to their woes likely won’t end the following week, either, as they play the Seahawks.
The NFL is such a great game because of the unpredictability. I mean, who would’ve thought that the Jets would be sitting at 3-2 and tied with the Bills atop the AFC East? Some were calling for Alex Smith to get benched for rookie Patrick Mahomes immediately, but he’s playing like a top-three quarterback in football right now and has led the Chiefs to a 5-0 record to start the year. While the unpredictable things will continue, we talk about the things most likely to happen here in The Primer.
If this is your first time reading The Primer, I want to give you an idea as to what you should expect. Knowledge, facts, stats, numbers… lots of numbers. The idea is to give you so much knowledge that you’ll feel better than ever when you hit that ‘submit lineup’ button. The Primer will be here for you every single week of the NFL season, where we’ll dive into every game, talking about every fantasy relevant player. Once done reading it each week, you should have a better idea as to how the game should go, as well as an idea as to who you should be playing in season-long and who to target in DFS. All games are in order of the time they are taking place, with the Thursday game first and Monday night game last.
*Keep in mind that the game lines and totals may change as the games approach. All of my up-to-date rankings can be found right here.
Chicago Bears at Baltimore Ravens
Line: BAL by 7.0
What a difference a week can make for the Ravens, huh? Raise your hand if you thought they’d be a full touchdown favorite over anyone with the way they’ve played this season. I’d assume this has to do with a rookie quarterback on the road in Baltimore making his first road start of his career more than anything. The Ravens have now averaged just 18.0 points per game, so to think they are a touchdown favorites makes you wonder what Vegas knows that we don’t. The Bears will get linebacker Danny Trevathan back, which is absolutely necessary now that they’ve lost Jerrell Freeman, Nick Kwiatkowski, and Willie Young. Their linebackers were a glaring weakness on the Monday night game. It would most definitely help the Ravens to get back defensive tackle Brandon Williams, as he’s the cog in their run defense, so pay attention to injury reports as we get closer to game-time.
QBs: It was a mixed bag for Mitch Trubisky in his debut, as is started out well, but the Bears vanilla gameplan allowed the Vikings to adjust and play man coverage against sub-par wide receivers while blitzing Trubisky. It’s going to be a problem for him because the wide receivers aren’t going to get better overnight. The Ravens have a middling pass-rush, but if they bring added pressure, it’ll be more of the same for Trubisky. With his rushing ability, he can be considered in 2QB formats, but he’s not a great option by any means. Joe Flacco didn’t throw as much as we thought he would last week, but he looked as good as he has all year, completing 73 percent of his throws for 8.5 yards per attempt. The Bears defense has been much different on the road over the last two years, where they have allowed over 20 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, making Flacco enticing when you consider he has no ground game. Still, you can’t trust him in 1QB formats, as he’s thrown just four touchdowns through five games. He can be played as a mid-to-low-end QB2 if you start multiple quarterbacks in your league.
RBs: I’ll continue to say it because we continue to see him run off the field with his arm immobilized – Jordan Howard is playing injured. His shoulder is a real concern going forward, so approach with caution in DFS and don’t have too much exposure. If DT Brandon Williams is out for this game, Howard should have plenty of room to operate as most running backs have for the last three games without him. Howard offers exactly nothing in the passing game, so the line on this game is very concerning as it suggests that the Bears will trail, which hurts his outlook. Still, it’s hard to see the Bears not handing Howard the ball a lot to take pressure off Trubisky early-on. Consider Howard an RB2 with RB1 potential if Williams misses this game. Tarik Cohen has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff apparently, as he’s totaled just 35 of 129 possible snaps over the last two weeks, losing snaps to Benny Cunningham who has played 30 snaps over the last two weeks since returning to the lineup. Neither of them should be considered in season-long leagues, as they are both playing for essentially the same role of third-down back. I’d still lean Cohen if forced to pick one. The Ravens backfield continues to be a landmine that you hope to hit in fantasy, as Javorius Allen totaled just 10 carries in Weeks 3 and 4 combined, but then totaled 21 carries in Week 5 against the Raiders. Part of the reason he got all those carries is because Terrance West was hurt early in the first quarter, but it’s important to note that he out-touched Alex Collins 25-12 in the game, which gives us an idea as to how they ideally want to use them. And while some would say that this game-script against the Bears should fit Collins’ role better, keep in mind that the Ravens had a perfect game-script for Collins last week, but chose to ride Allen. It’s hard to rely on either of them as more than a RB3, but if forced to choose, I’ll take the pass-catcher in Allen. Terrance West will not play this week and may miss a few weeks with what is being called a calf injury.
WRs: We officially have no idea how the Bears are going to use their wide receivers. After leading the wide receivers in snaps in Weeks 3 and 4, Deonte Thompson played just eight snaps in Week 5 while Markus Wheaton and Tre McBride led the team in snaps played. Who? Exactly. Also, Thompson was cut. Yes, the Bears leader in WR snaps through four weeks was just cut for no particular reason. You don’t want to play any of the wide receivers with unknown roles, while Kendall Wright is the only one who has remained somewhat consistent in his role. He caught the first two passes from Trubisky last Monday night, but then the Bears decided to target Wheaton and McBride instead, which obviously didn’t work out well. Wright also has the best matchup against Ladarius Webb this week, while the perimeter receivers will see a mix of Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr. It’s hard to like Wright as anything more than a WR4, though, as the Bears just simply haven’t targeted him enough. Mike Wallace has come on over the last two weeks, showing that there’s still something left in the tank. With that being said, the Bears have had a brutal start to their schedule playing against Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Stefon Diggs. Despite that, they have allowed just one wide receiver to top 93 yards and just two of them to top 75 yards. With Wallace’s limited touchdown upside, it’s hard to see him as anything more than a WR4, though he may be the best play on the Ravens this week. Jeremy Maclin has been seeing consistent targets, but has failed to top 56 yards in any one game. His matchup with Bryce Callahan isn’t a good one, making him a less-than-ideal WR4 in fantasy lineups. Breshad Perriman is far off fantasy radars, as he has caught just four of 16 targets on the season for 26 yards.
TEs: The Bears have been splitting snaps at tight end, but it’s clear that Zach Miller is the pass-catching option in the offense. He’s been targeted 27 times, including seven times in Trubisky’s debut and scored his first touchdown of the season on an improvised play. He’s in play as a low-end TE1 this week against the Ravens who have really struggled against tight ends. On just 23 targets, tight ends have accumulated 17 catches for 195 yards and four touchdowns against them. Considering the Bears’ wide receivers fail to generate any separation, Miller will likely be a favorite of Trubisky. Ben Watson was asked to stay in and block a lot more in Week 5, running just 18 pass routes on 59 snaps. This could be a thing going forward with all the issues they have on the offensive line. Because of that, look for other options to play if you’re a streamer.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Line: GB by 3.5
Can we just not pretend that we don’t know if Sam Bradford is going to play this week? I’ll help you out – he’s not. The Vikings are going to be playing at home with Case Keenum under center, while the Packers have been getting back to full-health on their offensive line. The Vikings have allowed just one team to top 20 points this season (Steelers), while the Packers have been on a steady incline every single week scoring 17 in Week 1, up to 35 in each of the last two games. It’s a divisional game, which adds a layer, but it’s hard to bet against Aaron Rodgers right now. The injury updates that are important to watch for are Packers cornerback Kevin King, who left Week 5 with a concussion, and Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was apparently close to returning last week.
QBs: A majority of the time you try to avoid the Vikings defense with your quarterbacks, but that won’t happen with Rodgers. Knowing that this is a divisional matchup, we know Rodgers has seen this defense (very similar, too) the last few years. In Minnesota, he totaled just 213 yards and one touchdown in 2016, 212 yards and two touchdowns in 2015, and then 209 with two touchdowns back in 2014. Not exactly QB1 numbers, but solid nonetheless. On the year, the Vikings have allowed just one top-15 performance and that was to Ben Roethlisberger back in Week 2 where he posted 243 yards and two touchdowns. You should expect something similar out of Rodgers this week, though I’d avoid in DFS. Despite what the Packers allowed to quarterbacks last year, they have not been a fantasy playground through five weeks, allowing just one quarterback to finish inside the top 15 in any particular week, and that was Dak Prescott last week. Keep in mind that they’ve played Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, and Russell Wilson. Case Keenum is nothing more than a QB2 this week, despite popular perception that he’s a sneaky play.
RBs: I think we know who to play in the Packers backfield if Ty Montgomery is out now, eh? In fact, the Packers have no reason to rush him back from his multiple broken ribs with the way Aaron Jones played last week. In fact, he ran the ball better than Montgomery has this year, toting the ball 19 times for 125 yards and a touchdown. The Packers only used Jamaal Williams for two snaps, showing the confidence they have in Jones, though Williams may not have been 100 percent. Either way, Jones is the one you want right now. The Vikings have allowed just one rushing touchdown on the season and have yet to allow a team to rush for more than 3.6 yards per carry, which somewhat limits his upside. They have allowed a top-20 PPR running back in four of five games this year, though none who have finished inside the top 10, making Jones a strong RB2 in what is considered a potent offense. It was clear who the more explosive running back for the Vikings was against the Bears, but know that Jerick McKinnon was doing that against a Bears team who was without four of its top five linebackers. The Packers have allowed each of the last four starting running backs to play against them to finish as top-24 options, though a large reason for that is they’ve all totaled at least 20 touches, something that may be hard for McKinnon to accomplish in this offense. Consider him a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 in PPR leagues, but just an RB3/flex option in standard leagues. Latavius Murray isn’t going to go away and will get his 10-12 touches per week, limiting McKinnon’s upside. He’s just a touchdown-dependent RB4 option in fantasy leagues.
WRs: It became a news item that Jordy Nelson missed the last series of the game against the Cowboys with what was being described as a hamstring issue (They are now calling it a back injury, though it seems to be okay). This isn’t good for a 32-year-old wide receiver who is also coming off a quad injury. Nelson has come out afterwards and said he’s fine, but it’s something that could limit his potential. Matching up with Xavier Rhodes is sure to be a task for him this week, as Rhodes has kept big name wide receivers like Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans in check this season (none of them finished as top-30 options). If Nelson practices all week and plays Sunday, consider him a high-end WR2 who should probably be avoided in DFS cash lineups. Davante Adams returned to the lineup with a bang last week, finishing as the No. 4 wide receiver last week with 7/66/2 against the Cowboys. The Vikings are likely to shadow Nelson with Rhodes, but there’s always a chance that they just let him stay on one side of the field, adding some risk to Adams’ matchup. If they do use Rhodes on Nelson, that would leave Adams in a matchup with Trae Waynes, who has struggled in coverage this year, allowing over 300 yards on 31 targets. It’s the reason that both Martavis Bryant and DeSean Jackson were able to post top-24 finishes against them. Adams is an upside WR2 in this matchup. Randall Cobb will see a lot of Terence Newman in coverage, and although he’s already allowed two touchdowns in his coverage this year, he’s been solid for the last year and a half. His age (39) is bound to catch up with him at some point, and we may have already seen the decline start to begin. Cobb has also seen 31 targets through four games, making him a great WR3 with upside every week while catching passes from Rodgers. Stefon Diggs left the game momentarily against the Bears dealing with a hamstring injury, but did return, only to catch one pass for four yards. It’s been an up-and-down season for Diggs thus far, totaling 93 or more yards in three games, while totaling just 31 yards in the other two games combined. It appears that Packers cornerback Kevin King may miss this game, which would make his matchup that much more appealing. Diggs destroyed the Packers for 9/182/1 in their matchup in Minnesota last year. If he’s playing, you have to start him as a WR2, at minimum. Adam Thielen was also disappointing last week, but his matchup wasn’t great, so it was to be expected. Against the Packers, Thielen needs to be put back into fantasy lineups as an upside-WR3 who torched them for 202 yards and two touchdowns in their Week 16 matchup.
TEs: It’s been a disappointing year for Martellus Bennett, who has been seeing the targets, just not producing on them. The Vikings have allowed just one tight end to total more than 39 yards, but they have allowed three touchdowns, which may play into Bennett’s expected positive regression. He’s the only tight end with more than 23 targets who has yet to score a touchdown and he has 31 of them. Touchdowns are bound to happen in this offense. Keep putting Bennett into lineups and expect results for your persistence very soon. The Vikings targeted Kyle Rudolph more than a few times last week? Wait, and it worked? Odd, I know. Rudolph is a playmaker at the tight end position, but it’s hard to trust any tight end who is seeing 2-4 targets per game. The Packers have yet to allow a tight end to finish as a TE1 this year, and competition has not been the issue. Rudolph is just a high-end TE2 until we see him get more targets on a consistent basis. He gets a bump up if Diggs were to miss time.
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
Line: WAS by 10.0
This line is interesting, as the Redskins haven’t really blown out anyone this season and will be without their best player on defense for this game. Cornerback Josh Norman is going to miss multiple weeks with a lung issue, creating issues in a secondary that was weak outside of him. They are coming off their bye week which should help for game-planning purposes, but to see them with an implied team total of 28.3 points suggests they’ll score at will against the 49ers. Through five weeks, the 49ers have actually allowed just one team to score more than 26 points against them, and that was the Rams back in Week 3 when they scored 41 on Thursday night football. But their biggest weakness (secondary) happens to be the Redskins biggest strength.
QBs: It was a fabulous week for those who played Brian Hoyer in cash, as he finished with the seventh-most fantasy points on the week (no bonuses) while throwing for 353 yards and two touchdowns. It’s another matchup that favors Hoyer, as the Redskins should struggle without Norman. It’s not quite as appetizing as last week against the Colts, but Hoyer is definitely playable in 2QB formats. The Redskins have limited their opponents pass attempts, but have allowed at least 7.9 yards per attempt in three of four games with Norman on the field. Something in the range of 225 yards and a touchdown should be expected. With an implied total of more than 28 points, Kirk Cousins needs to be on the QB1 radar against the 49ers, though there is a wildcard to this matchup. Both Kyle Shanahan (who used to coach Cousins) and Pierre Garcon (used to catch passes from Cousins) know his weaknesses very well. The issue is that the 49ers may not have the talent to bring those weaknesses to light. No quarterback has finished outside of the top-18 against them this year and Cousins shouldn’t, either. They have allowed both Carson Palmer and Jacoby Brissett to throw for more than 300 yards against them and are coming off back-to-back overtime games, while Cousins and the Redskins are well rested. Note that Cousins would be downgraded slightly if his left tackle Trent Williams can’t go – he left their Week 4 game against the Chiefs.
RBs: Some wanted to say that Carlos Hyde‘s struggles and lack of snaps in Week 5 came down to his hip injury, but it wasn’t. I watched that game and it was simply ineffectiveness against a Colts team who has defended the run extremely well through five weeks. He’ll be fine in the end, as all players are entitled to have a bad game from time to time. The Redskins run defense has actually been better than expected this year, allowing just 66.3 rushing yards per game, and that is including matchups with Todd Gurley, Marshawn Lynch, and Kareem Hunt. It’s fair to worry about Hyde’s matchup here, but you can’t keep him out of lineups as an RB2. Matt Breida is the one who took Hyde’s snaps last week, but he wasn’t a game-changer that will force Shanahan to use him in more of a timeshare or anything. He’s merely a handcuff to Hyde at this point. Rob Kelley is going to resume workhorse duties once he gets back on the field, as Samaje Perine has been extremely mediocre in his extended opportunities. Whoever gets the start is worth a look as an RB2 in this contest, as the 49ers opponents have averaged 32.8 attempts per game, the highest in the NFL. When you consider that he’s a home favorite with a high implied team total, all the stars align, except that Kelley and Perine aren’t all that great. Still, get whoever is starting into lineups. Chris Thompson came back down to earth in their last game, totaling just seven touches for 27 yards and a fumble. With the way Jay Gruden hates fumbles, you have to hope that Thompson won’t get punished. The 49ers have allowed at least 53 yards receiving to running backs in three of their five games, so even he gets RB3 consideration despite game-script that likely won’t favor his pass-catching role.
WRs: It was an easy call to start Pierre Garcon last week and you need to return to the well in Week 6 against his former team. These are cornerbacks he’s gone against in practice the last few years and knows the holes in their games. The fact that Josh Norman will miss this game is huge, as Garcon will see tons of Bashaud Breeland and Quinton Dunbar in coverage. Neither of them are experienced enough to handle the veteran Garcon, who needs to be played as a low-end WR2. You’d like to consider him more, but he has very limited scoring opportunities. Marquise Goodwin had a great game on the track in Indianapolis last week, but don’t let that affect your decision-making in Week 6. He’s just a Torrey Smith-type player who needs a long touchdown to live up to potential, and the Redskins haven’t allowed a wide receiver more than 86 yards this year. In fact, they’ve allowed just one wide receiver to top 63 yards, though it changes with Norman out of the picture. It was good to see Terrelle Pryor haul in a long touchdown in their Monday night game against the Chiefs, but don’t go and think you’re out of the woods with him just yet. After seeing 11 targets in their opening game, he’s totaled just 13 targets over the next three games combined. Outside of that one touchdown, he’s totaled just six catches for 76 scoreless yards the last three games. We can’t remove it because that’s part of his game, but he’s not automatically starting on your fantasy team every week. This week, though, get him back in there as a WR2. The 49ers have already allowed six top-24 performances to wide receivers in 2017, including a massive 177-yard performance by speedster T.Y. Hilton last week. It was another speedster Sammy Watkins who demolished them in Week 3 when he hauled in six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. It’s clear that Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson cannot handle speed, which Pryor most definitely has. Josh Doctson showed up on the injury report once again after their game with the Chiefs, meaning he cannot be trusted to play a full complement of snaps. Jamison Crowder may be playing through injuries, though the bye week should have helped him get healthier. He has the toughest matchup, though, matching up with K’Waun Williams, who the 49ers gave an extension to just the other week. He’s limited Doug Baldwin to just 6/44/0 on nine targets, Cooper Kupp to 2/17/0 on two targets, and Larry Fitzgerald to 4/32/1 on seven targets this season. Crowder is a risky WR4 at this point.
TEs: The 49ers have done a phenomenal job against tight ends this year, which doesn’t seem to bode well for Jordan Reed, but when you take a closer look, it may not be that bad. They have allowed just a 34.5 passer rating when targeting tight ends, the best in the NFL, though it helps that they’ve played against Tyler Higbee, Jermaine Gresham, and Brandon Williams over the last three weeks. Still, it’s impressive to see what they’ve done given the status of their linebacking corps. Reed is always going to be in your lineup when he suits up, but this is probably a week to avoid him in DFS. It’s just odd to think about where all the points need to come from (implied total of 28.3 points, or four touchdowns), which is why I’m a bit more optimistic than I’d typically be in this matchup. It was the week we’ve kind of been waiting for with George Kittle, as the amount of snaps he’d been playing was just asking for production. The Redskins have been bleeding production to tight ends this year, allowing three of the four starting tight ends to haul in at least 93 yards, including two of them to score. No tight end has scored fewer than 12.5 PPR points against them through four games, making Kittle an option in a game that should feature a lot of pass attempts for the 49ers. He’s squarely on the high-end TE2 radar in a great matchup.