Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 6 (2020)
Thought the 2020 NFL season has been challenging so far? It’s about to get much tougher in Week 6, as four teams (Seahawks, Saints, Raiders, and Chargers) have a bye. Of course, nobody can assume the other 14 games will take place as planned.
Instead of waking up to waiver-wire results Wednesday morning, most fantasy managers are processing a rare Tuesday night bout while finalizing their free-agent claims for Thursday. They also must examine changes to the Week 6 schedule. The Dolphins will face the Jets instead of the Chargers, who now have an off week. Originally penciled in for Week 5, the Patriots and Broncos will make up the postponed contest. The Chiefs and Bills take a marquee clash from Thursday to Monday night, giving managers more time to make the grueling decision of whether to start or sit Patrick Mahomes.
OK, so that’s not an actual dilemma, but the following players hover much closer to the border of starting status. The following Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) are updated as of Tuesday evening and applicable to half-PPR leagues. Keep in mind that the schedule alterations may have wreaked some havoc on the early ECR, so the provided rankings could change in a hurry.
Start: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. CLE: QB7 ECR
This isn’t the Roethlisberger we’re accustomed to seeing. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, his 4.7 average air yards per completion is the lowest rate among quarterbacks who have started all of their team’s games in 2020. Back from a significant elbow injury that cost him nearly all of 2020, the 38-year-old is no longer a deep gunslinger. That’s just fine.
Through four games, all Pittsburgh victories, Big Ben is on pace to set personal bests in completion rate (69.9%), interception rate (0.7%), and quarterback rating (110.4). He’s tallied two or three touchdowns in every contest, leading to a remarkably steady range of 19-22 fantasy points. He has a solid chance of besting that total at home against the Browns, who have permitted the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. So far Cleveland has stymied lackluster quarterbacks (Dwayne Haskins and Phillip Rivers) but gotten shredded by Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Dak Prescott. Roethlisberger is far closer to the second group than the first pairing.
Start: Gardner Minshew II (JAC) vs. DET: QB8 ECR
Aside from an underwhelming Week 3 showing, Minshew has offered at least 20 fantasy points in every other game. Although yet to finish higher than QB9, he’s the overall QB12 this season with four weeks at QB13 or better. The cult hero has proven a reliable option more often than not due to heavy volume, averaging 287.8 passing yards per game on 39.2 attempts. After throwing 20 times in a Week 1 win, he’s attempted at least 40 passes in each of Jacksonville’s last four losses. He’ll likely air it out often again as slight home underdogs in an anticipated shootout. Per BettingPros, Sunday’s matchup against Detroit ties two other matchups for a week-high over-under line of 54.5 points. Both Minshew and Matthew Stafford are viable starters this week, but the former offers a higher ceiling with help from his legs.
Sit: Matt Ryan (ATL) at MIN: QB11 ECR
This will likely change during the week, but Ryan’s opening Week 6 ECR is simply a deference to name value. Even with Russell Wilson and Drew Brees taking a seat, the former MVP is simply not a QB1 following consecutive clashes without a touchdown pass. He hasn’t finished as a top-20 fantasy quarterback since Week 2. Now he’s going on the road, potentially without Julio Jones. And while the Vikings are clearly no longer a matchup to fear, facing Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Deshaun Watson has inflated their early doldrums. Anyone needing an alternative should add his opponent, Kirk Cousins, or swap out Ryan for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Sit: Teddy Bridgewater (CAR) vs. CHI: QB19 ECR
Thank Bridgewater kindly for delivering 313 passing yards and two touchdowns as a Week 5 streamer against Atlanta. If you happened to also start him for an even better Week 4 effort against Arizona, great. Now move on. Combining Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles‘ Week 4 output into one QB score, opposing passers finished as QB1, QB1, QB4, and QB3 before Bridgewater was a competent, but unspectacular QB12. Outside of perfect matchups, there’s not enough upside to trust him in single-quarterback leagues. The Bears are certainly not a soft opponent, surrendering the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks with just 6.2 yards yielded per pass attempt. Send Bridgewater back to the waiver wire, but don’t forget about the Carolina signal-caller when he then goes to the Superdome in Week 7 before a Week 8 rematch against Atlanta.
Start: Chase Edmonds (ARI) at DAL: RB23 ECR
The Kenyan Drake gambit paid off relatively well in Week 5, as he delivered 60 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 30-10 win over the Jets. Edmonds, however, also authored a rushing score while piecing together 36 rushing and 56 receiving yards. As everyone wonders if he’s simply the better Arizona back, Edmond’s snap rate rose to a season-high 45% on Sunday. You want more than 7.4 touches per game from a starter, but Week 5 marked the first time he didn’t touch the ball inside the red zone. (His touchdown went for 29 yards.) A potential shootout at Dallas in a week deflated by byes could be the perfect recipe for Edmonds to deliver once more as a flex fill-in.
Start: Devonta Freeman (NYG) vs. WAS: RB25 ECR
In just his third game with the Giants, Freeman totaled 87 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in a 37-34 loss to the Cowboys. That’s a promising sign of what the former Falcons back can accomplish when Big Blue moves the ball somewhat competently. After receiving 15 carries in Week 4, this is clearly his backfield heading into a Week 6 matchup against Washington’s 23rd-ranked rushing defense. Even if it’s just three points at home (indicating a toss-up), this could be the last time the Giants are favored all season. Freeman is a viable flex play for anyone needing to avoid cloudier timeshares.
Start: Myles Gaskin (MIA) vs. NYJ: RB29 ECR
The Dolphins aren’t the type of team to pulverize a vulnerable opponent on the ground. However, Gaskin has stockpiled 48 touches in Miami’s two victories this season. Coming off an unexpected beatdown over the 49ers, the Dolphins face the winless Jets. Drake and Edmonds combined for 152 total yards and two touchdowns in a win over Gang Green, so imagine what a multi-faceted running back can accomplish in this matchup. Gaskins has averaged a middling 49.8 rushing yards per game, but his running workload has risen in recent weeks as Miami shoves aside Jordan Howard. He also has 25 targets on the season with a game-low of four. Gaskin will get plenty of opportunities to cash in on this matchup.
Sit: Mark Ingram (BAL) at PHI: RB24 ECR
Welp, I learned my lesson. Even in a 27-3 victory, Ingram produced just 57 yards on 11 carries. Unfortunately, both of those numbers are 2020 highs. He has gone three games without a touchdown, but more concerningly also went catchless in all of those contests. Ingram failed to play 20 snaps for the third straight contest, as Gus Edwards once again saw the field more often. Unlike the Bengals, the Eagles pose an above-average run defense and are capable of keeping this game close at home. Stay away from all Ravens running backs as long as it remains a three-man committee.
Sit: Jerick McKinnon (SF) vs. LAR: RB26 ECR
McKinnon made major noise in two games without Raheem Mostert, registering 174 total yards and two touchdowns on 28 rushes and 10 receptions. He was looking like a season-changing find to commence autumn. Then Mostert returned, and the party stopped. It was easy to see McKinnon earning a role alongside Mostert, but he instead garnered five yards on three touches in Week 5’s loss to Miami. Giving his pass-catching prowess, the 43-17 blowout should have helped more than hurt his fantasy outcome. While McKinnon also reached the end zone in Weeks 1 and 2, he has yet to record 20 or more snaps in a game with Mostert active. He collected 12 touches in those three contests. Those aren’t the opportunities indicative of someone to rank in flex territory.
Sit: Nyheim Hines (IND) vs. CIN: RB31 ECR
Running back sure bottoms out in a hurry. Either that, or rankers are falling victim to the anchoring bias. Since producing 23 fantasy points in a breakout Week 1, Hines has 18 in the last four games combined. He’s totaled 127 yards in those contests with no more than 25 snaps logged. The Bengals rank 30th in rushing defense, but that’s better news for Jonathan Taylor than his pass-catching teammate.
Start: Tyler Boyd (CIN) at IND: WR23 ECR
Coming off a 42-yard outing at Baltimore, Boyd gets another challenging matchup against the Colts’ top-ranked passing defense. Stick by him anyway. He’s tied for 13th in targets (40) and ninth in catches (32), and that workload may only increase moving forward. A.J. Green left Week 5’s game early with a hamstring injury that might just be a cover for a disgruntled player who wants out of Cincinnati. Either way, it’s hard to envision Zac Taylor planning a busy Sunday for the seven-time Pro Bowler. Jarvis Landry just amassed 88 yards at the Colts’ expense, so Boyd should get ample chances to excel out of the slot.
Start: Laviska Shenault (JAC) vs. DET: WR28 ECR
All of those points in Minshew’s favor extend to his rookie wideout, who has garnered 170 yards in the last two games. Minshew has a 118.7 passer rating when targeting Shenault, who has deservedly received more looks over the past few weeks. Although he’s operated as a waiver-wire staple all season, the explosive neophyte is on the verge of a demonstrative breakthrough.
Start: Jamison Crowder (NYJ) at MIA: WR39 ECR
Look, the Jets are obviously terrible, but Crowder is still killing it. The 27-year-old has received double-digit targets and exceeded 100 receiving yards in all three of his games played. He has drawn a spectacular 31.25% target share in those contests. Allen Robinson, the NFL’s overall target leader at 57, has received 28.6% of Chicago’s intended passes. Calvin Ridley is the only other wide receiver to record triple-digit receiving yards in three straight games. Lock him into all starting lineups regardless of who starts under center for the Jets.
Sit: Michael Gallup (DAL) vs. ARI: WR25 ECR
Gallup’s ECR should eventually better reflect reality. While he saved an uneventful Week 5 with two deep strikes in a game-winning drive orchestrated by Andy Dalton, he’s fallen behind Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb as the Cowboys’ third wide receiver. He ranks fifth on his own team in targets and receptions, also trailing Ezekiel Elliott and Dalton Schultz. Dalton hooked up with Gallup after replacing Dak Prescott, but can the Red Rifle really sustain four fantasy-relevant pass-catchers beyond Elliott? It’s a big gamble for a wideout whose only double-digit fantasy performance came against a Seahawks secondary last in points allowed to wide receivers. The Cardinals have ceded the fourth-fewest.
Sit: Brandin Cooks (HOU) at TEN: WR36 ECR
Feeling lucky? Cooks took his fantasy investors on an emotional roller coaster by following up a zero-catch Week 4 with a 161-yard Week 5. The range of outcomes can’t get any wider. While the well-traveled wideout has another 95-yard showing against a stout Ravens defense on his resume, that Week 2 performance is sandwiched between 20- and 23-yard duds. He’s the ultimate boom-or-bust WR3 against an unremarkable Tennessee defense. A little consistency would be nice before letting Cooks cook in your starting lineup.
Sit: Golden Tate (NYG) vs. WAS: WR40 ECR
Most experts are positioning Tate as a passable WR3/4 for managers in a bind. Perhaps it’s better to take six points than risking a goose-egg in some situations, but the 32-year-old has yet to reach 50 receiving yards or exceed five catches in a game this season. His snap rate has gone from 92% to 75% to 59% in the past three games, and he has just 42 yards after the catch. In this range, Christian Kirk (WR42 ECR), Jerry Jeudy (WR47 ECR), and Keelan Cole (WR49) are more advisable options. Darius Slayton is the Giants’ clear top wide receiver to play. Tate is more of a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option.
Start: Eric Ebron (PIT) vs. CLE: TE8 ECR
Since a quiet Week 1, Ebron has played at least 75% of Pittsburgh’s snaps in each of the last three games. He’s totaled 18 targets, 13 catches, 138 yards, and a touchdown over that stretch. While his 6.7 fantasy points per game is still a modest average, it tops Zach Ertz, Evan Engram, Austin Hooper, and Rob Gronkowski. Ebron, who is only two years removed from an improbable 13-touchdown campaign, is elevating his floor alongside a suddenly cautious and short-striking Roethlisberger. The Browns have relinquished 11.0 fantasy points per game to tight ends despite not facing a big name since Mark Andrews in Week 1. In a week without Darren Waller, Jared Cook, and Hunter Henry, Ebron is a top-12 option.
Start: Robert Tonyan (GB) at TB: TE13 ECR
Most other tight ends are either in a rut or on a bye, so why not roll the dice on Tonyan? Despite not receiving a single target in Week 1 and taking a bye in Week 5, the 26-year-old is the TE5 because of Week 4’s three-touchdown bonanza on Monday Night Football. Before that primetime breakout, Tonyan had found the end zone in back-to-back contests and put forth a solid five-catch, 50-yard effort in Week 3. Anyone not also rostering a top-tier stud should give him a shot to stamp his status as a weekly lineup lock.
Sit: Tyler Higbee (LAR) at SF: TE10 ECR
Keep in mind that many managers won’t have a better choice. You certainly shouldn’t sit Higbee if the alternative is claiming Darren Fells or Drew Sample off the waiver wire. However, temper expectations and beware a basement-level floor. Those who believed in Higbee’s sensational end to 2019 took a victory lap when he snagged three touchdowns in Week 2. His skeptics, on the other hand, have said “I told you so” the rest of the way; he hasn’t even exceeded three regular catches in any other game. Higbee has just 17 targets all season and has blocked on 29% of his snaps, more than any other tight end. Gerald Everett emerging for 90 yards last Sunday should make Higbee’s managers even more nervous, especially since the opposing 49ers have already shut down Ertz and Engram this season.
Sit: Logan Thomas (WAS) at NYG: TE16 ECR
OK, it’s not happening. One would have thought a quarterback change could have led to constant check-downs, but all of those short looks went to Washington’s running backs. Eventually, you need to see more from Thomas than just being on the field and running routes. The former quarterback has 12 receiving yards on eight targets in the last two games and just 106 yards all season. If digging this deep for a tight end, take a flier on Irv Smith Jr. (TE19 ECR) versus the Falcons.
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