Indianapolis @ NY Jets
Mark Sanchez has completed 54 of his last 127 passes (42.5 percent) for 697 yards (5.49 YPA), and a 2:5 TD-to-INT ratio. He's also fumbled four times, while the Jets' offense has generated two touchdowns on its last 45 possessions. Rex Ryan's defense and Mike Westhoff's special teams deserve credit for keeping last Monday's game close against the Texans, but the Jets simply lack a functional offense. Not even a matchup with Indy's 19th-ranked defense is likely to bust the Jets' offensive slump. ... Although the Colts' primary defensive weakness is against the run, Jets "starting" tailback Shonn Greene has received 11 or fewer touches in three of his past four games. He hasn't scored a touchdown since the opener. Greene is involved in an even timeshare with Bilal Powell, and each Jets runner is no more than a low-upside flex despite the favorable matchup. ... Dustin Keller is apparently due back from his hamstring strain on Sunday, but he hasn't played in a month and has experienced multiple setbacks since first going down in the third preseason game. Let's see him make it a couple of quarters unscathed before picking Keller up.
One Week 6 positive for New York's offense will be the absence of Colts top pass rusher Robert Mathis, who's out 2-3 weeks with a knee sprain. Transitioning smoothly from end to 3-4 outside linebacker, Mathis was leading Indy in sacks (5) and forced fumbles (1) and ranked fifth on the team in tackles (16). Sanchez should have a cleaner pocket Sunday, giving him more time to connect with impressive fill-in starter Jeremy Kerley. Kerley played 47-of-60 snaps (78.3 percent) against Houston and likely earned more going forward by securing 5-of-7 targets for a team-high 94 yards. Kerley is worth a look as a bye-week WR3. ... Chaz Schilens, Jason Hill, and hobbled rookie Stephen Hill (hamstring) are the other candidates for Jets receiver snaps on Sunday. Along with Keller, the motley crew behind Kerley should be avoided in Week 6 fantasy lineup decisions.
New Colts starting tailback Vick Ballard's skill level doesn't jump off the page. He's a limited, two-down runner with average burst and little in the way of moves. But Ballard is a solid bet for 14-18 weekly carries in an improving Colts offense, and he couldn't ask for a better Week 6 matchup to kick start his first-team stint. The Jets' run defense is getting shredded. Over its last three games, Rex Ryan's unit has been lit up for 599 yards and six touchdowns on 122 carries (4.91 YPC). The 122 rushing attempts against are easily a league high over that three-week stretch and suggest opponents are noticing the extent of the front seven's susceptibility on game tape. Colts interim coach Bruce Arians is a philosophically pass-first mind, but there is reason to think he might enter this game with more of a run-based approach. Ballard is worth saddling up as a fantasy flex play. ... Returning from an ankle sprain, Mewelde Moore will operate as the Colts' passing-down back. Plodding Delone Carter will finally be padded up, but didn't receive a carry in the first four games.
Reggie Wayne leads the NFL in targets and would likely also lead the league in fantasy receiver scoring if not for an early-season bye. Expectations should be checked as he squares off with red-hot Jets shadow CB Antonio Cromartie, but Wayne moves around the formation enough to avoid "Cro" on a healthy dose of plays. Cromartie doesn't follow receivers into the slot. ... Andrew Luck was magical in Indy's Week 5 comeback win over the Packers, and Arians' pass-first attack will keep him flirting with borderline QB1 value all year. Luck quietly leads the AFC in pass attempts per game. Supporting-cast concerns leave the jury out on Luck's outlook as a legitimate every-week starter, but he's certainly a viable bye-week play. ... Donnie Avery's Week 5 box score didn't meet expectations with Wayne hogging production, but Avery came up just short of a 50-plus-yard touchdown bomb on a Luck overthrow and again has a more favorable on-paper matchup than Wayne. Look for Avery to square off often with torch-able Jets CB Kyle Wilson. He's a worthwhile dice-roll WR3. ... Rookies T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen all have promising NFL futures, but the target and receiving production behind Wayne and Avery will be difficult to predict week by week. Hilton is a No. 3 receiver. Allen has caught a couple of red-zone touchdowns, but hasn't cleared 40 receiving yards yet. Fleener is averaging 19 yards per game since the opener.
Score Prediction: Colts 21, Jets 17
4:05PM ET Games
Buffalo @ Arizona
Fred Jackson could be a top-15 fantasy back if the Bills didn't have C.J. Spiller. Spiller could be a top-five RB1 if Buffalo didn't have Jackson. But they're stuck with each other, and Chan Gailey won't stop using one just so the other can put up great stats. "You want to play them as equal as possible and then see how the game is going," said Gailey this week. Unfortunately from a fantasy perspective, the equal timeshare puts a ceiling of about 16 touches on each Bills back, and they're running behind a rag-tag line. Forced to sign street free agent linemen this week, Buffalo has lost OG Colin Brown (hamstring) to injured reserve, LT Cordy Glenn and RG Kraig Urbik to multi-week ankle injuries, and top reserve OG Chad Rinehart to a recurring calf injury. Particularly in tough matchups like this -- Arizona surrenders just 3.60 YPC and has allowed one rushing TD in five games -- F-Jax and Spiller are difficult to justify as more than low-end RB2/flex options. I'd continue to lean toward Spiller if deciding between the two just because he's more the homerun hitter, but there are a slew of factors working against this fantasy situation right now.
Buffalo's O-Line woes can be exposed by an aggressive Arizona defensive front. A Dick LeBeau disciple, Cardinals DC Ray Horton believes in the zone blitz and is coordinating a defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in sacks. Now-healthy Darnell Dockett can be a major issue for the Urbik-, Brown-, and Rinehart-less Bills interior. Ryan Fitzpatrick has flukily thrown 12 early-year touchdown passes, but I wouldn't feel comfortable trotting him out as more than a desperation QB1. ... Stevie Johnson should be able to create separation against Patrick Peterson with crisp route running and quicks. Johnson's yards and scoring have been down the past two games, but he caught six balls in Week 5 and is the lone Bills skill-position player I'd feel good starting on Sunday. ... Fitzpatrick's target distribution on the season: Johnson 46, Scott Chandler 29, Donald Jones 23, T.J. Graham 17, Spiller 11, Tashard Choice 7, Fred Jackson 4. ... The book is out on Chandler, and it's probably not changing anytime soon. He can score touchdowns, but brings to the table little else.
The Bills' defensive makeover has backfired spectacularly. Dave Wannstedt's group is second to last in the league in both points and yardage allowed. It will also be without RE Mark Anderson (knee) indefinitely. At home in the desert, the stage is set for some offensive fireworks from Arizona, making Kevin Kolb an intriguing two-quarterback league option and gambling man's QB1 streamer. Kolb can be a moderately effective pocket passer with time to throw, and Buffalo's defensive performance in the first five games suggests Kolb will have some. ... Larry Fitzgerald should tire out Bills RCB Stephon Gilmore, who continues to look in over his head as a rookie. Fitzgerald won't get many matchups more favorable than this over the course of the season. ... Bills LCB Aaron Williams got burned on 49ers fourth receiver Kyle Williams' 43-yard touchdown in Week 5 and is similarly struggling. Andre Roberts has been an inconsistent WR3 option, but he should be open frequently against Buffalo. ... First-round pick Michael Floyd's snaps were on the rise until he dropped an easy pass against the Rams and was flagged for offensive pass interference. The Cardinals should feel no urgency to play Floyd because Roberts has been so much better.
Arizona's backfield is a fantasy quagmire with Ryan Williams gone for the year and Beanie Wells out until at least Week 12. 5-foot-7, 185-pound scatback/return specialist La'Rod Stephens-Howling is tentatively expected to start this game, although ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported that William Powell will "likely" handle the majority of the carries. Alfonso Smith didn't make the Cardinals' roster out of training camp, but is a veteran in the system and also in the mix. Powell is a shot in the dark behind an offensive line that run blocks as poorly as any unit in football, but he looks like the best Week 6 bet as a flex play. The Bills rank 30th against the run, although they possess front-seven personnel to win the trench battle in this game. ... Rob Housler has plenty of talent and athleticism to be a fantasy asset, but he's yet to hit 50 yards through five appearances and could lose snaps if Todd Heap (knee) returns. It's not a great fantasy situation.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Bills 17
New England @ Seattle
Because Seattle's defense eliminates run games and puts brakes on perimeter passing with physical press coverage, the best way to attack Pete Carroll's unit is over the middle and down the seam. Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker should be integral to New England's chances of generating ball movement. Welker has the best matchup of any Patriots receiver, squaring off with 31-year-old Seattle slot corner Marcus Trufant. Hernandez will deal with the Seahawks' nickel linebackers and safeties. I think those are the two Patriots pass catchers owners should fire up this week with supreme confidence. ... On the other hand, tough Week 6 sledding is in store for Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd plays nearly 90 percent of his snaps on the outside, where he'll have to fend off LCB Richard Sherman and RCB Brandon Browner's relentless jamming at the line. Lloyd may experience two slow weeks in a row with Antonio Cromartie's Jets next on the schedule, though fantasy owners should eye a forthcoming three-week stretch against the Rams, Bills, and Colts in Weeks 8-11, with a Week 9 bye mixed in. Lloyd struggled last Sunday (3-34), drawing Champ Bailey throughout the game despite Denver's previous tendency to leave Bailey on one side of the field. But for Lloyd, there should be brighter days ahead. He's just a WR3 in this particular game.
Friday Update: Whether it's typical Belichickian injury report games or an actual setback, Hernandez was held out of Friday's practice and listed as questionable on the injury report. The questionable tag has less meaning because the Patriots listed fourteen players as questionable for Week 6. But the missed practice is concerning. Patriots beat writers throughout the week seemed confident Hernandez would make his return against Seattle. Now, we're going to have to closely monitor reports leading into Sunday morning. The guess here remains that Hernandez will play on Sunday, but his fantasy owners need to have a late-game fallback tight end option at the ready.
Saturday Update: The Boston Globe reported Saturday that Hernandez is expected to be active against the Seahawks, but is likely to be on a snap count and be utilized as a "platoon" type receiver. Beat writer Greg Bedard suggested Hernandez might only get 15-20 plays. Sunday's weather forecast in Seattle calls for a 90-percent chance of rain, so the Pats may err on the side of caution with such a valuable player trying to play through a tricky ankle injury. If I own someone like Kyle Rudolph, I'm leaning toward him over Hernandez in fantasy lineup decisions.
New England's fast-paced, Oregon-style offense is paying major box-score dividends. The Pats lead the NFL in sheer plays from scrimmage, contributing to their league-leading totals in points scored, yards gained, and first downs. The matchup is difficult for Tom Brady, but he's perhaps the hottest quarterback in the game right now. Brady has completed 76 of his last 112 passes (67.9 percent) for 928 yards (8.29 YPA), and a 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio, also scrambling in two more scores. Perhaps Brady is more mid-range QB1 than top-three option this week, but I'd be hard pressed to entertain the thought of benching him. ... Rob Gronkowski may handle a few more blocking assignments with Hernandez back and Welker playing far too well for a role reduction, but there still isn't a better bet for week-to-week touchdowns at the tight end position. ... Stevan Ridley's fumbles are concerning to me, and regular readers know I've been a huge Ridley backer from the get-go. But there is a precedent for Ridley being benched for fumbling, and he's put the ball on the ground in two straight weeks. The Patriots also have viable alternatives in straight-line speedster Brandon Bolden and healthy Shane Vereen. Before Sunday, I'd put in an offer of Ridley to the Adrian Peterson and/or Ryan Mathews owner. Ridley's value may not get any higher than it is right now. And I expect the Patriots to struggle to run the ball against Seattle. Everyone does.
The Seahawks' offense is the most one-dimensional in football, and there are no signs that it will change. Still averaging just 25 pass attempts per week, Russell Wilson has topped 160 passing yards in 1-of-5 games and has a 5:6 TD-to-INT ratio on the season. Seattle's offensive approach makes Wilson a low-upside QB2, and his receivers similarly struggle for production on a weekly basis. ... Wilson's target distribution: Sidney Rice 28, Golden Tate 18, Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin 14, Anthony McCoy 13. ... Rice and Tate are low-ceiling rolls of the dice. I like Tate's matchup better down the left sideline against Patriots RCBs Kyle Arrington and Sterling Moore. Pats LCB Devin McCourty has been sensational in coverage and will match up with Rice for most of this game. ... Like Gary Kubiak in Houston, Pete Carroll isn't worried about wearing out his feature back. Marshawn Lynch is second in the NFL in carries and on pace for 362 over the course of the year. Even in difficult matchups like this one -- New England ranks eighth against the run and is permitting 3.40 YPC -- Lynch maintains consistency due to the mammoth workloads. Carroll is willing to continue feeding Lynch the rock even when his team falls behind.
Score Prediction: Patriots 21, Seahawks 16