Pittsburgh @ NY Jets
The Jets' backfield officially devolved into a value-sapping three-way timeshare in last Monday's upset of Atlanta. Despite having a lead virtually all game, "starter" Bilal Powell managed a season-low 13 touches. Mike Goodson only played 11 snaps, but totaled 41 yards on four touches and is sure to play more moving forward. Early-down pounder Chris Ivory rushed four times for 27 yards, including a bone-rattling 19-yard run. When the season began, the Jets had designs on featuring Ivory on first and second downs with Goodson in the change-of-pace and passing-back role. They may transition back in that direction from here on out. The Week 6 matchup is right against the Steelers' No. 25 run defense, but the running back workloads and roles are up in the air. Invest in Jets backs at your own risk. ... Geno Smith deserves kudos for picking apart the Falcons' talent-deficient defense in Week 5. He'll face a more imposing Week 6 opponent. Pittsburgh ranks top five against the pass with four passing TDs allowed through four games. The Steelers are coming off a bye and desperate for a win. Smith remains a low-end two-quarterback-league play only.
Geno's target distribution with Santonio Holmes (hamstring) inactive against the Falcons: Jeremy Kerley 6; Jeff Cumberland 4; Stephen Hill, David Nelson, Goodson, and Powell 2; Kellen Winslow 1. ... Holmes is again out this week, giving Kerley the start at slot/Z receiver. In Week 4 -- before Pittsburgh's Week 5 bye -- Vikings slot/Z Greg Jennings dusted Steelers LCB Cortez Allen for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Kerley is the favorite to lead New York in Week 6 receiving, even if he's still a relatively low-end WR3. He should catch no fewer than five passes. ... Coming off a hamstring injury, Hill only played 32 snaps in Week 5 and was a passing-game afterthought, securing two passes for 21 yards. I'd like to see Hill produce again before considering him a potential fantasy starter. He's going to square off with Steelers top CB Ike Taylor on most of Sunday's downs. ... The tight end rotation of Cumberland and Winslow is a fantasy situation to avoid. They've essentially swapped productive games on a week-by-week basis all season, and Week 6 opponent Pittsburgh has allowed the third fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Friday Update: The NFL announced Friday that Winslow has been suspended four games for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cumberland isn't a Week 6 fantasy option against Pittsburgh's tight end-stingy defense, but could flirt with high-end TE2 numbers over the next month. It isn't as if Geno is rich with passing-game alternatives.
The 0-4 Steelers enter Week 6 fresh off an open date sorely in need of a win, but likely to find themselves in a grind-it-out affair against Rex Ryan's No. 2-ranked defense. Steelers-Jets has the week's third lowest over-under at 41 points, and I'd be inclined to bet the under. Ryan's defense has been eliminating running games and playing competitively versus the pass, ranking fifth in the league in sacks (16). This feels like a 17-13 kind of game. I wouldn't be anxious to start many Steelers in fantasy. ... Le'Veon Bell is worth RB2 consideration based solely on volume. In his Week 4 pre-bye NFL debut, Bell played 60-of-79 snaps (76%) and handled 20 touches with a pair of red-zone scores. Bell is unlikely to average many Week 6 yards per carry against the Jets' second-ranked run defense, but he could plunge into the end zone and pay dividends as a fantasy starter. He's already rendered Felix Jones, Isaac Redman, and Jonathan Dwyer complete non-factors. ... Ben Roethlisberger's target distribution since Bell joined the lineup: Antonio Brown 13, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller 8, Jerricho Cotchery 6, Bell and Markus Wheaton 5. ... Wheaton (pinkie surgery) is out indefinitely and only worth stashing in 14- to 16-team leagues.
I noticed playcaller Todd Haley make an adjustment with Brown after Week 2, using him on more diverse routes rather than forcing Brown to run down the sideline like Mike Wallace used to do. Brown has been peppered with pigskins since, seeing 26 targets over his last two games and ranking No. 7 among fantasy wideouts the past three weeks despite missing one due to the Week 5 bye. Brown is an every-week WR2, and his increased movement around the formation will make Brown harder for opposing top corners to shadow. Jets top CB Antonio Cromartie won't be 100% Sunday after hyperextending his knee in Thursday’s practice. Enemy No. 1 receiver stats against the Jets: Julio Jones 8-99, Vincent Jackson 7-154, Nate Washington 4-105-2, Stevie Johnson 6-86, Julian Edelman 13-78. ... Miller is the only other Steelers pass catcher with serious fantasy start-ability. The Jets allowed touchdowns to Scott Chandler and Delanie Walker in Weeks 3-4, and in Week 5 were touched up by Tony Gonzalez for a 10-97 line. Fully back from last year's knee injury, Miller is a full-time player again and will be a big part of Haley's passing attack. ... Sanders' target counts have either dropped or flatlined in every game since Week 1. He's on pace for 924 scoreless yards. Sanders is a WR3 option in PPR leagues only.
Score Prediction: Jets 17, Steelers 13
Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay
The league's carry leader through the season's first month, Doug Martin returns from a Week 5 bye to recuperate for Philly's 17th-ranked run defense. Martin is probably the favorite to lead the NFL in Week 6 touches. Although the Eagles have played productive 2013 offense, they play offense so fast that it puts their ineffective defense on the field for long stretches, and allows opponents to rack up touches and points. The Eagles are 31st in time of possession (26:24), ninth in rushing attempts against, and third in points allowed. Martin is a top-five running back play this week. He has yet to receive fewer than 20 carries in any game this season. ... Rookie TE Tim Wright quietly led Tampa Bay in Week 4 receptions (5) and is worth a look in deep Dynasty leagues. Wright is a converted wide receiver who played for coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers. At 6-foot-3, 219, Wright ran 4.65 with a 36-inch vertical at the Scarlet Knights' Pro Day.
The Bucs' offense is easy to dissect from a fantasy perspective because there are only three guys on the re-draft radar: Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Williams. This was Mike Glennon's target distribution in his first start: V-Jax 11, Wright and Williams 6, Martin 4, Brian Leonard and Erik Lorig 2. ... So at least Glennon (mostly) knows where to go with the football. Jackson only caught two of his 11 targets for 27 yards against the Cardinals, but he won't have to deal with Patrick Peterson anymore, and should be more on the same page as Glennon after bye-week practices. You know what you're dealing with when considering Jackson and Williams as potential fantasy starters: A big-armed, but rookie quarterback that makes for boom-or-bust scenarios. There are obviously no sure things, but I like V-Jax and Williams' chances of booming rather than busting this week because of the matchup. Philadelphia ranks 29th in pass defense with an 11:5 TD-to-INT ratio allowed. Enemy quarterbacks are completing 64.5% of their passes versus the Eagles.
Nick Foles has appeared in three games this season, completing 19-of-30 passes (63.3%) for 246 yards (8.2 YPA) and three touchdowns without an interception. His QB rating is 122.4. Foles flashed in the preseason, as well. Most of Foles' regular season snaps came against the lowly Giants, but there is reason to believe he can keep Chip Kelly's offense on the move despite lacking injured Michael Vick's dual threat. Foles is on the two-quarterback-league radar. To expect QB1-caliber numbers would be a stretch against a Tampa defense that has played the pass well this season. The Bucs have a 5:6 TD-to-INT ratio against through four games, and are permitting the eighth lowest yards-per-attempt average (6.6) in football. ... Another reason for Foles caution is the fact that the Eagles only have one threatening pass catcher, and DeSean Jackson is likely to be wrapped in Darrelle Revis' coverage for most of Sunday's game. Jackson has enough speed to beat Revis -- Larry Fitzgerald did two weeks ago for a game-winning score -- but the odds are against D-Jax having a truly big game. He's more WR2/3 than WR1/2 in this matchup. ... Foles' distribution of targets on the season: Jackson 8; LeSean McCoy and Jason Avant 4; Brent Celek and Bryce Brown 3; Jeff Maehl 2; Zach Ertz, Riley Cooper, and Chris Polk 1.
Foles' willingness to check down to McCoy bodes well for Shady's outlook while Vick is gone, particularly in this game because the Bucs play such stout defense on the ground. Tampa Bay is No. 9 in the league in run defense, allowing just 3.70 yards per carry. The Bucs are the only NFL team left that hasn't surrendered a rushing score. McCoy remains an elite RB1 play this and every week, but he's not quite in Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson territory in Week 6 due to the rough matchup. ... Avant, Ertz, Celek, and the emerging No. 2 wideout rotation of Cooper and Maehl represents a fantasy football wasteland. One of the above will probably score a touchdown or have a productive receiving game against the Buccaneers, but there's no way to tell for whom it'll be. ... Brown has played 79 snaps this season, while Polk has only played nine. Brown is the best handcuff for McCoy. Polk would likely see change-of-pace carries in the event of a Shady injury.
Score Prediction: Eagles 20, Bucs 17
4:05PM ET Games
Jacksonville @ Denver
In the most lopsided game that will be played this season, the only genuine fantasy concern for Broncos skill-position players is a potentially enormous early-game lead that results in starters resting after a couple of quarters. Denver is a whopping 27-point favorite, setting records in Vegas. The Jags have allowed the second most touchdown passes (12) in football and are tied for 28th in sacks (10). Look for Peyton Manning to bang out first-half touchdown passes before taking a (roughly) third-quarter seat. ... Demaryius Thomas (5-57-0) is coming off the slowest game among Denver pass catchers, which if trends continue means he'll be Peyton's favorite option in Week 6. Keep riding Demaryius, who still leads the Broncos in targets on the season and ranks sixth among wideouts in fantasy scoring. ... Manning's target distribution: Demaryius 44, Eric Decker 43, Wes Welker 42, Julius Thomas 36, Knowshon Moreno 14, Ronnie Hillman 10, Montee Ball 4. ... Virtually every Broncos skill player is at least worth consideration as a Week 6 fantasy play, right on down to Ball if you're desperate in a flex spot. Ball has been Denver's primary garbage-time running back, and this game could produce a large chunk of garbage time.
Moreno was confirmed to be Denver's clear lead back in competitive scenarios during last week's 51-48 win at Dallas. He handled a season-high 24 touches and scored at the goal line from a yard out in the fourth quarter. Change-of-pace back Hillman finished with 11 touches, totaling 59 yards. Moreno is an every-week RB2/flex. ... Through five games, Decker is on pace for 93 receptions, 1,367 yards, and seven touchdowns. He's an every-week WR2. ... Welker is the No. 2 overall fantasy receiver behind only Dez Bryant, and leads the NFL in receiving scores (7). He's a WR1. ... Among tight ends, only Jimmy Graham has notched more fantasy points than Thomas, who is a red-zone machine. Jacksonville has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends.
Fantasy owners willing to gamble on Jaguars skill players in Week 6 are going to hang their hats on garbage-time yards and points. And there could be a lot where that came from. Chad Henne is most effective throwing the ball inside the numbers on slants and skinnies, which are typically tolerated by prevent-type defenses. The Jags will have to throw early and often to pretend they're keeping up with Manning, then keep throwing to limit the deficit. A legit candidate for 50 pass attempts, Henne has more upside this week than meets the eye. He's a gambling man's QB1 streamer and locked-in two-QB-league start. ... Slants, skinny posts, and seam patterns are Justin Blackmon's bread and butter. It's why Blackmon had so much more statistical success playing with Henne in the second half of last season. Coming off a 5-136-1 2013 debut, Blackmon is a very intriguing WR2/3 at Denver and worth a long look in FanDuel's daily leagues. ... Henne's target distribution on the season: Cecil Shorts 35, Ace Sanders and Stephen Burton 12, Maurice Jones-Drew 8, Clay Harbor 7, Allen Reisner and Jordan Todman 4, Blackmon 3. Keep in mind Henne has barely played with Blackmon this year, as he just came off suspension. On those three targets, they did hook up twice for 46 yards in last week's loss to St. Louis.
Certainly not to be forgotten, here are Shorts' nine career stat lines when Henne has been the Jags' primary quarterback in a given game: 8-93, 8-143, 4-79-1, 6-105-1, 3-81-1, 4-105-1, 7-77-1, 6-101, 6-54. Both Shorts and Blackmon are candidates to finish Sunday with double-digit targets. Shorts is every bit as start-able as a WR2/3. ... Sanders played 88% of the Jaguars' Week 5 offensive snaps, but was targeted just once and finished without a catch. Sanders has four drops among 28 targets this season, and has caught 14 passes for 162 scoreless yards. I suppose you could put him on the extreme deep-league radar this week because he's obviously going to be on the field a lot. ... Stranger things have happened than producing against virtually all odds, but on paper this is about the worst possible matchup a Jones-Drew owner could imagine. The Jags haven't used him much in pass-happy comeback mode, frequently installing Jordan Todman and Justin Forsett. The Broncos rank No. 1 against the run and allow just 3.28 yards per carry. It's not really talked about much, but MJD has for much of his career been an every-down back and this year has played only 58.5% of Jacksonville's offensive snaps. On pace for just 666 rushing yards at a 2.81 per-carry clip, Jones-Drew is a risky Week 6 flex play.
Score Prediction: Broncos 37, Jaguars 20
Tennessee @ Seattle
The Seahawks have been gashing opponents on the ground despite a depleted offensive line. RT Breno Giacomini (knee) isn't quite ready, but C Max Unger returns this week from an "upper arm" injury that cost him the past two games. Pro Football Focus graded Unger as a top-three center in 2012, so his return should add juice to Seattle's front five as it takes on Tennessee's No. 14 run defense. The Titans have been slightly more porous on the ground than that ranking indicates, coughing up the ninth highest YPC average (4.34) in football. Expect a big-time rushing effort from No. 5 fantasy running back Marshawn Lynch. ... Russell Wilson seems to be loosening up a bit after a slow start. He's posted a combined 6:3 TD-to-INT ratio over the past three weeks, and his rushing numbers have increased incrementally in back-to-back games. Since Week 2, only six quarterbacks have scored more fantasy points. View Wilson as a high-ceiling, if back-end QB1 against Tennessee. The Titans are playing top-nine pass defense, but Wilson can flirt with matchup-proof value when he's ripping off yardage with his legs and executing in the red zone. ... Here's Wilson's target distribution during his three-game hot run: Golden Tate 24, Sidney Rice 16, Doug Baldwin 15, Luke Willson 9, Zach Miller 6, Lynch 5, Jermaine Kearse 3, Robert Turbin 1.
Tate is the run-first Seahawks' lone wide receiver worth serious WR3 consideration, but gets a difficult Week 6 matchup versus red-hot Titans RCB Alterraun Verner and has been inconsistent to be kind. He's always a dicey play. ... Baldwin is a quality real-life slot receiver, but has cleared 60 yards in just two of his last 15 games and scored one touchdown this season. He's for deep leaguers only. ... Rice's stat lines through five weeks: 2-35, 1-13, 5-79-2, 1-11, 1-8. There's no good reason to start him. ... Miller (hamstring) is expected to miss one more game, giving Willson the nod as Seattle's primary tight end. A long, athletic fifth-round pick out of Rice, Willson played 70.4% of the Seahawks' Week 6 snaps, but only finished with four targets. He's a Dynasty league prospect and nothing more. ... For forward thinkers: Including January's playoffs, Lynch has 375 carries since last September 30. Lynch owners should have Christine Michael rostered as a lottery-ticket/handcuff RB5. Michael isn't playing at the moment, but is Seattle's preferred early-down back over Turbin and could ascend to low-end RB1 value in the event of a Lynch injury.
In Week 5, Chris Johnson's owners were bailed out by a lucky Ryan Fitzpatrick flip-pass under heavy pressure, which Johnson took to the house from 49 yards out. CJ3ypcK was stuffed for 17 yards on 10 carries. The good news for Johnson is Fitzpatrick targeted him a season-high five times against the Chiefs after extremely limited pass-game involvement with Jake Locker under center. Strictly as a ball carrier, Johnson likely won't find any room at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have stymied enemy runners for 59 yards on 33 carries (1.79 YPC). Johnson is a low-floor RB2 in Week 6. ... Jackie Battle will get one more week to serve as Tennessee's short-yardage pounder after getting swallowed up on repeated goal-line carries against Kansas City. Battle did break off a 37-yard run off left tackle. It proved to be the Titans' best run of the day. ... Fitz's targets through one-plus games: Nate Washington 12, Kendall Wright 11, Kenny Britt and Delanie Walker 6, Johnson 5, Justin Hunter and Damian Williams 3, Battle 2.
The Seahawks rank No. 6 in total defense and third versus the pass. Their TD-to-INT ratio against is 5:7, and outside corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are capable of eliminating perimeter passing offenses with physical press coverage that re-routes receivers and disrupts timing. An outside receiver like Washington is going to be in for a long day. … Britt has been one of the least effective wideouts in football and isn't worth a roster spot in 12-team fantasy leagues. ... The one Titans receiver with a chance at Week 6 productivity is slot man Wright, who has at least five receptions in four consecutive games despite a three-week allergy to the end zone. Wright will take on Seattle slot CB Walter Thurmond III and is a low-end WR3. ... On pace for just under 500 receiving yards, Walker will need a red-zone touchdown to pay dividends as a fantasy start. The Seahawks have limited opposing tight ends to the ninth fewest fantasy points through five games.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Titans 17