Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Jameis Winston at Falcons: This is the hottest fantasy matchup of Sunday’s day games. (Chiefs-Patriots will be played on Sunday Night Football.) Neither of these squads play much defense, and the 57.5-point total is the second-highest on the Week 6 slate behind the aforementioned Kansas City-New England date set at 59.5 points. Winston is back in the saddle for his first start of the season after coming on in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick last time out in Week 4 in the blowout loss to the Bears. Winston had an incredible preseason, going 30-of-41 passes (73.2%) for 388 yards (9.5 YPA) with three touchdowns and no picks. He was Pro Football Focus’ top-graded passer in the summer exhibitions. That’s a small piece of the puzzle, as we’re not going to take preseason stats for more than they should be taken for, but Winston’s numbers are at least notable. The Falcons are giving up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and are 28th in pass-defense DVOA. Their injury troubles are well documented to this point, having lost defensive linchpins SS Keanu Neal (torn ACL), MLB Deion Jones (foot), and FS Ricardo Allen (Achilles’) to season-ending injuries. Ben Roethlisberger (250 yards, 3 TDs, QB5), Andy Dalton (337 yards, 3 TDs, QB9), Drew Brees (399 yards, 5 TDs, QB1), and Cam Newton (377 yards, 3 TDs, QB7) have all been top-nine fantasy quarterbacks against Atlanta the past four weeks. Winston has also had huge games against coach Dan Quinn’s defense the past two years. He’s made three starts against Atlanta, not counting his 2015 rookie season, and has gone 281 yards, 4 TDs > 261 yards, 3 TDs > 299 yards, 3 TDs. Winston has one of the better supporting casts in the league and is coming off a bye. Winston is a lock-and-load surefire QB1 streamer with the potential to be top-12 the rest of the way.
Andy Dalton vs. Steelers: Fantasy’s current QB16 in points per game through five weeks, Dalton has seemed to have a better season than that number would indicate. He’s tied for third in touchdowns with 12 and threw multiple scores each of the first four games before the Bengals came out flat last week at home against the Dolphins only to overcome a 17-point deficit and win in convincing fashion. A preseason star just like Jameis Winston above, Dalton’s big summer has carried over into the regular season. Weeks 1-4, Dalton was the overall QB10. A matchup against division foe Pittsburgh presents a big bounce-back opportunity. The Steelers have surrendered the most passing touchdowns, second-most yards, and second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor (QB6), Patrick Mahomes (QB2), Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB8), and Joe Flacco (QB12) were all top-12 fantasy passers against the Steelers Weeks 1-4 before Matt Ryan snapped the streak as QB18 in Pittsburgh last Sunday. The Bengals are at home with a near-full arsenal of weapons aside from Tyler Eifert (leg, I.R.) and a reshaped offensive line that is Football Outsiders’ No. 10 pass-blocking unit. The 53-point total for Steelers-Bengals is the third-highest on the slate.
Matt Ryan vs. Bucs: Ryan is a top-four fantasy passer through five weeks, so calling him a start isn’t some earth-shattering take by any means. But coming off a QB18 performance in Pittsburgh last Sunday and suffering a foot “injury,” Ryan isn’t someone owners should be looking to replace Week 6. Ryan was the QB8, QB5, and QB2 the previous three weeks, sandwiching them with his underwhelming day against the Steelers and QB24 night in Philly in the opener. This is a mammoth bounce-back spot at home against a Bucs defense that got flamed by Mitchell Trubisky last time out when he set new career bests for passing yards (354) and touchdowns (6) en route to the overall QB1 day in Week 4. The Bucs have had their bye week to try and get right, but their secondary remains a total disaster, ranking dead last in pass-defense DVOA and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. This game also gets to be played in the friendly fantasy dome environment of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. All three of Ryan’s aforementioned top-eight fantasy performances came at home in the dome. The combined point totals in those games have been 55 > 80 > 73. The 57.5-point total for Bucs-Falcons may be a tad low, and it’s the second-highest total of Week 6.
Baker Mayfield vs. Chargers: I had a real tough time picking a not-obvious fourth option here. It was between Mayfield and Sam Darnold, but I’m going to slide slightly with Mayfield on this one. Coming into the year, the Chargers were supposed to be one of the more feared pass defenses. But Joey Bosa (foot) has yet to play, Casey Hayward isn’t playing at his 2017 All-Pro level, and the Bolts have been pretty forgiving to opposing air attacks. Sure, Patrick Mahomes (QB4) and Jared Goff (QB6) had huge days against the Bolts, and that’s to be expected, but even C.J. Beathard threw for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns against this defense in Week 4. The Chargers are a disappointing 16th in pass-defense DVOA and 24th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Since taking over as the starter, Mayfield is fantasy’s QB22, but he’s been hurt by a number of drops. Looking at you, Antonio Callaway and David Njoku. The yards have been there with an average of 318.5 in two starts, though he’s required overtime in both instances. This just looks like a plus spot against an underperforming pass defense coming cross-country for an early 1 PM ET start. Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees owners like myself may be in a bind with slim pickings on the waiver wire, and Mayfield just might be the best of the bunch with the greatest upside thanks to rushing ability.
Philip Rivers at Browns: Rivers has been phenomenal through five weeks; he’s sixth in completion percentage, fifth in yards per attempt, second in touchdown passes, and third in passer rating as fantasy’s QB7 in points per game. Rivers has been a top-15 fantasy passer every week and has three top-10 finishes. He’s been as consistent as they come at the position, but Sunday might prove to be his toughest test to date. The Browns are second in pass-defense DVOA and 11th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Among teams that have played five games, only seven have allowed fewer passing touchdowns than Cleveland. The Browns lead the league in takeaways with 15. This is an elite unit at the moment and No. 2 in total defense behind the Bears at Football Outsiders. Only Derek Carr has a top-12 fantasy finish against Cleveland, and he needed an entire 10-minute overtime to do it. Notable passers to struggle versus Cleveland were Drew Brees (QB14) and Ben Roethlisberger (QB21). Rivers is just a two-quarterback league option for me.
Marcus Mariota vs. Ravens: The flavor of the week at this time last week, Mariota was coming off 390 yards and three touchdowns in a big home win against the Eagles in Week 4. He was being talked about as the add of the week at the position and a possible QB1 the rest of the way. I wasn’t buying it and listed Mariota as a “sit”, and he answered with a Mariota-like 139 total yards and no touchdowns on his way to the overall QB31 performance in Buffalo as the Titans fell to Josh Allen’s group 13-12. Mariota was hurt by a mind-numbing drop of a short touchdown by Nick Williams, but he would have needed a few more of those touchdowns to be a useful fantasy piece. I simply do not trust Mariota; he’s far too inconsistent and has had way too many lows compared to highs in recent memory. Coming home to face a Ravens defense that is fourth in pass-defense DVOA and No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks makes Mariota a hard pass. Baltimore-Tennessee has the second-lowest total on the board at 41 points, while the Titans’ implied team total of 19 is fifth-lowest among 30 teams in action. Mariota isn’t even on the two-QB league radar.
Mitchell Trubisky at Dolphins: Trubisky had the game of his life the last time we saw him, throwing for 354 yards and six touchdowns as the overall QB1 at home against the Bucs back in Week 4. That is a truly bad secondary Tampa Bay puts on the field each week. The Bears have had two weeks to get ready for the Dolphins, but there’s no way I’m putting any faith in Trubisky to come close to repeating his last performance. Miami’s defense hasn’t been its problem; the Dolphins are fifth in pass-defense DVOA and third in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Miami has yet to allow a top-12 fantasy performance through the air, as running backs have been the issue in recent losses to the Patriots and Bengals. The 41.5-point total for Bears-Dolphins is the fourth-lowest of Week 6 and features two top-five defenses. Coach Matt Nagy has Trubisky on the right path, but we need to see more before going with him in fantasy circles. He’s a weak two-QB league play.
Start of the Week: Tevin Coleman vs. Bucs: Devonta Freeman popped up on the injury report with what is being labeled a “bone bruise” to his foot. He didn’t practice Wednesday and wasn’t seen on the field with the team. Typically, when players are having more of a “rest” day and are listed as “did not practice,” they’re seen on the field in some capacity stretching and hanging with teammates. It’s not a good sign for Freeman’s Week 6 status. Freeman returned from an MCL sprain last week in Pittsburgh and really muddled up the backfield, making it a three-man committee of sorts. Freeman led the pack with 10 touches to Coleman’s nine and Ito Smith’s four. Naturally, the rookie Smith was the only one to find the end zone. When all three are healthy, this looks like a backfield to try and avoid if possible. But if Freeman is out, Coleman automatically jumps up to high-end RB2 status, and it’s sure looking like Freeman is going to be absent. In Weeks 2-4 with Freeman out, Coleman averaged 18 touches and scored a touchdown. If he can be the lead dog in this barn-burner NFC South shootout, there’s no cap on Coleman’s upside. The Bucs are yielding the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs and seven catches per game to the position. They’re 22nd in run-defense DVOA. Last time out, the Bucs were the victim of Tarik Cohen’s 20-touch, 174-yard, one-touchdown breakout in Week 4. James Conner totaled 95 yards in Week 3. Corey Clement went for 85 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. And Alvin Kamara had 141 yards and three scores Week 1. We’re going to want as many pieces as possible from this 57.5-point total.
Aaron Jones vs. 49ers: Jones was one of the bigger disappointments of Week 5. On paper, it looked like a smash spot for the second-year back. The Lions field a bottom-three run defense and had been getting gashed on the ground on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, the Packers fell in a 24-point halftime hole, and Jones and Jamaal Williams combined to see two carries after the break. (Williams got both of them.) Jones didn’t get a touch until there were less than 30 second left on the clock in the fourth quarter. Among the Packers’ three running backs, including Ty Montgomery in this, Jones is very clearly the most talented runner. Jones is averaging 6.1 YPC to Williams and Montgomery’s 3.7 and 4.4 marks, respectively. The problem is coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t trust Jones in pass protection, and protecting Aaron Rodgers is of utmost importance in Green Bay. Jones has been asked to pass block all of four times across 68 snaps this year. He’s gotten high marks from Pro Football Focus for it, but McCarthy isn’t ready to let Jones play in surefire pass situations. The good news is the Packers are significant 9.5-point favorites Monday night at Lambeau Field. Whereas they were put in a tough spot being unable to run the ball in catchup mode all last week, the tables will likely be turned in this one. Expect the Packers to be cramming the ball down the Niners’ throats and giving Jones some extended second-half run as a clock-killer. Going back to Jones takes some guts, but I’m totally willing to roll the dice. Rather be early than late on a player. San Francisco has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs. Roll Jones out there as an RB2/FLEX.
Phillip Lindsay vs. Rams: Lindsay has gotten to the point where he’s an every-week start. The UDFA continues to split playing time with Royce Freeman and, for some reason, Devontae Booker. If the Broncos would just eliminate Booker from the offensive game plan, perhaps they’d be a bit better. But Lindsay has consistently out-touched Freeman 17, 14, 14, 15 to 15, 8, 8, 8 in Weeks 1-2 and 4-5 since Lindsay was ejected Week 3 in Baltimore. Lindsay is 11th in the league in rushing and fifth in yards-per-carry with a 5.8 mark. Billed as more of an outside speed guy by some, 5’9/190 Lindsay has shown more than capable of running it between the tackles. Freeman hasn’t been bad; Lindsay just is better and gives the offense more versatility as an able pass-catcher. He’s also gotten some goal-line chances and converted one Week 4 against the Chiefs. Defending the run has been the Rams’ weakness. They may not believe in stopping it as much as they care about trying to rush the passer and defend the air in a pass-first NFL. That has opened up gaping running lanes. Chris Carson and Mike Davis took it to this defense last week, combining for a 31-184-1 rushing line to almost single-handedly pull off the upset. In Week 3, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler had a 19-127-1 line. The Raiders’ running backs went 20-85-1 in Week 1. The Rams are a true run-funnel defense, ranking ninth in pass-defense DVOA as opposed to 28th against the run. They allow 4.86 YPC to opposing running backs, and Denver certainly prefers to run the ball with Case Keenum at quarterback. As long as the Broncos can hang around, Lindsay should get plenty of opportunities. And even if it turns into a track meet, Freeman would be the one getting phased out, not Lindsay.
Sony Michel vs. Chiefs: Much like Lindsay above, Michel is getting/has gotten to the point where he needs to remain plugged into fantasy lineups. Since Week 3, Michel has played 42.4% of the offensive snaps and averaging 19.67 touches and 90.3 yards per game. He’s already up to fifth in the league with 10 carries inside the 10-yard line and has scored a touchdown in back-to-back games. The backfield has really solidified itself since Rex Burkhead went on I.R. Michel and James White are tag-teaming this thing with both being automatic fantasy plays. The Chiefs are 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs, surrendering a robust 5.48 YPC to the position. They’re dead last in run-defense DVOA and just got steamrolled by T.J. Yeldon for 122 total yards and one touchdown in Week 5, allowing 5.3 YPC. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 20-137-2 on the ground in Week 4. Matt Breida and Alfred Morris went 24-157-1 in Week 3. And Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler compiled 20-103-0 in the opener. Michel has double-digit touchdown upside this week in a game that figures to be last man standing with the ball wins. The 59.5-point total is the highest of the season. New England’s 31.5-point implied total is the highest of all 30 teams.
Alfred Morris at Packers: With Matt Breida suffering an ankle sprain last week, Morris played his highest snap share in a three-week span, getting in on over 44% of the plays. He recorded a season-best 18 carries but turned them into just 61 scoreless yards (3.4 YPC). Morris has been held to 3.5 YPC or less in 4-of-5 games and is kind of at the Frank Gore stage of his career. He’ll chew up some yards here and there, but they aren’t pretty and end-zone trips are rare. Despite being top-seven in the league with his nine carries inside the 10-yard line, Morris has been routinely stuffed and has just one score. Morris offers nothing in the pass game and rarely gets asked to pass block. In a game where the Niners are significant 9.5-point ‘dogs, Morris looks like a poor bet for volume and could become invisible by the second half. Kyle Juszczyk ran a season-high 33 routes last week against Arizona and played close to 70% of the snaps. He’s the far superior receiver and pass protector to Morris. Green Bay has surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. I like the Packers defense-special teams far more than I like any 49ers skill player Monday night.
Kenyan Drake vs. Bears: After touching the ball seven and four times in Weeks 3 and 4, Drake came almost out of nowhere to turn 13 touches into 115 yards and one touchdown last week against the Bengals. He was really the only bright spot for Miami after it blew a 17-point lead and went on to lose in Cincinnati. Drake’s touchdown catch was impressive after he whooped a linebacker in coverage, but a big majority of his yards came late and in the second half when the game was getting out of hand. The Bengals simply gifted him a 25-yard run on the final play as they rushed with three and played every other defender at the goal line in prevent defense. Instead of throwing a Hail Mary, Ryan Tannehill just handed it to Drake so he could pad his stats. The Bengals were giving the Dolphins open screen passes all afternoon. Take away that last run and Drake had a 5-21 rushing day. Frank Gore still out-carried him 12-6 and was the preferred option as a runner when the game was close. Gore chewed up 63 yards and looks pretty good for his age with it still early in the season. Just last week, coach Adam Gase said the two are going to “continue splitting that stuff” in the backfield. Over the summer, Gase said he wanted to run 70-75 plays per game on offense and get Drake 15-20 carries and 6-8 targets a week. Five weeks into the year, and the Dolphins are dead last in offensive pace and 31st in plays per game at 52.0. The plan hasn’t come to fruition. They’ll now run into a buzzsaw of a Bears defense that is No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and No. 3 in run-defense DVOA. A running back has yet to score on the ground against Chicago and the position is averaging just over three catches per game. The 41.5-point total for Bears-Dolphins is the fourth-lowest of the week, and Miami’s implied total of 19 is the fifth-lowest of 30 teams.
Alex Collins at Titans: An early-round fantasy pick over the summer as an RB2, Collins has been a huge disappointment, checking in at 27th in rushing yards sandwiched between fellow disappointments Derrick Henry and Jordan Howard. Collins’ 3.8 YPC average is t-36th with Theo Riddick and LeSean McCoy. He’s scored a pair of touchdowns to keep him afloat on fantasy rosters, but fumbles have been an issue, and it has led to decreased playing time. But when watching Collins on film, it’s very evident he’s the Ravens’ best back, and it’s not particularly close. Yet Buck Allen continues to out-snap him by a significant margin despite averaging a pitiful 2.8 YPC and 6.2 yards per catch, which is 41st among running backs. Coach John Harbaugh chastised Collins for fumbling early in the season and turned to Allen in important situations. Allen then lost a critical fumble last week in the eventual overtime loss to the Browns, but he wasn’t punished for it. The Ravens seem to just like Allen’s trustworthiness over Collins’ superior effectiveness, which is a backwards way to win games. Either way, this spot doesn’t set up all that well for either runner. The Titans have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and are surrendering the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position. Ravens-Titans has the second-lowest total of the week at 41 points. Collins is averaging 10.67 carries per game on the road compared to 12.5 at home. He’s a tough sell as anything more than a FLEX.
Start of the Week: Julian Edelman vs. Chiefs: Making his season debut last week after serving a four-game suspension, Edelman stepped right back into his normal role playing 48-of-69 snaps and finishing second on the team with nine targets. He secured seven of them for 57 yards and should have had another long catch but committed an egregious drop on a third down. It was still an encouraging debut for the 32-year-old. Now coming off a mini-bye where he’s had time to rest his legs, Edelman gets a Chiefs defense that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to receivers and is 19th in pass-defense DVOA. Kansas City has settled things down a bit on that side of the ball in recent weeks, but they’ve faced bottom-barrel passers Case Keenum and Blake Bortles the past two games. Tom Brady in Foxboro is a whole different story. Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger each threw for over 420 yards and three touchdowns against these guys Weeks 1 and 2. The Chiefs are also expected to remain without Eric Berry (heel) and have also lost OLB Justin Houston to a hamstring injury. Chris Jones and Dee Ford can wreck a game, but they won’t be enough against this offense. It has all the makings of a shootout where the last team to have the ball wins. The 59.5-point total for Chiefs-Patriots is easily the highest of the week and the highest number we’ve seen this season.
Larry Fitzgerald at Vikings: Fitzgerald’s age may finally be catching up to him. The 35-year-old has been a colossal bust as a fantasy player through five weeks with a 17-176-0 receiving line. He’s still playing his normal allotment of snaps, but hamstring and back issues have limited him at practice, and the bottom-of-the-barrel quarterback situation has been the biggest drain of all. Fitzgerald has fewer fantasy points than Laquon Treadwell, fellow bust Chris Hogan, Tavon Austin, and Terrelle Pryor among so many others. However, those still holding out some hope, this spot has a #NarrativeStreet aspect to it. Fitzgerald is from Minnesota, was a Vikings ball boy growing up, and this may be his last time playing in the hometown. Rookie Josh Rosen has uplifted the passing game a bit the last two weeks, but the volume remains near the bottom of the league, averaging 26 attempts in two starts. Fitzgerald is still running the vast majority of his routes out of the slot and should avoid CB Xavier Rhodes, who has played a total of five snaps in slot coverage this year. The Vikings’ main slot corners are Mackensie Alexander and rookie Mike Hughes. Combined, they’ve been targeted 21 times and have allowed 20 catches for an alarming 259 yards and one score in slot coverage. The Cardinals are the biggest underdogs of the week, being given 10.5 points. It should lead to an inflated amount of pass attempts from Rosen, leading to a few more going Fitzgerald’s direction with Chad Williams and Christian Kirk dealing with Rhodes and Trae Waynes outside.
Sammy Watkins at Patriots: Watkins injured his hamstring in Week 4 against the Broncos before even getting on the stat sheet. Otherwise, he’s been a pretty reliable WR3 with receiving lines of 6-100-0 > 5-55-1 > 6-78-0 his last three healthy games while averaging 7.67 targets in that span. Coach Andy Reid did a great job of getting Watkins the ball on jet sweeps last week against a tough Jaguars secondary as a way to get the ball in his playmaker’s hands. Creative coaching is important, and Reid is one of the best at setting his players up for success. Watkins is practicing in full this week and by all accounts is completely over the hamstring issue. He’s now all systems go for what figures to be the best game of the week, a true up-and-down shootout between big-play offenses in a game with a total of 59.5 points, the highest we’ve seen this season. The Patriots have been middle of the pack in pass defense, checking in at 21st in DVOA and 17th in fantasy points allowed to receivers. But in fantasy, we chase big scores and elite offenses. This game figures to have both. Kansas City and New England are both top-eight in neutral situation offensive pace. The Chiefs’ pass offense essentially goes through three players, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Watkins. There should be more than enough to go around for all three to get “theirs” in this AFC showdown.
Chester Rogers at Jets: Andrew Luck has uncorked an insane 121 passes over the last two games. The Colts are really throwing caution to the wind with that surgically-repaired shoulder. And with T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) getting injured in Week 4 and Jack Doyle (hip) missing both games, Rogers has been targeted a receiver-high 22 times, second on the team only to Eric Ebron (25). Rogers seems to be the only wideout Luck can really trust with the others having severe cases of the drops last Thursday night in New England. Coach Frank Reich essentially ruled out Hilton and Doyle again for this week, meaning it’ll again be Rogers, Ebron, and Nyheim Hines carrying the water for this pass offense. Rogers has 16 grabs for 151 yards the last two games. That’s plenty enough volume to bring back WR3 numbers while playing in the league’s fastest-paced offense. The Jets are also still dealing with injuries to two of their top three corners; Trumaine Johnson (quad) and slot man Buster Skrine (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. Rogers has run over 96% of his routes out of the slot the past two weeks. Skrine is highly unlikely to play due to a serious concussion history. Sixth-round rookie Parry Nickerson will fill in. He allowed all seven passes thrown his way to be caught last week against the Broncos. This is a very favorable spot for Rogers.
Keelan Cole at Cowboys: After torching the Patriots for 7-116-1 in the Jaguars’ Week 2 win, Cole looked to be on the come-up among receivers. In the three games since, Cole has gone 5-40-0 > 2-15-0 > 4-70-0 against the Titans, Jets, and Chiefs. The good news is Cole was still seeing healthy targets, averaging 7.3 per game in that span. But Blake Bortles’ ineffectiveness as a passer has been a letdown for most everyone involved not named T.J. Yeldon. Running 75% of his routes outside and over 80% the last three weeks since Dede Westbrook’s emergence inside, Cole figures to see a whole lot of CB Byron Jones on Sunday. Jones plays exclusively outside and is currently Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 cover corner out of 112 qualifiers. He’s yet to allow a touchdown pass and is surrendering just 25 yards per game in his coverage. Jones shut down Devin Funchess in Week 1, didn’t allow a catch to a Giants wideout on four targets in Week 2, limited Brandon Marshall to a three-yard catch on five targets in Week 3, wasn’t targeted by Matthew Stafford in Week 4, before then getting beat up a bit by DeAndre Hopkins for 4-73-0 on five targets last Sunday. Cole is obviously no Hopkins. With Bortles coming off some truly bad performances of late, this pass game is a total avoid in a game with the lowest total of the week at 40 points.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. 49ers: With Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion) out last week against the Lions, Valdes-Scantling and fellow rookie Equanimeous St. Brown made the starts next to Davante Adams. MVS scored a three-yard touchdown on his way to a 7-68-1 line and had a second score called back after he was ruled down inside the one-yard line. His 10 targets were third on the Packers behind Adams (12) and Jimmy Graham (11). There was obviously a lot to like from his performance. But with at least Allison likely coming back for Monday night after he was close to gaining clearance last week, MVS faces more competition for targets in a game the Packers are favored at home by 9.5 points. Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to have to throw it 60-plus times again like he did in Detroit. It’s never a bad idea to hitch one’s self to a Rodgers receiver, but I just don’t see MVS getting the same volume. On top of that, the Niners have played pretty decent pass defense, checking in at 23rd in DVOA and 15th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Richard Sherman has been tremendous as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 cover corner out of 112 qualifiers while slot CB K’Waun Williams checks in at No. 16. Jimmie Ward is the weak link. Valdes-Scantling would get a boost back up if Cobb and Allison are out again, but I expect at least one to play. Treat MVS as more of a touchdown-or-bust WR4.
Allen Robinson at Dolphins: Robinson averaged 9.3 targets per game the first three weeks of the season but saw just four looks last time out against the Bucs, though he did score his first touchdown with Chicago. The four targets aren’t really anything to get worked up about, but the 2-23-1 line was a bit disappointing on a day Mitchell Trubisky set career highs in yards (354) and touchdowns (6). That was at home against arguably the league’s worst pass defense. This Bears-Dolphins game features the fourth-lowest total on the board at 42 points and figures to be a defensive slugfest. Both the Bears and Dolphins are top-five in pass-defense DVOA and top-five in total defense at Football Outsiders. Miami’s No. 1 CB Xavien Howard flashes brilliance at times but has his lapses; he’s mostly held his own this year outside of getting worked by Tom Brady in Week 4. Trubisky is no Brady, and this game will be played in South Beach. I like the Dolphins overall to bounce back this week and possibly steal this one from the 3-1 Bears, who have been the talk of the NFC outside of the Rams and Saints. Robinson is more low-floor, minimal-upside WR4 in this matchup.
Editor’s Note: Like last week, we’re going to go over some streaming options at the tight end position. It’s still just too thin of a position with the injuries to Hunter Henry (torn ACL), Tyler Eifert (broken ankle), Jack Doyle (hip), Evan Engram (torn MCL), Will Dissly (torn patella tendon), and Delanie Walker (broken ankle). Greg Olsen is back from his broken foot to provide some help. But Ben Watson is out on a bye. In the “Sits” section, I’ll caution some tough matchups.
Start of the Week: Austin Hooper vs. Bucs: We’ve been chasing Hooper in plus matchups numerous times this season, and he finally delivered last Sunday in Pittsburgh with a career-high nine catches for 77 yards. The only thing that could have made it better was a touchdown. With the Falcons likely to be in another shootout against a terrible Bucs defense, we’re going straight back to the well on Hooper. Tampa Bay is dead last in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Trey Burton went 2-86-1 against the Bucs in Week 4. Vance McDonald hung a 4-112-1 line in Week 3. Zach Ertz (11-94-0) and Joshua Perkins (4-57-0) had big days Week 2. And Ben Watson had a respectable 4-44-0 season opener. This game’s 57.5-point total is the second-highest of Week 6.
Cameron Brate at Falcons: This is mostly contingent on O.J. Howard (knee) not playing. He suffered a sprained MCL in Week 4 that was supposed to cost him 2-4 weeks. Howard practiced in a knee brace Wednesday and could be returning without missing a game. Even if Howard suits up, we wouldn’t expect him to play his normal complement of snaps. That would leave Brate in an increased role, and we know he and Jameis Winston have a real connection in the red zone. After Howard was hurt last time out in Chicago, Brate caught Winston’s lone touchdown pass in the second half. Atlanta has fared relatively well against tight ends, checking in at No. 10 in fantasy points allowed to the position, but there hasn’t been much competition. The Falcons allowed a touchdown to Tyler Eifert in Week 4, gave up a team-high 48 yards to Zach Ertz in Week 1, and has otherwise faced Ian Thomas, C.J. Uzomah/Tyler Kroft, and Jesse James/Vance McDonald. Brate has decent touchdown odds.
C.J. Uzomah vs. Steelers: In the Bengals’ first game without Tyler Eifert (broken leg, I.R.) last week, Uzomah started and played 91.7% of the snaps. He ran 28 pass routes on the day after running 33 the week before when Eifert left early with his injury. And now backup Tyler Kroft (foot) is in a walking boot, leaving more on Uzomah’s plate. Uzomah was targeted just twice last week against the Dolphins but caught both for 43 yards. The Steelers have allowed the most catches and second-most fantasy points to tight ends. Austin Hooper had his 9-77-0 day against them last week. The Ravens’ trio of Maxx Williams-Nick Boyle-Mark Andrews combined for 10-99-0 in Week 4. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate went 9-106-1 in Week 3. Travis Kelce hung a 7-109-2 day in Week 2. David Njoku saw the second-most targets on the team in Week 1 but had numerous drops. This defense clearly has trouble containing tight ends. Uzomah is a fine streamer.
Vance McDonald at Bengals: McDonald was part of this section last week but completely flopped against the Falcons with a 1-6-0 day on two targets. Instead, Jesse James caught a couple balls and was the target on some seam shots. Separating these two is extremely difficult to the point you just wish they could be one player. But McDonald is the far better athlete, and when he hits he has the upside for a big afternoon. The Bengals are 24th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Dolphins rookie Mike Gesicki had his best game of the season in Cincinnati last week with a year-high five targets and 3-26 day. Falcons backup TE Logan Paulsen caught a 17-yard touchdown in Week 4. Ravens tight ends went 7-52-1 in Week 2. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron combined for 11-111-1 in the opener. Steelers-Bengals has a 53-point total, the third-highest of the week.
None. The Chargers and Browns face off and are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in DVOA against tight ends. Antonio Gates is a poor bet for production any week, but his touchdown chances take a hit this week. And David Njoku has been seeing more targets since Baker Mayfield took over under center, but his hands still aren’t cooperating. He now has to contend with first-round S Derwin James and a Bolts defense that has yielded the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. The Seahawks have been real stingy against tight ends, allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to them and checking in at No. 6 in DVOA versus the position. Jared Cook has been one of the real bright spots at tight end, but his matchup looks pretty difficult. There’s just no way owners can sit him due to his production. The Jets have given up the fewest catches to tight ends, but have faced Jeff Heuerman, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Njoku, Mike Gesicki, and Luke Willson. They’ve had zero real tests. Eric Ebron remains an elite play with Jack Doyle (hip) expected to miss another game. Don’t be scared off Ebron.