Last week was frustrating.
Fantasy football is a very inconsistent game, but what I saw last week was just flat out annoying. I missed on a handful of rankings, player, you name it. It was simply one of those weeks where everyone who had a good matchup faltered, while those with tough oppositions excelled. So, after a rough week, I’m motivated.
I’m looking to rebound.
Week 6 byes: Atlanta, Miami.
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Jay Cutler vs New York Giants: A little Thursday night game never hurt anyone, right? Okay, so perhaps it did, but I think Cutler is a terrific start this week. The Marc Trestman offense is everything I hoped it would be for Cutler, as he is fifth in the league in touchdowns (10), 8th in completion percentage (65.7) and 9th in passing yards (1,368). He currently ranks as the number 10 fantasy quarterback, and more importantly, the quick-passing game has allowed Cutler to only be sacked eight times, while the Bears currently rank fourth in points per game with 29. This week, Cutler gets a Giants defense that generates no pass rush, only sacking the quarterback five times through five weeks. They also have allowed the third-most fantasy point to opposing quarterbacks, surrendering 28.16 per contest.
Andrew Luck @ San Diego Chargers: An obvious call here, but there aren’t many strong under the radar quarterback options this week. Luck is coming off a very impressive performance against the top secondary in football, throwing for 229 yards and two scores, while not tossing an interception. He made some incredible deep ball throws to T.Y. Hilton, and orchestrated a terrific comeback to defeat this top NFC team. His reward? A matchup against the lowly Chargers secondary that is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This unit has allowed an average of 308 passing yards per game, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. It will be Luck’s Monday night debut, and if you are choosing between Luck and someone else, odds are that I would side with the sophomore signal caller.
Alex Smith vs Oakland Raiders: While Smith’s weekly ceiling isn’t very high, his floor is rock-steady, which makes him one of the safest bye week replacements out there. Despite how often he checks down, Smith is still averaging a healthy 37 pass attempts per contest, which is appealing volume. The Raiders come into town, a defense that has allowed over 1,000 passing yards and six touchdowns over the last three weeks, and at home, Smith has been solid, throwing for over 500 yards and five scores. He is running the ball quite a bit, too, rushing 32 times already, which is third-most among signal callers. Perhaps Smith can do more than check down in this game, as the Raiders are allowing quarterbacks to complete a league-high 72.5 percent of their passes. Smith is a safe play this week, for sure.
Andy Dalton @ Buffalo Bills: Dalton has failed to throw a touchdown pass since Week 3, and while many may see the Bills on his schedule and think it’s a strong matchup, think again. Buffalo is in the middle of the pack, allowing 20.06 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and this is an opportunistic bunch, leading the league in interceptions with nine. Combine Dalton’s struggles with the fact that Buffalo is expected to get both Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore back into their lineup, and Dalton simply can’t be trusted. I just hope he plays a little bit better so he doesn’t kill A.J. Green’s value the rest of the way.
Tom Brady vs New Orleans Saints: While it seems a bit ludicrous to bench a guy like Brady, maybe it’s not. Brady has only eclipsed 20 fantasy points in a game once this season, and is averaging a weak 16.4 fantasy points per contest. Now, if you lack better options, you can’t bench a guy like Brady, especially since he is expected to get Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup for the first time this season. However, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has rejuvenated this defense, and they are no joke. The Saints are only allowing 15 fantasy points per contest this season, and have picked off seven passes while recovering four fumbles. They also rank 7th in the league in sacks (15). If you have better options, consider them over Brady.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
Alfred Morris @ Dallas Cowboys: The Redskins offense has to get back on track eventually, and I think it starts this weekend against Dallas. While Morris hasn’t been as good as people have been wanting, he’s still on pace for over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns, which is viable for a fantasy back. He has a strong track record against Dallas, rushing for 313 yards and four touchdowns in two games against the Cowboys. The Cowboys are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs so far this season (21.86 per game), and they just let Knowshon Moreno run all over them. This Sunday night matchup has all the signs of a shootout, and I think Washington needs to get back to their running ways, as they appear to have lost their identity thus far. Morris is only averaging 14 attempts per game, and I think that changes this week.
Knowshon Moreno vs Jacksonville Jaguars: Speaking of Moreno, he has quietly been putting up strong fantasy numbers lately, and is clearly the guy in that Denver backfield. Finally, some clarity. Over the last two games, Moreno is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has found the end zone twice. He is dominating the snap count, and only comes off for a few breathers, in which case, Ronnie Hillman comes in and provides next to nothing. Everyone on Earth expects the Broncos to be dominating this contest against Jacksonville, which should result in a significant amount of carries for Moreno. The Jags are allowing 20.58 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
Danny Woodhead vs Indianapolis Colts: I’ve written about Woodhead a lot lately, but it’s deserving. The offense is a perfect fit under Mike McCoy, and with running back Ryan Mathews (concussion) expected to be sidelined for this game, Woodhead will lead the team in carries, and the way the offense is looking, could lead them in receptions as well. I throw this number around a lot, but over his last two seasons in Denver, McCoy’s running backs have been targeted 14.4 and 18.4 percent of the time, respectively. So far this year, Woodhead has been targeted a healthy 36 times, which is second-most among all running backs. The Chargers are throwing the ball a lot, and while his value is better in PPR formats, this guy will be on the field a ton on Monday night, in a game that could see a lot of points on the board.
Le’Veon Bell @ New York Jets: Laugh at their backup quarterback and head coach all you want, but this defense is no joke. While many owners see Bell coming off of a two-touchdown performance and want to keep him in their lineup, I’d reconsider. The Jets are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, and their defensive front is one of the best in the league right now. Combine that with one of the worst offensive lines in football, and Bell could have trouble finding holes to run through all day. In London, Bell averaged just 3.5 yards per clip, and the Jets are only allowing running backs to average 2.9 yards per carry. The running back position is hurting, but Bell is a shaky option this week.
Chris Johnson @ Seattle Seahawks: Over his last two games, Johnson has just 38 yards on 25 carries, but he was finally utilized in the passing game on Sunday, catching four balls for 63 yards and his first touchdown of the season. While CJ(?)K clearly has crazy talent, it’s hard to trust him this week against the Seahawks, who actually haven’t been as dominant against the run, but they are playing in Seattle this week, where they are a different beast. They have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs when the 12th man is behind them, and the Titans offense isn’t threatening with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
T.Y. Hilton @ San Diego Chargers: Fantasy football annoys me sometimes. After doing nothing to start the season, it makes sense to recommend benching Hilton against the league’s most vaunted secondary in Seattle last week, right? But then, Hilton explodes for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the most difficult matchup imaginable, once again proving that I know nothing. Anyway, Hilton is a must-start this week against a San Diego secondary that is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and is also allowing 8.1 yards per pass attempt, which is third-worst in the league. Thanksgiving might come early for Hilton owners, because he is going to eat on Monday night.
Justin Blackmon @ Denver Broncos: Many were probably hesitant to plug Blackmon into their starting lineup in his first game of the year, but he wasted no time proving that he can ball. Blackmon caught five balls for 136 yards and a score on Sunday, and with the news that Chad Henne will be under center, is value actually sees a boost. No, seriously. This week, the Broncos will be up by 75 at one point, so the Jaguars will be throwing the ball a ton. Blackmon will see a ton of garbage time work, and the matchup isn’t bad either, as Denver is allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing receivers (37.54).
Steve Smith @ Minnesota Vikings: Smith clearly isn’t the same player he once was, but he is still capable of producing strong fantasy numbers. He’ll have as good a chance as any this week against the Vikings, a team he seems to enjoy playing against. In his last four games, Smith has posted at least 100 receiving yards in three of those contests. When throwing to Smith, quarterback Cam Newton is completing just 48.6 percent of his passes with two interceptions. I think both players turn it around this week against a Minnesota secondary that is allowing the ninth-most fantasy point to opposing wideouts.
Marques Colston @ New England Patriots: It’s hard to blame Colston for his slow start, as Drew Brees has been spreading the ball around quite a bit. Through five games, Colston has just 31 targets, which is less than a handful of running backs thus far. He only has one touchdown on the season, and that came during the first quarter of Week 1. This week’s game could be a high-scoring affair, but cornerback Aqib Talib has been one of the better shutdown corners in the league thus far, so it won’t be easy for Colston. New England is allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers, and I think there are higher upside options out there.
Hakeem Nicks @ Chicago Bears: Nicks finally broke out last week, catching nine balls for 142 yards. Of course, that was against the Eagles, and I don’t see that production continuing this Thursday night. Quarterback Eli Manning has been pressured consistently this season, having been sacked 15 times thus far. The Bears can put pressure on the quarterback, Soldier Field is a tough place to play, and I think Eli struggles quite a bit, which hurts Nicks’ value. Nicks should see Tim Jennings in this matchup, and I think he won’t get a ton of time to fully run his routes.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Vernon Davis vs Arizona Cardinals: Davis hasn’t exactly been consistent, but outside of Anquan Boldin, no one comes even close to threatening his targets in this passing offense. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to the tight end position this season. His hamstring didn’t appear to hinder him at all last week, as he caught just three balls, but broke a 64-yarder for a score. Consider him a lock for a top-10 finish at the position this week.
Garrett Graham vs St. Louis Rams: Sure, quarterback Matt Schaub has been absolutely atrocious to start this season, but Graham still has top-15 tight end upside. Owen Daniels has been placed on short-term injured reserve, which will keep him sidelined for the next eight weeks. Considering Graham was getting looks even with Daniels in the lineup (5 targets in all but one game), there is no reason to believe Graham can’t immediately slide into Daniels’ role. No quarterback targets his tight ends in the red zone more than Schaub, and with three touchdowns already on the season, Graham should get plenty of looks in that situation.
Kyle Rudolph vs Carolina Panthers: I’ve never been a fan of Rudolph, and he hasn’t been doing anything to force me to change my stance. Through four games, Rudolph has just 12 catches for one touchdown. This week, he faces a tough matchup against Carolina, who have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Linebacker Luke Kuechly will be following him around all day long, and considering the uncertainty at the quarterback position for Minnesota, I’m staying away from Rudolph.
Jared Cook @ Houston Texans: In Week 1, Cook posted a whopping 27 fantasy points. However, in the four weeks since, he’s totaled a combined 19 fantasy points. We thought Sam Bradford would be looking for him the most, but instead, guys like Austin Pettis and Lance Kendricks have been seeing a significant amount of looks. Cook has only been targeted 11 times over the last two weeks, and this week’s matchup against the Texans isn’t very enticing. This unit has only allowed 7.50 fantasy points per contest this year.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Bengals defense @ Buffalo Bills: Cincinnati’s defense has scored double-digit fantasy points in three of their last four games, and they get a very favorable matchup this week against the Bills. Running back C.J. Spiller was still seen limping around the practice field, wideout Stevie Johnson is banged up, and oh, by the way, former practice squad signal caller Thad Lewis will be under center for Buffalo. Lewis has just 32 regular season passing attempts in his career.
Patriots defense vs New Orleans Saints: Like the Bengals, New England’s defensive unit has also posted double-digit fantasy outings in three of their last four, but this week, they face a major test. The Saints offense is one of the most high-powered in all of football, and quarterback Drew Brees is in a zone. A zone that is scary for opposing defenses to face. New Orleans has scored 26.8 points per game, which is ninth-most in the league. There should be a good amount of points scored in this game, so bench the Patriots defense.
Stats via Yahoo! fantasy and fantasydata.com
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.