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Andy Dalton and all of your Bengals should be in the line-up this week against the Colts.
Start These Quarterbacks:
Tony Romo, Dallas (at New England)
Despite holding the Jets to only 166 yards passing last week, the Patriots still rank last in the NFL against the pass at 326.6 yards allowed per game. Mark Sanchez did throw two touchdown passes, however, so Romo should be poised for big numbers this weekend. Especially with a bye week to prepare and a healthy Miles Austin returning to the line-up. Romo is sixth in the NFL in attempts per game (38) and should get plenty of chances through the air against the Patriots.
Eli Manning, NY Giants (at Buffalo)
Only Kansas City and Washington have allowed more passing touchdowns than the Buffalo Bills. And at 283.4 yards allowed per game, the Bills rank 26th against the pass thus far in 2011. Manning has 721 yards and five touchdowns in his last two contests and has clearly established a rapport with fantasy newcomer Victor Cruz. Fantasy owners can expect big yardage and point totals, but also should anticipate a turnover or two (Buffalo leads the NFL with 12 interceptions).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (NY Giants)
Speaking of the Bills, Fitzpatrick should also be in the line-up this weekend. The Giants have only allowed five passing scores all season, but two of those came last week at the hands of Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson – who also combined for 315 yards through the air. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have yet to practice, so the pass rush doesn’t appear to be ready to help the MASH unit that is the Giants' secondary. New York has allowed 63 points in its last two games against Seattle and Arizona, so there is no reason to expect that the Giants will be able to slow down the Bills' balanced attack.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
The Colts' defense has been targeted by fantasy owners all season and Week 6 should be no different. Indianapolis, who is allowing 254.2 passing yards per contest, is coming off of a game in which it made Matt Cassel look like a Super Bowl champion. The Chiefs' signal-caller completed 21-of-29 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns. Behind the NFL’s No. 1 defense, Dalton has led his team to two straight wins in which he accounted for at least two touchdowns. The Bengals' passer is averaging just over 240 yards per game since Week 1 and will face a defense that is allowing a league worst 68.3 percent completion rate. This redhead is a quality bye week spot starter.
Mark Sanchez, NY Jets (Miami)
At the Week 6 mark of the season, Sanchez is averaging more fantasy points per game than Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman and Kevin Kolb. He has been feast or famine in yardage leagues, topping 300 twice and failing to reach 200 in the other three games. But he has accounted for at least two touchdowns in four of five contests this fall and is coming off his most efficient (105.6 passer rating vs. the Patriots) performance of the year. Only the Patriots are allowing more passing yards than the Dolphins’ 307 per game and the they are not creating turnovers; the Fish have given up nine touchdowns versus only two interceptions.
Sit These Quarterbacks:
Matt Schaub, Houston (at Baltimore)
The Texans' passer has averaged fewer fantasy points per game than Matt Hasselbeck to this point of the season. Of course, not having any receivers to throw to will do that anyone’s fantasy stats – and Derrick Mason is not the answer. The Ravens have allowed three passing touchdowns all season (with six INTs), 212 yards per game and boast the NFL’s second best completion percentage against (52.7 percent). There is little upside for Schaub this week.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Houston)
The Texans are third in the NFL in opponents' completion percentage as they are allowing quarterbacks to complete a paltry 52.9 percent of their passes. The Texans are also third in the NFL with 15.0 sacks and sixth in yards allowed per game at 208.2. What's more, Flacco is coming off of his worst performance of the season in which he completed a meager 32.3 percent of his passes for 163 yards, no scores and had two turnovers against a struggling Jets defense. There might be better options out there.
Jay Cutler, Chicago (Minnesota)
Despite being able to run the football with some effectiveness against Detroit, the Bears' offensive line could not protect Cutler from constant harassment on Monday night. Minnesota isn’t all that scary against the pass (especially if Antoine Winfield doesn’t play) but the Vikings are second in the NFL with 16.0 sacks and have allowed only six passing touchdowns. Expect Jared Allen and Brian Robison to be in Cutler’s face all game long. Additionally, Mike Martz appears to have dedicated himself to Matt Forte – 47 att., 321 yards, TD over his last two games – so the opportunities for Cutler may be limited as the Bears look to control the clock.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (San Francisco)
The Niners are second in the NFL in scoring defense by allowing a nasty 15.6 points per game. They are fourth in the NFL in rushing defense at a measly 76.4 yards per game. And they are coming off of a game in which they held Josh Freeman to 17-of-33 passing, 187 yards, two interceptions, no touchdowns and sacked him three times. This is an extremely tough bench as Stafford has been match-up proof all season, but he will get zero help from the ground game this weekend – the Niners are the only team yet to allow a rushing touchdown – so maybe lower your expectations this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Jacksonville)
This is another tough call for fantasy owners. Here are the facts so that you can make the most educated decision possible. Big Ben scored 37.12 (Athlon scoring system) of his 93.34 total fantasy points last week against Tennessee. He will play his second game in a row with protective footwear as he continues to recover from a sprained foot. He has already turned the ball over 10 times this season. Jacksonville is allowing a relatively stingy 215.4 yards passing per game, but has not gotten to the quarterback (8.0 sacks). Rashard Mendenhall will likely play, but he still won’t be 100 percent and he has a struggling offensive line. Big Ben has averaged 203.3 yards passing in four career games against the Jags. Have fun. (I am going Romo and Cam Newton over Big Ben in my two leagues.)
Start These Running Backs:
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
There should be a developing theme circling Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati this weekend: Play your Bengals. Benson is facing the NFL's second-worst rush defense at 145.2 yards allowed per game. Additionally, only the Jets (8) and Cardinals (8) have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Colts (6). The Bengals are giving him the ball – 21 touches per game through the first five – and there is no reason to think he won’t get to the century mark and reach paydirt.
Ahmad Bradshaw, NY Giants (Buffalo)
Brandon Jacobs still had yet to practice as of Thursday as he is dealing with a sprained MCL. Last week, Bradshaw received his heaviest workload of the season when he carried 17 times against Seattle. Expect more of the same against the NFL’s 29th-rated rushing defense, the Bills, who are allowing 138.4 yards per game on the ground. There should be a lot of fireworks on both sides of this one – take the over.
Shonn Greene, NY Jets (Miami)
Rex Ryan stated vehemently that he wanted to get back to “Jets” football by establishing a physical running attack against New England. Ryan and the Jets didn’t win the game, but Greene clearly was utilized in a more productive manner. He averaged 12.7 carries per game through the first four weeks (including two games with only 10 carries), but posted 21 rushing attempts last week for a season-high 83 yards and a touchdown. He also added a pair of receptions as well. Look for more of the same game plan against the lowly Dolphins.
James Starks (Ryan Grant), Green Bay (St. Louis)
The St. Louis Rams are the worst rushing defense in the NFL – and it's not really even close. At 179.8 yards allowed per game, the Rams serve up 34 more yards per game than the next worst team (145.2). Despite an antacid-inducing time share between the two, both Starks and Grant have a chance to produce on Sunday. Starks has averaged 15.3 touches per game over his last three and Grant finally looked healthy again last week. Starks should get the “60” in the 60-40 time split, but both should reach the endzone.
Deeper Running Back Plays:
Montario Hardesty, Cleveland (at Oakland)
Peyton Hillis will be back, but trade rumors and contact talks could give Hardesty more looks.
Ryan Torian, Washington (Philadelphia)
If your crystal ball says Shannahan will go with Torain, he is a great play.
Delone Carter, Indianapolis (at Cincinnati)
Any No. 1 starter should be considered, but the Bengals are the NFL’s No. 1 defense.
Running Backs: Lowered Expectations:
Jahvid Best, Detroit (San Francisco)
The Lions have been smart with Best by handing him the ball only 11.6 times over his last three games. He is brittle and consistently hampered by injuries, so keeping him healthy against arguably the nastiest linebacking corps in the NFL will be key. The 49ers are second in the NFL in scoring defense (15.6 ppg), fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (76.4 ypg) and is the only team yet to allow a rushing touchdown. Best should get a few receptions, but will be severely limited in the ground game this weekend.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Jacksonville)
The Steelers' running back looks like he will be back toting the rock. However, just how healthy he is remains to be seen. In that vein, it would be a surprise if Mendenhall got more than 10-12 touches this Sunday as Mike Tomlin easies his star tailback back into action. Look for Isaac Redman to get equal (if not more) touches than his No. 1 counterpart. Oh yeah, the Jags just held Cedric Benson to 53 yards on 24 carries (2.2 ypc) and no touchdowns.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England (Dallas)
The Lawfirm is coming off of the best game of his career after rushing for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Jets. Now, he faces the best rushing defense in the NFL as Dallas is allowing only 61.8 yards per game and is battling a minor toe injury to boot. With Stevan Ridley nipping at his heels (23 attempts over his last three games), Green-Ellis could be in for a long day. Additionally, the Pats should be able to throw the ball plenty and that is just not a big part of his game (three receptions on the season).
Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at Green Bay)
Jackson is likely to get a handful of catches this weekend as the game should get out of hand, so in a full PPR league, he still has some value. And he is healthy after resting for the better part of a month. However, the Packers have been nasty against the run – they are third in the NFL at 75.8 yards allowed per game. Starting tailbacks have averaged 42.8 yards per game and have scored once (Michael Turner) against the Packers. It should be noted that Matt Forte, who rushed nine times for two yards against Green Bay, did catch seven passes for 80 yards.
DeAngelo Williams (Jonathan Stewart), Carolina (at Atlanta)
The former Memphis star is beginning to produce like fantasy owners expected. He had a season-high 115 yards last week and finally reached paydirt. He has averaged over 10 yards per carry over the last two games. However, with Jonathan Stewart still very much in the mix and the Falcons' penchant for stopping the run (8th in the NFL, 89.2 ypg, 3.5 ypc allowed), Williams' upside seems to be rather limited. In eight career games against Atlanta, Williams has averaged 60.3 yards and has scored only twice.
Start These Wide Receivers:
A.J. Green, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
The rookie from Georgia hasn’t taken long to make a big fantasy impact in the NFL. He has caught at least four passes in four straight games, has topped 90 yards in three of his last four and has scored a touchdown in three of his five career games. He is a big play waiting to happen and Andy Dalton is looking his way on a regular basis. Look for Green to exploit one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, Dallas (at New England)
For the first time since before Week 1, both Bryant and Austin were able to fully participate in practice during the bye week. Now they return with full force against the worst pass defense in the NFL (326.6 yards allowed per game). Romo also looks healthy so the Cowboys' offense will be at full strength for the first time all year.
Marques Colston, New Orleans (at Tampa Bay)
The big receiver was eased into the line-up two weeks ago and the leash was taken off last week as he delivered a five-catch, 69-yard performance against Carolina. He should be back into your line-up against a defense that has allowed nine touchdown passes against only two interceptions on the season. Alex Smith, who had his second most efficient game of his career (127.2 QB rating), threw for 170 yards and three scores against the Bucs last week. Expect much more from Drew Brees.
Victor Cruz, NY Giants (Buffalo)
The young speedster has quickly earned Eli Manning’s trust as he was targeted an NFL third-best 11 times last week. He has 17 catches for 369 yards and three scores over his last three games. Buffalo has a tendency to make big plays on defense (leading the NFL in INTs) but also is giving up plenty of long completions. They rank 26th in the NFL at stopping the pass (283.4 ypg) and only the Chiefs and Eagles have allowed more than the Bills’ 10 passing touchdowns. Play all of your Giants receivers.
Deion Branch, New England (Dallas)
After one catch in two games, Branch finally returned to normalcy with a tasty seven-reception, 74-yard, TD performance last week against the Jets. Branch now has at least seven catches in three of five games this fall. New England will struggle running the football against the NFL's toughest rush defense, so all Patriots receivers should be a solid play this weekend. Especially considering Dallas will be able to score as well.
Deeper Wide Receiver Plays:
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland (Cleveland)
His 12 targets last week were No. 2 in the NFL and his line over the last two is 11 rec., 214 yards, TD.
Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Green Bay (St. Louis)
Jones had his best game of the season last weekend and Nelson is still a dependable flex option against a decimated secondary.
Danario Alexander, St. Louis (Green Bay)
The Packers are bad against the pass (299.8 ypg allowed) and St. Louis will be trailing for most of this one.
Bench These Wide Receivers:
Brandon Marshall, Miami (NY Jets)
There are a variety of reasons not to use Marshall this weekend. First and foremost, Matt Moore will be the one throwing him the ball. He has averaged 122 yards passing per game for his career with a 73.5 career QB rating. Second, Darrelle Revis will be the man charged with guarding Marshall. The Jets also have been the third stingiest against fantasy receivers on the season.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota (at Chicago)
The dynamic triple-threat has yet to score a touchdown in 2011 and has caught three or fewer passes in three of five games. He is coming off of his worst performance of the year after catching one pass in the 34-10 win over Arizona. Donovan McNabb is clearly having issues finding him in the offense and the Bears should be harassing him all game long.
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (at Cincinnati)
It is painfully obvious for Wayne owners that quarterback Curtis Painter is more comfortable throwing to Pierre Garcon. In Painter’s two starts, Wayne has a modest eight catches for 136 yards and no touchdowns. Garcon, on the other hand, has 271 yards and four touchdowns over that same span. Without Joseph Addai against the NFL’s No. 1 defense, most of the Colts' options could struggle.
Santana Moss, Washington (Philadelphia)
The Eagles have allowed a lot of touchdown passes this fall (11) but are still loaded with lockdown cover talent. Nnamdi Asomugha figures to be in Moss' hip pocket the entire game so don’t expect him to get too many looks this Sunday.
Start These Tight Ends:
Aaron Hernandez, New England (Dallas)
Returned last week with 5-56 line and all of your Patriots pass-catchers should be in the line-up.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati (Indianapolis)
Every Bengal has a chance to score – especially one who has reached the endzone in two straight games.
Fred Davis, Washington (Philadelphia)
Corners will be concerned with Moss and Eagles are 31st in the NFL with 11 passing TDs allowed
Bench These Tight Ends:
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit (San Francisco)
Niners are playing excellent defense led by nasty linebackers – who will be all over Pettigrew.
Owen Daniels, Houston (at Baltimore)
Without Andre the Giant to distract defenders, the Ravens will be totally focused on OD. Baltimore is No. 2 against fantasy tight ends.
Start These Defenses/Special Teams:
The QB, RB, WR, and TE should be in your line-up, why wouldn’t the NFL’s best defense?
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Both defenses get after the quarterback and both O-Lines have struggled to protect the quarterback. Both could be big this weekend.
New York Giants
This should be a high-scoring game and the Giants are without Tuck, Osi.