FOX Sports Exclusive
Vick, Romo looking for redemption
Football fans and fantasy owners were treated to some good quarterback play in the Week 6 opener between the Steelers and the Titans. Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown pass to Mike Wallace covered 82 yards and caused fist-pump ripples across fantasyland. Matt Hasselbeck posted a fantastic game that would have been even better had his receivers’ hands not betrayed him time and again.
It was a fun game and a nice kickoff to a very interesting schedule of games. There are “must-win” situations already and heavyweight contenders on collision courses. Of course, there are also a few heroes sidelined because of the Bye week. If you’re grumbling about the loss of these four teams, go ahead and advance your schedule page to Week 7.
Don’t scream. Get to work on the waiver and do the pre-emptive strike on a few players. Everybody’s looking at Jahvid Best or scouting quarterback matchups. I urge you to take a long, hard look at your bench to see whether Vincent Brown might displace that last receiver or running back (the extra kicker or defense) on your roster.
Now that I have the creative and competitive juices flowing, let’s get inside the white lines and break down the quarterback position for Week 6 in this edition of “Lineup Calls.”
Remember that the Bears, Saints, Panthers and Jaguars are OFF this week.
Matthew Stafford at PHI
Stafford stood as one of the biggest disappointments through the first quarter of the season. He averaged 295.5 passing yards per game, but registered just four total touchdowns (one rushing). If you go back through the game tape, you’ll see a host of near-misses and drops that beset the Detroit offense.
This is hardly a top-flight matchup (Philadelphia has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks), but I’m calling on Stafford and his offense to have corrected some of the timing issues and to get on track this week in Philly. Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha will cause issues on the edges. The presence of Brandon Pettigrew running the seams and big-play threat Titus Young’s availability pose problems for the back-seven. I’ll go bold with 325 yards and two touchdown passes.
Philip Rivers vs. DEN
Rivers’ performances have been uneven overall, but he’s registered multiple touchdown passes in three of his past four games and passed for a season-best 354 yards in Week 5 against New Orleans. He’s finally getting acclimated with Robert Meachem (two touchdowns in Week 5) opposite Malcom Floyd, and the healthy return of Ryan Mathews helps to balance the attack. Fantasy owners want to see Antonio Gates get back to his low post domination, but that’s yet to occur.
Rivers has averaged 246 passing yards and 1.5 touchdown passes in his past four starts against the Broncos. The Broncos have allowed nine touchdown passes while corralling just two interceptions. It’s a big Monday night battle for AFC West supremacy, and I expect to see points scored.
The likely absence of tackle Jared Gaither is concerning. Norv Turner called him out in his post-game comments for not removing himself from the final drive against the Saints. Coach?
Michael Vick vs. DET
Vick has been a turnover machine through five weeks of the 2012 season. We’ll all well aware of the fumbling issues that plagued him. And yes, I have some concern about the Detroit defensive line that has generated nine sacks. However, the Lions have yet to register an interception while surrendering five passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks have also completed two-thirds of their pass attempts.
I anticipate this game opening up a bit. It won’t take on the shootout absurdity of the Lions-Titans of a few weeks back, but Vick will connect with his deep targets in this one. Look for the Eagles to try and establish LeSean McCoy early and set up play-action deep balls (you saw the near-misses against Pittsburgh, too).
Tony Romo at BAL
When last we saw Romo, things unraveled quickly against the Chicago defense on Monday night. He threw five interceptions in that contest, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Turn the page.
The Cowboys got healthy over the Bye week, and the offense had two weeks of work to clean up the miscues that derailed the home effort against the Bears. Like Matthew Stafford, I am calling on Romo to come out of the Bye week with a huge day against the Baltimore secondary. The Ravens have allowed 261.4 passing yards per game with two touchdowns while corralling six interceptions (nine sacks). A healthy Jason Witten makes all the difference in matriculating the ball down the field.
Christian Ponder at WAS
Ponder’s place on this list will adjust dramatically if all-world receiver Percy Harvin has to sit out because of a hamstring injury. Harvin’s YAC and big-play potential has a lot to do with Ponder’s potential to post a huge day. Jerome Simpson has been limited in practice because of foot and back injuries, thereby leaving Kyle Rudolph as Ponder’s lone trusted impact receiver. We’ll be monitoring this one on game-day, but Ponder’s spot as a back-end QB1 is in jeopardy despite his 69% completion rate.
Andrew Luck at NYJ
Last week, fantasy owners received a tremendous effort from Luck and his Indianapolis teammates against the Packers (362 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 24 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown). This week’s matchup isn’t nearly as cheery on paper, regardless of the overriding sentiment about the Jets. Their defense, even without Darrelle Revis, has allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
You can’t look past the fantastic connection that Luck has with Reggie Wayne and his rookie tight ends (Fleener and Allen, the red zone beast). Look for check-downs and involvement to T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery.
Matt Schaub vs. GB
Schaub and the Texans will be tested this week by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Sunday night. In full disclosure, I picked the Packers to win. For that to happen, Schaub will need to engage in a more up-tempo game than the Texans have seen to date in what may become a higher-scoring affair. The Packers have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (10 passing touchdowns against five interceptions).
Alex Smith vs. NYG
Smith posted a fantasy day for the ages in Week 5. He should frame the box score. The often-derided quarterback passed for 303 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for 49 yards against the Bills. He next faces a New York pass defense that is still rounding back into shape. The Giants have allowed the 14th-most points to quarterbacks, giving up yardage in big chunks with eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions. He’s not an overwhelming play like he was last week, but Smith is still a strong spot starter for owners dealing with Brees, Cutler or Newton Bye weeks.
Kevin Kolb vs. BUF
As I mentioned above, Alex Smith and the San Francisco offense obliterated the Buffalo defense in Week 5. Through five games, the Bills have allowed 277.6 passing yards per game with 12 touchdowns. Kolb has completed 60.5% of his pass attempts with seven touchdown passes (one rushing) against four turnovers. It’s a glorious spot play with Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts ready to dominate in support of a brand-new backfield. I offer Rob Housler (three receptions for 45 yards on six targets last week) as a deep “sleeper” option for this week.
Brandon Weeden vs. CIN
Remember, Weeden rebounded from his 5.1 Quarterback Rating against the Eagles to pass for 322 yards on 26-of-37 passing against the Bengals. He threw two touchdowns and did not turn the ball over. Obviously, he’s no better than a mid-to-late QB2 option given the number of injuries impacting his receiving corps. The Bengals have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (six touchdowns against a single interception).
Robert Griffin III vs. MIN
According to all reports, Griffin III will return to the field for Sunday’s tilt against the Vikings. It’s not a terrible matchup, per se, as the Vikings have allowed the 17th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. The secondary offers few takeaways (six touchdowns against two interceptions). However, I’m reticent to endorse Griffin III with Pierre Garcon’s foot still aching and RGIII coming back off of the concussion against a strong defensive front.
Andy Dalton at CLE
Dalton had his tremendous three-game run halted by the Dolphins in a surprise home defeat last week. He takes on the Cleveland secondary for the second time this season. If you take straight stats, then you’re plugging in Dalton and moving forward. However, those stats don’t include the participation of cornerback Joe Haden. He returns from suspension and changes the complexion of the secondary immediately. Look at what this unit did against the Eagles and Michael Vick in Week 1.
Joe Flacco vs. DAL
I’m torn when considering Flacco this week. We watched Jay Cutler and the Bears dominate the Dallas defense in the second half of their Week 4 contest. The Cowboys also entered that game as a No. 1 defensive unit with shutdown cornerbacks at the ready. It’s the latter statement that has Flacco drifting into mid-QB2 territory as Dallas regroups out of the Bye week. Dennis Pitta is the X-factor in this matchup and could help Flacco elevate his game. Still, the Cowboys have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
More Stories From Michael Harmon