It’s week two of Bye week hell for fantasy owners. The level of uneasiness in setting lineups has been compounded, of course, by the number of star players sitting on the sidelines because of injuries. Those one-week “add-drop” choices can be excruciating, as you fear a vulture swooping in to keep you from reclaiming the discarded player.
In terms of the NFL schedule itself, most of the six teams on their Bye welcome it wholeheartedly:
– Seemingly every player in San Diego has a red tag next to his name.
– Where would you like me to begin my breakdown of the Cardinals?
– Tennessee gets two weeks to figure out how to spring Chris Johnson free.
– The Chiefs are starting to get the offense moving, so a pause to tweak things could lead to a solid second half.
– Pete Carroll needs to ice his arm following the Seahawks’ win over New York and Tarvaris Jackson needs time to mend from his injury.
– Finally, we get two weeks of build-up prior to Tim Tebow’s start in Miami.
So, thrust those players to the wayside today, and let’s get rolling with Week 6.
Exclude: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford
Bye Weeks: San Diego, Denver, Tennessee, Arizona, Seattle, Kansas City
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT vs. JAC: What else can I say? I wondered aloud whether Roethlisberger would post a “get right” game in Week 5, and he delivered a monster performance against the Titans. It didn’t look right on paper, but it served as another chapter in the great performance from Roethlisberger when he appears on the injury report. Is he the quarterback version of Brian Westbrook? (Longtime fantasy players know exactly of what I speak.)
Roethlisberger has a great opportunity here in Week 6 against the Jaguars. Heath Miller and Hines Ward got back into the mix against the Titans, and that portends to additional opportunities downfield for Mike Wallace. The Steelers own field position in this contest and the defense serves up multiple glorious scoring chances. The Jacksonville defense has played fairly well. They’re just not getting much help.
Eli Manning, NYG vs. BUF: I know that the interceptions leave you flummoxed, but it’s hard to argue with Manning’s weekly totals. He’s thrown multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games while averaging 304.5 yards per game (420 in Week 5). Manning will have his opportunities against the 26th-ranked Buffalo pass defense (283.4 yards and two touchdowns allowed per game). Of course, he’ll also take a hit or two in the turnover column against this ball-hawking secondary (12 interceptions).
Matt Ryan, ATL vs. CAR: Ryan started well for the Falcons last week in the marquee game against the Packers. The Packers changed their defensive looks and the Falcons had no answer. I am moderately concerned about the loss of Julio Jones in the passing game, but Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez (along with “Ninja” option Harry Douglas) will post strong numbers against the middling Carolina secondary.
The bottom-tier Carolina run defense will need to focus on Michael Turner, thereby afford Ryan ample chances downfield. I’m not jumping ship on Ryan just yet with this matchup at home.
Andy Dalton, CIN vs. IND: I love the job Marvin Lewis is doing in Cincinnati with the young squad. Dalton has a premier go-to receiver in A.J. Green, and Jermaine Gresham has been a beast in the red zone. Obviously, the rookie signal caller will need to be cognizant of the speed rush from the edge, but I look for Cedric Benson to get rolling against the 31st-ranked Indianapolis run defense. Early success on the ground will yield downfield opportunities for Dalton.
Joe Flacco, BAL vs. HOU: If you stopped watching the Ravens-Jets tilt from Week 4, then you probably assumed that Flacco posted a strong game. Alas, that didn’t happen and an absolute slugfest ensued.
Flacco is a lower-end QB1 this week against the Texans coming out of the Bye. Lee Evans expects to return to the field as a second speed option for Flacco alongside Torrey Smith. Of course, I feel much better about Flacco with Mario Williams in street clothes. The Texans’ sixth-ranked pass defense will be tested in his absence.
Josh Freeman, TB vs. NO: Freeman would like to erase the Week 5 debacle in San Francisco from his memory. I believe that he bounces back with a strong effort this week against the Saints. LeGarrette Blount’s injury puts pressure on Freeman to deliver in the passing game, and he’ll have shots downfield with Gregg Williams bringing the heat. And, though the Saints have sputtered in the red zone at times this season, they’re still putting up strong weekly point totals. Freeman has to come out firing (expect another turnover or two) to keep pace.
The Saints allow 247 passing yards and two passing touchdowns allowed per game.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ vs. MIA: Sanchez continues to draw heat for some of his game management in 2011 and the team’s overall lack of an identity. For fantasy purposes, Sanchez has been strong with multiple touchdown passes in four of his five starts despite pedestrian yardage totals (200 yards per game except for his Week 3 effort against the Raiders).
I do expect the Dolphins to bring a better effort out of the Bye than we saw coming out of the Bye. However, they’re starting from the 31st position in terms of pass defense (307 net passing yards and 2.25 touchdowns allowed per game).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF at NYG: Fitzpatrick earned the win, but fantasy owners were left wanting by his 193-yard, one-touchdown and one-interception performance. It was Fitzpatrick’s second consecutive game with fewer than 200 passing yards (he struggled against the Bengals).
Fitzpatrick rates as a back-end QB1 this week. However, I’m not anticipating fireworks against the Giants (251 passing yards and one passing touchdown allowed per week) despite last week’s heroics by the Seahawks in Seattle. Take the season average against New York and hope for some Scott Chandler love.
Jay Cutler, CHI vs. MIN: I’ve moved Cutler back and forth in this piece after watching Monday’s game for a second time. He did a lot of positive things under center despite abysmal play on the offensive line, huge drops from Matt Forte and Devin Hester (he’s a return man already!) and a seemingly endless parade of false starts.
How many hiccups on the offensive line will the ghost of Jared Allen’s mullet induce this week? If the Bears can slow down Allen at all, Cutler can make plays downfield. Yes, I still have confidence in Cutler after sitting through Kevin Kolb’s Week 5 effort.
Week 6 Ninja Alerts
Alex Smith, SF at DET: Smith delivered on my big promise for him in Week 5 with his 170-yard, three-touchdown effort in a laugher against the Buccaneers. I’m going back to the well in “Ninja” mode this week against the Detroit back-seven to build on his five-touchdown The onus is on the young San Francisco offensive line to hold back on the vaunted Detroit pass rush. I am moderately concerned about the loss of Josh Morgan (IR), but the tight end combination of Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis will deliver. Just keep Smith upright.
Jason Campbell, OAK vs. CLE: Each week, I find myself inching toward the edge of my seat while watching Campbell operate downfield. Campbell is unloading downfield with more regularity and confidence. Darrius Heyward-Bey has stepped forward with fantastic back-to-back efforts and Jacoby Ford continues to see a high target (six targets in Week 5). The Browns may be without cornerback Joe Haden, which portends to more shots deep.
Colt McCoy, CLE at OAK: McCoy played efficient football through the Browns’ first four games despite the issues on the offensive line (Joe Thomas was injured) and the lingering cloud over Peyton Hillis. McCoy averaged 211 yards through his first three games before exploding for 350 yards in the Week 4 loss to Tennessee.
McCoy has a healthy complement of players at his disposal in Week 6 and rookie Greg Little was promoted to the starting lineup. Oakland surrenders nearly 300 passing yards and two touchdowns per game.
Week 6 Flop Alerts
Matt Schaub, HOU at BAL: Schaub passed for over 400 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, including the game-clincher in the end zone, against the Raiders in Week 5. With Andre Johnson out, Schaub worked the ball to tight ends Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen with great frequency. He failed to make the long-distance connection with Jacoby Jones (11 targets with a single catch).
This is a much different opponent. When last we saw the Ravens, they were torturing Mark Sanchez on a rough Sunday night in Week 4. Jimmy Smith returns to the secondary and the defense comes in fresh off of the Bye. Schaub rates as a high-QB2 for me this week.
Sam Bradford, STL at GB: I’m not ready to jump aboard the Bradford bandwagon coming out of the Bye week. Bradford passed for fewer than 200 yards in three of four games and his receivers dropped an inordinate number of passes. The St. Louis offensive line surrendered 18 sacks, including seven against the Redskins.
Bradford may pile up numbers in a frantic comeback attempt, but the climb to 300 passing yards will not be pretty. Many pundits have bemoaned the lack of numbers from Clay Matthews thus far. I fear that he makes multiple passes through the O-Line turnstile this week.
Bradford will be fantasy-worthy in the second half.