Watson, Gresham must Week 6 starts
Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed your brief time away after submitting those early-week waiver claims. Your time for procrastination is coming to an end. It’s time for Week 2 of the “value-added” experiment across fantasyland.
I know. You’re irked by the concept of Bye weeks. Perhaps you’re experiencing a momentary twinge of regret because BYE is not the abbreviation of an opponent other than perhaps your short-term sanity. If you’re taking a one-week hit, suck it up and make the most of it. Run amuck on the waiver wire and find spot plays.
Maximize value in the secondary positions to keep the line moving. Let’s get into Lineup Calls for Week 6.
Bye Week: Denver, Tennessee, Kansas City, Arizona, San Diego, Seattle
Week 6 TE Heroes
Exclude: Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Owen Daniels, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Rob Gronkowski
Greg Olsen, CAR at ATL: Olsen’s yardage total has fluctuated through five weeks, but his role in the red zone for the Panthers is unquestioned. He’s scored in three consecutive games and has a touchdown called back because of a penalty in Week 2. Take the target count and red zone looks for a spin as the upset-minded Panthers travel to Atlanta.
Benjamin Watson, CLE at OAK: Watson caught 11 passes in the Browns’ two games prior to the Week 5 Bye. He tallied 16 receptions for 173 yards and two scores through four weeks. Watson remains the top option for Colt McCoy against an Oakland unit that was obliterated by a pair of tight ends one week ago.
Jermaine Gresham, CIN vs. IND: Gresham was one of my “Man-Crush” options coming into the season. He amassed 13 receptions in the past three weeks and scored in back-to-back weeks (three touchdowns overall). I anticipate another strong effort out of rookie Andy Dalton at home against the Colts. He’ll beat the speed rush by getting the ball out quickly to his trusty tight end.
Aaron Hernandez, NE vs. DAL: Fantasy owners are still wringing their hands about the lost opportunity at the goal line in Week 5. Hernandez’s drop was a fantasy game-changing event and resulted in Tom Brady’s first home red zone interception.
Shake it off. Take the targets of a No. 2 receiver against a struggling Dallas secondary. The front seven will bring pressure and try to force the ball out of Brady’s hand quickly. That aggressiveness results in gaps in the secondary and portends to a huge day for Hernandez.
Week 6 TE Ninja Alerts
Kellen Winslow, TB vs. NO: LeGarrette Blount’s injury puts the onus on Josh Freeman to get to work through the air. The former top-5 contender has yet to pay dividends in 2011. Winslow has been targeted frequently (four or more receptions in four of five games), but has yet to make a big splash. Perhaps trying to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints will jumpstart Freeman’s arm.
Jake Ballard, NYG vs. BUF: Ballard has forced his way into the mix for Eli Manning in the past two weeks. He’s caught three passes, including a touchdown, in back-to-back games. At 6-foot-6, Ballard creates mismatches over the middle and serves as a solid check-down option for Manning.
The Bills rank 26th in pass defense at 283.4 yards and two touchdowns allowed per game.
Heath Miller, PIT vs. JAC: Ben Roethlisberger’s mobility was limited because of a foot injury in Week 5. That factor, combined with the early-season struggles on the offensive line, forced the Steelers to turn to the short passing game against the Titans. Miller and veteran receiver Hines Ward took on larger roles in the resounding victory.
Miller is a top-notch plug-in option this week against the Jaguars. Opposing tight ends have scored against Jacksonville in four consecutive games.
Week 6 TE Flop Alerts
Dallas Clark, IND at CIN: Clark received the benefit of the doubt for the first three weeks of the 2011 season. You started him and crossed every part of your body possible. Unfortunately, Clark’s been ineffective and largely invisible in the Indianapolis offense.
In Week 5, Clark dropped three balls and left Colts fans and fantasy owners wanting. I do believe that he’ll have value in the second half of the season as Curtis Painter improves. I just can’t endorse him here.
Dustin Keller, NYJ vs. MIA: Keller posted three straight fantasy-worthy efforts to open 2011, but he’s disappeared in back-to-back contests (three receptions for 19 yards total). As such, I can’t get behind Keller this week with Sanchez spreading the ball around and trying to find his way.
He’s averaged 3.8 receptions and 38.7 yards per game in five career outings against the Dolphins. Those averages are attainable, but that’s not setting you up for a victory dance.
Marcedes Lewis, JAC at PIT: Lewis dropped a would-be touchdown against the Bengals in Week 5 and been targeted infrequently in four appearances this season (eight receptions thus far). This 2010 breakthrough performer has yet to find the mark in 2011, and red zone opportunities are few and far between for this 31st-ranked Jacksonville offense (11.8 points scored per game). He’s a huge roll of the dice against Pittsburgh. Do you want to gamble on a red zone chance?
Kickers to Ride on a Bye
Dan Bailey, DAL at NE: The Patriots rank 14th in the NFL at 23.8 points allowed per game. Bailey kicks behind a fully loaded Dallas offense coming out of the Bye week. He kicked 12 field goals and nine PATs in the Cowboys’ first four games. Tony Romo, Miles Austin and the full complement of offensive weapons are ready for a shootout in Foxborough.
David Akers, SF at DET: The Lions make big, flashy plays. The 49ers take a calculated, methodical approach and grind opponents down, as evidenced by the beatdown administered to the Buccaneers in Week 5 (two field goals and six PATs in the 48-3 win).
Alex Smith is playing efficient football, and Jim Harbaugh’s commitment to the ground game is refreshing in a pass-happy league. Akers converted 10 field goals and 16 PATs in the 49ers’ first five games.
Mike Nugent, CIN vs. IND: Ride the good feelings in Cincinnati for another week (Lions, Bills and Bengals making noise in 2011). The Bengals will control the line of scrimmage with Cedric Benson against the sieve-like Indianapolis run defense, thereby allowing Nugent to continue his strong start to the campaign. Nugent has converted 11 field goals and nine PATs this season.
Nick Folk, NYJ vs. MIA: Following a strong start to the season, Folk’s production has slowed markedly in the past three weeks. He’s converted just two field goals in the past three weeks, though he has generated 14 PATs overall (essentially an extra field goal per week). Folk is a solid option this week against the underperforming Dolphins.
Billy Cundiff, BAL vs. HOU: Cundiff’s appearance here represents a call to action for fantasy owners. With the Ravens taking their Bye week in Week 5, Cundiff was returned to the waiver wire in many leagues for a one-week replacement. It’s possible that owners forget to reclaim him for Week 6.
The Texans have played strong defensive football under Wade Phillips, as expected. However, the loss of Mario Williams, combined with the absence of Andre Johnson from the Houston offense, portends to a strong day for the Baltimore offense and multiple tries for Cundiff. Cundiff has converted multiple field goals in four consecutive games.
Kickers on the Pine
Alex Henery, PHI at WAS: The Redskins rank third in total defense at 15.8 points allowed per game. Michael Vick and the Philadelphia receivers appear content to sabotage scoring chances by turning the ball over at every turn. Those turnovers have taken points off of the board from Henery. He’s generated two great fantasy efforts and three pedestrian marks. I don’t anticipate a huge breakthrough in this road tilt.
Dan Carpenter, MIA at NYJ: The Dolphins rank 29th in total offense at 17.3 points scored per game. Could Tony Sparano have found some winning formula during the Bye week? Getting Daniel Thomas certainly doesn’t help, but Brandon Marshall’s talk of getting booted from the game and uncertainty at quarterback with Matt Moore leaves me uneasy. Carpenter represents the Dolphins’ best scoring threat for Week 6. How many chances will he get if the New York defense actually shows up?
Robbie Gould, CHI vs. MIN: If given opportunities, Gould will convert them. That’s a given. He’s averaged two field goals and two PATs per game. Gould is a back-end K1 this week against the Vikings, but his opportunities may be sparse if Jared Allen gets a big push off of the edge (and he will).
Defenses to Ride on a Bye
Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis: I appreciate the job Marvin Lewis has done with this squad through five weeks. I also understand that the first five weeks of the schedule didn’t include world-beating squads. However, you can only beat and dominate teams that you play. The Bengals will get after Curtis Painter this week and build on an Indianapolis offense that, while improving, isn’t demonstrating any consistency.
Washington vs. Philadelphia: Mr. Orakpo, I’d like to introduce you to Michael Vick. Washington fans await their first meeting on Sunday as Vick and the Eagles take on Mike Shanahan’s squad. The Redskins generated 15 sacks in their first four games. Vick’s absorbed six sacks while committing 10 turnovers.
Washington has had two weeks to scheme and game plan for Vick and this high-flying Philadelphia offense. The Eagles will score points, to be sure, but the turnover potential (call Jack Tatum) is huge.
Minnesota at Chicago: Did you watch Ndamukong Suh terrorize Jay Cutler in Week 5? Well, Jared Allen is salivating to get his chance at the turnstile-like Chicago offensive line. Cutler has already absorbed 18 sacks. The Vikings have registered 16 of their own.
Cutler will make a few plays against the secondary, but he’ll need to keep his head on a swivel against this defensive front.
Defenses on the Pine
Houston at Baltimore: The Ravens are coming out of the Bye at full strength. The Houston defense comes to town without its top playmaker, Mario Williams. As such, the Baltimore offense gets an upgrade for Week 6. Andre Johnson’s absence from the Houston offense tips the field position battle in the direction of the Ravens. I love watching J.J. Watt and this defense go to work. I fear the squad is undermanned for this road tilt.
New York Giants vs. Buffalo: Through five weeks of play, the Giants have mimicked the greatest masters of disguise beautifully. Do you really know what this team is right now?
The Giants amassed 18 sacks through five games and rank 20th in total yardage (373.4 total yards allowed per game). Most importantly, any positive thoughts about the defense were erased in Week 5 when the Seahawks rolled in and thumped the Giants. Might they rebound with a huge effort? Sure. I can’t trust the performance against Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Philadelphia at Washington: Fantasy owners are wringing their hands about the “Sit/Start” questions involving Ryan Torain and Tim Hightower. I’ll save that breakdown for another piece. It doesn’t matter. Both players will contribute to a huge Washington effort on the ground. Rex Grossman will take advantage of his opportunities afforded by the running game.
The Eagles generated five turnovers in the first five weeks and, while the 16 sacks are enticing, Juan Castillo’s unit has yet to gel. The grudge match might get Grossman to tighten up and force an errant throw or two. I just haven’t seen enough to push me back on that bandwagon.