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Fantasy Football Week 6 Preview: Starts, sits, and sleepers; plus your game plan moving forward

Las Vegas Raiders v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

After an action-packed first five weeks, we are almost one-third of the way done with the NFL season. By now, you should know where your fantasy football team stands in your league. Whether your roster is a championship contender, mediocre team that needs to make one big move, or a winless squad, there is always work to be done. So let’s game plan:

Beginning with the championship contenders, who are probably sitting at the top of your league’s standings at 5-0 or 4-1 (I'm right there with you in both of my leagues, not to brag). You’re feeling good, but do not get comfortable. It is only Week 6 and a few losses or injuries can derail your season in a heartbeat.

So how do we stay at the top? You most likely had a strong draft if you're in this position, so the top of your roster is set. Now, look to your bench. You might be able to deal away two solid players for a star as some of the 1-4 or 0-5 teams should be looking for a roster shakeup. Always keep rotating the bottom few players on your bench. Drop last week’s waiver wire add for this week’s top waiver add, unless of course you found long-term value last week. And keep looking a few weeks ahead for guys who could be close to a breakout or have a favorable matchup in the future.

Also, find your best player’s handcuff and use a roster spot on him. If something happens, it’ll be worth it. Just see how well Mike Davis has played since Christian McCaffrey went down.

For the mediocre teams, likely in the 3-2 or 2-3 range, you have a solid team just something isn't going right. Perhaps you’re dealing with an injury to a star, like McCaffrey, or you just keep getting an opponent on their best week.

Looking at your roster, you probably have a load of good players, not great players. Also be searching for one of these 2-for-1 trades. If you have an assortment of WR3, try to find a taker on two of them for a WR1 - fix some of the holes in your lineup!

When setting you’re lineup going forward, stick with the consistent players with high floors. You can't afford more losses because of a dud in the flex spot or “your gamble” this weekend didn't pay off. Look at who has performed consistently and which players have favorable matchups going forward. Play those guys. A 3-2 record can quickly fall to 3-4, so continue to make smart decisions going forward.

Now, if you’re reading this and your team sits at 1-4 or 0-5, don't give up. It’s not looking good, but it’s not over yet.

Look at your roster right now. If you have two quarterbacks, drop the backup. Same goes with defenses and kickers. You need those roster spots. Speaking of defenses, if you drafted Baltimore, Indianapolis, or another top defense: trade them. Defenses are too replaceable and can be streamed week-to-week. Find the roster with an assortment of backs, receivers or even tight ends and make a swap. Try and trade with the 3-2 and 2-3 teams as well. You most likely aren't going to catch the teams at the top of the standings, so why not weaken the rosters within grasp.

As you’re freeing up space on your roster, pick up guys who have high ceilings this week and going forward. You have nothing else to lose, so look for the flyers who have favorable matchups and are in a position to succeed, perhaps due to an injury to a player in front of them. Your current players aren't getting it done, so find guys who at least have a shot too.

Not to put pressure on you, but you need a win this week, especially if you currently sit at 0-5. I’ve seen plenty of 8-6 teams make the playoffs, but don't dig yourself an even bigger hole to climb out of. Winning eight straight games is no easy task for any team.

So, now matter how your roster looks, let’s go win Week 6:

Note:

Quarterbacks

New Orleans Saints v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Start ‘Em

Matt Stafford at Jacksonville

Deshaun Watson dropped 35 fantasy points on the Jaguars last week, continuing a streak of quarterbacks scoring at least 20 fantasy points every game against Jacksonville this year (Phillip Rivers being the only one not to put up at least 24 fantasy points). The Jags defense has allowed the fourth-most passing yards to QBs this season, while opposing QBs are also completing 75.8% of their passes (the highest rate in the NFL) against them. Coming off a bye, Stafford is in store for a big Week 6.

Cam Newton vs Denver

Newton looks back and ready to go after nearly a two week stint on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. When on the field, he’s been New England’s whole offense and that shouldn't change this week. Every quarterback Denver has faced this season has thrown for over 230 passing yards, as the Broncos defense has allowed more than 21 fantasy points per game to the position. Denver hasn't faced many mobile quarterbacks either, but did allow Sam Darnold to scamper for 84 yards on six attempts back in Week 4. Newton is back and should be back in starting lineups.

More Starts: Kirk Cousins vs Atlanta, Ryan Fitzpatrick vs New York Jets

Sit ‘Em

Teddy Bridgewater vs Chicago

Bridgewater has been stellar for the Panthers this season and is coming off back-to-back 20-plus fantasy point games. However, things get tougher this week against a Bears defense surrendering the second fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs. Chicago has also given up a league-low four passing touchdowns while holding four of the five quarterbacks they’ve faced to under 14.5 fantasy points. I like Bridgewater going forward, but keep him on your bench this week.

Jimmy Garoppolo vs Rams

After getting removed (benched?) from last week’s loss to the Dolphins, Garoppolo doesn't look like he’ll be in store for a bounce back Sunday night. He threw for just 77 yards and two interceptions last week as he did not look 100 percent healthy. A date with Aaron Donald and the Rams should provide more trouble, as LA has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points (16.5 PPG) to opposing quarterbacks.

More Sits: Carson Wentz vs Ravens, Joe Burrow vs Cincinatti

Sleeper: Andy Dalton vs Arizona

Andy Dalton now has the keys to the Dallas Cowboys offense and he’ll start in what should be a shootout with the Arizona Cardinals (the Monday night matchup has the third highest over/under total for Week 6). Dalton will be throwing the ball quite a bit this week, as Dallas averages a league high 47.2 pass attempts per game and leads the league in offensive snaps per game. He’s no Dak Prescott, but he’s more than a suitable replacement with one of the best casts of weapons in the league around him.

Running Backs

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Start ‘Em

Alexander Mattison vs Atlanta

With Dalvin Cook looking unlikely to suit up this weekend, Mattison immediately becomes a top play at the position. When Cook went down last week, Mattison played 81 percent of the snaps in relief, finishing with 112 rushing yards while adding three receptions for 24 yards. This week, he’ll face an Atlanta defense allowing the eighth-most fantasy points (29.3 PPG) and the most receptions to running backs this season. Cook is expected to return following the Vikings bye next week, so take advantage of Mattison while you can.

David Johnson at Tennessee

David Johnson has been used more and more by the Texans as of late. He has seen double-digit carries every game this year as his touches have increased in each of the past three weeks. In his first game without Bill O’Brien last week, Johnson saw 82 percent of the backfield touches, turning that into a season high 96-rushing yards. This week, he’ll face-off against a Titans defense that has allowed over 400 total yards to running backs over their first three games, along with a touchdown in each game.

More Starts: Jonathan Taylor vs Cincinnati, Antonio Gibson at New York Giants, David Montgomery at Carolina

Sit ‘Em

Damien Harris vs Denver

Harris impressed in his first action this year, carrying the rock 17 times for 100 yards. However, Harris played less snaps than James White and Rex Burkhead, while Burkhead saw three of four red zone carries, and saw zero targets. He’ll now take on a Broncos defense allowing an average of 84-yards per game to halfbacks and league-low 16.3 fantasy PPG to the position. He’ll need a touchdown or two this week to make his fantasy production worth your while. We need to see him perform consistently before he enters lineups, as the crowded Patriots backfield has never been kind to fantasy owners.

Melvin Gordon III and/or Phillip Lindsay at New England

On the opposite sideline of Harris, Gordon and Lindsay should also be avoided. Gordon’s status for the game appears up in the air as he was cited for a DUI on Tuesday. He practiced on Thursday, but it would be tough to see him suiting up Sunday. No matter who is active, both backs should be avoided this week. They take on a Patriots defense, who’s had two weeks of preparation, which has been tough against opposing backs. Of the four RBs with 13-plus touches vs New England this year (Myles Gaskin, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, Clyde-Edwards Helaire), only Chris Carson has scored more than 12.1 points. Leave both Bronco backs on your bench.

More Sits: Leonard Fournette vs Green Bay, Ravens Running Backs at Philadelphia

Sleeper: Myles Gaskin vs New York Jets

A Myles Gaskin career game this weekend, mark that in your notes. Gaskin has become the man in the Miami backfield, averaging 20.3 touches per game over the past three weeks. He should have no issue converting those touches into production this weekend against a poor Jets defense. New York has allowed five different running backs to have at least 50-rushing yards and a score over the past four weeks. In total, the Jets have allowed eight total touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points (30.9 PPG) to opposing running backs. Game script should also be in his favor, so make sure Gaskin is in your lineups.

Wide Receivers

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Start ‘Em

Justin Jefferson vs Atlanta

We’ll continue the play-whoever-is-playing-the-Falcons trend. Jefferson should be able to get back on track this week, as the Atlanta defense has allowed an average of 215 yards and the eighth-most points to wide receivers this year. As for Jefferson, the rookie leads the Vikings in slot routes, targets and yards; the Falcons defense however, are bottom seven in both touchdowns to the slot and yards allowed to the slot. Pair that with Jefferson’s big play ability and the Falcons’ defense allowing the third-most passing plays of 15 or more yards to wide receivers this season, he’ll be in for a big Week 6.

Cooper Kupp at San Francisco

The banged up 49ers defense have allowed four players to accumulate over 60 yards against them, while also allowing six receiving touchdowns on the year. Kupp could be in for a monster game out of the slot, as San Francisco is without slot cornerback K’Waun Williams. The Dolphins were able to pick apart his replacement, Jamar Taylor, last week, as he allowed 93 yards.

More Starts: Jamison Crowder at Miami, Laviska Shenault Jr. vs Detroit

Sit ‘Em

A.J. Brown vs Houston

Brown had a strong Week 5 game but has a tough matchup on the schedule this week. The Texans have used cornerback Bradley Roby to lock-up the oppositions No. 1 receiver, so he should have Brown on tap for this weekend. According to PFF, Roby has been successful against opposition, allowing a total of 139 yards over five games while not allowing more than 45 in a game. I’m out on Brown this week.

Terry McLaurin at New York Giants

I love Terry McLaurin as a receiver, but the cards are just stacked against him this week. To start, Kyle Allen is expected back under center for the Washington Football Team. In limited action last week, Allen average depth of target was two yards. McLaurin should also see plenty of shutdown corner James Bradberry in this one, who has PFF’s second-highest coverage grade among CBs this season. The Giants have faced outside receivers Allen Robinson, Diontae Johnson, Robert Woods, and Amari Cooper this year, holding all to under 10 fantasy points.

More Sits: D.J. Moore vs Chicago, John Brown vs Kansas City

Sleeper: Mecole Hardman at Buffalo

As we talked about in the intro, the 1-4 and 0-5 teams need to find guys with high ceilings. That is exactly what Hardman is this week with Sammy Watkins out with a hamstring injury. Hardman landed on our sleeper list last week after getting consistent touches in back-to-back weeks. He had just two catches but played a season high in snaps. With Watkins out this week. he should again see a high snap count and touches to go with it.

Kansas City should be able to put up points against a Buffalo defense that has allowed 280.3 passing yards per game this season (29th in the league). The biggest games against the Bills have come from receivers in the slot, as Cooper Kupp, Jamison Crowder, and Isaiah Ford all had at least 75 yards against Buffalo. When Watkins went down last week, Hardman saw a majority of his snaps in the slot. Expect a big game from the speedster this week.

Tight Ends

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Start ‘Em

T.J. Hockenson at Jacksonville

As I am big on Stafford this week, his tight end should be a key cog in the passing game. Hockenson is second on the Lions in targets the past two weeks and gets to face a struggling Jacksonville defense. The Jaguars have allowed the second-most receiving yards, and four touchdowns to tight ends this season, who average 16.2 fantasy PPG against them.

Trey Burton vs Cincinatti

Burton has emerged as the TE1 in the Colts offense since his Week 4 return. In his two games back, Burton has seen 11 targets (19 percent) and have led all Colts TEs with 35 routes run, per PFF. To makes matters more intriguing, Mo-Alie Cox is out with a knee injury, which will give Burton more opportunities in the red zone.

More Starts: Jonnu Smith at Houston

Sit ‘Em

Rob Gronkowski vs Green Bay

We are still waiting for Gronk to look like, well Gronk. He’s caught just 12 passes through the first five weeks, running a pass route just 41 percent of his time on the field. He’s simply failing to see action in the passing game. This week, the Bucs will take on a Green Bay defense that has yet to allow more than four catches or a touchdown to opposing tight ends. Leave the Hall of Famer on the bench this week.

Zach Ertz vs Baltimore

Ertz might be the biggest disappointment of the fantasy season so far. With seemingly all of the Eagles wide receivers hurt and fellow tight end Dallas Goedert on IR, Ertz has struggled mightily. Ertz has hauled in an average of four catches for 29 yards per game this season, while posting just 15 total yards (yes 15!) the last two weeks. He also has seen a whooping zero red zone targets on the year. There’s hope in the future, as he is still seeing his fair share of targets and the return of the Eagles receivers should help relieve the pressure, but it’s tough to feel confident about Ertz this weekend.

More Sits: Jack Doyle vs Cincinatti, Tyler Higbee at San Francisco

Sleeper: Hayden Hurst at Minnesota

I mentioned in the Week 5 recap that Hurst has been one of the most frustrating players in fantasy this year, but this is his chance to change that. As mentioned before, this Falcons - Vikings game will be high scoring, so Hurst will have his chances to exploit the Minnesota defense. According to PFF, the Vikings allow the highest explosive pass percentage (34.6%) and deep pass percentage (27%) to opposing tight ends. Hurst leads qualified tight ends this season in deep ball targets (five), so some big plays should be there to make.

Patriots Play of the Week

NFL: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Julian Edelman

With Newton back under center, Edelman’s fantasy value takes a major bump up this week. Denver’s defense has struggled guarding the slot this year, surrendering a weekly average of six catches and 70-yards to the position; giving up over 60-yards from the slot in their last two games. A prior week off should treat Edelman well, as he has clearly been hobbled with a knee injury. He should capitalize against the defense allowing the fifth-most points to opposing wide receivers.

That is all for this week’s preview. If you have any additional questions regarding your lineup, specific players, or strategies going forward leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter @iambrianhines. As always, I’m rooting for you.