Thumbs Up of the Week: Jameis Winston (@ ATL)
Since losing star defenders Keanu Neal (knee, season) and Deion Jones (foot, likely designated-to-return player) in the opener, Atlanta has allowed a whopping 329.5 passing yards per game and exactly three touchdowns to every signal-caller they’ve faced over the past four weeks; and the 28.5 fantasy points per game allowed over that stretch would easily combine to be the No. 1 fantasy quarterback on the season. I usually don’t trust Jameis Winston that much because he is prone to bone-headed mistakes, but all the factors working in his favor—home-run matchup, phenomenal supporting cast, coming off the bye, probable shootout—makes the 24-year-old a top-ten play in Week 6.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (@ DEN)
As I’ve said before, the Broncos’ reputation on defense is greater than their actual play, and that was proven true last week when Sam Darnold threw for three touchdowns for the first time in his young career. Jared Goff should bounce back after one score against the Seahawks, and even just one of Brandin Cooks or Cooper Kupp clearing the concussion protocol should be enough to feel confident in him on the road. As for the weather, I wouldn’t be worried at all with potential snow in the forecast on Sunday, as Goff threw for 301 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in his lone cold-weather game (sub-40 degrees) last season. He remains a midrange QB1 option.
Thumbs Up: Alex Smith (v CAR)
Alex Smith didn’t look good at all on Monday night, which was a definite surprise coming out of the bye week against a struggling secondary. However, I think we can chalk it up as an outlier with Washington coming out flat on what turned out to be Drew Brees’ night earlier than anyone expected, and the Redskins get another strong matchup this weekend. Statistically, the Panthers have been average against opposing fantasy quarterbacks, but they just allowed Eli Manning to throw for his third 300-yard game over the past two years, and Jay Gruden will likely rely more on the passing attack to avoid Carolina’s stout front, especially with Adrian Peterson banged up. Smith can be used confidently as a high-floor streaming option.
Thumbs Up: Eli Manning (v PHI)
Before last week, the most recent 300-yard performance for Eli came last December against the Eagles when he threw for 434 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in a 34-29 loss at home—and that was with interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo taking over for the fired Ben McAdoo. Now, the Giants have brilliant play-caller Pat Shurmur dialing things up, while Philadelphia is no longer an imposing defensive front (just one sack against Minnesota’s sub-par offensive line in their 23-21 loss to the Vikings). And it’s only led to one victory, but Manning has put up numbers against the Birds in each of their past four contests in New York, throwing for 355.5 yards per game with a 10:4 touchdown-interception ratio. Like Winston, I don’t usually trust Eli, but he could produce on Thursday night.
Others: Derek Carr (v SEA), Josh Allen (@ HOU)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Andy Dalton (v PIT)
Throughout his career, Andy Dalton has largely struggled against the Steelers, and even looking at the four-game window since Bill Lazor has joined the coaching staff, he’s averaged a modest 224 yards per game with a 5:3 touchdown-interception ratio. A full-blown shootout would obviously be a boost for fantasy owners, but last week’s Falcons-Steelers game showed we can’t rely on that, and Pittsburgh’s league-leading pass rush could present a problem for Cincinnati’s offensive line. Dalton is ranked as a QB1 for most, but I feel better about other options at a deep position in Week 6.
Thumbs Down: Blake Bortles (@ DAL)
He was saved from a fantasy perspective by throwing it 61 times and rushing for 34 yards and a score, but Blake Bortles tossed four interceptions in last week’s loss to the Chiefs, and it should serve as a reminder about just how inconsistent Jacksonville’s quarterback is. The Cowboys have allowed back-to-back 300-yard passers following a stingy start to the season, but I like how their cornerbacks stack up against the Jags’ receivers, and this projects to be a low-scoring, ball-control game like we saw from Dallas on Sunday night. Bortles doesn’t crack the top 20 for me.
Thumbs Down: Marcus Mariota (v BAL)
Marcus Mariota has been in and out of the lineup to start the season, but besides Tennessee’s overtime victory over the Eagles, he’s thrown for a combined 332 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions in three appearances. A couple difficult road matchups (@ JAX, @ BUF) didn’t help, but Mariota doesn’t get a softer opponent at home with the Ravens coming to town, as they’ve been as stingy as anyone on the backend through five weeks. The Oregon product probably needs rushing production to be worth a start this Sunday, so wait until the schedule gets easier next week when the Titans face the Chargers in London to consider Mariota.
Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (v JAX)
Maybe the success that Mariota Mariota (seven carries for 51 yards) and Patrick Mahomes (four carries for 13 yards and a score) have had on the ground against Jacksonville will lead to Dak Prescott also doing damage as a runner, but I wouldn’t count on it. If Dak doesn’t go for 50+ yards and/or a score with his legs, he has an extremely low floor due to the Cowboys’ deficiencies through the air (192.2 passing yards per game) combined with a matchup against the NFL’s best pass defense (209.2 yards per game allowed). Look elsewhere in all leagues.
Others: Ryan Tannehill (v CHI), Josh Rosen (@ MIN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Jordan Howard (@ MIA)
Jordan Howard was the forgotten man in Chicago’s 48-10 victory over Tampa Bay prior to the bye week, but I’m not concerned about Tarik Cohen (20 touches for 174 yards and a score) being a significant drain to his value following the offensive explosion; Howard, who is still just 23 years old and second in the league in rushing over the past two seasons, is averaging a healthy 18.5 touches per game, and he should get some goal-line opportunities (and possibly lighter boxes) in the very near future with the Bears hopefully staying hot. Miami has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry so far this season, but I think they’ve overachieved, so Howard needs to stay in lineups as a low-end RB1.
Thumbs Up: T.J. Yeldon (@ DAL)
“Le’Veon Bell lite” (as I called him last week) was able to turn 18 touches into 122 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs, taking full advantage of a featured role with Leonard Fournette (hamstring) inactive. The Jaguars signed Jamaal Charles yesterday, which might scare people, but the former All-Pro is clearly going to be a change-of-pace option to replace Corey Grant (foot) rather than a significant threat to T.J. Yeldon’s workload. Even in a matchup against the sure-tackling Dallas defense, Yeldon looks like a high-floor, low-end RB1 in all formats for as long as Fournette is out. He’s probably earned a season-long role in a contract year.
Thumbs Up: Royce Freeman (v LAR)
I originally had Phillip Lindsay as a “Thumbs Up” and still think he’s worth a start in all formats, but the weather forecast in Denver this weekend (high of 31 degrees, overnight snow), could be exactly what it takes for the Broncos to finally feed Royce Freeman. The third-round pick has rushed just 13 times over the past two weeks, but he’s made the most of his carries with 98 yards (7.5 YPC), and for the season, Freeman ranks fifth in the league in yards after contact on a per-carry basis. Similar to C.J. Anderson when he was in Denver, I think the rookie has the natural running style to not be impacted by a cold/snowy surface, and Los Angeles can be run on as one of four teams allowing 5.0+ yards per carry this year. Freeman has multi-score upside in Week 6.
Thumbs Up: Eagles RBs (@ NYG)
I’m talking about Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement in particular here, but undrafted rookie Josh Adams could see more work than expected since he brings power element to the backfield. For Thursday night, though, I think one or both of Smallwood and Clement have a very good shot at double-digit fantasy points in standard leagues, and they are firmly on the FLEX radar with the expectation that both will be heavily involved in what could turn into a high-scoring affair in New York. Over their past seven meetings, the Eagles and Giants have averaged a combined 52.4 points per game.
Others: Tevin Coleman (v TB), Alfred Morris (@ GB)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Ezekiel Elliott (v JAX)
Despite leading the league in rushing and averaging 5.2 yards per carry through five games, Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t had the dominant season that fantasy owners might have been expecting so far. The loss of Travis Frederick has been an obvious blow to the elite Dallas offensive line, and he could have trouble finding holes again this week after being bottled up for 54 yards on 20 carries against Houston, as the Jags a) want to bounce back from their 30-14 loss to the Chiefs, and b) actually played stout run defense in Kansas City. Zeke almost certainly isn’t leaving your lineup, but he’s more of a high-end RB2 than solid RB1 for Week 6.
Thumbs Down: Adrian Peterson (v CAR)
“All Day” was banged up quite a bit in Monday night’s loss to the Saints, as he hyperextended his knee on his first touch of the game and later dislocated his shoulder, which led to just two snaps in the second half of a 43-19 defeat. Peterson is one of the toughest in the game and won’t miss time, but he’s better treated as a FLEX option against a Carolina defense that’s been unsurprisingly strong against the run and gets three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Thomas Davis back from his four-game suspension this week.
Thumbs Down: Lamar Miller (v BUF)
It doesn’t sound like Lamar Miller is at risk of a faux active designation again after it happened in Week 5, but missing one game might have been enough to relinquish the lead role in the backfield. Not only did Alfred Blue impress with 28 touches for 119 yards in an overtime victory over the Cowboys, but he also played 79-of-80 snaps—suggesting the coaching staff really trusts him in all facets, including pass protection (a key with Deshaun Watson taking a ton of big hits). Miller remains the preferred play, but I think both guys are decent FLEX options with limited upside.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (v IND)
Isaiah Crowell ran wild last week with a franchise-record 219 rushing yards on 15 attempts, but I think it’s a mistake to think he will suddenly be an every-week RB2 option as everyone seems to believe. The 25-year-old had 102 yards in the opener, and he followed it up with 35 yards, 34 yards, and zero yards over the next three weeks before last week’s performance. He’s likely going to have a couple more big days the rest of the way, but I don’t think one will be coming against the rested Colts and star rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. Crowell is just a volatile FLEX that’s being severely overvalued in my opinion.
Others: Alex Collins (@ TEN), Frank Gore (v CHI)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Sammy Watkins (@ NE)
I’ve been all in on Sammy Watkins as a high-upside WR2 since the summer, and he’s done great since a quiet opener with lines of 6/100, 5/55/1, and 6/78 over his past three healthy games. The 25-year-old is expected to see a lot of single coverage against Stephon Gilmore—his former teammate in Buffalo—with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce sure to get plenty of attention, so Watkins is in a blow-up spot on Sunday Night Football. I have him ranked as a top-15 play in standard leagues.
Thumbs Up: Julian Edelman (v KC)
Chiefs-Patriots looks like it will have one of the highest over/under totals of all-time this week, and that’s good news for basically everyone involved in the game. New England wasted no time getting Julian Edelman involved in his season debut last week with seven receptions (on eight targets) for 57 yards, and Kansas City has been dominated by the two big-name slot receivers they’ve faced this season, with Keenan Allen going for 8/108/1 and JuJu Smith-Schuster hauling in a career-high 13 passes for 121 yards and a score. Edelman is a WR2 in standard leagues and a borderline WR1 in PPR formats.
Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (@ NYG)
People have definitely overreacted to a disappointing stretch for Nelson Agholor since Carson Wentz made his season debut in Week 3, but he remains an every-week FLEX option in all formats with game-breaking upside. Last year in New York when Agholor was firmly entrenched as a breakout weapon for the Birds, he caught seven-of-nine targets for 59 yards and a touchdown, and he could benefit from favorable coverage if Alshon Jeffery is shadowed by Janoris Jenkins as expected. I have the former first-round pick significantly higher (No. 25 WR) than his consensus ranking (No. 46 WR).
Thumbs Up: Jordy Nelson (v SEA)
On pace for a 64/1,014/9.6 line with a touchdown in three straight weeks, Jordy Nelson is back as a fantasy contributor. Even considering the slow start, Nelson has a reception of at least 17 yards in every game this season, and Jon Gruden will know how to scheme him open at the intermediate level this weekend against the Seahawks. Plus, besides Jordy having as good a chance to find the end zone as anyone on the FLEX radar, Seattle’s young secondary will likely be vulnerable to a double move, and I would be shocked if Gruden doesn’t dial one up at some point.
Others: Josh Gordon (v KC), Chris Godwin (@ ATL)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Doug Baldwin (@ OAK)
While they only have one win to show for it, the Raiders really know how to game plan on both sides of the ball, and a focus this week will likely be to not let Doug Baldwin beat them. I had the same concerns with Jarvis Landry a couple weeks ago, but fantasy owners were saved by a touchdown on a day where he was held to just 34 yards. Unfortunately for those who invested an early-mid round pick in him over the summer, the 30-year-old doesn’t have volume or health working in his favor this year, so the days of a multi-touchdown game being a real possibility every week for Baldwin seems to be over. He’s closer to the top 40 than the top 20 for me.
Thumbs Down: DeSean Jackson (@ ATL)
The matchup looks great on the surface, as the Falcons are decimated on the backend, but Dan Quinn and his philosophy to not get beat by the deep ball (i.e. DeSean Jackson’s specialty) didn’t go anywhere. Last year, Jackson was held to a combined 71 scoreless yards in two meetings with Atlanta, and he’s already shown his boom-or-bust nature with a 3/37 performance in what many thought was a tremendous matchup against the Steelers (who like the Falcons, play a ton of zone coverage). I’m fading speedster as a low-end WR2/FLEX play.
Thumbs Down: Emmanuel Sanders (v LAR)
Maybe it’s a mistake trusting Marcus Peters to learn from his mistakes, but I would think that Wade Phillips and the coaching staff have made it known that he needs to stop looking in the backfield and biting on double moves, so this Sunday would be an unfortunate time to wise up if you’re an Emmanuel Sanders owner. The veteran receiver hasn’t scored since Week 1, and he’s averaged 8.2 yards per reception over the past three games. Sanders is just a FLEX option for me in Week 6.
Thumbs Down: Larry Fitzgerald (@ MIN)
It literally angers me that Larry Fitzgerald’s final season is happening on perhaps the worst team in football for what looks like the worst statistical year of his storied career, but Arizona threw in the towel on the season by the fourth quarter of Week 3, which is unfortunate. Frankly, the new coaching staff has no idea how to get Fitz the ball with just 17 receptions for 176 scoreless yards through five games, and there’s no way fantasy owners can feel confident inserting him into lineups until we see production for at least one game. I doubt he gets going against the Vikings.
Others: Corey Davis (v BAL), Michael Crabtree (@ TEN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Greg Olsen (@ WAS)
Does anyone know why Greg Olsen isn’t owned in 100% of fantasy leagues? The three-time Pro Bowl tight end should be a valuable asset if he can stay healthy at a thin position, and I would waste no time getting him in lineups as a solid TE1 option. Washington has allowed at least five receptions and 45+ yards to the position in each of the past three games (with two touchdowns over that span), so it’s not an imposing matchup for Olsen in his return.
Thumbs Up: Austin Hooper (v TB)
The Falcons didn’t live up to their end of a potential shootout with the Steelers in Week 5, but Austin Hooper finished with nine receptions for 77 yards, and he will now face a Buccaneers team that’s allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. So far, Tampa Bay has surrendered lines of 5/59, 15/151, 5/119/1, and 2/86/1 to the position, so Hooper is a borderline top-ten option.
Thumbs Up: Antonio Gates (@ CLE)
Antonio Gates isn’t suddenly going to turn back the clock with five games under his belt in his age-38 season, but if there’s a week that we might get a throwback performance, this is it. The Browns allowed Jared Cook to go off for an 8/110/2 line a couple weeks ago, and Philip Rivers could turn to his longtime teammate if Cleveland makes things difficult early on. Gates is my No. 12 tight end for Week 6.
Thumbs Down of the Week: David Njoku (v LAC)
The 2017 first-round pick has been a favorite of mine since he was at Miami, but David Njoku gets an extremely difficult draw this weekend; excluding a surprising explosion by George Kittle, the Chargers have allowed less than 27 yards per game (including six to Travis Kelce in the opener) to opposing tight ends this season. Overall, I would advise buying/picking up Njoku now, though, as he faces the bottom-three defenses against the position from Week 7 to Week 9.
Thumbs Down: Ricky Seals-Jones (@ MIN)
I was worried about Ricky Seals-Jones producing against the 49ers last week despite them struggling to start the year, and he turned in a zero-catch performance as the Cardinals did almost nothing through the air outside of an early 75-yard touchdown to Christian Kirk. This week, Seals-Jones should be the security blanket in a tough environment, but Mike Zimmer knows it, and they have the athletes to take him away.
Thumbs Down: Geoff Swaim (v JAX)
Geoff Swaim has quietly stepped up as a weapon for Dallas with lines of 5/47, 3/39/1, and 3/55 over the past three weeks, but I’m not confident in the Cowboys’ passing attack against Jacksonville. This is a game I want to completely avoid besides the running backs, and the Jaguars are allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends despite already facing Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce.