6 Fantasy Football Stars to Start or Sit for Week 6
To be fair, the slate of Thursday Night games has been a bit, shall we say, poor so far this season. Sure, Baltimore/Cleveland is a great historical rivalry, but I still wouldn't trust Brandon Weeden to lead a comeback drive against Oklahoma in the Bedlam Game, let alone an NFL contest. In two of the few supposed interesting matchups, the Packers laid the smackdown on the Bears and the Giants did the same against the Panthers. And last week, the Rams/Cardinals put on a snoozefest for the ages.
So why am I so excited for Steelers/Titans tonight, a game that has one of the highest spreads this week? It's simple: this is one of the single most-intriguing fantasy matchups of the season.
Pretty much every single Steelers offensive player is on the start bubble this week: only Mike Wallace is started in more than 60% of leagues, and none are started in less than 30%. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson is a Chris Johnson, and both Kendall Wright and Jared Cook add a bit of intrigue from the Titans side as well.
So, for this edition of start/sit, I decided to make it entirely Steelers and Titans based in preparation of tonight's game. And, spoiler alert, you're going to see some players with high fantasy point totals in this game to replace some of the guys you've already benched.
Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 6
Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6: 17.72 Projected Points (#4 Ranked QB)
Percent Started: 36.3%
Verdict: Start Him
I mean, if you're banking on stat corrections, just convince Elias to make every single running play to Mendenhall a "forward handoff" and just watch the fantasy points roll in. That's the way it works now, right? As Matthew Berry estimated, roughly 90,000 ESPN fantasy matchups swung on the stat correction that gave Roethlisberger an extra touchdown in last week's game. As numberFire estimates, Roethlisberger owners shouldn't need a fluke stat correction to win their leagues.
Just like when the Steelers played the Raiders, I'm back to the hilltops to scream "Start all your Steelers this week!" As I noted in my Thursday Night Football preview, this has the potential to be a high-scoring game, and Roethlisberger's right at the center of it. His 2.04 projected TDs is the second most of any quarterback behind Matt Ryan, and his 0.60 INTs is the third-least of any quarterback behind Ryan and Alex Smith. When you combine a high-scoring capability with a team that does not often force mistakes, it's going to result in a big day for your starting quarterback.
This week, we only have three different quarterbacks ahead of Big Ben: Ryan, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. If you have one of those guys as well as Roethlisberger on your team, congrats on your good fortune. If you're pairing Big Ben with somebody else, especially Rivers (#18 QB), Romo (#23), or Brees (bye), it's time to go with the Pittsburgh man.
Chris Johnson - Tennessee Titans
Week 6: 12.99 Projected Points (#11 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 72.8%
Verdict: Start Him
It might make you feel better if you close your eyes and have a drink while you place him in your starting lineup. Go ahead. I know that was painful, but trust me, you're doing a good thing.
The numberFire algorithms like Chris Johnson this week for three main reasons. And these three reasons make sense.
1. Chris Johnson may have had the running back skills of a powderpuff cheerleader these past five weeks, but the Titans don't have any choice but to trust him. So far this season, Chris Johnson has 73 rushing attempts, or just about 15 per game. The next closest back is Darius Reynaud who has four carries... total. Supposed backup Javon Ringer is now out the next four to six weeks, and the Titans have only trusted Jamie Harper with one carry all season. Unless the Titans bring in another name in the next ten hours, Johnson's the lead back through thick and thin.
2. And if there's a time you'll want a lead back, it's against numberFire's #26 opponent-adjusted defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The overall stats for the Steelers run defense look solid; Darren McFadden is the only back to have a 100+ yard game in their four games so far this season. However, that just may be because the other teams haven't had the opportunity to run the ball as much. Three of the Steelers' four opponents had a higher yards per carry average against Pittsburgh than their current season average, with the Eagles last week as the only exception. It shouldn't be hard for Tennessee to continue that trend, as their current 3.5 ypc average is just barely above the lowest ypc average (3.4 against Philadelphia) the Steelers have given up this season.
3. A lot of the players you would consider starting instead of Johnson will be playing much tougher matchups. Of the players on the bubble, roughly between #18 and #28 in numberFire's projections, six of the 12 backs play defenses in numberFire's opponent-adjusted top ten. An additional two play defenses in the top half. And the ones who don't - Doug Martin, Shonn Greene, Vick Ballard, and La'Rod Stephens-Howling - have questions just like CJ.4K.
Rashard Mendenhall - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6: 14.69 Projected Points (#6 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 52.3%
Verdict: Start Him
Yes, it's an odd week for fantasy football when Rashard Mendenhall is our #6 running back overall, ranked directly ahead of Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore. But man, is that Titans defense bad.
So far this season, only one opposing team has failed to have a running back with at least 14 fantasy points (FP). That was Minnesota last week, and Adrian Peterson still had 88 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown poached by Percy Harvin inside the red zone. And most of the backs who have had good days against the Titans are right around Mendenhall's level. Mikel Leshoure had 100 yards and 16 FP, Jackie Battle had two touchdowns and 18 FP, and Stevan Ridley had 152 total yards and 21 FP.
Meanwhile, barring injury (and he's probable for tonight's game), Mendenhall has developed into the clear #1 back for the Steelers. In his first game back, Mendenhall had 13 carries for 68 yards and a receiving TD to boot. His +5.48 NEP gained for the Steelers is an extremely impressive total, and it far outpaces backup Isaac Redman, who has -8.23 NEP for the Steelers in four games. numberFire's projections expect to see Mendenhall get the lion's share of the carries tonight. They have him with 16.16 rush attempts, while Redman is only projected to have 7.58.
Antonio Brown - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6: 9.85 Projected Points (#11 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 52.7%
Verdict: Start Him
Mike Wallace is a must start; he's numberFire's #4 wide receiver this week. But what about his running mate? The one that not as many people are talking about, Antonio Brown?
Oh, you mean the one that still leads the Steelers with 39 targets, nine more than Wallace? Yeah, that one who is averaging just about 10 targets per game. And the one who led the Steelers with exactly 10 targets last week against the Eagles. And the one whose 0.57 projected TDs is sixth highest among all receivers this week. And the one who, as we noted above, has the #4 projected QB in the NFL this week throwing him the ball. And the one who is facing the #29 opponent-adjusted defense according to numberFire's rankings.
I think Brown's going to be just fine, and he'll get his looks. Make sure he's starting for your team, even if it has to be in a flex spot this week.
Heath Miller - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6: 6.96 Projected Points (#8 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 33.1%
Verdict: Start Him... Conditionally
We like Miller. We really do. He's the fifth-highest tight end in terms of NEP so far this season, and he has reached double-digit FP in two of his four games so far this season. He averages 6.25 targets per game for the Steelers, third on the team, and has an incredible 76% catch rate. His opponent this week has also allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends of any team in the NFL so far this season. The reasons to start Miller are numerous.
But of course, I have to throw a curveball and stick that "conditionally" on there. We like Miller, but he's only our #8 tight end this week. That places him right on that start/sit line, and it's conceivable that you have both Miller and someone else higher on our list. If you have Tony Gonzalez, Owen Daniels, the Patriots boys, or Vernon Davis this week, you aren't sitting them for anybody. If you have Brent Celek, Scott Chandler, or Jason Witten, then you have a tough choice on your hands between them and Miller. Anybody else: throw them to the dumpster and ride your Pittsburgh star for as long as you can.
Jared Cook - Tennessee Titans
Week 6: 5.71 Projected Points (#14 Ranked TE)
Percent Started: 38.5%
Verdict: Sit Him
It's been way too upbeat and start-happy in this article so far. I need to take it down a notch.
Author's Note: Youtube tried to autocorrect my search to "MMMBop", which was the exact opposite of what I was looking for and can be interpreted as a good sign for Jared Cook.
Now with that out of the way, you're in the right mood to look at Jared Cook's prospects for this week. With Kendall Wright's emergence, Cook is nowhere near the team lead with his 28 targets. In fact, his second place spot is in danger as well; Nate Washington's creeping up behind him with 26 targets of his own. It's been even worse since Jake Locker became injured. With Hasselbeck as quarterback the past two weeks, Cook has been somewhat of an afterthought, finishing third on the team in targets both times. In week 4, only 15% of Hasselbeck's targets went his way; in week 5, that proportion decreased to 14%. His 68% catch rate is average to above average for a tight end, but it's impossible to make stats out of no throws his way.
The only way to salvage a solid week out of Cook would be a touchdown, and according to numberFire's projections, a TD is nowhere near guaranteed. Cook's 0.29 projected TDs this week is tied for 12th among all tight ends with Baltimore's Dennis Pitta. There are much better options out there this week.