Key Fantasy Football Start/Sit Decisions, Sunday Week 6

It's Sunday morning... and the decision's hard... who you gonna call? numberFire!

I've already been over a good number of players you should sit this week as well as a bunch of players from Thursday's Steelers/Titans game that I had recommendations for. Sadly, Baron Batch was not one of my requested players to start. You win some, you lose some, and you don't realize some even exist. Batch is in that last category.

But there's plenty of other guys who I can confirm definitely, actually exist. Whether they should exist on your bench or starting lineup, though, is a different story. Here's another version of numberFire's start/sit suggestions, this time for the rest of the week 6 football action.

numberFire's Week 6 Start/Sit Suggestions

Alex Smith - San Francisco 49ers
Week 6: 16.98 Projected Points (#7 Ranked QB)
Percent Started: 27.6%
Verdict: Start Him

This week, in my Philadelphia-based fantasy league, I ran into a problem. Drew Brees was my starting quarterback. Jay Cutler was my backup. And because my mom was always right when she said I was poor at planning things, both were on a bye this week. On the waivers were three legitimate options: Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder, and Alex Smith. In the end, the choice wasn't even close.

This week, numberFire has Alex Smith as the seventh best QB available, even more than Matthew Stafford (starting in 61.2% of ESPN leagues), Michael Vick (62.8%), or Philip Rivers (53.5%). Certainly, a big part is that the Niners have been steamrolling teams recently. Smith's 39.99 Net Expected Points (NEP) of value gained for the 49ers is in the top ten of all NFL players so far this year; the past two weeks alone, he has gained over 22 NEP more than the average NFL player would gain the Niners. Smith did not have to do much throwing to win the game, as he averaged only 22.5 pass attempts over the past two weeks. But this week, I'm expecting a little more throwing action.

And that throwing action will happen because, frankly, the Giants defense is one of the worst in the league at stopping the pass. Every single QB to face them so far this season has scored at least one touchdown (although Cam Newton's was rushing rather than throwing), and every single QB has had at least 240 yards passing. The Giants can force turnovers - Newton's three pick game comes to mind - but having numberFire's ninth-least efficient defense in the NFL means that they will give up a lot of yards. When an unstoppable force meets an extremely movable object, everybody wins.

DeMarco Murray - Dallas Cowboys
Week 6: 8.31 Projected Points (#24 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 72.6%
Verdict: Sit Him

In many leagues, Murray was a no-doubt second round draft choice, simply based on his potential to break out. Well, we're about a third of the way through the fantasy football season, and... where exactly is that potential? If I misheard and that "potential" was actually the potential to have less fantasy points per game than Jackie Battle, Andre Brown, or C.J. Spiller, excuse me for misunderstanding.

It looked like everything was going to turn out alright for Murray, especially after his 131-yard rushing day on opening night against the Giants. But since then, Murray has gone belly up. His 106 yards on 41 rush attempts in the past three Cowboys games gives him a Chris Johnson-esque 2.59 yards per carry average. His -0.19 NEP per rush so far this season is tenth-worst in the NFL among all players with at least 10 carries per game. And to top it off, the Cowboys are running the ball less and less. Only 21% of their offensive plays in week 4 against Chicago were rushes, and even the week 3 Tampa Bay game that they led from the second quarter on, that proportion was only a slightly better 37%.

As numberFire's #24 RB this week, Murray might have a little bit of flex potential as a bye-week replacement. The Ravens have, after all, averaged 17 FP given up to opposing running backs, and Jamaal Charles ran for 140 yards against them last week. But if you're looking for his to be your RB2, I would strongly look at a few other names instead. According to numberFire projections, players with much higher potential include Mikel LeShoure, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, or...

Doug Martin - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 6: 10.02 Projected Points (#19 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 40.8%
Verdict: Start Him

Looking at numberFire's #17 through #28 running backs this week is like staring into a fire pit. Out of the thirteen players listed (there are two players tied at #20), a whopping nine of them play defenses in the top half of numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive rankings. Six of them play defenses in the top ten alone. And out of the remaining four backs, three of them - Shonn Greene, Vick Ballard, and La'Ron Stephens-Howling - are in up-in-the-air timeshare situations. Thus, at the bottom of the running back charts for this week, you're left with exactly one back who has the perfect combination of steady carries and a weaker opponent: Doug Martin.

Martin has not been the hottest player in the world the past two weeks; against the Cowboys and Redskins, he combined for only 10 FP. However, he does have two very important factors going for him: a weak opponent, and the ability to become involved in the passing game.

The Chiefs have given up double-digit fantasy points to opposing backs in three of their five games so far this season. Two of the three backs weren't exactly big names: Jackie Battle and C.J. Spiller joined Ray Rice to make that statistic happen. Even in the two games the Chiefs did not surrender at least 10 FP, the Falcons and the Saints moved the ball. In that Saints game, Sproles ran for 62 yards on seven carries, but simply could not get the ball into the endzone. The Chiefs' 4.4 yards per carry allowed is ninth-worst in the entire NFL.

Meanwhile, Doug Martin has become a legitimate pass-catching threat. His 15 targets are third-most on the Bucs and represent 13% of Freeman's total throws on the season. And the numberFire projections think the Chiefs will let up even more of those receptions - his 30.20 projected receiving yards for week 6, only behind Ray Rice, Chris Johnson (he ended with 23), and Jamaal Charles this week.

Miles Austin - Dallas Cowboys
Week 6: 9.85 Projected Points (#13 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 50.6%
Verdict: Start Him

So I've already established that I don't like either Tony Romo or DeMarco Murray so far this week. Jason Witten's a borderline starter for me, and Dez Bryant's bodyguards have kept him from being on the map. Is there a single Cowboy I'm psyched about heading into week 6?

Enter Miles Austin.

It's Dez Bryant who leads the Cowboys in targets with 33, but it's Austin who leads the team in both scoring-position trust and big play potential. Austin has scored double-digit fantasy points in all four Cowboys' games this season due to an excellent three touchdowns in four games. Only one of those touchdowns came from inside the red zone; the other two were intermediate passes of 34 yards against the Giants and 22 yards against the Seahawks. And those long routes seem to be working beautifully for Austin; his five catches of 20+ yards leads the Cowboys, two more than Dez Bryant. Even that one advantage Bryant has, that targets figure again, seems to be an outlier. Before the last Cowboys game, week 4 against the Bears, Austin had Bryant outnumbered on even those targets too, leading 22 to 20.

Meanwhile, the Ravens pass defense is not as solid as a 13th place on numberFire's opponent-adjusted efficiency ratings would make them seem. Before this past week against the hapless Chiefs, the Ravens had given up three straight 300+ yard passing days. It wasn't the Aaron Rodgers of the world throwing on them either; two of the three games came against teams (Philadelphia and Cleveland) in the bottom five of numberFire's offense efficiency ratings. If the Cowboys throw the ball at the same rate discussed earlier with DeMarco Murray, #1 weapon Austin could have a big game, even if Romo throws a few errant passes.

Pierre Garcon - Washington Redskins
Week 6: 3.39 Projected Points (#62 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 34.4%
Verdict: Sit Him

Wait, I'm back to that point again where I have to tell you to sit Pierre "Stone Hands" Garcon again? It's like a homecoming; it's been way too long since Stone Hands has made his way into my life.

First, there are the Redskins injury issues. Yes, RGIII suffered a minor concussion, but considering he practiced fully on Friday and has been cleared by the NFL, I don't see any issues with him. Lost in the RGII-mania, however, is Garcon's own injury. He only practiced on a limited basis on Friday, even less than he had the week before. Being questionable entering the weekend is starting to become a trend with Garcon. And considering that he has started some of those games but sat out others, I wouldn't want to be caught unaware with a 4:25 EST start time for the Redskins/Vikings game looming.

Even if he is fully healthy, however, Garcon still remains a terrible start. I dare you, try and argue that Garcon's the leading target for RGIII. He did have the team lead with seven last week after all. That's all well and good. Now tell me, how many of those did he catch? Just three. After starting the season eight for eight on catches, last week started to show a regression to the mean for Garcon. In his three previous seasons, his only three with signifcant playing time for the Colts, Garcon never reached the league-average 60% catch rate. He never even got close. His 57% rate in 2010 with Peyton Manning (aka one of the most accurate QBs of all time) starting to get to that mark, but he regressed once again to 52% with Painter last season. Griffin has been accurate so far this season, but it means nothing if you can't catch the ball. And judging from history, that's exactly the problem with Garcon.