Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 6

If Calvin Johnson doesn't play, should you trust Matthew Stafford against the Vikings in Week 6?

I watched fantasy football in real life last Sunday. My fiancée and I had friends in from out of town - Bears fans - and we went to Chicago's game here in Charlotte to watch the two desperately-needing-a-win teams battle it out.

I'm a Steeler fan, so I had no rooting interest in the contest. I got sunburned, filled myself up with beer and saw Jay Cutler do IDGAF things. All while watching Marc Trestman's team score me fantasy points.

Like I said, it was seeing fantasy football in real life.

That same Bears team has a juicy matchup in Week 6, too. Let's start there.


Start Jay Cutler - Smokin' Jay just puts up fantasy points. It's what he does. Through five games, he's the fourth-best fake football quarterback, and has yet to score south of 16 fantasy points. Despite the fact that he ranks 25th in the NFL with a Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) total of 9.08, Cutler's doing work. Mostly because fantasy football doesn't hate turnovers like the real game does.

Week 6 features Cutler against the Falcons, who rank 25th against the pass according to our metrics. He'll turn the ball over, but he should also score points.

Sit Cam Newton - Newton's actually been relatively decent in terms of NEP this year, but has thrown more than one touchdown pass in just one game, coming last Sunday against the Bears. He'll face the Bengals this week in Cincinnati, a team that ranks third in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points and third in fantasy points against to quarterbacks. No thanks.

Start Eli Manning - The Giants schedule continues to be favorable for their offense, and they'll face the Eagles this week. Though Philadelphia is highly ranked within our Net Expected Points pass defense metric, it's mostly because they've scored on a lot of turnovers this year. The fact is, they remain a perfect matchup for fantasy quarterbacks, having allowed at least two passing touchdowns in every game this season.

Because of the fast pace of their games, teams often will run more plays than usual against Philadelphia. In fact, the Eagles are first in the league in passing plays against (tied with Jacksonville), and fourth in running plays against. That's good for fantasy purposes, as fake football is a cumulative, volume-driven game.

Sit Matthew Stafford - Matthew Stafford playing without Calvin Johnson hasn't happened as often as you may think. Because of his own injury woes, he's only been without Megatron three times during his career. In those games, Stafford's averaged just 0.67 touchdowns and a little over 200 passing yards.

It's a small sample size, but even decoy Megatron is hurting Stafford, who only had 11 fantasy points in Week 5. Against a Minnesota secondary that's been middle-of-the-pack this year, I wouldn't take a risk with a Calvin Johnson-less Matthew Stafford this week.

Other Players to Start: Brian Hoyer, Joe Flacco
Other Players to Sit: Mike Glennon, Teddy Bridgewater

Running Back

Start Ben Tate - Tate rebounded well from his injury, running for 123 yards on 22 carries against the Titans last week. He's been the best Browns runner this year, and will continue to be the lead back on the eighth-most run-heavy team in the league.

In Week 1, Tate and the Browns ran all over the Steelers, and he'll get an opportunity - hopefully for a full game this time - to do it again. He should be in store for a big week.

Sit Zac Stacy - Stacy's dealing with a calf injury, but should be good to go against San Francsico on Monday. With that being said, the 49ers rank second in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and ninth according to our metrics. Considering he may not be 100 percent for the game, there's reason to bench him if you have better options.

Start Bishop Sankey - Sankey actually played the most snaps at running back for the Titans last week, but failed to get as many touches as Shonn Greene in Week 5. The reasoning behind that isn't very logical, as Sankey has far outperformed any Titans running back, per our NEP metrics, so far this year.

Greene missed Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury, giving Sankey a little more appeal this week. He'll also be going against Jacksonville, a team that's surrendered the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season.

Sit Alfred Morris - Morris wasn't stellar against the Seahawks on Monday night, running the ball 13 times for a weak 29 yards. On the year, he ranks 26th of the 37 running backs with 40 or more carries in Rushing NEP.

Week 6 brings another tough matchup, as he faces a Cardinals front that ranks in the top five against the run according to our metrics, and is first in points against to the running back position. Like Stacy, if you have a fill-in, feel free to use him over Morris.

Start Branden Oliver - Oliver's performance last week against one of the league's best run-stuffing units was impressive. His matchup this week is easier, facing a Raiders defense that's middle-of-the-pack against the run this year. If last week's performance is any indication, Oliver should have a nice week. Beware though: we've seen the Chargers rushing offense disappoint this year, and the unit ranks third-to-last on a per play basis according to our metrics. Oliver is still risky.

Other Players to Start: Fred Jackson, Lamar Miller
Other Players to Sit: Terrance West, Matt Asiata

Wide Receiver

Start Steve Smith - Smiff finally had a down game in Week 5, catching five balls for 34 yards against the Colts. This week's matchup pegs him against the league's worst secondary, and one that's allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Smith should get right back on track.

Sit Andre Johnson - Andre Johnson still hasn't found the end zone this year, and it may be tough for that to happen in Week 6. The Colts secondary has actually played well, ranking third in fantasy points allowed to wideouts this year and fifth according to the advanced analytics. Corner Vontae Davis is playing great (he's the reason Steve Smith didn't have a strong outing last week), and there's no reason to risk playing a wideout against him right now.

Start Anquan Boldin - In two games against the Rams last year, Anquan Boldin caught 16 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. With Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis hurting, Boldin could continue his hot streak against St. Louis, who haven't done a sound job defending number-two wideouts this year.

Sit Sammy Watkins - Though Watkins was solid against a really good Lions defense last week, Week 6 brings on an even tougher test against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots. New England not only has allowed the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, but they rank third against the pass according to our metrics. Though Watkins was still alright with Kyle Orton under center last week, I wouldn't trust him in this one.

Start Markus Wheaton - Wheaton's not the most interesting fantasy football play, but if there's a game to use him, it's this one. In Week 1, the Steelers number-two wideout caught six passes for 97 yards against Cleveland, both his season highs. The Browns secondary is fifth-worst in the NFL according to our metrics, and we should expect the Steelers to take advantage of that.

Other Players to Start: Roddy White, Golden Tate
Other Players to Sit: Riley Cooper, Cordarrelle Patterson

Tight End

Start Owen Daniels - Daniels has 13 targets in the two games with Dennis Pitta sidelined, and has the luxury of facing the Buccaneers this week. As I said, the Bucs secondary is ranked dead last in the league according to our metrics, and that's translated into tight end defense, where they rank 26th. They've also allowed 20 tight end receptions over the last two weeks. Daniels has nice upside this week.

Sit Zach Ertz - We thought he'd breakout this year, but Ertz still hasn't caught more than four passes in a game, and his lone touchdown came all the way back in Week 1. The truth is, the Eagles like to spread the ball around, and Brent Celek has seen close to the number of snaps as Ertz.

The Giants have actually defended tight ends best in the NFL this year, which makes Ertz that much less appealing of a play.

Start Luke Willson - If you need a deep option, I'm not opposed to going with Luke "Double L" Willson against Dallas. Admittedly, the Cowboys have performed better than I - and most of us - thought they would defensively this year. But they've been terrible against tight ends outside of last week versus Houston, allowing six scores to the position. I expect Russell Wilson to exploit the middle of the field, making Willson - who played about 95% of snaps last week against Washington - an interesting sleeper.

Other Players to Start: Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker
Other Players to Sit: Charles Clay, Jared Cook


Start the San Diego Chargers - San Diego ranks third in defensive scoring this year, so their standalone value is solid to begin with. They'll face Oakland though this week, who have turned the ball over at least once in every game since Week 1. The Chargers are rolling, and that should continue in Week 6.

Sit the Chicago Bears - The Bears are 13th this year in terms of fantasy points scored, so some owners may be tempted to use them. Don't. Not in Atlanta against our top-rated offense. Stay far, far away.

Other Defenses to Start: Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos
Other Defenses to Sit: Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins