Thankfully, the Week 6 schedule features fewer obvious mismatches than Week 5 did. Here are my recommendations:
Houston at Cincinnati - The Texans may have lost a heartbreaker last weekend in Arizona, but you certainly can’t blame WR Andre Johnson, who acquitted himself well in his personal battle with Cardinals’ WR Larry Fitzgerald for the unofficial title of “Best Wide Receiver in the NFL”. Unfortunately for Houston, their road trip continues this week with a game against the Bengals’ vastly improved run defense, which has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards per game so far this season. Combine that with the Texans’ inability to run the ball so far, and you can expect QB Matt Schaub to be putting the ball in the air 45-50 times. Predictably, pinball-like scores may result. Texans to start this week include Schaub, RB Steve Slaton (who figures to play a big part in the passing game), TE Owen Daniels, WRs Johnson & Kevin Walter, and K Kris Brown. WR Jacoby Jones can also be started in deeper leagues. Bengals to start against the Texans’ subpar defense include rejuvenated QB Carson Palmer, RB Cedric Benson, WR Chad Ochocinco, and K Shayne Graham. WRs Laveranues Coles & Andre Caldwell can also be started in deeper leagues.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh - You had to wonder how focused the Browns were heading into their game last week against the Bills. First, the Browns traded the troubled but talented Braylon Edwards midweek. Then Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan made ill-advised comments about the Bengals’ game-winning overtime field goal the previous week (the outlandish gene must run in the family). Surprisingly, the Browns were able to pull it together and defeat the equally inept Buffalo Bills 6-3. The resurgent RB Jamal Lewis (Questionable-hamstring) and his teammates will try to build a winning streak against a Steelers’ defense that suffered another blow this week when DE Aaron Smith was lost for the rest of the season with a torn rotator cuff. Still, I would recommend not starting Lewis or any other Browns this week. If you play in a deep league and are truly desperate, then go ahead and take a chance on QB Derek “2 for 17″ Anderson and WR Mohamed Massaquoi, who probably wishes Edwards were still around to attract some of the defensive attention he’ll now be facing weekly. Steelers to start include QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, TE Heath Miller, WRs Hines Ward & Santonio Holmes, K Jeff Reed, and the Defense. Do not start RB Willie Parker (Probable-toe).
St. Louis at Jacksonville - Speaking of bad teams facing distractions, it appears that talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s dream to become a part-owner of the Rams is DOA. The good news for the Rams is that they’re facing a struggling Jaguars team that was shut out by the Seahawks last week. Jacksonville has shown an inability to stop the pass this season, so count on Rams’ QB Marc Bulger to take to the air early and often. Rams to start this week include Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, TE Randy McMichael, WR Donnie Avery, and K Josh Brown. The Jaguars should find the Rams’ defense equally accommodating, so make sure that QB David Garrard, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, TE Marcedes Lewis, WRs Mike Sims-Walker & Torry Holt, and K Josh Scobee are in starting lineups this week.
Kansas City at Washington - From the fun but useless information department comes this interesting tidbit: the Redskins are the first team in NFL history to play their first six games against teams that were winless at the time. Even if you’re not impressed by the fact that the Giants were winless going into their first game of the season, when you realize that the Redskins are just 2-3 in spite of this favorable schedule, it’s easy to see why many are down on Head Coach Jim Zorn. At the risk of going out on a long limb, I predict the Redskins will get back to .500 by winning “the battle of the teams with politically incorrect Native American-related names”. Chiefs to start include RB Larry Johnson and WR Dwayne Bowe. Add QB Matt Cassel, RB Jamaal Charles, and TE Sean Ryan to the list if you’re in a deep league. Redskins to start include QB Jason Campbell, RB Clinton Portis (Questionable-calf), TE Chris Cooley, WR Santana Moss, K Shaun Suisham, and the Defense.
Carolina at Tampa Bay - Panthers’ QB Jake Delhomme is suffering through a brutal season so far - the completion percentage isn’t bad, but the TD/INT (3/8) ratio is the opposite of what you’d want to see. Still, Delhomme has proved in the past that he has a sense of humor, so hopefully he’s still optimistic about his chances to build on his team’s come-from-behind victory over the Redskins last week. Panthers to start this week include Delhomme, RBs DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart (Questionable-Achilles’), WR Steve Smith, K John Kasay, and the Defense. Add WR Muhsin Muhammed to the list if you’re in a deep league. RB Cadillac Williams is the only Buccaneer I’d start this week, although if you’re in a deep league, QB Josh Johnson and RB Derrick Ward are also worth considering. Do not start RB Earnest Graham (Probable-hamstring) or WR Antonio Bryant (Questionable-knee).
New York Giants at New Orleans - It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been four years since the last time the Giants were scheduled to play in New Orleans. Sadly, Hurricane Katrina reminded us all of the relative insignificance of a football game. Although the contest was moved to the Meadowlands, the Saints wore their home jerseys that night, and the Saints generally appreciated the outpouring of emotion directed their way (well, maybe not Joe Horn, perhaps because there weren’t any cellphones in the goalposts). While these two undefeated teams both feature a number of offensive weapons, I expect the defenses to dominate in this game. The Giants’ Defense should be started, but QB Eli Manning (Questionable-foot), RBs Brandon Jacobs & Ahmad Bradshaw (Questionable-ankle/foot), and WR Steve Smith should be started only by those without more favorable options this weekend. The only Saints to start include RB Pierre Thomas (Questionable-hamstring), TE Jeremy Shockey, and the Defense. That’s right - I’d leave QB Drew Brees, RB Reggie Bush, and WRs Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, & Robert Meachem on the bench this weekend unless you have no other options.
Baltimore at Minnesota - Hard as it may be to believe now, there was a time last winter when it appeared possible that Ravens’ LB Ray Lewis and Vikings’ QB Brett Favre would be teammates. Instead, Lewis and his mates will spend Sunday afternoon trying to chase down the 40-year-old legend, who’s 5-0 for the first time in his illustrious career. Fortunately for Lewis and the rest of the Ravens, second-year QB Joe Flacco has played at a high level this season and should be in lineups this weekend. Other Ravens to start include RB Ray Rice, TE Todd Heap, and WRs Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton. Leave RB William McGehee on your bench this weekend. Vikings to start include Favre, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, and WR Bernard Berrian. RB Chester Taylor and WRs Sidney Rice & Percy Harvin can also be started in deeper leagues. No, you’re not missing anything - I would advise against starting All-Universe RB Adrian Peterson this weekend because I don’t think he’ll be successful running the ball against the Ravens’ defense (yes, I believe Cedric Benson’s performance against the same defense last weekend was a fluke).
Detroit at Green Bay - For a number of years the Lions have served as one of the NFL’s laughingstocks. That seems to be changing in a hurry. Two weeks ago they ended their 19-game losing streak. Last week they gave the defending Super Bowl champions a competitive game. QB Matthew Stafford (Questionable-knee), RB Kevin Smith, TE Brandon Pettigrew (Probable-hamstring), and WR Calvin Johnson (Questionable-thigh) form an exciting young core group of players. If Stafford and Johnson are healthy enough to play this week, the Lions may also give the Packers a run for their money. Lions to start this week include Smith, Pettigrew, Johnson, and K Jason Hanson. If he plays, add Stafford to the list in deeper leagues, along with WR Brandon Johnson. If Stafford isn’t able to play, substitute backup QB Daunte Culpepper’s name for Stafford’s in the previous sentence. Packers worth starting include QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ryan Grant, WRs Greg Jennings & Donald Driver, and K Mason Crosby. Add TEs Jermichael Finley & Donald Lee to the list in deeper leagues.
Philadelphia at Oakland - Raiders’ QB JaMarcus Russell is often accused of being overweight, which gives him something in common with former Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton. The Raiders have looked like the worst team in the NFL so far this season, and that doesn’t figure to change this week. Eagles to start include QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, TE Brent Celek (Probable-knee), WR DeSean Jackson, K David Akers, and the Defense. I would not recommend starting any Raiders this week, no matter how deep your league is.
Arizona at Seattle - Tim Hasselbeck is best known as a career backup QB, the co-host of ESPN’s Sunday morning fantasy football show, and the husband of The View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Older brother Matt Hasselbeck has put together an underappreciated career as the Seahawks quarterback. Hasselbeck showed no signs of being affected by his broken ribs last week during Seattle’s whitewashing of Jacksonville, so this game figures to be an aerial shootout. Cardinals to start include QB Kurt Warner, WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, & Steve Breaston (Questionable-knee), and K Neil Rackers. RB Tim Hightower can be started in deeper leagues. I would leave RB Chris Wells on the bench until Arizona gets him more involved in their running game. Seahawks to start include Hasselbeck (Probable-ribs), TE John Carlson, WRs T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Nate Burleson (Questionable-back), and K Olindo Mare.
Tennessee at New England - Surprisingly, I haven’t seen anyone yet referring to the Titans as the best 0-5 team in NFL history. Tennessee has officially crossed the point of no return for its 2009 season, and their struggles figure to continue this weekend against the Patriots. Even if Head Coach Jeff Fisher were to switch quarterbacks this week, the only Titan I’d start this weekend is RB Chris Johnson. The Patriots may not be able to run much against Tennessee, so don’t spend time trying to figure out whether RB Sammy Morris will continue to get more carries than RB Laurence Maroney - neither should be in your lineup this week. However, there are a number of Patriots who should be started Sunday: QB Tom Brady (Probable-shoulder
really?!?), WRs Randy Moss & Wes Welker (Questionable-knee), K Stephen Gostkowski, and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues should also consider starting RB Kevin Faulk and TE Ben Watson.
Buffalo at New York Jets - Sign of the times: you know an NFL coach is officially on the hot seat when a website with the URL “FireJohnDoe.com” springs up. Bills’ Head Coach Dick Jauron, you are officially on the hot seat (no need to thank me - I do it as a public service). There are no Bills I consider must-starts this week, although if you’re in a deeper league RBs Fred Jackson & Marshawn Lynch and the Defense can be started. Jets worth starting include RBs Thomas Jones & Leon Washington, TE Dustin Keller, WR Braylon Edwards, and the Defense. I would stay away from QB Mark Sanchez and WR Jericho Cotchery (Questionable-hamstring) in this matchup.
Chicago at Atlanta - If the football thing doesn’t work out for Falcons’ WR Roddy White, I’m sure Ringling Bros. would hire him as an acrobat. White is also an arbiter of opponents’ celebrations, as he cut short a premature one in last week’s game by 49er Dre’ Bly. I don’t think the Bears will be celebrating at the end of their Sunday night showdown with the Falcons, but they still have a number of start-worthy options this week: QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, TE Garrett Olsen, and K Robbie Gould. Those in deeper leagues can also try to sort through the Bears’ mess at wide receiver and start Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, or Earl Bennett. Falcons to start include QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Roddy White, and K Jason Elam (Probable-hamstring). RB Jerious Norwood and WR Michael Jenkins can also be started in deeper leagues.
Denver at San Diego - Some throwback jerseys are undeniably classy. Then there are the monstrosities worn last weekend by the Broncos in their game last week against the Patriots. Thankfully, unlike ice skating, there are no points deducted in the NFL for “presentation”. In spite of the talented offensive players on both teams, I’m predicting this game will be a defensive struggle. The only Broncos I’d start would be RB Knowshon Moreno and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues can also start QB Kyle Orton and WRs Brandon Marshall & Eddie Royal. The only Chargers I’d start would be TE Antonio Gates and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues can also start QB Philip Rivers and WR Vincent Jackson. I would avoid Charger RBs LaDainian Tomlinson & Darren Sproles.
Good luck to your teams this weekend!
Until next time,
Fantasy Football Sherpa
The Sherpa’s Fantasy Football Blog
@fantasy_sherpa on Twitter
Fantasy Football Sherpa’s fan page on Facebook