With bye weeks upon us and injuries causing chaos around the NFL, there are plenty of players we must consider starting that we normally may not have. Most of my recommended Week 6 starts listed below are players I would not have dreamt of listing here in Week 1. And just think – we still have 12 more weeks to go!
Whatever your situation, you must take matchups into account. Sure, some players are theoretically matchup-proof. But those players are few and far between. Below are players at each position who I would recommend starting or sitting based primarily on their Week 6 matchups. In some cases, it is a specific team I am looking to attack or avoid. In others, it may be an individual that influences my recommendation. As always, I primarily gear these towards 12-team half-PPR leagues, so adjust as you see fit based on your league settings and roster configuration.
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Week 6 Start and Sit Recommendations for Fantasy Football
Quarterback to Start
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Football Team vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Taylor Heinicke is the overall QB12 in his four starts since taking over for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick. And last week was the only one in which he failed to finish as a top-12 fantasy quarterback. I expect him to get back to that level this week when Washington hosts the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs defense has the eighth-worst DVOA through five games in Football Outsiders’ evaluations. I don’t mean eighth-worst this season. I mean eighth-worst all-time. Keep in mind that DVOA was first tracked in 1983. They haven’t been much better from a fantasy perspective. The Chiefs allow the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks of any team in the NFL. This game has all the makings of a shootout given each team’s offensive potential and defensive struggles.
Part of Kansas City’s problem in containing quarterback production revolves around their inability to limit mobile quarterbacks. Kansas City has given up 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns to the position. In fairness, that will happen when you face Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and Josh Allen. But Heinicke can make plays with his legs as well as his arm. He has quietly stacked consecutive 40-plus yard rushing games together. I would pay close attention to the status of wide receiver Terry McLaurin as we get closer to kickoff. He did not practice on Friday and is questionable for Sunday’s contest. If he suits up, it’s all systems a-go for Heinicke and the Football Team’s offense. Heinicke offered up a top-five finish two weeks ago, and I see him having similar upside in this matchup.
Quarterbacks to Sit
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Aaron Rodgers has long since put his nightmarish Week 1 outing behind him. The Packers have won four straight and Rodgers is the overall QB8 in fantasy points over that stretch. However, I suspect he may have some issues reaching that level of production in Week 6. Rodgers has been his usual highly efficient self, but volume has not been his friend. His 163 pass attempts are just 21st among signal-callers this season. When Green Bay faces an opponent that can match them in pace and on the scoreboard, Rodgers is always a threat for a top-five fantasy performance. But this does not appear to be one of those weeks for the reigning NFL MVP.
Green Bay will be facing the Chicago Bears this week. The Bears have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks this season. Part of the reason for that they play at a very slow pace and they run the football more than most clubs. Chicago has run the fifth-fewest plays in the NFL and the second-fewest in the three games started by Justin Fields. Chicago has made a concerted effort to take the air out of the ball with Fields at the helm. The rookie quarterback has attempted just 60 passes in those three games. Rodgers may be held to 30 pass attempts or fewer through no fault of his own. That makes him a bit of a risk as a fantasy starter this week. I don’t doubt he will be productive on a per-dropback basis. But the lack of volume makes him a sit in my view.
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers vs. Minnesota Vikings
As a fan of the New York Jets, I have watched with masochistic amusement and bewilderment as Sam Darnold entered Week 5 with a 3-1 record and as a top-five fantasy quarterback. But I started to see glimpses of the quarterback I recognized late in Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys, and that continued last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Darnold seemed to struggle as he faced more pressure in the pocket. Unfortunately, that has been an issue throughout the 24-year old’s NFL career. For the record, I think he will improve in this area as his career progresses, and I am rooting for him to do so. At present, though, this remains a hole in his game and is the main reason I cannot recommend starting him this week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota has recorded 17 quarterback sacks so far this season. The Vikings are tied for the most in the NFL in that category. They have been a little lucky in that regard when you consider that they are in the middle of the pack in terms of opposing quarterbacks’ average time to throw (2.54 seconds) and to be pressured (2.46). But Carolina has not been the most efficient pass protection unit either. Darnold has been hit and hurried at the 10th-highest rate in the NFL. He can take advantage against Minnesota’s secondary if given ample time to throw. I just don’t know if that will be the case. And of course, I have to mention that the Panthers quarterback will not continue to average a rushing touchdown per game. He has a lower floor than most quarterbacks in his range, so I would prefer to sit him if possible.
Running Backs to Start
Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills @ Tennessee Titans
When the Buffalo Bills made Zack Moss a healthy scratch in Week 1, I did not think he would be a fantasy RB2 heading into Week 6. But the team seemed to be sending a message with that benching that the second-year back received loud and clear. Moss has at least 90 total yards or a touchdown in all four of the games he has played in this season. He seems to now have a leg up on Devin Singletary in Buffalo’s backfield hierarchy. The Bills gave Singletary 16 opportunities to Moss’ 10 in Week 2. But since then, the script has been flipped. Moss has gotten 44 opportunities in the last three weeks, compared to 36 for Singletary. This trend makes Moss the preferred start this week when Buffalo travels to Tennessee for a Monday night matchup with the Titans.
Quarterback Josh Allen is always a threat to keep the ball himself in the red zone. But Moss is a solid bet to get into the end zone this week. Moss has nine carries inside the 10-yard line this year, which is sixth-most among NFL running backs. Three of those totes have come inside the five, with two of those resulting in touchdowns. Tennessee has faced 11 rushing attempts inside the five, which is tied for the fourth-highest number in the league. Opponents have scored on six of the 11 for a rate of 55 percent. That is tied for the sixth-highest mark in the NFL. Given his increased role in a high-powered offense and his comparatively high chances of scoring a touchdown, Zack Moss makes for a solid Week 6 start.
Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
The same logic that applied in my reasoning as to why I would sit Aaron Rodgers makes Khalil Herbert a recommended start for me this week. The Bears ran 37 times versus 21 passes in last week’s victory in Las Vegas. Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert split touches last week, with each getting 18. The pair had combined for just 29 opportunities through four weeks, as David Montgomery was shouldering the load before his untimely injury. It certainly seems like Chicago is willing to trust their running game more than their passing attack being led by rookie quarterback Justin Fields, regardless of which backs are at their disposal. That theory will be put to the test now that Williams is out due to a positive Covid-19 test.
To his credit, Herbert is more than “just a guy”. He showed flashes towards the end of his collegiate career. Herbert posted a 91.3 rushing grade last season according to Pro Football Focus. He had the fourth-most yards after contact (734) and sixth-most carries of 15-plus yards (19) among FBS running backs despite having just 155 carries on the season. Herbert should lead a ragtag crew on Sunday that includes Ryan Nall and little else. Provided that Chicago can keep this game close, Herbert is almost assured of eclipsing 20 touches. The volume alone makes Herbert an intriguing RB2 or Flex depending on your other options. And he has the skills to turn that volume into sizable production against a Packers defense that has ceded six touchdowns on just 130 touches to opposing running backs this year.
Running Back to Sit
Damien Harris, New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys
I listed Damien Harris as a start last week, and he was inches away from a top-16 fantasy finish. Instead, an eight-point swing on a goal-line fumble resulted in Harris finishing outside the top-30 on the week. Coulda woulda shoulda. This was Harris’ second lost fumble on the young season, with both coming inside the red zone. That is not going to endear him to fantasy managers or the Patriots’ coaching staff. The good news is that Bill Belichick did not completely put Harris on ice after the fumble. But Harris suffered a rib injury shortly thereafter, and Rhamondre Stevenson saw a career-high 11 carries as a result. Harris should be cleared to play on Sunday, but one has to wonder whether New England will trust him with a full workload given his fumbling issues.
His Week 6 matchup is not exactly the best on paper either. The Dallas Cowboys have allowed 273 rushing yards to opposing running backs this season. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have given up fewer yards on the ground. To be fair, the Cowboys have faced the fewest rushing attempts of any team in the NFL. So their yards allowed are based more on volume (or lack thereof) than pure defensive dominance and efficiency. Dallas has also allowed 250 receiving yards out of the backfield, which is tied for eighth-most in the league. But that is not an area I expect Harris to excel in. He has just seven receptions for 46 yards on the season. I still think Harris will see the most opportunities out of New England’s running backs this week. But the injury and matchup do not inspire a ton of confidence.
Wide Receivers to Start
Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills @ Tennessee Titans
I am going back to the well here with Emmanuel Sanders, who made me look smart last week. Sanders had two touchdowns in Buffalo’s impressive victory in Kansas City. It was his second such effort in the last three weeks. The veteran wideout now leads all Bills receivers in fantasy points per route run on the season. I mentioned last week that I liked Sanders in part because he was being targeted downfield. This week’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans is another in which Sanders can win in that area. Tennessee is in the bottom three teams in the NFL in several deep passing metrics, including completion percentage (57.1 percent, third-worst), yards (485, worst), touchdowns (four, tied for second-worst), and quarterback rating (121.5, tied for second-worst). It is no surprise then that the Titans allow 15.16 yards per catch to opposing wideouts. That is the second-highest in the NFL.
Tennessee’s corners have performed at a level better than most of these metrics would suggest. But I also would not go out of my way to avoid matchups with Janoris Jenkins or Kristian Fulton, either. Buffalo’s biggest advantage is up front. They give Josh Allen an average of 2.71 seconds to throw, the fifth-most in the league. Coincidentally, the Titans allow the fifth-highest mark at 2.67 seconds. That combination should give Allen time to find Sanders down the field. Allen has a 136.02 passer rating when targeting Sanders this season. That is one of the best marks among quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the NFL. Sanders has a secure role in one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NFL. That should be enough for fantasy managers to trust him as a WR3 in friendly matchups such as this one.
For those wondering, I would not worry that I have listed both Sanders and Zack Moss as Week 6 starts. Buffalo’s 29.5-point implied total is the second-highest of the week, so there is plenty of meat on the bone for both players to be productive. Buffalo has run 346 offensive plays through five games. The only team with more? That would be the Tennessee Titans with 366. This is a game that should be played at a fast pace and feature plenty of scoring. Buffalo has plenty of mouths to feed offensively, but I would certainly not shy away from using Moss or Sanders given the potential payoff.
Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals @ Detroit Lions
Ja’Marr Chase has set the fantasy landscape ablaze in his first five NFL games. The dynamic rookie out of LSU is the overall WR7 in half-PPR scoring entering Week 6. And while he is likely to have another big day on Sunday, the other Bengals’ wide receivers should not be ignored. Cincinnati’s wide receiver matchups against the cornerbacks on the Detroit Lions are arguably the most advantageous in the league. Of the 110 cornerbacks graded by Pro Football Focus, outside corner Amani Oruwariye ranks 97th, and slot corner AJ Parker ranks 101st. Jerry Jacobs has not yet played enough snaps to qualify, but his overall grade would also put him outside of the top-90. Joe Burrow should be able to pick and choose which individual matchup he wants to exploit at any given moment.
Chase is the best bet for a big play, but Higgins and Boyd should routinely win underneath. Burrow has completed 73.7 percent of his passes when targeting Higgins and Boyd. Head coach Zac Taylor has indicated that running back Joe Mixon is in line for a full workload after receiving just 11 opportunities last week. But he should want to keep Mixon fresh for a Week 7 date in Baltimore with the Ravens rather than run him into the ground in this game. It may be difficult for all three Bengals receivers to exceed value this week if Cincinnati continues to play at their current pace of 57 offensive plays per contest. However, both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd figure to be highly effective and efficient this week. I would start both in all formats and give them a bump in PPR leagues.
Wide Receiver to Sit
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
Listen, I get a bunch of calls wrong every week. It comes with the territory. One thing that I have gotten right, however, is consistently fading Allen Robinson. It appears most are finally getting with the program, as his consensus rank is outside the top-30. For me though, that is still too high given the circumstances. He is currently the WR63 on the season in half-PPR scoring. Kadarius Toney had more receiving yards last week than Allen Robinson has on the year. 15 tight ends have more receiving yards than Robinson this season. One of them is Rob Gronkowski, who hasn’t suited up since September.
And as I mentioned last week, Robinson’s lack of productivity is virtually through no fault of his own. He is still a high-level talent at the wide receiver position. The Chicago Bears just don’t seem to care. They have exhibited very little faith in trusting their offense to Justin Fields, which renders Robinson an afterthought. Sure, he catches a break with the recent shoulder injury to Packers standout corner Jaire Alexander. But does it really matter if they refuse to feature him in the offense? I don’t think it does. I’d be willing to let him burn me from my bench this week if I had him. If he manages to post his first double-digit fantasy game of 2021, so be it. Don’t worry – I promise to list someone else here next week, regardless of what Allen Robinson does against Green Bay.
Tight End to Start
Ricky Seals-Jones, Washington Football Team vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Among the many areas in which Kansas City is struggling defensively is defending opposing tight ends. The Chiefs have allowed an NFL-high 466 receiving yards to opposing tight ends through five weeks. That might not be so bad, except that tight ends have only been targeted 38 times against them. Dawson Knox was the latest tight end to rip them apart. And while Knox has been a revelation in the first part of the year, he had almost exclusively done his damage underneath. At least, until he played the Chiefs last week. Knox had just one catch of at least 20 yards coming into last Sunday night’s game. But all three of his grabs went for 23 or more yards as he posted a 3-117-1 line on Kansas City. That could be a good sign when it comes to Ricky Seals-Jones this week as he faces the same matchup.
Like Knox, Seals-Jones has mostly been featured near the line of scrimmage this season. Still, his 7.31 aDOT puts him in the top half of NFL tight ends. He ran a route on 87 percent of Washington’s dropbacks last week, per Pro Football Focus. I imagine that number will remain in that neighborhood in what should be a high-scoring affair in the nation’s capital. There could also be a bit of a revenge narrative here, as the Chiefs waived Seals-Jones in January. With Logan Thomas on the shelf and Terry McLaurin likely playing at less than 100 percent, Ricky Seals-Jones could be in for a couple of extra looks this week. In a matchup as good as this one, that warrants starting consideration in most leagues and formats.
Tight Ends to Sit
Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens
A quick look at fantasy points against shows that the Baltimore Ravens have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. But we must dig a little deeper to get the full story. Have you heard of Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson, and Noah Fant? Because those are tight ends Baltimore faced in their first four games. So yes, they have allowed a fair amount of fantasy points to the position. So would every other defense in the NFL if they had to go through that gauntlet. I do not feel we should hold their raw tight end totals against them considering the quality of competition they have faced. Safety Chuck Clark ranks fourth in yards allowed per route covered (0.52) and third in PFF’s defensive grade (75.9). This is a much tougher matchup than it appears on paper for Cook.
I also worry about Cook’s role in the offense as presently constituted. Justin Herbert has targeted the veteran tight end on just 13 of his 119 attempts over his last three games. Meanwhile, Donald Parham is seemingly becoming a bigger part of the Chargers’ plans. He has caught a touchdown pass in back-to-back games. I would not go so far as to declare this a full-blown timeshare yet, but I would not be surprised to see Parham continue to cut into Cook’s workload. This feels like a game in which both Cook’s matchup and expected role may be less fantasy-friendly than they seem at first glance. I would not trust Jared Cook this week, and I would probably look to sell with the Chargers preparing for a Week 7 bye. They may feature Parham even more moving forward.
Hunter Henry, New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys
Hunter Henry has been the preferred Patriots tight end option in recent weeks. The former Charger has been on a bit of a heater recently. He has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games. Henry has also dominated in routes run in that timeframe compared to fellow New England tight end Jonnu Smith. Henry ran a route on 60 percent of dropbacks in Week 4 and 67 percent last week. Smith, meanwhile, has been trending in the opposite direction. He ran a route on 34 percent of dropbacks two weeks ago, and on just 18 percent of dropbacks in Week 5. While I do believe that Henry is the Patriots’ tight end most likely to lead the way in most weeks, I expect his production to dip a little bit this week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Henry benefited from facing favorable matchups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans over the last two weeks. Both teams rank in the top-eight in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. The Dallas Cowboys are not exactly a steel trap when it comes to tight end production. They have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to the position on the season. But safety Jayron Kearse has been a top-10 player both in yards per route covered and defensive grade. He has also covered the third-most routes (186), so the sample size is significant. This feels like a matchup that can range from neutral to below-average for Hunter Henry. I do not mind running him out there if necessary, but expecting a third straight TE1 performance feels like a losing proposition.
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