Hello, Week 6. Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes, as these are players I’ll likely have some exposure to over the weekend.
Start of the Week: Deshaun Watson vs. Browns: Since taking over as the starter in Week 2, Watson is the overall QB1, with a 7.4-point lead over Tom Brady in that span. However, some remain skeptical of Watson. Sure, he can be a great fantasy player and mid-level real-life quarterback, but we really only care about the fake football stuff here. Watson did a heck of a lot of his damage in the final quarter of last week’s loss to the Chiefs, but he was dealing and did so the previous two games against the Patriots and Titans in wins. Houston is at home for the third-straight week on Sunday and welcome in Cleveland’s bottom-barrel pass defense. The Browns are the definition of a pass-funnel defense, as in they struggle badly against the pass (31st in DVOA and 28th in fantasy points allowed to QBs) while performing well against the run (3rd in DVOA and 10th in fantasy points to RBs). Jacoby Brissett managed the overall QB4 finish against the Browns in Week 3, and Andy Dalton followed that up as the QB3 in Week 4. Josh McCown had his best finish of the season (QB14) last week in Cleveland. This is just a delicious spot for Watson with his arsenal stocked and loaded at home in a dome with the Texans sporting the third-highest implied total of Week 6 at 28.25 points. Watson should be planted in season-long lineups and will be very high-owned in DFS.
Carson Palmer vs. Bucs: Palmer and the Cardinals opened the season with 3-of-5 games on the road in the eastern time zone with 1 PM ET starts. That’s tough for West Coast clubs, and Arizona predictably comes out of that five-game stretch with a 2-3 record. Palmer hasn’t been bad, but he also hasn’t been great. He’s the QB17 in points per game and the QB12 overall. The Cardinals have left numerous touchdowns on the board and flopped again in a plus spot last week at Philadelphia. But coming back home, where Arizona plays three of its next four and six of eight, Palmer has a chance to right the ship a bit with the Bucs. Like the Browns above, Tampa Bay is an extreme pass-funnel defense. The Bucs are 27th in pass-defense DVOA and 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, while checking in at 6th in DVOA versus the run and allow just 3.27 YPC to running backs. This plays right into Arizona’s hands offensively. The Cardinals are the most pass-happy team in the league at 71.1% pass plays to 29.9% runs. Palmer has attempted 25 more passes than second-place Eli Manning. Palmer has also been sacked a league-high 19 times. Still, this one looks like a potential shootout with a rising 45-point total and two-point spread in favor of the road Bucs. Palmer’s schedule gets really tough after Week 6 — vs. LAR in London, BYE, @ SF, vs. SEA, @ HOU, vs. JAX, vs. LAR — before getting the Titans, Redskins, and Giants in Weeks 13-16. This may be the last week to use Palmer confidently as a streaming option before December.
Matt Ryan vs. Dolphins: Predicted by some over summer, Ryan has regressed badly after his MVP season last year. He is currently the QB20 in fantasy points per game, scoring less than Case Keenum, Jared Goff, and Trevor Siemian, among others. Ryan has just one multi-touchdown game and threw five interceptions across the two games leading up to last week’s bye. Just 3.7% of Ryan’s passes have resulted in touchdowns, which is well below his career average of 4.7% and a long way off from his absurd 2016 mark of 7.1%. Ryan is due for a progression to the mean. He gets a tasty home date with the Dolphins right out of the bye, and Miami is another one of those pass-funnel defenses. The Dolphins are 29th in pass-defense DVOA despite allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. That’s because they’ve faced Philip Rivers, Josh McCown, Drew Brees in London, and Matt Cassel to this point. Not exactly a murders’ row. With the highest projected team total of the week at 29 points, this looks like a get-right spot for Ryan, especially with Julio Jones fully expected back off his hip injury suffered in Week 4. Ryan is a surefire QB1 play Sunday.
Case Keenum vs. Packers: Sam Bradford re-injured his surgically-repaired left knee this past Monday night against the Bears and was benched late in the second quarter. Keenum came on to lead the Vikings to a win by completing 17-of-21 passes for 140 yards and a score. He’s yet to turn the ball over in 3.5 games of action and has a pair of strong games sandwiched around two mediocre outings. A home game against a Packers defense that was just shredded by Dak Prescott last week as the overall QB2 looks like a nice spot for Keenum to potentially squeak into top-12 territory for Week 6. I wanted to get a quarterback who might be on the free-agent wire in a lot of leagues mixed in here for those streaming the position, and Keenum fits the bill. With a 47-point total, Packers-Vikings has the third-highest total of the slate and a 3.5-point spread. Prescott was Green Bay’s first or second real test of the season after seeing Andy Dalton and Mike Glennon in Weeks 3 and 4. This Packers pass defense just isn’t very good and hasn’t been for a while. Keenum has 250-yards and two-touchdown upside who can also run a bit, which would put him in the QB1/2 convo. Personally, I would prefer Keenum over fellow streaming options Jacoby Brissett or Brian Hoyer, who are both coming off big games but going on the road to Tennessee and Washington, respectively.
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Ben Roethlisberger at Chiefs: It’s been a complete disaster for Big Ben and the Steelers’ pass offense through five weeks. Roethlisberger is the overall QB25 and is coming off a QB28 finish at home against the Jaguars where he threw five interceptions on 55 attempts. It left Big Ben openly wondering that “maybe I don’t have it anymore” after the game. He has since backtracked on that, but it’s pretty clear he’s no longer a mid-range QB1. The Chiefs haven’t been great against the pass by any means, allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, but it’s impossible to feel comfortable with Big Ben heading out on the road into Arrowhead. Antonio Brown could have a big day, as he should avoid CB Marcus Peters a lot of the time, but we’ve seen Brown have massive stat lines already this season only for Roethlisberger to still be bringing up the rear of fantasy quarterbacks. The 46-point total on Steelers-Chiefs seems a bit high. Pittsburgh’s offense is broken. The Chiefs are firing on all cylinders, but the Steelers’ defense has played well as a whole. This looks like a game to avoid outside of stars like Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Kareem Hunt, and Tyreek Hill.
Brian Hoyer at Redskins: Hoyer is coming off a QB7 finish against the Colts last week, easily his best game of the 49ers’ 0-5 start. The two best games of Hoyer’s career have both been in Indianapolis; with the Bears last season, Hoyer threw for 397 yards and two scores against the Colts. The matchup this week doesn’t look all that scary for Hoyer, especially with the Redskins missing CB Josh Norman (ribs, lung), but Washington is still No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA and middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Plus, this is on the road, and the Redskins shut down Derek Carr in D.C. back in Week 3. They also held leading MVP candidate Alex Smith to just one touchdown pass in Week 4 at Arrowhead. The loss of Norman hurts, but Washington has capable bodies on the back end and a strong pass rush up front. The 49ers’ implied team total of 18.25 points is the fourth-lowest of Week 6, and San Francisco is currently a 10-point underdog. Don’t chase the box score numbers from Hoyer last week. Leave him on the wire in most formats.
Eli Manning at Broncos: This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. Manning has been okay to this point as the overall QB10 and second in the league in pass attempts, but his pass-game arsenal was ripped to shreds last week after losing Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall to season-ending ankle injuries. Sterling Shepard also hurt his ankle in Week 5 against the Chargers and was in a walking boot Tuesday before not practicing Wednesday. Roger Lewis is the new No. 1 receiver followed by some combination of Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph, and Ed Eagan. Who? Exactly. Good luck taking that group into Denver and finding much success. Evan Engram is going to have to carry the pass offense. The Giants’ implied team total of 13.75 points is the lowest I’ve seen through six weeks of the season. Manning doesn’t stand a chance with these receivers behind this O-line.
Start of the Week: Mark Ingram vs. Lions: Gone is Adrian Peterson. He wasn’t playing much to begin with, but it just solidifies both Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara as the 1A and 1B in this Saints backfield. Ingram has yet to find the end zone this season as a runner or receiver, but his five red-zone carries do lead the team and Ingram is still a top-30 fantasy back in PPR points per game. Ingram has seen at least five targets in 3-of-4 games and received 28 total carries in the two games ahead of last week’s bye. That’s good enough volume to make things happen, especially in this offense and playing in the Superdome on Sunday. The Lions have been pretty stout on paper against the run, but they just lost DT Haloti Ngata to a torn biceps in Week 5 and haven’t really faced too many tough rushing attacks. David Johnson hurt his wrist against Detroit in Week 1, they faced the Giants’ nonexistent backfield Week 2, allowed 227 yards and one score to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in Week 3, Dalvin Cook tore his ACL in Week 4, and Christian McCaffrey was the RB13 in Week 5. Detroit has surrendered the fourth-most catches for the second-most yards to opposing running backs, making Kamara a fine RB3/FLEX play in PPR formats. Ingram is a locked-in RB2 in a game that features the highest total of the week at 50 points.
Jordan Howard at Ravens: After receiving a total of 24 carries in Weeks 1-2, Howard has seen at least 18 carries in every game since and is averaging 20 attempts for 89.7 yards in that span. Howard has reclaimed clear No. 1 duties after rookie Tarik Cohen was a two-week flash in the pan to open the year. The Bears are 6.5-point underdogs heading into Baltimore with the second-lowest implied team total of the week at 16.75 points, but putting the ball in Howard’s belly is probably the Bears’ best chance at keeping this one close. The matchup also bodes well for Howard. Baltimore is 22nd in run-defense DVOA and 25th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. On the flip side, the Ravens are second in pass-defense DVOA and ninth in fantasy points allowed through the air. With DT Brandon Williams (foot) missing the past three games, the Ravens have been shredded by Leonard Fournette (RB13), Le’Veon Bell (RB1), and Marshawn Lynch (RB20). Williams remained sidelined at practice on Wednesday. Even with game script pointing away from Howard, he’s still a must start due to his volume and role as the centerpiece of the offense. He should have had his league-leading fifth rushing touchdown last week against the Vikings, but the long score was called back on a weak holding penalty by C Cody Whitehair. Howard is a rock-solid RB2.
Elijah McGuire vs. Patriots: After playing 27.1% of the snaps in Week 4, McGuire was in on a team-high 68% of the offensive plays last week against the Browns. That had everything to do with Bilal Powell suffering a calf injury in the first half, but Powell didn’t practice Wednesday and is looking very doubtful for Sunday against New England. However, Matt Forte (toe), who has missed the past two games, did return to a limited practice and could be ready to return. Forte really doesn’t have a whole lot left, and McGuire has shown well on limited reps. The matchup with New England is a mouthwatering one; the Patriots are 27th in run-defense DVOA, 27th in DVOA against pass-catching backs, and 31st in fantasy points allowed to the position. No team has allowed more yards or touchdowns to running backs through the air, and backs are averaging a robust 5.24 YPC on the ground. It would be much better for McGuire if Forte sits, but even if Forte is active, both will be in play as borderline RB2/3 or FLEX options. McGuire took advantage of a similarly-cake matchup with the Jaguars in Week 4, totaling 131 yards and a score on 12 touches.
Buck Allen vs. Bears: Allen found his way on this list last week against the Raiders and answered the bell with 85 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches. Allen played 47 snaps to Alex Collins’ 16 after Terrance West went down with a calf injury in the first quarter. Allen’s role isn’t very much tied to West anyway, as Allen has long been out-snapping both West and Collins by a wide margin. Game script worked into Allen’s favor with the Ravens jumping out to a big lead and winning by 13 points. With Allen on the field, the Ravens can either run or pass, while Collins and West offer nothing in the pass games as pure inside-running grinders. Allen isn’t the greatest runner, but he can get what is blocked and game flow again figures to be in his favor with the Ravens as 6.5-point favorites at home. Chicago’s defense is middle-pack at 16th in run-defense DVOA and 16th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. But on the road, the Bears are allowing 32 points per game compared to 20 at home. This figures to be a slow-paced game featuring the running backs.
Isaiah Crowell at Texans: Crowell managed a season-best 67 total yards on 18 touches last week against the Jets. The yards were a season-best to this point, while the 16 carries were his most in a month. That’s how bad things have been for the current RB40. Even in a home game against a bad Jets runs defense in what proved to be a close game, Crowell still couldn’t get much going. Coach Hue Jackson has said he’s wanted to get Crowell more involved, but it isn’t happening. The Texans are fourth in run-defense DVOA. They’re seventh in fantasy points allowed to running backs, but a large chunk of that has come via three receiving touchdowns. Houston is only yielding 3.4 YPC and one touchdown so far on the ground. Even with J.J. Watt (leg, IR) done, this doesn’t look like a good spot for Crowell. The Browns are going on the road as 9.5-point underdogs in a game that could easily get away from them quickly. It looks like another potential Duke Johnson game.
Latavius Murray vs. Packers: The hot waiver-wire pickup of last week, Murray got the start for Minnesota against the Bears on Monday night, receiving the first five carries. But it was all Jerick McKinnon after that, as he out-touched Murray 22-9 from then on and out-gained Murray 146-43 while scoring the Vikings’ lone rushing touchdown. Murray averaged a pitiful 2.58 YPC on his 12 totes and simply doesn’t have much to offer as a two-down grinder. Minnesota would very likely want that $3.4 million guaranteed back that it gave Murray in March. McKinnon isn’t a natural runner, per se, but he can make things happen with the ball in his hands simply off pure athleticism. McKinnon at least keeps defenses honest. Green Bay is 20th in run-defense DVOA and 19th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Only seven teams have surrendered more rushing yards to the position. At this point, Murray is essentially a Jonathan Stewart or LeGarrette Blount type where we’d just be hoping for a goal-line touchdown. Murray isn’t an asset in the passing game.
Adrian Peterson vs. Bucs: From last week’s hot waiver add above in Latavius Murray to this week’s in Peterson. Traded from the Saints to the Cardinals on Tuesday morning, Peterson gets out of a New Orleans offense where he wasn’t being used and immediately enters Arizona as the starter. Chris Johnson was released to make room for Peterson, and Peterson took his number 23. Peterson received carry totals of 6 > 8 > 9 > 4 in his four games with the Saints, averaging 3.0 YPC, so it’s probably too soon to call him washed up, but he’s now going to an offense with a much worse offensive line. New Orleans’ five-man line is currently seventh in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, while Arizona is 30th. Some of that could have to do with backfield talent, but even David Johnson wasn’t finding running room in Week 1, getting stonewalled at the line of scrimmage numerous times before getting hurt. I personally tried to get Peterson in all of my leagues he was available because he’s going to get some volume, but my hopes aren’t very high overall. Coach Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball, and Andre Ellington is the pass-game back.
Start of the Week: DeSean Jackson at Cardinals: Jackson is coming off his first 100-yard game with the Bucs last Thursday night against the Patriots and nearly busted a long touchdown in the fourth quarter. He’s seen at least seven targets in 3-of-4 games and saw six in the other. Jackson left the stadium last week with his right wrist or forearm wrapped in ice, but he wasn’t on the injury report Wednesday and appears no worse for the wear. With Mike Evans likely to draw shadow coverage from Patrick Peterson on Sunday, that should leave Jackson to run the bulk of his routes at burn victim CB Justin Bethel. Bethel is the eighth-most-targeted corner in the league through five weeks and is Pro Football Focus’ No. 93 cover corner out of 109 qualifiers. Bethel has allowed the fifth-most yards and most touchdowns among those 109 qualifiers. He was burned last week by Torrey Smith for a 59-yard touchdown, Brice Butler got him from 37 yards out in Week 3, and Kenny Golladay scored against Bethel in Week 1. Overall, Arizona is 27th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, with a lot of the blame being on Bethel. The Vegas total on Bucs-Cardinals has creeped up to 45 points with a two-point spread in the Bucs’ favor. It has some serious shootout appeal.
Will Fuller vs. Browns: Fuller missed the first three games of the season following a broken collarbone suffered over summer. Since coming back in Week 4, he’s absolutely made the most of his nine targets, catching six of them for 92 yards and four touchdowns. He has two touchdowns in each game. It’s obviously not sustainable over the long haul, and Fuller is probably a prime sell-high candidate, but he gets another plus draw at home on Sunday. The Browns are 31st in pass-defense DVOA. A lot of that damage has been done by tight ends, but overall this is a defense to take advantage of through the air. Fuller is a playmaker who can score from anywhere on the field. The Texans’ implied team total of 28.25 points in the third-highest on the slate. With the Browns playing such strong run defense, attacking them with the pass figures to be the Texans’ method.
John Brown vs. Bucs: Brown has played the last two weeks after missing the previous two with a quad injury. Since returning he’s seen seven targets in each game and saw his snap count rise from 62.8% in Week 4 to 80% in Week 5. The numbers haven’t really been there with just 73 total yards in those two contests, but Brown did score a touchdown last week in Philly and missed a touchdown by a toe the previous week against the 49ers. Through four games, the Bucs are 27th in pass-defense DVOA and have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing receivers. 34-year-old CB Brent Grimes has played well as Pro Football Focus’ No. 22 cover corner, but sophomore fellow outside CB Vernon Hargreaves has been toasted for 354 yards, the second-most among all corners despite playing one fewer game than most, and two touchdowns. He’s PFF’s No. 101 cover corner. Slot man Robert McClain hasn’t been much better as the No. 104 cover corner. Brown moves around enough where he’ll see some of all these guys. Tampa Bay is yielding 309 passing yards per game as a team, ranking 31st just ahead of the dead-last Patriots. As mentioned previously, Bucs-Cardinals has a 45-point total that has inched higher over the last 24 hours and has shootout potential.
Jamison Crowder vs. 49ers: One of the flavors of summer, Crowder has been a complete disappointment to this point. At the season’s quarter mark, Crowder is on pace for just 56 catches and 424 scoreless yards. But it’s not like he isn’t playing snaps. Crowder has been in on nearly 70% of the snaps. The problem is Ryan Grant seemed to develop a chemistry with Kirk Cousins over summer when Crowder was battling a hamstring injury, and the coaches love Grant. He’s been in on 49.2% of the plays and wins in the same areas of the field as Crowder. The tight ends are also siphoning up targets between the hash marks. However, coming out of the bye, Crowder should be 100 percent healthy after the hamstring bothered him again in September. Coach Jay Gruden also said on Wednesday that he “has to get the ball to [Crowder] in space more often and get him in the flow early,” suggesting he could see an increase in looks Sunday against the Niners. The matchup is ripe. San Francisco is 26th in pass-defense DVOA and 26th in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Working in the slot 79.5% of the time, Crowder figures to see a lot of 49ers nickel CB K’Waun Williams. Williams is Pro Football Focus’ No. 104 cover corner out of 109 qualifiers. He has allowed 27 catches in his coverage out of the slot. Among qualifying slot corners at PFF, that’s nine more than anyone else at the position. If Crowder is going to break out, this would be an ideal spot. The Redskins’ implied team total of 28.25 points is tied with Houston for the third-highest of Week 6.
Sammy Watkins at Jaguars: Watkins had a huge Week 3 against the 49ers, posting a 6-106-2 line in the shootout win. In the other four games, Watkins has averaged 3.25 targets and 26.25 yards with no scores. Watkins was shut out by the Seahawks last week on four targets, and he took to Twitter to express some frustration. Coach Sean McVay admitted he needed to do a better job of scheming the ball to Watkins, but the next two weeks are brutal on-paper matchups for the talented receiver. Playing outside receivers against the Jaguars is a bad idea. Jacksonville is No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Watkins figures to see a lot of Jalen Ramsey on Sunday, and Ramsey is Pro Football Focus’ top cover corner, allowing a minuscule 26.5 passer rating in his coverage. He has allowed just 12 catches on 31 targets in his direction. Antonio Brown got his last week against the Jaguars, but Ben Roethlisberger had to throw it to him 19 times to accomplish it. Watkins has seen 20 targets all season. If the Rams are going to find any success on offense, it’s going to be with Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, and Tyler Higbee in the middle of the field. The total has been dropping on Rams-Jaguars, with L.A. implied to score just 20 points.
Martavis Bryant at Chiefs: Bryant predictable flopped in a real tough spot at home against the Jaguars last week. The volume was there with eight targets, but Big Ben threw the ball 55 times, so the actual target share for Bryant remained small. He’s been one of the biggest disappointments to date, failing to top 50 yards in 4-of-5 games and scoring just one touchdown. Rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster has been out-snapping Bryant for weeks, and now there are whispers out of Pittsburgh that the Steelers could give Bryant a “break” this week against the Chiefs. The matchup didn’t look great for Bryant even before that news, as he was likely going to be the one to see most of Chiefs LCB Marcus Peters. Peters has allowed three touchdowns so far, but he’s Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 cover corner and is yielding just 38 yards per game in his coverage. Bryant is always a long touchdown away from a big fantasy day, but it hasn’t been there through five weeks, and it sounds like Eli Rogers could be back involved in the offense with Smith-Schuster playing more on the outside. This Steelers pass offense going on the road into Arrowhead doesn’t exactly excite me. It feels like one that has a good chance to go under the Vegas total of 46 points.
Amari Cooper vs. Chargers: Like the two receivers listed ahead of him in this piece, Cooper has been a mega bust in fantasy. He hasn’t scored since Week 1 and has been held under 10 yards receiving in three-straight games. Since being targeted 12 times in the opener, Cooper has averaged 4.25 targets. He also leads the league with seven dropped passes. It really feels like a psychological thing more than anything physically with Cooper, though he has been on the injury report with a knee issue for weeks. Coach Jack Del Rio tried propping Cooper up after last week’s loss to the Ravens, saying Cooper was open a number of times, and Del Rio wished E.J. Manuel had thrown the ball to him. Even with Derek Carr (back) expected back on Sunday, Cooper is going to have another tough matchup with Casey Hayward. Hayward shadowed Cooper last Week 15 and held him to a 1-28 line. Hayward is Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 cover corner through five weeks this season. Cooper’s value is at an all-time low and could dip even more with a fourth-straight bad outing. However, he’s still one of the prime buy-low targets since there’s nowhere to go but up. Plus matchups against the Dolphins and Patriots in Weeks 9 and 11 sandwiched around the Raiders’ bye week.
Start of the Week: Evan Engram at Broncos: Engram put up a surprising goose egg on four targets last week against the Chargers, and that was with all four of WRs Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Dwayne Harris going down with ankle or foot injuries. Beckham, Marshall, and Harris are all done for the season, while Shepard is doubtful to suit up Sunday. That leaves the Giants with Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, Ed Eagan, and Travis Rudolph at receiver. Even with the goose egg last week, Engram is still second among tight ends at 7.5 targets per game over the last four weeks. With Lewis and Co. highly unlikely to find much, if any, success outside against Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, and Chris Harris, Engram has the best individual matchup on the board for the G-Men. Denver is 26th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Jason Witten hung a 10-97-1 line on the Broncos as the overall TE1 in Week 2, Charles Clay went 6-39-1 as the TE6 in Week 3, and Jared Cook went 3-46 with a dropped touchdown in Week 4. Don’t be scared off Engram after last week’s zero. He’ll be Eli Manning’s most trusted target on Sunday.
Cameron Brate at Cardinals: Brate has had back-to-back strong weeks against the Giants and Patriots, two of the worst defenses when it comes to covering tight ends. In that span, he’s averaged 7.5 targets per game with receiving lines of 4-80-1 and 5-68-1. Brate’s six red-zone targets is tied for the most among all tight ends. It’s very evident that Jameis Winston feels comfortable and even prefers throwing the ball to Brate in the scoring area. The Cardinals have been middle-road against tight ends through five weeks, stamping them out in Weeks 1-4 before allowing both Eagles TEs Zach Ertz and Trey Burton to score touchdowns in Week 5. Bucs-Cardinals has shootout potential, and with Mike Evans to be draped in Patrick Peterson’s coverage all afternoon, that should leave more opportunities for guys like DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, and Brate.
Kyle Rudolph vs. Packers: Rudolph was a huge disappointment the first month of the season, averaging just 3.75 targets per game in Weeks 1-4 while scoring only one touchdown. But in the first game without Dalvin Cook this past Monday night against the Bears, Rudolph saw a season-high nine targets and scored his second touchdown. Much of that likely had to do with Stefon Diggs leaving midway through the game with a groin injury, but the Cook injury should benefit Rudolph in the short passing game. Green Bay has handled tight ends pretty well to this point, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to the position, but Jason Witten did have a respectable 8-61 line against them last week. The Packers didn’t face much at tight end before Witten, seeing a broken Seattle offense Week 1, Austin Hooper Week 2, followed by Tyler Kroft and Zach Miller in Weeks 3-4. In two meetings with the Packers last season, Rudolph went 3-31-1 and 6-53-0. He’s back on the TE1 map in a game that has some shootout appeal in the dome with a 47-point total.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Patriots: In the three games since coming off suspension, Seferian-Jenkins is tied for ninth among all tight ends seeing six targets per game. ASJ has caught at least four passes in each game and just scored his first touchdown against the Browns last week. Seferian-Jenkins gets another spot ripe for the picking against the Patriots. New England is 29th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and just coughed up the TE4 performance to Cameron Brate in Week 5. In Week 3, Ryan Griffin also finished as the TE4 against the Patriots. Weeks 1-2, both Travis Kelce and Coby Fleener had top-12 finishes. ASJ is essentially the Jets’ top receiving threat. Against a Patriots defense that is bleeding yards, he’s very much on the streaming radar.
Jared Cook vs. Chargers: After a decent first three weeks of the season, Cook has been dreadful over the past two. He dropped a touchdown against the Broncos in Week 4, and then caught three balls for 25 yards while losing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Ravens last Sunday. He’s still hanging around the TE1/2 borderline with his 6.5 targets per game, but Cook is looking like the version of himself we saw too often in his Tennessee and St. Louis days. On top of that, the Chargers have defended tight ends extremely well, holding Evan Engram to a goose egg last week and locking down Travis Kelce to one catch for one yard in Week 3. The Bolts are one of six teams yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end.
Coby Fleener vs. Lions: Fleener scored a touchdown in each of the Saints’ first two games, but he faded to the background in Weeks 3 and 4, with receiving lines of 1-21 and 2-21 against the Panthers and Dolphins. With Willie Snead set to make his season debut this week, that will push Fleener even deeper down the line. The Lions haven’t been good against tight ends, allowing Ed Dickson’s career day last week, but it’s still not enough to get excited about Fleener, even in the Superdome. Snead and Alvin Kamara will be preferred options over the middle of the field.
Martellus Bennett at Vikings: The targets have been there for Bennett at six per game over the past four weeks, but he’s doing very little with them. Even in a prime spot against the Cowboys last weeks, Bennett managed just three catches. When everyone is healthy for the Packers, Bennett just isn’t near the top of the totem pole for targets. Bennett figures to see a lot of Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith on Sunday. Zach Miller caught a touchdown against Minnesota last week, but it should have been picked off in the end zone. SS Andrew Sendejo mistimed his jump and it hit off his hands and fell directly into Miller’s waiting arms five yards behind the play. Bennett should have better days ahead, but at this point, it’s a see-it-to-believe-it type of thing.