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Inside the Matchup
Week 6

By: Bill Andereson | Sal Marcoccio | Nick Caron | Kyle Smith

PIT @ TEN | OAK @ ATL | KC @ TB | GB @ HOU

BUF @ ARI | NE @ SEA | NYG @ SF | DEN @ SD


 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Anderson 14 5 73.7
2 Caron 12 8 60.0
3 Marcoccio 10 8 55.6
4 Smith 10 10 50.0

Steelers @ Titans - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger has been good for the Steelers this season, and is a deserving fantasy starter. He’s thrown for 245 yards and multiple touchdowns in three of his four games this season, and has been intercepted just once. Antonio Brown leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, but is behind Mike Wallace in fantasy points because Wallace has three scores and Brown just one. The biggest surprise in the team’s passing game has been tight end Heath Miller, who has once again become worthy of a spot on fantasy rosters due to his four touchdown receptions, which is tied for third in the league.

The Titans have struggled to contain the pass, to put it mildly. They have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and the most to tight ends. Tennessee is 25th in the league in pass defense, tied for 28th in touchdown throws given up and dead last in completion percentage allowed. Though no quarterback has thrown for 300 yards against them, every opposing starting QB has thrown multiple touchdowns in a game and a tight end has scored against them in four of their five contests.

Running Game Thoughts: Isaac Redman was a pretty popular mid-round pick in fantasy drafts because of Rashard Mendenhall’s injury, but Redman never prospered, and in his three games as the team’s man ball carrier, never reached even 30 rushing yards. Mendenhall returned last week with aplomb, running for 81 yards and a touchdown, and is a very good option this week for fantasy owners against the Titans struggling defense.

Tennessee is 28th in the NFL in rush defense, tied for 24th in rushing scores allowed, and has given up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to running backs so far this season. Four different running backs have gained at least 85 yards on the ground and only one team’s combination of running backs has failed to gather at least 100 rushing yards in a game, and that was the Texans, who compiled 97 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger: 285 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Mike Wallace: 110 rec yds
Antonio Brown: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Heath Miller: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Emmanuel Sanders: 25 rec yds
Rashard Mendenhall: 105 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
Isaac Redman: 25 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Hasselbeck started last week and played the majority of the Titans game in Week 4 when Jake Locker was injured early in their game against Houston. He’s been mediocre and has thrown for 193 and 200 yards, respectively, the past two games, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s got a number of weapons to throw to, but none have really stepped up, with only Nate Washington placing in the top-40 in the league’s receiving yards.

The Steelers are third in the NFL in pass defense, and have allowed just one opposing quarterback to throw for at least 210 yards. As you might expect, that’s meant limited numbers for opposing pass-catchers as well, with only one wideout gaining at least 70 yards, and one tight end amassing at least 50 yards against Pittsburgh.

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Johnson has been a complete and unmitigated disaster for fantasy owners who took him with a top-five pick. He’s run for less than 25 yards in four of his five games, is 26th in the league in rushing, 43rd in yards per carry average, doesn’t have a rush of at least 20 yards (61 other players do), and is 40th at the running back position in fantasy points. Here are just a few of the running backs who have more fantasy points this season than Johnson: Kendall Hunter, Danny Woodhead, Shaun Draughn and Joique Bell.

Pittsburgh is 11th in the league in run defense, and tied for seventh in touchdowns allowed on the ground. Only one runner, Darren McFadden, has rushed for at least 65 yards against the Steelers, and last week they held Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy to 53 yards on 16 carries.

Matt Hasselbeck: 215 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Kenny Britt: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Nate Washington: 55 rec yds
Kendall Wright: 35 rec yds, 1 TD
Jared Cook: 30 rec yds
Chris Johnson: 40 rush yds / 25 rec yds

Prediction: Steelers 27, Titans 17 ^ Top

Raiders @ Falcons - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Palmer has struggled this season, and is 22nd at his position in fantasy points. He’s 24th in the league in passing yards and tied for 22nd in touchdown throws, with multiple scoring passes in just one of his four games this season. In Palmer’s defense, he’s not working with the most established crew of receivers. Tight end Brandon Myers is the Raiders leader in receiving yards with 228, and that ranks 54th in the NFL, and none of their wideouts ranks in the top-75 in yards, and they don’t figure to move up much this week against a solid Falcons pass defense.

Atlanta has done fairly well defending the pass this season. They rank seventh in the NFL in pass defense, are tied for fifth in touchdowns allowed, and just once they have allowed a quarterback to throw for 250 yards or throw multiple touchdowns in a game. The Falcons have held wide receivers in check as well, having given up the third-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers in the league, and not allowing a player at that position to gain more than 82 yards.

Running Game Thoughts: Like Palmer, Darren McFadden has been a disappointment to has fantasy owners, ranking 25th among running backs in fantasy points. He has rushed for more than 35 yards just once this year, is 30th in the league in rushing yards, and has scored only once. He is a receiving threat, as evidenced by his 86 yards in Week 1, but has only six receiving yards over his last two games. Still, he has a chance to climb up the fantasy leaderboard this week against Atlanta and their pliable run defense.

The Falcons have done well in pass defense, but the same can’t be said for their efforts in stopping the run. They are 27th in the league in rushing defense, 24th in touchdown runs given up, and 31st in yards per carry allowed, with opposing runners gaining 5.4 yards per tote.

Carson Palmer: 210 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Denarius Moore: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Myers: 55 rec yds
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 25 rec yds
Derek Hagan: 15 rec yds
Darren McFadden: 80 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
Mike Goodson: 15 rush yds / 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan’s season has been one that fantasy owners should be thrilled with. He’s third in the NFL in passing yards, second in touchdown throws and second in fantasy points. He’s been buoyed by tight end Tony Gonzalez, who leads all players at his position in fantasy points, as well as receivers Roddy White (fifth at WR in fantasy points) and Julio Jones (11th at WR in fantasy points). White is seventh in the league in receiving yards, Gonzalez is tied for 15th and though Jones is 26th, he and Gonzalez are tied for third in the NFL in touchdown receptions with four. Each of those players figures to have a solid day against the Raiders, who have troubles defending the pass.

The Raiders have been poor against the pass this season, ranking 28th in the league in pass defense and 31st in completion percentage allowed. They are one of just two teams against which quarterbacks have completed more than 70 percent of their throws. To that end, they have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and fifth-most to tight ends. They have given up at least 330 yards passing and three touchdowns in each of their past two games, and three receivers have gained 100 or more yards against them in their four games this season.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner may no longer be “The Burner,” but he’s done well for his fantasy owners, and is 11th among running backs in fantasy points. He’s rushed for 324 yards, which is 15th in the NFL, and has three rushing scores, which is tied for seventh. The Raiders allow plenty of yards on the ground, so Turner’s fantasy owners should look forward to another game of solid results from the veteran.

Just three teams have given up more fantasy points per game to running backs than Oakland, who are 24th in the league in run defense. Reggie Bush ran for 172 yards against them in Week 2, Willis McGahee gained 112 yards against them in Week 4, and eight different backs have gained 20 or more receiving yards against them.

Matt Ryan: 325 pass yds, 4 TD
Roddy White: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Julio Jones: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 70 rec yds, 2 TD
Harry Douglas: 35 rec yds
Michael Turner: 90 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds

Prediction: Falcons 38, Raiders 20 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Buccaneers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Cassel had been terrible for the Chiefs before getting a concussion last week against the Ravens, and he’ll sit this week, with Brady Quinn getting the starting nod. Quinn doesn’t have much experience, but hasn’t played very well when he’s gotten the opportunity. At least he has Dwayne Bowe to throw to, who is tied for eighth among wideouts in fantasy points and 12th in receiving yards. He has a good opportunity to move into the top-10 this week against the Buccaneers, who simply cannot stop the pass.

Tampa Bay is dead last in the league in pass defense, giving up more than 340 yards per game through the air. Every quarterback they’ve faced has thrown for at least 280 yards against them, and they have also allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. In just four games, a total of 10 different wideouts have had 55 or more receiving yards when playing the Bucs, and if you count tight ends, that number extends to 13.

Running Game Thoughts: Jamaal Charles leads the NFL in rushing yards, and is tops in yards per carry (5.4) among backs with at least 80 rushes. He has just two touchdowns via the rush, but is second in fantasy points at running back because he is a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, with 118 receiving yards and one score. As good as Charles is, he’ll have a challenge on his hands this week against Tampa’s stout run defense.

The Bucs clearly have a terrible pass defense, but the same can’t be said of their rush defense. They are fourth in the NFL against the run, having given up just over 70 yards per game on the ground, and are allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, which is third in the league. Tampa has only allowed one back to gain 75 or more rushing yards against them, and had a noteworthy effort against Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams, who ran the ball six times against them for -1 yard.

Brady Quinn: 225 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 110 rec yds
Jonathan Baldwin: 55 rec yds
Dexter McCluster: 20 rec yds
Jamaal Charles: 85 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
Shaun Draughn: 20 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh Freeman is 32nd in fantasy points among quarterbacks, obviously the worst among starters in the league. The fact that he has had one fewer game (due to a bye) than most other QBs is no excuse either, because so have Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger, and they’re well ahead of Freeman. Wideout Vincent Jackson has been solid, but it’s been feast or famine with him – he has two games with 100 or more receiving yards and a touchdown, and two games with less than 50 yards. Mike Williams has made himself at least worthy of a back-up roster spot for fantasy owners as well, with a touchdown reception in each of his first two games, and 115 receiving yards in Week 4. Each receiver has a decent chance to find the end zone this week against Kansas City.

Only eight teams have given up more fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than the Chiefs, despite the fact they are eighth in the NFL against the pass. That’s because they are tied for 25th in passing scores allowed, with four of the five quarterbacks they’ve played against having tossed multiple touchdowns against them.

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie first-round pick Doug Martin is Tampa’s leading rusher, but his 247 yards on the ground is 21st in the NFL, and he’s averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. His rushing totals have gone down each week, and his fantasy owners are rightfully getting nervous about LeGarrette Blount possibly getting more carries, especially at the goal-line. Blount has yet to run for even 20 yards in a game, but his six carries in Week 4 (compared to eight for Martin) represented his highest total of the season, and he also scored a touchdown in the game.

The Chiefs have given up the ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs, are 22nd in the league in rush defense, tied for 18th in rushing scores allowed and 24th in yards per carry allowed. Kansas City has allowed two backs to gain over 100 yards against them, four to gain at least 60 yards, and four to accumulate 40 or more receiving yards.

Josh Freeman: 245 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Mike Williams: 75 rec yds
Dallas Clark: 35 rec yds
Arrelious Benn: 20 rec yds
Doug Martin: 70 rush yds, 1 TD / 10 rec yds
LeGarrette Blount: 25 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Chiefs 17 ^ Top

Packers @ Texans - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s widely believed among fantasy owners that Aaron Rodgers is having a lousy season, but that may be more indicative of the fact that he was drafted as high as first overall and isn’t repeating his success from last season. The truth is, he is sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy points, has accrued 22 or more fantasy points in three of his five games this season, and has thrown seven touchdowns the past two weeks. And even though Greg Jennings is likely out this week, and Jermichael Finley is questionable, but they still have Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones, and Jones is tied for the league lead in touchdown catches with five. Despite the Packers offensive firepower, they will have their work cut out for them this week in Houston.

There are only two NFL teams which have given up fewer fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than Houston, and only one has allowed fewer FPPG to wide receivers. They are fourth in the league in pass defense, and opposing quarterbacks have completed only 51.2 percent of their passes when facing the Texans, which is the best mark in all of football.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson suffered a foot injury last week that will sideline him for a couple of months, so the Packers are going to have to rely on a number of backs to move the ball on the ground. Alex Green stepped in last week against the Colts and ran for 63 yards on 10 carries, and is the likely starter against the Texans. But James Starks will also get some carries, so the fantasy prospects for both are middling unless one of them – and our money’s on Green – can take control of the job, starting this week against a good Houston run defense.

The Texans are ninth in the NFL in run defense, but are the only team in the league who has yet to allow a rushing score. Only one player has gained more than 70 yards on the ground against Houston, and oddly enough, that was Chris Johnson, who hasn’t gained even 25 rushing yards against any other squad.

Aaron Rodgers: 290 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jordy Nelson: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Randall Cobb: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
James Jones: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermichael Finley: 30 rec yds
Alex Green: 55 rush yds / 15 rec yds
James Starks: 25 rush yds / 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans rely on their running game to move the ball, and that makes Matt Schaub little more than fantasy back-up. He’s 15th among quarterbacks in fantasy points, has thrown at least 210 yards just twice in five games, and is 16th in passing yards. Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels are his main targets, with Daniels actually having the better season. He is third among tight ends in fantasy points, and has more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Johnson right now. We don’t expect that to continue all season, and think it’s likely to start changing this week against the Packers and their very average pass defense.

Green Bay is 16th in the league in pass defense, but has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and 10th-most to wideouts. They are tied for 25th in passing scores given up, and in their past two games have allowed at least 360 yards through the air and two wideouts to gain 150 or more receiving yards.

Running Game Thoughts: Arian Foster is second in the NFL in rushing yards, but leads in rushing scores and is tops among running backs in fantasy points, so those fantasy owners that stuck with him as the No. 1 pick in their drafts over Aaron Rodgers should feel plenty good about themselves. Foster has run for at least 79 yards in each game this season, but he’s also carried the ball between 24 and 29 times in every game, so his workload is a bit concerning, but that’s something to think about more towards the end of the season. For this week, expect more of the same from him against a Green Bay run defense which is okay, but certainly not worth worrying about.

The Packers are 17th in the NFL against the run and 20th in yards per carry allowed, but have given up just two rushing scores, which is tied for eighth in the league. Nonetheless, individual backs have had success against them, with three running for at least 80 yards in their five games this season.

Matt Schaub: 260 pass yds, 1 TD
Andre Johnson: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Owen Daniels: 65 rec yds
Kevin Walter: 40 rec yds
James Casey: 35 rec yds
Arian Foster: 95 rush yds, 2 TD / 20 rec yds

Prediction: Texans 27, Packers 24 ^ Top

Bills @ Cardinals - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: After being one of the league’s top-scoring passers through the first five weeks, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fell back into mediocrity in Week 5 against a very talented San Francisco 49ers defense that allowed him to throw for just 126 yards and zero touchdowns. Fitzpatrick also threw an interception, bringing his early season total to eight, a number which puts him just one behind Cassel and Weeden for the league lead. Wide receiver Steve Johnson also went his second straight game without a touchdown reception and hasn’t reached 65 yards receiving in a single game.

At the moment, Fitzpatrick and Johnson are the only two fantasy-relevant players in the Buffalo passing game with tight end Scott Chandler occasionally chiming in with a redzone touchdown. And if they thought the 49ers secondary was tough, just wait until they see Arizona’s. The Cardinals defense has come to life in 2012, allowing just two quarterbacks to throw for 225 yards through the first five weeks of the season. In addition, they’ve only allowed one quarterback to throw for more than one touchdown pass, meaning Fitzpatrick’s upside is limited this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Bills running back Fred Jackson essentially missed the first three weeks of the season with a knee injury he suffered in Week 1 against the Jets. In his absence, it was third-year back C.J. Spiller who shined, shooting his way up fantasy rankings and into just about every starting lineup. Since Jackson returned in Week 4, things have calmed down in the Buffalo backfield. It’s hard to blame it on Jackson who has just 58 yards on the ground since returning when Spiller has only 57 yards of his own over the past two weeks, but the reality is that neither player has provided much of a spark offensively.

With the San Francisco beatdown now in their rearview mirror, Spiller and Jackson will need to look forward. Unfortunately they are staring another very tough defense right in the eyes. Though they struggled slightly to stop Steven Jackson and the Rams in Week 5, St. Louis had allowed less than 100 yards rushing in each of their previous five games and have allowed only one touchdown to an opposing running back this season. With Spiller and Jackson set to split carries until further notice, neither player is a likely target for a big game against this stingy defense.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 235 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Steve Johnson: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 35 rec yds
Scott Chandler: 40 rec yds
Fred Jackson: 50 rush yds, 30 rec yds
C.J. Spiller: 40 rush yds, 35 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Kevin Kolb had been shocking the world through the first four weeks of the season, leading his Arizona Cardinals to an undefeated record as they headed to St. Louis to battle their division rivals. It was at that point when the Cardinals offense was exposed. The offensive line could not protect their quarterback as Kolb was sacked an unbelievable nine times. Though Kolb played through the punishment, one has to wonder if he can continue to take this kind of pounding on a weekly basis and still distribute the ball with any consistency to his top receivers Larry Fitzgerald and the emerging Andre Roberts.

Thankfully for owners of players in the Arizona passing game, there isn’t likely to be an easier matchup for the Cardinals offense than this one all season. The Bills currently rank dead last in the league in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, having allowed a touchdown in every game and a total of eight touchdowns over the past two weeks. With cornerback Jairus Byrd still nursing a chest injury, things aren’t likely to get better anytime soon. This could be a major bounce back game for Kolb and the Cardinals offense.

Running Game Thoughts: First it was Beanie Wells. Then it was Ryan Williams. For an already shaky running game, potential season-ending injuries to their top two backs has made things even worse. The Cardinals will now turn to what is expected to be a committee of backs to fulfill whatever rushing duties they decide to hand out, limited as they may be. It is believed by most that LaRod Stephens-Howling will get the first opportunity as the team’s main ball carrier going forward, but preseason warrior William Powell waits in the wings, hoping for an opportunity to make his name heard in the regular season.

Whoever does touch the ball the most could have the potential for a decent fantasy day given the disastrous start the Bills have had in stopping opposing running backs. The Bills have been absolutely destroyed over the first five weeks of the season, allowing an average of over 120 yards per game on the ground including seven touchdowns. Over the past two weeks, in blowout losses, Buffalo has allowed a staggering 460 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Though we don’t expect the Cardinals to run away with this game quite so easily, Stephens-Howling and even potentially William Powell could be sneaky fantasy options for those in need.

Kevin Kolb: 250 pass yds, 2 TD
Larry Fitzgerald: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
LaRod Stephens-Howling: 60 rush yds, 20 rec yds
William Powell: 40 rush yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds

Prediction: Cardinals 27, Bills 16 ^ Top

Patriots @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s hard to complain when your quarterback has thrown at least a touchdown pass in every game and even rushed for a couple more over the past two weeks, but for those who took Tom Brady in the first round of their fantasy draft, there has been some small disappointment. Brady has thrown multiple touchdowns in only two of his first five games and the big game performances that we’ve become accustomed to just haven’t been there yet. On the bright side, it does appear that Wes Welker is “back.” After rumors began to circulate that Welker had begun to be “phased out” in New England, he has responded with three straight 100+ yard games, catching 30 passes over that span.

Brady and the Patriots passing game will have a tough matchup this week as they head to Seattle to play against a very aggressive pass defense, which hasn’t allowed a passing touchdown since Week 2. The Seahawks secondary is large and physical and their pass-rushers get after the quarterback and force them into making bad throws. For Brady to be successful in this game, he’s going to need to utilize Welker who will be playing out of the slot. The Seahawks corners could have more trouble controlling him in the open field, so look for Welker, Gronkowski and a returning Aaron Hernandez to play a big role in Week 6.

Running Game Thoughts: Do you think the Patriots were embarrassed of their 1-2 start to the season? It certainly seems that way as Stevan Ridley and the boys have pummeled the opposition to the tune of nearly 500 rushing yards over the past two weeks. Ridley alone now has three 100+ yard games under his belt with four touchdowns on the ground, making him an early season pick to be this year’s top rising star at the position. Although backups Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead have gotten involved as well, it has been Ridley who has been the most consistent and productive back in this suddenly crushing run game.

It won’t be as easy this week, though, as the Patriots will have to battle the Seahawks run defense which has allowed only one team to rush for 50 yards against them this season. If it wasn’t for the two short yardage touchdowns they allowed in Weeks 1 and 3 against the Cardinals and Packers, the Seahawks defense would be the No. 1 fantasy rushing defense in the league. Ridley and Bolden have been on a hot streak, so this very well could be the matchup that determines the outcome of this game.

Tom Brady: 280 pass yds, 2 TD
Wes Welker: 125 rec yds
Brandon Lloyd: 40 rec yds
Rob Gronkowski: 50 rec yds
Aaron Hernandez: 25 rec yds, 1 TD
Stevan Ridley: 60 rush yds, 1 TD
Brandon Bolden: 30 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: With a rookie quarterback behind center, the Seattle Seahawks have done everything they can to control the clock with their running game and defense. Russell Wilson hasn’t been asked to take over and win a game for his team, so his fantasy statistics have struggled accordingly. In standard scoring leagues, Wilson has failed to get to double digit FPTs in three of his first five games. He has yet to choose a favorite receiver, so the inconsistency has translated into frustration for fantasy owners who have taken chances on the Seattle passing game.

Given the productivity of the New England offense, this might be the game that the Seahawks finally opt to let Wilson throw the ball in an effort to keep up with the Pats on the scoreboard. Other teams have done that as well, which has led to the Patriots allowing a league-worst 12 passing touchdowns on the year, including seven over just the past two weeks. Wilson certainly isn’t Peyton Manning and he may not be Ryan Fitzpatrick yet, but sometimes it’s a matter of opportunity more than it is talent when it comes to fantasy production. That could certainly be the case this week.

Running Game Thoughts: There may not be a back in the NFL who carries the load for his team more than Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Lynch, who has 20 or more carries in all five games this season, has also been one of the more consistent backs this season. Even against solid run defenses, Lynch’s yards per carry has remained solid at 4.5, leading to him reaching the 500-yard mark in just five games.

If the Seahawks are going to win this game, they will very likely need to rely heavily on Lynch. Unfortunately for them, while the Patriots’ pass defense has struggled, their run defense has been excellent. New England has allowed just one total touchdown to an opposing running back and that includes the likes of Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Willis McGahee. Lynch should touch the ball 20+ times again but the question is whether or not the passing game will live up to its end of the bargain and get Lynch into the red zone often enough to make those carries count for big fantasy points.

Russell Wilson: 220 pass yds, 1 TD, 25 rush yds
Sidney Rice: 60 rec yds
Golden Tate: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Zach Miller: 40 rec yds
Marshawn Lynch: 90 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 27, Seahawks 23 ^ Top

Giants @ 49ers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: He’s been without his top receiver Hakeem Nicks since Week 2, but Eli Manning is really in the zone over the past two weeks. The Giants quarterback has thrown for back-to-back multiple touchdown games, adding over 550 yards. 2011 breakout star Victor Cruz has kept it going as well with 14 receptions for 159 yards and four scores in Weeks 4 and 5. His counterpart has been a combination of Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon and tight end Martellus Bennett; all of whom have had big games with Nicks out.

Despite the success the Giants have had in their passing game, they will certainly be hoping that they have their top receiver back this week as they challenge the league’s best overall defense, the San Francisco 49ers. Their secondary has been the “weak” point if you have to choose one, but the 49ers have allowed only five touchdowns through the air in 2012 and they haven’t allowed an opposing quarterback to pass for over 200 yards since Week 2. Eli Manning is a bit more talented than the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez and Christian Ponder, but this isn’t likely to be a repeat of Week 5’s three touchdown performance.

Running Game Thoughts: When he was knocked out Week 2 against the Buccaneers with a sprained neck, it sounded as if Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw would miss extended time. As it turned out, he missed just one full game before making his return in Week 4 against Philadelphia. A 39-yard performance in that game caused some questions to arise from skeptical fantasy owners, but those questions were put to rest this past week as Bradshaw sprinted to an impressive 200 yards on the ground on 30 carries. It appears that Bradshaw has re-established himself as the only back worth considering in your lineup going forward.

As impressive as Bradshaw’s 200-yard performance against the Cleveland Browns was, the competition gets stiffer this week as he’ll be going up against the league’s stingiest run defense, the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco still has not allowed a single touchdown on the ground this season and they only allowed one rushing touchdown through the entire 2011 season as well. Bradshaw might be coming off the best performance of his career, but it’s hard to like his chances to repeat against this defense.

Eli Manning: 260 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Victor Cruz: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Hakeem Nicks: 40 rec yds
Domenik Hixon: 30 rec yds
Ramses Barden: 30 rec yds
Martellus Bennett: 35 rec yds, 1 TD
Ahmad Bradshaw: 50 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It might be a little early to say that Alex Smith has finally graduated from being a simple “game manager” into someone who the 49ers can rely on to put consistent points on the board, but it looks as if things might just be trending that way for the San Francisco quarterback. Smith, who has thrown just one interception on the year, threw three touchdowns in Week 5 to bring his season total to eight. Tight end Vernon Davis remains Smith’s favorite target in the passing game, but Michael Crabtree and his 5.4 receptions per game has begun to get more respect as well.

Smith and the 49ers have a surprisingly light task in Week 5 against a Giants defense that has looked downright awful at times. In fact, they’ve allowed every quarterback they’ve faced this season to throw for over 240 yards and nearly allowed Cleveland Browns rookie passer Brandon Weeden to get to 300 yards in Week 5. Smith’s biggest problem this week might not be the defense he’s playing against but rather a sprained finger on his throwing hand. He’ll play through it, we just don’t know how much it will bother him.

Running Game Thoughts: We keep waiting for Frank Gore’s production to drop off. He’s too old. He’s too slow. Kendall Hunter is the future, right? Apparently not. Gore scored his fourth touchdown of the season in his team’s crushing defeat over the Bills in Week 5 and also achieved his second 100+ yards rushing game of the year. Gore has been in double-digit fantasy points in four of five games this season, making him a top-10 back in just about every scoring system. Though Kendall Hunter has been productive in limited carries, Gore still appears to be the top dog in this running game.

Like many backs, Frank Gore’s fantasy production has been closely related to the scores of the games his team has been in. Because the 49ers defense generally keeps opposing offenses in check, Gore has received the opportunities to be fantasy relevant. But in the one game that the 49ers lost, Gore received just 12 carries and had just four points in standard scoring leagues. If the Giants are able to keep up the hot streak, the 49ers might just have to rely on Alex Smith on the passing game a bit more than usual which could mean carries in the lower-teens for Gore. Of course, he’s still a threat to have a decent fantasy day against the Giants who have allowed 324 yards on the ground over the past two games, but given Kendall Hunter’s increased role in the offense, Gore might not be as strong of a play as he appears to be on the surface.

Alex Smith: 240 pass yds, 2 TD, 15 rush yds
Michael Crabtree: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Vernon Davis: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Frank Gore: 70 rush yds, 10 rec yds
Kendall Hunter: 40 rush yds

Prediction: 49ers 23, Giants 20 ^ Top

Broncos @ Chargers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Though the Denver Broncos currently sit at a subpar 2-3 on the year, that certainly can’t be blamed on quarterback Peyton Manning who has re-established himself as one of the game’s best passers after missing the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. Manning’s connection with his receivers and in particular Demaryius Thomas has been exceptional, with Thomas having already notched three 100+ yard games this season. Manning hasn’t quite had the same kind of connection with Eric Decker but that hasn’t stopped him from tossing eight total touchdowns with zero interceptions over the past three games, two of which were losses.

Manning is living proof that you don’t have to win games to be an elite fantasy player. With a division game on the road in San Diego, Manning and the Broncos could be in for another tough game. Peyton has historically struggled against the Chargers, having thrown just 12 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions against them over the course of his career -- the worst ratio he has against any team. On the bright side, the 2012 Chargers looked foolish trying to stop Drew Brees in Week 5 and could be in for more problems against Manning and the Broncos in this one.

Running Game Thoughts: The Denver running game hasn’t been quite as consistent in 2012 as the passing game has been. Running back Willis McGahee has sandwiched two 110+ yard games with a 55-yard and 36-yard game. Though his overall season numbers put him as a low-end RB1, McGahee has been frustrating for fantasy owners. Additionally, he fumbled the ball away late in the game during the Broncos comeback against the Patriots in Week 5 and you could be in for a more confusing situation if John Fox begins to work other backs into the mix on a regular basis.

We expect McGahee to be the lead back, at least for now, and he’ll have a chance to right the wrong he had in Week 5 when he goes up against a Chargers defense who he pummeled 2011. McGahee ran for 100+ yards in both of his two games against the Bolts last year and they have not looked much better against the run this season. Opposing teams are averaging over 125 total yards against San Diego thus far which could mean another nice day for McGahee and the Broncos running game.

Peyton Manning: 280 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Demaryius Thomas: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Eric Decker: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Stokley: 40 rec yds
Jacob Tamme: 50 rec yds
Willis McGahee: 105 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It ended in a loss, but Philip Rivers might have had his most impressive performance of the season in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints. The Chargers’ signal caller threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns in his second straight multiple-TD performance. Though he’s still turning the ball over at a high rate, Rivers’ fantasy production has been fairly decent with the obvious exception of his Week 3 performance against Atlanta. Unfortunately for Rivers, none of his receivers have been consistent whatsoever and it appears that tight end Antonio Gates may finally be spiraling into complete fantasy irrelevancy after having failed to get into the end zone yet again.

If Gates is going to get back into being considered a strong fantasy play, he’s going to need to get things going against a Denver defense that has struggled against opposing tight ends. Although they did a great job of shutting down Rob Gronkowski last week, The Broncos have allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends and have struggled at times, to contain Gates when they haven’t lined up Champ Bailey against him. It’ll be important that other receivers, namely Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem, step up to give Rivers plenty of options in the passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: With Ryan Mathews’ 139 total yard performance in Week 5 compared to Jackie Battle’s 17, it appears that the running back by committee situation in San Diego may finally be coming to a halt. Of course, there’s always the threat that Battle, or even another back, could swipe some goal line work from Mathews, but we should at least feel confident that the most talented player in the backfield is getting the lion’s share of the touches going forward.

If Week 5 wasn’t it, Week 6 could be Ryan Mathews’ breakout game this season. Denver just got done allowing Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and the Patriots to rush for 253 yards and two scores against them and have allowed 100 total yards to opposing teams’ running backs in each of the past three games. Another point worth noting is that Ryan Mathews has had more success against Denver than he has against any other team. Since his rookie year, Mathews has averaged 138 yards rushing and two touchdowns per game against the Blue and Orange. If he can stay healthy and avoid fumbling, we could see more of where those stats came from.

Philip Rivers: 240 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Malcom Floyd: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Robert Meachem: 50 rec yds
Antonio Gates: 40 rec yds
Ryan Mathews: 90 rush yds, 1 TD. 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Jackie Battle: 20 rush yds

Prediction: Broncos 27, Chargers 24 ^ Top

Bengals @ Browns - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: In the AFC North's first rematch of the year, the Bengals will be hoping for a repeat of what they did in Week 2, where Andy Dalton threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 34-27 victory at home. The Bengals rank in the top 10 in most passing stats so far, although they struggled a bit against the Dolphins last week (234 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs). From both a real-life and fantasy perspective, no receiver other than A.J. Green (who is a legit top 5 WR, by the way) has stepped up as a consistently good option, with Gresham, Hawkins, and Binns all contributing weekly but not enough to warrant much fantasy excitement or consideration. Dalton has looked very good at times and very average at others; still, the team passes enough to make his final stats look decent. Keep in mind, though, he has not faced any top tier pass defenses as of yet.

The main difference for the Bengals in this rematch, other than it being a road game, is that the Browns defense will regain perhaps its best player, cornerback Joe Haden, who just served a four-game suspension. Haden is considered by many experts to be a top 5 cornerback, so his return should not be taken lightly. Without Haden, the Browns pass defense has been pretty horrible, giving up the fifth most passing yards in the league. While one player can not completely turn things around, it should change the way opposing offenses attack, and it could limit the production of No. 1 receivers—in this case, Green. While I would still easily start Green in a tougher-than-one-might-expect matchup, I would not expect huge numbers this week, as Dalton may target other receivers in order to avoid Haden. Even with this in mind, no receiver, other than maybe TE Gresham (in deeper leagues). is worth a start until one of them becomes more consistent. Dalton is a fringe starter in deeper leagues or as a bye-week fill-in, as he should put up average numbers in a somewhat tough division-rival road game.

Running Game Thoughts: The Bengals run game is very much like their leading rusher (Green-Ellis): steady but boring. Cincinnati ranks right around the middle of the league in terms of rushing offense , though their per-carry average is in the bottom half. Bernard Scott was supposed to add a different, more explosive dimension to the running attack but injured his knee and is out for the year after an impressive five carries for 40 yards last week. While Green-Ellis should, on paper. be a nice fantasy RB since he gets the bulk of the carries, he simply does not do enough with his touches, averaging just 3.3 yards per attempt and adding little to the pass game. In their first meeting with the Browns this year, Green-Ellis accumulated 75 yards on the ground but failed to reach the end zone. With Haden back and the Browns run defense giving up the seventh most rush yards per game, I expect the Bengals to feed BJGE at least 20 carries, and for the sake of his owners, maybe a couple will be near the goal line. Another thing to watch in this matchup is the health of Browns middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who has only practiced once this week because of a concussion. If he does not suit up, the odds of BJGE having more success rise greatly. It is a decent matchup either way, so BJGE is very startable as a flex play, but I would not rank him as a top 12 RB this week, even though it looks juicy on paper.

Andy Dalton: 230 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
A.J. Green: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermaine Gresham: 50 rec yds
Andrew Hawkins: 70 rec yds
Armon Binns: 40 rec yds
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 85 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It may not be pretty or efficient, but if you want volume and accumulated passing stats, the Browns have what you're looking for. To date, they have attempted the second most passes in the league, behind only the Saints, and are 10th in total passing yardage. On the downside, however, they are dead last in passer rating and are in the bottom five in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and interceptions thrown. It's hard to blame just one person to for their effort, but Brandon Weeden is clearly over his head right now as a rookie, and the receivers as a whole may be the worst in the league on a pure talent level. From a fantasy perspective, the only bright spot is the fact that they throw so much that the total yardage numbers are pretty consistent each week, even if the lack of touchdowns and excessive turnovers hurt the final stat line. As they showed last week, the Browns are at least looking downfield on their throws, as there were five completions over 20 yards, including a 62-yard bomb to Josh Gordon. As a passing defense, the Bengals have been just a little worse than the league average, yardage-wise, but are near the bottom as far as completion percentage allowed (67.5). On the positive side, the Bengals have sacked the quarterback a league-leading 18 times (tied) and seem to be getting healthier in the secondary, as both Nate Clements and Leon Hall have returned from injury. As no receiver has yet put up consistent numbers, I would shy away from all Cleveland passing game players unless you are in a very large or 2-QB league, where starting Weeden might not be terrible simply because he should throw 30-plus times, just don’t expect huge numbers in this matchup.

Running Game Thoughts: One of the bright spots of this Browns team is the way Trent Richardson seems to be developing. Despite the knee scope he had before the season, Richardson has managed to look healthy and seems more comfortable every week. Through five weeks, his yardage numbers are not huge (303), but his 3.7 average is not bad, and his four rushing touchdowns have him tied for second in the league. The news gets better this week because Richardson’s best game as a pro came against these very same Bengals defense in Week 2, where he ran for 109 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals currently rank just below the league average in most rushing defensive stats, although they have allowed the third most rushing touchdowns (tied at 7). Richardson has been getting over 60 percent of the Browns total carries, and this week head coach Pat Shurmur stated that the plan was to make Richardson comfortable as a true three-down back and “keep Trent on the field the whole game.” For fantasy owners, Richardson should be started with confidence in all formats, as this home matchup should give him the opportunity to post top 12 fantasy RB numbers.

Brandon Weeden: 280 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Trent Richardson: 105 rush yds, 1 TD, 40 rec yds
Josh Gordon: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Jordan Cameron: 45 rec yds
Chris Ogbonnaya: 45 rec yds
Greg Little: 30 rec yds

Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 20 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Ravens - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: The last time we saw Tony Romo, he was busy throwing five interceptions to the Bears two weeks ago. This week the matchup gets only a little bit easier as the Cowboys head to Baltimore to face a pass defense who leads the league in passing touchdowns given up (2) and have picked off a respectable six balls through five games. On the plus side for the Cowboys, the Ravens do tend to give up a decent amount of pass yardage, ranking just 22nd in pass yards allowed per game (261). This number should actually even be higher, as they faced a terrible passing offense last week, the Chiefs. As a passing offense, the Cowboys are a roller coaster (or Romo-coaster, as some say). They have a very good completion percentage (68.3) and put up great yardage per game (296), but they turn the ball over too much and do not get in the end zone very often, especially considering the talent they have at the skill positions. Speaking of those guys, Jason Witten is leading the league in drops, and Dez Bryant has yet to find the end zone. I find those two statistical nuggets a bit fluky, so I would look for Witten and Bryant to be decent buy-low options, and both could have decent games as soon as this week. On the other hand, Miles Austin is quietly having a very nice start to the season, averaging 75 yards per game and getting in the end zone three times through just four games. While the Ravens defense is not what it used to be, it still will limit the Dallas offense to some extent, although I would not be afraid to start Romo, Bryant, Austin, and Witten and expect at least above average numbers from each of them. Most likely one of these guys will break out big, but which one will be determined by who the Ravens choose to defend the most.

Running Game Thoughts: Demarco Murray and the Dallas run game as a whole has been very disappointing so far, though to be fair, they have attempted the second fewest rushes in the league. Murray certainly has the skills to be an above-average running back, but he is simply not getting enough touches to put up consistent numbers, averaging just 15 rushes per game. This matchup will be very interesting because, while Dallas is not rushing the ball very frequently, Baltimore has been rushed on the fifth most in the league. While Baltimore is giving up 118 rush yards per game on average, including a staggering 214 to the Chiefs last week, a more true indicator of their effort might be the meager 3.5 yards per attempt that Baltimore is holding opponents to, good for sixth best in the league. I believe this matchup could go one of two ways: either the Cowboys will dedicate themselves more to the run and put up decent total yardage numbers, or they will abandon the run almost completely and focus on the passing attack. For my projections, I will split the difference of the two scenarios, but I would lean more towards their highlighting the run game, as this game should stay close up until the final whistle sounds. Murray is a medium-risk, medium-reward start this week, as he should get some decent numbers, but nothing close to what Jamaal Charles did against this defense last week.

Tony Romo: 305 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Dez Bryant: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Jason Witten: 60 rec yds
DeMarco Murray: 80 rush yds, 25 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Ravens passing game was off to a tremendous start the first four weeks until it came to a screeching halt against a very average Chiefs pass defense last week, posting just 187 yards, with an interception and no touchdowns. Earlier in the season it looked as though Joe Flacco had turned the corner and was on his way to becoming an elite NFL quarterback, but last week he looked very pedestrian. The good news for him and the rest of that passing attack is that they have been much better at home (where they will be playing this week) compared to road games, where they are averaging around 135 less yards per game through the air. The bad news for Flacco and company is the Cowboys, who are the league's number one pass defense in terms of yardage allowed per game and have had two weeks to prepare. While the Cowboys have not picked off a lot of passes (just one thus far) and do not have a particularly high amount of sacks (9), their cornerbacks have been outstanding, allowing the lowest amount of fantasy points, on average, to opposing WRs. I would not expect huge numbers from the Ravens pass attack this week, but they will certainly not abandon it either. Their three main pass catchers this year—Smith, Boldin, and Pitta—have all been inconsistent, but each is capable of having a big game, as both Smith and Boldin have each posted 100-yard games, and Pitta has three games with five or more catches and 50-plus yards. It is tough to say which pass catcher may have the best game in this matchup, but if I had to bet on one, it would certainly be Smith, who has the speed to challenge the below-average safeties that the Cowboys may use to double him. I would not feel super-confident starting any member of the Ravens passing attack in this matchup, although Flacco will probably throw enough to put up decent yardage numbers and Smith is a decent start as a medium-risk, high-reward type who could break a long one for a touchdown against any defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Besides a poor performance Week 4 against the Browns, Ray Rice has been pretty much what we all thought he would be: a stud. Averaging 84 yards per game and accumulating three rushing touchdowns thus far, Rice has looked powerful and decisive. Even though he is averaging less than 18 rushes per game, he has done a good amount with what he has been given, ranking ninth in the league in yards per attempt with 5.2. While the Dallas defense has been average in rush defense (108 yards per game, 15th in NFL), they have not faced an elite running back like Rice, and in a hostile environment, in what should be a close game, I give the advantage to the Ravens running attack. With Torrey Smith on the outside to keep at least one safety out of the box, I look for Rice to break off a few long runs and carry the ball at least 20 times this game, as the Cowboys' pass defense is less susceptible than their run defense. As always, I’d start Rice with confidence here, as he should once again be a top 5 option at RB, even in a less-than-perfect matchup.

Joe Flacco: 250 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Ray Rice: 100 rush yds, 1 TD, 35 rec yds
Torrey Smith: 70 rec yds
Anquan Boldin: 55 rec yds
Dennis Pitta: 55 rec yds

Prediction: Ravens 24, Cowboys 23 ^ Top

Colts @ Jets - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: The NFL was blessed with (at least) two outstanding rookie quarterbacks this season. I’ve covered Robert Griffin III a few times already in this section, but Andrew Luck has been every bit as impressive as the Redskins field general. Luck is on pace for 4,800 passing yards with 28 touchdowns during his rookie season. Of course he’s also on pace to throw the ball over 700 times, which is likely not sustainable. Luck is as smart as any quarterback in the league, has shown tremendous poise, and can make any throw. While he’s not as fast or athletic as Griffin, he is still very athletic and is capable of gaining yards with his legs. He’s turned 33-year-old veteran Reggie Wayne back into a fantasy stud as the most targeted WR in the league. Wayne is coming off one of the best games of his career, with 13 catches for 212 yards and the game-winning touchdown to beat the favored Green Bay Packers with 34 seconds left. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians took over head coaching duties from the Chuck Pagano, who is being treated for lymphoma, and will continue to call the plays in double duty. His pass-heavy offense has made Luck a QB1—and he can be used as one this week against a now suspect Jets pass defense.

Antonio Cromartie claimed to be the best cornerback in the league once Darrelle Revis was lost to injury. While that boast is not completely accurate, Cromartie has been underrated while in Revis’s shadow, and he’s done a very good job the last two weeks. He held Andre Johnson to one catch on Monday night after playing well against San Francisco the week before. Wayne will have some issues against the size and speed of Cromartie shadowing him this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Donald Brown was solid in his role as a feature back through five weeks, but a knee scope performed this Tuesday will put him on the shelf for 2-3 weeks. Arians' offense just doesn’t feature the run enough to make any running back more than a low-end RB2 or flex player, but rookie Vick Ballard will be a hot waiver pick up as the new starting back. Ballard is a tough runner with limited speed to get to the outside corner, but he could have a nice showing against a defense that has been very vulnerable against the run this year and has now lost backup nose tackle Kendrick Ellis, who was replacing injured starter, Sione Po'uha.

The Jets allowed C.J. Spiller to run for 169 yards, and they allowed Miami running backs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas to combine for 130 yards in Week 3. The San Francisco rushing attack totaled 245 yards on the ground against them in a blowout loss. On Monday night, Arian Foster totaled over 150 yards on the ground. See a pattern?

Andrew Luck: 235 pass yds 1 TD, I INT / 20 rush yds
Reggie Wayne: 40 rec yds
Donnie Avery: 55 rec yds
Dwayne Allen: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Coby Fleener: 55 rec yds
Vick Ballard: 55 rush yds, 1 TD / 5 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: After a brilliant Week 1 performance against what has since been exposed as one of the league’s worst defenses, Mark Sanchez has now completed less than 50 percent of his passes in four consecutive weeks. His days as a starting quarterback will be numbered if that keeps up. Rookie Stephen Hill has been out with a hamstring injury, leaving the Jets extremely short-handed at wide receiver. Hill is expected to suit up this week, which should help the decimated unit. The team started second-year slot receiver Jeremy Kerley and oft-injured Chaz Schilens at wideout on Monday night and lost Clyde Gates during the game. Terrell Owens has been petitioning through Twitter to join the team. Will the circus atmosphere-loving Jets comply? They did choose Gates and journeyman Jason Hill over T.O. the last two times they scraped the barrel for receiving help, so it seems unlikely.

The ugly Jets receiving corps didn’t fare too badly against the No. 1 pass defense on Monday Night Football, and they will be facing much softer coverage this week against the 15th-ranked Colts pass defense. The Colts will likely be without top cornerback Vontae Davis and elite pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Mark Sanchez should have time to throw, so he better step in up this week, or Tebow-time will be soon approaching.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets running game has been going nowhere fast behind the pedestrian Shonn Greene. Rex Ryan gave him a vote of confidence prior to Monday night, but Bilal Powell still saw more snaps at running back. Neither are attractive options for fantasy owners, especially if center Nick Mangold misses significant time with the leg injury he suffered on Monday night. Mangold “hopes” to play this week, but he was seen hobbling in practice.

Mark Sanchez: 285 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 15 rush yds
Tim Tebow: 25 rush yds, 1 TD
Chaz Schilens: 35 rec yds
Stephen Hill: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Jeremy Kerley: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Jeff Cumberland: 30 rec yds
Shonn Greene: 25 rush yds / 5 rec yds
Bilal Powell: 10 rush yds / 25 rec yds

Prediction: Jets 24, Colts 20

Lions @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford has struggled a bit in 2012, after a 2011 season that saw him exceed 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. Stafford has only thrown three touchdowns against four interceptions so far this season. His accuracy has been off, and the team has struggled to consistently move the ball. He still has the most uniquely athletic wide receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson, and while some disappointed owners may look to the “Madden Curse” to explain Johnson's downslide from 2011, the truth of the matter is that he’s having a fine season, and any player would be likely to regress from a 16-touchdown campaign. Johnson is still averaging over 100 receiving yards per game and should pick up his touchdown production, as he’s just too big and fast for any cornerback to cover one-on-one. The team will need either Nate Burleson or Titus Young to step up and pull some coverage off of Johnson in order for the offense to become the force it was last season.

The Eagles secondary has performed well in 2012 but, surprisingly, alleged shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha has been burned for many big plays this season, leaving Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie as the corner to fear in Philly. The Eagles have allowed only 206.8 ypg and five passing touchdowns through five weeks, despite playing against two high-powered passing attacks in the Steelers and the Giants the last two weeks. It’s a tough matchup for a Detroit team looking to get back on track.

Running Game Thoughts: Mikel Leshoure gained 100 yards (albeit on 26 carries) in his first game back from a ruptured Achilles tendon that sidelined him for his entire rookie season, but the heavy workload caught up to him in his second start. He disappointed with only 26 yards on 13 carries while suffering through a strained groin muscle. He’s averaging only 3.2 ypc after a preseason where he averaged a mere 2.2. Surprisingly, Leshoure and unheralded journeyman Joique Bell have kept early-season starter Kevin Smith on ice since Leshoure was activated from suspension. Smith was highly effective last season and could be back in the mix if Leshoure doesn’t pick things up soon. Bell meanwhile has found a nice niche as a pass-catching back for the Lions after bouncing around from the practice squad of Buffalo to New Orleans during his first two seasons in the league. For a 220-pound back, he’s a quick, shifty runner and has steadily seen his targets increase each week. In a tough matchup, Leshoure owners should proceed with caution, as it could be Bell that sees more snaps if the Lions determine that they can be more effective attacking this defense through the air.

The Eagles have allowed 100.4 ypg rushing and have allowed only two rushing touchdowns through five weeks. Leshoure’s lack of explosion could make it difficult for him to gain many yards against DeMeco Ryans and the hard-hitting safeties the Eagles rotate into the game.

Matthew Stafford: 295 pass yds 3 TDs, 1 INT
Calvin Johnson: 85 rec yds, 2 TDs
Nate Burleson: 45 rec yds
Titus Young: 30 rec yds
Brandon Pettigrew: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Mikel Leshoure: 55 rush yds / 10 rec yds
Joique Bell: 5 rush yds / 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Michael Vick has had a major issue with turnovers in the early season, with six interceptions and eight lost fumbles through five games. Andy Reid has warned Vick to take better care of the football, but with a rookie, Nick Foles, and a journeyman, Trent Edwards, behind him, Vick should have a fairly long leash. Jeremy Maclin has struggled with injuries thus far and has been a disappointment to his owners, but his career track was on the upswing heading into the season, and if he can stay healthy, he should be productive once again. DeSean Jackson continues to be one of the deadliest players in the game with the ball in his hands, but Vick’s struggles have limited Jackson's downfield opportunities. Against a very bad Lions secondary, this could be the week that the once-feared Eagles passing attack clicks on all cylinders.

In fairness, outside of the Week 3 game against Tennessee where they gave up 378 passing yards, the Lions pass defense has been pretty solid. In Week 4, the Vikings didn’t need to put the ball up in the air, however, as the Detroit special teams coverage put the Lions in an early hole, allowing Minnesota to play on cruise control for the rest of the game. The Lions haven’t faced a feared passing game yet this season, as they’ve squared off against St. Louis, San Francisco, Tennessee and Minnesota, so the stats may be deceiving. The team lacks talent in the secondary and should sink in the rankings as the season progresses.

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy found tough sledding on the ground against a staunch Pittsburgh defense last week, but he saved his fantasy owners by catching a 15-yard score. McCoy is dangerous in the open field, and the coaching staff could help Vick by designing more screen plays and dump offs to McCoy to keep the pass rush in check. While fantasy owners love to complain about McCoy’s lack of usage by the Eagles, he is fourth in the league in touches, with 115, and sixth in yards from scrimmage, with 523. Bryce Brown continues to hold onto the No. 2 spot on the running back depth chart, but he doesn’t see enough touches to be on the fantasy radar. Should McCoy miss any time, Brown could be a valuable contributor though.

The Lions have played the run well, allowing 102.8 ypg and just on touchdown run. DeAndre Levy, Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch form a very underrated linebacking corps that can get to the ball carrier quickly if he manages to escape through the massive Detroit front line.

Michael Vick: 285 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 15 rush yds, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Jason Avant: 35 rec yds
Jeremy Maclin: 60 rec yds
Brent Celek: 45 rec yds
LeSean McCoy: 85 rush yds / 20 yds receiving, 1 TD
Bryce Brown: 10 rush yds

Prediction: Eagles 27, Lions 24

Rams @ Dolphins - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Week 6 in South Beach sees a battle between two teams that have performed much better than anticipated this season. Sam Bradford has not lived up to the hype generated from his statistically successful rookie season, but those stats were inflated by the volume of his pass attempts. Bradford has yet to take that next step, but he has performed steadily enough to lead his team to a 3-2 record, including an upset of the undefeated Arizona Cardinals last Thursday night. The Rams lost their most productive receiver and Bradford’s most trusted target when Danny Amendola dislocated his clavicle in that game. Rookie Chris Givens took his place and scored a 51-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Givens is not the route runner Amendola is, nor does he have the experience, but he gives the offense something that it’s been lacking for the last couple of seasons—deep speed. Bradford threw a great deep ball in college but hasn’t gone downfield much as a professional. Perhaps that changes with the speedy Givens gaining separation downfield. The Rams desperately want second-year tight end Lance Kendricks more involved in the offense, and perhaps the loss of Amendola will help facilitate that. Kendricks has had issues with drops, but the staff is working to make him a better “hands” catcher instead of letting the ball come to his body.

Miami’s pass defense has been extremely vulnerable after they traded cornerback Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts prior to the start of the regular season. The team has allowed 281 passing yards per game and seven passing touchdowns so far. This could be a breakout game for the Rams passing attack, especially if they look to the air early and often after struggling to establish the ground game against a tough run defense.

Running Game Thoughts: At age 29, Steven Jackson has struggled this season, but he looked pretty good against a tough Arizona defense last week—once the team started feeding him the ball. The Rams voided the 2013 option year on Jackson's contract, giving him the incentive to finish the season strongly before getting one last payday. Late-round rookie Daryl Richardson, who Coach Jeff Fischer compared to Chris Johnson (Fisher was referring to when Johnson was good, presumably), provides a nice compliment to the bruising Jackson. Richardson is quick, with nice lateral cutting ability, and adds a nice spark when he gets the ball. He was able to pass the higher-drafted Isaiah Pead this offseason, and he could be the favorite for the 2013 starting job if he finishes strong.

The Dolphins have been extremely tough against the run, limiting opponents to only 61.4 ypg on the ground and allowing only two rushing touchdowns. The Dolphins front seven, especially the interior of their line, is one of the best collections of run stoppers in the league. Jackson will face an uphill battle in the Miami sun this Sunday.

Sam Bradford: 280 pass yds 2 TDs
Brandon Gibson: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Chris Givens: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Lance Kendricks: 35 rec yds
Steven Jackson: 35 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
Daryl Richardson: 25 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has settled in nicely after an extremely shaky Week 1 and is second all time behind Cam Newton in passing yards by a quarterback (1,269) through the first five games of his rookie year. Tannehill was converted from wide receiver to quarterback while at Texas A&M, and was considered a project that was better off sitting and learning during his rookie season. Guess not. Brian Hartline leads the league in receiving yards. No, seriously, he does. Hartline is a good route runner who doesn’t possess blazing speed, but he has found ways to get open to the tune of 514 yards—highlighted by his Week 4, 253-yard effort.

How does a team go from one of the worst passing defenses in the league to one of the best? Sign Cortland Finnegan as a free agent and draft Janoris Jenkins, apparently. The Rams have allowed only 218 passing ypg and have yielded only two scores through the air over five games. This is a tough matchup for Tannehill, Hartline and Bess this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Reggie Bush set a career high in rushing yards last season and continues to impress in 2012—even while toughing out a knee injury. He has 417 yards and three scores on the ground while also accumulating 96 yards through the air. Second-year back Daniel Thomas and rookie Lamar Miller are fighting for the scraps Bush leaves behind. Neither has been able to establish himself consistently, but a concussion issue for Thomas gives Miller the job this week. Bush finally decided to stop trying to make the big play and put his head down and run North-South, and it has made him a much better running back.

Ryan Tannehill: 205 pass yds, 1 INT / 25 rush yds, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 80 rec yds
Brian Hartline: 40 rec yds
Anthony Fasano: 25 rec yds
Lamar Miller: 10 rush yds
Reggie Bush: 75 rush yds, 1 TD / 35 rec yds

Prediction: Rams 24, Dolphins 14

Vikings @ Redskins - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder’s improvement from his rookie season has somehow flown under the radar, despite the Vikings' being a surprising 4-1. Ponder is completing 68 percent of his passes with a respectable 6.8 ypa. He also has six passing touchdowns against only two interceptions. He’s fortunate to be teammates with Percy Harvin, who has developed into one of the best offensive weapons in the league. Harvin, who was a running back at Florida, is mostly used as a wide receiver but often lines up in the backfield as well—at times even taking handoffs. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has also stepped up his game in his second season and has four touchdown receptions over the first five weeks. The team was very happy to get field-stretcher Jerome Simpson back from a three-game suspension in Week 4, but a Week 5 back injury limited him and is putting his availability going forward in doubt.

The Redskins pass defense has been the worst in the league. The team has allowed an incredible 328.6 ypg through the air and 13 passing touchdowns.

Running Game Thoughts: Only Adrian Peterson could tear three ligaments in his knee late in 2011 and be ready to play the opening week of the 2012 season. While he doesn’t look fully healthy yet, he’s still effective and is hurting neither the Vikings nor his fantasy owners by playing at less than 100 percent. The Vikings have a solid run-blocking line, and while Peterson is not as explosive as he was pre-injury, he’s still plenty powerful and shifty. Harvin gets a few carries per game, as well, and was able to score on the ground from 4 yards out—likely to the dismay of Peterson owners.

The Redskins have been able to limit opposing runners so far this season, allowing only 87.8 ypg with three rushing touchdowns. Teams have been able to easily move the ball through the air, but that isn’t the sole reason rushing numbers are down against the Skins. The ageless London Fletcher (well, he’s actually 37) still eats up opposing runners when most linebackers his age are eating up Las Vegas buffets, and form Giant nose tackle Barry Cofield is a classic clog in the middle.

Christian Ponder: 255 pass yds 2 TDs, 1 INT / 20 rush yds
Percy Harvin: 75 rec yds, 1 TD / 15 rush yds
Jerome Simpson: 20 rec yds
Kyle Rudolph: 40 rec yds
Adrian Peterson: 55 rush yds / 25 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Robert Griffin III is likely to play after suffering a “mild" concussion last week, but he could be a risky start due to the chance of getting his bell rung again. Prior to leaving the game, he was having his worst showing in the season, with only 90 yards passing after three quarters. It was fellow rookie and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins who came in and completed a 77-yard touchdown pass to seldom-used veteran Santana Moss. Pierre Garcon should be close to 100 percent from his foot injury and will likely be the only consistent pass catcher in the Washington lineup, as he appears to be Griffin’s first look before spreading the ball around otherwise. With Griffin a little shaky, it may be best to avoid the Skins passing game for this week against a tough matchup.

Minnesota can get after a quarterback, which also doesn’t bode well for Griffin’s health. They have 14 sacks on the season and have limited passing games to an average of 225 yards and little more than one touchdown per game.

Running Game Thoughts: Alfred Morris has finally made this section of my weekly contribution Shanahanigans-free and, thus, much more useful to the reader. The sixth-round rookie should stick in the starting lineup as long as he stays healthy, as he’s been extremely productive. The hard charging Morris has little wiggle or deception in his running style, but he fits well in the zone-blocking scheme with his one-cut-and-go mentality. He has gained a lot of yards after initial contact due to his burst and the way he keeps his legs churning through contact. He’s been compared to Terrell Davis by the Shanahan’s and some media pundits alike. Looks as though the kid is here to stay, and he should slowly start moving up rankings lists as a safe choice each week.

Robert Griffin III: 255 pass yds 1 TD, 1 INT / 25 rush yds
Pierre Garcon: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Santana Moss: 25 rec yds
Josh Morgan: 30 rec yds
Fred Davis: 55 rec yds
Alfred Morris: 95 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Vikings 24, Redskins 20