Week #6: The Inside Slant
John Holler - 10/10/2017
Week Six of the 2017 season promises to bring more separation and clarity as to who are the contenders and the pretenders of the season. Some teams, like Kansas City, Green Bay and Carolina, have sent the message that they’re not going anywhere any time soon. Others, like the Giants, 49ers and Browns have all but started to wave the white flag on their 2017 season.
The week starts with one of the games of the week, as 4-1 teams collide when Philadelphia travels to Carolina. The Sunday early games include the semiannual Packers-Vikings battle in the NFC North, the Patriots looking to do a number on the Jets – both of whom are tied at 3-2 and Detroit looking to right their current slide against New Orleans, which is coming off their bye week. The late games are highlighted by two of the more interesting teams this season – when the Rams head to Jacksonville – and two of the top teams in the AFC looking to solidify their spots atop the conference – when Pittsburgh heads into Kansas City.
The week ends on a down note, as the Giants will fall to 0-6 at Denver Sunday night and the Luck-less Colts head into Tennessee on Monday night.
THURSDAY NIGHT GAME
PHILADELPHIA AT CAROLINA
Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz – The Panthers are riding high at 4-1, but their defense has been hit pretty hard by every capable quarterback they have faced, including Drew Brees (220-3), Tom Brady (307-2) and Matthew Stafford (229-2). Wentz has become a fantasy factor and the Eagles will be looking to match or surpass those numbers.
Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin – The Eagles did a decent job of bottling up Larry Fitzgerald last week (6-51-0), but have struggled against No. 1 receivers all season, including Terrelle Pryor (6-66), Travis Kelce (8-103-1), Odell Beckham Jr. (9-79-2) and Keenan Allen (5-138-0). The Panthers pass attack has suddenly become more deadly and Benjamin is going to be counted heavily on a short week to get the job done through the air.
SUNDAY EARLY GAMES
CHICAGO AT BALTIMORE
Chicago WR Kendall Wright – The Ravens have done an outstanding job of shutting down an opponent’s No. 1 receiver, including A.J. Green (5-74), Corey Coleman (1-9), Allen Hurns (3-20-1), Antonio Brown (4-34) and Amari Cooper (1-8). Wright passes for the top receiver in the Bears passing game and, given what they’ve done against Pro Bowl talent, it’s hard to endorse Wright having a big day.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco – With the exception of Aaron Rodgers, who scorched the Bears for four touchdown passes despite throwing for just 179 yards, Chicago’s rag-tag defense has done a strong job of limiting opposing QBs, including Matt Ryan (321-1), Jameis Winston (204-1), Ben Roethlisberger (235-1) and the combination of Sam Bradford and Case Keenum (176-1). The Bears look like a pushover, but fantasy owners have made that mistake before.
CLEVELAND AT HOUSTON
Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer – Kizer got pulled last week, but is likely going to keep his job. The Texans are reeling with the loss of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, but have been awful against QBs from power offenses (New England and Kansas City), but dominant against lesser quarterbacks, including Blake Bortles (125-1), Andy Dalton (224-0) and the combination of Marcus Mariota and Matt Cassel (117-0). Picking any Browns to put in your lineup is always a hard sell, but even against an injury-depleted Texans defense is asking a lot.
Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins – The Browns have consistently been giving up receptions, yards and touchdowns to an opponent’s No. 1 receiver, including Antonio Brown (11-182), Jeremy Maclin (4-31-1), T.Y. Hilton (7-153-1), A.J. Green (5-63-1) and Jermaine Kearse (4-38-1). Hopkins is coming off a big game, but the hits may just keep on coming.
DETROIT AT NEW ORLEANS
Detroit WR Golden Tate – The Saints are coming off their bye, but have struggled against receivers all season, even when they shut out Miami’s anemic offense – DeVante Parker (6-69-0). But, in their other games, things have been much worse in terms of getting gouged, including Adam Thielen (9-157), Stefon Diggs (7-93-2), James White (8-85), Rob Gronkowski (6-116-1) and Christian McCaffrey (9-101). Tate is the centerpiece of the pass offense and he could be in line for some big numbers.
New Orleans WR Michael Thomas – The Lions have done a decent job limiting a team’s top receiving option, but have been prone to giving up plenty of fantasy points, including Larry Fitzgerald (6-74), Odell Beckham Jr. (4-36), Julio Jones (7-91), Stefon Diggs (5-98) and Kelvin Benjamin (4-58-1). Thomas is primed for a big game as the Saints try to keep their winning streak going and being rested against a Lions defense that got shredded by Cam Newton, they have plenty of ammunition to work from.
GREEN BAY AT MINNESOTA
Green Bay WR Jordy Nelson – The Vikings have done an outstanding job of limiting a team’s most dangerous receiving threat, including Michael Thomas (5-45), Antonio Brown (5-62), Mike Evans (7-67), Golden Tate (3-29) and Kendall Wright (4-46). Expect Nelson to get the Xavier Rhodes treatment, which has led to many of these results.
Minnesota WR Stefon Diggs – The Packers have struggled against a team’s top receiver all season long, including Doug Baldwin (4-63), Julio Jones (5-108), A.J. Green (10-111-1), Kendall Wright (4-51-1) and Dez Bryant (5-52-1). Diggs has been the NFL’s leading receiver in terms of yardage almost the entire season despite the team having two different quarterbacks taking snaps. He has emerged as a true star and will be critical if Minnesota intends to knock off the 4-1 Packers.
MIAMI AT ATLANTA
Miami RB Jay Ajayi – The Falcons have invested in improving the defense that got shelled in the Super Bowl and has done a nice job of containing the top running backs they have faced, including Jordan Howard (13-52-1), Ty Montgomery (10-35-1), Ameer Abdullah (14-47-0) and LeSean McCoy (20-76-0). Ajayi is central to Miami’s offense because the pass game has been so brutal, but he will need to break the trend that other top backs have struggled to do all season.
Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman – Miami’s offense has been brutal, but its defense, especially against featured running backs, has been very good at limiting an opposing bell cow, including Melvin Gordon (9-13-1), Bilal Powell (15-37-1), the trio of Saints running backs (23-74-0) and the combination of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry (18-67-0). Freeman, and to a lesser extent Tevin Coleman, have been running over people, but Miami may not give up yardage nearly as easily.
NEW ENGLAND AT NEW YORK JETS
New England PK Stephen Gostkowski – When teams score on the Jets, it tends to be touchdowns, not field goals. Opposing teams have scored 17 times on the Jets – 14 touchdowns and just three field goals. In their five games, opposing kickers have scored three or less points three times. The Patriots are likely to put up points on the Jets, but much of Gostkowski’s day might be spent kicking extra points, not field goals.
New York QB Josh McCown – The Patriots are getting themselves better on defense, but are still the worst pass defense in the league. They’ve been hit hard by quarterbacks, including Alex Smith (368-4), Drew Brees (356-2), Cam Newton (316-3) and Jameis Winston (334-1) through the air and both Newton and rookie Deshaun Watson ran for touchdowns. Nobody is going to be thrilled about the prospect of starting McCown, but the Patriots have given up too many fantasy points to QBs to ignore.
SAN FRANCISCO AT WASHINGTON
San Francisco TE George Kittle – In four games, the Redskins have been lit up by tight ends, including Zach Ertz (8-93), Gerald Everett (3-95), Jared Cook (4-43-1) and Travis Kelce (7-111-1). Until they stop someone, they will continue to get hit hard by offensive coordinators looking to exploit a weakness and this appears to be a pretty significant weakness in the Redskins defense.
Washington RBs Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine – The 49ers have been run over by opposing running backs, including Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey (31-112), Chris Carson (20-93), Todd Gurley (28-113-2) and the combination of Frank Gore and Marlon Mack (23-139-1). The Redskins always seem to mix and match their backs, but there appears to be the potential for good scoring here.
SUNDAY LATE GAMES
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS AT OAKLAND
Los Angeles RB Melvin Gordon – The Raiders haven’t been allowing running backs to get in the end zone much, but there has been a lot of production available from backs, including DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry (18-69), Bilal Powell and Matt Forte (15-66), Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson (27-87), the combo of C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles (25-128) and the pairing of Buck Allen and Alex Collins (33-128-1). The rushing numbers have been going up as the year has went on and Gordon could be in line for big things if it continues.
Oakland RB Marshawn Lynch – The Chargers have been hammered by running backs all season, even by teams that don’t run the ball particularly well, including C.J. Anderson (20-81), Jay Ajayi (28-122), Kareem Hunt (17-172-1), LaGarrette Blount (16-136) and the Giants three-headed RB attack (24-144-1). Lynch hasn’t put together a big fantasy day yet, but if Beast Mode is going to present itself, now may be the time to do it.
LOS ANGELES RAMS AT JACKSONVILLE
Los Angeles QB Jared Goff – The Jaguars have been up and down, but one thing they have done consistently is keep opposing quarterbacks from putting up big days against them, including Houston’s Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson (164-1), Marcus Mariota (215-1), Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Ryan Mallett (64-1), Josh McCown (224-0) and Ben Roethlisberger (312-0 with five interceptions). The aggressive defense caused two Pick-6’s last week and Goff is sure to be feeling the pressure in this matchup of two teams on the verge of breaking out into legitimate contenders.
Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette – The Rams did a nice job of bottling up Seattle’s run game last week, but that hasn’t been overly hard to do for other teams this season because the Seahawks O-line is very suspect. However, running backs have put together huge days against the Rams run defense, including Chris Thompson (3-77-2), Carlos Hyde (25-84-2) and Ezekiel Elliott (21-85-1 rushing, 4-54-1 receiving). Fournette has scored at least one touchdown in every game and, given the Rams propensity for giving up big RB fantasy days, he could be in line to keep his streak alive.
PITTSBURGH AT KANSAS CITY
Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown – The Chiefs are the last remaining unbeaten team and have shown the ability to overwhelm good opponents, but they have been hard by go-to receivers all season long, including Danny Amendola (6-100), Brandin Cooks (3-88), Alshon Jeffery (7-92-1), Zach Ertz (5-97), Travis Benjamin (5-105), Terrelle Pryor (3-70-1) and DeAndre Hopkins (4-52-3). Brown is waiting for a blowup game and this could be the one in which he starts putting up the absurd numbers we have become accustomed to seeing out of him.
Kansas City PK Harrison Butker – In just two games, Butker has scored a whopping 29 points, including 18 last week against Houston. But, the Steelers have been incredibly stingy with kicker points – whether they’re winning or losing. There weekly kicker point totals have been 4-3-5-3-6. A lot of fantasy owners in need of kicker will be counting on Butker, but he will have to buck a long trend to break the current streak, despite as tantalizing as Butker has made things for kickers,
TAMPA BAY AT ARIZONA
Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin – The Cardinals have been ripped defensively, but one thing they have done consistently is keep opposing running backs from having monster games against them, including Ameer Abdullah (15-30), Frank Gore (14-46-1), Ezekiel Elliott (22-80-1), Carlos Hyde (16-68) and LaGarrette Blount (14-74-0). Martin looked good in his first game back from suspension and there is room for scoring against the Cardinals run defense, but they have yet to allow a monster game and the Muscle Hamster may not be the first to disprove this season-long trend.
Arizona QB Carson Palmer – The Bucs have been allowing a massive amount of passing yards all season to every QB they’ve faced, including Mike Glennon (301-1), Case Keenum (369-3), Eli Manning (288-2) and Tom Brady (303-1). Palmer is far from a certainty when it comes to posting big fantasy days, but the Bucs have been allowing too many big plays to QBs this season and, when you’re average day is more than 300 yards and at least one TD, it’s worth giving solid consideration to.
SUNDAY NIGHT GAME
NEW YORK GIANTS AT DENVER
New York RBs Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman – Considering the hole the Giants are in, most fantasy owners have likely dumped any G-Men they have. Playing Denver only makes things worse, since they’ve hammered every running back they’ve faced, including Melvin Gordon (18-54), Ezekiel Elliott (9-8), Shady McCoy (14-21) and Marshawn Lynch (9-12). This has all the makings of an ugly beating and only those with Denver fantasy players should have an interest, not Giants players.
Denver TEs A.J. Derby and Virgil Green – Neither of them has posted much that would get them on fantasy rosters, but the Giants have sucked out loud against tight ends, including Jason Witten (7-59-1), Eric Ebron (5-42-1), Zach Ertz (8-55-1), Cameron Brate (4-80-1), O.J. Howard (2-63-1) and Hunter Henry (3-42-1). Numbers like that from tight ends are almost impossible to fathom, much less ignore.
MONDAY NIGHT GAME
INDIANAPOLIS AT TENNESSEE
Indianapolis WR T.Y. Hilton – The Titans held down the Dolphins last week, but that is more in part to Miami being inept through the air. They’ve been gutted by wide receivers all season, including Michael Crabtree (6-83), Amari Cooper (5-62-1), Marquise Lee (7-76), Allen Hurns (6-82-1), Doug Baldwin (10-105-1), DeAndre Hopkins (10-107-1) and Will Fuller (4-35-2). Numbers like that aren’t a fluke and, even without Andrew Luck, Hilton could be in line for some big things.
Tennessee PK Ryan Succop – Succop has put his name in the all-time record books for consecutive made field goals inside of 50 yards and the Colts could be the team that makes him a must-play Monday night for those in need of points. Through five games, the Colts have allowed 45 points to kickers, an average of nine per game and a number that San Francisco’s Robbie Gould hit last week when most would have ignored the point potential. With a divisional matchup, which tend to play tighter to the vests and lead to more kicker scoring opportunities, Succop could be in for some big points…like everybody else has.
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