Week 6 Overview
With our first byes of the season, we have our smallest slate of the season (10 games). Only three of those games have totals over 50 points, which leaves us with less obviously strong plays to target. It also could lead to inflated ownership on certain teams (especially the Chiefs). The biggest question this week will be whether to go heavy on the three or four games with the best profiles and not worry too much about rostered percentage or to try to gain a great deal of leverage on the field by targeting some more overlooked games.
We are going to spend a bit more time on the overview and a bit less on the individual player write-ups because the overall strategy element of the roster build feels even more important than normal this week. Week 5 saw another mobile young quarterback (Justin Herbert) end up as the QB1 on the strength of a rushing touchdown. If you are playing tournaments, the focus has to be on trying to finish at the very top. The payout structures are too top-heavy to have any long-term success unless you are playing with the aim of winning instead of just hoping to min-cash.
We have seen we probably need 35+ points from our quarterback to win a tournament. It is very difficult (though not impossible) to get there without a rushing touchdown. With that goal of 35 points in mind, we can simply eliminate many of the 20 quarterbacks on this slate from our tournament player pool. It is hard to envision a realistic path to 35 points for Teddy Bridgewater, Davis Mills, Justin Fields (given his current usage), Mac Jones, Derek Carr, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, or Kirk Cousins. You can at least imagine Daniel Jones, Joe Burrow, Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, Taylor Heinicke, or Matthew Stafford getting there. However, either a lack fo rushing upside or mediocre passing projections makes those guys longer shots to have a huge tournament-winning week. If mass multi-entering, sprinkle in some Burrow, Wentz, Heinicke, and Stafford. But if you are not entering 100 lineups, the advice here is to simply mark all of the above quarterbacks off of your list of options.
One thing that is a bit different this season is that there are simply more quarterbacks with massive fantasy upside in a given week. You aren’t just fading one guy with the potential for a big score but a handful and the odds are they do not all fail at the same time. This week, there are five who stand out above the crowd with realistic chances of having huge fantasy weeks. We will discuss each of the five below in order of preference.
Top QB Plays
Lamar Jackson ($8,200) Baltimore vs. LA Chargers
Jackson was a fantasy monster in 2019 but was merely mortal in 2020, largely because the Ravens were able to rely more on J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. With the Ravens running back room decimated by injuries, Jackson has had to shoulder nearly all of the offensive load. He has been able to do so. Like 2019, he is now accounting for nearly all of the Ravens touchdowns and beating teams with both his arm and his legs.
There are positives and negatives about the matchup with the Chargers. Let’s start with the big negative. Los Angeles has allowed just four passes to be completed 15-or-more yards downfield. The scheme essentially eliminates the deep ball from opposing offenses. Jackson has the highest average depth of target in the NFL and has been doing much of his damage on long throws (especially to Marquise Brown). Those may not be there this week. There are some positives that should offset this if Jackson is willing to hit some singles instead of swinging for the fences. The Chargers allow completions underneath and have struggled against the run (31st in DVOA). With linebacker Drue Tranquill out, Jackson could have a huge day running the football. Plus, the matchup with Justin Herbert will mean the Ravens offense should have to remain aggressive the full 60 minutes.
Justin Herbert ($8,000), LA Chargers at Baltimore
Herbert is off to a fantastic start in his sophomore season. He has thrown for 337 or more yards in three of his five starts. In the other two, he still threw a total of seven touchdowns. He has both a high floor and a high ceiling (as evidenced by his five total touchdowns and over 400 yards of total offense last week). The Ravens have given up massive fantasy numbers three times in five weeks. Derek Carr (435 yards and two touchdowns), Patrick Mahomes II (343 yards and three touchdowns), and Carson Wentz (402 yards and 2 touchdowns) each threw all over this secondary. Against the 20th-ranked pass defense (DVOA), this is a spot where Herbert should have success. The two causes for concern here are (1) Mike Williams did not practice Wednesday or Thursday so you will want to keep an eye on his situation and (2) the one area where Herbert has had some struggles is against the blitz and the Ravens are very blitz-heavy. Overall, he is still a great play this week and will come in lower owned than he should be yet again.
#Chargers Film Room: Justin Herbert has actually been *better* on third down this season than he was last season. His performance on money downs is the primary reason why the offense put up 47 points on the Browns. And why the unit is rolling. https://t.co/QkdBDVsL8B— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) October 14, 2021
Patrick Mahomes II ($9,000) Kansas City at Washington
We all know how talented Mahomes is and he has proven his ability to put up gigantic fantasy numbers. This matchup also features two of the four worst pass defenses in the NFL (DVOA) and the Chiefs are desperate for a win. Washington has allowed four passing touchdowns in each of the last three games and Mahomes projects for roughly 2.5 in this spot with clear upside for more. It is also worth noting that we have seen Mahomes more willing to run in recent weeks. He rushed eight times for 61 yards last week. The biggest knocks on Mahomes are his salary, highest at the position, and the possibility that he comes in close to 20% rostered.
Other QBs to consider:
Kyler Murray ($8,400) Arizona at Cleveland
Murray is strongly in play every single week given his rushing usage down around the goal line combined with serious passing production. Keep an eye on the injury status of the Browns two young stars at cornerback, Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II. Both look likely to return from injuries, which makes this a much tougher matchup than the recent numbers would suggest.
Dak Prescott ($8,100) Dallas at New England
The high upside quarterback flying most under the radar this week is Prescott. We have seen offensive explosions from him and it feels like he is due for some more red zone rushing usage. The big negative is the Patriots defense, which ranks 8th in DVOA against the pass. Still, we saw Davis Mills put up big numbers against this unit last week and at projected ownership under 5%, Prescott is a nice contrarian option given his upside.
The overarching theme at the position this week is injuries. On the one hand, we have players who look likely to play at this time (Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon) but may be limited. This makes it hard to project them with any confidence. On the other we have a number of starters sidelined and a number of priced-down backups poised to step into much larger roles (Devontae Booker, Khalil Herbert, and Darrel Williams).
Top RB Plays
Khalil Herbert ($5,500) Chicago vs. Green Bay
With David Montgomery injured and Damien Williams looking to be sidelined due to COVID-19, Khalil Herbert is the last man standing in the Bears backfield. Even with Williams available last week, Herbert played 53% of the snaps and carried the ball 18 times for 75 yards. He should be on the field even more this week. Herbert also passed the eye test immediately last week. He took his first carry for 11 yards averaged 6.3 yards per carry in the first half. He earned his higher-than-expected second-half workload.
He would have been in this week's Replacements or even last week's, but I ALREADY recommended him in last week's Gut Check as a speculative add.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 15, 2021
Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room: The Khalil Herbert-Dalvin Cook Stylistic Parallels https://t.co/7hvYXKAgxV pic.twitter.com/w8SJsiLOib
The matchup this week is one Herbert should be able to take advantage of. The Packers defense ranks 29th in DVOA against the run. It will be interesting to see how popular Herbert becomes. The hunch here is that his popularity will not explode due to the Bears relatively low implied team total (19) and the other bargain options in the same price range. Based upon projected usage, Herbert looks like the best bargain option on the entire slate.
Austin Ekeler ($8,400), LA Chargers at Baltimore
Given the uncertainty surrounding the health of Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, Ekeler stands out as the safest running back play on the slate. He has seen at least five targets four straight weeks and also had 32 rushing attempts in the last two weeks. He is also getting plenty of work in the red zone, which has led to back-to-back games with at least two touchdowns. Given the combination of safe floor and strong ceiling, Ekeler is a great play if you can fit in his salary.
D’Andre Swift ($7,100) Detroit vs. Cincinnati
Swift has been a standout fantasy performer this season despite sharing snaps with Jamaal Williams. He is averaging 7.0 targets per game, a massive number for a running back. Swift’s receiving usage is bankable and there is upside for even more. The Lions are simply running out of pass-catching options. This was the league’s worst wide receiver corps coming into the season and have lost both of their starting outside wide receivers (Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus) to injuries. The depth chart at outside wide receiver is Kalif Raymond, KhaDarel Hodge, and Trinity Benson. Yuck.
D'Andre Swift: 286 yards after catch (2nd in NFL) pic.twitter.com/E1FhMOPojM— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) October 14, 2021
Given Swift’s passing game usage, he is completely game script proof. He has also played over 70% of the snaps in back-to-back weeks and has serious rushing upside should the Lions jump out to an early lead. The matchup is excellent. While the Bengals have been more stout against the run than in past seasons, the defense has shown signs of weakness against the run in recent weeks. Plus, Cincinnati is still giving up 8.2 receptions per game to opposing backs (second most).
Other RBs to consider:
Antonio Gibson ($6,700), Washington vs. Kansas City
This Chiefs defense has been atrocious this season, ranking 31st in DVOA against the pass and 32nd in DVOA against the run. It would make sense for Washington to come out of the gates with a run-heavy approach to try to keep Patrick Mahomes II off of the field. Gibson is a dynamic playmaker with big-play ability who always has tournament upside. There are two reasons to be mildly skeptical of Gibson, however. First, while Washington has a solid team total (24), they are also big underdogs. The game script could go against him. Second, Gibson has not seen very much usage in the passing game. In fact, he has seen exactly two targets in each of the past four contests.
Darrel Williams ($5,200), Kansas City at Washington
Williams is just too cheap given that he is the starting running back for a heavy favorite with the highest implied team total (30.5) on the entire slate. Williams also makes sense from a game theory perspective. If you fade the Chiefs passing game (which will be extremely chalky) and Williams is the one who gets the touchdowns, you gain a big edge on the rest of the field. However, he also works well in Kansas City passing stacks given his heavy usage as a pass catcher and his bargain salary, which helps open a path to the more expensive Chiefs stars. The issue here is that Williams may end up being the most popular running back on the slate. We have also seen the Washington front have much more success stopping opposing backs than the secondary has had slowing down receivers, so the matchup is not great from that perspective.
Injuries will be a key factor at wide receiver, as well. Both Tyreek Hill and Mike Williams are questionable. A number of other players are probable but dealing with injuries that could impact their productivity (Amari Cooper, Sterling Shepard, and others).
With a number of the top wide receivers off of the slate, there are fewer elite options this week. This should lead to higher ownership on each of the top guys and may require us to weigh even more heavily than normal how aggressive we want to be in searching for contrarian plays.
Top WR Options
Keenan Allen ($7,100), LA Chargers at Baltimore
One of the league’s most talented receivers is paired with one of the game’s best young quarterbacks. He is averaging 10.6 targets per game and facing a team that just gave up 400+ passing yards. He is playing in what should be one of the higher scoring games of the weekend with serious shootout potential. He is currently projected for less than 10% ownership. There is a lot to like here.
Ravens defense vs slot receivers this season:— Jarad Evans (@PFF_Jarad) October 14, 2021
- 64 targets (3rd most)
- 47 completions (3rd)
- 637 yards (most)
- 17 catches of 15-plus yards (most)
- 3 TDs (11th)
Keenan Allen has a 60% slot snap rate ðŸ‘€
We are getting Allen at a discounted price and lower than normal popularity because he has gone a couple of weeks without a touchdown and Mike Williams has been making the big plays. Williams is banged up and may begin to see extra coverage his way, which means it could be Allen’s turn for the big game. The Herbert-Allen stack is my favorite of the week.
Davante Adams ($8,500), Green Bay at Chicago
Adams has been the definition of “good chalk” over the last two seasons. He is arguably the league’s best wide receiver, playing with one of the greatest passers of all time and seeing extreme volume. In fact, over the last three weeks, Adams is averaging 15.0 targets per game. Adams is averaging 9.3 yards per target since the start of the 2020 season, so he can do all kinds of damage with that level of volume.
There are some minor negatives here. The matchup against the Bears defense is below average and Adams may be the most popular play on the entire slate. Regardless, this is a place where we can eat the chalk, bank what should be plenty of points from Adams, and try to differentiate our lineups elsewhere.
Kadarius Toney ($6,000), NY Giants vs. LA Rams
Toney has been regularly featured here in recent weeks and he has finally shown why on the field. He is such a dynamic player with the ball in his hands that the Giants offense simply has to find ways to get the ball to him. This is especially true now given that Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay are out and almost all of the other pass-catchers are less than fully healthy. While we will not be able to roster Toney at extremely low numbers anymore, his increased salary and the Giants low team total (19.5) should keep him below 10%. The game script sets up well for Toney to again see heavy usage with the Giants big home underdogs.
Other WRs to Consider:
Amari Cooper ($6,800), Dallas at New England
The Cowboys have leaned on their running game in recent weeks but the Patriots may decide to not let Ezekiel Elliott beat them. If the Cowboys are forced to throw, we know they can get it done through the air as well. Cooper is priced way down here in part due to a hamstring injury that has limited his snaps and targets in recent weeks. With another week of rehab under his belt, we could see Cooper get back to the elite WR1 play we glimpsed from him in Week 1.
Michael Pittman Jr Jr. ($5,800), Indianapolis vs. Houston
It is hard to figure out what is going on with Pittman’s pricing. He is the clear WR1 in Indianapolis and has had four straight games with 6+ receptions. He’s averaging 9.8 targets 1.5 red zone targets per game over that stretch. If you are looking for a high-floor WR3 at a nice price, it is hard to go wrong with Pittman.
Early in the year, it seemed like the gap between Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and the rest of the tight ends was gaping. However, both have cooled off considerably and no longer look like players we have to get into our lineups. While those two stars are still in play, it may be better to look to save some salary this week by focusing on top options in the middle and lower-tier of the pricing scale.
Top TE Options
Mark Andrews ($6,300), Baltimore vs. LA Chargers
Andrews is coming off of a monster 11-147-2 week against the Colts. While the big numbers were an outlier, Andrews had seemed like he was on the cusp of a breakout for weeks. He is running a ton of routes and has now been targeted 28 times in the last three weeks. The matchup sets up extremely well for Andrews. The Chargers are allowing 16.3 FanDuel points per game to opposing tight ends (second-most in the NFL). Their defense is designed to take away the deep ball, which could limit Marquise Brown’s impact and make Andrews the clear top target. Given his recent production, the matchup, and his overall track record, Andrews should be priced at $7K+. Take advantage of the discount here. Andrews has every bit of the upside that Darren Waller and Travis Kelce have but is much easier to fit onto your roster.
The Baltimore Ravens — yes, the Baltimore Ravens — are leading the league in explosive pass play rate— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 15, 2021
Roman has opened up the offense, giving Mark Andrews and Jackson the freedom to space hunt. It’s not always pretty but it’s hard to argue with results. https://t.co/LIh31alKs7
Ricky Seals-Jones ($5,000), Washington vs. Kansas City
Logan Thomas was a top-three tight end option down the stretch of the 2020 season and consistently priced in the $6,000s on FanDuel to start this season. Since he has been injured, Seals-Jones has received almost identical usage. These two are similarly talented as pass catchers so we are getting Seals-Jones for at least a $1,000 discount. He played 99% of the snaps (82 total) last week and ran a route on virtually every single passing play. In a game Washington is likely to be trailing, which has the highest implied team total of the week, the team should be forced to pass a lot. Facing the NFL’s second-worst pass defense, they should have their fair share of success, as well. This is just a really nice spot for Seals-Jones at an outstanding price and sub-10% projected ownership.
Ricky Seals-Jones has a true every-down role, is actually a good receiver, free in fantasy land, set up great in a shootout against the Chiefs, and it's like none of you even care pic.twitter.com/H0ld2bIFt4— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 13, 2021
Other TEs to consider:
Darren Waller ($7,000), Oakland at Denver
Since the monster Week 1 performance, Waller has been merely solid. He has not seen more than eight targets in any game and has three straight games of 54 receiving yards or less. He is going to have another big game at some point, so you will want to have exposure to him if you are multi-entering. However, that big game is more likely to come some other week. Denver has given up just 4.7 FanDuel points per game to opposing tight ends this season.
Travis Kelce ($8,500), Kansas City at Washington
Like Waller, Kelce has cooled off after a hot start. He has averaged just 11.0 FanDuel points per game over his last three. He has a solid matchup and is always a candidate to explode for 20+ points. Again, if you are multi-entering, you absolutely want to get some exposure. However, given just how big the pricing gap is between him and the rest of the pack at tight end, Kelce is not someone you have to go out of your way to roster this week.
Cowboys ($4,100) at New England
The Patriots are going through some growing pains with a rookie quarterback and a lot of new faces on offense. Through five games, New England is averaging 2.2 turnovers per game. On the other side, the Cowboys have been ball hawks all season long. The Dallas defense has multiple interceptions in every single game.
Vikings ($3,700) at Carolina
The knock on Sam Darnold has always been the turnovers. Through the early part of the season, it looked like he was getting over the problem. However, he threw three picks last week and a couple of them were very poor decisions. The aggressive, blitz-heavy Minnesota defense will try to force him into some mistakes. Given the sub-$4K pricing, playing style, and decent matchup, the Vikings are worth considering this weekend.