News & Analysis

Jeff Ratcliffe's fantasy football focus: Facts, predictions, and tips for Week 6

Sep 22, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (21) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Fantasy Focus is a weekly column that breaks down everything you need to know to set your fantasy football lineups. Make your start and sit decisions with fantasy facts, injury information, matchups stats, predictions for the week and more.

It’s time to trim the fat. With nearly half of the fantasy regular season in the rearview mirror, take a long, hard look at your rosters for any dead weight. You know the type of players I’m talking about. Guys who are good enough to not be on waivers but will never start in your lineups. These players are preventing you from stashing upside options who are potential difference makers down the stretch.

Take Mohamed Sanu for example. Sure, the veteran receiver is essentially 2 and 2A with Calvin Ridley in the Falcons target pecking order. Heck, he saw 9 targets just two weeks ago. But he’s shown limited fantasy upside this season and that isn’t likely to change going forward. Sanu has just one 100-yard game in the past five seasons. He’s a fantasy space eater who is limiting your roster’s fantasy upside.

On the other hand, there are players like Devin Singletary. The rookie running back flashed major upside earlier in the season, but he has been sidelined for the past three weeks with an injury. Does that mean you should cut him too? Absolutely not. Unlike Sanu, Singletary has displayed an enormous fantasy ceiling. That upside is exactly what you want on your bench.

Fantasy championships aren’t won with middle-of-the-road players. You win your leagues with players who get hot down the stretch, especially running backs and wide receivers. It’s hard to cut loose players like Sanu, but be real with your roster. If you have fantasy space-eaters, get rid of them. Stash for upside right now to give yourself the best chance of taking down your league in December.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay

Greenline: CAR -2.1, O/U 47.4

Fantasy facts: Fantasy owners may be disappointed by Mike Evans’ performance last week, but the hate has really gone too far. So far this season, Evans is the leader in expected touchdowns with 4.1, which is just a tick over the four that he’s scored. That means Evans is being put into a position to score more frequently than any other receiver in the league. By comparison, Chris Godwin has six touchdowns, but his expected number is 2.8. That means we should expect Godwin’s efficiency numbers to regress going forward.

Matchup upgrade: Both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel draw favorable WR/CB matchups on the perimeter against Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis. Hargreaves has struggled to hold opposing wideouts in check with 22 catches allowed on 28 targets. Davis has been slightly better, but wideouts have racked up 10 catches on 12 targets against Davis over the last two weeks.

Matchup downgrade: The aforementioned Evans faced tough coverage with Marshon Lattimore tracking him on 83% of his routes in Week 5. The Saints also used cloud coverage to bracket Evans, which obviously worked. Expect another shadow for Evans this week from James Bradberry. The Panthers have consistently used Bradberry on Evans. In their last three meetings Evans has just eight catches on 18 targets in Bradberry’s coverage.

Key injuries: Cam Newton remains sidelined for the Panthers, which means we get another week of Kyle Allen under center. Given the fantasy-friendly matchup, Allen is very much in play in 2QB leagues.

Seattle @ Cleveland

Greenline: SEA -2.2, O/U 46.1

Fantasy facts: Russell Wilson leads the league with 11.5% of his throws going to the end zone. That’s an absolutely massive chunk of his overall throws. While this may look unsustainable, it’s really par for the course for Wilson. He led the league in this metric last season at 11.2% and was fourth in the league back in 2017 at 9.0%. While the Seahawks are a run-heavy offense, Wilson’s propensity to chuck the ball to the end zone bodes well for sustained fantasy production.

Matchup upgrade: It’s been a rough start to the year for Odell Beckham Jr., but don’t even think about benching him this week. Beckham figures to see plenty of Tre Flowers this week. So far this season, Flowers has allowed 21 catches on 30 targets for 282 yards and two scores.

Matchup downgrade: Both Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward have been limited in practice this week and have the chance of getting back on the field. Their presence won’t impact Tyler Lockett out of the slot but could put a damper on D.K. Metcalf’s fantasy outlook. The rookie wide receiver got in the end zone last week, and is currently tied with Kenny Golladay for the league lead in end zone targets with seven.

Key injuries: Chris Carson popped up on the injury report Thursday with a shoulder injury. That’s rarely a good sign, so keep a close eye on his Friday practice status. If Carson isn’t able to at least get a limited session in, he’ll be at risk of not playing this weekend.

Houston @ Kansas City

Greenline: KC -4.9, O/U 55.5

Fantasy facts: We all know that Deshaun Watson put up big-time fantasy numbers last week, but it’s how those numbers came that really bodes well for fantasy success going forward. Heading into last week, Watson had attempted just six end zone throws. He racked up five of them last week, with four going for scores. More balls to the end zone means more sustainable production from Watson in fantasy.

Matchup upgrade: There’s a chance Tyreek Hill will get back on the field after missing the last four weeks with a shoulder injury, but he isn’t a lock to play. Hill owners should have a backup plan in place. However, he’s very much in the WR1 conversation if he does suit up thanks to a favorable WR/CB matchup. Hill will draw coverage on the outside from Johnathan Joseph and Lonnie Johnson Jr. So far this season, Johnson leads all corners in targets per game (9.0), and Johnson has struggled this season and currently has the second-lowest coverage grade among qualifying corners.

Matchup downgrade: Believe it or not, the Texans have actually been a very tough matchup for tight ends this season. Through the first five weeks, only the Bills and Patriots allowed fewer fantasy points per game to the position. While you’re never benching Travis Kelce in season-long leagues, this could be a reason to fade him in DFS this week.

Key injuries: The outlook for Sammy Watkins isn’t as promising. Watkins got dinged up last week with a hamstring injury and missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If Watkins isn’t able to suit up, look for Byron Pringle to again see a big role in the Chiefs’ passing game.

Washington @ Miami

Greenline: WAS -2.3, O/U 41.7

Fantasy facts: News out of Washington suggest the Redskins plan to feature Adrian Peterson under the interim coaching regime. While that may sound tempting to use Peterson in fantasy, resist the urge. So far this season, the veteran back is averaging just 2.38 yards after contact. The fact that Peterson isn’t creating independent of his block doesn’t bode well for fantasy upside purposes even in a favorable matchup this week.

Matchup upgrade: Plus matchups abound in this contest, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should fire up any and all options. However, the one sneaky player who stands out this week as a possible flex option and DFS punt is Kenyan Drake. Sure, he’s far from the most consistent fantasy option, but the Redskins are currently the No. 7 fantasy matchup for running backs with opposing backfields averaging 109.4 rushing yards per game against Washington.

Matchup downgrade: The defenses on both sides of this context both rank as top-10 fantasy options for all four skill positions.

Key injuries: None

Philadelphia @ Minnesota

Greenline: MIN -2.6, O/U 44.6

Fantasy facts: Kirk Cousins finally got off the schneid last week, tossing two scores to go along with 306 passing yards. To be fair, Cousins took advantage of a good matchup, but sometimes that’s all you really want to see out of a player for fantasy purposes. A big part of his success was due to the three end zone throws he had in this contest.

Matchup upgrade: And all three of those end zone throws went to Adam Thielen. What a difference a week makes for Thielen. Just seven days ago, many fantasy players wondered if they could ever trust him in lineups again. Well, they can. Thielen went nuts last week against the Giants and is poised for another big outing against a porous Eagles secondary that is currently the No. 5 fantasy matchup for wide receivers.

Matchup downgrade: Dalvin Cook has been every bit of the breakout stud we expected him to be this season. Cook currently sits third among running backs in fantasy points and is the lone back in the league to post four 100-yard rushing performances this season. Unfortunately, he does draw a downgrade this week against this Philly run defense. The Eagles are holding opposing backs to a league-low 2.8 yards per carry. Cook is a must-start every week in season-long, but he’s a fade in DFS this week.

Key injuries: DeSean Jackson is nearing a return to the field, but that isn’t likely to happen this week. Keep Jackson stashed on your bench, as he offers upside when he’s healthy. … Darren Sproles will miss at least the next month with a quad injury. Philly also could be without Corey Clement, so expect Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders to split essentially all of the work out of the backfield with Howard getting the key short-yardage carries.

New Orleans @ Jacksonville

Greenline: JAX -0.7, O/U 43.7

Fantasy facts: Teddy Bridgewater flashed a high fantasy ceiling last week, posting 314 passing yards and four scores against the Bucs. While those numbers certainly pop, a closer look shows that they’re unsustainable. Bridgewater only threw two balls to the end zone in that contest, which means his receivers did a lot of the work. Don’t expect another big performance out of Bridgewater this week, and keep in mind that Drew Brees should return soon.

Matchup upgrade: No one would have thought it possible for Gardner Minshew to rank in the top-10 in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks just two months ago. But here we are. Minshew has been a massive surprise and is in the streamer conversation this week against a Saints defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season.

Matchup downgrade: While the Saints have allowed 4.1 yards per carry to opposing running backs, they enter the week as the sixth-worst matchup for the position thanks to just three total touchdowns allowed to running backs this season. Leonard Fournette is third in the league in touches per game, so the volume should be there this week. However, Fournette could struggle with efficiency in this matchup.

Key injuries: Alvin Kamara was downgraded to limited Thursday with an ankle injury. This could be nothing, but Thursday injuries shouldn’t be taken lightly. Keep a close eye on his Friday status. Latavius Murray would be a three-down back if Kamara missed any time. … The Jaguars also had a Thursday addition to the injury report with Gardner Minshew now dealing with a groin issue. Minshew is a potential streamer this week, so have a backup plan in place if you intend to roll with Minshew.

Cincinnati @ Baltimore

Greenline: BLT -10.2, O/U 47.2

Fantasy facts: Lamar Jackson didn’t have a big game with his arm last week, but the Ravens signal-caller posted another four end zone throws. That brings his total to 18, which is tied with Russell Wilson for the league lead. If Jackson keeps pushing the ball to the end zone, he’s essentially a fantasy volcano ready to explode.

Matchup upgrade: This week’s fantasy cheat code goes to Mark Ingram. Cincinnati has gotten absolutely shredded on the ground with opposing backs racking up 5.1 yards per carry and an average of 1.2 rushing scores per game. Of course, Jackson is also pretty good at running the football.

Matchup downgrade: We seen the Ravens use Marlon Humphrey as a shadow in each of the last three weeks. Humphrey has done a good job in these assignments, shutting down Sammy Watkins and Odell Beckham in Weeks 3 and 4. JuJu Smith-Schuster did get in the end zone against him last week, but he only managed three catches for 49 yards. There’s a good chance we see Humphrey on Tyler Boyd this week. Season-long owners should continue to use Boyd regardless, but this is a good reason to fade Boyd in DFS.

Key injuries: Still no A.J. Green for the Bengals. At this point, who knows when he’s going to return. … Rookie WR Marquise Brown hurt his ankle in last week’s win over the Steelers and did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If he doesn’t get at least to limited on Friday, he’s at risk of not suiting up.

San Francisco @ LA Rams

Greenline: LAR -4.1, O/U 50.7

Fantasy facts: While a lot of fantasy eyes are on Matt Breida, the advanced numbers suggest Tevin Coleman is the 49ers back who is more worthy of our attention. Last week, Breida managed 2.1 yards after contact, which was significantly lower than Coleman’s 3.4. Sure, Breida has home-run ability, but Coleman is the much higher-floor option.

Matchup upgrade: Good luck finding an upgrade in this matchup.

Matchup downgrade: San Francisco’s defense has been surprisingly good so far this season and enter the week as the No. 31 matchup for quarterbacks. Jared Goff has attempted a massive 117 passes over the last two weeks. All that volume has helped Goff’s fantasy numbers, but he’s a good bet to come back to earth this week.

Key injuries: Todd Gurley missed both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practice sessions with a quad injury. The Rams could just be taking it easy on Gurley, but there’s a very real chance he sits. Malcolm Brown would serve as the lead back with Gurley sidelined. Brown is sneaky add right now. … Brandin Cooks landed in the concussion protocol after last week’s contest, but he’s trending toward playing after getting limited work in at practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

Atlanta @ Arizona

Greenline: ATL -2.5, O/U 51

Fantasy facts: Entering Week 6, Matt Ryan is second in the league with 1,655 passing yards, which puts him on pace for 5,296 yards for the season. Believe it or not, he’s slightly underperforming based on expectation. Historic numbers suggest an expected passing yards total of 1,687.6. In other words, Ryan’s yardage numbers aren’t a fluke, and if anything, we could see a slight uptick in his numbers going forward.

Matchup upgrade: It hasn’t been the most consistent fantasy season for Ryan, but the Falcons signal-caller enters the week second among quarterbacks in passing yards and sixth in fantasy scoring. Ryan is in play as a high-floor option against a Cardinals team that has been very fantasy-friendly to opposing quarterbacks so far this season. Only the Dolphins and Saints currently allow more fantasy points per game to the position. Fire up Ryan with confidence.

Matchup downgrade: While the Cardinals have been very fantasy-friendly for the passing game, they’ve done a good job against the run. So far, only six teams allow fewer fantasy points per game to running backs. Devonta Freeman enters the week a lowly 20th among running backs in fantasy scoring and doesn’t figure to fare much better in this matchup.

Key injuries: David Johnson suffered a back injury last week and went “DNP” in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If Johnson sits, Chase Edmonds would be an every-down option with RB2-plus potential. Edmonds had eight carries for 68 yards and a score last week. … The Cards look like they’ll get Christian Kirk back after the second-year wideout missed last week with an ankle injury. Kirk is an interesting WR3 play in a favorable matchup.

Tennessee @ Denver

Greenline: TEN -1.7, O/U 40.8

Fantasy facts: Believe it or not, Derrick Henry has as many runs of 15-plus yards (7) as Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb. Those three are tied for second so far this season, with only Dalvin Cook with more (10). While Henry is about as far from sexy as they come for fantasy purposes, his heavy volume and ability to break bigger runs will keep him in the fringe-RB1 conversation.

Matchup upgrade: If you’re looking for a tight end streamer, Noah Fant is very much in play this week. The Broncos rookie gets a favorable matchup against a Titans defense that is tied for second in touchdowns allowed to tight ends.

Matchup downgrade: There will be times to use Marcus Mariota this season. This is not one of those times. Mariota gets a brutal draw this week against a Broncos defense that enters the week as the fourth-worst matchup for running backs. The Broncos have allowed 207.6 passing yards per game and are one of just six defenses to surrender under one passing touchdown per game.

Key injuries: None

Dallas @ NY Jets

Greenline: DAL -6.7, O/U 44.2

Fantasy facts: Remember when Amari Cooper was essentially unusable for fantasy? It’s hard to believe that was just a year ago. Fast forward to today and Cooper is an absolute stud. He put on a show last week in what was supposed to be a tough matchup against Jaire Alexander, racking up 226 yards on 11 catches. A big part of Cooper’s fantasy success this season has been his work in the red zone. So far this year, he has caught 7-of-9 red zone targets. That efficiency in the key area of the field is a very good thing when it comes to fantasy production.

Matchup upgrade: Speaking of Cooper, he gets one of the best matchups on the slate this week. On the perimeter, he’s going to see both Darryl Roberts and Trumaine Johnson. Roberts has been one of the most heavily targeted corners in the league this season. While Johnson isn’t seeing nearly as many balls thrown into his coverage, he has played poorly and currently grades out as the third-worst corner in the league. Of course, we can also upgrade Michael Gallup, who got back on the field last week and didn’t skip a beat.

You may not be as confident in using Le’Veon Bell this week, but don’t let his early lack of production fool you. Bell has been one of the most heavily used backs in the league, with only Christian McCaffrey averaging more touches per game over the first five weeks of the season. Volume is king in fantasy football, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to face a Cowboys defense that just gave up four rushing touchdowns to Aaron Jones in Week 5.

Matchup downgrade: Sam Darnold returns this week for the Jets, and that’s a good thing across the board for this offense. However, we aren’t rushing to get Darnold into fantasy lineups this week. Dallas has been a tough matchup for quarterbacks this season, and currently rank as the sixth-worst matchup for the position. The Cowboys are holding opposing signal-callers to just 6.3 net yards per attempt.

Key injuries: None

Pittsburgh @ LA Chargers

Greenline: LAC -6.5, O/U 42.2

Fantasy facts: Melvin Gordon got back on the field last week and posted 16 touches for the Chargers. Of course, that was two fewer than Austin Ekeler, who racked up a massive 15 catches on the day, but only carried the ball three times. While Gordon is likely to see the scales tip in his favor going forward, for now we should expect a similar touch distribution with Gordon handling most of the early-down work and Ekeler heavily involved in the passing game.

Matchup upgrade: At best, there are middle-of-the-road matchups in this one, so you’re essentially starting all the usual suspects.

Matchup downgrade: One of the only matchup downgrades this week goes to Philip Rivers. The Steelers have done a good job against the pass this season and allow just 250 net passing yards per game. Rivers isn’t an every-week fantasy starter, so you can use another option this week if you have one.

Key injuries: Mason Rudolph sustained a scary concussion last week but has already gotten back into practice. He’ll miss this week’s game, but he looks like he could be back on the field next week. … The same can’t be said for James Washington and Jaylen Samuels. Both players will miss the next several games and can safely be dropped. With Samuels sidelined, rookie Benny Snell slides into the handcuff spot to James Conner. … There’s a chance Hunter Henry gets back on the field this week. The upside tight end was limited on Wednesday and Thursday after missing the last four weeks with a knee injury. Even if Henry doesn’t play, he’s a must-add for any teams with tight end issues.

Detroit @ Green Bay

Greenline: GB -3.4, O/U 46.1

Fantasy facts: Aaron Jones exploded last week with an Al Bundy-like four rushing touchdowns against the Cowboys. This production was no fluke. Jones led all running backs with a massive seven red zone carries and five goal line carries. All four of Jones’ scores came on red zone carries with three on goal line carries. Jones now leads the league with nine goal line carries and is tied for fourth with 16 totes in the red zone. All of that work for Jones bodes well for him to continue to find the end zone.

Matchup upgrade: Jones is a good bet to continue to roll this week, but so is Kerryon Johnson. Like Jones, Johnson is seeing a lot of work in the red zone. Better yet, he’s facing a Packers defense that has given up yards in bunches to opposing running backs. Green Bay is allowing a league-high 5.3 yards per carry to the position.

Matchup downgrade: When we last saw the Lions in Week 4, Kenny Golladay was putting on a clinic in the red zone with two receiving scores against the Chiefs. But Golladay owners may want to temper their expectations this week. There’s a good chance he sees a shadow from Jaire Alexander. While the Packers corner struggled against Amari Cooper last week, he did play good football in his other four games and is still allowing just 49% of his targets to be caught. Look for him to bounce back in this matchup against Golladay.

Key injuries: A toe injury kept Davante Adams on the sideline last week. Adams missed Thursday’s practice and will likely need to get to at least limited by Saturday in order to suit up Monday night. … Rookie TE T.J. Hockenson suffered a concussion before the Lions bye in Week 4. Good news for fantasy owners, as he was able to get limited work in on Thursday and is trending toward playing this week.

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