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Fantasy football: Best starts and sleepers in Week 6

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Top-three options—and some sleepers—at each position from around the league in Week 6.

Arizona Cardinals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Well, last week’s “best lineup that fake money could buy” probably ended up costing you real money if you went with it—sorry IBleedHonoluluBlue209. But there were some small victories if you look at it in a certain way. Derek Carr was the seventh-ranked quarterback last week, playing above his pay grade. Melvin Gordon was a fine play after a touchdown reception on his only catch of the day salvaged what could have been a truly disastrous day. For the not-so-good things that happened: Jerick McKinnon was outperformed by Matt Asiata, Mike Nugent was the second worst kicker in Week 5 and Steve Smith Sr. did almost nothing, but then again, he had the same output as Julio Jones.

The past is the past though, and Week 6 kicked off last night with a matchup between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. Let’s look at the top three options at each position and a sleeper you should think about putting into your lineup this week.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees at $8,500

Russell Wilson at $8,400

Marcus Mariota at $7,600

Brees is playing Carolina this week at home. The Panthers defense has looked pretty bad this season and they’ve given up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the league average, ranking 23rd in fantasy points surrendered to opposing passers.

Seattle, coming off of a bye week, will hopefully get a healthier version of Russell Wilson back to take on a Falcons defense that is dead last against opposing quarterbacks in fantasy; no team gives up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than Atlanta, and 14 touchdowns against the Falcons defense through five weeks are the most touchdowns scored on any team in the league.

Mariota is an especially intriguing option this week against Cleveland. Not only are the Titans at home against the Browns, a team that’s allowed the sixth-most fantasy points scored against them through five weeks, but also because of his breakout performance last week against Miami. As the 15th most expensive quarterback, the argument can be made that Mariota may very well be the best bang for your fantasy buck this week if it wasn’t for my sleeper of the week...

Sleeper of the Week: Brian Hoyer at $7,000

I know. Brian Hoyer. But hear me out. Hoyer has been absolutely tearing it up since Jay Cutler was sidelined with an injury in Week 2 against Philadelphia. The Bears aren’t going to keep teams from scoring on them, unless you’re the Lions, so they’re going to be all about throwing the ball to keep up. Hoyer’s got the stats to back this: 300+ yard performances in the three straight weeks since he’s taken over as the starter, something Jay Cutler has never done as quarterback of the Bears. Outside of containing the eliteness of Joe Flacco to 13.8 FPts, the Jacksonville defense has given up 23.8 FPts against Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers, and 18.7 FPts to Andrew Luck this season, all well above league average performances.

Running backs

LeSean McCoy at $8,200

Lamar Miller at $7,900

Jamaal Charles at $7,100

The real deal, LeSean McCoy, has been absolutely outstanding since Buffalo decided to part ways with offensive coordinator Greg Roman after two weeks; the Bills running back has rushed for 330 yards over the previous three weeks, and has done it against some especially tough run defenses: Arizona and New England are both top-eight defenses while Los Angeles is a shade below league average. This week, McCoy and the Bills host the San Francisco 49ers who made a relatively ho-hum, low-profile quarterback change mid-season. After looking stout against the run in Week 1’s matchup against Todd Gurley, the 49ers have given up at least 130 rushing yards to opposing running backs in the previous four weeks, including 174 yards to the Cowboys and Cardinals in back-to-back weeks.

The Texans probably aren’t a good football team, but this is fantasy football we’re talking about here, and Lamar Miller is due for his first breakout performance in Week 6 against Indianapolis. The Colts give up fantasy points to running backs in bunches, they’re third in most fantasy points given up to opposing running backs in the league, and the Colts defense is just downright terrible—they’re allowing 416.8 yards per game. Miller’s workload has been pretty steady as he’s averaging over 20 carries per game to go along with three targets. Given the sad state of affairs when it comes to the Colts defense, now is better than any week for Miller’s production to finally catch up with his workload.

Last week, some owners were burned by the prospect of Charles seeing his first action of 2016 when the Chiefs were blown out and team decided to give Charles the rest of the night off after just two carries for 7 yards. This week, Charles was a full participant in practice for the first time this season on Wednesday since the team removed him from the PUP list before the season started. This news, combined with Spencer Ware’s struggles against Pittsburgh in Week 4, gives me a lot of hope that Charles will have enough opportunities to make an impact against a below-average defense against opposing running backs.

Sleeper of the Week: Mark Ingram at $6,700

He’s not a sleeper by name, but for some reason, Mark Ingram is dirt cheap this week—the 19th most expensive option at running back—in a divisional matchup with the Carolina Panthers. He’s cheaper than Devonta Freeman, Melvin Gordon and Jeremy Hill who all have tougher matchups than Ingram. The Saints running back has only seen his workload increase over the weeks, getting 18 carries, as well as a seven targets in Week 4 against the Chargers. Coming off of a bye week and the Panthers playing on a short week, Ingram is a good bet to outperform his price tag.

Wide receivers

Doug Baldwin at $7,600

Jarvis Landry at $6,900

Brandon Marshall at $7,500

Doug Baldwin is a no-brainer, especially if you want to stack him with Russell Wilson against that porous Atlanta pass defense. The Falcons have given up a touchdown to a wide receiver in every game so far this season, as well as double digit receptions. For as spectacular as Seattle’s offense was in the second half of 2015—and Russell Wilson had an awful lot to do with that—the Seahawks struggled to score points in the first couple of weeks. After scoring 12 points—including a touchdown from Wilson to Baldwin—against the Dolphins, they lost the following week to Los Angeles 9-3, but put 37 on the 49ers, and then 27 on the Jets at MetLife. So while it looks like the Seahawks are finally starting to turn things around on offense, and the Falcons have given up a league-high 14 passing touchdowns, things look promising for Seattle to continue improving.

Landry had a quiet game against Tennessee last week, getting thrown to three times and catching all of those passes for only 28 yards. This is no reason to go sour on Landry, though. Prior to facing the Titans, Ryan Tannehill had targeted Landry a bunch in Weeks 1-4: 10 against Seattle, 13 versus New England, 12 against Cleveland and 10 when the Dolphins played last Thursday night against Cincinnati. And while the Titans secondary has been sneakily better than originally thought, the Dolphins have the Steelers at home this week, and only the Raiders and Jets have allowed more receiving yards than the Steelers so far this season.

With the news of Eric Decker having season-ending surgery on his shoulder, the Jets will look to other secondary receivers to step up, and this is where Quincy Enuwa owners have to be excited for the young wideout to get the opportunity. With that being said, Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have to lean heavily on Brandon Marshall and that’s a good thing because if there’s anyone who can shoulder the load, it’s Marshall. After starting off a bit slow, Marshall found the end zone in Weeks 4 and 5, scoring 16.9 and 21.4 FPts respectively. The Cardinals are a tough matchup against wide receivers in fantasy, but Marshall is going to get targeted a bunch this weekend without the receiver who usually plays opposite of him sidelined for the rest of the season.

Sleeper of the Week: John Brown at $6,600

After a disappointing Week 5 matchup against the 49ers that resulted in four targets and yielded only one catch for 11 yards, Brown finally has his usual signal caller under center again this week. The Cardinals game plan became much more predictable—hand the ball off to David Johnson and pass the ball no further than 10 yards down field—with Drew Stanton in at quarterback, but with the return of Carson Palmer, Arizona’s offense should more accurately resemble what it looked like when Brown caught 10 passes for 144 yards against Los Angeles in Week 4.

Tight ends

Travis Kelce at $6,400

Delanie Walker at $6,700

Coby Fleener at $5,600

Travis Kelce, along with the rest of the Chiefs, are coming off of a bye week to face a divisional opponent in the Oakland Raiders. There’s not much to be concerned about with playing Kelce in Week 6, so let’s take a look at all of the positives. Kelce is playing well, first of all, averaging 11.3 FPts/G through the first four weeks. He’s being targeted very consistently, receiving seven targets each of the first three weeks before getting eight targets in the blowout loss to Pittsburgh in Week 4. Oakland is allowing 13.4 FPts/G to opposing tight ends, almost four points more than the average NFL defense. At $6,400, Kelce is a solid selection.

I love Delanie Walker, and even though he’s underperformed a bit, he’s still in my good graces and that’s why I suggesting you take a chance on the Titans tight end. Walker is averaging the eighth most fantasy points among tight ends, and he’s still one of Mariota’s favorite targets, averaging almost seven targets per game. This week, the Titans host the Browns at home, and if you think the Lions can’t guard tight ends, then you haven’t watched the Browns try; Cleveland allows more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than any other team in the NFL. No, they give up a ton of fantasy points: Cleveland is surrendering 20.3 FPts/G to tight ends while the league average sits at just 9.5 FPts/G. If you’re thinking of stacking, Mariota and Walker are a great option in Week 6.

In Week 3, it looked like Coby Fleener may have finally had the breakout game everyone was waiting for him to have. The Saints had spent a pretty penny on Fleener, signing him to a 5 year, $36M deal. Considering the contract, considering the opportunity to become the No. 1 tight end, it made sense to have high expectations for Fleener. The first couple of weeks were disappointing, but they weren’t a reason to give up on Fleener entirely. In Week 3, things paid off for those who were sticking with the Saints tight end when he had seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against, you guessed it, the Atlanta Falcons. Week 4 was a huge letdown as he plummeted back to Earth with just an all-around bad performance. But after a bye week, and facing a Carolina defense that struggles with tight ends—allowing 3.6 more FPts/G than the league average—the hope is that Fleener has a game more reminiscent of his performance against Atlanta in Week 3.

Sleeper of the Week: Zach Ertz at $5,400

Ertz had the misfortune of having a couple of plays called back due to penalties in Week 5 against the Lions, but still caught all three of the targets he received for 37 yards when the plays counted. Remember, he was coming back in Week 5 after an injury to his ribs sidelined him for three weeks, so this was his first bit of game action since the beginning of September. Week 6 brings with it a matchup against Washington’s football team. Washington struggled with Dennis Pitta and Co. in their Week 5 contest, giving up 11 catches, 87 yards and a touchdown to the Ravens tight ends. I’m still optimistic about Ertz and his role in the offense, especially with Carson Wentz, a rookie quarterback who hasn’t taken many chances down field, still at quarterback.