NFL Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Week 6
The Cowboys have ranked among the top-five against quarterbacks and receivers
Brent Celek may have a big day versus a Lions D that has been soft on tight ends
Ahmad Bradshaw and other Giants are smart sits against a stingy 49ers defense
This is a week of the irresistible forces vs. the immovable objects. The top two offenses (New England and the N.Y. Giants) face the top two defenses (Seattle and San Francisco).
The Giants offense has been romping for fantasy owners, even with spare parts at times, and next faces arguably the best defense in the NFL, even if the up-tempo Tom Brady spread offense is facing the defense that is statistically No. 1. The former portends Week 5 surprise star Ahmad Bradshaw may prove to be Week 6's bust against the toughest run defense in the NFL.
Fantasy's other toughest opponents vs. running backs are threatening to cut into the production of some of the steadiest running backs: Alfred Morris (vs. MIN), Stevan Ridley (at SEA), LeSean McCoy (vs. DET), Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller (at ARI), Steven Jackson (at MIA), Marshawn Lynch (vs. NE), Adrian Peterson (vs. WAS) and Jamaal Charles (at TB).
The good news, perhaps, is you can at least still start those guys even in unfavorable matchups. Then, of course, there's Chris Johnson, the mercurial fantasy pariah stuck on a Tennessee roller-coaster ride, who should sit vs. the Steelers' run defense, which is still rugged.
The question marks don't end there. Some more of the marquee names are on bye as Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and New Orleans get the week off. The likes of Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Garrett Hartley, Robbie Gould and the Bears defense/special teams are unavailable to you.
We'll help you plug those gaps and others in SI.com's weekly Start 'em, Sit 'em:
Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Shaun Suisham, Steelers D/ST: This is a dream matchup to start all of your primary Steelers. The Titans are favorable across the board in fantasy: vs. quarterbacks (sixth), running backs (seventh), wide receivers (16th), tight ends (first), kickers (second) and D/STs (sixth). Mendenhall was solid in his return against a much tougher defense, so consider him a potential top-five running back going forward. Miller was hot going into the bye and gets a great matchup here. Even Isaac Redman might be a flex option, as this game may become a blowout and allow some grind-it-out garbage time.
Titans -- Jared Cook: The Steelers are a tough defense, but also a tough team that figures to get ahead and lead to some garbage time. Cook picked up five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter last week, so expect him to be a frequent target again. If you need a receiver, Kenny Britt is healthy, Kendall Wright was frequently targeted last week and Nate Washington was huge with Matt Hasselbeck a year ago. None of the three are great options, but they are potentially useful as stopgaps.
Steelers -- Jonathan Dwyer, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery: Sanders and Cotchery might find the end zone as the Steelers spread the ball around, so consider them decent desperation options if injury and bye weeks really have you scrapping for dregs.
Titans -- Matt Hasselbeck, Chris Johnson, Rob Bironas, Titans D/ST: Johnson is probably the only one of these owned, but he is the one that should be sat. His surprise performance against the Texans' run defense shouldn't be used as a guide to start him against the Steelers, who can still beat up backs. This is a short week, which always can affect backs and their amount of usage, and you likely are already well-equipped to do without Johnson in your lineups.
Raiders -- Darren McFadden, Sebastian Janikowski: The Falcons have a better run defense than their current standing as the 12th-worst in fantasy vs. running backs, but McFadden should prove productive in this matchup, if not on the ground, then through the air. This looks like a week of a lot of garbage time for the Raiders as the Falcons tend to score at will, so consider Carson Palmer and his primary target Denarius Moore potential sleepers. Janikowski has been limited with a groin issue, but the bye week should have healed that. Consider him someone to pick back up and set-and-forget in lineups the rest of the way.
Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant: There are good signs for all of the star Falcons here, especially Turner, who faces a Raiders defense that has been bottom-five against running backs in fantasy to date. That fact might even make seldom-used backup Jacquizz Rodgers a potential flex in deeper formats, if he mops up.
Raiders -- Darrius Heyward-Bey, Rod Streater, Derek Hagan, Brandon Myers: Palmer's secondary targets are not necessarily worth owning yet, save for DHB, who is coming off a concussion. DHB is practicing now, but he needs to prove healthy and productive before he is to be trusted in fantasy lineups.
Falcons -- Falcons D/ST: Many are going to jump on this unit against a sub-standard Raiders team, but it might come as a surprise the Raiders have averaged the fewest fantasy points against because they have committed just three turnovers and allowed just five sacks. Only the Texans are stingier with turnovers through four games.
Cowboys -- DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten: The Cowboys have been a mess, but this group looks pretty safe to start coming out of the bye. Murray is especially interesting against a Ravens run defense that has somewhat surprisingly been in the bottom half of fantasy against running backs.
Ravens -- Ray Rice, Justin Tucker, Ravens D/ST: It might be lost in their 1-3 start, but the Cowboys are a tough matchup in fantasy against the pass. They are No. 2 and No. 3 vs. quarterbacks and receivers. You shouldn't ever sit Rice, Tucker or the Ravens D/ST, though.
Cowboys -- Tony Romo, Kevin Ogletree, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: These guys have really slipped, and since fantasy owners managed without them a week ago, the advice here is leave them out of lineups for at least one more week.
Ravens -- Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson: Flacco, Smith and Boldin are useful as needed, but owners might be better off with other options against a Cowboys defense that can slow the passing game with their pressing corners.
Bengals -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent, Bengals D/ST: BGE is coming off a disastrous outing, but Bernard Scott (knee) is now out for the year and the Browns allowed the Giants to run wild on the ground a week ago. It should be a better week for BGE, while Gresham should be able to continue his recent resurgence. Nugent is a nice option at kicker in most weeks, while the Browns are in the bottom half of fantasy against opposing D/STs.
Browns -- Trent Richardson: The Bengals have been the eighth-most forgiving team in fantasy vs. running backs, so Richardson should be able to continue his rushing-touchdown string, while being a big factor in the passing game as well.
Bengals -- Andy Dalton, Armon Binns, Andrew Hawkins: The Browns are getting their elite cornerback Joe Haden back, so expect the defense to be much tougher all around against the pass this week. That makes Dalton and his secondary targets question marks this week.
Browns -- Brandon Weeden, Greg Little, Josh Gordon, Mohamed Massaquoi, Travis Benjamin, Jordan Norwood, Ben Watson, Phil Dawson, Browns D/ST: Save for Richardson, the rest of the Browns' fantasy options aren't worth owning right now, especially against a defense that should improve upon its slow start.
Rams -- Steven Jackson: This poor running back has run a gauntlet of elite run defenses this season. This week quietly presents one of the toughest. The saving grace here, though, is that Jackson is the best thing the Rams offense has going for it. He will get his touches and yards even against a Dolphins defense that is No. 1 in the NFL against the run.
Dolphins -- Reggie Bush, Dolphins D/ST: Bush remains a solid option in all leagues, even if he loses goal-line touches to Daniel Thomas and isn't quite 100 percent. The Dolphins defense has been surprising, especially at home, and faces a Rams team that has been the eighth-worst in fantasy against D/STs.
Rams -- Sam Bradford, Brandon Gibson, Chris Givens, Steve Smith, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Lance Kendricks, Greg Zuerlein, Rams D/ST: The loss of Danny Amedola for the season makes a further mess of a bad situation with the Rams. One of these receivers need to step forward, but until one does, you should avoid all of these options in fantasy.
Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Dan Carpenter: Tannehill and the Dolphins have shown flashes, but they are facing a Rams team that has been equally surprising in the early season. Thomas might find the end zone and Hartline might find some targets, but you're better off looking elsewhere for stopgaps this week.
Colts -- Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, Adam Vinatieri: Luck has earned starting status by handling a top contender in the Packers at home. He has been great, mostly because Wayne has never looked better, despite his advanced age. Vinatieri is coming back to prominence in fantasy, too, because Luck has been so capable.
Jets -- Shonn Greene: Greene and the Jets have been an unmitigated disaster, but the run defenses of the Steelers, Dolphins, 49ers and Texans will do that to the best the NFL. This week Greene could rebound gloriously for fantasy owners against a Colts defense that is ninth-worst in fantasy vs. running backs. Greene is headed for 125 yards and two scores. You heard it here first.
Colts -- Vick Ballard, Delone Carter, Donald Brown, Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Colts D/ST: Ballard takes over as a starter with Brown needing a knee 'scope this week, but the Jets defense is better than it has shown against some of the elite running games in the NFL. Rest assured, this is not a good Colts running game it will be facing. The receivers are a risk, too, against a secondary that kept the Texans reeling a bit.
Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, Dustin Keller, Nick Folk, Jets D/ST: All of these guys have been worthless of late, so don't use them as much as track them. Someone is going to take advantage of a favorable matchup here. The bet is Sanchez, Keller, Folk and the defense surprise, so consider them out of desperation if byes and injuries have you scraping the bottom of the barrel.