Here it is Ladies and Gents, the Ground Game Preview for Week 6. One thing I would like to reinforce about our “rating system,” which I have blatantly stolen from Mark, is that when we upgrade or downgrade a player we’re always doing so within the context of their value. Our goal is to give you the best possible tools to make decisions with.
Let’s recap how the system works here: start with your basic ranking of players, and then consider -1 and +1 ratings to move the player to the bottom or top of their current tier. A -2 and +2 rating bumps them into the tier below or above their normal position. A new addition from last week is the team’s ranking in pass defense (measured in passing yards allowed per game) in parentheses.
1 PM games
Houston (26th) @ Cincinnati (12th)
I was texting Steve Slaton last night and I said “y r u such a wussbag” so he replied “f u in the a” so I said “lol, jk u r my bff” and he said “lol me 2.” Listen I don’t own him in any league, he was getting drafted too high for me. I have been trying to trade for him and have been advocating doing so. I know Cincy’s Defense is really underrated but Steve’s due to bust out soon. Let’s talk about Chris Brown and how he is an atrocious Short Distance Back. If he loses that role to Slaton (which he should) at some point that’ll help out. Don’t forget about Ryan Moats as a great stash in case Slaton gets hurt. He has even been getting a few touches here and there but has no production value right now.
HOU: Slaton: +1, Brown: 0, Moats: 0
If I have to hear the catch phrase “Cardiac Cats” one more time I’m going to freak out, seriously. Every year some team wins a few close games and gets a reputation for having mystical powers in the 4th Quarter. The great news for their running game is that they are up against the Texans. This should mean that Cedric Benson puts up monster digits. I like what Bernard Scott has done when he’s gotten a chance; I can see him being a flex play if the Bengals are up against a clearly inferior opponent because of the possible junk time production. I think I’d just stash him for now, though. Brian Leonard (I played basketball against him in high school. He dunked in my face) could be used as an option in deep PPR leagues. He is a Peyton Hillis type except with more touches.
CIN: Benson +2, Scott +1, Leonard +1
Detroit (21st) @ Green Bay (20th)
The Lions sort of have to run it, don’t they? No Stafford, no Megatron. The only thing I fear is that they’ll get way behind and try to catch up by throwing the ball. Even if they do that Kevin Smith should get some yards through the air. I really just see them getting destroyed in this game but since Smith is all they’ve got I think he’ll be decent.
DET: Smith: +1, Morris: -1
I was talking to Doc yesterday about how pathetic I am. My fantasy strategy revolves around collecting as many elite receivers as possible. This means I have to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at backup Running Backs. Brandon Jackson is healthy and has moved ahead of DeShawn Wynn on the depth chart. I really think he’s a great stash because I really feel like Ryan Grant is an injury waiting to happen because of his vertical running style that screams “please break my knees.” Even so I expect him to get a lot of carries in this game if the Packers get ahead by a lot. Brandon Jackson might get a lot of junk touches in the 4th quarter as well.
GB: Grant: +2, Jackson: +2
Baltimore (4th) @ Minnesota (10th)
I really like Ray Rice in this football game for PPR formats. The Vikings are going to bring pressure all day so expect a ton of check downs. There’s no question that the Vikings are tough up front but I do think the Ravens will be able to run a little bit on them. I really don’t expect much out of McGahee here but you should’ve traded him a couple weeks ago anyway.
BAL: Rice: +1, Willis McGahee: -2
If Cedric Benson went wild on the Ravens D what will Purple Jesus do? Let’s not get too carried away people. If you own Peterson you’re starting him no matter what but I don’t see the Ravens giving up back to back 100 yard games. I’m not too big on Chester Taylor as a flex play this week.
MIN: Peterson: 0, Taylor: -2
New York Giants (15th) @ New Orleans (7th)
This is the game I’m most excited to watch in week 6. I see how good the Saints rushing Defense is ranked but I just don’t believe it. The Giants know what they have to do to win this game- keep the ball out of Drew Brees’ hands. Expect a heavy dose of Jacobs and Bradshaw in an attempt to burn clock.
NYG: Jacobs: +2, Bradshaw: +1
The Giants are better than their ranking against the run. I’m not sure what the Saints are going to look to do Offensively to get an advantage in this game. I see them keeping the pressure on but bringing a balanced attack. You have to downgrade the Saints backs because they’re probably not going to get a big lead and even when they do they tend to throw the football more than other teams.
NO: Thomas: -1, Bush: -2
Cleveland (32nd) @ Pittsburgh (2nd)
I’m really starting to hate the Browns. Nothing they do makes any sense. I can’t get over the fact that they handed the ball off to Jamal Lewis so many times last week while ignoring the productive James Harrison. I don’t like either of them in this game, not one bit. I love Harrison as a stash and I own him on several teams but you can’t play him anywhere.
CLE: Lewis: -2, Harrison: -5
It’s the Steelers turn to beat up on the Browns. Rashard Mendenhall should continue his torrid pace but Willie Parker is the real wild card here. He’s wearing a “special boot” to stave off the turf toe that’s kept him out the past few weeks. Without knowing too much about his health I’d feel nervous putting him in the lineup but it’s very tempting considering the yards up for grabs. I would be more likely to throw Mewelde Moore in there; I can see him running it during junk time.
PIT: Mendenhall: +5, Moore: +1, Parker: -1
Carolina (30th) @ Tampa Bay (28th)
It’s time for DeAngelo Williams to have a huge week. If he can’t do it against the Bucs then it really brings in to question his production going forward. I like Jonathon Stewart more in this game than I have all season because the touches might be there for him.
CAR: Williams: +4, Stewart: +2
The Panthers defense just doesn’t look good at all. We all know that the Buccaneers can’t throw the football but that might not actually matter in this game. If you own Cadillac or Derrick Ward you have to throw them out there for this start, it’s not going to get any more favorable than this.
TB: Williams: +2, Ward: +2
Kansas City (25th) @ Washington (22nd)
What’s with all the junk games? The Chiefs Running Game isn’t anything to get too excited about, not until Larry Johnson gets injured at least. He’s looked less bad than I thought he would but I still can’t wait for Jamaal Charles to take over. The Redskins Defense isn’t exactly stuffing the run so LJ should have a good start here. Unfortunately Jamaal remains a stash unless you’re really hurting at flex.
KC: Larry Johnson: +1, Charles: 0
There should be a reality TV show where they try to figure out who the most self-centered jerks in the NFL are. My front-runner would be Clinton Portis. He has been slightly banged up but there’s no reason to think he won’t put the wood to the Chiefs weak Defense. I sort of like Ladell Betts also if you really need another starter.
WAS: Portis: +2, Betts: +1
St. Louis (23rd) @ Jacksonville (18th)
The only reason both of these teams aren’t ranked worse is because teams are having too much fun ripping them apart through the air. I LOVE this start for Steven Jackson. He hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown yet this season; it’s time to make up some lost ground. Darby and Gado have been going back and forth in a battle of mediocrity to be the 2nd in command. Darby’s the guy I’d want to own between those two. He could see some action but not enough to start.
STL: Jackson: +3, Darby: 0, Gado: 0
Pocket Hercules could be primed for a huge day in Fantasy. This start is even more delicious if you’re in a PPR league. I really like Rashad Jennings as a dude to own in deeper leagues because there’s always the risk that MJD’s excessive workload will wear him down.
JAC: Jones-Drew: +5, Jennings: +1
4 PM games
Arizona (1st) @ Seattle (17th)
Kudos to Tim Hightower for keeping his starting gig over Beanie Wells. Hightower is getting tons of catches and all the Goal line work so I would definitely start him comfortably. Beanie is a lot tougher decision; I’d need to see more before I felt good about starting him.
ARI: Hightower: +1, Wells: 0
There’s no way the Cardinals hang on to the title of top rushing Defense in the NFL. Julius Jones is a must start unless you have a bunch of better options but I would leave Edge alone for now. I do think the Cardinals Defense is better than advertised but 1st overall against the rush is a little obscene.
SEA: Jones: -1, James: 0
Philadelphia (13th) @ Oakland (31st)
Go back to last week and look at the stats from the Giants game. Expect more of the same from the Eagles. I absolutely love both Westbrook and McCoy in this one. Westbrook has been dinged up so you know he’s hungry for a big outing. Look for McCoy to get a ton of touches as well, particularly as this blow-out gets in to the 4th Quarter. Maybe the Raiders will pull off some miracle and make us all eat our words but I highly doubt it.
PHI: Westbrook: +3, McCoy: +3
Florida might be able to beat Oakland right now. I know there’s a lot of debate going around about who the worst team in the NFL is but my money is on the Raiders as long as they have JaMarcus at QB. I don’t recommend owning any Raiders on any of your teams. I purged myself of the few I owned. The Eagles have shown no mercy in their games against inferior opponents, blitzing with reckless abandonment and over running the offensive lines.
OAK: Bush: -2, Fargas: -2
Tennessee (3rd) @ New England (11th)
Somehow the Patriots are under-rated as a defense even though they are playing fairly well. Chris Johnson is running strong even though he hasn’t put up big numbers this season. I love that LenDale White lost a bunch of weight hoping to run like the wind on his way to big offseason contract and that he looks worse than ever. His value has plummeted as the gobs of touchdowns that were available last season have dried up.
TEN: Johnson: 0, White: -1
I’m not saying the Tennessee run defense is bad, I’m just not sure if they are 3rd overall quality. Part of it is their passing defense is so atrocious that teams are having a lot more fun airing it out. Expect much of the same from the Patriots as Brady and company look to quiet the critics with a big game. They will move the football at will in this game which bodes well for Sammy Morris (he should be able to get some goal line scoring opportunities) and Kevin Faulk (recipient of some passes). Laurence Maroney is listed as 3rd on the depth chart, where he belongs and I wouldn’t stash him with my worst enemies roster.
NE: Morris: +1, Faulk: +2, Maroney: 0
Buffalo (29th) @ New York Jets (19th)
The Bills obviously can’t throw the ball so expect them to at least try running it. The Jackson/Lynch thing is tough to figure out. Considering how bad that offense has been I’m just not that interested in either of the right now. It is reasonable to assume that the Jets will totally shut down the Bills offense in this game, rendering all of their players useless.
BUF: Jackson: -2, Lynch: -2
The Jets should be able to run on the Bills all day. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are both strong starts here and Shonn Greene might actually get some work if this turns in to a blowout. This is one of those matchups that’s so clear cut you will probably skip over it. I won’t judge you for it.
NYJ: Jones: +2, Washington: +2, Greene: +2
8 PM game
Chicago (9th) @ Atlanta (24th)
I’m still waiting for Forte to have that one huge game that reminds people why he was drafted in the first round. I still maintain that Cutler not checking the ball down (thus reducing Forte’s catches) kills his value and that more people should have seen this coming. But the offense overall is a lot more dynamic and he should start getting in the end zone more to negate some of that. Garrett Wolfe is the second in command for this game but I don’t see him as having too much value although I’m stashing him in my deep league.
CHI: Forte: +1, Wolfe: 0
Michael Turner is ready to disappoint you after that 3 touchdown performance last week. He’s obviously a must-start but I’m a big believer in players having let downs after a heroic performance. Jerious Norwood is starting to get back to full strength- I see him as a poor man’s Leon Washington; the difference is Norwood can be found on waivers. Keep an eye out for increased production from him in the coming weeks.
ATL: Turner: -1, Norwood: 0
Denver (6th) @ San Diego (27th)
Knowshon Moreno has another appetizing matchup this week. The Chargers defense just hasn’t been the same since their stud nose tackle went down at the beginning of the season, relegating their aggressive 3-4 scheme to passivity and mediocrity. I wish I knew more about Buckhalter’s injury. He’s almost definitely going to play but it’s tough to gauge how much they’ll use him. With the Bye Week coming up you’d think they don’t want to get too frisky.
DEN: Moreno: +2, Buckhalter: -1
That Denver defense is just intimidating. If you own LT it’s pretty tough to sit him unless you are deep at running back. Sproles is a lot more iffy and unless you have to play him I’d wait for a better matchup to start him.
SD: Tomlinson: -2, Sproles: -3