Rocky Balboa is a fictional person who speaks the truth: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”
It’s almost the halfway point of the fantasy football season. Detroit and Houston have a bye. Choose not to lose.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo (vs. Tampa Bay)
You may not realize how bad Tampa Bay’s defense is without looking at season statistics, or how good Taylor’s been despite losing his two best wide receivers in the offseason. The Buccaneers, on a per game average, allow the second-most passing yards (301.6), second-worst yards (403.4). 2.0 touchdown passes and 104.0 QB rating. And those numbers came against Chicago, Minnesota, New York Giants, New England, and Arizona, which rank No. 21 combined in passing defense. Aside from Tom Brady, the other quarterbacks Tampa Bay has faced – Mike Glennon, Case Keenum, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer – would be backups on some teams. Tampa Bay allows the 12th-fewest rushing yards per game (101.8); Buffalo averages 87.6 yards, ranked No. 7. Taylor is a game manager who has only passed for more than 200 yards in a game twice this season but has played the New York Jets, Carolina, Denver, Atlanta, and Cincinnati. All those teams have passing defenses ranked no worse than No. 14 besides the Jets yet Taylor was still QB17 entering Week 6. He should exploit Tampa Bay’s defense because every other starting quarterback has.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota (vs. Baltimore)
It’s a shame that rookie Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending injury. McKinnon, a fourth-year pro, is making the most of his opportunities and has overtaken Latavius Murray for touches in the backfield. In Week 5 at Chicago, McKinnon gained 95 yards on 16 carries (5.9 average) and a touchdown and caught six receptions for 51 yards (8.5 average); Murray rushed for 31 yards on 12 carries (2.6 average) and caught two receptions for 12 yards. McKinnon was also Minnesota’s RB1 in Week 6, rushing for 69 yards on 16 carries (4.1 average) and a touchdown with five receptions for 30 yards and another score. Baltimore allows the 10th-most rushing yards (123.4) and 0.8 touchdowns per game and the ninth-fewest passing yards (205.2). Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley is one of the best defenders in the NFL, so he may be able to contain McKinnon on a limited basis when he catches passes. Pro Football Focus ranked Minnesota’s offensive line No. 20 through five games, noting the starting five have improved in pass protection from last season but struggle in run blocking at 13th in average yards before contact on inside zone runs, the team’s most heavily used run-blocking scheme. McKinnon has below-average run blockers but that’s par for the course in 2017 thanks in part to spread offenses in college football where linemen never put their hand on the ground. McKinnon is in line to further prove that Baltimore’s run defense is worse than the Vikings’ ground game.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver (at Los Angeles Chargers)
Anderson averaged 4.7 yards per carry in Weeks 2-5 while the Chargers, ranked last, allow 161.2 yards per game (5.0 average). The odd thing is Anderson’s worst game was Sunday night against the Giants when he rushed for 17 yards on nine carries (1.9 average). A pathetic performance like that is rare. In Week 1 versus the Chargers he gained 81 yards on 20 attempts (4.1 average). Don’t expect Anderson to get a touchdown, which he’s only done once this season and the Chargers allows less than a rushing touchdown per game. Plan on him being a solid RB2. The Giants (1-5) embarrassed the Broncos (3-2). I expect Denver to come back vigorously. A lead means handing off the ball to Anderson.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas (at San Francisco)
This once simple decision is no longer a no-brainier. Bryant is a big-name player who isn’t producing up to his superstar status. But if there was ever an opportunity to regain what he once was, the winless 49ers are a good landing spot. Bryant caught 21 receptions for 264 yards and three touchdowns in five games. The touchdowns are nice but the yardage is lacking, averaging just 41.5 yards in four games minus a 98-yard performance in Week 4. San Francisco’s passing defense allows the sixth-most yards per game (277.0). The Cowboys’ passing game is needed more than last year because the offensive line isn’t as good and their opponents have better quarterbacks who score more points. Bryant is a prideful man. San Francisco cornerbacks Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson probably can’t cover him over four quarters.
Other Players to Like
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City (at Oakland)
Josh McCown, QB, New York Jets (at Miami)
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans (at Green Bay)
Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco (vs. Dallas)
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City (at Oakland)
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle (at New York Giants)