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What to Watch For: Week 6

St.
Louis @ Jacksonville – 1:00 FOX

Rams: Well maybe starting Kyle Boller is exactly what Marc Bulger needed
to light under a fire under his backside. After Boller left the game against

Minnesota, Bulger came
in and completed all seven of his passes for 88 yards (that’s a 12.6 average)
and threw for a touchdown, giving him a perfect passer rating on the day.
Donnie Avery even showed up by grabbing five catches for 87 yards and the lone

St. Louis touchdown. This
team isn’t loaded with weapons, but they do have some good pieces in place. The
problem is that a lot of their success hinges on the quarterback’s performance
because Steven Jackson just cannot carry the team on his back each week.

Jacksonville is ranked
31st in overall pass defense, so Bulger and Avery will have a chance to make
some things happen.

Jaguars: I expected that the Seahawks would beat

Jacksonville last week, but 41-0? That’s
beyond laughable. After a fine game against

Tennessee
two weeks ago, David Garrard showed his true colors to

Seattle (188 yards and no touchdowns) and
obviously missed Mike Sims-Walker. In Sims-Walker’s absence though, Torry Holt
caught seven passes for 95 yards in what was easily his top game of the season.
If Holt can continue his success when

Walker
comes back into the lineup against

St.
Louis
, the Jaguars should be able to handily dismiss
the winless Rams and make Garrard feel a little bit better about himself as
Luke McCown waits in the wings.

New York

Giants @

New Orleans – 1:00 FOX

Giants: While watching football last week, I asked two of my buddies who
they thought the best team in the NFC was, the Giants or the Saints? Well Big
Blue has my vote and even more so after dominating

Oakland last week. I understand that pretty
much everyone has thrashed the Raiders, but that is what good teams are
supposed to do to weaker ones. Eli Manning only had to throw 10 passes (and
complete eight of them) to rack up 173 yards and two touchdowns. Coming into
the year, Eli was one quarterback that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, but
I have to go back on that sentiment now. Eli ranks behind only his brother in
QB rating so far and has the Giants looking ready for another Super Bowl trip.
However,

New Orleans
has held opposing QBs to an average rating of 51.3 (a league best). If Eli can
torch them, we know he’s for real.

Saints:

New Orleans
is coming off of a much-needed bye and now that everyone is healthy, their
offense should be even more explosive. Pierre Thomas looks to be at full strength
and over the course of Weeks 3 and 4, racked up 212 yards on just 33 carries
and found the endzone three times. I cannot stress enough how much Thomas will
help to spread out head coach Sean Payton’s offense and open things up for all
of the wide receivers. The Giants have been a bit susceptible to the run this
year (giving up over 105 yards per game) so Thomas along with Reggie Bush could
do a lot to help prove me wrong and make a statement that the Saints are the
best team in the conference.

Baltimore @ Minnesota – 1:00 CBS

Ravens: After what began as a scorching 3-0 start, the Ravens have
tumbled awfully close to mediocrity after dropping two tough losses in a row.
The offense couldn’t come through against the Patriots in Week 4, and in Week 5
the defense couldn’t contain the

Cincinnati
offense for one final drive. The road doesn’t get any easier this week when
they go to

Minneapolis
to take on the still-undefeated Vikings. After having a QB rating of 95 or
higher in his first three starts, Joe Flacco’s rating against the Patriots and Bengals
never topped 75. In that time, he has thrown three touchdowns and three
interceptions whereas in the first three weeks he threw six touchdowns to two
picks.

Minnesota’s
pass defense is giving up over 225 yards per game so that should spell good news
for Flacco. However, they also have six interceptions which means Flacco had
better mind his throws if he wants to keep his squad from slipping to .500.

Vikings: Is there a better defensive player in the league right now than
Jared Allen? He may not have recorded a sack against the Rams in Week 5, but he
scooped up two fumble recoveries, returning one for a 52-yard touchdown and
managed to be credited with two tackles. All of this after totaling seven
tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble against Green Bay two weeks ago. If
Ravens’ offensive tackle Jared Gaither cannot return to action on Sunday,
backup Michael Oher will face the daunting task of lining up across from Allen,
which is not a good sign for Flacco. Expect the pressure to get to Flacco early
and often as the Vikings defense dominates yet another offensive line. If you
have the Vikings defense insert them in your starting lineup with a large grin
(especially if Gaither is out).

Detroit @ Green Bay – 1:00 FOX

Lions: Despite the fact that they have one win while several other teams
have yet to tally a victory, many people are claiming that the Lions are still
the worst franchise in the league. I have to agree that they are one of the
worst, but they are not even close to taking the cake. That’s because besides
the Saints game in Week 1, the Lions are actually giving other teams a run for
their money. They only lost to the Steelers by eight, hung around the Bears for
the bulk of the game until

Chicago went into
high gear and even had the lead at halftime against

Minnesota in Week 2.

Detroit may not be ready to soar into the
playoffs this year, but with each week, their young core (Matthew Stafford, Kevin
Smith, Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson) continue to gel and form a strong
cohesive unit. It is important to watch this team not because they will win
every game, but because they are growing as a collective group and to see that
chemistry among young players who are sure to blossom in the near future is a
rare treat.

Packers: The bye couldn’t have come at a much better time for

Green Bay. After a gut-check
loss to Brett Favre and the Vikings on what was the highest-rated cable program
in television history on Monday Night Football in Week 4, the Packers got to
reflect on their underachieving 2-2 record. At this point in the year, starters
at all positions should be pretty solidified, but one thing the team surely
took a look at in its time off was the tight end situation. Donald Lee has been
a staple in

Wisconsin
for years now, but the emergence of Jermichael Finley has some Packers’ fans
calling for a change in guard. In 2009, Lee has caught 13 passes for 74 yards
and has yet to find the endzone, while Finley has 11 catches for 190 yards and
a score. It’s not hard to see that Finley has less catches, yet still more
yards and more touchdowns. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Finley start within
the next two weeks.

Houston

@

Cincinnati – 1:00 CBS

Texans: Talk about a heartbreaking loss. The Texans came back and scored
21 unanswered points against

Arizona.
They then drove downfield after losing the tie and Matt Schaub even had the
opportunity to throw the game-winning touchdown with almost a minute left in
the game, but couldn’t come through. Schaub and Andre Johnson were clearly
fantasy stars in Week 5 as the QB threw for a week-high of 371 yards and two
touchdowns (both of which went to Johnson, who had 101 total receiving yards).
Meanwhile, after having a breakout game in Week 4, Steve Slaton fell right back
to mediocrity as he carried the ball 13 times for only 39 yards. His six
catches for 59 yards saved fantasy owners a bit, but overall Slaton continues
to disappoint. Chris Brown has officially taken the goal-line duties in

Houston, and with Slaton
ranking 23rd in rushing yards and having just one touchdown to boot, it might
lead to less playing time for him and more for Brown.

Bengals: And so the Cardiac Cats keep on keeping on. After shocking

Pittsburgh and then barely getting a win over

Cleveland, Carson Palmer worked his late-game magic yet
again as he hit Andre Caldwell in the endzone from 20 yards out with just 22
ticks left on the clock against

Baltimore.
This team is doing a lot of things right and get this: On top of averaging 97.4
yards per game this year, in his 16 games with

Cincinnati (including his 12 games last
year), Cedric Benson has rushed for 1,234 yards. I bet that makes Bears fans
shudder over and over again. His 120 yards against the Ravens were the first
time that

Baltimore
has given up over 100 yards to an opposing rusher since 2006, and all of a
sudden the Bengals lead the AFC North.

Houston
has given up an average of 140 yards per game to opponents’ ground attacks, so
expect Benson to lead his team to another victory this week.

Cleveland

@

Pittsburgh – 1:00 CBS

Browns: The dismal woes of the Dawg Pound continue. I thought that
someone would emerge from the

Cleveland
group of wide receivers that could be deemed the team’s best weapon with
Braylon Edwards now gone. However, when a quarterback only completes two passes
and finishes with 23 yards passing and a QB rating of 15.1, it’s kind of hard
to determine who the best receiver on a team is. Mohamed Massaquoi led the team
in receiving yards for a second straight week, but this time with a whopping 16
and the team got a win mostly thanks to Jamal Lewis gaining 117 yards on the
ground. Unfortunately, no one is really sure if the guy on the bench (Brady
Quinn) can do anything better with the team than Derek Anderson. This Browns
squad has plunged to the deepest darkest corner of the NFL basement at this
point of the season and it will take a miracle for anything good to come out of
this year. My sympathies go out to you Chansi Stuckey.

Steelers: At one point on Sunday, I really thought that

Pittsburgh
was going to lose to

Detroit.
I don’t know what is going on with the Steelers, but they just don’t look like
they have it all together. Just when I thought that Rashard Mendenhall would
breathe a little life into things, the team just kind of shrugged off his
impact. Hopefully Mike Tomlin says something to kick start the team because
while there is no chance that they will lose to Cleveland, the team has
matchups with Minnesota, Denver and Cincinnati in three of the next four weeks
after this Sunday (with a bye in Week 8). I expect Ben Roethlisberger to go off
for a season best game this week, but the bigger play of the day will be the

Pittsburgh defense.
Expect them to get plenty of sacks, several turnovers and probably score a
touchdown or two. This will be the blowout of the week.

Kansas City

@

Washington – 1:00 CBS

Chiefs: I sure do knock on Matt Cassel a lot. I don’t think that he’s
done anything to warrant the huge payday that he received from GM Scott Pioli,
but that’s just me. But then a friend pointed out some numbers to me. Cassel
hasn’t thrown an interception since his first start in Week 2 (in which he
threw two picks), and over the course of Weeks 3 through 5, he has a completion
percentage of 57.14 (while being without a healthy Dwayne Bowe for much of the
time), has thrown six touchdowns and his QB rating is 93.2. All the while,
those numbers were put up against

Philadelphia,
the New York Giants and

Dallas.
What that tells me is that as Cassel finishes his four-week slate of games
against the NFC East this Sunday against

Washington,
he has what it takes to lead his team to its first victory of the year. Now if
only Larry Johnson could get it together…

Redskins: In each game this year, when headed into a week, the Redskins’
opponent has not had a win. In Week 2 they faced

St. Louis,
Week 3 was

Detroit, Week 4 was

Tampa

Bay,
last week was

Carolina and now they get

Kansas city. The
embarrassing thing is that

Washington sits at
2-3, and in their two wins, they beat

St. Louis
by just two and squeaked out a three-point win over

Tampa

Bay.
I understand that a win is a win, but the Redskins look very ugly doing it. If
you gave that schedule to almost any other team in football, they would be
sitting pretty with at least a 4-1 record. Team owner Dan Snyder is said to
have been livid after the team’s loss to

Carolina
in Week 5, so expect the inevitable firing of Jim Zorn to come Monday morning
if

Washington falls to lowly

Kansas City. I’m afraid that no one can save
this season for the Redskins, and in my opinion, it’s very likely that Zorn
will be out a job come by the end of the month.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay – 1:00 FOX

Panthers: The Panthers earned a win over Washington last week in what
was a more evenly matched contest than some gave credit for. However, just as
much as I praised DeAngelo Williams for still averaging over four yards per
carry going into last week, I have to rip him now. Williams has been fighting
off Jonathan Stewart for quite some time and last week he received 18 carries
to Stewart’s 10. The problem is that Williams managed to rush for just 2.2
yards per carry and Stewart gained 3.9. Williams was one of the hottest backs
in football in the second half of 2008, and if he wants to keep receiving more
carries than his backup, he needs to kick it into high gear. At this point in
2008, Williams started to find a groove, and with

Tampa giving up over 150 yards per game to
opponents on the ground, he should be able to find the endzone more than once
on Sunday.

Buccaneers: The Bucs suffered yet another loss this past week, but
honestly who didn’t see it coming? They were outmatched by

Philadelphia from the get go. However,
despite the 33-14 score, the team fought hard for most of the game and Josh
Johnson really didn’t look that bad considering the secondary he was going up
against. Johnson finished with three interceptions, but his 240 yards passing
and two touchdowns (along with his 40 rushing yards) were pretty good. Kellen
Winslow was easily his favorite target as he roped in nine catches for 102
yards and both

Tampa

Bay scores. While

Tampa

Bay
has a long way to go this year after falling to 0-5, they showed some flashes
of life against

Philadelphia.
If Johnson can continue to find Winslow and slowly pepper Antonio Bryant and
Mark Clayton into the mix, the Bucs could give

Carolina a run for their money this week.

Philadelphia @ Oakland – 4:05 FOX

Eagles: It’s clear that Donovan McNabb was back in top form last week
and he silenced anyone who may have tried to permanently hop aboard the Kevin
Kolb bandwagon. On his first offensive snap, McNabb ran for 13 yards and on the
ensuing play he bombed the ball 51 yards into the arms of rookie Jeremy Maclin
for a touchdown. What wasn’t so encouraging was the return of Brian Westbrook
who managed to carry the ball just six times and gained 18 yards. Westbrook did
not seem to be at the top of his game by any means and LeSean McCoy didn’t
exactly impress either. The running back situation in Philly is awfully cloudy
going into this week and it would usually be cause for concern for fantasy
owners. However, with

Oakland
ranking 31st in rush defense (they’re giving up 161 yards each week), both
McCoy and Westbrook should be in for big days.

Raiders: JaMarcus Russell has done nothing to convince me that he should
remain the starter for the Raiders. The team’s 44-7 loss in

East
Rutherford
to the Giants last week was humiliating on so many
levels, and I know plenty of Raiders fans who were calling for the hook on
their starting quarterback. This week will most likely be another tough one to
swallow for the silver-and-black faithful, and at this point I have to wonder
why Bruce Gradkowski is not getting into games. During the preseason,
Gradkowski’s lowest QB rating was 83.3 and he threw just one interception in
the three games he played in. On top of that, his completion percentage in
those games was 58.1. Meanwhile, Russell has a QB rating of 47.1 and his
completion percentage sits at 42.1. Without a doubt, if this game gets out of
hand, it will be time for head coach Tom Cable to pull the plug on the former No.
1 overall pick and give the reins to Gradkowski.

Buffalo @

New York
Jets – 4:15 CBS

Bills: I have absolutely nothing to say about this team that is good.
Last week, I remarked that if Trent Edwards couldn’t get the job done against

Cleveland that he doesn’t deserve to be the starter in

Buffalo. Lo and behold he
goes out and barely completes half of his passes, averages less than five yards
per completion and finishes with a QB rating of 52.1. Ryan Fitzpatrick surely
can’t be better than Edwards, can he? At this point with the Bills spiraling
out of control and Dick Jauron surely facing a pink slip in the future, I just
don’t know what this team can do to turn it around. Terrell Owens has less
receiving yards than Jabar Gaffney, Kelley Washington and Mark Clayton, and is
clearly wilting away with this organization. There will be a blowup in

Buffalo very soon whether it’s a QB benching, a coach
firing or a

Mt.

Terrell eruption. It’s all just a matter
of time, but a loss to a divisional opponent in the Jets could be the catalyst
to all of those things.

Jets: Just when I thought Rex Ryan and the Jets were the NFL’s hottest
thing since the Ickey Shuffle, they go and drop two games in a row. At first I
thought that it was simply Mark Sanchez finally facing the growing pains of
being a rookie quarterback, but last week the Dolphins absolutely killed the
Jets’ new and improved defense. Surely I thought that the genius Ryan could
stop the originators of the Wildcat offense from executing a game plan. Boy was
I wrong. The Jets were made to look flat out bad as Chad Henne/Ronnie Brown
were able to get the final say, and now all of a sudden the Jets aren’t the
toast of town. The team gets a break thanks to playing the Bills this week, but
let’s not forget one thing. Brown and Ricky Williams gained over 225 total
yards on Monday night. Just as much as they are a great duo, so are Fred
Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. While the combination of Lynch and

Jackson
won’t be enough to tilt the game in

Buffalo’s
favor, I wouldn’t be surprised if they help make the game a little closer than
one might predict.

Tennessee

@

New
England
– 4:15 CBS

Titans: Just as I expected, Peyton Manning was the latest quarterback to
absolutely bury the Titans, and let’s face it, their season is not going to be
salvaged. Jeff Fisher came out again this week and said that Kerry Collins
would remain his quarterback, but after Collins was pulled in the fourth
quarter last week, I have my reasons to doubt that. Vince Young may have been
0-for-3 in his passing attempts, but he also had one rush for six yards that
converted a third down for

Tennessee
late in the game. Young’s athleticism has never been a question, and on that
one scramble he showed that he still has it despite sitting on the bench for
over a month. The Patriots will be able to make quick work of the Titans yet
again this week and seeing as VY got into the game in the fourth quarter last
week, I have reason to believe that he will be in even earlier on Sunday.

Patriots: So Tom Brady isn’t quite back to full strength. I guarantee
that fantasy owners all over the country are ripping their hair out seeing as
Brady was drafted as high as the second round in many leagues. He passed for
his lowest amount of yards all season last week (just 215) but it was his third
straight week without an interception and he has not had a QB rating lower than
87 since Week 2. The real problem here is Randy Moss. The guy is averaging 12
yards per catch, but if you take out his 10+ catches in Weeks 1 and 3, Moss is
averaging fewer than three catches and just 36 yards receiving per game. It
doesn’t help that Brady has overthrown him on several sure touchdown passes,
but rumors are flying that Moss is dogging it and it wouldn’t be the first
time. Brady and Moss should get back into form this week against the Titans’
weak pass defense and give fantasy owners something to smile about.

Chicago @ Atlanta – 8:20 NBC

Bears: Chicago comes into the week with a 3-1 record after a bye in Week
5, but the matchup with Atlanta is arguably the team’s toughest test yet. The
team earned wins over

Pittsburgh and

Seattle in thrilling
fashion in Weeks 2 and 3 and proceeded to clobber the Lions in Week 4. However,
Jay Cutler threw for just 141 yards against

Detroit
and they will need more than that and/or a late comeback to beat

Atlanta. Perhaps the most
encouraging development of late was the re-emergence of Matt Forte, who gained
140 total yards against the Lions.

Atlanta
is giving up an average of 127 yards per game on the ground while limiting
opposing quarterbacks to an average rating of 74.4 (seventh-best in the NFL).
Cutler is used to having the offense run through him, but if

Chicago wants to keep pace with the Falcons,
they will have to utilize a heavy dose of Forte, which will surely make fantasy
owners giddy.

Falcons: Going into last week’s matchup with

San Francisco, I was almost positive that
Matt Ryan would struggle against the Niners pass defense. Instead, he threw for
329 yards and two touchdowns (both to Roddy White). On top of that, Michael
Turner gained 97 yards on the ground and found the endzone three times. It was
by far

Atlanta’s best all-around offensive
performance of the season and it came against a very tough

San Francisco squad in hostile territory.
This week, the Falcons get to experience the comfort of the home dome and
welcome in Chicago, who ranks in the middle of the pack in total defense,
giving up just under 320 yards per game. Ryan and Turner can easily combine for
220 yards passing and 100 rushing between the two of them and that should be
enough to get the job done against the pesky Bears as each team battles for
their fourth win of the year. I don’t think Turner will get three touchdowns
again, but expect Tony Gonzalez to be a key piece of the team’s game plan as it
exploits the middle of the field, where Brian Urlacher is no longer patrolling.

Denver

@

San Diego – Monday 8:30 ESPN

Broncos: This team is for real. There, I said it. Josh McDaniels has
worked wonders for this squad and they are sitting pretty at 5-0. I won’t say
that they are the best team in the AFC (that honor goes to

Indianapolis), but they are running away with
a division that they were supposed to finish a distant second in. That team
that was the favorite in the AFC West coming into the year is their opponent
this week, the Chargers. The most telling thing from the Broncos’ 20-17 OT win
over the Patriots was not just the team’s ability to hang with the big boys,
but also the fact that Knowshon Moreno was able to hold up as a full-time back
(124 total yards) and that Eddie Royal (10 catches for 90 yards) is still
alive. Kyle Orton spread the ball to his top guys throughout the game and the
result was arguably his best performance of the year (330 yards and two
touchdowns).

San Diego
has had one of the top pass defenses in the league this year, but if Orton can
continue to find all of his weapons, he will be able to exploit the Chargers’
defense and lead his team to a 6-0 start.

Chargers: A bye is just what this team needed. The Chargers alternated
wins and losses throughout the first four weeks of the season and sit at a
mediocre 2-2. At .500 is not good enough for the team that many people put in
the Super Bowl this year.

Denver
has the sixth- and ninth-ranked pass and run defenses, respectively, which are
two things that no one could have predicted as the year got underway. The thing
that is going to hurt the Chargers the most on Monday night though is their
lack of a solid running game. LaDainian Tomlinson has looked no better than a
backup when he has actually been on the field in 2009, and I think most of us
agree that Darren Sproles just doesn’t have what it takes to be a 25-30 carry
feature back in this league.

Denver has not
given up more than 76 yards rushing to a single player in a game yet this year
so

San Diego
will have to rely heavily on Philip Rivers arm throughout the game. A lack of a
running game and a defense keying on Rivers will send the Chargers to a
depressing 2-3 start to the season.

E-mail comments to: gregdietz2@gmail.com

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