Just when Cam Newton's return to practice had me thinking that Week 6 might return the football season to normal, the Falcons had another positive Covid test and shut down their facility. As of now, the team's trip to Minnesota is on the schedule and offers a lot of fantasy potential. But as always, our weekly projections show their work with adjustments for the venue, weather, and opponent if you need to reach for your Plans B, C, and D in your lineups this week.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 6 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
I don't expect Dalvin Cook's likely absence from that Vikings' Week 6 contest against the Falcons to alter the team's run-focused approach. But hindsight shows that Kirk Cousins' disastrous 113-yard, no-touchdown, three-interception game in Week 2 against the Colts came against the league's No. 1 DVOA pass defense (-19.4%). In his other four starts, Cousins has been fine if not prolific. He should be better than fine against the Falcons this weekend. Cousins has averaged 1.5 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road since 2017, and just as important, he faces a Falcons defense that boosts pass plays by 3%, completion rate by 5%, yards per attempt by 10%, and touchdowns per attempt by 55%. All four rates are top-10 in football and make Cousins a solid QB2 for the week.
Across the field, Matt Ryan cannot even boast QB2 status after going his last 31 drives without throwing a touchdown. I'm not sure Dan Quinn's firing will fix that, but Julio Jones' hopeful return and a matchup against the Vikings should. The Vikings defense may not be Falcons poor, but they still boost passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 15% and 26%, respectively.
Our projection system separately estimates passer accuracies to different receiver positions and combines them with projected receiver efficiencies per catchable target. That explains why Andy Dalton lands at 21st in my true-talent quarterback rankings this week, ahead of some strong performers from this season such as Teddy Bridgewater with poor matchups. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, and Ezekiel Elliott are just a bit better than Dalton's Bengals targets last season. Dalton has historically averaged more fantasy points per game on the road than at home, but I'm applying the broader trends of quarterback advantage at home in a dome like he will have for the first time on Monday night. The Cardinals are not as favorable a fantasy matchup for passers as their 17.7% pass defense DVOA (26th) would suggest, but I still view Dalton as a fantasy option in deeper and two-quarterback formats this week.
|Worst Week 6 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Teddy Bridgewater has vaulted onto fantasy radars the last two weeks with 276- and 313-yard outbursts with two touchdowns in each game. But keep in mind those season-best fantasy performances came against the Cardinals and Falcons, two bottom-seven DVOA pass defenses. His opponent in Week 6, the Bears, are the No. 6 DVOA pass defense, and that plus an outdoor venue drops Bridgewater from 17th in true talent to 22nd at the position this week. Leave him on your fantasy and DFS benches.
Fantasy players eager to use Aaron Rodgers coming out of his bye will have to deal with another unfriendly passer matchup in the Buccaneers. At least in Football Outsiders circles, the Bucs are renowned for their run defense, which is ranked third in DVOA this season and cuts opponent run plays by 31%, third-most in football. But so far this season, their pass defense has been about as good. They are fourth in pass defense DVOA(-10.3%), cut passing touchdowns by 27% per attempt (seventh-most), and promote passing interceptions by 45% per attempt (sixth-most). And despite the relative longevity of their current quality of run defense, their pass defense seems better equipped to maintain its shutdown nature with defensive tackle Vita Vea out for the season.
|Best Week 6 Matchups - Running Backs|
There are a lot of excellent fantasy backs with strong matchups this week, and you may not need an opponent summary to know to put Derrick Henry or James Robinson in your fantasy lineups. Still, I think it's worth highlighting that Ronald Jones has top-10 78.7% carry and 16.3% target shares the last two weeks with Leonard Fournette sidelined and has been the third-most efficient runner with a 26.3% rushing DVOA this season. Fournette may take the Bucs' No. 1 back job at some point this year, but it likely won't be in Week 6 even if he can return to the field. And that gives Jones an excellent window to produce as a top-20 back, at home and facing a Packers defense that boosts yards and touchdowns per carry by 11% and 90%, respectively.
David Montgomery would have made this list in any case because of his Panthers opponent. Todd Gurley confirmed that the Cardinals' inability to score against Carolina in Week 4 was an anomaly as he gashed the team for 150 total yards and two touchdowns on just 18 touches. Generally, the Panthers boost rushing yards per attempt by 19% and touchdowns per attempt by 117%, both top-five in football. But Montgomery jumps all the way to eighth at the position this week thanks also to his recent increase in passing work. Since Tarik Cohen went out for the season in Week 3, Montgomery has produced a 19.0% target share that is sixth-most at the position, just behind Alvin Kamara at 21.3%.
And speaking of backs whose true-talent rankings enjoy a bump this week, Myles Gaskin earns the distinction thanks to the Dolphins decision to deactivate a healthy Jordan Howard last week (and presumably going forward). That provides the already workload-heavy Gaskin with the only thing he was missing for his fantasy value: opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone. He did that in Week 5 by scoring a touchdown on a carry from the 1-yard line, and Gaskin took all three of his teams' carries inside the 10-yard line for the week. He's now 14th in my true-talent rankings and jumps to 13th with a matchup against the hapless Jets. The latter's poor play has served to boost their opponents' run plays by 8%, and they further increase rushing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 6% and 71%, both top 10 in football.
|Worst Week 6 Matchups - Running Backs|
Joe Mixon, Miles Sanders, and Aaron Jones have too heavy of workloads to fall from full-season fantasy lineups. Even in bad matchups in Week 6, all three remain top-10 options at the position. But it may be best to adjust your typical expectations as the runners face off against the Colts, Ravens, and Bucs this week. The Colts' -31.6% DVOA run defense is about as good as their pass defense by rank and cuts opponent rushing touchdowns by 78% per attempt. The Ravens are second (-42.4%) and cut rushing touchdowns by even more, 80% per attempt. And I already mentioned the Bucs' success, at least to date with Vea in their lineup.
The back that may drive a decision with his poor matchup is Kenyan Drake of the Cardinals. I wouldn't bury him for his inability to score against the Panthers' porous run defense two weeks ago. Game scripts happen to every back, and he redeemed himself with a touchdown on Sunday against the Jets. But it has become clear over the first month and a half of the season that Drake does not have the every-down workload many expected at the start of the season. Presumed backup Chase Edmonds has a top-10 13.6% target share, and that has relegated Drake to a 3.6% rate that is outside the top 60 at the position and all but requires him to score to have a productive fantasy day. That isn't out of the question against a Cowboys team that so far this season has boosted run plays by 21%, the most in football. But Drake has to contend with fleet-footed quarterback Kyler Murray when the team enters the red zone, an obstacle that further limits the fantasy utility of a carry-heavy workload and drops him from my true-talent top 20 at the position.
|Best Week 6 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
My recent obsession with rookie Justin Jefferson has taken my attention away from veteran Adam Thielen, but Thielen deserves some fantasy attention since his 33.1% target share is the best of all wide receivers this season. He's comfortably in my true-talent top five and lands second at the position for me this week, likely benefiting both from playing at home in the dome and his Falcons opponent that boosts pass plays by 3% and No. 1 receiver catch rate and yards per target by 12% and 24%, respectively.
I'm not sure if Julio Jones is going to play this week, and if he doesn't, Calvin Ridley may earn the extra defensive attention that netted him a shutout on five targets in Week 4. Still, I'm unconcerned. Ridley himself had an underreported ankle injury that week and demonstrated full health with eight catches and 136 yards last week against the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Vikings are a great matchup for receivers of every role. They are a top-10 booster of touchdowns per target for No. 1, No. 2, and deep receivers, and that makes Ridley a top-10 option with our without Jones lined up beside him.
T.Y. Hilton had fallen precipitously in my true-talent rankings. The Colts went conservative with their offensive approach to lean into the quality of their defense, and that cut Hilton's target share to 17.7% the first four weeks, outside the top 30 at the position. But things seemed to change for Hilton in Week 5 when he netted 10 targets and produced a season-high 69 yards. One can point to game script for the outburst, but I also think that Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman's injuries solidify Hilton's role as the team's No. 1 receiver. And that clarity comes at the perfect time with the team hosting the Bengals this week. Cincinnati's overall quality and a relatively stronger pass defense (1.2%, ninth) than run defense (-3.5%, 21st) can lead their opponents to build leads and run the ball in the second half to kill clock -- they boost run plays by 10% -- but their offensive improvements with rookie Joe Burrow have demanded their opponents to throw the ball at their typical rates because of game scripts. Hilton's key to fantasy success will be volume because the Bengals have dramatically cut touchdown-scoring for deep receivers, but they don't have a standout cover corner to limit touchdowns for their opponents' top targets.
|Worst Week 6 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
The Bucs may not have a big-name cover corner, but that hasn't stopped the team from cutting No. 1 wide receiver catch rates by 32% and touchdown rates by 113%, both in the top three in football. Shaquil Barrett and a top-three pass-rushing line (9.7% adjusted line yards) probably deserves the lion share of that credit, but third-year cornerback Carlton Davis is enjoying a breakout season. He leads the NFL with three interceptions and is eighth of the 82 cornerbacks with 10 or more targets allowing just 4.4 yards per target despite shadowing a murderer's row of receivers including Michael Thomas, DJ Moore, Keenan Allen, and Allen Robinson this season. Davante Adams had a bye week to recover from his hamstring injury and should always be in your full-season fantasy lineups when he plays. But he falls from first to seventh at the position this week with the difficult matchup.
I'm enamored with Travis Fulgham after his 152-yard breakout against the Steelers on Sunday. And with DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery major question marks even if they play, we are projecting Fulgham for a top-20 true-talent target share this week. That still doesn't make him a top-20 fantasy option facing the Ravens. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey is a brand name, and justifiably given his top-five 5.1 yards allowed per target last season. You can trace his excellence in the split of the Ravens' defensive factors for No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. The former set sees their yards per target cut by 19%, top-five in football, while the latter lands close to neutral at just a 2% decrease. There probably isn't an Eagles receiver to take advantage of that relative weakness, but I still suggest you bench Fulgham in your shallower formats this week given his 25th-place ranking among receivers. Just don't drop him.
|Best Week 6 Matchups - Tight Ends|
There have been standout defenses to target with tight ends in fantasy this season, and Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson are excellent players to take advantage of the Eagles' and Jaguars' shortcomings. I've written extensively about how the Eagles allowed three touchdowns to Tyler Higbee and 183 yards to George Kittle this year. Generally, the Philadelphia defense boosts yards and touchdowns per target to the position by 24% and 127%, respectively. But the Jaguars deserve some similar love (or is it hate?) for allowing four touchdowns in as many weeks to a non-scary slate of opposing tight ends in Jonnu Smith, Mike Gesicki, and Darren Fells. The Jags are the No. 2 booster of tight end yards (79%) and touchdowns per target (135%), and Hockenson jumps from ninth to sixth at the position this week in facing them.
|Worst Week 6 Matchups - Tight Ends|
The one tight end who failed to score against the Jaguars in the last month is Drew Sample. And while he still teased some fantasy utility with 47 yards against them and an offensive snap share above 85% the last three weeks with C.J. Uzomah out for the season, his 23 combined yards against the Eagles and Ravens suggests a clear matchup lever. The Eagles (8.4% adjusted sack rate, eighth) and Ravens (7.3%, 12th) have upper-third pass-rushing defenses, and that seems like a particular problem for the Bengals and their poor pass-protecting offensive line (10.1% adjusted sack rate, worst). Expect Sample to stay in and block again this week against the Colts (6.7%, 16th). And even if he does run routes, he'll have to contend with excellent coverage linebackers that have limited the position to a -37.5% DVOA this season, fifth-lowest in football.
With just 32 total yards the last two weeks, Tyler Higbee has become difficult to justify as a TE1. But while I have dropped him to 11th in my true-talent rankings, I still have optimism for his rest-of-season value. Higbee's late-2019 breakout followed an increase in his typical snap share from 45% or 65% to 80%-plus. And even though Gerald Everett is healthy again this season and Higbee's production has fallen off, Higbee has remained north of an 80% snap share. That said, a turnaround will likely have to wait another week. For all of the 49ers' problems, they have not let up as a strong defense against tight ends. They are sixth-best in defending the position with a -27.5% allowed DVOA, and they particularly cut touchdowns to the position by 71% per target.
|Best Week 6 Matchups - Kickers|
If you are not a follower of the cult of Blankenship, it's time to enlist. Rodrigo is the No. 2 kicker in fantasy points this season, and he rocks some super sweet goggles. His fast start has pulled him into my top 10 at the position in true talent, and he further jumps to first this week facing off against a Bengals team that increases short and long field goal attempts by 10% and 22%, respectively.
Denver and Chicago aren't the pushover defense you might expect to find as attractive kicker matchups, but strong red zone defenses can often be a recipe for increased field goal opportunities. That's true in this case, and that buoys Nick Folk to deeper-league consideration and Joey Slye to top-five status at home against them this week.
|Worst Week 6 Matchups - Kickers|
The football gods were kinder to doink savant Cody Parkey last week than they had been in wild-card weekend in January of 2019, when he double-doinked the Bears out of the playoffs and himself out of a Bears uniform. But regardless of Parkey's abilities to split the uprights, he's a kicker to avoid in fantasy this week. The Steelers are a tremendous full-field defense, and that has led them to cut short and long field goal attempts by 44% and 14%, respectively.
It's a similar story for the Packers' Mason Crosby and the Bengals' Randy Bullock. Both kickers play for prolific offenses that offer them plenty of scoring opportunities in most of their matchups. But the Bucs and Colts are both upper-half cutters of both short and long attempts and drop Crosby and Bullock from a tie for fifth in true talent to 13th and 10th respectively this week.
|Best Week 6 Matchups - Defenses|
Kyle Shanahan will always terrify me, but with Jimmy Garoppolo seemingly playing hurt in the best-case scenario for the 49ers offense this week, this looks like a rare opportunity to start an opposing defense against San Francisco with confidence. Aaron Donald has been his usual game-wrecking self this year, particularly so in Week 5 when he sacked various Washington quarterbacks four different times. And while excellent pass protection is a normal signature of a Shanahan offense, the 49ers are fourth-worst with a 9.0% adjusted sack rate this season. That may not be something even a healthy Garoppolo can fix.
Carson Wentz and the Eagles showed signs of life in scoring 29 points against the excellent Steelers defense last week, but that game is a perfect demonstration why the Ravens are a strong defensive start against them this week. Even at their best, the Eagles' injury-depleted offensive line allowed five sacks, a total that landed the Steelers in the top 10 of fantasy defenses for the week despite their points allowed. In general, the Eagles boost tackles for losses by 38% and sacks per attempt by 28%, both top-12 in football.
|Worst Week 6 Matchups - Defenses|
Tom Brady has been a boon for fantasy defenses this season thanks to his handful of interceptions returned for touchdowns, but counting on Brady turnovers has been a losing proposition for a couple of decades, and his five-touchdown performance against a non-exceptional Chargers defense (-1.2% DVOA, 13th) in Week 4 illustrates the danger of rolling with the 29th-ranked Packers defense (10.2%) on Sunday. The Packers can outplay their defensive efficiency with sacks in blowouts, but I wouldn't expect one on the road in Tampa, and the Bucs are a top-five cutter of sacks per pass attempt (33%) in any case.
You may not have been locked into a third-straight day of NFL on Tuesday night football, but perhaps the Titans' outburst of 42 points against the Bills should not have been a surprise. It does not match many preseason expectations, but the Bills have been a bottom-six DVOA defense (8.9%) this season. I want no part of them against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, whose own surprising loss last week belies the fact that Mahomes' offense bested 30 points for the third time this season.