Ryan Tannehill (at TEN) - A banged up Tyrod Taylor with no Sammy Watkins was no combination to solve the Titans defense, but a rested and hopefully re-focused Tannehill with a full arsenal of weapons should be. The Titans had given up six passing touchdowns in the first three games - two in each game - and that was on only 27 attempts a game. Tannehill is averaging over 42 attempts a game in the first four games for the run-averse Dolphins, and there are no outwards signs that they’ll become more balanced coming out of the bye. DeVante Parker should be more ready to contribute and Jordan Cameron should be healthy again for this underperforming offense to help Tannehill’s cause.
Blake Bortles (vs HOU) - Bortles came out of Week 5 with a shoulder injury, but he was not limited at all in Wednesday’s practice in a great sign for his availability and level of play heading into a home game. Bortles has been riffing with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and now he has one of the better receiving tight ends in the league back in Julius Thomas. The Texans have allowed at least one passing touchdown in every game, and they’ve given up multiple scores in three out of five games. The only real pitfall here is the Texans anemic offense allowing this game to remain low-scoring.
Colin Kaepernick (vs BAL) - Kaepernick had his first good non-garbage time fantasy performance against the Giants last week. Now he goes home to face a Ravens defense that is losing pass rushers and corners seemingly every week. After starting hot against Peyton Manning, the Ravens have allowed 11 total touchdowns (including at least three each) to Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, and Josh McCown. They didn’t let Michael Vick go off, but have you watched Vick play lately? If Kaepernick can’t look good against Baltimore right now, we really can’t trust him in any matchup.
Jay Cutler (at DET) - Both quarterbacks that have thrown more than 26 passes against the Lions have gone over 300 yards with multiple touchdowns. Peyton Manning had one of his only two good fantasy games against them. The three quarterbacks that threw 26 or fewer attempts had three touchdowns on 14 attempts (Carson Palmer Week 5), A rushing touchdown, passing touchdown, and 153 yards on 18 attempts (Teddy Bridgewater Week 2), and 20-of-26 passing for 286 and a score with 40 yards rushing (Russell Wilson (Week 6). If Jay Cutler doesn’t get Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal back this week, that takes a little luster off of his outlook, but he is playing extremely well and still have Matt Forte, Marquess Wilson, and Martellus Bennett in any event, and the Lions have bottomed out coming into this week.
C.J. Anderson (at CLE) - If it doesn’t happen this week for Anderson, it probably isn’t going to happen all season. Ronnie Hillman has a tweaked hamstring, which should open the door for Anderson swing the split back in his favor just in time for the second worst run defense to show up, allowing five yards per carry and giving up the second most rushing touchdowns in the league. The Browns have had trouble getting their defense off of the field, and the Broncos would love nothing more than to get a quality game under Anderson and the offensive line’s belt. The defense and easy matchup for the Broncos wide receivers should pave the way for an ideal game script in an ideal matchup for Anderson
Lamar Miller (at TEN) - Here’s to rational coaching. Joe Philbin never seemed committed to the run, but then again neither did playcaller Bill Lazor, and he’s still there. One would hope that former blocking tight end and current interim head coach Dan Campbell would see the value of establishing a running game on the back of Miller. There seems to be a lack of trust or commitment to Miller, but it is certainly possible that a re-examination of, or even eviction of that feeling could be part of the bye week housecleaning. We shouldn’t be surprised if Miller has the same kind of uneven and mostly useless fantasy game that pockmarked 2014 and has dominated 2015 to date, but there is an opening for a new story to emerge. Running backs that have gotten over 10 carries against the Titans have done well, averaging well over four yards per carry. Let’s see if the Dolphins have the will to get Miller there.
Antonio Andrews (vs MIA) - When it rains against the Miami run defense, it pours. Chris Ivory had a career high 166 yards against them this year, and even Alfred Morris had over 100 yards. The Titans split up their carries three ways, but Karlos Williams was able to have a 100 yards day on only 12 carries. Even T.J. Yeldon managed 25 carries - his highest total on the season, even though they didn’t amount to that much. The Titans shouldn’t leave Marcus Mariota hanging out to dry against the Dolphins pass rush - which is getting healthy coming out of the bye - so it makes sense for the rugged Andrews to help keep the offense on schedule. He also flashed some prowess as a receiver last week. David Cobb is coming back in the next month or so - if Andrews is going to have a nice fantasy game, this is probably one of his last chances.
David Johnson, Andre Ellington (at PIT) - The Steelers have done a surprisingly good job bottling up running games against one-dimensional offenses like St. Louis and San Francisco. They even held Melvin Gordon III to under three yards per carry, albeit behind a piecemeal offensive line. Where they have failed is against an offense with a modicum of balance like Baltimore - in which they allowed Justin Forsett to get on track - and against good receiving backs. Dion Lewis, Danny Woodhead, and even Melvin Gordon III had at least 50 yards receiving against the Steelers, and both Ellington and Johnson threaten to be next. Both have the speed to take any touch to the house, and against a Steelers defense playing on short rest after a grueling bend but don’t break game, look for at least one of them to run away from the crowd for a score. Johnson also has the goal line role, and Ellington should get more work with his injured knee now game-tested. All three Cardinals backs were solid plays in Week 5, and history could repeat itself in Week 6.
Shane Vereen (at PHI) - Vereen always comes with the risk of a complete dud, but this week against the Eagles has a lot of factors that lower that risk and raise his ceiling. Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham are both banged up, so even if they play, Eli Manning might have to rely on his checkdown more often. The Giants can’t establish the run, and the Eagles aren’t letting opponents establish the run, so it makes sense for New York to remain in passing mode, which would include Vereen. The Eagles tempo will lengthen the game, make it more high-scoring, and increase Vereen’s opportunity for a big game. The Eagles haven’t allowed a running back touchdown yet, but Vereen through the air is a decent bet to be the first this week.
Javorius Allen (at SF) - Justin Forsett’s ankle injury is being classified as minor by the Ravens, but he has already missed at least part of a practice, and our Dr. Jene Bramel suspects a high ankle sprain from the mechanism observed on tape. Hopefully, we’ll have clarity before the game, but if the same Ravens that told us Breshad Perriman was close and denied his setback are saying Forsett is close this week, you might want to just start Allen and forget about Forsett. Lorenzo Taliaferro is on injured reserve, so Allen is the clear backup, and he is also a good receiver out of the backfield. He’ll be worth an RB2 start if Forsett is out.
Denard Robinson (vs HOU) - Like Allen, this one is based on an injury situation we can’t project fully yet, although at least Robinson’s is in an early game. T.J. Yeldon isn’t practicing yet after suffering a groin injury that he tried to play off as no big deal. Robinson is back from his knee injury and practicing in full. Robinson was productive when given the chance to carry the load last year, and the Texans have given up seven total touchdowns to running backs in five games, including five in the last two. If Yeldon is out against the Texans, Robinson becomes a solid RB2 play.
Dwayne Harris (at PHI) - As mentioned above, the Giants are coming into a Monday night matchup at Philadelphia with their top two wide receivers banged up. Harris has been very productive from the slot since taking the role over two weeks ago, and the Eagles are generous to wide receivers. There have been seven wide receiver scores against them, four 100 yard games, and nine games of five or more receptions. Harris should have plenty of opportunity with or without Beckham and Randle in the lineup, and the Eagles should allow him to turn that into solid numbers.
Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith (vs BAL) - It’s very rare that two receivers get to play a revenge game against their old team in the same game. Not that Boldin or Smith would have bad blood against a team that they won a championship with, but it certainly helps that they are facing a depleted secondary and pass rush. Colin Kaepernick had his best half of meaningful football on Sunday night, leaning on Boldin as he has since Ozzie Newsome traded him to 49ers. Smith should have a chance to get deep separation, and with the 49ers pass defense not exactly stellar, this game could open up and become a battle of big plays. In the last four weeks, the Ravens have allowed six receivers to get 75 or more yards, and they’ve given up seven wide receiver scores over that span. This is about as good as it’s going to get matchup-wise for Boldin and Smith.
Kamar Aiken (at SF) - Aiken was good for a quarter and then quieted by the Browns, so there’s some risk here. Steve Smith might be back, but that could actually be a net good for Aiken if Smith draws more attention from the defense. The 49ers have allowed three receivers to go over 120 yards in the last four weeks and the second-ranking receiver had at least 62 yards in those games. Aiken has shown some deep speed and should get the downfield shots by the Ravens offense unless we hear that Chris Givens is ready for a bigger role. Against the 49ers this year, big downfield plays have been there for the taking every week. Aiken could land one or two on your behalf for cheap.
Marquess Wilson (at DET) - Yet another sleeper with a variable component of injuries, we might want to play Wilson anyway even if one or both of Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery are available for the game. Wilson has been playing basically a #1 wide receiver role and coming through for the team, including a crucial game-winning touchdown catch against the Chiefs last week. Even if Royal and/or Jeffery can go, Wilson is clearly the healthiest. The Lions have given up five wide receiver scores and five wide receiver games of 80 yards or more despite facing the third lowest number of pass attempts in the league, so Wilson has a vulnerable secondary lining up against him.
Donte Moncrief (vs NE) - Many of Moncrief’s owners were likely worried after Andre Johnson’s “re-emergence” in Week 5, but Johnson didn’t look any younger against the Texans, he just fit in the short passing game plan for Matt Hasselbeck much better than the downfield passing game of Andre Johnson. Andrew Luck should be back this week and that means Moncrief is back in the spotlight, as Luck appeared to move on from Johnson to Moncrief almost immediately this year. Against the Patriots, the Colts are going to have to open up the offense, and that could also mean a great day for Moncrief while TY Hilton is the more likely focus of the New England secondary.
Willie Snead IV (vs ATL - Thursday) - Maybe Snead doesn’t belong here any longer, with increasing snaps and fantasy numbers almost every week. This week against Atlanta, he should be even more promiment with Marques Colston likely out. Snead has been favored by Drew Brees over Brandin Cooks until the fourth quarter of games, and he has actually showed more wherewithal to make big downfield plays than Cooks has to date. Add in the likelihood that top corner Desmond Trufant is on Cooks instead of Snead, and you have a recipe for Snead to be the #1 receiver on the stat sheet again this week with Drew Brees likely throwing a ton. Much like Allen Hurns, the only thing keeping Snead on lists like this is the low expectations we had for him coming into the season.
Derek Carrier (at NYJ) - Carrier was able to find the end zone last week, and there’s no sign that Jordan Reed is going to return this week, or in the near future, so Carrier will have another chance as the starter this week. There’s not much of a soft spot to attack in the Jets defense, but the running game will struggle now that Sheldon Richardson has reinforced the offensive live, and Darrelle Revis will likely take away Pierre Garcon with top-end slot corner Buster Skrine covering Jamison Crowder. Carrier is going to be a target almost by process of elimination.
Jacob Tamme (at NO - Thursday) - This play is pretty straightforward, with Julio Jones likely no more capable of playing his usual #1 role than he was last week. Leonard Hankerson is banged up, Roddy White is becoming obsolete, and Tamme is coming off of a game where he led the team in catches and yards. The Saints haven’t really stopped anyone from doing anything they wanted on offense this year, including season-high marks for tight ends Greg Olsen, Darren Fells, and Zach Ertz. Look for Tamme to remain a big part of the pass offense Thursday.
Jordan Cameron (at TEN) - Cameron roared out of the gate getting a full helping of downfield targets from Ryan Tannehill. He got banged up and the Dolphins team went south, taking Cameron’s value with it. A bye week, new coach, and rest for the ailing Cameron should reset this whole situation back to where it was in Week 1. The Titans have given up a two score game to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and they also allowed seven catches for 83 yards to the Colts tight ends without the help of Dwayne Allen in Week 3. The other two weeks they faced only 32 pass attempts total, so Cameron could reveal that the Titans will struggle against tight ends when the passing game actually tests their defense.
Zach Ertz (vs NYG) - Ertz came alive along with the Eagles pass offense against the Saints last week. The Giants allowed Colin Kaepernick to get going last week for the first time in a contested situation. Usually the Giants are very generous to tight ends, and they obliged last week, allowing a score to Garrett Celek (brother of Eagle tight end Brent, who also scored last week). Before that, the Giants allowed 9-111 to Charles Clay, 6-96 (and two missed touchdowns) to Jordan Reed, 4-77 to Jacob Tamme, and three touchdowns to Cowboys tight ends. Ertz is set for his biggest game yet.