Every week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com focuses on key recent trends and numbers, and tells you how they will affect your fantasy outlook for the upcoming week.
FEELING THE HEAT
Players who have positive numbers following them into Week 6.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
Stat: In his past three games vs. the Falcons, Williams has 353 yards from scrimmage and two TDs.
Analysis: During that span, Williams has rushed for 272 yards vs. Atlanta. He has shown signs of life again in the past two games, rushing for 197 yards and a TD. He has only 46 receiving yards so far this year, though. Williams has only 46 carries in five games, and that is another significant concern. Atlanta allows only 89.2 rushing yards per game. Williams is not an optimum start, but you will have to roll with him if bye weeks dictate that you do not have a better choice.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Stat: Garcon is averaging 22.1 yards per catch in 2011.
Analysis: Garcon is aiming for his third 100-yard game in a row. We say he does not get it this week. This is the NFL, where upcoming opponents watch recent game film and often determine they must take a hot performer out of the offensive flow. You can bet the Bengals will be well-prepared to contain Garcon, who is not the type of elite talent to still post outstanding numbers when he is drawing some extra defensive attention.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Stat: In his last meeting with the Bills, Bradshaw rushed for a career-high 151 yards, including his longest TD run in the NFL (88 yards).
Analysis: That performance came in Bradshaw's rookie season of 2007, and this is obviously a different Bills team. But Buffalo does rank 29th against the run, and Bradshaw, who was held to 58 rushing yards last week by Seattle, will not be held down in two consecutive games. The Giants will come out fired up against Buffalo after a shocking home defeat and will successfully use the running game in their effort to control time of possession as much as possible. Expect a 100-yard outing from Bradshaw with a trip to the end zone.
Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Stat: In his past two games vs. Jacksonville, including the playoffs, Ward has 17 catches for 225 yards and a TD.
Analysis: Ward caught his first two TD passes of the year last week as the Pittsburgh offense exploded against Tennessee. Don't expect the major momentum to continue, though, at least on Ward's part. He is declining quickly before our eyes, with just 190 receiving yards so far in 2011. Do not overreact to last week's outing. There are better WR choices, even on a bye-laden week, than Ward. Ben Roethlisberger can easily find another preferred target for a TD even if he has another strong outing.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Stat: Flacco is 2-0 vs. the Texans, completing 66.1 percent of his passes against them for 420 yards, four TDs and no interceptions.
Analysis: The Texans are better on pass defense this time around. They currently rank 10th in the NFL, and Flacco still lacks the desired weaponry to truly challenge the better defenses he faces on a consistent basis. Hopefully, you do not have to roll with Flacco because of a bye week situation. There are certainly much better choices on a lot of fantasy squads this week. Go with the alternative if you can. You should also note the Texans lead the AFC with 15 sacks.
Oakland Raiders defense
Stat: The Raiders are second in the AFC with 14 sacks.
Analysis: Only the Texans have downed more QBs in the conference so far this year. Looking at the matchup, you would assume the Raiders are a good one-week play because of the Cleveland offense, which does not scare anyone. The Raiders, however, rank 31st in total defense. Sometimes, the average fantasy player simply starts a defense based on the opponent. But when a team cannot stop anyone, it does not matter who they face. If you are streaming defenses in and out every week, go for another unit.
Deion Branch, WR, New England Patriots
Stat: Branch aims for his third consecutive game with a TD catch.
Analysis: With opponents heavily focused on containing the likes of Wes Welker and the Patriots' tight ends, Branch has been able to get open consistently on key passing downs. The Pats figure to get into a shootout with the Cowboys this week, and the opportunities will be there for Branch to score again. He is a terrific bye week fill-in, and should be strongly considered for a WR3 start in many leagues, even if you have most of your regulars available.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
Stat: Colston is shooting for his fifth game in a row with five or more receptions vs. the Buccaneers.
Analysis: Colston has been a big disappointment so far, as he dealt with an early-season injury, and Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles have outshined him in the Saints diverse passing game. But you cannot keep a good wideout down for long, and you can bet Drew Brees will rediscover his big-play man this week. Colston caught five passes last week and appears to be rounding back into form. Now is the time to buy low on him in a trade or get him back into your lineup.
SEARCHING FOR SPARKS
These players will look to turn some negative outlooks around in Week 6.
Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets
Stat: Keller has three catches for 19 yards in his past two games.
Analysis: The Jets are desperate for a victory against the winless Dolphins this week, and getting the ball to his tight end will be a key if Mark Sanchez wants to get the offense back into a respectable rhythm. Keller has three TD receptions in his past three games vs. Miami and will display the form that made him look like an ascending fantasy tight end in the first three games of 2011.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills
Stat: Fitzpatrick has one TD pass in his past two games.
Analysis: The Giants have allowed only five TD passes this year, with only three teams surrendering less. But they do rank 18th overall against the pass, and have allowed 122.2 yards per game against the run, which means Fitzpatrick will have the support of a high-quality ground game again. Fitzpatrick will not rebound in a major way this week, but the Bills should be able to move the ball efficiently and he will post respectable, but not outstanding, fantasy totals.
Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Stat: Benson has one rushing TD in 2011.
Analysis: He also has not topped 65 rushing yards in three of his past four outings. Thankfully, the Colts have the league's worst run defense, allowing 145.2 yards per game. Benson has not scored since the season opener, but you can bank on his third 100-yard outing of the season.
Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
Stat: Davis has 57 receiving yards in his past two games.
Analysis: Davis started the season strong, but has been less involved in the passing game in the past two outings. Look for him to produce well this week, as he is still a significant part of the game plan. Davis caught a 71-yard pass in his last meeting with the Eagles and will get his chances to make some significant plays as the division rivals slug it out.
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stat: Williams has not caught a TD pass since the season opener.
Analysis: Easily one of the biggest fantasy busts so far this year. Williams is averaging 36.6 yards per game. The outlook does not improve this week, either. The Buccaneers will likely be without LeGarrette Blount, further impeding their offense and allowing the Saints to easily take Williams out of the game and dare Josh Freeman to beat them with his other receivers when he gets into several adverse passing situations. Williams will be shut down again, and should be reserved if you do not face major bye week challenges.
Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Stat: Harvin has 183 receiving yards and no TDs this year
Analysis: Harvin has scored three times in four games against the Bears, but this is not the week he is going to bounce back. If his name wasn't Percy Harvin, we would probably be telling you to cut him. Harvin is in for a very long year, and is not even a recommended starter as a bye week option. He has no real quality complements in the passing game and should be reserved no matter what.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Stat: Bush has 119 rushing yards and one overall TD in 2011.
Analysis: He also has 86 receiving yards, but only 30 in his past three games. Still, this is the week when we see Bush providing some sparks to the Dolphins and your fantasy team that needs a bye week RB. The Dolphins are hungry for a victory against their biggest rival and Bush will be playing on a national stage. Look for Miami to get the ball in Bush's hands frequently, and he is going to make the highlight reels and produce some quality fantasy totals.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Stat: Bradford has only three TD passes this season.
Analysis: This is a simple reminder that you cannot look at a defensive ranking to determine a starter. Some fantasy owners will look at the fact that Green Bay has the NFC's worst pass defense and will think Bradford could be a good start. But the defensive ranking is only applicable if the opponent has the capability to exploit it. Bradford is being dragged down by a very mediocre receiving crew, and I would not consider him at all for Week 6 usage.
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