Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. It finally appears as if the tool is fully operational (though not 100 percent reliable), so I'll use a combination of the tool and old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on four difficult Week 6 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.
Who should I start at QB: Andrew Luck or Marcus Mariota?
Andrew Luck currently sits as the QB4 in fantasy through five weeks, but his standing is extremely misleading as nearly 36 percent of his fantasy points (35.5) came in Week 1 against Detroit. Since then, Luck averages just 15.79 fantasy points per game (fewer than Sam Bradford and Brian Hoyer) and has just one 20-plus point outing. As Week 6 approaches he's staring into the teeth of a still strong Houston defense playing at home that allows the fewest passing yards per game (181) and the fourth-lowest completion percentage (56.9). Of course, this stop unit is also coming off a game where Sam Bradford carved them up for 271 passing yards without his No. 1 wide receiver. If Luck and the Colts are going to have a chance against the Texans, they'll likely want to shift into hurry-up mode earlier than usual and deploy their "11" personnel package (3WR, 1RB, 1TE). The Colts rank ninth in the league in yards per pass play out of 11 personnel (7.88), and the Texans defense gave up 6.63 yards per play to the Vikings in that grouping as well. However, this will be predicated on Luck staying upright. Luck is the most-sacked quarterback in the league (20), and has taken the second-most hits (42). Houston, even without J.J. Watt for much of the year, ranks third in quarterback hits (35) and sixth in sacks (13). With Houston playing in front of a raucous home crowd on Sunday night, this could be a recipe for disaster for Luck if they team tries (and fails) to run a more traditional offense.
After back-to-back single-digit fantasy outings, Marcus Mariota exploded for 30.52 fantasy points in a great matchup against the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. However, he didn't really exploit his matchup that much, as he averaged a paltry 5.62 yards per pass attempt against a secondary that was allowing 7.4 ypa heading into Week 5. Mariota's stellar fantasy day was thanks to three touchdown tosses and another on the ground. However, it's the rushing portion of Mariota's game that should have fantasy fans optimistic about his outlook in Week 6 against the Browns. Mariota ran the ball a season-high seven times against the Dolphins, ultimately adding 12 fantasy points to his total thanks to 60 yards and the aforementioned score. The Browns are weak against the pass, allowing the third-worst touchdown rate (6.9 percent) in the league, as well as eighth-most passing yards per game (288.4). Mariota should be able to do some damage through the air, while his ceiling is pushed higher thanks to his ability as a runner.
Verdict: While the Player Comparison Tool strangely favors Luck in almost every category, this looks like the prime time to play the matchups and roll with Mariota. Luck going on the road against a tough defense is a frightening proposition, while everything about Mariota's situation is lining up for him to post a second-straight dynamite fantasy stat line.
Who should I start at RB: Christine Michael or Melvin Gordon?
After a bye in Week 5, it's time for his Woke-ness, Christine Michael, to return to action against an Atlanta defense that is middle-of-the-road against running backs. The Falcons allow 4.24 yards per carry to opposing rushers and are Football Outsiders' 24th ranked rush defense, but also bleed yards through the air to opposing backs. Atlanta allows the third-most receiving yards to running backs with 357, and has conceded two receiving touchdowns to the position. Michael will receive the bulk of the carries for a Seahawks offense that should be well-rested and healed up, and will also work in through the air as well. While C.J. Spiller scored a touchdown in Week 4 on a reception, Michael out-targeted Spiller six to three. Even if that target split evens out a bit, Michael will get additional opportunities in the passing game. All told, this is setting up to be a big CMike game as the Seahawks look to control the clock and keep the explosive Atlanta offense on the sideline.
Melvin Gordon leads all backs with seven total touchdowns, and his nose for the end zone has kept his fantasy value afloat while he averages a dismal 3.4 yards per carry. Although he gets to stay home, he has to play on a short week against the Denver Broncos. While the Broncos rather surprisingly rank 20th in Football Outsiders rush defense DVOA, Gordon doesn't have the look of a back primed to exploit this positive matchup. To their credit, the Denver defense is allowing just 3.8 yards per carry, even after Devonta Freeman gashed them last week. Gordon will have to try and do it all on his own, too, as he doesn't have a backfield complement like Tevin Coleman to pick apart the Broncos defense. If he's held out of the end zone in Week 6, his inefficiency could rear its ugly head and haunt fantasy owners.
Verdict: It looks like the Player Comparison Tool is on the money with this one, except in the upside category. It's hard to envision a scenario where Gordon rips through the Denver defense and finds the end zone multiple times. Meanwhile, CMike will be the workhorse in a plus matchup for an offense that could be in line for a dominant performance after a week off. Stay woke, friends, and start Michael this week.
Who should I start at WR: Marvin Jones or Allen Robinson?
Marvin Jones is coming off a solid performance in Week 5 (4-37-1, five targets) against the Eagles, but could be in line for much bigger things in Week 6 when the Rams come to Detroit. As Mike Tagliere of Pro Football Focus notes, Jones should see either E.J. Gaines or Troy Hill in coverage, who have combined to allow 25 catches for 317 yards and three touchdowns on 36 targets in coverage. The Lions made an effort to manufacture touches for Golden Tate last week, but it didn't result in much more production. Jones is the only dynamic, downfield threat in this passing offense and the Lions should look to exploit the Rams weaknesses in coverage on Sunday.
Allen Robinson is coming off of his bye into a solid matchup against the Bears secondary. While they've limited the total passing yards allowed against them, they have been worked over by No. 1 wide receivers pretty routinely, allowing six catches for 82 yards on average to their opponent's top wide receiver on the year. However, many of those performances came on low target volumes, as Dez Bryant and Marvin Jones only saw a combined 13 targets against the Bears. In Week 5, T.Y. Hilton turned his 11 targets into 10 catches, 171 yards and a score. Robinson currently owns 25.6 percent of the Jaguars passing offense, and 31.6 percent of their red-zone pass attempts. He's seen double digit targets in three of four games in 2016, and if he gets that kind of volume against the Bears he has an extremely good chance to post a massive stat line.
Verdict: As the Player Comparison Tool indicates, this one is pretty close. However, I'd have to disagree with the tool when considering the upside, as Robinson feels to have a much loftier ceiling given the matchup and his market share of the targets. With that in mind, it looks as if the smarter play is to roll with Robinson here as he comes out of his bye into a juicy fantasy matchup.
Who should I start at TE: Martellus Bennett or Travis Kelce?
Even though Rob Gronkowski has returned to action the last two weeks, Martellus Bennett's role hasn't really diminished. That's because the Patriots now run their 12 personnel package (1RB, 2TE, 2 WR) far more frequently. In Weeks 1-3 they trotted out this grouping on just nine percent of their plays, but that has jumped to 39.5 percent in Weeks 4 and 5. And while Bennett's share of the tight end targets has dipped, his overall share of the targets has jumped from 16.1 percent ot 20.6 percent in that same span. The Patriots are facing a Bengals team that has yet to face a team with a prominent or dynamic tight end, as Jason Witten was arguably their biggest threat from the position. The biggest factor here in whether or not to play Bennett will be his own health, as he suffered an ankle injury last week and was limited at practice on Wednesday. If he's healthy, he'll have top-10 upside at the position again.
Travis Kelce is coming out of his bye into a fantastic fantasy matchup with the Raiders. Oakland's issues covering tight ends carried over from 2015, as they're allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to the position and a whopping 14.69 yards per reception. The athletic Hunter Henry was able to find plenty of space to roam last week against the Raiders, which bodes well for Kelce in Week 6. Kelce owns 17.3 percent of the Chiefs' targets, but is the most targeted player on the team in the red zone with eight (33.3 percent). The Raiders offense is clicking right now and should be able to put up points on the Chiefs thanks to their pass-catching combo of Amari Cooper and Derek Carr. This could put the Chiefs into a more pass-heavy game script, creating plenty of opportunities for Kelce to put up fantasy points.
Verdict: Perhaps the Player Comparison Tool got lucky here, considering both performance and consistency should technically go to Bennett (he's scored more points and has had more double-digit fantasy outings in 2016). However, whether by luck, science, or black magic, I have to side with the tool here and recommend Kelce. Bennett's injury and target split with Gronkowski is worrisome when put up against a player like Kelce who is alone on tight end island for the Chiefs. While both are strong plays in Week 6, Kelce gives owners the best chance for a big fantasy day.