"Thursday Night Football" has provided some rather excruciating, one-sided games in 2014, with the outcomes being decided by a margin of 29 points.
But for many fantasy owners "Thursday Night Football" has proven to be a bonanza of points, especially for receivers and quarterbacks. In Week 2 owners of Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Owen Daniels racked up serious points and built a huge lead before Sunday’s games, and so did those who held Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown.
In Week 3, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Julio Jones went off, as did Antone Smith and Devin Hester, though many owners didn’t possess the last two until after that game. In Week 4 the Giants Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and the emergence of tight end Larry Donnell were the big story, and in Week 5 it was Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy who took center stage.
In every case, the squad with the better offensive line has won. The losing team has given up 13 sacks, compared to four for the winning team. Obviously that has given the top quarterbacks like Rodgers, Ryan, Flacco and Manning more time to pick apart a defense that’s already been limited by the new rule changes that favor offenses on top of only four days’ rest.
Thursday Night hasn’t exactly been kind to running backs though. Lacy was the first 100-yard rusher with two touchdowns last week, and Baltimore’s Bernard Pierce racked up 96 yards, but no other back has picked up more than 72 yards.
So knowing this, who should owners start in Week 6’s early matchup with the Indianapolis Colts on the road against the AFC South rival Houston Texans? We have the best passing offense in the Colts and NFL passing leader Andrew Luck, along with dual-threat running back Ahmad Bradshaw and receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, going against the 20th ranked Texans pass defense. However, the Texans have held opposing quarterbacks to an 86.6 passer rating, and have let up seven touchdowns to five interceptions.
Houston will send out running back Arian Foster and receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, with all three coming off solid to excellent games, especially Foster’s 157-yard, two touchdown performance against Dallas.
It’s hard to go by the better offensive line, with Houston’s allowing only five through five games and the Colts surrendering only six in the same span. However, the Colts have found a way to rush the passer without defensive end Robert Mathis, and are tied for sixth in the NFL with 12 sacks. Houston has JJ Watt but have missed top rookie Jadeveon Clowney and have generated only seven sacks.
But ultimately this could very well be the first competitive Thursday night game of the season. Luck is a must start, while Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick is always a wild card and shouldn’t be started unless you’re in a two-quarterback league and you have no other options.
Foster could struggle against the Colts No. 12 ranked rush defense, but he has just as much potential to break out like Lacy did, and Wayne, Hilton and Johnson should also be started. With four of Bradshaw’s 18 receptions good for touchdowns he’s also a must start. Hopkins is a bit of a toss-up since he’s been targeted 11 fewer times than Johnson. Start Hopkins as your WR2 or WR3, but maybe look for a better option playing on Sunday or Monday.
As for the rest of Week 6, let’s breakdown some of the other running backs and wide receivers who could be started and those owners should think about sitting. There are also a few sleepers for owners to study before setting their line ups. Remember, always start and sit players at your own discretion.
RBs To Start/Sit
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
Ellington finally showed his promise in Week 5, blazing a trail with four catches for 112 yards and a touchdown and another score on the ground. The bye week served him well and allowed his foot some extra time to heal, but can he do it again with Carson Palmer still recovering and Drew Stanton questionable with a concussion? Ellington faces Washington (No. 15 vs. the run) this week, but with the passing game a big question mark, it seems unlikely he’ll have a big impact in Week 6.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Miller’s coming off a top-notch, two-touchdown performance against Oakland, and next faces another dreadful rush defense in Green Bay. He’s at home and can bail out quarterback Ryan Tannehill if he gets into trouble with a quick dump off.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
No Bills running back has scored a rushing touchdown yet, and Buffalo’s only rushing TD came from the now benched quarterback EJ Manuel. Spiller also hasn’t made much of an impact on the ground despite earning 20 more touches than counterpart Fred Jackson. And now Spiller will face a Patriots D that held Cincinnati’s run-centric offense to 79 total yards? This game should be close, but for fantasy purposes probably best to stay away.
Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Doug Martin back and the Bucs “staying the course” with him, Rainey’s value has plummeted. But even if Martin was still down, Rainey wouldn’t be a good start as an RB2 or flex against a Ravens D that’s eighth against the run and allowed only three rushing TDs.
WRs To Start/Sit
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Bryant and Dallas face their toughest test of the season so far on the road against Seattle. While he’s scored a touchdown in four straight games and would normally be a start in any league format, the Seahawks secondary is just too good and Bryant should have a down game. It’s far better to start Seattle’s Percy Harvin or even Doug Baldwin this week.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
With Carolina’s rushing game decimated by injury, Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen are both must starts. If you’re choosing between one of them for your flex, Benjamin’s the healthier option and he’s gotten seven more targets than Olsen, who sat out practice Wednesday with an ankle injury.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins
As bad as Green Bay is against the run, they make up for it with the No. 7 pass defense in the league and the No. 6 pass rush with 12 sacks. All of that spells trouble for Tannehill and Wallace. Wallace did get some extra rest during the blowout win over Oakland, and he’s playing far better than he did last year, but a better start is Tennessee’s Kendall Wright or the Giants Rueben Randle as your WR2 in Week 6.
Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals
Sanu’s gone back and forth between a WR3 or bench rider this season, though in PPR league’s he’s been good for about four catches a game. But with A.J. Green injured and unlikely to play at 100 percent, Sanu is worth a start against a Carolina D that let up 10 receiving touchdowns this season (No. 26 in the NFL)
Week 6 Sleepers
Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee Titans
Sankey hasn’t been given too many opportunities to shine this season, garnering only 32 attempts for 150 yards and one touchdown. But with the Titans facing a dreadful and banged up Jaguars D in Week 6, he might get far more than his season-high 10 touches in Week 3. The Titans could hold back No. 1 RB Shonn Green who was limited in practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury, and give Sankey more reps. Depending on your league format, Sankey’s a decent start as your RB2 or RB3, but might be better served as your No. 2 flex.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The rookie’s not going to take too many snaps away from No. 1 back Giovani Bernard, he could get a lot more than the six targets he’s accumulated in the passing game with Green banged up. Hill has also made the post of those targets, catching five for 90 yards.
Owen Daniels, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Daniels hasn’t caught a touchdown since he blew up in Week 2, but that could change against a Bucs defense that’s letting up the fourth most fantasy points to TEs, according to Yahoo. Daniels has also been targeted 13 times the last two weeks, totaling nine catches, so in PPR leagues he’s a solid start if your regular TE is on a bye or even as your No. 2 flex.