Welcome to Pro Football Weekly's Fantasy Buzz, where we'll hit on the most pressing topic for every team, every week to try and help you make the most informed daily and weekly roster decisions.
As a general rule of thumb each week, we'll get you the Thursday Night Football goods, an extra serving beyond what we have for the weekend's slate, in time for your Thursday afternoon commute. We'll then circle back in this same space and round out the weekly action by Friday afternoon. Voila.
If you see a position ranking in parentheses, that's where I have a player slotted for the week. Just don't let that preclude you from checking out my top 100 regardless of position here.
Let's get to it.
49ERS @ BILLS
Blaine Gabbert led NFL QBs in rushing yards through the first five weeks with 172 (4.4 ypc). New starter Colin Kaepernick strode to 181 rushing yards in the 2012 wild-card round vs. Green Bay and has three additional games with at least 98 yards. San Francisco's skill talent might be the worst in the NFL, and Kaepernick isn't a viable alternative against a hot 'D in his first start. But if you're thinking he can have fantasy value moving forward in Chip Kelly's offense, you're not alone.
Kaepernick, of course, won't be the only dual-threat passer in this one. Tyrod Taylor (QB15), No. 2 in the NFL among QBs in rushing with 168 yards (6.5 ypc), overshot a streaking Robert Woods for a long touchdown last week that would've put him in QB1 territory. Taylor is QB13 in overall scoring despite just 63 yards from Sammy Watkins before his IR trip. That's the power, that's the power of legs.
JAGUARS @ BEARS
Jacksonville has two physical playmakers on the perimeter, Allen Robinson (WR8) and Allen Hurns (WR28), who've combined for four touchdowns in the past two games (three from A-Rob). Chicago has one healthy outside corner, Tracy Porter, who's played consistently well. The point total in this one, 47.5, is tied for second-highest of the week. It's math, people.
Colleague Kevin Fishbain had this "fun fact" Thursday: Alshon Jeffery (WR14) has 31 targets, tied for 49th among NFL pass catchers. The Bears have paid their franchise WR $470,967.75 per target this season. Woof. And since Brian Hoyer (QB16) isn't interested in forcing Jeffery the ball — or looking his direction when he's wide open on the game's final play — Cameron Meredith (WR34) remains in an enviable situation to build on his Week Six breakout. Here's a bold prediction on Meredith's Week Six outlook.
RAMS @ LIONS
It's easily lost in all the jokes about the Rams' offense, but eighth-year veteran Kenny Britt is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season. He's also due to find the end zone, perhaps Sunday against a defense that's permitted receivers to hit paydirt more often than all but three others. Keep an eye on Britt in addition to Todd Gurley, technically my RB7 but a candidate to be the best fantasy back of Week Six.
Matthew Stafford (QB9) is No. 6 in fantasy scoring among QBs, up three spots from his 2015 finish. His run game is up 12 spots from dead last in 2015, but the numbers — 89.8 yards per game, 3.9 ypc — are only marginally improved. That's about the best-case uptick I envision Justin Forsett providing — marginal — but he could be in line to start just days after his arrival versus a bad, battered Rams 'D.'
STEELERS @ DOLPHINS
Chances are Sammie Coates (WR32) was at or near the top of your Week Six waiver-wire wish list and Jesse James (TE15) wasn't on it at all. Then, Coates missed a week of practice along with Markus Wheaton, and in Washington Jordan Reed is again concussed, suddenly making James a hot late-week consideration. Or maybe that's just my reality, I don't know.
In five games, the 'Phins have had four separate leading receivers and four separate leading rushers. also known as a hot hodgepodge fantasy mess. We assume Jarvis Landry (WR21) steadies coming off his least targeted day since early in his rookie season, but I know for sure I'm glad to have zero Dolphins rostered across four leagues.
BENGALS @ PATRIOTS
Ah, yes, the Brandon LaFell revenge game. I'm kidding, mostly, but LaFell was cut this offseason by New England, which in 2014 fostered his career year, and he's coming off his biggest game with the Bengals, albeit too little too late in mop-up duty in Dallas. The Patriots defense excels in taking away the opposition's biggest playmaker, LeSean McCoy in Week Four notwithstanding.
Cincinnati's secondary has hemorrhaged touchdowns to receivers (7) — like its red-zone woes after an offseason of turnover, hardly stunning. But what does that mean for LaFell's replacement, Chris Hogan? He's not in my rankings this week but I know I'm higher on him than most, especially with Gronk (TE2) and Edelman (WR27) still not 100 percent.
PANTHERS @ SAINTS
Cam Newton (QB5) and Jonathan Stewart (RB14) are back, but is it too late? Carolina has a 6 percent chance of rebounding from 1-4 to clinch a fourth consecutive postseason berth. If there's anyone we cannot discount, it's Newton and Greg Olsen (TE1), but can they do it if Mike Shula's aggressive approach with his running QB changes?
Carolina's secondary was a major problem when healthy, and now it's without both starting corners. Brandin Cooks (WR16), Willie Snead (WR22) and Michael Thomas (WR25) should all get plenty of love from Drew Brees (QB4), who might look in the direction of Coby Fleener (TE6) less. After all, who would you pick on, James Worley, Zach Sanchez and Teddy Williams or Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis?
RAVENS @ GIANTS
Congratulations, Marty Mornhinweg, for your first game as interim offensive coordinator, you head to New York and its hungry and at least semi-respectable 'D' likely without your best receiver (Steve Smith) and blocker (Marshal Yanda). When Dennis Pitta (TE9) is the most enticing fantasy option, that really says it all.
Baltimore's nine TDs surrendered to wideouts is tied with Tampa for a league-high. After getting stymied by Minnesota and Green Bay, that's encouraging for Odell Beckham (WR9) and Sterling Shepard. Too, Elvis Dumervil isn't expected to play, a break LT Ereck Flowers so richly doesn't deserve but Eli Manning sure does.
BROWNS @ TITANS
Cody Kessler will start Sunday, the unofficial end to our long national nightmare. In all seriousness, Kessler has been surprisingly capable, which the Browns would gladly accept as their new team slogan (so much for being serious). Cleveland reportedly has one "untouchable" player on its roster according to NFL Network — Terrelle Pryor (WR35) — whose two best games have come with Kessler.
In hs 17th game, in Miami last Sunday, Marcus Mariota (QB14) compiled his fourth four-TD performance, a feat only matched by Giants QB Charley Conerly (per Jim Wyatt of titansonline.com). But how did Mariota follow up his first outing with a quartet of TDs? Two touchdowns, no picks and 276 total yards versus, you guessed it, Cleveland.
EAGLES @ WASHINGTON
It's unclear whether Ryan Mathews (RB17) confided in Marion Barber this week after the Eagles' back in Detroit on Sunday fumbled away his team's chances to remain undefeated. It's certain, however, that Mathews is set up to secure redemption against the only NFL defense yielding more than five yards a pop. Also apparent: Philly's schedule is brutal after Sunday, when Mathews owners should dangle him if he bolsters his stock like others have vs. Washington.
We hope Jordan Reed, listed as questionable with at least his fifth known concussion dating back to Gainesville, gets well soon. Meantime, the Eagles don't let tight ends loose often, so resist the urge to turn back the clock with Vernon Davis. Instead, consider this a good week to roll with DeSean Jackson, who's shredded his former team (13-283-1 in three meetings) and should be more involved in Reed's likely absence.
CHIEFS @ RAIDERS
Alex Smith (QB13) loves playing the Raiders more than owner Mark Davis loves getting his hair cut by Lloyd Christmas' barber. Smith is 7-1 versus Oakland, with 18 total touchdowns to three interceptions. Scarily, some of those past Raiders defenses were better than this astronomically disappointing group. A Smith-Travis Kelce (TE3) DFS stack is a bet gambling Jack Del RIo would make if he could.
We've come to expect Oakland's defensive ineptitude but the Chiefs', not so much. Derek Carr (QB10) has been stymied by Bob Sutton's group, going 1-3 with a 70.2 passer rating and the same number of touchdowns as turnovers (5). Now disregard all of that and expect a big-time performance by not only the ascending passer but Amari Cooper (WR13), who won't be slowed by Marcus Peters' voodoo in a third meeting.
It seems Dez Bryant will miss another week, giving Dom Capers just a bit more incentive to load up and stop Zeke Elliott (RB8) if he deems it necessary. This is the first superb defense the rookie has faced, so if he stumbles don't panic; place your best trade offers and go get him. Now is a potentially advantageous time to pilfer fed-up Bryant owners, too — but not Romo owners.
Remember two weeks ago when Aaron Rodgers (QB6), coming off a brutal showing against Minnesota, eviscerated a bad Detroit 'D' at Lambeau? Rod Marinelli's group is marginally better, but Rodgers has again vowed to improve after two picks and a 51.1 completion percentage. If Eddie Lacy (RB16) and/or James Starks can't go, might we see more Randall Cobb (WR24) and Ty Montgomery in the backfield?
FALCONS @ SEAHAWKS
I'm sure I wasn't alone in wrestling with Matt Ryan's ranking this week. He's my QB11 after finishing as QB18 in Denver a week ago, though he did toss three TDs to two picks (93.7) in he and Julio's most recent meeting with Seattle, a 30-28 victory in the 2012 playoffs. But I refuse to drop Jones (WR6) as far, even with rumblings out of Seattle indicating he'll get the star treatment from Richard Sherman, and despite his quiet day against Sherman in the aforementioned postseason meeting. There's not much else to like this week about Atlanta from a fantasy context — unless you think the Falcons D/ST can use its coming out party in Denver as a springboard against Seattle's O-line (a stretch). I just can't envision Devonta Freeman (RB20) and Tevin Coleman (RB33) exposing Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright similarly to Denver's LB corps.
Tyler Lockett benefited from the early bye, emerging as healthy as he's been since before the knee injury, according to Pete Carroll. The Lockett bandwagon has emptied significantly but I'm stretching my legs out and putting my coat and bag on both sides of me in preparation of it filling again soon. Also, welcome back to must-start status, Jimmy Graham (TE7). We've missed you.
COLTS @ TEXANS
If the Colts don't come out in a no-huddle in Houston, well, sadly we won't be surprised but we'll be highly disappointed. Like the Bears, whom the Colts baffled with their increased tempo, the Texans aren't scoring much, which lessens concerns about exposing Indy's bad 'D.' Andrew Luck (QB8) and T.Y. Hilton (WR7) thrive in it, and it's not like the Colts have any other consistent options in the passing game without Donte Moncrief.
Unlike Cam Meredith, who exploded on the Colts as they focused namely on Alshon Jeffery, Will Fuller (WR26) is already a known, albeit boom or bust, commodity. Whether that dissuades Chuck Pagano from giving DeAndre Hopkins (WR12) the Jeffery treatment remains to be seen. We finally expect to see Lamar MIller (RB3) in the end zone, though, and a lot earlier than with 3-plus minutes left in a blowout, when Hopkins' Texans finally arrived versus Minnesota last week.