Real life National Football League injuries are piling up, and they are negatively affecting a plethora of fantasy football rosters heading into Week 6 of the 2014 season. Up to what were five first-choice running backs could be sidelined this coming weekend because of knocks. Add in that multiple starting RBs, a quarterback who has been a fantasy football starter for years and a tight end who has become a fantasy football darling this fall are all off for Week 6, and filling the gaps in your team could prove to be a daunting task.
We're at the part of the NFL calendar where value grabs and sleepers separate middle-of-the-road fantasy football teams from those that enter the playoffs as top seeds. It's not unrealistic to suggest that the winning fantasy football team for your league could start up to four waiver-wire finds in Week 6.
Here's who you should start and who you should sit for week 6 of the 2014 NFL season.
10 Start 'Em: QB Eli Manning - New York Giants
The New Orleans Saints are on the Bye, which means those who own Drew Brees are looking for a spot-start replacement. You could do a lot worse than the two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player this time around.
The younger Manning brother has tossed 10 touchdown passes over the past month. His only interception over the past three games came on that wonky Rueben Randle play where he entered the end zone with full possession of the football, and yet play was not stopped before the ball was knocked out of Randle's hands and into the air.
Manning has averaged around 20 fantasy football points over this past four games. The pass defense of the Philadelphia Eagles has been a fantasy football liability. Add in that Manning and Victor Cruz have a history of lighting the Eagles up in Philly, and Manning is a legitimate QB1 that you have to pick up if he is somehow available.
9 Sit 'Em: QB Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
One of two things is true: Either Newton still isn't fully recovered from rib and ankle knocks that he suffered during the summer months, or his coaching staff is not yet ready to unleash the four-year pro. While Newton did play well in leading the Panthers back from behind against the Chicago Bears, he was downright dreadful in his first five drives of that contest.
Newton is also on pace to finish with his fewest rushing yards of any NFL season. He thus far has 42 rushing yards in four games.
The Panthers will be away to a Cincinnati Bengals team that had been responsible for the best defense in the AFC until it was embarrassed by the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Week 5. That unit will be angry and looking to have a bounce-back performance. Add in that the Bengals literally never lose at home in regular season play these days, and starting Newton is a risk you shouldn't have to take for Week 6.
8 Start 'Em: RB Branden Oliver - San Diego Chargers
I know how those of you cautious on picking Oliver up feel. I, too, grabbed former fantasy football darling Donald Brown when all other San Diego running backs went down to injuries, believing that Brown would see enough volume to make him worth your while.
That Brown disappointed until he suffered a concussion last week shouldn't scare you off of Oliver.
The latest waiver-wire favorite went for 114 yards, a rushing touchdown and 6.0 yards per carry against what had been a formidable New York Jets run defense. Logic suggests that San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers should have another good outing against the Oakland Raiders, meaning that Oliver should see volume as the game goes along.
7 Sit 'Em: RB Stevan Ridley - New England Patriots
Ridley had his best game of the season in New England's romp over the Cincinnati Bengals. He finished that contest with 113 rushing yards and a touchdown off of 27 carries. That score was Ridley's second rushing TD of the campaign.
Beware of the trap.
Head coach Bill Belichick has not been keen on settling on one running back. Ridley had 25 total touches in Weeks 3 and 4, and he didn't find the end zone a single time in those two contests. The defense of the Bills has put up great numbers against the run, especially when playing at home.
Start Ridley at your own risk.
6 Start 'Em: WR Steve Smith Sr. - Baltimore Ravens
It finally happened. Smith Sr. had a disappointing fantasy football day. The 35-year-old was held in check this past Sunday, reeling in only five of seven targets for 34 yards. Smith Sr. was also kept out of the end zone.
That occurred in a game in which Smith Sr. was facing the secondary of the Indianapolis Colts in Indy. He has a better match-up this time around.
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been a better overall side the past couple of weeks, their pass defense continues to be leaky. Smith Sr. is a must-start in all leagues this week, and adding him to this list serves as a reminder to fantasy football owners considering pressing the panic button after one bad week.
5 Sit 'Em: WR Sammy Watkins - Buffalo Bills
There is nothing, on paper, to like about Watkins' fantasy football projections for Week 6. New Buffalo starting quarterback Kyle Orton targeted the rookie wide receiver a total of 12 times when the Bills were at the Detroit Lions, and Watkins finished the game with 7 catches and 87 yards. The first-year pro was, however, kept out of the end zone for the third time this season.
Rookie wide receivers are notoriously inconsistent. New England cornerback Darrelle Revis has looked like the player of old this fall. With Watkins stuck on Revis Island, you'd be better off finding a replacement for the week.
4 Start 'Em: TE Antonio Gates - San Diego Chargers
Gates is closer to retirement than he is to his prime. The 34-year-old is in his 12th NFL season, and he has only rewarded fantasy football owners who have started him this season on two occasions. While he did not post monster stats last weekend despite facing the lowly New York Jets, Gates is once again a good bet considering his match-up.
The Oakland Raiders have surrendered touchdowns to tight ends in half of their regular season games in 2014. Philip Rivers has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he continues to be an MVP candidate. Go with Gates if you're starting tight end is on a Bye or if he is banged up.
3 Sit 'Em: TE Jordan Cameron - Cleveland Browns
Did you start Cameron last week, hoping that he would be 100 percent coming off of the Bye? You got burned if you did. The Cleveland tight end caught 3 of 7 passes thrown his way, he finished the game with 33 receiving yards, and he still doesn't have a touchdown to his name this season.
The Pittsburgh defense has been weak against tight ends, so you fantasy football risk-takers out there may wish to hold onto hope that this will be the game during which quarterback Brian Hoyer and Cameron click. Cameron's bum shoulder continues to be a worry, and that he seemed to be a decoy against the Tennessee Titans suggests that Hoyer may look elsewhere in red zone situations.
2 Start 'Em: San Diego Chargers Defense
Here is hoping those of you who needed a defense a week ago went and grabbed San Diego's. The Super Chargers pitched a shutout against the lousy offense of the New York Jets, and San Diego once again has a favorable match-up.
Maybe, just maybe, Oakland Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr will find his groove against a San Diego defense notching this game as a win ahead of time. Perhaps the off week is what Oakland needed to jump-start its season.
Those suggestions are massive leaps to take. Feel safe about starting the Chargers for the second straight weekend.
1 Sit 'Em: Cleveland Browns Defense
Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker had his way with the Cleveland defense last week until he was forced from that game early due to a bruised thumb. Charlie Whitehurst – yes, “Clipboard Jesus” – then hit the Browns for two touchdown passes before Cleveland made some halftime adjustments.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has owned the Browns during his NFL career. Cleveland cornerback Joe Haden could miss this game because of a hip injury. Rookie CB Justin Gilbert, who could fill in for Haden, has been so poor that he was benched against the Titans. He could now have to deal with Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has torched Haden multiple times in the past.
Oh yeah. The pass rush of the Browns has been nonexistent this fall.