New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons (Thursday, 8:25 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 51 pts, Falcons Total: 27.5 pts, Saints Total: 23.5 pts
It might be tough to fade this Thursday matchup, which features two burnable defenses and Vegas' highest projected total of Week 6.
The Saints, no matter how much they talk up the running game, will be forced to the air time and again this season as the team's defense could hardly be worse. That means Drew Brees will continue dropping back to pass as much as almost any other quarterback and New Orleans pass catchers will have consistent opportunity.
Atlanta is giving up a 65.3 percent completion rate to opposing passers, as quarterbacks facing the Falcons are throwing it 41.4 times on average. Brees may not be capable of hitting the deep downfield shot right now, but I like his prospects with 40 throws against such a shaky secondary. That could make for a busy night among Saints' running backs. They see 28 percent of the team's targets, so we're talking about the potential for a dozen targets for C.J. Spiller, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson.
Willie Snead, still a bargain-basement value on most DFS sites, was in on 71 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps in Week 5 – a marked uptick from the first four weeks of 2015. Snead has just as many targets as Brandin Cooks over the past couple weeks. He has emerged as a fairly reliable DFS option and now goes up against an Atlanta secondary allowing a hearty 10.7 yards per completion. Snead is a cash game play in Week 6.
I wouldn't swear off Matt Ryan quite yet. Washington's defense applied constant and brutal pressure on Ryan throughout their Week 5 showdown. Only the Dolphins have logged fewer quarterback hits through five weeks, and the Saints have a grand total of seven sacks in 2015. Downgrade Ryan if Julio Jones' hamstring woes keep him out of the Thursday game, but otherwise deploy him with confidence. New Orleans allows the most yards per completion in the NFL.
Devonta Freeman's DFS price tag continues to climb, and he continues to blow expectations out of the proverbial water. Freeman, who is second in carries and second in targets among running backs, could shred a New Orleans front seven allowing 135.9 rushing yards per contest. Opponents have bludgeoned the Saints via the ground in 2015, averaging 30.5 runs per game. Expect Freeman – averaging 1.16 fantasy points per touch -- to continue benefitting from soft defensive fronts and absorbing targets from Ryan.
Expect sky-high Freeman ownership this week despite the jump in price.
Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 45 pts, Bengals Total: 24 pts, Bills Total: 21 pts
Andy Dalton, the red head averaging a red-hot 0.68 fantasy points per drop back, is once again a set-it-and-forget-it cash game quarterback. Not only are teams dropping back to throw more against the Bills than any other team, but they're having success. Buffalo is allowing 275 yards through the air every week. Dalton has cracked the 68 percent completion rate mark thrice this season. Get him in your cash lineups.
Gio Bernard is suddenly an intriguing DFS play, but probably best reserved for GPPs, as his floor could still be too low for cash contests. Bernard has approach or eclipsed 70 percent of Cincy's offensive snaps three times in 2015, and against a tough Buffalo front seven, I expect the Bengals to continue to deploy their pass-catching back rather than Jeremy Hill. Only four runners average more yards per carry than Bernard. He's seeing four targets a game and could very well benefit from a pass-heavy approach in Week 6. His DFS price provides decent cap relief too.
Cincinnati's defense is only an option in this one if the ailing Tyrod Taylor sits out. Buffalo is not a viable target with Taylor under center. They're the 10th stingiest team in fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses. EJ Manuel, however, makes for a fantastic target in a game that will likely see Buffalo become a one-dimensional offense. With Manuel behind center, that's what we want.
Charles Clay, a favorite tight end punt play in this space, has an awful matchup in Week 6, facing off against Bengals linebackers and safeties who allow a meager 4.78 fantasy points per game to tight ends. Delanie Walker and Larry Donnell are much better cheap DFS options for Week 6.
Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 42.5 pts, Broncos Total: 23.25 pts, Browns Total: 19.25 pts
Josh McCown has been featured in this space the past couple weeks. That ends here as the old vet faces off against the NFL's best defense. Probably McCown will throw a bunch of passes once again, but his floor is too frightening for my taste. Denver has thwarted enemy passers to the tune of 7.86 fantasy points per contest in 2015.
Andy Dalton is just $300 more than McCown on DraftKings. McCown is a viable option on Yahoo daily fantasy, where 23 signal callers are priced above the Browns' quarterback.
I've been remiss in my failure to highlight Gary Banridge in this column. I was highy skeptical that Barnidge would become an every-week DFS option. But a lack of pass catcher and an offense that throws 37.7 times every week can create a productive tight end. Barnidge, since Week 2, is the fifth most targeted tight end in football. Denver has proven susceptible to tight ends in recent seasons. With a couple key injuries in the Denver defense, I think Barnidge could capitalize on another high-volume passing performance from McCown.
I don't think Peyton Manning is a reasonable cash game quarterback until proven otherwise. Fantasy 23rd highest scoring signal caller, he of the fluttered football, has more interceptions than anyone not named Matthew Stafford. In a hostile road environment against a coverage unit allowing a 59.4 percent completion rate, Peyton is an all-out Week 6 fade.
Peyton's demise is not, unfortunately, in a bubble. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are fantasy's No. 16 and 23 receivers, respectively. Thomas is averaging an ugly 7.2 yards per target. I'm more than a little bearish on Peyton against Cleveland, which means I'm necessarily bearish on his receiving duo. Sanders would be my preference here, considering price point and his efficiency on a per-target basis.
Ronnie Hillman is dealing with a tweaked hamstring and the Browns are being decimated by opposing running games. That must make C.J. Anderson, the mortal enemy of a million fantasy gamers, a locked-in cash game running back, yes?
Well, considering the team doesn't seem all that interested in getting the ball into Anderson's hands – even in the passing game, where he excelled in 2014 – I'm going to hedge on the one-year wonder. Anderson has yet to average four yards per carry in a game this season. He's 64th in fantasy points per snap. I suppose Anderson, priced alongside backup runners, can serve as a throw-in for GPP lineups. I won't have much exposure to the back even if Hillman sits against Cleveland.
Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 43 pts, Lions Total: 23 pts, Bears Total: 20 pts
Both the Bears and Lions defenses are threats to implode against any competition, so I suspect this game may go well over the Vegas projection of 43 points. Both are bottom-7 defenses in points allowed, and bottom-5 in points allowed per play. Lions opponents average 4.4 red zone scoring chances. Offenses are having their way with these teams, making this contest a sneaky target for GPP lineups.
We like to roll with quarterbacks whose teams are favored and likely to face friendly game script, though there are exceptions. Jay Cutler is one cigarette-smoking, DGAF-ing exception. Cutty over the past couple season has scored more fantasy points per game when Chicago is an underdog than when they're favored.
Detroit, allowing the fifth most total fantasy points to opponents in 2015, has given up nine passing scores in five games. Signal callers have been very efficient against Detroit's lackluster secondary, which makes me think there's an argument for Cutler as a cheap cash contest option, especially if Alshon Jeffery plays.
Matt Forte has maintained fantasy relevancy even in an injury-riddled Chicago offense in part because he's seeing five targets per game. He's also getting 20.2 carries every week. That's notable against a Detroit front seven allowing almost 20 fantasy points to enemy runners. Fire up Forte once again as a high-floor back.
I think Calvin Johnson and/or Golden Tate are sensible correlation plays with Cutler in this one. If Cutty shows up and the Bears have success against the lifeless Detroit defense, then Megatron and Tate will have opportunity. The problem with Calvin is that, like a lot of aging large receivers, he's proven terribly inefficient. He's not a top-30 receiver and only six wideouts have seen more targets this year.
Megatron's DFS price has dropped considerably as a result. While he's no longer a cash game receiver, he's a virtual lock for 10 targets against a Chicago secondary that allowed 39 receiver receptions in the first three weeks of the season. That's potentially very tasty.