The contenders are starting to separate from the pretenders as the NFL schedule progresses to the precipice of Week 7.
To the delight of fantasy football owners, even some standout skill players on mediocre, underachieving or flat-out bad teams have adequate upside to insert into upcoming lineups off the waiver wire.
It's easy for fantasy enthusiasts to be rendered choleric and want to throw in the towel—even at this early juncture in the season. But with the volatility week-to-week in both individual player production and results from all 32 NFL teams, there is still reason to hold out hope.
Below are breakdowns on skill players from each major offensive position to ponder pouncing on when the weekly waiver wire chaos commences.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
The G-Men have enlisted the help of a past franchise cornerstone to galvanize the running game.
In Jacobs' most significant action since reuniting with the organization on Sept. 10, he scampered for 106 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns in Thursday's 27-21 loss to the Chicago Bears.
For New York to have any hope of salvaging respectability this season after an 0-6 start, grounding and pounding with the 264-pound Jacobs is a nice place to start.
Jacobs is dealing with a hamstring injury, but fear not—head coach Tom Coughlin expects him to practice on Thursday, per the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano:
Tom Coughlin says Brandon Jacobs' injury is to his hamstring, and he expects him to practice Thursday. #NYG— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) October 14, 2013
Two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning is pressing far too much and has thrown 15 interceptions as a result. Keeping defenses honest with Jacobs as the workhorse is a sound preventative strategy, at least for now.
Despite being 31 years of age, Jacobs seems revitalized—and he will have had an extra few days of rest and recovery ahead of Week 7.
The Minnesota Vikings' defense is struggling in conceding the third-most points and second-most yards on average. Thus, the Giants should keep the game plan simple next Monday night and feature Jacobs to avoid cataclysmic picks by Manning in the hopes of notching their first victory of 2013.
Projected numbers: 25 carries, 120 yards, 2 TDs; 2 receptions, 10 yards
Harry Douglas, WR, Atlanta Falcons
With Julio Jones out for the season, Roddy White playing in pain and opposing defenses almost certain to double-team ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez, there aren't many options left for Matt Ryan to throw to.
That's where Douglas comes in. The 2008 third-round pick has made the most of his opportunities, despite sharing the field with Atlanta's blue-chip playmaking trio.
Douglas has 16 receptions for 219 yards on 27 targets through five games, has great speed and can be an effective slot option.
Ryan has also been looking Douglas' way close to pay dirt, where the team has struggled to punch it in, per ESPN's Mike Clay:
Considering the Falcons' Week 7 road opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have one of the worst offenses in the league, it's a good bet Ryan will have plenty of possessions to air it out a lot. The Falcons haven't been able to establish the run well all season, further making a case for Douglas.
Plus, Atlanta has had a bye to figure out how to tie Douglas more prominently into the game plan. Plenty of time has been afforded to fantasy owners to fathom adding Douglas, too.
There are only so many times Gonzalez will be able to haul in passes with multiple defenders draped over him, so look for Douglas to be targeted in the double digits.
This is bold, but Douglas should have his second career 100-yard receiving game on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Projected numbers: 7 receptions, 100 yards, TD
Jeff Cumberland, TE, New York Jets
Which player will have the most fantasy points in Week 7?
If you were hesitant to sweep up Cumberland after he had three catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in the Jets' Week 5 road win over the Falcons, now would be the time to snag him.
Kellen Winslow led the team with 17 receptions before he was smacked with a four-game suspension for PED use, as originally reported by NFL Network's Gregg Rosenthal.
Without the presence of a dynamic pass-catcher like Winslow, the trend of rookie QB Geno Smith looking for tight ends persisted this past week.
Cumberland had four receptions on five targets for a team-high 59 yards in Sunday's 19-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A rematch with the New England Patriots looms in Week 7, this time at MetLife Stadium. Smith will be out to redeem his three-interception performance in the previous AFC East clash, so look for him to use Cumberland as a security blanket to avert turnovers.
As long as Santonio Holmes is out with a hamstring injury, Cumberland has even more value.
Projected numbers: 8 receptions, 75 yards, TD