As we gear up for the sixth week of games in the 2011 NFL season, a number of fantasy football squads and NFL teams alike share a rather dubious item in common:
They absolutely and desperately need a win this week.
For these teams, a big day from their respective quarterbacks is essential. While NFL teams are more or less limited to going with the same player that may well have gotten them into this mess, luckily fantasy owners usually have a few more options at their disposal.
To aid those owners in procuring that much-needed victory, here's a look at a handful of less-than-obvious fantasy signal-callers who could be in for a big statistical day in Week 6.
2011 Stats: 120-of-196, 1.302 yards, seven touchdowns, six interceptions
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has lived up to his "Matty Ice" nickname in all the wrong ways this season, as the ice-cold fourth-year pro has already thrown six interceptions in five games in 2011 after throwing only nine all of last season, while appearing very unsettled behind a shaky Atlanta offensive line.
If the 2-3 Falcons are going to right the ship and make another playoff appearance this season, they absolutely must defeat the Carolina Panthers this week. Given the Panthers' penchant for putting points on the board this year, they're going to need Ryan's A-game to do it, regardless of the absence of wide receiver Julio Jones.
2011 Stats: 104-of-164, 1,486 yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions
Eli Manning's stat line in last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week was an excellent microcosm of his career with the New York Giants to this point. Manning's 420 passing yards were a career high, and he tossed three touchdowns, but the eighth-year veteran also threw three interceptions, including a tipped ball that Brandon Browner returned 94 yards for a touchdown in the game's closing moments.
Manning and the Giants face off against a Buffalo Bills team this week that leads the National Football League with 12 interceptions but has also allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
With the 3-2 G-Men trying to keep pace in the NFC East, look for the other Manning to come out slinging.
2011 Stats: 97-of-173, 1,171 yards, eight touchdowns, five interceptions
For the last two weeks I've predicted that New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez would have a big fantasy day, and for the last two weeks I was dead wrong, as Sanchez completed less than half his passes, failed to hit 300 yards in both games combined and has been a big part of the Jets' three-game losing streak.
So why would I possibly think this week will be any different?
The winless Miami Dolphins visit the Big Apple this week. Given that the Dolphins rank 31st in pass defense and have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, while the Jets need a big win to keep their season afloat, if the third-year pro isn't worth starting in Week 6, then he's not even worth rostering.
2011 Stats: 114-of-178, 1,156 yards, three touchdowns, six interceptions; 24 carries, 106 yards, two touchdowns
After an outstanding second season in the National Football League, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has regressed badly this season, already throwing as many picks this year as he did all of last season and bottoming out in a horrific performance last week in a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Starting Freeman this week against the New Orleans Saints isn't a fantasy play for the faint of heart, but the Saints have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this year.
The Buccaneers will likely be without the services of starting running back LeGarrette Blount this week, so fantasy owners in a bind at quarterback may find rolling the dice on Freeman worth the risk.
2011 Stats: 100-of-172, 984 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions
The Cleveland Browns turned the keys to their offense over to quarterback Colt McCoy in his second year in the NFL, and the results to this point have been a mixed bag. McCoy has thrown for less than 250 yards per game and managed a quarterback rating of only 78.7 but has still guided the Browns to a .500 mark through four games.
The Browns, who are second in the National Football League in pass attempts per game, promoted wide receiver Greg Little into the starting lineup during their bye week, giving McCoy another weapon in the passing game.
Going up against an Oakland Raiders defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2011, McCoy is a sneaky desperation start for fantasy owners this week.