NFL fantasy players, it's tinkering time. You always start your studs, but matchups and performance trends can make your lineup a difficult code to crack, but we've parsed through the Week 6 schedule and data to help ensure your lineup shines on Sunday.
We're mostly considering players who are on the fringe of expert rankings and thus the most difficult to decide upon. Using FantasyPros' consensus rankings for Week 6, we'll be looking at players who are closest to the range of debate (ranked around 12th for quarterbacks and tight ends, 24th for running backs and wide receivers) for 12-team, non-points-per-reception leagues that award four points for passing touchdowns.
Start: Kyle Allen, Carolina Panthers (at TB)
You are obviously starting guys like Kyler Murray and Matt Ryan (who face each other in a likely shootout), but a sneaky start for Week 6 is Carolina's Kyle Allen. Allen is ranked 19th on FantasyPros, but this matchup suits him.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a high-octane offense and a defense that is allowing a league-worst 323.6 passing yards per game. Allen, meanwhile, is 3-0 this season with a 66.7 percent completion rate, 224.7 yards per game, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He hasn't been a volume scorer, but he has an efficient floor and the possibility for big upside if the Bucs offense can turn this into a competitive game.
Honorable Mentions: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (at BAL); Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (vs. PHI)
Sit: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. CAR)
The biggest issue with the Kyle Allen start? The possibility that Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers air attack are unable to produce against Carolina's defense. The Panthers defense is allowing just 197 yards and forcing four sacks per game (fourth-best and second-best in the league, respectively).
Fortunately for managers with Allen, Carolina's run defense isn't nearly as stout, so the Tampa Bay run game could help make the game high-scoring. Unfortunately for those looking to start Winston, 2019 has been an inefficient year for him; he's completing just 61.5 percent of his passes and getting sacked 3.6 times per game.
That pressure has contributed to a fumble in three of five games and an interception per outing. He's ranked 11th by FantasyPros, but this could be an ugly week for Winston against an impressive pass rush.
Honorable Mention: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (at MIN)
Start: Carlos Hyde, Houston Texans (at KC)
Hyde is ranked 27th by FantasyPros, and many are worried that the potential for a shootout with Kansas City means less volume for the back, who seems to be on the verge of a career renaissance.
Put those doubts aside. Hyde is averaging 14.6 rushes for 62.0 yards per game this season and has found the end zone twice. Despite boasting a passing attack that requires scoring reciprocity, the Chiefs are still allowing 155.8 yards per game on the ground (third-worst in the league) and one rushing touchdown per game.
If you just look at the past three games, the Chiefs are allowing 189.7 rushing yards per game. The blueprint is set, and teams are trying to slow the game down on the ground against Kansas City. If Houston follows that lead, then Hyde should benefit hugely in Week 6.
Honorable Mention: Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins (at MIA)
Sit: Jordan Howard, Philadelphia Eagles (at MIN)
Sure, Jordan Howard has four touchdowns on 39 attempts, and is averaging 62 yards per outing, over the last three games. Sure, Doug Pederson expressed confidence to reporters Monday that Howard is the hot hand and lead back for the foreseeable future. Sure, those last three games were against the fairly stout run defenses of the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.
Nonetheless, Howard, ranked 22nd by FantasyPros, should regress to the mean in Week 6. Those past three defenses were good, but the Minnesota Vikings are allowing just 292.4 total yards per game this season, good for fourth-best in the league. With just 88.2 yards allowed on the ground per game and a total of one rushing touchdown scored on them this season (second-best in the league), this is a bad matchup for a player who gets little receiving work and was bound to experience scoring regression.
Start: Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins (at MIA)
McLaurin F1 may very well be the best rookie receiver this season. He's the first receiver to ever notch five catches and a touchdown in each of his first three games, and his connection with returning quarterback Case Keenum is evident. With Keenum under center, McLaurin is averaging eight targets for 85.7 yards and one touchdown per game.
This week, Keenum is back and the Redskins face the Miami Dolphins. Miami is allowing 301.5 receiving yards per game, third-worst in the league. Unless Washington is too comfortable running the ball against Miami's league-worst rushing defense, McLaurin is in line for a big game. Fortunately, Washington's defense is bad enough that Miami should be able to score points and make this surprisingly competitive.
Honorable Mentions: Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. NO); Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins (vs. WAS)
Sit: DJ Chark Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. NO)
Chark has been incredible this season. With Gardner Minshew II throwing him the ball, Chark is averaging 8.3 targets, 84.8 yards and a touchdown per game. In Week 6, he gets a New Orleans defense that is allowing 276.8 receiving yards per game this season (11th-worst in the league).
But those numbers are inflated by early-season and slot production. Combined, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans and Dallas Cowboys' Amari Cooper were averaging 7.9 targets, 85.7 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game before they were shadowed by New Orleans' Marshon Lattimore in the past two weeks. Against Lattimore, they produced a combined five receptions for 48 yards. The Saints are weak against slot receivers (Dede Westbrook could have a big week), but Lattimore has been locking up prototypical outside stars.
Start: Noah Fant, Denver Broncos (vs. TEN)
Tight end is a wasteland, and the rankings reflect that. At 14th, Noah Fant is one of the only tight ends ranked outside of the top 12 by FantasyPros who managers could realistically start in Week 6.
Although Fant is only averaging 3.4 targets per game this season, he has shown some major flashes and gets to go against a Tennessee Titans defense that has looked stout against everybody but tight ends. Tennessee is allowing 10 fantasy points per game to Fant's position (fourth-worst in the NFL), per FantasyPros, and has allowed four touchdowns to tight ends thus far (second-worst).
Sit: O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. CAR)
I'm not sure who needs to hear this, but you need to stop starting O.J. Howard. He is ranked 12th by FantasyPros, and that is unfortunate for wishful fantasy managers. Howard is averaging 2.8 targets, 28.2 yards and zero touchdowns per game this season. He caught as many balls while watching a Tampa Bay Rays game as he did against the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, combined, this season.
Speaking of the Panthers, they've allowed just 140 yards (second-best among defenses), 19 receptions (second-best) and one touchdown to tight ends in 2019. The matchup is horrible, and Howard's production has been too.