Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 6 Starters and Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Ray Rice, or to bench Donovan McNabb and Donald Driver? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 6 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets vs. Dolphins. Sanchez has taken a lot of heat for the Jets’ slow start, but he has also thrown a pair of touchdowns in four of five games this season. On Monday night, the Dolphins’ sieve-like secondary and non-existent pass rush should let Sanchez pick his targets with ease. 300-plus yards and three TDs are well within reach.

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys at Patriots. While I don’t expect him to surpass 100 rushing yards, Jones is a big part of the Cowboys’ passing game as well. The combination effect will make him a quality start against a Patriots defense that is vulnerable to dual-threat backs.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins vs. Eagles. You can never be sure with Mike Shanahan, but Torain appears to be the feature back du jour in Washington. What we do know is that Philly is giving up 140 yards per game on the ground (third worst in the NFL), and Tim Hightower is still limited by a shoulder injury. Torain should perform admirably Sunday.

Earnest Graham, RB, Buccaneers vs. Saints. Though it’s not official yet, reports out of Tampa suggest LeGarrette Blount has a fairly significant knee injury that could keep him sidelined through the Bucs’ Week 8 bye, and possibly beyond. Graham is the next man up, and he has a track record of performing well when given the opportunity. He’s a great flex starter this week against a suspect Saints run defense.

Victor Cruz, WR, Giants vs. Bills. Not convinced about Cruz yet? He’s caught 17 passes for 369 yards and 3 TDs over the last three weeks. Sure, some have been a bit fluky; but the second-year sensation has overtaken Mario Manningham as the Giants’ No. 2 wideout. He should keep up the good work against Buffalo’s shaky secondary.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Cam Newton; RBs Peyton Hillis, Ahmad Bradshaw, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Darren Sproles; WRs Stevie Johnson, A.J. Green, Pierre Garcon, Jordy Nelson, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans at Ravens. Schaub was limited to 138 yards and a single TD against the stout Pittsburgh pass defense two weeks ago, when Andre Johnson was hurt. He should have another rough go against a Ravens secondary that has surrendered just three passing scores to date. Making matters worse, Schaub is dealing with a sore shoulder.

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions vs. 49ers. It’s tough to sit someone with the hot hand; but in the two games prior to last weekend’s explosion, Best was just okay. Consider giving him a rest if you have other viable options Sunday, as he’ll be facing a defense that has yet to cough up a rushing score all year.

Delone Carter, RB, Colts at Bengals. Though the rookie is expected to get his chance to shine in Joseph Addai’s (hamstring) absence, it won’t be smooth sailing. He’ll have to share carries with Donald Brown, and Cincinnati’s run defense is pretty tough.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins at Jets. With six teams on bye, you may have little choice but to take your chances with Marshall. But you will probably be disappointed with his performance on Revis Island. And do you really want to rely on a guy whose stated goal is to do something so desperate that he gets ejected in the second quarter?

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers vs. Saints. Is he in the midst of a dreaded sophomore slump? Or is his struggling quarterback to blame? Either way, at this point you’d be starting Williams on reputation alone. There’s no evidence to suggest the Josh Freeman-Williams connection will get back in sync this weekend.

More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, Jason Campbell; RBs Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Grant, Brandon Jacobs, Reggie Bush, Isaac Redman, Tim Hightower, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; WRs Denarius Moore, Mario Manningham, Austin Collie, Jacoby Jones, all 49ers and Jaguars wideouts.

Taking a flier

Greg Little, WR, Browns at Raiders. Coming out of their bye week, the Browns have declared their rookie wideout a starter, which is surprising only in that it took this long. Little is, by far, the most physically gifted receiver on the team. He should be Colt McCoy’s favorite target, especially against a Raiders pass defense that has surrendered a league-high 10 passing scores. Little could come up big if you have bye-week issues.

Don’t be the bonehead whowaits until Tuesday to address your Week 7 lineup. This will be the Mother of All Bye Weeks, with the Patriots, Eagles, Bills, Giants, 49ers and Bengals all taking breathers. Planning ahead now by making a strategic free-agent pickup or two could save you from hitting the waiver wire in a panic later.

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