Which of these borderline players should you start or sit in Week 6 of the NFL season?
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers QB
at Kansas City
Roethlisberger is coming off a brutal game at home against the Jaguars. He threw a career-high five interceptions — including two pick-sixes — and didn’t have a single touchdown, despite completing 33 of 55 pass attempts for 312 yards. There’s been much speculation that this could be Big Ben’s last season, and his “maybe I don’t have it anymore” remarks after the game aren’t encouraging. He later went on to say that he isn’t doubting his game, and fantasy owners shouldn’t just yet either. That said, the Chiefs have been the best team in football through five weeks, largely because of their defense. Roethlisberger isn’t the top-10 option he typically is this week.
Josh McCown, New York Jets QB
vs. New England
Despite the odds heading into the season, the 3-2 Jets will take on the 3-2 Patriots Sunday in a battle for sole possession of first place in the AFC East. (The Bills, also 3-2, are on a bye.) McCown hasn’t done anything particularly spectacular to lead the Jets here, but he’s averaged a respectable 12.46 fantasy points per game. The Patriots’ defense has been shaky this season. The unit ranks last in the league in total defense and 31st in points allowed per game (28.4). The Pats also have given up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season (25 per game), making McCown a decent streaming option.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints RB
Kamara had already usurped Adrian Peterson as the Saints’ No. 2 option behind Mark Ingram, but now that they’ve dealt Peterson to the Cardinals, there’s no contest. In typical Saints fashion, they’ve already used Kamara a great deal in the passing game. The rookie is second on the team in both receptions (20) and passing yards (147), and though he has just 15 rushing attempts, Kamara has averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Kamara mostly went undrafted, but he’s become a must-own across the board, especially in PPR leagues. He’s a strong RB2 this week against a Lions defense that placed veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on injured reserve Wednesday with an elbow injury.
Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals RB
vs. Tampa Bay
On the Cardinals’ official depth chart, Peterson is listed as the No. 1 running back after being traded from New Orleans on Tuesday. Peterson didn’t do much in four games with the Saints. He rushed for just 81 yards on 27 carries. The Cardinals have been searching for someone to carry the load with star running back David Johnson on injured reserve. Peterson should get more of an opportunity with the Cardinals, but the trade hasn’t boosted his value beyond a flex option yet. The Bucs’ defense is eighth against the run, and Peterson will have less than a week with a new playbook.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers RB
Jones shredded the Cowboys’ defense last week, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries in just his second NFL appearance. But with Ty Montgomery, who was a full partcipant in practice Wednesday, expected to return, Jones’ role likely will be reduced. The Vikings have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs (12.8 per game), so he’s better off on the bench this week.
Terrelle Pryor Sr., Washington Redskins WR
vs. San Francisco
Pryor was expected to step in as the Redskins’ top receiver this season after a breakout year in Cleveland last season. So far he’s second on the team in receiving yards (186) and catches (13) through four games following Washington’s bye last week. The subpar numbers are more of a tribute to the Redskins’ more balanced attack than a dip in Pryor’s productivity. Last season the Redskins had a 62-38 pass-run ratio, while this season it’s 51-49 so far. With Washington relying more on their three-headed rushing attack of Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley, Pryor has taken a back seat. But Pryor is trending in the right direction. He had three catches for 70 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 4 against the Chiefs before Washington’s bye week. It’s also a good matchup against an 0-5 49ers team that’s allowed the eighth most fantasy points to opposing receivers. Pryor’s a low-end WR2.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders WR
vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Cooper’s value this week depends on whether or not Derek Carr returns from his back injury, even though his struggles predate that. Cooper’s been a non-factor much of the season — partly because Michael Crabtree has emerged as the top receiver and partly because his drop percentage of 39.4 percent is last among players with at least 30 targets.
With Carr out last week, Cooper was targeted twice and had one catch for eight yards. The fourth-year quarterback was a limited participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and still is listed as questionable but is expected to play. Cooper’s been dealing with a knee injury of his own that also kept him limited at Thursday’s practice, which could be another contributing factor to his three-game stretch of four catches for 23 yards. If Carr’s ready to go, Cooper’s a WR3, but if Carr’s out, Cooper’s a risky play.
Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans WR
Decker hasn’t gotten going yet, averaging just 3.2 receptions and 27.6 yards per game through five contests, but this could be his chance. Much like Cooper, his value depends on the state of his quarterback. Marcus Mariota, who missed the Titans’ Week 5 loss to the Dolphins with a hamstring injury, is listed as questionable. The Monday night game makes it a tough call for fantasy owners, but it also gives Mariota more time to get healthy. The Colts’ defense has given up the ninth most fantasy points to opposing receivers, but if it’s Matt Cassel at quarterback for the Titans, don’t expect a breakout game from Decker.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets TE
vs. New England
Seferian-Jenkins is coming off his best fantasy game of the season. He had six catches for 29 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ win over the Browns. Even though Seferian-Jenkins has played in just three games, he’s third on the team in receptions with 15 and fourth in receiving yards with 106. New England’s defense has been dreadful (see: Josh McCown) and has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Seferian-Jenkins seems to be hitting his stride and with a solid matchup, he’s a TE1 this week.