Week 6 in the NFL got underway Thursday night as the Indianapolis Colts held on to defeat the Houston Texans 33-28 after an amazing fightback from Bill O'Brien's squad. Fourteen more games remain on the week 6 docket, with a busy slate on Sunday as many teams are looking to prove themselves as legitimate threats, or break free from the chains of mediocrity.
In the NFC South, everything remains up for grabs as no team has been able to separate from the rest of the pack. All four teams have found their way into the win column, with some of those victories coming at the hands of divisional opponents. With the New Orleans Saints enjoying their bye week, the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all gearing up for crucial matchups this weekend as each team seeks to clarify its respective position and standing within the NFC South.
Here is your week 6 NFC South fantasy roundup:
As their backfield continues to be plagued by injuries, it's looking like another week to avoid starting any of the Carolina Panthers' running backs. Darrin Reaves figures to see the majority of the work, with Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker in support. There is an outside chance that Jonathan Stewart could suit up, but it is looking more likely that the he and fellow veteran DeAngelo Williams will spend week 6 on the shelf along with Mike Tolbert. Aside from the injuries, the matchup this week is not great on paper for the Panthers' backfield to succeed.
While Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin are worth a start against a tough Cincinnati Bengal defense, one player to add to the mix is tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is off to a great start in 2014, and through five games, the former Chicago Bear ranks third among tight ends in the NFL with 27 receptions for 326 yards and 4 touchdowns. Greg Olsen is a great week 6 TE1 option.
As formidable as the Bengals' defense is from week to week, they have struggled to contain tight ends, though that should improve some as LB Vontaze Burfict is set to return after missing time with a concussion. Nevertheless, Olsen could be in for another productive day, as the Bengals surrendered a 6/100/1 stat line to New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski last weekend. Olsen should see plenty of targets from Newton, and is a more reliable threat than rookie Benjamin, who has struggled with consistency and drops despite some flashes of brilliance and promise through the first five games of his young career. Only Jimmy Graham and Martellus Bennett have hauled in more passes than Greg Olsen thus far. Fire him up as an upper echelon TE1 in week 6.
New Orleans Saints
Sweet, sweet bye week. The Saints have endured a frustrating start to 2014, and will enjoy their much needed week off before regrouping ahead of the week 7 showdown with the Lions in Detroit.
One thing for owners to consider as next week approaches is the impending return to health of RB Mark Ingram, who has been out since suffering a broken hand in week 2 at Cleveland. Mark Ingram is closing in on his return from a broken hand.
Ingram should return to his role as the Saints' "featured" back. Quotations are necessary, as the team regularly rotates no less than three players at that spot throughout the game, though the former Heisman trophy winner should continue to operate as the team's go-to goal line and early down back to the tune of 12-18 touches per contest upon his return.
Ingram's return will give a slight hit to the value of Khiry Robinson, who has performed well in the 2011 first-round pick's stead, but the Saints still have big plans for Robinson, a former undrafted free agent. Pierre Thomas has been playing well as of late, and maintains value of his own, particularly in the passing game. A healthy Ingram boasts the most value, and should be claimed off of waivers, if available as week 7 beckons.
Jimmy Graham, who exited last week's win over Tampa Bay with a shoulder injury, is tentatively expected to be available against Detroit next week. The Saints did bring in former Green Bay Packer Tom Crabtree as an insurance policy, though most signs point to Graham being given the green light to take the field in week 7.
If the Saints can find their footing defensively, all of their offensive players should benefit, particularly the aforementioned running backs, with less pressure to move the ball through the air while playing catch up.
Speaking of running backs, could week 6 be the week in which we see some vintage Steven Jackson? The Falcons will play host to the Chicago Bears in week 6, and the men from the Midway haven't exactly been monsters against the run in recent times.
Atlanta generally plays better at home inside of the Georgia Dome, and Jackson could be poised for one of his better days in 2014 as the Bears are not expected to have the services of veteran LB Lance Briggs, who is suffering from a rib injury. Briggs has topped 100 tackles in eight of his eleven seasons, and his absence will leave another void in Chicago's defense.
In addition to Jackson, Antone Smith, who has placed himself in position to see more work on the ground, could be in for a nice day. Coach Mike Smith admitted this week that the former Florida State man, who is averaging over 16 yards on 17 touches this season, deserves an increase to his minimal workload within the offense. Sunday afternoon is shaping up as a perfect litmus test to see what Smith can do with more touches, and an ailing Bears defense could provide the platform he needs to further prove himself. Could week 6 be a chance to catch a glimpse of the Steven Jackson of old?
Despite the big-play, home run hitting ability that Smith possesses, it is difficult to pencil him in as a fantasy factor this weekend, but Jackson should be a solid play as a RB2. Smith's time could come, though the ball is in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's court as far as increasing his reps on game day.
We all know what Atlanta can do through the air with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White in tow. A strong run game will only boost their chances of defeating the Bears in week 6.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Glennon will have another chance to solidify his position as Tampa's starting quarterback when the Bucs face the Ravens at home in week 6. Baltimore ranks in the lower half of the league in pass defense, giving up nearly 270 yards per outing through the air.
Glennon may have an additional boost this week with the quicker-than-expected return of rookie Mike Evans, who missed last week's loss to New Orleans with a groin problem. Evans was thought to be facing up to three weeks on the sidelines, but practiced this week and looks all systems go for Sunday. In addition, Glennon should have the services of Vincent Jackson, who has had some injury troubles of his own this season. V-Jax returned to practice Friday, and looks good to go for week 6. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson have a difficult matchup in week 6 against Baltimore.
The Ravens are beatable through the air, but have allowed a league-low 4 pass touchdowns through the first 5 games. With Jimmy Smith likely to spend most of his day on Jackson, Evans, if he is able to hold up and resume his normal workload, could be a week 6 sleeper. The rookie enjoyed a coming-out party of sorts in the team's comeback win over Pittsburgh in week 4, hauling in 4 catches for 65 yards and the first touchdown of his young, promising career. Evans almost had an additional score that was ruled incomplete as he was inches away from coming down in bounds with the ball in the Steelers' end zone two weeks ago.
Baltimore will be without CB Asa Jackson, who excels in the team's sub-packages, which could open some holes for the likes of Louis Murphy and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but Evans, while a somewhat risky play due to his injury, looks more of a threat to put up stats this week. Consider him a boom-or-bust WR3 this week, with much bigger things to come down the line.