Wed Sep 22 3:08am ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions in the second half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Lon Horwedel)
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson gets up after being sacked during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, right, throws a pass against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
The rookie class of quarterbacks that entered the season full of fanfare is finding the adjustment to the NFL is not very easy.
Top two picks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson lead the league with five interceptions after opening the season with back-to-back losses, Trey Lance has barely seen the field, and Mac Jones is the only QB to get a win, and that came against Wilson.
That performance by Wilson last week was the worst yet for a rookie as the No. 2 pick threw four interceptions and no TDs in the New York Jets' 25-6 loss to New England. Wilson joined former Jets draft picks Sam Darnold and Mark Sanchez as the only top 10 rookies to throw at least four interceptions and no TDs in the past 15 seasons.
Jacksonville's Lawrence threw three interceptions in the opener against Houston and two more last week against Denver, joining Peyton Manning (six in 1998) and Matthew Stafford (five in 2009) as the only top picks to throw at least five interceptions in the first two weeks of their rookie seasons.
Lance, the third overall pick, threw a TD pass on his first attempt for San Francisco, but didn't even get on the field last week as the Niners stuck with Jimmy Garoppolo the entire way.
Fields, the 11th pick, got some extensive action for Chicago last week after Andy Dalton got hurt, and went 6 for 13 for 60 yards and an interception against Cincinnati.
Jones, the 15th pick, has been the most productive so far, completing 73.9% of his passes for 467 yards and an TD.
The rookie class overall has thrown 12 interceptions, nine TDs and posted a 67.9 rating while losing five of six starts.
In all, six rookie quarterbacks have seen action, with third-rounder Davis Mills also getting into the action for Houston. Mills is slated to start Thursday night for the Texans against Carolina in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor.
This is just the second time since the merger that six QBs have thrown passes in the first two weeks of the season, with the other coming in 1971.
There's a chance that five rookies could start this week if Fields gets the nod in Chicago, with Dalton dealing with a knee injury.
The only other time in the Super Bowl era that five rookies QBs started in a week this early in the season - with the exception of the 1987 replacement players - came in 2012 when Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson all opened the season as starter.
One impressive September streak was snapped last week while another ignominious one was extended.
Patrick Mahomes threw his first career interception in September after 38 career TD passes in the opening month. The Chiefs had thrown 44 TD passes without an interception in September since Alex Smith was picked in the 2016 opener against the Chargers.
The Jets lost their 11th straight September game, becoming the seventh team to do that. The only teams with longer September skids are the Rams with 13 in a row from 2007-10, and the Saints with 12 from 1994-97.
Tennessee's Derrick Henry is a dying breed as a workhorse back who doesn't need to share the load with anyone.
Henry had 35 carries and six receptions in last week's win at Seattle for the the most scrimmage touches in a game since Le'Veon Bell had 42 against the Bills on Dec. 11, 2016.
The only other player in Titans franchise history - which dates to their time in Houston - with at least 40 was Earl Campbell, who had 42 touches against Seattle on Oct. 11, 1981.
Henry ran for 182 yards and three TDs in the game, marking the fourth time in his career he has recorded at least 150 yards rushing and three TDs in a game. The only other players to do that are Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (six), Jim Brown (six), LaDainian Tomlinson (five) and Eric Dickerson (four).
Arizona's Kyler Murray is off to a impressive start to the season after throwing for 400 yards and three TDs and running for a score in Sunday's 34-33 win over Minnesota.
Murray also threw four TD passes and ran for a score in the opener at Tennessee, becoming the first player with at least three TD passes and a TD run in his team's first two games of a season.
Murray now has 12 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, the fourth most for a QB in his first three seasons. Only Cam Newton (20 games), Josh Allen (16) and Dak Prescott (13) have more.
OPENING DRIVE WOES
The Cowboys finally ended their opening drive TD drought when Tony Pollard scored on a 4-yard run on the first possession against the Chargers. Dallas had gone 20 straight games without scoring a TD on its first possession.
The Cowboys had been tied for the longest active streak with the Broncos, who have now gone 21 straight games without an opening drive TD since Drew Lock threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant against Houston on Dec. 8, 2019.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb will try to bounce back in Week 6 against the Chicago Bears after reeling in 2-of-3 targets for 30 yards in Sunday's 25-22 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 31-year-old averages 10.6 air yards per target and owns 9% of the team's target share, ranked 92nd among all wideouts. Cobb will continue to have an expanded role while Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) remains on the injured reserve. This season, the Bears have been obliterated by WR1s (30th in DVOA) but have been solid against the opposing team's WR2s, which ranks 10th in DVOA versus the opponent's secondary receiver. Cobb is considered a flex play in deep-league formats and is a dart throw at best in Week 6.
Green Bay Packers' tight end Robert Tonyan (knee) doesn't have an injury designation for Sunday's Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears. He was a limited participant in practice throughout the week but is all systems go in Week 6. The 27-year-old has caught just 9-of-17 targets for 82 yards and a touchdown over five games in 2021. He averages 8.9 air yards per target (9th in position rank) and 10% of the team's target share, 26th among all tight ends. The Bears are ranked ninth in DVOA against tight ends this year, and a bounce-back week for Tonyan most likely won't happen this Sunday. Fantasy managers can search the waiver wire for a streaming tight end as Tonyan is a mid-range TE2 at best in Week 6.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (ankle) doesn't have an injury designation for Sunday's Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears. He was a limited participant in practice throughout the week but is all systems go for Week 6. The 26-year-old has rushed for 309 yards on 70 attempts and two touchdowns while catching 17-of-19 targets for 132 yards and three scores over five games in 2021. The Bears have been tough against the run this season and rank fourth in rush DVOA. Despite the tough matchup, Jones is a low-end RB1, and fantasy managers can start the Packers running back with confidence in Week 6.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams is coming off his best game of the season in last Sunday's Week 5 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He hauled in 11-of-16 targets for 206 yards and a touchdown. The Packers star receiver gets the Chicago Bears in Week 6, has been dreadful against WR1s, and is ranked 30th against the opposing team's top targets. Adams has dominated the Bears in the past, reeling in 67 catches for 814 yards and eight touchdowns over 14 games against Chicago in his career. The 28-year-old should have success again versus the Bears, and a is a surefire WR1 in Week 6.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown exactly two touchdowns in three straight games and is coming off his first 300-yard effort in last Sunday's Week 5 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The future Hall of Famer gets divisional rival the Chicago Bears in Week 6. Chicago has allowed the fifth-fewest points to quarterbacks and ranks third in pass DVOA this season. Rodgers has completed 107-of-163 attempts for 1,241 passing yards and a 10:3 TD: INT ratio while rushing for eight yards on seven attempts and a score over five games in 2021. The 37-year-old has typically done well against the Bears and has a passing rating of 107.2 with 55 touchdowns over 25 games versus Chicago in his career. Fantasy managers can fire up Rodgers as a low-end QB1 in Week 6.
The Denver Broncos defensive line should have the advantage in Week 6 against a Las Vegas Raiders offensive line that ranks 20th in pressure rate allowed and 31st in yards per carry. The key will be limiting big plays in the passing game, as they've allowed seven completions of 30-plus yards this year, which is tied for seventh-most in the league. Kyle Fuller has struggled in one-on-one matchups, but the return of Ronald Darby from Injured Reserve should help this secondary. If Denver can keep Derek Carr from succeeding deep -- only four QBs have completed more 30-plus-yard passes than him -- they have a shot to really slow Vegas' offense down. The Broncos defense has allowed the second-fewest points (76) through five weeks and should have a solid fantasy week if they can get consistent pressure on Carr.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus will be looking to stay perfect in a big matchup against the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders in Week 6. McManus has made all 11 of his field-goal attempts and all nine of his extra-point tries through five weeks to rank him as the No. 8 fantasy kicker. The move from Drew Lock in 2020 to Teddy Bridgewater at QB this year has made a world of difference for Denver's offense in terms of efficiency and lack of turnovers. In turn, McManus has become fantasy relevant on a weekly basis, and it also has helped that Denver ranks 10th in red-zone attempts but just 29th in red-zone success rate. The Broncos have scored touchdowns on just 42.11% of their trips inside the 20-yard line, which means McManus should continue to get his chances this Sunday. He'll easily be a top-10 fantasy kicker in Week 6.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant had just three catches for 20 yards and wasn't targeted until the fourth quarter in the Week 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The reason? His lack of involvement was a direct result of the team's decision to slow down Pittsburgh's edge rushers. The Las Vegas Raiders have some impressive pass-rushers of their own, but look for the Broncos to get Fant more involved in the passing game in Week 6. The 23-year-old remains one of Denver's top targets with Jerry Jeudy still out with a high ankle sprain, and the Raiders defense has been generous to opposing tight ends the last three weeks, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game. At the weakest fantasy position, Fant will remain a midrange TE1 with a prime bounce-back opportunity this Sunday.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick hasn't put up gaudy numbers or done anything overly special with Jerry Jeudy sidelined by a high ankle sprain, but he is quietly one of the NFL's best receivers. Through five weeks, Patrick leads the NFL by a wide margin with a plus-15.8% catch rate over expected. Oh, and he also hasn't dropped a pass in 127 targets since the 2019 season. He's gradually seen an increase in targets as the season has progressed, and he had a season-high seven catches on nine targets for 89 yards in the Week 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But because he's not much of a big-play receiver in a middling offense, Patrick has been merely a WR4/flex option in fantasy with Jeudy out. There won't be a ton of upside in Week 6 against a Las Vegas Raiders defense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to the receiver position this year.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton woke up in the Week 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, catching seven of his 11 targets for 120 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Aside from his two 100-yard games, though, Sutton has been pretty quiet despite ranking second behind Davante Adams with 644 air yards in 2021. The 26-year-old was also helped by the fact that Denver was forced to throw while being down multiple scores in the second half last Sunday. The targets will be there for Denver's top option in the passing game, but Sutton will also be facing a Las Vegas Raiders defense in Week 6 that has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game (9.0) to opposing pass-catchers in the last three weeks. He'll be a midrange WR2 for fantasy managers against the division rivals.
Denver Broncos rookie running back Javonte Williams seems to waiting patiently for his true breakout game with Melvin Gordon III (hip), who is questionable for Week 6 against the Las Vegas Raiders, dealing with nagging injuries in recent weeks. Williams has gains of 31 and 49 yards, respectively, in the last two games and is a true big-play back that can break tackles. He is fifth in the NFL in adjusted yards after contact per rush at 4.3 since Week 2, and he has 5.05 yards per carry for 202 yards and a score on 40 carries in the last four weeks compared to 3.69 yards per carry on 49 attempts for Gordon. There's a chance that Williams finally takes the majority of touches over Gordon this week, which would give him RB2 upside against a Raiders defense that has been vulnerable to running backs in the last three weeks -- 23.1 fantasy points per game allowed to RBs (seventh-most).
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the offense will be looking to carry over their fourth-quarter success in the loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers into a Week 6 meeting with the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders. The Broncos scored 13 points on 10 first downs and 205 yards of total offense in comeback mode in the fourth quarter last week, but the Steelers also were playing softer coverage. Bridgewater has only gone over 300 yards passing once in five games, but he does have a nice TD-to-interception ratio of 7:1 and is completing a career-high 69.8% of his passes. The 28-year-old is taking care of the football, taking plenty of deep shots and taking what the defense gives him. Against a Raiders defense that has looked much better this year, Bridgewater will remain a midrange QB2 in superflex leagues.
The Seattle Seahawks defense has been inconsistent all season, but they have interesting upside in Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers offense, outside of Week 5 against the Denver Broncos when they scored more than 17 points for the first time since Week 1, has struggled to consistently put up points. The Steelers have turned the ball over at least once in every game, except for their win against the Buffalo Bills, and the Seahawks defense has gotten at least one takeaway in four out of five games while averaging at least two sacks per game. If the Seattle offense can take care of the ball and sustain drives, which is asking a lot with Geno Smith now in for the injured Russell Wilson (finger), the defense could come out of the game with a solid fantasy performance this week.
Seattle Seahawks running back Alex Collins will be getting his second straight start in Week 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but we could see him struggle in this matchup. The Steelers haven't been lights-out on defense this year, but they've been pretty good against the run, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. They remain the lone defense that has yet to give up a touchdown to the running back position. Collins has scored one touchdown thus far, with the majority going to teammate Chris Carson (neck), who was placed on Injured Reserve on Friday. As the primary ball-carrier last Thursday against the Rams, Collins averaged just 3.13 yards per carry, and this matchup doesn't figure to make life easier on him. Collins will be a shaky touchdown-dependent RB3/flex with Geno Smith now at quarterback, while DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer figure to share change-of-pace work.
This Los Angeles Rams defense has struggled to start the year after looking like one of the best units in the NFL last season, but they're in a great bounce-back spot in Week 6 against the New York Giants. After five games, the Rams D has come away with six turnovers, including five interceptions. The Giants are dealing with a number of injuries across their offense and will be without starting running back Saquon Barkley(ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee). Quarterback Daniel Jones has done a good job of taking care of the football so far this season, but the Rams have the pass rush to get home and really make him uncomfortable, as their 14 sacks are tied for fifth in the NFL. If they can get early pressure on Jones, they have the potential to turn in their best game of the season.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said that kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (groin) will be out for Week 6 against the Houston Texans. Blankenship has been a low-end streaming option in fantasy through the first five weeks of the season by making 11 of his 14 field-goal opportunities and seven of his eight extra points, but he tweaked his groin in last week's game and won't be available this Sunday. The Colts have signed Michael Badgley to do the kicking against the Texans, who have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers to begin the season. Despite the good matchup against the one-win Texans, there are plenty of better kicking options out there.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. Quarterbacks coach Cam Turner and defensive lineman Zach Allen also tested positive and will be out this weekend. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who has head-coaching experience from his time in Denver, and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers will split the head-coaching duties against Cleveland. This shouldn't have much effect on Arizona's game plan against the Browns, but it's worth noting as the Cardinals look to remain the NFL's lone unbeaten team.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said that running back Justin Jackson (groin) will play in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens after missing last week's 47-42 barnburner of a win over the Cleveland Browns. The Chargers will decide between rookie Larry Rountree III and Joshua Kelley for the third running back spot on Sunday. Jackson wasn't listed on the final injury report for this weekend. The 25-year-old has played just 12.2% of the offensive snaps so far this year in four games and has only 10 carries for 22 yards while catching all six of his targets for 27 yards. Behind workhorse Austin Ekeler, no Chargers running back has standalone fantasy value.
Houston Texans wide receiver Danny Amendola (thigh) and running back Rex Burkhead (hip, knee) are both listed as questionable to play in a Week 6 contest against the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday. Amendola was limited in practice last week as well but remained inactive. In limited action in the first two games of the season, the veteran slot man caught all six of his targets for 43 yards and a touchdown, but he'll be a desperation flex play in the deepest of leagues if he returns to the field against Indy. Chris Moore came out of nowhere to lead the team with five catches, 109 yards and a touchdown in last week's loss to the New England Patriots, but there's a good chance that's an outlier, especially if Amendola returns this weekend. Fantasy managers can't really trust any Houston receiver outside of Brandin Cooks.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (illness) was removed from the final injury report for Week 6 against the division-rival Denver Broncos after he missed practice on Thursday but returned to a limited practice on Friday. He'll have his work cut out for him against a Broncos defense that's allowed only 344 rushing yards and two touchdowns to RBs through the first five weeks. Fantasy managers should feel a bit more comfortable rolling Jacobs out as an RB2 this weekend, though, after he had 15 of the team's 17 rushing attempts in the Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears. He also caught four of five targets for 19 yards and scored a rushing touchdown. Peyton Barber's return from turf toe is a bit concerning, but Jacobs is getting healthier after looking sluggish in his first couple of games.