Week 6 of the 2021 NFL season starts with Thursday Night Football as the Philadelphia Eagles play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here’s a break down the fantasy football starts and sits and DFS plays for Thursday night’s action.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Tom Brady — Brady suffered a thumb injury on his throwing hand last week but it’s not expected to slow his record breaking season. Unless otherwise stated, the veteran passer is good to go for Thursday night. Brady remains an elite QB1 against an Eagles pass rush that’s sorely missing DE Brandon Graham.
WRs Mike Evans and Antonio Brown — Alpha X-receiver Evans remains an every-week WR1 despite the presence of Eagles’ No. 1 CB Darius Slay. “Big Play” Slay may bat a pass or two but the veteran DB can still be had by the best of the best. Brown continues to thread the efficiency needle. His 19 targets over the last 2 weeks are second on the team, but his 54% snap share trails Evans and Godwin substantially. When he’s on the field, Brady looks his way. He’s a WR2.
WR Chris Godwin — Evans and Brown got the TDs last week but the usage is still there for Godwin to do the same. His seven red zone targets were just one fewer than Evans’ eight and the duo tied for the team lead in end zone targets with three, per PFF. Godwin will be lining up across from a combination of CB Avonte Maddox and S Anthony Harris roughly two thirds of the time in the slot. The diminutive, yet feisty Maddox has played well this year, limiting slot receivers to 11 catches on 19 targets for just 87 yards and 1 touchdown, per PFF.com. Harris, meanwhile, has been pummeled for 5-of-5 for 35 yards and 1 touchdown. Godwin remains a back-end WR2.
WR Tyler Johnson — Johnson continues to see a decent snap share with Scotty Miller on IR. While Johnson is just a WR5/6 in redraft, he could be fired up in single game DFS tournaments. He played 51% of snaps last week, which is nothing to shake a stick at. If you have him rostered in season long, it’s best to bench him and try to sell high if he plays well this week. With Watson (and maybe Miller) returning imminently, Johnson’s reliability is going to be reduced even further.
TEs Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard — HC Bruce Arians gave Brate an opportunity to seize the No. 1 job in Week 4, with TE Rob Gronkowski (ribs) on the shelf, but he flopped. Howard was then given a chance in Week 5, out-snapping Brate 59% to 38% and out-targeting him 3 to 1. Howard also flopped. Gronk has already been ruled out but even so, this duo is undesirable. Outside of Week 3 Dalton Schultz party, Philly’s done a great job of limiting opposing tight ends in the passing game, notably locking up George Kittle and Travis Kelce for a combined 8 catches on 10 targets and 40 scoreless yards.
RBs Leonard Fournette and Gio Bernard — Fournette led the backfield in snaps (62%), carries (12), rushing production (67 yards and 1 touchdown), routes run (34, per PFF.com), targets (5), and receiving production (4 catches for 43 yards). Gio managed to salvage his day with a 14-yard score but Fournette looks like he’s the clear-cut lead back, getting dual threat usage right now. As evidenced by their 27th ranked NEFF run defense rating as well as the per game allowance of 23.9 .5PPR PPG, 10th most in the league, the Eagles’ front-seven is ill prepared to stop a heavily utilized Fournette. The backfield leader is a mid-tier RB2. Bernard is an RB5 in full-point PPR formats.
RB Ronald Jones — Jones is just a bench stash.
QB Jalen Hurts — The sky’s the limit in this one. Tampa Bay’s front-seven is nasty and their 81 blitzes are 25 more than the next closest team. For most QBs this would be a problem but for Hurts, it could be a benefit. While the second-year signal caller is making strides in the passing department, he’ll take an excuse to tuck and run when he’s given one. Injuries suffered by starting defensive backs Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis III, and a concussion that kept Antoine Winfield Jr. from playing in Week 4 has left their secondary woefully undermanned. Like his TNF counterpart, Hurts is an elite QB1 this week.
WR DeVonta Smith — Smith’s 39 targets are 14 more than any other Eagle. He’s a weekly WR2 with legitimate WR1 upside against Tampa Bay’s banged up secondary.
WRs Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor — Watkins saw sizable jumps in his Weeks 3-4 snap shares and managed to actually scoot past Reagor for the first time this year in Week 5 (82% to 70%). Watkins has yet to catch Reagor in the weekly share of routes run but the duo has teeter-tottered in the targets department as of late. Continue to buy-low on Watkins and cut Reagor ASAP. Given the matchup, Reagor could be used as a DFS dart throw but Watkins is far more enticing. In redraft treat Watkins as a WR5 with sublime upside. Reager is just a WR6.
WR Greg Ward — Ignore.
TE Zach Ertz — Fellow TE Dallas Goedert was placed on the reserve/COVID list on Tuesday morning, leaving little time for him to be cleared ahead of Thursday Night Football kickoff. If that’s indeed the case, Ertz can be started as the Ertz of old; an elite TE1. Tampa Bay’s is allowing 13.6 .5PPR PPG, 6th most in the NFL, to opposing tight ends and the team is expected to be without stalwart linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) for a few weeks (not to mention all of the injuries to the defensive back group).
RBs Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell — The Gainwell hype train was shut down last week. Sanders saw more snaps, carries, targets, and even ran more routes (per PFF.com). Regardless, neither back is a recommended start against TB’s vaunted front-seven. The Bucs’ 70.3% NEFF run defense rating is tops in the league and the unit as a whole is allowing just 18.6 .5PPR PPG, T-11th fewest, to opposing RBs.
The one route to success that the Eagles backs have at their disposal is the passing game. The Bucs’ blitz-centric defense has led to a league-high 8.4 RB receptions per week and their 60.2 RB receiving yards are 4th-most in the NFL. Sanders’ receiving game usage is far from desirable though:
Miles Sanders was targeted 5 times in Week 5. His Air Yards on those 5 targets:
That's -32 air yards, which resulted in 5 catches for 6 yards.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) October 12, 2021
Sanders garners high-floor/low-ceiling RB4 honors in redraft formats this week. Gainwell is a borderline RB4/5.