Everyone loves a comeback.
Lance Armstrong. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The ’93 Bills. Mario Lopez. Anyone who’s ever had Tommy John surgery.
Now, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick get to join the boys in the band — although they’ll be in a group of their own, no doubt.
Five weeks removed after serving a four-week personal conduct suspension, Roethlisberger, most think, will be applauded by the home crowd when he runs onto Heinz Field against the Browns this week (1:00 p.m. ET).
“I expect him to get a warm reception,” Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday. “I really do. I really think that’s the nature of Steelers Nation. I know we’re excited about having him back. I know he’s excited about getting back with his teammates and performing for our fans at Heinz Field.”
For one, you don’t hiss and boo at a two-time Superbowl winner quarterback who is the face of your franchise and for another, it’ll be a nice change of scenery for the Steelers who are the only team remaining in the NFL who haven’t completed over 100 passes this season. Pittsburgh’s 81 completions are 25 short of Kansas City, who ranks 31st, while the Steelers’ total passing yards, attempts, touchdowns and yards-per-game are also good enough for dead last in the NFL.
And while you may suspect the Steelers’ passing statistics have endured a setback because of Roethlisberger’s suspension, it’s the wins and losses that haven’t taken a hit. At 3-1 Pittsburgh is a half-game out of first place despite their struggles at the quarterback position.
“I’m not trying to go out there and play Superman,” Roethlisberger said.
No kidding. Covering the 14 ½ point spread against Cleveland and everyone in Pittsburgh will rejoice.
Meanwhile, just four hours east in Philadelphia, Michael Vick, though not expected to start this week, will get a substitute role in his first game against his former team, the Atlanta Falcons since Week 13 of 2009 when he was 2-for-2 for 48 yards and a TD to go along with 17 yards rushing and a TD (12 fantasy points).
Not bad, considering it was in a non-starting role.
Now Vick — the starter for Weeks 2-4 while Kevin Kolb nursed an opening Week 1 concussion against Green Bay (who’s feeling pretty concussed as a team after their multitude of recent injuries) — will get his chance to improve upon 2009’s performance.
Week 6 Players to Start
- The Pittsburgh Steelers Offense (vs. Cleveland)
Ben Roethlisberger makes his return from a four-game suspension and it couldn’t be more of a favorable matchup. Since he came into the league in 2004 — amidst a three-point fantasy performance in Week 10 of ’04 — Big Ben has averaged a cool 12 points per game when taking on Cleveland. Accompany that with the fact that running back Rashard Mendenhall is 7th in the NFL in yards (Pittsburgh is coming off a bye week) and 3rd in touchdowns (4). On the outside, Hines Ward and Mike Wallace will have huge days. Since 2005, Ward has five touchdowns in nine games against the Browns averaging over six catches and 83 yards per game. Wallace, in just his second season meanwhile, now finds himself as the team’s No. 1 WR. He will be the big play receiver as long as Roethlisberger is under center.
- Zach Miller (@ San Francisco)
Miller’s last three game totals are as followed: 21 catches, 248 yards and 3 TD. In those three contests, Miller has ranked 5th, 2nd and 5th (tie) for Weeks 3-5 for tight ends, respectively. The 49ers have also given up two touchdowns in the last three games to opposing tight ends.
- The New York Giants Offense (vs. Detroit)
Eli Manning faces his second-straight opponent ranked in the bottom 10 teams in the league against the pass (last week was Houston at No. 32). Manning had three touchdowns and was three yards short of a 300-yard performance last week and should find similar success against the 25th ranked pass defense of the Lions. Ahmad Bradshaw will have a huge day — that’s a given. Coming off a career day, Hakeem Nicks, alongside Steve Smith will join the scoring barrage as well.
- Vince Young (@ Jacksonville)
Four touchdowns (and no interceptions) in the past three games — all of which Young had a passer rating of 90.0 and above — goes along nicely that the Titans’ signal caller goes up against the 29th pass defense in Jacksonville this week.
- LaDainian Tomlinson/Shonn Greene (@ Denver)
Tomlinson has assumed the Jets’ starting running back role and has lived up to expectations in the past few weeks. He should continue that trend against the 25th ranked rush defense of the Broncos who gave up (to a split backfield) 133 yards and 2 TD to Ray Rice and 67 yards and a TD to Willis McGahee last week.
- The San Diego Chargers Offense (@ St. Louis)
Quarterback Phillip Rivers is your usual starter, so he doesn’t make this list. It’d be easier than Courtney Love. But I do love (pun intended) the Chargers running game this week indoors against the 16th ranked Rams rush defense. Don’t be hesitant that the Rams aren’t near their customary bottom-half of the league in rush defense. Teams now just like passing on them more. Mike Tolbert sits ahead of Ryan Mathews on the depth chart, but it shouldn’t matter. Mathews will still get 12-15 carries. Also, if you’re in a deeper league, start Darren Sproles in your flex spot if you happen to have Beanie Wells, Cedric Benson or Deangelo Williams on your bench because of their respective byes.
- Ryan Torain (vs. Indianapolis)
The Colts are 29th in the league against the run and Torain is at home and in a one-back system. Solid day coming.
- Kenny Britt (@ Jacksonville)
Similar to Buffalo’s Steve Johnson, Britt assumes an eerie similar role this week. Coming off a four-catch, 86-yard TD performance against a better than average pass defense in Dallas, Britt should have another solid day against the 29th ranked Jaguars’ pass defense.
- David Garrard (vs. Tennessee)
Garrard’s last two passer ratings are significantly higher than his first three games. Those two games he had 14 and 17 fantasy points, respectively. Tennessee’s secondary showed some blown coverage’s last week allowing Dallas’ Tony Romo to have his first ever 400-yard game throwing. That’s not to reassuring for what was a top five team against the pass in the Titans. If you’re in a deeper league and need a pickup, look no farther.
- Johnny Knox (vs. Seattle)
31st pass defense coming into your house? I’ll take, Johnny Knox, the Bears’ leading receiver for 200, Alex.
Week 6 Players to Sit
- Marshawn Lynch (@ Chicago)
Though he’s already projected to be starting this week, he’ll have to prove himself against the 3rd ranked rush defense…on the road where the Bears have only given up three 100-yard rushers at home during the regular season since 2008 (18 games).
- Greg Jennings (vs. Miami)
Did you know *Matt Flynn is starting this week for the Packers?
(Aaron Rodgers practiced Thursday. His fantasy status will be monitored. If he starts, so goes Jennings and Driver)
- Wes Welker (vs. Baltimore)
Brandon Tate is actually the better play than Welker this week. Against the 2nd best pass defense in the league, Baltimore will surrender more yards to second and third receivers than their primary man. Look at Brandon Lloyd — the Broncos’ No. 2 WR who had five catches for 161 yards and two TD’s last week — and Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs and Pittsburgh’s Antwaan Randle El who both had more than 30% of the yards their quarterback’s threw for in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
- Joseph Addai (@ Washington)
Since 2004 when Washington plays at home in a night game, the Redskins have averaged 76 yards given up to the opposition’s starting running backs. (If you discard Tiki Barber’s 234-yard, three-touchdown performance in 2006, the ’Skins only surrender 62 yards on home, night games). Combine all this with Addai being in a split-back system and having a slight shoulder injury, I’m not on the Colts running game this week.
- Peyton Hillis (@ Pittsburgh)
1) The Steelers are the NFL’s top team against the run (62.2 yards per game).
2) Hillis is slightly banged up after being shut down by Atlanta (10 carries for 28 yards).
3) He’s going to have a rookie QB in Colt McCoy handing him the ball — a person the Steelers do not and will not fear, meaning they’ll be showing and bringing eight and nine players in the box all day.
- Donald Driver (vs. Miami)
See Jennings, Greg.
- Matt Forte (vs. Seattle)
I don’t care if Jay Cutler is back or not. You don’t send a running back out against the 2nd rated rush defense.
(Above Photo is Courtesy of Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
About the Author
Written by Al Buzzelli