Did your defense carry you to victory in fantasy on Sunday?
It's conceivable that many matchups this week were decided by D/STs, as three from the 1 p.m. ET block scored at least 20 fantasy points, marking the first week that at least that many D/STs scored at least that well since Week 3 in 2016. In addition, there were 10 touchdowns scored by D/STs combined during the 1 p.m. ET game block, one shy of the record (since at least 1940) during that specific weekly time block set in 2002 Week 14 (11).
Through Sunday, there were 14 total touchdowns scored by D/STs in Week 6, which has been exceeded in a single week only one other time in NFL history: 1998 Week 15 (16). Three other times as many as 14 touchdowns have been scored by D/STs: 1992 Week 2 (14), 2002 Week 2 (14) and 2011 Week 1 (14). Will the record be broken Monday night?
As we do each week, we recap the week's winners and losers from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks of the week's best and worst.
New Orleans Saints D/ST: Naturally, in a week full of lofty D/ST scores, we start there, as the Saints led the way with 32 fantasy points, fueled in large part by their three touchdowns. It was only the second time in franchise history that the team's D/ST has scored as many as three touchdowns in a game (1967 Week 8), and its point total was the second most in a single game in franchise history, finishing just one point shy of the 33 it scored in 1976 Week 5. Curiously, this is the third consecutive game that the Saints D/ST has scored at least 14 fantasy points, its longest such streak since it managed at least that many in four straight during 2004 Weeks 14-17. With a matchup against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers due up next on the Saints' schedule, could it be that this is suddenly a viable streaming candidate? Perhaps, as the team does have a combined seven interceptions during its hot streak, but it's also worth noting that the Saints entered the week having averaged 2.6 fantasy points per game from the beginning of 2015 through 2017 Week 5, the second-worst total in the league. At least they're widely available, having been owned in 2.60 percent and started in 1.98 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: For the second consecutive week, Gordon exceeded the 30-point PPR fantasy threshold, his 36.0 leading all players at all positions through the Sunday 4 p.m. ET game block. That was just one-tenth of a point shy of his career best, set in 2016 Week 7 and tied two weeks later in Week 9. Gordon's career got off to a slow start, but his year-over-year progression has been exceptional: After managing 32.5 non-PPR and 45.5 PPR fantasy points through his team's first six games of his rookie year in 2015, he improved those numbers to 89.5 and 103.5 as a sophomore in 2016 and now 99.8 and 127.8 in 2017. Gordon's yards-per-carry average is just 3.6 this season and has been sub-four in each of those three years, but his hefty involvement in the receiving game as well as his goal-line role helps make up for those shortcomings. Though he faces one of the toughest matchups on his 2017 schedule in Week 7 in the Broncos, Gordon is a locked-in RB1 for the duration.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: In his first game following Adrian Peterson's trade to Arizona, firming up Ingram's "starter" status, Ingram scored a whopping 30.0 PPR and 25.0 non-PPR fantasy points, the second- and third-best totals in his 83 career NFL games. Most notably, Ingram received four carries within three yards of the goal line -- that out of five offensive snaps in those situations -- converting two of them for touchdowns. That's a plus for a player who at times has struggled on those opportunities, occasionally landing in coach Sean Payton's doghouse, and it bodes well considering the Saints' favorable second-half schedule.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans: Another week, another fantasy masterpiece by the rookie. Watson's 23.30 fantasy points on Sunday gave him 130.40 through his first five career NFL starts, setting a new record for a quarterback, surpassing Cam Newton's 128.40 (2011 Weeks 1-6). It also gave Watson 136.08 fantasy points through his first six career games, which earns him a place among the greatest starts to a career of any player at any position all-time, illustrated in the chart below. Watson's ownership percentage has soared in 38 days, going from 5.92 at the time of the NFL Kickoff on Sept. 7 to 94.3 percent as of the Texans' kickoff on Sunday, and his start percentage went from 1.20 percent in his first career start in Week 2 to 1.66 percent in Week 3 to 11.6 in Week 4 to 58.9 percent on Sunday. He now gets his bye week, followed by the most challenging matchup of his career to date in Week 8 at the Seattle Seahawks.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots: Though he wasn't the most-started tight end in fantasy this week -- his 95.0 percent rate trailed Travis Kelce's 95.9 and Zach Ertz's 95.6 -- Gronkowski delivered a score that paced all tight ends during the 1 p.m. ET block and likely should for the week, 26.3 in PPR and 20.3 in non-PPR scoring. It was his best single-week performance since 2016 Week 6 (29.2 and 22.2), and only the second time in his past 27 games that he managed at least 20 in either format.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins: That's three consecutive games with at least 20 fantasy points for Cousins, whose 27.80 on Sunday represented the seventh-best total in any of his 51 career NFL games. Though he didn't exactly carve up a San Francisco 49ers defense that was missing key linebackers, he did score his first rushing touchdown of the season, after having totaled nine in the previous two seasons combined. Cousins was started in 60.4 percent of ESPN leagues, seventh highest among quarterbacks.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: So much for a running-back controversy, as Hyde dominated the snaps and carries in the 49ers' backfield on Sunday, his 55 and 13 easily exceeding backup Matt Breida's 18 and four, the snap counts per Pro Football Focus' Nathan Jahnke. While Hyde's 2.2 yards-per-carry average was poor, he received and converted both of the team's rushing attempts on its two plays within one yard of the goal line, resulting in 24.5 PPR and 19.5 non-PPR fantasy points. It was also one of the more difficult matchups on his 2017 schedule. Hyde won't enjoy that level of success every week, and he's still one of the greater injury risks in the game, but this was a good indicator that he's a locked-in RB2 in any of his healthy weeks.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Perhaps he's no fluke! For the second consecutive week, McKinnon garnered exactly 16 carries and six targets and finished with greater than 20 PPR fantasy points, his 24.9 trailing only Ingram's score from the Sunday 1 p.m. ET game block. He has now managed the three best individual games of his career in the Vikings' past seven games, which should result in a sizable boost from his 50.6 percent start rate on Sunday in Week 7.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, New York Jets: The Jets claimed that they would get their tight ends more involved in the passing game this season, and boy, were they not kidding. Seferian-Jenkins managed 11 targets on Sunday, making him the first Jets tight end with at least eight targets in back-to-back games since Dustin Keller (2011 Weeks 11-12), and Seferian-Jenkins scored 16.6 PPR fantasy points, making him the first Jets tight end to score in double digits in back-to-back weeks since Jeff Cumberland (2014 Weeks 16-17). Seferian-Jenkins was started in a career-high 46.2 percent of ESPN leagues, and with his sizable role he has a realistic chance at earning top-10 ownership and start percentages come Week 7. That he'll face a third consecutive outstanding matchup -- the opposing Miami Dolphins entered the week allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends (15.7), and surrendered 11.8 to Austin Hooper on Sunday -- can only help.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Who needs great quarterback play? Not Brown, especially judging by his exceptional catch on a deflection off Phillip Gaines' helmet that Brown took 51 yards for a touchdown and a nine-point lead with 3:24 remaining in the game. Brown's catch played a major part in his 29.5 PPR point fantasy day, the best among wide receivers through the 4 p.m. ET games.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: As anticipated, he tore up the Buccaneers' slot cornerbacks on Sunday, turning 11 targets into 10 catches and 27.8 PPR fantasy points. Remarkably, Fitzgerald was started in just 87.0 percent of ESPN leagues, which didn't even earn him a place as one of the 10 most started at his position.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Cardinals: What a debut! Peterson's 25.4 fantasy points were an extraordinarily rare feat for a player who switched teams in-season. They were the second-most by such a player in his debut for his new squad since Howard "Hopalong" Cassady managed 25.3 non-PPR and 33.3 PPR fantasy points in his Philadelphia Eagles debut in 1962 Week 6, and they represented only the second-best non-PPR and fourth-best PPR performance worth at least 20 among running backs in a debut for a new team after changing uniforms in-season. Peterson also received 26 rushing attempts, his most since 2015 Week 12 (29), as the Cardinals made it clear they regard him their featured back. His 22.8 percent start rate this week is sure to soar in Week 7, when he gets a much more cozy matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: For the fourth consecutive week, Brate caught a touchdown pass and scored at least 13.3 fantasy points, his 19.6 PPR points second-best among tight ends through the Sunday 4 p.m. ET game block. Through Jameis Winston missed much of the game with a shoulder injury, Brate succeeded just the same with Ryan Fitzpatrick passing him the football, and in fact the two connected for the first touchdown in NFL history from a quarterback and receiver who both hailed from Harvard. Brate was started in 54.5 percent of ESPN leagues, a significant increase from his 37.5 percent rate in Week 5.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: With a 21.8 PPR fantasy point day on Sunday, he is off to one of the best starts in history among running backs. Fournette has 115.2 non-PPR and 130.2 PPR fantasy points through his first six games, the sixth- and ninth-best totals by any running back through that many career contests since 1950. By the way, Kareem Hunt, who had 11 and 16 fantasy points of his own on Sunday, ranks third-best among running backs through six career games (122.5 and 143.5).
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: So much for chatter that his preseason holdout was having an adverse impact upon his play. Bell enjoyed a fourth consecutive outstanding fantasy day on Sunday, his 28.1 PPR fantasy points finishing third-best among running backs through the 4 p.m. ET game block. He now has 94.6 non-PPR and 124.6 PPR fantasy points through his first six games of the season, which are his most and second-most through that many contests in any of his four NFL campaigns. In fact, Bell's numbers are comparable with his through this stage of 2016, as he had 93.3 and 138.3 through Week 6 last year, and he has done it with much weaker quarterback play supporting him. Is there any doubt that he's the No. 1 player in fantasy football?
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: As expected, he had a difficult time separating from Lions cornerback Darius Slay, turning his six targets into a mere 4.1 PPR and 1.1 non-PPR fantasy points. It was the second-worst performance in any of Thomas' 20 career games to date, trailing only the 4.0 and 0.0 he scored in 2016 Week 10 and falling shy of the 8.2 and 4.2 he scored in 2016 Week 13. What did those two previous games have in common? Well, the former occurred in a game against the Broncos' stingy cornerbacks, and the latter was also against Slay and the Lions, illustrating Thomas' difficulty with tougher individual matchups. Fortunately, Thomas now gets an extremely favorable matchup against the Packers in Week 7, so write this one off as an aberration.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: While 11.92 fantasy points might not seem like a disastrous total, Ryan's fantasy managers were surely expecting better from him in a game fresh off the bye week, at home, as his 71.0 percent start rate in ESPN leagues (fifth highest among quarterbacks) attests. It also gave him four consecutive games beneath 15 fantasy points, the first time he has endured a streak that long within a single season since 2015 Weeks 12-16 and only the fifth time in his nine-year career that he has had a streak at least that long within a single season. Fortunately for Ryan, he now draws a pair of extremely favorable matchups, albeit in road games, visiting the Patriots (Week 7) and Jets (Week 8). He'll need a quick rebound in order to keep earning fantasy starts.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Likewise, Brees' 11.54 fantasy points on Sunday might not have ruined his fantasy managers' chances, but they certainly didn't help matters much. He was the third-most-started quarterback in ESPN leagues, active in 81.0 percent, and he delivered his worst score in a home game since 2016 Week 13 (7.04), that one also against the Detroit Lions. Fortunately for Brees, he's now done with the Lions (at least during the regular season), and he'll get a more favorable matchup in Week 7 at Green Bay.
Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots: As is often the case, when Gillislee fails to find the end zone, he lets his fantasy managers down. On Sunday, he managed 10 carries, but on the three offensive plays the Patriots ran within three yards of the goal line, Tom Brady threw twice and Dion Lewis got and converted the team's only rushing attempt. The latter development was most frustrating in fantasy terms; he was started in 65.4 percent of ESPN leagues, but any doubt about his goal-line role would severely lower his value.
Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers: Forgive him his mere 4.1 PPR and 3.1 non-PPR fantasy points, as it was remarkable that Montgomery was able to play at all after breaking multiple ribs in Week 4, the matchup wasn't an easy one and he played only limited snaps (20). His fantasy managers recognized this in advance, however, starting him in only 39.3 percent of ESPN leagues, down significantly from his 94.5 percent rate in Week 4. Perhaps Montgomery will feel stronger and handle a greater workload come Week 7 against the Saints, though it's possible that he'll be closer to full strength only after the Week 8 bye.
Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: While Gronkowski had an outstanding game, Hogan's day was rather quiet, as he managed just 2.9 PPR fantasy points on four targets against the Jets. That was the worst score of any of Hogan's six games this season, and it snapped a streak of four straight games with at least one touchdown and 17 PPR fantasy points.
Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Redskins: His extremely disappointing first season with the Redskins continued on Sunday, as Pryor managed just 5.3 PPR fantasy points on five targets, in a game where Kirk Cousins scored a season-high total of his own. Pryor has now managed three of his eight worst single-game scores (since switching from quarterback to wide receiver) in his past four games, which is an ominous sign for a player who has a few more tough matchups (@SEA, Week 9; NYG, Week 12; DEN, Week 16) on his schedule. Currently on a roster in 93.6 percent of leagues, expect to see that number drop at least slightly entering Week 7.
Eric Ebron, TE, Lions: It might be time to move on from Ebron in fantasy leagues, as he hasn't been especially involved in the Lions' offense of late, with his latest stinker a 1.9-PPR-fantasy-point, three-target game on Sunday. Though he has underperformed for most of his career, you might be surprised to learn that he's in the midst of a four-game streak falling short of five PPR fantasy points, and that's the lengthiest such streak in his four-year NFL career.
Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals: One target?! Granted, the Cardinals weren't much in need of a passing-down back on Sunday, playing a limited number of third downs and leading for most of the game, but Ellington was still expected to play a bigger role than this. A greater number of fantasy owners actually started Ellington (27.8 percent) than Peterson (22.8), but Ellington put up a doughnut and had zero carries to Peterson's 26.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders: After the Raiders gave the 31-year-old veteran 18 rushing attempts in Week 1, Lynch hasn't received more than 13 in five games since. He was facing a Chargers defense that had afforded more than 30 PPR fantasy points combined to opposing running backs in each of the past three weeks, but Lynch scored just 6.3 despite the favorable matchup. Expect his ownership percentage to drop from its current 98.1.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams: His first season with the Rams has been a quiet one, especially lately. Watkins scored just 2.1 PPR fantasy points on four targets on Sunday, marking the third consecutive week that he was held beneath three. Of greater concern is the fact that he has a mere 9.8 percent target share (10 of 102) in those three games, which trails both Cooper Kupp's (22.5 percent) and Robert Woods' (17.6).
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: Like Montgomery, Carr wasn't a player from whom fantasy owners had high expectations on Sunday, as he was started in just 27.8 percent of ESPN leagues in his first game back from a back injury. Those who did start Carr, however, got only 6.84 fantasy points from him, his seventh-worst individual score in 52 career NFL starts. Getting a game under his belt could be a good thing, as could be another week to get back to full strength. He'll face a tougher matchup in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, though.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: As both his ownership and start percentages continue to drop -- they slipped to 72.8 and 24.3 percent on Sunday, easily his worst all season -- Roethlisberger's utility in fantasy leagues continues to come into question. An 11.88 fantasy point total on Sunday won't help matters, as it represents the fourth consecutive week he has been held to 12 or fewer, and the 10th in a row that he has been held beneath 20. He now has 70.24 fantasy points for the season, which is the second-fewest he has had through his first six games of a season in any of his 14 years in the league, trailing only the 54.04 he had to start the 2006 campaign.