Both Denver and San Diego enter Week 6 coming off of big losses. The Broncos couldn't do anything to slow down Tom Brady and the gang last week, and the Chargers handed the Saints their first win of the season.
These two NFC West teams, though, are putting up plenty of points for fantasy owners. Peyton Manning is tearing apart secondaries, Ryan Mathews is back to looking like a star runner and Demaryius Thomas now has three 100-yard performances this year. We're likely to see an offensive explosion from several players on Monday night.
Let's go ahead and take a look at who you should start between Denver and San Diego, and who needs to take a seat on your bench.
Peyton Manning, quarterback - Manning has thrown for 300+ yards and at least two scores in three consecutive weeks. Who cares if they don't always win? He's helping win matchups for his fantasy owners. The Chargers could not stop the Saints passing attack last week, giving up four touchdowns and 370 yards to Drew Brees. Start Manning and expect another big performance from him in Week 6.
Willis McGahee, running back - After losing a fumble and dropping an easy first-down pass against the Patriots last Sunday, John Fox might be a little fed up with McGahee. He'll still be the starter, but more performances like that will likely rescind his name on the depth chart. The Chargers are only allowing 74 yards per game on the ground coming into Monday night. They did allow 115 yards and a touchdown on the ground to Atlanta and Kansas City back-to-back, though, so it's not impossible to run against them. McGahee is worth a start again. Just pray he's blocked out the memories of last week's mistakes.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, wide receiver - With the way Peyton Manning is throwing the ball, Thomas and Decker are worth starting every week. Marques Colston and Devery Henderson absolutely went off last week against the Chargers secondary, so how can not get excited about this matchup tonight? Decker is getting more red zone looks, but Thomas is making bigger plays downfield and in the screen game. They both bring something different to the table. They both warrant a start each week.
Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen, tight end - The Chargers have allowed just one touchdown to opposing tight ends this year. Dreesen, however, has scored in each of the past three weeks, so that number might be going up after Monday night. Tamme continue to see more targets, but Dreesen is clearly a big red zone factor for the Broncos. Neither is going to score big for your fantasy team. You might want to take a chance on Dreesen, though, if you're in need of a tight end. Tamme hasn't scored since Week 1.
Broncos defense/special teams - The Patriots put up 31 points on the Broncos last week and made it look pretty easy. Ryan Mathews is bound to go off again facing this defense, and if Philip Rivers can stay consistent, the Chargers have a good chance of putting up plenty of points as well. Denver's D/ST is an average start at best.
Philip Rivers, quarterback - The Broncos may rank eighth overall against the pass, but they've given up some huge numbers to opposing quarterbacks this year. Remember Matt Schaub's four-touchdown performance in Week 3? Rivers only failed to throw at least one touchdown against Atlanta. We can expect him to put points on the scoreboard tonight. His two games against Denver last season were mediocre at best fantasy-wise, so that may temper your expectations a bit. Still, he's worth a start in Week 6.
Ryan Mathews, running back - In three games against the Broncos he has rushed for over 100 yards in each matchup. Mathews owns Denver. Last year he rushed for 125 yards and 137 yards respectively against his Mile High foe, and in his rookie year he exploded against Denver for 120 yards and three touchdowns. It looks like Norv Turner finally understands he needs to keep his best offensive player on the field, so expect plenty of touches tonight for Mathews. The Broncos 21st ranked run defense will help out as well. You should always start Mathews, but especially against the team he consistently dominates.
Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem, wide receiver - Floyd currently has a questionable tag next to his name, but he's expected to play on Monday night. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 1. In his only game against Denver last season he caught three passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, and with the fact that the Broncos have allowed five touchdowns to opposing receivers this year, there's a good chance of Floyd scoring in this one. Meachem caught two touchdowns last week against New Orleans, but other than that he's been useless for fantasy owners. Considering he was playing his former team on the road, it's tough to buy into that performance. You shouldn't be sold just yet. Continue starting Floyd. Be wary of Meachem.
Antonio Gates, tight end - He hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. Gates enters Monday night without a touchdown catch in four games played so far. The Broncos were dominated by tight ends at the beginning of 2012, but the past two weeks they've looked better against this position, especially after limiting Rob Gronkowski to four catches for 35 yards last week. Can you really rely on Gates at this point? Until he does something to prove he's still a factor in the Chargers offense, it might be a good idea to hold off on starting him if you can.
Chargers defense/special teams - San Diego currently ranks 22nd in the league in passing yards allowed per game. Given the fact the Peyton Manning has been torching opposing defenses in recent weeks, we can probably expect another multiple passing touchdown game from him. The Chargers gave up four scores through the air last week to Drew Brees. The run defense has been stout, but the secondary is still concerning. Their D/ST is a bit of a risky play in Week 6.