NFL Week 11 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
The NFL was toying with the idea of going to an 18-game regular-season schedule? It seems a bit laughable now. We are hardly through 10 weeks -- only four teams have played 10 games -- and it seems no team is immune to injury. There is no way there are enough good NFL players to make it through 18 weeks.
Not for us in fantasy. We owners are just trying to make it through to the postseason a few weeks from now with enough healthy players to field a viable starting lineup.
Adding insult to injury, we have yet to completely say goodbye to bye weeks as the Texans, Saints, Steelers and Colts are the last to sit out. With so many banged up fantasy stars, good luck finding suitable replacements for Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Ben Tate, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall and whatever goofball Colt you had been running out there.
We will try to navigate you through the pre-holiday quagmire with the Week 11 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:
• QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonn Greene, WR Santonio Holmes, WR Plaxico Burress, D/ST Jets, K Nick Folk
The Broncos defense has been playing much better, but they are still one of the more forgiving in fantasy this season. They are third-worst against QBs and fourth-worst against WRs. That makes Sanchez, Holmes and Burress intriguing starts. We would also trust Greene to pound the ball at the Broncos. This could be a throwback game of smash mouth football. The defense might be the best unit of the week as they take aim at a very limited offense.
• TE Dustin Keller
Keller's breakthrough season has slowed with the struggles of Sanchez, and while Sanchez improved against the Pats, the Broncos have been good against TEs in fantasy. The Broncos have been fourth-best against them. They have allowed a league-low 29 receptions to TEs.
• QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee, RB Lance Ball, WR Eric Decker, WR Eddie Royal, WR Demaryius Thomas
This is a "sit all" game for the resurgent Broncos. Sure, Tebow has scored some solid fantasy points, but those came against suspect defenses. The Jets defense is better than it has shown and will prove it here in prime-time against an one-dimensional offense led by Tebow. We wouldn't use any Broncos, even the banged-up McGahee. The Jets have been the 10th-worst team against RBs in fantasy, but McGahee is one play from being out and the Jets are going to stack the line to make Tebow beat them.
• QB Josh Freeman
Freeman isn't actually a top 12 QB option this week, but if you still own him, you likely need him to come through right now. Well, the Bucs figure to be trailing in this one and unable to run, so Freeman will at least get ample chances to air it out. The Packers are fourth-worst against QBs and third-worst against WRs. It might make you consider one of Freeman's targets, but none has been a consistent threat and we cannot be sure which receiver is going to emerge.
• RB James Starks, TE Jermichael Finley, D/ST Packers, K Mason Crosby
Starks and Finley haven't been great fantasy options, mostly because Aaron Rodgers has been making Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson the focal point of the offense and must-starts in fantasy. Starks and Finley are good enough to use if you don't have alternatives this week, though. You never know which Packer could have a huge week in this offense, and the Bucs are the worst team in fantasy against RBs and in the bottom 10 against TEs.
• RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow
The Packers haven't been the elite team against RBs, but stopping the Bucs begins with shutting down the running game. The Packers are fully equipped to do that. Don't consider Blount unless your other options are bad. The Bucs receivers above, including Preston Parker and Arrelious Benn are a mess best avoided even if the matchup looks favorable. We cannot be sure where the passes are going.
• WR Donald Driver, RB Ryan Grant
The Packers cannot have everyone star every week. Driver was a factor Monday night, mostly at the expense of James Jones. Don't bother picking up Driver. Also, Grant has that great matchup, but he just isn't getting enough carries to be useful in most formats.
• QB Tony Romo, RB DeMarco Murray, WR Dez Bryant, WR Laurent Robinson, TE Jason Witten, K Daniel Bailey, D/ST Cowboys
This is a "start all" game for the resurgent Cowboys. A favorable schedule certainly helps. Even Robinson and the recently quiet Witten look like good options. The rest of the above have emerged as must-starts.
• TE Fred Davis
The Redskins are a mess right now, but Davis at least is their leading receiving threat. Also, the Cowboys have allowed the second-most points to TEs in fantasy. It is a good matchup to take advantage of for Davis owners, especially since there will be plenty of garbage time in this Dallas blowout.
• RB Felix Jones
He return finally, but he is going to be limited and as a backup to the breakout of Murray. Jones won't get enough touches to trust in fantasy at this point.
• RB Ryan Torain, RB Roy Helu, WR Jabar Gaffney, QB Rex Grossman, D/ST Redskins
Helu took a step back last week with Torain getting more carries than expected, but neither back is a good play against a Cowboys run defense that is hungry to change its recent fortunes. That Dallas D/ST started the season as one of the toughest to run against. It has been getting gashed of late against some decent backs. Still, Torain and Helu shouldn't be trusted in this matchup, mostly because they split so much time. The rest of the Redskins are weak options, too, against a Dallas team that slowed a much better Bills offense a week ago.
• QB Cam Newton, WR Steve Smith, TE Greg Olsen, K Olindo Mare
The Panthers were awful coming off a bye, but figure Newton rebounds along with Smith and Olsen in a game that figures to feature a lot of yards and points. Newton remains a solid start in all leagues.
• QB Matthew Stafford, RB Maurice Morris, TE Brandon Pettigrew, K Jason Hansen, D/ST Lions
Just like the Panthers, the Lions are coming off a disappointing game. The Lions seem confident Stafford's broken finger won't be an issue, so continue to trust him in most formats. Morris is the real sleeper here. He is facing the second-worst team in fantasy against RBs. You might also consider Kevin Smith to be a sleeper in real deep formats. Calvin Johnson remains a must-start as long he is healthy and Pettigrew should be able to rebound for fantasy owners at home.
• RB Jonathan Stewart, RB DeAngelo Williams, TE Jeremy Shockey
We don't know what to make of the Panthers backs, except that they haven't been good enough for fantasy owners. Since they are both healthy and splitting time, don't use either Stewart or Williams at this point, particularly against a Lions defense that is seventh-best in fantasy against RBs.
• WR Nate Burleson, WR Titus Young
While we suggest you stick with Stafford, you shouldn't trust his extras. Burleson and Young were solid last week, but the Panthers quietly are top five in fantasy against WRs. Stafford's passes are going to go to Megatron and Pettigrew (or Tony Scheffler) when the Lions actually do have to pass.
• QB Joe Flacco, WR Anquan Boldin, D/ST Ravens, K Billy Cundiff
The Bengals remain a solid defense to be wary of. You never sit Ray Rice and you really shouldn't be wary of Flacco or Boldin, despite the tough matchup. The Ravens defense is facing the No. 2 team in fantasy against D/STs, but that unit is too elite to ignore. Plus, the Bengals rookie QB was made to look like a rookie for most of the Steelers game last week and he might be without his No. 1 receiver.
• QB Andy Dalton, RB Cedric Benson, WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham, K Mike Nugent
The Ravens looked bad against a weak Seahawks team last week, but they return home for an important division game. They will not falter here. Benson might stay active in leagues, but he may struggle against the No. 2 team in fantasy against RBs. Also, Green is banged up and a game-time decision -- making him someone to fill in for -- while Gresham returned well last week but faces the No. 1 team in fantasy against TEs. It all amounts to bad news for the Bengals scoring any points behind Dalton, who faces the No. 2 team in fantasy against QBs as well.
• QB Carson Palmer, RB Michael Bush, WR Denarius Moore, D/ST Raiders, K Sebastian Janikowski
The Vikings are coming off an embarrassing loss on Monday night and the Raiders look revived with Palmer getting under his wing last time out. Moore has emerged as Palmer's go-to receiver, so consider him viable, even if the Raiders go run first. Bush is a must-start in all formats with Darren McFadden (foot) out. Even rookie Taiwan Jones is a potential sleeper in this offense right now.
• WR Percy Harvin
The Vikings look worthless outside of Adrian Peterson, but at least they are getting the ball to Harvin more. Consider Harvin a viable starter in deeper leagues again.
• WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Housh has more receptions of late than DHB, who has been nonexistent with Palmer under center. Housh is a sleeper stashee while he ramps up, but DHB might not be worth owning anymore, much less starting. It is too bad, too, because DHB was looking dangerous under Jason Campbell.
• QB Christian Ponder, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, D/ST Vikings, WR Michael Jenkins
It isn't that the Raiders look imposing defensively, the Vikings just don't look threatening right now. We would not trust anyone outside of A.P., or maybe Harvin. Ponder has some growing pains to go through still.
• QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Jackson, WR Stevie Johnson
The Dolphins have emerged as one of the elite run defenses in the NFL of late, surging to No. 4 in fantasy against RBs, but you shouldn't be sitting Jackson in any format -- particularly with the thinning of the RB position due to injuries in the past month. Fitzpatrick is the sleeper here. The Dolphins remain in the bottom 10 of the NFL against QBs and WRs. Fitzpatrick is going to look more like his September self here, along with his leading target, Johnson. David Nelson, Donald Jones and maybe Scott Chandler can be sleepers if you need one of them.
• RB Reggie Bush, WR Brandon Marshall, K Dan Carpenter
The Bills are fifth-worst in fantasy against RBs, so consider the resurgent Bush a starter again. Daniel Thomas might even be a sleeper for you, if you're missing an RB due to a bye or injury. Marshall has emerged as a solid option in all weeks, since Matt Moore has proved viable as an NFL QB recently. We still don't think Moore is useful outside of the deepest of two-quarterback leagues. That makes Carpenter a candidate to pick up cheap field-goal attempts in the red zone.
• D/ST Dolphins
They have been resurgent with in recent weeks, particularly at stopping the run, but we still wouldn't trust them as one of the top 12 units in fantasy. The Bills are going to snap out of their offensive funk at some point and this week is as much of a must-win as any for them.
• RB Maurice Jones-Drew, K Josh Scobee, D/ST Jaguars
MJD gets one of his best matchups of the season, even though you probably haven't been sitting him against anyone. The running game should help Scobee get ample field-goal tries in the red zone. The Jags defense is also a bit underrated and should be pretty good against the Browns here.
• RB Chris Ogbonnaya
The Jags are top 10 in fantasy against RBs, but the Browns are a run-first team and figure to feature Ogbonnaya heavily in a smashmouth defensive game. Montario Hardesty might be close to practicing and returning, but he isn't 100 percent, so consider Ogbonnaya if you're short on backs.
• QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Mike Thomas, WR Jason Hill, TE Marcedes Lewis
The Jags have put a gag order on questions about why Lewis hasn't been involved this season. The answer is because Gabbert just cannot get anything consistent going in the passing game. The Browns also happen to be the No. 1 team in fantasy against QBs and WRs, somewhat surprisingly. It will be all running as always for the Jags this week. You might even consider Deji Karim a sleeper if you're really hurting for an RB.
• RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Sidney Rice
Lynch has survived a gauntlet of tough run defenses with his scoring streak intact and now he gets the seventh-worst team in fantasy against RBs. Only the Colts and Panthers have given up more rushing yards. Even if the Rams have improved against the run in recent weeks, keep Lynch active. Rice should be able to play after his "mild" concussion, so keep him active if he does against a Rams team in the bottom 10 against WRs.
• QB Sam Bradford, RB Steven Jackson, WR Brandon Lloyd
The advice to start Bradford might come as bit of a shock to many, especially since the Seahawks haven't been particularly bad against QBs. They are in the top half of fantasy. But the Seahawks slow the run well, and the Rams are going to open it up to win this game at home. Bradford is proving healthy and will be busy with Lloyd. If you're looking for other Rams receiving options as sleepers, go with tight end Lance Kendricks and Brandon Gibson.
• D/ST Rams, D/ST Seahawks
The Rams (No. 1) and Seahawks (No. 4) are among the most forgiving teams against opposing D/STs, but neither mediocre (at best) unit should be considered viable in fantasy. You are better off going with a better D/ST in a tougher matchup.
• WR Larry Fitzgerald
We learned last week why we should never sit a healthy Fitzgerald. Even against those Eagles corners, he had a breakthrough performance. The 49ers defense is tough, yes, but it is 10th-worst against WRs in fantasy to date.
• RB Frank Gore, RB Kendall Hunter, WR Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis, D/ST 49ers
Gore isn't 100 percent, but he should remain active. With Gore's iffy health consider Hunter a sleeper. Once the 49ers get up, it will be Hunter and Anthony Dixon carrying the load. Hunter should be a factor as a receiver out of the backfield, too. Crabtree was shut down last week, but the Cardinals are eighth-worst in fantasy against WRs, so consider sticking with the 49ers' leading WR. Also, Vernon Davis finally showed up and the 49ers will feature the tight end heavily in its cautious offensive attack.
• RB Beanie Wells, QB John Skelton, K Jay Feely, D/ST Cardinals
Skelton was a revelation last week, but you cannot trust him against a 49ers defense that is playing far better than the Eagles'. Wells is the toughest of the sits here. He faces the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, one that hasn't allowed a rushing TD all season. Wells needs the TD to be viable in most fantasy formats.
• QB Philip Rivers, RB Ryan Mathews, TE Antonio Gates, WR Vincent Jackson
The Bears are a solid defense, but mostly against the run. They are seventh-worst in fantasy against QBs and
• WR Earl Bennett, D/ST Bears, K Robbie Gould
You're already starting Matt Forte and maybe considering Marion Barber as a TD vulture, but you should feel just as confident in this trio -- no matter which Jay Cutler we see. Bennett has emerged from injury as a solid fantasy performer the past two weeks. The Chargers, mostly because of Rivers' turnovers, are the third-worst team in fantasy against opposing defenses. Keep the Bears active even if Rivers and the Chargers offense is a sleeping giant.
• RB Mike Tolbert, D/ST Chargers
Tolbert wasn't good against one of the worst teams in fantasy against RBs a week ago. With Mathews healthier and the Bears' run defense presenting a challenge, you need to consider alternatives to Tolbert, if you have one. The Chargers defense has been getting shredded in recent weeks and Cutler has been protected better and turning the ball far less of late. The Chargers defense is a candidate to cut, not start.
• QB Jay Cutler
San Diego looked bad against a Carson Palmer who had looked bad. It might lead you to starting Cutler. You should remember the stinker Cutler tossed up there last week. This game is going to be another Forte show and Cutler won't be asked to do much again. Look elsewhere for a QB starter.
• RB Chris Johnson, K Rob Bironas
We say this with trepidation, because C.J. has burned us before, but he has put back-to-back solid weeks together. In a tough matchup -- the Falcons are one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL of late and No. 5 in fantasy against RBs -- we still say keep Johnson active. With so many RB injuries around the league at least Johnson is healthy and a large part of his team's offense. Few other RBs are as important to his team's success. The Falcons may bend but not break, so consider Bironas a solid fill-in at kicker if you have one on bye.
• QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, K Matt Bryant, D/ST Falcons
The Falcons might have blown it against the Saints a week ago, but they are going to respond in a huge way here. Start all your Falcons you can behind the must-starts of Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez. Jazquizz Rodgers has been getting more carries of late, so if you need a one-week RB fill-in, Rodgers is a decent option. The Titans are in the bottom half of fantasy against RBs.
• QB Matt Hasselbeck, WR Nate Washington, WR Damian Williams, TE Jared Cook
The Falcons are in the bottom half against QBs and WRs, but the Titans options here just are not consistent enough to trust week to week. They are more like back-end fill-ins to avoid if you have alternatives
• WR Julio Jones
Jones probably is worth a look if he plays, but don't dare use him if your lineup locks early. He figures to be a game-time decision and it is a 4:15 p.m. ET game time. Unless you have flexibility that late with your lineup, you are going to need a replacement for Jones. That hammy could use a week of rest, or two. The emergence of Harry Douglas affords the Falcons that luxury. In fact, use Douglas if Jones is out.
• WR DeSean Jackson, TE Brent Celek, K Alex Henery
The Eagles are a mess best avoided save for fantasy star LeSean McCoy, who can be a monster against a Giants defense that is in the bottom half of fantasy against QBs -- even after blanking the 49ers' Gore last week. Michael Vick's status leaves everyone up in the air. The ones we would play are Jackson, coming off the benching, and Celek, who can be leaned on heavily no matter who plays QB.
• QB Eli Manning, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Mario Manningham, WR Victor Cruz, D/ST Giants
This amounts to a "start all" game for the Giants, who held up well against a tough 49ers defense a week ago on the road. They return home in prime time against a bitter rival to whom they could deal a knockout blow. The Giants have to be ready for a shootout, as these games usually are, even if the Eagles have been down. Trust Jacobs against an Eagles defense that is sixth-worst in the NFL against the run, particularly with Ahmad Bradshaw out. D.J. Ware might even be a nice sleeper. The Eagles don't really know how to use their talented corners, so Nicks, Manningham and Cruz should all remain a go in fantasy.
• WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Jason Avant, D/ST Eagles
Maclin is dealing with a shoulder and leg issue, which should be enough to scare you off him as a game-time decision for a late game. Avant laid an egg as a starter last week, so consider Steve Smith against his former team a decent sleeper if you need one.
• TE Jake Ballard
Ballard has been getting props of late, but he is drawing an Eagles defense that does one thing well: Stop the tight end. Consider other options than the upstart Ballard here.
• RB Jackie Battle, WR Dwayne Bowe
The way to beat the Patriots is keep the ball away from Tom Brady. Few seem to understand that or be able to do it, despite the fact the Pats remain in the bottom half of fantasy against RBs. Battle should be used heavily here, particularly with Matt Cassel out. Even with the backup QB as an unknown, we would stick with Bowe as a fantasy starter. The Pats are the worst team in fantasy against QBs and WRs. Even if the QB doesn't play well, there will be plenty of garbage time throws to Bowe -- and perhaps Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin.
• RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, WR Deion Branch, TE Aaron Hernandez, K Stephen Gostkowski, D/ST Patriots
This is a "start all" game for the revived Pats. You try to sweep them under the rug and they look like worldbeaters all over again. Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski aren't the only must-starts. All of these guys should be active, even BGE against a Chiefs defense that is eighth-worst in fantasy against RBs. You might even consider the resurgent Chad Ochocinco and receiving RB Danny Woodhead as options here this week. As for the maligned Pats defense? It is a viable play against a no-name QB and a sinking Chiefs team in prime time.
• QB Tyler Palko
This would have been a great week to consider Cassel and all of his weapons. Instead, it is a week to expect Palko in his first NFL start to fall flat on his face. The Pats are the worst team in fantasy against QBs and WRs, but Palko just shouldn't be trusted. He might not even take long to give with to Ricky Stanzi.