Fantasy football is a strange deal sometimes. You have to separate your instincts of what you know is good and bad and real in the world -- for example, Philip Rivers is and always will be a better quarterback than Josh McCown -- and what exists within a specific scoring system of an individual game.
If you started a lineup last week of Carson Palmer, Bobby Rainey, Chris Ivory, Michael Floyd, Rod Streater and Garrett Graham, you would have been laughed out of your league. But you also would have beaten a lineup packed with stars: Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall and Jimmy Graham, for instance.
Would have killed them, in fact.
That's the deal. Week in and week out. Two sides of your brain.
So in a time of the season when fantasy owners are wearing valuable dermis with their tough lineup choices, we're here to bring you Opposite Week -- where we try to find below-the-radar options who might actually outplay the big-name guys.
And in this time of play or pay, you might just want to consider them.
• Start Alex Smith, Josh McCown or Mike Glennon before you start Colin Kaepernick, Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger
The Bears know they can't let the Rams' pass rush kill them, so look for a series of quick passes to Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte to slow that down and make life easier for McCown. The Bears want to let the Rams try to tackle these big skill guys because, well, they can't. That makes McCown a very attractive play.
Smith is always considered a fallback option in fantasy, but having seen the Chiefs try to open things up last week -- more deep passes vs. Denver than in any game this season -- expect an extension of that against the Chargers. He could surprise.
Glennon has gained confidence, and the Tampa Bay run game hasn't dropped off despite two big injuries. That's great news against a Lions defense that suddenly seems vulnerable, and it makes Glennon a sneaky-good start for fantasy owners.
It's very difficult to bench Kaepernick, Rivers and Roethlisberger, but their matchups dictate a tough road ahead this week. In Kaepernick's case, he has been bad in fourth quarters, and though the Redskins offer potential points, his recent play is scary. Rivers has been cooling off a little, and the Chiefs can hem him in more. Roethlisberger has put up big numbers of late, but it says here the Browns will stunt that streak and force him into turnovers.
• Start Andre Brown, Zac Stacy and Rashad Jennings over Ray Rice, Darren Sproles or Stevan Ridley
Let's not assume Brown is going to dominate, but considering the Cowboys' defense is weakened on all three levels, he will be featured heavily. Think back to Week 1: What made the Giants so vulnerable against the Cowboys? They had no run game with David Wilson fumbling twice early. Brown won't put it on the turf and will get the ball a good amount.
Stacy has a great matchup, and the Rams would love to feed him against a Bears defense that still is thin inside, still has no Lance Briggs and still has safeties who can't tackle or take good angles to the ball. This is a 24-to-27-carry kind of game for him, and two touchdowns might not be out of the question, either.
Jennings is the riskiest of the three, but his recent production and surprising explosion make him a nice option against a Titans defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs, per FFtoday.com.
Rice might have just had his breakout game, but the Jets just will not let him out of their sights. They have absolutely smothered most backs this season, especially the smaller, quicker ones. Sproles has knee and ankle issues, and he already has had a concussion this season; this might be the week to sit him, even against the Falcons' defense. Ridley fumbled Monday night at a crucial time, and even though the Patriots went back to him -- and will call on him to slow down Denver's attack this week -- he might not be in line for a full workload.
• Start Kendall Wright, Lance Moore and Jerricho Cotchery over Wes Welker, Mike Wallace and Denarius Moore
Perhaps we're not breaking any monstrous new ground with these triplets. But you still have to consider what's in front of you with a few of these.
Wright has been a PPR monster of late, almost taking on the Derrick Mason role of yore, and he's automatic points every week. Start him and you won't be disappointed. The Raiders can't cover him.
The Falcons have been a sieve defensively recently, especially to quicker wide receivers. The Saints want to get Moore going to have one more dangerous receiving option heading into their big game at Seattle in Week 13, two upcoming contests against the Panthers and in the playoffs beyond that.
Cotchery? Oh yeah. Seven touchdowns this season -- stunning, eh? So while opponents are focusing on Antonio Brown, the underrated Cotchery has been doing work. We don't love Roethlisberger as a play, but he still might feed Cotchery to the tune of 60-70 yards and a score.
Welker's concussion issue might be enough to knock him out of this game, and if he does play you can bet the Patriots will lock him up as best they can, knowing his game as well as any team. Wallace's story has been well worn, and the Panthers just don't let teams score. Don't be fooled into expecting a breakout game. Moore might look attractive on the surface with Matt McGloin's big game fresh in our minds, but the Titans' secondary is first-rate. Alterraun Verner could match up with Moore and stone him.
• Start Robert Housler, Coby Fleener and Delanie Walker over Antonio Gates, Martellus Bennett or Jordan Reed
Houlser has been the breakout tight end recently now that he's healthy, and it's not stunning in that this Cardinals offense was designed to have a good seam splitter to break up two-deep coverage. The Colts have been more reliant on zone coverage lately, so Housler could be the hidden weapon again.
And Fleener just might match him. Luck's latest go-to receiver seems to flip-flop between Fleener and T.Y. Hilton, depending on how teams shade their coverage. But the Cardinals have to be more concerned with Hilton's deep speed and likely will let one of their linebackers cover Fleener a majority of the time.
Walker has come on as a legit threat, already achieving career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns through 10 games. The Raiders have not had many solutions for clever tight ends who can get open, and that's Walker's game. Start him if you need to.
Reed is a medical concern with a concussion, making him a shaky play to begin with, and the 49ers do a lot of things defensively, including wipe out good tight ends. Even if Reed does play, expect a lockdown. Bennett had the big catch in overtime last week but might not be the primary read in a game where the Rams might be more vulnerable outside. Gates has been plugging along, getting his 50-60 yards per game, but he's no longer a major threat, and the Chiefs (with Eric Berry getting the assignment) can eliminate him for the most part.
Team Miglio -- 123.7
Team Edholm -- 117.2
A healthy three-game streak has nearly brought Team Miglio all the way back. But at 5-6 with just a few weeks left to play, there is still little margin for error. I eked out a victory last week despite gambling on Percy Harvin. He looked pretty good in his first game of the year, but I'm going to regret not waiting until he had a game or two under his belt.
The talent pool continues to shrivel going into Week 12, making every decision more difficult and important. Eric decided to grab Drew Brees, so I attempted to match him by taking Matthew Stafford. There are two more gambles in my lineup in Roddy White—who has yet to really do anything this season—and Miles Austin, who might pop a hamstring reading the morning paper tomorrow. Hopefully the rival matchups for those two will inspire big performances.
Shane Vereen looked excellent in his first game back, so it was directly into my starting lineup for him. I will have to start using some of these running backs I have been saving, so I nabbed Zac Stacy and that juicy matchup against the Bears to go along with Vereen. Hopefully I'm not chasing points with Michael Floyd after that 193-yard performance, but the Colts have been generous to opposing receivers lately.
You know that feeling where you know a bad thing is happening in a movie, it's coming in the next few minutes -- you don't know exactly when, but, oh, it's coming? Yeah, that's my fantasy life. Alex has won three straight to turn a nearly insurmountable lead by me into a shrinking ego. Another win, and we're all knotted up.
So yeah, I pretty much went to the till once more for whatever reserves I had left. Brees? Gotta have him this week. Morris? C'mon, big guy, deliver. Boldin? Your team needs you. No, not the 49ers ... well, yes, them, but Team Edholm, too.
You have to know when to hold back and when to push in Survivor Fantasy -- a strategy I have learned well in 11 weeks -- and I am testing the latter this week. No question about it: I am playing with desperation.