The NFL doesn’t award the Comeback Player of the Year Award for comebacks within one season, but if it did a very strong campaign would start this week. Robert Griffin III will make his second start since dislocating his ankle and it couldn’t come in a better spot. We’ll get to that in a second, though. For now, let’s focus on Griffin, the unfairly maligned quarterback.
Griffin made his return two weeks ago against the Vikings. On the surface, he didn’t have the best statistical game. Griffin threw for 251 yards, 8.96 yards per attempt, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran the ball seven times for 24 yards in the Washington loss. It was his first game action in seven weeks after he made a faster-than-expected return from his dislocated ankle. That he was able to run seven times, even though the results weren’t great, should give his owners confidence that he can be the same electrifying player he was in his rookie season.
You wouldn’t necessarily think to look at Washington’s record, but Griffin steps back into a pretty favorable offensive environment. The Washington line ranks as the ninth-best pass-blocking unit in the league. Alfred Morris is once again having one of the most quietly effective seasons among running backs. He’s ninth in the league with 605 yards on the ground and 11th in fantasy points. He has great weapons in the passing game, including the most dangerous receiver he has played with in his short career. DeSean Jackson hasn’t skipped a beat since leaving Philadelphia, hauling in 36 passes for 784 yards and four touchdowns this season. Pierre Garcon has been a major disappointment this season, but he had nearly 2,000 yards in his first two seasons with Washington. You remember who the starter was in most of those games. The offense around Griffin is built for him to succeed.
Finally, this is a great matchup for the third-year quarterback out of Baylor. The Buccaneers have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and most points to receivers. Tampa Bay cornerback Alterraun Verner is questionable with a hamstring injury. Griffin has had two weeks to rest his ankle, and the Washington offense has had two weeks to prepare for what should be an overmatched defense. You want Griffin active this week.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the last-minute news you need to know for Week 11 in the Cheat Sheet.
Feeling Blue, in a good way, in Houston
If you’re an Arian Foster owner, hopefully you handcuffed him to Alfred Blue back when he first dealt with injury this year. The Texans have yet to rule Foster out, but all signs point to him sitting because of his groin injury. That opens the door for Blue to get his second start of the season.
The rookie out of LSU acquitted himself well in his first start, getting 78 yards on 13 carries against the Giants. He likely would have had more touches in that game, but the Giants got out to a big lead, forcing the Texans to put the ball in the air for most of the second half. This is a very good running back dropped into a great situation. That has all the making of an RB2 for Week 11.
Blue’s not going to put up the sure-fire RB1 numbers expected of Foster. The good news, though, is that there are no other mouths to feed in the Houston backfield. Blue is the only show in town on Sunday and Cleveland features an exploitable defense. The Browns have surrendered 4.7 yards per carry this year, and have allowed seven backs to score double-digit fantasy points this season. Blue will add his name to that list on Sunday. He should be universally started in fantasy leagues, regardless of format.
Don’t succumb to the boomerang effect on Sanu
It was just a few weeks ago that Mohamed Sanu was the toast of the fantasy football world. I think the height of Sanu mania came two weeks ago when he bounced back from his first bad game in a month to catch five passes for 125 yards. At that point, it seemed his status as a WR2 was unassailable. Now I’m getting questions wondering if Doug Baldwin is a better play than him this week. Come on, fantasy world, we’re better than this.
Yes, Sanu had a down game last week. You know who else did? A.J. Green. You know why they both did? Andy Dalton turned in a performance that can only be considered an insult to quarterbacking. Just the week before, in Green’s return from a toe injury, Sanu caught four of his eight targets for 95 yards and a touchdown. We don’t need to dig too deep into his history to find an instance of him coming right back with a big game after a down performance. That is likely to repeat itself on Sunday.
This is a great matchup for Sanu, as the Saints have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to receivers. The total on this game is 51 points. In other words, Vegas expects there to be a lot of fireworks, and I’m expecting the same. The Bengals are going to have to throw to keep up with the Saints, regardless of the way Dalton played last week. And really, Dalton is a known commodity at this point of his career. He’s not reminding anyone of Aaron Rodgers, but the typical Dalton game is a whole lot better than what he showed last week. To write him off completely would be a gross overreaction. Remember, each game is its own entity. While the Saints may have learned something about Dalton and the Cincinnati offense from their loss to Cleveland last week, there’s no reason to stay away from them because of their ugly showing. Sanu had been performing like a reliable WR2 heading into last week’s game. He’ll be just that again on Sunday.
Jonathan Stewart – Stewart totaled 59 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches against the Eagles a week ago. The Carolina offensive line is getting healthier, and while no one will ever confuse it with the Dallas’ group, it can only help to get the best possible unit in front of Stewart. He was limited in practice earlier in the week because of an ankle injury, but all signs point to him starting on Sunday. The Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs, surrendering big games to Mark Ingram, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Jerick McKinnon, Andre Williams, Matt Forte and Justin Forsett this year.
Pierre Garcon – I know you’ve lost your patience with Garcon this year. I know you drafted him relatively early in your draft, thinking he would be, at worst, a WR2. I know this might be hard, but I’m telling you to forgive, forget, and plug him into your lineup this week. In 26 games played primarily with Griffin in his first two years with Washington, Garcon had 157 catches for nearly 2,000 yards and nine touchdowns. Griffin makes the entire offense better, and this is a very user-friendly matchup for Washington. Tampa Bay has allowed the most fantasy points per game to receivers.
Brandon LaFell – LaFell has been a key player in New England’s resurgence, so it might be a bit of a surprise to see him in this section. However, he’s likely to see a whole lot of Vontae Davis on Sunday night. Davis ranks as the third-best cover corner in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Still, I’m willing to bet on Tom Brady and the New England offense in this instance. Don’t overthink this one. LaFell may not put up huge yardage numbers, but the over/under on this game is 58.5. There are going to be points on the board, and LaFell is going to get his share.
Joique Bell – Even with Reggie Bush out because of his ankle injury, Bell is looking at a timeshare with Theo Riddick. On top of that, he has a brutally tough matchup against an Arizona defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. The highest rushing total they allowed to a single running back this year was LeSean McCoy’s 83 yards, and only three backs have managed to score double-digit fantasy points against them. Expect the Lions to lean on Matthew Stafford and the passing game.
Michael Crabtree – Crabtree has had fewer than 60 yards in six of his nine games this year, and hasn’t scored since the middle of October. In that same timeframe, Anquan Boldin has emerged as the No. 1 option in the passing game, putting up at least 90 yards and a score in three of the last four games. The Giants have limited receivers this year, allowing the seventh-fewest points per game to the position.
Ben Tate – Don’t be fooled by Tate’s stat line last week. He may have had 10 carries and found the end zone, but his huge workload was a result of the Browns running the ball 48 times. Terrance West had 26 of those carries, and is in clear command of that backfield. Tate simply won’t get enough touches this week to register as a starter for fantasy owners.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
• Harry Douglas (foot) and Devin Hester (ankle) are questionable, but do not belong on fantasy rosters.
• Jonathan Stewart was a limited participant in practice, but he will play through an ankle injury on Sunday. DeAngelo Williams (foot) is also expected to play this week, but expect Stewart to be in control of the backfield.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
• Kyle Rudolph will return from a hernia this week, and is a strong play against a Chicago defense that has allowed the most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Jerick McKinnon (back) was limited in practice, but is listed as probable.
• Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Martellus Bennett (ribs) have been limited this week, but both are expected to play.
Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns
• Arian Foster is out this week because of a groin injury. Alfred Blue is a strong RB2 for fantasy owners.
• Jordan Cameron is also out as he continues to struggle with concussion symptoms. Andrew Hawkins has been limited with thing and knee injuries, but he has a good chance to get back on the field this week.
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs
• With Anthony Fasano (knee) expected to sit, Travis Kelce will finally be unleashed this week.
Cincinnati Bengals at New Orleans Saints
• Giovani Bernard (hip) is out again, making Jeremy Hill an easy play as an RB2 in Week 11.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants
• Rashad Jennings was limited all week, but he is listed as probable and is expected to make his return from a knee injury. Consider him a low-end RB2.
Denver Broncos at St. Louis Rams
• Montee Ball (groin) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and is listed as probable. He’ll likely serve in a secondary role to C.J. Anderson, but this could be close to an even split of the duties in the backfield.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins
• Alterraun Verner (hamstring) is listed as questionable. His absence would be a further boon for Robert Griffin.
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
No significant injuries.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers
No significant injuries.
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
• Reggie Bush is out with an ankle injury. Eric Ebron (hamstring) and Joseph Fauria (ankle), however, will get back on the field this week.
• As he has been all year, Andre Ellington was limited in practice with foot and hip injuries, but he will start on Sunday. Consider him an RB2.
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
No significant injuries.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
The official injury report is not yet available, but Delanie Walker hasn’t participated in practice all week because of his concussion. Fantasy owners should plan on going in another direction.