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Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Loss takes heavy toll on Broncos; more

Entering Week 11, favorites against the spread were over .500 after going 10-3 the previous week. The swing back in favor of the underdogs came this week, and we didn’t have to wait too long for one of the biggest upsets of the season.

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The Rams unpredictably shut down the Broncos, holding them to seven points and 397 yards in a 22-7 win. Peyton Manning threw for 389 yards, but he needed 54 pass attempts to get there. He had one touchdown against two interceptions, scoring just 16.46 points in standard-scoring leagues, his worst fantasy performance this year. The Rams pressured Manning into his interceptions, and sacked him twice, keeping him uncomfortable in the pocket. Manning, of course, will be fine. The story may not be the same for a few of his weapons.

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Julius Thomas left Denver’s loss to St. Louis with an ankle injury. He underwent X-rays immediately after the game, which came back negative, but the team has scheduled him for an MRI on Monday. While the team is hopeful the injury isn’t serious, his status for next week’s game against the Dolphins is in doubt. Even if he is alright, don’t expect him to get much practice time this week.

Emmanuel Sanders, meanwhile, took a huge hit from safety Rodney McLeod in the third quarter, and was forced to leave the game due to a concussion. It’s much too early to know if Sanders will be available for the Broncos next week, so be sure to monitor his practice participation this week. If you’re a Sanders owner, you definitely want to see him get through, at the very least, individual drills by Friday.

Finally, Montee Ball aggravated the groin injury that kept him out for five weeks. He’s slated for an MRI on Monday, as well, but chances are this is a significant injury. C.J. Anderson had just 29 yards on nine carries, but with Ball and Hillman injured, he would be a weekly RB2. Don’t worry about the lack of production on Sunday. Denver called a total of 10 run plays while trying to climb out of a hole all game.

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• There was another big upset on Sunday, albeit one with a much lower profile. Led by Josh McCown and a surprisingly effective effort from their defense, Tampa Bay was in control wire-to-wire in a win over Washington. The 2-8 Buccaneers remain in contention for the NFC South crown, which is laughable unless you’re a fan of one of the deserving NFC teams that will ultimately miss the playoffs.

McCown had his best game of the season, throwing for 288 yards, 12.52 yards per attempt and two touchdowns. Both of those scores went to Mike Evans, who has really emerged as a WR1 over the last month. In his last three games, he now has 21 catches for 458 yards and five touchdowns. That’s good for an average of 25.27 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. Charles Sims is no better than a low-end RB3 for the rest of the season, but he led the Buccaneers again with 13 carries. He’s the only running back on the team worth owning at this point.

• Robert Griffin came up way short in what should have been a great matchup against a Buccaneers defense that had really struggled against the pass heading into the game. He threw two interceptions in the first half, and had just 207 yards, 6.47 yards per attempt, and one touchdown against those two picks. The passing attack looked terrible all game, as Griffin was constantly under pressure and sacked six times. Pierre Garcon caught one pass for a grand total of six yards, while DeSean Jackson had four receptions for 35 yards. Griffin saved his game to a degree with 41 yards on the ground, but this was a hugely disappointing performance.

With that, let’s get to the rest of the immediate reactions from Week 11.

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• That looked a whole lot more like the Chicago offense we expected to see this season. Jay Cutler threw a couple ugly picks, but he also racked up 330 yards and three touchdowns in the Bears’ win over the Vikings. Alshon Jeffery caught 11 of his 17 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown, Brandon Marshall hauled in seven passes for 90 yards and two scores, and Matt Forte piled up 175 total yards on 32 touches. The Bears have been very disappointing on offense this season, especially in recent weeks, but remember that their last two games were against the Patriots and Packers. Both of those games got out of hand early, allowing the opposing defenses to sit back on obvious passing downs. Cutler had a hand in that, but the odds were stacked against him quickly in both of those games. It shouldn’t have been surprising to see Cutler come through in a much easier game. He gets another one next week with Lovie Smith and the Buccaneers visiting Chicago.

• Vikings backup safety Andrew Sendejo ran for 48 yards on a successful fake punt. That made him Minnesota’s leading rusher on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 158 yards, 5.64 yards per attempt, one touchdown and one interception. Cordarrelle Patterson caught two passes for 24 yards, while Greg Jennings had one reception. It’s awfully hard to trust anyone in this offense.

• With one game left in Week 11, Jonas Gray leads all running backs in fantasy points for the week. He ran for 199 yards and four touchdowns on 38 carries in the Patriots’ 42-20 win over the Colts, giving him 43.9 points in standard-scoring leagues. The Patriots have a challenging run schedule in three of the next five games, including against the Lions next week. However, most teams are going to try to take away the pass when they play New England, so that means Gray might not be a straight matchup play. No matter what, he now holds fantasy relevance for the remainder of the season. He’ll likely slot as a flex recommendation in Week 12.

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• Tom Brady had a brutal first half, but salvaged his night with two touchdown passes after halftime. All told, Brady finished with 257 yards, 8.57 yards per attempt and two touchdowns, to go along with the two picks he threw in the first half. You should start him with confidence against the Lions.

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• The Colts may have lost more than just a game on Sunday night. Ahmad Bradshaw and Dwayne Allen each left the game with injuries. There’s no word yet as to the severity of either injury, but they have both been key players for the Colts, and fantasy owners, this season. Losing Bradshaw for any stretch would be particularly damaging, as Trent Richardson quite simply cannot duplicate what Bradshaw brings to the table, especially in the passing game. The Colts have been lethal in the red zone, and Bradshaw is a huge part of that effort. If he does have to miss time, expect the offense to lose a step or two.

• If Allen is out because of his ankle injury, however, Coby Fleener becomes a rock-solid TE1. He caught all seven of his targets for 144 yards on Sunday, with five of his receptions going for 20 or more yards. Fleener, particularly, could be a weapon for Andrew Luck in the red zone if Bradshaw, one of the Colts’ best red-zone receivers, does end up being inactive for a couple weeks.

• The Free Travis Kelce Movement didn’t really take off on Sunday, as the tight end caught three passes for 37 yards. It’s partially understandable, given the opponent, conditions in Kansas City and, more than anything, the presence of Jamaal Charles. He had 159 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, leading the Chiefs to a huge 24-20 win over the Seahawks. There’s no doubt Kelce has the tools to be mentioned in the Gronkowski-Graham class of tight ends, but it just doesn’t seem like he’s going to get enough opportunities this season.

• On the other side, Marshawn Lynch ran for 124 yards on 24 carries. Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes inside the 10, including one from the 1-yard-line, no doubt frustrating Lynch owners everywhere. Even with those short scores, Wilson made his day with 71 yards on the ground. He threw for just 178 yards and 5.56 yards per attempt. Wilson will be a borderline starter next week when the Seahawks take on the Cardinals.

• Andy Dalton bounced back from the worst game of his career, throwing for 220 yards, 10 yards per attempt and three touchdowns in Cincinnati’s win over New Orleans on Sunday. This is the danger in overreacting to downswings from non-star players. We’ve seen plenty of good and bad from Dalton, and have a pretty good idea about who he is at this point of his career. It helps that he has a receiver like A.J. Green. He and Green hooked up six times for 127 yards and a score to burn the exploitable Saints’ secondary. Remember this next time you’re tempted to let the previous week factor too much into your current-week decisions.

• Jeremy Hill racked up 152 yards on 27 carries, putting up his second big fantasy performance in three games starting in place of Giovani Bernard. If the latter has to sit again next week, Hill would be an RB2 with the Bengals facing the Texans.

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• The Saints offense struggled mightily at home against the Bengals. Drew Brees threw for just 255 yards, 6.22 yards per attempt, while Mark Ingram had 67 yards on 23 carries. Ingram caught seven passes for 30 yards, giving him a nice showing in full PPR leagues, but it was his first lackluster game as a starter, outside of his first game back from a broken hand. Fantasy owners should still have plenty of confidence in him next week.

• It will be interesting to re-watch this game to see what the Bengals did on Jimmy Graham. He got just three targets, catching all of them for 29 yards. While the Bengals had to have a good scheme to keep Graham that quiet, the Saints ran six straight plays inside the Cincinnati 5-yard-line without throwing the ball to Graham once. That’s nothing more than cutesy play calling from Sean Payton.

• Hopefully you weren’t forced into starting Eli Manning on Sunday. He had a worse day than his big brother, getting picked five times in the Giants’ 16-10 loss to the 49ers. Despite that, Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell all had useful games for their fantasy owners. Randle went north of 100 yards for the first time this season, catching seven passes for 112 yards. Beckham had six receptions for 93 yards, though he suffered an injury late in the fourth quarter. Donnell got back in the end zone for the first time since Week 9, hauling in three balls for 54 yards.

• Rashad Jennings had just 59 yards in his return from a knee injury, but the most important thing is that he looked no worse for the wear after carrying the ball 18 times. Andre Williams, meanwhile, had just two carries. Jennings is unquestionably the man in the Giants backfield, and will be an RB2 when they take on the Cowboys next week.

• Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree traded roles on Sunday, with Crabtree leading the way for the San Francisco passing attack. He had three receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown, while Boldin had five catches for 53 yards. There isn’t enough juice in the passing game to support both of them as starters in the same week. After seeing what Mike Evans did to Washington this week, Boldin looks like the better play in Week 12.

• The Cleveland running back wheel landed on Isaiah Crowell this week. He led the team with 14 carries for 61 yards, and also caught two passes for 30 yards. Terrance West got just five carries, while Ben Tate touched the ball two times. The fact that West had 41 carries over the last two games may have had a little something to do with Crowell getting the majority of the touches out of the backfield, but it just goes to show that fantasy owners can’t trust any Cleveland running back as a regular starter.

• Brian Hoyer threw for 330 yards on Sunday, but completed just 20 of his 50 pass attempts, giving him a paltry 6.6 yards per attempt. Josh Gordon’s return next week should do wonders for him, but Hoyer’s still not a fantasy starter. Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel each had more than 90 yards on 13 targets this week, but that’s unlikely to continue with Gordon back in the fold. Hawkins also had a touchdown, and is the only one who will retain a measure of his fantasy value with Gordon back.

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• Ryan Mallett looked decent in his first career start, throwing for 211 yards and two touchdowns. He completed four passes to DeAndre Hopkins for 80 yards, and seven for 68 to Andre Johnson. He showed off his big arm on a few of his pass attempts, but connected on just one of those deep throws. The move to Mallett from Fitzpatrick should still be considered a lateral move for Hopkins and Johnson.

• Alfred Blue did his best Arian Foster impression, running 36 times for 156 yards. The volume certainly helped, but Blue did plenty of heavy lifting for the Texans. If Foster is forced to sit, Blue would be an RB2 with Houston hosting Cincinnati next week.

• Ryan Mathews ran for 70 yards on 16 carries in his first game action since Week 2. He came out of the game unscathed and will likely get an even greater share of the touches out of the backfield next week. Branden Oliver got 13 carries and three targets in the win over the Raiders and should still have a decent role in the offense. However, Mathews was a much more effective runner on Sunday. Expect Mathews to handle about three-fourths of the carries for the Chargers.

• Kenbrell Thompkins was Oakland’s leading receiver with 47 yards on two receptions on Sunday. Just do yourself a favor and ignore this offense.

• Week 11 of the 2014 season will always be remembered for the signs of life from Michael Floyd. He caught just two passes, but both of them went for touchdowns. Floyd finished the game with 54 yards, giving him 17.4 points in standard-scoring leagues.

• Drew Stanton played pretty well in his fourth start of the season, throwing for 306 yards two touchdowns and two interceptions while averaging 9.56 yards per attempt. He hooked up with Floyd and Fitzgerald just two times apiece, though Floyd found the end zone. One of Floyd’s touchdowns came from a 42-yard deep ball, and that will continue to be a staple of the Arizona offense. Stanton entered the game with 23 pass attempts that traveled at least 20 yards in the air out of 93 total attempts. That’s why it might actually be Floyd whose value takes less of a hit than Fitzgerald in the absence of Carson Palmer. Stanton isn’t going to be as accurate or efficient as Palmer, but he can hit on a few big plays. That trends in Floyd’s direction.

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​• Joique Bell ran really well on Sunday, especially considering the opponent. The Cardinals headed into Week 11 having allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, but Bell ran for 85 yards on 14 carries. He also caught three passes for 30 yards. Reggie Bush could return from an ankle injury next week, but it’s clear that Theo Riddick isn’t a threat to take away many carries from Bell if Bush is out.

• The Cardinals shut down the Detroit passing game, limiting Matthew Stafford to 183 yards, 6.1 yards per attempt and one interception. Calvin Johnson had five catches for 59 yards, while Golden Tate caught his only two targets for 41 yards. The Lions couldn’t get anything going deep down the field, and that’s the main reason why they scored just six points. They should bounce back offensively at New England next week, but that is another very challenging matchup.

• If Aaron Rodgers wasn’t already in pole position for the MVP award, he no doubt swung into the lead with his huge game against the Eagles on Sunday. He threw for 341 yards, 9.47 yards per attempt and three touchdowns against, of course, zero interceptions in the Packers’ dominant 53-20 win. After putting up 55 points against the Bears last week, the Packers have now scored 50 points in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. They have Rodgers to thank for that feat. He has 656 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two weeks and is up to 2,748 yards and 28 scores on the season. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in seven of his 10 games this year and at least 300 yards five times.

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• As expected, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb surpassed the 100-yard mark against the Eagles. Cobb led the way with 10 catches and 129 yards, but it was Nelson who got in the end zone. Eddie Lacy scored twice, once on the ground and once through the air. In the three games since the Packers got him more involved in the passing game, he has a total of 414 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, good for an average of 19.8 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring leagues. This is more trend than mirage, making Lacy an RB1 for the rest of the season.

• The Eagles were never truly in this game, but ample garbage time did wonders for their fantasy performances. Mark Sanchez had a terrible real-life performance but finished with 346 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Jordan Matthews had five grabs for 107 yards and a score, while Jeremy Maclin caught nine passes for 93 yards and a touchdown of his own. Maclin led the team with 11 targets, three more than Matthews.

• After taking a backseat to Brent Celek last week, Zach Ertz got six targets on Sunday while Celek had just three. Ertz caught four passes for 55 yards, so he still isn’t a strong fantasy option, but it was somewhat encouraging to see him get back in front of Celek in the pecking order.