Fantasy Football

Week 11 MIA-BUF Lineup Calls

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Michael Harmon

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We knew that it was just a matter of time before the injuries would start to mount across the NFL. In Week 9, football fans and fantasy owners watched as numerous running backs were added to the injury list. Last week, that list was expanded to include several quarterbacks. Are wide receivers next to be hit by this plague?

Michael Vick, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler are all dealing with the after-effects of concussions. Ben Roethlisberger sustained what appeared to be a shoulder injury on Monday night against Kansas City.

- Vick has already been ruled “OUT” for Week 11 against the Redskins. Rookie Nick Foles gets the start against the heretofore woeful Washington pass defense. I was encouraged to see more short routes to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin against the Cowboys. That portends to a solid day against the Redskins. He’s a mid-QB2 option this week.

- No new information was made available regarding Alex Smith and Jay Cutler at the time of this writing. As of now, it would appear that Colin Kaepernick will host Jason Campbell on Monday night. The Bears did sign Josh McCown, which does lead you to believe that Cutler will miss this game.

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- As for Roethlisberger, more information started to come through on Wednesday morning. Per Ed Bouchette of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , Roethlisberger sustained “a rare rib injury that could kill him by pressing against his aorta.” There’s also a shoulder injury to be evaluated, but that’s obviously a smaller concern. Byron Leftwich and his big windup get the start against the Ravens on Sunday night.

The result of these injuries is that fantasy owners are scrambling for secondary quarterback options. Two potential fill-in options get the week started on Thursday night as the Bills and Dolphins square off in frosty Buffalo, where the game-time temperature is slated to be around freezing.

Let’s start the week running with a look at Thursday’s “Lineup Calls.”

As expected, the Buffalo offense produced points against the Patriots. Unfortunately, the comeback effort ended in dramatic fashion when Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted in the end zone in the waning moments of the game.

The Bills have ruled Fred Jackson out for Week 11 because of a concussion sustained against the Patriots. As a result, C.J. Spiller slides into the top spot against the Miami run defense that was blown up by Chris Johnson and the Titans one week ago. Spiller has posted at least 102 total yards in four consecutive games. He’s caught four or more passes in each of these games, as I expect to see him active in that capacity once again. Do I need to note that Spiller is averaging 7.3 yards per carry? Spiller’s a top-5 option this week despite Miami’s lofty ranking against running backs (seventh-fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs).

Tashard Choice slides into the backup role behind Spiller. He touched the ball three times for 15 yards in Week 10 against the Patriots. Choice’s last significant work came in Week 3 when he rushed 20 times for 91 yards. He’s worthy of being added in deeper leagues, but Choice isn’t expected to see significant action against the Dolphins. It’s Spiller’s time to shine. Choice would have more potential in Week 12 against the Colts if Jackson remained sidelined.

Ryan Fitzpatrick performed, as expected, against the Patriots. He passed for over 300 yards (337) with two touchdowns and two turnovers (one game-clinching interception). Fitzpatrick has been hit-or-miss for fantasy owners this season. He’s generated six games with multiple touchdown passes while getting shut out three times. I’m bullish on Fitzpatrick delivering a big effort in the chilly night air against the Dolphins. Miami has allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season (295 passing yards and a touchdown allowed per game). I have Fitzpatrick ranked as my No. 10 QB this week. Remember, dump-offs to Spiller count in his scoring column.

Stevie Johnson was tagged as “questionable” heading into Week 10 because of a leg injury, but he delivered his highest yardage count of the year (86) and matched his season-high mark with six receptions. Johnson has recorded five or more receptions in four of his past five starts. He’s on the board for a strong day against the Miami secondary. The Dolphins have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers (192.4 receiving yards and one touchdown allowed per game).

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Donald Jones was on the board as a “Sleeper” option in Week 10 against the Patriots. He delivered 74 receiving yards on six receptions in the shootout loss (10 targets). Jones was injured during the final drive, but it appears that he’ll be available for Thursday night. He’s on the board as a WR4 option in this contest.

I also tabbed Scott Chandler as a “sleeper” last week, and he produced his third touchdown reception of the year against the Patriots. Chandler caught five passes for 65 yards in the loss. He’s caught eight passes in the past two weeks, thereby pushing him up the board a few spots for Week 11. Chandler rates as a Bye week or injury replacement this week, though the Dolphins have allowed a single touchdown reception to tight ends this season.

Let me flip over to the Miami offense, led by rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill failed in a huge spot in Week 10 against the Titans. He completed 23-of-39 attempts for 217 yards and threw three interceptions, his first interceptions thrown since Week 4 against the Cardinals. Tannehill’s thrown just five touchdown passes all season despite passing for at least 185 yards in the eight games he’s completed (223 or more passing yards on three occasions).

I know that the numbers suggest that Tannehill could post a big performance in Buffalo. The Bills have allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Tannehill’s still ranked as a back-end QB2 for me this week. Take the yardage offered by Brian Hartline and Davone Bess at WR2 and WR4 spots, but don’t bank on Tannehill finishing drives.

Hartline has caught four or more passes in his past five appearances, including three efforts with at least eight receptions. He’s a back-end WR2 option this week against the Bills, a defense that has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.

Bess is a serviceable option as a WR4 this week, particularly for owners in PPR leagues. Bess has caught at least four passes in 7-of-9 games this season, though he’s eclipsed 60 receiving yards only three times.

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Tight end Anthony Fasano doesn’t see enough targets (three in a Week 10 blowout loss) to warrant fantasy consideration.

Fantasy owners (and I) had Reggie Bush high on their running back boards for the Week 10 date against the Titans. Instead, Bush lost a fumble early, his second in three weeks, and watched the Dolphins get dominated by Tennessee. He touched the ball five times altogether (four carries and a reception) for 29 total yards. Bush slides a few notches this week, but he’s still a strong RB2 play this week against Buffalo. The Bills have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season, including 16 total touchdowns.

“Sleeper” Daniel Thomas touched the ball 10 times for the Dolphins in Week 10, producing 55 total yards (five receptions for 34 yards). Miami was down big in this game. As a result, the running game fell to the wayside. Bush’s fumbling issues may present an opportunity for Thomas to assume a larger role out of the gate on Thursday. Therefore, Thomas sits as a back-end RB2 in this week’s rankings.


Finally, I give a nod to the kickers. I’ll leave the defenses behind this week. The Miami defense has underperformed of late, and I expect to see Fitzpatrick post solid numbers here. Fitzpatrick did throw five interceptions (two touchdowns) against the Dolphins last year, but this defense has not been able to generate big turnover numbers in 2012. Miami is a mid-D2 option.

Rian Lindell is on the radar as a potential “sleeper” for Week 11, particularly if you get a still night (5 mph expected, as of now). The Dolphins have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to kickers, including 20 field goals through nine games.

The Bills have allowed the 16th-most fantasy points to kickers, but only 11 field goal conversions. Still, I don’t expect to see the same efficiency by the Miami offense and Tannehill that we’ve witnessed against previous opponents. I believe we’ll see a PAT or two traded out for field goal conversions. Carpenter is a high-K2 for me this week. Remember, the trade deadline looms for most leagues and that Bye weeks mercifully come to an end. The playoffs are just over the horizon. Finish strong!

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Titans, Dolphins, Patriots, Eagles, 49ers, Ravens, Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Reggie Bush, Jay Cutler, Fred Jackson, Scott Chandler, DeSean Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Tashard Choice, Davone Bess, C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, Daniel Thomas, Ryan Tannehill

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