Fantasy owners will be excited to see the Bye weeks come to an end after this Monday’s final whistle. Teams will then turn their sights full speed ahead to the fantasy playoffs. Unfortunately, many owners will be forced to make mighty difficult roster decisions in their pursuit of a playoff berth with Houston, Pittsburgh and New Orleans tapping out for a week.
There will be no Mike Wallace sprints to the end zone or Antonio Brown grabs, and Andre Johnson’s return to the field will be delayed another week. Of course, owners also benefit from not having to ponder the insertion of Pierre Garcon or Reggie Wayne into the lineups or drawing straws to choose a New Orleans receiver.
It’s time to find value between the white lines for Week 11. Let’s start by running a wind sprint with a deep threat from Oakland.
Exclude: Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe (even with Tyler Palko under center), Roddy White, Jeremy Maclin, A.J. Green (GTD), Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Hakeem Nicks
Bye Weeks: Indianapolis, Houston, Pittsburgh, New Orleans
Denarius Moore at MIN: Moore was one of the stars in Oakland’s resounding Week 10 win over San Diego. He caught five passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns and stepped in admirably as the top option when Jacoby Ford was sidelined. Moore rates as a fantastic play against the depleted Minnesota secondary.
The Vikings rank 30th against the pass at 294.4 yards and two touchdowns allowed per game. Antoine Winfield (injury) and Chris Cook (off-field issues) are missing from the secondary, thereby putting Palmer in line for a big day.
Victor Cruz vs. PHI: Cruz first made a splash in the 2011 season when he logged 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 3. He’s been a consistent contributor to fantasy lineups since, producing 84 or more receiving yards in six of his past seven appearances. Cruz isn’t sneaking up on anybody anymore, but Manning is becoming a better distributor.
Laurent Robinson at WAS: Robinson was a member of the “Heroes” list coming into Week 10, and he delivered in a big way with two early touchdown receptions. Put him on the board for another big outing this week.
DeMarco Murray is running wild to the tune of nearly seven yards per carry. As a result, Tony Romo has had ample time to operate in the pocket. DeAngelo Hall locks up with Dez Bryant, leaving Josh Wilson to do battle with Robinson.
I know that the Redskins have fared well against opposing receivers thus far and limited Romo historically. This is a different Dallas offense with more balance than we’ve seen in some time. Taken further, Robinson has become Romo’s go-to guy in the red zone.
Plaxico Burress at DEN: Burress was hardly dominant against the Patriots, but he delivered the touchdown reception that we anticipated (three receptions for 39 yards). I anticipate a busy night for Burress on Thursday with Holmes and Bailey locked up against each other. I ranked Burress 21st among wide receivers this week.
Earl Bennett vs. SD: Bennett posted a strong first half for fantasy owners in Week 10. Alas, a huge early Chicago lead took the ball out of Jay Cutler’s hand and stopped Bennett’s output at six receptions and 81 receiving yards.
I expect a bit of a shootout to break out in Chicago this weekend. The San Diego defense is struggling in all phases, and I anticipate a high target count for Bennett.
Vincent Brown at CHI: Brown appeared on last week’s “Heroes” list and delivered a strong five-catch, 97-yard performance with a touchdown grab (he had a second touchdown removed via instant replay). He’s back for another run this week as the third option for Philip Rivers.
The Chicago secondary has played fantastic football during the past several weeks. Tim Jennings and Charles “Peanut” Tillman have been physical on the edges, and Tillman eliminated big plays by Calvin Johnson in Week 10. He’ll face another stiff individual test against Vincent Jackson, and the Bears will need to curb the ongoing struggles with opposing tight ends in the person of Antonio Gates. That leaves Brown in man-coverage, where he’ll thrive. He’ll lead the team in receiving this week.
Stevie Johnson at MIA: Johnson was held out of a mid-week practice because of a shoulder injury, so this is something to monitor as the weekend approaches. If he’s available, then he rates a strong WR2 play against the struggling Miami secondary (don’t buy into the two-game win streak against struggling passing teams). Johnson’s yardage output has been feeble (58 receiving yards or fewer) in all but one of his past six starts. This is a spot for a big day if he’s cleared.
Damian Williams at ATL: I suppose he hasn’t gotten much love overall, so Williams could slide into the “Ninja” section again. But, I’ve been banging the drum for the second-year man out of USC for the past several weeks, so he elevates to “Hero” status for this contest. Williams has scored in four of the past six weeks and caught four or more passes in four of those games (five receptions for 107 yards in Week 10).
The Atlanta run defense ranks among the league’s best units. As such, Matt Hasselbeck will need to stretch things downfield to try and spring the recently rejuvenated Chris Johnson. The Falcons’ pass defense has been susceptible to big plays and ranks 23rd against opposing receivers (264.6 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game).
Week 11 Wide Receiver Ninja Alerts
Steve Smith (PHI) at NYG: Smith stepped into a large role in Week 10 because of Jeremy Maclin’s injury and the DeSean Jackson deactivation. I’m not anticipating that he matches his total of 10 targets from last week, but I do believe that the insertion of Vince Young (should Michael Vick sit) would bode well for Smith against his former team.
Harry Douglas vs. TEN: Douglas took advantage of his increased target count against the Saints when Julio Jones departed because of his hamstring injury. He finished the game with eight receptions for 133 yards, including a 46-yard grab in that crushing overtime loss. Douglas has recorded a catch of at least 34 yards in three of the past four weeks.
The Falcons are optimistic that Jones will be available this week, so keep an eye on this situation come game day. Douglas rates as a high-WR4 if Jones is available and becomes a sneaky flier pick in the WR3 slot if Jones sits.
David Nelson at MIA: Nelson posted one of the highlights of Week 10 when he handed the ball he caught for a touchdown to his cheerleader girlfriend. Alas, it was the lone highlight for the Bills. It was Nelson’s fourth straight four-reception game (touchdowns in back-to-back games).
I’m anticipating a much more efficient and productive week from the Bills against this Miami defense. Nelson sat out Wednesday’s practice because of an ankle injury, but he’s expected to play. He takes on a higher target count if Stevie Johnson (shoulder) is limited.
Week 11 Wide Receiver Flop Alerts
Vincent Jackson at CHI: Do you trust Jackson? Other than his three touchdowns in comeback mode against the Chargers, Jackson has scored one touchdown since Week 2. He’s also finished four of his past five games with 49 receiving yards or fewer. He faces a difficult one-on-one matchup against Charles Tillman, who did well to stifle Calvin Johnson in Week 10. I still rate him as a back-end QB1 (ninth), but I’m pondering downward movement as the weekend looms.
Anquan Boldin vs. CIN: Even with Leon Hall sidelined for the duration of the season, I’m reticent to trust Joe Flacco and his No. 1 option. The only thing going for Flacco (aside from the Hall injury) is that this game will be played at home.
Boldin has been terribly inconsistent and was virtually invisible in Week 10 against the Seahawks. He caught just two of his nine targets and finished with 22 receiving yards, his fourth game with 46 receiving yards or fewer. I ranked him 18th among receivers this week, but I’m fearful of smallish returns.
Santonio Holmes at DEN: Holmes recorded a season-high 93 receiving yards on six receptions in Sunday’s blowout loss to the Patriots. He’s been a frustrating weekly play for fantasy owners, but the big-play potential keeps him in lineups.
The song remains the same this week against Denver. Holmes faces a daunting task in his one-on-one matchup with Champ Bailey, who shut down Dwayne Bowe in Week 10. Holmes will draw one or more penalties downfield, but those aren’t helping the fantasy cause. I have Holmes ranked as 13th among wide receivers in my early-week rankings, but my gut says to drag him down a few slots.
Eric Decker vs. NYJ: This is obviously a dangerous proposition given the current Denver offensive setup and the strength of the New York pass defense. Decker has scored in three consecutive games, amassing 10 receptions for 175 yards. Few will forget his 56-yard touchdown reception in Week 10 against the Chiefs. Despite his recent scoring run and status at Tebow’s go-to guy, I can’t put him up as anything more than a back-end WR3 this week. He’ll draw some combination of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and that portends to a quiet night.