Cutler, Sanchez safe bets in Week 11

BY foxsports • November 17, 2011

It’s been an interesting week for quarterbacks to say the least.

- Kevin Kolb was doling out signals on the sidelines.

- Michael Vick experienced a rib injury at some juncture in Sunday’s shocking loss to Arizona, a situation that’s creating even more tension in Philadelphia. (Is that possible?)

- Matthew Stafford blamed the wind and a finger injury for his horrid play against Chicago instead of owning his errant throws.

- Matt Schaub was lost for the year (I’m expecting) because of a foot injury.

- Matt Cassel left Sunday’s loss to Denver because of an injured hand, an injury that may sideline him for the duration of the season.

- The Chiefs lost to a quarterback who completed two passes.

I could go on and list something wrong with anybody not named “Rodgers,” but you get the gist of it.

Week 11 begins with myriad questions swirling around the position. Two of the more perplexing options, the previously mentioned Tim Tebow and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, square off in the marquee Thursday night matchup. I’ll have colleagues in the stadium to report back on the scene later this week.

Can Tebow pull off another win? Will John Fox inherit the “Super Genius” tag if he does?

These questions and many others will be answered (and more raised) as we head down the homestretch.

Let’s go.

Exclude: Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton

Bye Weeks: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Houston

Click here for Harmon’s Week 11 QBs

Click here for Harmon’s Week 11 RBs

Click here for Harmon’s Week 11 WRs

Click here for Harmon’s Week 11 TEs

Week 11 Quarterback Heroes

Carson Palmer at MIN: Palmer posted a far more efficient and explosive effort last time out against the Chargers. He still turned the ball over twice, but exhibited better arm strength than most anticipated and made use of that stable of young, speedy receivers.

I suspect that we’ll see more of the same this week in the dome. The Minnesota secondary has been depleted by injuries (Antoine Winfield sustained a broken collarbone in Week 10) and off-field issues (Chris Cook is tied up in a domestic assault issue). Minnesota ranks 30th in pass defense at 272.8 yards and two touchdowns allowed per game.

Mark Sanchez at DEN: Sanchez is a polarizing figure in terms of his on-field play. He’s been a steady contributor to fantasy owners’ bottom lines. Sanchez has accounted for multiple touchdowns (including his three rushing touchdowns) in seven of nine games this season while averaging 231.2 passing yards per contest with a mean of 215.5 yards.

He’s a strong play this week against a Denver defense that ranks last statistically against quarterbacks. It should be noted that Denver has played better football with Champ Bailey back in the secondary, and he’ll most certainly give Santonio Holmes fits. Still, the combination of Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller, and a little Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight out of the backfield should yield results. Sanchez is ranked 10th in my early-week quarterback list.

Jay Cutler vs. SD: Cutler was shut out last week in the blowout win over the Lions when the Chicago defense and special teams went berserk. He completed only nine of his 19 pass attempts for 123 yards with two sacks and a turnover.

I’ll put him back on the board for Week 11 against the struggling San Diego defense. The Chargers rank 24th against the run, ceding 4.5 yards per carry and 127.9 yards per game. Last week, Carson Palmer hit on a number of deep balls as the Chargers tried in vain to stop Michael Bush. They’ll have their hands full this week with Matt Forte and emerging receiving option Earl Bennett.

Look out if Bennett dons the orange shoes!

Ryan Fitzpatrick at MIA: Things started so well for Fitzpatrick and the Bills out of the gate. In the past six games, Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense has been stalled with regularity. He’s passed for fewer than 200 yards in four of those six games while producing just two multi-touchdown games.

Despite this recent bad run and the potential absence of top option Stevie Johnson, I’m optimistic that Fitzpatrick will be post strong numbers against the 25th-ranked Miami pass defense (nearly 19 points per game to opposing quarterbacks). Viral video hero David Nelson, Donald Jones and Scott Chandler, not to mention fantasy hero Fred Jackson, will be ready to run through this secondary. It’s not quite a “get right” game, but it’s a nice spot.

Matt Ryan vs. TEN: Ryan hasn’t been able to match the lofty expectations put upon him following the arrival of Julio Jones in the NFL Draft. However, he has been shut out just once this season (at Chicago in the opener) and has posted four straight multi-touchdown games (he scored rushing touchdowns in two of them).

I’m moderately concerned about two elements in this game.

First, Jones may not be available because of his hamstring injury. That concern is mitigated somewhat by the emergence of Harry Douglas.

The second concern remains. Safety Chris Hope returned to the Tennessee secondary during last week’s win over Carolina.

Despite these concerns, I’ll put Ryan up on the board for a big play at home. The Atlanta run defense will hold Chris Johnson at bay, thereby affording Ryan strong field position.

Alex Smith vs. ARI: Smith is starting to gain praise for his quiet, consistent efforts in leading the 49ers to seven consecutive wins. He’s had just a few fantasy-worthy performances this season, but this is a strong spot at home against the Cardinals (provided that Kevin Kolb doesn’t have their signals, too).

The Cardinals rank 24th in pass defense, surrendering 255.4 yards and a touchdown per game. I don’t anticipate a letdown from Jim Harbaugh’s squad.

Josh Freeman at GB: I’ll make this simple. If you are hit by the Bye week or the myriad injuries affecting the quarterback position, Freeman is in play. He’d passed for at least 264 yards in three straight games prior to the Week 10 debacle against the Texans.

Desperate owners can pray for an early deficit and the accumulation of “garbage” points in comeback mode. The Packers are heavy favorites in this game, so Freeman may be caught up in a pass-heavy contest.

Week 11 Quarterback Ninja Alerts

Matt Moore vs. BUF: Moore pops onto the radar in a difficult week at the quarterback position. You’ve got two top options on Bye (Brees and Roethlisberger) and several others impacted by injuries (Schaub, Cassel, Vick).

Moore faces a Buffalo pass defense that ranks 27th in the NFL (261.4 yards and 1.6 touchdowns allowed per game). Opponents have been better about ball control in recent weeks, surrendering just four turnovers in the past four games. That stretch includes the strange Week 8 game against the Redskins. With Reggie Bush running well, Brandon Marshall available and the Bills ravaged by injury, this is an interesting opportunity for Moore.

John Skelton at SF: Skelton has Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal. I don’t know that I need to explain it any further. The Cardinals won’t be able to run against the league-leading San Francisco front, so I turn my attention to the passing game. Skelton and Fitzgerald have performed well together in limited action, and I was so taken with the upset over Philadelphia that I gave Skelton my “Fantasy Man-Crush of the Week Award.”

Tyler Palko, KC at NE: The Patriots are heavily favored against the Chiefs after crushing the Jets in the second half of their Week 10 matchup. Palko will face a big deficit early and take to the air in catch-up mode. He has three strong receivers at his disposal, as well as a capable option out of the backfield in Dexter McCluster (he caught six passes in Week 10). It’s a longshot play that will come with errant throws and turnovers, but there will be opportunities.

Week 11 Quarterback Flop Alerts

Tim Tebow vs. NYJ: Tebow rates as a QB2 option this week. I can’t spin it. Tebow has been fantasy gold and a must-start in each of his first three starts. I just can’t endorse him against the Jets, even with Darrelle Revis’ knee in question. Tebow completed two passes last week. I get that one of those completions against the Chiefs was a 56-yard touchdown to Eric Decker (also on the outs this week), but I can’t put everything on a single throw against a far superior New York pass defense.

My gut tells me that Tebow and the Broncos will battle the Jets into the final minutes and that the polarizing southpaw will put up strong stats. Changing film study from Brady and the Patriots to this one-off might allow some wrinkle to go unnoticed.

My head tells me to find another option.

Joe Flacco vs. CIN: “Who are you?” That’s the question being asked in Baltimore on a weekly basis concerning the Ravens and, more specifically, Flacco. The year started so well, with Flacco producing three-touchdown performances in two of the Ravens’ first three games. He’s yielded a total of four touchdowns (one rushing) in the past six games.

Even with Leon Hall lost for the season because of a torn right Achilles’ tendon, this is no easy play. Flacco has struggled against the Bengals historically, producing just four touchdowns against nine interceptions in six career starts.

Andy Dalton at BAL: Dalton’s had a fantastic year, but he might be without the “Robin” to his “Batman” for this game. His top option, fellow rookie A.J. Green, is slated to be a game-time decision, and I’m reticent to endorse the Bengals’ signal caller in this road tilt.

Dalton has thrown multiple touchdown passes in three consecutive games. However, the performances have been a bit more uneven of late. Dalton’s passing yardage totals have bounced back and forth all season long (look at the alternating highs and lows). He’s averaged less than six yards per attempt in three straight games.

The Ravens have allowed 217.4 yards and one touchdown per game to opposing passers with 25 sacks.

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