Diamonds In The Rough Week Eleven

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Greetings from north of the border, the Great White North!!  I’m in Niagara Falls, Ontario, but yes it still counts as Canada and it has been snowing up here the past few days.  Looking back at week ten, there were surprises coming from all over the place.  First, the weekly punching bags, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, won a game.  Let me repeat that: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars won a game … in the same week … and I don’t see pigs flying or the sky falling.  There were also some awesome performances by some underperforming players like Tavon Austin (Two receptions for 138 yards and two scores, plus a punt return score), Rishard Matthews (11 receptions for 120 yards and two scores), and Mark Ingram (14 rushes for 145 yards and a score).  But, there was also the bad of the Dallas Cowboys having no defense show up in New Orleans at all and the whole Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts teams basically deciding to take the week off, even though they had a game. 

Week ten meant a chance to cement your team as playoff team or one that may just play spoiler down the stretch.  Also, another week of fantasy football means another week of hits and misses from this column.  The hits: Kris Durham (only due to his score), Riley Cooper, Rashad Jennings, Mario Manningham, Andre Ellington, and DeMarco Murray.  The rest are classified as misses. 

Remember: This column is not designed to spotlight the top options at each position.  If you are looking for advice on start/sit options or top players at a specific position, check out our rankings and other columns throughout the week.  This is going to be a weekly spotlight of one player from each game this weekend that has a shot to be a nice flex or last starting option (a WR3 or RB3 for example).  Will they all produce a large number of points?  No.  These are nice lottery tickets to fill in on your team and give you a chance to steal the win. 

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills 

Santonio Holmes (New York Jets) – Holmes is on track to return to the New York Jets this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills after suffering a hamstring injury earlier in the season.  At full health, Holmes would not fall into this column, but, due to his time out of the lineup, he may be sitting on the wavier wire in your league.  He needs to be picked up and played right away if that is the case.  He torched and I mean torched the Bills’ secondary earlier this season with five receptions for 154 yards and a score.  The Bills looked lost trying to cover the Jets’ wide receivers throughout the whole game.  While the Bills should be better at home, it will still be a problem to cover Holmes and Hill on the outside.  Holmes will want to make his impact felt in his first game back and gets five receptions for 85 yards and a score. 

Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears 

Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) – If he cannot produce this week, there is not much hope for the rest of the season for the first-round selection in most fantasy leagues.  Rice has been a RB1 over his career and this was thought to be the case against this year, especially with the losses of Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin.  The Bears rank 31st in rushing yards per game (giving up 129.4) and have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two straight and three of the last four games.  This sounds like put up or shut up time for Ray Rice, who averages an extremely disappointing 2.5 yards per carry so far this year.  If you have him, you got to play him.  I think he gets 90 yards and a score this week, but it is far from a sure thing based on his performance so far this year. 

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals 

Jason Campbell (Cleveland Browns) – Campbell has surprised me greatly in his return to a starting quarterback role, this time in Cleveland.  He has looked like a great leader and a solid point producer in fantasy leagues.  While he’ll never be a number one guy on your fantasy team, he can be a bye week replacement for Tony Romo.  He tossed three touchdowns to against the Baltimore Ravens in his last game.  What is also promising for Campbell is the fact that the Browns’ running game is very weak and it usually takes a throw to get into the end zone from the five yard line and in.  Campbell draws a Bengals’ defense that can be picked apart and his team will need to keep up with the explosive offense of Cincinnati.  Campbell will give your team a nice spot start with 285 yards and two passing scores. 

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles 

Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins) – Hankerson has stepped up the past two games and has provided RGIII another option in the passing game.  He has gotten five receptions in each game for 55 and 61 yards respectively, but with no scores.  Hankerson could emerge as a WR3/flex play as the season hits the stretch run.  He can take advantage of the coverage on Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon in order to have some productive days.  The Eagles defense has improved over the past few games, but they are still a susceptible unit.  Hankerson gets five catches for 60 yards. 

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers 

Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh Steelers) – It is really a roll of the dice each week when trying to predict who the number two receiving option is in Pittsburgh.  It seems like once you figured it out, someone else pops up and takes away the receptions.  Against the Lions, who struggle in pass defense, there is a nice opportunity for one of the Steelers’ wide receivers outside of Antonio Brown to have an explosive day.  I’m rolling the dice with the veteran receiver Cotchery, who has been productive throughout the season and on fire in his last two games.  With three scores against the Patriots and one against the Bills, it is safe to say that Big Ben trusts Cotchery when it is time to get the ball into the end zone.  Cotchery continues his hot streak with four receptions for 65 yards and a score. 

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Brian Leonard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – This should be a no surprise pick in this game.  You need to grab the new lead back in Tampa Bay with Mike James out for the season.  The good news is that the Buccaneers are a run-first offense and will rely on Leonard, plus Bobby Rainey, to lead the team to victory.  The bad news is that Leonard is a glorified fullback that is playing now as a running back.  Head coach Greg Schiano has a connection with Leonard; he coached Leonard at Rutgers.  So, there is a trust factor from the college days and it looks like Leonard will be the lead back after 20 carries on Monday night after the James injury.  Will Leonard run for 5 yards per carry or break off big, explosive runs?  No, but he is a consistent pounder that will get his yards.  The Falcons have a bottom of the league run defense so there is good news for a nice day for the running back.  Leonard gets 75 yards and his first professional touchdown. 

Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars 

Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Lewis actually appeared in the Jaguars game a week ago and showed some level of production.  He grabbed three balls for 39 yards in the Jaguars first win of the season.  Based on a standard scoring system, the Cardinals allow the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in the NFL.  And Chad Henne has shown an ability to move the ball on the offensive end and find Lewis, who was targeted six times last Sunday.  So, this is the week to play him if you need a desperate play at the tight end position.  Lewis gets four catches for 50 yards. 

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans 

Rashad Jennings (Oakland Raiders) – Hey, can you guess which Oakland Raider is still hurt?  Yep, it is Darren McFadden.  He’s missing practice once again this week and I doubt he gives it a go on the road at the Houston Texans.  So, that leaves another stint in the starting lineup for Jennings, who produced well when his number has been called.  While the numbers two weeks ago against the Eagles were inflated by the porous defense he faced, he did get 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and seven receptions for 74 yards.  Against the Giants, he got 20 carries for 88 yards.  So, the Raiders did use him as the focal point of their offense.  With Terrelle Pryor banged up as well, I expect Jennings to be the number one option on offense once again.  Jennings gets 100 yards and a score on the ground with three receptions for 35 yards. 

San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins 

Rishard Matthews (Miami Dolphins) – I have to go with Matthews here after his breakout performance on Monday night, getting 11 receptions for 120 yards and two scores on 14 targets.  While this will not be a weekly performance from Matthews, I really like his upside going forward.  Matthews takes over the slot position from Brandon Gibson, who is out for the season.  Gibson was producing at a high level before his injury by getting around five receptions a game and scoring three touchdowns in his last two appearances.  So, there is a slight dependence on the slot receiver in the Dolphins’ offensive attack, especially with the quick throws now needed as the offensive line is in shambles.  So, Matthews will be a nice WR3 option going forward.  He gets six catches for 60 yards and a score against the Chargers. 

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints 

Mario Manningham (San Francisco 49ers) – Another repeat from last week is Manningham.  He looked awesome in his return to the lineup for the 49ers after being out with a knee injury last December.  He looked like the best pass catching option in the game against Carolina as he gathered in three catches for 30 yards.  Now, with Kyle Williams gone after being cut this week, Manningham has the role as the second outside receiver.  Manningham has been a reliable option throughout his time in San Francisco, a trusted target for the quarterback with his sure hands.  With Vernon Davis banged up and the 49ers offense in a funk, Manningham needs to step up and be the number one option in the passing attack.  He gets four catches for 55 yards and a possible score. 

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants 

Andre Brown (New York Giants) – Another no brainer in this game.  Brown racked up 115 yards on 30 carries with a score last Sunday in his season debut after being out with a broken leg.  While he is very, very fragile, Brown is a hard-nosed runner and someone that will rack up the yards on the ground no matter the opposition.  And it seems that the Giants have decided that he is the top running back on the team and he will receive the majority of the carries going forward based on getting 30 carries in the first game instead of being eased back into the lineup.  The Packers have been a middle-of-the-road unit throughout the season and one that can be run against.  Look for Brown to get 25 carries for 100 yards and a score in order to keep Eli Manning from throwing more interceptions. 

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks 

John Carlson (Minnesota Vikings) – Carlson emerged from the fantasy football graveyard with his seven catches for 98 yards and a score at home against Washington.  He is the main beneficiary of the Kyle Rudolph injury as he now steps into a starting role.  It is no secret that the Vikings’ quarterbacks like to target tight ends on short to intermediate passing routes and Carlson excelled on Thursday on these routes.  He has shown in the past, in his Seahawks days, that he can be a low end TE1.  Now, given the offense he is in, I think he can have that form until Rudolph comes back.  Carlson gets six catches for 65 yards and a score. 

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos 

Matt Prater (Denver Broncos) – I may be in the minority when breaking down the Sunday night game, but I think that this is going to be a defensive slugfest.  This is why I’m going with the Denver kicker.  Peyton Manning will be slowed by his ankle injury and by the Chiefs defense, who is legit with great pass rushers that will allow the Chiefs to drop more into coverage.  Prater is perfect in all kicking attempts so far this season and is one of the best in the business.  While he has been an extra point machine this season, I believe a few field goals will come his way as the Broncos stall in the red zone a few times.  Prater gets around 10 points on the day. 

New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers 

Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers) – While there is no real winner in fantasy football with a three person backfield, there has been an interesting shift when it comes to carries in Carolina.  While Mike Tolbert is the established touchdown vulture inside the five yard line and gets the most snaps on the field, Stewart has now become the number two back in terms of snaps.  Stewart saw 22 snaps and 13 touches against the 49ers while DeAngelo Williams had 20 and 8, respectively.  So, after two games back, it seems that Stewart has moved past Williams.  While trying to make sense of the splitting of carries for the Panthers has never worked over the years, I would say I might want Stewart going forward over Williams.  On Monday, he gets a Patriots team that is weak in the middle of the defensive line due to injuries.  There is a chance for a nice night.  Stewart gets 12 carries for 60 yards as a desperation flex play. 

As you head out into the rest of week eleven in the NFL, take these suggestions with a grain of salt.  This is all about filling that last flex spot in your starting lineup with a guy that has a good matchup or a solid chance of production.  These guys are my best options for that to occur.  I wish everyone luck in their eleventh week of the season and hope your team continues the stretch run of the season with dominating performance.