Just three or four weeks left in the regular season for most fantasy football leagues. Depending on your current position in the standings, it’s time to get your roster set for the playoffs, make that final push for the playoffs, or play the role of spoiler. This week’s Thursday night contest pits Miami and Carolina. Here are my recommendations for Week 11:
Miami at Carolina - With RB Ronnie Brown now out for the season, it’s RB Ricky Williams’ time to shine. Let’s just hope that with all the pressure that comes with being the featured running back, Ricky will be able to stay away from the temptations that have sidetracked him in the past. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Williams is the only Dolphin worth starting this week - leave QB Chad Henne and WRs Greg Camarillo & Davone Bess on your bench. Panthers to start include RBs DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart, WR Steve Smith, and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues can also start QB Jake Delhomme.
Seattle at Minnesota - This game features the latest installment in the Steve Hutchinson vs. Nate Burleson contest (if you ignore the fact that the two players facing their former teams won’t be on the field at the same time). Although Burleson has shown some signs of life this season, the Vikings definitely got the better of the team-switching that took place after the 2005 season. Seahawks to start include QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Justin Forsett, TE John Carlson, and WRs T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Burleson. Those in deeper leagues can also start WR Deion Branch. RB Julius Jones (Out-ribs) will miss the game. Vikings to start include QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Visanthe Shiancoe, WRs Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, & Percy Harvin, and K Ryan Longwell.
Indianapolis at Baltimore - Indy managed to remain undefeated last week by pulling off an escape that David Blaine and Criss Angel couldn’t match. Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick deserves a huge assist, of course, but even before his late-game brain freeze, the Colts had closed a 31-14 gap to a 34-28 deficit in less than one quarter. This will be the weekend that the Colts’ luck finally runs out. QB Peyton Manning, RB Joseph Addai, TE Dallas Clark, and WR Reggie Wayne should all be started for the Colts. WRs Austin Collie & Pierre Garcon can also be started in deeper leagues. Keep RB Donald Brown and WR Anthony Gonzalez (Questionable-knee) out of your lineup. Ravens to start include QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, TE Todd Heap, WR Derrick Mason, and K Steven Hauschka. WR Mark Clayton can also be started by those in deeper leagues. I’d avoid RB Willis McGahee.
Buffalo at Jacksonville - A few weeks ago we put the spotlight on the website FireDickJauron.com. What happens to such a website when the targeted coach actually does get fired? Glad you asked. Somewhere Turk Schonert is laughing. New Bills’ Head Coach Perry Fewell - consider yourself forewarned. Bills to start this weekend include RB Marshawn Lynch, WRs Terrell Owens & Lee Evans, and K Rian Lindell. Those in deeper leagues can also start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and RB Fred Jackson. Jaguars to start include RB Maurice “Kneel-Down” Jones-Drew (the Jets should have picked him up and forcibly carried him into the end zone) and WR Mike Sims-Walker. QB David Garrard, and WRs Mike Lewis & Torry Holt can be started in deep leagues.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay - Even though he’s one of the top tight ends in football, Kellen Winslow has made just as many headlines for comparing himself to a soldier or criticizing the Cleveland Browns as he has for his ability on the field. Still, in spite of playing for a team almost as hapless as the Browns, Winslow is quietly putting together an outstanding season. The Bucs have been much more competitive in their last two games, but it’s nearly impossible to imagine them handing the Saints their first loss of the season. Saints to start include QB Drew Brees, RBs Pierre Thomas & Reggie Bush, TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Marques Colston, K John Carney, and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues can also start WRs Devery Henderson & Robert Meachem. Leave RB Mike Bell on the bench. The only Bucs worth starting are RB Cadillac Williams and Winslow (Questionable-knee). QB Josh Freeman and WRs Maurice Stovall & Sammie Stroughter can also be started in deeper leagues. Leave RB Derrick Ward and WR Antonio Bryant (Questionable-knee) on the bench.
Atlanta at New York Giants - It’s been a slow week over at Big Blue Interactive, a blog for Giants’ fans. Bloggers have been reduced to dissecting the Giants’ post-bye-week record in the Tom Coughlin era. Fortunately for these hard-core fans, the Giants are back on the field this week to face a team with an identical record and identical post-season ambitions. The Falcons will have a tough time overcoming the loss of star RB Michael Turner (Doubtful-ankle) - even though RB Jason Snelling filled in admirably last week against the Panthers, look for the Giants to finally post their sixth win. Falcons to start include Snelling, TE Tony Gonzalez, and WR Roddy White. Leave QB Matt Ryan on the bench, and don’t expect RB Jerious Norwood (Questionable-hip) to contribute much this week if he’s able to return. Giants to start include QB Eli Manning, RBs Brandon Jacobs & Ahmad Bradshaw, TE Kevin Boss, WR Steven Smith, and K Lawrence Tynes. Those in deeper leagues can also start WRs Hakeem Nicks & Mario Manningham and the Defense.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City - It’s been a strange week for Chiefs’ fans (assuming that such a species still exists). First, recently-released RB Larry Johnson signed on with the Cincinnati Bengals. Then, star WR Dwayne Bowe was suspended for four games, allegedly because he took a diuretic in an effort to appease new Head Coach Todd Haley by losing weight. Now the Steelers come to town fresh off a loss to the division-leading Bengals. Put it all together and the Chiefs should be in store for another long afternoon culminating in another loss. Steelers to start include QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WRs Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, & Mike Wallace, K Jeff Reed, and the Defense. There are absolutely no Chiefs I’d want to start in this game - that list includes QB Matt Cassel, RBs Jamaal Charles & Koby Smith, TE Sean Ryan, and WRs Chris Chambers, Mark Bradley, Lance Long, & Bobby Wade. Hopefully, you are not a Chiefs fan who stacked their roster with players from the hometown team - if so, chances are you’re already looking ahead to next season for both your fantasy team and your real team.
San Francisco at Green Bay - With his team 5-4 even after last Sunday’s beat-down of the Cowboys, you’d think Packers’ Head Coach Mike McCarthy would be focused solely on making the playoffs. However, McCarthy is being accused of playing a role in the recent firing of a long-time Packers’ maintenance worker, who apparently does not have much of a future as a motivational speaker. The Packers should have all the motivation they need for this week’s contest with the 49ers: with the Vikings in control of the division and showing no signs of faltering, Green Bay is going to have to fight its way into the playoffs as a wild card. Coming off a Jay Cutler-aided win against the Bears, the 49ers (4-5) have even less margin for error if they hope to be involved in the playoffs. The only 49ers to start against a Packers’ defense that’s better than you think are RB Frank Gore and TE Vernon Davis. Leave QB Alex Smith and WRs Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, & Isaac Bruce (Probable-ankle) on the bench. Packers to start include QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ryan Grant, WRs Donald Driver & Greg Jennings, K Mason Crosby, and the Defense. Those in deeper leagues can also start WR James Jones. Leave the Packers tight end on the bench, regardless of whether it turns out to be Jermichael Finley (Probable-knee), Donald Lee, or Spencer Havner.
Cleveland at Detroit - In a play that’s indicative of how the entire season’s gone for the Browns, WR Josh Cribbs (Questionable-neck) was injured on the final play of the Browns’ 16-0 Monday night loss to the Ravens. The real question isn’t whether Ravens’ DE Dwan Edwards delivered a cheap shot; it’s what the Browns were thinking by having arguably their best offensive weapon on the field for a meaningless kick return on the final play of a game they had absolutely no chance of winning. It’s easy to second guess, but one could argue that was a much worse decision than Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick’s choice to go for it on 4th-and-two from his 28 yard line. Meanwhile, the Lions, who, before Week 8’s game against the Rams, hadn’t been favored since Week 1 of the 2008 season, are now favored for the second time in four weeks. The only Brown who’s a must-start this week is RB Jamal Lewis (Questionable-ankle), who’s probably busy counting the days to retirement. QB Brady Quin, and WRs Mohamed Massaquoi & Mike Furrey can be started in deeper leagues. Lions to start include QB Matt Stafford, RB Kevin Smith, TE Brandon Pettigrew, WR Calvin Johnson, K Jason Hanson, and the Defense. WR Bryant Johnson can also be started in deeper leagues.
Washington at Dallas - It’s not every day that an NFL player is called “classless” by another NFL player, especially one who’s been arrested for illegal possession of a firearm and aggravated assault against a police officer. Yet that’s exactly what happened when Redskin RB Rock Cartwright drew the ire of former Cowboy DT Tank Johnson by dancing on the star at midfield to celebrate the Redskins’ upset victory following their final visit to Texas Stadium. Chances are the Cowboys, playing the first of their traditional two home games during Thanksgiving week, will be the ones celebrating following this game. Redskins to start include QB Jason Campbell, RB Ladell Betts (Probable-ankle), TE Fred Davis, and WR Santana Moss. RB Clinton Portis (Questionable-concussion) is likely to miss his second consecutive game, and TE Chris Cooley (Out-ankle) will definitely miss his third consecutive game. Cowboys to start include RBs Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, & Felix Jones and TE Jason Witten. Leave QB Tony Romo and WRs Roy Williams & Miles Austion on the bench.
Arizona at St. Louis - Cardinals QB Kurt Warner can be forgiven if he has a sense of deja vu. He’s already beaten one of his former teams this season (the Giants); this week he gets his first of two shots against the Rams, the team he led to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV (although some Titans fans apparently still haven’t accepted that fact). Warner and the Cardinals figure to have their way with the Rams, who put up a surprisingly good fight last week against the undefeated Saints. Cardinals to start include Warner, RBs Tim Hightower & Chris Wells, WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, & Steve Breaston, and K Neil Rackers. Rams to start include QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, TE Randy McMichael, WR Donnie Avery, and K Josh Brown. Those in deeper leagues can also take a flier on WRs Brandon Gibson & Danny Amendola.
San Diego at Denver - Before this season began many fantasy football analysts, including yours truly, figured that Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson would bounce back strong this season from the toe injury that plagued him last season. That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Maybe he is still bothered by his injury. Maybe it was just the ravages of time. Or perhaps he never recovered from his workouts with Kimbo Slice. Whatever the cause, LT managed to turn back the clock for at least one day in last week’s victory over the Eagles. Was that performance a fluke or a sign of more good things to come? This week’s contest against the free-falling Denver Broncos should be a good test. Chargers to start include QB Philip Rivers, RBs Tomlinson & Darren Sproles, and TE Antonio Gates. Leave WRs Vincent Jackson & Malcom Floyd on the bench as they go against a tough Broncos secondary. The only Bronco worth starting is RB Knowshon Moreno, although RB Correll Buckhalter can also be started in deeper leagues. Leave QB Kyle Orton (Questionable-ankle) and WRs Brandon Marshall & Eddie Royal on the bench.
Cincinnati at Oakland - It’s hard to imagine where the Bengals got their newfound strength from. WR Chad Ochocinco’s rededication to football? Head Coach Marvin Lewis’ leadership? DT Domata Peko’s Samson-like hair? Whatever the source, the Bengals figure to have more than enough muscle to push aside the Raiders this weekend and retain their perch at the top of the AFC North. Bengals to start this weekend include QB Carson Palmer, RB Bernard Scott, WRs Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, & Andre Caldwell, K Shayne Graham, and the Defense. If you’re in a deep league and a speculative mood, take a chance and start newly-acquired RB Larry Johnson. Leave RB Cedric Benson (Questionable-hip) on the bench even if he’s able to play. The only Raider I’d start is TE Zach Miller. Leave RBs Justin Fargas, Michael Bush, & Darren McFadden and WR Chaz Schilens on the bench. The quarterback switch from JaMarcus Russell to Bruce Gradkowski won’t make much of a difference - Gradkowski, like Russell, also struggles mightily in the accuracy department, and like Russell, he doesn’t belong in your lineup (or on your roster).
New York Jets at New England - Following his decision to go for the first down on 4th-and-2 from his own 28-yard-line in last week’s game against the Colts, Bill Belichick has been second-guessed to death by every talking head and person with access to a keyboard. In spite of that, he’s still had a better week than Kansas Head Coach Mark Mangino. The Jets beat the Patriots 16-9 in Week 2, but look for the Patriots to win this rematch handily. Jets to start include RBs Thomas Jones & Shonn Greene and TE Dustin Keller. Leave QB Mark Sanchez and WRs Braylon Edwards & Jerricho Cotchery on the bench. Patriots to start include QB Tom Brady (Probable-
coach with a brain-crampshoulder), RB Laurence Maroney, TE Ben Watson, WRs Randy Moss & Wes Welker, K Stephen Gostkowski, and the Defense. Fred Taylor (Questionable-ankle) and Sammy Morris (Questionable-knee) will miss another week.
Philadelphia at Chicago - Following his five-interception performance last week against the 49ers, Bears QB Jay Cutler was criticized by a multitude of people, including Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who seems to be making a living these days by speaking ill of current NFL players. The Bears, losers of two straight, host the Eagles, another team that’s lost two in a row and appears headed in the wrong direction. Eagles to start include QB Donovan McNabb, RB LeSean McCoy, TE Brent Celek, WR DeSean Jackson, and K David Akers. WR Jeremy Maclin and the Eagles’ Defense can also be started in deeper leagues. RB Brian Westbrook (Out-concussion) has more important things to deal with right now than getting back on the football field. Bears to start include Cutler, RB Matt Forte, TE Greg Olsen, and WR Devin Hester. Those in deeper leagues can also start WRs Earl Bennett & Johnny Knox.
Tennessee at Houston - Titans owner Bud Adams just can’t seem to stay out of the news. Earlier this season he publicly requested that Head Coach Jeff Fisher replace struggling QB Kerry Collins with QB Vince Young. Apparently emboldened by Young’s 3-0 record as a starter, Adams decided to push the envelope even further, flipping off Bills’ fans at the end of the Titans’ victory. In the era of Hammurabi’s Code, Adams would have had both his middle fingers cut off; in the era of Roger Goodell, Adams was fined $250K (or $125K per finger), which probably would have paid for the surgical reattachment of his middle fingers many times over. We’ll see if the Titans will be motivated this week to win one for the Flipper. The only Titans to start this week are QB Vince Young and RB Chris Johnson, but those in deeper leagues can also start TE Bo Scaife and WRs Kenny Britt & Nate Washington. The injury status of WR Justin Gage (back) is unknown, but he should be left out of lineups even if he’s able to play. Texans to start include QB Matt Schaub, RB Steve Slaton, WRs Andre Johnson & Kevin Walter, and K Kris Brown. If WR Jacoby Jones (Questionable-calf) is able to play, he’s also worth starting in deeper leagues, but RB Ryan Moats should be left on the bench in all leagues.
Good luck to your teams this weekend!
Until next time,
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