As we hurtle toward Week 11 of both the NFL and your fantasy seasons, each game is critical.
If you’re on the bubble—and judging from most leagues I am in, there is a lot of bubble—it’s time for your big push, and there isn’t much room for error.
At least we’re past the biggest bye weeks and will just be losing players from the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams.
Still, you have to make every spot count, and there have been a few notable duds the last few weeks. Stepping into a fantasy landmine now would be a bad idea, though finding a big performer is of course a huge bonus.
So let’s take a look at some of the players you need to be starting—and some you should start under no circumstances—for Week 11’s fantasy matchups.
*All statistics via NFL.com or ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
START: Chris Ivory, New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
When the New York Jets want to run, they can run.
They fell behind too quickly to do it against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8 but ran well on the New England Patriots in Week 7 and torched the New Orleans Saints in Week 9.
The guy who did that? Chris Ivory.
With rookie Geno Smith under center, the Jets need a strong running game so they can limit his opportunity to make mistakes.
So they will run Ivory early and often.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills are the No. 23-ranked rush defense in the NFL, averaging 117 yards allowed a game, though only three touchdowns to date.
This should be a great matchup for Ivory, who will make a solid flex and a decent No. 2 running back for fantasy teams. He’ll get the yards you need, and if he gets a touchdown, consider that gravy.
SIT: Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins vs. San Diego Chargers
There’s not much left to say about Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace. Nine games in, Wallace has seen the end zone once, and half the time he doesn’t seem to be interested in giving 100 percent on his routes.
On top of it, the Miami offensive line continues to be atrocious. Even when they don’t allow a ton of sacks, they let quarterback Ryan Tannehill get pressured so often that he can’t get the ball out to Wallace anyway.
Normally, playing the San Diego Chargers secondary is a good thing, but the Chargers can get after the quarterback, and while they aren’t piling up sacks, they’ll bring plenty of pressure against an offensive line like this.
Do what the Dolphins should have done and avoid Wallace.
START: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson can be a bit hit or miss.
However, two weeks into the Nick Foles era (part 2) Jackson has 10 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets.
It’s clear that Foles and Jackson have great chemistry, so even if Jackson doesn’t catch a ton of balls, he puts up good yards because Foles will go deep to him and they will score touchdowns.
Washington still has one of the worst secondaries in the NFL—the team made Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder look pretty good—and the defense as a whole collapses late in games.
Before the Redskins helped Ponder keep his job, they allowed San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to throw for 341 yards and two touchdowns, the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning throw for 354 yards and four touchdowns and Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown to come in off the bench cold and throw for 204 yards and a touchdown.
There should be ample opportunities for Jackson to put up points.
Come to think of it, start quarterback Nick Foles as well.
SIT: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions
While he’s had the occasional fantastic game, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn’t consistent enough to play as anything more than a matchup fantasy quarterback.
And this is not one of those matchups.
With a better offensive line, maybe you could make an argument that since the Lions would put up a lot of points, Roethlisberger would have to throw, making him good for some garbage points.
This Steelers offensive line is ranked No. 32 in the NFL and has allowed an NFL-leading 36 sacks, so you can forget that as he won’t have enough time to consistently throw the ball.
Find someone with a better matchup and a better offensive line.
START: Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars
The one and only hesitation to have about starting Arizona Cardinals rookie running back Andre Ellington is that head coach Bruce Arians is enormously stubborn.
Despite Ellington’s five yards per carry against the Houston Texans, and despite Rashard Mendenhall’s woeful 3.2 yards-per-carry average, Arians thinks the dozen carries Ellington got was “plenty.”
As he told Fox Sports’ 910 AM’s Mike Jurecki:
“No, no I think its right where it needs to be. He had plenty today.”
In terms of fantasy football, that’s a concern.
However, this week Ellington will see the Jacksonville Jaguars, who, despite a good game against the Tennessee Titans, have one of the worst running defenses in the NFL.
Ellington has the ability to be a very solid No. 2 running back, but even in this matchup you can’t trust him as more than a flex play. Hopefully Arians wakes up and smells the stud running back soon, so Ellington can help you in your push toward the fantasy playoffs.
SIT: Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings is having a tremendously inconsistent season.
Part of that is because of the constant rotation of starting quarterbacks, and part of it is the overall poor play by those same quarterbacks. Some of his poor output comes from the fact that there are only a couple of receivers worth covering, and Jennings is one of them.
So he gets the lion’s share of attention from any secondary.
Ultimately though, the “why” doesn’t matter.
He’s not playing well and not putting together good fantasy games.
And this week he needs to play against the Seattle Seahawks, a team with two of the best cornerbacks in the game.
START: Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the Atlanta Falcons getting receiver Roddy White back and White looking healthy, Harry Douglas will find a little more room to roam.
White will probably draw the Darrelle Revis coverage from Tampa’s secondary, which will leave Douglas in what will likely be single coverage where he will be a mismatch for defenders.
Matt Ryan hasn’t been playing well at all, but he should get up for a division game against Tampa Bay in an effort to prove the Falcons aren’t rolling over for anyone.
They may not win, but Douglas should be at least a solid flex or No. 3 wide receiver this weekend.
SIT: Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns
For a while, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Marvin Jones was red hot, but then his quarterback went in the tank and so did Jones’ production.
He’s obviously a talented receiver and can benefit from the attention given to A.J. Green.
As long as quarterback Andy Dalton struggles, Jones will definitely struggle as well.
The Cleveland Browns have a solid defense and a good secondary. It’s going to be tough for the Bengals and Dalton to get anything going.
So as much as I like Jones’ talent, it’s going to be another down week for him, and he belongs on your bench until we see consistency from the passing offense again.
START: Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings
Sure, Seattle Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse hasn’t been piling up tremendous yards, but he’s had two straight games with touchdowns.
Against a suspect Minnesota Vikings secondary, Kearse is likely to see more opportunities to score touchdowns.
Yes, Percy Harvin is back and will possibly play this week against his old team, but that’s actually good for Kearse’s value. The Vikings will focus on Harvin a lot to make sure he doesn’t burn them (he will), and it will leave Kearse open for some red-zone targets.
Of course, Kearse is a flex start only—anything more is risky—but he has a lot of upside each week.
SIT: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears
Like formerly elite New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and almost-elite-but-too-inconsistent Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco has fallen on hard times.
Over the last two games, Flacco has thrown three interceptions to four touchdowns and tossed the football for just 390 yards.
He actually hasn’t cracked the 300-yard mark in one game at any time the last three weeks and has struggled against solid defenses since before the halfway point of the season.
With Charles Tillman placed on injured reserve with the designation to return, the Bears secondary is a tad less foreboding, but Tim Jennings is still there, and while they were unable to pull down Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, the Bears destroyed the Green Bay Packers the week before.
In fact, they sacked Aaron Rodgers so hard they broke his collarbone—just one of five times they sacked either Rodgers or backup Seneca Wallace.
The Ravens have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, allowing 28 sacks to date—a large portion of the reason why Flacco is struggling so much.
Another reason would be the lack of run game and lack of wide receivers. Torrey Smith is a talented receiver, but he can’t overcome double coverage, and there is nobody there to pull defenders off him.
There are a lot of reasons why Flacco hasn’t been very good for his fantasy owners this season. But the fact that he isn’t playing well means you have to make sure you keep him firmly on your bench again this week.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.
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