By Joe Sparacio
As we gear up for Week 11, fantasy owners can all smile knowing that this is the last week featuring byes this football season. Here are the teams that won't be playing:
- Carolina Panthers
- Indianapolis Colts
- New York Jets
- San Francisco 49ers
This means that some of the star performers over the past two weeks (including a few who have been on the start list in previous versions of this article) will be out on Sunday, including T.Y. Hilton, Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton. Here are some plays who can possibly carry that load -- and some who might not -- in Week 11 as we inch closer to the fantasy finish line:
5 players to start
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs (KC @ NYG)
If we've learned nothing else through the first few weeks of the season, it's that the Giants' defense is an amazing boon for any fantasy QB (and tight end -- meaning that Travis Kelce should be owned across the board in DFS). Smith has yet to quite shake the reputation that he is a game manager, but he's been anything but that this season. Couple that with coach Andy Reed's success coming off a bye week, along with the Giants' listless defense, and you have the recipe for fantasy success.
Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins (WAS @ NO)
Thanks to rookie corner Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans' pass defense has been a pleasant surprise this season. That being said, this game takes place in the Superdome and sets up nicely for Thompson, a back who can do just about anything from catch passes to run between the tackles. With his WRs under pressure in what might become a shootout, I expect Kirk Cousins to dump the ball off to his explosive back and try to get him into open space. Add in the news that Redskins RB Rob Kelley was placed on IR, and Thompson will get as much work as he can handle.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles (PHI @ DAL)
Ajayi has now had multiple weeks to learn the Eagles' offensive playbook, and I expect him to be rather involved in Week 11. Dallas is in no way an intimidating defense against the rush, and Ajayi ran for 77 yards and a TD in his first game alone. Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is likely out for the game, and LeGarrette Blount isn't a threat to Ajayi's early-down work. If the game doesn't get out of hand (with Blount just running out the clock), expect Ajayi to rack up the yardage.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars (JAX @ CLE)
The Jaguars are running on fumes in the passing game, and Lee owners stand to benefit. Allen Robinson went down at the start of the season and now Allen Hurns is injured after last week's contest. That leaves Lee as the lone proven player, joined by rookie Dede Westbrook, who should be on a limited snap count. The volume will be there for Lee against a beatable Browns defense, creating the perfect storm of events for fantasy success.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Texans (ARI @ HOU)
If you'd like a dart throw for this week, Fiedorowicz is worth a gamble after the Texans lost Will Fuller to an injury last weekend. Now Houston is hosting the Cardinals and cornerback Patrick Peterson, who will likely be trying to shut down DeAndre Hopkins all afternoon. This leaves Fiedorowicz as one of the only viable passing options on offense for QB Tom Savage. I wouldn't be surprised if he hauled in a TD for Houston in front of the home crowd.
5 players to sit
Jared Goff, QB, Rams (LAR @ MIN)
Goff's season has been a success, but if you look at his game logs this season, he has been more volatile than some realize, struggling vs. good passing defenses. Against the Seahawks, Jaguars and Cardinals, for example, he threw a combined two touchdowns to three interceptions and averaged just 216 yards through the air. Minnesota has been quite good against the pass thanks to the team's pair of elite cornerbacks, so I expect Goff to be far more bust than boom in Week 11.
Robert Woods, WR, Rams (LAR @ MIN)
Tied to Goff's likelihood of struggling is Woods' potential of finishing toward his floor rather than his ceiling this week. Last Sunday was a wakeup call for not only fantasy owners but defenses, as well, after Woods posted 171 yards and two touchdowns against a shorthanded Houston defense. Don't expect similar results vs. the Vikings. Yes, Woods has scored four touchdowns over his past two games, but he will have to tangle with a defense that shut down players like Antonio Brown (5 receptions, 62 yards), Michael Thomas (5 receptions, 45 yards) and Marvin Jones (2 receptions, 42 yards). This isn't the Giants' defense; it's smart to downgrade Woods, who was held to under five catches for 70 yards in all but one game prior to facing New York.
Adam Thielen, WR, Rams (LAR @ MIN)
Yes, Thielen has been one of the hottest receivers in the NFL of late, but I think the Rams' stiff pass defense might slow him in his tracks this weekend. As the helpful folks over at Rotoworld note, Los Angeles is smothering slot receivers for the most part, holding stars like Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald to under 40 and 30 yards, respectively. I expect this game to be rather low-scoring all around, but the Rams' biggest defensive weakness is on the ground, so expect Minnesota to swing the ball out to Jerrick McKinnon or feed it to Latavius Murray rather than attack the defense with Thielen or Stefon Diggs. Continue to start Thielen in season-long leagues, but I'm staying away in daily.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals (CIN @ DEN)
The Bengals struggle to protect Andy Dalton, and they head to Denver, which also just so happens to boast the No. 1 run defense in the league. I expect rough sledding for the Bengals team as a whole, and I'm not too sure that Dalton will be able to get the ball into the hands of his pass-catching back. It is especially worrisome that Mixon has failed to put up points even in plum matchups against the likes of Jacksonville and Indianapolis, despite finally having the backfield to himself. This week, there are very few reasons to trust Mixon.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers (BAL @ GB)
Remember when I said to really downgrade (or trade!) Nelson after Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 6? I meant it. Here are Nelson's stat lines since that fateful Sunday:
1 reception for 13 yards vs. New Orleans
4 receptions for 35 yards vs. Detroit
3 receptions for 20 yards vs. Chicago
Brett Hundley doesn't seem to be locked in on Nelson at all, favoring Davante Adams in the passing game. Against a very good defense like the Ravens, as painful as it might seem, I might hold off on starting Nelson even in season-long leagues.
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Joe Sparacio is an associate producer for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @joetsparacio.