Week 11 Fantasy Football: Last-Minute Lineup Advice

Shane Vereen
Shane Vereen
Sep 8 2013 Orchard Park NY USA Buffalo Bills defensive end Alex Carrington 92 pursues New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen 34 during the fourth quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium Patriots beat the Bills 23 21 Kevin Hoffman USA TODAY Sports

Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas each missed practice time this week. Douglas is battling an injured knee, while Gonzalez is struggling through a toe issue. Both are listed as questionable. That does nothing but hurt the already-cloudy outlook for Roddy White, who will likely be shadowed by Darrelle Revis all day. In six games of action this season, White only has 15 receptions for 149 yards and no touchdowns. That reads like one monster game for White in past years. But it’s a sad reminder of the lost season for this elite 32-year-old receiver. Steven Jackson has had a similarly disappointing season, having rushed for only 151 yards so far. He is probable with a toe injury, but not much should be expected against Tampa Bay’s fifth ranked rush defense. In last week’s game against Seattle, Jackson rushed nine times for 11 yards (1.2 yards per attempt).

Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods are both confirmed to be out for Sunday’s game against the Jets. Tight end Scott Chandler should receive an increase in targets as a result. The team may choose to lean more heavily on their two highly talented backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who are both surprisingly healthy at the same time. E.J. Manuel will likely struggle without his top two options on the field.

Jay Cutler will not play against the Ravens, leaving Josh McCown to return for another start. In his first start of the season, the backup completed 53.6 percent of his passes for 272 yards, two scores and no interceptions. McCown has completed 60 percent of his passes for the year, with four touchdowns and no picks. Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and all remaining Bears receivers should get a downgrade on your board.

Geno Atkins may be the best defensive lineman in football, but is out for the season. Willis McGahee will face a weakened Bengals front line on Sunday, and may have an opportunity for better numbers. The 32-year-old back has yet to eclipse 72 total yards in a game this season, and is averaging 2.6 yards per carry. He remains a dangerous fantasy option.

Peyton Manning is probable for Sunday night’s showdown with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. No one on earth expects him to miss this game. Start all Broncos as you usually would. They have yet to score less than 28 points in a game this season.

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Aaron Rodgers is still out with a fractured collarbone. Seneca Wallace disappeared as quickly as he appeared. In his first start of the season, the backup suffered a groin injury that was later determined to be season-ending. Enter Scott Tolzien, who will be making his first career start Sunday against the Giants. Tolzien threw his first NFL passes last week against Philadelphia, completing 24 of 39 (61.5 percent) for 280 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Avoid Tolzien and give caution to Jordy Nelson or James Jones until Rodgers returns to the field. Eddie Lacy’s situation could be a double-edged sword. The Packers may need to lean more heavily on their rookie workhorse, who has averaged 26 touches a game since returning from a concussion in week five. But opposing defenses are just as likely to stuff eight men in the box, and force the inexperienced Tolzien to beat them.

Ben Tate will get his third start of 2013 for the Texans this week. He has been playing through four broken ribs, but has been effective nonetheless. In the last two weeks, Tate has rushed 37 times for 137 yards (3.7 yards per attempt). This is the final year of his contract, so there is a lot to prove over the remaining games this year. Dennis Johnson is a rookie runner from Arkansas who has rushed in two NFL games so far. In the last two weeks, Johnson has become Houston’s backup runner, while producing 57 yards on 13 touches. Johnson is merely a handcuff in case of any missed time by the starter.

Brandon Gibson is out for the season, and that has opened the door for second-year receiver Rishard Matthews to make a dent. In two seasons of play in Miami, Matthews has caught 32 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Last week accounted for 11 of those receptions, 120 of his yards, and both scores. According to Pro Football Focus, Ryan Tannehill is receiving only the 25th most time in the pocket before attempting to throw (2.51 seconds on average). To put that in perspective, Terrelle Pryor is enjoying the best protection, getting an average of 3.47 seconds before each pass. Mike Wallace may not be a big factor while this remains true, not to mention the effect a poor offensive line has on the running game. Expect Matthews to continue dominating targets from the slot.

Christian Ponder is expected to start and play through his separated non-throwing shoulder. That’s good news for Adrian Peterson owners. The best player in football has produced better numbers with Ponder in the lineup than without. In games in which Ponder has started this season, Peterson has received 24.3 touches for 111.7 total yards, compared to an average of 17 touches and 93 yards with anyone else starting at quarterback. Greg Jennings was limited in practice this week with an injury to his Achilles. He is still expected to play Sunday. Jerome Simpson is likely to play, according to coach Leslie Frazier. The receiver posted bail after being arrested for a DWI a week ago. Rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson will get the first start of his career, though, and Simpson will spell from the bench.

Santonio Holmes has not played since September, but is probable to start Sunday in Buffalo. In four games this year, Holmes has made 10 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown. Geno Smith should have an easier time with his best receiver on the field. But don’t get carried away with your expectations. The Jets remain the 26th ranked passing team, and 28th in scoring. Smith is 20th among all quarterbacks in yards per game, and 31st in passer rating.

Terrelle Pryor is officially questionable to play in Houston this weekend, but Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com reported that Matt McGloin will make the start. The rookie from Penn State has thrown just 15 NFL passes for 87 yards and a passers’ rating of 65.1. His name may sound familiar because there were some who believed in August and September that McGloin should have been the starter over Pryor. Avoid all Raiders receivers until proven otherwise. Darren McFadden will miss another game with a hamstring issue. Rashad Jennings will start again in his place. In the last two games, Jennings has used 44 touches to produce 283 yards of offense and a rushing touchdown. He has 5.4 yards per carry over these games, and a 4.7 yard average on the season.

Percy Harvin and Shane Vereen could make their returns this weekend. Conservative fantasy owners will want to employ a “wait and see” strategy until more is known about their ability to produce. Harvin has not walked on the field in more than a calendar year. His last start was November 4 of 2012, when he was a Viking, injured against the Seahawks. His next game will be as a Seahawk, attempting to prove himself against his former Minnesota teammates. Vereen played week one with a broken bone in his wrist. The injury came on the first play of the game, but the young back was still able to take 21 touches and turn them into 159 total yards. Vereen’s official game status may not be known until sometime Monday.

Vernon Davis is expected to play, after passing league concussion tests this week. Mario Manningham will play his second game of the year, after catching three passes for 30 yards against Carolina last week. The Saints’ third ranked pass defense could cause a wrinkle for Colin Kaepernick’s 17th NFL start. The third year quarterback is completing 56.4 percent of his passes this year, and has thrown nine touchdowns and six interceptions. New Orleans is also third in the league in scoring, so fantasy owners will be rooting for a shootout, to boost the production of their 49ers this week.

Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and profootballfocus.com.

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Dave Major
Senior Fantasy Analyst for @XNSports. While not wasting immeasurable time as a stand-up comic in New York, Dave Major can be found watching three football games at once and telling people how to live their fantasy lives. If you're out of ideas, use your one phone call on !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');