Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 11
There's a game - a board game turned online one - called Diplomacy that I play with some of my high school buddies. It's a war game (nerd alert) set in Europe prior to World War I, but unlike most war games where you try and conquer territories, there's an absence of dice in Diplomacy. In essence, there's no chance involved - there's just straight-up backstabbing and taking advantage of the other teams playing with you based on orders that you submit each turn.
(This is the nerdiest intro I've ever written.)
You need to have a certain, special mindset when you approach a game of Diplomacy. Staying one step ahead is key, and making intelligent moves before obvious information is presented to you is the single most important aspect of the game. Well, other than finding the opportune time to backstab your real-life best friend, that is.
But this notion is sort of the way you need to handle your fantasy football start or sit decisions, too, especially down the stretch. We're no longer in the "wait and see" mode in football - it's Week 11, for crying out loud. You have to start making decisions that may feel uncomfortable, but are sincerely logical. Even if you haven't seen a particular player on the field much this year, benching him because of that fact won't do you much good. There's just not enough time to wait around.
Perhaps there's no player who fits this idea more than the first guy on this week's list of start/sits.
Start Robert Griffin III - Anytime a quarterback faces Tampa Bay, you have to be interested. So far this season, the only quarterbacks to not hit the 15-point mark in standard fantasy leagues against the Bucs have been Austin Davis and Teddy Bridgewater. Davis no longer has a starting gig, and Bridgewater is by no means a top-notch fantasy option.
The Bucs ranked dead last against the pass according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, and should continue to struggle against the Redskins' passing attack in Week 11. Expect RGIII to be on point in this one.
That's not good. You want your fantasy quarterback to have a consistent arm, which isn't what Wilson's brought this season. His Week 11 opponent, Kansas City, has allowed more than one touchdown pass in only four games this year, ranking 12th against the pass according to NEP. Some fantasy teams may not be able to bench Wilson, but don't expect the world this week.
Start Josh McCown - McCown's return was strong in Week 10, as he ranked as the fifth-best quarterback against a struggling Falcons defense. His matchup against Washington is just as good in Week 11.
The worst performance by a fantasy quarterback against Washington came from Chad Henne all the way back in Week 2, where Henne scored a little over 11 points. In other words, a good floor is there.
The Redskins have also allowed two weekly number-one performances to quarterbacks this season (Eli Manning and Russell Wilson), along with a Nick Foles game where he finished third overall at the position. In other words, a good ceiling is there, too.
Washington stops the run fairly well, ranking 10th according to our metrics. The Buccaneers are generally very inefficient running the ball, too, meaning McCown will have plenty of opportunities to exploit the 28th-best secondary in the NFL this weekend.
Sit Kyle Orton - Kyle Orton's been really good for Buffalo since becoming the team's starter. He's scored at least 14 fantasy points in all five of his starts, peaking at 26.12 in Week 8.
His Thursday night game against Miami, though, should be tough. Per NEP, the Dolphins' defense ranks first against the pass, and that's translated to fantasy football - only the Lions have allowed fewer points to the position. There's no need to play Orton this week.
Start Ryan Mathews - Mathews returns from the Chargers' bye as a healthy running back, something we haven't been able to say since Week 2.
Reports have said that Mathews should see 15 touches in San Diego's Week 11 contest against the Raiders, which is good news because, you know, he's facing the Raiders. Oakland ranks 16th against the run according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, but 30th in terms of fantasy points against to running backs. A key reason for this is because no team has faced more running plays than Oakland this season. That's not a bad thing, because volume matters in fantasy football.
With Branden Oliver coming in as one of the least effective backs in the league from a NEP perspective, I fully expect Mathews to be the workhorse again for San Diego.
Sit Andre Ellington - I wrote about Ellington in this week's 15 Transactions article, noting that, among all of Arizona's quarterback troubles, the team's upcoming schedule is brutal. It starts in Week 11.
The Cardinals will face Detroit this week, who come in at number-one overall in our rush defense rankings. While Ellington's been consistent from a fantasy perspective, he's struggled within our Rushing NEP statistic, ranking last within the metric among the 25 running backs with 100 or more attempts this season. Add in the fact that Drew Stanton will be under center for Arizona, and you start to see why this week could be a disaster for the RB1.
Our analytics peg the Saints with the second-worst rush defense in the NFL, which is worse than how they've ranked in terms of fantasy points against. They've still been bad fantasy points-wise, though, having allowed six top-20 PPR performances this season. Hill should be fine.
Sit Joique Bell - While the Lions can stop the run better than anyone else, their rushing offense hasn't been very strong this year. As a result, Joique Bell's fantasy numbers haven't looked good - he's scored fewer than 10 PPR fantasy points three times this year, and has finished higher than 18th at the position in a single week just once.
The Lions face the Cardinals this week, who rival Detroit from a run-stuffing standpoint. No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing backs than the Cardinals, and they rank eighth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP.
Start Trent Richardson - Though fantasy analysts love to make fun of T-Rich, we have to recognize that he hasn't been that bad this year. His Rushing NEP per rush is a poor -.08 (a 25th percentile average), but he's hit the double-digit PPR mark in half of his games, never dipping below 6.2 points. It's not great, but it's something.
I like Richardson this week for two main reasons. First, the game has the highest over/under of the week (and the highest we've seen this year). Second, New England can't stop the run. They rank 24th according to our metrics, and have allowed the 5th-most fantasy points to the position.
While I still prefer Ahmad Bradshaw, Richardson has an opportunity to find the end zone in the Colts' Week 11 matchup.
Start Pierre Garcon - Remember that 32nd-ranked Buccaneers secondary I mentioned previously? Garcon could take advantage of it on Sunday, despite scoring single-digit PPR points in four of his last six games.
In truth, playing Garcon is a little risky. He's seen six or fewer targets in all but two games this year, and has been pretty touchdown reliant - the only time he ranked higher than 46th at wide receiver in a given week without a touchdown came in Week 1. That's five weeks of awful.
I do like him this week though given the matchup. The Bucs have allowed more fantasy points to the wide receiver position than any other team, and they've surrendered at least one wide receiver touchdown in all but two games this year. The volume is a bit worrisome, but Garcon should be fine this week.
Sit Larry Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald's been strong over his last five games, finishing in the top 15 at wide receiver (PPR leagues) three times. During this stretch, Fitz has 31 catches on 37 targets, and has found the end zone twice.
Unfortunately, Drew Stanton is now his quarterback. Even worse, he gets the Lions in Week 11.
The Lions have surrendered the fewest amount of fantasy points to wide receivers this year. They also rank fifth against the pass according to our metrics. I'd bench Fitz in this one.
Start Davante Adams - While Adams didn't perform during a contest where his quarterback threw six touchdowns in a little over 30 minutes last week, I do think he'll be a nice deep play in Week 11.
The Packers face the Eagles in what should be a high-scoring affair. Philadelphia's allowed the third-most points to fantasy wideouts thanks to their fast-paced offense, and tough corner Brandon Boykin will be occupied with Randall Cobb in the slot. This could leave room for Adams to come through big for the Packers.
In PPR formats, Colston has ranked 45th, 52nd and 51st at wide receiver over the last three weeks. This season, he's ranked higher than 37th at wide receiver in a given week just once - he ends up as a WR4 or WR5 in the majority of his games.
That alone should make you want to bench him, but the matchup isn't all that fantastic, either. While the Bengals were beat up by the Browns last week, they still rank seventh against the pass this year according to NEP, and have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year.
Start Odell Beckham Jr. - I felt the need to bring up OBJ here because he's becoming - how should I phrase this - matchup proof?
Over the last three weeks, Beckham has ranked 10th, 8th and 18th in PPR leagues at wide receiver. In those contests, he saw 6, 11 and 9 targets. He now has 264 (!) yards over his last two games.
The fact that he plays the ninth-ranked 49ers pass defense this week doesn't bother me. Beckham should be in your lineup, and you should feel good about it.
Start Travis Kelce - No wide receiver has a touchdown reception for the Chiefs this season, and that should probably continue this week against the Seahawks. While Richard Sherman will control the outside, Travis Kelce should be able to take advantage of the middle of the field - that's how teams have beaten Seattle this year, as the Seahawks rank 28th in fantasy points against to tight ends.
Another piece of good news for Kelce owners is that Anthony Fasano is questionable, and didn't practice on Wednesday. Could Kelce be unleashed this week?
Sit Mychal Rivera - We can't ignore what Rivera has done over the last three weeks - 21 receptions, 185 yards and 3 touchdowns. He's seen 28 targets over this span, which is 7 more than he saw from Weeks 1 through 7.
If the volume continues to be there, Rivera should be a decent option for the rest of the 2014 season at tight end. But this week, I'm a little concerned about his potential versus the Chargers, who rank third in fantasy points against to the tight end position. The Chargers have allowed just two tight end scores all year, and only three tight ends have hit the double-digit PPR mark against them.
Start Kyle Rudolph - If Rudolph ends up playing this week, I like his potential. You certainly have to be worried about a limited snap count due to his injury that's sidelined him for most of the year, but the matchup against the Bears is phenomenal.
Chicago's allowed nine tight end touchdowns in five games, and while some of those were scored by studly players (Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen), it still shouldn't matter - nine touchdowns in five games is ridiculous. As a result, no team has allowed more points to the position than Chicago, making Rudolph an attractive play.
Start the Cleveland Browns - Regardless of matchup, Cleveland's been a good defense this year in fantasy football, ranking ninth in fantasy points scored. Over their last five games, the Browns have finished no worse than 11th in a given week as a team defense in fantasy. This week they'll face Ryan Mallett in his first start, which means you should continue to ride them.
Sit the Seattle Seahawks - On paper, the Seahawks' matchup against Kansas City doesn't look all that bad. But it kind of is.
Since Week 1, the only Kansas City opponents to finish in the weekly top 10 of fantasy scoring have been Miami and Buffalo. They ranked 10th and 9th, respectively, and both of those defenses are top-five units according to our metrics (and top 10 in terms of fantasy points scored). Meanwhile, Seattle comes in with the 9th-best defense per NEP, and rank 18th in fantasy points scored. There are better options this week.
Other Defenses to Start: Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers
Other Defenses to Sit: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots