Not only did the Bengals lose WR A.J. Green (torn hamstring) and RB Giovani Bernard (torn ACL) for the season, but fantasy owners lost major pieces to their fantasy rosters that are impossible to replace at this point of the season.
The waiver wire looks a lot like a barren wasteland of unwanted toys at this point, and a lot of leagues have already passed their trade deadline, putting owners in a no-win situation. The playoffs start in Week 14 in many leagues, so even if your deadline hasn't passed, there is very little time to work out a trade. When you take into account the fact that half the teams are dead, half of the remaining teams are in the playoffs and won't mess with their roster, and the remaining half won't do a trade unless they are clearly ripping you off, you see that you are up the proverbial creek.
If you need a WR replacement, give Tajae Sharpe, Tyler Boyd, or Marqise Lee a look. If you need RB help, give Wendell Smallwood or Mike Gillislee a look.
In other injury news, albeit not as bad, Colts QB Andrew Luck is in the league's concussion protocol. The Colts say they are already planning to start Scott Tolzien with the Colts playing on Thursday night in Week 12. That means you can downgrade both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief to WR3s, and consider Frank Gore a flex play at best. It's best to just avoid playing any of them if at all possible.
The Seahawks lost RB C.J. Prosise to a fractured scapula. He will be out 3-6 weeks I'd guess, but his fantasy value was over as quickly as it started with the return of Thomas Rawls. Rawls was running like a beast on Sunday, and will take over the workhorse role for the Seahawks in Week 12. Make sure he is owned in all formats.
Here is something to consider if you have an extra bench spot you can spare: Vikings RB Adrian Peterson could return to the field as early as Week 15 against the Colts. If he does (BIG if), he will be a major asset to anyone still in the fantasy playoffs when that happens. It would be smart to grab him now as a stash.
Kirk Cousins – Redskins: The Redskins absolutely embarrassed the Packers Sunday night, racking up 515 total yards of offense, and hanging 42 points on the scoreboard. Cousins was on his game, completing 21 of 30 pass attempts for 375 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The Redskins employ a run-based attack, but it was the passing game that was featured this week with the Packers giving up the 13th-most fantasy points to QBs this season. Over the last 4 games, Cousins has thrown 8 TDs and just 1 INT, making him a great QB1 streaming option for Week 12 when he heads to Dallas to take on a Cowboys defense that gave up 269 yards and a touchdown to Joe Flacco this week.
Marcus Mariota – Titans: Mariota had a prime matchup against the Colts' struggling secondary, and he was everything I expected him to be when I named him to my Start 'em list this week. The Titans QB finished with 290 passing yards, 29 rushing yards, 2 TDs, and no INTs. Mariota now has 2,772 passing yards, 23 TDs, and just 8 INTs on the season, numbers that are good enough to rank him in the top 3-5 fantasy QBs in the league (depending on your scoring set-up).
He gets the Bears in Week 12, putting him near the top of my fantasy QB list once again. The Titans then have a bye in Week 13, only to take on the Broncos, Chiefs, and Texans in 3 of their last 4 games. Mariota has a pretty tough remaining strength of schedule, as far as fantasy QBs go; be aware, and beware.
Rob Kelley – Redskins: As I mentioned with Cousins already, the Redskins molly-whopped the Packers in Week 11, handing them a loss that may very well end up being the first nail in the coffin known as their 2016-17 season. Kelley was a fantasy beast against a defense that has been good against the run for most of the season, piling up 137 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
I will temper fantasy owners a little by reminding them that 66 of his 137 yards came on one run. Kelley is a fine RB2 with upside into the RB1 range as we finish out the season, but don't expect more weeks like this one.
Tim Hightower – Saints:Hightower was once again the lead back for much of the game after Mark Ingram took a hit that left him on the ground, looking as if those little monsters from Space Jam came back to Earth and stole his soul. He got up and walked off the field on his own power, but he is in the concussion protocol nevertheless.
Hightower managed 126 total yards, with 8 catches for those in PPR formats. It was nothing special in terms of highlight plays or stats, but the total yards and receptions put him in the RB1 rankings this week.
The Saints don't play on Thursday, so Ingram will get a full 10 days to pass the league's concussion protocol. Even if Ingram is out, I'm not sure I want to put Hightower in my lineup as anything more than a flex play against the Rams' stout run defense.
Chris Ivory– Jaguars: Ivory found himself as the lead back after T.J. Yeldon exited the game with an ankle injury. Ivory then had the best receiving game of his career, hauling in 6 of 6 targets for 75 yards, and rushing for another 39 yards. He did lose a fumble, but the 114 total yards and 6 receptions left him right in the middle of the RB2 rankings for Week 12.
Ivory owners will want to monitor the updates on Yeldon to determine whether or not to play him in Week 12. Regardless who is leading the backfield for Week 12, the Jaguars have a tough matchup against a Bills defense that has given up 75 yards or more to just 3 running backs this season.
Pierre Garcon & Jamison Crowder – Redskins: When you think of Redskins WRs, the name that probably pops into your mind is DeSean Jackson. Sure, Jackson was a big deal at WR… back in 2013 and 2014. In 2016, not so much. We already know the Redskins thrashed the Packers, and Cousins was a big part of it. His weapons of choice in doing so were Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder, who combined for 9 receptions, 218 yards, and 2 TDs on the day. Garcon's 6/116/1 line was by far his best of the season, but Crowder's 3/102/1 line is becoming more common these days.
It is looking a lot like Crowder is Cousins' deep threat of choice now, leaving Jackson to pick up the scraps of whatever is left over. Usually it's about 4-5 receptions and roughly 50 yards. Garcon is an undervalued WR2/3 in PPR formats, and Crowder is becoming a steady WR2 play in all formats.
Marqise Lee– Jaguars: Nobody in the mainstream fantasy football media is going to mention the fact that Marqise Lee finished as a WR1 this week. They also won't mention that this season he is averaging 6.3 targets, 4.2 receptions, 54.4 yards, and has kicked in 313 return yards for leagues that count them. This week he finished with 4 catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Lee has become a steady WR3 play in PPR formats, yet remains on the waiver wire in over 90 percent of fantasy leagues out there. Don't ignore him if you need a steady back-end WR down the stretch.
Jared Cook – Packers: The Packers were Cook[ing] up something special in the midst of their demise on Sunday. Jered Cook came out of nowhere to put up 6 catches, 105 yards, and a touchdown in a losing effort. It wasn't all rainbows and unicorns for Cook though, as he dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass, and lost a fumble late in the game.
Cook has never done this before, and will never do this again. Chalk this up as one we ALL missed, and move on.
New York Giants defense: The Giants were one of the two fantasy defenses I told users to grab via social media this week, with the Dolphins being the other. While the Dolphins weren't bad (around 10 fantasy points this week), the Giants were better as they held the Bears to 16 points while netting themselves 4 sacks and 1 INT.
The Giants defense has played very well the last 4 games, averaging 15.70 fantasy PPG. It's not often that a fantasy defense will average 15 points, so take it and run. The Giants take on the Browns in Week 12, so you can guess who will be my Start 'em defense on Thursday, I'm sure.
Ben Roethlisberger – Steelers: It wasn't that Big Ben was bad against the Browns, rather the Steelers didn't need him given the Browns' complete lack of anything that resembled an NFL offense (209 yards of total offense). Roethlisberger finished with just 167 empty passing yards, putting him just outside of the QB2 rankings this week.
The Steelers take on the Colts this week, a team that is going to struggle to move the ball just as the Browns did. I'm not sure I am going to play Roethlisberger in Week 12 for all the same reasons he didn't do well this week. Those big-box websites are going to be drooling over him, but I think he might burn owners for a second week in a row.
Matthew Stafford – Lions: Stafford is another example of those big-box websites not doing their research. Stafford was unable to move the ball for most of the day against an improving Jaguars defense, and finished with 278 passing yards, no TDs, and no INTs.
While Stafford is boasting a 2,651/18/5 line for the season, most of that work was done between Weeks 1 & 6. From Week 7 to Week 11, Stafford has just 4 touchdowns total. He is slowing down just when fantasy owners need him to find another gear. And with the Vikings next on the schedule, he isn't someone I am putting much trust in for Week 12.
Isaiah Crowell – Browns: Crowell set the bar at a new low this week when he managed to run the ball 8 times, gaining a whopping 10 yards on the carries. The 1.2 YPC he averaged this week would be funny, if it wasn't so sad. His biggest problem is his offensive line, who routinely get beat inside and outside. Add to that Coach Hue Jackson abandoning the running game at the drop of a hat, and you have a fantasy RB widely owned, but impossible to play.
The Browns have a real shot at running the table in reverse this season and going 0-16. The Browns start throwing from behind shortly after the opposing team finishes stretching, so Crowell basically has no shot at fantasy success since it is Duke Johnson who comes in on passing downs.
Jay Ajayi – Dolphins: Ajayi put together an impressive 3-game run from Weeks 6-9, racking up an incredible 529 rushing yards and scoring 4 TDs. Fantasy owners around the world went nuts with him, thinking they had found the lost city of Atlantis when they realized they didn't draft him until the end of the 11th round.
The problem is, all good things come to an end. In Week 10 he ran for just 79 yards against the Chargers, and followed that up with 77 yards against the Rams this week. The Rams defense is somewhat overshadowed by their atrocious offense, so this wasn't exactly a surprise for me. With that said, I am looking for Ajayi to return to his elite form in Week 12 when he gets a 49ers run defense that just might give up 3.7 YPC to me!
Arizona Cardinals WRs: The Cardinals have a major problem in their passing game, and his name is Carson Palmer. Palmer started the season hot, throwing 5 TDs and no INTs in the first 2 games of the season. Since then, he's thrown 8 TDs and 10 INTs.
This week Palmer threw for 198 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs. Of Palmer's 20 completions this week, 7 of them went to RB David Johnson, who accounted for 57 receiving yards and one of the touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald is about as reliable as it gets in the NFL, and even he is struggling to put up anything more than fantasy WR2 numbers most weeks. Palmer is clearly at the end of his career, and the INTs should be viewed as the white light leading him to retirement.
Marvin Jones – Lions: What a bust Jones has turned out to be after posting receiving yardages of 85, 118, and 205 the first 3 weeks of the season. Since then, he's failed to hit 40 yards receiving in 5 of the 7 games. This week he managed to see just 2 targets, catching 1, and gaining 15 empty yards on it.
Jones isn't a fantasy WR I want on my team right now, and have outright cut him in every league in which I owned him. There is always that ONE guy worth grabbing if you have an open spot, and I have made Marvin Jones my "open spot."
Martellus Bennett – Patriots: Bennett had a dream week ahead of him, with Rob Gronkowski out and playing against a putrid 49ers defense. Fantasy owners were salivating at the prospect of getting elite TE1 numbers from a guy that had been riding their bench for weeks. Well, since he is on the losers list you can guess what he did, I'm sure.
Bennett finished the game with just 2 targets, of which he caught one for 14 empty yards. He spent almost the entire game blocking, and wasn't even targeted until the 2nd half of the game. Fantasy TE is an all-or-nothing position, and Bennett gave of the latter of that this week.
Arizona Cardinals defense: The Cardinals were without DB Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder), a loss that seemed to really affect the defense on Sunday. The Cardinals proceeded to give up 24 points to the Vikings, while netting themselves just 2 sacks and a recovered fumble for fantasy stats.
Fantasy defenses aren't a set-it-and-forget-it thing; you have to look at matchups. The Vikings didn't look like they would knock the Cardinals down to a bottom #19-20 fantasy defense this week, but the loss of Mathieu, coupled with the lack of offense, made that very thing happen. As long as the offense continues to keep the defense on the field, the Cardinals are going to struggle to have that elite defense fantasy owners want them to be. Thanks again Carson Palmer!