Week 11 means the fantasy playoffs are just three or four weeks away, depending on your league settings. And while you may have your roster set and the playoffs in site, now isn't the time to get lazy with the waiver wire or trade requests.
The waiver wire is a veritable minefield of Willy Wonka's golden geese and worthless rocks covered with cheap gold paint from Wal-Mart. Remember a few weeks ago when EVERY fantasy website out there was on the Tre Mason bandwagon, clamoring about how he was a must-add player? Well, do you also remember that I told you not to bother because he was a worthless rock just painted to look pretty? What I love best is that not a single one of those websites have Mason listed anywhere on their rankings for must-start players now.
Then we have trades, which can be just as treacherous as the waiver wire because you are essentially buying a used car from the newspaper. What I mean is someone is selling you a product (a player) that he doesn't want, but is asking for something in return that he does want (a player). What they are telling you is they have more faith in your player than they do in the guy they hand-picked, which should instantly worry you. But don't be like some owners I know that just decline any and all trade offers that get proposed to them. There is always one person in every league that either has no clue what they are doing, or is trying to build their own personal collection of their favorite players via their fantasy team. If you find that person and they want to trade you, say, Colin Kaepernick for Andrew Luck, click on yes and pray to the fantasy gods that it doesn't get vetoed!
Mark Sanchez – Eagles: No, Mark Sanchez hasn't suddenly figured it out and is now the starting-caliber NFL quarterback that the Jets drafted him to be. Rather, he was handed the keys to a highly talented offense that features LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, and includes solid pieces like Jordan Matthews, Brent Celek, and special teams hero Darren Sproles. This week Sanchez and the Eagles take on a Packers team fresh off a 55-14 mauling of the Bears. No matter if this is a close game or a blowout, Sanchez should see QB1 numbers when the final whistle blows.
Robert Griffin III – Redskins: Griffin wasn't spectacular in his return to the gridiron in Week 9, throwing for 251 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. But with the Redskins coming off a bye and RGIII given an extra week of practice to knock off the rust, I like his matchup this week against a Buccaneers defense that is giving up the 7th-most fantasy points to QBs this year with an average of 22.1. Defensively, the Bucs give up the 2nd-most passing YPG at 277.1, are tied for the 3rd-most passing TDs at 19, and have the 4th-fewest INTs at 6 this season.
Rashad Jennings – Giants: Andre Williams has been nothing short of a bust this season, averaging 2.9 yards in 114 carries. Peyton Hillis was sent home on Wednesday, meaning he is highly unlikely to play this week. Injuries and ineffective play mean Jennings will return and carry the load against the 49ers this week. It's a tough matchup for Jennings with the 49ers giving up just 14.0 points to RBs this year, the 4th-fewest in the NFL. But lest we forget, Mark Ingram put up 120 rushing yards against them last week and a far less impressive Tre Mason put up 65 yards on them the week before. If Mason can put up 65 with the Rams offense, one would think Jennings could equal Ingram's 120 with maybe a TD.
C.J. Anderson – Broncos: With Ronnie Hillman out, the Broncos will most likely turn to C.J. Anderson as their starter this week at RB. Montee Ball is on track to return from a groin injury this week, but the Broncos are expected to ride the hot hand at RB, and last week Anderson put up 163 total yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. The worry here is that Anderson won't be the "hot hand" and the Broncos will move on to Ball to see if he can get things going. I think, however, the risk is worth the possible reward if you have an open RB2 or flex spot with your starter on a bye this week.
Mike Evans – Buccaneers: There are few things I can say that are positive about the Buccaneers this season, but Evans is surely one of them. Despite the glaring problems on both sides of the ball in Tampa Bay, Evans has been the textbook definition of consistent with averages of 4.9 receptions and 73.1 yards per game this season. Add to that his 5 touchdowns through eight games and you have NFL.com's #17-ranked WR this season. The matchup isn't overly sexy, with the Redskins giving up the 18th-most fantasy points to WRs this season (22.5), but Evans has scored in 5 of his last 6 games and has 249 yards in his last two games combined.
DeSean Jackson – Redskins: It surprised me to learn that despite Jackson being owned in 98.5 percent of NFL.com leagues, and being ranked #11 for WRs this season, he is started in just 58.0 percent of those leagues. How can a guy be within the top 12 for fantasy WRs yet sit on 42.0 percent of the benches? Jackson has five 100-yard games under his belt this season as Jay Gruden's go-to guy on offense and currently ranks 10th in the NFL with 784 receiving yards. On the other side of the ball, the Bucs give up a league-high 29.6 points to WRs this season.
Kyle Rudolph – Vikings: Rudolph is set to make his return this week after undergoing sports-hernia surgery back in September, and fantasy owners who are hurting at TE will want to jump on him right now! The Vikings could conceivably get back Rudolph, then Adrian Peterson next month, giving their 27th-ranked offense a major shot in the arm. There is no guarantee how Rudolph will do in his first game back, but I'd rather play him than guys like Larry Donnell, Vernon Davis, or Charles Clay.
Miami Dolphins defense: The Dolphins have the 4th-best defense in the NFL based on YPG and total points allowed, and they are tied for 5th with 10 interceptions on the season. The Bills on the other hand gain the 10th-fewest yards of total offense (331.0) and have scored the 9th-fewest points of any offense this season (191). I would rank the Dolphins as my #2 fantasy defense this week, with only the Broncos ahead of them.
Jay Cutler – Bears: Jay Cutler has been the best and worst fantasy QB to own this season. He has as many offensive weapons at his disposal as Peyton Manning yet he is just barely inside the top 10 fantasy QBs this season at #9. It doesn't help that he is tied for the league lead with 5 lost fumbles and is tied for the 2nd-most INTs with 10 this season. This week he gets a Vikings defense that is giving up the 3rd-fewest points to QBs this season (17.2). If he's not careful he could repeat his Week 10 stats and find himself on the waiver wire as we head into Week 12!
Russell Wilson – Seahawks: Wilson has had himself a pretty good season thus far, putting up 2,341 yards of total offense and 15 TDs this season. But like Cutler, Wilson and the Seahawks run into a Chiefs defense that is giving up the 4th-fewest points to QBs this season at 17.5. And you have to factor in that Wilson's fantasy numbers are a bit misleading as he had much success early in the season, but has came crashing back down to Earth in 3 of the last 4 weeks. I'd consider him a mid-range QB2 this week.
Lamar Miller – Dolphins: Miller is officially probable, but I wouldn't play him unless I was desperate at RB. With Miller nursing a shoulder injury, the Bills possessing the 8th-best run defense, and Miller averaging just 12.2 carries-per-game this season, I'd say the chances of him having true fantasy success is highly unlikely.
Ben Tate – Browns: Much like the Broncos, the Browns are going with the "hot hand" at RB from here on out. Tate's hand has been lukewarm this season with a 3.3 YPC average, thus causing him to slip behind Terrence West for the lead back role. And to make matters worse, Isaiah Crowell is back in the mix for touches now, too. That makes for a crowded backfield and a complete and total mess for fantasy owners. I'd put my money on West for fantasy value of the three, but would prefer to just avoid them altogether if possible.
Doug Baldwin – Seahawks: Baldwin burst onto the fantasy scene back in Week 7 when he lit up the Rams defense to the tune of 7 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. Since then he has combined for a total of 130 yards and no touchdowns over the next three games. The Seahawks always have been a run-first team, so banking on a WR that is averaging 48.9 YPG and has just one touchdown on the season is risky business.
Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals: In the three games that Stanton started for Carson Palmer this season, Fitzgerald averaged 4.0 catches and 47.3 yards and no touchdowns. Palmer is done for the year and Stanton is the best of what the Cardinals have, meaning Fitzgerald is going to be a hard WR to play given his QB problems. I wouldn't cut him because the talent makes him a threat, but I also wouldn't want him anywhere near my lineup with the fantasy playoffs just around the corner.
Mychal Rivera – Raiders: Rivera saved me last week with a garbage-time touchdown late in the 4th quarter. And while it is possible he does the same thing again this week, I am not going to lay my money down on the Raiders TE again with the Chargers giving up just 5.5 PPG to TEs, the 4th-fewest in the NFL. There are only so many times you can tug on the tail of a snake before it will bite you, and I have tempted fate with Rivera enough to know it's time to walk away.
New England Patriots defense: The Patriots are tied with the Cardinals for the 5th-best fantasy defense on NFL.com, but this week they could be as low as my bottom five due to their matchup. Andrew Luck has given the Colts a seamless transition from Peyton Manning, and this game could be one where we see the total score upwards of 60 points. If Luck and Tom Brady get their offenses going, it will be hard for either defense to finish in the positive column for fantasy points when the game is over.