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Brandon Funston

Dissenting Opinions: Benson, Floyd and a Felix fracas

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Every Friday during the NFL season we review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. When an expert breaks from the herd, they're asked to show their work. We try to focus on names near the start/sit line in public leagues, or on acts of complete lunacy. Let's play the feud…

Felix Jones(notes) – Evans RB rank 13, Yahoo! composite 20

The resurrection of the Cowboys offense last week in New York was reminiscent of the scene in Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman was revived with an adrenaline shot to the heart. Once considered long for dead, the jumpstarted ‘Boys played like a division contender, consuming large gains by land and air. On the sidelines, Jason Garrett was seen holding a syringe.

Jones’ spectacular performance last week was one of many terrific efforts tallied by Dallas. His 136 total yards and a touchdown on 17 touches was the seventh-best line among RBs for the week. Look for him to duplicate those numbers in the encore versus a bendable Detroit defense.

As Fred Jackson(notes) showed in Week 10, the Lions struggle against the run, and when matched against backs with considerable versatility. On the season, they’ve surrendered 4.7 yards per carry, 159.1 total yards per game and 13 TDs to rushers equal to the second-most fantasy points. Four rushers have grabbed at least five receptions in a game versus the Hello Kitties. Because of this weakness and Detroit’s better-than-advertised pass defense (239.2 ypg, 1.4 td/g), Garrett will likely feature Jones early and often. He could also be utilized heavily late if a lead balloons to an insurmountable level. With 15-20 touches, he easily finishes inside the top-15.

Felix Jones – Pianow RB rank 28, Y! composite rank 20

When Felix Jones took a short Jon Kitna(notes) pass last week and turned it into an electrifying 71-yard touchdown reception, you could hear the collective sound of fantasy owners pushing their chips into the middle of the table. Everyone wants to be back in on Felix the Cat. I commemorated the moment on Twitter, noting that Jones sure looks a lot faster without Wade Phillips on his back.

All that said, that long score was the only thing of note Jones was able to do in the win over the Giants. His other 16 touches went for an unimpressive 65 yards. The Cowboys have been unable to get Jones going in the rushing game for several weeks; he's been held to 156 yards on his last 50 carries and he hasn't scored a rushing touchdown all season. And don't push the Jason Garrett Effect on me; he's been calling the plays all year. If he knew how to get the most out of Jones, he would have done it several weeks ago.

Add it all up and I need to see another make-good week from Jones, and a week where he does more than hit one home run, before I buy into the comeback story. I realize that Detroit's rushing defense is a cushy matchup, but I'm not ready to fully trust the Dallas ground game (and offensive line) just yet.

Malcom Floyd(notes) – Evans WR rank 13, Yahoo! composite 23

Whenever a star player returns after an extended absence many pundits express apprehension, especially with a receiver who mended a lower body injury. Though in many cases it's sage to walk a cautious line, this is not one of those occasions. Simply, Floyd’s matchup and overall situation are too damn good to ignore. Timidity is for the small-balled.

As the Pianow Man smartly noted in Monday’s Brunch, shutdown corners are the mythical unicorns of the NFL. Champ Bailey(notes), once considered a matchup to avoid, isn’t invincible. Dwayne Bowe(notes) proved that last week. Though the KC receiver was the first No. 1 wideout to eclipse the century mark against the Broncos this season, opposing top targets have crossed the chalk in three of Denver’s past four games.

Add Floyd to the list.

In terms of statistical prowess, Philip Rivers(notes) is the league’s best downfield passer. He leads the NFL in completions of 20 yards or more. With Floyd, who averaged a ridiculous 21.4 yards per catch prior to injury, back in the mix, the Chargers will unleash vertical hell Monday night. Due to his stark size advantage, expect the lanky receiver to pick up where he left off.

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Cedric Benson(notes) – Pianow RB rank 8, Y! composite rank 19

I'm surprised more of my colleagues aren't up for some Benson Bingo in Week 11. We know the Bengals will feed him the ball no matter what - he's collected 19, 20, 23, 21 and 25 touches in the last five games, all losses, and he had 50 carries in the two games Cincinnati won this year. And Buffalo's rushing defense gives it away, allowing 4.7 yards a carry and 166.9 yards per game. If Benson doesn't go off in this matchup then fine, I'll downgrade him for the balance of the year. But I'm expecting him to clear 100 total yards, and score, on Sunday.

Willis McGahee(notes) – Behrens RB rank 23, Yahoo! composite rank 31

Admittedly, it seems risky ranking any running back as a fantasy starter when they're coming off a four-touch game. But the match-up with the Panthers looks like it's going to be an absolute massacre, the sort of game where we can reasonably expect McGahee to get a useful workload. Carolina's defense currently ranks No. 27 in rushing yards allowed (131.6), and McGahee should receive double-digit carries in this one — again, it's tough to believe this game will be competitive. Whatever else you think about Willis, you can't question the man's garbage-time resume. I'll refer you to the Denver box score from Week 5, as well as last year's binge against Detroit.

Jacoby Ford(notes) – Behrens WR rank 43, Yahoo! composite rank 56

Too often, fantasy experts (and fantasy gamers) place too much emphasis on the prior week's stats, and we neglect the match-up ahead. We need to recognize that sometimes ordinary players are going to have extraordinarily productive weeks, and we shouldn't overreact. But in the case of Oakland rookie Jacoby Ford, I think a certain level of excitement is warranted.

Ford wasn't on the fantasy radar — nor was he in heavy rotation in the Raiders' receiving corps — until the Kansas City game in Week 9. He was a revelation in the match-up with the Chiefs, making degree-of-difficulty catches to setup his team's game-tying and game-winning scores. He torched Brandon Flowers(notes) in the process, too. Coming off his 6-catch, 148-yard effort, Ford is expected to start at Pittsburgh in Week 11. He was the fastest player in the 2010 draft class (4.28 speed), so you know the Raiders are going to give him opportunities. At a minimum, Ford's percent-ownership needs to climb. He's still available in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues, yet he clearly has a chance to emerge as his team's most dangerous receiving threat down the stretch. This is a perfect late-season speculative add. Go get him.

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Mark Sanchez(notes) – Funston QB rank 13, Yahoo! composite 8

I get it. The Houston Texans’ secondary is terrible. Any fantasy owner would want his QB to face the Texans. But even in the best of times, Sanchez is a borderline starter, never a slam dunk, because of the personality of the Jets. True, he’s thrown a lot more in recent weeks than has been typical but I will always assume that if the Jets can enforce their will on the ground (and I believe they can this week), Sanchez won’t be asked to throw more than 25-30 times. Against Houston, that’s probably still enough for 250 yards and a couple of TD passes. But it’s been his TD runs the past two weeks that has taken him from the QB fringe to firmly inside the top 10. And those are anomalous – recall he had TD runs back to back in Week 7 and Week 8 last season, and then went the rest of the season without another ground score. In a week with seemingly so many good QB options, Sanchez lands in my game manager range along with David Garrard(notes) (12) and Shaun Hill(notes) (11). It’s really splitting hairs with those guys and if you want to convince me I should have Sanchez ahead of them, I’d listen, but I can’t comfortably slide him into the top 10 given the always realistic possibility that he won’t be asked to do too much with his arm.

Anquan Boldin(notes) – Funston WR rank 24, Yahoo! composite 19

In ranking Boldin outside the top 20, I’m certainly taking into account that Carolina corners Chris Gamble(notes) and Richard Marshall(notes) have been a shutdown unit against opposing WRs – just think about this for a second, the Panthers have played nine games and have yet to give up more than the 85 yards allowed to Mario Manningham(notes) in Week 1. In the past five weeks, only two WRs have scored against Carolina. On paper, this game is a daunting matchup for Boldin. Add to that the fact that Baltimore is one of the most run heavy teams in the league and that Carolina is the worst offense in the league (by far) and is down to its No. 3 or No. 4 QB (depending on how you want to classify Brian St. Pierre(notes). If Baltimore jumps out to an early lead, you can pretty much count on a heavy dose of Ray Rice(notes) and Willis McGahee. There’ll be no worries on the Ravens’ side that a 7-10 point lead is tenuous. And I’m convinced that the Panthers are in mail-it-in mode now. As a Panthers player, that would be how I’d feel after seeing the team’s best player (DeAngelo Williams(notes)) be put on the IR with seven games to play even though there were all kinds of reports stating that he was close to playing in Week 10 and would be back, at least, by Week 11. This will be no contest, and certainly not one that will require the services of Boldin very often.

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