It's the last week of byes — And all his people said, "Amen!"
This week will be especially tough on the QB position, as Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Alex Smith are all dealing with injuries that threaten their weekend participation. And, as always, the signal caller is where we'll start this week's early breakdown of Week 11, Skinny-style:
Total Week 11 green-light plays by position: 10 QB; 9 RB; 12 WR; 9 TE; 7 DST
Note: Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate where he ranks at his position in per game fantasy scoring
Least FPPG allowed (QB): PIT; SEA; CHI; SF; DAL
• Cam Newton had huge success in his first two career meetings with Tampa Bay in '11, a team that has allowed more than 250 passing yards to every QB it has faced this year outside the punch line that is Brady Quinn, who managed just 180 yards in a Week 6 meeting with the Bucs. In those two '11 meetings with the Bucs, Newton combined for 4 TD passes and 4 TD runs. In Week 1 of this season, he threw for 303 yards against the Bucs.
• Andy Reid doesn't know how to take it easy on a QB. It's been 10 years since his team ranked in the top 20 in rushing attempts from the running back position. This year's team ranks No. 19, so there's a chance that streak will come to an end. But the point here is that we shouldn't expect a conservative, run-heavy attack just because Nick Foles is making his first NFL start. In fact, Foles showed enough last week in throwing for more than 200 yards and completing nearly 70 percent of his passes (in a little more than two quarters) against a good Dallas secondary, that we shouldn't be surprised at all if Foles is firing away in Week 11, especially against a Redskins defense that has allowed more FAN PPG to QBs than every team save New Orleans. If you're an owner dealing with an Eli Manning bye (or one of the injuries I mentioned at the top), don't be shy about employing Foles this week.
• Brad Evans called Carson Palmer a Garbage Time All Star in his Week 11 Pickups of the Week, and there's plenty of truth to that statement. Of his 375 pass attempts, 70 percent (261) have come when Oakland has trailed. And his QB Rating is a solid 93.2 in that situation. Against a hot New Orleans team averaging 28 points per game (and allowing 28), there's a good chance Palmer will be scoreboard chasing again on Sunday, which makes him worthy of QB1 consideration.
• Jacksonville has held a team without a TD pass in four games this year, including Houston in Week 2. In fact, the team has allowed more rushing TDs (11) than TD tosses (9). The set-up suits the Texans, the most run-heavy team in the league, just fine. But lots of handoffs for Arian Foster makes Matt Schaub a dull fantasy play.
• Philip Rivers has just 2 TD passes combined in his past three trips to Denver. And Denver has allowed the 14th-fewest FAN PPG to QBs this season despite facing a top 13 QB (in FAN PPG) in seven of its nine games. Don't think Rivers is turning a corner just because he blew up against Tampa Bay last week. As I mentioned above, that's something that everyone who has faced the Bucs, save Brady Quinn, has done.
• Ryan Fitzpatrick's averages 251 passing yards and has combined for 9 TD passes in three home games this season. Last year, when he hosted Miami, he threw for 316 yards and 2 TDs. The Dolphins have allowed five QBs to top the 300-yard passing mark this season.
• Even though it's a brutal matchup against Chicago, I'd bump Colin Kaepernick up to upper-yellow light range if he winds up starting because Alex Smith (concussion) isn't cleared to play — it sounds like Smith has a decent chance to play, though. Kaepernick has RGIII-esque rushing ability, which he flashed (66 rushing yards, TD) in a little over two quarters last week against St. Louis.
Least FPPG allowed (RB): HOU; SF; CHI; SEA; PIT
• The Patriots employ one of the most lauded passing attacks in the NFL. But many might be surprised to know that they also boast the top-scoring fantasy backfield in '12. Against an Indy defense that New England should be able to move at will against, I can easily see Stevan Ridley carrying the ball 20-25 times for 100-plus yards and a TD or two.
• BenJarvus Green-Ellis has averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in every game since Week 1. Basically he's been a real-life preview of the "Walking Dead" every Sunday, or just a brutal reminder of Cedric Benson for Bengals fans. A matchup with a KC defense allowing the 12th-most FAN PPG to RBs isn't enough to get me excited about hiring The Law Firm in Week 11.
• In their past eight games, the Eagles have allowed 105.6 rushing yards per game to RBs, 11th-highest mark in the NFL in that span. With Robert Griffin III nursing sore ribs, don't be surprised if the Redskins lean heavily on Alfred Morris in this contest. Morris ranks sixth among RBs (averaging at least 10 carries per game) in yards per carry (4.8).
• C.J. Spiller has topped 100 yards from scrimmage in eight straight games in which he has touched the ball at least 16 times. And he's gone over that mark in the last two games in which he hasn't reached that touches count. With Fred Jackson (concussion) sitting because of a short week, Spiller has huge upside against a Miami defense that Spiller burned for 167 total yards and 2 TDs in Week 15 last season — speaking of the Dolphins, they allowed Chris Johnson to rush for 126 yards and a TD last week.
• It was no surprise that Marcel Reece caught 7 passes last week, but the 13 carries were unexpected for the former collegiate wideout. Clearly, reports of Taiwan Jones' expected involvement were greatly exaggerated. Reece is clearly the one RB left that Oakland has any faith in. And, with New Orleans on the docket, and TE Brandon Myers potentially sitting with a concussion, Reece could be all over the place on offense for the Raiders on Sunday. He's much more than just a PPR consideration this week against a shoddy Saints defense.
• Beanie Wells is not going to return until Week 12, so I'm playing a hunch on LaRod Stephens-Howling this week. You saw how bad Atlanta is at tackling last week, as Saints RBs posted 149 rushing yards against them, including a Chris Ivory 56-yard TD run that included a stiff arm that Dunta Robinson is surely wishing had never been caught on tape. Atlanta allows the 3rd-most yards per carry (4.9), which bodes well for LSH's prospects. As does his ability as a receiver (85 rec. yards combined past three games), should Arizona get put in a scoreboard chasing position.
• Daniel Thomas has just two less carries than Reggie Bush (26 to 24) over the past three games. Against the worst fantasy run defense, by far (Buffalo), Thomas is a legit RB2 contender this week.
• To my eye, Shonn Greene is running hard and showing a bit more burst than I've typically seen from him over the past few years. He's also tied with Jamaal Charles for the 10th-most carries per game (17.1). But, thanks to what could be considered the toughest schedule for a RB to this point, Greene's season totals are modest. The Rams have struggled with power backs this season as they have allowed 89-plus rushing yards to the likes of Stevan Ridley, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore and Alfred Morris. With 17-plus touches on Sunday, I could see Greene pushing 80-90 rushing yards, if not more.
Least FPPG allowed (WR): SEA; PIT; NYJ; SF; DEN/CHI
• Just an observation: There's no excuse for A.J. Green to ever be as wide open as he was on his TD on Sunday. When a guy comes into the game having scored in each of his previous seven games, you think every defensive huddle would conclude with a "Watch out for Green" reminder. C'mon, G-men. Really?
• I've always been a fan of Brandon Marshall, but I found another level of respect for him after his 107-yard performance on Monday night. He had a pretty lousy hand to play, what with Houston coming in with a laser focus of shutting him down with double teams. And then you throw in the lousy weather conditions and Chicago's switch to Jason Campbell at QB after Jay Cutler suffered a concussion. It's pretty amazing that Marshall ended up raking in the pot with those cards.
• According to FantasyPros, Steve Smith is the industry consensus No. 17 WR in the early Week 11 rankings. This against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed six receivers to top the 100-yard mark this season, including Smith in Week 1 (7/106). Only the Saints have allowed more FAN PPG to WRs than the Bucs. Smith most definitely has top 10 potential this week.
• I already mentioned how I like Marcel Reece this week, but I'd be remiss if I didn't also throw some love at Raiders receivers Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey. Facing the most generous pass defense (New Orleans), likely without Brandon Myers or a traditional featured back, the two wideouts are looking at a potentially huge target load. Moore is a given for most owners now, but Heyward-Bey can still be had in plenty of leagues. He's had 74 receiving yards or better in three of his past four games, and a TD in two of those contests. He has WR2 upside this week.
• Whether San Francisco ends up going with a post-concussed Alex Smith or raw second-year backup Colin Kaepernick, you're likely to see a very conservative offensive approach from the Niners against a Chicago defense that allows, far and away, the lowest QB Rating in the league. I'd search high and low for a Michael Crabtree replacement this week.
• Eric Decker, Torrey smith, James Jones … you're chasing TDs with these guys as none of them rank higher than No. 18 among WRs in receiving yards. I like Decker's chances (vs. San Diego) of finding pay dirt this week, but both Detroit and Pittsburgh allow less than a TD per game to WRs, so Jones and Smith won't have it nearly as easy.
Least FPPG allowed (TE): IND; JAX; CLE; SF; ARI
• St. Louis allows the 10th-most yards per game to TEs. It's a matchup that Dustin Keller should be able to keep on rolling against. Keller has the 5th-best FAN PPG mark among TEs over the past four weeks.
• Over the past three weeks, Dwayne Allen ranks 7th among TEs in receiving yards. With Coby Fleener unlikely to return this week from his shoulder injury, Allen will continue to run in a lead TE role for the Colts in what will likely be a high-volume passing situation on Sunday at New England. And that's good news for Allen's fantasy owners, as the Patriots allow the 4th-most FAN PPG to TEs.
• Guess who ranks behind only Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski over the past five weeks in FAN PPG at the TE position? Our old friend Antonio Gates. He's pulled himself out of Bust of the Year consideration with 4 TDs in his past four games. And he faces a Denver defense that he rung up 2 TDs and 81 yards against back in Week 6. In fact, the Broncos have allowed more fantasy points to the position than any other team. Gates looks golden this week.
• Here's a deep sleeper for you: Rob Housler. Atlanta has allowed 50-plus receiving yards to a TE in five of its past six games. And Housler has posted 45-plus yards in four of his past six games. In fact, he's the new Brandon Myers, as Housler has the most yards at the TE position among those that have yet to score a TD.
• Something tells me that we'll finally get a slump-busting performance out of Vernon Davis this week. I don't have much of an arsenal to support that theory, it's just a hunch. And sometimes I just have to trust my gut. Of course, you don't …
Least FPPG allowed (DST): NE; TB; WAS; HOU; ATL
WEEK 11 GAME PREDICTIONS
Buffalo 27, Miami 23