It’s safe to say the group of Week 10 Sleepers was a monster miss on my part. That happens more often than not. This isn’t easy. If it was, then we’d all be rolling around in more money than we’d know what to do with. I’m not a quitter, though. I’ll be here every Thursday throwing these out here for your amusement. The weeks with four and six teams on the bye are over. We have just two teams on their open date this week – the Cowboys and Rams. Let’s get to the action. Below are a dozen players I feel decently good enough about this week that I’d consider throwing in lineups if I were in a bind.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill vs. Chargers: The Miami offensive line issues are well-documented by now. It’s missing arguably its best blocker in left guard Richie Incognito, center Mike Pouncey appeared to not even care last Monday night against the Bucs, and the tackles are turnstiles. All that being said, the line held up pretty decently in pass protection in Week 10 against a weak pass rushing team. The Chargers are a similarly unimposing defense when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Also, as Patrick Daugherty noted in his Week 11 rankings, the Bolts are allowing a league-worst 68.4 completion percentage. Derek Cox has been one of the biggest free-agent busts of 2013. San Diego is surrendering the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and Pro Football Focus has graded its pass coverage out as the absolute worst in the NFL. Trot Tannehill out there as a legit QB2 option.
Bucs QB Mike Glennon vs. Falcons: Overall, Glennon has been pretty impressive since he took over the reins at quarterback. The Falcons have been terrible against the pass – and on defense altogether – this season. Russell Wilson did whatever he wanted against Atlanta last week, and Glennon had arguably his best start of the year against this defense in Week 7 when he posted a 90.7 quarterback rating and threw for 256 yards and two scores. Per the stat-heads at Pro Football Focus, the Falcons are a bottom-six pass defense. They’ve also allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and the fourth-most passing scores. With the Bucs minus their top two running backs, OC Mike Sullivan could opt to put more on Glennon’s plate down the stretch to see what they’re working with for 2014.
Jets QB Geno Smith vs. Bills: I don’t particularly love this matchup for Smith, but I didn’t like a lot of the quarterback matchups outside of the obvious QB1 plays this week. (I did, however, consider putting Matt Ryan in this slot, but I would have undoubtedly caught heat from readers saying Ryan isn’t a sleeper.) Smith has been either downright awful or stellar in all of his starts. There hasn’t been much middle ground. The rookie shredded the Bills for 345 total yards and three touchdowns in Week 3, easily his best game of 2013. That was at home, however, and the Bills were minus Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd at the time. Going into Buffalo is a whole other animal. The Bills have given up the most passing touchdowns in the league. I like Smith as a boom-or-bust desperation QB2 but nothing more.
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Ravens RB Bernard Pierce vs. Bears: The Baltimore rushing attack has been nothing short of abysmal all season. If it’s going to break out, this is the week to do it. The Bears have been terrible against the run, surrendering the sixth-most rushing yards to running backs and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 run defense. Coach John Harbaugh came out this week and said he’s willing to consider a hot-hand approach in the backfield between Pierce and Ray Rice. Rice is clearly still being affected by his early-season hip issue. Pierce, in his own right, hasn’t been much better, but he needs to be rostered in all formats with the aforementioned news of a possible committee approach. Simply put, the back that can pick up yards is going to play the most. Pierce is nothing more than a Week 11 flex option, but the matchup is favorable.
Bucs RB Bobby Rainey vs. Falcons: Rainey played just 11 snaps last Monday night, his first snaps as a Buccaneer. He was claimed off waivers from the Browns in Week 8. Coach Greg Schiano hinted at a committee approach between Rainey and Brian Leonard now that Doug Martin (shoulder) and Mike James (ankle) have been lost for the season. Anyone that watched the Bucs play the Dolphins last week saw that Rainey has considerably more bounce to his step than Leonard. It wasn’t particularly close. Leonard isn’t going to handle 20 carries again, while Rainey shouldn’t struggle for 8-10 touches. The Falcons are a bottom-six run defense, and Rainey could get some looks in the passing game as an option in space. Fire him up as a deep-league flex option.
Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya vs. Bengals: The Browns stated over their bye week that they’d like to get Ogbonnaya more touches at the expense of Willis McGahee. Ogbonnaya is already the team’s preferred passing-down back, but it’s quite possible he could get more early-down looks starting this week. The Bengals didn’t seem to miss a beat last week minus All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, but let’s not underestimate that loss. It’s a mammoth one. If this defense struggles in any phase against opposing running backs, it’s in the passing game. Cincinnati has allowed the fourth-most receptions out of the backfield. That’s where Ogbonnaya has been doing the bulk of his “damage.” He’ll be an RB4/flex option in deeper leagues this week with room for his role to expand.
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Jaguars WR Mike Brown vs. Cardinals: I had Brown in this section last week. Unfortunately for fantasy purposes, the Jaguars jumped out to a lead and held it throughout the game to earn their first victory. That’s not going to happen often. Brown saw just two targets in the win, securing both for 40 yards while he played 85 percent of the snaps as the unquestioned No. 2 receiver. Patrick Peterson is expected to shadow No. 1 receiver Cecil Shorts on Sunday, leaving Brown to run most of his routes against Jerraud Powers. Powers is near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ coverage ratings and has allowed a 99.5 quarterback rating on passes thrown at him. Treat Brown as a dice-roll WR3 every week.
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Raiders: Hopkins has averaged seven targets per game in Case Keenum’s three starts and has eclipsed 54 yards receiving in each game, including one touchdown. The Raiders defense has been showing signs of breaking down in recent weeks. Oakland is now allowing the eighth-most fantasy points and has given up over 1,700 yards to opposing wideouts. Hopkins doesn’t separate all that well but has vice-grip mitts and has settled in as a nice complement opposite Andre Johnson. Both receivers could run wild in this week’s home game. Hopkins is on the WR3 map.
Bills WR Marquise Goodwin vs. Jets: Goodwin has seen his targets increase over the past three weeks. He’s seen five, four, and four balls come his way in each of the past three contests. The Jets have an imposing run defense, but they’re struggling badly against the pass. Antonio Cromartie simply isn’t the same player he was in 2012, while Dee Milliner and Darrin Walls have been unimpressive on the other side. With Robert Woods (ankle) already ruled out for Week 11 and Stevie Johnson (groin) is serious doubt, Goodwin could play an every-down role Sunday. He has blazing wheels, and the Jets have been beat deep on several occasions. Goodwin has some WR4/5 appeal.
Cardinals TE Rob Housler vs. Jaguars: Last week, Housler played his highest percentage of snaps (66.7) since Week 5 and reeled in 4-of-5 targets for a season-best 57 yards and his first touchdown. Housler has a cake matchup on deck. The Jaguars are allowing the second-most fantasy points to tight ends and could be without top linebacker Paul Posluszny (concussion). Jacksonville is also running a rotation at safety. Michael Floyd (shoulder) and Andre Roberts (knee) are a bit banged up. They’re looking like they’ll suit up Sunday but could be a bit limited. Housler should remain a key part of the offense. He’s starting to show signs of life and is looking like a solid TE2 option this week.
Seahawks TE Zach Miller vs. Vikings: Miller is about as unreliable as they come at tight end. He posted his highest yards total (49) in Week 9, but then wasn’t targeted a single time last week. The Vikings are horrific against tight ends. Their linebackers can’t cover, and their best defensive back, Harrison Smith (toe), is on the shelf. Minnesota has coughed up a league-worst – tied with Arizona -- nine touchdowns to tight ends. Russell Wilson likes to look Miller’s way near the goal line on occasion. He isn’t a bad bet to find pay dirt this week, though Miller is merely a desperation play.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz vs. Redskins: Ertz has steadily been playing over 50 percent of the snaps in recent weeks. But after reeling in 5-of-6 targets for 42 yards and a score against the Raiders in Week 9, he didn’t see a single Nick Foles pass come his direction last Sunday. Expect that to change this week. The Redskins are pitiful up the middle on the second and third levels of defense. Both inside linebackers Perry Riley and London Fletcher and all three safeties Brandon Meriweather, E.J. Biggers, and Baccari Rambo are near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ coverage ratings at their respective positions. Ertz is the superior player to Brent Celek and should see a handful of targets this week. Treat Ertz as a low-end TE2 with upside for Week 11.