By Matt Citak
With only three weeks left in the fantasy football season, every single point counts as you fight your way to a postseason berth. We have several new faces on this week’s list, as recent injuries have led to different players gaining more opportunities to prove themselves. Let’s get right to it.
Here are CBS Local Sports’ Week 11 Fantasy Football Starts and Sits.
QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
This is a dream scenario for any and all Alex Smith fantasy owners. Head coach Andy Reid is notorious for being amazing after a bye. In his career, Reid is 16-2 following his team’s week off, and with the Chiefs fresh off their Week 10 bye, this is great news for Chiefs fans. In Week 11, Kansas City travels to the Meadowlands to take on the sinking New York Giants. Not only is Smith averaging over 25 fantasy points per game in five road contests this season, but the Giants have also proven to be unable to stop any opposing quarterback. In their last three games, New York’s defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to score 26 or more fantasy points in each game, including a matchup against rookie C.J. Beathard. Smith is a strong QB1 this week.
QB: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
The Patriots pass defense has looked a lot better in recent weeks, limiting Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Brock Osweiler to 18 fantasy points or less in their last three games. However even with the improved play, New England is still allowing a league-worst 287 passing yards per game, and with the way Carr is playing right now, the Patriots should be worried. Carr has thrown for at least 300 yards in three consecutive games, the second time in his career he has accomplished this feat. This Week 11 matchup will occur in Mexico City, the location where Carr dismantled the Houston Texans last season. Carr could finish as a top QB this week.
QB: Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins
Garbage time has helped Cutler put up two straight solid fantasy outings. In those two contests, the veteran quarterback has thrown for 524 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception in Miami losses against the Raiders and Panthers. Cutler has multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games now, and with a home tilt against the Buccaneers on tap for Week 11, he has a very good chance at extending that streak. Tampa Bay is allowing the sixth-highest passer rating to opposing quarterbacks, who have averaged around 18 fantasy points per game against the Bucs defense this season. Trusting Cutler always comes with a risk, but if you need a fill-in quarterback for the week, Cutler is your guy.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles
We caught a glimpse of Ajayi’s potential in the Eagles offense back in Week 9, when the newly-acquired running back carried the ball eight times for 77 yards (9.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Following Philadelphia’s bye week, the Eagles plan to give their new running back a bigger workload. Ajayi entered the 2017 season as a top running back, and now that he’s with one of the league’s top teams, there is a good chance he lives up to his draft position. The Eagles are on the road this week, taking on the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Dallas will be without starting middle linebacker Sean Lee, who’s presence is vital to the success of the Cowboys’ rush defense. With Lee on the sidelines in Weeks 4 and 5, Todd Gurley and Aaron Jones ran for a combined 246 yards and a touchdown, adding eight receptions for 103 yards and an additional score. This could be the week Ajayi finally goes off.
RB: Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
Since shipping Ajayi to Philadelphia, the Dolphins have been using a running back by committee approach, as both Drake and Damien Williams have received double digit touches in the last two games. However the productivity of the two backs has not been remotely close. Drake has carried the ball 16 times for 151 yards, good for 9.4 yards per carry, and a touchdown, while adding eight receptions for 45 yards. Meanwhile Williams has also gotten 16 carries, but has only been able to take those attempts for 33 yards, adding eight receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Williams should continue to see the field in passing situations, but Drake should take over as the lead rusher. The Dolphins face the Buccaneers in Week 11, who are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Drake could explode in this plus matchup.
RB: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots
Consistency is hard to find when it comes to the Patriots backfield. Yet over the last four games, Lewis has received between 11-15 carries in each contest, scoring two rushing touchdowns with an additional kickoff return touchdown in last week’s win over Denver. The lead back in New England is always worth flex consideration, especially in a plus matchup like in Week 11. New England will take on a Raiders team that’s allowing 116.6 rushing yards per game, and has allowed an opposing running back to either score a touchdown or gain 90 total yards in eight consecutive games. This makes Lewis’ teammate Rex Burkhead another solid play this week. Both running backs are worthy of a spot in your lineup this week, with Lewis getting the edge in standard leagues and Burkhead in PPR.
WR: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen has hit a rough stretch over the last few weeks, as matchups against the Jaguars, Patriots, and Broncos have limited him to a total of just 11 catches for 150 yards and no touchdowns. However his luck might change in Week 11, as the 6-foot-2 receiver has a home matchup against the Bills and their suddenly struggling defense. After beginning the season as one of the toughest defenses to score on, Buffalo has allowed the second-most points and touchdowns per drive over the last month. The Bills are also surrendering the 10th-most fantasy points per game to WRs on short and intermediate passes, which is where Allen is most often targeted. All signs point towards Allen having a bounce-back performance this week.
WR: DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
Parker has quietly been very consistent this season. In each game that he has played the full 60 minutes, the third-year wide receiver has at least four receptions and 66 yards. Now those numbers are nothing to write home about. However Parker has made a few magnificent catches this season, and has shown flashes of greatness in his limited action. Miami will go up against the Buccaneers this week, and as we mentioned with Cutler, their pass defense is rather bad. Parker’s fantasy owners have been waiting for a breakout performance all season, and Week 11 might finally be the time.
WR: Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lee has come out of nowhere to suddenly be one of the hottest names in fantasy football. The 25-year-old receiver has gotten double digit targets in three of Jacksonville’s last four games (39 targets total) on his way to 23 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns. With three of those contests ending in Jaguars wins, don’t be surprised to see Bortles lean heavily on his new favorite receiver again, especially with fellow starting wideout Allen Hurns out this week. While Lee will likely draw shadow coverage from Jason McCourty this week, his volume over the last month should keep him in your starting lineup. Don’t expect an explosion from Lee, but he has a good chance of putting up another solid performance come Sunday.
TE: Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins
The matchup for Davis this week is a bad one, but if Jordan Reed is forced to sit again, then Davis has to be in your lineup. In the last two weeks with Reed on the sidelines, Davis has caught 13-of-20 receptions for 148 yards. In each of the three games that Reed has missed this season, Davis has at least seven fantasy points. New Orleans has only allowed one tight end to have 30 yards against them this season, and that was Rob Gronkowski. However, the Saints defense has allowed a tight end to score in each of the past two games, meaning Davis has a decent chance of scoring if the Redskins can get into the red zone. Monitor Reed’s status leading up to the game, but if he’s out, get Davis into your starting lineup.
TE: Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brate has been very frustrating to own in fantasy this year. After scoring touchdowns every game from Weeks 3 through 6, the big tight end has failed to find the end zone since. Brate has now gone four straight games without scoring, and in the last two weeks has caught just 2-of-7 targets for 19 yards. That is not what you want to see from a guy producing like a top tight end through the first five games of the season. But this week, Brate faces off against a Dolphins defense that has allowed a tight end to score or gain 100 yards in four consecutive games. Brate could easily extend that streak to five.
QB: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
While Mariota no longer carries an injury designation on the final injury report before Thursday’s game, he still won’t be a great play in Week 11. The third-year QB has had only one game with more than 20 fantasy points all season. This week, he faces a Steelers defense that ranks top-five in opposing passer rating, passing yards allowed per game, and has yet to allow a quarterback to score 20 fantasy points this year. Both teams are trying to get over some injuries, and when you combine that with the short week, you get a recipe for a low-scoring Thursday night affair. Mariota’s rushing abilities always elevates his fantasy floor, but he will not be a great play in Week 11.
QB: Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings
Who would have expected this sort of performance from Keenum? Certainly not me. The fifth-year quarterback has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 592 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions over the last two weeks, both of which were Vikings wins. In fact Minnesota has now won five straight games under Keenum, which has led to a two-game lead in the NFC North. There’s no denying Keenum’s has played well since taking over as the starting QB, but leave him on your bench in Week 11. The Vikings will take on the Rams this week, who are allowing opposing quarterbacks to average just 9.3 fantasy points over the last five games. Los Angeles also has the third-best opposing passer rating (75.0) and surrenders the ninth-fewest passing yards (204) per game. Start Keenum at your own risk this week.
QB: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has had an up-and-down campaign in 2017. While he is coming off a strong outing against the Titans in Nashville last week, you would need to find yourself in a pretty desperate quarterback situation to be starting Dalton against the Broncos in Week 11. Going up against tough defenses this season, Dalton has struggled mightily, scoring 13 points against Buffalo, 10 against the Steelers, and only five against the Jaguars. Denver’s defense has struggled over their last two matchups, but Dalton is no Tom Brady or Carson Wentz. Dalton managed just 206 yards with an interception against the Broncos last season. Now is not the week to roll the dice on Dalton.
RB: Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys
Morris actually looked solid in his first game since taking over for Ezekiel Elliott as the Cowboys’ primary ball carrier, carrying the rock 11 times for 53 yards (4.8 yards per carry). Game flow was working against the veteran back as Dallas trailed throughout the entire game, and things are unlikely to get better this week. In Week 11, the Cowboys welcome the Eagles and their elite run defense into Dallas. Philadelphia is allowing the fewest yards per carry (2.88) and the fewest rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. The Eagles’ 66.4 rushing yards allowed per game is over 14 yards fewer than the second-best mark. With starting tackle Tyron Smith looking less and less likely to play, signs are pointing towards a rough day for Morris and the Cowboys offense.
RB: Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins
Perine will once again attempt to take advantage of injuries in the Redskins backfield when Washington travels to New Orleans to take on the 7-2 Saints in Week 11. Rob Kelley is expected to miss multiple weeks, meaning a strong outing from Perine on Sunday could give him a stronghold on the role of Washington’s primary ball carrier. But don’t expect that to happen against the Saints. New Orleans has allowed just three rushing touchdowns to running backs all season. Sporting one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses, the Saints are likely to build an early lead over the Redskins, meaning Perine’s teammate, Chris Thompson, will likely receive more playing time as the pass-catching back.
RB: Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers
Williams finds himself in a very similar situation as Perine. Injuries to Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery have led to Williams taking over as Green Bay’s starting running back. In limited action this season, Williams has not looked great. The rookie out of BYU has carried the ball 31 times for 101 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and a touchdown. In his first extended action last week, Williams averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on 20 rush attempts, finishing the day with 67 rushing yards. The Ravens rush defense has struggled this season, but over the last two weeks, the unit has done a great job of limiting both Miami and Tennessee’s backfields, as no back has gained more than 26 yards on the ground over that span. With Jones likely out 3-6 weeks, Williams could provide some fantasy value down the road. It is unlikely to happen this week, though.
WR: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Besides for the quarterback himself, no player has been affected more by the injury to Aaron Rodgers than Jordy Nelson. Nelson had six receiving touchdowns in the five games prior to his quarterback breaking his collar bone. In the three games that Brett Hundley has started, Nelson has caught a total of 8-of-15 targets for a mere 68 yards and no touchdowns. To call those stats disappointing would be an understatement… The Ravens are also allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, making both Nelson and Randall Cobb easy fades this week.
WR: Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo Bills
Benjamin finds himself in the “Sit” section for multiple reasons. For starters, he is still rather new to the Buffalo offense, and will likely be learning as he goes for the remainder of the season. Second, head coach Sean McDermott decided to bench starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. We haven’t seen much of Peterman since he was drafted in April, so there’s always a chance he plays well and exceeds expectations. But in his first career start, I think he will hit a lot of road bumps and struggle. Finally, the Bills are up against the Chargers this week, and shutdown corner Casey Hayward will likely shadow Benjamin throughout the game. Benjamin will be nowhere near my starting lineup this week.
WR: Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
Jones’ presence on here might come as a surprise, as he has been one of the NFL’s top wide receivers over the last month. But last week, Jones received only two targets, catching one of them for 22 yards. This was a huge letdown after receiving double digit targets in each of the three prior games. Week 10 saw the return of rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who served as one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite targets at the beginning of the season. Golladay’s snap volume should increase this week, which could further limit Jones’ fantasy ceiling. You are probably going to start Jones no matter what, but temper your expectations for him this week against a surprisingly-tough Bears pass defense.
TE: Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Henry is yet another frustrating player to own in fantasy. After having zero balls thrown to him in two of the first three games of the season, Henry had a stretch of four games in which he either caught a touchdown or had 73 receiving yards in every contest. But over the last two games, Henry seems to have resorted back to his early-season role. In the Chargers’ last two games, Henry has caught 3-of-4 targets for just 18 yards. Los Angeles has seemingly favored putting additional wideouts on the field recently rather than using heavy tight end formations, which hurts Henry’s fantasy outlook. The Bills have also allowed only one tight end to score this year. While Henry has the potential to blow up any given week, it does not look like it will happen in this Week 11 matchup against Buffalo.
TE: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Walker has been a picture of consistency over the last few games. The veteran tight end has combined for 18 catches on 24 targets for 197 yards over Tennessee’s last three games, all Titans’ wins. While he is still dealing with a wrist injury, Walker will not carry an injury designation ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Steelers. Pittsburgh ranks third in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends this season, and has kept Kyle Rudolph, Travis Kelce, and Jack Doyle all under 9.0 fantasy points. As much as Mariota loves throwing to his reliable tight end, I don’t believe Walker will fare better than those three tight ends just mentioned. As long as you have another viable option at tight end, I’m sitting Walker for this Thursday night clash.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.