This week we take another look at the “Standout Fantasy Performers.” from NFL Week 11.
The theme is the same: we’re not necessarily looking at which players had the best week, although, if fitting you’ll see the top scorer at his respective position listed, but we’ll discuss players who had a good week despite going up against a tough defense, broke out of a slump, emerged as a sleeper or just plain overcame the odds. Before it’s all over, we’ll take a look at what each of these players can expect in Week 12 or beyond.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB
Last Week: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Tick-tock, tick-tock. Where has Big Ben been all season?? Don’t you dare say “London” unless you’re referring to week 4, of course. Roethlisberger has hit quite a rough stretch this season. He’s only thrown multiple touchdowns in three games so far. One of those games happened to occur in week 11 and if you used the big man in Pittsburgh as your fill-in then you got a pleasant surprise indeed. For the first time all year, Ben threw multiple touchdowns with zero interceptions. That’s a successful formula when it comes to any quarterback.
Bottom Line: There was once a time when Roethlisberger was a pretty solid starting QB in fantasy, but outside of ’07 and ’09 Big Ben hasn’t ever shown flashes of “elite”. He does, however, have the occasional game that takes us back to his hey day as a Superbowl champ, and his 367 passing yards and 4 TDs were a perfect example of that over the weekend. The question is, now that we are heading into the playoffs, can we trust Ben on a matchup basis to get us a win? Well, that’s debatable. A few weeks ago, I would’ve said yes to this question if we were referring to Andy Dalton, but then he hit a skid and his upside became an up-and-down side. As far as Ben is concerned, he’s in the same boat and that boat’s name is the S.S. Feast or Famine (but mostly famine). He’s only broken 20 fantasy points twice all year and that was in weeks 9 and 11, but in both of those games he also threw for four touchdowns. If we could guarantee that those games would happen with even just a tad more frequency, he’d be a solid bench QB for the playoffs, but alas he is not. We can’t even count on him in easy matchups. He had a pathetic 11 fantasy points against Oakland and only 10 against Buffalo. Going forward Ben isn’t a great fantasy option, but he’s not the worst either. Expect Joe Haden to chase down his passes all day on Sunday when the Steelers head to Cleveland to face the Browns. As far as the fantasy playoffs are concerned, you would be better off with guys like Mike Glennon, EJ Manuel or Alex Smith as your QB2.
Bobby Rainey, RB
Last Week: New Orleans Saints Backfield
If we walk down memory lane to last week’s standouts column, I listed Bobby Rainey as my “sleeper to watch”. I’ve been fond of him ever since he was setting records at Western Kentucky and loved the footage I saw of his offseason workouts. However, when I listed him as a sleeper for week 11, I certainly didn’t expect him to be the top RB for the week. Rainey might as well have erased Brian Leonard’s name from the Tampa Bay roster because it was clear that he wasn’t needed. He torched the Falcons run defense with 163 yards and 2 TDs. He also grabbed both of his targets for another 4 yards and a receiving TD. For a guy who only had 21 carries before Sunday’s game, that’s one of the most impressive stat lines of the year.
Bottom Line: For anyone who trusted Rainey over Leonard on the waivers – or even if you put a claim out for both and ended up getting bumped to Rainey – you have officially received a possible playoff horse to ride to victory. I’m not going to get carried away though. The stats offer a reason to pause. Rainey had 30 carries over the weekend. Are we to believe he’s going to get 25+ carries every game? Well, the coaches have said in recent weeks that they wanted to move to running the ball more, so I imagine we can guarantee Rainey will get at least 20 carries, but what about his health? Yes, Leonard is there to change the pace but we have to be weary of what can happen when a fresh runner starts getting huge amounts of playing time. Just look at what happened to Mike James. That said, Rainey looks great in between the tackles and shows an affinity to fight for every yard. He’s finally getting his big opportunity and he looks as though he will do anything to refrain from squandering it. Moving forward, I think Rainey can be relied upon as a starting RB, especially if you’re one of the unlucky souls who lost Foster or Martin this year. Defenses ought to be stacking the box against him now, but Glennon is no chump so they’ll have to respect him as well. If Rainey can keep his momentum running thick, then there just might be a new Muscle Hamster in Tampa Bay.
Charles Clay, TE
Last week: John Carlson
Let’s talk about Miami. In fact, let’s talk about the only guy there is to talk about when referring to week 11 in Miami, Charles Clay. I’m not getting fancy here, Clay isn’t anyone to get excited over. He’s at best a high TE2 at times. The man gets his targets, gets his catches and leads his team in TDs, although that last part isn’t saying much. When you have 4 touchdowns through 11 weeks, saying you lead your team in touchdowns is like saying you hit it big last weekend at bingo. After all, Marvin Jones had a single game with 4 TDs pretty recently. However, that isn’t the point. The point is, Clay was the only Dolphins player worth starting in week 11 and that stands out.
Bottom Line: Charles Clay has been a decent bye week flier for most owners. He isn’t a must start by any means, but 4 times this season he’s produced double digit fantasy points and that’s more than you could ask of half the tight ends in the league. His 6 catches for 90 yards and a TD on Sunday was worth a solid 15 points. Granted, he couldn’t score more than 4 points over the previous three weeks, but keep in mind, he’s not a TE1 in fantasy. So this is what it comes down to. You’re heading to the playoffs and it might not be a bad idea to have a backup TE. Should you save a bench spot for Clay? Chances are there probably isn’t much better in the FA and if you’re league doesn’t allow acquisitions in the playoffs – like several of mine – then you could definitely do worse than Miami’s leader in fantasy points (outside of QB of course). This Sunday, the Dolphins invite the Panthers to play in Miami, which is certainly not a good matchup for Clay or his teammates. The Panthers are giving up less than 50 yards per game to opposing tight ends. Luckily, there aren’t any outstanding tight ends on bye this week, so avoiding Clay should be an easy choice.
Antonio Brown, WR
Last Week: Tavon Austin
Antonio Brown is having the best season of his career. Unfortunately it’s happening when the Steelers are going through what I can only imagine is a “transitional phase” or something like that. Nonetheless, Brown has been a decent start all year. He’s only hit double digits in four games but he’s gotten close in another three and hasn’t scored less than 5 fantasy points all season. Occasionally, he has a huge game too, like he did on Sunday. His 7 catches for 147 yards and 2 TDs made up for almost half of Ben Roethlisberger’s stats over the weekend. In fact, Ben’s three best games all came when Brown hit double digits in fantasy. It’s obvious that their success nearly hinges on each other exclusively.
Bottom Line: The former sixth round pick isn’t quite a “stud” yet, but that’s not to say he couldn’t be one. Imagine if he had Brady or Brees throwing to him? Actually, imagine if Ben had more time in the pocket. Brown would probably have at least 3 more touchdowns on the season if that were the case. The fact of the matter is this: you can’t exactly bench Brown by any means, unless of course your WR depth precedes him with names like Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green. One thing is for certain though: Brown’s upcoming game this Sunday against the Browns (haha) is certainly a game worth sitting the rising star. Joe Haden is quietly becoming the best shutdown corner in the league. Aside from his recent 2 INT game – in which one went for his first TD ever – Haden has shutdown the likes of the aforementioned Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, among others. Antonio Brown should have just s much trouble against him. His matchup is one of the toughest in the league, but you could do worse than start him this week. One might consider picking up Jericho Cotchery or Emmanuel Sanders, either of which should be able to produce something of merit while Brown is tied up on top of “Mt. Haden”.
Buffalo Bills, D/ST
Last Week: St. Louis Rams
Anyone who plays their defense based on matchups sure made the right choice with the Bills over the weekend. Geno Smith remained vintage Geno Smith in the Jets Sunday matchup against the Bills. The rookie QB threw 3 INTs – one to Da’Norris Searcy for a TD – and fumbled the ball twice, although only one was recovered by the Bills.
Bottom Line: The Bills also recorded 4 sacks in the home game against the Jets, giving them 36 sacks on the season and second only to the Chiefs (37). The Bills D put up 19 fantasy points and were rock solid in week 11. This week, however, they have a bye so you’re going to want to turn to another good defensive matchup like the Houston Texans who face the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Stephen Gostkowski, K
Last Week: Stephen Hauschka
Honestly, Gotstkowski didn’t really “stand out” in week 11, per se. Ten kickers reached double digit fantasy points last week – Gostkowski had 8 – so I decided to cover a kicker in this spot who will probably get a lot of scoring opportunities in week 12. When I looked at the matchups, the league’s #2 kicker jumped out of the page and fantasy kicked me in the face.
Bottom Line: Gostkowski has been nearly perfect all season. He’s only missed one kick and that was week 2 against the Jets where the weather was almost as unforgiving as the atrocious score. This Sunday night the Patriots host the Broncos and the score should get higher than gas prices. That means Gostkowski should be hitting more than a couple extra points and quite possibly 3 or more field goals as both offenses are expected to see a lot of drives. Gostkowski is of course a safe bet this week – much like any week – as well as Denver’s kicker Matt Prater.
Rashad Jennings, RB
Last Week: Riley Cooper
Rashad Jennings is almost making me forget about ol’ DMC over there in Oakland. I always keep in the back of my head the potential that McFadden could have if he were to stay healthy for a whole season. Then, as that thought fades, I remember that his backup usually steps up whenever DMC goes down. It used to be Michael Bush and now it’s Rashad Jennings. Over the past three weeks, Jennings has hit double digits in fantasy points. In that span he’s collected 340 rushing yards and 2 TDs for a combined 54 fantasy points. In his last game alone, he had 150 yards and a touchdown. If that’s not a hot streak then I don’t know what I’m doing.
Bottom Line: Aside from his prowess in the run game, Jennings is also a decent threat in the pass game. In week 9 he attracted 10 targets, catching 7 of them for 74 yards. Just like any handcuff player, I have to ask the question: how long is this going to last? In my personal opinion, it will last as long as McFadden doesn’t play. When DMC is back rolling, it’s most likely that he will split the carries with Jennings, who is averaging just fewer than 20 per game right now. Even then, chances are Jennings would be the one to score out of the two versatile backs. This Sunday, the Raiders host the Titans and their run defense that’s currently allowing over 20 fantasy points per game. Whether Jennings is flying solo this weekend or not, he’s worth a start since he’s been playing more like a first round pick than a seventh.
Sleeper to Watch:
Last Week: Bobby Rainey
Mike Glennon, QB
For the second week in a row, I’m putting a Tampa Bay player in this category. Is Mike Glennon really a sleeper at this point though? Well, considering he’s owned in 46% of CBS leagues and only started in 25%, I think it does. In his last game, against Atlanta, he completed 87% of his passes while throwing for 231 yards and 2 TDs. He finished that game with a QB rating of 137.5 as a rookie; a feat that Andrew Luck couldn’t achieve in his rookie season. Of course, Glennon had help with RB Bobby Rainey running all over the Falcon’s defense which allowed him to only need to attempt 23 passes.
Bottom Line: Glennon has put up 11 TDs and only 4 INTs as a rookie since he took over the starting position in week 4. If I had tried to predict anything like that at the beginning of the year, I easily would’ve been smacked for fantasy football blasphemy – which I deserve sometimes anyways. The fact of the matter is, he’s now become a viable fantasy option on a matchup basis going forward, and this weekend’s matchup against the 30th ranked pass defense is no exception. The Bucs are headed to Detroit to play the Lions indoors. Glennon is coming off of a two game win streak and has a ground game with the potential to keep the passing game wide open. If you’re missing Nick Foles or Russell Wilson this week, Glennon could be your free agency gem with a great matchup that looks to be a high scoring game.