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November 13, 2012
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Pity the Foles

Chris Wesseling
Senior Writer, Rotoworld.com

You’ve had a lot of fun, but you don’t have Michael Vick to kick around anymore.

Week 10 was tough on quarterbacks. A starting signal-caller went down in each of the last four games played. Of the felled four, Vick is the one least likely to return to the lineup the rest of the way. The Eagles will reportedly use the opportunity to “rest” Vick, returning to a more traditional pocket offense with rookie Nick Foles.

Should we pity the Foles? Matchups don’t get much better than Foles’ Week 11 bout versus a Redskins defense missing feared pass rusher Brian Orakpo and allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

The question is whether Foles will have time to throw. Eagles LT Demetress Bell and RG Dennis Kelly had two of the three lowest grades among all offensive players in the NFL during Week 10, according to Pro Football Focus. The Cowboys pass rush harassed Foles into a pick-six and a strip-sack touchdown in the end zone. All in all, Foles’ debut was a “mixed bag of positives and negatives.” His lone big play came on busted coverage, but he did handle the blitz to the tune of 7-of-9 for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Of the other three injury fill-ins, Colin Kaepernick offers the most fantasy upside in a Tebow-esque package of erratic passing mixed with dangerous running ability. The problem with Kaepernick is that the 49ers are optimistic Alex Smith will be cleared from his concussion by Monday night. Unlike Vick and Jay Cutler, Smith doesn’t have a history of concussions.

Cutler has an extra day to gain clearance for the Monday night game, but coach Lovie Smith was noncommittal on his status. Jason Campbell failed to move the offense in relief and would make for a poor fantasy play at a San Francisco defense that allows the 30th-most fantasy points to opposing QBs.

Ben Roethlisberger reportedly suffered a “pretty significant” shoulder injury, one that could cost him “at least” a few weeks. Until we get an official update on the injury, it’s worth taking a look at Dr. Jene Bramel’s early take. Byron Leftwich’s increasingly elongated throwing motion passed for just 5.2 yards per on 14 attempts in relief Monday night. A poor fit for Todd Haley's quick-passing game, Leftwich is not going to be fantasy relevant outside of two-quarterback leagues.

Beyond the injuries, the best quarterbacks available in most leagues are Sam Bradford, Jake Locker, and a surging Russell Wilson. Unfortunately, the latter two are unavailable for Week 11 due to the bye. Bradford faces three of the 10 stingiest pass defenses over the next three weeks while Foles is prepping for a Redskins defense that allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs.
  
On to the players. Here is how I rank the top players at each position as we head into Week 11. Full write-ups of each player are below.

Quarterbacks
Nick Foles
Sam Bradford
Russell Wilson
Jake Locker
Colin Kaepernick
Byron Leftwich
Jason Campbell

Running Backs
Marcel Reece
Beanie Wells
Andre Brown
Mark Ingram/Chris Ivory
James Starks
Daniel Thomas
Ben Tate
Jacquizz Rodgers
Danny Woodhead

Wide Receivers
Danario Alexander
Cecil Shorts
Donnie Avery
Donald Jones
Golden Tate
Brandon LaFell
Pierre Garcon
Laurent Robinson
Emmanuel Sanders

Tight Ends
Brandon Myers
Kyle Rudolph
Dennis Pitta
Scott Chandler
Dwayne Allen

Team Defense
Bengals
Redskins
Rams
Falcons

Quarterbacks

Nick Foles, Eagles - The third-round rookie is poised to start the first game by a University of Arizona quarterback since 1973. If we combine Foles’ stats from Week 10 with his preseason games, Foles is 62-of-95 (65.2 percent) for 772 yards (8.1 YPA) and a 7:3 TD-to-INT ratio. The Eagles still boast elite offensive weapons to support a low-end QB1, as evidenced by Michael Vick’s 10th-place ranking entering last week. It’s fair to question whether Foles will have time to find those weapons behind an injury-decimated offensive line. For Week 11 value alone, though, Foles is the quarterback to add against a Redskins defense surrendering the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Sam Bradford, Rams - Bradford is a different quarterback with safety blanket Danny Amendola in the lineup. Despite losing an 80-yard Amendola connection to an illegal formation penalty, Bradford still recorded 275 yards, a pair of scores, and 20+ fantasy points against a stout 49ers defense. He’s set to host a Jets defense that was burned for three passing scores at Seattle in Week 10. Although Bradford faces three of the 10 least generous fantasy defenses over the next three weeks, he has plus matchups versus the Bills, Vikings, and Bucs during the fantasy playoffs.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues

Russell Wilson, Seahawks - We’ve noted in previous weeks that Wilson has impressively shown steady improvement with each passing game. It can be argued that Wilson is in the midst of one of the best streaks in rookie QB history. Although Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have hogged the spotlight, Wilson boasts three of the four highest-rated performances by a rookie this season. Ninth in fantasy points over the past five weeks, Wilson is on pace to join Peyton Manning as the second QB in NFL history with 24+ touchdown passes as a rookie. Prospective owners should note that Wilson is entering his bye week, but he should be picked up as a high-end QB2 in 12-team leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Jake Locker, Titans - Locker was clearly rusty and erratic in his Week 10 return, but there was no more efficient scrambler in the league on Sunday. Locker will have a chance to get his timing back during the bye week, and coach Mike Munchak has vowed to find a way to get playmaker Kenny Britt more involved in the offense going forward. Locker is a QB2 with upside after the Week 11 bye.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers - Of all the quarterbacks injured in Week 10, Alex Smith has the best chance of returning this week. He doesn’t share the concussion histories of Michael Vick or Jay Cutler, and the 49ers are optimistic about his availability with an extra day to get ready for Monday night. Should Smith suffer a setback, Kaepernick would get the call. While Kaepernick offers the familiar Tim Tebow-style erratic passing/dangerous running package, he would be facing a Bears defense that allows the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Byron Leftwich, Steelers - Leftwich has earned a lifetime pass from me for the most memorable scene I’ve ever witnessed on a football field, but it’s quite possible his delivery has grown even more elongated. He averaged just 5.2 yards per attempt in relief of Ben Roethlisberger, killing the fantasy values of Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, and Emmanuel Sanders. Leftwich hasn’t started a game in three years and faces a Ravens defense allowing the 24th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in two of the next three weeks. Keep expectations low for the entire Steelers offense until Big Ben returns, as Leftwich's skill-set couldn't be more ill-suited to Todd Haley's quick-passing attack.

Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.

Jason Campbell, Bears - According to ESPN’s Ed Werder, Cutler has a history of head injuries dating back to his Vanderbilt days. He’s now sustained “nearly a half-dozen” concussions in his football career. Coach Lovie Smith has been noncommittal about his starter’s chances of playing Monday night. If the Bears exercise caution, Campbell will get the start in a brutal matchup at a San Francisco defense allowing the 30th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Recommendation: Worth a look in two-quarterback leagues.

Watch List: Tim Tebow, Brady Quinn, Kevin Kolb, David Garrard

Tebow watch is on again after back-to-back implosions by Mark Sanchez. … Quinn declared himself fit to start in Week 11. … Kolb is throwing again and will return to the starting lineup once he’s healthy enough to play. … Taking advantage of the handful of QB injuries this week, the agent for Garrard has let it be known that his client is fully rehabbed from his knee surgery and ready to work out for teams.

Cut Bait: Michael Vick, Matt Cassel, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck

The Eagles will reportedly “rest” Vick for the rest of the season. He can be dropped in 12-team leagues. … Cassel should be heading back to the bench in favor of Brady Quinn. … Gabbert regressed again in Week 10. … Tannehill is rated 29th among QBs and John Skelton is the only starter with fewer than the rookie’s five touchdown passes. … Sanchez could be pulled any week now.

Running Backs

Marcel Reece, Raiders - After splitting first-team reps with Taiwan Jones in practices last week, Reece functioned as the clear feature back at Baltimore. Playing 59-of-77 snaps (77 percent), Reece racked up 104 yards on 13 carries and seven receptions. Darren McFadden’s Week 11 status is up in the air after appearing in a walking boot again on Monday. If Reece draws a second straight start, he’s going to be a top-20 fantasy option against a Saints defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing backs.

Recommendation: Should be owned in all leagues.

Beanie Wells, Cardinals - Wells returned to practice last week, putting him on schedule to return to the starting lineup when eligible in Week 12. Wells insists the two-month absence has done wonders for his surgically repaired knee while also allowing his toe to get back to full health. He will square off against a Rams defense allowing the 14th-most fantasy points and Jets defense allowing the seventh-most in Weeks 12-13 before a brutal fantasy playoffs schedule.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Andre Brown, Giants - Brown is owned in just over half of Yahoo leagues. That number should climb much closer to 100 percent after Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a neck injury that required X-rays. Bradshaw is tentatively expected to play coming out of the Week 11 bye, but Brown had already usurped third-down and goal-line work before the injury. Brown is 13th in fantasy points over the past three weeks, 20th over the past five weeks, and is averaging a touchdown per game over his past seven.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Mark Ingram / Chris Ivory, Saints - No back in the league runs more violently than Ivory, who went absolute Beast Mode on a tackle-breaking 56-yard run versus the Falcons. There’s little question that Ivory is the most explosive back on the Saints roster. He’s also the one most prone to injury and fumbles, which leaves his ideal role as a 10-carry sledge hammer. The coaches know this, which is why Ingram doubled his carries last week. More of a sustainer than a playmaker, Ingram has racked up 148 yards on a team-high 31 touches since Darren Sproles went down. Labeled an “elite” back by interim coach Joe Vitt, Ingram is picking up touches at Pierre Thomas’ expense. These backfield roles are up in the air pending Sproles’ return, though it does seem that the roles of Ingram and Ivory are being established for the rest of the season.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

James Starks, Packers - Expected to see an increased role coming out of the bye, Starks showed better vision and patience than Alex Green while taking over the early-down carries in Week 9. Starks can expect 12-18 touches as the lead back in a committee until Cedric Benson returns late in the season. The matchups aren’t exactly custom made for success, though, as Starks faces four of the 10 least generous defenses to fantasy backs in the next five weeks.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins - Thanks to Reggie Bush’s fumble-driven Week 10 exile, Thomas has now played more snaps than the starter for three consecutive games. Coach Joe Philbin insisted Monday that Bush is not in the doghouse, leaving Thomas as nothing more than a flex option against a Bills defense allowing the most fantasy points to opposing backs. Those in touchdown-heavy leagues should note that Thomas has been the goal-line back of choice.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Ben Tate, Texans - Coach Gary Kubiak stated Monday that Tate (hamstring) has a chance to return for Week 11 versus the Jaguars. Arguably the one “handcuff” with the highest fantasy upside, Tate must be owned by all Arian Foster owners going forward. If the Foster owner in your league is asleep at the wheel, pick up Tate along with a Foster voodoo doll this week.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons - Michael Turner is toast and the Falcons refuse to admit it. Realizing that Turner no longer possesses leg drive, opposing defense no longer respect Atlanta’s I-formation runs. He’s failed to top 3.0 YPC in five of nine games, saved in the other four with big lanes when the defense literally looks in the other direction at Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez. Quizz isn’t the answer between the tackles and in short-yardage, but it’s quite possible that the Falcons will take a long look at Turner’s Week 10 failures versus the NFL’s softest defense and come to the understanding that Rodgers and Jason Snelling need more touches going forward.

Recommendation: Worth a look in PPR leagues.

Danny Woodhead, Patriots - I would rather roster Shane Vereen as Stevan Ridley’s handcuff in standard-scoring leagues. For those in PPR formats, though, Woodhead has been flex-worthy for the past month. He has recorded either a touchdown or 55+ scrimmage yards in five of the past six games.  

Recommendation: Worth a look in PPR leagues.

Watch List: Cedric Benson, David Wilson, Ronnie Hillman, Shane Vereen, Evan Royster, Toby Gerhart, Robert Turbin, Bernard Pierce, Bryce Brown, Jason Snelling

Benson is eligible to return from I.R. in Week 14. … Even with Ahmad Bradshaw banged up, the Giants want to see Wilson become a complete running back before expanding his role. … The rest of the list is the best of the handcuffs. … The stubborn Falcons will have to think about turning to Snelling in short-yardage. Michael Turner’s leg drive is gone for good, as evidenced by his three touchdowns on 17 goal-to-go carries.

Cut Bait: Isaac Redman, Alex Green, Taiwan Jones, Brandon Bolden, Ronnie Brown, LeGarrette Blount, DeAngelo Williams, James Casey

Those in shallow leagues can cut Redman after he gave way to Jonathan Dwyer Monday night. Rashard Mendenhall is tentatively expected to reclaim the starting job in Week 11. … Green is limited to third downs with James Starks taking over as the lead back. … Raiders coaches and players spent the week hyping Taiwan, only to leave him tied to the bench at Baltimore. … Bolden is suspended for four games. … Brown lost two-minute drill snaps to Ryan Mathews in Week 10.

Wide Receivers

Danario Alexander, Chargers - Coach Norv Turner promised a big role for “DX,” and the former Mizzou star led the Bolts receivers in snaps and routes run on his way to a 5/134/1 bonanza at Tampa Bay. Alexander has always boasted the size/speed/hands package of a No. 1 receiver, only to be held back by the knees of an octogenarian. Alexander’s fantasy value may be week-to-week for the rest of his career, but he’s back on the radar as a WR3 for now. The Week 11 matchup is a tough one versus Champ Bailey and the Broncos.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Cecil Shorts, Jaguars - Still owned in just a third of Yahoo leagues, Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver is averaging 9.75 targets and a 5.25/89/0.5 stat line over the past four games. Like Golden Tate, he’s been a top-10 fantasy receiver over the past three weeks. The team’s lone playmaker until Maurice Jones-Drew returns, Shorts has a team-high 10 receptions of 20+ yards. Although Shorts has a tough matchup versus Johnathan Joseph and the Texans this week, he should be owned in all 12-team leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Donnie Avery, Colts - Avery practiced in full last week and didn’t appear to be inhibited in any way by his hip injury at Jacksonville. Still one of the 20 most-targeted receivers in the league, Avery is averaging 72 yards per over the past three weeks. He has plus matchups the next two weeks against the Patriots and Bills, both among the top 10 most generous defenses against fantasy receivers.  

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Donald Jones, Bills - Emerging as a weapon due this run-after-catch ability, Jones is averaging 8 targets, 5.3 receptions, and 62 yards over the past three games -- ranking in the top-25 over that span. Now 44th in fantasy points on the season, Jones has flex value versus the Dolphins and Colts -- two of the eight most generous defenses against fantasy receivers -- over the next two weeks.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Golden Tate, Seahawks - Only seven receivers have more than Tate’s six receiving touchdowns, and he’s thrown in a passing score for good measure. The Seahawks continue to find creative ways to put the ball in Tate’s hands as their version of Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb. Tate ranks eighth in fantasy points over the past three weeks and 35th on the season. As Russell Wilson continues to improve, Tate is flirting with WR3/flex value. Be warned that he’s heading into the bye week.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Brandon LaFell, Panthers - LaFell saw eight targets versus the Broncos, one more than top receiver Steve Smith. Cam Newton isn’t going to take seven sacks or produce eight three-and-outs this week, leaving LaFell as an interesting flier against a Bucs defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Pierre Garcon, Redskins - Garcon’s ownership is down to 41 percent in Yahoo leagues, but this is the week to pick him up and give it a dice roll. Garcon will test his troublesome foot in a limited practice Wednesday, hoping to ramp up his participation level as the week goes along. We should know by Friday whether Garcon is playing versus the Eagles in Week 11 or shutting it down for the season. If it’s the former, Garcon could regain WR3 value the rest of the way. If it’s the latter, fantasy owners can dump him back on the pile and pick up another receiver for the weekend.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a speculative add.

Laurent Robinson, Jaguars - Robinson racked up a whopping 15 targets with the Jags playing from behind against the Colts last week. While he’s bypassed Justin Blackmon in the pecking order, a tough matchup looms in Week 11 at a Houston defense that could shut down Jacksonville’s offense entirely.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers - The good news is Sanders racked up seven targets against the Chiefs, emerging as Byron Leftwich’s go-to receiver. The bad news is that Leftwich’s go-to receiver holds little fantasy value, as evidenced by Sanders’ two catches for 30 yards versus the Chiefs. With Antonio Brown likely to miss at least one more game, Sanders will start versus a Ravens defense allowing the 17th-most fantasy points to opposing receivers.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Watch List: Jarius Wright, Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu, Michael Floyd

Wright showed explosiveness as Percy Harvin’s replacement in his debut, but the Vikings are entering the bye week and coach Leslie Frazier wouldn’t commit to having the rookie active again in Week 12. … Jeffery is aiming for a return this week, but you’re not going to start him at San Francisco with Jason Campbell possibly under center. … The Bengals are still trying to find a viable option opposite A.J. Green, and Sanu is the latest candidate. … The Cardinals are increasing Floyd’s snaps at Early Doucet’s expense.

Cut Bait: Justin Blackmon, Robert Meachem, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, Brandon Gibson, Early Doucet, Kevin Ogletree, Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster

Blackmon wasn’t targeted until the fourth quarter last week. … Meachem has lost his job to Danario Alexander. … Hixon isn’t worth holding through the bye week. … Gibson is taking a backseat to Danny Amendola. … Baldwin and McCluster are worthless to the Chiefs and your fantasy team.

Tight Ends

Brandon Myers, Raiders - Myers may rival Tony Gonzalez for least effective run blocker in the league, but he’s behind only Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, and Jimmy Graham in yards this season. Only once has he been held under three catches or 44 yards in a game. The Raiders figure to be playing from behind again in Week 11 versus the Saints, giving Myers yet another shot at garbage-time production. He’s still unowned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Recommendation: Should be owned in 12-team leagues.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings - Now owned in just over half of Yahoo leagues, Rudolph is back up to seventh in fantasy points among tight ends after a 7/64/1 stat line versus the Lions with Percy Harvin out of the lineup. The Vikings have a Week 11 bye, so fantasy owners will have to wait a week to see if Christian Ponder’s gains were real. If Ponder regains early-season form, Rudolph can be a TE1 option again.

Recommendation: Worth a look in 12-team leagues.

Dwayne Allen, Colts - The Indy Star suspects Coby Fleener will be out another couple of weeks, leaving Allen as an every-down tight end. With an average of four catches and 54 yards, Allen has been fantasy’s No. 13 tight end over the past three weeks. His next two matchups are against the Patriots and Bills, third and ninth respectively in most fantasy points allowed to tight ends.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens - Owned in less than a third of Yahoo leagues after an extended slump, Pitta is coming off a 5/67/1 stat line -- his best game since the season opener. Pitta saw just five targets, though, and disappeared in the second half versus the Raiders. He’s been a situational, game-dependent weapon for the Ravens this season, leaving fantasy owners with hit-or-miss production. The Week 11 matchup is prohibitive against a Steelers defense allowing just 140 passing yards per over the past four games.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Scott Chandler, Bills - After a three-game slump, Chandler has averaged four catches and 58 yards over the past two weeks. The upcoming schedule is a bit daunting, though, as Chandler faces a middle-of-the-road Dolphins pass defense before squaring off against the Colts and Jaguars -- surprisingly the two stingiest defenses in the NFL against fantasy tight ends.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Tony Moeaki, Chiefs - Moeaki has shown signs of life the past two weeks with back-to-back season-highs of 57 and 68 yards. The Week 11 matchup against a Bengals defense allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends is tempting, but the return of Brady Quinn dampens any enthusiasm.

Recommendation: Worth a look in deeper leagues.

Watch List: Rob Housler

Housler draws a Falcons defense that just surrendered a career day to Jimmy Graham, but Todd Heap’s return could eat into his snapload.  

Cut Bait: Jacob Tamme, Virgil Green

Tamme is averaging 21 yards over the past month. You can do better than that for a TE2 roster stash.

Team Defense

Bengals - Coach Romeo Crennel insists Brady Quinn won’t lose his job to injury. Quinn recently told the Kansas City Star that he’s been cleared to practice and play against the Bengals in Week 11. Cincinnati’s defense got to Eli Manning -- the toughest in the NFL to sack -- four times last week. They’re going to have a field day with Quinn.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Redskins - Nick Foles played roughly three quarters in his debut. The Cowboys became the first team in nearly a half-century to record touchdowns via interception, fumble, and special teams return in one of those quarters. The Eagles’ offensive line woes aren’t going away.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Rams - When the Jets lose, it’s generally not pretty. They’ve been on the wrong side of blowouts to the Seahawks, Dolphins, 49ers, and Steelers, which accounts for nearly half of their games this season. Mark Sanchez’s unit failed to top 10 points in any of those games. The Rams host the Jets in the Edwards Jones Dome this week.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Falcons - The Cardinals are on pace to allow 73 sacks this season, which would put them in the top-5 in NFL history. The Manning Brothers together are on pace for roughly half that total. John Abraham & Co. have a fine matchup this week.

Recommendation: Worth a look as a matchup play.

Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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