Week 11 is the start of the home stretch. The final three games of the regular season will play a critical role for most owners, likely determining whether or not they make the playoffs. It’s easy to suggest that setting the optimal lineup is of utmost importance this week, but the truth is that’s important every single week.
Instead, let’s recognize the fact that we are now armed with 10 weeks’ worth of knowledge of every single team and their offense, and how they’ll utilize certain players. Furthermore, the chances of a sleeper emerging are a bit slimmer. We’ve already seen the rise of Minnesota running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, receivers like Pittsburgh’s Martavis Bryant and Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin and even Colts tight end Dwayne Allen.
At this point of the season, very few surprises are lurking around the corner for owners. So let’s stick to the knowledge we’ve gleaned over the first 10 weeks of the season, and figure out the best possible lineup for Week 11.
RBs To Start/Sit
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
The Bears have lost five of their last six, but the offense didn’t really start to struggle until the last two games. And Forte was still able to thrive, especially in PPR leagues, right up until last week’s debacle at Green Bay. Forte should get back on track in Week 11 against a Vikings defense that’s allowed eight rushing TDs this season and ranks No. 16 against the run. Owners might seem discouraged, but remember the last two losses came against high-octane offenses in Green Bay and New England, and Minnesota does not have the firepower to put Chicago down early and take the ball out of Forte’s hands.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
“Beast Mode” lived up to his name with four TDS against the Giants in Week 10, and he’s now ripped off six total TDs in the last two games. But next up is a Kansas City D that hasn’t allowed a single rushing touchdown all year. K.C. has enough power on the defensive line to contain Lynch, and their secondary is No. 1 in the NFL, further limiting Seattle’s offense. Throw his calf injury, and Lynch might not be the best start this week.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Compared to Lynch, Morris has a far better matchup this week against the Bucs. Morris has been the Redskins most consistent scoring threat all season, only he didn’t have RG3 to keep defenses honest until Week 9 against Minnesota. Now Morris comes back from the bye week with three TDs in his last two games, and Griffin had another week off to heal. Tampa Bay is No. 18 in the league versus the run, and they’ve yet to face a top between-the-tackles rusher like Morris. Start for sure, especially over Lynch if you have both.
WRs To Start/Sit
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
Maclin is unquestionably the Eagles best receiver, but he went from an average of nearly 11 targets per game with Nick Foles under center to seven in each of the last two games with Mark Sanchez as the signal caller. It could just be an anomaly, but Sanchez spread the ball around very well between Maclin, receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Brent Celek last week. It’s only been one full-game with Sanchez, but how he and Maclin play against Green Bay could be the biggest different for the Eagles season. Maclin is a start this week, but don’t expect the otherworldly numbers he put up with Foles. If you own Kelvin Benjamin or even Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, they might be better starts.
Verdict: Start, tentatively
DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins
This could be a huge week for Jackson and the Redskins versus Tampa Bay. The Bucs have the No. 31-ranked pass defense in the league and have let up 19 receiving touchdowns. Some nagging injuries slowed Jackson a tad this year, but he’s been Washington’s best receiver and played well even with RG3 out. He’s notched five 100-plus yard games, four of which have come in the last five games, and Jackson should torch the Bucs.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins
Wallace has really stepped up in his second season in Miami, scoring six TDs off 40 receptions. And he’s actually scored against some of the league’s top secondarys already (the Bills in Week 2, Packers in Week 6, and Detroit last week). But Miami will miss their best offensive lineman in Brandon Albert, which will hurt quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s effectiveness from the pocket versus Buffalo’s pass rush. Miami should still pull out a win, but it will come from its D, not Wallace’s playmaking.
Week 11 Sleepers
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Is he a sleeper in a traditional sense? No, but that’s because we still hold RG3 to the standard of his rookie year, and we haven’t seen any performance close to that since he started getting hurt on a routine basis. Thus, he’s reached an underrated status. This matchup was tailored for RG3’s skill set. The Bucs can’t stop anyone, and the dual-threat QB needs a game to remind the rest of the NFL just how dangerous he can be. Expect at least 20 points from Griffin.
Damien Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins
Miami already has a No. 1 RB in Lamar Miller, but it seems like he’s still bothered by a shoulder injury, and the Dolphins can’t risk losing him. He only rushed four times for 2.5 per carry against Detroit four days ago. Enter Williams, who has a very tough task against Buffalo’s No. 8-ranked rush defense, but has the size to hit their d-line hard. A solid 10 points shouldn’t be out of the question, since Williams can take the bruising at the goal line, and allow Miller a breather on Thursday night.
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Taylor’s missed the last three games due to injury, but before he was hurt he showed his versatility against Oakland with a rushing and receiving TD. Andre Ellington is clearly the No. 1 back in Arizona, but his propensity for injury might be enough for the Cards to preserve him for the postseason. Maybe not this week, but going for forward look for Taylor to have some huge upside in the final stretch of the season.