With Matt Hasselbeck at QB, the Colts may lean more heavily on Frank Gore and the running game
As we enter the last week of the NFL and fantasy season with any teams on bye (Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers), we look at players who have tough matchups in Week 11. Some guys have higher upside this week because of injuries to players on their team.
Do not treat this as a start/sit column, but rather guys who are either ranked higher because of matchup or may exceed (or fall below) their ranking.
Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Romo's sample size for this season is small: he's played in just two games this season. In Week 1, he threw the ball 45 times. He completed 36 passes for 356 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. In Week 11, he is expected to return to face Miami's 20th-ranked defense. Miami gives up the 10th-most points to opposing quarterbacks, and while Romo may be a little rusty, he's the eighth-ranked quarterback this week. Romo and Dez Bryant are reunited and the Cowboys' offense should be rejuvenated.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Murray has been putting up solid fantasy numbers lately. In the last five games, he's been had at least 18 carries. He has three touchdowns in that span and no game with less than 70 total yards. It appears that Ryan Mathews will miss the game on Sunday, which means more carries for Murray and more work on passing downs. Mark Sanchez will likely be the quarterback and although the Eagles may attempt to get Darren Sproles a little more involved, this will be Murray's game. Tampa Bay's run defense has been better lately, but Murray is a solid RB1 for Week 11.
Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
With Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback, Atlanta giving up the second-most points to opposing running backs and the Colts saying they are no longer going to limit Gore's carries, Gore is a RB1 for Week 11. In the two games he played with Hasselbeck in Weeks 4 and 5, Gore had a total of 39 carries for 151 yards, a touchdown and five receptions for 34 yards. The Colts are going to know that Atlanta's weakness is trying to stop the run and they are going to attack that. Look for Gore to have a big week.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins
While Crowder is the third wide receiver on the depth chart, he has been lining up in the slot. Carolina's cornerbacks defend the wideouts well, but have struggled against the slot (Randall Cobb had a 4-99-1 stat line in Week 9). Look for DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to be covered and Kirk Cousins to be desperate to throw the ball to anyone that he can. Tight end Jordan Reed and Crowder will be those guys. Crowder is the 52nd-ranked wide receiver this week, but don't be surprised if he finishes the week in the top 30.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
While Oakland has gotten slightly better against tight ends, they still allow the third-most fantasy points to the position. Ebron has averaged about four receptions per game and has three touchdowns on the year. While the Lions' offense has struggled lately, Ebron was a red zone target for Matthew Stafford in the first two weeks of the season. He was injured for a few weeks, but is a low-end TE1 for Week 11. He's the 10th-ranked tight end this week.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
You're likely not sitting Rodgers if you have him. He is ranked as the fourth-highest quarterback this week. However, fantasy owners know that he's been struggling recently. Normally he's lights-out at home, but in the past three games at Lambeau Field, he hasn't had more than two touchdown passes. He did throw four at Carolina in Week 9 and the game is at Minnesota this week. The Vikings' defense hasn’t allowed an opposing quarterback to throw more than two touchdowns and they've allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position. Rodgers should be OK for fantasy purposes, but not great. Factor in the banged-up shoulder and it's not the best week for him.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Coming off a short week, playing a team in the top third in terms of run defenses, Bernard is a RB3 for Week 11. Jeremy Hill is still in the picture, although Bernard has looked like the better running back. He's also the back that is involved more in the passing game. However, he only has two touchdowns on the year and his involvement as pass catcher has been hit or miss. He has three games with five or more receptions and six games with three or less (including one game with zero and two with one catch). Between the timeshare and the matchup, Bernard, as the 24th-ranked running back this week, isn't a great option for Week 11.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
After Darrelle Revis shut down Sammy Watkins in Week 10, he gets Hopkins in Week 11. After missing practice this week with a knee issue, Hopkins likely isn't at 100 percent. He did have a four-game streak of 100-yard games, but that ended in Week 6. He has a touchdown in each of the last two games, but that's been what has saved his fantasy day. The other thing to keep in mind is who is going to be at quarterback. Brian Hoyer (concussion) is still not cleared to play. If he is out, T.J. Yates will be throwing Hopkins the ball. If you own Hopkins, you're playing him. However, he's not someone that you should target in daily play.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Gates is coming off the bye week, but is still dealing with a knee injury. He reportedly also has a hip injury on top of the knee issue. Since suffering the knee injury in Week 7, Gates has played two games and has 10 receptions for 125 yards and no touchdowns. Kansas City actually allows the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. The Chiefs haven't allowed a tight end to have more than four receptions (Martellus Bennett, on 11 targets) and they've only allowed two touchdowns to opposing tight ends. It's a tough matchup for a banged-up tight end this week.
Jacob Tamme, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Tamme's success has come when Leonard Hankerson has been out. While Indianapolis has given up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, Matt Ryan prefers his wide receivers to his tight end when available. Look for running back Devonta Freeman to carry the load as much as possible as well, leaving Tamme back in the three catches-for-30 yards range. If Hankerson is inactive, Tamme has high TE2 value; if Hankerson plays, he's a low TE2.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.