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2012 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 11

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The end of the fantasy football regular season is coming into focus as we enter Week 11 of the NFL season. The good news is this is the last bye week that owners will have to deal with. The bad news is Week 11 is a pretty big one in terms of fantasy firepower that’s unavailable, especially at running back and wide receiver. No Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Johnson, Percy Harvin, or Victor Cruz, to name a few, presents one more challenging week when it comes to roster management for many owners.

Athlon Sports is here to help you make all of those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 11 Positional Rankings

Week 11 Waiver Wire

Bye week teams: Minnesota, New York Giants, Seattle, Tennessee

Sneaky Start of the Week
Marcel Reece, RB, Oakland vs. New Orleans
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson continue to be hampered by the high ankle sprains they suffered two weeks ago, presenting Reece with another opportunity to do the heavy lifting.

Last week against Baltimore, Reece led the Raiders in both carries and receptions and turned those 20 touches into 104 total yards. A fullback by trade, Reece was already a reliable target for Carson Palmer, as he has 33 receptions on the season and he’s averaging nearly 10 yards per catch.

Now with McFadden and Goodson most likely out for a second straight game, the Raiders seem to be content with Reece running the ball as well. Taiwan Jones, who is much more explosive and appears to possess more playmaking ability as a rusher, received only two carries last week against the Ravens, compared to 13 for Reece.

In fact, both Reece and Jones could end up with decent numbers this Sunday against New Orleans. The Saints are allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs and chances are this game will end up fairly high-scoring in general. I like Reece’s chances of putting up big numbers better than Jones because he’s getting the bulk of the opportunities and due to his versatility. Reece isn’t the only Raiders skill-position player I like this week  either (see Carson Palmer and Denarius Moore below).

Surprise Sit of the Week
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco vs. Chicago (Monday)
Yes I know that it’s really hard to sit Gore, who is eighth in the league in rushing yards (753) and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. I also know that Chicago has allowed back-to-back 100-yard games.

However, I also know that both of these 100-yard games, one by Chris Johnson and last week by Arian Foster, can be largely attributed to game conditions. Johnson did most of his damage on one 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter when the Bears were already up by nearly 40 points, while Foster’s effort came in a rainy, sloppy affair in which he needed 29 carries to get to the century mark.

You take the last two games out and the Bears have allowed 437 yards on the ground and not a single rushing touchdown in their seven other contests to runinng backs. Gore may be on the same level as Johnson and/or Foster, but I’m not expecting a blowout nor do I think the two teams will be playing in a quagmire out in San Francisco come Monday night.

In addition, Gore has taken some pretty decent shots to his ribs lately and while he has been able to play through the pain and discomfort, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kendall Hunter get a few more carries to try to lighten the wear and tear on the 49ers’ lead back. Especially considering how physical this matchup figures to be.

There’s also the matter of who ends up under center for the 49ers. Alex Smith (see below) is on track to start despite sustaining a concussion last week, but that doesn’t mean he will be the only one taking snaps against the Bears. Colin Kaepernick, who is more of a running threat than a passer, will more than likely see the field, whether that is due to game plan or out of necessity. Regardless, I just don’t think Gore will get enough touches or be productive with the ones he receives against this Bears defense.

Quarterbacks
START

Carson Palmer (OAK) vs. New Orleans
All Palmer has done in the past two games is throw for 782 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. He may not be racking up the touchdown passes (15), but he’s had fewer than 33 pass attempts in a game only once this season. Don’t be surprised to see him eclipse that number this week as not only is New Orleans giving up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks, the Saints' defense fares even worse on the road. In four road games this season, the Saints have yielded an average of 32.6 fantasy points to opposing signal callers. Drew Brees may have his way with the Raiders’ pass defense, but I expect Palmer to enjoy more than his share of success when it’s his turn.

Tony Romo (DAL) vs. Cleveland
Don’t look now, but Romo has gone two straight games without throwing a single interception! For as much criticism as Romo has received this season (not to mention every season he has played) for his lack of ball security, keep this in mind. Of his 13 picks, nine of them came in two games. You take those two games away and he has a respectable 10:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his seven other games. I also would like to point out that those nine interceptions in two games came against the league’s two top ball-hawking teams – the Bears and the Giants. That said, this week Romo gets his shot at a Cleveland pass defense that ranks 21st in the league and is 10th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Browns have 10 interceptions on the season, but only three of those have come on the road. Can Romo make it three pick-free games in a row? Even if he doesn’t, I still think he’s a safe starting option this week.

Andy Dalton (CIN) at Kansas City
Well, Dalton certainly proved me wrong last week. After tabbing him as a Sit against the Giants, all he did was torch their secondary for four touchdowns. Yes, he only threw for 199 yards, but when you toss four scoring strikes that has a tendency to help the fantasy point production. In Dalton’s case that turned out to be 31.8 points last week, his fifth game of 26 or more. He could produce his sixth such effort this Sunday as the Chiefs have given up an average of 20.4 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks at home and are sporting a 9:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in four games at Arrowhead Stadium.

SIT
Joe Flacco (BAL) at Pittsburgh
The last time I suggested sitting the top fantasy scorer at his position the previous week was in Week 9 with Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin. That decision certainly didn’t pan out for me (to put it mildly), so why am I revisiting this strategy this week with Flacco you ask? For one, I am fairly confident he won’t score 35.7 points, which is how many he had against the Raiders last week, against the league’s top defense. The Steelers also are No. 1 against the pass and in eight career games versus the Steel Curtain, Flacco has a total of 10 touchdown passes. Points are generally hard to come by when the Ravens and Steelers get together and I expect more of the same on Sunday.

Alex Smith (SF) vs. Chicago (Monday)
Despite sustaining a concussion last week against St. Louis, Smith has reportedly cleared the mandatory baseline tests and is on track to start Monday night against Chicago. While I applaud and admire his toughness and desire to be out there with his teammates, I can’t help but wonder if discretion would be the more prudent path here. That said, I don’t expect Smith to be 100 percent, which could be even more magnified against a Chicago defense that has given up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. The Bears have 26 sacks and 19 interceptions, and have surrendered a total of seven touchdown passes by quarterbacks. You don’t want your quarterback facing this defense, let alone one that’s recovering from a concussion.

Jay Cutler/Jason Campbell (CHI) vs. San Francisco (Monday)
Speaking of concussions, Cutler has had to go through the same things Alex Smith has this week, as the Bears’ signal caller left last week’s game against Houston after taking a big hit. Cutler has yet to be cleared for practice, which certainly puts his playing status for this week into doubt. I would be surprised to see Cutler in there on Monday night against the 49ers, as the Bears need a 100 percent healthy Cutler if they have any hopes of making a deep playoff run. That said, it doesn’t matter if it’s Cutler or Campbell, there’s no reason to start a Bear quarterback this week. The 49ers are fourth in the league in pass defense and have given up four touchdown passes in five home games. I think this game is going to be won in the trenches and by the team that is more successful running the ball or capitalizes on turnovers. Quarterbacks don’t get points for handoffs.