The last of the big bye weeks are over with as we enter Week 11 of the fantasy football season. There are still teams that have yet to get a breather (four this week), but from here out the player pool will be larger than it has the past two weeks, which is a good thing for fantasy owners.
So which quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DSTs) that are playing should you turn to and which should you consider leaving on your bench? Before we look ahead, let’s take a look back at Week 9.
Start Marcus Mariota (25.92 fantasy points) – Mariota is on a roll, scoring 20-plus fantasy points in four of his last five games.
Start Dak Prescott (23.88 FP) – The Cowboys are now 7-1 in large part thanks to Prescott’s steady play.
I warned you about starting Derek Carr (7.66 FP) coming off his 513-yard game and facing the Broncos.
Sit Eli Manning ( 21.88 FP) – Manning lit up the Eagles at home for four touchdown passes.
Teams on bye: Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis, Oakland
START THESE QBs...
Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. GB)
Here are Mariota's weekly QB finishes in his last five games: third, 10th, 11th, fourth, first. During that stretch, he's completing 67.1 percent of his passes for 252.4 yards per game, 8.14 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions, adding another 163 yards and two scores on the ground. Basically, he has been what everyone was expecting out of Russell Wilson, and yet he's only 83 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues and 68 percent owned in ESPN leagues. In Week 10, Mariota is at home against a Packers defense that is 26th in yards per pass allowed and has given up an average of 298.0 yards and 2.0 touchdowns to quarterbacks away from Lambeau. Giddy up.
Jameis Winston, TB (vs. CHI)
The Buccaneers might not be winning on the field, but Winston has helped owners win in fantasy land. In his last three games, he's averaged more than 20 fantasy points including eight touchdown passes. I like Winston in a home matchup against the Bears, who have allowed 22-plus fantasy points to quarterbacks in their last three roadies.
Eli Manning, NYG (vs. CIN, Mon.)
Just hold your nose and bite your tongue, Manning is going to get the job done no matter how ugly it looks. Cincinnati is giving up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs, and with four top-10 QBs on bye, this automatically moves Manning into top-12 consideration at worst.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Carson Wentz, PHI (vs. ATL)
He isn’t the next coming of Dak Prescott like many thought he was at the beginning of the season, but Wentz is turning out to be a perfectly fine streaming option. Even with two interceptions against the Giants in Week 9, he threw for 364 yards and should carve up the NFL’s worst passing D this week. If you’re a Stafford/Carr/Luck owner, Wentz should get it done for you this week.
SIT THESE QBs...
Blake Bortles, JAC (vs. HOU)
Your garbage-time guru might not come through this week. The Texans have only given up six TDs to QBs this year, and Bortles looks worse and worse every week. It’s bad, really bad. Allen Robinson finally got his (mostly in PPR formats), but this whole Jaguars offense is getting pulled down by the Bortles Black Hole.
Kirk Cousins, WAS (vs. MIN)
The Vikings may not be the Super Bowl contender they were pegged as after five weeks, but the defense is still legit. They're second in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed and have let only two quarterbacks throw for multiple touchdowns, with one of those (Matthew Stafford last week) needing overtime to do it. Cousins has had some bright spots this season, but this is not the week to use him as a streamer.
Andy Dalton, CIN (at NYG, Mon.)
Dalton has been a solid option for fantasy fans, scoring 19-plus fantasy points in each of his last four games. Keep in mind though, that he next faces a Giants defense that has allowed an average of just 13.2 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Furthermore, Dalton has been far less than reliable in front of national audiences.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Drew Brees, NO (vs. DEN)
Benching the No. 2 scoring QB (on a per-game basis in ESPN standard leagues) at home, where he is typically dominant, may simply not be an option in many leagues. That's understandable. But this is more of a warning to temper expectations. Since allowing Cam Newton to finish Week 1 as the No. 9 scoring QB, the Broncos’ defense has allowed just one weekly top-20 performance, and that was Matt Ryan, an MVP candidate who finished 17th at the position in Week 5. Denver has shut down Andrew Luck (QB27), Andy Dalton (QB25), Jameis Winston (QB23), Philip Rivers (QB23 and QB22) and Derek Carr (QB24), and even with as well as Brees is playing, it's tough to rank him as a top-10 option this week.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Arizona Cardinals (vs. SF)
The Cardinals are fresh off a bye and playing at home against Colin Kaepernick and an offense that will turn the ball over. That's obvious in the fact that over the last four weeks, opposing DSTs have averaged the sixth-most points (8.7 ppg) against the 49ers. Arizona should finish with a very solid line for owners this week.
Los Angeles Rams (at NYJ)
The Rams produced nine fantasy points against the Panthers a week ago, and I like their chances of putting up strong totals against the Jets. The Men in Green have been a virtual cornucopia of fantasy points for opposing DSTs, as teams have averaged 11.3 per game against them. That's the most in the league after nine weeks.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Seattle Seahawks (at NE)
The Seahawks defense has scored at least seven fantasy points in each of its last five games, so it's tough to bench them in most leagues. Keep in mind, however, that a road matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots is enough to do just that. Defenses have averaged just four fantasy points against New England.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. DAL)
The Steelers DST hasn't been very valuable in fantasy circles this season, scoring fewer than six points in each of its last three contests. That trend will continue versus Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a Cowboys team that DSTs have rarely produced against. Look elsewhere for a potential streamer.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.