There are several interesting games this week, not just from a fantasy standpoint, but just as a football fan. Just as was the case last week, several of these games could have been considered good fantasy match-ups if not for things like injuries and poor offensive play. The most obvious exclusion in this week's best fantasy match-ups is Cincinnati-Arizona, where there are offensive weapons galore but a couple of good defenses as well. If you're the owner of guys like Tyler Eifert, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton, then you likely have some tough decisions to make. I'm an advocate of starting your studs, but when your studs include guys from a team like the Bengals, who stunk up the joint last Monday night at home against the then 3-5 Houston Texans, you start to worry when they go on the road to play one of the best teams in the league.
Another attractive option would be Dallas-Miami, but the Dallas secondary has been pretty strong this season and the Dolphins' passing game has been pretty lackluster for most of the year, making for a poor match-up. You're definitely starting Lamar Miller for the Dolphins here, but who else? The Cowboys are getting Tony Romo back this week and while it's a decent match-up, how can we be sure what we're going to get from him? Will he be rusty? Will he have any chemistry with his receivers or be able to get the offense into a rhythm? We just don't know.
How about Tampa Bay-Philadelphia? While Mark Sanchez replacing the injured Sam Bradford could actually improve the Eagles' offense at this point, we don't know that for sure. The Eagles have been underwhelming all season long and I don't see that changing in one week with a backup QB against what is actually a pretty decent defense. As for the Buccaneers, I do really like Mike Evans this week, but the Eagles' defensive front has been very strong this season and I could see them stopping the run game and getting all kinds of pressure on Jameis Winston. That's another option down.
All of these games should be intriguing match-ups for us football fans, but I can't say I believe they will end up being high-scoring shootouts or result in effective fantasy days for a lot of the players involved. Since those games have been eliminated, let's go ahead and get into the two match-ups I actually do think could put up multiple high-scorers for both teams. As always, there will definitely be high scoring players that aren't involved in these two games, I think these two just offer the best circumstances for all players involved. Good luck to all in Week 11.
Oakland Raiders at Detroit Lions - Nov. 22, 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48.5
Oakland: At this point I think Raiders' QB Derek Carr is an every week starter. He had his worst outing since coming out of his bye in Week 6 last week against the Vikings and he still had 23 fantasy points in standard leagues. He's thrown for 13 TDs in the past four games and he's the 8th ranked QB in fantasy to this point. This week he gets a Lions' defense that gives up the 3rd most fantasy points per game (fppg) to opposing QBs and are tied for the league-low in INTs with only 4. Look for Carr to have a big game here in Detroit, especially with the weapons he gets to throw to.
The weapons I was mainly referring to are Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Both guys had mediocre games last week -- 7 points for Cooper and 5 for Crabtree - and although Carr got his points in one way or another, the Vikings' defense is pretty strong. Don't be afraid to start them this week against the Lions' secondary, as they're only 22nd in the league in fppg allowed to WRs. This isn't something I normally subscribe to, but this game is also indoors in Detroit, which could help all of the skill position players here, for both teams. It's just another reason to like players on both sides and to believe that both offenses could have big days and end up in a shootout. Cooper is a WR1 and Crabtree is a solid WR2, making both great options this week. If the passing game is going to be good for Oakland, will anyone be worth a start at TE? I'm glad you asked! I know Clive Walford is a rookie and the most targets he's had in a game this year is 5, but he's caught a TD in three of the past four games, which means Carr is looking for him in the red-zone. The Lions are 25th in fppg allowed to TEs and are tied in giving up the second-most TDs to the position this season. If you have nobody to play and are just taking a shot in the dark, I think you could do worse than Walford. He'd also be an extremely low-owned and cheap option in DFS tournaments.
If you look at the season-long rankings, Raiders' RB Latavius Murray has been a solid RB2, coming in as the #15 RB overall so far. It just feels like he shown the ability to give much more than that. Murray is averaging 4.7 yards per carry (ypc) on the season and also has 26 catches, but he's only managed to score 3 total TDs. Now, he has dealt with a few minor injuries, including a concussion most recently, but Murray has shown the ability to be a RB1 if he's able to stay healthy and is given the proper workload. This week he goes up against a Lions' rush defense that is giving up the 9th most fppg to RBs, including a league high in rushing TDs (11), and I think he puts up another RB1 performance. He's an obvious start in seasonal leagues, but I think he could be slightly underpriced in DFS as well and could be usable in both tournaments and cash-games.
Detroit: Yes, I'm completely aware that the Lions' offense has been horrible this season. They have to have their moments though...right? Well, the passing game has to have its moments anyway. Matthew Stafford hasn't be the QB1 we were hoping for this season and he's only managed to be the #16 QB due to a 42 point explosion in Week 6 against the Bears. Other than that misnomer, Stafford has only put up at least 19 fantasy points four other times this season and has had 15 or less fantasy points in each of his other four outings. I think it's about time for Stafford to have another big game and Oakland's pass defense is a prime candidate to target, as they're giving up the 2nd most passing yards per game and the 7th most fppg to QBs. This likely has a lot to do with how many points the Raiders score themselves and, as I explained earlier, I expect that to continue. As long as WR Calvin Johnson is able to play through an ankle injury here, I like Stafford as a high-upside bye week fill-in for standard leagues and a great DFS tournament play who will come cheap.
As Stafford goes, so goes Calvin Johnson...or vice versa. Megatron used to be the no-brainer #1 WR in fantasy, but it looks like he's started to hit a wall somewhat as he's reached age 30. While he's reached at least 5 fantasy points in every game except one, he's only had over 100 yards receiving once this season and only has 3 TDs. We all know that Johnson can get nicked up throughout the season, but what's the real cause of his decline? To use a law enforcement term, I'd have to say it's the totality of the circumstances, as the combination of his age slightly catching up to him, the numerous injuries over the years and the less-than-stellar play of his QB have all combined to push Johnson down to some degree. Oakland has actually been O.K. against WRs fantasy-wise and are middle of the pack in fppg allowed due to only giving up 4 TDs to WRs all season long. This is a bit of a façade though, as they've allowed the 7th most receiving yards to WRs and are still giving up passing TDs, they're just going to other places. The Raiders are tied for worst in the league with 9 TDs allowed to TEs and are tied for second-worst with 3 receiving TDs allowed to RBs. In other words, I'm expecting a big day from Calvin Johnson. You'd expect me to say the same about Golden Tate, but I just haven't seen anything from him to make me think he's going to be reliable or involved here. The real second option in this passing game has been Eric Ebron and that should continue in this match-up. Ebron has at least 5 targets in every game he's been on the field for except one and like I said, the Raiders give it up to the TE. I like Ebron as a TE1 this week and he's a great value in DFS.
The running game in Detroit has been nonexistent and I expect that to continue this week, despite the decent match-up. There's no way you're trusting the likes of Joique Bell or Ameer Abdullah and you should only rely on Theo Riddick in PPR leagues if you're truly desperate. Hands off on this situation.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots - Nov. 23, 8:30 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48.5
Buffalo: This was an easy choice as an attractive fantasy game, even with Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis being out. The last time the Bills and Patriots got together, they put up 72 total points, with the Pats winning 40-32. Bills' QB Tyrod Taylor finished 23/30 for 242 yards passing and 3 TDs (with 3 INTs), as well as 5 rushes for 43 yards and a rushing TD. Taylor has been a very efficient player this season, completing over 70% of his passes and combining for 13 total TDs (11 passing, 2 rushing) to only 4 turnovers. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the Bills haven't had to rely on Taylor to put up a lot of points or open up the offense for the most part. This is definitely a Rex Ryan run-heavy attack, but as that first game against New England showed, Taylor can throw it when he needs to. I like him as a QB1 this week and he should come cheap in DFS.
Luckily for Taylor, it looks like he'll have all of his weapons healthy and available for this game (minus Percy Harvin, who's on IR). If Taylor is going to have a big game here, he'll have to get the ball to WR Sammy Watkins and TE Charles Clay. Watkins has had several injuries throughout his first season and a half, but he's also shown why the Bills traded up to take him in the Top-10 of last year's NFL Draft. In Week 9 against Miami, Watkins caught all 8 of his targets for 168 yards and a TD. He also had 6 catches for 60 yards and a TD in the first game between these teams and the Pats' are 29th against WRs in fppg allowed. I know he hasn't been reliable in any sense, but I think this is one of those weeks where you can put him in your lineup as a WR2. He also should be decently priced in DFS, so keep your eye on him there as well. Charles Clay looked like he was going to be the most reliable option in the passing game for Buffalo early on, but he hasn't had more than 6 fantasy points in a game since Week 4. I don't advocate using Clay as a fantasy option this week, especially against a Patriots' defense that is 7th against TEs in fppg allowed, but I could see him coming up with a couple important catches in this game. It's possible one of those is a TD -- he did finish with 3 catches for 19 yards and a TD in the first match-up - but you can't expect it.
The running game is the real attraction on this offense, as LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams are both fantasy relevant, even when both are in the game. Since coming back from injury, McCoy has strung together four straight games of double digit fantasy points and he's had at least 15 points in three of those outings. He's averaging 4.7 ypc and if you watch him play, he looks like the good McCoy that we use to see in Philadelphia. Williams has only scored a touchdown in each of his first six career NFL games...and he's put up at least 9 fantasy points in every one of them. This is where the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, as the Patriots have the #1 ranked run defense in the league and are 4th in fppg allowed to RBs. Despite that, you can't bench either one of these guys and McCoy is a solid RB1, while Williams should be a flex option.
New England: As I said earlier, I acknowledge that injuries will slow down Tom Brady and this Patriots' offense to some degree. I just don't think there will be enough of one to stop them. Brady has had his worst two outings of the season in his past two games and he still put up 22 and 24 points in standard leagues, respectively. The loss of Edelman will especially be felt by Brady in the pass game, as you can't just replace the kind of chemistry those two have on the field. But you have to remember that Danny Amendola was originally the player the Patriots' targeted and signed to replace Wes Welker and he's already had some good games this season (7 catches for 105 yards in Week 6, 8 catches for 86 yards and 1 TD in Week 7 and 10 catches for 79 yards in Week 10). As I said, nobody can replace Edelman's presence on the field, but Amendola should put up some good numbers in this offense with an increased role. Going after the secondary is the way to attack this Bills' defense and the Patriots know how to do that, as they showed in the Week 2 showdown between these teams. The other guy who is going to have to pick up some slack is Brandon LaFell. It's been obvious that New England has been trying to get him involved in the games since he's returned from injury, giving him 8, 7, 9 and 6 targets respectively in those four contests. The concern with LaFell has always been drops and while that's a fair critique, I like anybody in this offense who's getting close to 10 targets per game. With all of those things in mind, I like Brady to keep up his torrid pace and would consider both Amendola and LaFell as WR2s this week.
I don't need to say anything about the main option in the passing game, Rob Gronkowski, you know what to do there. But what about the receiving options out of the backfield? People have been going back and forth about whether it will be James White or Brandon Bolden who replaces Dion Lewis, so which is it? The truth is, neither one of them can or will be what Lewis was for this offense. I don't see either of these guys as being consistently valuable to anybody's fantasy team like Lewis was. In short, I'd stay away from both of these guys.
LeGarrette Blount is the only guy you're trusting in this backfield and this isn't a great match-up for him. He only got 2 carries in the Week 2 against the Bills and while I'd expect him to get closer to 15 or so depending on game-flow, I'm not banking on big numbers against Buffalo's 9th ranked rush defense. He could still be in line for some goal-line carries though, so he's probably a low-end RB2 this week.