By Ladd Biro
Special to the Sun-Times
Wondering whether to start Tom Brady and Emmanuel Sanders, or to bench Ryan Mallett and Zac Stacy? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 11 of the 2014 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins vs. Buccaneers. Coming off his bye and a solid, though certainly not spectacular, return in Week 9 against the Vikings, Griffin should be well prepared for the vulnerable secondary heading to FedEx Field. Given the play-making receivers at his disposal and a solid running game to keep the Bucs guessing, RG3’s ceiling is high.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers at Giants. This has been a frustrating year for Gore and his owners, but he turned in a solid performance in New Orleans last week. Up next: A Giants defense that was just throttled by the Seahawks for 350 yards and five TDs on the ground. Surely Gore can cash in as well.
Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons at Panthers. The aging veteran is trending up recently, riding a two-game scoring stretch while keeping his backfield mates’ touches to a minimum. Carolina has given up big chunks of yardage and a league-worst 13 rushing TDs (tied with the Giants and Falcons).
Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots at Colts. Tom Brady is en fuego while Indy’s pass defense is getting pummeled harder than a Democratic politician in Texas. LaFell has been targeted 24 times in just the last two games (six more than Rob Gronkowski), illustrating just how comfortable his QB has become with him. It’s good to be Brady’s BFF.
James Jones, WR, Raiders at Chargers. It goes against my nature to endorse a Raider, but given the pathetic recent track record of the San Diego secondary and Derek Carr’s stellar performance against this team in Week 6, I’m semi-interested. Jones is getting a lot of Carr’s attention lately, mostly at the expense of Andre Holmes. He is a viable bye-week or injury substitute.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Matt Stafford; RBs Mark Ingram, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jerick McKinnon, Terrance West, Alfred Morris, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Hill, Rashad Jennings, Alfred Blue; WRs Julian Edelman, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Roddy White, Kelvin Benjamin, Martavis Bryant, Odell Beckham, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate.
Roll ‘em back
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks at Chiefs. Despite some favorable matchups, Wilson has struggled as a passer over the last three weeks. And the road gets much bumpier in Kansas City, where the Chiefs seemingly always rise to the occasion. They also give up an NFL-low 205 passing yards per game. Wilson’s rushing prowess won’t compensate enough to make him a solid play in this matchup.
Lions RBs at Cardinals. Reggie Bush (ankle) may sit out with yet another injury, leaving the backfield to Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. While each back brings something to the table, none has a promising outlook against Arizona’s top-notch run defense. Give them a rest on the road.
Broncos RBs at Rams. With Ronnie Hillman (foot) out and Montee Ball set to return, the backfield touches are likely to be parsed out among three mid-level players. C.J. Anderson is coming off the best game of his brief career against the lowly Raiders, but Ball will siphon off plenty of carries (if not the starting assignment). Mix in goal-line vulture Juwan Thompson, and the fact that Denver’s QB could care less about running, and this tough matchup is best avoided altogether.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans at Browns. With Ryan Mallett making his first NFL start and shut-down corner Joe Haden shadowing him up and down the field, Johnson’s prospects are dim in this tough road contest. Don’t count on much from DeAndre Hopkins, either. Houston’s passing game is in transition, and not in a good way.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles at Packers. The rookie is on a nice roll, thanks in part to the extra attention being paid to him by new starter Mark Sanchez. But the Packers sport a stingy pass defense and they are likely to get an assist from the weather gods at frigid Lambeau Field. Matthews is a risky proposition.
More thumbs down: QBs Mark Sanchez, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Drew Stanton, Zach Mettenberger; RBs Tre Mason, Bishop Sankey, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Darren McFadden; WRs Wes Welker, Doug Baldwin, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, Marques Colston.
TAKING A FLIER
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Raiders. Branden Oliver’s last strong outing came against the Raiders in Week 6, but Mathews has practiced fully all week and is expected to reclaim his starting gig on Sunday. Given San Diego’s recent slide, Mathews will be given every opportunity to jumpstart the offense in this highly attractive matchup.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…benches Andre Ellington due to the tough matchup with Detroit. To be sure, the Lions play some mean run defense. But with Drew Stanton under center, the Cardinals must lean on their bell cow. Ellington contributes as a receiver as well, so he’ll get plenty of opportunities to pile up the fantasy points.
Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011). He was a finalist again in 2013. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).