The season ending injury to Willis McGahee was the biggest news heading into this week’s report, and it will undoubtedly result in Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball getting grabbed in every league in which they are still available. Honestly, Hillman should have already been stashed, as we’ve stated on more than a few occasions that the potential for injury was there for the 31 year old.
Still it’s a wakeup call to playoff contenders to back up their stud running backs now that the bye weeks are behind us. There is nothing worse than losing a workhorse back only to find his handcuff on an opponent’s roster. It only gets worse if this happens to you in the playoffs. So take a good look at your roster and don’t be afraid to make room for the next Hillman. If you own Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce should be on your roster. Alfred Morris owners, it’s time to pick Evan Royster back up. You get the picture. Not all handcuffs are created equal, and there are some, like Peyton Hillis, who I wouldn’t rush to add. But backup running backs on good teams like Ben Tate, Shane Vereen and Michael Bush need to be owned with the playoffs coming. Hillman is the first to get his shot, but the stakes are too high this time of year to gamble that he will be the last.
Injuries are usually what creates the most value this late into the season, and this week is no different.
Colin Kaepernick, SF – Last week I was very conservative in my outlook for the speedy QB’s prospects against the Bears defense. Instead he passed for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns, brought Vernon Davis back from the dead and quite possibly earned himself another start. If that’s the case, the Saints will provide a great opportunity for a repeat performance. With the playoffs looming, Kaepernick makes a great speculative add in most leagues, because he just might take this job and run with it. It’s worth noting that Alex Smith could still get the start this week, so he’s worth holding onto or grabbing himself just in case.
Chad Henne, JCK – Blaine Gabbert got hurt early in Sunday’s game, and the veteran Henne took over and woke up the entire offense. He tossed 4 touchdowns, 3 of which were big-play strikes. He finally allowed the offense to tap into Justin Blackmon’s upside and had Marcedes Lewis thinking it was 2010 again. If you whiffed on your QB replacements last week, Henne could be just what the doctor ordered with matchups against the Titans and Bills the next two weeks. Don’t expect a repeat of last week’s numbers, but his schedule actually doesn’t rule out some very good results.
Jay Cutler, CHI – Cutler will return from his concussion this week, and the Bears will be at home and ready to put a tough loss behind them. He might have been dropped in some leagues, and could make some noise this week at home against the Vikings.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ – Sanchez is not for the squeamish, but if you really feel lucky this week, you could take a shot on the Jets QB on Thursday against the Patriots. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone outside of two-quarterback leagues being desperate enough to actually start him.
Ryan Lindley, ARZ – The rookie out of San Diego State took over for an ineffective John Skelton, but didn’t do much better himself in relief. He may get another start until Kevin Kolb is ready to return. Lindley is a name to store away for next year.
Charlie Batch, PIT – Byron Leftwich cracked a couple of ribs last week, so Batch will see his first action of the year. He’s probably the best third string QB in the league, but expect a very conservative approach from the Steelers this week in Cleveland.
Week 11 Updates:
Jake Locker, TEN – I beat this drum last week, but wanted to hit it again with the Titans heading into a game against the Jaguars, who just got lit up through the air by the Texans.
Nick Foles, PHI – Foles flopped on Sunday, and the entire Eagles team looked like they wanted to be anywhere else but on a football field. With LeSean McCoy going down, the Eagles may have no choice but to deploy Michael Vick if he is cleared to play.
Ronnie Hillman, DEN – Hillman will get a chance to be the lead dog in Denver, and will no doubt be the top pickup in any league he is available in. The Broncos have an explosive offense and very good schedule the rest of the way. Hillman could very well be a major difference-maker down the stretch, so don’t be afraid to spend as much as it takes to get him this week if you have the chance. His big play ability gives him tremendous upside if he can seize control of this backfield the rest of the way. The one downside for Hillman, particularly in the short-term, is pass protection. John Fox knows he has to keep Peyton Manning healthy, and has veteran RB’s to deploy in passing situations.
Bryce Brown, PHI – LeSean McCoy hasn’t officially been ruled out for Week 12, it seems very unlikely that he will be cleared to play. That’s thrusts his backup Brown into the spotlight, for at least this week. The Panthers defense is nothing special this year, and Brown has the size and talent to do some damage if he draws the start. McCoy owners should have had him on the roster with the Bye weeks coming to a close, but if you didn’t you’ll have to be aggressive to ensure locking him up now.
Jalen Parmele, JCK – The former Ravens special-teamer got the surprise start last week, and did enough to get another turn against the Titans this week as the Jaguars wait for Maurice Jones-Drew to return from injury. Parmele should be picked up in all leagues, but doesn’t quite have the upside of those above him. Still with the Bills coming up next he could absolutely help get you into the playoffs.
Chris Wells, ARZ – Wells should return to action this week, and despite LaRod Stephens-Howling’s heroics, he will still take over as the early down back for the Cardinals. If you’ve been waiting for his return, you’ll now have to decide when and if you want to start him. With Seattle and Chicago looming in the fantasy playoffs, he’s not someone I would pursue unless I really needed to.
Vick Ballard, IND – I’ll admit, I thought Ballard would cede more work to Donald Brown last week. Instead he got sixteen carries to four for Brown, and now gets a chance to take advantage of the Bills shoddy run defense. Start him with confidence.
Bilal Powell, NYJ – Powell got some love in this column early in the year, as I bashed Shonn Greene on an almost weekly basis to start the season. Last week he finally did something to justify getting listed again, scoring two touchdowns to go along with 60 total yards on 13 touches. Greene is still the starter, but this week’s game against the Patriots puts Powell on the radar for flex consideration in deeper leagues.
Lance Ball, DEN – While Hillman is clearly the flashier player, Ball is the steady veteran and potential goal-line back going forward. He’s part of this committee and worth speculating on in deep leagues and touchdown-heavy scoring formats.
Kevin Smith, DET – I am not sure why it happend, but Smith seemed to take over third down work from Joique Bell on Sunday. I doubt there is much to this, but it does put him back on the radar in deeper leagues.
Week 11 Updates:
Marcel Reece, OAK – Reece more than delivered last week against the Saints. He should retain at least flex value this week, but the sledding will be tougher against a pretty good Bengals run defense. As always, he’s a much better play in PPR leagues.
James Starks, GB – Starks got 25 carries last week, and didn’t really do much with them. The Giants are tough to run on, and it seems likely that Alex Green will be worked back into the mix this week. Temper your expectations here.
Ben Tate, HOU – He ended up missing another week, but Arian Foster owners need to get him back into the fold as a must-have handcuff.
Justin Blackmon, JCK – Blackmon was one of the more disappointing rookies from this year’s class, and as such a lot of his owners moved on week’s ago. Nobody benefitted more from the switch to Chad Henne than the fifth pick in this year’s draft. I mean his 236 yards last week were almost as much as he had coming into the game. His breakout game will get him picked back up, and you have to consider starting him with the Titans and Bills on the docket.
T.Y. Hilton, IND – I pimped Hilton hard in Week 10 and now realize I was just a week early with my enthusiasm. Seriously though, I grabbed Hilton that week and stubbornly held onto him in that league based solely on the upside of his QB, schedule and a belief that he is a better player than Donnie Avery. While I didn’t start him last week for his 100 yard, two TD day, at least I didn’t drop him either. Avery suffered a concussion, which paved the way for Hilton’s third 100 yard game of the season. If Avery sits this one out, Hilton can do it again against the Bills.
Julian Edelman, NE – Edelman started opposite Wes Welker last week, and turned in a career performance. The injury to Rob Gronkowski will help keep Edelman a factor in this offense the next few weeks, giving him sneaky flex value the rest of the way.
Ryan Broyles, DET – Titus Young got himself suspended for this week’s game, opening up playing time for the two guys behind him on the depth chart. Broyles could have a chance to truly breakout now, especially if Young stays in the doghouse beyond this week. It is worth noting that Mike Thomas will step into Young’s spot on the outside, giving him some appeal in really deep leagues.
Brandon Stokley, DEN – Stokley hauled in another touchdown, giving him five on the year. Manning loves to throw to his slot receivers, so Stokley has some value the deeper the league. But honestly, I’d rather take a shot on a player with more upside than this. Still the Broncos have a good schedule coming up, and it seems likely that the veteran should be able to continue to be a viable flex option.
Plaxico Burress, PIT – Yeah, it’s true, the Steelers signed their former headcase, but only because Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery are still out. Don’t waste a roster spot on him looking for past glory.
Week 11 Updates:
Danario Alexander, SD – Alexander followed up his Week 10 breakout, with another stellar performance last week. Look, if he’s still out there in your league, just pick him up already. If you have him, you have to consider starting him now that he’s emerged as the primary weapon in the Chargers passing game.
Mohamed Sanu, CIN – Sanu made it back-to-back weeks with a TD, and could hit pay-dirt again against the Raiders this week.
Pierre Garcon, WAS – Garcon made it through last week’s game, but didn’t look good doing it. Continue to stash him if you like, but don’t count him to deliver much until further notice.
Brandon Myers, OAK – I think Myers should already be owned in most leagues, but the injury to Gronkowski means those in shallower formats should make Myers their first option to try and replace their stud TE. He’s been as steady as they come this year at his position.
Marcedes Lewis, JCK – We touched earlier on Lewis turning back the clock to 2010, after scoring twice in Week 11. Like the other Jags on this week’s list, he has upside thanks to the matchup with the Titans and the switch at the QB position.
Ben Watson, CLE – Watson, like Lewis, scored twice last week, but it’s tough to trust any of the Browns receivers right now.
Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham had already been seeing increased action with Owen Daniels being banged up, and then went out and vulture two TD’s last week two Daniels’ owners chagrin. If you are in a deep league, you could take a shot that lightning will strike twice. It’s a short week and Graham will get some more chances as the Texans continue to focus on getting healthy for the playoffs.
Week 11 Update:
Rob Housler, ARZ – Housler vanished with the entire Cardinal passing game last week.
Rams – The Rams didn’t do much against the Jets last week, but I will list them again thanks to a matchup against the Cardinal offensive line that hands out sacks like candy and a third string QB who will be making his first start.
Panthers – The Panthers will look to take advantage of the Philadelphia turnover machine this week.
Adam Vinatieri, IND – The Colts kicker has been busy the last few weeks, gets a good matchup this week at home against the Bills, then follows it up with a basically weather-proof schedule the rest of the way.
Phil Dawson, CLE – The game against the Steelers could devolve into a battle of the kickers. Dawson knows how to boot it at home and the Browns keep stalling in the red-zone.
Follow Ryan on Twitter - @ryanpcarey