Fantasy Mailbag - Week 11

Crunch-time. That’s how many fantasy footballers will be viewing this next portion of the NFL schedule as teams in leagues around the globe jostle for post-season spots in the stretch run.

But NFLUK Fantasy Football is a little kinder than that, and the chance to compete (and win big) in this competition continues right up until the final week of the regular season. Which means the pressure is off a little bit for NFLUK players, right?

Wrong.

As any one of the league’s nearly 17,000 registered users will attest, the heat is always on in NFLUK Fantasy Football. Whether you’re trying to fight your way up the cumulative leader-board or finessing the perfect lineup to swipe the weekly prize, the stakes only get higher as the weeks tick by.

But the bottom line is, it’s never too late to get into contention and put yourself in position to win a mother lode of NFL goodies - not least those all important Super Bowl XLVII tickets.

So let’s get to your fantasy questions for Week 11 pronto:

  • ‘I need to make up 62 points to get back into NFLUK contention after a dreadful Week 10. Where are the big points for week 11?’

First up, don’t forget the Mailbag is one of a series of pieces on NFLUK that can help you get the right players on your team each week - including Rafa Cervera’s Fantasy Radar and Lineup Primer, Neil Reynolds’ By the Numbers and my own Two Minute Warning.

So who looks the part in week 11? It’s a week where studs like Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson are on their byes, so many of us will need to rethink out starting tailback selections. Houston’s Arian Foster is as reliable as they come for week 11, but don’t overlook Buffalo’s CJ Spiller who’ll have the Bills’ running back job all to himself in Thursday’s game with Fred Jackson presumed out. New England’s Stevan Ridley continues to be a must-start and will face so-so Indianapolis this weekend, while Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy has a chance to put the team on his shoulders at Washington.

Receiver-wise it doesn’t take a columnist to tell you that Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is back to his best and he could be busy versus Green Bay. In the same game, you need to keep the faith with bargain picks James Jones and Randall Cobb of the Packers - one or both will score at least once. I like Denver’s Eric Decker to bounce back from a disappointing 15-yard outing in San Diego, and Cowboys’ receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin will get chances at home to the Browns. Oakland’s Denarius Moore could be busy against the Saints’ so-so back four, as New OrleansMarques Colston could be in response.

Tight end wise, New OrleansJimmy Graham is back to full fitness and should thrive in Oakland, and if Houston’s Owen Daniels can get fit, his Texans host generous Jacksonville. San Diego’s Antonio Gates is overdue a season-defining game too. 

Andrew Luck of the Colts has been the quarterback to own in recent weeks, but his visit to New England might unnerve you - it does me. They have an awful pass defense, but a way of confounding even once-in-a-generation rookies. Carolina’s Cam Newton has a chance to put up some points against league-worst pass defense Tampa, and Carson Palmer could continue a strong run versus New Orleans’ 31st-ranked unit.

  • What are the biggest ever fantasy scores for QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs without throwing, receiving or running for TDs?’

Nicky

Much was made two weeks ago of Tampa RB Doug Martin’s ($1 million) extraordinary week nine performance in which he racked up 251 yards on the ground, 21 receiving yards, and four touchdowns (51 fantasy points in standard leagues). His performance equated to the third highest fantasy points total EVER just behind Clinton Portis’ 2003 haul of 218 rushing, 36 receiving and five touchdowns (54 points), and Shaun Alexander’s 2002 outburst (52 points) in which he scored five touchdowns in the first half alone, and chipped in 139 rushing yards and 92 receiving for good measure.

But what happens if you strip away the touchdowns? For that we need to track down the highest yardage games in recent times without that player also finding the end zone - which is quite a bit of research, I can tell you. But let’s have a stab at it anyway, taking in all games since 1990.

The biggest single fantasy game for a running back without scoring a touchdown was produced by the incomparable Barry Sanders of Detroit in 1994. Sanders somehow amassed 237 yards on the ground and a further 16 through the air in a game the Lions squeaked over the Buccaneers 14-9. In many standard leagues, that would have given you 24 fantasy points - pretty nifty for a touchdown-less individual performance.

The biggest game for a wide receiver or tight end without hitting paydirt was long-time Jaguar Keenan McCardell, who parlayed 16 catches into 232 yards back in 1996, good for 23 fantasy points in most standard leagues. Remarkably, the Jags collected 36 first downs while their opponents, the Rams, managed just eight - yet somehow lost 17-14. Let’s hope they’re a little luckier when they come to Wembley next year.

As for quarterbacks, enormous passing numbers without a passing or rushing score are rare enough that there’s a chance I’ll be researching until Christmas to find the most notable (and that’s before factoring in rushing yards too.) In case my eyes actually turn into box scores in the process, I’ll opt simply to highlight Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, who has twice posted 300 yard games in recent years without any concomitant touchdown passes or runs (308 yards in 2008, and 330 yards in 2011).  It also just happens to lead us neatly unto our third question…

  • What does it mean for the Steelers if Ben Roethlisberger is out injured for any period of time?’

TigerFeet

First up TigerFeet the question may not be ‘if’ Big Ben misses time but ‘how much’, since his shoulder injury is not your run-of-the-mill separation, and was significant enough for the Steeler to have him hospitalised. That said, Roethlisberger is one tough cookie who has been running around on a bum ankle for what seems like forever, so he may yet defy medical wisdom again.

Ben has been playing at an MVP level this season, with 17 touchdown passes against just four interceptions - even with a hotch-potch running game behind him. Simply put, his absence could mean bad things offensively (as we saw with Bryon Leftwich’s middling second-half relief effort on Monday). Certainly, Mike Wallace’s production looks set to go south a little (14 yards and a score last night), while Emmanuel Sanders’ role looks to be increasing a touch (at least while Antonio Brown is out injured). Look for TE Heath Miller to get involved in a great deal more blocking as the Steelers try to dominate teams on the ground more through Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and - they hope - Rashard Mendenhall. In fantasy terms, you need to steer clear of all Pittsburgh’s offensive starters until some semblance of order is re-established behind Leftwich, or until Roethlisberger proves healthy again.

The Steelers excellent defense should remain tough for the foreseeable future. But they’ll have to: with two games against the Ravens coming up over the next three weeks, Roethlisberger’s injury could prove catastrophic for a 6-3 Steelers team that sits just one game off the division lead. Without Roethlisberger, even the Steelers’ week twelve tilt in Cleveland is no sure thing. Considering last night’s close shave with the struggling Chiefs, they may have to dig deep to avoid a situation where they’re scrambling to get back into a wild card contention when their star QB returns.

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