Fantasy football’s stretch run is officially here. Depending on your specific league, you basically have three or four weeks remaining in your regular season. Time is running short, and finding a way to stack wins is vital.
If you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, that might mean dealing away a couple rising stars that you were hoping to build around, in exchange for one established player that you can count on right now. Prospects are great — if you’re always trying to win “next year”. But if you actually have a chance to make some noise today, why not go for it? Conversely, if your season currently resembles that of the New York Jets, maybe you should be doing the exact opposite and trying to quickly rebuild for next year.
In a standard re-draft league, pulling off a helpful trade may require a little more creativity. You’re not going to get anything good without giving up something good, unless you can find the owner in your league who hasn’t watched any games and still thinks this could be Andy Dalton’s year. Ultimately, you might have to come to terms with sacrificing a little extra at a position you’re deep at in exchange for help at a position of need. That’s just the way it is.
If you can’t swing a deal, hitting the waiver wire to scoop up guys like C.J. Anderson or Jordan Matthews could be your best option. Otherwise, you’re banking on mastering time travel so you can go back to draft night to make some better decisions (NONE of which involve Vernon Davis). And whatever you do, just don’t pick up any Kansas City receivers. We’re ten weeks in and they’ve combined for a grand total of zero touchdowns so far. Zero.
Of course, the quickest path to fantasy success is to find the strong players that are facing weak opposition and cash in. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 11…
QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB (v PHI). Following his six touchdown outburst against the Bears on Sunday, Rodgers told the media “I can promise you, this is not easy.” Thing is, it sure looks easy. Really easy. And those six TDs all came in the first half — he probably could have put up eight or nine if he needed to. Expect a slightly tougher matchup against the Eagles this week, but a) Philadelphia still allows the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs, b) this game is in Green Bay and c) Chip Kelly’s squad should be able to actually score, meaning Rodgers will get to play the whole game. Obviously, you start Rodgers all the time if you own him anyway. But he’s especially valuable this week and probably worth the cost as the top option at his position in weekly salary-cap leagues.
Honorable Mention: Philip Rivers, SD (v OAK). Last time we saw Rivers, his MVP campaign was falling apart as the Chargers were publicly humiliated by the Dolphins. San Diego has had a bye week to think about what happened, recover and watch film of, um, the Raiders. Rivers already has a 313-yard, three score performance against Oakland under his belt this season. And now he and his teammates have something to prove again.
RB: Arian Foster, HOU (@ CLE). For awhile there, it looked like DeMarco Murray and Le’Veon Bell were going to run away with the rushing title. Then the Steelers just stopped handing the ball to Bell and Murray left everyone behind. In his shadow, however, Foster has quietly put together yet another great season. In fact, he’d be on pace for the highest rushing total of his career if not for a hamstring injury that cost him Week 3. That’s saying something, considering Foster was routinely the top pick in all of fantasy football for a couple years. Now he faces the Browns, and he does so with a new guy named Ryan (this week it’s Mallett) under center. So even more of the Texans’ offense figures to run through the backfield.
Honorable Mention: Mark Ingram, NO (v CIN). Through the first three years of his NFL career, Ingram looked like a bust — at least in terms of his fantasy value. Not so anymore. The bruising back had 30 total touches last week against the 49ers, and now has 81 carries for 392 yards and three TDs over the last three games. To put it in perspective, that’s more production than he delivered all of last season. With injuries to Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, Ingram is thriving under a heavy workload. And that doesn’t figure to stop against a Bengals defense that seems lost without Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga.
WR/TE: Jimmy Graham, NO (v CIN). Remember when Cincinnati had a defense that you wanted to avoid? Me either. Injuries have turned that unit into a shell of its former self, Andy Dalton keeps giving the ball to the opposition with a short field and now they have to deal with the Saints. Regardless of whether or not New Orleans is actually winning, Graham appears to be back at full strength. He’s hauled in 22 catches for 218 yards and four TDs over the last three weeks — and would have had another long score at the end of Sunday’s game if violently pushing off while the ball is in the air was allowed. Even when the Bengals are good, they have a hard time stopping the tight end. This could get ugly.
Honorable Mention: Jordy Nelson, GB (v PHI). More than anything, this is just to remind you that Nelson is outscoring all but two WRs (Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas) and four RBs (Murray, Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Matt Forte) this season. His eight TDs have been spread out over six of the Packers’ nine games — meaning he rarely leaves you hanging with an unproductive outing — and he is somehow wide open 40 yards downfield at least once a week. If you need help at WR and have decent RBs to deal, this is one of the most reliable guys to target right now.
D/ST: Denver Broncos (v STL). The Broncos D is vastly improved from 2013, posting 24 sacks and forcing 12 takeaways already. Meanwhile, the Rams allow the most fantasy points to opposing defenses, routinely stepping out of the way and watching their own quarterback get pummeled (30 sacks allowed). Without Brian Quick, St. Louis really has no weapons to lean on. And now Shaun Hill’s the quarterback, which really shouldn’t scare you. Unless maybe you’re a Rams fan.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Vikings (@ CHI). This is admittedly more of a sleeper call with a bit of risk involved. The Bears have a ton of talent on offense, but they don’t seem to know how to use it. Jay Cutler looks lost and disinterested — not exactly the words you want to hear when describing your leader on the field — and now he faces a Minnesota defense that has already registered 30 sacks. Chad Greenway is back to doing Chad Greenway things and rookie Anthony Barr is making a strong case for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, so you could do a lot worse if you’re looking for a weekly plug-in. Plus, it’s just kind of fun to have a defense going against Cutler.
The Fantasy Football Fix podcast is available on ArizonaSports.com every week during the NFL season, with Luke Lapinski, Jordan Byrd and Paige Dimakos giving you all the insight you need to rise to the top of your league. You can interact with the show by finding us on Twitter (@FantasyFballFix) or on Facebook.