Every week of the 2011 NFL season I will be putting out an article of the top “starts” and “sits” for the upcoming week in fantasy football. Keep in mind that no one can predict what will happen on Sunday’s and I encourage everyone to make their own decisions, but hopefully I can provide some insight. Players I deem as good “starts” for the week I think will have a better than projected week and should find a way into your starting lineup. On the other hand players I name as “sits” I personally would rather find room on my bench in favor of someone else. Of course when it comes down to week to week decisions you always start your studs, and just because I think Dez Bryant is “sit” worthy doesn’t mean you necessarily have someone worth starting over him. Take it for what it is worth and good luck this week.
-Eli Manning(start): Eli Manning and the New York Giants will be coming off their bye week entering week eight. Manning hasn’t been bad as far as fantasy goes, and truthfully in his last four starts he has been great discounting the game against Buffalo where running back Ahmad Bradshaw ran the show. This week Eli gets to take on a poor Miami Dolphins secondary. Playing at home, with an extra week of preparation, and a Dolphins team that will be demoralized after suffering a 4th quarter Tebow comeback, it seems that all the stars are aligning for Eli to have a big fantasy day.
-Christian Ponder(start): Christian Ponder made his name known to the football world in week seven when he led what seemed like a hopeless Vikings team to a respectable six point loss against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. Ponder’s completion percentage wasn’t appealing, but he showed the raw talent that is needed to be a viable quarterback in the NFL. In a week with six teams on a bye, Ponder’s strong arm and rushing abilities could make him a popular option for fantasy owners who are in need of a fill in. At the very least it will be exciting to see how the rookie Ponder will stack up against his peer Cam Newton.
-Tim Tebow(sit): It is nearly impossible to sit at your television screen and not want to root for Tim Tebow. The guy is a believer when it comes to competition, and although he might not be the most talented of quarterbacks it is impossible to deny that he knows how to win. Unfortunately it seems unlikely that Tebow will be leading too many fantasy teams to a victory this Sunday. In his first start against the Dolphins he saved his fantasy performance with two last minute scores and a two point conversion. Until that point, Tebow totaled a miserable 161 passing yards and limited rushing value. This week Tebow will take on the Detroit Lions who not only boast a stout secondary, but an unrivaled front four. Much of Tebow’s value relies in his complimentary rushing numbers which are bound to be held in check with Ndamukong Suh breathing down his neck all game.
-Phillip Rivers(sit): Phillip Rivers has been disappointing this year having a slow start to the season and just doesn’t look like the Rivers of old. Although Rivers has rarely had his receiving core fully healthy this season, his poor accuracy and nine interceptions (which ties him for second worst in the league) is what has been troublesome. In a primetime Monday night matchup, Rivers will get a chance to prove he is still elite. The Kansas City Chiefs secondary, coming off a six interception week, will aim to continue River’s poor performance. Keep in mind that in week three Rivers had three turnovers against the Kansas City Chiefs who held him to a measly six fantasy points.
-Ryan Matthews(start): Ryan Matthews, who had to leave the game midway through, was outperformed last week by teammate Mike Tolbert. Fantasy owners should consider this a blip on the radar, and make sure not to shy away from Matthews this week. Week seven was the first week in which Matthews did not record double digit fantasy points. He has consistently proven to be a force on the ground while surprising many with his ability to be used in the passing game. In a Monday night matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead, Matthews will be the key to the Chargers winning an important divisional rivalry game. Owners should keep in mind Matthews rushed for 98 yards and two scores against the Chiefs in week three.
-Roy Helu(start): Roy Helu will get his chance to be a more prominent option in the Redskins backfield now that Tim Hightower has been ruled out for the year with a torn ACL. Of course when starting a Redskins running back in general, fantasy owners are playing with fire. Mike Shanahan tends to role with the hot hand week to week. It is purely a gut call, but between him and Ryan Torain, Helu seems the more likely back to emerge with the majority of the workload. Against a Buffalo Bills defense that struggles against the running back, both Helu and Torain should have value this week baring Shanahan doesn’t bring in rookie Evan Royster.
-Alfonso Smith(sit): Alfonso Smith is likely to be a name most owners haven’t heard of outside of Arizona. Injury prone Beanie Wells will probably sit out this week after tweaking the same knee that he had surgery on last season. Smith has proven before that he can run the ball effectively. Despite being listed as the starter, the Cardinals backfield will most likely be a timeshare with the added presence of LaRod Stephens-Howling and Chester Taylor. Even if one of these three backs were to get the majority of the workload, keep in mind that the Cardinals face the Baltimore Ravens this week who have given up the second fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.
-Bernard Scott(sit): Bernard Scott will be another name that will intrigue fantasy owners this week as a bye week fill in but should not be used. Scott will get the start due to teammate Cedric Benson finally serving his one game suspension. As a team the Bengals have struggled to run the ball lately, and the insertion of Scott won’t change that. On the season, Scott has a miserable 2.8 yards per carry and one touchdown. In the Bengals last game before the bye week Scott actually saw some work but rushed for only 29 yards on 11 carries. Against an underrated Seahawks run defense, Bernard Scott’s rushing ability shouldn’t warrant him a spot in fantasy starting lineups.
-Mike Wallace(start): Mike Wallace has been on an absolute tear this season blowing by opposing safeties week after week. His name may seem obvious for a start but he is in here because of the opportunity against the Patriots this weekend to post enormous fantasy points. Wallace leads the league with an insane 20.3 yards per catch. Even with the Patriots likely to play two deep safeties and send double teams Wallace’s way, they will be in trouble. Mike Wallace is fast. Like Usain Bolt, turn around and look at everyone chasing you, fast. With four games over a hundred yards and 5 touchdowns in 7 games, Wallace will find a way to blow the top off of the Patriots Defense.
-Brandon Lloyd(start): Brandon Lloyd made his debut with the St. Louis Rams last weekend and recorded six catches for 74 yards. The impressive thing about his stat line is that he received a team high 12 targets, it was his first week with the Rams, and Sam Bradford wasn’t even playing quarterback. With Bradford back this week, Lloyd will matchup against a weak Saints secondary with an extra week of practice under his belt. If the chemistry is there with Bradford, there is no reason Lloyd can’t be a top play week after week going forward.
-Pierre Garcon(sit): Pierre Garcon reemerged on the fantasy radar in weeks four and five posting two games of over a hundred yards receiving and two touchdowns. In the two games since then Garcon has less than one hundred yards receiving combined and has failed to reach the pay dirt. The connection with quarterback Curtis Painter appears to be there, but Garcon’s big statistical games seem to be more of a fluke and a result of big plays due to poor coverage. Garcon may prove otherwise, but it’s hard not to bet against the Colts offense at this point.
-Dez Bryant(sit): Dez Bryant continues to emerge as one of the best red zone threats in the league tallying his fourth touchdown of the year last Sunday. Although he has become a solid fantasy option every week, this weekend could bode poorly for Bryant. Number one receivers playing against Nnamdi Asomugha have been held to under five fantasy points on average. And although many may believe that Miles Austin is the number one receiver for the Cowboys, I think Bryant is much more of a physical threat and harder to cover. I wouldn’t be surprised if Asomugha plays against Bryant for the majority of the game. In week one Darelle Revis matched up on Bryant, not Austin, for the bulk of game. A similar situation could play out this Sunday against the Eagles.
-Jake Ballard(start): Jake Ballard had begun to create some noise in the three weeks leading up to the New York Giants bye, posting no fewer than 8 fantasy points a game. This week Ballard will take on the Miami Dolphins who are giving up the second most points to opposing tight ends. Eli seems to look Ballard’s way in the red zone, which is exactly what owners searching for a bye week replacement are looking at.
-Fred Davis(start): The Washington Redskins suffered a plethora of injuries this past weekend and they all point to Davis being a huge fantasy producer from here on out. First tight end Chris Cooley was placed on the injured reserve list due to a broken finger and knee troubles. Then running back Tim Hightower suffered a season ending ACL tear, and finally the teams leading receiver Santana Moss underwent surgery this week after fracturing his hand. This leaves Davis as the only tight end, on a team without their lead running back, and one less receiver to take targets away. Expect big things both this week, and going forward.
-Heath Miller(sit): Heath Miller is a pretty reliable tight end option for the Steelers but he doesn’t always find a way to convert that to fantasy points. This week Miller takes on the Patriots who do well against the opposing tight end. The Steelers also desperately need to get their running game back in order so it would not be a shock if they keep Miller in as an extra blocker.
-Greg Olsen(sit): Greg Olsen had begun to look like Cam Newton’s favorite target behind wide receiver Steve Smith. Unfortunately, a combination of Jeremy Shockey stealing targets, and the Panthers run game as a whole producing much better, Olsen’s stats have diminished. Olsen has also reportedly been dealing with a turf toe injury. These type injuries tend to linger throughout a season, and certainly won’t help when he lines up across from the Minnesota Vikings who have been good against tight ends this year.
-Bengals(start): The Cincinnati Bengals have been very good on defense this year, consistently staying in the top ten of fantasy defenses. This week they get to take on Charlie Whitehurst and the Seahawks offense. Whitehurst is nothing scary, and the Seahawks ground game isn’t anything spectacular either; especially with running back Marshawn Lynch dealing with ongoing back spasms.
-Redskins(sit): The Washington Redskins also boast a top ten fantasy defense this year. Against an efficient Buffalo Bills offense coming off of their bye week this seems to pose a problem. The Bills give up the least fantasy points to opposing defenses this year so this matchup may be one fantasy owners will want to avoid.