Harmon Rankings: QB , RB , WR
Can you believe that we're in the home stretch of the fantasy season? It seems like just yesterday that we were arguing over preseason positional rankings and finding ways to eliminate running backs from first round consideration. Of course, we certainly didn't clamor to replace those displaced options with wide receivers.
We said "there was depth" at wide receiver. Has it really been as deep a position as we theorized in August? I'll ride out the string before getting into that discussion, but consistency has been lacking among many of our would-be heroes.
I digress. Let's line up the board for the remaining game of Week 11. It's the final run of Bye weeks and, for most, one of three shots to clinch a playoff berth.
Let's get into this week's "Lineup Calls."
Heroes (Exclude Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones)
Jordy Nelson at DET
Nelson returns to action for this divisional matchup after missing two games because of hamstring and foot injuries. He's in line for a big spot against the beleaguered Detroit defense that was beat up by the Vikings in Week 10. I know. It happened.
Look for the Packers, fresh from the Bye week, to come out firing. I know that the Lions have allowed just the 20th-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense will shuffle that up in short order.
Randall Cobb remains a WR2 option this week.
Eric Decker vs. SD
I warned you that the Carolina pass defense could frustrate the Broncos in Week 10. Decker was limited to two receptions for 15 yards in the blowout win, and his five-game scoring streak fell to the wayside. Look for a bounce-back effort this week at home against the Chargers. San Diego has allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Decker caught six passes for 98 yards with a touchdown in the dramatic Week 6 comeback win in San Diego.
Steve Smith vs. TB
Smith predictably failed in his Week 10 matchup against Champ Bailey. I know. Smith has been a difficult proposition for fantasy owners this week. He's a strong play this week against the generous Tampa Bay pass defense. The Buccaneers have allowed over 2,100 receiving yards this season and have been continually torched by No. 1 options.
Denarius Moore vs. NO
Carson Palmer now ranks third in passing yardage this season. His favorite target has been Moore, who has caught at least three passes in eight consecutive games. Moore has logged at least 90 receiving yards in three of the past five games (four touchdowns during this stretch). The Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Look for the game to open up, putting Moore (and Darrius Heyward-Bey) in line for big days.
Larry Fitzgerald at ATL
I'll just presume that Fitzgerald and the Cardinals face a big deficit in this game and that John Skelton is forced to toss the ball up early and often in comeback mode. As a result, Fitzgerald retains a high-WR2 slot this week. He's caught at least four passes in eight of his nine starts this season with three games in which he's recorded at least 90 receiving yards. Fitzgerald isn't the monster of years past, but he doesn't get shut down altogether.
Mike Wallace vs. BAL
Wallace made one of the great catches of the year in Week 10 against the Chiefs, a touchdown grab that saved an otherwise weak performance. I expect to see the Steelers turn to the run frequently against the struggling Baltimore front, but don't be surprised to see Byron Leftwich wind up (sorry, I couldn't resist) and unload downfield a few times early to open things up. The Ravens do well against quarterbacks in terms of fantasy points to date, but rate as a middle of the pack option against wide receivers. Don't fear Wallace this week.
Miles Austin vs. CLE
Austin's value rises on news that Joe Haden has been dealing with an injury and may not be available to the Browns this week. As a result, the Cleveland secondary plays more in line with the struggles we witnessed during Haden's absence earlier this season. Tony Romo waves off his earlier home struggles and posts a big day here. Austin has come alive following a slow start, and I expect another big effort to get the Cowboys back to .500.
Sleepers Brandon LaFell vs. TB
LaFell didn't offer much to fantasy stat lines in Week 10 against the Broncos, but he was targeted eight times in the blowout loss (four receptions for 29 yards). I believe that Cam Newton has success in this game against the shuffled, injury-depleted Tampa Bay secondary, and that LaFell's big-play ability will be on display. As mentioned above, the Buccaneers have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers (over 2,000 receiving yards).
Riley Cooper at WAS
Cooper caught two of his three pass targets for 24 yards, including a touchdown grab in the Eagles' loss to the Cowboys. Jason Avant has already been ruled "OUT" for next week, thereby putting Cooper in line for a higher target count against the struggling Washington pass defense. I put him on the radar as a flier option this week given that he's worked extensively with Foles this season.
Do DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin count as "sleepers" given the inconsistency by this Philadelphia offense to date?
Josh Morgan vs. PHI
The possible return of Pierre Garcon is an exciting development for Washington fans. Even if he plays on a snap count, Garcon's presence will allow Robert Griffin III to stretch the field and afford opportunities to secondary options. That puts Morgan on the map for a solid WR4 play. He caught 11 passes for 92 yards in the Redskins' last two games prior to the Bye week.
Flops Vincent Jackson at CAR
For all the hype, Jackson has truly posted just three big games in 2012. He has the potential to blow up the stat line given Josh Freeman's willingness to air it out, but this is a tough spot. Jackson has topped 80 receiving yards in four games this season, the games in which he scored four of his six touchdowns (66 yards with two touchdowns against the Chiefs). I rated him as a high-WR2 option this week with trepidation.
The Panthers have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Lower Mike Williams back into the WR3 realm this week as well.
Andre Johnson vs. JAC
I can't bench him, but I'm certainly not overly optimistic about Johnson heading into the Week 11 matchup with Jacksonville. He's catching a ton of passes (29 receptions over four weeks). However, Johnson has produced a single 100-yard game and a single touchdown since Week 1. He logged three receptions for 21 yards in Week 2 against the Jaguars. The former top-tier wide receiver is a mid-WR2 this week in standard leagues, though he retains a low-end WR1 mark in PPR leagues.
Michael Crabtree vs. CHI
Crabtree has posted strong back-to-back games against division rivals Arizona and St. Louis, producing 10 receptions, 142 receiving yards and three touchdowns (he has four this season). Those were much better efforts than his previous two games against the Giants and Seahawks (seven receptions and 57 receiving yards combined).
This week, Crabtree faces off with defensive MVP candidate Charles Tillman. The Bears allow yardage with the Cover-2, but get awfully stingy in the red zone (five touchdowns allowed to wide receivers). Crabtree's a tepid WR3 option this week.
Malcom Floyd at DEN
Look out! Floyd's come alive with touchdown receptions in back-to-back games, his first touchdowns since Week 1. That's right. He's also produced just one game with more than 63 receiving yards since Week 2.
I'm not anticipating fireworks in Week 11 against the Broncos and an individual matchup with Champ Bailey. Floyd caught five passes for 60 yards in the Week 6 contest. He excelled as the secondary option against Denver in the past, and I have some hope that Danario Alexander can be a solid WR3 this week, but Floyd has hardly inspired confidence for this matchup.