Given some of the matchups on tap for Week 11 and the myriad injuries affecting the quarterback position, fantasy owners took long, hard looks at Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill for the kickoff to Week 11 in Buffalo. Their time would have been better spent writing letters to Santa Claus.
Sure, Tannehill threw a touchdown pass to Davone Bess, and I guess that the deep ball intercepted by Jairus Byrd (a fantastic catch) looked pretty as it sailed through the Buffalo night. Tannehill passed for 144 yards overall (14-for-28) with two interceptions and three sacks against a Buffalo defense that had struggled to get off the field all year.
Conversely, fantasy owners were optimistic that Fitzpatrick would post a huge day against the Dolphins. The Dolphins had allowed nearly 300 passing yards per game entering Thursday's tilt. Alas, Fitzpatrick finished the game with 168 passing yards (17-of-27) with 15 rushing yards and three sacks. He was shut out for the second time in three weeks.
Let's try to rally by turning our attention back to the painted grass. Waiver wire darling Carson Palmer has enjoyed a tremendous run of late, and he leads the parade of stars for Week 11. It's time for another edition of "Lineup Calls."
Heroes (Exclude Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan)
Carson Palmer vs. NO
Palmer currently ranks third in the NFL in passing yardage and just 124 yards off the lead. He's passed for at least 298 yards in four of the past five games with three consecutive multi-touchdown games.
The Saints are surging behind the strength of the offense, and the defense has come up with a few stops of late. Still, the Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, surrendering 20 total touchdowns while generating just five interceptions. With no discernable running game at his disposal, Palmer continues to work deep to Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore.
Robert Griffin III vs. PHI
Griffin III was shut out in back-to-back games prior to the Redskins' Week 10 Bye. For all of their issues, the Eagles have allowed the 12th-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. However, the Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie combination has been beaten downfield more consistently of late. It's a defense that has failed to generate many turnovers (seven interceptions) and is tied for 28th in sacks with 14.
Cam Newton vs. TB
Newton generated his second straight multi-touchdown game in the Week 10 blowout loss to the Broncos. He completed just 21-of-36 attempts for 241 yards with two interceptions and seven sacks.
He's on the board for a strong start this week against the Tampa Bay pass defense. The Buccaneers have been strong against opposing runners, but have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Tampa Bay creates turnovers (15 interceptions) while ceding a ton of passing yardage (330.9 yards per game).
Matthew Stafford vs. GB
Stafford posted his second three-touchdown game in three weeks and finally got Calvin Johnson into the end zone (he's been stopped at the one-yard line on four occasions). The emergence of Titus Young and Ryan Broyles alongside Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew makes me optimistic that we see points put up in Detroit this weekend. Oddsmakers put this game at 51 ½, the third-highest projected point total for the week.
I do fear the Green Bay pass rush that has generated 28 sacks this season. The absence of Charles Woodson from the Green Bay secondary affords Stafford big opportunities downfield ... if he can stay upright.
Andrew Luck at NE
Fantasy owners received a pair of short rushing touchdowns from Luck in Week 10 against the Jaguars, but little through the air (227 yards with an interception). He's going to be throwing a ton to keep pace with Tom Brady and the high-octane New England offense. Luck has averaged 40.2 passing attempts per game this season with 15 total touchdowns (10 passing) while averaging 292.3 passing yards per game. I'll take the "Over" in the yardage column this week.
Tony Romo vs. CLE
Romo has been terrible at home this season, producing just two touchdowns against 10 interceptions. The last time we saw him in front of the home crowd was that strange game against the Giants in Week 8, the frantic finish that was defined by a close-up of Dez Bryant's fingertips. Romo passed for 437 yards in that game with two touchdowns (one rushing) and four interceptions).
The Browns have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and the unit's recent improvement in production was wiped away by Joe Flacco's huge Week 10 output. I'll put Romo on the board for 275 yards and two touchdowns this week.
Top cornerback Joe Haden missed Thursday's practice because of an oblique injury and may be sidelined for Sunday's tilt.
Philip Rivers at DEN
The Chargers' downward spiral with four losses in five games obscures the fact that Rivers has actually been a strong fantasy option during this period. Rivers has thrown multiple touchdown passes in five of his past six games He's also turned the ball over 11 times during this six-game stretch.
Six of those turnovers came in one of the worst collapses we've seen in recent NFL action against this Denver squad. Rivers and the Chargers were cruising along in the home date before a catastrophic turn of events. I don't anticipate an easy path on the road by any means, and I rank Rivers as just a high-end QB2 this week. However, he's going to need to throw early and often to keep pace with Peyton Manning and the evolving Denver attack.
Sleepers Andy Dalton at KC
I don't know that Dalton counts as a "Sleeper," but he's difficult to slide into the QB1 roll call. He has completed a touchdown pass to A.J. Green in eight consecutive games (five multi-touchdown games). In one positive development, Dalton finally ended his streak of eight consecutive games with at least one interception last week against the Giants.
This is an interesting spot for Dalton against the Chiefs. I'm moderately concerned that the Kansas City defense that arrived in Week 10 puts up another strong effort at home this week. However, we've seen no consistency from this unit to date. They're tied for 28th in sacks (14) and have allowed 18 touchdown passes against six interceptions.
Sam Bradford vs. NYJ
Owners facing injury concerns (perhaps you have the Roethlisberger/Cutler combination) or tough matchups might take a look-see at Bradford following his big effort against the 49ers. The Jets are still a top-12 defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but I wonder whether the fractured state of the Jets locker room starts to affect the overall effort. With Steven Jackson running more effectively, I expect to see Bradford take his shots downfield with Danny Amendola and the young receiving corps.
Nick Foles at WAS
Let's face it. Foles completed 22-of-32 attempts for 219 yards in relief of Michael Vick in Week 10. He threw a touchdown pass with two turnovers and two sacks.
It's a strong spot for Foles' first career start. The Redskins have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (303 passing yards and 2.1 passing touchdowns per game). Look for Foles to get the ball out quickly to DeSean Jackson on the flanker screen and let him make plays with his legs. I put Riley Cooper on the board as a "Sleeper" at wide receiver this week.
Flops Josh Freeman at CAR
I know. Freeman has been on fire since the Buccaneers' Bye week. He's put forth five consecutive multi-touchdown games. I hold this up as a potential roadblock for Freeman and this Tampa Bay offense. The Panthers have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, having allowed just 10 passing touchdowns this season. Carolina has quietly amassed 25 sacks this season to tie them for 10th in the league. It's a difficult road test for Greg Schiano's squad this week.
Matt Schaub vs. JAC
The Texans are playing the Jaguars and come in as more than a two-touchdown favorite. Matt Schaub is then obviously a huge play this week, right?
I'm not banking on a huge game, and that's in no part related to his Week 10 performance in Chicago. Schaub has posted just four multi-touchdown games this season and was shut out by the Jaguars earlier this season (195 passing yards). With Owen Daniels still ailing because of a hip injury, Schaub's receiving corps is thin. I expect to see a healthy dose of Arian Foster early and a big effort from the Houston defense.
Joe Flacco at PIT
Flacco has played two distinctively different seasons in 2012. He's been a fantastic play at home, putting up huge numbers. He's passed for more than 200 yards just once in four road games this season, a slate that included dates against the Chiefs and Browns. Flacco's three multi-touchdown games came at home, including last week's pinball-like effort against the Raiders.
This isn't the Pittsburgh defense of years past, to be sure, as sacks and turnovers haven't piled up in the manner to which we're accustomed. However, Pittsburgh has still allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.