OK, lesson learned, never sleep on Tom Brady.  I thought I had seen some jitters in his game last week, and made the foolish move of putting him in my “worst” slot.  Well, apparently Tom reads these articles (yeah, right) and wasn’t too happy with my opinion.  How does he punish me?  He makes me look like a fool by throwing for more than 300 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.  So what’s the fantasy takeaway from all of this?  Don’t outthink yourself.  I fell into the common trap of getting too wrapped up in film study and stats and didn’t look at the broader picture of Brady’s body of work.  Sure, he had a few bad games prior to last week, but instead of seeing a trend like I did, I should have seen an aberration.  The other take away, even the people who study the most in this game can make the same mistakes as a guy who spends 15 minutes per week looking at his roster.  Fantasy football is a cruel mistress.  Let’s move on to week 11, because I really want to forget about week 10.

Quarterback

BEST:   Aaron Rodgers, GB

-With several top tier quarterbacks on bye this week, Matt Schaub going down with injury (although he would have been on bye anyway), and others facing tougher matchups, I had to go with the obvious choice of Rodgers this week.  It’s hard to make an argument that any quarterback is playing better than Rodgers right now, and this week he gets another weak matchup against the Buccaneers.  Tampa currently possesses the 5th worst pass defense in the league, giving up an average of 263 yards per game through the air.  Furthermore, the Bucs have only intercepted opposing quarterbacks 8 times so far this season in 9 games.  Not that Rodgers has had much trouble throwing the ball to the opposing team this year, but it’s still nice to know that the Bucs aren’t exactly ball hawks.  Look for Rodgers to have a ho-hum (for him) day of around 300 yards and 3 scores.  I think he’ll tack on about 30 to 50 yards rushing this week as well.  Honestly, it’s kind of sad that his owners may be disappointed by that production at this point in the year, but looking at it objectively, it will be a great game.

WORST:  Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF

-Some may see his last few games as a symptom of playing teams with great defensive coordinators and a lot of talent on that side of the ball.  What I see is what I saw with Peyton Hillis at another position last season.  It looks to me that defenses have figured him out.  Opponents are jumping routes far more often, and that is usually a sign that teams have studied film on him and have figured out some pretty significant trends in his style of play.  Even though he has an easy matchup this week, it’s hard for me to recommend Fitzpatrick going forward, unless he significantly changes some of his tendencies.  Fitzpatrick isn’t overly talented, but is a smart quarterback, so it isn’t out of the question that he will adapt.  However, until he proves to fantasy owners that he has done that, I wouldn’t recommend starting him with any regularity going forward.

Running Back

BEST:    Matt Forte, CHI

-The guy is just flat out a beast, and it has been extremely difficult for me to keep him out of this spot in every week this season.  Forte has scored double digit fantasy point in a standard scoring system in each of the last 6 weeks, and in 8 of 9 contests so far this season.  He faces off against a San Diego defense this week that gives up an average of 127.9 yards per game this season.  The tough part about that is that the Chargers have only given up 5 rushing touchdowns this year.  However, luckily for Forte owners, they don’t depend on him scoring his points by getting into the end zone.  He’s been racking up tons of yardage this year because of his ability to make plays in both the running and passing games.  In all, I think Forte will end up with 120 yards rushing, 35 receiving yards, and I also think he’ll end up with 1 touchdown either receiving or rushing this week.

WORST:  Adrian Peterson, MIN

-He wouldn’t be here if the Vikings would consistently give him the ball.  In a game against a fierce division rival last week Peterson only touched the ball 14 times.  I understand that the Packers got out to a big lead against the Vikings fairly early, but that just isn’t any excuse to not get the ball to your best playmaker.  Peterson is absolutely the most talented back in the league, but the Vikings seem hell bent on giving him the ball fewer than 20 times per game.  In fact, AP has only gotten the ball 20 or more times in 5 games this season.  There is no excuse for not getting your most talented offensive player the ball 20 or more times in just under half of your games.  I see that happening again this week as I’m predicting the Raiders will go up by a fairly wide margin pretty quickly on the Vikings, and Frazier will abandon his work horse just like he did against Green Bay.  He’s always a must-start fantasy running back, but if Leslie Frazier doesn’t hand him the ball more he’s going to make a lot of fantasy owners unhappy.  And possibly more importantly, the Vikings front office may get a little impatient as well.  For now, temper your expectations with AP, he’s a beast if he gets the ball, but apparently you just can’t be sure if he will or not.

Wide Receiver

BEST:    Larry Fitzgerald, ARI

-No matter who throws this guy the ball, he just knows how to make plays.  Kind of makes you wonder how good he could be playing with a quarterback like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees.  But that’s just a fantasy nerd’s wishful thinking, you can ignore that.  With backup John Skelton throwing him the ball last week, Fitzgerald had a monster game, racking up 146 yards and 2 touchdowns against a normally stingy Eagles secondary.  This week he faces the division rival San Francisco 49ers who are giving up around 260 yards through the air per game this year.  I think that should bode well for Fitzgerald no matter what quarterback is behind center for the Cards.  Look for him to approach, and likely exceed, 100 yards this week and find the end zone once.

WORST:  Steve Smith, CAR

-I have a feeling that the Lions are going to cause all kinds of problems for Cam Newton this week.  Newton is certainly elusive, but I think that the Lions will create enough pressure so as to cause Newton to make a lot of mistakes this week.  What that means for Smith is that Newton is going to be forcing a lot of balls into places where it shouldn’t be thrown, and he won’t see nearly as many catchable balls as he otherwise could have.  Sure, it’s possible that Newton may force some balls to Smith and he could make a few miraculous grabs and turn them into big plays, but that just isn’t a good way to survive in fantasy football.  You should still be starting Smith this week, as he always has that potential to explode like I just mentioned, but I wouldn’t expect a lot of production.  He’ll probably end up with something along the lines of 40 yards and no touchdowns.

Tight End

BEST:    Rob Gronkowski, NE

-With Aaron Hernandez’s return from injury, I thought his touches would decrease.  It looks, however, like Tom Brady is extremely comfortable throwing the ball to Gronkowski even with Hernandez back.  He’s totaled 7 or more catches in each of the last 4 games, and has gone over 100 yards with at least 1 score in each of his last 2 games.  At this point, it’s become abundantly clear that no matter who is in the Patriots’ lineup, Gronkowski is going to be a focal point of the passing offense.  Look for him to have another big game this week against the Chiefs, with somewhere around 80 yards receiving and a score.  On a strange side note, he’s owned in 97% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  Can somebody explain to me how there are 3% of leagues where this guy is sitting on the waiver wire?  Sheesh!

WORST:  Lions Tight Ends

-Tony Scheffler is a fantasy problem.  That’s not to say he isn’t a good tight end, he certainly is.  The problem is that most owners were expecting a lot more from Brandon Pettigrew this season than they’ve gotten.  Last week Pettigrew saw 9 balls thrown his way, and caught 5 of them.  The problem?  Scheffler was the tight end who caught a touchdown for the Lions.  As this time-share continues, the value of both of these guys will be lessened.  Starting either guy this week isn’t a horrible idea, especially if your starter is on bye, but I can’t say I’m overly optimistic about either.

Defense

BEST:   Green Bay Packers

-Call me crazy, but I think this defense has turned a corner.  They had significantly fewer communication breakdowns in the secondary, their biggest problem this season, on Monday night.  It showed, too.  The Packers held the Vikings to 190 yards passing, and intercepted Christian Ponder once.  They face a tougher test this week against the Buccaneers, but it still should be a relatively soft matchup for them.  The Bucs have been a middle of the pack offense, gaining only 331 yards per game this year, and their quarterback, Josh Freeman, has thrown 13 picks already this season.  This seems to fall right into the Packers strengths, and I think they’re in for a big game.  I expect them to give up around 14-17 points and intercept Freeman twice.  They should get 2 sacks as well.  Also, keep in mind that Randall Cobb, when he hangs on to the ball on punts, has been very dangerous in the return game this year.  If your league includes return stats for your defense that should help the Packers’ stock considerably.

WORST:  Buffalo Bills

-A lot of fantasy players are still starting this defense, even with the last two weeks.  The problem is that the Bills are going to be boom or bust this season on defense.  They live and die by the turnover, and if they don’t get them they are in a ton of trouble.  They do play Miami this week, so it’s possible that they could grab some turnovers and make this a good game.  Really I have them in the “worst” section this week as a warning to players going forward, as I think they’ll be slightly above average this week, but will be very hard to read going forward.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Hey Andy, that’s cheating!  If they aren’t the worst this week you shouldn’t put them there!”  All that I have to say to that is:  It’s my article and I can do what I want.  So take that!

SLEEPER OF THE WEEK

Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders

Palmer hasn’t looked incredible since he’s come back, but he’s actually been putting up some solid fantasy points with the Raiders.  I especially like him this week against a terrible Minnesota defense, which ranks 3rd worst in the league against the pass.  This is one of the most sure-fire sleepers I’ve had this year, and I’d be genuinely shocked if Palmer doesn’t at least put up adequate numbers.  The only caveat I have against his performance this week is Jared Allen.  The guy has been a wrecking ball this season, and made Aaron Rodgers’ life a nightmare on a bunch of plays last week.  Palmer is far less mobile than Rodgers and if Allen hits him too many times it could cause him to panic in the pocket and make mistakes.  I’m still very high on Palmer this week, and expect him to get around 300 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and throw 1 pick.  I also expect him to be sacked at least 3 times, so if your league penalizes quarterbacks for sacks, keep that in mind.

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