Noteworthy for this week as it relates to lineups, FAAB pick-ups and FLEX plays: Josh Gordon makes his return to the Browns for their Week 12 matchup against the Falcons, while Brandin Cooks will miss anywhere from 2-6 weeks with a broken thumb which takes the Saints’ most versatile big play option out of the mix. Ahmad Bradshaw may miss the rest of the year with a fractured fibula, which means a Dan Herron sighting is inevitable in Indy, as we’ve all seen what Trent Richardson can do (7 carries for zero yards this week. So, literally nothing.) Pierre Thomas hopes to be back after missing four weeks with shoulder/rib issues, which may affect Mark Ingram’s usage slightly. Jonas Gray had a career night on Sunday with his 199 yard, four touchdown evening against the Colts, and LeVeon Bell followed that up on Monday with his own 200 plus yard game on 33 carries. What a feeding frenzy for those two! With only two teams on a bye, it’s not nearly as brutal as the past two weeks, so most owners should have ample coverage. It’s time to pour it on, and even if you don’t necessarily need a player but have a ton of FAAB funny money left, sometimes, the best offense is a good defense. If a competitor needs RB help and Jonas Gray is sitting there this week, think about putting in a claim to prevent someone else from taking him. He may end up being what LeGarrette Blount was during the playoff stretch for the Pats last season (really, weeks 16-19).
WEEK 11 BYES: Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers
Boobie Dixon (10 rush 35 yds. 2 rec. 13 yds.)
Bryce Brown (6 rush 14 yds. 7 rec. 57 yds.)
Notes: The Dolphins D was stout all game, holding the team to just 54 yards rushing, and under 185 total passing yards. The Bills should be getting Fred Jackson back for Week 12, which will certainly help their offense against the Jets. It’s not a plus match-up for him, but the Jets can be run on, so Jackson will likely be a RB2 ranking this week. For anyone hoping that Bryce Brown would have a coming out party ahead of C.J. Spiller’s free agency, it didn’t happen. We’ve seen his skills on display for the Eagles last season, and he is ultra-talented to be sure, but he didn’t light the world on fire in his limited action with the Bills. That may be a product of systems, as Doug Marrone’s hasn’t seemed to boost Spiller either. In deeper leagues and dynasty formats, I’d hold onto Brown if you have the space. They spent too much on him to just forget about him. With uncertainty surrounding Spiller and the coaching staff with new management/ownership, as well as Fast Freddy’s advancing age, who knows what next year will bring for Brown?
St. Louis Rams
Tre Mason (29 rush 113 yds. 1 rec. 1 yd.)
Benny Cunningham (2 rush 7 yds. 4 rec. 31 yds.)
Notes: Well, that should just about settle that. Week 11 should retire the Rams from this report save for the rare footnote should Ben Cunningham vulture a score, or Zombie Zac Stacy return from the dead in Week 13, for a 25 carry, 200-yard renaissance game. The young buck Mason (not that he’s much younger than Cunningham or Stacy, two second-year guys, for that matter) has seemingly earned the trust and reps for this offense. Of course, Shaun Hill finished with a QBR of 68.8 (Peyton had a QBR of 32.9, FYI) and missed on just nine attempts all day, which surely helped set up the run against Denver. But Mason ran hard between the tackles, and ran well to the outside, breaking a long run of 27 against the Broncos. Mason projects to a solid RB3 the rest of the way, nearing the RB2 area. Feel comfortable starting him as a flex or RB2 this week against the Chargers in San Diego. Cunningham can be dumped if you’re still holding him for higher upside players for the stretch run. If Pierre Thomas is on the wire, or of course Jonas Gray, or even Knile Davis who may be leaned upon down the stretch to preserve Jamaal Charles, dump B.C. without a second thought.
Isaiah Crowell (14 rush 61 yds. 1 Red Zone Fumble; 2 rec. 30 yds.)
Terrance West (5 rush 12 yds.)
Ben Tate (2 rush -9 yds.)
Notes: The Browns’ backfield situation is maddening, though it will be at least 33% less so after the team severed ties with Ben Tate on Tuesday. Perhaps he signs with the Colts given the news on Bradshaw? We shall see … There is no way of knowing who will serve as the lead back between Crowell or West going forward, and this could be a very fluid situation where it’s a true hot hand approach, and Coach Pettine ends up giving 70-75% of the work to the “better” back in that given week. Crowell received the majority of work in Sunday’s game against Houston, and was still relied upon even after a costly fumble. I had Crowell in my pre-season sleepers list, and he’s making me look somewhat competent (or maybe lucky?) thus far. With Josh Gordon returning this week, and possibly Jordan Cameron being cleared for action after his concussion issues, I could absolutely see things getting easier for the Brownie backs. The trick will be figuring out which one is the one to start. Because of the situation, I’d say both Crowell and West remain high-upside, low-downside Flex plays, but it’s hard to trust guys with such low floors at this stage of the season, especially if you’re counting on points to secure a playoff spot.
Joique Bell (14 rush 85 yds. 3 rec. 30 yds.)
Theo Riddick (2 rush 2 yds. 3 rec. 24 yds.)
Reggie Bush (DNP – Ankle)
Notes: In a game that featured Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton for their respective teams’ starting QBs, one threw for over 300 yards and two scores and took no sacks, while the other couldn’t top 200 yards, had but one INT, and took four sacks on the day. Guess which QB was responsible for which stat line? (Hint: Stafford stunk on Sunday.) The Detroit offense just couldn’t find a rhythm against what is arguably the best defense in football, despite a plethora of injuries early on that figured to derail Arizona’s chances this year. Knowing Reggie Reg would be absent, the wisdom went that in the games he’s missed, Theo Riddick had averaged 75 yards receiving in each contest while filling that role. Didn’t happen Sunday. Riddick was bottled up all afternoon and only caught 3 of his six targets. The Arizona secondary did a good job taking Calvin Johnson out of the game plan as well, surrendering just five catches on 12 targets. Bell had a nice game for owners who started him this week, but faces a New England Patriots defense that contained a Colts running game handily on Sunday evening. It doesn’t look like a great matchup, so owners of Bell and a returning Bush should proceed with caution.
New England Patriots
Jonas Gray (36 rush, 199 yds. 4 TDs)
Shane Vereen (1 rush 18 yds. 4 rec. 59 yds.)
Notes: Welp, it wasn’t much of a committee this week, that’s for sure. I think we have to continue to consider Vereen a part of things because of his pass-catching ability and role on third downs as a sound blocker and safety valve for Brady. But Gray should absolutely be owned in all leagues at this point. As mentioned earlier in this column, let us not forget was LeGarrettte Blount did last year in week 16, with his 76 yards and 2 scores, cementing many owners’ places in their league’s pantheon of champions. He was the beneficiary of Josh McDaniels’ scheme/game plan, and Gray could be that guy this season. He’s fresh, he’s built like an M-1 Abrams, and he showed admirable patience on Sunday night, waiting for holes to develop instead of just crashing into his own linemen and opposing linebackers, as many inexperienced backs would do. In closing, let me say again, go get Jonas Gray, and do it now!
Additional Notes: Alfred Morris had a decent game for Washington despite their being routed by the lowly Bucs, rushing 20 times for 96 yards. Once again, though, my boy Roy (Helu Jr., ya turkey) was beyond relevant in the passing game catching all six of his targets, amassing 57 yards and the lone score in the process. You could do a lot worse if you’re hurting in a PPR format league at the flex spot than Helu … In the same game Charles Sims led the Bucs in rushing attempts with 13 rushes for 36 yards (adding 3 catches for 8 yards as well). Bobby Rainey wasn’t factor (5 carries, 4 yards) as it looks like the coaching staff will lean on Sims the rest of the way to see what they have in the rookie. … Alfred Blue subbed in admirably for any owner looking to combat the loss of Arian Foster, or savvy owners who scooped him up before Foster owners could. Blue received a staggering 36 carries, and ran for 156 yards on the day. He seems to be a must-own from here on out whether you have Foster or not. With a lingering soft tissue injury, Foster could absolutely miss more time. Hold onto Blue if you have him, and if he’s on the wire, put a claim in pronto. … Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew received 12 carries between them, resulting in 27 yards. Latavius Murray received just four carries, and produced 43 yards. If anything, I hope that this is the week the Raiders take the reins off Murray and let him run wild, run free. The kid has superb talent, and at 0-10, there’s really nothing left to play for beyond talent evaluation needs, and that little thing called pride. Tony Sparano, if you’re reading this: GIVE MURRAY THE BALL! .. Ryan Mathews returned and out-touched Branden Oliver 17-14. With 75 total yards on the day, it wasn’t exactly a heart-stopping return, but he looked good, and should continue to receive work. Mathews is a borderline RB2-3 going forward. … I spoke too soon on the Falcons demise as Coach Mike Smith keeps preaching the “We need to go 1-0 this week” mantra, and they’re now 2-0 in their last two, and leading the division at 4-6 (Woof). Steven Jackson once again paced the Falcons at RB, out touching the next closest back (Devonta Freeman) 17-6. S-Jax remains on the FLEX radar going forward for volume, but I still think Freeman is a nice pick-up in keeper or dynasty formats, should be available. … In that same game, Carolina doled out their carries 10-7 in favor of DeAngelo Williams over Jonathan Stewart. Williams finished with 41 rushing yards while Stewart had 24. Neither of these guys has any value as a fantasy option, and they have each other (and Ron Rivera) to thank. Giovani Bernard should be back this week, and is now a committee member thanks to another strong showing by rookie Jeremy Hill (27 carries, 152 yards against the Saints). Both remain RB2 candidates because of upside, though I give the slight edge to Bernard because I think he holds onto more touches, and remains a factor in the passing game.