It's Week 11 of the 2012 NFL season, and as we reach the last of the dreaded bye weeks, we've hit nitty-gritty time in fantasy football leagues.
For many fantasy owners, every game is a must-win scenario at this point in the season, as owners of 5-5 and 4-6 teams are in a position where one more loss could all but crush their playoff dreams.
Those teams need to milk every possible point from their starting lineups, and not only does that mean sometimes going out on a limb with risky starts, it can also mean considering what was once thought unimaginable.
Benching one of the players that put you in the chase for the playoffs to begin with.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers (vs. CHI)
Running back Frank Gore has been the foundation of both fantasy squads and one of the NFC's best teams in 2012, averaging nearly 100 total yards a game and scoring five touchdowns. At 29 years old, the eight-year veteran still has plenty left in the tank.
The only player in the NFL to amass 10,000 total yards and 50 touchdowns since 2006, Gore ranks eighth in the NFL in rushing and 10th among running backs in fantasy points this season, but as he told Daniel Brown of The San Jose Mercury-News, his offensive line deserves much of the credit for not only his success, but his ability to stay on the field this season.
"It's a blessing that I'm not nicked up," Gore said. "I'm just having fun running through the big holes that they're giving me."
However, the chips are stacked against Gore this week coming off is 115-yard effort against the Rams, as the 49ers face a Chicago Bears team that ranks fourth in the NFL in run defense and will likely be without the services of starting quarterback Alex Smith.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (at SF)
The flip side of the same coin, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte finds himself in nearly the exact same situation as Gore.
The 26-year-old Forte, whose 754 total yards and three touchdowns ranks 16th among running backs in fantasy points this season, will also be playing with a backup under center when the Bears face the 49ers on Monday night
Forte told Sean Jensen of The Chicago Sun-Times that he knows the team will need to be more effective running the ball than they were in last week's loss to the Houston Texans.
"It's kind of like we ran the ball at the time when it was kind of like obvious we were going to run the ball," Forte said. "Plus, it was a sloppy game. I don't know. You got to give them credit; they got a good defense, too. We have to establish the run more."
That's going to be easier said than done against a San Francisco run defense allowing only 95 yards a game, especially since Forte will be staring at the same eight-man fronts he was against the Texans with Jason Campbell under center.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (at ATL)
Although he remains one of the most talented players at his position in the National Football League, the 2012 season has been a disappointing one for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who ranks a moribund 17th among fantasy wideouts at this point in the season.
The Cardinals return to action after their bye this week on the heels of a five-game losing streak, but Fitzgerald, always the consummate pro, isn't letting any frustration show according to The Associated Press via The Washington Post.
“I know what I am. I know who I am,’” he said after practice on Thursday. “That’s not going to change based on week to week number-wise. That’s never going to change. My focus is more so on just getting it done as a whole. That’s really what I think of. I’ll get my plays.”
Unfortunately for the ninth-year veteran's fantasy owners, those plays aren't likely to come this week against the Atlanta Falcons, who have been the fourth-stingiest fantasy matchup for opposing wide receivers in 2012.