Raise your hand if you saw Tavon Austin's breakthrough performance coming. How about Rishard Matthews? Surely, you predicted Mark Ingram's huge game this week, right?
Let's be honest with ourselves—it's incredibly hard to forecast which obscure or underperforming players will suddenly explode for huge games. If I had told you those three players would each score 21 or more fantasy points in Week 10, you would have laughed me out of the room.
But, hey, that doesn't mean we can't try to read the tea leaves and predict a few players that could have their breakout this week.
From two veterans who haven't done much for owners this year to a more obscure player with an opportunity beckoning, these three players have the potential to surprise in Week 11.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
I know what you are thinking—"Really, Manning makes a breakthrough fantasy performance article?"—but the truth is he has been pretty terrible this year from a fantasy perspective. He's reached 15 or more fantasy points just twice this season and is currently ranked No. 24 in standard-scoring leagues.
It hasn't been pretty.
But if ever there were a week to roll the dice with Manning, it is this one. He faces a Green Bay Packers defense that is giving up 18.1 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per week (24th in the NFL). Plus, it has given up 20 or more points in back-to-back weeks.
Oh, and the Packers offense could grind to a halt with Scott Tolzien under center facing a New York Giants defense that has played surprisingly well in the team's three-game winning streak.
If the Packers can't hold on to the ball, that could mean a lot of extra plays for the Giants offense.
You shouldn't be taking the risk on Manning in 10- or even 12-team leagues, but in two-quarterback or truly deep leagues, he's worth the gamble this week.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First, it was Doug Martin. Now, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times is reporting that Mike James has been lost for the season:
A lot of folks are going to add Brian Leonard on the waiver wire this week, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the player who will emerge as more relevant to fantasy owners is Bobby Rainey. While Leonard got the bulk of the work in relief of James on Monday night, it was Rainey who looked more impressive.
Let's compare the two in Monday night's game.
- Leonard: 20 rushes for 57 yards and two receptions for 16 yards.
- Rainey: Eight carries for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Leonard has always been a decent third-down back and could see more work around the goal line, but Rainey looked like the more explosive option on his 31-yard run that set up his touchdown.
This week, the Bucs play an Atlanta Falcons team that gives up 16.1 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week (20th) and 126.8 rushing yards per game (27th).
There are fantasy points to be had in this matchup, and I'm pushing my chips in Rainey's corner. He is surely riskier, but also presents more upside than Leonard.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
Geno Smith has to throw to someone, and he'll likely be throwing quite a bit to Santonio Holmes. ESPN's Rich Cimini reports that the wideout might make his return to action this week:
It's a tasty matchup for Holmes, as the Buffalo Bills allow 29.2 fantasy points to opposing receivers per week (31st). Plus, with ESPNNewYork.com's Matt Ehalt reporting that Jeremy Kerley will likely be out for a few weeks, Holmes should see a ton of targets in this game.
It's insanely risky to plug Holmes into your lineup, but if you are in a deep league or desperate for help at wide receiver, he's an intriguing play this week.
Notes: Points against stats via ESPN. Point totals are for standard-scoring leagues. The St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys are on a bye.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, tweet random fantasy musings and wonder how the New Orleans Saints could earn almost as many first downs (40) on Sunday night as the Dallas Cowboys ran plays (43).
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