A few fantasy football superstars are creating conundrums as many owners prepare to set their lineups ahead of Week 11's NFL action.
Whether it be health, a bad matchup or the viability of their supporting casts—or a combination of those factors—it's never good when a player who is almost always bankable for points is suddenly raising red flags.
Let's take a look at some of the established big names who might find the going tough on the gridiron this week.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
An ankle injury makes Manning more of a questionable play than most weeks. It will be tempting to plug him in anyway based on the sensational season he's having, but it's at least worth stopping to consider otherwise.
THIS JUST IN: Broncos QB Peyton Manning not practicing today with the Broncos. (ankle)— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 13, 2013
The Broncos are squaring off against the undefeated, AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in what is the highest-stakes game of the 2013 season to date.
Manning will be on the field regardless of how hobbled he is. That shows how competitive he is, yet it could also be his downfall against a menacing Chiefs front seven featuring Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe among others.
It's not that Manning can't handle exotic pressures being thrown at him—it's more of a concern as to whether he can get rid of the ball in time. Kansas City's beasts in the trenches have helped the team lead the NFL with 36 sacks on the year.
B/R expert Michael Schottey believes Manning is in trouble, while ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry isn't even worried about Manning missing a practice early in the week:
Phrase I keep using about KC/DEN…”Blood in the Water.” KC is going to hit Manning early and often—legally or otherwise.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) November 14, 2013
I currently have Peyton Manning ranked #2 this week, so no, not currently worried about him missing a Wed practice.— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) November 13, 2013
Tread with caution if you decide to plug Manning in.
Just know that other spot start options should be available. Those include Cleveland Browns QB Jason Campbell and Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Tennessee Titans—both of whom are mobile enough to create yards with their legs, too.
Start/Sit Verdict: Start
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Discouraging Peterson is unwise on a regular basis, too, but a trip to CenturyLink Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks could yield disappointment—even if it isn't AP's fault.
In last season's matchup in Seattle, Peterson ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 loss despite his QB Christian Ponder throwing for only 63 yards on 22 attempts. Pathetic stuff there from the former first-round pick.
But Minnesota's offense had the diversion of Percy Harvin for at least the early portion of that game, and now Harvin is likely going to make his debut for the Seahawks against his ex-Vikings teammates.
The Vikings also have one of the worst pass defenses in football, which makes the impending presence of Harvin even more ominous. That means Ponder—if he can play after dislocating his left shoulder in Week 10—is going to have to throw it quite often on arguably the league's most talented secondary.
If it were ever possible to not recommend Peterson, who is always capable of the big play, this is the week. Unless he is the foundation of your fantasy team, you're better off exploring elsewhere just for this game.
Start/Sit Verdict: Sit
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
The ageless 34-year-old wonder is averaging just 10.7 yards per catch in 2013, which would be a career low for a full single season if it stands.
Smith did come up with some big catches down the stretch of the Panthers' landmark 10-9 victory in San Francisco in Week 10, and matched his season high with six catches. The 63 yards he piled up were also the second-most he's had in a game all year.
Who will have the best game on Sunday?
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has Rob Gronkowski in the fold, and as good of a cover linebacker as Luke Kuechly is for the Panthers, he won't be able to check Gronk for the entire game.
Carolina's ground game with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in the backfield—along with QB Cam Newton—should gash the Pats' 30th-ranked rush defense, though.
That will set up opportunities for Newton to work off of play-action, where it will be up to Smith to gain separation on downfield routes as well as when Newton extends the play with his feet.
For such a talented, consistently productive receiver who is the top wideout with someone as gifted as Newton throwing him the ball, it's a shock that Smith has played in every game this year and hasn't topped 100 yards.
Now is the time for Smith to break out in the midst of what should be his first winning season with the Panthers since 2008.
Start/Sit Verdict: Start
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
At 6'3" and 217 pounds, there is always upside for Nelson as a red-zone target. His production over the past two-plus seasons is also impeccable:
Most receiving touchdowns by WR since 2011: Jordy Nelson 29 Dez Bryant 29 Calvin Johnson 28 Eric Decker 24 Wes Welker 24— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLONFOX) November 10, 2013
However, without Aaron Rodgers to rifle him back-shoulder throws—not to mention the duo's innate chemistry—Nelson's value takes a huge hit.
The New York Giants have played sensational defense in the past three games, so it's no surprise they're suddenly in the thick of the NFC East division race.
Perhaps what's counting most against Nelson is that he will be receiving passes from Scott Tolzien, who will make his debut as an NFL starter.
None of that sounds good for Nelson fantasy owners. If Green Bay is meant to have success on the road against a team riding a ton of momentum, it will have to rely on the newly established rushing attack featuring running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks.
Start/Sit Verdict: Sit