Fantasy football is all about playing matchups. The gurus who constantly win their leagues—especially in deeper formats—attain that lofty status by wisely analyzing the week-to-week showdowns and making the right lineup calls.
While some owners might flip a coin to decide which players to start, we prefer to look at it rationally by observing opposing defenses and recent trends to make educated decisions.
Let’s take a look at some of Week 11’s sleeper starts and must-bench busts.
Start: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Washington Redskins)
This red-hot signal-caller has an ideal matchup against the ‘Skins replacement-level secondary. Washington is conceding an average of 274.8 yards per game to opposing passers, and Nick Foles should easily surpass that number.
The second-year man out of Arizona is primed for another big day and will likely add to his 16 touchdowns on the season.
Sit: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (at New Orleans Saints)
The Saints have been surprisingly tough to throw on, as the team is giving up just 199.9 yards per game via the air. Colin Kaepernick has been a far cry from a productive fantasy quarterback this year and won’t suddenly explode against this stingy defense that is best defeated on the ground.
Start: Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (at New Orleans Saints)
The Saints are beatable on the ground, and that is how 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will likely attempt to pick up a win in the Superdome. Frank Gore is a power rusher who has been consistent all season, already generating 700 yards and seven scores on 162 carries.
New Orleans concedes 117.7 yards per game on the ground, so don’t be surprised if Gore easily eclipses the century mark and picks up a score or two in this one.
Sit: Chris Ivory, New York Jets (at Buffalo Bills)
Chris Ivory’s performance has been much like New York's performance as a team—inconsistent at best. This young man is capable of busting out—as we most recently saw in Week 9 against the Saints, when he went off for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries—but has yet to put together back-to-back good games in 2013. Avoid him against the Bills.
Start: Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
V-Jax dominated the Dirty Birds in the ATL a few weeks ago and now has a chance to put together another solid outing at home. He destroyed the Falcons' vulnerable secondary to the tune of 138 yards and two scores on 10 receptions and will be an even bigger focus of the team’s offense in Week 11.
With a running back situation that looks dire, expect the Bucs to air it out and look to Jackson early and often.
Sit: Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers (vs. New England Patriots)
New England has been decent against opposing wide receivers this year, but this sit is more about Steve Smith’s lack of production in 2013. He’s bench-worthy at best and possibly waiver fodder in some leagues. The veteran has yet to compile his third double-digit scoring outing of the current campaign, and it is doubtful that will come under the spotlight on Monday Night Football, so stay away.
Start: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (at Tennessee Titans)
Coby Fleener has been average overall but has a nice opportunity to see plenty of targets against Tennessee. He should be more involved in the passing attack, though, now that the Colts are coming off an embarrassing 38-8 loss to the St. Louis Rams and the Titans look to shut down T.Y. Hilton.
While the short week isn’t ideal—this is the Thursday Night Football matchup—Fleener has answered the call before and will likely be one of the top targets for Andrew Luck against the Titans.
Sit: John Carlson, Minnesota Vikings (at Seattle Seahawks)
John Carlson has been an intriguing plug-and-play option with Kyle Rudolph out, but that ends with this road trip to Seattle. The Seahawks are simply too good to allow Carlson to burn them and will shut down the veteran tight end with ease.