Fantasy Week 11 gave us plenty of big performances; they just didn't seem to come from places we expected to see them.
Bobby Rainey went from timeshare running back to fantasy superstar. Matt McGloin went from undrafted Penn State walk-on to a three-touchdown passer in his debut.
For every one of those surprise performances, there is a frustrated fantasy owner somewhere. We break down the week's top 10 takeaways right here.
Ray Rice Is Back
How about that kid in a snowsuit? The first-round running back derided for looking immobile last week got a hole so big on his first carry of the day, a season-long 47-yard scamper, he joked with his teammates he "didn't know what to do with it," according to Ryan Mink of the Ravens' official website.
All my success today is really attributed to the O-line getting a hat on a hat. I did what I had to do when it came to dealing with the safeties, I got my pads down, lowered it, and that's something I'm going to look forward to keep doing.
It was the start of a 131-yard day, one that saved his fantasy value and starting job. The Ravens went into the game saying Bernard Pierce was going to get a chance to show what he can do, but they vowed to stick with the hot hand, Rice.
Pierce managed just 18 yards on 10 carries against a suspect Bears run defense ranked 31st in the NFL. At least we know Pierce won't be a real threat to Rice owners.
We will get to see if Rice is truly back next week against the Jets. They boast the No. 1 run defense in football.
Bobby Rainey Pours in the Points
We thought we had the Bucs pegged in their hierarchy to replace Doug Martin (shoulder) and Mike James (ankle). Well, some of us did, and it wasn't those banking on Brian Leonard.
Rainey was the hot hand here, rushing for a Week 11-high 163 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He is going to be the most-added running back in fantasy for another week.
Receiver Vincent Jackson told the AP:
He's stepped up. We put a lot on his plate, but he's handled it well. He's being very coachable. He's taking in everything that's being asked of him, doing a great job in the passing game as well, picking up blocks. I see the kid being successful the rest of this year. We put guys in position to be successful. Hats off to our coaches for working with him, putting the time in so he can go out there and compete.
Rainey, like Rice, has a much better run defense next up on the schedule in that of the Detroit Lions—fifth-best in the NFL. This big performance, though, will make him one of the top 25 options at the position.
Colts' Donald Brown Trumping Trent Richardson
Yet another frustrating running back situation to dissect this week. At least we are getting some answers to our fantasy questions, though.
For the Colts, Brown is the answer. Richardson s the question mark.
Brown rushed 14 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns Thursday night, while Richardson was held to eight carries for 22 yards. Richardson was the more effective pass receiver, but Brown has emerged as the better fantasy option now in Indy.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star called for Brown to be the Colts' go-to man the rest of the season. Head coach Chuck Pagano told Kravitz on Brown:
He's playing really well, running hard, hitting the hole, breaking tackles, yards after contact. We all know out in space, he's a dynamic guy, can take it the distance when he gets loose. He's playing exceptionally well.
Despite Kravitz's call for more Brown and less Richardson, Pagano isn't giving up on his midseason trade acquisition:
It just seems like there's times where when we get started and hand Trent the football, we've got a couple instances where we either have a mental error up front, we don’t block a guy, there's somebody free in the backfield. It just happens to be Trent carrying the ball at the time.
I'm not saying that's always for Trent or that doesn't happen when Donald is in the ballgame. But again, Trent's numbers are going to come. He's a damned good player. He's a damned good back. He just got here. He hasn't been here as long as our other guys have been here.
And I'm not making any excuses for him. He won't make any excuses for himself. We're going to stay patient, and he's going to have a breakout game. His numbers will increase. His numbers will come. His yards will come.
You cannot bank on them coming next week—not against Arizona's run defense that ranks No. 2 in the NFL (second to the Jets). Brown is the play there, if anyone, while Richardson has to be sat in most fantasy leagues until he proves productive.
Coby Fleener Now Colts' Primary Target?
We have talked up Fleener as a tight end sleeper here, mostly to a fault this season. His time appears to have come now, though, coming off eight catches for 107 yards against the Titans on Thursday night (both totals good for second-best in fantasy this week).
Coby is a great matchup versus a lot of people. He has worked so hard continually. He realizes with [receiver Reggie Wayne] down, it's an opportunity for the tight ends to sort of help fill that void. He did a great job. He is so athletic, and he is so fast. I do think he creates a matchup problem in certain situations, and he did a good job of getting himself open [Thursday night].
Fleener is a must-start tight end against those Cardinals next week. Arizona has allowed the most points in fantasy to tight ends.
C.J. Spiller Not Part of Buffalo's Stampede
Going back to frustrating running backs, C.J. Spiller's Bills had a huge game against the Jets, but he wasn't able to get in on the fun.
Spiller has a beef with his offensive line after his 13 carries for a mere six yards against that Jets' top run defense. Instead of lashing out, Spiller bit his tongue—even though his coach said he has license to get after them, according to ESPN's Mike Rodak.
"They [saw] that I was mad," Spiller told Rodak. "But I mean, everybody handles that situation [differently]. If I go over there and yell at my guys, y'all are going to blow it up and say [I'm] frustrated."
We will say it: Spiller is frustrated—just as much as his fantasy owners who picked him in the middle of Round 1. Coach Doug Marrone doesn't blame him, telling Rodak:
I told [Spiller] afterwards, 'You know what? I'd be pissed, too.' But the difference between me and you, and this is what you have to do now, is go over to that group right there, and you tell them you're pissed.
Spiller or his fantasy owners won't get next week to get over it. It will be spinning through the Bills' Week 12 bye, unfortunately.
Rashad Jennings Earning His Job
The Raiders were forced to hand the feature-back role over to Jennings when Darren McFadden (hamstring) went down, but they might not be inclined to give it back once McFadden is healthy again. Jennings went off for 150 yards and a touchdown Sunday, and the Raiders are not willing to go away from what is working.
"[Jennings has] been a guy we've called on to come in and run the ball and he's done a great job at it," coach Dennis Allen told Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News. "As he continues to run the ball like he's doing, he's going to continue to get opportunities to run the ball."
The Titans, fifth-worst against fantasy running backs, are next on the schedule. Regardless of McFadden's availability, Jennings is the play right now.
Falcons' Roddy White Getting Healthier
The Falcons' season continues to spiral into oblivion, but at least they are getting a bit of good news for fantasy owners: White is getting healthier and more productive. Matt Ryan's fantasy owners are thankful for that.
White was shut down by the Bucs and Darrelle Revis for most of Sunday, but he managed a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It should be enough to move him back into the mix of fantasy's starting options at the position.
The Falcons' Week 12 matchup is a tough one on a short week. The Saints boast the third-best pass defense in football right now, but we would still start a healthy White—and therefore Matt Ryan—against anyone.
Texans' Garrett Graham Finally Comes Through
The Texans are back to having a quarterback controversy with Case Keenum getting pulled for Matt Schaub on Sunday, but at least their tight end finally came through for his fantasy owners. Graham led the position in Week 11 with 136 yards and a touchdown.
That is the production we hoped we would get out of Graham ever since Owen Daniels (leg) went down. Next up on the schedule for the Texans are the lowly Jags—second-worst in fantasy against tight ends.
Graham is a fantasy starter in that matchup, especially if you have your tight end from one of the final teams on a bye: Buffalo (Scott Chandler), Cincinnati (Jermaine Gresham/Tyler Eifert), Philadelphia (Brent Celek/Zach Ertz) or Seattle (Zach Miller).
Matt McGloin Has Created a QB Controversy
Speaking of under-the-radar quarterback controversies, the Raiders have one now, too. McGloin was surprising, throwing for three touchdowns against the Houston Texans, the No. 1 pass defense in football in terms of yardage.
Now, the Raiders cannot be sure Terrelle Pryor (knee) is their best option to start, especially not next Sunday against the Titans. The Raiders coaches have privately favored the undrafted Penn State walk-on over Pryor even when Pryor was off to a hot start this season.
McGloin won't be a true fantasy option outside of two-quarterback leagues, but he can show enough juice to keep Denarius Moore intriguing as a starter in crunch time.
Adrian Peterson Running at Less Than 100 Percent
We cap off this week's takeaways where we started: with frustrating first-round backs. Peterson hasn't quite been a bust, but he hasn't been the fantasy star he was drafted to be, either.
Now, he's dealing with a sore groin that limited him against the Seahawks. He managed just 65 yards on 21 carries. Peterson told Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Actually, it was bothering me a lot. There were a couple plays in the first half, oh man, I knew if I was able to explode the way I normally do I could have gotten some big chunks, even taken it to the house.
You cannot sit Peterson in any leagues, but at least you have an explanation for his modest numbers in recent weeks.
Expect another light week of practice and hope he has the burst come game day. He continued to Powers:
I'm going to try to get my rest that I need. I'm probably going to do it this week [in practice]. Just push it to Sunday. In my mind, I really don't know how things will turn out deep into the week. Fortunately, I came out and was able to play some. I'll try and do the same thing [next game].
A limited Peterson is still better than about 99 percent of your fantasy lineup alternatives.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.
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