The pressure is on for NFL fantasy football owners as each week grows in importance from here on out.
Not only are playoff spots up for grabs, the game itself hasn't exactly made it easy on owners. Of the hottest recent players in the fake-football realm, the names range from Cam Newton to Robert Woods to C.J. Beathard to Austin Ekeler.
So no, nothing comes easy this time of year for owners.
Which isn't to say start-sit decisions are impossible. It's gut-check season, where the best owners will find a way to make it work based on what's available. Below, let's provide an assist by comparing some of fantasy's top matchups of the week to form rankings and spotlight a few tough decisions involving stars.
|Tom Brady (at OAK) vs. Drew Brees (vs. WAS)||Drew Brees|
|Derek Carr (vs. NE) vs. Carson Wentz (at DAL)||Carson Wentz|
|Alex Smith (at NYG) vs. Russell Wilson (vs. ATL)||Russell Wilson|
|Blake Bortles (at CLE) vs. Marcus Mariota (at PIT)||Blake Bortles|
|Dak Prescott (vs. PHI) vs. Matthew Stafford (at CHI)||Dak Prescott|
Star to Know: Drew Brees, NO (vs. WAS)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees seems like an obvious enough play on a weekly basis.
But that hasn't always been the case—the veteran has a strong running game backing him and hasn't passed the 15-point mark in three games this year, including 13.96 in Week 10 despite his team scoring 47 points.
But Brees is back to being a must-play weapon at home in Week 11, where he'll welcome a Washington Redskins defense allowing the eighth-most points to the position on average.
Granted, Brees' rushing attack shouldn't have a problem either, but we're talking about a defense that has coughed up 25 or more points to its last two quarterbacks faced and four overall.
Star to Sit: Matthew Stafford, DET (at CHI)
This is one of those plays that can make or break a season for an owner.
Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions is typically a top pick each week. Adding to this idea is the fact he's scored at least 22 points in each of his last two outings—two of his three best performances of the year.
But it's never so simple.
The reality is Stafford has to hit the road in the cold and play the Chicago Bears, owners of a strong front seven that only allows the fourth-fewest points to quarterbacks on average. At a good streaming position, Stafford needs to be near the bottom of the list.
|Kareem Hunt (at NYG) vs. DeMarco Murray (at PIT)||Kareem Hunt|
|LeSean McCoy (at LAC) vs. Mark Ingram (vs. WAS)||LeSean McCoy|
|Leonard Fournette (at CLE) vs. Melvin Gordon (vs. BUF)||Leonard Fournette|
|Jordan Howard (vs. DET) vs. Marshawn Lynch (vs. NE)||Marshawn Lynch|
|Latavius Murray (vs. LAR) vs. Orleans Darkwa (vs. KC)||Latavius Murray|
Star to Know: LeSean McCoy, BUF (at LAC)
This is another one of those decisions only eventual league winners get right.
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy has been far from a must-start option every week this season. He's had five single-digit performances this year, including two in a row.
Still, the clouds have to part at some point, and Week 11 looks like the point to target. McCoy barrels into a game against the Los Angeles Rams needing to help protect new starting quarterback Nathan Peterman.
Even better, McCoy should see an uptick in usage against a Rams defense coughing up the seventh-most points to opposing backs. The two factors might be the jolt Shady needs to be a must-start player the rest of the way.
Star to Sit: Lamar Miller, HOU (vs. ARI)
Even with rookie Deshaun Watson tearing it up, Houston Texans starting back Lamar Miller has been inconsistent at best.
With Miller, owners take a big gamble hoping for a big day capable of pushing an entire lineup to a win. He has highs of 19.3 and 25.1 points this year, which sounds great until one realizes those are his only two trips to double digits outright.
Don't expect a third in Week 11 with the Arizona Cardinals in town. Even with Watson out, Houston coaches went away from Miller at times in Week 10, and he only finished with 11 carries.
Big usage or not, the Arizona Cardinals allow the sixth-fewest points to opposing backs. Miller isn't done having big days yet, but this isn't the week to target.
|DeAndre Hopkins (vs. ARI) vs. Larry Fitzgerald (at HOU)||Larry Fitzgerald|
|Alshon Jeffery (at DAL) vs. Dez Bryant (vs. PHI)||Alshon Jeffery|
|Jarvis Landry (vs. TB) vs. Marvin Jones (at CHI)||Jarvis Landry|
|Mike Evans (at MIA) vs. Sammy Watkins (at MIN)||Mike Evans|
|Adam Thielen (vs. LAR) vs. Julio Jones (at SEA)||Julio Jones|
Star to Know: Alshon Jeffery, PHI (at DAL)
The Alshon Jeffery resurgence is real, folks.
Jeffery started his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles on the wrong foot, scoring in double digits once through Week 7.
But Jeffery now has back-to-back outings of 14 or more points and has scored three times over those two games, including two touchdowns against what used to be a respectable Denver defense. Now he's heading into an NFC East matchup on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.
It sounds worse than it is—the Cowboys allow the ninth-most points to opposing wideouts this year, ranging from 12 to Cooper Kupp to 20.9 to Larry Fitzgerald.
Star to Sit: Brandin Cooks, NE (at OAK)
Owners have to be willing to throw name recognition aside, especially at a position as deep as wideout.
Such is the case with New England Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks in Week 11. He hasn't scored double digits since Week 7 and has only done so twice on the year. Granted, one of those was a 27.1-point eruption, but one would think playing with Tom Brady would create big splashes often.
Apparently not, and especially not in Week 11 against a strong Oakland Raiders defense holding opposing wideouts to the 10th-fewest points on the season.
A timely outburst would help owners in a big way. But this feels more like a trap with the Patriots on the road than anything else.
|Travis Kelce (at NYG) vs. Zach Ertz (at DAL)||Travis Kelce|
|Rob Gronkowski (at OAK) vs. Austin Hooper (at SEA)||Rob Gronkowski|
|Jordan Reed (at NO) vs. Kyle Rudolph (vs. LAR)||Jordan Reed|
|Jimmy Graham (vs. ATL) vs. Julius Thomas (vs. TB)||Jimmy Graham|
|Delanie Walker (at PIT) vs. Martellus Bennett (at OAK)||Delanie Walker|
Star to Know: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. NE)
Other than targeting obvious big names, Jared Cook is a star to know at tight end in Week 11.
Cook has been a matchup-based play for most of the season, though over his past three games he's blossomed into a top target for the Raiders. Over that span, he has at least seven targets twice, and both of those times he's gone for double-digit production on north of 100 yards receiving.
It isn't often owners can find a tight end who isn't reliant on touchdowns for production, so Cook is a name to target against a Patriots defense allowing the 13th-most points to the position.
Now a big part of the game plan, Cook should see his name among the top leaders on a weekly basis.
Star to Sit: Julius Thomas, MIA (vs. TB)
Sometimes owners make or break a key run by knowing when to ease off a star.
Case in point, Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas. The veteran has seen an uptick in importance as the season has progressed, resulting in his only touchdowns of the season in back-to-back weeks recently.
But it stops in Week 11.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers only surrender the eighth-fewest points to the position, even holding Kyle Rudolph to 0.4 points and Evan Engram to 6.2. Thomas is a nice option to have on a roster, but expecting anything more than a dud is putting a lineup at a disadvantage.