Ten most intriguing players of Week 11

Posted Nov. 16, 2011 @ 2:37 p.m.
Posted By Pat Fitzmaurice

1. Denarius Moore — Moore's 5-123-2 performance against the Chargers last week might have been labeled an eye-opener were it not for the fact that Moore first pried eyes open "Clockwork Orange"-style back in Week Two with a 5-146-1 performance against the Bills. In the interim, Moore took some sort of strange detour into the Bermuda Triangle. In the five starts he made immediately following the game against Buffalo, Moore caught 9-66-0. He resurfaced after the Raiders' Week Eight bye, catching 4-61-0 and being targeted 12 times in that game, and then came the sudden reanimation against San Diego. Carson Palmer's arrival obviously has been good news for Moore owners, as Moore seems to be developing the same sort of chemistry with Palmer that Chad Ochocinco once had with the quarterback in Cincinnati. The Raiders visit Minnesota this week, where Palmer and Moore will try to carve up an abysmal Vikings secondary that just lost CB Antoine Winfield to a season-ending injury. The Raiders could be without WR Jacoby Ford for this one, so Moore again could be a primary focus of the Oakland offense.

2. Tim Tebow — Now here's an interesting matchup. Tebow and the Broncos have a Thursday-night home game against the Jets and their elite pass defense, How much does an elite pass defense matter against a quarterback who doesn't pass? (And if a tree falls in a deserted forest … uh, never mind.) Tebow completed 2-of-8 passes for 69 yards against the Chiefs last week. What's the over/under on Tebow completions against the Jets? Maybe 4½? With Tebow at quarterback, it might be possible for Jets CB Darrelle Revis to cover more than one Denver receiver at a time. (I'm only half-joking.) And yet, Tebow keeps churning out respectable-to-good fantasy numbers. It's hard to envision him putting up decent fantasy stats against the Jets, but it's also hard to bet against the plucky son-of-a-gun.

3. DeSean Jackson — Jackson was deactivated last week after being late for a Saturday meeting, and the following day, the Eagles suffered an embarrassing home loss to the Cardinals that dealt an enormous blow to their playoff chances. Jackson has two TDs this season (none since Week Five) and has been held to less than 50 receiving yards in five games this season, including a current stretch of three in a row. Some unsolicited advice for D-Jax: Your team's season is circling the drain. Philadelphia fans will look for scapegoats, and you're squarely in their crosshairs right now. Fans in Philadelphia can make a scapegoat's life miserable, and they've booed more accomplished athletes than you. Just ask Mike Schmidt, perhaps the greatest third baseman of all time. Forget about your contract complaints, stop sulking and play hard through the end of the season, beginning this week against the Giants, whose season you ruined last year with that memorable last-minute punt return for a touchdown.

4. Marshawn Lynch — "Beast mode" has kicked in for Lynch, who has been on a tear. Over the past two weeks, Lynch has rushed for 244 yards and two TDs, and in Seattle's win over Baltimore last week, He rolled up 167 yards from scrimmage on 32 carries and five catches. (Beast mode indeed.) Lynch has now scored rushing touchdowns in five consecutive games, and he'll try to keep the streak alive against the Rams, who still rank last in the league in run defense but have gotten somewhat stingier against opposing ground games in recent weeks.

5. Dwayne Bowe — It can be a thorny dilemma for fantasy owners when a good receiver is forced to work with a backup-level quarterback. A truly great receiver (Larry Fitzgerald, for instance) has to be a fixture in fantasy lineups regardless of his QB situation. Receivers who are merely good pose tougher decisions, and that's the situation Bowe owners are now grappling with. Bowe is immensely talented, but he has produced erratic numbers this season even when playing with a near-average starting quarterback, Matt Cassel. Now Cassel could be out for the rest of the season with a major hand injury, leaving the unproven Tyler Palko to run the Kansas City offense. If Bowe owners find themselves on the fence about whether to keep playing him, this week's matchup against New England might push them toward the "play Bowe" side. The Pats rank last in the league in pass defense, allowing 308.9 passing yards per game.

6. Matthew Stafford — Things got messy for Stafford last week in the Lions' blowout loss to the Bears. He was 33-for-63 for 329 yards with one TD and four interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs. He also touched off a donnybrook by throwing Bears CB D.J. Moore to the ground by his helmet in rather ungentlemanly fashion during an interception return. (The WWE officials who were moonlighting as an NFL crew for that game neither penalized nor ejected Stafford but did both to Moore after he shoved Stafford in response.) Stafford was uncharacteristically scatter-armed throughout the game, which might have been partially due to high winds in Chicago and partially due to a fractured right index finger. Wind won't be a problem when the Lions host the Panthers at domed Ford Field this weekend, but the broken finger might well be an issue. Another potential issue is the Lions' lack of a running game. The Detroit offense has been one-dimensional for most of the season, and particularly in the time since Jahvid Best sustained a concussion that continues to keep him sidelined. Carolina's defense is far better against the pass than it is against the run, but if the Lions can't summon up a ground game, Stafford and his injured digit once again might be forced to do an inordinate amount of throwing.

7. Laurent Robinson — In his last three games, Robinson has scored four TDs, which equals the number of TDs he scored in the first 42 games of his career, spanning five seasons. He has turned into a dangerous home-run hitter for Dallas, with a 58-yard score last week against the Bills and a 70-yarder against the Eagles in Week Eight. With Miles Austin expected to remain out with an injured hamstring, Robinson is in line for a second consecutive start and another opportunity to continue his career revival. The Cowboys are visiting the downtrodden Redskins, who have been fairly tough against the pass, ranking ninth in that category while allowing only eight TD passes so far. The 'Skins held Dallas without a passing TD in Washington's 18-16 win in Week Three, a game that Tony Romo and the Cowboys are undoubtedly eager to avenge.

8. Michael Bush — With Darren McFadden missing a third consecutive game because of a foot injury, Bush went wild on the Chargers last week, with 30-157-1 rushing to go along with 85 receiving yards (highlighted by a 55-yard reception). McFadden's status was still uncertain as of Wednesday, but it seems unlikely he'll be ready for the Raiders' game in Minnesota this weekend, which could mean another heavy-duty workload for Bush. The Vikings, however, aren't an easy team to run against. They rank sixth in the league in run defense and can be especially stingy in the confines of the Metrodome. The Raiders might opt to attack the Vikings through the air, since Minnesota's pass defense would have trouble stopping a Canadian Football League team. But that might not be a major problem for Bush owners as long as the punishing running back can continue to factor in as a pass catcher.

9. Earl Bennett — After missing five games with a chest injury, Bennett has quickly established himself as the Bears' No. 1 wide receiver. In the two games since he returned to action, Bennett has caught 11-176-1, and in last week's easy win over the Lions, when the Bears had only nine pass completions in the entire game, six of them went to Bennett. He's not big or fast, but Bennett is smart and tough, he knows how to get open, he's hard to tackle, and he has good chemistry with fellow Vanderbilt product Jay Cutler. This week the surging Bears host the Chargers, who have been victimized by the passing games of Green Bay (not a surprise) and Oakland (surprise) over the past two weeks.

10. Stevie Johnson — After getting off to a fast start this season, Stevie J. has gone ice-cold. He had a TD catch in each of his first three games but has only had one TD reception since, and in his last six games he has totaled more than 60 receiving yards only once. Johnson still hasn't had a 100-receiving day this season after having three of them last year. In Buffalo's lopsided loss to the Cowboys last week, Johnson had two catches for eight yards and also incurred a minor shoulder injury that isn't expected to keep him out of action for this week's game against the Dolphins and their 25th-ranked pass defense. If Johnson is to salvage his fantasy season and the Bills are to salvage their playoff aspirations, now is the time.