Week 11: PPR Watch
Have a question about a player not featured in this article? Use the comments section or hit me up on Twitter @MarkKadubec.
Sure Thing - Normally, Gates wouldn't even be in this column. For years an every week starter even when injured, this year a "healthy" Gates has failed to meet owners' expectations. He's surged a bit in the red zone lately, scoring 4 TDs in the last 4 weeks, but his catches and targets are still down -- only 15 on 22 and averaging under 50 yards a game. Fortunately, this week, he gets to pick on the same matchup we called out last week when Denver stomped Carolina, but still managed to let Greg Olson catch 9 passes for 102 yards and 2 scores. The Broncos just don't care if you complete passes to TEs. They shutdown the deep ball, shutdown the run, and wait for their lead leading pass rush to put you in third and long. Gates will benefit, and likely have one of his biggest games of the year. Shallow league, deep league, forget the past, it doesn't matter. Play him.
Confident - My body shakes with fear as I type "confident" next to Darrius Heyward-Bey, but if you've rostered him, when could there possibly be a better time to play him? He's been reasonably productive over the past 3 weeks, catching 11 of 17 targets for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns. Oakland continues to get behind and throw the ball constantly, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where that doesn't happen again against the Saints. Not only is New Orleans likely to get way ahead, but they've allowed the second most fantasy points to WRs including 14 touchdowns, only 1 behind the Giants. With New York on bye, they'll catch them this week, guaranteed. I wouldn't force Heyward-Bey into your lineup (he's not an elite player and there's only a handful of top 50 receivers on bye this week), but if you need upside this is your man.
Confident - Jeremy Maclin has had an extremely disappointing season. Between a hip injury that has likely been plaguing him all season, and the woefully inconsistent play of Michael Vick, it's been difficult for anyone in the Eagles offense to produce as expected. I'm not going to get carried away on Nick Foles and suggest that he's going to make everything right. Still, he is going to throw (32 attempts after taking over for Vick) and he really can't possibly turn the ball over any more often. With Foles behind center, Maclin had his most productive fantasy day. 8 catches on 12 targets and a TD, and he did it against a pretty decent Cowboys defense ranked 8th against the pass. Sure, Washington has more time to gameplan, but they're also a lot less talented, allowing the third most points to WRs. When a young QB finds a guy he likes, he sticks with him. Maclin should have an excellent game.
Caution - The first of a pair of Niners to get cautions this week, there is no magic with this. Anyone can look over at the schedule, see @Bears, and recognize that Gore isn't going to have an easy time. No one on the Niners offense is, and that's a big part of why Crabtree is listed as well. In deep leagues 14 and up, you're going to start him anyway. But in 12 and under, you may have choices, and there's more to this than purely the matchup. First off, over the years Gore has often been reliable as a volume back, battling through difficult matchups with touches. Not this year. Against Seattle, 16 carries. Against Minnesota, 12. Against Arizona, 16. With a deep roster of running backs, the focus from Jim Harbaugh has been to keep Gore healthy, and that's unlikely to change this week (even if Smith isn't behind center). The approach has kept Gore fresh, and brought his YPC up from 4.3 to 5.4, but in the last 4 games he's still only scored once. If you have other options available with a similar PPR ranking, use them this week. Simple as that.
Caution - Before the season I suggested Crabtree would have a breakout year, especially in the PPR game. Unfortunately, while his numbers say he's a WR2 in fantasy scoring, his consistency has not been what I was hoping for -- 3 of his 4 touchdowns have come in the last 2 games. So while in some ways he seems "hot", the truth is, even though he's caught 10 passes over the same span, he's also only had 11 targets. I'm big on conversion rate, but I'm also big on opportunity, and that's quite a bit less than I like to see from a team's WR1. As of this writing it is still up in the air whether Smith will be out, but so far this year Kapoernick has made more plays with his legs than his arm. There are a lot of question marks here, and in those situations I play the matchup. The Niners are playing the Bears. Chicago is top 10 in fewest points allowed to WRs, and has only allowed 5 TDs to the position. Crabtree is unlikely to score, and hasn't been seeing enough volume to produce when he doesn't.