It’s an important time of the fantasy football season. We are almost through the bye weeks, meaning every single sit/start decision is potentially a week changing call. Once we’re through managing injury on top of multiple teams on bye roster management simplifies.
If week 10 proves anything, it’s that even when you start your studs, down weeks can happen. Who would’ve guessed that last week’s leading receiver would be Robert Woods, or that the mighty Jordan Howard would only finish with 54 rushing yards?
So let’s jump right into Fantasy Focus Week 11 Thursday Night Football: breaking down the Titans and Steelers to set who starts, and who sits.
Fantasy Focus Week 11 Thursday Night Football: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Tennessee Titans (6-3)
Marcus Mariota – Quarterback
Marcus Mariota missed one full game, and part of another earlier this season, and when he returned it was as a hobbled pocket-passer. The coaching staff removed his legs as an offensive option, forcing him to play from the pocket. In week 10, we saw the 2016 version of Mariota return to the field. He threw for 264 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also racked up 51 yards on six rushing attempts.
Thursday night’s matchup is in Pittsburgh against a Steelers defense that’s allowing the third fewest fantasy points-per-game to the quarterback position. Mariota’s proclivity to scramble, or take designed runs keeps his fantasy floor safe even in tough matchups. Mariota put up a solid 225 yard, two touchdown and no interception performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars –arguably the best pass defense in the NFL — earlier this season. He’s a fine start this week as the Titans may find themselves playing from behind, forcing the game plan to be pass-heavy. He’s a good start in standard leagues, and an even better start in two quarterback or super flex leagues. Temper expectations as Mariota has only thrown for over 300 yards once this season, and that was against the Indianapolis Colts. He also has yet to throw for more than two touchdowns in a game.
DeMarco Murray – Running Back
DeMarco Murray has not been the elite RB1 that the fantasy community has come to expect. He’s only had one game over 100 yards rushing this season, and in that game most of it came on one 75 yard run. He’s splitting carries with Derrick Henry and has almost become touchdown dependent for RB1 fantasy output.
The Steelers are allowing the 12th most fantasy points to running backs. Murray remains a low-end RB1 with touchdown upside. He should be started in all formats, but it’s hard to expect huge production on a short week.
Derrick Henry – Running Back
Henry has been edging his way into an almost even-split timeshare with Murray. In week 10 it was Murray who made out with two rushing and one receiving touchdown, but it was Henry who seemed more effective with his carries gaining 52 yards on 11 carries.
As long as Murray is healthy, Henry remains a middling RB2 who’s not getting most of the goal line carries. He can safely start in most formats for safe-floor type of production.
Rishard Matthews – Wide Receiver
Rishard Matthews hasn’t topped 100 yards receiving this season. He’s averaging 6.8 targets-per-game and has only two touchdowns on the season. Yes, that’s one whole touchdown more than Eric Decker this season.
This week’s matchup is not ideal, but Matthews floor is fairly safe with his normal target share and projected stat line. He’s a WR3 in standard formats, and a WR2 in PPR formats this week.
Corey Davis – Wide Receiver
Corey Davis has potential to break out at anytime this season. He’s seen ten targets in two of the four games he’s played and has quickly developed some chemistry with Mariota. It’s only a matter of time before the talented rookie breaks a game open and finds the end zone.
Davis is getting WR2 targets in most games where he’s been healthy. He’s a recommended start in all formats, PPR preferred.
Eric Decker – Wide Receiver
Decker has a career of being a reliable red zone target. Mariota has been an efficient red-zone quarterback, so the pair seemed like a lock for a few big scores this year. Surprisingly, that hasn’t translated into fantasy success. Decker currently has just 28 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown this season.
Decker is not a recommended start this week in either format outside of truly deep leagues or losing-to-the-last-place-team type of desperation.
Delanie Walker – Tight End
Delanie Walker has been a target monster this season, averaging over 50 yards in nine games this season. His fantasy value has been hampered by his inexplicable lack of touchdowns.
Walker is a fringe TE1 with solid targets and yardage on a per-game basis. He should be started in all formats, especially PPR.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2)
Ben Roethlisberger – Quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger has had an un-characteristically rough season. He has yet to throw for more than two touchdowns in any contest this season, and tossed up an abysmal five interceptions against the Jaguars earlier this season. After flirting with retirement coming into this season, Ben just hasn’t looked like the same elite-level fantasy quarterback that owners thought they were drafting.
The Titans allow the 13th most fantasy points to quarterbacks and it’s a home game, where Ben typically plays his best football. He’s a QB1 this week and should be started in all formats.
Le’Veon Bell – Running Back
Le’Veon Bell is currently fourth in fantasy points, (depending on league scoring settings) and first in total yards for the 2017 season. He’s also caught 40 passes for 251 yards, which is only 15 yards behind Eric Decker for those of you keeping score at home.
Bell is a locked-and-loaded, must-start in a plus matchup.
Antonio Brown – Wide Receiver
Antonio Brown is currently second in fantasy points, (depending on league scoring settings) and first in receiving yards for the 2017 season. Last week was a baffling offensive performance that saw Brown finish with his second lowest yardage total of the season.
Look for a bounce-back game for Brown. He’s an elite WR1 and a must start in all formats. Brown should only be a sit if he’s on bye. Fire him up with confidence, even on a short week.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Wide Receiver
No one has risen in NFL popularity like JuJu Smith-Schuster has in the last several weeks. He’s a likable personality with a hard-working attitude on and seemingly off the field. He’s had five touchdowns this season and two straight weeks of at least seven targets.
Smitch-Schuster is an all-systems-go WR2 in a plus matchup this week. He should be started in both standard scoring and PPR formats.
Martavis Bryant – Wide Receiver
Martavis Bryant garnered a lot of attention and hype during the pre-season. It hasn’t translated into the level of success that Bryant is capable of. He’s a big-play threat anytime he touches the ball.
With Smith-Schuster rising in prominence in this offense, Bryant is the third look in a run-first offense. His freakishly-athletic capabilities make him dangerous to defenses, but he’s not getting enough of the target share to be anymore than a WR3/Flex play at this point in the season.
Jesse James – Tight End
Jesse James is expected to be the primary tight end for Thursday night’s game. Vance McDonald is sidelined with injury after seeing a rise in snap-count over the last several weeks. James may see an uptick in targets as a result, but hasn’t really been fantasy-relevant for several games.
With McDonald out, James may be a desperation-worthy stream with the final week of byes taking place.