While it seems like the season just kicked off, week eleven is actually upon us and the bye weeks are coming to an end. Fantasy owners will have their full complement of players to choose from when setting line-ups for the stretch run and drive for the championship.
As the fantasy regular season draws to an end every week is vitally important and being able to find that sleeper who blows up for a stellar week can be the difference between making the playoffs and just playing for pride.
Examining the match-ups and deciphering the trends is what it’s all about this time of year. Seeing who has just been missing sacks but getting consistent pressure on the quarterback or who is being thrown at the most and is poised for that two interception game.
I smile like the butcher’s dog the whole time that I research and write this column because of the ups and downs that fantasy football brings us on a weekly basis. Trying to stay ahead of the crowd in locating the next big thing on the defensive side of the ball from deep down NFL rosters isn’t always easy, but it sure is always fun.
That being said, let’s get to the week eleven sleeper options.
Tyson Alualu, DT, JACKSONVILLE, at HOUSTON: Alualu has had a very nice season on a very bad team. He’s posted 27 total tackles and two sacks this season, including ten solo stops and a sack over his last four games. The Texans have been a fantasy friendly match-up for defensive lineman and Alualu registered six solo tackles in their first meeting back in week two. Look for similar numbers in week eleven from the Jaguars big defensive tackle.
Henry Melton, DT, CHICAGO, at SAN FRANCISCO: While he has not posted a sack since week four, Melton has been stellar against the run for Chicago and has 31 total tackles and a forced fumble. This match-up with the 49ers looks to be a slugfest dominated by rushing attacks and Melton will benefit from that type of game. He does have four sacks and has been credited with 14 QB hurries so the possibility of a sack is always there.
Phil Taylor, DT, CLEVELAND, at DALLAS: Taylor finally made his season debut in week nine and logged 34 snaps, registering a single solo tackle. He will have a much better second game back against a Cowboy team that is allowing just less than nine solo tackles a week to defensive lineman. Taylor may not be in total game shape for a couple weeks but he plays on an underrated defensive front that brings plenty of pressure up the middle where the Dallas offensive line has struggled lately. Taylor is a lot fresher than the offensive linemen he will be facing and should notch his first sack of 2012 this week.
Robert Ayers, DE, DENVER, vs. SAN DIEGO: With the playing status of Elvis Dumervil in doubt due to a shoulder injury, Ayers is in line for a big week against a floundering Chargers offensive line. He saw 50 snaps last week and registered his first sack of the season thanks to Elvis leaving the field (see what I did there?). Monitor the playing status of Dumervil and should he be declared out, then get Ayers in.
Michael Brockers, DT, ST LOUIS, vs. NEW YORK JETS: Brockers is coming off of the best game of his brief career with five total tackles and one and a half sacks against San Francisco. The Jets are circling the drain and defensive linemen are averaging over a sack a game over the last three games against New York. Brockers looked as healthy and athletic as he has all season last week and will look to continue his streak of strong play this week at home. The Jets ground and pound offense is tailor made for Brockers and he’ll have a very productive fantasy day.
Cliff Avril, DE, DETROIT, vs. GREEN BAY: Avril returned to practice Thursday after leaving last weeks game with a concussion and is on track to play Sunday against Green Bay. Avril is having a miserable season and has only two and a half sacks in nine games. If he is going to salvage any fantasy value this is the week to get things going. Green Bay will be without both of their starting tackles and are struggling to protest quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Roll the dice on Avril one last time this week and if he struggles again, go ahead and give up on him for 2012.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE, TAMPA BAY, at CAROLINA: The kid with the really long name has been playing very good football lately with two sacks in his past three games. He is averaging 57 snaps a game since week two and has continued to see ample playing time, even with the return of Da’Quan Bowers. The Panthers gave up seven sacks last week versus the Broncos and you can bet that the Buccaneers are licking their chops at the chance to get after Cam Newton this week.
Andre Carter, DE, OAKLAND, vs. NEW ORLEANS: Carter saw a season high 30 snaps last week against the Ravens and will set a new high mark this week against the high-flying Saints offense. Carter’s value is based on his ability to put up sacks and he will have plenty of opportunities this week. He has amassed five solo tackles in the last two games, with a forced fumble and sack as well. He should be back in game shape and ready to make some fantasy noise in week eleven.
Corey Liuget, DE, SAN DIEGO, at DENVER: With a six total tackle performance last week, Liuget brought his season total to 24 and has added two sacks. He is having an excellent second NFL season and continues to improve his game and has added six passes defended this season. He had one QB hit as well as a QB hurry in the first meeting with Denver and looks to finish the deal in the rematch. He should be getting after Peyton Manning all day long and post very nice fantasy numbers.
Haloti Ngata, DT, BALTIMORE, at PITTSBURGH: The Ravens were able to rest Ngata in last week’s blowout of the Raiders as he dressed but did not play a snap. That will have him fresh and ready for a bruising game against the Steelers. In the two games with Pittsburgh last season, Ngata posted six total tackles while forcing a fumble and recovering two more. He continues to battle through shoulder and knee injuries but the time off last week will help Ngata post excellent fantasy numbers this week.