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What Did We Learn – Week 11

Larry Fitzgerald’s stock continues to plummet.
It’s not his fault, but Fitzgerald might have the worst quarterback options in the league throwing him the ball. You know, besides the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s actually completely possible that Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, and some guy named Ryan Lindley may all be left-handed and not know it. In any case, Fitzgerald caught just one of his seven targets for 11 yards, including one overthrow when he was wide open for a score. His quarterback situation was the one strike against him going into the season, and it looks to be the one thing holding him back. Even with his considerable talent, I’m not sure he’s a WR1 at this point.

James Starks is now the guy to roster in Green Bay’s backfield.
The running back carousel continues in Green Bay. First, it was Cedric Benson. Then, Alex Green was given a shot. Now, it’s come full circle back to last year’s starter. Starks ran 25 times for 74 yards, which is unimpressive, but what was telling was that the Packers stuck with the run. The team knows that Aaron Rodgers can throw the ball, but it will need to run the ball down the stretch. Keep in mind that Benson should return some time in mid-December, but Starks is the guy for now, which is to say he’s the guy for this week.

A.J. Green is making a case as the top receiver in the league.

In my own rankings, I had Green as the eighth receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker, Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson and Julio Jones. I still think those preseason choices were defensible, at least at the time, but Green has since taken exception. On Sunday, he caught six balls for 91 yards and a score, his 10th touchdown in his last nine games. His consistency is coveted across fantasy leagues, and he will continue to be a Top 5 option every week.

The Nick Foles era was fun while it lasted.

Well, that was quick. In his first NFL start, the rookie completed just 21-of-46 passes for 204 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked overmatched, even against a suspect Washington pass defense, as the Eagles mustered just six points. Since the game, the “significant” concussion Michael Vick suffered in Week 10 has miraculously improved to the point that he may be available in Week 12. If he can pass his baseline concussion tests, he will probably get the start.

Josh Freeman is a viable QB1.

On Sunday, Freeman threw for 248 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Including this past week, he’s played six games since his Week 5 bye, throwing for 1,715 yards, 16 scores and just three interceptions. The addition of offensive weapons like Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin and Dallas Clark plus an improved offensive line and offensive scheme have made Freeman a reliable option at quarterback, and fantasy owners drafting him as a reserve back in August are getting rewarded now.

The Matt SchaubAndre Johnson duo is back.
Schaub and Johnson each had career days in Week 11 against Jacksonville. Schaub completed 43-of-55 passes for an eye-popping 527 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, and Johnson caught 14 balls for 273 yards, and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. The two have struggled to stay healthy in past seasons, but appear to be hitting their stride at just the right time. I’m not sure if this is a sign of things to come, a product of playing a poor defense, or a combination of the two, but both Schaub and Johnson probably won their owners the vast majority of their matchups this week. Look for them to keep it going against an equally challenged Detroit pass defense in Week 12.

Justin Blackmon needs Chad Henne to be effective.
Never thought you’d read that, did you? It speaks to how bad Blaine Gabbert actually is. To be fair, Gabbert has been thrown into a terrible situation, but Henne has made lemonade out of Gabbert’s lemons. Henne was effective last week against Indianapolis and had Houston on the ropes late in the fourth quarter. His 354 passing yards were the most allowed this year by the Texans, and he found Blackmon seven times for 236 of them and one of his four touchdown throws. Whatever the reason, the offense seems to function better with Henne under center, and it looks like Blackmon might be a bigger part of the offense going forward.

Danario Alexander is breathing life into the San Diego offense.
Alexander has always been talented. His struggles have primarily been health-related. He was good when healthy in St. Louis, rare as it was. He’s found a new home in San Diego, and Philip Rivers sure looks comfortable throwing him the ball. On Sunday, he gave his best performance of the season, catching seven balls for 96 yards and two touchdowns. In his three games with the Chargers, he’s posted 15 catches, 291 yards and three scores. There’s no reason to think he’ll stop producing next week against a beatable Baltimore secondary, and he should continue to be added in fantasy leagues.

New England’s offense blows up, but loses big.
Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense looks locked in, putting up 141 points in their last three games. But putting up points in bunches might mean taking unnecessary risks, whether it be in the form of risking turnovers or injuries. Turnovers haven’t been an issue. But late in the game, Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm blocking on an extra point attempt, an injury that requires surgery and several weeks of rest. He’s caught 53 passes for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns, production that now needs to be replaced. Aaron Hernandez should be able to return in the near future, which will help, but Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman will now each be a bit more appealing on a weekly basis until Gronkowski returns later this season. Make other plans at tight end.

Jonathan Dwyer may be here to stay.
Back in October, Dwyer got two starts at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In those starts, he ran 34 times for a combined 229 yards. That’s 6.7 yards per carry. But then he tweaked a hamstring, meaning he’d miss a game and then return to a committee attack. In Week 11, with Mendenhall back healthy and getting a start, it was Dwyer who once again emerged with the majority of the work, getting 12 carries to Mendenhall’s 11, and out-rushing him 55-33 on those carries. And that was without Ben Roethlisberger. In my personal opinion, Mendenhall is still running tentatively on the knee he injured last season. Regardless, Dwyer appears a better fit for the kind of running attack the Steelers want to employ, as they can then use Mendenhall on third downs and change-of-pace situations. I like Dwyer to be more productive going forward, but the situation needs to be monitored to find out how the Steelers coaches feel about it.

Good luck in Week 12.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at “What Did We Learn” will be posted each Tuesday morning during the season, and “Rock and a Hard Place” will be posted each Friday morning.

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