The Week 11 QB Rankings are the final week we’ll have to deal with byes. This means you can’t start Drew Brees, one of the Holy Five (with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Michael Vick and Cam Newton being the other ‘must-starts’). I’m still putting Vick and Newton in that category, giving them the benefit of the doubt after bad Week 10’s before thinking about them as matchup players. So that means we’re ranking the rest of the best starts from 5-10 for Week 11. And before you ask, no, Matt Cassel will not be making a re-appearance on this list, injury or not, for the rest of his career.
5. Philip Rivers @ CHI: The Bears are who we thought they were. So is Philip Rivers. He gambles, but he still produces points both in fantasy and in reality. Look, the Bears defense is about opportunity and turnovers. It’s not about stopping teams through the air. They’ve given up fifth-most yards through the air this season. They’ll make your completion percentage look bad, and you’ll have a crooked number in the INT department but you’ll still be good for at least 15 fantasy points.
6. Carson Palmer @ MIN: Palmer to Denarius Moore has become a dangerous combination in a short time. Seeing Palmer play street ball with him against San Diego is bad news for the rest of the league. As long as Palmer has time, he’ll find one of those fast WRs downfield and keep putting up big points. Teams are completing 65 percent of their passes against the Vikings, third-worst in the NFL.
7. Eli Manning v. PHI: I know, the Eagles have a great pass defense. I know, they’re mad. I also know Top Five Eli is becoming the closest thing to a ‘must-start’ you can have without actually being one. Running the football will be a tad easier this week than it was against San Francisco. And it really doesn’t matter who he’s playing against, as he’s been below 250 yards passing just once this season. Factor in the expected shootout? And you have another big game for T.F.E.
8. Mark Sanchez v. DEN: The Broncos have given up 18 TD through the air, good for second-worst in the league. Opposing QBs are averaging a rating of 100.2, third-highest in the league. This is going to be a get-well game for Sanchez, as the Jets will have to rely on throwing the football considering the extremely short week is usually tough on RBs. And when you factor in playing in the Mile High City? Shonn Greene will be sucking wind and I think Sanchez will be good for close to 250 and two TDs.
9. Tony Romo @ WAS: He’s hot. We forget that late interceptions are things fantasy owners will deal with when the rest of your numbers are 300 yards and two to three TDs. And with DeMarco Murray ripping it up in the running game, it doesn’t matter that the Redskins are actually pretty good against the pass. Romo was officially healthy for the first time against Buffalo and he exploded. You can’t ignore his last month, where he’s averaged over 225 yards and two TD per game.
10. Matthew Stafford v. CAR: It was a horrendous week for Stafford against the Bears, and he still went for over 300 and a TD (yes, with four picks). The Panthers are a middle-of-the-pack team against the pass, but with the Lions RB situation continuing to be tenuous, expect them to keep airing it out. I would have him higher on the list were it not for his finger injury which appeared to cause some passes to be off-target against Chicago.
What we’ve seen this week is that there are not a lot of great matchups for good signal-callers against soft defenses. So proceed with the expectations that it won’t be a banner week through the air in the NFL.
See Jason Smith on NFL Fantasy Live, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Red Zone Channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.