Week 11: Start 'em
Bridgewater has been playing fairly well as of late and this week gets to face a miserable Bears secondary, which ranked 28th against the pass and allowing a league-worst 23.2 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. After allowing Tom Brady to throw five touchdowns, the Beas came off of their bye week and allowed Aaron Rodgers to throw six TDs in the first half. That is as bad as it gets, literally; it's an NFL record. We fully understand Bridgewater is not Brady or Rodgers, nevertheless, even if he can put up half of their production he is well worth the start. The Bears also haven't fared particularly well against the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Cam Newton or even Geno Smith. The Vikings may also get arguably their pass-catcher back this week as tight end Kyle Rudolph is tentatively slated for a Week 11 return. Look for Bridgewater to be the next in a long line of QBs who have picked the Bears apart.
We know what you're thinking: 'How can you say to start Dalton after what he did last Thursday night?' It's simple, actually. You cannot get too caught up in the moment, and this is nothing new for Dalton. He is known for struggling in prime-time games. Last season, on Halloween, Dalton was named the AFC Player of the month for October. That night, he played in Miami on Thursday Night Football. How did he fair, you ask? He threw three INTs and no TDs. As we all know, he did not go on to have a terrible season. The point is that this is a week-to-week league, and Dalton is no exception. He has always struggled in primetime, so nobody should be shocked. It's no different than Jay Cutler struggling in Green Bay or Peyton Manning struggling when it matters most. For one reason or another, these things happen. It doesn't change the fact that A.J. Green is getting healthier by the week, and Dalton has a great matchup Sunday afternoon when the Bengals take on a Saints team that ranks 24th against the pass and is allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. It will also help that Green will be matched up against a potentially hobbled Keenan Lewis, who is currently dealing with a knee issue. There's potential for a bounce-back game from the Red Rifle.
Despite the impending return of Ryan Mathews this week, look for Oliver to have a redeeming performance after a couple of down weeks. Why? Because he's playing the Raiders, of course. You pretty much always want to lean toward those who are facing the Raiders. While they are not particularly strong in any facet of the game, opponents really feast on their horrendous run defense. Oakland ranks 27th in that category and is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. A couple of factors are responsible for those numbers. Aside from just not being very good, there is also a lot of garbage time when facing Oakland. No one benefits more from that than a strong No. 2 RB with an injury-prone No. 1 RB in front of him. That's right up Oliver's alley. This week, Mathews may be eased back into the offense after being inactive since Week 3, so look for Oliver to have a big game in what could be his last hurrah of 2014.
While it's difficult to choose between Stewart and running mate DeAngelo Williams because they tend to cannibalize each other's fantasy value, the truth is neither is a bad start this weekend against the league's most generous defense when it comes to allowing fantasy points to running backs. Against the Falcons, there are more than enough points to go around to give value to two RBs. The Panthers' passing game has really fallen on hard times, so expect Carolina to try to get its ground game going on Sunday. The Falcons are allowing a whopping 32.2 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. Even if Stewart gets one-third of that, he'll be worth your while. Go with Stewart over Williams because Stewart has more PPR value and sees more red-zone work. While Williams continues to start, Stewart continues to be more productive.
Gabriel is emerging as one of Brian Hoyer's favorite outlets. He has seen 11 targets through the past two games and has turned them into eight receptions, 118 yards and a score. With Andrew Hawkins and Jordan Cameron banged up and Josh Gordon still suspended, Gabriel should continue to see a good number of looks against a Texans defense that is allowing a league-worst 44.6 fantasy points per game to opposing WR corps. Gabriel, with his 4.48-40 speed, should be considered a flex play who has big-time upside for as long as the Browns are shorthanded out wide. Use him while you can because once they get all of their pass-catchers back, there will be a lot of mouths to feed in Cleveland, and we know Gordon is particularly hungry.
Matthews has exploded on to the scene with Mark Sanchez under center. After catching a touchdown from Sanchez Week 9, he went for 138 yards and two TDs in Week 10. He brought in seven of his nine targets. Matthews is emerging as a solid flex play down the stretch and should go from waiver wires straight to your starting lineup. This week, he faces a Green Bay defense that sits in the middle of the - ahem - pack against wide receivers. The game will likely be a shootout, and Matthews should benefit from it. Look for him to continue his recent surge in production. Hopefully Sanchez can continue to play well and get the ball into the rookie's hands.