The NFL schedule maker really did a number on us here in Week 11 as three big-time running backs will be on a bye - Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Marshawn Lynch. Even the loss of Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown is going to hurt running back depth this week. So this week's version of Rank's 11 will include a bunch of running backs to help get you through this time. It's the least I can do for my fantasy constituents.
And my biggest sleeper of the week is Marcel Reece. We knew he was going to be part of the Raiders' passing game last week, but he simply took over the entire role and Tawain Jones wasn't a factor for the Raiders, at all. Reece had nearly all of the touches and totaled more than 100 scrimmage yards.
Darren McFadden is reportedly a long-shot to return this week, so Reece would be a great option against the New Orleans Saints. He should be in your fantasy lineup as long as you don't have Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy or something.
But seriously, McFadden will take more time to return? This is the least surprising news of the week. I'm going to change my fantasy team name to Darren McFadden's Walking Boot.
I guess this would be another opportunity to explain why we need to move into this century and remove the RB2 position for another flex spot. Well, unless you like to play Shane Vereen. As President of NFL Fantasy Live I am working hard to make this happen. And by working hard, I mean (expletive) about it in various columns.
Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders: Did you know Palmer ranks ninth among fantasy quarterbacks this season? And he's going up against the Saints, a team that gives up a ton of fantasy points. This makes Palmer a really nice sleeper if you have Eli Manning on a bye, or if you were playing Ben Roethlisberger.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: The Packers are expected to give a bigger role to Starks this week because he was more effective in the team's last game. And the truth is, Alex Green failed to take advantage of his opportunity. So if you're forced to start one running back from the Packers, Starks is the better option.
Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans Saints: A lot of people will write off Ivory's big game against the Falcons because of one big run. But the one big run still exists. It still happened. Ivory has been the most effective Saints running back, so if you want to pick up and start a guy who has scored a touchdown in the last two weeks, Ivory is the man.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: But if you want to pick up the Saints running back with the most opportunity, it might be Ingram, who led the backs in touches last week. Don't worry, I've tirelessly looked for the connection between Saints interim coach Joe Vitt and Mike Shanahan.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Realize this is a desperation heave here if you don't have a lot of options. The Cardinals are decent against the run, but Rodgers is more effective out of the backfield as a receiver so he's a decent option if you're hurting for running backs. Remember, this is a sleepers list. Not a, "start this guy over Arian Foster" list.
Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Brown hasn't returned to completely take back the Colts' top spot at running back, and the matchup is not the greatest against the Patriots. But you're desperate and I've been assured by one of our producers on "NFL Fantasy Live" that Brown will score a touchdown if he plays. At this point, I'll take it.
Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis FC: I'm not sure what motivated Steven Jackson against the 49ers, but he had the game of his career. He was running hard and looked good. My guess? He wanted to audition for a spot in San Francisco next year. But St. Louis has a great matchup at home against the New York Jets this week, so Richardson will get some opportunities.
Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders: The top tight ends over the last four weeks include Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Heath Miller and Myers. Now he's going up against the Saints defense? The Saints had done well against tight ends this year, but uh, Tony Gonzalez kind of ruined the trend.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense: The Bucs D was a part of Rank's 11 last week, and since it's already on my roster, I might as well keep it there. The Bucs can't stop anybody in the air, but they should have a lot of chances for turnovers against Cam Newton. Also -- and this is a little bonus -- the Atlanta Falcons D is good, too. I already have the Bucs from last week, so this is moreso just me being lazy.
Atlanta Falcons defense: Now, I'm going with the Buccaneers partly because I'm lazy. But another good defensive option is the Falcons, as suggested by Jaime Maggio in our weekly segment on "NFL Fantasy Live." The Falcons are up against the Cardinals this week, and if you get a chance to start a defense opposite Arizona's quarterbacks, well, it's a good option. You should at least get some sack chances plus some opportunities for turnovers.