Free agents, lineup decisions on the minds of fantasy owners

With Michael Turner expected to miss Week 11, I need to start either LeSean McCoy or LaDainian Tomlinson alongside Ray Rice. Who would you go with between the rookie and the aging veteran? -- S. Matney, Ventura, Calif.

Michael Fabiano: I'm going with Tomlinson here based on two factors. First, he looked like the old L.T. last week against a tough Eagles defense, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Second, he has a good matchup coming up against a suddenly vulnerable Broncos defense. Over the last two weeks, they've allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers in Rashard Mendenhall and Ladell Betts. McCoy's value is on the rise with Brian Westbrook's concussion issues, but the presence of Leonard Weaver (who has stolen carries and touchdowns from McCoy this season) makes Tomlinson the better option.

I have a huge problem and I don't know what to do about it. I have Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb as my two quarterbacks, and they've both been a nightmare all season. While they've had their ups and downs, it seems no matter which one I start, I pick the wrong one! Who should I start this week? Please help! -- B. Reigle, Pennsylvania

M.F.: Yes, Cutler and McNabb have been a constant source of headaches for fantasy owners this season. But to be honest, I think the choice between the two is clear cut this week -- I'd start McNabb. The Bears might rank eighth in pass defense, but they've allowed two quarterbacks to throw for five touchdowns in two of their last four games. In the other two games, they faced two less-than-stellar signal-callers in Derek Anderson and Alex Smith. Despite being on the road, I think McNabb is a safer play than Cutler heading into Week 11. The Eagles are 10th in pass defense, and Cutler has scored 10 or fewer fantasy points in three of his last five games.

Hey Michael, I need a replacement for Ronnie Brown for this week. I picked up Jason Snelling and Justin Forsett and I'm wondering who to start. What do you think? -- Stephen, California

M.F.: I've been talking about Forsett for weeks, and it looks like he's going to get his chance to start now that Julius Jones is injured. Unfortunately, he's not a great option this week against the Vikings and their sixth-ranked run defense. That makes me side with Snelling, who should get the start against the Giants with Turner likely out due to an injured ankle. Even if the Falcons get Jerious Norwood back from an injured hip, Snelling is still the best bet for fantasy owners. He's a good runner and can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he'll see the goal-line work in Turner's expected absence. Even against the Giants, Snelling is the one to start from this duo.

Hi Michael, I need to start two running backs from Frank Gore, Ray Rice, Ahmad Bradshaw and Ladell Betts. I think I should go with Gore and Rice, but I'm having second thoughts after what Betts did last week. What should I do? --R. Duarte, Brazil

M.F.: At this point in the fantasy season, there's no chance I'm benching players the caliber of Gore and Rice. Despite missing two games, Gore is still in the top 12 in fantasy points among running backs on NFL.com. The upcoming matchup against the Packers isn't great on paper, but to bench him for Bradshaw or Betts doesn't make sense to me. The same goes for Rice, who's become a matchup-proof option for fantasy owners this season. He's currently fourth in fantasy points among running backs in standard leagues.

I have Miles Austin, Sidney Rice, Mike Sims-Walker, Nate Burleson and Mario Manningham at wide receiver. With the exception of Rice, of course, they've been maddeningly inconsistent. In Week 10, I started Burleson over Sims-Walker and it cost me the game. I must start two of these players at wide receiver and need a third to fill a flex spot (unless I use Ryan Moats as a flex starter). Please help before I pull my beard out! I already pulled out all my hair! -- J. Crider, Richmond Virginia

M.F.: Wow, pulling the hair out of your beard sounds painful! It's only fantasy football my friend! I've had more than one person email me in the last few days about Sims-Walker, who I had listed as having an unfavorable matchup against the Jets in my Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column. But if you looked at the lineup rankings, you would have seen that Sims-Walker was ranked ahead of Burleson. Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is a matchup- and trend-based look at players, but it shouldn't be the final say in making lineup decisions. That's what the rankings are meant to do. They're updated daily every week starting on Tuesdays. To answer your question and to save you from bald spots in your beard, I'd start Rice and Sims-Walker ahead of Austin, Burleson and Manningham.

I need to start two of these running backs this week: DeAngelo Williams, Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Brandon Jacobs and Shonn Greene. It's hard not to start Williams and Rice, but Mendenhall and Jacobs seem to have better matchups. I'm also considering trading Jacobs for a wide receiver. Who should I target? -- B. Colbeck, San Jose, Calif.

M.F.: As I mentioned in one of the earlier answers, there's no way I'm benching Rice. He's been money in the bank week in and week out, regardless of the opponent. To me, the real decision is between Williams and Mendenhall. And this one is really tough. After all, Williams is one of the top running backs in fantasy football. Even against a formidable run defense like the Dolphins, he's hard to bench even when Mendenhall is the other option. It's hard not to love the Steelers running back against the Chiefs, who are allowing an average of 22.6 fantasy points per game to running backs this season. You can really flip a coin here, but based on value and the fact that he's been the most consistent point producer for fantasy owners, I would side with Williams in Week 11.

Is it time to give up on Marion Barber? He's been killing me! Would you bench him in favor of Reggie Bush in a PPR league? -- G. Adams, Lafayette, La.

M.F.: I wouldn't give up on Barber in terms of releasing him from my fantasy team, but I don't think he's a must-start option anymore. Over his last six games, Barber has scored double-digit fantasy points just twice. He's also averaged a mere 6.2 points per game since Week 7. That would make me side with Bush, based on the fact that you're getting points for receptions. It's impossible to predict who will see the important carries in New Orleans week in and week out, but it was Bush who saw a more prominent role than Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell last week. He also has a great matchup this week in Tampa Bay, where he'll face a Buccaneers defense that's 31st against the run.

With Dwayne Bowe suspended for the next four weeks, should I drop him and add Chris Chambers? Is there any reason to hold onto Bowe? Also, do you have a sleeper tight end for this week? I've been using Zach Miller and he's done little in recent weeks. Thanks! -- A. Leiber, Syracuse, N.Y.

M.F.: I wouldn't release Bowe altogether. After all, he will be eligible to return in time for Week 15 and 16. But I think adding Chambers makes sense if you're in need of a No. 3 or 4 fantasy wideout. Chambers isn't going to post Bowe-like numbers, but he will see more targets in the pass attack going forward. I would also take a look at Lance Long if you're in a deeper PPR league. As for your second question, I think Tony Scheffler is well worth a look. He's posted a combined 17 receptions for 240 yards with four touchdowns in his last four games against this week's opponent, the Chargers. That includes a score in each of his last three games against them.

I need to start two wide receivers this week from Roddy White, Hines Ward, Sidney Rice and Greg Jennings. Who should I choose? -- N. Murray, Chicago, Ill.

M.F.: I'm not sure how you bench Rice right now, unless you're absolutely loaded at wide receiver. Sure, he's scored only two touchdowns all season. But Rice leads all NFC wide receivers in receiving yards after 10 weeks, and he's clearly the top option in the pass attack for Brett Favre. Rice also has a nice matchup against the Seahawks. They've allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. As for your second wideout, I'd start ward over White. As much as I like the Falcons wideout, he's been inconsistent of late. The struggles of Matt Ryan aren't helping him, either. Ward also has a great matchup against the Chiefs, who rank 24th in pass defense.

I am in need of some advice on setting my fantasy lineup for this week. I have Chris Johnson locked in at one running back, but I need to start one more runner between Rashard Mendenhall, Jamaal Charles and Ryan Grant. Also, I need two receivers from Larry Fitzgerald, Marques Colston, Miles Austin and Hakeem Nicks. I also need one of the remaining players to fill a flex spot. Thanks in advance for your help! -- N. Aamlid, Nashville, Tenn.

M.F.: As I mentioned earlier, I love Mendenhall this week and would start him with Johnson. Fitgerald is a must-start very week, and I'd use Colston despite his recent struggles. He has a great matchup against the Buccaneers, who've struggled to stop wideouts all season. I would also use Austin to fill your flex spot. I don't like Charles or Grant based on their matchups, and Nicks has a combined eight fantasy points in his last two games. Austin hasn't been great lately, but he's your best option.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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