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Week 11 means that bye weeks are gone. For the conservative fantasy player, that's a good thing; your stars are back, which means no more whining about how you lost that game because your first-round pick was on the bench. You knew he'd be out when you picked him. (This doesn't apply to players from Houston, Baltimore or Cincinnati, however.)
For the aggressive fantasy player, the return of a full roster can be a disappointment. You lose a competitive advantage you have over other players: your ability to mine the waiver wire for players who have optimal matchups in bye weeks while other owners are picking up Todd Heap or Marc Bulger because they have familiar names. Of course, if you're playing the "matchup spot" strategy we outlined two weeks ago, you're storing a place each week for an exploitable matchup from a player you need have no ties. That's having the best of both worlds, as you get to decide between your higher-valued player and your freaky matchup each week. That's where we come in to help.
The Panthers and Colts draw the best matchups this week. Football Outsiders calculates the difficulty of a player's matchup and compares it to his expected average performance in the 2008 season; the matchups with the biggest effect on player value are shown below.
|Jake Delhomme, QB, CAR (18%)|
|Joseph Addai, RB, IND (18%)|
|Steve Smith, WR, CAR (18%)|
|Frank Gore, RB, SF (17%)|
|Peyton Manning, QB, IND (16%)|
|DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR (15%)|
|Heath Miller, TE, PIT (15%)|
|Anthony Gonzalez, WR, IND (15%)|
|Matt Forte, RB, CHI (14%)|
|Matt Ryan, QB, ATL (13%)|
|Chris Johnson, RB, TEN (13%)|
|Michael Jenkins, WR, ATL (13%)|
|Tyler Thigpen, QB, KC (12%)|
|Benjamin Watson, TE, NE (12%)|
|Bo Scaife, TE, TEN (12%)|
|Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI (12%)|
|Braylon Edwards, WR, CLE (12%)|
|Shaun Hill, QB, SF (11%)|
|Lee Evans, WR, BUF (11%)|
|Muhsin Muhammad, WR, CAR (11%)|
|Hines Ward, WR, PIT (11%)|
|Kurt Warner, QB, ARI (10%)|
|Dallas Clark, TE, IND (10%)|
|Tony Gonzalez, TE, KC (10%)|
|Greg Jennings, WR, GB (10%)|
|Chad Pennington, QB, MIA (9%)|
|Roscoe Parrish, WR, BUF (9%)|
|Marvin Harrison, WR, IND (9%)|
|Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC (9%)|
|DeSean Jackson, WR, PHI (9%)|
|Isaac Bruce, WR, SF (9%)|
|Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT (8%)|
|Mewelde Moore, RB, PIT (8%)|
|Steven Jackson, RB, STL (8%)|
|Dante Rosario, TE, CAR (8%)|
|Marques Colston, WR, NO (8%)|
|Santonio Holmes, WR, PIT (8%)|
|Bryant Johnson, WR, SF (8%)|
|Trent Edwards, QB, BUF (7%)|
|Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB (7%)|
|Kerry Collins, QB, TEN (7%)|
|Marshawn Lynch, RB, BUF (7%)|
|Jamal Lewis, RB, CLE (7%)|
|Larry Johnson, RB, KC (7%)|
|Roddy White, WR, ATL (7%)|
|Antonio Bryant, WR, TB (7%)|
|Drew Brees, QB, NO (6%)|
|Brett Favre, QB, NYJ (6%)|
|Jerious Norwood, RB, ATL (6%)|
|Reggie Bush, RB, NO (6%)|
|Leon Washington, RB, NYJ (6%)|
|Owen Daniels, TE, HOU (6%)|
|Alge Crumpler, TE, TEN (6%)|
|Anquan Boldin, WR, ARI (6%)|
|Eddie Royal, WR, DEN (6%)|
|Donald Driver, WR, GB (6%)|
|Devery Henderson, WR, NO (6%)|
|Laveranues Coles, WR, NYJ (6%)|
|Kevin Curtis, WR, PHI (6%)|
|Santana Moss, WR, WAS (6%)|
|Antwaan Randle El, WR, WAS (6%)|
|Donovan McNabb, QB, PHI (5%)|
|Michael Turner, RB, ATL (5%)|
|LenDale White, RB, TEN (5%)|
|Todd Heap, TE, BAL (5%)|
|Dustin Keller, TE, NYJ (5%)|
|Vernon Davis, TE, SF (5%)|
|Reggie Wayne, WR, IND (5%)|
|Plaxico Burress, WR, NYG (5%)|
|Jerricho Cotchery, WR, NYJ (5%)|
|Justin Gage, WR, TEN (5%)|
|Tony Romo, QB, DAL (-5%)|
|Gus Frerotte, QB, MIN (-5%)|
|Jeff Garcia, QB, TB (-5%)|
|Marion Barber, RB, DAL (-5%)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, MIN (-5%)|
|Mark Clayton, WR, BAL (-5%)|
|Donte' Stallworth, WR, CLE (-5%)|
|Brandon Marshall, WR, DEN (-5%)|
|Wes Welker, WR, NE (-5%)|
|Torry Holt, WR, STL (-5%)|
|Donnie Avery, WR, STL (-5%)|
|Daunte Culpepper, QB, DET (-6%)|
|Thomas Jones, RB, NYJ (-6%)|
|L.J. Smith, TE, PHI (-6%)|
|Derrick Mason, WR, BAL (-6%)|
|T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, CIN (-6%)|
|Javon Walker, WR, OAK (-6%)|
|Chris Chambers, WR, SD (-6%)|
|Edgerrin James, RB, ARI (-7%)|
|Cedric Benson, RB, CIN (-7%)|
|Kevin Faulk, RB, NE (-7%)|
|Brandon Jacobs, RB, NYG (-7%)|
|Derrick Ward, RB, NYG (-7%)|
|Justin Fargas, RB, OAK (-7%)|
|Michael Bush, RB, OAK (-7%)|
|Earnest Graham, RB, TB (-7%)|
|Mike Furrey, WR, DET (-7%)|
|Vincent Jackson, WR, SD (-7%)|
|Ryan Grant, RB, GB (-8%)|
|Brandon Jackson, RB, GB (-8%)|
|Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN (-8%)|
|Chester Taylor, RB, MIN (-8%)|
|LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, SD (-8%)|
|Kellen Winslow, TE, CLE (-8%)|
|Chad Johnson, WR, CIN (-8%)|
|Ike Hilliard, WR, TB (-8%)|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, CIN (-9%)|
|Philip Rivers, QB, SD (-9%)|
|Tim Hightower, RB, ARI (-9%)|
|Greg Olsen, TE, CHI (-9%)|
|Joe Flacco, QB, BAL (-10%)|
|Rex Grossman, QB, CHI (-10%)|
|David Garrard, QB, JAC (-10%)|
|Kevin Boss, TE, NYG (-10%)|
|Matt Jones, WR, JAC (-10%)|
|Reggie Williams, WR, JAC (-10%)|
|Rashied Davis, WR, CHI (-11%)|
|Devin Hester, WR, CHI (-11%)|
|Marcedes Lewis, TE, JAC (-12%)|
|Calvin Johnson, WR, DET (-12%)|
|Bobby Wade, WR, MIN (-13%)|
|Jason Witten, TE, DAL (-15%)|
Peyton Manning (Colts, plus-16 percent): OK, so Peyton Manning is owned in 100 percent of leagues and isn't available on the waiver wire. If you've had Manning all year, though, you're finally going to get to unleash him starting now. Manning is at home against the Texans and their mediocre pass defense. The only bummer is that the Texans finally came to their senses and restored budding superstar Fred Bennett to the starting lineup.
As for the e-mails we got last week about Manning defying our prediction of a poor game against the Steelers, well, we're usually willing to accept that we're wrong and that we can't get them all. In this case, we have a good excuse: We had no idea Ike Taylor was going to essentially tip two balls to Reggie Wayne for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Ryan (Falcons, plus-13 percent): We're really excited about Ryan's matchup this week against the Broncos, who haven't been able to defend much of anything since Champ Bailey went down. Bailey says he's coming back this week, but he hasn't practiced and clearly isn't ready. Either way, Ryan's performance on Sunday should propel him out of the Rookie of the Year chatter and all the way up to the MVP discussion.
Rex Grossman (Bears, minus-10 percent): No, it's not fair that Rex Grossman should have to start his season with back-to-back games against the No. 2 (Tennessee) and now No. 1 (Green Bay) pass defenses in football. It's even more not fair that Kyle Orton got to play Detroit twice and likely will come back in Week 12 against St. Louis, skipping the two most difficult games on the schedule. Make sure your kids learn an important lesson from this: Time your injuries right. Don't catch the chicken pox in July, and mess up your ankle when the schedule gets tough.
Joe Flacco (Ravens, minus-10 percent): Now, Joe Flacco being a rookie quarterback on the road against the Giants is bad enough. What makes it worse is that Flacco's biggest weakness is struggling to identify blitzers. Does that sound like it will play well against Steve Spagnuolo's defense? We don't normally project team defenses here, but pencil in the Giants for five sacks on Sunday.
David Garrard (Jaguars, minus-10 percent): This didn't turn out well in Week 1, when Garrard threw two picks en route to an eight-point fantasy day. As good as Tennessee's defense is as a whole, if you have to attack it any one way, it's on the ground, which is exactly what Jacksonville has done in the past. They'll stick with that plan on Sunday, which will limit Garrard's chances, regardless of whether he succeeds with them or not.
Joseph Addai (Colts, plus-18 percent): It's the Texans defense! Everyone gets to score! The Texans have allowed three running backs to score two or more touchdowns this year, and only one team has failed to score a rushing touchdown against them, and that was because their starting running back was Cedric Benson.
Frank Gore (49ers, plus-18 percent): As long as Mike Martz doesn't call any dive plays on third-and-long, we should be OK here. Mike Singletary is insisting that Gore see the ball more, and that's a good thing against the Rams' atrocious run defense. Gore's day depends upon whether the 49ers are winning or losing -- he'll get 95 yards or so if they lose, but 130 is a good possibility if they win. He'll definitely score either way.
DeAngelo Williams (Panthers, plus-15 percent): The Lions defense is like having two Christmas presents in front of you: Which one do you want to rip to shreds first? Most teams have chosen the pass, and it's always good, but if they choose the run, there's fantastic stuff in that box, too! Williams should, at the very least, get a touchdown and some fourth-quarter yards as the Panthers try to avoid running up the score.
Matt Forte (Bears, plus-14 percent): In some years, Forte would be a Rookie of the Year candidate; instead, he's hidden way behind the best rookie quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger and the most dynamic rookie running back since Reggie Bush. Forte gets a very good matchup against Green Bay this week, and regardless of the quarterback, the offensive workload will be placed upon him.
Tim Hightower (Cardinals, minus-9 percent): Hightower simply hasn't been impressive as a starter so far, but with Ken Whisenhunt having benched a very expensive veteran in Edgerrin James to give him that job, he'll keep getting chances to produce. It probably won't come this week, as Seattle's run defense is far superior to its pass defense.
LaDainian Tomlinson (Chargers, minus-8 percent): Go ahead, start LT if you want. Keep in mind that Pittsburgh hasn't allowed a running back more than 63 yards this season, though. If you're going to get anything out of LT this week, it'll be in the passing game.
Adrian Peterson (Vikings, minus-8 percent): Tampa Bay's run defense is fifth-best in football. They tackle well and keep plays in front of them. That's not a good fit for Peterson -- he's not likely to break the big one that gets him the big numbers. It's possible, sure. Just not likely.
Ryan Grant (Packers, minus-8 percent): This would be higher except for the fact that the Bears' defensive personnel complained about not adjusting to Tennessee last week; while they were annihilating the Titans on the ground, Kerry Collins had a field day through the air. That criticism likely echoed much louder internally, and we'll see a few more holes for Grant this week than Chris Johnson and LenDale White saw last week. They just won't be enough to get him more than 70 yards.
Steve Smith (Panthers, plus-18 percent): Let's hope the Asomugha nightmares have stopped. Smith struggled last week regardless of who was covering him, but that should all be forgotten as soon as he lines up against Detroit. They don't have anyone who can cover him in any sort of fashion whatsoever. We don't care if you got burned by him last week. Heed our words: Do not bench him this week. At any cost.
Anthony Gonzalez (Colts, plus-15 percent): Here's a tricky one. The Texans are allowing 42 yards per game to No. 1 receivers; they're allowing 64 yards per game to No. 2 receivers. At this point, we think that Gonzalez, not Marvin Harrison, is Peyton Manning's second option. The result? He gets a bigger chunk of the yardage than anyone on Sunday.
Michael Jenkins (Falcons, plus-13 percent): This is another situational play. Denver is allowing only 50 yards per game to No. 1 receivers (with Bailey being in the lineup for most of that time), but they're allowing 56 yards per game to No. 2 guys. Not every No. 2 guy is Jenkins, though, who has developed a well-earned reputation as a downfield threat. He should have two catches of 25 yards or more on Sunday, and one should be a touchdown.
Bobby Wade (Vikings, minus-13 percent): Don't do it. Tampa Bay has the best defense against No. 2 receivers in football this season, allowing only 13 yards per game to those secondary targets. Wade is ahead of Sidney Rice in the order, but if Bernard Berrian can't go, you can replace Wade's bad day with Rice.
Calvin Johnson (Lions, minus-12 percent): Sure, Johnson might catch his standard 60-yard touchdown on a meaningless play, but this week, he'll have to do it against the best defense in the league against No. 1 wideouts. Johnson is No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the Lions' lineup.
Rashied Davis and Devis Hester (Bears, both minus-11 percent): Neither matchup is appealing because Green Bay's corners are too good. If Chicago tries to move the ball downfield with the passing game, it will be with Greg Olsen, not these guys.
Heath Miller (Steelers, plus-15 percent): No team gives up more yardage to tight ends than San Diego (83 yards per game). More importantly, while no other team allows more than 10 attempts per game to the tight end, opponents average 11.2 passes to tight ends against the Chargers. That creates potential for Miller to have a huge game, and without a serious pass rush to face, he won't need to stay in and block, either.
Jason Witten (Cowboys, minus-15 percent): On the flip side, the Redskins have football's best defense against tight ends, allowing only 26 yards per game. Witten might be close to 100 percent again, and Tony Romo might be back, but he's going to be a disappointment this week.
Bill Barnwell is an analyst for FootballOutsiders.com.