It is Week 11, officially in the stretch run to the fantasy playoffs, so every roster decision carries more weight. Should you use Tony Romo in his return from a broken collarbone? Can you simply replace the injured Julian Edelman with Danny Amendola? Will the Denver Broncos' defense put an end to the steady play of Jay Cutler? What should we expect from Indianapolis Colts players with Matt Hasselbeck under center? How about the struggling Green Bay Packers' wide receivers against the tough Minnesota Vikings' secondary?
Don't worry, we have the answers for all of those questions right here.
Each week throughout the season, I will pose five of the week's most intriguing fantasy questions to a rotating panel of experts from ESPN, ESPN fantasy and NFL Nation. Five questions for five analysts, thus Nickel Coverage.
Responses this week come from NFL Nation Lions reporter Michael Rothstein, NFL Nation Dolphins reporter James Walker, ESPN New York's Anita Marks and ESPN Fantasy analysts Jim McCormick and KC Joyner.
Tony Romo will start Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Are you starting him as a QB1? How do you expect his return to impact the other Cowboys' skill positions?
Our analysts were split on whether they would start Romo in his return to action Sunday.
Marks: Romo returns to action with a beautiful matchup down on South Beach (kinda sorta). The Fins' secondary is giving up the eighth-most fantasy football points to opposing gunslingers this season -- gunslingers who do not sit in the upper echelon of the NFL. The best quarterback Miami has faced this season was Tom Brady in Week 8, and he put up more than 350 yards and scored four touchdowns. Romo is a QB1 come Sunday. Fantasy owners just have to hope the rain stays away during the game.
McCormick: Using the stretch from Week 14 of last season to Week 1 of this regular season in order to get a five-game sample from Romo, we find him second only to Cam Newton in fantasy points per game among signal-callers in that stretch. Dez Bryant averaged 15 fantasy points over this sample, fourth among NFL wideouts, while Jason Witten was fourth among tight ends during this span. The Dolphins cede the seventh-highest yards per attempt (7.9) in the league. Even if we expect Romo to sustain 80 percent of the offensive pace they enjoyed over the aforementioned stretch, it's still a major boon to the entire Dallas offense.
Rothstein: Tony Romo might be starting, but the Fish under Dan Campbell have been a much more aggressive unit against quarterbacks. Miami has multiple sacks in five straight games, and if Romo isn't at 100 percent mobility and confidence, it could be a rough day for the Dallas starting quarterback. That said, having him in the game will be better than the other Cowboys quarterback options in his absence (sorry you didn't get your shot, Kellen Moore) so it should mean an uptick in performance all around as long as Dallas' offensive line can keep him upright.
Julian Edelman is likely done for the regular season due to foot surgery. Danny Amendola came through with 79 yards on 10 catches (11 targets) on Sunday. Do you see him as a must-start, flex or "wait-and-see" bench option against the Bills in Week 11?
The answers for this question ran the gamut from starting to flex to bench.
Marks: Amendola is a "don't even think twice about it" must-start in Week 11 against the Bills.
The slot receiver in Tom Brady's offense gets a lot of target love, and that is where Amendola will live for the remainder of the regular season. Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman are spending hours at work scheming to shut down Rob Gronkowski. If successful, those targets have to go somewhere, and Amendola owners should expect a ton of them. Side note: The Bills defense is allowing more than 250 passing yards per game and has given up the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.
Walker: Amendola is a flex option now that Edelman is out. The Patriots are going to score points no matter who is in the game. Their offensive scheme and quarterback are that good. The tough part to predict is who will be the hot target, because it changes week to week, and most of the time Tom Brady simply doesn't care. Brady just throws to whoever is open. Brady and Gronkowski are the only two "must-start" players in New England's offense. But Amendola isn't a bad flex play.
Rothstein: I'd wait and see with Amendola, despite the fact that there is little the Patriots apparently like more than beating up on any and all things Rex Ryan (Clemson helmet excluded). Gronkowski is still the go-to option there, and it wouldn't shock me if Scott Chandler became more involved in the offense as well. Amendola will get targets and catches, but I would be a little wary. Of course, there are many, many worse options than Amendola, so it kind of depends on who is both out there and available for you.
Jay Cutler has scored at least 17 fantasy points in six straight games. Will he extend that streak to seven against a Broncos defense that has allowed its two highest single-game point totals the past two weeks?
Only one of our analysts expects Cutler to reach this goal for the seventh straight contest.
Joyner: Denver's defense is on the road and facing an offense that will potentially have two strong rushing options (Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford). They also may not get much help from the Broncos offense, which is partially why the Denver defense has struggled a bit of late. Add that to Cutler not making mistakes (a career-best 0.4 percent mark in my bad-decision-rate metric that tracks mental errors by quarterbacks that lead to turnover opportunities) and it should mean Cutler stays par for the course with 17 or more points.
McCormick: This past week had so much to do with all of those early Peyton Manning interceptions as it did with the Denver defense. The lack of pass rush was glaring, but with the full secondary back in form this week and with the Bears' offensive arsenal again ailing in several key spots, I'd lean toward Cutler falling short of his consistency threshold.
Rothstein: In a word, no. Cutler has been playing better -- as have the rejuvenated Chicago Bears -- but the Denver defense knows it must have a strong performance with Brock Osweiler and not Peyton Manning at quarterback. I would also think there's a chance the Broncos try to play more ball-control with Osweiler in the game since he's such an unknown, so that could lead to fewer possessions for Cutler and fewer chances to score points. I actually think that game will be fairly low scoring, so a little bit of buyer beware there.
How does Matt Hasselbeck starting for the Colts in place of the injured Andrew Luck affect the fantasy values of the team's offensive weapons this week against the Atlanta Falcons and beyond?
Only two of our analysts think that the switch to Hasselbeck will not have a negative impact on the other Colts skill players.
Joyner: Luck currently ranks 28th in yards per dropback (6.0), so it's not as if Hasselbeck has a high bar to clear in terms of replacing Luck's production. There shouldn't be much of a fall off, and if things go well, Hasselbeck may actually put up better numbers than Luck and improve the fortunes of the Indianapolis skill position players.
McCormick: We have a somewhat skewed small sample for Hasselbeck at the helm of this offense, but it was an encouraging stretch compared with the inept backup play around the league. The switch still hurts all of the team's skill players in regards to upside and usage; the narrative for Frank Gore seeing more carries can be countered by an offense that could prove more conservative. The same can be said for T.Y. Hilton, who can still sustain a volume of targets, but a lack of vertical upside in a scaled-down offense limits the appeal for him and Donte Moncrief. It's simply one of those messy seasons.
Walker: Plenty. Indianapolis' skill players underachieved most of the season with Luck in the lineup. Why should a fantasy owner of Hilton, Andre Johnson, Coby Fleener, Gore, etc. expect more reliability with Hasselbeck? I would stay away from all Colts offensive players until Luck returns, if possible. If you have to play someone such as Hilton or Fleener, keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. But I don't think you will be happy with the results.
Packers wide receivers have scored just one touchdown since their Week 7 bye (and Davante Adams hasn't scored at all this season). How much do you trust any of them against the red-hot Vikings in Week 11?
The consensus here is that it's going to be difficult to trust any of the Packers' wide receivers on Sunday.
Joyner: The Vikings rank eighth in receiving yards allowed to wide receivers (1,309), fourth in wide receiver yards per reception (11.7) and third in wide receiver yards after contact (3.3). They have given up seven scoring passes to opposing wide receivers, but given the volume of strong coverage metrics and Green Bay's subpar pass-blocking, it's hard to place much faith in the Packers' wideouts.
Marks: The Vikings' defense kept Oakland Raiders wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree out of the end zone last week, which was pretty impressive. In Week 10, Davante Adams saw 21 targets, and if targeted like that again, he would be my best bet on finding the end zone -- more so than Randall Cobb.
Rothstein: I wouldn't -- not after what I saw last week. Darius Slay, who is emerging as a cornerback, held James Jones without a catch. Davante Adams couldn't take advantage of Nevin Lawson, Josh Wilson or Crezdon Butler, and considering one of them was a nickel, one is a second-year corner and one, Butler, was on the street until the day before the game, that's a problem. Plus, Minnesota is one of the more attacking defenses in the league and knows Rodgers well. I'd be wary here.
Walker: You just have to ride this out if you're a fantasy owner. While Cobb and James Jones were winning you games in September and October, you have to accept that there will be slumps like the one Green Bay is going through in November. This is not the time to panic. (Unless you drafted Packers running back Eddie Lacy; then absolutely panic and bail.) I expect quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's receivers to rebound. I'm not sure if it will happen Sunday against the Vikings, but it will occur sooner than later.