By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
The Browns are on a bye this week, meaning I have to actually dig deeper into statistics instead of just having a gimme running back to slide into the start category this week. Shame on the bye week, making me work while they’re off.
All jokes aside, the Browns actually didn’t get gashed on the ground last week, mainly because they were too busy chasing after the backs of Steeler receivers. Breathe easy, Ohio — they can’t sully this Sunday.
Week 11’s arrival means it’s crunch time for those of you looking for one last late-season push to make the playoffs. You (and I) are running out of games to make a miraculous comeback. Let’s channel our inner 1992-93 Buffalo Bills. You are Frank Reich! Believe!
Latavius Murray, running back, Oakland Raiders
I’m a big fan of Latavius Murray and the potential he possesses. He’s a big back with a delectable combination of size and speed, runs with authority and hopefully will only improve. There are times (see: fumble against Steelers) when he needs to learn to run with a lower pad level, but his best days are ahead.
Oakland, for the first time in years, is a respectable football team. The Raiders were in an entertaining, traditional-style game last week, and although they fell to the Minnesota Vikings, like Murray, I like where they’re headed.
More important, the Raiders are facing the Detroit Lions, who are in the bottom third against running backs in fantasy. Though Detroit stymied Green Bay’s offense last week, it’s less indicative of the Lions’ overall capabilities, and lends more to the struggles in which the Packers are currently mired. Before Detroit’s win over Green Bay, the Lions had allowed 25.38 points per game to opposing backs. Their stingy outing dropped that average to 24.2.
Point is, running backs against Detroit are a good play. Murray is among the league’s best rising backs, despite an up-and-down 2015 campaign. He’s a solid option at RB1, RB2 or the flex position.
Carson Palmer, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
I wanted to place Derek Carr here, but I can’t push all my chips in the middle on strictly Oakland Raiders. Carson Palmer is a pretty great consolation prize.
Arizona has had one of the best offenses in the NFL all season long, with much of the credit due to the ageless wonder that is Palmer. The quarterback has scored 18 or more points in all but two games this season, also making him one of the most consistent options at the position. Cincinnati presents a daunting challenge for Palmer, but he’s all too familiar with head coach Marvin Lewis and the men in orange-and-black stripes, seeing as Palmer was their No. 1 overall pick out of USC in 2003. While that might seem like it was ages ago, Palmer is still more than capable of beating Cincinnati and putting up plenty of fantasy points.
Tony Romo, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Romo is active for Sunday. Dallas hasn’t won a game since he went down with a broken collarbone. Dez Bryant is healthy, and can produce, when he isn’t exploding on media members in the locker room. Point being, the Cowboys are a much better team with Romo under center, and despite their 2-7 record, they can’t be taken lightly.
Here’s to hoping he doesn’t morph into Arts and Craftsy Tony Romo, and that you aren’t forced into channeling your fantasy frustrations by using papier-mâché.
Jeremy Hill, running back, Cincinnati Bengals
Here’s a quick look at Hill’s last five games: two points, 12 points, six points, five points, one point.
Hill is losing carries to Giovani Bernard quicker than J.J. Watt fired off that clearly rehearsed “Red Rifle look like a Red Ryder BB gun” line on Monday Night Football. Hill hasn’t topped 70 yards rushing all season. He saw his season-high in carries in Week 1.
If you’re still relying on Hill, it’s likely you’ve thrown in the towel. There’s always next year.
Carlos Hyde, running back, San Francisco 49ers
Hyde has been dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, and didn’t make the trip to Seattle. The 49ers in general have been struggling, so much that we have been blessed by another appearance from quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who the football world had cast off as an eternal backup who would eventually fade into the abyss that’s also inhabited by Ken Dorsey, Alex Tanney, Tavaris Jackson and Dan LeFevour.
Wow, LeFevour is playing in the Canadian Football League. I guess dreams do come true.
Tavon Austin, wide receiver, St. Louis Rams
I want to believe in Austin, but when your team goes out and signs a guy with a lengthy concussion history to play slot receiver in Week 11, I think that’s a sign that you aren’t producing enough for their liking. Add in Case Keenum’s first start of the season (in place of the benched Nick Foles), and this might be a tough one.
The Rams are playing the Ravens, though. Baltimore has struggled to stop essentially every offense it’s faced, and is last in fantasy against opposing receivers.
But I still don’t like this matchup.
Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.