Harsh Reality, Week 11: You might not get Lucky Thursday night

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The worst fantasy plays for the week for every relevant position!

It's another week of the harsh reality of finding out that some of your favorite fantasy players are going to become your worst nightmare. Whether my predictions below are right or not, you already know for a fact that nobody can succeed all of the time.

There's even that old wives' tale that Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson failed once. Even if it is just urban legend.

These are the absolute worst matchups of the week. If you have the luxury to avoid them, maybe you should do so. Then again, life is like a box of chocolates: Sometimes even the Buccaneers can run for 200 yards.

Here's the first worst:


32. Christian Ponder, Vikings at Seahawks

Ponder is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league. Seattle has the best secondary. They did this almost exactly a year ago and Ponder didn't get to 70 passing yards. There's not much to explain here.

31. Chad Henne, Jaguars vs Cardinals

Sort of exactly what I just said about Ponder.

30. Jason Campbell, Browns at Bengals

Sort of exactly what I said about Henne.

Campbell's off to a Brian Hoyer-esque start with Cleveland (did I just say those words, and in a positive manner?) but the Bengals can still play defense. Even if they can't seem to figure it out in overtime.

29. Colin Kaepernick at the Saints

Another huge game for both of these teams, New Orleans needs to hold off the Panthers in the NFC South, and the Niners need to keep pace with the Panthers in the wild card. Those pesky Panthers!

Kaep's numbers are down across the board from last year, unless you're counting interceptions, in which case they are up. He should be better when Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are fully healthy but that's not the present situation. Rob Ryan has the Saints defense playing better than we've seen in a long time, and it's now one of the top pass defenses in the NFL.

28. Andrew Luck, Colts at Titans

Nobody is going to argue against Luck being perhaps the best young quarterback in the league. OK, I'm a Seahawks fan, and I will argue it a little bit probably. But Luck is good, if not already great. However, none of the formula for Thursday night looks good for fantasy owners.

Luck is averaging about 1.5 touchdown passes per game, the Titans have allowed an NFL-low seven touchdown passes this season. In two games against Tennessee last year, Luck had two touchdowns and three interceptions.

We have to remember that even for a player who gives you a great chance to win, like Luck, there can be bad fantasy matchups. This is one of them.

Surpriser of the Week - Tom Brady, Patriots at Panthers

Maybe this would have been less surprising a week ago, before Brady threw for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns against the Steelers upon the return of Danny Amendola to pair with the repaired Rob Gronkowski, but guess who is back? Back again. It's that Brady fella.

Except that Carolina now features one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, if not the best overall defense. You'll start Brady and wait it out till Monday sweating bullets down 24 points. You might not be sweating bullets by the fourth quarter if Tom struggles against the Panthers. Which is entirely possible in what should be another low-scoring affair for Carolina.

Also of interesting note: Peyton Manning against the Chiefs, a team that's given up nine touchdown passes in nine games.

Running Backs

32. C.J. Spiller, Bills vs Jets

If they were one player, Spiller and Fred Jackson would be a hell of a player. Instead, only Jackson seems to be a good player right now.

A year after rushing for more than 1,200 yards on limited carries with over 1,700 total yards, Spiller is on pace for 1,043 total yards this year and has just one touchdown. The Jets have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL this season by DVOA, but at least Jackson still provides a threat in the passing game.

31. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars vs Cardinals

Speaking of massive fantasy disappointments: MJD is averaging 3.0 yards per carry and averaging less than half-as-many yards-per-game as he had in 2011. Also, Arizona has a great run defense.

30. Ray Rice, Ravens at Bears

Speaking of massive fantasy disappointments: Rice is only 26! And he's down to 2.5 yards per carry. So if you took his YPC and multiplied it by 10, you still wouldn't get to his age.

Rice is averaging about half as many yards per game as he had just last season.

29. Steven Jackson, Falcons at Bucs

Speaking of -- nevermind. Jackson is a year older than last season, but he looks like he's advanced in age much more than that. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay gave up just two rushing yards to the Dolphins. Two. Dos.

There won't be much action from Jackson on Sunday.

28. Matt Forte, Bears vs Ravens

Not a terrible play because of the versatility he provides, but the Ravens have still allowed only one rushing touchdown all season long. Forte is coming off of his worst game of the season (49 total yards against the Lions), and this might not be the best week to count on a comeback.

Surpriser of the Week - Stevan Ridley, Patriots at Panthers

Just like the last Surpriser, but different!

Ridley had 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns last week against Pittsburgh, and he has six touchdowns in his last four games. It's all setting up beautifully for the fantasy owner who held out hope with Stevan, but now come the Panthers.

They aren't just a great pass defense, they might actually be better against the run.

Wide Receivers

32. Steve Smith, Panthers vs Patriots

How about one going the other way? New England is first in the NFL against a No. 1 receiver by DVOA, and Cam Newton may be targeting Greg Olsen and Brandon LaFell more than Smith.

31. T.Y. Hilton, Colts at Titans

The Titans are No. 2 in the NFL against a No. 1. Without Reggie Wayne to take up that spot, Hilton is relied on as the go-to guy. In fact, the Colts now have perhaps the thinnest receiver group in the league, and Alterraun Verner Herzog won't have much else to focus on besides Hilton.

30. Marques Colston, Saints vs 49ers

Despite another top-notch season from Drew Brees, things haven't been nearly as fruitful for his No. 1 receiver. Colston is down to 56.1 yards per game, by far a career low. However, he's coming off of his best game of the season (107 yards against the Cowboys), so there's hope!

And then you face the 49ers, one of the best teams in the league against a No. 1.

29. Cecil Shorts III, Jaguars vs Cardinals

Great season for Shorts. I'll keep repeating myself about the Cardinals. Specially: Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.

28. Keenan Allen, Chargers at Dolphins

Allen has done an outstanding job of stepping up in the absence of a number of injuries to the receiver core, as has Eddie Royal, but now they face off against the Dolphins. Amid all the controversy and issues in Miami, the Dolphins can still play pass defense.

Surpriser of the Week - Jordy Nelson, Packers at Giants

Nelson has stepped up in a major way amid numerous devastating injuries for the Packers, an equation he was on the other side of during an injury-plagued 2012 season, but he doesn't have a good matchup in Week 11. The Giants are actually great against a team's No. 1 receiver (5th by DVOA) and now his quarterback is Scott Tolzien.

I'll wait while you Wikipedia "Scott Tolzien."

Fright Ends

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons at Bucs

The Bucs can do two things well, it seems: stop the run, stop tight ends. Otherwise, Tampa Bay has been nearly as bad as its record.

The Falcons also have been about as bad as their record suggests, but not if Gonzalez can help it. He'll have a harder time helping it against Tampa, one of the top teams in the NFL against tight ends.

Surpriser of the Week - Julius Thomas, Broncos at Chiefs

Thomas has broken out for nine touchdowns this season, which is more touchdowns than he had yards in his career prior to 2013. However, he's facing off against KC, and the Chiefs are allowing fewer than 40 yards per game to tight ends. There's always a good chance Thomas still grabs a score or even two, but this is perhaps his toughest matchup of the year.

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