Football with the Fantasy Freak: Week 11

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Football with the Fantasy Freak: Week 11

Every Friday, Fantasy Football Draft Guides Scott Gramling (a.k.a. The Fantasy Freak) will help you make the tough decisions for your fantasy teamthe sneaky sleepers that could make or break your matchup, as well as those players you may want to consider leaving on your fantasy bench. He also delves into a hot topic with our Question of the Week. Follow Scott on Twitter @nflfantasyfreak, and watch him every Friday on UNO's Sports Tonight at 6:30 pm. To submit a question to be considered for appearing on the air, do so through Twitter@CSNNE or through our Facebook page at www.facebook.comcsnne.

Week 11 Sleeper of the Week: Colts WR Donnie Avery
Avery has been solid, if not spectacular, in recent weeks with at least four catches in each of his past five games. Only one of those games came against a defense that ranked among the leagues bottom 13 in terms of the amount of fantasy points they give up to opposing receivers, and that was the Browns, who have been depending the pass a lot better even since shut-down corner Joe Haden returned from a four-game suspension the week prior to facing the Colts. Avery now faces his best matchup so far this season against a Patriots secondary thats given up quality fantasy performances in recent weeks to the likes of the Jets Jeremy Kerley, the Rams Chris Givens, and Buffalos Donald Jones. The Pats figure to be more concerned with stopping Reggie Wayne on Sunday, which could open things up for Avery to have his best fantasy output this season.

Week 11 Sleeper No. 2: Raiders WR Denarius Moore
With Darren McFadden expected to be sidelined for at least another week with the high ankle sprain he suffered against the Bucs a couple of weeks ago, you can expect Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer to keep chucking the ball early and often. Palmer has thrown at least 45 passes in three of Oaklands past four games, and Moore has clearly emerged as his preferred target. Since missing some preseason action and the 2012 season opener with a hamstring injury, Moore has been targeted at least eight times in every game hes played this season. The second-year speedster has scored in five of his last seven games, and has caught at least four passes in all seven. Expect for him to have even more success on Sunday at home against a Saints defense that gives up more fantasy points to opposing wideouts than any team in the NFL.

Week 11 Sleeper No. 3: Panthers TE Greg Olsen
Look for Olsen to maintain the momentum he gained from catching a career-high nine passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos this past Sunday. Olsen had a solid season opener with six catches for 56 yards against the Buccaneers, which is the team hell face this Sunday. Tampa Bay comes in as the NFLs last-ranked pass defense.

Week 11 Bust No. 1: Bears RB Matt Forte
While its hard to recommend sitting a guy whos the focal point of his teams offense the way Forte is, its even harder to imagine him putting up a solid fantasy performance against a tough 49ers defense, especially if Bears quarterback Jay Cutler ends up sitting out the Monday Night game because of the concussion he suffered against Houston. Forte managed only 37 yards from scrimmage in that Sunday night loss to the Texans, who are the only team in the NFL that gives up fewer fantasy points to opposing running backs than the 49ers do.

Week 11 Bust No. 2: Chargers WR Danario Alexander
Danario Alexander was the weeks most popular waiver-wire pick-up, and rightly so given the fact that hes burst on the scene with eight catches for 195 yards and one touchdown over the past couple of weeks, including five catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in Week 10 against the Bucs. We mentioned above, however, how dismal Tampa Bay has been against the pass this season, and the team Alexander will face on Sunday, the Broncos, give up the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Alexander will be a fantasy factor at times this month and next, but hes unlikely to come close to this past Sundays production when going up against Denvers Champ Bailey-led secondary.

Week 11 Bust No. 3: Steelers WR Mike Wallace
Byron Leftwich will get the start on Sunday night against the Broncos in place of an injured Ben Roethlisberger. Leftwich takes longer to wind up and deliver the ball than Luis Tiant used to with the bases empty for the Red Sox in the 1970s, which makes it hard to believe Pittsburgh will be calling many slow-developing pass plays in which Wallace uses his speed to get behind an opposing defense.

Question of the Week:
Which of the Week 11 starting quarterbacks who began Week 10 as back-ups is worth picking up in a bind?
Philadelphias Michael Vick and the aforementioned Ben Roethlisberger have already been ruled out for Week 11. Chicagos Cutler was also ruled out on Friday. That leaves Eagles rookie Nick Foles and a pair of veterans, Pittsburghs Leftwich and the Bears Jason Campbell, to make their first starts of 2012. While its usually safer to go with a veteran signal caller rather than a rookie forced into making his first career start in the middle of a season, Foles is the best Week 11 option among the three. Campbell has the unenviable task of facing an extremely tough 49ers defense, and he was extremely underwhelming in completing 11-of-19 passes for 94 yards in the second half against Houston on Sunday in relief of Cutler. In Campbells defense, he was at least facing a tough D in the Texans, and had to deal with tough weather conditions, unlike Leftwich, who completed just 7-of-14 passes for 73 yards against the Chiefs after replacing Roethlisberger early in the third quarter of Monday night's overtime win. Foles, meanwhile, completed 22-of-32 passes for 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief of Vick against whats been a tough Cowboys secondary (Dallas currently ranks eighth in the NFL against the pass). While Foles numbers were a little misleadinghis touchdown came on a play in which Dallas blew the coverage and he was saved from a horrible interception by a defensive holding penalty before throwing a pick-six on the following serieshe gets to face a Washington defense that gives up more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks than any team other than the Saints.

Injury Update:
PHILADELPHIA QB Michael Vick (concussion) is doubtful and Nick Foles will likely start under center . . . WASHINGTON WR Pierre Garcon (foot) should be able to play for the first time since Week 5 . . . GREEN BAY WR Jordy Nelson (ankle) expects to start . . . DETROIT WR Titus Young (knee) has practiced on a limited basis, but should play . . . ARIZONA QB Kevin Kolb (ribs) remains out, leaving John Skelton to start under center again . . . ATLANTA WR Julio Jones (ankle) did not practice Thursday and will be a game-time decision . . . DALLAS RB DeMarco Murray (foot) is doutbful to return to action for the first time since Week 6. INDIANAPOLIS RB Donald Brown (knee) did not practice Thursday and is questionable . . . NEW ENGLAND TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle) appears on track to play. WR Wes Welker (ankle) did not practice Thursday, but expects to start . . . JACKSONVILLE RB Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) has already been ruled out, but QB Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) will start . . . HOUSTON TE Owen Daniels (hip) and RB Ben Tate (hamstring) are both expected back after missing last weeks game, but Tate is a bigger uncertainty . . . KANSAS CITY QB Brady Quinn (concussion) expects to return, but will back up Matt Cassel . . . NEW ORLEANS RB Darren Sproles (hand) should play for the first time since Week 8 . . . OAKLAND RB Darren McFadden (ankle) is doubtful, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) is questionable and TE Brandon Myers (concussion) is probable . . . SAN DIEGO RB Ryan Mathews (neck) will be the dreaded game-time decision . . . BALTIMORE WR Torrey Smith (chest) was limited in Thursdays practice, but should start on Sunday. CB Jimmy Smith (hernia) is out indefinitely . . . PITTSBURGH QB Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) is out indefinitely, and will be replaced by Byron Leftwich. WR Antonio Brown (ankle) is doubtful, but RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) should play . . . CHICAGO QB Jay Cutler (concussion) remains questionable for Monday. If he cant play, Jason Campbell will start . . . SAN FRANCISCO QB Alex Smith (concussion) is on track to start on Monday night.

Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

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Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while thoroughly enjoying “Chewbacca Mom.”

*Good piece on Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk, and his solid performance during Memorial Cup play.

*A couple of my friends over at NHL.com have attempted to put together a World Cup of Hockey roster for North America.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance on Jumbo Joe Thornton, and what those who know him best say about him.

*Speaking of the Sharks/Blues conference finals, Vladimir Tarasenko is scoreless through the first five games of the series. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

*Actor Will Arnett proves that nobody is better at predicting the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff games than him.

*Longtime Director of Player Personnel Scott Luce is out with the Florida Panthers as their restructuring continues in this spring and summer.

*Gustav Nyquist is disappointing with his scoring numbers from last season, and is looking for a bump up next year.

*For something completely different: Chewbacca Mom visited with James Corden on late night television, and the results were both funny and kind of heartwarming.

Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

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Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

BOSTON – Opportunity.

Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.

That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).

That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.

“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”

And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.

A journey that by all accounts is far from over.

Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.

This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.

In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.

A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”

A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.

“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”

That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.

“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.

At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.

And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.

Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.

Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.

And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.

Cassidy, Pandolfo brought on board as Bruins assistant coaches

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Cassidy, Pandolfo brought on board as Bruins assistant coaches

The Bruins came to a decision on their coaching staff more than a month after opting to retain head coach Claude Julien, and there will be new faces for next season. Both Doug Houda and Doug Jarvis won’t be returning to the Black and Gold, and will be replaced by Providence Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and former Bruins winger Jay Pandolfo.

Houda was largely in charge of the defensemen group, and was fired in the days following the end of the season after a rough season for an overmatched blue line group. Jarvis did not have his contract renewed after replacing Craig Ramsay prior to the 2010-11 season, and working largely with the center and the penalty kill units.

The affable Houda has since been hired by the Detroit Red Wings to be an assistant coach for Jeff Blashill. That leaves Joe Sacco and Bob Essensa as the only two members of Julien’s staff from last season that will return again next year.

Cassidy moves on to Boston after a solid run with the P-Bruins over the last five years as head coach and eight years altogether, and Pandolfo moves to the NHL coaching from his role as Director of Player Development. So what does this mean for Julien?

Clearly, Cassidy is being brought on board to work with some of the younger NHL players he successfully developed in Providence, and whose growth hasn’t been quite as expansive in Boston under Julien over the years.

Those players developed by Cassidy are mentioned prominently in the press release from the Bruins:  Noel Acciari, Tommy Cross, Brian Ferlin, Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev, Torey Krug, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Ryan Spooner, Malcolm Subban, Zach Trotman and Frank Vatrano.

The sense in hockey circles is that Cassidy is eventually looking for another shot as an NHL head coach after leading the Washington Capitals to a 39-29-8-6 record from 2002-2004, and that he would probably be the choice as “interim coach” in Boston if things don’t work out with Julien next season. Some of Cassidy’s coaching strengths counterbalance some of the weaker points in Julien’s coaching style, so perhaps it’s a group that can find chemistry behind the bench for the Black and Gold.

But this feels very much like moves are being made by the Bruins front office just in case things continue down the same frustrating path that they’ve ended in during each of the last two seasons.