Finally, our long national nightmare is almost over. Week 11 is the final gasp for BYEWEEK SZN.
For many, these next two weeks are the difference between continuing your season in the playoffs or being relegated to the consolation bracket.
By the way, know that if you’re trying to win your league’s consolation bracket the NSA adds you to a list and charges you double to renew your passport.
Don’t know what Flex On ‘Em is? Head down to the bottom of the page for a brief explainer.
Derek Carr, Oakland vs. New England (Mexico City (?)): The Patriots would be the worst pass defense in the league if it weren’t for Carr’s own Raiders teammates, so expect a shootout in Azteca Stadium. It’s tough to see Carr ranked outside the top 20 fantasy QBs but this is a great opportunity for him to put up some major statistics. Carr also gets a considerable boost with the Patriots getting Stephon Gilmore back from injury.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay @ Miami: There is the Madden Cover Jinx and there is having Ryan Fitzpatrick as your backup. At this point it’s borderline assault on your own up-and-coming young QB to bring the veteran journeyman in as a backup. Carson Palmer, Trent Edwards, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Geno Smith, and now Jameis Winston have all gone down injured with Fitzpatrick waiting in the wings as QB2. Really, when you look at that list of names, outside of Palmer and (maybe) Winston, fans should get really nervous about their young stud QB if the team brings in Fitzpatrick. Or maybe Fitzpatrick has a keen eye for terrible QB play and chooses his FA signings based on just that, which would be smart. He did go to Harvard, ya know, so it makes sense. That all aside, Miami’s pass defense is as bad as literally any other team in the league, and this is exactly the kind of game that Fitzpatrick goes out and lights up the scoreboard for a few TDs before throwing a backbreaking interception late. It’s all part of the plan to eventually go on and get signed by…the Colts, who give up on Andrew Luck and hand the keys to Brissett, who eventually gets hurt and cedes the reigns to Fitzpatrick. Time, as they say, is a flat circle.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland vs. Jacksonville: I prefer Johnson’s upside this week over his more-consistent teammate Isaiah Crowell. The Jacksonville pass defense, as has been talked about ad nauseam, is an absolute force, while their run defense continues to rank in the bottom three in the league. Johnson may be the pass-catching back, so this Rack against a tough pass defense seems out of place, but the expectation is that the Browns go down big and are forced into a two-minute drill offense for a lot of the second half, with Johnson as the primary back in those situations and racking up quite a few dump-offs. Garbage yards aren’t discounted.
Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia @ Dallas: Ph.D Sean Lee is hurt again. Ajayi has had another week to integrate into one of the league’s most explosive offenses. He’s only the 29th-best scoring back through ten weeks, but this may be the last time it doesn’t feel like cherry-picking to recommend starting him.
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants @ Kansas City: The Giants’ season ended a month ago, right as Darkwa wrested control of the team’s backfield. While I’m sure there is one dedicated Twitter user out there Charlie Kelly-ing the collapse back to Darkwa’s emergence, anyone not wearing a tinfoil hat looks at the timing as purely coincidental. He’s averaging more than a half point per touch and plays Kansas City’s league-worst run defense in Week 11. The Giants’ only hope to right the ship this week is to play a clock management style game and keep their own abysmal defense off the field.
Thomas Rawls, Seattle vs. Atlanta: Speaking of Charlie Kelly-ing, I donned my tin-foil hat on Twitter last Thursday after Sherman ruptured his Achilles, thereby ending his season. Is it blasphemous and wrong for me to have speculated that Sherman played on a partially-torn Achilles, knowing full well he would go down in primetime and exacerbate the “Thursday Night Football Is The Worst” narrative? Yes. But his somewhat casual demeanor after and the broadcast team relaying that Sherman mentioned a forthcoming Achilles injury has me like *thinking emoji*. Anyway, the conspiratorial nature of Richard Sherman has nothing to do with the fact that Rawls is the healthiest back in Seattle and Atlanta can’t defend the run.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland vs. New England (Mexico City): This one is going to be a shootout, and Crabtree gets the advantage of lining up against one of the league’s worst pass defenses in New England. Belichick is famous for taking away the one thing that a team does well, so I assume the secondary shuts down deep balls to Cooper and lets Crabtree make a respectable living underneath. He also benefits from the Stephon Gilmore factor.
DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay @ Miami: The loss of Winston should have very nominal impact on Jackson’s fantasy prospects, given Fitzpatrick’s willingness to sling it around. No team is worse against WR2s than the Dolphins, so expect a field day from the guy.
Danny Amendola, New England vs. Oakland (Mexico City): Amendola is the last standing member of the Slot Triplets with Hogan out for a few weeks and Edelman on IR. As I’ve touched on from Oakland’s perspective, I don’t see a scenario in which this game isn’t one of the higher scoring contests of the entire season. He’ll be the third option behind Gronk and Cooks, but that’s worthy of a Rack in such a great matchup.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pitsburgh vs. Tennesee (Thursday): JuJu’s supplanting of freakishly talented Martavis Bryant is one the league’s most surprising stories through the first ten weeks, though significantly less surprising than other candidates like Jared Goff leading the league’s best offense and the Jaguars fielding the league’s best defense. Tennessee isn’t quite awful against the pass, but they have struggled to contain secondary options. Expect, as always, Antonio Brown to garner most of the attention and for Smith-Schuster to produce in the vacated spaces.
Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo @ Los Angeles Chargers: Benjamin gets Rack status only so I have an excuse to unleash my surface-of-the-sun-hot take on the Tyrod Taylor benching: Taylor is, by all accounts, one of the best overall people in the entire league. There is not a single quote you can pull from him that conveys any kind of poor attitude or selfishness. His answer to everything is typically vanilla and risk-averse. This approach works at a podium. It does not work on the field. With the ocean of data collected on just about every movement a player physically makes on every given play, no player better epitomizes how confounding too much data can be than Tyrod Taylor. His supporters point to relatively high completion percentages and low turnover numbers. His detractors toss out yardage totals and snap-to-throw timing. Those who study film see Taylor operating within the confines of an unimaginative offense. Others who study the same film see wide receivers running by themselves, arms in the air calling for the ball. Some say he has no weapons. Others wonder how he amasses just 56 passing yards with Benjamin, Charles Clay, Jordan Matthews, and Shady McCoy lined up with him. The truth is, we don’t know how bad or how good Tyrod Taylor is because the Bills have been changing the ingredients with which he has to cook on what feels like a weekly basis. And Tyrod Taylor is apparently not a good enough chef to make a winning meal with those ingredients. Sure, he can boil broccoli and grill chicken and help the team survive. But can he survive a drop-in by the in-laws, with nothing but what’s in his pantry, and blow them away with something they’ll ask him to make again? The answer appears to be no. From a macro perspective, I’m inclined to look at this from Sean McDermott’s point of view. The easy thing, even given the preseason low expectations, would have been to keep trotting Taylor out for a few games, wait until the team is eliminated from playoff contention and make this move. Nobody questions it then. Nobody blames you for missing out on the playoffs. Nobody wonders why you didn’t put in the rookie. But how confident in Nathan Peterman do you think McDermott must be to willingly subject himself to criticism from both outside the organization and in the locker room by making this move? Only the Buffalo staff knows the full story about how poorly Taylor has truly played, what assignments he has not completed. And his errors, coupled with Peterman’s potential, have led that staff to put their reputations on the line when they didn’t need to. That says something. Obviously, Benjamin is the WR1 on a team that acquired him via trade only to target him a few times in his first game. A majority of his targets came from Peterman. He’s a huge target that can win a few 50/50 balls that a young QB is likely to throw.
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Case Keenum, Minnesota vs. Los Angeles Rams: I fully expect the Vikings to focus on running the football instead of having Keenum test the league’s 2nd-ranked pass defense. In what could be his last hoorah in Minnesota before the return of Teddy Bridgewater, Keenum will likely serve in the capacity that has defined the rest of his career: excellent hand-offer.
Kirk Cousins, Washington @ New Orleans: The Saints’ pass defense, led by rookie Marshon Lattimore, is another of the league’s best surprises. Even without Fat Rob Kelley to carry the ball, I expect Cousins and the Redskins to bring a clock-management gameplan into New Orleans and try to keep the Brees-Ingram tandem off the field.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee @ Pittsburgh (Thursday): Goodbye, my sweet prince, goodbye. Henry and backfield running mate DeMarco Murray are deadlocked in a touches battle, as productive from a fantasy standpoint as two monster trucks chained together and driving in opposite directions. They’re both playable in good matchups, but Pittsburgh’s 4th-ranked run defense isn’t one of them.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta @ Seattle: Even having been gifted the starting spot by Devonta Freeman’s injury, Coleman presents little upside in a matchup with Seattle’s top-10 run defense, particularly on the road. Normally, you’d expect Coleman to rack up yardage in the receiving game, but Seattle shuts that down, too (2nd-ranked).
Tarik Cohen, Chicago vs. Detroit: Cohen has seen more than ten touches just once since Week 3. John Fox, having survived being forced to swallow his red challenge flags by the entire city of Chicago, went on to explain Cohen’s non-usage in passing situations is due to his lack of blocking ability. Benny Cunningham has stolen those opportunities, and Jordan Howard continues to dominate traditional touches, leaving Cohen borderline cuttable.
Kenny Britt, Cleveland @ Jacksonville: Because if the Browns are going to run out the clock from their opponent’s one yard line, you can’t Rack their most disappointing receiver the next week. That’s just a rule. Look it up.
Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota: Normally, the explanation is easy: don’t expect much from WR1s against Minnesota because Xavier Rhodes. But is Sammy Watkins the WR1 in Los Angeles? Statistics say no, but I still think Rhodes goes name-brand here and mirrors Watkins. Even if Rhodes follows a more roving coverage pattern, there just are not going to be enough opportunities for all the Rams receivers to be viable, and Watkins has the least consistency in the group.
Josh Doctson, Washington @ New Orleans: See Kirk Cousins.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay vs. Baltimore: Back-to-back Rest weeks for Cobb, who continues to see enough opportunities per game to warrant consideration, but whose prospects are severely dimmed with Hundley under center. Jordy Nelson may end up in this section next week if Hundley can’t get it figured out.
(Future) Fantasy Ghost Of The Week
Each week, I’ll highlight a typical fantasy star that will likely under-produce. This doesn’t mean they’re automatic “Rests” – but be prepared to be disappointed.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota: Fantasy’s No. 1 overall player is due for a lackluster outing in a matchup with the Vikings’ top-5 run defense unit. I anticipate Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense to force Jared Goff to win this game through the air.
Tweets Of The Week
As always, a pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
Revised proposal, reflecting much thoughtful input: (a) eliminate Thursdays; (b) eliminate 2 preseason games; (c) 17 weeks; (d) 2 byes per team; (e) increased roster size; and (f) no deactivations – hi to all, won’t be replying to each.
— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) November 10, 2017
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (0-3)
Tennessee +7 vs. Pittsburgh
Dallas +4.5 vs. Philadelphia
Seattle -3 vs. Atlanta
Have a good weekend, everybody.
*ALL DEFENSIVE RANKING REFERENCES PER FOOTBALLOUTSIDERS.COM
**PLAYER STATISTICS VIA PROFOOTBALLREFERENCE.COM
Fantasy football is won and lost in WR2/RB2 and FLEX spots and therefore the primary function of this column is to help you secure the bottom half of your starting lineup. I’m not here to tell you to start Julio Jones. You should be able to figure that out on your own.
Racks: Players that are in a good position to outperform their typical projections. If they’re on your squad, Rack them into your lineup and don’t look back.
Rests: Players facing tough weeks, whether due to matchup or other circumstances. Rest them for this week.