This is our weekly game review post, examining half the games from week 11. My colleague Sam will be along with the other half shortly.
Bills Vs. Chargers
QB: The Great Nathan Peterson Experiment® ended in record-setting fashion. Unfortunately, the ‘record’ set was ‘worst NFL quarterback performance in the past forty years’. Woof. Peterson threw almost as many completions to the Chargers (5) as he did to his own receivers (6). Unsurprisingly, Tyrod Taylor took over at the half. Bafflingly, Buffalo has not named a starting QB for week 12. The best money is on Taylor, and he put up a respectable fantasy stat-line which was impressive given he only played half the game. On a day where his team scored 54 points, Philip Rivers’ fantasy owners have got to be disappointed in his good-not-great fantasy line. Still, his schedule is cake going forward, and startable quarterbacks are dropping like flies, so Rivers stock is looking up to finish out the season well.
RB: The Great LeSean McCoy Experiment® continues to pay dividends. In this world of injured or otherwise ineffective running backs, Shady McCoy is an elite RB1 weekly. With the Chargers way ahead almost immediately, Melvin Gordon quickly racked up 20 carries and sat the fourth quarter. With the emergence of Austin Ekeler, Gordon’s ceiling is now capped, since he’s likely to be benched early in blowouts. Ekeler had second great fantasy game in as many weeks, though he got all his work in the fourth quarter of this blowout running against a demoralized defense in garbage time. He is not to be trusted as a fantasy starter unless something happens to Gordon.
WR: The Great Kelvin Benjamin Experiment® has been set back after Benjamin took an early helmet to the knee. Zay Jones is going to be the receiver to own here by default in week 12, though, beyond that, things are murky. Benjamin, Jones, and Jordan Matthews are all potential contributors. Keenan Allen, the poster boy for positive touchdown regression scored for the first time since week 1 (and then did it again just to make sure everyone knew it wasn’t a fluke). Allen has a very nice schedule going forward and his talent plus his usage means that owners should expect WR1 performance from him through the end of the season. Mike Williams‘ 8 targets and 5 catches were more than all of his other games this season combined. Williams was the clear second option on this team after Allen, and as such may be someone to keep an eye on for receiver-needy teams, despite his unimpressive stat line from this game.
TE: The Great Charles Clay Experiment® continues to promise, despite disappointing results on paper. Clay had a touchdown called back and dropped another end-zone target. His consistent red-zone targets make him a prime target for positive touchdown regression, especially considering the injuries to the receiving corps. Hunter Henry continued to be a bit player on the Chargers’ offense, and there’s no reason to believe that will change anytime soon, unfortunately.
Buccaneers vs. Dolphins
QB: The problem with Ryan Fitzpatrick is that sometimes he’s Fitz-Jekyll and sometimes he’s Fitz-hyde. Either way, even with the sorry state of quarterback availability for fantasy teams, the rumors that Jameis Winston may play in week 12 make Fitzpatrick all but droppable. Jay Cutler split the game evenly with Matt Moore after suffering a concussion on the last play of the first half. It’s unclear whether Cutler will be starting next week against the Patriots. The Dolphins are so bad that this feels like a game of Russian roulette where every chamber is loaded.
RB: The good news for Doug Martin owners is that the Buccaneers did not make good on their threats to give Peyton Barber more carries. The bad news is that Martin continues to suck it up, even in extremely favorable matchups. It’s almost always a good idea to play a back like Martin in fantasy who is reliably getting 18-20 touches weekly, though martin’s ineffectiveness means he’s at risk for a drop in opportunities. For the second week in a row, Damien Williams out-touched Kenyan Drake, and Williams seems to be pulling away, though he has a way to go yet before he sustains a volume-based floor. Notably, nearly all of Williams’ production came on one long run, and Drake had more snaps, despite his lesser usage. Neither back looked particularly impressive.
WR: Mike Evans returned from his one-week suspension properly chastened, and quickly returned to WR1 status. He missed out on an overthrown touchdown, though his target share, usage, and talent mean he’s a locked-in WR1 for the rest of the season, regardless of opponent. Desean Jackson owners were lucky he received a score, as his usage has been trending downward of late (exception of course last week when Mike Evans was out). For as long as he continues to get fewer than 5 targets a game, Jackson is only a desperation play weekly. Let’s play a word association game: Peas are to Carrots as Moore is to ? (answer: Kenny Stills). Coming out of the half with just one target, Stills exploded when Moore came in. Owners should watch Cutler’s health carefully coming into week 12, as Stills will be a very good start if Smokin’ Jay sits. Jarvis Landry looked like some sort of hungry jungle cat in the slot, and he should feast next week against a New England secondary that has been consistently beaten over the middle. Devante Parker had a mediocre day, but he’s still averaging around 9 targets a game since his return, which tells me he’s due for some positive regression.
TE: O. J. Howard was involved early and often in this one, doing nearly all his damage on the first drive. While he booms about one-third of the time, Howard’s floor makes him a poor play on any given week. The once-mighty Cameron Brate has now settled into a comfortable pattern of making one reception for ~10 yards per game. Eww. After a two week mini-breakout, Julius Thomas has gone back to being just a guy in Miami. There’s no defensible reason to start him next week.
Jaguars vs. Browns
QB: Blake Bortles continues to channel 2015 Peyton Manning, whose defense won him games while he underperformed.
RB: After hinting all week that he might miss week 11 with an ankle injury, Leonard Fournette had 30 touches. Everyone who sat him was left feeling like that Australian fellow from Jurassic Park. “Clever girl”. Impressively, Fournette threw down more than 100 yards from scrimmage against one of the league’s premier run defenses. After getting double-digit carries for the first time this season in week 10, Duke Johnson was scaled waaaaay back in week 11. Still, he looked good and scored from the slot. I like his chances going forward, especially with Corey Coleman drawing coverage downfield. Isaiah Crowell was outmatched in this game, though this is hardly surprising. Things look bleak for Crowell going forward, as his rest of season schedule is littered with top-tier run defenses.
WR: Marqise Lee didn’t have a great game, though this should be his floor as long as he continues to receive 9+ targets weekly. Dede Westbrook looked promising in limited snaps. It’s still too early to start him in week 12, but he needs to be owned and watched carefully. Corey Coleman returned from a lengthy absence with a vengeance, throwing down 80 yards against the league’s best secondary. It’s encouraging that even on a day where Deshone Kizer looked like the brown water that has pooled around the subway tracks, Coleman still produced like a WR1. Things should get very interesting very quickly when
2013 2017 fantasy league-winner Josh Gordon returns.
Ravens vs. Packers
QB: With Baltimore’s defense pitching its third shutout of the year, Joe Flacco put on his ‘game manager’ cape, and tried to not screw anything up. He succeeded wildly. Brett Hundley put on his ‘game manager’ cape when his team needed him to put on his ‘Aaron Rodgers’ cape. After his third interception. Alex Smith showed up in a puff of red smoke and asked Hundley to kindly return the cape.
RB: Even with Danny Woodhead back, Alex Collins led the team in carries (20) and targets (7!). Yowza. This is bell cow usage, and as long as he’s getting it, Collins is a valuable fantasy asset regardless of opponent. For his part, Woodhead doesn’t look like he’ll be involved on the ground, though his 6 targets were encouraging. He’s clearly supplanted Buck Allen, and should find fantasy relevance soon. Jamaal Williams succeeded under the weight of extreme volume which was all the more impressive given how badly his team was trailing all game. He’s not a special talent, but as long as Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones are out he should be a decent play.
WR: Mike Wallace had the only impressive play of the game, with his one-handed touchdown catch (his second in as many games). Still, his usage is too sporadic to be a reliable option weekly. Jeremy Maclin came out of the bye looking unimpressive. This is disappointing since he looked to be rounding into form coming into that bye. Davante Adams is the only Packer’s receiver worth a damn as long as Hundley is under center. Jordy Nelson is droppable in any league where one’s fantasy name doesn’t depend on owning him (looking at you, Full Nelson’s).
Saints vs. Redskins
QB: For the first time in his career, Drew Brees has both a dominant defense and a dominant run game. It’s killing his fantasy production. Brees did have two touchdowns this week, but both came in the final three minutes of the game as the Saints were in a rare catch-up spot. After a brief repose from greatness, Kirk Cousins is back to kicking butt.
RB: Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are the #1 and #2 fantasy backs per game over the last four weeks, and both look to be fully on track to finish the year at top-3 options. Unreal. With Rob Kelley and now Chris Thompson on IR, Samaje Perine looks to be in line for a very healthy workload. While Perine looked awful earlier in the year, he was a new man in this game, routinely hitting the hole and chunking yardage. He now appears to have has the magic fantasy combo of talent + opportunity.
WR: Coming into this week, Michael Thomas was second to only Keenan Allen in positive touchdown regression potential. Good things are coming, Thomas owners– talent and usage demand it. Ted Ginn Sr. continues to represent a 50/50 chance for a decent fantasy day on any given week. Josh Doctson is inching closer to a breakout, especially with Terelle Pryor and Thompson going on IR this week. Jamison Crowder has established a very respectable yardage based floor over the past three weeks. He could be a late-season breakout candidate if he can start to find the end-zone.
TE: Coby Fleener had a decent game, yes, but remember, he’s hit 0.00 fantasy points (or fewer!) in three games this season. His floor is a flooded basement. Like Crowder, Vernon Davis has proved to be a high-floor player based on yardage. He is an iron-clad guarantee to score against the Giants in week 12.
Bengals vs. Broncos
QB: Andy Dalton had an impressive start against an increasingly average Denver secondary. He’s proved himself to be the kind of guy who is startable in good matchups. Brock Osweiler was his normal putrid self, though he certainly wasn’t helped by several egregious drops by his receiving corps. Either way, it’s Paxton Lynch time going forward.
RB: Joe Mixon received 20 carries for the first time in his career, but did little with them. He has not eclipsed 50 yards on the ground since week 5 and is the kind of guy who will disappoint if he doesn’t score. Devontae Booker out-snapped and out-carried C.J. Anderson for the first time this season. Ironically, it was Anderson who notched the lone rushing touchdown (his first since week 2). There are rumors of an offensive shakeup, and Denver has fired its offensive coordinator, so things could change, but for the moment it looks like Booker may be the back to own in Denver (though to be clear he did not look significantly better than Anderson in this game).
WR: Even against tough coverage, the Bengals found a way to get A.J. Green a score. Demaryius Thomas led the team in targets and notched a score, though his stock is trending downward amidst rumors the team was trying to shop him at the trade deadline and the fact that Paxton Lynch has heavily favored Emmanuel Sanders in his two starts.
TE: Tyler Kroft had a quiet day, but he did manage to catch a 1-yard touchdown where he was wide open.
Falcons vs. Seahawks
QB: This game may be more of an indictment of Seattle’s injury-ridden secondary and less proof that Matt Ryan has any chance of being a top-tier quarterback this year. Atlanta’s receivers were getting open at will. With 86 yards on the ground and a rushing score, Russell Wilson was the RB#6 this week. Unreal. It’s clear that Seattle’s recently gelded defense is going to put Wilson in the midst of a lot of shootouts for the rest of the season. He’s the unquestioned QB1 for the rest of the year, and it’s not particularly close.
RB: With Devonta Freeman out, Tevin Coleman predictably got an uptick in usage and was able to turn in a solid day against a very respectable run defense. With Freeman almost certain to return next week, he’ll go back to being just a guy. With Thomas Rawls a surprise inactive, and Eddie Lacy clearly playing hurt, newly elevated practice squad member Mike Davis looked good. As is tradition in the Seattle backfield, Davis exited early with a groin injury. In his absence, J.D. McKissic racked up a half-dozen carries and some receptions. McKissic looked good enough, but he’ll need volume in order to thrive, and this backfield is crowded.
WR: Another week, another end-zone target uncaught for Julio Jones. Coming into this game, Jones had 1 catch on 10 end-zone targets. Positive regression demands that he score soon. Mohomed Sanu didn’t do much, though he did salvage his day with a touchdown (as he does most weeks). Sanu will score more weeks than not, given Jones’ red zone phobia. As Wilson heats up, he’ll be bringing Doug Baldwin along with him. Paul Richardson has edged out Tyler Lockett as the third passing option on the team, though Lockett is probably more valuable in teams that score kick returns.
TE: Austin Hooper stayed back to block for most of this game. While he had been trending up leading to this game, he’ll really only be a good play should Sanu miss more time. Jimmy Graham has now scored 7 touchdowns in the past 6 games and has been the TE#1 overall in fantasy during that time. Graham is Wilson’s first look in the red zone, and even when he lets touchdown throws go through his hands (as he did at least once this week), he’s bound to catch a TD every week with the targets he’s getting.