Getting closer and closer to the start of the Fantasy Playoffs, we’ve already gotten near the end some trade deadline’s in a few leagues, and the start of Thanksgiving will arrive in a few upcoming days as well. We are headed towards a great Week 11 of the NFL season.
When looking at this slate I come to two conclusions. One is that there are a lot of games featuring high Vegas totals, or expected shootouts, and the other is a bunch of games featuring high-powered defenses against very good opposing defenses, or against high-powered offenses. Both of these signs point towards some great football, but also some defenses coming up a bit short. Simply put, expect for some surprises. Both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball on Sunday.
However, one man has not had as many ups and downs in his career as some would think, and is on his way to over 1,000 career receptions in a career I am proud to say I have witnessed.
Start of the Week: Steve Smith Sr.
I recently asked Razzball’s only Oakland Raiders fan, Stan Son, about Steve Smith’s fantasy outlook for Sunday.
Me – Hahahaha I beat you in the Razzball Writer’s League like 2 weeks ago and forgot to brag about it.
Stan – Hahahaha the Seahakws came into New England and made your defense look like your defense.
Me – (Silence) Okay, well can you talk to me about Steve Smith’s outlook for Week 11?
Stan – Sure. This could be a good week for Smith. Dallas allows the second-highest completion percentage to QBs. Slot receivers, in particular, have done damage against them. Smith operates 40% of the time from the slot.
Okay, so maybe some parts of that conversation aren’t true, but you get the point. Closing in on 1,000 career receptions, and making a point that he wants to achieve this goal this season, you better believe the Ravens will be doing all they can for him to achieve this goal and more, and it won’t be hard against a Dallas defense that is a funnel defense to say the least, ranking as the 25th best defense against the pass compared to their 6th-best grade against the run (all per Football Outsiders).
Start him with confidence.
Note: I will be more than happy to answer specific lineup questions below, but I won’t be selecting the “obvious” plays unless I don’t think they are so obvious. Regardless of a great matchup, you won’t see names like Tom Brady, David Johnson or Antonio Brown. Those are no-brainers. Fire ’em up with confidence.
Marcus Mariota (@ IND)
In direct contrast with how “Exotic Smashmouth” should be played, Mariota and the rest of the Tennessee offense is playing at a very high pace, and playing phenomenally at that as well. Mariota has been playing out of this world as well, and has put himself in the conversation as a weekly-QB1, even regardless of the matchup (although he will face DEN then @ KC in weeks 14 and 15). He enters this week against a Indianapolis defense that hasn’t looked good all year (ranks 30th in the NFL against the pass per Football Outisders), and looks pretty juicy entering Week 11 with the possibility of missing DE Kendall Langford and CB Patrick Robinson
Eli Manning (vs. CHI)
Right when doubts started to sink in about the efficiency of the Giants passing attack (and I had my doubts), Eli and Co. are playing very well together as of late, with Manning throwing 7 TD passes in the last two weeks against Philadelphia and Cincinnati (albeit with 4 INT’s in that span), and Odell looking like he’s having fun again. They enter Week 11 against a Bears team that I saw firsthand get beat by Jameis Winston to the tune of 312 yards and 2 TD’s, and on the year, is “middle-of-the-road” at best. It’s definitely something to monitor, however the Bears have been banged up, and OLB’s Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, and CB’s Tracy Porter and Bryce Callahan have all been limited in practice this week.
Andy Dalton (vs. BUF)
When you think of Andy Dalton as of late, you may think to yourself of a fair QB, but not one to rely on on a week-to-week basis. Over the past 5 weeks (not including their Week 9 bye), Dalton has thrown for 1,319 yards with 7 TD’s (not great) and only 2 INT’s, ending his fantasy days with a lot of 20-24 point outcomes. Looking as a nice streaming option for those that need it, he’ll face a Buffalo defense that last got beat on the road versus Russell Wilson to the tune of 282 yards and 2 TD’s, and on the year, ranks as Football Outsider’s 23rd-best defense versus the pass.
Carson Palmer (@ MIN)
If I had Palmer on my team, I would have cut him immediately following a 1 TD and 2 INT day at home against the 49ers. Yes, the 49ers. However, if you are a Palmer owner and have not cut him yet, now is not the time to start him against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense has played pretty well as a unit over these last few weeks after their red-hot start to the season, and on the year, have had 22 sacks with 10 INT’s. Although it looks like the Vikings will be without DT sharrif Floyd with his knee injury, this is still not a good spot to start Palmer against the 5th-best defense against the pass (per Football Outsiders).
Dak Prescott (vs. BAL)
I think our boy Dak Prescott here has had a pretty good life. There is no doubt in my mind that he was the star QB in his high school days, then he went to Mississippi State to play D1 college ball in an SEC atmosphere that has no shortage of females, and now he is a pretty big reason why the Dallas Cowboys are 8-1 and looking good to play football in the early months of 2017. Tell me we all don’t want to be Dak Prescott right now. However, you can’t help but wonder what he’ll look like against this Baltimore Ravens defense that will very well be the first tough defense Prescott has faced this year. He’s never been a fantasy beast, he’s been a pretty good game manager (a la Alex Smith, but a bit better), and I see no reason for a fantasy owner to give him the nod against a Ravens defense that ranks as the 6th best against the pass, according to Football Outsiders. Maybe you can give him a look in 2 QB leagues, especially if CB Jimmy Smith doesn’t go, but this is still the same old Cowboys offense, regardless of matchup: slow tempo with a bunch of looks to Zeke.
Jeremy Hill (vs. BUF)
Hill hasn’t been the most consistent back at all this year, and it’s quite unnerving. He’s had five games with under 50 yards, and he’s the prime definition of a TD-dependent back. However, there is reason to feel confident about his Week 11 matchup against Bills at home. First, let’s talk injuries. The Bills will likely be without DT’s Marcell Dareus and Corbin Bryant. Even with these guys in, the Bills rank as the 22nd-best defense against the run, per Football Outsiders. The opportunity is there for Hill, even on a short week.
Theo Riddick (vs. JAX)
Theo Riddick has been a nice surprise for us in 2016. Ever since Jahvid Best went down a few years ago, it has seemed like there has been uncertainty surrounding the Detroit backfield ever since. Now we have a little more clarity when Riddick is healthy, and that is a fair dose of runs sprinkled in with a very nice workload out of the backfield in the Lions’ passing game. This week he’ll get to face off against a Jaguars defense that not only ranks as the 28th-best unit against the run (per FO), but also gives up an average of 5 catches per game to backs. The Detroit offense should have no issues against this Jacksonville defense, and Riddick should have a big role when it comes to their gameplan Sunday.
I’m listing both here only because I think you can start both this week, although I would still make sure Lewis is a lock to play before you place him in your starting lineups. LeGarrette Blount has turned in the best season of his career thus far (although a bunch of his TD’s have come at the 1 yard line), and both him and Lewis should have no issues this week against a defense that ranks as the 31st-best defense against the run, per Football Outsiders, giving up an average of 160 yards and close to 1.5 TD’s per game. This game is perfect for both backs in terms of a projected game script. Lewis will get his production early in the game through the air, and once it turns into a (likely) blowout, Blount should pick up some work on the ground once the Pats have dictated the game and the tempo (to be honest, they might control the game and tempo from the first snap. In other words, I’m pretty confident of this game for the Patriots.).
Jay Ajayi (@ L.A.)
I cannot stress enough how important it is to sit Ajayi Sunday. I am being completely honest here; I do not see a realistic path for Ajayi to be productive at all, and I would bet my money he will not reach even 10 fantasy points. First, let’s talk matchups. Ajayi will square off Sunday against the Rams, who rank as Football Outsiders’ 8th-best defense against the run, only giving up 88 yards and 0.7 TD’s per game to the position. Combine that with the face that both LT Barnden Albert and C Mike Pouncey are both Doubtful (at the minimum) for Sunday afternoon, and you’re looking at a long afternoon for Ajayi. Remember his struggles at the beginning of the year? O-Line troubles were a direct factor of those issues, and now, he will be without two crucial elements in this Miami offensive line.
Ryan Mathews (@ SEA)
After coming off the high that was in beating the Patriots last Sunday on primetime TV, one can only expect for the Seahawks to be firing on all cylinders, especially their defense. The Seahawks are very stout against the run, only giving up close to 83 yards and 0.7 TD’s per game, ranking as Football Outsiders’ 2nd-best team against the run. Mathews has been up and down all season, and it’s shaping up to be another down as Philadelphia travels to CenturyLink.
Carlos Hyde (vs. NE)
As my father likes to put it, “The Patriots always have one ‘Oh sh*t’ game a year.” Well, that is a pretty good description of what happened last week to the New England defense. As anyone who follows the Patriots can tell you, their defense is never the strong point of a Patriots team, and once again, we find ourselves with a average-at-best defense, that continually gets bailed out by the offense. However, as putrid as the New England secondary and linebacking corps, the Patriots unit is pretty stellar against the run, giving up only 78 yards and 0.4 TD’s per game, ranking as the 4th-best defense against the run (compared to their pass ranking as 27th in the NFL). So we’ve established that the matchup is not favorable at all for Hyde, and the fact that the game script is not in his favor if (when) the Niners find themselves trailing by multi-scores and have to resort to throwing it more than they would want to.
Allen Robinson (@ DET)
Allen Robinson, and pretty much all of the Jacksonville Jaguars have been a huge disappointment in 2016, but that shouldn’t stop you from starting Robinson in a very favorable matchup against a Detroit defense that ranks as the absolute worst against the pass, giving up, on average, 14/173/1 per game. Although Robinson has not paid off his draft stock, he has still been a crucial part of this offense, and should have not issues against the Lions on Sunday in what is shaping up to be a solid outing from the wideout just when you need it.
Terrell Pryor (vs. PIT)
The production of Terrell Pryor in this 2016 season is most likely the one bright spot this season for the Cleveland Browns, and his success this season can definitely continue against this Pittsburgh defense that got beat pretty badly last Sunday by Prescott and Co. Giving up 14.4 receptions and 165.3 yards per game to the Wide Receiver position, ranking as Football Outsider’s 21st best team against the pass, Pryor should have no issues producing Sunday as Cleveland’s only hope for staying competitive in the ballgame.
Donte Moncrief (vs. TEN)
Moncrief returned back to normal after his semi-lengthy departure due to injury a few weeks ago, playing almost all of Indianapolis’ offensive snaps in the process. This week he’ll face a Tennessee defense that has looked well at times, but other times, looked pretty iffy, and on the year, has given up 170 yards and at least 1 TD to the WR position. As one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets, I am sold on a very nice game from Moncrief Sunday.
Stefon Diggs (vs. ARI)
Regardless of bad O-line play, Diggs has silenced his critics (me) after a span of 3 weeks in which in PPR formats, Diggs had not scored lower than 20 pointS. This week, however, he’ll see a lot of Patrick Peterson and the rest of the Cardinals defense that ranks as the 3rd best defensive units against the pass (per FO). With the continues O-Line struggles against a defense that will make you pay for it, I have no issues in wanting Diggs in my lineups this week.
Jordan Matthews (@ SEA)
Matthews hasn’t been absolutely terrible this year, but he draws a pretty terrible matchup against the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Not much too say here about this one.
Cameron Meredith (@ NYG)
Yes, his production will certainly skyrocket as it did earlier in the season when Alshon was hurt, but it is wise to wait a week or two before you place Meredith into your starting lineups. First off, Jay Cutler has not been been good in the past. Especially in what was supposed to be a good game for Cutler last week versus the Bucs, ended up being a poor outing from the QB. Now, they’ll face a Giants secondary that is actually a bit underrated, ranking as Footbal Outsiders’ 9th best team against the pass.
Ladarius Green (@ CLE)
Green will be getting his first start this year, and provides himself as a streaming option at the position for those that need him against a Browns defense that ranks dead last in the NFL in DVOA allowed to TE’s, and should be very productive in a Roethlisberger-led offense, like most TE’s are in their system.
Kyle Rudolph (vs. ARI)
Like I mentioned above with Diggs, this is the first time in a bit that the Vikings have faced a legitimate defensive threat, and Minnesota’s poor play on their O-Line might finally come back to bite them in the butt once Sunday’s game gets underway. Regardless, it’ll be a tough time for Rudolph against a defense that ranks 4th in the NFL in DVOA against the TE position.
Stephen Gostkowski (@ SF)
Like most kickers in the NFL this season, Gostkowski has had his fair share of struggles to start the year, but it’s looked like he’s turned it around recently, and get’s a great matchup against San Francisco, who give up close to 2 FG’s and 4 XP’s per game, and with a game total at 51.5, points should come at a premium for the Patriots Sunday.
Dan Bailey (vs. BAL)
Bailey has been very useful as the Cowboys as a whole have been a very efficient offense this year, but in a game with one of the lowest total O/U’s on the slate Sunday, and against a Baltimore defense that is unlike any that Prescott and Co. have faced, it’s best to look elsewhere.
Defense & Special Teams
Pittsburgh Steelers (@ CLE)
Ahh, yes, the ol’ “Start your D/ST against Cleveland”. On a per game basis, the Browns surrender 3 sacks, 0.4 fumble recoveries, and 1.1 INT’s. Also, Cleveland’s offensive line isn’t the greatest either, giving up 30 sacks on the year with a 7.5% adjusted sack rate (the average is 6.1%). The Steelers didn’t look so hot against Dallas last week, but Cleveland isn’t Dallas (good analysis Zach).
Houston Texans (@ OAK)
The Texans D/ST hasn’t been one of the worst in the league, but aside from the occasional nice matchup and being saved by a Will Fuller kick/punt return, they haven’t been great either. On the road against one of the better offenses in the NFL, I would look for another option.
Thanks for sticking around to the end for what is shaping up to be a great eleventh week of the NFL season. As always, if you agree or disagree with a player above, or have a general question or comment about your team, please do not hesitate to leave one below.
Best of luck, and I’ll talk to you guys next week as we try to get your team to 12-0 on the season.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @ohuhave12.