Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 11
(It’s Week 11 of the NFL season. This and every Sunday morning, we’ll wrap up the week in fantasy football content with our Study Session, a last-minute guide to our top advice of the week, featuring the highlights of that week’s analysis.)
The idea has been floated periodically for years now of the NFL season expanding. Go to 18 weeks and go to two byes per team, or go to 19 and make it an 18-game schedule, or whatever else. None of these ideas has ever gone very far, but they keep getting discussed.
It’s the first one that I find interesting, particularly doing what I do. Two byes sounds great for player safety (and of course that should be the priority) without costing teams any attendance money. But what would it mean for fantasy?
Right now, six-bye weeks are treated like fantasy disaster. This week, with a bunch of bad teams off, it’s not so bad, but when the six byes include multiple relevant teams, it can be awful. If every team gets two byes? Sure, you might expand the possible bye weeks, but you aren’t going to have byes in Weeks 1 or 2, or in Weeks 16-18. Thanksgiving week never has byes because of the holiday. So at most, you would have 12 weeks to fit in 64 byes. Simple math says that’s five-plus byes per week, and since we’d need an even number, there’d need to be more six-bye weeks than not. We’d almost certainly end up with at least some eight-bye weeks.
For fantasy? That’s be almost apocalyptic. Imagine how bad tight ends could get. Streaming would be just about erased in those weeks.
Does that make it not worthwhile? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we go to that schedule within a few years, and if so, fantasy will have to change. I think it will hasten the end of the tight end as a unique position, incorporating it into wide receivers where it belongs, and it would bring other unique challenges as well.
Right now, it’s moot, as it isn’t being realistically discussed. But I do see it pop up all the time, and it’s something to consider if people get beyond the “idea floating” stage.
And now for the Week 11 advice.
We’ve added live chats to our weekly repertoire of advice Maybe your questions were answered, or maybe you can just use this resource to find answers to questions you had but never got to ask. We hold four each week — Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tuesday’s through Saturday’s chat are linked below, and Sunday’s will be live two hours before gametime.
Rankings and start/sit
These are the big-ticket items. Our overall look at what we’re doing and how we make those decisions. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week. Wednesday, he publishes his top 150 for that week. Thursday, Scott Barrett attempts to solve some of the top start-or-sit questions. Tuesdays also feature Mike Castiglione and Walton Spurlin offering advice for the key streamers (QB and DST, respectively). And Friday is the big blowout, where Jeff Ratcliffe highlights all the key lessons of the week and prepares fantasy players for the weekend to come. If you only read one piece of fantasy advice a week, it’s that.
There’s no good blurb to pull from this, because the whole thing is gold. Just click. Trust me on this.
5. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL @ ATL (RB5) — After shredding one of the league’s best run defenses, Elliott gets to face one of the league’s worst run defenses.
6. David Johnson, ARI vs OAK (RB6) — It took half the season, but Johnson is finally showing why he was a top-five fantasy pick this year.
7. Michael Thomas, NO vs PHI (WR1) — Thomas is on fire and faces a banged-up Eagles secondary. Giddy up.
8. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG vs TB (WR2) — He’s coming off a two-score game and gets a matchup upgrade against the Bucs.
START Sammy Watkins in medium-sized leagues: This game has a 63.5-point over/under, which would make it one of only three games with an over/under of at least 60.0 since 2000. You’re going to want a piece of this game and if you’re not starting Watkins this week, I’m not sure when you would.
START Eli Manning in deep leagues: Over the past four weeks of the season, Manning ranks 16th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (18.2). In any other week he’d be a tough sell, but not this week against a borderline historically bad Tampa Bay pass defense.
SIT Philip Rivers in shallow leagues: The Chargers have been taking more of a run-heavy approach in recent weeks, ranking dead-last in passing plays per game (26.6) since Week 5. It’s hard to imagine Rivers will have to pass too much this week, as 7.0-point favorites.
SIT Ito Smith in medium-sized leagues: Over his past four games, Smith is averaging just 8.0 carries and 2.8 targets per game, with 0 opportunities inside the 10-yard line. Those numbers mean he’s not worthy of a starting spot in your lineup unless absolutely desperate, and especially not this week in such a tough matchup.
SLEEPER: Ricky Seals-Jones: Seals-Jones set a season-high in routes run (36) in Week 8 and then re-set his season-high with 37 routes run in Week 10. Arizona’s decision to move on from Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator opened things up in this offense, and Seals-Jones is one of the primary beneficiaries.
SLEEPER: Adrian Peterson: The gamescript-dependent Peterson could be in for a rocky Sunday as Washington is a 3-point underdog in a game with a low over/under (just 42.5 points). The Texans, his Week 11 opponent, have also given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points per touch to opposing running backs.
ADD Josh Reynolds in shallow leagues: Cooper Kupp‘s season-ending injury opens the door for Reynolds to play a full-time role. He’s this week’s top pickup.
ADD Malcolm Brown in medium-sized leagues: He’s arguably the league’s top handcuff. Brown could also have value at the end of the season if the Rams decide to sit their starters.
ADD Josh Rosen in deep leagues: Rosen is in play as a deep league streamer this week against a shaky Oakland secondary that allowed a breakout game to Nick Mullens just two weeks ago.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: His bottom-line fantasy stats won’t wow anyone, but over his last four games, Prescott owns a 101.2 passer rating and is averaging 32 pass attempts, up about four attempts from his average over the first five games. Somewhat quietly, Prescott has also recorded a rushing touchdown in three of the last four games to help fantasy owners.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers DST has been producing top-10 fantasy numbers over the last three weeks, excelling in all facets of the game. In their Week 10 victory over the Panthers, the Steelers put up five sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception return for a touchdown.
You come to use for more than the surface material. Our writers go deeper with thoughts on situations down the road and looking deeper into each week’s games.
Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons: Hooper is a top-10 fantasy tight end this season, so it’s not totally fair to label him a sleeper. However, many fantasy owners expected him to make a leap in each of the last two seasons, and his slow and steady improvements have allowed him to become underrated.
Bengals at Ravens: The Bengals are a mess. The 43 plays they puttered to on Sunday was their third-lowest snap total in over 20 years. They’re averaging 55.2 plays per game since Week 4, which is even worse than their league-low mark from last year (57.9). No team has fewer snaps during the last two seasons.
Golden Tate, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: The week’s biggest faller in PPR leagues was Golden Tate. Tate was acquired by the Philadelphia Eagles at the trade deadline, and he had two weeks to prep for the team’s Week 10 matchup against the Cowboys. However, he played just 18 snaps (29%), and while that number is sure to rise in the coming weeks, it wasn’t the start we were hoping for.
Minnesota Vikings: The only below-freezing kickoff comes on Sunday night when the Vikings play the Bears in Chicago. Soldier Field is also forecasted to have winds pushing 10 miles per hour. Kirk Cousins has experience playing in cold weather from his years as a starter in Washington, but he’s only had a pair of starts below 30 degrees and failed to throw a touchdown in either of them.
Jaylen Samuels trending UP: Although we don’t have much a sample size to go on for rookie Samuels, all 13 of his touches this season have come over the last three games. More importantly, Le’Veon Bell no longer looms as a roadblock to touches, although James Conner (concussion) returned to full practice on Wednesday.
Isaiah Crowell trending DOWN: Since his historic 219-yard rushing outburst against Indianapolis in Week 6, Crowell has averaged just 2.8 yards on 57 carries. He’s failed to crack 50 rushing yards in each of the last five games and has forced a missed tackle on only 10.5% of his carries in that span.
First things first: We’ve introduced a new DFS piece, and it’s a doozy. Scott Barrett’s guide to all things DFS hits Week 11 from every DFS angle, taking you through the process of an expert as he prepares for the weekend. It’s a home run.
We hit weekly DFS from all angles — bargains, stacks, fades, locks. We also look at the best ways to build a DFS lineup on DraftKings (tournament or cash game) and FanDuel (tournament or cash game). And Scott Barrett offers up his favorite tournament plays of the week on both primary sites.
Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions: The Lions did something interesting with Riddick last week when they deployed him in the slot as he took the place of Golden Tate. With Marvin Jones likely to miss this game, Riddick will be used more in the slot and could become a bigger part of the game plan in the passing game.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants: The 2017 first-round draft pick hasn’t exactly lived up to his athletic promise, but his lack of production in year two has also kept his price tag reasonably low just in time for a matchup against a Tampa Bay pass defense that might be the NFL’s worst.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: In four home games this year, Brees is completing 80% of his passes while averaging 347 passing yards and three touchdowns per game — with no interceptions. And this week he gets an Eagles defense that ranks bottom-10 in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks as an 8.5-point home favorite in a game with a total over/under of 56.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions: With Golden Tate no longer in town and Marvin Jones ruled out for Week 11, Golladay is going to be force-fed targets, and you’d be foolish not to play him in this situation at this price point.
Matt Ryan, QB; Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan has scored 28 fantasy points or more in four of five home games this season while scoring fewer than 15 in two of four road games. When he’s at home, you have to get exposure to him in your tournament stacks. This week, the matchup against a Cowboys pass defense that has allowed the 16th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks isn’t perfect, but it’s not enough to sway you. While Julio Jones will be getting the defensive attention after two straight weeks scoring a touchdown, Ridley draws one of the top-10 WR/CB matchups on the slate (per our chart) against Chidobe Awuzie.