Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 11 (2020)
Note to self: Never, ever try to analyze Tampa Bay’s backfield hierarchy again.
Last week, I recommended starting Leonard Fournette in a toasty matchup against Carolina. Making matters worse, I also said to bench Ronald Jones II, who had received 23 combined carries in three games since Fournette returned to the lineup.
Even if you didn’t watch any football last Sunday, you know where this is going. Bruce Arians naturally gave Jones 23 handoffs, one of which went for a 98-yard touchdown. Fournette, on the other hand, settled for eight rushes in a 46-23 victory. Sometimes it feels like fantasy football was created as a cruel prank to drive us insane.
I’m now taking the coward’s way out and avoiding this situation altogether in Week 11’s Start/Sit analysis, and probably for the foreseeable future. Should you start Jones or Fournette? I don’t know. Maybe? Jones is ranked as a startable RB18 in the early Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) while Fournette lags behind in flex territory at RB26. The opposite was true last week, and it could easily revert that way in Week 12.
There’s no rhyme or reason to their backfield usage that any research can unearth. You’re essentially flipping a coin in hopes of the right one getting the desired workload that game.
Start: Aaron Rodgers (GB) at IND: QB7 ECR
This may seem like a given, but some managers and experts may talk themselves out of Rodgers because of the matchup. After all, only the Bears have ceded fewer fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks than the Colts, who just limited Ryan Tannehill to 147 passing yards and a touchdown in Week 10. This is likely a case of over-thinking things. Outside of Tannehill, Indianapolis has only faced one quarterback (Lamar Jackson) inside the top 15 of average fantasy points. Matthew Stafford and Joe Burrow each topped 300 passing yards against a team that opened 2020 against the Jaguars, Jets, Vikings, and Bears. Rodgers, meanwhile, has placed QB8 or higher in all but two games. He should fare just fine, even if that means settling for 20 fantasy points instead of 25.
Start: Jameis Winston (NO) vs. ATL: QB15 ECR
Against another opponent, I’d probably advocate patience to see how Winston looks spearheading the Saints’ offense. Yet he’s poised to make his first start of the season against the Falcons, who have surrendered an NFL-high 26.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Although New Orleans will try to rein in his gunslinging mentality, the former Tampa Bay quarterback averaged more fantasy points per contest (20.96) than Patrick Mahomes (20.86) last season. He’s at least the best bye-week replacement for Josh Allen.
Sit: Carson Wentz (PHI) at CLE: QB13 ECR
The Eagles are three-point underdogs in a game with the week’s second-lowest over-under line (45.5). Although rugged weather attributed to Cleveland’s last two low-scoring grinds, it’s hard to feel confident about starting Wentz following consecutive duds against the Cowboys and Giants. While he leads the NFL with a dozen interceptions, Wentz is near the bottom of just about every other significant category. Everyone would have cut him by now if not for his five rushing touchdowns, so Winston and Burrow (QB16) make better Week 11 options lower in the ECR.
Sit: Derek Carr (OAK) vs. KC: QB14 ECR
Carr’s early ECR paints him as a top Week 11 streamer under center. This bullishness likely stems from him amassing 347 passing yards and three touchdowns in a Week 5 upset over Kansas City. Temper expectations for the rematch. In four games since that masterful performance, Carr has averaged just 178.5 passing yards on 27 attempts. He hasn’t finished among the week’s top-20 fantasy passers since Week 7. While there’s often a perception that opposing quarterbacks will pile up yards to keep up with Kansas City’s high-octane offense, only seven squads have permitted fewer fantasy points per game to the position. Chasing Carr’s 2020 ceiling is risky after watching his floor dip in recent weeks.
Start: Mike Davis (CAR) vs. DET: RB11 ECR
Davis has not reached double-digit fantasy points (half-PPR) in any of his last four games despite only once sharing the field with Christian McCaffrey. He’s totaled just 197 yards without a single touchdown in those contests. You still have to play him this week. Each of Davis’ last five games played without McCaffrey have been against defenses ranked inside the top five of fantasy points allowed to running backs. His upcoming opponent, Detroit, places last, relinquishing 3.6 points more than the runner-up Texans at 30.6. The Lions have coughed up the most rushing touchdowns (16) and third-most rushing yards in addition to the second-most receiving yards to running backs. Look for Davis to bounce back in a major way.
Start: Damien Harris (NE) at HOU: RB19 ECR
Although he offers nothing as a pass-catcher, Harris has tallied 78.5 rushing yards per game, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and hitting triple digits in three of six contests. This should be another run-heavy day for New England, as Houston has hemorrhaged an NFL-high 167.4 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per run. Fresh off an impressive Sunday-night win over Baltimore, the Patriots should be able to stick to the ground game as road favorites. Look for Harris to hit 100 rushing yards for the third time this month. Having received four handoffs inside the 10 in his last three games, he could also ride positive touchdown regression to a veritable RB1 showcase.
Start: Kalen Ballage (LAC) vs. NYJ: RB26 ECR
Austin Ekeler teased the fantasy community with his eventual return, but there’s no word yet if that will come as soon as this Sunday. Assuming Ekeler is not back for his first game since injuring his hamstring in Week 4, Ballage could once again shoulder the Chargers’ backfield burden in an unorthodox Revenge Game. Ballage received just three carries in as many games before getting cut by the Jets, but he’s surprisingly fielded 33 handoffs in just two contests with the Chargers. With Justin Jackson also out of action, Ballage’s snap rate skyrocketed from 39% to 73% last Sunday. Only the Patriots and Ravens have run more than the Chargers, so expect Anthony Lynn to call Ballage’s number early and often as heavy home favorites against the 0-9 Jets.
Sit: Melvin Gordon III (DEN) vs. MIA: RB22 ECR
While sharing the backfield with Phillip Lindsay over the last four games, Gordon has garnered 200 yards and a touchdown on 51 touches. His snap rate has locked into the 55-60% range during that timeframe. One wild Thursday night against the Jets sans Lindsay accounts for Gordon’s only weekly finish as a top-15 rusher. While the Dolphins have relinquished 4.7 yards per carry, they’re riding a five-game winning streak into Denver. Gordon will share reps with Lindsay, and that’s before factoring in the possibility of Denver getting game-scripted out of the run game as it did at Las Vegas last weekend.
Sit: All Los Angeles Rams RBs at TB
Tampa Bay poses the NFL’s premier rushing defense, so this would be a tenuous matchup even if the Rams boasted one lead back. Now that they’ve got three, fantasy managers should practice well more than six feet of distance from this situation. The leading man for a moment, Darrell Henderson played just one-third of their snaps in Week 10’s win over Seattle. Despite the big-play potential, there’s not enough volume to trust him beyond a desperation flex play in this setting. Malcolm Brown punched in two touchdowns last Sunday, but he’s averaged just 7.9 carries per game since a busy Week 1. He’s an entirely touchdown-or-bust play. Fantasy managers should keep close tabs on Cam Akers, who touched the ball 10 times in each of his two games back from a rib injury. The rookie, however, is no more than a high-upside bench stash.
Sit: All Baltimore Ravens RBs vs. TEN
Mark Ingram II’s return from a high-ankle sprain once again made Baltimore’s backfield a fantasy disaster zone. In Sunday night’s loss to New England, Gus Edwards, Ingram, and J.K. Dobbins respectively recorded eight, seven, and six touches. Edwards led the way with 73 total yards because of a 31-yard reception. That explosive pass-catching play is highly unlikely to happen again; he entered the game with 76 receiving yards in 35 career games. Dobbins hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. BeyondWeek 8’s 121-yard breakthrough with Ingram sidelined, 61 yards represents his second-highest tally in a single game. Ingram, meanwhile, is averaging a paltry 39.9 yards per game after mustering just 29 in his return. As long as all three Baltimore backs are healthy, none are playable.
Start: Amari Cooper (DAL) at MIN: WR24 ECR
After missing two games prior to Dallas’ Week 10 bye, Andy Dalton cleared the concussion protocol and returned to practice Monday. If he’s ready to reclaim the starting job, fantasy managers should feel perfectly comfortable tossing Cooper back into the starting lineup. Back in Week 6, Cooper caught seven of Dalton’s 10 targets for 79 yards. He even managed 67 yards alongside Garrett Gilbert in Week 9, so roll with Cooper as long as there’s not another Ben DiNucci sighting.
Start: D.J. Chark Jr. (JAC) at PIT: WR27 ECR
Jake Luton will get his third start in place of Gardner Minshew II. That’s far from bad news for Chark, who secured 11 of 17 targets for 202 yards in the first two. Chark also received a combined 237 targeted air yards in those bouts, displaying his sky-high potential that remains despite a handful of duds to the 2019 breakout’s name alongside Minshew this season. While the Steelers certainly won’t strike anyone as a favorable matchup, they’ve permitted the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Start: Christian Kirk (ARI) at SEA: WR29 ECR
The first time he faced Seattle in Week 8, Kirk deposited two touchdowns for the second consecutive game. While he’s not served up consistent yardage, mustering just 37 on the Seahawks and 27 against the Bills in Week 10, he’s drawn 22 targets in the past three games. This remains an excellent matchup in the second go-around; Seattle has surrendered an NFL-worst 353.3 passing yards per contest. Bet on Kirk’s big-play propensity both downfield and inside the red zone.
Sit: Jerry Jeudy (DEN) vs. MIA: WR32 ECR
There’s certainly enough volume to ride with Jeudy, who has collected 266 yards on 32 targets in his last three games. He’s far from a lock, however, against a Dolphins defense that has contained DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen to 30 and 39 yards, respectively, in the past two weeks. The rookie has only hauled in 49.3% of his targets from Drew Lock, who has the lowest completion rate (55.0%) of any qualified quarterback. Jeudy may have settle for a subdued box score along the lines of four catches for 50 yards, especially if he regularly draws Xavien Howard in coverage.
Sit: Antonio Brown (TB) vs. LAR: WR36 ECR
Only the Bears have given up fewer fantasy points to fantasy receivers than the Rams, so the pie won’t be big enough to feed Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Brown. Deciphering which one draws the most attention from Tom Brady is admittedly still a bit of a guessing game. Yet Evans certainly has the legend’s eye in the red zone, and he also saw a season-high 11 targets last Sunday. Godwin has received one fewer target (12) than Brown (13) in their pair of games together, but the former has played far more snaps. Brown could make a major impact during the fantasy playoffs. This matchup, however, is the wrong spot to bet on a breakout.
Sit: Jarvis Landry (CLE) vs. PHI: WR38 ECR
So much for Landry taking on a bigger role without Odell Beckham Jr. Perhaps the gusting wind was the culprit, but Landry settled for just five targets against an exploitable Texans defense. Disappointment has been the norm for the 27-year-old this season. Usually a PPR machine, Landry hasn’t topped five catches in a single game. Averaging just 49.9 yards without a single touchdown, he’s only reached double-digit PPR points once. Any hope of him absorbing a larger role evaporated when Nick Chubb registered just one fewer carry (19) than Baker Mayfield pass attempts in his return.
Start: Hunter Henry (LAC) vs. NYJ: TE6 ECR
Despite hovering in the range of 23-39 receiving yards with no more than four catches in each of his last six games, Henry continues to get ranked comfortably as a top-1o option at tight end. Given that he’s TE11 on the season, perhaps this perception doesn’t fully match reality. Play him anyway. The experts are reasonably banking on better touchdown fortune, which finally came to fruition last Sunday. Henry has now played at least 94% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps and received a red-zone target in four of their last five games. Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and Evan Engram are the only tight ends with more targets or receptions than Henry, who faces the Jets’ 29th-ranked passing defense in Week 11. His returns have been underwhelming, but the same can be said for every tight end besides Kelce and Waller.
Start: Hayden Hurst (ATL) at NO: TE10 ECR
There’s a Triple-H joke to make somewhere with these Hunter Henry and Hayden Hurst recommendations. Hmm … Oh well. Even the most cerebral manager to play the game of fantasy football gets nothing from the tight end slot far too often. Hurst is no exception, offering just eight yards in Week 5. Since then, however, he has compiled 241 yards in four contests with a single-game low of 54. His evolution into a reliable weekly starter coincided with the return of Julio Jones. His other unproductive outing, a one-yard Week 3 saved by the fact he gained those inches inside the end zone, also occurred with Jones out of the lineup. This contradicts any potential fears of Jones and a returning Calvin Ridley eating too much into Hurst’s opportunities. Although he won’t win a matchup, the former first-round pick is ready to put his draft pedigree on display against a New Orleans defense pinned for the sixth-most fantasy points by opposing tight ends.
Sit: Dalton Schultz (DAL) at MIN: WR16 ECR
Since the Cowboys lost Dak Prescott, Schultz has submitted 158 receiving yards in four games. His last red-zone target came from Prescott in Week 4. Schultz is a passable play if digging through the waiver wire for a streamer, but there’s hardly any upside in this neutered Dallas offense.
Sit: Robert Tonyan (GB) at IND: TE17
Trust Rodgers and Davante Adams at Indianapolis, but not Tonyan. Since his three-touchdown outburst in Week 4 against Atlanta, the supposed “Baby Kittle” has tallied a combined 14 catches for 172 yards and no touchdowns in five games. He’s only finished as a top-12 tight end once when sharing the field with Adams, and the Colts have yet to grant an opposing tight end access to the end zone in 2020.
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