Well, the Bengals finally paid the price for not investing in their offensive line before drafting their franchise quarterback. Prayers up for Joe Burrow — I can’t wait to see him win Comeback Player of the Year! I just hope that he’ll have some better blockers by then.
Each Sunday, I’m here to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. I try to focus on the numbers, but I’ll also break down some of the significant injuries of the day as well. Without any further ado, I present the key storylines from Week 11.
And as always, check back on Monday mornings for storylines from the week’s late afternoon slate and Sunday Night Football.
Story #1: Taysom Hill started at quarterback and ran for two touchdowns.
Well, Hill vindicated Sean Payton for at least one week. The $21-million gadget player made his first start with Drew Brees on injured reserve, and he delivered for 233 passing yards, 51 rushing yards, and two rushing scores.
Taysom Hill turns on the jets 💨
His 2nd rushing TD of the game
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 22, 2020
Hill looked relatively accurate, as he completed 18 of his 23 passing attempts, but he also made his share of mistakes and took some unnecessary risks. I hope you were able to get Hill in at tight end this week, as he delivered more points than you could’ve hoped for from the thin position.
If Hill retains the starting job, his presence changes this offense dramatically. The Saints, no longer hindered by Drew Brees’ arm strength, should call some more aggressive plays that feature their guys downfield. Michael Thomas should return to his pace from last year, while Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith could be viable boom-or-bust options behind him.
Story #2: Derrick Henry exploded in the second half, ending the day with 133 yards and a score.
It was a tale of two halves for the NFL’s leader in rushing attempts. After the first, the star running back seemed on pace for a pedestrian performance.
Halftime. Ravens lead 14-10, but Titans get ball first to start 3rd quarter. Very chippy first half. Ravens did nice job on Derrick Henry who had 13 carries for 37 yards in the first half, but he'll keep coming.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) November 22, 2020
But then the tables turned. Baltimore, playing without star nose tackle Brandon Williams, just couldn’t keep up with Henry anymore. He finished with a final stat line of 28 attempts, 133 yards, and one game-winning score.
DERRICK HENRY GAME-WINNING TD 🚨
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 22, 2020
If you had any lingering questions about whether Henry was matchup-proof, you should have them no longer. He even beat up the Pittsburgh Steelers for 75 rushing yards and a score in October, and he’ll continue to manhandle the defenses he has left to face. The Titans will play the Colts (Week 12), Browns (Week 13), Jaguars (Week 14), Lions (Week 15), and Packers (Week 16), the last three of which feature bottom-six defenses against running backs.
Henry has a league-winning schedule. If your trade deadline hasn’t passed yet, go get him.
Stories #3-6: Injuries.
Football is a violent game, and unfortunately, that means we’ll lose players to injury each week. In order of severity, a few fantasy-relevant players went down in Week 11: Joe Burrow, Rex Burkhead, Randall Cobb, and Julio Jones.
#3: Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Football Team. Burrow thanked fans and said he’d be back next year, and we know that, at a minimum, he has torn his ACL. We’ll know for sure what happened once he gets an MRI.
Burrow’s injury creates a huge issue for the Bengals. He’s been an integral part of their pass-heavy offensive scheme, and Ryan Finley won’t be able to replicate his efficiency, especially behind Cincinnati’s porous offensive line.
Without Burrow, expect Tyler Boyd to be the best remaining Bengals receiver. Finley will is more likely to find him on dump-offs than to hit A.J. Green or Tee Higgins deep downfield. Running backs Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine should see more work as well, and if Joe Mixon ever returns, he’d be in line for additional usage too.
If that is indeed the case, Burkhead will cede his passing-game work to James White and his red-zone work to Damien Harris or Sony Michel. Michel’s return was about to throw this backfield into complete disarray, but Burkhead’s injury should make things more predictable. White isn’t a bad waiver pickup heading into New England’s Week 12 matchup with the Cardinals.
#5: Cobb and fellow receiver Kenny Stills were both ruled out of Sunday’s matchup against the Patriots. Cobb suffered a foot injury, while Stills hurt his leg, and their status is questionable at best for Houston’s Thanksgiving trip to Detroit.
While Cobb and Stills don’t have high-volume roles, their injuries (and the one to David Johnson) will force Deshaun Watson to concentrate on Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks — or to just run the ball himself. With Detroit’s struggles in the running game, I’m expecting a big performance from Watson in Week 12.
#6: Jones aggravated his hamstring injury and headed to the blue tent partway through Sunday’s contest against the Saints, but he returned to the game shortly afterward. He ended the day with just two catches for 39 yards.
Jones has struggled with his hamstring all season, and I don’t think he’ll fully recover from it before the end of the season. Keep track of his status in practice this week — he should be good to play next Sunday if he logs limited sessions, but if he doesn’t practice at all, don’t expect to have him at all — even if he gets a questionable tag.
Story #7: Michael Thomas returned to his WR1 form.
Thomas hadn’t posted WR1 numbers once this season. But then Taysom Hill took over this offense, and well, Thomas turned things around. He caught nine passes for 104 yards!
Unlike Brees, Hill is willing to attempt passes further downfield. Thomas had an average depth of target (aDOT) of just 8.9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage heading into this game, but he frequently got his quarterback’s attention from longer distances in Week 11.
Taysom finds Michael Thomas for 22 yards 🎯
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) November 22, 2020
This news is fantastic for Thomas’ managers. Sure, it was just the Falcons, but it would’ve been impossible to trust Thomas again this season if he didn’t have a game like this against Atlanta. If Hill keeps playing like he did today, Thomas should be able to finish as a WR1 through his last few games.
Story #8: Marquise Brown didn’t catch a pass.
Three Ravens got more attention from Jackson in the passing game. Mark Andrews and Willie Snead drew seven targets, and Dez Bryant got five. Brown’s underperformance was likely due to a combination of tight coverage from Malcolm Butler and his own poor play.
If Brown can’t post fantasy-relevant numbers — or any numbers at all — against one of the league’s worst defenses against receivers, you won’t be able to trust him in any lineups moving forward. He still has the athleticism to have the occasional big game, but he’s so unpredictable that you can feel safe sending him back to waivers.
Story #9: J.K. Dobbins looked like a workhorse for the Ravens.
The one bit of good news for Baltimore? Dobbins looked really good when playing in a featured role. The Ravens gave him a team-high 17 touches, and he turned them into 85 yards and a score.
Happy J.K. Dobbins takeover day! #Ravens Week 11 RB usage:
– J.K. Dobbins 17 touches, 15-70-1 rushing with 2-15-0 receiving on two targets
– Gus Edwards 3-6-0 rushing with zero targets
– Mark Ingram 2-2-0 rushing with zero targets
— Frank Stampfl (@Roto_Frank) November 22, 2020
That’s great for anyone who held onto Dobbins. The rookie has the Steelers up next, and he torched them for 122 scrimmage yards earlier this month. Assuming the Ravens continue to use him at this rate moving forward, he’ll be a high-upside RB2.
Behind Dobbins, both Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram can probably be returned to waivers at this point. Edwards could be worth holding onto as a high-value handcuff, but he may not get the committee work that gave him value as a stopgap earlier in the year.
Story #10: Carson Wentz threw two picks and fumbled once.
Wentz has been bad. Really, really bad. He hit a new low this week by tossing a pick-six behind the line of scrimmage.
Carson Wentz already in the giving spirit 🎁 🎄
— PFF (@PFF) November 22, 2020
I know it was raining, and I know he was hit on the play, but seriously? That’s inexcusable, man. Wentz now leads the league in interceptions with 14.
Fortunately, Wentz’s poor play is kind of a boon to the other weapons on this offense. They have to score more points to make up for his mistakes, much in the same way that Mike Evans and Chris Godwin had to make up for Jameis Winston last year. Look for Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor to have strong finishes to the year fantasy-wise, especially if Wentz keeps sticking them in bad situations.
Story #11: The Pittsburgh Steelers picked off Jake Luton four times.
The Steelers got the best of rookie quarterback Jake Luton this week. His first pick came on a tip drill pick by Minkah Fitzpatrick, but the rest of them were less excusable. Fitzpatrick and safety Terrell Edmunds both ended the day with a pair of interceptions.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 22, 2020
Luton’s struggles should ensure that Gardner Minshew returns to the starting job once healthy.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s defense continues to be one of the best fantasy options out there. Although they only got two sacks in this one, they were averaging four per game coming in, the most in the league.
They’ll have a tougher task against the Ravens next week, but they picked off Lamar Jackson twice and sacked him four times in their last game, so I would start them with confidence despite the matchup.
Story #12: P.J. Walker got the start and played well — but not in the red zone.
With Teddy Bridgewater hurt, the former XFL star was thrust into the starting role. He played pretty well, and he completed some impressive long-range throws.
XFL standout PJ Walker dropping dimes in his first start of the season 🎯
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 22, 2020
Unfortunately, Walker’s accuracy downfield didn’t translate into the red zone, as he threw a pair of inexplicable picks when at the goal line.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 22, 2020
Bridgewater almost played this week, and I would be surprised if the Panthers didn’t start him next Sunday against the Vikings. That said, they’ll have a bye in Week 13, so the Panthers could opt to give him some extra rest. I don’t expect them to do so, but if you’re counting on Bridgewater to start for you next week, I would keep a close eye on the Panthers’ practice reports.
Story #13: Jonathan Taylor totaled 114 scrimmage yards.
Taylor finally looked like an RB1, and it only took a matchup with one of the league’s worst rushing defenses for it to happen. He totaled 114 scrimmage yards on 22 carries and three catches, giving him a dominant share of the Colts’ workload.
colts backfield breakdown
*wilkins: 4.6 pic.twitter.com/gGl26lepVh
— the podfather (@Fantasy_Mansion) November 23, 2020
Taylor’s strong performance included a touchdown that was called back on a holding penalty. While it’s too early to determine whether Taylor has turned the corner, the Colts were willing to stick with him, and that bodes well for him moving forward.
He’ll get the Titans next, a team that he did pretty much nothing against in Week 10, but he’s at least re-entered the RB2/FLEX conversation with this kind of workload.
Story #14: Ezekiel Elliott finished as an RB1 again!
Elliott rewarded the managers who stuck with him — and those who traded for him — against the Vikings. He ran for 103 yards on 21 carries, and he added 11 yards and a touchdown through the air.
First time we’ve seen the Cowboys run this play to Ezekiel Elliott
Cowboys 6, Vikings 0 pic.twitter.com/xjAiXVxoZZ
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 22, 2020
Notably. Elliott scored on the perimeter this week, and not behind Dallas’ offensive line. That speaks to their regression in the trenches — their line hasn’t endured the losses of Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins particularly well. They’re still top-10 in adjusted line yards, but they’re not the elite unit they once were, and that limits Elliott’s reliability.
Elliott will remain in the low-end RB1 conversation, but he won’t have opponents as beatable as the Vikings each week. Dallas will play the Football Team (Week 12), Ravens (Week 13), Bengals (Week 14), 49ers (Week 15), and Eagles (Week 16) to end their fantasy season.
Story #15-6: Injuries II.
#15: Perine hurt his ankle against the Chargers and was ruled doubtful to return. He never made his way back into the game, but he totaled 33 yards and a score on the eight carries he got before leaving.
If Perine is forced to miss time, Frank Gore will have this backfield to himself. Again. The 37-year-old tank will be a solid low-upside play at RB3/FLEX; he doesn’t score many touchdowns anymore, but he would get enough touches to have a reliable floor.
#16: Cook was briefly sidelined in Week 11, but he returned to the game after speaking with medical personnel.
It’s never good to see your star RB1 miss snaps due to an injury, but Cook managers should be relieved that he came back and finished strong. He totaled 160 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 32 touches, and you should expect to have him in Week 12 against the Panthers. That said, it’ll be worth monitoring his practice participation just to be safe.
Story #17: Is Nelson Agholor the WR1 in Las Vegas?
Agholor is having an impressive season, but it was easy to chalk his strong play up to injuries elsewhere in the receiving corps — both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards have missed multiple weeks. That said, they’re both back now, and Agholor has continued to out-play them.
— NFL (@NFL) November 23, 2020
Agholor ended the day with a team-best nine targets, and he caught six of them for 88 yards and a score. That’s a lot more than any other receiver did — Ruggs ended up with one catch for five yards (and one 12-yard carry), Edwards caught one of his two targets for a single yard, and Hunter Renfrow nabbed both of his targets for 37 yards.
If he keeps this up, you should view Agholor as a boom-or-bust option at WR4/FLEX. He isn’t the first weapon in this passing game — that’s Darren Waller — but he’ll get enough volume in pass-heavy games to hit value.
Story #18: Tua Tagovailoa got benched for poor play.
The Dolphins struggled mightily against the Broncos. Before head coach Brian Flores pulled the rookie, Tagovailoa had completed 55% of his passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He had also taken six sacks for a loss of 33 yards.
#Dolphins HC Brian Flores says Tua Tagovailoa did not get hurt. He was benched for his performance and Fitzpatrick gave the team the best chance to win at that point and time. Tua is still the starter moving forward.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 23, 2020
Sunday marked Tagovailoa’s first loss as a starter. The Dolphins hadn’t needed him to do much under center before this week; he had finished two games with less than 100 yards passing already. The rookie is looking less and less like a viable fantasy weapon outside of 2QB leagues at this point, but he isn’t a bad bet to rebound against the Jets in Week 12.
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