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The Primer: Week 11 Edition (2021 Fantasy Football)

Nov 18, 2021
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The two student unions at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, serve spectacular ice cream. This stuff goes far beyond regular ice cream. It’s heaven in a cone. They don’t call Wisconsin the Dairy State for nothing, you know?

The ice cream comes from the Babcock Dairy Store, named for a university researcher who in the late 1800s invented a butterfat content milk test and also teamed with a university bacteriologist to develop a cold-curing process for ripening cheese. Fattening food has been serious business in my home state for a long, long time.

The Babcock Dairy Store has some funky ice cream flavors, and one of my favorites is orange custard chocolate chip. Crazy combination, right? Orange and chocolate? My wife was aghast the first time I ordered it. But it was delicious. Somehow the combination just works.

I’m not too choosy when it comes to ice cream flavors. Mocha rum fudge with salted caramel? You betcha. Cinnamon streusel swirl? Bring it. Raspberry eggnog? Why not?

Just go easy on the nuts, and don’t give me anything with pistachio. I hate pistachio.

The less elaborate ice cream flavors are great, too: strawberry, chocolate, vanilla. One of my favorite desserts is a simple dish of vanilla ice cream with a cup of black coffee. You get perfect contrasts: hot and cold, bitter and sweet.

The fantasy football season had me thinking about ice cream flavors the other day. A Twitter follower was seeking advice on a trade, and he had to lay out the parameters of the league so that I’d have a frame of reference for player values. I won’t bog you down with the details, but this was a wild league with a crazy scoring system and some complicated rules for year-to-year player retention.

But that’s the thing – the wild leagues just don’t seem that wild these days. Fantasy football has branched out in so many directions and taken so many different forms that nothing seems weird anymore.

When I first got into fantasy football as a young lad way back in the early 1990s, a lot of leagues awarded points only for touchdowns, field goals and extra points, perhaps with bonuses for 100-yard rushers/receivers and 300-yard passers. It was plain vanilla fantasy football, but it tasted pretty good at the time. We didn’t know what we were missing because the amazing flavors hadn’t been invented yet.

Yardage-based scoring became a thing soon after, and then someone hatched the point-per-reception idea. Suddenly there was some variety. Standard, PPR or half-point PPR? Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?

But that was just the beginning.

Look at what ingenuity has wrought with our silly little hobby: IDP leagues, keeper leagues, dynasty leagues, daily fantasy, superflex leagues, best-ball leagues, devy leagues, guillotine leagues. They’re all wonderful flavors of fantasy.

Well, except keeper leagues. Keeper leagues are terrible, and leagues should either draft from scratch every year or go full-on dynasty. Keeper leagues are the pistachio of fantasy football.

And then there are the scoring systems. The possibilities are infinite. I love seeing what Scott Fish of SafeLeagues cooks up every year for his annual Scott Fish Bowl. Scott is a mad scientist who likes to play with different scoring systems and has devised some innovative twists over the years. His current system for Scott Fish Bowl QB scoring, which includes a half point for every completion and the loss of a point for every incompletion and sack, is so weirdly perfect that I’m thinking of installing it in one of my home leagues.

It’s funny to look back on those early days of fantasy football. I’d love to watch someone explain a guillotine league to 1993 me. It would be like someone serving up free samples of mocha rum fudge with salted caramel in a 1940s grocery store.

There are undoubtedly some other great fantasy football innovations just around the corner, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

– Pat Fitzmaurice

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Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears

Date/Time: Sunday November 21, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Ravens -5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 45 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Ravens 25, Bears 20

Quarterback

Lamar Jackson: It was strange to see Jackson and the Baltimore offense look so feeble against the Dolphins in Week 10. Jackson still managed to finish as the QB10 in fantasy scoring for the week, throwing for 238 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and adding 39 rushing yards (his second-lowest rushing total of the season). But the Ravens’ passing game was grounded for most of the night, save for some late garbage-time production. There probably isn’t much cause for concern. Other than Jackson being on pace for a career-high in interceptions, having thrown eight picks in nine games, all of the other signs are positive. He’s averaging a career-high 7.9 yards per pass attempt, and his 271.9 passing yards per game this season exceed his previous career-high by 63.4 yards per game. He’s also on pace for a career-high 1,207 rushing yards. Jackson ranks as the QB1 this week against a Bears defense that ranks 28th in opponent passer rating. His $8,000 price on DraftKings offers the right pot odds to hope for a ceiling game out of Lamar and save money at one of the other positions.

Justin Fields: Fields went into the Bears’ Week 10 bye on a roll, having finished QB5 in fantasy scoring in Week 8 and QB10 in Week 9 – his first two finishes in QB1 range all season. Fields had his two best rushing days of the season in his last two games, with 10-103-1 in Week 8 and 8-45-0 in Week 9. That’s the key to his fantasy value, since Fields’ passing numbers have been anemic, save for a 291-yard game in Week 9. The rookie has thrown just four TD passes in seven starts. Although things are trending up for Fields, he’s still only a midrange QB2 this week against a middling Ravens pass defense.

Running Backs

Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray: The Ravens released Le’Veon Bell this week, which might be a sign that Murray is ready to return from an ankle injury that’s kept him out of action since Week 6. Even if he plays, however, Murray probably isn’t usable in fantasy this week. Freeman has become the main man in the Ravens’ backfield, with 23-114-0 rushing and 5-27-1 receiving over the last two weeks. Freeman has looked quicker and more decisive than any of Baltimore’s RBs. His ceiling isn’t particularly high, but with 28 touches over the last two weeks, Freeman offers a sturdy floor as a high-end RB3.

David Montgomery: There was speculation among the fantasy football Twitterati that Khalil Herbert might have earned regular weekly touches by filling in capably while David Montgomery was sidelined by a knee injury. But with Montgomery back in action last week for the first time since Week 4, he dominated snaps and touches, leaving Herbert in a strict backup role. Montgomery played 85% of the offensive snaps in Week 10 and had 13-63-0 rushing and 2-17-0 receiving. Herbert had just 4-17-0 rushing and no targets. We have to consider this Montgomery’s backfield again, making him a midrange RB2 this week against a solid Ravens’ run defense that’s giving up 88.2 rushing yards per game.

Wide Receivers

Marquise Brown: Brown has been declared out with a thigh injury after missing multiple practices this week.

Rashod Bateman: The first-round rookie from the University of Minnesota has looked every bit as good as advertised in his first four games. He hasn’t found the end zone yet, but Bateman is commanding 7.0 targets a game, and he’s averaging 4,7 receptions and 70.7 receiving yards over his last three games. Marquise Brown is out this week, leaving Bateman as the No. 1 receiver. He checks in at WR22 against a Bears defense giving up 26.5 fantasy points a game to wide receivers.

Sammy Watkins: Watkins is coming off a poor, mistake-laden Week 10 performance against the Dolphins. He’d be a fantasy afterthought if not for Marquise Brown’s thigh injury, which will sideline him for Week 11. Watkins is a low-end WR4 against a Bears defense that’s had trouble defending wide receivers.

Darnell Mooney: Mooney scored his second touchdown of the season in Week 9 before the Bears went on bye, but he’s been held under 65 receiving yards in five consecutive games. The Bears rank dead last in passing yardage and have 380 fewer passing yards than the 31st-ranked Saints, so it’s obviously risky to use a Chicago receiver for fantasy purposes, although Mooney should get a handful of extra targets with Allen Robinson doubtful with a hamstring injury. Mooney is a midrange WR3 this week against the Ravens.

Allen Robinson: Robinson is considered doubtful this week with a hamstring injury. He’s been ineffective this season even when healthy. Keep him out of your lineups this week

Tight Ends

Mark Andrews: Andrews continues to be a model of consistency. He’s finished as a top-20 fantasy tight end in eight consecutive games, and he’s the TE2 in fantasy scoring. Andrews has seen no fewer than five targets in any game this season, and he has five or more receptions in 7 of 9 games. Andrews is the TE4 this week against a Bears defense that’s giving up just 4.7 fantasy points a game to tight ends.

Cole Kmet: Kmet had a season-high six catches for 87 yards against the Steelers in Week 9 and emerges from a Week 10 bye to find a favorable Week 11 matchup against the Ravens, who are giving up 9.5 fantasy points per game to tight ends (although Baltimore did manage to shut out Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki in Week 10). Kmet has averaged 50.8 receiving yards over his last four games. He’s still looking for his first touchdown of the season, however. Kmet is a midrange TE2 for Week 11.

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Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Date/Time: Sunday November 21, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Packers -2
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 49.5 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Packers 25.75, Vikings 23.75

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers wasn’t especially sharp last week in his return from a one-week stay on the COVID-19 list, completing 23 of 37 passes for 292 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in a 17-0 win over Seattle. That game snapped a streak of seven straight games in which Rodgers had thrown multiple TD passes. A-Rod has a difficult matchup this week against a Vikings pass defense that ranks sixth in DVOA. Rodgers torched Minnesota for 655 passing yards and seven touchdowns in two games last season, but the Vikings’ defense was decimated by injuries in 2020. It’s been a much tougher unit this year, and it appears the Vikings may get CB Patrick Peterson back from a hamstring injury and S Harrison Smith back from the COVID-19 list this week. Rodgers is the QB8 this week.

Kirk Cousins: After being held under 200 passing yards in two consecutive games, Cousins threw for 294 yards and two TDs last week in a road win over the Chargers. It was a convincing performance against one of the better pass defenses in the league. Cousins gets another tough matchup this week against a Green Bay pass defense that over its last three games has flummoxed Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Kyler Murray, holding that formidable trio to 601 passing yards, 5.5 yards per pass attempt, one TD pass, and four interceptions. Cousins is a high-end QB2 this week and not an appealing DFS option.

Running Backs

A.J. Dillon: Aaron Jones is out with a sprained MCL, so Dillon is a good bet to get 20 or more touches this week. The only other running back on the Green Bay roster as of Wednesday was Patrick Taylor, a former undrafted free agent who got the first two carries of his NFL career last week against the Seahawks. Dillon had 21-66-2 rushing and 2-62-0 receiving vs. Seattle. He’s been flashing impressive power and agility all season, and he’s also been surprisingly smooth as a pass-catcher – a skill he didn’t get to display much during his college career at Boston College, where he had 21 receptions in 35 games. The Packers have been using Jones as their goal-line runner all season, and Dillon investors have no doubt been frustrated that their 247-pound back hasn’t been getting many of those chances. Dillon will get them while Jones is out, but it’s worth noting that he’s only gained 8 yards this season on 10 carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Dillon is the RB10 this week against an inconsistent Minnesota run defense that ranks 28th in DVOA.

Dalvin Cook: Cook has shouldered a substantial load for the Vikings over the last month, with 88-422-2 rushing and 8-39-0 receiving over his last four games. Expect more of the same this Sunday against a Packers defense that’s been better against the pass than the run. The Green Bay run defense ranks 24th in DVOA. Last season, Cook scored six touchdowns in two games against the Packers, rolling up 42-213-5 rushing and 3-61-1 receiving. He’s the RB2 this week and a rock-solid cash-game value at $8,200 on DraftKings.

Wide Receivers

Davante Adams: There haven’t been many Davante Adams slumps in recent years, but he’s been surprisingly quiet lately, with no 100-yard outings and just one touchdown over his last four games. In Week 11, Adams faces a Minnesota defense that he torched for 21-209-5 in two games last season. The Vikings may get Patrick Peterson back from a hamstring injury this week, but they don’t have a cornerback on the roster who can consistently handle Adams one on one. Adams is the WR2 this week and worth the $8,400 he’ll cost you on DraftKings.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling: MVS had a typical MVS stat line last week with 1-41-0 on two targets. You can’t count on the target volume, and you can’t count on Valdes-Scantling’s hands, but every so often he’ll hit a home run. He’s the WR61 this week.

Randall Cobb: Cobb has four TD catches this season, and he’s played a modest but consistent role in the Green Bay offense, with exactly three receptions in four straight games. But there’s just not enough target volume or splash-play potential here to make Cobb an attractive fantasy option. He falls outside the top 60 at receiver this week.

Justin Jefferson: A few days before Minnesota’s Week 10 game against the Chargers, Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said that Jefferson needed more targets. Kubiak meant business. Jefferson saw double-digit targets for the first time since Week 6 and turned 11 looks into 9-143-0. And it’s not just that Jefferson put up big numbers – he looked amazing doing it. His route running continues to get better and better, and he can perform impressive acrobatics at the catch point whenever it’s called for. The dude is a star. Although the Packers have been a tough matchup for opposing receivers of late, Jefferson is still a midrange WR1 this week.

Adam Thielen: Thielen had produced a touchdown in three consecutive games before hanging up a 5-65-0 stat line against the Chargers last week. Justin Jefferson out-targeted Thielen 11-7 last week, but Thielen has seen at least seven targets in each of his last four games. He’s a high-end WR3 this week against a tough Green Bay pass defense. Without a high yardage ceiling, Thielen isn’t worth $6,600 on DraftKings.

Tight Ends

Tyler Conklin: Conklin had scored only one touchdown this season going into Week 10. Oddly, he scored twice in a 27-20 win over the Chargers while finishing with three catches for 11 yards – his lowest yardage total of the season. Conklin is the TE15 in fantasy scoring, and he lands at TE17 in this week’s rankings.

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Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills

Date/Time: Sunday November 21, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Bills -7
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 50 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Bills 28.5, Colts 21.5

Quarterback

Carson Wentz: After throwing 14 TD passes over a six-game stretch, Wentz was held without a touchdown last week against the Jaguars. Now he has to travel to Buffalo to face a Bills defense that ranks No. 1 in both DVOA and opponent passer rating. Opponents have completed 57.9% of their passes against Buffalo, have averaged 5.7 yards per pass attempt, and have six TD passes and 15 interceptions. Wentz is the QB18 this week and unplayable in DFS.

Josh Allen: Not that there was ever much reason to worry about Allen, but he bounced back from a terrible game against the Jaguars in Week 9 to throw for a season-high 366 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets in Week 10. This week, he faces a Colts defense that’s been easier to throw on than to run on. Opponents have connected for a league-high 23 TD passes against Indianapolis this season, and the Colts’ pass defense ranks 23rd in DVOA. Allen leads all quarterbacks with 24.7 fantasy points per game. He’s the QB2 this week behind only Lamar Jackson. Allen is obviously a must-start in season-long leagues, but he’s a fade on DraftKings at an exorbitant price of $8,100.

Running Backs

Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines: Taylor has become the third player in NFL history to top 100 yards from scrimmage and score a touchdown in seven consecutive games, joining LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson. (Lydell Mitchell did it too, but over two seasons.) It will be a challenge for Taylor to keep that streak alive this week against a Bills defense that’s been terrific against the run and the pass alike. Derrick Henry is the only running back to have run for more than 100 yards against the Bills this season, with 20-143-3 in Week 6, and Antonio Gibson is the only other running back to have topped 100 yards from scrimmage against Buffalo (although a single TD catch accounted for 73 of Gibson’s 104 yards). During Taylor’s seven-game streak, he’s averaged 24.1 fantasy points per game. He checks in at RB3 this week. Taylor’s $8,300 DraftKings price tag is simply too high in light of the matchup.

Zack Moss, Devin Singletary: A value-killing time-share between Zack Moss and Devin Singletary became a three-headed hydra in Week 10, with Matt Breida jumping into the fray and scoring a pair of touchdowns. It wasn’t all garbage-time work for Breida in a 45-17 win over the Jets, either – he had three receptions in the first nine minutes of the game. Breida can’t be considered fantasy-viable just yet, but his involvement bodes ill for Breida and Singletary, neither of whom has topped 60 yards from scrimmage in any of Buffalo’s last four games. Moss and Singletary don’t have much appeal this week against a Colts run defense that’s giving up 14.3 fantasy points per game to running backs and has allowed a league-low four TD runs this season. They’re both back-end RB3s.

Wide Receivers

Michael Pittman: Wouldn’t it be nice if Pittman got target volume befitting a breakout star? Since Week 5, Pittman has averaged 6.7 targets a game. He’s the WR9 in fantasy points per game over that span thanks to remarkable efficiency. Pittman is averaging 11.3 yards per target over his last six games and has scored five touchdowns during that stretch. The crazy thing is that Pittman had a 15-target game in Week 8. In all of his other games since Week 5, he’s seen no more than seven targets. Start feeding this gentleman the ball, please. A tough matchup against the Bills makes Pittman just a midrange WR2 this week. His DraftKings price of $6,100 isn’t too high to take him out of consideration, though I don’t think he’s a top WR value.

T.Y. Hilton: After missing Week 9 with a concussion, Hilton returned against the Jaguars in Week 10 and had 1-5-0 on five targets. Hilton has played only three games this season, so it’s been hard to get a good read on his fantasy value. There were times in 2020 when he looked like something close to the peak T.Y. Hilton of 2013-2018. He had a 4-80-0 game against the Texans in Week 6, but that isn’t a lot to go on. With the Colts facing a smothering Bills defense, this probably isn’t the week to take a leap of faith and throw Hilton into your lineup.

Stefon Diggs: Diggs had his best statistical performance of the season against the Jets last week, taking advantage of single coverage against either Brandin Echols or Javelin Guidry and racking up 8-162-1 on 13 targets. Diggs has scored three touchdowns in his last four games. You’re playing him with confidence against a Colts defense that has allowed 26.5 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. He’s the WR3 this week and a potential cash-game cornerstone at $7,900 on DraftKings.

Emmanuel Sanders: Six weeks into the season, Sanders was the WR16 in half-point PPR scoring. Sanders’ stat lines in the three games since: 0-0-0, 4-65-0 and 2-27-0. Things are bound to be a little hit-or-miss for a receiver whose average depth of target is 14.4 yards. Sanders is a midrange WR3 this week against the Colts.

Cole Beasley: In the three Bills games leading up to Week 10, Beasley had piled up 25-231-1 on 33 targets. In Week 10, Beasley had just 2-15-0 on two targets. He played only nine snaps, possibly due to a rib injury. Beasley has a tricky matchup this week against Colts slot corner Kenny Moore, and it might be best to keep him on your bench until he’s healthier. He’s the WR40 this week.

Tight Ends

Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle: A four-game October stretch in which Alie-Cox scored four touchdowns briefly made him a thing, but he’s droppable now after going scoreless in his last three games. Alie-Cox hasn’t seen more than four targets in a game since Week 4, and if he’s not occasionally finding the end zone, he has no value. Doyle had 3-31-0 on five targets in Week 10 and has scored two touchdowns in his last three games, but he’s seen two or fewer targets in 7 of 10 games. He should still be considered a fantasy non-factor.

Dawson Knox: After missing two games with a broken hand, Knox was back in the lineup in Week 10 and had 1-17-0 on just one target. Josh Allen only attempted 28 passes in the Bills’ 45-17 win over the Jets, so the slow day for Knox isn’t particularly alarming. He’s the TE13 this week.

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