Week 11 around the NFL saw a mixture of awful performances and fantastic performances in fantasy football. Meanwhile, some backfield conundrums were solved, while others became even more confusing than before. Of course, breaking down more than just the box scores can help unlock a lot more to help you understand roles, usage and situations for players across the league.
Tennessee Titans 30, Baltimore Ravens 24
Rookie J.K. Dobbins finally separated himself from the Baltimore backfield on Sunday afternoon, logging a season-high 63% of the snaps. He carried the football 15 times, while Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram combined to carry the ball just five times. Dobbins out-touched the duo 17-5 and continuously ripped off far more positive plays. For the season, Dobbins is averaging 3.18 yards after contact per attempt, while the Baltimore offensive line has done a good job of run-blocking, as the rookie is also averaging 3.4 yards before first contact, the fifth-highest rate among all running backs. It appears the Ravens are committing to Dobbins as their lead back, but we might have to wait a week to see if Week 11 was a sign of things to come. Both Dobbins and Ingram tested positive for COVID-19 and are out for Thursday’s game against the Steelers.
Jonnu Smith found the end zone for the third consecutive game Sunday, as the Titans continue to utilize him in the red zone. During that three-game stretch, Smith has six red-zone targets, two end-zone looks and one carry from inside the 5-yard line. The touchdowns are saving him, as Smith still isn’t running an insane number of routes. On Sunday, he ran 23 routes to Anthony Firker’s 18, while the latter has the same number of targets as Smith over the last three weeks.
It is somehow getting worse for Marquise Brown, who went without a catch in this game. Hollywood has been held under four receptions in four straight games as he and Lamar Jackson continue to struggle to connect deep down the field. Of Brown’s 20 deep targets over the course of the season, just five have been deemed catchable. Since Week 9, Willie Snead has out-targeted Brown 18-14 and while it may pain many to acknowledge it, Hollywood can be dropped in shallower formats.
Cleveland Browns 22, Philadelphia Eagles 17
It was pretty interesting to see Khadarel Hodge lead the Browns offensive skill players in snaps, logging 72% of them. He was also the lone receiver on the field in one receiver sets, which Cleveland is running over 20% of the time over the last two weeks. He was also targeted five times Sunday and could be worth a look in much deeper PPR leagues where you might need receiver help.
Meanwhile, Kareem Hunt played 54% of the snaps, while Nick Chubb was at 45%. Chubb, however, did carry the ball 20 times compared to 13 totes for Hunt. The red-zone usage might scare some people, as Hunt handled four carries from inside the 5-yard line Sunday, while Chubb failed to see a single carry from that area of the field. There was an instance where Hunt saw three straight carries from the 2-yard line while Chubb was on the sideline. However, it is worth noting that during that time, Chubb lost a contact, which kept him off the field. Hunt gets plenty of short-yardage work in this offense, but Sunday’s usage is a bit misleading.
Miles Sanders still logged 60% of the snaps and handled 19 of the 27 running back touches for Philadelphia. However, it was the second straight week where the Eagles abandoned the run. Sanders had 14 carries in the first half but only carried the ball twice in the second half.
Houston Texans 27, New England Patriots 20
Duke Johnson once again operated as the lead back for the Texans, logging 77% of the snaps and handling 13 of the 18 running back touches. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to much production, as Johnson recorded just 35 scrimmage yards on those touches. Over the last two weeks, Johnson ranks 28th among running backs in rushing yards, while averaging an ugly 2.8 yards per carry during that stretch. He isn’t making anyone miss, averaging 2.0 yards after contact per attempt (38th), while avoiding just three tackles during his two starts. The running scheme in Houston lacks creativity, while the offensive line isn’t run-blocking well, as Duke is also averaging just 1.4 yards before contact per attempt. He should once again see 15 touches in a great Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Lions, but expectations should be tempered.
It looked like it might be a huge game for Damien Harris, who rushed for 25 yards and a touchdown on New England’s opening drive. However, the Patriots fell behind, which is a death sentence for Harris’ fantasy value, leading to just a 38% snap rate. James White logged 39 snaps, however, his most in a game since Week 4. If the Patriots are chasing points, White will benefit, especially with Rex Burkhead suffering a knee injury. The problem I have is that the Patriots are a good bad team, which makes it tough to project when they will be playing from behind.
Keep an eye on both Jordan Akins and Keke Coutee for the Texans. Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills left this game with injuries, and while Stills’ injury appears to be minor, Cobb is expected to miss time with a foot injury. That is impactful, as Coutee ended up playing a season-high in snaps, while seeing four targets. He caught two of them for 10 yards and a touchdown. Coutee assumed the slot role once Cobb left, lining up there nearly 77% of the time. Akins, meanwhile, has been the top tight end for the Texans whenever healthy and that was the case again on Sunday. He saw 16.2% of the targets and also plays on the inside a bit, lining up in the slot over 45% of the time. Cobb’s absence could really help Akins.
After seeing at least a 40% target share in three straight games, Jakobi Meyers fell down to a 7.8% mark in this game. Damiere Byrd was the focal point, seeing seven targets, catching six of them for 132 yards and a touchdown. Meyers should still be looked at as the top receiver from this team for fantasy and is still among the league-leaders in yards per route run (2.46).
Coutee saw two end-zone targets in this game, which is probably more of an outlier than a sign of things to come, but it just shows he’ll be involved with Cobb out, especially since Bill O’Brien (who often didn’t play Coutee) out of the picture.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 3
This game was pretty simple, no?
The Pittsburgh passing game once again thrived, as we continue to see the Steelers air the ball out. Despite leading comfortably in two straight games, Ben Roethlisberger has attempted 46 passes in both contests. The Steelers rank seventh in the NFL in neutral-script pass rate at 62.6% and if they continue to operate as a pass-first offense, it’ll be much easier to project targets for their pass-catchers. Of course, Diontae Johnson’s projection should be easy. If he doesn’t leave the game early with an injury, he’s getting double-digit targets because, well, he’s done that every week this season.
Washington Football Team 20, Cincinnati Bengals 9
While it wasn’t by much, Antonio Gibson finally led the Washington backfield in snaps, which isn’t shocking when you consider that they won the game. Gibson touched the ball 17 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, giving him three scores over the last two weeks. The rookie running back is really coming on as of late and is averaging just under 17 touches per game in wins this season.
The targets all look good for the Cincinnati pass-catchers, but we obviously have to address the fact that quarterback Joe Burrow is out for the rest of the season. Ryan Finley stepped in and picked up right where he left off in 2019 — playing awful. He completed just three of 10 passes for 30 yards and an interception and in three starts last season, Finley failed to reach 200 passing yards in a single game. Meanwhile, just over 58% of his passes were deemed catchable, meaning all the Bengals receivers need to be downgraded in fantasy.
Gibson saw two carries from inside the 5-yard line in this game, converting one of them into a touchdown. Since Week 8, only Dalvin Cook and Josh Jacobs have more such carries than Gibson, who is quickly emerging into a low-end RB1 in fantasy football.
Carolina Panthers 20, Detroit Lions 0
This game was pretty gross. The Panthers dominated against a banged-up Lions offense that was missing D'Andre Swift, Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola. With Swift out with a concussion, Kerryon Johnson logged 39 of the 56 offensive snaps, though that was mainly due to the Lions being down the entire game. Detroit plays again Thursday against a Texans run defense that is surrendering 1.3 rushing touchdowns per game (25th), while 38.6% of the yardage allowed by Houston has come via the ground, the second-highest rate in football. If Swift can’t return, Adrian Peterson wouldn’t be the worst flex play, assuming the Lions can remain competitive.
Meanwhile, it was nice to see D.J. Moore produce, especially with Phillip Walker under center. Outside of two bad red-zone turnovers, I thought Walker was impressive, especially on his 52-yard pass down the sidelines to Moore. The talented wideout hauled in seven of a team-high 11 targets for 127 yards, while adding a 21-yard carry. Carolina moved him around the formation more in this game, while he even lined up in the backfield a bit. Robby Anderson struggled a bit and has now been held under 65 yards in four straight games. He also hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1, and that score came off a 75-yard catch-and-run play, which is notable considering that you might need him to break a long play in order to find the end zone. Anderson only has three end zone targets all season long and since Week 5, he has just one end-zone look and five red-zone targets, trailing both Moore and Curtis Samuel. The latter is seeing more looks from that part of the field each week and without the consistent red-zone involvement, Anderson will need to rip off long plays, which hasn’t been the case this year because Matt Rhule and Joe Brady are using him way closer to the line of scrimmage than he was with the Jets. Anderson is averaging 6.5 yards before the catch per reception, which is way down from his mark of 11.3 in 2019.
New Orleans Saints 24, Atlanta Falcons 9
Taysom Hill was the story of this game. I thought he looked good for the most part, especially in the intermediate areas. He had some serious zip on the ball and did more than enough to help the Saints win, though their defense was also lights out. It was clear that Michael Thomas was his first read, as Thomas saw a season-high 12 targets, hauling in nine of them for 104 yards. I wonder if that was part of the Saints game plan during the week because it was so odd to see Alvin Kamara get just one target, despite a new quarterback being under center. Perhaps Kamara’s foot wasn’t 100%, too, as he played just 48% of the snaps, which is notable considering he’s normally around that 65% mark. Look for the Saints to get back to utilizing their best player. It can only help Hill.
The Falcons offense was miserable in this game. It didn’t help that Julio Jones aggravated his hamstring and only played around 35% of the snaps. If Julio can’t play, this honestly hurts everyone outside of Calvin Ridley. In three games where Julio was either out or limited, Ryan finished no better than the QB23 in fantasy. Meanwhile, Hayden Hurst has totaled three catches for eight yards and a touchdown in those three aforementioned games without Jones.
Denver Broncos 20, Miami Dolphins 13
Denver really found a spot to take advantage of against the Miami defense and it was the running game. Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay combined for 31 carries for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both going to Gordon. Both backs averaged over five yards per carry, as the right side of the Denver offensive line really set the tone. I still wouldn’t feel good about starting Gordon or Lindsay as anything more than a flex play, especially next week against a Saints run defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in three seasons.
For Miami, Tua Tagovailoa really struggled. He averaged 4.2 yards per attempt and was under pressure on a whopping 53.8% of his dropbacks. The Dolphins turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter, but Brian Flores stated after the game that Tua would start in Week 12 against the Jets. The only success Tua had was throwing to DeVante Parker, who is now averaging eight targets, 12 DraftKings points and 0.5 touchdowns per game over the last two games with Preston Williams on injured reserve.
Los Angeles Chargers 34, New York Jets 28
Once again, Kalen Ballage remained the lead back for the Chargers, logging 67% of the snaps and handling 23 of the 34 running back touches. That is now back-to-back 23-touch outings for Ballage, who is also heavily involved in the passing game, ranking fifth among all running backs in routes run over the last two weeks (50). Continue to use him as a mid-range RB2 until Austin Ekeler is ready to return.
There were reports the Jets were finally going to start using La'Mical Perine as their lead back. However, Frank Gore once again started the game and while Perine scored a touchdown on the opening drive, he suffered a high-ankle sprain that kept him out for the second half of this game. As a result, Gore logged nearly 60% of the snaps and touched the football 17 times, while scoring his first touchdown of the season.
With Joe Flacco under center, the Jets are attacking way more down the field. As a result, guys like Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims have legitimately been viable in fantasy. Perriman scored again on Sunday, while Mims led the team with eight targets and 71 receiving yards. 19.4% of Flacco’s pass attempts have gone 20 yards or more down the field this season, a top rate in the NFL, while just 8.4% of Darnold’s attempts have gone for at least 20 yards. Jamison Crowder is averaging around four fewer targets per game alongside Flacco, as the slot isn’t as much of a focal point for the veteran quarterback.
Indianapolis Colts 34, Green Bay Packers 31
The Colts are the storyline from this game.
Trying to project this Indianapolis backfield has been a headache for fantasy, and that continued Sunday. After a report that Nyheim Hines would get the hot hand and operate as the lead back, it was Jonathan Taylor who re-emerged as “the guy.” Taylor had 22 carries and four receptions, totaling 114 yards. He had a touchdown called back, as well as four or five other runs. This was the best Taylor has looked all season, as he finally showed some improvement in his ability to find the holes immediately and burst through them. Taylor played 46 snaps, Hines 29 and Jordan Wilkins just 9, so after this outing, I believe Taylor should be viewed as the lead back on the Colts. Of course, that could change the second he fumbles but this game should really help his confidence level going forward, while the upcoming schedule remains fantastic.
Meanwhile, Michael Pittman continued to prove he is the best receiver on this team. He caught all three of his targets for 66 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown. Pittman has been explosive whenever he gets the football. The problem is that Philip Rivers is really spreading the ball around, as 11 different Colts registered a target Sunday afternoon and it isn’t the first time we’ve seen double-digit Colts see a target.
Dallas Cowboys 31, Minnesota Vikings 28
Adam Thielen remains an absolute superstar. He hauled in eight-of-11 targets for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns, giving him a league-leading 11 touchdown catches. Thielen converted both of his end zone looks into scores and he still leads the NFL with 15 end-zone looks, seeing 22.4% of Minnesota’s looks from that area of the field, good for the highest rate among qualified pass-catchers.
For the Cowboys, it was very nice to see Ezekiel Elliott record his first 100-yard game of the season, while finding the end zone for the first time since Week 3. He carried the ball 21 times and while Tony Pollard is still getting a handful of touches per game, Elliott is still the lead back in this offense. And with Andy Dalton back under center, the offense will be much, much better.
Kansas City Chiefs 35, Las Vegas Raiders 31
I really don’t have much from this game. All of the good players in fantasy produced. The Chiefs backfield is always intriguing, and it was nice to see Clyde Edwards-Helaire play 40 snaps, while Le'Veon Bell and Darrel Williams combined for 40. CEH finally found the end zone (twice in fact) but he still won’t reach his full ceiling with the way the Chiefs are using him.
Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor is a very solid waiver wire target heading into Week 12. He caught six balls for 88 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night and was targeted a team-high nine times. Agholor is essentially being used how many expected first round pick Henry Ruggs to be used, while quarterback Derek Carr is playing really good football right now. Up next is a prime matchup with the Falcons beatable pass defense.
Los Angeles Rams 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
Both offenses aired it out and took advantage of some mismatches in this game, especially the Rams. Tampa Bay’s secondary could not handle Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who combined for 23 catches for 275 yards and a touchdown, while both recorded over 70 yards after the catch. Jared Goff attempted 51 passes in this game, and I have to say, it was a lot more fun watching this offense air it out, rather than run the ball at a 52% clip. Last week, we finally saw rookie Cam Akers get some run, playing 18 snaps. He was down to 12 snaps in this game but touched the ball six times on those snaps, including a touchdown reception. Darrell Henderson led the backfield with 33 snaps, while Malcolm Brown was right behind him with 27, however, he was pass-blocking a majority of the time.
The Buccaneers backfield is rather annoying, too. Ronald Jones torched the Panthers a week ago but struggled in this game, carrying the ball 10 times for 24 yards. He and Leonard Fournette both struggled with drops in the passing game and Fournette ended up out-snapping Jones 36-25, while really operating as the three-down back in the second half.