Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 11
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another. In this piece, we'll be utilizing our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (i.e., the expected points added on any given play), read more about it here.
Without further ado, let's get onto the best and worst plays of the week. We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Ben Roethlisberger (at Jacksonville) - After starting the season with five games of 19.2 fantasy points or fewer, and no more than 22.1 in any of his first seven, Big Ben has now posted totals of 25.0 and 29.3 in his last two outings. Luckily for Ben, things are looking good for Week 11. This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game where they have the third-highest implied total on the entire slate. The Jags are tied for the third-worst mark in adjusted pass defense, and they've ceded the third-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers -- and that's despite facing the seventh-fewest pass attempts. To date, Jacksonville has surrendered at least 24.2 fantasy points to a quarterback six times. They have only held one passer to fewer than 17.1 fantasy points. Ben is a mid-range QB1 for this one.
Cam Newton (at Houston) - On paper, it may look as if the Houston Texans aren't a pristine matchup for quarterbacks -- they've allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. However, that number is a bit deceiving. In the first four games of the season, opponents were averaging just 28.5 pass attempts against the Texans, and they spent most of the time in control of those matchups. After firing head coach Bill O'Brien, that average jumped to 40.5 in the following four contests, as the Texans started playing more competitive football. Houston held Baker Mayfield to just 5.4 points in Week 10, but you can credit the hurricane for that. Prior to Week 10, the Texans had ceded an average of 25.8 fantasy points to quarterbacks in their previous four games. On the season, they rank seventh-worst in adjusted passing defense. Cam has had three games this season with more than 24 fantasy points, and he should have a shot at another in a game with a 48-point projected total.
Jameis Winston (vs. Atlanta) - With Drew Brees likely out a couple of weeks with cracked ribs and a punctured lung, Jameis is in a great position to help many fantasy managers in their push for the playoffs. This week, the New Orleans Saints will go up against the Atlanta Falcons, the team surrendering the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Drew Lock posting a career-high 30.2 fantasy points against the Falcons in Week 9 made it the fifth time that they had ceded at least 29 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in a game. Sheesh. The Falcons have held just one quarterback to fewer than 18 fantasy points. In 2020, the Falcons rank dead last in adjusted passing defense, and they've faced the second-highest pass-to-run ratio. With New Orleans having the fourth-highest implied total on the slate and Atlanta ranking seventh in situation neutral pace, Winston could be in a position to post a week-winning fantasy performance.
(Update: In a shocking twist, the Saints will be starting Taysom Hill at quarterback on Sunday.)
Kirk Cousins (vs. Dallas) - Suggesting Kirk as a streamer makes me want to vomit, but here we are. The Dallas Cowboys have a bottom-12 pass defense, per our metrics, and they've already surrendered 20 touchdown passes this season. Four different passers have recorded 25 or more fantasy points against this defense. We're all well aware of Cousins' weekly floor -- he's had four games with fewer than 16 fantasy points and two with 10.4 and 1.5. Yikes. That said, he's also posted at least 20 four times this season. Yes, this game has Dalvin Cook written all over it, but there should be enough pie to split. The Minnesota Vikings are tied for the fourth-highest implied total on the slate, and they're going up against a Dallas team that's first in pace and second in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders.
Aaron Rodgers (at Indianapolis) - The Indianapolis Colts are now tied with the Chicago Bears for the fewest fantasy points per game surrendered to the quarterback position. Indy has had some gimme matchups, but they've fared well against Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Ryan Tannehill in three of their last four games -- none of them scored more than 18.6. Rodgers has been on another level in 2020, totaling at least 22.5 fantasy points in seven of his nine outings, but as we saw against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he is susceptible to pressure. In fact, since last year, Rodgers has faced nine opponents with a pressure percentage of 24.0% or greater (per Pro Football Reference) -- he posted 14.4 or fewer fantasy points in six of those contests. Rodgers is still well in the QB1 range, but temper expectations.
Philip Rivers (vs. Green Bay) - The Green Bay Packers have started to emerge as of the run-funnlier defenses in the league. In fact, through Week 10, Green Bay is just one of three teams to have a worse mark in our adjusted run defense metric than they do in our pass defense metric. The Packers rank 11th-best in adjusted pass defense, and they've surrendered the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. In their last six games, only one quarterback (Watson in Week 7) has managed to surpass 14.6 fantasy points against Green Bay, and that includes them limiting Matt Ryan and Tom Brady to 12.4 and 14.6 points, respectively. Rivers has only had two games this season where he's reached 17 fantasy points, so sitting him this week would be wise.
Jared Goff (at Tampa Bay) - I'll admit it, I'm holding a bit of a grudge against Goff. I touted him everywhere last week, and he posted a crappy 10.5 fantasy points in the softest possible matchup. Now, he has a date with a much tougher Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad. Tampa has ceded eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position, and they rank fourth in adjusted pass defense. This game has the fourth-lowest projected total on the slate, which means points could come at a premium. Last week wasn't the first time Goff had a floor game -- he's now posted fewer than 17 fantasy points in four straight and six out of his nine outings this season. He could be in for another dud on Monday Night Football.
D'Andre Swift (at Carolina) - It finally happened! It took nine weeks, but the not-so-competent coaching staff of the Detroit Lions finally made their talented rookie the focal point of their backfield. In Week 10, Swift saw a season-high 73% snap share and 21 touches -- he turned those into 149 total yards and a tuddy. As it turns out, giving the ball to your best back is, in fact, a good thing. Who would've known? Now, assuming Detroit does the smart thing for a second straight week (I have my doubts), Swift will be in a fantastic position. The Lions will be going up a Carolina Panthers that ranks sixth-worst in adjusted run defense, and a unit that's surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. On the season, six different backs have totaled at least 18.8 half-PPR points against the Panthers -- five of them managed 23 or more. Those who waited for Swift to produce are about to see their patience pay off in a big way.
(Update: In typical 2020 fashion, Swift was added to the league's concussion protocol on Thursday, putting his status for Sunday in doubt.)
Mike Davis (vs. Detroit) - In an effort to toot my own horn, I (correctly) suggested to fade Davis in last week's column. I'm suggesting the very opposite this week. Davis went from facing the league's second-ranked team in adjusted run defense to squaring off against the worst-ranked run defense this week. Not only are the Lions last in adjusted defense, but they're also surrendering 3.6 more half-PPR points per game to running backs than any other team. A whopping 10 backs have already recorded 13.3 or more fantasy points against Detroit, and 7 of those runners topped 19 half-PPR points. With Christian McCaffrey set to miss Sunday's game, Davis is a no-brainer RB1.
Damien Harris (at Houston) - Per our metrics, only two teams rank worse than the Houston Texans in adjusted run defense. The Texans have also allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing backfields. On the season, nine different backs have posted at least 14.7 fantasy points against the Texans. In fact, of the eight backs to record more than 10 carries against Houston, seven totaled 14.7 or more -- the eighth, James Robinson in Week 5, recorded 9.5. Meanwhile, Harris has recorded 14 or more totes in four of his six games this season, and he's totaled at least 100 scrimmage yards three times. Last week, against a Baltimore Ravens team that sits first in adjusted run defense, Harris rumbled for 121 yards on 22 carries. Also working in Harris' favor is the fact that Houston has faced the second-lowest pass-to-run ratio (though it has gone up a bit in recent weeks). With New England favored by 2.5, look for Harris to see all the work he can handle.
Nyheim Hines (vs. Green Bay) - Remember when I said that Green Bay was a run-funnel defense? Well, one player who stands to benefit from that is Hines. The 24-year-old saw a season-high 56% snap share in Week 10, and he garnered 18 touches in that contest, racking up a line of 115 yards, 5 receptions, and 2 touchdowns. In his four matchups against bottom-eight run defenses (in terms of fantasy points allowed), Hines is averaging 19.3 half-PPR points per game. Meanwhile, the Packers have surrendered the third-most fantasy points to opposing backs. However, what's even more enticing for Hines is the fact that Green Bay is ceding 17.4 half-PPR points to runners just through the air, which is second-most in the league.
Todd Gurley (at NO) - Sheer volume is the only thing preventing Gurley from making an appearance in the "sit" section of this column. The 26-year-old has seen at least 17 touches in each of his last six games, and he has yet to see the rock fewer than 15 times in any game this season. That said, this matchup is brutally tough. To date, the New Orleans Saints have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, including the second-fewest to the position on the ground. Gurley has failed to reach 20 receiving yards in seven of his nine games this season, so it's not as if we can fall back on passing-game usage. Over their last five games, no back has topped 11.9 half-PPR points against New Orleans, and only one runner has exceeded 13.2 against them all season. Gurley has had 12.5 fantasy points or less in three of his last four games, and he should be in for another dud in Week 11.
Los Angeles Rams Running Backs (at Tampa Bay) - The Bucs have been a nightmare matchup for opposing backs this season, ranking second in adjusted run defense and seventh-stingiest in fantasy points allowed to the position. Meanwhile, Rams head coach Sean McVay continues to make things as annoyingly frustrating as possible for fantasy managers. A different back has led this backfield in touches for three straight games, and the trio of Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown have received at least 8 (but no more than 12) touches in each of their last two games. This is a backfield I wouldn't touch in a good matchup, and I certainly won't go anywhere near it against the Bucs.
J.D. McKissic (vs. Cincinnati) - McKissic has seen an astonishing 29 targets over the last two games, and honestly, the only logical explanation for it is that Alex Smith has fallen even more deeply in love with the dump-off. However, this could be a tough matchup for McKissic to produce. In his last two games, McKissic has gone up against bottom-three defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to backs through the air. This week, he'll face a Cincinnati Bengals team that's sixth-stingiest in that department. It's also worth noting that despite being garnished with 23 opportunities last week, the only thing that saved McKissic's fantasy day was a two-yard touchdown. It was just his first score of 2020, so I wouldn't count on that happening again.
Tyler Lockett (vs. Arizona) - Remember Lockett's 200-yard, 3-touchdown game? Well, that came against the Arizona Cardinals. Aside from that massive performance, Arizona has also surrendered 116 yards and a score to Jamison Crowder and 109 yards and a score to Cole Beasley. Basically, if you're a slot receiver going up against the Cardinals, you should see nothing but green grass and dollar bills. Now, Lockett is listed as questionable with a knee injury, but if he plays, fire him up.
Diontae Johnson (at Jacksonville) - Johnson has now had five games this season where he's had a completely clean bill of health, and in those five, he's accumulated, 10, 13, 15, 10, and 11 targets. Yeah, that'll play. Diontae has totaled at least 80 yards in four of those games, and he's scored at least once in three of them. On the season, the Jags have surrendered the 11th-most fantasy points to wideouts, and they're tied for the third-worst mark in adjusted passing defense. Through nine games, 14 receivers have recorded at least 11 half-PPR points against Jacksonville. Diontae isn't even listed on Pittsburgh's injury report, which is a great sign for his Week 11 outlook.
Christian Kirk (at Seattle) - Though both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods busted in this spot in Week 10, we'll go right back to the Seattle Seahawks well in Week 11. When he faced them in Week 7, Kirk posted 37 yards and 2 scores, and while touchdowns can be flukey, Seattle's struggles versus wideouts certainly are not. An unbelievable 20 receivers have already recorded double-digit half-PPR points against the Seahawks, and 13 of them managed at least 15. Kirk has seen at least six targets in four of his last five games, and this week should be no different. With the Arizona Cardinals having the fastest situation-neutral pace in a game with the highest-projected total on the slate, look for Kirk to be heavily involved.
DeVante Parker (at Denver) - Parker has gone up against Jalen Ramsey, Patrick Peterson, and Casey Hayward in his three games with Tua Tagovailoa behind center, but he should be in a better position to succeed this week. Despite the tough individual matchups, Parker has seen seven looks in each of his last two games. Of the 12 wideouts to see at least seven targets against the Denver Broncos, 8 have amassed at least 11.6 half-PPR points, and 7 have exceeded 13.5. This is an ideal slump-busting spot for the 27-year-old.
All Tampa Bay WRs (vs. LAR) - The good news for both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans is that they have both lined up in the slot for at least 42% of their plays, which means they should be able to avoid Jalen Ramsey for some of their snaps. The bad news is that the Rams have allowed more than 13 half-PPR points to a receiver just once this season. The targets have been split pretty evenly in the two games since Antonio Brown joined the team -- Evans has 17, Brown has 13, and Godwin has 12, but that's not very conducive to figuring out which (if any) of those three might post a top-24 performance. I'm fading all three for this matchup.
Jerry Jeudy (vs. Miami) - Xavien Howard has quietly been one of the best corners in football this season -- he ranks fourth at the position in passer rating allowed. After DeAndre Hopkins managed just 30 yards against Miami in Week 9, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams managed just 77 yards last week. Whether it's Howard, Byron Jones, or Eric Rowe, this is starting to turn into a secondary to avoid in fantasy. Meanwhile, Jeudy has failed to reach double-digit half-PPR points in all but two games this season. I'm avoiding him, despite his recent spike in targets.
Corey Davis (at Baltimore) - After seeing 10 targets in consecutive games in Weeks 7 and 8, Davis has garnered just 9 in his last two games combined -- that resulted in his worst two outputs of the season. Things won't get any easier for the soon-to-be free agent as the Tennessee Titans travel to take on the Ravens in Week 11. Baltimore ranks second in adjusted pass defense in 2020, and they've allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Only one receiver has exceeded 10.7 half-PPR points against the Ravens over their last five games. Davis will see a lot of Marcus Peters in this one, which doesn't help his outlook.
Rob Gronkowski (vs. LAR) - I mentioned above how difficult of a matchup the Rams are for opposing wideouts, but it's nowhere near as tough on tight ends. Tight ends against the Rams have seen a 24.3% target share, which is third-highest in the league. Both Tyler Kroft and George Kittle finished as the TE2 against an LA defense that hasn't faced a star-studded group at the position. Since Week 5, only two players have seen more red zone targets than Gronk, who has scored four times inside the 20 during that stretch. Gronk has also had either 50 yards or a score in five out of his last six outings, which is elite production at a crap-filled position in 2020.
Jared Cook (vs. ATL) - Over his last two games, Cook has seen a mere five targets. In fact, he failed to even crack the stat sheet last week. However, things could be looking up for the veteran this week. The matchup against the Falcons is nothing but titillating. Atlanta has surrendered 1.2 more half-PPR points per game to the position than any other team, and they've already allowed five tight ends to surpass 10 half-PPR points against them. A more-aggressive Jameis Winston likely wouldn't hurt Cook's stock either. We're all well aware that Brees is allergic to pushing the ball downfield at this stage of his career. Enter Jameis, who averaged the second-most intended air yards per pass last season. After a goose-egg last week, Cook's in a great position in Week 11.
Logan Thomas (vs. CIN) - In his last two games with Alex Smith behind center, Thomas has seen snap shares of 100% and 99% -- he also amassed six looks in each contest. Smith's propensity to dump the ball off, plus the fact that this could be a tough matchup for McKissic (as I noted above), gives Thomas a somewhat reliable floor going forward. The former quarterback also possesses a bit of a ceiling this week, as he goes up against a Bengals defense that's surrendered at least 9.0 half-PPR points to five different tight ends since Week 5. Cincy has ceded six scores to the position over their last five games, so the odds of Thomas falling into the end zone are higher in this matchup.
Robert Tonyan (at Indianapolis) - After scoring five times in a three-game stretch early in the season, Tonyan has failed to reach the end zone in any of his last five games. Big Bob has topped 33 yards just once in his last five contests, and he's had three receptions or fewer in four of those five. The matchup this week is anything but friendly. The Colts have yet to allow a tight end to score on them this season, and that's despite facing Jimmy Graham, Austin Hooper, T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews, and Jonnu Smith in five of their last six games. There are likely better streaming options available on your waiver wire.
Mike Gesicki (at Denver) - Gesicki has totaled 5.7 or fewer half-PPR points in six of his last nine games, and he's coming off an outing in which he played his second-lowest snap share (48%) of the season. In three contests with Tua running the show, Gesicki has accumulated 11 targets and 90 scoreless yards. Not great, Bob! Meanwhile, the Broncos haven't allowed a tight end to reach double-digit half-PPR points against them since Week 1, and they've faced Gronk, Travis Kelce, Hunter Henry, Hayden Hurst, and Darren Waller over their last seven outings. Gesicki is merely a middling TE2 this week.