Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 11
When a good chunk of your day job is dedicated to writing about fantasy football, you're a nerd. There's no question about it: you're a freaking nerd.
Unsurprisingly -- or, this is at least what I've noticed since I started analyzing the game about a game -- there seems to be a strong correlation between those who write about fantasy football and those who play video games.
I'm one of the people who makes the correlation stronger.
Video games are an escape (I guess playing fantasy football is, too, so my whole life basically isn't real). They offer something the real world can't -- a fake universe where you can be an NFL general manager (that dream died when I was about 14), Batman (that died when I was 5), or an overweight plumber (can't say I ever aspired to be that).
Currently, I'm into this game called Overwatch. It's a multiplayer-only game where you choose from a group of heroes and fight against another group of heroes (I'm glad I've already prefaced that I'm a nerd). There are different objectives within the game, but one thing is consistent: when you choose your hero, you have to choose one who complements and works well with the other heroes on your team rather than selfishly choosing the hero you just simply like to use.
The hero balance that you strive for in Overwatch is really similar to what I tell fantasy football owners all the time: sometimes a start-sit decision comes down to what the rest of your roster looks like. Sometimes it's not just about this or that but rather how this or that works with the rest of your lineup. If you've got a high-upside, low-floor quarterback option, maybe you want to combat that with a high-floor possession wide receiver. Maybe you're a heavy underdog against the best team in the league -- in that case, you'll want to take more chances, using more volatile players.
So as you read through guys I tend to like and dislike this week given their matchups, keep that all in mind. Remember to balance your roster based on the many factors that go into a fantasy matchup. And then remember to go buy Overwatch. Nerd out with me.
Start Blake Bortles (at Detroit): As bad as Blake Bortles has been -- and trust me, he's been bad -- his fantasy numbers don't fully show it. He's scored fewer than 15 fantasy points in just three of his nine contests, and he's averaging the 13th-most points per game at the position. It's the classic case of fantasy football not exactly equating to actual, real-life performance.
He's in a good spot -- perhaps the best spot -- in Week 11. The Lions have the worst schedule-adjusted secondary in the NFL according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, and they've allowed the second-most fantasy points per game at the position. The only quarterback not to score at least 16 fantasy points against them is someone who probably shouldn't be a starting quarterback: Brock Osweiler.
Bortles is a smart play this week, but if you use him, make sure you don't actually watch him. Because it'll be miserable.
Sit Carson Palmer (at Minnesota): Kirk Cousins was fine against the Vikings last week, but he was also at home, where he tends to thrive. And where he tends to like that. Cousins was actually just the first quarterback to rank as a top-12, QB1 against Minnesota this season -- the average quarterback has scored just 13.2 points against Minnesota this season. With the Vikings being back at home and Carson Palmer hitting the 15-point mark just three times this year, he's an easy guy to keep on your bench.
Start Colin Kaepernick (vs. New England): In his four starts under Chip Kelly, Colin Kaepernick has averaged 19.58 points per game, which is a top-10 number at the position. And he's rushed for 55 or more yards in three of them.
Generally speaking, you don't want to play quarterbacks in ultra-negative game scripts -- winning quarterbacks are better options, historically, in fantasy football. With Kap, though, it's slightly different. He'll likely be trailing against the Patriots, who are 13-point favorites, but more passes thrown means more opportunity for scrambling. Over Kap's career, in losses, he's rushed for about 20 more yards per game than in wins.
Not only that, but New England doesn't have a super fierce pass rush (only 16 sacks, which is three off the league's worst total of 13), and the secondary is completely average according to our numbers. That could give Kaepernick enough time to do some work through the air. Combine that with his rushing floor, and you've got yourself a great streaming play.
Sit Joe Flacco (at Dallas): The Flacco touchdown regression hit last week -- he was pacing for over 4,000 yards and just 12 touchdowns entering Week 10, when every passer in NFL history who's thrown for 4,000 yards has had at least 17 touchdowns -- but this week will be much more difficult for him. Not only are the Ravens on the road, but Dallas' defense has seen the fourth-fewest plays run against them all year. That's a bit alarming considering how inefficient Flacco has been this year -- on a per drop back basis, he's been the fourth-worst quarterback in football, per our numbers. (But he's been the best quarterback in football at getting better hair.)
With that being said, Dallas' secondary is below average, per NEP, and the majority of the plays they've seen against them have been passes. Meanwhile, the Ravens have been a top-10 team in terms of pass-to-run ratio. So there's some upside in that the two combined could create a lot of opportunity for Flacco. But if the Ravens come at Dallas with any sort of ground-and-pound approach, Flacco's day could be toast. He's a very risky option.
Start LeGarrette Blount (at San Francisco): Perhaps the easiest call of the week is to start Blount, who's going to see lead back touches on a team that's 13-point road favorites against a squad that's given up the most fantasy points to running backs. New England has the highest implied team total in football this week, Blount leads the league in touchdowns thanks to his goal-line work, and the matchup is brilliant. Don't get cute.
Sit Ryan Mathews (at Seattle): What Ryan Mathews is doing is not predictable, incredibly annoying, and also bound to regress. He has 396 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns this year -- when you regress his yardage total based on the last five year's worth of data to see how many touchdowns he should have, it shows that he should have found the end zone this year fewer than 3 times. Despite his big performance last week, his snap rate was still just 33%, and he'll face a Seahawks defense that's ranks third against the run according to our numbers. It's a process over results game -- remember that.
Start Spencer Ware (vs. Tampa Bay): Folks may be off Ware a bit after his Week 10 performance, but it was against a good Carolina rush defense on the road in a negative game script. And he was coming off an injury. Let's forgive him for that one.
The fact is that he handled 13 of the 15 running back carries in the Chiefs' backfield, so he's got the market share you want out of a running back. And this week is much different. The Chiefs are at home as big favorites, which means there could be a lot of rushing -- instead of 15 running back carries, there may be closer to, say, 25. At least, that's what's happened this year in their three wins by a touchdown or more: they ran the ball, on average, 26.67 times per game with their running backs.
Volume is king in fantasy football, and it should be there for Ware this week.
Sit Ty Montgomery (at Washington): Since TyMont is a running back on both ESPN and Yahoo!, I figured it was fair to list him here. But if you were planning on using him in a running back slot this week, I'd advise you to stop that immediately.
It's true that Washington can be run on (11th-worst rush defense in football according to NEP), but Montgomery's usage just wasn't there last week. He played just 28% of Green Bay's snaps versus James Starks' 71%, and only had 3 rushes and 2 targets. He's a fringe drop candidate in fantasy right now, not a guy worthy of starting.
Start T.J. Yeldon (deeper play, at Detroit): Yeldon has low-key been all right in PPR formats over the last three weeks, ranking as RB29, RB12, and RB23. Over this time, he's caught 12 of his 13 targets, all while running the ball 19 times. Those aren't startling volume numbers, but in negative game scripts -- which the Jaguars could very well face this weekend given the 6.5-point spread that favors the Lions in Detroit -- Yeldon is generally on the field. He's the team's pass-catching specialist. And this year, only five teams have given up more receptions to running backs than Detroit. In a PPR league, you could do worse with a deeper play.
Start Willie Snead (at Carolina): Snead's game against Denver last week was certainly flukey (I hear you, I benched him in two leagues), but you have to love him in this matchup against Carolina in Week 11. He'll see the slot on a good number of snaps, and there, he'll match up with cornerback Leonard Johnson, who ranks as a bottom-of-the-barrel coverage guy according to Pro Football Focus. It's not as though Snead needs a good matchup to produce, either -- he's seen seven or more targets in every completed game he's played this year, giving him a nice floor in PPR formats. This week, though, he may hit a nice ceiling.
Sit Jarvis Landry (at Los Angeles): The Dolphins have become more run-centric, and that's hurting Jarvis Landry, who's arguably the most volume-dependent receiver in fantasy football. During the first five weeks of the season -- pre-Jay Ajayi breakout -- Landry was tallying 9.6 target per game. Since, his average has dropped to 7.3. This coincides directly with the Dolphins going from being a top-10 team in drop-back-to-run ratio to a bottom-10 one.
Landry will also face slot corner Lamarcus Joyner, who's Pro Football Focus' 17th-best cornerback this year. Given the lack of volume and the low over/under in this game (with Jared Goff starting, this should be a run-heavy game on both sides of the ball), Landry is a tough guy to use.
Start Donte Moncrief (vs. Tennessee): Moncrief has scored in three of his four games played this year, which has made his production look a lot better than it's actually been. He's seen 15 targets over the two games since his return from injury, which isn't bad, but he's caught just 7 of them for fewer than 100 yards.
He's a good start this week, though. in three-wide sets, he'll more than likely see Perrish Cox, who's been burned by opposing wideouts all season long. And Tennessee has been fairly generous to opposing wide receivers, allowing the 13th-most fantasy points to the position. The game features the highest over/under on the slate as well, so you're getting a piece to a contest that should end up being high scoring.
Sit Mike Wallace (at Dallas): We know that Mike Wallace's specialty is the deep ball, and that's shown on the stat sheet: only 11 wideouts have more 30-plus yard plays than Wallace this year, when Wallace is playing on a team quarterbacked by a not-looking-so-hot-this-year Joe Flacco. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have allowed fifth-fewest number of 30-plus yard plays -- they've been average against the pass efficiency-wise, but they've been really good at limiting the big play. As a result, Wallace may struggle this week.
Start Eli Rogers (deeper play, at Cleveland): Slot receivers -- and tight ends -- have done work against Cleveland this year, as evidenced by performances from Jordan Matthews (24.5 PPR points against them), Jarvis Landry (26.6), and Cole Beasley (17.6). That's where Rogers will be in Week 11 for the Steelers' offense, one that's supposed to score the second-most points this week according to Vegas. Rogers has 15 targets over the last two games on a team desperate for wide receiver help -- it would make total sense for the Steelers to utilize him heavily this week. Let's hope logic wins out.
Start Zach Miller (at New York): With Alshon Jeffery out due to a suspension, a lot of targets are up for grabs in the Bears' offense. Longer-term, it may benefit someone like Cameron Meredith most. But this week, Zach Miller could be the beneficiary, as he'll face a Giants' team that's surrendered the ninth-most receptions and yards to the tight end position this year.
Sit Cameron Brate (at Kansas City): Brate keeps finding the end zone, but he'll be faced with a tough task in Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs to the tight end position is like a Mario Kart character using a star when someone else uses a lightning bolt: they crush and defend it. No tight end has ranked higher than 15th in weekly scoring against the Chiefs this year, and that includes tight ends like Greg Olsen and Antonio Gates. No thanks.
Start C.J. Fiedorowicz (vs. Oakland): Over the last five weeks, C.J. Fiedorowicz has the ninth-best target market share at the tight end position, seeing fewer than seven targets in a game just once. We're not talking about him more because his quarterback is what they call "not very good at football." But the matchup against the Raiders this week bodes well for Fiedorowicz, as the Raiders are a bottom-10 team at defending the tight end position, and the Texans should see a negative game script. In other words, there should be at least some volume in the passing game.
Start the Miami Dolphins (at Los Angeles): As I briefly mentioned earlier, Jared Goff is making his NFL debut this week against Miami. The Dolphins rank 12th in sack percentage this year, and they've gotten better as they year's gone on: they have three top-10 defensive performances in fantasy football over their last four games. With a low over/under that should provide a nice floor for Miami, they make for an easy streaming call.
Sit the Baltimore Ravens (vs. Dallas): No team has been worse to opposing defenses than the Cowboys this year -- no defense has ranked higher than 15th against them in weekly fantasy scoring. Just three of the nine defenses that've faced the Cowboys have scored more than two -- yes, that's two -- fantasy points. With the Ravens on the road and as underdogs, make sure you stay away.
Other defenses to start: Oakland Raiders (vs. Houston), Dallas Cowboys (vs. Baltimore), New York Giants (vs. Chicago)
Other defenses to sit: Houston Texans (vs. Oakland), Green Bay Packers (at Washington)