5 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 11, Presented by Knightfall
When your job is to write about fantasy sports, and we're in the middle of the NFL season, you don't get a lot of free time to do whatever you please. This means, when it comes to watching TV shows, I've got to be selective.
This results in a narrowing of the pool. If I can allot only X minutes to television, why would I waste some of them on a show I don't love? Maybe I'll catch up in March when reading gushy spring training stories make me want to vomit, but in Week 11, The Blacklist be getting the cold shoulder.
Not Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though. It doesn't matter how limited my capacity may be; I'm going to find time to squeeze in 30 minutes with Captain Raymond Holt and Gina Linetti, no matter what the costs may be.
In this instance, time is my limited resource, and it forces me to prioritize so that I'm getting the most out of what I have. In DFS, we have a limited resource, too. That's the number of roster spaces we can fill, and it's going to both force and allow us to be selective in Week 11.
If you look at the over/unders for this week, you'll see that five games on the main slate have totals of 41 or lower. They're The Blacklist in this scenario. Meanwhile, three games have serious shootout potential with a total of 48 or higher, and another sits at 46 with a pair of high-paced teams. The New England Patriots against the Oakland Raiders is the NFL equivalent of the love between Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago, sucking me back in no matter how short on resources I may be.
The beauty of this slate is that we don't have to force ourselves to drudge through the dud games to make things work. There are enough stackable games to get your blood pumping, and we have to fill just nine spots in each lineup on FanDuel. There's no point in dilly-dallying. Just get yoself exposure to the games you love and move on.
The next step is deciding how we attack these potential high-scoring affairs. We can get a bit of help in that department from numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the efficiency of both teams and players with the team totals being adjusted for the strength of opponent. NEP gives us the context to know that a three-yard completion on 3rd and 2 is worth way more to a team than that same three-yard completion on 3rd and 4, allowing us to see which teams are truly operating in the most efficient manner.
With just a few roster slots at our disposal, it's time to trim the fat and focus on the games that best fulfill our desires. With that in mind, which matchups should we be trying to exploit in Week 11? Let's check it out.
New England Patriots' Passing Offense
You knew this was coming. The over/under for the Patriots and Raiders is simply stratospheric at 53.5, the highest on the main slate. This game is our guilty pleasure of the week.
We haven't had to discuss the Patriots' passing game much recently thanks to some wonkiness in their schedule. After the billed-as-a-shootout Sunday night romping of the Atlanta Falcons, the Patriots have had two alleged tough matchups against the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos with a bye week squeezed in between. This has allowed Tom Brady's price to slip to $8,600 on FanDuel -- cheaper than Carson Wentz, mind you -- giving us an obvious window to buy back in.
And even with these recent tough matchups, the Patriots have remained among the best in the land. They're currently first in Adjusted Passing NEP per play, which takes that schedule into account. Even when we don't adjust for schedule, Brady leads the league in Passing NEP, adding 114.72 expected points as a passer on the year. No other quarterback has topped 90.
And this is a great spot for the Patriots to remind us just how good they are. The Raiders enter this matchup ranked dead last against the pass. This means we have the league's best passing offense facing the worst passing defense. It doesn't matter how popular they may be; you want Patriots in your life this weekend.
The one hang-up you could have around Brady is that we haven't seen his ceiling in fantasy for a while. He has topped 20 points on FanDuel in just one of his previous five games, and he hasn't exceeded 23 since Week 3. Even at a reduced price, we'd need a bit more juice in order to justify squeezing this orange.
This shouldn't be a huge issue against the Raiders. They're the 22nd-ranked defense against quarterbacks in terms FanDuel points allowed, and three quarterbacks have topped 23 points against them. Those quarterbacks are Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, and Jay Cutler. You're using Brady this week whether you want to or not.
The big decision will be with which pass catcher you want to pair him. There really isn't a wrong answer.
We'll start with the case for Brandin Cooks, who checks in at $7,700 on FanDuel. Cooks has scored just one touchdown in the past six games, which isn't up to the standards his price sets. But that shouldn't matter too much.
Despite the scoring drought, Cooks has at least eight targets in four of his past five games, including 11 targets against a Denver Broncos team that acts as a blackhole for wide-receiver production. With Chris Hogan out in that one, Cooks had four of the team's eight targets at least 16 yards downfield. Hogan missed practice again on Wednesday, hinting that he could miss Week 11, as well. Cooks is a good bet to right the ship here.
The Raiders have allowed at least five targets to six different tight ends this year. Every single one of them has had either a touchdown or 75 yards receiving. This includes such unfadable assets as Julius Thomas and A.J. Derby. Gronkowski has 33.4% of the team's air yards the past three games, making it seem as if he has also benefitted from Hogan's being dinged up. Even at $8,200, Gronk is worth your time.
If you're looking to spend down, it's totally fine to go with Danny Amendola at $5,400 (assuming Hogan sits again), but the preferred option may be to pair Brady with one of his running backs in Rex Burkhead.
Burkhead played a season-high 51.4% of the snaps last week, easily out-pacing Dion Lewis and James White. We can stack Burkhead with Brady because 25 of those snaps were passing plays, according to Pro Football Focus. Add that to the 10 carries that Burkhead got, and he looks mighty attractive at $5,700.
Oakland Raiders' Passing Offense
Like I said, we're just going to swim in these fun games this week. And that includes running it back with the Raiders in the spots where we load up on the Pats.
It's possible that you're a bit wary of going here given the Patriots' supposed defensive improvements recently. But those steps forward may not be fully legitimate.
Through their first four games, the Patriots were getting absolutely torched through the air, allowing 324 passing yards per game. But over the past five games, that number is down to 258 yards per game, and it's even better over the past three. So why would we want to attack them when they're facing a Raiders offense that has struggled pretty mightily at times?
A lot of that comes down to the frailty in looking at numbers such as "passing yards allowed." This doesn't account for the teams the Patriots have faced -- Brock Osweiler is a pass defense's wet dream -- and other factors at play. NEP, though, does.
Let's narrow the scope to just Week 5 through Week 10, the games where the Patriots have shown improvement. In this span, they're still 21st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. While that's not the last-place ranking they were rocking before, it's certainly not restrictive. And this is when we cherrypick their best stretch of the year. This should be a good test of whether or not they have truly improved.
Despite some rocky stretches, Derek Carr is still 10th in the league in Passing NEP per drop back of the 36 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs. Carr and the Raiders are coming off a bye, meaning they've been out of the spotlight for a bit. There's some uncertainty around how they'll play with the game at high elevation in Mexico City, but things do set up well for Carr and the Raiders.
Carr's not a cash-game option because he has come up short in plus matchups already this year, but we know he has upside for tournaments. He threw for 417 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 7, and they've been better defensively this year than the Patriots. We can go here in tournaments as long as we accept that the floor isn't necessarily ideal.
We have to have the same discussion when it comes to Amari Cooper. He has shown throughout the season that he can flop at any time, and we don't really want that on our rosters at $7,300 on FanDuel. But the last three weeks have seen his floor inflate a bit.
In this time, Cooper has 41.5% of the team's air yards, according to FantasyADHD.com, which is a simply grotesque number. He has 29.7% of the team's overall targets and 33.3% of their deep looks. It seems like his volume concerns are a thing of the past.
That said, looking at the past three games means we are including what is easily his biggest game of the year where he popped off for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. That's going to have a heavy influence on the sample.
But even when we exclude his blow-up, it looks like Cooper's becoming a more reliable option. Over the past two games, Cooper has 19 targets and 38.0% of their overall air yards. We know he has stupid upside, so giving him an improved floor is beyond intriguing. That allows us to plug him in whether we're stacking him with Carr or not.
Cooper -- for obvious reasons -- is a super divisive player. As such, many of you will not want to play him, leaving you to decide between Michael Crabtree and Jared Cook as an alternative. So which one should we favor?
To decide, let's compare their target distribution numbers in the three games from Week 7 on. That's where Cooper started getting the extra volume, and it really does change the dynamic of the rest of the offense.
Here's how things break down for those two guys in this time. A "deep" target is classified as any throw that goes at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
|From Week 7 On||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||Red-Zone Targets|
Outside of a few deep targets in Crabtree's corner, the two are nearly identical. And for the entire season, Crabtree has just one more deep target than Cook. For a tight end, that's pretty sexy.
This is why Cook could easily be the preferable secondary option. He's just $5,500 at tight end while Crabtree is $7,500 at wide receiver. Given the matchups for Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, a good chunk of people will likely be paying up at tight end, allowing Cook to slide a bit under the radar. In this matchup, that should get our insides all tingly.
New Orleans Saints' Rushing Offense
Yeah, it's pretty boring to chase a unit that just went off last week. I can fully admit that. But it's necessary in this matchup.
The other game with an over/under above 50 is this one between the New Orleans Saints and Washington. This means we're going to want to snag some exposure here. If you believe that Washington's offense can keep pace -- and their shootout last week showed that's not out of the question -- then you should be considering Drew Brees and his pass catchers. But no matter what, the Saints' running backs are going to be in play.
Ever since the team's trade of Adrian Peterson prior to Week 6, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have been just wrecking souls. It all came to a head last week when Ingram pounded out three touchdowns and Kamara scored another. They've basically just been easy points for over a month now.
Given the way these two have gone this year, the optimal strategy for DFS has been to pick the opposite back that the public is using. Is Ingram going to carry higher ownership? Then you should go Kamara. If Kamara's coming off a big week, then it's time to flood your lineups with Ingram exposure.
This week, though, we may want to chase the tuddies and ride with Ingram again.
The reasoning here all stems from the specific areas in which the Washington rush defense struggles. They have been absolutely brutal on rushes up the middle this year, allowing a 48.1% Success Rate to opposing backs when they run that way. That's compared to a 32.1% Success Rate when going left and 43.6% when going right. And opposing teams have taken notice.
Last week, when the Minnesota Vikings were facing Washington, they trotted out a heavy dose of Latavius Murray. He had 14 carries up the gut with one rush to the left and two to the right. This left Jerick McKinnon as more of a complimentary piece, getting just 10 carries, six of which were up the middle. They recognized that Washington's issues were most intense in the middle of the field, and they capitalized. Murray's Success Rate up the middle was 50.0%.
If the Saints decide to do the same, Ingram would be the big benefactor. Here's a look at how the team has divvied up carries based on the direction of the run. Because things have changed so much for the team since the Peterson trade, this is limited to running-back carries from Week 6 through Week 10.
|Percentage of Team Carries||Going Left||Up the Middle||Going Right|
In this five-game sample, Kamara has just four carries that have been classified as up the middle; Ingram has 21. The team tends to run outside quite a bit, but if they stuff it down Washington's throat, Ingram is the guy in line for major usage.
That said, it's not all sunshine and daisies for Ingram. Through the first seven games, he was heavily involved in the passing game, netting at least four targets in each. But in the past two games, he has a grand total of just one. Decreased involvement there would have a negative effect on his floor, potentially pushing us toward the cheaper Kamara.
The other side of the equation, though, is that this could all just be variance. Ingram was in the game for 15 of 29 passing snaps in Week 9, according to Pro Football Focus, and 14 of 30 in Week 10. The team just hasn't had to throw as much, and the targets haven't gone his way. That's why this one concern shouldn't be enough to make us avoid Ingram.
Ingram is certainly not cheap at $8,200, and there are a boatload of other running backs in that price range we could chase. But with the way teams have attacked this Washington defense recently, he could be in line for a major workload. When you're the lead early-down back for a seven-point home favorite with a huge implied team total, that's enough to justify that salary.
Minnesota Vikings' Rushing Offense
We gave Jerick McKinnon some dap in this column last week, and he promptly ran behind Latavius Murray and got you 5.7 points on FanDuel. Not great, Bob. But with the way things look this week, it may not be a bad idea to give McKinnon another shot.
Part of the appeal in McKinnon is that this game is just begging to go over its total of 46. The Los Angeles Rams lead the league in situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders. The Vikings are third. That means there could be tons of plays, and even with two good defenses involved, there's value in that.
On the whole, these aren't really defenses that we want to attack. The Rams have the fifth-ranked defense, based on Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, and the Vikings are 13th. But if we were to identify a weak spot here, it would be the Rams' rush defense.
The Rams enter this matchup ranked 24th against the rush, according to numberFire's metrics. That's going into a game with a flying pace where the Vikings are two-point favorites. Retreating to McKinnon here may be the best path to access to the game.
Now, going back to our thoughts on the Saints' rushing offense, McKinnon's day hit the cans because the Vikings -- seemingly -- decided to attack Washington's biggest weakness. While this is good for McKinnon going forward, we do have to at least check to make sure we're not dealing with a repeat scenario where they could just pound Murray up the middle again.
So, let's check out the numbers. Here's how the Rams have performed defensively based on the direction of the rush. Rushing NEP per carry is the expected points added divided by the total number of rushes.
|RBs Against Rams||Going Left||Up the Middle||Going Right|
|Rushing NEP per Carry||0.00||0.02||-0.04|
Both the Success Rate and per-carry efficiency are highest on runs up the middle. But unlike Washington, it's not a cavernous hole between that and the rest. This is encouraging for McKinnon.
The other thing working in McKinnon's favor is the projected tight game script. The Vikings are favored by 2.5, meaning Vegas is expecting this game to be close throughout. The Vikings have leaned more on McKinnon in those scenarios.
Since Dalvin Cook's injury, here is each player's overall market share (the percentage of the team's carries plus targets) based on the score. Things are pretty even between McKinnon and Murray once the team has a lead, but before that, the gap is a bit wider in McKinnon's favor.
|Market Share by Score||Leading by Two Scores||All Other Scores|
Just as a cherry on top, McKinnon has played at least half the snaps in every game since Cook's injury, and that includes a pair of games they won by at least two scores. No matter what the script may be, you know he's going to be involved.
McKinnon is absolutely not a cash-game asset given the Rams' overall defensive abilities and the potential for Murray to suck away goal-line usage. But in tournaments, he makes sense. McKinnon's price is down to $6,400, meaning you get cheap access to a high-flying game, and it comes with a bit of upside. On this slate, we should be willing to take a risk on that.
Kansas City Chiefs' Passing Offense
The first four matchups all featured games with an over/under of 46 or higher. This one between the Chiefs and Giants is a tad bit lower at 45. But that doesn't mean we can just leave it by the wayside.
Note: wind speeds for this game are currently projected at 18 miles per hour, which is a significant downgrade to the passing game. An alternative outlet Sunday would be to target the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Miami Dolphins' pass defense.
The reasoning for the low total is largely because the Giants' offense is just bad. They faced the formerly winless San Francisco 49ers last week and allowed them to cruise to a 31-21 victory. When you go from losing that game to hosting what has been a soul-crushing offense through the first half of the season, you can see why the betting public would be a bit skeptical of your abilities. But the total is not a reflection of the Chiefs' offense.
Because the Chiefs are favored by 10.5 points, they still have the third-highest implied team total on the main slate despite the lower total. That allows us to get jacked about this entire offense.
Now, in labeling this as being an endorsement of the Chiefs' passing offense, that's not to say that you shouldn't use Kareem Hunt. Hunt has the third-highest market share of any running back on the main slate, and with the Chiefs being heavy favorites, we shouldn't get a repeat of his letdown in Week 9.
On top of that, Hunt could be in line for a good matchup, too. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison -- one of the best run stoppers in the entire league -- missed practice Wednesday due to an ankle injury he suffered last week. If Harrison were to sit out this game, Hunt would be one of the top running backs on the board. But for now, we'll focus on Alex Smith and the Chiefs' passing offense as they are also in a good spot for success.
This is a spot that's similar to what we saw with the Patriots against the Raiders. The Chiefs are the league's fourth-ranked passing offense, and they're facing the 27th-ranked passing defense. In what scenario are you not trying to attack that?
But, as anybody who has watched the Giants the past month can tell you, the full-season stats don't serve this defense justice for how bad it is. They seem to have given up all hope, and opponents have just thrashed them as a result. It shows up in the advanced numbers, too, with the Giants ranking dead last against the pass over the past five weeks. All four quarterbacks they've faced have thrown for at least 288 yards, and Trevor Siemian was the only one who didn't have multiple touchdowns. With the way Smith has been playing, it's fair to assume those streaks will continue.
In Smith -- despite his past reputation -- you know you're getting upside. He has topped 25 FanDuel points four times this year, and three of them have come within his past six games. The old concerns around this are no longer valid. He's a great option for DFS at $7,900.
The elephant in the room here with this team is Travis Kelce. The whole world knows that he's in a great spot against a Giants team that has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in every single game this year. And high-ownership tight ends generally don't perform well in DFS. So, what are we supposed to do with him?
The positive for using Kelce is that you're not just chasing the matchup here. He has 24.9% of the team's overall targets, 35.9% of the deep targets, and 27.0% of the red-zone targets. He's a wide receiver who gets high-leverage looks and is simply labeled as a tight end. That's why you can at least justify rolling him out despite the ownership concerns.
But the obvious nature of Kelce's attraction will also draw eyes away from Tyreek Hill, potentially pushing us to invest in him. Hill hasn't been quite as involved as Kelce -- he has 21.6% of the overall targets and 28.3% of the deep targets -- but we know the kind of upside he can generate with just one play. He's also at a price of $7,600 on FanDuel where he's surrounded by other wide receivers with attractive matchups. From an ownership perspective, Hill is the ideal target.
With this said, how should we handle these two? If we're talking cash games, Kelce is a locked-in stud about whom we can feel good. And even in tournaments, we should likely have our highest exposure to Kelce. But it would also be wise to get some Hill shares in there just in case he winds up being the one who goes off.
Again, we need to keep an eye on Harrison's status throughout the week because his absence could turn Hunt into the top option here. But no matter what the outcome is there, just know that this Chiefs team is one that is ready to provide us with all of the DFS goodness.