Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 11
Week 10 was a good week to get bold -- we hit on two more of our bold predictions.
Mitchell Trubisky played probably his best game of the season -- throwing three touchdowns and zero interceptions -- and finished as the QB9 on the week. Ronald Jones ripped off multiple big gains in the passing game and punched in a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals, finishing as the RB6 with an impressive 18.6 fantasy points. If you started either of those guys in fantasy, you were probably pretty happy with the outcome.
On the flip side, we completely whiffed on Zach Pascal, who caught just 2 of his 7 targets for 26 yards despite playing against the Miami Dolphins secondary. The Los Angeles Chargers struggled mightily in their loss to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday Night Football, and not a single receiver on the team went over 80 receiving yards -- let alone three of them. And while the Baltimore Ravens dunked on the Ryan Finley-led Cincinnati Bengals, they did give up 13 points over the course of the game.
But enough reminiscing -- here are 5 Bold Predictions for Week 11.
Derrius Guice Will Finish as a Top 16 Running Back
Top 16 doesn't sound too bold, but that would be quite the accomplishment given Derrius Guice's circumstances.
Guice was a second-round pick in Washington a year ago, but tore his ACL during the 2018 preseason while carving up the New England Patriots defense. He suffered several setbacks in his recovery since then but was just about healthy to start the 2019 season -- until Week 1, when he suffered a meniscus injury. That injury sent him to the injured reserve, but Guice is finally on track to return to the field in Week 11.
Even without his menacing injury history to overcome, a top 16 outcome is still pretty bold given the state of affairs in Washington. Only the Atlanta Falcons (182) have attempted fewer rushes than Washington (186) this season, and only the New York Jets (16.5%) and Dolphins (22%) have scored on a lower percentage of their drives (23.4%). On top of that, new head coach Bill Callahan has committed heavily to Adrian Peterson since taking over back in Week 6, with Peterson averaging 18.8 carries per game in that stretch.
However, it's also important to note that pass-catching back Chris Thompson has been sidelined with turf toe the past few weeks, which opens the door for Guice to make an impact in the passing game. New starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins favored low-aDOT (average depth of target) passes in his first NFL start according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, and could look to his running backs in Week 11 when his team faces off against the Jets.
The Jets have played decent run defense in 2019 but have allowed the fifth-most receptions to opposing backfields, and overall just haven't been a good team. If Washington -- and their running backs -- have any opportunity to take over a football game, this is it. Guice is fresh off the injured reserve, but Peterson has been dealing with an ankle injury this season, as well. With little competition for passing-down work and a slightly banged up 34-year-old in front of him, Derrius Guice will finish as a top 16 running back in Week 11.
Drew Brees Will Finish Outside the Top 12 Quarterbacks
So the New Orleans Saints, fresh off of a disastrous loss to the Atlanta Falcons, get another cake matchup this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. The Bucs have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season and just got sliced up by rookie Kyler Murray. They made Daniel Jones look like a superstar. They just aren't good. But Drew Brees still won't be able to finish as a QB1 against them in Week 11.
Brees looked electric in his return from injury back in Week 8, but could only muster up 287 scoreless passing yards on 45 attempts in Week 10 against the Falcons. It was definitely a weird matchup, what with the Falcons bottom-five pass rush sacking Brees six times, but Brees' performance reminded me of something that happened last year.
Per Warren Sharp, Brees was on fire when passing down the field to start 2018 -- he averaged 18.1 yards per attempt when throwing 15 or more yards down the field. But at some point in November, his deep ball began to fade -- he averaged just 10.2 yards per attempt after Thanksgiving. And this past week, Brees struggled mightily when throwing down the field. It's a tad anecdotal, but it's reasonable to think that the 40-year-old quarterback's arm just isn't what it used to be.
Sean Payton might be aware of that as well -- Brees has averaged just 6.3 intended air yards per attempt, per Next Gen Stats, and has been throwing it 2.3 yards behind the sticks on average -- both marks rank lowest among current starters in the league. Just 15 of Brees' 136 attempts this season have been deep passes according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, meaning he's just not throwing it down the field this season. Brees is averaging a decent 14.1 yards per attempt on the few attempts he's taken this year, but I worry he could fall off as the season progresses just like last year.
And it's too bad that he isn't throwing deep this season, as deep passes are likely the Bucs' biggest weakness. Instead of carving up Tampa's secondary with deep passes, Brees and the Saints will continue emphasizing their short passing game and running game, playing into the teeth of the Bucs defense. Drew Brees won't be able to take advantage of his soft matchup this week and will finish outside the top 12 quarterbacks in Week 11.
The Steelers D/ST Will be the Top Scorer
Man, the Pittsburgh D/ST has been on fire lately. Ever since trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, they've looked like a totally different team. Fitzpatrick alone is responsible for five interceptions, a forced fumble, and two defensive scores since joining the squad.
Those touchdowns have helped the Steelers defense become the third-highest scoring defense in fantasy football. That said, Fitzpatrick isn't the only reason the squad is doing so well -- the Steelers line play has been outstanding. Their 30.3% pressure rate ranks second in the league behind only the San Francisco 49ers while holding opposing backfields to a low 39.67% Rushing Success Rate -- a numberFire metric that describes how often a rusher adds value to his team's expected points total.
It's their line play that will lead them to another great fantasy outing in Week 11. The Steelers are taking on the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed 25 sacks on the season and the fourth-most quarterback hurries. Pittsburgh's ability to get to the passer should give them a high sack-floor for fantasy, and we've seen what happens when Baker Mayfield is under pressure -- his 12 interceptions in 2019 rank only behind Jameis Winston's 14 -- but they both have the same rate of interceptions thrown per pass attempt (3.9%).
The Browns have been pretty generous to opposing defenses for fantasy purposes, allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per game (10.33). The Steelers have been shutting down opposing offenses with their superior line play and bolstered secondary. They're currently ranked tenth in numberFire's Week 11 projections, but the Steelers will finish as the top D/ST this week.
Miles Sanders Will Post at Least 80 Receiving Yards
Only one player has posted more than 78 receiving yards against the New England Patriots defense this season, and most of Golden Tate's 102 yards came on a single, semi-flukey bobbled catch-and-run. But this week a running back is going to join that club.
Miles Sanders hasn't been the every-down bell cow back we hoped he'd become heading into the 2019 fantasy season, but he has developed into a unique player at the running back position. Sanders has 76 carries to teammate Jordan Howard's 119 and only 1 touchdown to Howard's 6, but he's found a way to provide value outside of the rushing game -- through the air. And not just as a dump-off option, either -- Sanders is running routes down the field like a wide receiver. Sanders' 136 air yards rank third in the league at the position, behind only James White and Tarik Cohen, while his 5.0 aDOT ranks first among all backs with 15 or more targets in 2019.
It just so happens that pass-catching running backs have been one of the most consistent weak points of the Patriots defense over the years. They've locked down running backs in 2019 but ranked ninth, third, and second in receiving yards allowed to opposing running backs in the three previous seasons. It's also worth noting that the Pats haven't played many receiving backs in 2019 -- they faced Le'Veon Bell -- who isn't catching as many passes per game with the Jets -- and James Conner, but that's just about it. The Pats defense is still strong, but they haven't been tested by pass-catching running backs this year.
Miles Sanders runs the kind of routes that the Kansas City Chiefs running backs have run to great success against the Pats in the past. Kareem Hunt had 98 receiving yards in his NFL debut two seasons ago and 105 yards when the two teams met up last year prior to his suspension, while Damien Williams hung 66 yards and 2 touchdowns on them through the air in the playoffs last year. The Philadelphia Eagles know how to attack a team's weakness -- Corey Clement had 100 receiving yards against the Pats in Super Bowl LII --, and will utilize Sanders in similar fashion. Miles Sanders will become the second player to finish with at least 80 receiving yards against the Patriots in 2019.
Curtis Samuel Will be a WR1
Curtis Samuel has been swimming in air yards this season -- he just hasn't capitalized on them. Despite ranking fifth in total air yards at the receiver position with 1,044, Samuel ranks just 40th in actual receiving yards. Quarterback Kyle Allen is willing to throw it Samuel's way, but the two just haven't connected -- Samuel has yet to go over 100 receiving yards in a single game despite his opportunities.
That will change in Week 11 when the Carolina Panthers face off against the Falcons and their nonexistent pass defense -- Week 10 aside. Remember when the Falcons let Will Fuller score over 40 fantasy points against them? I remember.
The Falcons rank second-worst in the league against the pass according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted Power Rankings. They have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in 2019, in part due to their inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks, and in part due to their disastrous secondary that is allowing opposing passers to complete 69.9% of their pass attempts.
This should help Kyle Allen and Curtis Samuel finally get on the same page. In a week filled with juicy wide receiver matchups, Curtis Samuel will finally break 100 yards and finish as a fantasy WR1.