Starts, Sits, Sleepers Week 11
By Joel Dehls
In the midst of the NFL season, I can't help but look forward to the 2021 offseason. Between huge free agents at skilled positions (Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, Allen Robinson, JuJu, Golladay etc.) and a loaded rookie class, the NFL has never been more entertaining. If you are a dynasty team rebuilding/retooling, this is a great time to trade expiring assets for a first or even second round rookie draft pick. But that's not why you're here, let's get into my starts, sleepers, and sits for week 11. (I have started including a handful of players in my “sit” section that I would advise starting over the said player I am sitting)
Start - Lamar Jackson vs. Tennessee Titans
I never thought I’d be able to label Lamar Jackson as a start this late into the season, but the hate he has received for being QB9 on the year is ridiculous. In plus matchups, Lamar can still be started as a top 10 QB with confidence. He has shown the ability to have big games, as he has scored 25 or more points in 3 games this season. Lamar is also coming off against arguably the toughest 3 game stretch possible:
- Week 8 vs. Pittsburgh - best front 7/pass rush and still almost won
- Week 9 @ Indy - arguably the best overall defense, and was 10/10 passing in the second half
- Week 10 @ New England - Belichick historically dominates young QB’s. Lamar completed 70% of his passes, over 300 total yards, and 2 touchdowns
Let's all relax on Lamar Jackson. He is still incredibly talented, but he is dealing with a plethora of injuries to the offensive line, tight end, and running back position over the past month.
The Titans defense is a great matchup for the Ravens. They have absolutely no pass rush, which should open things up for their passing attack. The Titans have the 2nd worst pressure rate, 3rd worst hurry rate, 2nd fewest sacks, and are the 5th most penalized defense. Tennessee allows the 7th most points to the QB position and Phillip Rivers just carved them up for over 300 passing yards. The weather in Baltimore is expected to be perfect, 20% chance of rain with low wind. I expect Lamar to bounceback.
Sleeper - Ben Roethisberger @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Steelers currently sitting at 9-0 might be the biggest surprise of the NFL season. While we knew the defense would be elite, and they had the recievers to be a high-powered offense, I was unsure of Ben's ability to rebound from injury at age 38. Although Ben has not been lighting up the stat sheet, he has done his job to lead the Steelers on offense. Bolstered by 3 stud WR’s, Ben doesn't have to do much to have an impactful fantasy day. Even though he is averaging a pedestrian 6.8 yards/attempt, JuJu, Diontae Johnson, and Claypool are phenomenal after the catch. Game script scared me the previous two matchups against lesser opponents (Dallas, Cincinnati), but Ben was able to put up 25 and 29 fantasy points, passing for over 300 yards and 3+ touchdowns in each contest.
Although the Jaguars have the 2nd worst record in the NFL, they are competitive. In their previous 2 matchups, they have lost by a combined 6 points. One of those matchups coming against the Green Bay Packers, who are currently the #1 seed in the NFC. Their secondary has been beatable this year, giving up the 3rd most passing yards/game and tied for the 4th most passing TD’s allowed. Ben is QB13 on the year, but many people have mixed feelings on the future hall of famer. Against the Jaguars, start Ben Roethisberger as a top 10 QB.
Sit- Jared Goff @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jared Goff was my start of the week for week 10 and he burned me. Passing for just over 300 yards is nice and all, but throwing for 0 TD’s against a historical bad offense let down fantasy managers. Overall, Jared Goff is the QB18 on the season, and is the 20th rated QB according to PFF. The Rams identity has shifted over the last 2 seasons. They went from an offensive juggernaut in the 2018/2019 season, to a run heavy, defensive minded team.
So is this bust call a spite play because Goff burned my last week? Maybe. But it just so happens he is playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who bolster one of the strongest defenses in the NFL. In their past 6 matchups, the Bucs have helped opponents to 23 or less points in 5 of those games. On the season, they have allowed the only 4.9 yards/play, which is 3rd least in the NFL. They also do a great job at turning the ball over and forcing sacks. They have the most turnovers by any defense and the 2nd most sacks by a team. Overall, the Bucs are the 8th hardest matchup against QB’s, and with the injury to Andrew Whitworth, I expect the Bucs to have consistent pressure against Goff, causing him to turn the ball over multiple times. A few players I would stream ahead of Goff are Taysom Hill, Cam Newton, and Joe Burrow.
Start - Damien Harris @ Houston Texans
I’m becoming a Damien Harris truther and I’m proud of it. The Patriots found a stud in the 3rd round out of Alabama. In his 3 games with 15+ carries he has over 100 yards in each contest, including 22 carries for 121 yards last week against the Ravens. In 5/6 starts, he has averaged over 5 YPC - this includes games of 22, 16, 14, and 10 carry games. He is RB9 in points/game over the last 3 weeks while only scoring one touchdown! The talent of Harris is there, the only cause for concern I have for him this week is the return of Sony Michel. I can only hope New England realizes the star they have in the backfield, and limits Michels touches.
The matchup against Houston is about as good as it gets for running backs. They have allowed the most rushing yards, most yards/attempt, and the 7th most rushing TD’s leading to the 2nd easiest matchup for fantasy RB’s. A lot of this has to do with their defensive line, which has been terrible. According to PFF, the Pats have the 2nd biggest advantage this week in terms of offensive line vs defensive line in the rushing attack. I expect this game to be competitive, as Belichick crafts up a game plan to limit Deshaun Watson, which will allow plenty of opportunity for Harris.
Sleeper - Kalen Ballage vs. New York Jets
I can't believe I’m saying this - Kalen Ballage is actually good at football. I never thought that would be possible after he averaged 1.8 yards/carry in 2018. Over the past two weeks, Anthony Lynn has trusted Ballage to be the bellcow back over rookie Joshua Kelley and it has panned out. Over the past two weeks, Ballage has 33 attempts for 137 yards and 1 TD. He has also added 7 receptions for 49 yards in those two contests. I expect this workload to continue as long as Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are sidelined. Earlier in the week, Anthony Lynn came out and said he expects Ballage to be the primary back and wants to give him more looks moving forward.
The matchup against the New York Jets is a juicy one. The Jets give up the 7th most points to the RB position and I anticipate them to focus on the passing attack and Justin Herbert, instead of Ballage. The Chargers are likely to be ahead in the game as well, as they are 9.5 point favorites, which is a positive game script for Ballage. I expect 20+ touches and the chance to have a top 15 finish.
Sit- Darrell Henderson @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Right when we think we have the Rams backfield figured out, there’s always a wrench (or 5 of them) thrown in to question who the starting back is. After coming off a bye and recovering from a thigh injury, Darrell Henderson was underwhelming against the Seahawks. He rushed the ball 7 times for 28 yards and a touchdown, while playing on just 33% of offensive snaps. This is a significant decrease from week 7 (his last full game, left week 8 early) where Henderson saw 56% of the offensive snaps. It wasn't just Malcolm Brown eating into his workload, Cam Akers also saw 10 carries, which is the most since week 1. Brown saw the highest snap percentage, but only rushed the ball 6 times. Lastly, the Athletics Jourdan Rodrigue said it would not be surprising to see Cam Akers rushing attempts to draw closer to Darrell Henderson’s as the season progresses. While it would be nice for dynasty owners who drafted Akers early to see what he could do, it just makes the backfield a mess.
While it might take a few weeks to shake out the backfield, its best to avoid everyone in this matchup against the Buccaneers. The Bucs allow the 7th fewest points to the running back position, most recently holding the Panthers to just 65 total rushing yards. Overall, they allow the least amount of rushing yards/game and the 4th fewest rushing touchdowns. So if you decide to start any running back on the Rams, you are banking on Jared Goff and a beat up offensive line to be able to move the ball against one of the top defenses in the league. A few guys I would prefer to start over Henderson are, Ballage, Mike Davis, Nyheim Hines, CEH, and even James Robinson in a tough matchup against the Steelers.
Start - Amari Cooper @ Minnesota Vikings
Amari Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys have had a rocky season to say the absolute least. From weeks 1-4 Cooper was the WR3 and Dak was on pace to throw for 5,000+ yards. Since then, the Cowboys have spiraled out of control, losing 4 games in a row. Although the offense completely changes with a different QB, Amari Cooper hasn't been as bad as you might think (targets/receptions/yards/TD):
- Week 6 (Daltons first game vs ARZ) 10/7/79/1
- Week 7 (WAS, Dalton injury game) 7/7/80
- Week 8 (Ben Dinucci vs PHI) 5/5/0
- Week 9 (Cooper Rush vs Pit) 6/5/57
Over that span, he is WR25, which included a game he had literally 0 receiving yards. The upside is limited, but he can be started as a reliable WR2.
The matchup against Minnesota is perfect for the Cowboys as a whole. Both teams will want to run the ball and keep it out of the hands of their quarterback. While I have full faith in Dalvin Cook, Zeke has been rocky, with Pollard outplaying him at times. This will cause the Cowboys to throw more than anticipated. The Vikings give up the 5th most fantasy points to the position (36.1) and neither of their starting corners have played well. Cooper is expected to match up with Jeff Gladney, who is the 82nd ranked corner in pass coverage according to PFF. I like Cooper's chances of getting 60+ yards and a touchdown.
Sleeper - Mike Williams vs. New York Jets
Mike Williams has immense talent, but has struggled with health and consistency. While he can score nearly 30 points like in week 5 when Keenan Allen left early, he can also score 1.4 in his next matchup. This sleeper call is a boom/bust play, if you are playing one of the top teams in the league and need a big game to compete, Mike Williams is your guy. He is the clear WR2 on the team, even with Guyton getting some long TD plays. He is averaging almost 7 targets/game over the last 3 weeks, which is a drastic improvement from under 5/game in the first 3 weeks of the season. His big play ability is undeniable, as he averages 17.2 yards/reception, which is 6th most in the NFL.
Justin Herbert and the Chargers have been through a tough schedule, as they played at Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, at Denver, and home to the Raiders. They finally get a break as they match up against the New York Jets. We know the Jets have been bad all year, but their secondary might've gotten worse. They recently cut Pierre Desir and Brian Poole is on IR. That leaves Blessaun Austin and Bryce Hall to go up against a lethal WR duo. I expect most of the attention to go towards Keenan Allen (not that it matters) so Mike Williams should see plenty of 1 on 1 coverage where he can win over the top. The Jets give up the 9th most points to the WR position, leading me to believe Mike Williams could be in line for a blowup game.
Sit - Jalen Reagor @ Cleveland Browns
Jalen Reagor was a stud at TCU and I think his future is bright with the Eagles. Unfortunately, this year for Philadelphia has been a mess. They have the 30th ranked offense according to PFF, with a lot of it to do with Carson Wentz’s regression. Wentz is 21st in passing yards, 31st in yards/attempt, has a TD:INT ratio of 12:12, and the 4th lowest QBR with only Nick Foles, Drew Lock, and Sam Darnold behind him. While it is encouraging to see 7 targets for Reagor last week, he wasn't able to do much with it, turning it into 4 receptions for 47 yards. If you’re in a dynasty league, it's a great chance to buy low on the former 1st round pick. But this week against Cleveland, I’m staying away.
While at first glance the Browns matchup looks enticing, it's not great if you dig a bit deeper. While Reagor lines up all over the field, he will see plenty of Denzel Ward, who has been fantastic in coverage this year. Furthermore, if you have watched the two previous Cleveland home games, they were both in terrible weather and winds. This week, there is an 80% chance of rain, with a 97% chance at kickoff. The Browns will control this game on the ground, giving Philadelphia limited opportunities on offense. I would much rather start Mike Williams, Corey Davis, Marvin Jones, or Jamison Crowder this week.
Start - Hayden Hurst
My original start was Jared Cook, but with the news of Taysom Hill starting for the Saints, I’m avoiding that offense until I can see what it will look like. Hayden Hurst was a quiet pickup for the Falcons this offseason, but has already proven his worth. He is TE7 on the year, and has 4 performances in a row with double digit fantasy scores. In his last 3 games, he has 6 receptions, 5 receptions, and 7 receptions. That type of volume is only found in players like Darren Waller and Travis Kelce.
The matchup is great for Hurst too. The Saints are the 7th easiest matchup for tight ends, giving up an average of 12 points/game. The Falcons should be fully healthy for this matchup as Calvin Ridley is expected back, leading me to believe they'll be able to move the ball against the Saints. Start Hurst with top 10 confidence.
Sleeper - Logan Thomas vs. Cincinnati Begnals
Logan Thomas is having a sneaky good year after struggling in the first month of the season. From week 6 on, Thomas is TE5, averaging 5 targets/game, and this has stayed the course even with the quarterback change. Thomas is coming off his highest yardage game of the season, 66 yards, and touched double digit fantasy points for the 4th time this season. In this tight end landscape, that is phenomenal.
Against the Bengals, Washington should be able to exploit this matchup. The Bengals give up the 2nd most points to the TE position, about 13.6/game. Even though Washington's defense has been one of the best in the league, I believe the Bengals will be able to put up points against them, forcing Alex Smith to throw the ball. With a tough front 7 for Antonio Gibson, and a solid secondary, I expect Washington to pick on the linebacker core and target Logan Thomas.
Sit - Robert Tonyan @ Indianapolis Colts
Robert Tonyan is still somehow a top 10 TE and rostered in plenty of leagues. While he has had his moments, especially in the first month of the season, he has really fallen off since the bye week. From weeks 6-10 Tonyan is TE32, behind guys like Durham Smythe and Adam Trautman. Not only is Tonyan not startable this week, he shouldn't even be on your roster anymore.
If you are rostering Tonyan, this isn't the matchup to start him. The Colts defense has been one of the toughest matchups for all positions, including tight end. Tight ends score an average of 6.1 points/game, which is lowest among all teams. I expect this to be a low scoring game where the Packers will struggle against a physical opponent. I would rather start Hayden Hurst, Logan Thomas, or Dallas Goedert if possible.
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