Here are my top 10 things to watch for from a fantasy perspective heading into Week 11:
1. Mike Evans is one of the many disappointing receivers in fantasy and now has to deal with a new quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who looked very marginal against a middling at best Jets pass defense. Fitzpatrick is reckless and does not move quickly off his progressions so expect Evans to get a lot of targets. Last week Chris Godwin playing Evans’ position had 10 targets and a 29% market share. So even in an ugly, low-scoring game — hard to believe that can be given the respective defenses but this is the case of resistible forces meeting movable objects — I’d bank 13 targets for Evans. How that translates to points depends on whether Fitzpatrick is running hot (probably not) or cold (probably).
2. Jay Ajayi needs big runs, which usually require volume. The Eagles are tied for second (with the 49ers) with 30 big runs (10-plus yards) from running backs. The Packers and Cardinals are tied for last with 11. A typical back averages about 43% of his yards on big runs. Last year, Ajayi was a fourth-most 57%. This year he’s 42%. Textbook regression to the mean. The key for Ajayi is going to be LeGarrette Blount being inactive because then he gets goal-line carries. I wrote about the real sleeper back in Philly on Tuesday.
3. The Dallas offense needs to score touchdowns for Dak Prescott to continue to be a top fantasy quarterback. Chasing points with more passes is thinking the wrong way. You want their offensive line and running game rolling to create more opportunities for easy TD passes, which are the key to any QB’s scoring. Prescott has a nice cherry on top with the running but that won’t matter if the banged-up offensive line is as dysfunctional as last week. With Tyron Smith expected to miss another game, looks like we’re headed that way again.
4. I wrote this week at FiveThirtyEight about why Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are on pace to be the best RB tandem in at least 40 years (when the 16-game schedule started). Declining passing volume hurts Drew Brees on the margins but the big thing has been freakishly bad (for him) touchdown distribution — 11 of the last 14 Saints TDs have come via the ground. The NFL average is 67% of offensive TDs via the pass. The lede that’s being buried here is that the Saints have 14 TDs in the last four games. Brees has three but should have seven to 10. That’s a lot of points being left on the table for reasons that are very likely random. Bet on this TD split normalizing. Then if the Saints remain prolific in scoring, Brees obviously becomes a top QB again in fantasy regardless of passing volume. And he’s averaging 8.0 per attempt so 35 attempts is fine (280 projected passing yards). Note also the NFL average is about 53% passes in the red zone and the Saints are just a hair under 50%.
5. Travis Kelce meets a Giants pass defense that has allowed a TD to a tight end in every game this year and 10 straight dating back to last season. Kelce is arguably the No. 1 projected player in fantasy this week. Defenses are going to let him feast because they don’t seem to want to play man against all that motion and misdirection the Chiefs use in the running game.
6. Let’s make the Case for Keenum as a top 12 fantasy QB. He has two top 10ish fantasy receivers. That right there gets you into the top 12 this year all by itself. The defense depresses volume but the running game is ho-hum. Since losing rookie Dalvin Cook in Week 4, the Vikings are 20th in the league at just 3.91 yards per tote. They’re 19th in that period in success rates of runs by running backs, which factor in down and distance. It’s not like the top 12 is strong, either.
7. Baltimore at Green Bay is a big game for anyone speculating on a return to action by Week 15 (perfect fantasy timing) for Aaron Rodgers, probably available on a waiver wire near you. Heck, I picked him up this week in the two-QB Stopa Law Firm league. If the Packers win, the last three games of the season are very likely to be meaningful and thus I would expect Rodgers back by Week 15 given the reports on his recovery.
8. The Patriots and Tom Brady can name the score against the Raiders. This is like Kelce only with a quarterback. The Raiders have allowed a league-worst 110.5 passer rating but only 14 touchdowns via the air. Those numbers will line up come Monday. Expect 350 yards and four scoring strikes from Brady.
9. People still expect Amari Cooper to be better than Michael Crabtree in fantasy. But since the start of 2016 in standard scoring, Crabtree has 12 of the top 20 games the pair has posted. In full PPR, 13 of 20. Cooper overall is averaging 8.6 points per game in standard and 13.4 in full PPR. Crabtree, 9.6 and 14.85, respectively. This is compelling math people, over a long and thus likely non-random period.
10. Russell Wilson is the anti-Drew Brees this year, funny because that used to be the case with passing volume. The Seahawks almost always score through the air — 19 of 21 offensive touchdowns. They have 10 passes and just five runs on the goal-line (three yards and in), basically the reverse of the league average. They’ve converted just three of these 15 total plays into TDs, horrible, but zero runs. So I guess this madness continues.