Sadly, Week 11 had a handful of significant injuries that will impact fantasy leagues in the near future and for the remainder of the season. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. A pair of AFC South teams had encouraging showings with intriguing underlying data. Finally, two AFC West defenses continued to have obvious blemishes.
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Houston is Taking to the Air More Often
What if I told you C.J. Stroud threw three interceptions, and his passing outlook is actually better going forward? That would sound ridiculous, but it’s true. Stroud completed 27 of 37 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions against the Cardinals. He made brilliant throws to help offset his blunders.
Yet, the offense’s underlying data paints the prettiest picture of his passing potential for the rest of the season. According to RotoViz’s pace app, the Texans passed on just 52% of their plays in neutral game scripts before their bye in Week 7. From Week 8 through Week 10, they had a 57% pass rate in neutral game scripts. In a competitive game on Sunday, the Texans passed on 61% of their total plays, even with Devin Singletary gashing Arizona’s lousy run defense for 5.1 yards per carry.
Unfortunately, Noah Brown was out in Week 11. Therefore, it remains to be seen how the playing time will be divided among Brown, Robert Woods, Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Woods would seem to be the apparent odd man out. Nevertheless, if the coaching staff loves the non-box-score stuff he does, Woods could siphon more snaps from the other receivers than fantasy gamers would like. Dell had another blow-up game and is a must-start player weekly. Collins parlayed the team’s most targets (11) into seven receptions for 65 receiving yards in Week 11 and should be a mainstay in fantasy lineups most weeks.
However, Dalton Schultz and Brown can also maintain fantasy value if the Texans continue to cut their stud rookie quarterback loose. Schultz might slip into the touchdown-or-bust tier of tight ends. Still, Houston’s offense is a high-octane unit and should award him chances. Brown was a monster in Week 9 and Week 10. However, those contests were outliers for the sixth-year pro. Regardless, he could be a flex option if he unseats Woods for the No. 3 wideout gig in this potent offense.
Jacksonville’s Healthy Wide-Receiver Room Was a Boon For One of Them
Zay Jones suited up in Week 11 for the first time since Week 5. The veteran wideout had only four receptions for 20 scoreless yards. Yet, his return coincided with Calvin Ridley‘s third 100-plus receiving-yard effort of the season, all with Jones. Ridley’s splits without and with Jones are staggering.
The sample is small. So, Ridley’s spiked performances with Jones could be noise. Still, Ridley’s stock is up when Jones is active. Gamers with Christian Kirk shouldn’t panic, either. Kirk’s three receptions for 48 scoreless yards against the Titans weren’t anything to write home about, but his six targets were decent. Kirk’s only total dud with Jones playing was in Week 1. He’s still in the WR3/flex range, albeit with a lower floor if Ridley’s stellar performance sticks.
The Thursday Night Football Massacre Was Disastrous for Fantasy Football
The Thursday Night Football game was costly. Mark Andrews and Joe Burrow suffered season-ending injuries, and the impact will extend beyond directly to the gamers who lost them for the rest of the year.
Lamar Jackson lost his best pass-catching weapon when Andrews was hurt. There might be an adjustment period for the passing attack without their stud tight end. Zay Flowers might see an uptick in targets, but he’s an undersized rookie and can’t shoulder the entire load. Odell Beckham and Rashod Bateman could emerge as flex options.
However, Isaiah Likely is the direct replacement for Andrews. The second-year tight end had 25 targets, 15 receptions, 204 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the three games he exceeded a 60% snap share as a rookie. Of course, that was with a different offensive coordinator and supporting cast. Likely had only one target, one reception and four receiving yards without Andrews in Week 1 this season. He also failed to catch his only target in Week 11. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Likely has a pitiful 10.3% target per route run rate this season. He’s worth a waiver claim by TE-needy gamers, but they should temper expectations and view Likely in the TE12-TE16 range.
The dropoff from Burrow to Jake Browning can’t be overstated. Ja’Marr Chase should get as many targets as he can handle, but a target from Browning isn’t equal to one from Burrow. Cincinnati’s touchdown potential drops, too. So, Chase is a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 without Burrow.
Tee Higgins will be in the flex mix when he returns from his hamstring injury. Joe Mixon will arguably suffer from Burrow’s absence more than any of Cincinnati’s fantasy-relevant players. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Mixon has cleared 5.0 yards per touch only three times this season, fewer times than he’s fallen short of 3.7 yards per touch.
A look under the hood is even more damning. Per Player Profiler, Mixon has faced an average of 6.5 defenders in the box this year and has done more damage against lighter fronts. Specifically, Mixon has had 0.5 yards per carry against stacked fronts, 2.9 yards per carry against base fronts and 5.0 yards per carry against light fronts. Browning is unlikely to keep defenses honest, meaning Mixon won’t face many light fronts the rest of the season. Mixon isn’t a must-start player but could emerge as a low-ceiling, volume-driven RB2/flex.
Sunday Also Had a Massacre Contest
Unfortunately, the critical injuries weren’t confined to Thursday’s game. Another divisional slugfest was filled with injuries. Namely, Kenneth Walker, Geno Smith and Cooper Kupp were injured. The severity isn’t clear for all of them, but Walker’s appears to be the most serious.
Seahawks’ HC Pete Carroll told reporters that RB Kenneth Walker suffered an “oblique strain that was legit.”
Walker is in danger of missing some time; Seahawks host the 49ers on Thanksgiving night.
– Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 20, 2023
Seahawks HC Pete Carroll described Geno Smith’s injury as a bruise on his triceps or back of the elbow, but he was able to get it loose enough to return Sunday. Carroll said he was not sure of Smith’s prognosis for Thursday vs. San Francisco. https://t.co/U7xqGyJS4A
– Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) November 20, 2023
No update yet on Cooper Kupp’s ankle, per Sean McVay. Matthew Stafford saw Kupp in the locker room postgame and indicated he was still going through information-gathering process.
– Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) November 20, 2023
Zach Charbonnet is a volume-driven flex or bye-week RB2 as long as Walker is out. DK Metcalf’s and Tyler Lockett’s values would crater if Drew Lock had to fill in for Smith on Thursday.
If Kupp’s ankle injury sidelines him, Puka Nacua’s floor and ceiling will climb. However, as John Daigle from 4For4 Football pointed out on Underdog Fantasy’s Week 11 Recap podcast, Tutu Atwell had a 21.9% target share in the first four weeks of this season when Kupp was on injured reserve. Atwell is a deep-league waiver option if Kupp is projected to miss any games.
The Chargers Are Poop Against the Pass
The Chargers had another pitiful showing against the pass in Week 11, coughing up 322 passing yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions to Jordan Love. He was the fifth quarterback to exceed 320 passing yards and pass for multiple touchdowns against the Chargers this season. They’ve held only three quarterbacks under 250 passing yards this season.
The Chargers have the Ravens, Patriots, Broncos (twice), Raiders and Bills on the schedule through the remainder of the fantasy season. The pass-catchers on all of those teams will receive an uptick in value against the Chargers, and Russell Wilson is an intriguing trade target in superflex formats since the Broncos will face the Chargers in Week 14 and in championship week in Week 17.
Denver’s Defense Isn’t Bulletproof
Denver’s defense deserves credit for turning their season around after the Dolphins hung 70 points on them in Week 3. However, they’re a mouthwatering matchup for running backs. According to The 33rd Team’s data for Week 4 through Week 10 and ESPN’s box score for Week 11, the Broncos have allowed 883 rushing yards (126.1 per game), 5.7 yards per carry, two rushing touchdowns, 41 receptions (5.9 per game), 237 receiving yards (33.9 per game) and one receiving touchdown to running backs in their last seven games. The Broncos will face the Browns, Texans, Chargers (Week 14 and Week 17), Lions and Patriots during the rest of the fantasy season.
Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.