We are really in the home stretch of the fantasy football season now. Of course, 11 weeks into the season, things are still constantly shifting. As always, I will try to find the trends that may have gone overlooked in the chaos of Sunday. Here we go!
Dallas Cowboys @ Carolina Panthers
- Frank Reich took back play-calling duties for the Panthers’ offense this week. In the Panthers’ three games with Offensive Coordinator Thomas Brown calling plays, Adam Thielen averaged 7.9 Half-PPR fantasy points on 8.7 targets. In his seven games with Reich at the helm, Thielen has averaged 16.2 points on 10 targets, not to mention an ADOT nearly twice as high (7.4 vs. 4.8). This week, Thielen had his best fantasy outing since Week 6 (the last game where Reich called plays) on eight targets and an 8.0 ADOT — assuming the Panthers don’t change things up again, he should return to weekly must-start status
- Rico Dowdle might be on the same path that Tony Pollard once was — from a satellite back who is more efficient than the starter in front of them to a fantasy star — but he’s got a long way to go. After a big game in Week 10 had many predicting an expanded role for the fourth-year back, he saw just three touches prior to fourth-quarter garbage time. He’s a handcuff, nothing more.
- Miles Sanders came back from the dead this week, playing just two fewer snaps than Chuba Hubbard and earning an above 50% RB rush share for the first time since Week 3 (admittedly with a few weeks missed to injury in that time span). So far this season, this duo is averaging 12.8 Half-PPR points … combined. In a 50/50 split, neither is more than a desperation flex play.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
- The Browns got the win, but their offense still struggled mightily with rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The fifth-round rookie has had two brutal matchups to start his career, but there’s no ignoring that his two starts are now the third and seventh-worst performances of the season in yards per attempt … and we’ve seen a lot of really bad quarterbacking this season. David Njoku, who averages a 31% target share with the rookie compared to 19% without him, is the only Cleveland player who should not be downgraded heavily as long as DTR is under center.
- Among receivers with at least 100 routes run this season, Diontae Johnson is 12th with a whopping 26% target per route run rate. Unfortunately, his catchable target rate is an abysmal 60% (the seventh-lowest among qualified WRs and a Kenny Pickett stat). Even still, I like buying low on Johnson following back-to-back dud weeks — the Steelers’ schedule gets slightly better going forward, and, more importantly, volume is king.
- Coming into this week, Jerome Ford had just seven red zone rushing attempts all season, only one of which came inside the opponent’s five. This week, he had three on back-to-back plays, two of which were inside the Steelers’ five. I don’t want to read too much into a three-play sample (maybe Kareem Hunt was busy tying his shoe), but seeing more red zone work would be a huge boost to Ford’s value. Unfortunately, it would also mean an even huger hit to Hunt’s viability, which has almost entirely hinged on his dominance of red zone work — rushing TDs have accounted for 49% of his fantasy production this season.
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
- In the four games started by Tyson Bagent, D.J. Moore averaged 7.25 targets. With Justin Fields, he has averaged a near-identical 7.16. However, Moore’s fantasy production is more than doubled with Fields, 19.3 points per game compared to 7.3. The main difference is that Fields has thrown 13% more catchable targets Moore’s way (84% vs. 73%) despite targeting him down the field much more often (14.2 ADOT vs. 11.0). With Fields back, Moore’s deep threat ability is unlocked, and he is once again a weekly start.
- A week after alternating drives between David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, the Lions returned to a more traditional thunder-and-lightning split. Montgomery saw four more carries while Gibbs ran 10 more routes and saw four more targets (although the rookie interestingly also played nine of 11 short-yardage snaps). Assuming this split holds, Montgomery gets an upgrade in Standard formats and when the Lions are favored, while Gibbs gets the boost in PPR and more competitive game scripts. On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter, as both are must-starts in all formats; both finished among the top 10 RBs this week.
- Before D’Onta Foreman exited with an ankle injury, he had six touches (including a goal-line TD), Khalil Herbert had six, and Roschon Johnson had one. After Foreman’s exit, Herbert dominated early downs while Johnson served as a receiving back. This was Herbert’s first game back from injury, so his role may expand going forward, but this sure looks like an ugly three-headed committee … although it may be closer to two-headed, with Johnson irrelevant when all three are available.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Green Bay Packers
- I’m unsure how to feel about rookie slot WR Jayden Reed. He has now had back-to-back outings of 16+ fantasy points, and the Packers’ remaining schedule is great for WRs. However, he has also yet to play 80% of snaps in a game and hasn’t cracked a 15% target share since Week 3. He is outperforming his teammates thanks to an 81% catchable target rate while no other Packer WR is above even 69% (yikes, Jordan Love), but his ceiling is heavily heavily capped by his part-time usage. If I had to guess, these last two weeks were his best of the season, but he can still provide deep-league flex value down the stretch.
- I don’t want to talk about Quentin Johnston anymore, so I’m just going to gush about Keenan Allen instead. Allen dropped a sure-fire touchdown this week (potentially because the sun was in his eyes?) and still posted his FIFTH top-five WR week on the season, including three WR1 overall finishes. The Chargers’ schedule does get rough for wide receivers the rest of the way, but don’t even think about trading the NFL’s target leader.
- A couple of bad weeks in a row following a hot start really tanked the general perception of Jordan Love, but he is quietly the QB11 in fantasy football. He also has only two below-average matchups in his final six games. If you’re in a shallow league and looking for a Joe Burrow replacement, Love may be all you need.
Arizona Cardinals @ Houston Texans
- Greg Dortch is an enigma. In seven career games in which he played at least 75% of offensive snaps, he averages 11.4 fantasy points (15.1 in Full PPR) on 9.7 targets. This week, he led the Cardinals with six receptions for 76 yards. However, he’s not worth adding. Prior to this week, he had just one reception for two yards on the season. He likely only saw snaps due to the absence of rookie WR Michael Wilson, who should be back soon.
- He is absolutely lighting the world on fire, but I still recommend selling high on C.J. Stroud. The hype around him is so much higher than his 19.6 points per game (17.1 if you’re into removing 41-point outliers). I would be more hesitant about this call if Houston didn’t have a brutal schedule in the final four weeks of the fantasy season … but they do.
- Marquise Brown has been a huge disappointment since the return of Kyler Murray, but I’m holding out hope. There’s no real reason to think they won’t connect eventually: Kyler is playing well, Brown was earning plenty of targets from Joshua Dobbs, and we’ve seen them dominate together before. Especially given that Brown’s average depth of target since Murray’s return has been an absurd 20.9, it’s just a matter of time before Hollywood has a huge day.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
- Well over half of Will Levis’ 158 passing yards came on just two plays. His 38.9% success rate is second-lowest among QBs with at least 100 attempts to just Zach Wilson. The 32nd-overall pick has big-play ability but is struggling mightily to keep this offense on schedule. That’s a particularly devastating recipe for Derrick Henry’s value: Levis’ big plays score him no points, and he is immediately yanked off the field for Tyjae Spears when the Titans fall behind the chains. If the King can bounce back in great matchups over the next two weeks, I would sell him ASAP — as I mentioned last week, his playoff schedule with two matchups against the Texans isn’t looking anywhere near as juicy as it once did.
- You may have seen the absurdity of Calvin Ridley’s splits with Zay Jones (17.25 PPG on 9.0 targets per game) and without (6.03 PPG on 5.7 targets per game). However, in looking at the data, I can’t find any changes in Ridley’s usage when Jones is on the field (aside from the obviously hugely improved production). I’ve seen arguments that Jones being healthy allows Ridley to line up in the slot more often, but the numbers actually show that he lines up in the slot 3% less often in games with Jones. It’s entirely possible that there’s some football explanation for Ridley’s Jekyll/Hyde act that just isn’t showing up in the data … it’s also entirely possible it’s just a fluke.
- Unlike Henry, DeAndre Hopkins’ value isn’t totally ruined by Levis’ boom-or-bust nature. After all, he can score points on those big plays. However, 56% of his fantasy production in the four games started by Levis has come on just three plays. Those big plays still count, but reliance on them makes him a much harder player to trust. He’s closer to luxury Gabe Davis than his former target-hog self.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Miami Dolphins
- Jaylen Waddle finished with four catches for 55 yards. Three of those four catches came on a drive Tyreek Hill missed with a hand injury. It might not be possible, but he’s a candidate to sell low if you can get even a fraction of his preseason value.
- Josh Jacobs had at least 26 carries in both of Antonio Pierce’s first two games as the Raiders’ head coach. However, those games came against the two hapless New York City teams. In a matchup with a real opponent in the Dolphins, Jacobs saw just 14 carries. Even more concerning, his target share over those three games (also three of Aidan O’Connell’s four starts) has been just 5% (four total targets). In prior weeks, that number was 17% (five targets per game). With some tough matchups coming up, things are trending very much in the wrong direction for the current RB5.
- De’Von Achane only lasted three snaps in his return to the field … but he touched the ball twice on those three snaps, including the first touch on both of the Dolphins’ first two drives. Keep an eye on word coming out of Miami; if it seems like Achane will make it back for fantasy playoffs, there’s a very real chance he can still be the league-winner he looked like prior to his initial injury.
New York Giants @ Washington Commanders
- Don’t look now, but Wan’Dale Robinson led the Giants in routes with Darius Slayton exiting early to an injury. I’ve overreacted before to Robinson seemingly having an expanded role, and this offense is putrid, so I’m not going to get too excited … but he’s back on the fantasy radar.
- Terry McLaurin now has more games with single-digit fantasy outputs than double-digit weeks. And it’s not like he has made up for inconsistency with huge outings: He has just one game above 15 fantasy points. He’s still 14th in the league in total targets, so you can’t bench him … but I almost want to suggest it heading into a tough matchup with the Cowboys.
- It’s almost too obvious to sell high on Saquon Barkley following his 30-point RB1 outing, but I’m going to recommend it anyway. Without even mentioning the Tommy DeVito factor, his playoff matchups against the fourth-worst, worst, and ninth-worst opponents for running backs are a good reason to see if you can move on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers
- Of Brock Purdy’s 25 pass attempts, only one went to a player not named George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, or Brandon Aiyuk … and he finished with a perfect passer rating. It’s hard for four weapons in a single offense to eat, but a super-condensed target tree might be enough to do it. Just keep starting all five names in this blurb, even if the target numbers aren’t always the best.
- Through the first four weeks of the season, Chris Godwin had a 25% target share. Since Week 5, that number is just 20%. Over the last three weeks, it’s 17%. Heading into a rough stretch of matchups, he is nowhere near a weekly must-start at this point.
- If Elijah Mitchell is available in any of your leagues, add him. If CMC were to miss time (knock on wood that doesn’t happen), it’s abundantly clear at this point that Mitchell is the 49ers’ RB2. With the way this offense is rolling, he would be a must-start.
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
- Zach Wilson has officially been benched … I don’t think it matters. His replacement, Tim Boyle, somehow has a much, much worse adjusted yards per attempt in his career (2.2 to Wilson’s 5.6). Expect more of the same struggles offensively for the Jets going forward, although their matchups do at least get a little softer on the passing side.
- As far as I can tell, the only meaningful (for fantasy) changes that came as a result of the Bills switching offensive coordinators were that Deonty Harty saw the approximately 30% route participation that used to belong to Trent Sherfield and Ty Johnson cut into Latavius Murray’s workload. Expect more of the same going forward from all of the top fantasy options on this offense.
- In the first week after the Jets’ surprise release of Michael Carter, Breece Hall posted season highs in route participation (58%) and target share (22%). He will need that passing usage to maintain RB2 production going forward, as his rushing efficiency has fallen off a cliff after a hot start: His RYOE per attempt, still the fourth-best in the league on the season, has been -0.6 or worse every week since Week 6.
Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams
- I hate to say this as a card-carrying Zach Charbonnet truther, but, if Kenneth Walker is ruled out for multiple weeks, the best move to make with Charbonnet may be to trade him immediately. The Seahawks are heading into an absolutely brutal stretch of games, where they face the 49ers, Cowboys, 49ers again, and then the Eagles, all top-seven defenses against running backs for fantasy. Charbonnet should see enough volume and is a capable enough receiver to still have solid outings, but this may be a case where the post-injury hype ends up outpacing his actual production. Don’t sell him for pennies (after all, he saw an absurd 92% snap share following Walker’s injury), but don’t expect RB1 production either.
- Of quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts, Matthew Stafford has the lowest completion percentage over (or, in this case, under) expected at -5.9%. This popped up yesterday as he missed Cooper Kupp on what should have been an easy touchdown. Stafford’s struggles haven’t really affected the fantasy production of either Kupp or breakout star Puka Nakua (so far), but it’s something worth noting.
- If Jaxon Smith-Njigba weren’t the 20th overall pick, he would be rostered in a lot fewer fantasy leagues. He has just one week as a top-20 WR (which came with D.K. Metcalf inactive) and only one week above a 75% snap share. Of course, his pedigree is still relevant, and there is a chance he will explode down the stretch if Metcalf or Tyler Lockett misses time … but he shouldn’t be anywhere near your lineup until that happens.