Titans @ Steelers
Safe Bets: If you had Demarco Murray pegged for three touchdowns last week against the Bengals, then maybe you should go ahead buy a powerball ticket. Sure, goal line plunges can always be fluky, but old man Demarco is back as a fixture of the offense (at least inside the 10 yard line.) Speaking of guys who are back to 2016 form, Marcus Mariota’s scrambling ability is back on the menu. This vastly increases his value from “extremely disappointing” to “adequate”. I think he’s in line for a nice fantasy day, but keep in mind that the Titans would rather die than score more than once through the air. Call it a hunch, but I think Antonio Brown is set to scorch the earth during prime time, and Le’Veon Bell shouldn’t have much of an issue topping the 100+ total yard plateau.
Hope For The Best: I would’ve had JuJu Smith-Schuster ranked pretty high this week, but as the monotone droning of Jim Nantz and Romo’s pubescent wailing indicate, this is a Thursday Night Football game (read: low scoring poopfest). A lot of that will have to do with Ben Roethlisberger’s inability to eclipse the vaunted 220-2-1 stat line, but he’ll be fine in 2QB leagues for this one. Corey Davis became the latest statistic in 2017’s bizarre touchdown-turned-touchback epidemic. Seems there’s at least two of these bonehead plays per week, but with Joe Haden sidelined for the Steelers, the rookie WR should be able to capitalize if he can hold onto the football. Rishard Matthews doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but he’s your man if you need 4 catches for 53 yards.
Hell No: It was reassuring to see Martavis Bryant back in the gameplan for the Steelers last week, but I wouldn’t call him a startable option at this point, either. That goes double for Derrick Henry, whose value is downgraded to bench stash handcuff status with Demarco Murray reasserting dominance in the red zone. Eric Decker is merely collecting a paycheck at this point.
Postgame Headline: “Steelers smash Titans’ mouths in 26-20 victory”
Rams @ Vikings
Story to Watch: “The Rams vs. The Vikings is the most intriguing game of week 11” would probably take the cake for the “most surprisingly true statement” if made during the summer. It’s at least in the running with “President Trump rescues Liangelo Ball from Chinese prison” and “Louis C.K. masturbated in front of numerous women” (okay, that last one wasn’t shocking at all). In any event, against all odds, the showdown between Jared Goff and Case Keenum is somehow appointment viewing for the week, and it comes with plenty of fantasy goodness from some unlikely sources…
Safe Bets: There was a moment where I circled the Minnesota matchup as a potential pitfall for Todd Gurley, but I’m no longer concerned. The Vikes just surrendered 30 points to the Redskins and you could say Gurley is just a bit of an upgrade over Semaje Perine and Chris Thompson. Jared Goff is also a QB1 for fantasy purposes, although don’t expect 4 touchdown passes in this one. Still, as long as he stays locked in with the suddenly deadly Robert Woods, who’s to say he won’t keep up the hot streak? Speaking of unlikely, how crazy is it that Adam Thielen is seemingly the Roy Hobbs of the NFL? The dude truly is a natural, and he should continue to rip off chunk gains against the rams without issue. Stefon Diggs is clearly back to 100% as well, which is better for all of our lives. Start him with confidence.
Hope For The Best: I’m not about to declare Case Keenum a safe bet because, I mean… he’s still just Case Keenum. Still, he showed enough against the Redskins that he at least warrants streaming consideration this week (and a damn strong consideration at that). Latavius Murray has totals of 19, 17, and 18 carries over the past three weeks. While the production isn’t always there, you can’t turn away that kind of volume this late in the fantasy season. I like him for about 55 yards and a touchdown in this one. Jerrick Mckinnon hasn’t exactly taken a backseat, either, and he definitely warrants a start as an RB2/Flex in what should be a high scoring game. Kyle Rudolph wasn’t able to cash in near the goal line last week, but you know what his role is. You’d love a touchdown if you start him, but you can’t be surprised with 4 catches for 38 yards either.
Hell No: The outbursts are just way too random for me to endorse Sammy Watkins. It would be different if he simply wasn’t hauling in balls, but the target share isn’t there for him to be a dependable option. Cooper Kupp isn’t exactly a “hell no” in the truest sense of the phrase, but it’s clear by this point in this season that his upside is fairly capped. You’ve been warned.
Postgame Headline: “Streaking rams continue run, win 31-21 over Vikings”
Bills @ Chargers
Story To Watch: As I’m sure was the case for many of us, I was forced to take a few classes outside of my major during college. I majored in English because I wanted to hit it big by writing articles on Reddit for free, but alas I was still forced to take a managerial accounting course that I coasted by with a C+ average. My professor took umbrage with said coasting and told me that I should drop the course even though I was well beyond a passing grade. I think he just didn’t like the cut of my jib, which is really the only explanation for Tyrod Taylor’s demotion this week. The Bills have a winning record at the moment, but Sean McDermott clearly isn’t down with the B- quarterback play he’s getting (which has nothing to do with giving up 300 yards rushing, btw). Don’t worry, Tyrod – someday you’ll find a professor that will appreciate your goal of being an average starting quarterback.
Safe Bets: Since trading Marcel Dareus, the Bills rushing defense has allowed wider gaps to open than Mr. Hands, which you definitely shouldn’t google. That’s great news for Melvin Gordon, who dodged a major bullet last week thanks to Austin Ekeler’s buttery hands in crunch time. Ekeler looked to be the trusted back for the Chargers before nearly coughing up the game (they lost anyway), so Melvin Gordon needs to seize back the reins this week against Buffalo. While the Chargers will no doubt be looking to exploit the Bills on the ground, Phillip Rivers won’t be quite as conservative as his former teammate Drew Brees. Look for Phil to cash in a couple times with short strikes. I can’t bring myself to move LeSean McCoy out of the safe bets category because he’s LeSean McCoy, so understand that his placement here is basically a fake endorsement. He’s the entire offense, but it’s going to get worse without Tyrod under center.
Hope For The Best: Not that I would ever gamble on a literal blood sport, but if there was a prop bet for “first person decapitated on the field”, Nathan Peterman would be the odds-on favorite this Sunday. Joey Bosa might literally take his head off, so it’s hard to recommend Kelvin Benjamin. That said, the passing attack has to flow through somebody and I think the Bills will be losing early in this one. The 2017 season has been marred by disappointment, but I think Keenan Allen’s pedestrian play has to be high on the list. His on the field play has been perfectly viable, but his production just doesn’t translate in the fantasy game. They might as well use disappearing ink when tallying Hunter Henry’s totals in the box score. He’s been invisible for weeks, but he’s a better bet than Gates.
Hell No: There isn’t a huge chance for this game to be entertaining, so that limits the opportunity of Jordan Matthews or Zay Jones actually doing something interesting. The same goes for Tyrell Williams, who hasn’t topped the 50 yard mark in over six weeks. In case you haven’t been able to tell by now, starting Nathan Peterman is a very bad idea.
Postgame Headline: “Chargers bounce back at home against Bills in 23-10 win”
Patriots @ Raiders
Story to Watch: The inaugural Mexico City NFL game between the Raiders-Texans last season not only was a huge success, but the matchup made perfect sense as both franchises have a huge following in the latino community. The Patriots? Yea, not so much. Sending Rob Gronkowski, Rex Burkhead, and Danny Amendola to play at El Azteca is like sending Larry the Cable Guy to perform at a jazz club. Chances are he would be booed off the stage, and I would love if our Mexican cousins south of the border gave Tom Brady and co. the same treatment. It’s not a knock against the Patriots themselves, it’s just a strange marketing move by the NFL. Anyway, the game should be entertaining as hell to watch.
Safe Bets: What we have here are two trash defenses and plenty of high-octane skill players, so get your taquitos, flautas, and carne asada fries (shoutout SD) ready for this one. Tom Brady should continue to shred, I just hope the altitude in the stadium doesn’t mess with the assuredly legal amount of ball pressure. Rob Gronkowski was a bad beat away from a 100 yard, 1 TD game last week, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the pedestrian (for Gronk) line of 4-74-0. His nickname was “Yo Soy Fiesta” for a time, so I think he goes extra hard in Mexico. Brandin Cooks is coming off another solid if not unspectacular day, but he saw 11 targets despite the average yardage total. With Chris Hogan’s arm still dangling like your grandfather’s dick, expect Cooks to be featured heavily again. I expect Derek Carr to show out for the Mexican Raider nation, and this feels like one of those games where he connects on a deep shot to Amari Cooper. Don’t bet your life on it, but Coop is my totally baseless 6-100-1 prediction of the week (AKA the TY Hilton special). Michael Crabtree will obviously get his, as well.
Hope For The Best: In a strange turn of events, Rex Burkhead was the primary benefactor of Chris Hogan’s absence last week. While his most prominent role to this point was as an extra in American History X, Burkhead may have found his niche as Tom Brady’s new slot threat. Jared Cook is living proof that F. Scott Fitzgerald was full of shit. The 30 year old journeyman tight end is proving that there indeed are second acts in American life. He doesn’t have the pedigree, but I’d ride the Cook wave while you can. Dion Lewis isn’t the season saver that he looked to be a few short weeks ago, but since this is the Patriots backfield, that could all change at a moment’s notice. Marshawn Lynch is the anti-Lewis. He won’t rack up the yards, but he’s a great bet for goal line plunge. As for the rest of the Patriots backfield, well, it’s starting to look a bit like Cleetus’ family in New England…
Hell No: As you can see, there are just too many mouths to feed. If James White isn’t getting the volume, then healthy scratch Mike Gillislee sure as shit won’t be either. The same goes for Danny Amendola, who makes the most of his miniscule targets, but the result doesn’t amount to anything tangible for your fantasy team.
Postgame Headline: “Brady, Gronk give Mexican fans a show in 36-27 thriller”
Eagles @ Cowboys
Story To Watch: Our long nightmare is finally over, as it appears that Ezekiel Elliot has finally admitted defeat and succumbed to Roger Goodell’s punitive overreach. I found it amusing that it was immediately reported that Zeke fled the country to an unknown location, too. Are we sure Goodell didn’t just exile him to a remote island to serve out his sentence, a’ la Napolean Bonaparte being sent to St. Helena? I can’t say I’d blame the commish, either; after three months of appeals, TROs, re-appeals, and millions in legal fees, I would banish Zeke to fucking Siberia if I had the chance.
I think there will be fantasy value to be had at some point between Alfred Morris and upside play Rod Smith, but it likely won’t be this week. Still, it will be interesting to see how the carries are distributed in a tight divisional matchup with the Eagles.
Safe Bets: Even without the banished Zeke, this NFC East battle is sure to be a fantasy bonanza. Provided his offensive lineman didn’t fall victim to a gruesome hunting accident during the bye week , Carson Wentz shouldn’t have any issue continuing his MVP campaign in Jerry World. He feels like the surest bet in the world for three touchdowns this side of Jared Goff, which is easily the most flabbergasting yet true sentence I’ve ever written. Alshon Jeffery is finally locked in with his budding star quarterback, and bible study partner and red zone regent Zach Ertz is back in action. That’s not to suggest this will be a beatdown by Philly, however, as I fully expect Dak Prescott to bounce back after his embarrassing 8 sack performance against Atlanta. Philly’s vaunted pass rush has had issues snaring the Dallas signal caller in the past, and I think Dak will wriggle free for some scrambling magic at least a few times in this one.
Hope For The Best: All signs point to Jay Ajayi’s workload increasing for the showdown in Dallas, but you should pump the brakes on interpreting that as meaning 18+ carries for the new Eagle. Definitely start him, but know that success will come from productivity and not volume (at least for one or two more weeks). The same can’t be said for Dez Bryant, who’s been suffering in both categories for the better part of a month. Dez is living in the 4-40-0 range and I don’t see how that changing against a Philly Defense that’s peaking right now. You’re hoping for a patented goal line fade in this one. Your flex dart throw of the week is Corey Clement, and it’s not even a horrible one at that. He has the total trust of both Wentz and the coaching staff and has shown the ability to make plays near the goal line. With Dez tied up, Jason Witten could be in for a decent game over the middle. Terrance Williams has talent, but good luck predicting when he shows it.
Hell No: I get that you’re excited to bust out that shiny new Alfred Morris or Rod Smith, but maybe… don’t. Philly is the #1 rush defense and Zeke has more talent in his earlobe than his replacements. Nelson Agholor isn’t as dependable as he once was now that Alshon has emerged and the Eagles have like 16 running backs. Brice Butler is your man if you’re looking for one dynamic play and then an immediate disappearance from a guy.
Prediction: “Dak, Wentz trade blows in heavyweight bout, but Eagles emerge 28-24”
Part II coming Friday morning…