One Big Thing – NFC – Week 11

Updated: November 26th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

NFC EAST

 Washington

Alex Smith and Co. did not have to do much to get their third win of the season as the defense kept the Bengals offense in check, especially once Joe Burrow left the game. They relied mostly on their running game with the most rushing attempts since their week 7 victory over Dallas. Antonio Gibson finished as the weekly PPR RB8 totaling over 100 yards also since week 7. This week they face a familiar face in the Cowboys so we can fire up both Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic for a likely RB2/Flex week.

 Philadelphia

Zach Ertz has been designated for return after missing the last five (5) weeks with an ankle injury but I do not think that will be able to solve the Eagles’ problems, which seem to be between Caron Wentz’s ears. The cross-field interception in the first quarter that the Browns’ defense scored on was atrocious and it appears that Carson Wentz is too in his head to be making the split-second decisions. Head Coach Doug Peterson has suggested once Ertz returns that they could try more “13” personnel (3 tight ends). I do not know if that is because their three tight ends have been their most consistent pass-catchers or because they want to take the ball out of Wentz’s hands and run the ball more. Either way, do not expect the Eagles’ offense to bounce back any time soon as they face the Seahawks, Packers, Saints, and Cardinals over the next month.

 Dallas

The old Ezekiel Elliot and Andy Dalton returned after the Cowboys’ bye week and the team showed life for the first time since Dak Prescott’s injury derailed their season. Zeke went over 100 yards for the first time this season and the offense scored as many points (31) as they had in their previous three (3) games combined. Dalton was also able to spread the ball around as Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Dalton Schultz all caught at least four (4) passes. Unfortunately, it appears that Michael Gallup’s fantasy appeal has all but evaporated as despite this being a high scoring game, Gallup only managed two (2) catches on five (5) targets. Other than their week 13 matchup against the Ravens, the Cowboys’ schedule favors their chances of winning quite well which means they may have the inside track to winning the NFC East.

NFC NORTH

 Detroit

Of course the week after D’Andre Swift has his breakout game he then is forced to miss the next week with concussion symptoms. None of that is his fault of course; it is just unfortunate that he was not able to immediately build on his momentum. His availability may not have made a difference anyway as with Matthew Stafford nursing his own injury the offense was woefully unproductive and suffered their first shutout since 2009. The Lions have another plus matchup on Thanksgiving against a poor Texans defense so hopefully, they can turn things around quickly. Swift has already been ruled out for a second straight game so it will be on Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson.

 Minnesota

Just when we thought the Vikings were gaining momentum to maybe be a dark horse wildcard team they suffer a back-breaking loss to a two-win Cowboys team. It was not because of their offense though as Dalvin Cook once again had 160 total yards and Kirk Cousins threw for over 300 yards and three (3) touchdowns. Most importantly Cousins did not have a turnover which is the usual culprit for a tough Vikings loss. Looking ahead in the Vikings’ schedule, Cook will have to put on an all-time performance if he hopes to keep up in the race for fantasy MVP. Matchups against the Buccaneers, Bears, and Saints feature three of the top 10 run defenses in the league.

 Green Bay

For how strong the Colts defense has been all season putting up 31 points is no slouch performance by Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, the best part of the Colts, their run defense, stuffed Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams for much of the day despite the Packers have a big lead after the first half. The team needs Allen Lazard back at full strength because while he suited up and had two (2) receptions, he only played on 59 percent of the snaps and had no impact on the passing game. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a nice deep threat but Aaron Rodgers needs a reliable second option to Davante Adams if the team is going to have a deep playoff run.

NFC SOUTH

 Atlanta

It was always going to be a tough matchup for the Falcons against the Saints but after going up 9-3 it looked like there could be a chance for an upset if they could just finish their drives with touchdowns. Not only did they not finish with touchdowns but after their third field goal with four minutes left in the second quarter, the Falcons had three punts and two interceptions on their final five full drives. Todd Gurley had no running room against a top Saints run defense and Julio Jones was substituted in and out of the game with a hamstring injury. The Falcons finish with a brutal end to the season with another matchup against the Saints in two weeks, two games against the Buccaneers and their strong run defense and games against three tough AFC West teams (Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers). It will be hard to imagine Todd Gurley being much more than a flex at best for the final six weeks of the season.

 New Orleans

The Taysom Hill experiment almost did not work, until it did. No passing touchdowns for the quarterback in his first start but he had two rushing touchdowns to give a boost to those who took a gamble and started him. Most thought that he was going to be a drain on the receivers he was passing to but, and maybe we should have seen this coming, it was actually their running back Alvin Kamara who suffered the most from Hill’s first start. Only scoring 10.5 PPR points, it was by far Kamara’s worst game of the season and his first career game without a reception.  Fantasy players can only hope that this was just a one-time occurrence as not having Kamara at his usually weekly RB1 potential could doom a lot of fantasy managers down the stretch.

 Carolina

P.J. Walker stepped in for Teddy Bridgewater and other than having two killer interceptions in goal-to-go situations that really could have padded his stats, Tucker played well in his first NFL start. The former XFL star is likely going back to the bench this week with Bridgewater set to return but it shows that in deeper Superflex leagues he might be an outside option next year for those who handcuff quarterback. Both Mike Davis and Curtis Samuel as suggested last week had a bounce-back performance with 15.9 and 21.4 PPR points respectively. Davis should have one final showing before the rare week 13 bye when likely Christian McCaffrey will make his second return this season. Do not drop him yet though as we already learned anything can happen and he may be called on a third time to close out the season.

 Tampa Bay

The Buccaneers offense just does not seem to be gelling in a way that is sustainable to win what looks more like four road games in a row to be Super Bowl Champions as a wild card team. Despite having two above-average running backs neither seems to be reliable when both are mixed into the game evenly. Ronald Jones’ best games came when he was given the bulk of the work and was able to build momentum similar to how Derrick Henry out physicals opponents as he figures out the defense. Tom Brady, the play designs, and the execution also do not seem to be on the same page with one another as several of Brady’s mistakes in this game appeared to be either misreading routes or just not placing the ball where it needed to be. After another Brady vs. Mahomes showdown, the offense will have four (4) tune-up games against what should be beatable opponents to try and orient what kind of team they want to be in the playoffs. Hopefully, that can translate to more consistent performances for fantasy purposes.

NFC WEST

 Arizona

After an emotional Hail Mary win on Sunday and then a quick turnaround for a Thursday night game the Cardinals could maybe be forgiven for a letdown performance against the Seahawks. The game was still close and they even had a chance to win it on the final drive but with Kyler Murray injuring his shoulder early in the game their whole offense seemed just a little off. Murray only rushed five (5) times for 15 yards and also failed to score with his legs for the first time since week 4. It is crazy to expect that from a quarterback but that is the type of season Murray has been having. If his shoulder injury does not hold him back there should be no concerns with him, or the offense moving forward. He is the leader heading into the back half of the season to be 2020’s fantasy MVP.

 Seattle

A “must perform better” game for Russell Wilson was needed and he delivered. After having multiple turnovers in three (3) of the previous four (4) games he turned in a near-flawless performance with only five (5) incompletions and no turnovers. Having a running game probably helped with that as having Carlos Hyde return and provide 79 yards on the ground did not allow for the defense to tee-off on Wilson as they had been in recent weeks. Wilson and the Seahawks should feast over the next month against inferior NFC East opponents along with the winless Jets so expect top 12 performance from all his supporting cast. Could Wilson make a late-season push back into the fantasy and NFL MVP conversation?

 LA Rams

I think the poet Stefon Diggs put it best two weeks ago when he said, “That’s why you pay me” and indeed that Monday night performance was why the Rams paid Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. The two combined for 23 receptions and 270 receiving yards! They clearly wanted to remind everyone that they are should be considered the top receiving duo in the NFC West, if not the league. Other than last week’s game against the already well-documented tough Buccaneers run defense, the offense has been well balanced with their running and passing game and although it has not translated to consistent fantasy points for any one running back, they do feature two running backs in the top 35. With the second-ranked defense after 11 weeks, and back-to-back quality wins against playoff teams the Rams are poised to be one of the better teams entering the playoffs.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews