NFL Week 11 Recap: 3 Things We Learned Plus Waiver Wire Options
Week 11 provided football fans with some competitive contests, but underwhelmed for the most part. Teams continued their woeful performances (Packers, Cardinals) as the powerhouses in each in conference cemented their places as favorites (Cowboys, Seahawks, Patriots). With no marquee matchup on the table, I decided to do a 3,2,1 segment for this week where I discuss 3 things we learned, 2 things we still don’t know, and 1 bold prediction moving forward.
3 Things We Learned:
The Cowboys remain the most complete team in the NFL behind MVP-front runner Dak Prescott. The rookie shrugged off a slow start and threw tossed 3 touchdowns on 301 yards with 0 turnovers. Fellow freshman Ezekiel Elliot ran for 97 yards on an afternoon he broke Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett’s Dallas record for most rushing yard in a rookie season. Prescott took advantage of single coverage on the outside as the Ravens loaded up to stop the ground game. Dez Bryant and Dak are on the same page as of late, which makes this offense overpowering. The defense fixed the mistakes that plagued their performance last week in Pittsburgh and held Joe Flacco to 17 points. The improved play on this side of the ball makes Dallas as complete as anybody in football. We will see how if they can finish the season in this form as Dallas remains on a collision course to meet Seattle in the NFC Championship. One final thing on Dak: barring an injury or significant dip in play, he’s the runaway MVP. He leads a 9–1 Cowboys team that was 1–11 in games without Tony Romo last year. The turnover ratio speaks for itself and the guy is a natural leader. Prescott should win this award unanimously if the season ended today.
Tennessee and Marcus Mariota are on the upswing, but Andrew Luck still owns the AFC South when healthy. The Colts jumped out to a 21–0 lead and held off the Titans in the 2nd half to get to 5–5 on the year. The ground game of Tennessee was surprisingly absent as Mariota anchored the offense with 2 passing touchdowns. This team has lost close games throughout the season, but this game showed us they are a year or two away from being a playoff team. Indianapolis is my favorite to win the division if their offense remains intact. Luck is by far the best quarterback of the bunch and his defense is performing better on a consistent basis. The upcoming schedule is manageable starting with a Turkey Day showdown with Pittsburgh, so Indy has a chance to assert dominance in a weak division.
The Cardinals are out of playoff contention and suddenly lack a bright future. Arizona entered the season as a Super Bowl favorite, but fell to 4–5–1 after falling in Minnesota 30–24. The offense is in shambles starting with Carson Palmer’s deteriorating abilities. He added two interceptions to his season total and his offensive line doesn’t make life easier as they surrendered four sacks. This offense is not the explosive, downfield throwing machine that they were last year. The playmaking threats after David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are limited, so opposing teams focus on shutting these two down. Throw in a difficult remaining slate of games and the 2016 season looks over already. Beyond this season, things don’t look much better. The QB position is in question along with the receiving talent beyond the aging Fitzgerald. The o-line needs drastic changes and who knows how much of the defense will remain in Arizona after this year. They may need to think about rebuilding sooner-rather-than-later.
2 Things We Didn’t Learn:
The North divisions have no clear favorite. Pittsburgh avoided becoming the Browns first (and likely only) win of the season to pull even with the aforementioned Ravens at 5–5. Neither team looks impressive, but the Ravens hold the edge via tiebreaker. The Steelers have the easier remaining schedule and an offense that can score with the best of them. I just don’t trust their defense. The Ravens possess a top-flight defense that will keep them in every game, and Joe Flacco is more than capable of making a big play to win a game. I love the Ravens if they can make the postseason, so we will see if they can hold off their rival. Cincinnati lost AJ Green for the year and their game vs. Buffalo to bow out of the AFC North race.
The NFC North is also tied at the top as Minnesota and Detroit each won to move to 6–4 on the season. The Vikings rode their defense and special teams to take down Arizona, but still have glaring issues on offense. The running game is non-existent as their offensive line searches for answers. The defense won’t be able to bail them out all the time. The Lions were unimpressive in defeating Jacksonville 26–19, but they will take any win to keep their winning ways going. With Green Bay falling again, Detroit is in prime position to win the division. If they defeat the Vikings on Thursday, expect the Lions to run away with the NFC North.
The Wild-Card races are up in the air. The AFC West seemed like a lock to send 3 teams to the postseason, but this isn’t so certain anymore after Kansas City’s loss to Tampa. The Chiefs and Broncos still have to play each other twice, so the door could open for one of the three 5–5 teams sitting below them in the standings. Miami is only a game behind the AFC West rivals and leads a pack of teams hoping the conference’s top division beat each other up to catapult them into the Wild-Card. There’s a lot of football to be played, so this race will only get closer as we progress through the season.
The NFC Wild-Card picture is even more competitive. The Giants and Native Americans claimed victories to hold their spots atop the standings, but face stiff competition from a group of teams led by the 6–4 Lions and Vikings. The Eagles are 5–5 and have head-to-head matchups with the Wild-Card leaders to make up the ground in a hurry. Tampa Bay is in contention for the NFC South crown with Atlanta (6–4), and are equipped with a tolerable remaining schedule to gain ground with. Also, it is very difficult to trust the Giants and Washington at this juncture. Eli is a turnover machine and Kirk Cousins still has a long way to go to prove he’s a reliable quarterback on a weekly basis. I think the Giants have the defense to make the playoffs, but I’m not sold on Washington yet.
If I had to pick two teams from each conference to claim the Wild-Card spots, I’d choose Denver and Miami in the AFC followed by the Giants and Atlanta in the NFC.
1 Bold Prediction
The Miami Dolphins will win 4 of their next 5 games and host New England in Week 17 with the AFC East title on the line. If you compare the remaining schedules between Miami and New England, you will see a much easier road for the Dolphins. They are two games back and are playing much more complete football than their counterparts. The Patriots have Brady and Bellichick, but there are real concerns over their defense. It’s not crazy to see Jay Ajayi running for 100 yards against them and controlling the clock to keep Brady off the field in their season finale. Miami will handle their business and gear up to win the division for first time since 2008. Ryan Tannehill threw two late touchdown passes to lead the Dolphins to a 14–10 victory over the Rams. They faced a 10–0 deficit in the 4th quarter, but found a way to spoil Jared Goff’s debut and win their 5th straight. If their offensive line returns to full strength (center Mike Pouncey missed the win) then this team will win more football games. Look for Miami to make the playoffs as a Wild-Card team, at least.
Let’s take a look at this week’s Waiver Wire adds. Some will be stash candidates and not instant starters that may take time for playing time to roll their way:
Waiver Wire Adds:
Wendell Smallwood, RB Philadelphia Eagles- the rookie will be the starter going forward after injuries forced Ryan Matthew and Darren Sproles out of action. Smallwood ran hard and has shown big-play ability in limited appearances. Philly is committed to running the ball, so the touches will be there. Kenjon Barner will be the backup incase Smallwood goes down.
Tyler Boyd, WR Cincinnati Bengals- another rookie that will collect a larger workload following AJ Green’s hamstring tear in Week 11. Boyd caught a touchdown on Sunday and figures to step in as the Bengals’ top receiver. He missed the first part of the season with an injury, but is finding his feet in a complicated offense led by Andy Dalton. Boyd is a good play the rest of the season.
Mike Gillislee, RB Buffalo Bills- as long as LeSean McCoy is injured, Gillislee will start and receive the bulk of the carries. This offense is predicated on establishing the run behind their strong o-line, so Gillislee is poised for production if he gets the touches.
Ryan Tannehill, QB Miami Dolphins- if you are searching for a quarterback with an easy remaining fixture of games, look no further than Tannehill. He has one interception since Week 5 and should face single coverage the rest of the season as teams focus on stopping Miami’s ground game. His weapons, Davante Parker in particular, are finally healthy and making plays for the Dolphins’ QB.
Kenneth Dixon, RB Baltimore Ravens- I’ve talked about Dixon on multiple occasions and his role is rising by the week. He didn’t haul in a pass, but it’s only a matter of time before this rookie is inserted as the full-time back. His potential outweighs Terrance West’s production, so expect the rookie to garner more opportunities in the coming weeks.
Cecil Shorts, WR Tampa Bay Bucs- the veteran is developing a nice chemistry with Jameis Winston after hauling in a touchdown catch in Tampa’s upset win over KC. Mike Evans demands the defenses attention, so Winston wisely looks elsewhere and Shorts is stepping up as the №2 receiver over Adam Humphries. Shorts will be a nice scoop-and-start option for WR needy teams.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Philadelphia Eagles- I have mentioned his talent before, and he will be the №2 receiver going forward. The Eagles have a lackluster set of wideouts behind a dinged up Jordan Matthews. With Nelson Agholor dropping passes at will, it should be time for Philly to utilize Green-Beckham’s massive frame and make him the focal point of the passing attack.
Pierre Garcon, WR Washington- back-to-back weeks leading Washington in receiving yards makes the veteran a great option moving forward. Their offense is clicking on all cylinders and Garcon will work the middle of the field in single coverage the rest of the season. His productivity will continue as long as Kirk Cousins stays consistent, and given Cousin’s play this season there is no reason to think it will change.
Marqise Lee, WR Jacksonville Jaguars- he led Jacksonville in receiving yards and is taking advantage of teams focusing on slowing down Allen Robinson. Lee has the speed to break a big play, but is growing into a reliable target for embattled quarterback Blake Bortles. Lee is a trustworthy play in PPR leagues with garbage time points aplenty for the Jaguars’ besieged offense.
Adam Thielen, WR Minnesota Vikings- opposing teams see Stefon Diggs as the only viable threat, so Thielen scored the lone offensive touchdown for the Vikings on Sunday. The offensive line limits this unit as a whole, but a trust between Sam Bradford and Thielen is clearly there. Consider the Vikings receiver a scoop and start play depending on their matchup.
Buy or Sell:
Andy Dalton- his early-season form is faltering and he just lost his best receiver in AJ Green. Dalton is a different player without his top playmaker, so expect the QB to fall from out of streaming contention the rest of the year. He was always playable because of the weapons around him, but I am selling him as a QB option unless his young receivers step up immensely.
Steve Smith Sr.- when healthy, Smith produces numbers. Age doesn’t seem to be a factor for the Baltimore receiver as he finished the day with 99 yards and a score in their loss vs. Dallas. Joe Flacco is underwhelming at times, but Smith is still getting open on a consistent basis. I am buying him as a top-15 receiver.
Rishard Matthews- he has emerged as the top target in a growing pass attack. Matthews caught 9 balls for 122 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Colts and has a budding relationship with Marcus Mariota that vaults him into top-20 WR consideration. Mariota is developing by the week, so buy-high on Matthews knowing he will make plays in an exciting Titans’ offense.
Other Notable Performances-
Rob Kelley- Fat Rob ran for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns as he continued his stellar play as the starting running back for Washington. The Native American’s offense is explosive, but relies on a successful ground game to reach full-potential. This was on display Sunday night as Kelley ran rampant on the Packers’ defense and is a must-start running behind a great o-line.
Jameis Winston- the fantasy numbers weren’t phenomenal, but Winston inspired a young team to victory in one of the toughest places to play. He finished with 331 yards and a score as he kept the Bucs relevant in the playoff picture. Jaboo and Co. were 11–16 on 3rd down showing poise in pressure-packed situations. Winston faces another stiff test when Seattle heads to Tampa in Week 12.
Dez Bryant- the X-Factor is the number 1 WR in fantasy since returning from injury in Week 8. Bryant caught two more touchdowns on Sunday and continues to dominate the single coverage thrown his way. Combine this with Dak Prescott’s pinpoint accuracy and Bryant is a top-5 receiver the rest of the season.
Check in later this week for the Week 12 Preview Worksheet!