In our Week 11 fantasy football start ’em and sit ’em, we let the data give you another perspective that likely varies from the expert consensus.
There is a secret sauce in everything we do at Opta Analyst.
All of our articles, every word in the Yays and Nays, and on this site in general, is backed by a sports database so unique in its expansiveness that we’ve got stats from sporting events from over 100 years ago. And we take full advantage of that data.
Sometimes, we see something that happens on the field, and feel compelled to write about it, using game-based data to back it up. Like in this profile from earlier in the week on C.J. Stroud.
Other times, we take the events that have transpired on the field and use that data to build advanced models that attempt to predict what might happen in future games, like the fantasy football model you read about in this piece every week or in our weekly predictions piece.
But there’s a third, essential, use case. See, we watch as much as we can, but we can’t watch everything. So often times, it’s the data that helps us find compelling subplots and storylines.
To that end, here is one unique insight from five different NFL games this week. Five insights that you wouldn’t know just from watching but will hopefully pique your interest in these games and give you an extra storyline to track.
1) Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase connected on their 27th regular-season touchdown last week. That is the highest total by a passer/receiver who were college teammates, surpassing the 26 touchdowns from Tobin Rote to Billy Howton for the Green Bay Packers from 1952-56 (played together at Rice in the 1940s).
2) Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
The Bears are allowing 3.22 yards per rush this season, on pace to be lowest in a season since the 2014 Lions (3.17). It’s also on pace to be the lowest mark by the Bears since the 1970 season (3.20). Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off back-to-back games with at least 200 rushing yards, the first time doing so since 1997 (three straight in November).
3) Las Vegas Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins
The Raiders and Dolphins have matched up 37 times in the regular season with each team winning 18 games (and tying once). Through 1990, the Raiders held a 14-3-1 advantage, but since then, the Dolphins have gone 15-4. The last four matchups have been decided by a combined 15 points with Las Vegas winning the most recent 31-28 in overtime in 2021.
4) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
Jerome Ford rushed for 106 yards in his first game against the Steelers this season. The only player in the Super Bowl era to rush for 100 yards in two games against the Steelers in a single season was James Brooks for the Bengals in 1989.
5) Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs
This will be the seventh Super Bowl rematch in the following season all time. The team that won the Super Bowl has gone 5-1 in the rematches – the 1993 Buffalo Bills are the only team to lose a Super Bowl the previous season and then beat the team they lost to (Dallas Cowboys) the following year.
Sports are fun, and the numbers help accentuate the joy, so let’s dig into some more.
Week 11 Yays
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Thursday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Brock Purdy, QB (SF) vs. TB (ECR: 12, Our Rank: 5, Projected Points: 21.36)
You know what they say … “if it ain’t broke….” For the second straight week, Purdy makes the Yay list as the quarterback most undervalued by the industry.
Last week, squaring off against Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was in this section because we mentioned that he was getting Deebo Samuel back, Trent Williams back, and was facing a team that was 30th in sacks and passing yards allowed. This week, he’s facing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that is 31st in passing yards allowed, but sixth in rushing yards allowed per game.
Purdy’s first career NFL start came last season against the Buccaneers and he finished the game with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a dominating 35-7 win for the San Francisco 49ers. Purdy finished the week as QB8. With now a full season’s worth of games under his belt, the model likes his chances for an even slightly better finish. He’s a top five quarterback for the second straight week.
Rachaad White, RB (TB) vs. SF (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 5, PP: 17.29)
Having a running back on the Yay list against a fearsome defense is always a risky proposition, but it becomes less so when that running back has never truly relied on rushing yards for fantasy production. Enter Rachaad White!
Amongst all qualified running backs, White is 29th in rushing yards per game and averages the fourth fewest yards per rush. So how then is White RB3 in PPR points since Week 7? Well, he’s been outstanding in the passing game. In the last four weeks, just through the air, White is averaging 11.95 PPR points per game and the only running back that averages more receiving yards per game than White is Christian McCaffrey.
Against a defensive line that is focused on attacking the quarterbacks, dump offs to the running back can be a QBs best friend. White has been turning those touches into gold for his fantasy managers during this stretch.
And with 20 carries each of the last two weeks, the volume is there for White to deliver a fifth straight excellent performance.
Zay Flowers, WR (BAL) vs. CIN (ECR: 33, Our Rank: 20, PP: 13.65)
Thursday night games are tough to prepare for, but for the Ravens after their horrible loss to the Browns last week, a quick turnaround might be exactly what they need. And for Flowers, a game against a Bengals defense that allows the fourth most yards per pass play (6.86) might be exactly what he needs to help his production match his talent.
See, there are 43 players with at least 57 targets this season. Flowers is first among that group in open percentage (89.7) and second in forcing a missed or broken tackle per touch (0.270) behind only the Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf. In simple terms, he gets open, and makes tacklers miss once he has the ball in his hands.
In games in which he has at least six targets, Flowers is averaging 12.8 PPR points per game. Our model is projecting him for 7.3 targets, making Flowers a solid WR2 this week.
Courtland Sutton, WR (DEN) vs. MIN (ECR: 29, Our Rank: 21, PP: 13.24)
Maybe it got lost because the Denver Broncos allowed 70 points in a game earlier this year. Or maybe it got lost because he hasn’t had a single game with 100 receiving yards or multiple touchdowns. But Sutton is very quietly WR24 on the year. He’s got a touchdown in four straight games, six of his last seven, and only one game with fewer than 10.9 PPR points.
Five weeks ago, this Sunday night matchup between the Broncos and Minnesota Vikings seemed like a snoozefest. Since then, all the Broncos have done is beat the Chiefs and Bills in back-to-back games and all the Vikings have done is win five games in a row – the latest over the New Orleans Saints with Josh Dobbs at the helm.
In a game that will likely feature some points, Sutton is our fifth most likely wide receiver to score a touchdown. Like Flowers, he’s in that WR2 tier.
Week 11 Nays
Justin Herbert, QB (LAC) vs. GB (ECR: 9, Our Rank: 15, PP: 16.86)
In his last two home games, Herbert has seven touchdowns and one interception. In his last two road games, he has one touchdown and two interceptions. On the season, Herbert is averaging 261 passing yards per game, but outside of a dome, that number drops to 233 yards per game.
You may have guessed it, but this week, Herbert and his Los Angeles Chargers are heading on the road to face a Packers team that is seventh in passing yards per game allowed. And to make matters worse, Herbert might have to do it with Keenan Allen battling through an injury – which is better than the alternative that has Allen watching from the sidelines.
It might feel slightly crazy benching the QB4 entering the week, but his performance over the last few weeks has dipped. Since Week 6, Herbert is ninth in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. The model expects some more troubles for him this week, planting him firmly in unfamiliar territory as a QB2 below other signal callers like Houston Texans phenom C.J. Stroud, the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields and the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray.
Tony Pollard, RB (DAL) vs. CAR (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 18, PP: 13.99)
Is it possible there hasn’t been a more disappointing player than Tony Pollard for fantasy managers so far this season? Here is just a sampling of players that have more double-digit outings than Pollard since Week 4: Tyjae Spears, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Allgeier, Emari Demercado, Darrell Henderson Jr. and the absolute night capper on a nightmare list of names, Kyle Juszczyk.
For those unfamiliar with those names, that is, respectively, the backup running back for the Tennessee Titans, Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams. And that final name? He’s the 49ers fullback. All of them have at least two games with 10 or more PPR points. After scoring only 9.0 points in Week 4, Pollard has only crossed that 10-point threshold once, and it didn’t even happen last week against the New York Giants.
Pollard is too good of a player to not have an explosion eventually. Remember, Pollard finished as the RB8 last year, despite playing alongside a running back who finished the season with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Pollard hasn’t found the end zone since Week 1 and until that breakthrough game comes, the model doesn’t view him as a bonafide RB1.
Adam Thielen, WR (CAR) vs. DAL (ECR: 16, Our Rank: 28, PP: 11.82)
If Pollard has been the season’s biggest fantasy disappointment, then Thielen might be one of the biggest surprises. Last season, he finished the year as WR30 and in 2021, he was WR28. So how does it make any sense that on an offense that is 30th in yards per game and points scored, Thielen enters Week 11 as the eighth-best wide receiver in fantasy football?
It’s actually quite simple. He’s the best player on a bad offense, meaning he gets a ton of work. Similar to New York Jets star Garrett Wilson, who is on track for over 100 receptions and 1,200 receiving yards, Thielen is succeeding because when good things do happen, it usually involves him! He has 41 more targets than the next highest player on the Carolina Panthers, 45 more receptions and three of Bryce Young’s eight touchdown passes have gone in his direction.
But, this week, against a strong Cowboys defense, and an especially strong pass rush, the outlook for the Panthers is bleaker than normal. He’s a risky flex play at best.