It’s Thanksgiving week, which means full stomachs, three Thursday games, the first ever Black Friday (!!!) game, critical fantasy matchups with huge playoff implications, and did I mention full stomachs?
Before we get any more off track, let’s revisit an approach we first took back in Week 6 when we pointed out five numbers that helped explain some of the early season fantasy football trends.
Here are five more that have helped define the fantasy season as we hit the home stretch, beginning with a crazy number from the top position player in fantasy football.
That’s how many receiving yards Tyreek Hill is on pace for this season.
We are officially on 2,000-yard watch and while Miami Dolphins fans are very thankful that they get to watch Hill play, Kansas City Chiefs fans would probably love having this guy back on their team, to pair with their star tight end. Of course, he’s a must-start each week.
That is where Brandon Aiyuk ranks in just about every advanced metric we have. First.
No doubt, Hill is on such a blistering pace from a pure production standpoint because he is the clear No. 1 option on his team. But, of course, Hill is also brilliant. Among wide receivers with at least 50 targets, Hill ranks second in burn percentage, burn yards per target and big play percentage. Because…
Remarkably, despite entering the week sixth in receiving yards per game, Aiyuk is tied for 37th in targets per game. And that’s why this fantasy football week, our model has Aiyuk projected for the second most receiving yards – behind only Hill – but just the 13th-most targets.
The San Francisco 49ers have five players on offense (Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Kyle Juszczyk and Trent Williams) who have been a first-team All Pro player. Aiyuk likely won’t have the raw numbers to achieve that honor this year, but on an offense full of stars, don’t forget about him. And if you have a 49ers stack on your fantasy team, you’re probably doing pretty well.
That is the percentage of Jaylen Warren carries that have resulted in at least a 10-yard gain.
Here is the entire list of running backs since 1994 with a mark higher than 22%: Alvin Kamara in 2017. That was Kamara’s rookie year, and he finished the season as the RB3. Warren is currently RB21.
Warren has yet to finish a game this season with more carries than Najee Harris. But over the last four weeks, Warren has also finished each game with more rushing yards than Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers just fired their offensive coordinator, so here’s a piece of advice for the new guy. Get your best players the ball. Warren is a high upside running back with RB1 potential the rest of the season.
That’s how many Pick-6s Duron Bland has for the Dallas Cowboys this season.
Not only is that mark tied for an NFL record, but so far this season, there is not a single player on the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, or Steelers with more touchdowns than Bland. Again, Bland plays defense.
Along with Micah Parsons, Bland has spearheaded yet another dominant fantasy showing from the Dallas defense, which is well on its way to a third straight, top-two fantasy finish. The Cowboys are averaging more PPR points per game than players like Terry McLaurin and Calvin Ridley, and with the most sacked quarterback in the NFL, Sam Howell, coming to town this Thursday, the Cowboys have a strong chance of yet another excellent performance.
That is how many fantasy points Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scored last week against Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
It was his second-worst performance of the season. There are eight different quarterbacks with at least one 30-point performance on the season, but Hurts is not one of them. Instead, you can just pencil him into your lineup for 20 or more points every week, something he’ll likely do again this week against the Buffalo Bills.
And in case you’re wondering how he’s so consistent? In 10 games this season, Hurts has seven 1-yard rushing scores. You know the one, you can close your eyes and just picture it. So you better believe come Thanksgiving dinner time on Thursday, Hurts will be raising a glass to his guy, Jason Kelce, for leading the way. And fantasy managers with Hurts, you should as well.
Week 12 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 Wednesday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Matthew Stafford, QB (LAR) vs. ARI (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 13, Projected Points: 16.57)
In their Week 6 matchup, the Los Angeles Rams easily handled the Cardinals and Stafford finished with 9.42 yards per pass attempt – a mark that over the course of the full season would be second in the NFL, behind only Brock Purdy.
Because of different game flow factors (like blowing out Arizona in Week 6), Stafford hasn’t completed more than 17 passes in a game since Week 5. With Kyler Murray back in tow to lead a more competent offense, the model expects Stafford to complete over 20 passes this week, and against a weak Cardinals defense, that’s a recipe for success.
No team has allowed more offensive touchdowns than the Cardinals this season. The blueprint is there for Stafford to perform well above his industry expectations, he is a clear QB2 with QB1 upside, just below players like the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields and the Detroit Lions’ Jared Goff.
Breece Hall, RB (NYJ) vs. MIA (ECR: 12, Our Rank: 1, PP: 23.44)
Say hello to the model’s top running back this week! It takes a lot to knock McCaffrey out of the top spot, but there is an intriguing case for Hall this week.
For starters, Zach Wilson is no longer the quarterback. Now, we aren’t making any declarations that Tim Boyle is any better (the guy had one touchdown and 13 interceptions at UConn before transferring to an FCS school, Eastern Kentucky, and then once again throwing more interceptions than touchdowns). In fact, he has three touchdowns and nine interceptions in his NFL career.
The Jets have played 10 games and have scored nine offensive touchdowns. The Dolphins scored 10 touchdowns in a game earlier this season.
Now that the glaring warning signs are out of the way, a new look at QB is good for this offense, and it also means that we can expect a lot of checkdowns to the running back. Only three running backs average more yards per reception than Hall, and while he hasn’t experienced much success rushing the ball lately, the model likes Hall’s chances of finding the end zone against a Dolphins defense that has allowed nine rushing touchdowns on the year.
Nico Collins, WR (HOU) vs. JAC (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 10, PP: 15.93)
C.J. Stroud, through 11 weeks, is as surefire a rookie of the year winner as we’ve ever seen. If we did a re-draft of this year’s rookie class, how high would Tank Dell go? Since Week 9, only CeeDee Lamb and Los Angeles Chargers star Keenan Allen have scored more fantasy points than Dell.
But, lost in all the hoopla of the two rookies driving a bus full of optimism through the entire Houston Texans organization, is that Collins still leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. He’s on pace to finish with 77 receptions, 1,237 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. And according to our EVE metric, Hill, Aiyuk, A.J. Brown and D.J. Moore are the only receivers outperforming Collins this season.
Collins is coming off an 11-target, seven-reception game. All targets in this Texans offense are valuable fantasy opportunities, and Collins commands a lot of that attention. He is a borderline WR1 this week.
Tutu Atwell, WR (LAR) vs. ARI (ECR: 55, Our Rank: 36, PP: 10.91)
With Stafford on our Yay list, it makes sense that the model would like the entire Rams offense. And with Cooper Kupp questionable with an ankle injury, it’s Atwell that is the beneficiary and suddenly a flex worthy player if Kupp is limited or out altogether.
In four games without Kupp to start the season, Atwell was the recipient of at least eight targets every game, with 22 receptions over those first four games. And this week, the Rams face a Cardinals defense that is last in the NFL in passer rating allowed on throws of 21 or more air yards (144.8).
If you are dealing with injuries or play in a deeper league, Atwell, with his big play potential, is worth a look this week.
Week 12 Nays
Sam Howell, QB (WSH) vs. DAL (ECR: 15, Our Rank: 21, PP: 14.20)
Howell is still the NFL’s passing leader, the only player in the league with over 3,000 yards. And with more than 310 passing yards in three of his last four games, not only is his lead over second place increasing, but he’s remaining solidly at the top of the fantasy leaderboards, entering Week 12 as QB4.
But despite being the NFL’s leader in passing yards, he also leads the league in sacks taken. No quarterback has been sacked more than 38 times. After being sacked four more times against the New York Giants last week, Howell, well…
Well, that is not a recipe for success against a Cowboys defense we highlighted earlier as the top fantasy defense on the strength of takeaways, sacks and touchdowns.
In a primetime Thursday afternoon spot, our model is expecting Howell to struggle, making him a questionable QB2 this week – far below what his season-long performance indicates he should be. He’s in the same tier as players like Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers’ Jordan Love.
Travis Etienne, RB (JAC) vs. HOU (ECR: 3, Our Rank: 17, PP: 14.53)
Etienne entered his Week 9 bye with the second most fantasy points of any running back. Since coming out of his bye, Etienne has scored 15.3 PPR points in two games. Total. In two games.
More troubling, this has gone from his backfield to a three-man backfield seemingly overnight. In Week 8, Etienne had 24 carries and the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars running backs combined for five. In Week 10, Etienne had nine carries – six for his backfield mates. Last week, that number flipped on its head, with Etienne carrying the ball 14 times versus 16 for the other Jags running backs.
One game is a blip. But two games starts to look like a trend. Etienne is 17th in projected carries among running backs this week and until that number gets back to being overwhelmingly in his favor, Etienne falls from the no-doubt RB1 tier to a solid RB2.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR (CIN) vs. PIT (ECR: 17, Our Rank: 31, PP: 11.66)
There’s no two ways about it, this stinks. Joe Burrow is among the very best quarterbacks in the NFL, and we highlighted his special connection with Chase last week.
Instead, Burrow got hurt in the first half last week against the Baltimore Ravens, Jake Browning replaced him and proceeded to throw the ball in Chase’s direction a grand total of three times in a game in which the Cincinnati Bengals were losing.
There’s only so far an elite receiver like Chase can fall, and our model is probably right at the edge of that limit. But for this week, against a hated divisional rival, Browning is projected for the second-fewest passing yards of any quarterback. The model just doesn’t project there will be enough passing volume for Chase to sustain what will also likely be a drop in efficiency in fantasy points per target with Burrow no longer at the helm.
Because he’s so good, it’ll be extremely difficult to not play him, but your expectations should be tempered.
Courtland Sutton, WR (DEN) vs. CLE (ECR: 33, Our Rank: 43, PP: 10.42)
Last week, Sutton was on our Yay list, as we highlighted his touchdown streak and consistency.
From last week’s piece: “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.”
And sure enough, he did it again. Another touchdown, another game with more than 11 PPR points as he finished the week as WR14 in another win for the Denver Broncos, this time over the Minnesota Vikings.
But unfortunately for Sutton and his fantasy managers, the Cleveland Browns are coming to town this week, and that alone is enough to drop Sutton so far in our rankings that he goes from being a Yay to borderline unplayable in the span of a week. The Browns have only allowed nine passing touchdowns in 10 games, and they rank first in yards allowed per game.
It’s going to be tough sledding for Russell Wilson and the Broncos, and our model expects that it’s likely that Sutton’s touchdown streak will be snapped. He is a risky play.