Aside from the New Orleans Saints being the Saints, it was a mostly quiet Week 11 from a statistical perspective.
One morbid data point stood out after the gruesome double-bone fracture in Alex Smith’s leg: It came 33 years to the day that star Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann broke his leg. The final score ended up matching in both contests. Bizarre, unfortunate coincidence.
The biggest offensive impact game will come Monday night when the Los Angeles Rams sorta-kinda host the Kansas City Chiefs after poor field conditions in Mexico City forced a relocation to the LA Coliseum, which isn’t the home of the Rams, but at least the players avoided traveling.
I get a kick out of some of these obscure statistics that are effectively meaningless in fantasy. Appreciate this one for a moment:
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen‘s season-long average separation from the defender is 3.0 yards at the time of the on-target throw … it’s about normal. In the past two games, his yards-per-reception average has been way down, and his fantasy returns have suffered as a result. This led me to be curious if his separation also had been way down in those games, but it really wasn’t. In fact, it was just 0.3 of a yard less in the Week 9 game before the bye and actually up 0.1 in the Week 11 loss. This suggests a shorter distance of air travel, and the stats absolutely confirm it. In the those games, he saw an average air target of 7.2 yards in Week 9 and 8.8 in Week 11, down from his season average (which includes both of those figures, mind you) of 9.1.
While it may not seem overly significant, it’s a sign of the offense not having as much time to throw and designing more quick-hitting game plays to let the receiver create yardage after the catch. That, too, has been down. Thielen averaged 2.3 yards after the grab in Week 9 and only 2.1 in Week 11 — both signs of great tackling and also added defensive coverage through shading a safety. On the year, he has averaged 3.8 yards. All of this data may seem inconsequential, but they’re averages, and it adds up when volume is considered. The point being, defenses are figuring out how to contain him — put pressure on Kirk Cousins and force Thielen to beat them after a short catch.
There’s zero chance by my estimation the Baltimore Ravens turn back to Joe Flacco. Reports suggest the Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh are headed for a mutual split, but I sense this marriage could be saved if the Ravens secure a playoff spot under their promising rookie quarterback. As we saw Sunday, Lamar Jackson is as raw as uncooked pork as a passer, but he is a sizzling filet when running the ball. There will be bad to accompany the good, and he won’t run like that every game. Injuries are a concern over the long haul, but gamers that are weak at quarterback and desperately trying to get into the fantasy postseason have to take a chance. Baltimore’s strength of schedule for quarterbacks is among the best remaining in football. One extenuating concern is what the move to Jackson would mean for the receivers. We saw this with the opening drive of 11 plays, 75 yards and not a single pass. It worked out well for running back Alex Collins in the end. However, according to Next Gen Stats, Collins led all qualifying backs (75-plus carries) with 36.5 stacked boxes faced entering Week 11. It should remain high until Jackson puts some fear into defenders with his arm.
How impressive is the 214-attempt streak by Andrew Luck without taking a sack? Sounds crazy, right? Seems like it should be some sort of record, huh? Not quite. It isn’t even second on the all-time list. That number is 252 attempts by Mark Rypien in 1991. How far is Luck from owning this odd statistical crown? Dan Marino has the all-time mark for avoiding a sack in 759 straight passing attempts, spanning two seasons worth of play, in 1988-89. Sacks became an official stat in 1982. This kind of elite protection and quick-firing trigger by Luck is what has made him a fantasy force this season after some questioned if he’d even play football again, let alone at such a high level. Luck ranks tied for fifth with quickest average release time at 2.61 seconds, per Next Gen Stats. This young offensive line is playing so well it has to be adding life to his career.
Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard has 51 receptions this season without a touchdown. The last time a running back had 400 or more aerial yards and didn’t find paydirt was Kevin Faulk in 2003. At some point, given the decimation of Oakland’s receiving corps and propensity to face pass-heavy, catch-up scenarios, Richard is bound to find the end zone. Even without touchdowns, he has been good for double-digit PPR points nearly every week.
Even with Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham suffering a broken thumb, don’t expect a lot more of Robert Tonyan. The first-year tight end scored a 54-yard touchdown on his lone catch in Week 11 that came on a broken play. He beat the coverage off the line and used his athleticism — he’s a hybrid tight end/receiver type — to beat single coverage on a play in which Aaron Rodgers had 7.6 seconds to pass. That’s an eternity even compared to Rodgers’ usually delayed release (2.92 seconds) as he tries to buy time. Don’t waste FAAB or a waiver claim on Tonyan. It’s not like Graham was exactly lighting it up in this offense, and the Packers have a bunch of other ways to attack. Tonyan’s big plays should be isolated and extremely difficult to project.
As discussed about in the Lamar Jackson segment, the impact of his legs and limited passing skills on the running game are worth examining. Stacked boxes will be a concern, but it wasn’t an issue against the Cincinnati Bengals — albeit one of the worst defenses at stopping running backs in 2018. Undrafted rookie Gus Edwards even managed 115 yards and a score on just 17 carries, making the first rookie QB-RB duo to accomplish this feat in the NFL’s storied history. Javorius Allen has essentially disappeared from this offense, seeing only one touch in Week 11 after weeks of ineptitude. With Kenneth Dixon poised to return from the IR list soon, this backfield could become even more convoluted. Picking which back each week will be problematic, and now all of them will see fewer looks in the passing game and a lowered chance of scoring with Jackson’s mobility in the mix. I’d add Edwards based on volume alone, but it could wildly fluctuate each week. He’s a bruising back with some speed but offers almost nothing in PPR without finding the end zone.
The 33-year-old Adrian Peterson continues to prove that playing running back in the NFL isn’t just a young man’s game. He found the end zone twice behind a patchwork offense line and with Colt McCoy replacing Alex Smith due to a severe injury. While it is nice to see AD climb the league annals, he still managed only 51 yards on 16 carries (3.2 YPC) and didn’t catch a pass. At this point, he is no different than the flier back you’d look to play in hopes of a cheap touchdown — like Derrick Henry, Ito Smith, Latavius Murray, etc. No team has a worse remaining strength of schedule. Dallas and Philly have combined to allow only nine rushing scores. The New York Giants have given up that many alone, so he could be a good play in Week 14. Then Jacksonville and Tennessee both combine for only nine TDs surrendered, and then Peterson closes out in Week 17 with Philadelphia again (5). Every point matters the rest of the way, and fantasy gamers cannot afford to be bogged down regardless of his admirable effort in the face of Father Time and a broken offense around him.