Fantasy Football Week 11: Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals start 'em, sit 'em, how to watch TNF and more

You can watch "Thursday Night Football," Bengals vs. Ravens, exclusively on Amazon Prime Video at 8:15 p.m. ET.

Welcome to the true biggest "Thursday Night Football" game of the season, folks!

We have had some interesting matchups here before, yes, but none as impactful nor boasting such talented teams as the one happening in Week 11 between AFC North foes, Baltimore and Cincinnati.

The Baltimore Ravens (7-3) are leading the divisional race but instead of boasting what could have easily been a 10-0 record through the first 10 weeks of play, are only half a game ahead of second-place Cleveland and Pittsburgh, both tied with a 6-3 record.

The Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) are trailing the divisional race and they must win on TNF if they don’t want to get into more trouble, let alone some postseason-related challenges they might not be able to handle throughout the remainder of the season.

Adding wood to the fire: these two already met in Week 2 in a game where things couldn’t have been closer (what did you expect? It was an AFC North game!) but one that the Ravens emerged victorious.

The Ravens opened the week as the favorites over the Bengals, boasting a -3.5 spread in their favor.

The total points projection, however, has moved from the initial 43.5 to a higher 46, which is the third-highest total of the week. For context, Baltimore is averaging exactly 27 points per game while Cincinnati has scored 19.4 through the first 10 weeks of play.

How do Ravens and Bengals arrive at their TNF matchup?

It was all rosy — until it wasn’t.

It’d be a bit too harsh to say that things are looking bad for any of these two squads, at least when it comes to their current and recent form. Less than five days ago, both the Ravens and the Bengals were riding four-game winning streaks!

Entering TNF, however, both are looking for re-ignition. The Ravens lost a divisional matchup against the Browns on a walk-off field goal and the Bengals couldn’t handle rookie (yet MVP candidate) quarterback C.J. Stroud and endured a loss in Week 10.

Baltimore demolished a couple of great teams (Detroit and Seattle) by a combined 66 points while limiting them to six and three points. They also defeated the lowly Cardinals, though they struggled a bit while at it (31-24), and added a fourth win in that span by winning a London game against the Titans.

The Bengals were no slouch either, defeating the trio of Seattle, San Francisco (away) and Buffalo in three consecutive weeks following a win against Arizona, splitting those four games into pre- and post-bye-week slates of two matchups.

More than what happened to the Ravens and the Bengals in Week 10 (losses by two and three points respectively), is what might happen next depending on the result of their TNF matchup. Simply put, the AFC North and qualification for the postseason as a whole could be on the line.

Baltimore and Cincinnati are legitimate Super Bowl contenders and have two top-five quarterbacks manning their pockets … yet one has suffered mind-blowing lapses and the other could fall off the playoff picture entirely.

If the Bengals win they will be 6-4, in contention for the No. 1 seed in the AFC North and a good chance at getting to the playoffs. If the Bengals lose they will be 5-5 overall, 1-5 in AFC games, nearly out of contention to win the North division and facing long odds to make the postseason.

To the question opening this column: yes, this is the true biggest "Thursday Night Football" game of the season.

TNF Week 11: Injury Report

The injuries impacting both franchises here are more related to non-fantasy-eligible players than actual skill-position fantasy players (aside from one star). That said, they could impact the outcome of the game clearly as they will surely weaken some key units.

The Ravens opened the week knowing they would most probably not have CB Marlon Humphrey and OT Ronnie Stanley available on TNF after they went down injured last Sunday. Something similar happened to the Bengals when it came to their starting ER pairing of Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, although Hendrickson wasn’t officially ruled out by Cincy in their final injury report released Wednesday, making his availability a game-time decision.

Coming off his first 100-yard game of the season against the Bills, Tee Higgins injured his hammy midway through last week, missed the last two practices before Week 10 last Sunday, didn’t participate in the first two this week and was ruled out for Week 11 on Wednesday.

Expect the Bengals to enhance the role of WRs Tyler Boyd and Trenton Irwin with Burrow giving them more looks as the second and third-string receivers behind Ja’Marr Chase.

One stat that can swing the balance

The fourth-best offense and defense (Baltimore) will face the sixth-worst offense and defense (Cincinnati)

With more than half of all games scheduled for this season already in the books, it’s rather bizarre that the Ravens have both the fourth-best offensive and defensive units in the NFL … let alone that Cincinnati has both the sixth-worst offensive and defensive units in the NFL.

That’s just a mere stat and curiosity amid a million of data points, of course, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The most important thing is the underlying meaning those facts convey and how they might impact this matchup and its fantasy football outcomes.

The Ravens have the strongest pass-rushing unit in the NFL and lead the league in sacks, as well as having the individual leader in interceptions. The Bengals allowed Houston to sack Joe Burrow four times and hit him on nine occasions last weekend while intercepting two of his passes.

Baltimore is rushing for the most yards per game (154.9) and Cincinnati is allowing the sixth-most (129.8) per game. On the other hand, the Bengals are rushing for the fewest yards per game (75.9) while facing a top-10 defense against the run in Baltimore’s unit (100.5 allowed).

On paper, and with a sample size that already covers more than half of the regular season, this matchup should be chalky in terms of fantasy strategy.

For players on Baltimore’s roster, the offensive numbers they have been able to put together speak for themselves and it’s worth noting that they’ll also be facing a defense that simply can’t stop opponents. The Bengals are leaving receivers open, giving up yards through the air and after the catch and getting gashed on run plays.

Those are the precise areas where the Ravens and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken have dominated this season.

For players on Cincinnati’s side, this TNF looks like the typical game to play safe and rely heavily on the top-tier, high-volume players of the offense (Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase) in fantasy contests without betting on fluky events involving others (say, a touchdown scored by a backup tight end, or a vulture-score by a low-usage running back taking a snap close to the end zone).

Three players to start, two to leave on your bench

Start: WR Zay Flowers (BAL)

Although Flowers was targeted six times in the Week 10 loss to Cleveland and hauled in five of those passes for 73 yards, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense could have done much more to elevate the rookie, boosting his numbers past the 100-yard mark and perhaps helping him score his second touchdown of the season.

The Ravens' playcalling was highly suspicious and simply bad at times (more on that below), and Jackson didn’t help matters with some under/overthrows throughout the game. Flowers was barely used two weeks ago against the Seahawks (one target, one reception, 11 yards) but the Ravens didn’t need him that much in what ended up being a demolition of Seattle.

Before that Week 9 dud, Flowers had been featured prominently (at least four targets in every game) and outside of Andrews, he’s the No. 1 pass catcher in this offense. He has grabbed five-plus receptions in six games, reached 48-plus yards in eight of the 10 games he’s played, and the only thing missing on his stats is a handful of touchdowns. With Cincinnati having many edge rushers missing and Lamar Jackson (on paper) having more time to throw and let routes develop, Flowers could have a breakout game.

Consider benching if you have better options: RB Joe Mixon (CIN)

The Ravens might have the best defense in the NFL in points allowed per game, but they surely don’t have the best defense against the rush (11th-best). In fantasy football, Baltimore’s defense ranks 12th in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs through Week 10 and it could be ranked much higher had it not been for a couple of bad, fluky outings.

Joe Mixon faced the Ravens back in Week 2 and earned a respectable 11.5 fantasy points (half-PPR format) rushing for 59 yards on 13 carries. He also hauled in four passes (five targets) for 36 yards back then. Those 11.5 FP are the fourth most any single running back has scored against Baltimore this season.

Only Derrick Henry, Zack Moss and Jahmyr Gibbs topped that figure and only the latter two have been able to score more than 20 FP on this defense.

Mixon has his regular appeal especially considering his three-game scoring streak, but the truth is that he’s lost touches weekly of late (from 16 to 14 and 11 carries in his last three games) while also rushing for an average of 2.6 and 4.2 yards per carry in his last two.

I mentioned above that if you’re planning to start anyone from Cincinnati you should rely on the top player at each position, and no one else. Mixon belongs in that conversation and could get you a tolerable outcome on pure volume, but that might not even be the case considering his recent games. Most fantasy managers will have no choice but to start him, but temper expectations.

Deep-League Bench: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (BAL)

It’s taken Beckham some time to finally catch up to his best version following an 18-month recovery from injury and after starting the year quite slowly, but he’s getting there and the Ravens are loving it.

Should the recent production be trusted, though?

I don’t think so, and Baltimore’s offensive coordinator Todd Monken might actually think the same. Beckham is coming off back-to-back touchdown-scoring games against Seattle and Cleveland. He caught five passes against the former, but only one (for 40 yards and the score) last weekend.

This season, OBJ has hauled in more than two passes three times in eight games, he’s been targeted more than four times only twice and has topped 50 yards just once. Remove the two touchdowns and the production would have been mediocre, to say the least.

I mentioned Monken above because even though Beckham has scored 12.1 and 10.5 fantasy points in the last two games, Rashod Bateman has been on the field for more snaps than OBJ and that’s been the case in four of the last five games played. Of course, production (and Beckham’s touchdowns) is what ultimately counts, but neither is worth trusting even with Beckham coming in riding a hot streak.

Start: RB Keaton Mitchell (BAL)

There is no point in fading Mitchell anymore. Well, there is, but I’m confident the only concern regarding Mitchell (his low usage) will be fixed as soon as the ball gets snapped on TNF.

Just two weeks ago, in the Week 9 matchup against Seattle, Mitchell finally played his “first” football game after getting just two snaps in Week 7 following a stint on IR to start the season. You know what happened against the Seahawks, even though he only logged 14 snaps on offense (18% of all plays ran by the Ravens): nine carries, 138 rushing yards and his first rushing touchdown.

Last Sunday, the Ravens took an early 7-0 lead thanks to a pick-six 30 seconds into the game against the Browns and Mitchell scored his second touchdown as a pro on his first touch of the day. For some unexplainable reason, Monken and the Ravens would feed Mitchell exactly two more carries throughout the full contest, with Mitchell ending with 34 rushing yards on three rushing attempts. Oh, did I mention he caught a pass (on a meager two targets) for 32 yards!?

That silly decision of limiting Mitchell simply has to change as soon as possible. Monken promised a larger role to Mitchell following Week 9 and John Harbaugh said that the Week 10 script simply dictated Mitchell’s low usage Sunday … only for the head coach to concede one day later (after reviewing the film) that Mitchell should have indeed gotten more touches.

I’m not saying Gus Edwards is going to vanish all of a sudden (he’s scored at least one touchdown in four consecutive games and seven combined in that span), but Mitchell has proven to be capable of inflicting heavy damage on opposing defenses and is the most explosive running back on Baltimore’s backfield. I’m convinced the Ravens have realized that and will start fixing this problem as soon as TNF.

Two players to scout as prospective waiver wire pickups

Cincinnati Bengals TE Tanner Hudson (4% rostered)

When you think about the Bengals, more than a handful of skill-position players’ names pop up in your brain before Hudson. That doesn’t mean this tight end isn’t worth keeping an eye on for the second half of the regular season and approaching the fantasy playoffs.

Hudson has been moved up and down the Bengals roster since the start of the season, fluctuating between the practice squad and the 53-man active roster. He was signed to the latter for the remainder of the season Nov. 1, so he’ll stay there for good. In the four games he’s played this season, Hudson got at least two targets each time and finished with two or more receptions.

Just last weekend, Hudson had his best game hauling in six-of-seven targets for 33 yards after getting five targets (four receptions) turned into 45 yards in Week 9. With five of his Week 10 receptions happening in the first drive of the game, it’s fair to believe he will be featured heavily in the offense (to the extent the wide receivers allow him) going forward.

Baltimore Ravens WR Nelson Agholor (1% rostered)

This doesn’t have anything to do with Agholor’s performance of late, or any breaking news that will turn the veteran wideout into a must-add player, or anything like that. It’s merely a reminder that Agholor is still available in nearly all Yahoo leagues … while playing for a team with two wide receivers above him in the pecking order (Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman) who have played 22 regular-season games in the 2022 and 2023 calendar years combined.

OBJ is coming off an 18-month recovery since he got injured in January 2022. Bateman underwent season-ending surgery in early November last year. Both have a long track record of injuries. Who's to say they won't miss time in the coming weeks?

Again: not saying it will happen (nor hoping either, of course), but the past tells us there is a high probability at least one of those two goes down. This season, even in a fourth-string role, Agholor has more receiving yards than Bateman (224 to 205), more touchdowns (two to none) and just one fewer reception (18 to 19). Agholor is also tied in touchdowns with Beckham and trails him by a mere 34 receiving yards on one fewer reception (19 to 20).

We can do nothing to change Agholor’s role in the Ravens' offense (he’s arguably producing as the WR2 of the team), but if something happens to Beckham or Bateman he would be thrust into a larger role overnight, potentially making him a quality add.