Week 11 Booms and Busts: The Andrew Luck Redemption

There’s no stopping <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/25711/" data-ylk="slk:Andrew Luck">Andrew Luck</a> as he settles into a career year (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
There’s no stopping Andrew Luck as he settles into a career year (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

We all have that friend in our life, the guy or girl who just can’t catch a break. Maybe it’s a bad relationship. Sometimes it’s a lousy lease or pesky roommates. Perhaps they’re stuck in a dead-end job.

In fantasy circles, Andrew Luck has been that friend of ours. Crummy coaching. Spotty offensive-line help. Health gone awry. What happened to our star quarterback?

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It’s invigorating to see Luck back in the fantasy circle of trust this year. He threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s romp over Tennessee — his seventh straight game with three or more touchdown passes. He hasn’t been sacked since Week 5, an absurd run of clean pockets, and he’s making it work with all sorts of receivers, backs, and tight ends.

In short, Luck is having the best year of his career, by efficiency. And he’s once again inside the QB1 cutline, an every-week starter.

Finally, it’s all happening for Luck, how we wanted it to. Frank Reich — whose fingerprints were all over Philadelphia’s championship last year — turned out to be the perfect hire, after Josh McDaniels did the bait-and-switch. The Colts have their best offensive line since the Peyton Manning days. And Luck’s health is no longer a problem; the shoulder is sound, the spirit is rebuilt.

The Colts offense has plenty of lunch-pail guys, but it helps to have one Ferrari in the garage. T.Y. Hilton exploded for 155 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, catching all nine of his targets. One of the scores was a classic Hilton bomb — covering 68 yards — but he’s also snagging the shorter scores this year. Six touchdowns might not sound like a lot, but remember Hilton’s career best is seven. Reich’s been more proactive with Hilton from in close this year, and the final touchdown haul will represent that.

The remaining fantasy schedule won’t be easy — Indianapolis plays Miami, Jacksonville, Houston, Dallas, and the Giants over the next five weeks. Every matchup in that list is either neutral or below average. But offensives generally control outcomes in 2018, and Luck has earned the right to start against anyone. He’s reattached the set-and-forget tag.

• The NFL is a finesse game in most cities these days, but the Ravens wanted to party like it’s 1977. They ran three-quarters of the time in Sunday’s 24-21 win over Cincinnati — including 27 runs from rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson — grinding out their result. And in the process, Baltimore may have found a new featured back.

Alex Collins (7-18-1) had an early touchdown, but soon thereafter found the bench. Undrafted rookie snow plow Gus Edwards (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) took over from there, romping over tacklers en route to 115 yards and a touchdown on 17 totes. The .500 Ravens can’t appeal to past pedigree or previous results — Collins was a productive player in the second half of 2017. They need to get production anywhere they can, as John Harbaugh tries to save his job. If you have any FAAB left, a two-handed shove for Edwards probably makes a lot of sense.

There are some soft spots remaining on the schedule, including Oakland and Atlanta the next two weeks.

As for Jackson, he was mediocre as a passer (13-19-150, 0-1), fun as a runner. You generally don’t want your quarterback getting pounded for three hours, and Jackson is merely 212 pounds. But so long as he can stay on the field, the rushing production is a fantasy cheat code. It’s just Algebra.

• It’s easy to get over the Zach Ertz stinkbomb at New Orleans (2-15-0, three targets); most of the Eagles didn’t show up., and the Saints defended him as a group project. Lots of chipping, for one thing. Brackets after that. It didn’t help Ertz that none of his teammates were making New Orleans pay while he was closely marked. A monster bounce-back against the Giants is likely.

The Eric Ebron bagel (no targets, one pass attempt) is trickier to work with. Ebron is a low-snap player who generally gets the filet of usage, but the Colts are also spinning a wide usage web these days. And Jack Doyle is a more complete tight end, if not a more athletic one. Your depth and your upside/floor requirements will steer you on future Ebron decisions.

DJ Moore is easy to like on the stat page, but I love that he passes the eye test. You want first-round wideouts to announce themselves with their play; you want them to identify themselves, not the other way around. Did Tavon Austin ever look like a first-round pick to you? Corey Coleman? Laquon Treadwell? The Panthers will probably start prioritizing Moore’s touches at the expense of Devin Funchess; every pass to Funchess is a gift to the opposition right now.

Quarterback rushing production can have ebbs and flows; Cam Newton’s had three of his four lowest rushing outcomes in the past month. If you’re invested in the skill players here, you’d like to see less of Newton’s legs around the goal line. But the schedule is so juicy for Carolina, there’s probably enough for all of the primary targets. Get particularly excited for the Bucs in Week 13, the Saints in Week 15 (and 17), and the Falcons in the money week, Week 16.

• Sunday’s Charger loss hit covered most of the bingo card. A missed kick and a failure to stop a fake punt, check. A major edge in first downs and total yards, check. Too many drives ending in field goals, check. Bad body language from Anthony Lynn and Philip Rivers, check. A blasé Carson City crowd that doesn’t seem emotionally invested, check. Denver broke many Survivor hearts on Sunday afternoon.

Los Angeles needs a significant Joey Bosa contribution if it’s going to advance deep in the AFC playoffs. You can’t finish a Case Keenum game without a sack or interception. But Denver has some playmakers, too; Phillip Lindsay might be the league’s best pound-for-pound back. Lindsay made 106 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 touches.

• Anyone you can’t trust to start at this time of year is someone you could conceivably cut, too. Remember, only the Rams and Chiefs have byes left; everyone else is playing through. This is when you roll out your best lineup and focus on handcuffs and speciality matchups for the secondary positions.

Demaryius Thomas owners probably want a show-me week before they start him again; I say, why even give him that opportunity? If you never cut someone you’re afraid of haunting you later, you’re being far too conservative. And honestly, I don’t see any risk of Thomas, off a Week 11 bagel, haunting you later. DeAndre Hopkins has become a weekly touchdown guy. Keke Coutee is out of the Death Cab. Your bus can and should leave without Demaryius Thomas.

• Injuries might push Theo Riddick to more relevance in the Detroit offense, but remember, he doesn’t have a touchdown catch in over a calendar year. He did run in three scores in two December games last season, but Riddick is such a mediocre runner and smaller player, that’s not something you can even factor into a reasonable projection.

In short, Reddick is a reactive play, not a proactive one. He’s someone you use when you have to, not because you want to.

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