Week 11 Fantasy Football Booms-Busts: Justin Jefferson gets last word
If you came here for the Jonathan Taylor party, we decided to give him his own piece. That’s what happens when you set history.
There are plenty of talented players on the Minnesota Vikings offense. Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook have all been to multiple Pro Bowls. Tyler Conklin is a solid tight end. The men in purple know how to move the football.
But to really make this offense sing, Justin Jefferson needs to be the alpha in this group. And perhaps the Vikings are starting to figure that out.
Jefferson took center stage Sunday against Green Bay, sparking the Vikings to a pivotal 34-31 victory. Jefferson snagged 8-of-10 targets, good for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He narrowly missed a third touchdown, a 56-yard catch where the officials spotted him down just shy of the goal line.
(It looked like a touchdown to me, but I still don’t get a vote. I’m ready when you need me, NFL.)
Justin Jefferson outduels Davante Adams in Week 11
Sunday marked the fifth time this year the Vikings have peppered Jefferson with double-digit targets. They’ve scored 34, 34, 33, 30, and 27 points in those five matches. Conversely, there have been four games where Jefferson has eight targets or fewer. Minnesota has just 73 total points in those games. (Jefferson’s 2-21-0 line against Dallas, on just four looks, was the most egregious of the group.)
Bottom line: Jefferson is always open, no matter if he looks it or not. He can run away from people, and he can secure contested catches. There’s no optimal way to defend him.
It’s hard to believe Jefferson was merely the fifth wideout taken in the stacked 2020 receiver draft. Jalen Reagor was the selection just before Jefferson; man, would the Eagles love that pick back.
Perhaps Jefferson got a kick Sunday facing off, indirectly, against Green Bay’s Davante Adams. The Packers touchdown maestro put on another clinic of his own, snagging 7-of-8 looks for 115 yards and two spikes. He sure loves attacking this Vikings secondary; Adams has seven touchdowns in his last three Minnesota games.
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This was one of those games where the team that had the ball last was going to win. Despite a sore toe, Aaron Rodgers was ridiculous (22-for-33, 385 yards, four touchdowns), averaging 11.7 yards per attempt. He even had an 18-yard scramble, keeping one drive alive. The Packers punted just twice, Minnesota three times. Kirk Cousins posted a 128.4 rating, tying his best of the year.
Green Bay needs help for Adams, of course. A.J. Dillon was useful if not electric, making 97 total yards on his 17 touches. Rodgers skimmed 10 targets to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and while six fell incomplete, a few connected — one for a 75-yard touchdown. A healthy MVS would go a long way towards making the Packers a legitimate NFC Championship threat.
The rest of the Vikings boxscore cleaned up as usual. Cook never broke a long run but still collected 115 total yards and a score. Thielen secured another red-zone touchdown — he’s up to eight spikes on the year — and posted an 8-82 line. He’s one of the best boundary receivers in the game.
We’ll all get a good look at the Minnesota-Green Bay rematch, a Sunday night island game in Week 17. Even if it’s a wintry wonderland at Lambeau Field that night, there’s a fair chance the pinball machine will be buzzing again.
Anything for a reliable, consistent quarterback
If you had Rodgers or Cousins steering your fantasy ship, try not to rub it in. Week 11 was not kind to several name-brand quarterbacks. Josh Allen played poorly but at least snuck into the Top 10 through garbage time. But Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Joe Burrow finished far under expectations. And of course, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray were game-day scratches.
Meanwhile, consider some of the Top 12 interlopers, QB1s for moment: Trevor Siemian, Colt McCoy, Taylor Heinicke, Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton. Maybe you started someone on this list because of desperation. If you proactively sought them out, maybe you should try the lottery tomorrow.
(Not every surprise starter was a miracle worker. Tyler Huntley scored about 11 points. Tim Boyle scored one.)
Prescott had a reasonable excuse — Amari Cooper wasn’t available, and he lost CeeDee Lamb midway through the loss at Kansas City. Tannehill is also dealing with a skeleton crew on offense. Burrow was tripped up by game flow, as the Bengals raced to an easy lead at Las Vegas and didn’t need to throw a lot, but he also couldn't push the ball downfield. Wilson hasn’t looked right since he returned two games back.
There’s no major illumination point here, other than football has a ton of variance to it, and obviously every offense is a collection of pieces and moving parts. It’s always a snow-globe league. Justin Herbert had three messy starts out of four into the Sunday night game, but he was historic in the thrilling night win over Pittsburgh.
We always want to put in the time and make the sharpest decisions we can, just recognize the wide error bars we're all working with.
• Although Cam Newton fell just short of his passing-yard projection and he wasn't sharp on the final two drives, he was a lot better in his first start than I projected. He's still an active and willing runner, and that's the ultimate tailwind for a fantasy quarterback. Carolina has plus skill talent, too; certainly much better offensive pieces than the 2020 Patriots had.
• The Browns are failing Baker Mayfield by not resting him — for his own good. He’s hurt. He shouldn’t be on the field. Obviously Mayfield wants to compete — he’s a leader, and he’s in a contract year. But you can’t leave those decisions up to the athlete; 99 percent of the time, an athlete will play with a limb hanging off.
Case Keenum is a quality backup and has history with Kevin Stefanski. Do the right thing, Cleveland. Save Mayfield from himself.
• As wonderful as Jonathan Taylor is, I don’t see any upside for the Colts because you can only hide Carson Wentz for so long. Sunday at Buffalo, shockingly, they were able to do so. But in the playoffs you’ll need to pass proactively. I don’t trust Wentz at all.
• I don’t want to blame Josh Allen too much for Sunday’s loss, and Buffalo’s issues go far deeper than him, but I never understood why he was at the top of the MVP board. Granted, it’s a very difficult year to handicap that race. The flashiest offensive seasons — and the most consistent ones — have come from non-quarterbacks, but the shape of modern football makes it pretty much impossible for a non-QB to truly be the MVP. (That’s why there’s an ancillary award, Offensive Player of the Year. That’s where Taylor and Cooper Kupp and others will make for a heck of a debate in two months.)
• Leave it to Deebo Samuel to be a game-breaker on a day where he draws two targets. But the San Francisco running backs were a gigantic dud against a worn-down Jacksonville defensive front.
• It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the type of line Rondale Moore put up: 11 targets, 11 catches, 51 yards. On a day where Colt McCoy was pressing things downfield, Moore didn’t gain more than 11 yards on any catch. I’m also shocked the Cardinals aren’t using Eno Benjamin much in the pass game; he was a quality receiver in college.
• Elijah Moore has four touchdowns in three games, and they've come from three different quarterbacks. Not even the Jets can mess this up.
• Jalen Hurts only managed 6.1 YPA against the Saints, and he took three sacks on 27 dropbacks. But three rushing touchdowns (and 69 rushing yards) pushed him to fantasy glory. That said, 16 rushing attempts (we're subtracting his two kneeldowns) is not a sustainable business model. It's a shame DeVonta Smith isn't getting 7-10 targets off the bus every week. No one can really cover him.
• Ten different Tennessee players were targeted at least once. See how many you can name. Par score: 6.