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Football Daily Dose

TNF Preview: A Tight Race in the NFC West

by Chris Allen
Updated On: November 19, 2020, 9:57 am ET

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had an exciting fantasy matchup to start off the week. The last competitive matchup was all the way back in Week 4 against the Broncos and Jets. Otherwise, we’ve had to sit through squads decimated by the pandemic or lackluster game-planning on a short week to start off our fantasy matchups. Luckily, we’ve got two offensive-minded teams headlining Thursday Night Football. The Cardinals and Seahawks have both averaged over 30 points per game with both passers ranking in the Top 12 this season. With two high-flying offenses set to meet up again, I took a closer look at the matchup and what we can expect to kick off Week 11.

Cardinals-Seahawks Part II

Tonight will be the second time Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson will face off against each other. Without a doubt, the epic rundown by DK Metcalf will be replayed multiple times to highlight the exciting plays that occurred between the two back in Week 7. However, it was the start of a downward trend for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.

Until recently, Wilson was in the MVP conversation. Seattle was 5-0 to start off the season and Wilson was putting the ‘Mr. Unlimited’ nickname to good use. The Seahawks were fifth in Expected Points Added (EPA) per Dropback (0.31) and Wilson’s +12.6% Completion Percentage over Expectation (CPOE) was first in the league. Since the Cardinals handed Wilson his first loss of the season, his passing efficiency has plummeted to 19th (0.11) over the last four games. He’s totaled seven interceptions over this timespan with the most-curious decision to try and lob one into the corner of the end zone last week for yet another turnover. Week 10 was his worst outing of the season and just the third time he wasn’t in the Top 12. Arizona started the downward spiral and Wilson has a chance to redeem himself on Thursday night.

The Cardinals’ defense is 15th in pressure rate (23.0%), but they’re 19th in EPA per Dropback allowed (0.14). They’ve allowed two or more passing touchdowns to every quarterback they’ve faced except for Dwayne Haskins, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton. Even in Week 7, Wilson still put up a monstrous 388 passing yards and three touchdowns (possibly four, if not for the pass that caused the Metcalf rundown) leaving no doubt in the success of the Seahawks’ receivers. Outside of Lockett’s 200-yard performance in Week 7, six different receivers on five different teams have produced 90 yards or a touchdown against the Cardinals’ secondary. Unsurprisingly, receivers that saw 20% or more of their targets from the slot against Arizona had productive fantasy outings (Terry McLaurin in Week 2 10-125-1, Jamison Crowder in Week 5 10-116-1, Cole Beasley in Week 10 13-109-1). The game environment sets up well for Lockett to repeat his Week 7 explosion, but his knee injury bears monitoring before game time.

After last Sunday, Arizona has all the momentum it needs to get through a short week. But there were some doubts earlier in the season. Murray had just a meager 6.3 Yards per Attempt (YPA) through the first month of the season. The ‘Horizontal Raid’, aptly named by Rich Hribar, was in full effect with DeAndre Hopkins having an aDOT of just 6.9. Since then, the Cardinals Offense has, well, taken to the air. Murray’s YPA has jumped to a healthy 8.8 over their five games and he’s been able to support two receivers with aDOTs over 10.0 (Hopkins and Christian Kirk). Arizona has moved into fifth in EPA per Dropback (0.25) since Week 5 as Murray sits atop the fantasy point totals for quarterbacks. The 2020 embodiment of the Konami Code, Murray’s been a Top 12 quarterback in every week. Luckily, given Seattle’s defense, Murray is set up to give us another Top-12 performance to kick off Week 11.

To say the Seahawks have problems on defense would be an understatement. They’ve been historically bad against the pass. Their 364.7 passing yards allowed per game is by far the worst mark in the league’s history. Jared Goff and Ryan Fitzpatrick are the only quarterbacks to not have completed a touchdown pass against Seattle. Otherwise, every quarterback to face the Seahawks has accounted for 2 or more touchdowns. Their pass rush is actually on the decline (21.3% pressure rate over their last four games) despite adding Carlos Dunlap and Jamal Adams returning to the lineup. Their deficiencies should allow Murray and the Cardinals’ offense to operate without too much resistance on Thursday night. DeAndre Hopkins (11-103-1) was the star in their previous matchup, but Seattle’s defensive lapses put almost any Arizona pass catcher in play. Five different receivers have scored on passes of 15 air yards or more going all the way back to Week 1 keeping our interest in Christian Kirk. Nine different receivers have gone for 100 yards or more. Without any fantasy-relevant injury designations headed into Thursday night, the game sets up as another high-score matchup between two explosive offenses to start off Week 11.  

Points of Interest in TNF

For the Cardinals, the focus will be on their backfield. But, to be honest, Kyler Murray has essentially been their RB1 as he has 10 rushing touchdowns entering Week 11. Murray is third amongst all quarterbacks in rushing attempts inside the 20-yard line (19) with 8 scores that have boosted his fantasy success. It’s capped any positive expectation for Kenyan Drake or Chase Edmonds, but the two will be rostered and (likely) started on Thursday night. Edmonds was unable to secure any sort of expanded role during Drake’s absence in Week 9. His 38.9% rushing success rate against Miami landed him right back in an unequal timeshare with Drake in Week 10 with just 40% of the RB touches. Drake also handled four times as many carries within the 20 relegating Edmond back to back-up status with Murray scampering into the end zone to destroy both of their values. Projections will likely favor Drake because of volume but Seattle has allowed just one 100-yard rusher on the season (Alexander Mattison, Week 5).  With Edmonds having the greater target share, he could steal the show again to give the Cardinals the edge in the NFC West.

For the Seahawks, the focus will be on their passing game. Specifically, their star wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will be everyone’s ‘must-watch’ list. The two rank as the WR5 and 6 in PPR scoring on the season, respectively, which looks great overall. However, it’s been a near ‘feast or famine’ competition between them over their last seven games. Lockett had his 37 and 53-point peaks in Weeks 3 and 7 with valleys in the WR50-60 range otherwise. Metcalf has been the more consistent fantasy contributor of the duo with WR26 as his floor except in Weeks 7 and 10. We’d have to go all the way back to Week 2 when the pair was in the Top 24 on a weekly basis. Since then, their targets have oscillated back and forth with Metcalf having the greater share over their last three games (25% to 19%). Lockett’s knee injury may play into the Week 11 split but fantasy managers will be anxious to see who has the bigger day to kick off Week 11.

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COVID-19 Watch Week 11

The Raiders were warned, fined, and are making headlines again with another set of players potentially missing action after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Three of the six players listed are key starters on defense for the Raiders. All considered close contacts, the players would be eligible to return prior to their game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. This is now the third time this season Las Vegas has been involved in a large-scale COVID-related incident which coincides with the league’s sweeping change to team operations starting in Week 12.

The NFL is directing all clubs to operating under the league’s intensive protocol starting Saturday. Details include:

  • No team or player gatherings away from the facility.
  • All players and coaches must test negative the day before entering the team’s facility.
  • All meetings will be held virtually unless staff/players will be outside or indoors with pre-approved plan.
  • Face masks must be worn at all times once inside a team facility.

With cases soaring across the country and Thanksgiving around the corner, the league is taking a reactive approach to the safety of its players and personnel. There’s only six weeks left in the scheduled regular season, but the hope is that the additional restrictions will keep the games on schedule with minimal risk.

Injury Slants

Drew Brees’ (back, chest) second opinion concurred with the initial findings. The multiple fractures to his ribs and collapsed lung will require the veteran quarterback to miss at least two weeks. Meanwhile, teammate Alvin Kamara (foot) was limited in practice on Wednesday. The assumption is he’ll trend up to full practices to close out the week similar to Week 9. Tre’Quan Smith (concussion) rounds out the Saints’ injury woes with another missed practice as he tries to clear the concussion protocol ahead of their matchup against the Falcons.

Nick Foles (hip/glute) isn’t headed to IR, but will need the bye week to rest after being carted off during Monday Night Football. Mitchell Trubisky is still rehabbing from his shoulder injury. To address their need at quarterback, the Bears are bringing in DeShone Kizer for a tryout. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the tryout won’t happen until next week and Kizer wouldn’t be eligible to play until Week 12. Kizer hasn’t started a game since 2018 for the Packers, but all options are on the table for Matt Nagy at this point.

Joe Mixon (foot) is considered ‘day-to-day’ by Zac Taylor, but hasn’t practiced in a month. We’d like to see at least a pair of limited practices to feel confident about his Week 11 status against Washington. Regardless, it’s not a promising start for Mixon’s outlook.

The Lions had multiple starters either miss practice or were limited on Wednesday. Most notable was Matthew Stafford (thumb) who was diagnosed with a partially torn thumb ligament on Tuesday. He was seen on the field during the open portion of practice with a black brace on his right hand. He’s still on track to play, but his receivers may not be. Danny Amendola (hip) and Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) were absent from Wednesday’s practice. However, Kenny Golladay (hip) was a limited participant which gives some hope he’ll be able to suit up on Sunday.

Denver is dealing with similar issues. Drew Lock (ribs) missed practice yesterday and is considered ‘week-to-week’ which may force him to miss Week 11. Noah Fant (ankle) is still dealing with his high-ankle sprain from early October, but he’s expected to play this weekend. Jerry Jeudy (ankle) is also expected to play despite his limited practice participation.

Davante Adams (ankle) and Allen Lazard (core) were limited on Wednesday. Adams was able to return against Jacksonville on Sunday and his media availability lends itself to him being active on Sunday. Lazard was able to practice, but his Week 11 availability is unclear. Both should be closely monitored as the week wraps up.

Calvin Ridley (foot) was limited on Wednesday which is a positive development coming out of Atlanta’s bye week. With the fantasy community fearing a Lisfranc injury, Ridley starting off the week with a limited outing bodes well for his Week 11 status. We’ll see if the trend continues as the Falcons prepare to face the Saints this weekend.

Chris Allen

Chris Allen is a mechanical engineer by trade that leverages his analytical background to study the various components of fantasy football. From how weather impacts results to draft strategy, Chris uses a 'process over results' approach to deliver actionable analysis for any fantasy football format. You can find him on Twitter @ChrisAllenFFWX.