If you write about the NFL and fantasy football for a living and offer your opinions on those topics on a regular basis, you're going to be wrong—a lot. I lost track of how many times I have whiffed on a recommendation years ago.
Reassuring, ain't it?
However, sometimes a call comes along that makes perfect sense in theory, only to fall completely apart in reality. A recommendation so goes awry that it leaves you staring off into space in slack-jawed disbelief.
Once in a while, the New York Jets happen.
In Week 10, the Jets were playing host to a Buffalo Bills team that had been a calamitous catastrophe on offense in 2018. The team was dead last in the AFC in just about every major offensive category. The Bills had allowed the most fantasy points to opposing defenses in the NFL by a sizable margin.
With the Bills preparing to trot out a quarterback (Matt Barkley) who had been with the team less than two weeks (for the second time this season, no less), it appeared that the Jets were going to feast in Week 10. It was a lock. As certain as death and taxes.
Or maybe not.
That lock of a defensive play wound up allowing 451 yards and 41 points—to Matt freaking Barkley. The Jets didn't force a single turnover and had just one sack.
Calling this one a faceplant is an affront to faceplants.
I can't even really offer a mea culpa here. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. Everything pointed to the Jets as a solid play. Play that game 10 times, and New York dominates on that side of the ball in eight.
Unfortunately, we got stuck with one of the other two.
Noting to do but shake off the stink from that disappointment and move on with recommendations for the second of this year's six-team bye weeks—a six-team bye that has created some slim pickings for fantasy owners.
The Jets (and the entire AFC East) are off in Week 11, so at least we won't have to look at their ugly faces for a while.
Not that I'm bitter or anything.
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Chicago Bears (vs. MIN)
Yes, the Bears don't have the best of matchups on paper in Sunday night's big NFC North showdown—the Vikings are firing on all cylinders of late and will have tailback Dalvin Cook back at close to 100 percent for this one. But last week the Bears demonstrated why they are as matchup-proof as any defense in fantasy football this year—the team piled up six sacks and forced three turnovers at home against the Detroit Lions. That big-play ability makes the Bears startable in just about any matchup, and the Vikes actually haven't been that bad—they rank in the top half of the NFL in fantasy points given up to defenses.
Pittsburgh Steelers (at JAX)
This is a game that features two teams barreling in opposite directions. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL's hottest teams, winners of five straight after destroying the Carolina Panthers last Thursday night. The Jaguars, on the other hand, have come completely off the rails, losers of five in a row after Sunday's loss to the Colts in Indianapolis. Jacksonville's slide has extended to the realm of fantasy as well—from Week 5 to Week 9 only the stupid soul-crushing joy-murdering matchup-bucking Bills have given up more fantasy points per game to team defenses.
Houston Texans (at WAS)
It's not all that often that a team taking on a first-place squad on the road is a favorable fantasy matchup, but the first-place Washington Redskins are the exception to many a rule in 2018. In a year where 50-point games are becoming blasé, the Redskins are winning by running the football and playing defense. They aren't prone to making a lot of mistakes, either. But of late injuries have taken a toll on the Redskins offensively—they tallied just 13 points against one of the NFL's worst defenses in Tampa last week. This feels like a prime opportunity for a big game from JJ Watt and fantasy's ninth-ranked defense.
Carolina Panthers (at DET)
It may seem a little odd to see the Panthers listed here, given that when last we saw the Panthers they were getting shredded six ways from Sunday (on a Thursday) by the Steelers. However, this week's opponent isn't the surging Steelers. It's the reeling Detroit Lions. Over their three-game losing streak, the Lions are averaging just 15 points a game. Over that same span Detroit has allowed a jaw-dropping 18 sacks, and the Lions are 24th in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-6. If an impatient owner cut the Panthers loose after the Pittsburgh debacle, scoop them up.
STREAMERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
Arizona Cardinals (vs. OAK)
If you're the rotating type with team defenses, then Arizona should be at the top of your wish list in Week 11. It's been lost amid the smoke from the dumpster fire that is Arizona's offense, but the defense hasn't been all bad in 2018—despite ranking 20th in total defense the Redbirds are sixth in sacks and 18th in fantasy points. This week's matchup is more about the opponent than the Cardinals themselves anyway—the 1-8 Raiders have well and truly imploded. Over Oakland's last two games, the Raiders have scored all of nine points while allowing 12 sacks.
Baltimore Ravens (vs. CIN)
Things haven't exactly been working out for the Ravens—after a 3-1 start the Ravens come out of their bye at 4-5 and in danger of falling from serious contention for the playoffs in the AFC. The Ravens also haven't posted a solid stat line defensively since racking 11 sacks in a throttling of the Tennessee Titans back in Week 7. However, this week sets up well for a rebound. The Ravens are at home, coming off a bye and face a Cincinnati Bengals team that struggled to move the ball last week against New Orleans with AJ Green out of action.
Tennessee Titans (at IND)
The Titans aren't getting the run they should defensively, although Sunday's 24-point waxing of the Patriots no doubt opened a lot of eyes. Nine games into the season, the Titans are now sixth in total defense, giving up just 328 yards per game. Tennessee leads the NFL in scoring defense at 16.8 points allowed per game. However, big plays haven't come easily for the Titans (they rank in the bottom half of the NFL in both sacks and takeaways), the Titans have been a middle of the pack fantasy defense and this week's matchup in Indy isn't a favorable one. For those reasons, the Titans are more streamer and less can't-miss—at least this week.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. TEN)
The AFC South has become quite a bit more crowded, as both of these teams enter this matchup on a roll. The Titans are coming off a stunner of a win—a 34-10 victory over the Patriots. The Colts, on the other hand, survived the Jaguars for a third straight win that gets the team within a game of .500 after losing five of their first six games. So why am I recommending the Colts' 24th-ranked defense in this game? Simple. Matchup. The Titans have been hot of late, but they're still upside-down in turnover margin and fourth in fantasy points given up to team defenses this season.
CAVEAT EMPTOR, FOLKS
Dallas Cowboys (at ATL)
From an NFL perspective, the Cowboys have been solid defensively—the team ranks seventh in the NFL in total defense (328.6 yards per game) and third in scoring defense at 19.0 points per game. However, over the first 10 weeks of the season that hasn't really translated to fantasy success—Dallas slots outside the top-20 in fantasy points in more scoring systems than not. This week the Cowboys travel to face a desperate Atlanta Falcons team that ranks sixth in the NFL in total offense and 26th in fantasy points given up to team defenses this season. Look elsewhere in Week 11.
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. PIT)
The Jaguars were the first team defense off draft boards over the summer in a large percentage of fantasy leagues, and now a similar percentage of fantasy owners are not even a little bit pleased by how things have gone of late. After surrendering 29 points and 366 yards to the Indianapolis Colts in a fifth straight loss Sunday, the Jaguars have fallen outside the top-20 fantasy defenses for the season in many scoring systems. Meanwhile, the Steelers just blasted a good Panthers Defense to the tune of 52 points. What part of that sounds at all attractive from a fantasy perspective?
Washington Redskins (vs. HOU)
The Redskins are the most surprising first-place team in the NFL—a team riding a throwback philosophy of defense and the run game to a 6-3 record. That Redskins Defense ranks just 17th in total defense in 2018, but Washington is sixth among team defenses in fantasy points and has double-digit outputs in seven of nine contests this year. However, this week doesn't set up well for the Redskins—Washington's deficiencies in the secondary don't mesh well with Houston's ability to hurt teams over the top. In this battle of lightly-regarded first-place teams. My gut says Houston comes out on top.