One of the most quietly consistent players in North American sports, A.J. Green entered Sunday on pace for a career-high 1,714 yards. He needed only 36 to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in six NFL seasons. Green was playing the cleanest, most consistent football of his career, producing as a bright spot for an otherwise reeling team.
Then he popped him hamstring. Green went down on the second play of Cincinnati’s 16-12 loss, torpedoing fantasy campaigns and removing what little chance the Bengals had of rallying for their sixth straight (!) playoff berth. In a best-case scenario, Green returns late next month, but all indications are that his season is through.
Financially, Green got hurt at the right time. He signed a five-year, $70.176 million deal in September 2015. There won’t be any alterations to his contract this offseason. Physically, the news is similarly promising. Although hardly a walk in the park, rehabbing a torn hamstring is preferable to shredding a knee or Achilles’. Before Sunday, Green had missed only four games in five-plus years. Going on 29, Green should remain in his physical prime for 2017. Green is beginning to get up in years for a Dynasty league cornerstone, but there’s no need for owners to panic. They should have at least two more seasons of Green’s elite status quo. If you insist on trading, you should be able to get fair value in the winter.
The biggest loser is Andy Dalton, who must finish the year with Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd as his top two wideouts. The Bengals invested scant resources in the position after letting Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu walk, and will pay the price as they strive for a respectable, Jeff Fisher-esque losing season. LaFell will have some WR3 weeks, but is best utilized as a WR4. Boyd will probably best be limited to PPR leagues, especially for Week 12 against the Ravens. Dalton’s No. 1 receiver is now Tyler Eifert, who could lead his position in targets down the stretch. Eifert will be soaking up looks not only from Green, but also Giovani Bernard (ACL).
Five Week 11 Negatives
Giovani Bernard’s torn ACL. Green’s injury was jarring because it came so early in the game. Bernard’s was a complete shock because it’s unclear when it even happened. Bernard played his usual complement of snaps, coming away with 61 yards on 12 touches. He’s done for the year all the same, and questionable for training camp 2017. Bernard has plenty of time to get ready in a best-case scenario, but as Jamaal Charles reminded this year, recovering from a torn ACL isn’t as simple as getting back on a bike, no matter what Adrian Peterson would have you believe. Like Green, the injury comes at the right time for Bernard, who signed a new four-year deal in June. Still only 26, Bernard will live to fight another day, and be paid handsomely to do so. Rex Burkhead takes over as Cincinnati’s passing-down back, though coach Marvin Lewis could experiment with giving Jeremy Hill more of a three-down role.
LeSean McCoy’s surgery to repair a dislocated thumb. The good news? It’s not McCoy’s ever-troublesome hamstring. The even better news? He’ll supposedly play in Week 12. It’s a little hard to believe after the ailment knocked McCoy out for half of a must-win game against the Bengals, but the Bills’ explanation that they couldn’t pop the thumb back in themselves is plausible. It remains to be seen if McCoy could truly be effective as an NFL running back playing with one thumb. For now, owners can keep hope alive for the second-to-last week of the fantasy regular season, but need to have Mike Gillislee on speed dial. McCoy’s status will be updated no later than Wednesday.
C.J. Prosise’s shoulder injury. Prosise had the longest run of Week 11 in the first quarter, galloping for a 72-yard touchdown. It would end up being the highlight of his day, and quite likely his season. NFL Network reports Prosise is expected to miss “upward of eight weeks” with his fractured scapula, ending his regular campaign and quite likely knocking him out for the playoffs. Prosise would need an on-schedule recovery and deep postseason run from the Seahawks to get the rock again in 2016-17. His injury leaves Thomas Rawls as the Seahawks’ clear lead runner, though his backup might not be on the roster yet. With Troymaine Pope battling a high-ankle sprain, the Seahawks are unlikely to move forward with fifth-round rookie Alex Collins as Rawls’ No. 2. There’s a reason the Seahawks have been playing everyone and their mother ahead of the day-three pick.
Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles’ injuries. Mathews has a sprained MCL. Sproles, a broken rib. Although the team claims he’s day to day, Mathews seems likely to miss multiple weeks, making 2016 the sixth time in seven years he’s failed to appear in all 16 games. Running back is a hard knock position, but Mathews is injury prone to the point of being worthless. The Eagles simply can’t rely on him to stay on the field. It’s possible he’ll be headed to injured reserve. If Sproles misses Week 12 against the Packers’ collapsing defense, it means fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood will get the start. Smallwood is averaging a decent 4.43 yards through his first 57 NFL carries, and has flashed some play-making ability. He’ll be worth an RB2 roll of the dice if he has Philly’s backfield to himself against Green Bay.
Robert Woods’ knee issue. Running backs weren’t the only ones going down. Woods’ knee gave out in the first half, leaving Tyrod Taylor remarkably shorthanded in his receiver corps. Woods was spotted on crutches afterward, suggesting a multi-week absence. The only silver lining is that Woods’ injury coincides with Sammy Watkins’ possible return. Undoubtedly speaking against his coach’s wishes, LB Preston Brown let slip that Watkins is supposed to return for Week 12. If Watkins is still on your waiver wire, his upside is worth emptying your FAAB wallet on.
Five Week 11 Positives
Rob Kelley’s three-touchdown outburst. Kelley put the final nail in the coffin of the Packers’ formerly shutdown run defense, taking the rock 24 times for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Kelley entered the evening averaging 4.78 yards per carry. He exited sporting a cool, clean 5.05. Kelley isn’t a track star — he has 4.68 wheels — but is a smart, no-nonsense runner. Unlike Matt Jones, Kelley takes the ball, makes his cut and gets downhill. He’s a perfect counterbalance to third-down back Chris Thompson in what coach Jay Gruden wants to be a balanced offense. LeGarrette Blount-lite is a decent idea of what to expect going forward. Kelley is going to have weeks where he doesn’t score and hurts you. But there will be plenty of drives to finish in Washington, and probably some games to salt away. Running away with his role, Kelley has earned RB2 status.
Rashad Jennings’ solidification of No. 1 duties in New York. There was no timeshare with Paul Perkins. Jennings out-touched his rookie teammate 26-6, out-gaining him 129-35. Coach Ben McAdoo has scrapped his ineffective committee, and given himself a more functional offense. Jennings isn’t going to bust big plays or have monster afternoons, but he’ll pick up his blitzes and get what’s blocked. Perkins will still be needed to change the pace, there’s just no longer a question of who will be setting it. With the pathetic, tanking, disinterested in 2016 Browns on tap for Week 12, Jennings will be a free-money RB2. Hue Jackson’s “defense” is allowing a weekly 144 ground yards.
Duke Johnson’s opening. This one is just a guess, but might the Browns finally give Johnson more work after Isaiah Crowell’s latest faceplant? Gifted a golden matchup, Crowell carried the ball eight times for 10 yards. Johnson out-gained Crowell 56-23 despite getting out-touched 13-5. Crowell has 167 yards rushing over his past seven games, and 37 over his past three. It’s time for the Browns to try something different, and Johnson is just the man. Despite being utilized as a pure pass catcher by two different NFL coaching staffs, Johnson was an electric between-the-tackles runner in college, averaging 6.69 yards on his 526 carries. Johnson scored 26 touchdowns for The U. The only reason he hasn’t gotten an NFL shot is his size (5-foot-9, 210 pounds). He’d hardly be the first NFL back to succeed with that frame. Johnson is overdue for a chance to carry the mail in the big leagues.
DeVante Parker’s second straight productive afternoon. Parker caught eight passes for 79 yards against the hapless Rams, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds remaining. Suddenly the focal point of Miami’s “passing attack,” Parker has 13 grabs for 182 yards over his past two games. “Passing attack” because this is a team perfectly content to take the air out of the ball, but they’ve realized they have to get Parker more involved as a vertical threat if they want any semblance of balance on offense. A former first-rounder for a reason, Parker has already put plenty of big plays on film. A little consistency will have him pushing for every-week WR3 status.
Malcolm Mitchell’s 4/98/1 effort against the 49ers. The No. 112 overall pick of the draft, Mitchell could have been a much higher selection if not for an SEC career that was marred by injury. Mitchell has stayed healthy as a rookie, but that’s not terribly hard to do when you enter Week 11 with 192 snaps. He finally got his first extended run Sunday and did not disappoint, punctuating the 49ers' latest beatdown loss with a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Barring more injuries to the Patriots’ pass catcher corps, Mitchell probably isn’t going to be 2016 viable, but Sunday reaffirmed his Dynasty league upside. Mitchell has the looks of someone who could buck the Pats’ awful track record with drafting receivers.
1. Can you imagine how bad Joe Flacco would be if he weren’t a winner?
2. Does Jeff Fisher remember what it was like to feel?
3. Has Bruce Arians ever made an adjustment on offense?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Giants (@CLE), Chargers (@HOU), Bengals (@BAL), Lions (vs. MIN)
Stats of the Week
Ben Roethlisberger is tied for the most all-time wins by a quarterback at “FirstEnergy” Stadium. That includes Browns quarterbacks.
Three. That’s how many major foot injuries Zach Miller has suffered since 2010. The chimes may soon be ringing midnight for the fascinating 32 year old.
Cam Newton has four touchdowns in his past four games.
Most Absurd Moment of Week 11: The Vikings’ sound guy getting railroaded during pre-game intros.