Sunday Aftermath: Cooper Kupp’s latest injury, Justin Fields’ return and much more
Is this the fate of all record-setting receivers? Like Michael Thomas before him, Cooper Kupp has followed up his history-making 2021 with one injury after another. The latest is to a body part he knows well: The right ankle he had surgery on last season. In between the ankle ailments was a hamstring issue that cost him Weeks 1-4, and opened the door for rookie Puka Nacua to muscle in on his target-dominating turf.
In the meantime, Kupp turned 30. Matthew Stafford turned old. The Rams seem tired. Coach Sean McVay talks as much about retirement as Super Bowls. Has the door already closed on this era of receiving dominance? Kupp has come back before. His 145/1,917/16 2021 was three years after he tore his ACL. There’s also, in theory, not much to come back from here. It’s a “minor” ankle injury. He might even play in Week 12.
He just won’t be the Cooper Kupp fantasy managers thought they were drafting in August. With Nacua there to seize catches and Stafford in terminal decline, Kupp has reached 10 targets in only 2-of-6 appearances. Even throwing out yesterday’s injury-shortened affair, he is averaging “just” nine looks. That would be amazing for a lot of wideouts. For Kupp it’s not enough for his PPR takeover artist game.
Kupp’s prime-era health isn’t coming back. The roaring production of the Rams’ crescendo season of 2021 is gone. Fantasy managers just need to hope he can avoid time on the shelf and act as a high-end WR2 who will inevitably pop up for WR1 weeks.
Five Week 11 Storylines
De’Von Achane immediately re-injures knee. One carry. That’s how far Achane made it before ending up back in his familiar place on the sideline. Afterward there was hopeful talk of it being precautionary, etc., but it was another reminder that this is an undersized speed back who needs perfect conditions and health to succeed at the NFL level. How often are there perfect conditions and health in the NFL? You know the answer. The setup is certainly not perfect for Week 12, where the Dolphins are being subjected to Friday football as the NFL takes yet another step toward cannibalizing its golden goose of college football. If Achane does manage to suit up for “Black Friday,” it will be against an elite Jets defense. The best guess is, Achane misses one game then gets a do-over on his knee injury return in Week 13 against the Commanders’ sorry unit.
Ken Walker injures oblique, opens door for Zach Charbonnet. Although seemingly not right for the better part of a month, Walker had yet to miss actual game time. His oblique took care of that in Los Angeles, knocking him out after just five handles and giving Charbonnet his most extended cameo yet. The second-round rookie didn’t exactly seize the day with 21 touches for 69 scoreless yards, but he at least held up under the workload. Charbonnet has long been chipping away at Walker’s margins. If Walker is now forced to miss Thursday’s short-week tilt with the 49ers, Charbonnet might decisively move in on Walker’s early-down turf. That’s a development Walker RB2 starters can ill-afford.
Black Friday savings are here! Get exclusive analysis, mock drafts, rankings, columns, season tools and more for 2024 fantasy football, baseball, and basketball all at one low cost. Save 25% and receive a $10 Fanatics gift card with code BF2023 at checkout.
Previously hamstring-hobbled Aaron Jones suffers knee injury. Jones’ workloads had finally returned. His efficiency hadn’t. Now he’s back to square one after getting carted off the field against the Chargers. Jones was in tears but has somehow avoided major injury. It does not seem he will end up on injured reserve, but there is almost no chance he is ready on only three days’ rest to face the Lions on Thanksgiving. It is the bitterest pill to swallow for patient fantasy managers, but it is still all but impossible to cut Jones loose. Add AJ Dillon if someone got bored and dropped him and hope that Jones is ready to return for Week 13 against the Chiefs.
Justin Fields makes Tyson Bagent a distant memory. Fields maintained the positive momentum of his pre-injury play while still leaving a few vital questions hanging in the air. It was not a “there is no way the Bears will take a quarterback at No. 1 overall performance.” Fields missed “Tyler Scott” for what could have been a game-ending gain before officially ending the contest when he never sensed Aidan Hutchinson on his final drive strip sack. In between was Fields’ most explosive rushing performance of the season and one of his most poised passing efforts. At no point did anyone miss undrafted rookie Bagent. Now embarking on the most important stretch of his star-crossed career, Fields has two more plus fantasy dates in @MIN and vs. DET before a foreboding contest with the Browns.
Calvin Ridley comes alive for two scores. The tape watchers had almost been reduced to begging for the Jags to mix up Ridley’s usage, giving him some different looks in an effort to shake his frustrating, baffling slump. Their prayers were answered Sunday, though it was perhaps another variable that made the most difference: The return of Zay Jones. Ridley’s two best games have come in Jones’ only completed performances, suggesting he is allowed to operate in his most natural positions when Jones is on the field. I won’t pretend to understand what those are, but it stands to reason Ridley has been miscast for whatever coach Doug Pederson has him doing when Jones is on the shelf. The Texans’ awful defense would be a perfect place to get a hot streak going in Week 12.
Five More Week 11 Storylines
Jets finally rip off the Band-Aid, bench Zach Wilson. It’s very bad that Wilson has just four touchdowns since Week 2. Even more concerning? He has only three interceptions. That is the sign of a quarterback who isn’t even trying to make plays. Wilson was muddling through. Sunday, it finally swallowed him up. Literally not passing to wide receivers and focusing exclusively on tight ends and running backs, Wilson completed seven throws in three quarters of play. He posted a 46.7 completion percentage against the league’s most injured defense. He … did absolutely nothing. Astonishingly, backup Tim Boyle might be one of the only NFL quarterbacks worse than Wilson. The Jets need to think long and hard about giving Trevor Siemian a shot against the Dolphins on Friday. What they know for sure — what they’ve known for months — is that Wilson cannot be allowed to take another snap.
Quentin Johnston has miserable game in Green Bay. Johnston took half a step forward down the stretch of the Chargers’ Week 10 loss to the Lions. He took 4-5 steps back in Green Bay. The author of multiple drops, none was more costly than Johnston’s 70-yard giveaway with 30 seconds remaining. Running a terrible, lazy route where he seemed to be jogging before finally turning it on and burning past the defensive back, Johnston then committed one of the most egregious muffs you will ever see. Afterward, he appeared in a daze, a player struggling with confidence issues as much as physical miscues. Whatever it is, it has Johnston failing to push for more work in a skill group where every week someone without his pedigree gets injured. On paper it makes too much sense not to get Johnston more involved against the Ravens in Week 12. In practice, everyone knows it would end poorly. With all 32 teams playing this week, Johnston can be safely dropped.
Kenny Pickett bottoms all the way out vs. Browns. Stunningly inaccurate beyond the sticks, Pickett wasn’t any better at finding space for his receivers to catch-and-run in the short areas of the field. The result was a pathetic 105-yard performance on 28 attempts and Pickett’s fourth scoreless outing through the air in five appearances. It was the ninth-straight start where the quarterback failed to complete 20 passes. The Steelers have long since given up, going all in on Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren’s valiant efforts on the ground. The scheme was working before Myles Garrett entered the picture, and could have a surprisingly durable shelf life with @JakeBrowning, vs. AZ, vs. NE and @IND the Steelers’ upcoming schedule. Just don’t expect any production in the passing game, including for previously-reliable PPR metronome Diontae Johnson. DJ has become a low-upside WR4.
Frank Reich de-invents the wheel in play-calling return. By now, Reich knows the Titanic is sinking. Well, let’s be real, this offense is more of a used speed boat. The point is: It’s at the bottom of the river. It doesn’t matter if it’s Reich or OC “Thomas Brown” calling plays. The substance is unchanged. Only the style is different. For Reich, that’s: 1. Keeping Miles Sanders a part of the backfield committee. 2. Peppering Adam Thielen with targets. It predictably didn’t work against the Cowboys because nothing could have worked with this offensive line against that defense. The fantasy returns might nevertheless be a little better in two tamer matchups for Weeks 12 and 13, @TEN and @TB.
Ty Chandler confirms he is part of the Vikings’ post-Cam Akers committee. Chandler turned his 14 touches into a career-high 110 yards. It’s true that 31 of them came on a fake punt run. Not a replicable environment for success. He also very much remained in a committee, and on the short end of it. Alexander Mattison took 19 reasonably-effective handles. All this against the backdrop of folk hero Josh Dobbs’ passing-game limitations, reminding the Vikings this will have to remain a backfield-based affair even after Justin Jefferson’s return. All 32 teams are active for Week 12, but Chandler can be FLEXed against the Bears on Monday Night Football.
1. Does Brandon Staley know you can do things differently?
2. How many different times is Jerry Jones going to announce Jimmy Johnson is joining the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor?
3. Is Frank Reich firing himself in real time?
Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Jordan Love (@DET), Baker Mayfield (@IND), Gardner Minshew (vs. TB), Matthew Stafford (@AZ), Derek Carr (@ATL), Aidan O’Connell (vs. KC)
RB: Zach Charbonnet, Ty Chandler, Royce Freeman, Rico Dowdle, Latavius Murray, Jeff Wilson
WR: Jayden Reed, Rashod Bateman, Khalil Shakir, Elijah Moore, Dontayvion Wicks
TE: Luke Musgrave, Cade Otton, Isaiah Likely, Michael Mayer, Tanner Hudson
DEF: Broncos (vs. CLE), Patriots (@NYG), Saints (@ATL), Bengals (vs. PIT), Titans (vs. CAR)
Stats of the Week
From ESPN’s Nick Wagoner: “From 2017-2022, Jimmy Garoppolo was 6-of-40 with two touchdowns and six interceptions on throws traveling 30-plus air yards. In 10 games this year, Brock Purdy is 5-of-9 with two scores and zero INTs on such throws.”
Nick Mensio on the Broncos’ backfield usage: “Javonte Williams’ snap share (49%) dipped back down in Week 11, handling just 13 touches after 18, 30, and 25 the previous three weeks. Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin combined for a perfect 12/74 on 12 targets in the pass game.”
The Packers had gone 30 regular season contests without a 300-yard passing effort until the Los Angeles Chargers came to town.
Tommy DeVito had six completions of 20-plus yards against the Commanders. Daniel Jones has two completions of 20-plus yards all season.
Via Mike Herndon: “The Titans only ran 38 offensive plays today. The Jaguars ran 69.”
Via Paul Patterson: Tommy DeVito has as many career multi-score passing starts as Kenny Pickett.
Courtland Sutton has scored in 8-of-10 appearances this season.
Week 11 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Trevor Lawrence, RB Saquon Barkley, RB Jaylen Warren, WR Calvin Ridley, WR Tyreek Hill, WR Tank Dell, TE George Kittle
The Did You Ever Think About Just Not Doing That? Award: Quentin Johnston barely running, still getting open, then still dropping a wide-open, game-winning 70-yard touchdown.
My “I was vomiting but not sick” T-Shirt Has People Asking A Lot Of Questions Already Answered By My Shirt Award, via Clarence Hill: The Cowboys say Micah Parsons vomited on the sidelines twice but he is not sick.