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Single-game primetime daily fantasy football contests have arrived at Yahoo Fantasy. It’s an absolutely thrilling and different way to approach DFS that pushes managers to be creative in lineup construction when only focusing on single games.
Every week I’ll offer up my general, high-level view of the three island games on the schedule as well as some of my favorite salary-based plays — and of course, my top pick for the all-important SUPERSTAR spot.
Thursday Night Football
New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons
With a 47.5-point over/under in this game, we’re not anticipating the most fantasy fireworks on Thursday Night Football. These two teams couldn’t possibly be coming off more polar opposite Week 10 performances.
The Patriots enter Week 11 after a thorough demolition of the Cleveland Browns where they looked like both the more precise and physical team. On the other hand, Atlanta comes in after a thorough and complete deconstruction at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. There wasn’t one second where the Falcons were truly in that game.
The halftime live betting line was Cowboys -33.5. Yikes.
The main fantasy pivot points in this game will lie with how gamers decide to address two crucial decisions.
The first is in New England’s backfield. Rhamondre Stevenson played 55 percent of the snaps and touched the ball 24 times for well over 100 yards from scrimmage and two scores. He’s shown all year that he has the juice and crushed it in his first opportunity. If he was to act as the lead back again he’d be a lock for the SUPERSTAR spot at just $21 against the sad Falcons defense.
With that said, Damien Harris has cleared concussion protocol and has been removed from the injury report.
Harris hasn’t done anything to lose work over the course of the year but Stevenson might have done enough to make this a straight split. The Patriots need big plays and Stevenson can clearly bring that in the run and pass game. Harris is back at practice on a limited basis this week so if he plays (which he's expected to), neither projects as a full-time guy. Should both be active, Stevenson might bring more upside in a 50/50 split operation but projecting the workload is pure speculation.
The next pain point is what to do with Kyle Pitts, who has been over the $20 for weeks on the main slates but finds himself at just $17 on TNF. Pitts hasn’t had an eruption game since Calvin Ridley left the lineup and it makes sense because he’s clearly the only threat in the passing game. The Falcons have responded to teams keying in on him and covering him with top cornerbacks by limiting his snaps outside, despite him thriving in that area for a few weeks.
In Week 10, Pitts took just 21.7 percent of his snaps out wide after being at 40 percent in Weeks 7 to 9. This helps but a matchup against Bill Belichick’s defense — known for taking away the opponent’s top threat — is still scary when Pitts is the only game in town. There just aren’t many other good plays in this game.
SUPERSTAR pick: Mac Jones ($27)
The rookie is starting to look like the high-end distributor his biggest backers hoped he would be. Mac Jones has completed 75.6 percent of his passes at 8.2 yards per attempt with four touchdowns in the last two weeks. That’s a marked improvement. Jones doesn’t have a great ceiling but should be able to continue the momentum against a defense that can’t rush the passer and ranks 31st in DVOA.
Must-play: Hunter Henry ($19)
Hunter Henry has scored at least once in six of his last seven games. At some point that stops and regression will hit. However, he played a season-high 82 percent of the snaps last week with Jonnu Smith inactive. It’s hard to tell whether Smith is just hurt or being phased out. Either way, Henry’s role should be cemented. We can worry about regression when he’s playing a real defense.
Sneaky cheap option: Mike Davis ($11)
Mike Davis is back in play if Cordarrelle Patterson sits. Yes, it’s true. Wayne Gallman was getting most of his work in the late-game, Josh-Rosen-surrender offense. Most of it was via the ground. Color me skeptical that rolls over into this week in a likely more competitive game. Davis is in line to play almost 80 percent of the snaps if Patterson is out and is an option in the run and pass game despite having a terrible season. If you play Davis, you’ll be one of the few brave souls to do it, which can be key in these single-game contests.
Sunday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles Chargers
If Ben Roethlisberger misses another game on the COVID list, we’re back in the wilderness with the Steelers’ offense.
We love to think, “It can’t get any worse than (player x).” Sometimes that’s true but for as dull as Roethlisberger’s play has been for the last two years, he can actually run the offense and keep it moving. Mason Rudolph turned 50 pass attempts into 242 yards. That’s hard to do in the 2021 version of the NFL.
With or without Roethlisberger the only core plays from the Steelers are Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris. Johnson does see a light downgrade without Ben but he’s still the hands-down best receiver on the team.
The Chargers’ offense isn’t exactly in a great place, either. Three out of their last four games have been utterly uninspiring and we’re beginning to find the root flaws.
Justin Herbert certainly hasn’t played his best ball of late but there are fundamental issues with how this team has designed their passing game. It is simply inexcusable that Herbert ranks 29th among quarterbacks in air yards per attempt. He’s sandwiched between Tua Tagovailoa and Matt Ryan, for crying out loud.
The Steelers' defense doesn’t exactly present the smoothest landing spot for the Chargers to get right. However, if T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick don’t play, that could open a window for the Chargers. Either way, outside of Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, this unit has fallen out of our circle of trust.
SUPERSTAR pick: Najee Harris ($30)
Yes, you’re featuring Najee Harris against the pitiful Chargers run defense. The Chargers have faced 242 running back rushes so far this season, the highest in the league despite already having their bye. Los Angeles can’t stop the run and had to place Jarrett Tillery and Joey Bosa on the COVID-19 list this week. Perhaps even the Steelers’ bad offensive line can blow open some big holes for Harris in this game.
Must-play: Keenan Allen ($24)
Keenan Allen has seen target totals of 11, 13 and 11 in the Chargers' three games since the bye. With almost everything else in the passing game shattering around him, Allen has remained a steady force. With Minkah Fitzpatrick on the COVID list and a huge question mark for this game, we could see plenty of openings down the middle of the field.
Sneaky cheap option: Ray-Ray McCloud III ($11)
Well, this feels bad. McCloud is running as the Steelers slot receiver with Chase Claypool on the shelf. Gun-shy Mason Rudolph delivered 12 popgun passes to him last week while playing the Lions. The Chargers are begging teams to dink and dunk on them. Rudolph should be more than happy to oblige.
Monday Night Football
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs enter Week 11 licking their wounds following a pitiful loss against the Washington Football Team. Tom Brady and Bruce Arians were clearly frustrated and will be looking to bounce back against a far inferior opponent at home on Monday night.
The Bucs offense will be just fine and we know how to treat their players. Rob Gronkowski might return for this game but he’s far from a lock. Antonio Brown sounds like he’s at least one more week away. That leaves Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and especially Leonard Fournette as locked-in core plays.
The bigger issue for Tampa Bay is their defense nursing injuries at every level; they're a shell of the unit that dominated the Super Bowl. That’s not getting better anytime soon.
The Giants have a shot to get going on offense against this banged-up skeleton of a defense. This will most likely be the first time we see the entire New York offense available. If Sterling Shepard ($16) is back he becomes a tempting play against this secondary. He’s their most reliable target and will walk right back into the starting slot spot. As explosive as he is, it’s difficult to trust Kadarius Toney ($16) because they were limiting him before the bye and Jason Garrett still isn’t truly designing plays to get him the ball in space.
Saquon Barkley at $20 might be the most interesting play of them all at $20. We know Tampa Bay is usually a lockdown run defense but Washington handed the ball to Antonio Gibson 24 times and he scored twice last week.
If anyone is ready to slam into the Bucs’ front-seven over and over, it's Garrett.
To be fair, they could also get Barkley going through the air, as we’ve seen other teams do against Tampa Bay. Prior to his fluke ankle injury against Dallas, Barkley had handled 13 combined targets in the previous two games.
SUPERSTAR pick: Chris Godwin ($24)
Despite coming in highly questionable, Chris Godwin still snagged seven passes on eight targets even while the Bucs offense fell apart. Tom Brady mentioned the Cover-2 looks from Washington (everyone’s favorite boogeyman right now) as a reason for the poor performance before quickly bouncing from his postgame presser. If teams do take away the deep ball, that will leave Godwin as the lone layup target in Tampa Bay. He shouldn’t be $5 lower than Evans.
Must-play: Kenny Golladay ($15)
The Giants were rotating their wide receivers last we saw them but Kenny Golladay still got out there for a team-high 20 routes, drawing three targets. He should be the healthiest he’s been all season coming off the bye. It’s a risk as we do not know how the Giants will deploy all their wide receivers with everyone available to play. But it’s worth the plunge in this matchup against a terribly injured Bucs secondary.
Sneaky cheap option: Tyler Johnson ($10)
Tyler Johnson has run 48 routes (third among the receivers) and inhaled 11 targets over the Bucs’ last two games. That latter figure trails only Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette during that span. If this game gets high scoring, he’s a sneaky candidate to pop at the stone minimum.