“Be happy — if you’re not even happy, what’s so good about surviving?”
Week 11 was simply not a lot of fun. One of my co-managers remarked that Thursday was so bad Keaton Mitchell’s dud was only about the fifth-worst thing that happened, and that was prior to Sunday’s carnage where we reached Week 1 levels of injury-related nightmare.
Weeks like this happen, but it doesn’t make them any easier, especially when you get two in one season.
Of course, plenty of RV teams still have the right combination of players to win this week and win the big money. We’ll lean into the happiness factor with those squads.
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Among all QBs with at least 300 passing attempts since the beginning of 2022, Jared Goff and C.J. Stroud came into Week 11 with the two lowest interception rates (active QBs). (Of course, Stroud has only played in 2023.) Goff was especially effective at limiting INTs during the Lions’ hot stretch to finish 2022, challenging records for most attempts without a pick.
That run of ball security ended in Week 11, with Goff and Stroud each tossing three picks, several of which should have been of the backbreaking variety, and yet the football gods rewarded the aggressiveness with victories (in stark contrast to what happened with the Vikings and Seahawks).
For Detroit, the Week 11 outcome shifted the narrative about as dramatically as possible within the context of a single game. What should have been a season-wrecking home loss to a divisional foe just playing out the string instead became an example of the explosiveness the Lions bring to the table:
- Amon-Ra St. Brown hauls in eight receptions for 77 yards and a score on his 11 targets. The touchdown right before halftime allowed Detroit to lead despite playing poorly and gave them the space to overcome four catastrophic drives to start the second stanza. Over the last month, St. Brown ranks as the overall WR4 (despite having the bye in that stretch). He’s played 92% of the snaps, caught 76% of his targets, and ranks No. 2 in yards after the catch (153).
- In last week’s Zero RB Universe, I discussed the elite EP profile combined with the elite peripherals for Jahmyr Gibbs. He responded again with a borderline double-double performance, gaining 36 yards on the ground (with a score) and catching all six of his targets for 59 yards through the air. He was tackled on the 1-yard line (after gaining 6 yards) on Detroit’s penultimate offensive play, or the line could have been even bigger.
- David Montgomery is the perfect big-back complement, and he flashed again against his old team. Montgomery carried 12 times for 76 yards and vultured the game-winning TD, but he also caught two passes for 22 yards. This is the best 1-2 punch in football.
- Sam LaPorta has been cold for a few games during Gibbs’ emergence, but he caught all three of his passes on Detroit’s two TD drives to win, and lassoed the two-point conversion that gave them a field-goal margin late. LaPorta has slipped to TE5 but is rock solid across the board: fifth in snaps (575), fourth in air yards (503), tied for fifth in TDs (4), and sixth in target share (20.4%).
- Jameson Williams now adds the final piece for Detroit. After getting open for numerous deep shots but little else across the last two years, Williams got behind the defense at the crucial moment on Sunday and Goff (finally) didn’t miss him. The 32-yard score pulled the game back to 26-21 and saved crucial time with the clocking ticking down to 2:59. If not for a questionable (and irrelevant) penalty the previous week, Williams would have consecutive games with a TD. For rebuilding or reloading teams, he’s a good buy ahead of this week’s FFPC dynasty trade deadline.
On the Chicago side, it was an epic performance from Justin Fields who threw for 169 yards and rushed 18 times for 104 more. He continues to unlock D.J. Moore (7-96-1) and deserved a better result. The Bears lost despite a 4-1 turnover margin, that fumble coming from Tyler Scott, who also figured into a tough play late. With Chicago facing third-and-9 with 2:51 remaining and a chance to ice the game, Scott ran a beautiful route to get open deep and Fields threw a gorgeous pass that would have hit him in stride if Scott hadn’t slowed for the briefest instant once he had his defender in the rear view.
Arizona Cardinals @ Houston Texans
Although C.J. Stroud threw more interceptions in Week 11 than the entire rest of the season combined, he generated yet another 100-yard receiving game for a teammate. Tank Dell got his third such monster game and is joined in the multi-blowup category by Noah Brown and Nico Collins. The 40-yard score to Dell was a staggering effort from both players, with Dell getting open deep on the double move (he shook his defender several times during the route) and Stroud dropping the pass out of the sky. The 165-pound receiver’s diving/whirling reception offered another reminder about the difference between “usually” and “always” when it comes to the limiting nature of size.
The football community has run out of superlatives for Stroud. By eking out this home win, the Texans keep themselves in the heart of the playoff chase while their rookie signal caller stays alive for MVP. Although he’s not the front-runner, Ben and I debate his candidacy.
Of course, plenty of season remains, and the Cardinals will attempt to build an identity for 2024 now that Kyler Murray has returned. The controversial hybrid star looks to be the perfect fit so far and a mild upgrade on Joshua Dobbs, although disconcerting elements lurk below the surface.
- Marquise Brown has drawn only nine targets and caught three passes in Murray’s two starts. He continues to be mostly invisible and the niche-only, vertical role stretches back to his time with Baltimore.
- Rondale Moore came into the game with a 3.3 aDOT but immediately got behind the defense for a 48-yard score. That was his only target.
- By contrast, the Cardinals started going to Greg Dortch repeatedly with Michael Wilson out. He caught six of eight targets for 76 yards, but Murray’s passing stats reflect the lack of dynamism and this overall failure to find the stars.
- On a medium-bright note, Trey McBride drew seven more targets and is on a six-game run with at least five. Since the beginning of Week 7 he ranks third in both air yards (303) and receiving yards (320), fifth in yards after the catch (149), and fourth in both scoring and target share. Against the Texans, he also made the TD-springing block on Murray’s TD run.
Projecting 2024 – One Week Later
Last week, Ben and I had fun with our favorite midseason exercise: projecting the 2024 first and second rounds.
How do we look one week later? Let’s take a look at how my projections shift.