THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 11 2021
When it comes to consistency at the wide receiver position, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better example than Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With 606 yards and nine scores through nine games, Evans is on pace to notch his eighth 1,000-yard season (in as many years) and his fourth year with double-digit touchdowns.
Evans added another honor to his NFL resume last week against the Washington Football Team, tying Mike Alstott for the most touchdowns ever by a Buccaneer with 71. Per Greg Auman of the Athletic, head coach Bruce Arians lauded the 28-year-old's accomplishment.
"It's an amazing record for a receiver," Arians said. "You would think a running back would have it like Mike (Alstott) did for all those years. For Mike (Evans) to do it, it shows an unbelievable level of consistency and availability. He doesn't miss many games. When you put those two together, with seven years of 1,000 yards, it's availability and consistency at a very high level."
On Monday night, Evans will square off with a familiar face in James Bradberry, who used to see Evans twice a season every season as a member of the Carolina Panthers. While speaking to reporters this week (via the team's website), the 28-year-old cornerback allowed that he will have his hands full with Evans next Monday night when the Buccaneers and Giants meet in Tampa.
Man, I played him quite a bit," Bradberry said. "I'd probably say yeah, I'm probably most familiar with him. I think he's just who he is. He's a physical, big receiver, able to use his body well and he attacks the ball. He has a huge catch radius. I think that's what made it so hard to play against him last year."
In that meeting in 2020 that Bradberry referenced, Evans caught five of seven targets for 55 yards and a score. Bradberry generally matches up better with big-bodied receivers like Evans, and he's held his own in the rivalry. But this isn't Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore-Evans is a solid WR1 in Week 11.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (Michael Pittman vs. Tre'Davious White)
There aren't many wide receivers who have been hotter in recent weeks than Michael Pittman Jr. of the Indianapolis Colts-since Week 5, the only wideouts with more PPR points are Cooper Kupp of the Rams and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs. As Mile Chappell wrote for Fox 59, the second-year pro credited quarterback Carson Wentz for his willingness to let Pittman fight for 50/50 balls.
"I think that's why they drafted me here,' Pittman said. "Last year we couldn't really get it going for whatever reason, but we brought in Carson and Carson just loves to throw it deep. I love it, too.'
There is legitimate cause for concern with Pittman in Week 11-this week the Colts face cornerback Tre'Davious White and a Buffalo Bills team that leads the AFC in pass defense, leads the NFL in scoring defense and is surrendering the fewest PPR points in the league to wide receivers. But bad matchup or no, Pittman has reached the point where you just slot him in lineups and hope he gets a couple of those 50/50 passes.
Washington Football Team at Carolina Panthers (Terry McLaurin vs. Donte Jackson)
Over the first month of the season, Terry McLaurin lived up to his nickname-"Scary Terry" hit double-digits in PPR points in all four games, scored three touchdowns and ranked inside the top 10 at his position. However, as Steve Schwarz wrote for FF Today, the only thing frightening in recent weeks has been relying on McLaurin as a fantasy starter.
"(McLaurin) averaged 19.6 fantasy points per game over the first four games, but just 11.8 over his last five contests," he said. "It's not a targets issue, he's averaging 9.2 the last five, versus 9.5 for the first four, but he's not getting into the end zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not coming back this season and Taylor Heinicke has struggled with just four touchdowns in five games after eight touchdown passes over the first four. This issue may not have a long-term "cure" until Washington finds a franchise quarterback."
Since Week 5, McLaurin is 36th in PPR points, behind such luminaries as Kendrick Bourne of the Patriots and Jamal Agnew of the Jaguars. As if that wasn't bad enough, McLaurin faces Donte Jackson and a Panthers defense that leads the NFL in passing yards allowed while surrendering the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts.
McLaurin is a risky WR2 play at best in Week 11.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (Brandin Cooks vs. Janoris Jenkins)
There has been precious little for fans or fantasy managers to get excited about where the Houston Texans are concerned, although the return of quarterback Tyrod Taylor is cause for at least some optimism. As Pat Fitzmaurice reported for Fantasy Pros though, veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks has been a bright spot in an otherwise dark season for the team.
"The Clash were once branded "the only band that matters." It's not quite as lofty a title, but Cooks is the only Texans wide receiver who matters," Fitzmaurice wrote. "He's only scored one touchdown in his last seven games and hasn't had a 100-yard day since Week 3. But Cooks is still the WR24 in fantasy points per game. With Tyrod Taylor back at quarterback in Week 9, Cooks had a season-high 14 targets. He only had 6-56-0 against the Dolphins in Week 9, but it was encouraging that Taylor was trying to force the ball to Cooks. He's the WR23 this week in a favorable matchup against Tennessee. The Titans' opponents have been directing 65.4% of their targets toward wide receivers, the highest rate in the league."
Frankly, that ranking of WR23 for Cooks might be a little on the low side. The Houston offense is a hot mess, but Cooks is racking up as high a target share as any wide receiver in the league. And while Janoris Jenkins may have a nickname and name recognition, "Jackrabbit" is part of a Titans pass defense that is allowing the most PPR fantasy points to wide receivers in 2021.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (Corey Davis vs. Byron Jones)
New York's Week 10 loss to the Buffalo Bills was a very Jets effort-Gang Green turned it over five times in a 45-17 rout. Veteran wide receiver Corey Davis had one of those turnovers in the second quarter, and head coach Robert Saleh admitted to the New York Post that the unforced errors only compounded the team's misery.
"Right there, it's 17-3, we have a chance to get it to 17-6 worst-case scenario," Saleh said. "I know Corey is grinding and trying to gain more yards and trying to fight, so it's not from a lack of effort or concentration. He's fighting for yards. Credit them - they got the ball out, but to come out in the second half and not be able to get something going is frustrating.'
In theory, this would appear to be a "get right" spot for Davis, Elijah Moore and the Jets passing game-the Dolphins rank 28th in pass defense and have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. But with Joe Flacco drawing the start at quarterback, the entire Jets offense is one big question mark.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (Marshon Lattimore vs. DeVonta Smith)
There has been quite a bit written over the past couple of weeks about the new run-heavy approach of the Philadelphia Eagles. However, as Mike Kaye wrote for NJ.com, when Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is throwing the ball, he's usually targeting rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith-with success.
"Over the past two weeks, the tandem has caught fire, as Hurts has connected with Smith nine times for 182 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets," Kaye said. "Over the past four weeks, Smith has been Pro Football Focus's top wideout (an 87.7 grade), and Hurts has shown significant growth in and out of the pocket. As of now, Smith leads all rookie wideouts with his 77.9 grade on the year."
That recent success will be put to the test this week when Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans Saints come to town. Since signing a contract extension before the season, Lattimore has been playing arguably the best football of his career. In four "shadow" dates this season against some of the league's very best receivers, Lattimore has allowed over 60 yards just once-and that was a game where he fell down and DK Metcalf scored an 84-yard touchdown.
Metcalf had one more catch in that game.