The Shadow Knows Week 11 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

After falling to the Washington Commanders last Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles are undefeated no more. It was an ugly loss-especially considering that the Eagles were fresh off a bye week. The offense couldn't stay on the field. The defense couldn't get off the field. Philly turned it over four times. The Eagles did not look like an undefeated team.

Star wide receiver A.J. Brown (and the fantasy managers who started him) were not spared even a little. To say that Brown had his worst game as an Eagles is a bit like calling K?lauea a warm hill-it's accurate, but doesn't begin to cover things. Brown was targeted just four times, caught just one pass for seven yards and appeared to tweak his ankle on that one grab.

Luckily, Brown's "injury" doesn't appear to be a concern for Week 11-he told reporters Wednesday that he expects to play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He also made it clear that so far as he's concerned, the loss to Washington might be a blessing in disguise,

"I don't want to make any excuses," Brown told reporters. "They played better than us. That happens sometimes. It's all about how you respond. I know there are some guys with long faces, but me, personally, of course I want to win, but now all of that 17-0 (crap) is over with. It's time to wake up. How are you going to respond? Sometimes you get hit in the mouth. How are you going to respond? I hope we get back up and start fighting back, and I feel like we will. We have good teammates in this locker room, a lot of vets. I had one catch for seven yards. That (crap) is a part of it. How are you going to respond? I know how I'm going to respond."

On paper, the Eagles appear to be a vastly superior team to the Colts. And prior to last week, Brown was fantasy's seventh-ranked receiver in PPR points. But for all the Colts' deficiencies, the secondary led by former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore has played well against the pass-and wide receivers specifically.

In fact, no team in the league has allowed fewer PPR points per game to wide receivers in 2022 than the Colts.

Could Brown blow up in Week 11? Absolutely. Davante Adams did against the Colts last week. Is he a must-start? Probably. Is he every bit as likely to have another down (by his standards) game-if not more likely?

It can't be ruled out.

Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts (Darius Slay vs. Michael Pittman)

The carousel of chaos that is the 2022 Colts took another few spins last week, with the firing of head coach Frank Reich, hiring of Jeff Saturday as his replacement, re-insertion of Matt Ryan as the team's quarterback and a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. Ryan's return was good news for the fantasy prospects of Michael Pittman, but as Ben Rolfe wrote for Pro Football Network, that celebration may be short-lived.

"The hope will be that the return of Matt Ryan as the starting QB can get Michael Pittman firing again," Rolfe said. "However, this week, the matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles is really tough. They have held opposing WRs under 22 fantasy points in each of their three games between Weeks 6 and 9. Even though others have stepped up in recent weeks, it should still be Pittman who draws the attention of the Eagles' defenders."

It's not guaranteed that Darius Slay will shadow Pittman this week-he has done so at times this season, but not exclusively. But when Slay has shadowed, he has won more battles than he's lost, with Terry McLaurin's success last week more exception than rule. For the season, the Eagles have allowed the ninth-fewest PPR points per game to wideouts. Pittman's value takes a hit-and it may take garbage time to save it.


Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (Denzel Ward vs. Stefon Diggs)

The Browns spent a big chunk of the 2022 season without one of their best defenders, with Ward missing multiple weeks after suffering a concussion. The former fourth overall pick is healthy again though, and star edge-rusher Myles Garrett told reporters that there's no question that having a healthy Ward back is big for the team.

"He's coming in with fresh legs," Garrett said. "Being able to come back with his wind, his stamina and his mental state of mind and physical fit, you can't ask for better. He's one of the top corners in the game. Obviously, having a talent like that on the field is always going to make everyone's job a lot easier. It's definitely great to have him back."

The Browns got rolled by the Dolphins last week, but Cleveland is better against the pass than the run. With this game moved indoors though, the Browns will be playing a seething Bills team on a fast track. Given how much Diggs moves around the formation, he can be schemed off Ward with relative ease. If there's a Buffalo wideout to worry about, it's probably Gabriel Davis-and given the susceptibility that Ward showed to being beaten over the top before he got hurt, even that isn't as big a concern as Davis' fluctuating target share.




Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (Trevon Diggs vs. Justin Jefferson)

Assuming you haven't been living in orbit the past week, you have seen Justin Jefferson's miraculous fourth-down catch against the Buffalo Bills last week. It's the stuff of legend. And as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to be the next opponent to try to shut down the NFL's leading receiver, veteran safety Jayron Kearse told the team's website that in his opinion there's no question that Jefferson is the best wideout in the game.

"He's the best receiver in the league," Kearse said. "The tape doesn't lie. You can say whatever you want to say, you turn on the tape [and] you see it. He gets open against everybody. He plays [well] against every opponent. Every top corner you put in front of him, he's going out and he's making his plays… The tape doesn't lie."

It's hard to argue with Kearse-after last week's 193-yard explosion, Jefferson is on pace to not only break Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving record but also tally 5,000 receiving yards over the first three seasons of his career. Trevon Diggs isn't piling up interceptions this season, but he's been much better as a whole in coverage. He'll absolutely get safety help against Jefferson. But if Cousins puts the ball where Jefferson can get it, he just demonstrated that he will-coverage be damned.




Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (Davante Adams vs. Patrick Surtain)

A season that started with Super Bowl aspirations in Vegas has turned into a death-spiral, with the latest setback being a home loss to a mediocre Colts team that had just fired its head coach. Per the Fresno Bee, for the second week in a row a clearly frustrated Davante Adams unloaded about what he believes is wrong with his new team.

"I don't think it's a buy-in," he said. "I don't think people are like F what he's talking about or I'm going against the grain. It's just about a matter of executing when it's time, whether that's early. In a 60-minute game, it doesn't mean just finishing. That's part of it. It means a complete game, every minute of the game, giving it all you got. "It's not about being perfect because it's not. Football is the most imperfect, most team sport that there is. At the end of the day, it's doing your job and making the plays when you go on, and when you get the opportunities. We don't do that at a high enough level right now."

To his credit, Adams had a big game in a bad matchup last week-nine catches for 126 yards and a score. Over the last two games, he has amassed 19 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Denver's Patrick Surtain has quickly become one of the best young corners in the league. The Broncos have the best pass defense in the NFL and are allowing the second-fewest PPR points per game to wide receivers.

When Adams is being targeted 15-ish times a game though, none of that matters. He's going to eat. Heartily.




Washington Commanders at Houston Texans (Terry McLaurin vs. Derek Stingley)

The Commanders pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the 2022 season last week in downing the previously undefeated Eagles, and wide receiver Terry McLaurin played a big part-eight catches for 128 yards on a season-high 11 targets. As quarterback Taylor Heinicke told NBC Sports Washington, in his mind the recipe for success is simple-throw it in McLaurin's direction and let him go get it.

"I've said this before: you paid the guy a lot of money in the offseason for a reason, because he continues to make big plays," Heinicke said. "When we have 1-on-1 with Terry, we like that. Whenever I see 1-on-1 with Terry, I get excited. I have full confidence in him to win because he continues to do so but other guys keep getting open as well."

Over the first seven weeks of the season, McLaurin topped 100 receiving yards once. With Heinicke under center instead of Carson Wentz, he's done so twice in the last three games. The Texans aren't a great matchup for wide receivers-30th in PPR points per game allowed to the position. And rookie cornerback Derek Stingley has shown flashes of the talent that made him the first player at his position drafted in April. But for whatever reason, McLaurin actually seems to do better in bad matchups.

Assuming Heinicke has the sense to target to McLaurin 10-plus times again in Week 11, he'll get his.