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Lessons learned: fantasy football takeaways from week 11

Another week of games has wrapped up, bringing the fantasy football playoffs ever closer. With the most important games of the year approaching, it’s more important now than ever to stay on top of key developments that can give you an edge. Let’s take a look at a couple of the lessons learned from week 11 of the fantasy football season.

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Lesson one: Antonio Brown is back

The Buccaneers made waves in the fantasy football community when they signed Antonio Brown. The legendary wide receiver had been suspended for the first eight weeks of the season, but found a home very quickly thanks to his immense talent. All the sudden, there was a rush to add him off the waiver wire in hopes of striking gold. But has it paid off?

People were skeptical that Brown would be able to make an impact in fantasy football after such a long time away from the field. There’s precedent for this skepticism. For example, Josh Gordon received lots of attention with his return to football after being suspended for years. Unfortunately, he failed to make a impact fantasy wise, and never returned to the WR1 he was in 2013.

Antonio Brown does not seem to be following the same path. There were immediately some positive signs that he could be a valuable fantasy football asset.

Nobody has denied Antonio Brown’s work ethic, which is legendary in the NFL. It seems like he never let up over his time off, keeping himself in shape despite a year long hiatus. He also has put in the work integrating himself into the Buccaneers’ offense, as evidenced by the sleepovers with Tom Brady at Brady’s own house. One can just picture them up long nights, intensely studying the playbook in their pajamas while sipping hot cocoa and staying up way past bedtime.
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Chemistry off the field=chemistry on the field

This work has paid off on the field. In his first three games, Brown has received 26 targets. He had five his first week, eight his second week, and 13 in week 11. His role in the offense has grown consistently week to week, which should inspire confidence in his fantasy football managers.

Brown has yet to have a true breakout game, posting scores of 6.1, 13.6, and 13.8 points in full PPR in his first three weeks. This is mostly due to his lack of touchdowns, which have instead been going to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. However, Antonio Brown won’t be held out of the endzone forever. Brady has not been shy about targeting Brown with the deep ball. At least once or twice a game he tries to air it out to Brown down the field, but they seem to just miss every time. Eventually, Brady and Brown will get on the same page, which will raise Brown’s ceiling and hopefully lead to a score or two.

There were question marks when this experiment started, but it looks to be paying dividends. Brown has become a strong flex play, and with his fantasy playoff schedule against the Vikings, Falcons, and Lions, he could finish the season as a WR2.

Lesson 2: The Cowboys’ offense is no longer a wasteland

Nothing at all has gone right for the Dallas Cowboys this season. They started the year off by allowing the most points of any team in the super bowl era through the first five games of the season. In week 5, they lost Dak Prescott to a season ending ankle injury, which plunged their offense into chaos. Since then, the Cowboys have arguably been the worst team in the league.

One seemingly small change may have finally allowed their offense to at least look somewhat competent. What was it, you may ask? Benching rookie tackle Terence Steele and sliding Zach Martin over to right tackle in his place.

It seems minor, but this has been an issue for the Cowboys for weeks. Fans and reporters have been asking McCarthy why he doesn’t slide Martin to tackle since week 8. McCarthy addressed this topic, calling the proposed move “fantasy football nonsense” and sticking by Steele at tackle. He said that the best offensive line is the line that plays the most snaps together: shaking things up could lead to even worse results.

Theoretically, he’s not wrong. Offensive lines need time to gel before they reach their true potential. However, this strategy only works if every player on the line is a starting-caliber NFL player. Terence Steele is not a starting caliber NFL player. He continuously got beat and allowed very little time for whatever quarterback was playing to go through his reads. The offensive line play also tanked Ezekiel Elliot‘s value, forcing him to post the worst stretch of fantasy games in his career.

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“Fantasy football nonsense” that actually works

In week 11, the Cowboys’ offense looked completely different. With Martin starting at right tackle, there was suddenly time for Dalton to get the ball out of his hands quickly. In the run game, creases opened up that hadn’t before, allowing Elliot to get to the second level and finally play to his strengths as a back. The Cowboys were rewarded with a win, and fantasy managers were rewarded with the first good performance from Elliot in weeks.

In fact, it may have been Elliot’s best performance all season. He received 21 carries and posted 103 yards on the ground, a season high. He also added two catches on two targets for eleven yards, punching one of those catches into the endzone for his lone touchdown on the day. It may not have been his best fantasy score of the year, but it was the first time Elliot has truly looked like himself.

Fantasy managers had been skeptical to even start Zeke ever since his string of poor performances started. Until this week, benching him would have been the right move. But with the Cowboys finally addressing the offensive line, Elliot’s value has suddenly gone back up. He’s still not the top three back you drafted him to be, but he should be a reliable start for the rest of the season.

The receivers, meanwhile, may be more hit and miss. Dalton looked serviceable, but certainly not good enough to support three relevant receivers. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb have been the team’s top two receivers, and they will continue to be the go to options for Dalton. Cooper should have the more reliable floor, while Lamb should be considered a somewhat boom-or-bust flex play. Michael Gallup will probably be the odd man out most weeks, though he could post a good week or two.

That’s it for this week, but check back next week for more lessons learned!

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