The Ravens followed up a statement win against the Patriots with another statement by blowing out the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. While the Bengals are no tough test in 2019, Baltimore continues to stack impressive wins and is now riding a five-game winning streak. The offense has been rolling, ranking near the top of most statistical categories on the back of the MVP-caliber play coming from their quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
On Sunday, they welcome in the Houston Texans, beginning what looks to be the toughest stretch of their season. The Texans currently sit as the 3-seed in the AFC and this match up has huge playoff implications, featuring two quarterbacks firmly in the MVP race. Below is a breakdown of all the viable fantasy football options for this crucial AFC battle.
Trap game? Many believed the Ravens were due for a let down after the emotional win against the Patriots, but Jackson continued his historic tear and destroyed the lowly Bengals. He became the second quarterback in NFL history to post two different games with a perfect quarterback rating in the same season, joining Ben Roethlisberger. Although it was the Bengals, Jackson has been phenomenal no matter who the opponent which has led him to be the top scoring fantasy quarterback in the league.
Now with the schedule tightening, Jackson will need to continue to play at a high level to get the Ravens over the hump and towards their goal of a first-round bye. First up is the Texans, who will be without JJ Watt on an already below average defense who is suspect to allowing big games through the air. Houston’s pass defense currently ranks 29th in the league, allowing 277.3 receiving yards per game. Their run defense is a different story, allowing only 84.1 yards per game which is good for third in the league. Based on these numbers, the game plan would seem to be simple – take away the legs of Jackson with a stout run defense and dare him to beat you through the air. The only problem is that Jackson has been taking what the defense is giving him all season and has proven he will beat you both ways. Game plan proof and match up proof, Jackson is a no-brainer QB1 and the top option on the board in week 11.
The Ravens have yet to go up against a quarterback with the skill set of Watson, but should be more prepared than any other team having a first hand look at Jackson on a daily basis. As Earl Thomas said perfectly at his weekly press conference, “I’d rather play against a QB that is going to stand there.” Watson poses all types of issues for opposing defenses and is a master at extending plays with his legs. His “no quit” attitude is infectious and there are few quarterbacks I would rather have with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game.
Although his offensive line has improved, he is asked to improvise more than any quarterback in the league and with great success. When pressured in 2019, Watson has six touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating over 90. This Sunday he will be going up against a much-improved secondary on the Ravens which has been opportunistic on turnovers as of late. The Ravens have allowed only one quarterback to throw for more than one touchdown in a game all season and that came against Patrick Mahomes all the way back in week 3. Since acquiring Marcus Peters, no quarterback has finished with over 15 fantasy points, including Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. While you can dial back the expectations, Watson is still a safe play as QB1 with his rushing upside.
After playing just 22 snaps in week 10, Ingram should be charged up and ready to go to work against the Texans. The Ravens will need him at his best as Houston boasts a stout run defense, although with the loss of Watt they will surely be taking a hit in that department. Houston has only allowed two rushing touchdowns all season, while Ingram has hit pay dirt eight times. So this is worrisome for a player who has been fantasy dependent on finding the end zone. The fantasy value of Ingram has taken a hit with Jackson taking the reigns as the workhorse in the running game, finishing with less than 15 carries in six of nine games this season. Taking into consideration his age, it is likely Baltimore is saving his legs for the stretch run and not overworking him when they’ve had so much success with Jackson. Still, he remains the best bet to score when they are within the five-yard line and there will be games he is relied upon more than others. He is safe to play as a RB2 despite being a bit touchdown dependent in a game that could be more of a slugfest than the projected total of 51.5 indicates.
Since arriving in Houston, Hyde has taken on the workhorse load while Johnson has served in a complimentary role like his time in Cleveland. He has seen at least 19 carries in his last two games and went off for 160-yards in London against the Jaguars tough run defense. His rushing totals are very similar to Ingram, minus the touchdown totals as he’s only found the end zone three times in 2019. Hyde currently has the third highest percentage in the league of carries gaining five-plus yards at 40.3 percent. Baltimore looks like they will be without defensive tackle Michael Pierce due to injury. Last week against the Bengals, the run defense struggled when he was forced from the game as Mixon was the first running back to go over 100 yards since week 4 against the Browns. They signed veterans Domata Peko and Justin Ellis this week to add some depth behind Williams, but Hyde could be getting the Ravens at the perfect time. Still, this remains a tough run defense and Hyde is shaping up to be nothing more than a RB3/FLEX option.
Brown got back on track last week against the Bengals, connecting with Jackson on a bomb to start the game and then again for a 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter. “Hollywood” enters week 11 with a juicy match up against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Texans are allowing 277.3 passing yards per game so far in 2019, ranking them 29th in the league. To make matters worse, 85.7 percent of the touchdowns surrendered by the Texans this season have come through the air, the second highest rate in football. Brown doesn’t see the volume to be competed trusted on a weekly basis, running just 10 routes in week 10, but it’s the damage he does with those chances which gives him the upside. He is 15th in yards per reception (16.2), seventh in yards per route (3.22), and 19th in yards per target (9.7). The defensive back group of the Texans leaves much to be desired, and he will likely see coverage from veteran Jonathan Joseph, who happens to be one of the slowest corners in the league. A weekly WR3, I’m confident in the upside of Brown this week against a weak secondary and have him in the low-end WR2 range for week 11.
Deandre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills
Hopkins hit a bit of a rough patch early in the season but has responded with three straight games of 100 yards or a touchdown. He now has seen double-digit targets in each of the last four games and currently holds the second-highest target share in the league at 31.3 percent. The question mark is who will he see in coverage? Marlon Humphrey has taken on the role of shadowing the opposing team’s number one receiver and with great success at that. He is a physical, press-man corner who could pose issues for Hopkins in his ability to gain separation. Marcus Peters is a turnover machine but is known to be a bit of a gambler which could prove costly for the Ravens. The last time Jimmy Smith was tasked with guarding Hopkins, he got absolutely torched and Watson wasn’t the quarterback. If I had to put money on it, I would predict that Humphrey will be matched up with Hopkins in shadow coverage to take away their best player. Still, you aren’t sitting Hopkins no matter what the match up, but you just may need to dial back the expectations of the patented big game we are used to with Hopkins.
The Texans should be getting Will Fuller back as the often-injured deep threat is making his way back from a hamstring injury. It’s hard to predict the production for Fuller coming off an injury, but he is always a threat to get behind a defender for a long touchdown. He will likely see the balance of Humphrey and Peters when they aren’t tasked with Hopkins and neither is a particularly good match up. As mentioned before, Peters is known to take more chances and just one lapse in coverage could free up Fuller deep. Still, coming off an injury in a tough match up is enough to fade Fuller in week 11 and shouldn’t be played as more than an emergency FLEX.
Stills is an interesting player to look at this week. With Fuller returning from injury, Stills slides back into the number three role for the Texans which may benefit him against a deep cornerback group. While Hopkins and Fuller get most of the attention, Stills will work against softer coverage and fly under the radar which could make him a popular target for Watson. I like Stills's upside in this game a bit more than Fuller's and think he could surprise in starting lineups for week 11.
Before week 11, Andrews was held below 40 yards while also being held out of the endzone the previous two games. Against the Bengals, he bucked both of those trends on his way to a six catch, 53-yard, and two touchdown performance. He had a third touchdown bounce off his hands on what would have been a tough catch. Some may worry about his snap count percentage, playing in a time share with Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle, but you must look at what he does with those snaps. It’s no secret Jackson loves throwing to Andrews and when he is in the game, he is targeted heavily. His 66 targets on the season account for 25.9 percent of Jackson’s attempts, a huge number. The Texans have been particularly stingy against tight ends, as they’ve allowed a 60.3 percent completion-rate, 5.81 yards per target, and just two touchdowns over 63 targets. Still, Andrews is someone you play in your lineup weekly and has been a consistent TE1 throughout the 2019 season.
Based on fantasy points alone, Fells has been a productive tight end over the last few weeks. Taking a closer look, he is just not seeing the type of targets or volume you want in an every week starter at the tight end position. He has seen three or less targets in six of nine games, making him a risky play no matter what the match up. The Ravens haven’t been bad against tight ends this year but are also one of the least targeted at the position. Fells will do all his fantasy damage by scoring touchdowns, but currently only has two on the season. Nothing points to Fells being a viable starting tight end in week 11 and remains with the TE2 tag.