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Football Daily Dose

TNF Preview Plus Injury Notes

by Chris Allen
Updated On: November 18, 2021, 6:10 pm ET

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We’ve made it into the back half of the season. Trade deadlines in fantasy leagues are fast approaching, and I’ve already heard folks whispering about the fantasy playoffs. I’m still trying to wrap my head around Week 10, but we’ve got a game tonight. We get to see Mac Jones in primetime, and I’m sure the real-time discourse will be fair and level-headed. Here are my notes on Jones and what I’ll be looking for in tonight’s game, along with all of the news coming out of Wednesday’s practices.

TNF Preview: The Mac Attack

Mac Jones had been as advertised throughout the season. He bottomed out against the Saints back in Week 3, only to match wits with Tom Brady the very next week in the rain.

He’s literally pushed his teammates to victory. He’s made mistakes while also having high-scoring fantasy outings. Jones has been a rookie in every sense of the word. That is until we saw him on Sunday.

Jones had my curiosity. Now, he has my attention.

The touchdown is excellent, but let’s break down the parts leading up to the throw. Cleveland’s showing single high coverage since we can only see ten defenders at the snap. Hunter Henry releases to the left after Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne clear out the flat. I expected Jones to take the easy throw to Henry for (possibly) the first down. If you pause at 0:04, you can see the window Jones had to hit. With this massive step forward from Jones, we can start to re-evaluate the entire Patriots’ offense.

But his efficiency (third in EPA per play in Week 10) and accuracy (first in completion percentage over expectation) are where real and fantasy football converges. Nothing about the Patriots’ offense or the matchup suggested this type of outcome was in the cards. New England was 24th in pass rate over expectation. Jones’ best performance in the last month came against the Jets. The Browns had just sent Cincinnati into their bye holding an L. They have a much simpler task ahead of them tonight.

The Falcons are 30th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and have a cure-all for most offenses. Enemy quarterbacks have thrown zero or two-plus touchdowns on them with no in-between. Atlanta’s secondary (28th in EPA per dropback) has allowed 241.3 yards per game over the last month. Jones is already a popular streaming option even on the short week, and the excitement extends to his pass-catchers.

Interior pass-catchers have feasted on Atlanta. CeeDee Lamb just cooked them for two touchdowns on five targets and 57 yards from the slot on Sunday. Mike Gesicki and Jaylen Waddle combined for 14-134-1 back in Week 7. All of which sets up well for Hunter Henry and Jakobi Meyers. But Atlanta also gave up chunk plays to Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper, giving Nelson Agholor (highest aDOT on the team) a chance for a splash play or two. But we can’t forget the running game.

Damien Harris will be available, giving the Patriots a one-two punch in the backfield. Surprisingly, Atlanta has a stout defensive front. They’re sixth in rushing EPA allowed, and no single rusher has cracked 100 yards on them. However, pass-catching running backs have found success through the air, which may give Rhamondre Stevenson a serviceable floor with Harris back in action.

Atlanta will have their work cut out for them. Cordarrelle Patterson has practiced all week (albeit limited) and will be a game-time decision. It’s part of why we saw Wayne Gallman getting additional snaps after Patterson got hurt on Sunday. Both Gallman and Mike Davis only accounted for two of Matt Ryan’s targets which came to a grand total of 21 yards in their dud against the Cowboys. However, if Ryan expects any success against the Patriots, he’ll need to involve them more.

Let’s assume Bill Belichick follows the “takes away what you do best” narrative and erases Kyle Pitts. Without Calvin Ridley, Pitts has been the most-targeted (28 targets) and most-productive (298 yards) player on the team. Ryan needs more options in the passing game as New England is first in EPA per dropback allowed and has forced one or more turnovers in five straight games. But, at least one part of the passing game has consistently worked throughout the season.

Pass-catching running backs have been a problem for the Patriots. D’Ernest Johnson added to his 100-yard rushing day with 58 yards on eight targets, and he’s not an outlier. Rushers have averaged 47.4 yards per game through the air since Week 5. Ryan’s receivers all have aDOTs of 9.0 or greater, which looks ridiculous compared to his 40.5% pressure rate over the last month. While simplistic, dump-offs to running backs would keep him upright, in rhythm and give the Falcons their best chance at keeping the ball away from Mac Jones.

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Points of Interest in TNF

For the Patriots, I’m interested in the backfield split, assuming Harris is back and active. Harris has shown us his ability to break tackles. We’ve also seen him power his way through defenders. But it’s not like Stevenson can’t do those things, too.

Of course, it’s just one play. But it’s indicative of how well Stevenson performed on Sunday. You can’t rack up 100 rushing yards on 20 carries, with your longest run being 18 yards, without being an efficient runner. Let’s also remember he was playing against Cleveland, who was yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. His 50.0% rushing success rate on Sunday isn’t something to dismiss. Plus, his utility as a receiver puts him in rare company amongst New England running backs.

Harris will likely be the starter tonight. His pre-injury production is unassailable (at least, relative to his teammates). However, Stevenson’s improvement as both a rusher and a pass blocker (positive pass-blocking grade from PFF) should put him in a closer timeshare with Harris than before. Regardless, both should be productive against this Falcons’ defense.

For Atlanta, I’ll be looking for a Falcons’ wide receiver to step up alongside Pitts. They’re certainly out there getting their cardio workout. However, their route running hasn’t always translated into earning targets. And those targets have rarely turned into points. Since Calvin Ridley’s departure, Ryan has thrown for 606 yards. Wide receivers account for just 240 (39.6%) of those yards. They need to give defenses something else to focus on other than Pitts.

Sharpe and Zaccheaus have helped move the chains, but both have shown up in the bottom-10 for average separation in two of their last three games. It makes them volatile options in real or fantasy football. Gage’s high slot rate lends itself to easier throws, but he has fewer yards after the catch than Mike Davis. Without having options that can create on their own, I’ll be paying close attention to who Ryan turns to when things inevitably go south against New England.

Injury Slants

It’s mostly bad news we’ll need to track, but there’s at least one positive story from Wednesday.

The Eagles activated Miles Sanders from IR with a chance to play in Week 11. Sanders has been out since Week 7, and his return comes at the perfect time. Philadelphia has taken a run-first approach to their offense with a -13% PROE over their last five games. Plus, Dallas Goedert is still in the concussion protocol. Nick Sirianni declared Sanders the starter when healthy, but we’ll need how it translates to opportunity once he’s on the field. Their division mates are also getting some help back at the same position.

Saquon Barkley was back at practice on Monday and continues ramping up towards his return in Week 11. Meanwhile, Sterling Shepard appears to be another week away while still working through a quad injury sustained in Week 8. However, the Giants have an extra day to get their starters healthy as they play on Monday night. Let’s shift over to the NFC West.

Yesterday was Kyler Murray’s first limited practice on a Wednesday in two weeks. Last Friday, he was LP, missed Week 10, but appears to be on track for their divisional matchup against Seattle. Colt McCoy is dealing with a pectoral strain, so Kliff Kingsbury will be cautious in determining who to start this weekend. Meanwhile, DeAndre Hopkins remains out with a hamstring injury. All right, it’s time for the bad news.

Sure, we’re entering cold and flu season, but being sent home sick has a whole other connotation in 2021. As reported, Lamar Jackson’s absence wasn’t due to COVID-19, so that’s at least a positive sign he’ll be available on Sunday. Marquise Brown (thigh) also missed practice on Wednesday while Latavius Murray (ankle) returned. There was no report of an in-game injury for Brown, so this may be maintenance-related. Regardless, let’s monitor practice reports tomorrow and Saturday to be sure. Green Bay is likely doing the same with their star players.

Aaron Jones’ DNP isn’t a surprise. Aaron Rodgers missing practice is a surprise. However, Rodgers spoke to local beat writers saying he was “definitely playing on Sunday” despite the toe injury. At worst, he’ll likely be limited in practice as they prepare to face Minnesota. Baker Mayfield looks to be in a similar situation.

Cleveland dealt with a litany of injuries at nearly every position on Wednesday. Mayfield noted he’s “the most beat up” he’s ever been in his career, but his media availability should boost our confidence in his availability for Sunday. Jarvis Landry has started the week with a DNP since Week 8. Without a reported in-game setback from Week 10, he should be on the field this weekend.

On that same injury report, it looks like Jared Goff missed practice. After the Lions tied with Pittsburgh, Goff said he injured himself on a throw during the first half. It partly explains why D’Andre Swift saw a career-high 39 touches (even though fantasy managers have been pining for such a workload). Tim Boyle took the first-team reps on Wednesday should Goff be unavailable for their game against the Browns. Let’s check in on Washington.

Ricky Seals-Jones exited Week 10 during the first half with a hip injury and never returned. His DNP to start the week makes sense, but Logan Thomas is yet to practice with the team. Without either tight-end, they’ll travel to Charlotte severely understaffed in what’s sure to be a media circus, given the ties between the franchises. Jacksonville is in a similar position.

James Robinson entered Week 10 with a heel injury and exited the game with a heel and knee injury. Not great. With Trevor Lawrence regressing and his wide receivers dropping passes (three drops per week since Week 6), Robinson’s injury is just icing on the cake. Carlos Hyde is also injured, which will make their matchup against the 49ers all the more “interesting” as the team figures out what they can salvage. Maybe the Jets are trying to do the same thing.

Somebody’s going to have to explain this move to me. No question that Mike White played poorly in Week 10. However, it was a tough division matchup against Buffalo, and the expectations couldn’t have been that high. And now, he can’t learn from his mistakes. Regardless, the Jets will have an “elite” player under center, which should work out against the same team that just stopped Lamar Jackson. Let’s stick with the AFC East.

Cole Beasley’s yet to miss a game but played just 16% of the snaps in Buffalo’s blowout win over the Jets. In his stead, Gabriel Davis, Dawson Knox, and Isaiah McKenzie stepped into ancillary roles to fill the void. It’s a headache for fantasy managers as we have no idea who would benefit from Beasley’s absence should he miss Week 11. However, with another soft matchup (vs. Colts), any Bills’ pass-catcher may be flex-worthy if you need some punch to your lineup. Our last stop is in Tampa Bay.

After a brutal loss to Washington, we’d like to see some reinforcements to Tampa Bay’s crew. However, no one’s back yet. Antonio Brown shed his walking boot last week, but his status is uncertain for Week 11. Beat reports indicated Rob Gronkowski was at practice. However, we’ll need to see more consistent appearances from him to consider having him in our lineups this weekend.

Chris Allen

Chris Allen is a mechanical engineer by trade that leverages his analytical background to study the various components of fantasy football. From how weather impacts results to draft strategy, Chris uses a 'process over results' approach to deliver actionable analysis for any fantasy football format. You can find him on Twitter @ChrisAllenFFWX.