Thursday Night Football
Cincinnati @ Baltimore
Team Totals: Ravens 24.5, Bengals 21
Joe Burrow enters TNF with fantasy finishes of QB9 (vs. HOU), QB6 (vs. BUF), and QB5 (@ SF) over his last three starts set to face Baltimore’s league-best defense on the road without No. 2 WR Tee Higgins (hamstring). The good news is Ja’Marr Chase (back) looks to be all systems go, while Ravens top CB Marlon Humphrey (calf, doubtful) isn’t. Facing a Ravens defense permitting an NFL-low 4.7 yards per pass attempt, I’m still standing by Burrow as a worthwhile fantasy QB1 considering the extremely high level at which he’s played over the last month-plus. … Joe Mixon’s best box-score asset continues to be usage; he’s played at least 70% of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps in eight straight weeks, yet Mixon hasn’t reached 20 touches in a game since Oct. 8, while the Ravens have yielded the NFL’s 11th-fewest fantasy points to running backs. I’m valuing Mixon as a volume-driven RB2 in a tough draw on a road-underdog team.
Burrow’s 2023 target distribution: Chase 98; Tyler Boyd 61; Higgins 51; Mixon 33; Irv Smith 20; Tanner Hudson 18; Trenton Irwin 17; Drew Sample 11. … Amid back-bruise worries, Chase logged a typical 84% playing-time clip and banked 5/124/1 receiving in Week 10’s loss to the Texans. Bouncing back on this week’s quick turnaround is somewhat concerning, although Chase is facing a potentially short-handed Ravens backend with reduced target competition. … In terms of snaps played, Sample (23), Smith (21), and Hudson (20) rotated nearly evenly in last Sunday’s loss. But Hudson easily led the position group in Week 10 targets (7) and qualifies as a one-game DFS tournament sleeper here. … Especially with Iosivas (knee) ruled out, Irwin is locked into a near-full-time role on Thursday night. … Boyd led all Bengals wide receivers in Week 10 snaps, routes run, and targets. He did commit an ugly touchdown drop against the Texans, but Boyd’s Week 11 on-field role is as secure as any Cincinnati skill player.
Lamar Jackson will face Cincinnati’s defense on Thursday night without EDGE rusher Sam Hubbard (ankle), whose absence was felt in Week 10’s loss to Houston. Bookend Trey Hendrickson (knee) is also less than 100%. Their absences are somewhat offset by the Ravens’ loss of stud LT Ronnie Stanley (knee). On the season, the Bengals have coughed up the league’s eighth-most fantasy QB points, including the NFL’s fifth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks (247). Even while his box-score stats haven’t matched the quality of his on-field performance, I’m standing strong by Jackson as an elite QB1 play on Thursday night. … Gus Edwards stayed in the Ravens’ Week 10 backfield lead with 12 touches on a 52% playing-time clip, yet HC John Harbaugh after the game expressed intent on increasing dynamic rookie UDFA Keaton Mitchell’s role. Justice Hill — who touched the ball just twice last Sunday against Cleveland — seems destined to be the odd man out. Edwards remains Baltimore’s go-to early-down and scoring-zone back, and that won’t change. But Mitchell is a justifiable flex play here.
Lamar’s 2023 targets: Zay Flowers 68; Mark Andrews 58; Odell Beckham 33; Rashod Bateman 28; Nelson Agholor 25; Hill 16; Edwards 8. … Flowers shook off a two-game slump for Week 10’s solid-if-unspectacular 5/73/0 receiving output on six targets against the Browns. Week 11 opponent Cincy has surrendered the NFL’s 12th-most yards to enemy wideouts (1,524). Flowers remains an upside WR3/flex starter at worst here. … The Bengals have hemorrhaged the league’s sixth-most catches (55) and third-most yards (599) to enemy tight ends. Andrews is set up for Thursday night success. … OBJ caught only one pass in Week 10 — a 40-yard touchdown on a slant route — but looks to be finally rediscovering his in-prime form with a 6/106/2 receiving line on nine targets over the past two weeks. Still technically playing behind both Bateman and Agholor, Beckham is a stretch fantasy play beyond single-game DFS scenarios. Among Ravens non-Flowers wideouts, Bateman is easily playing the most and running the most routes.
Score Prediction: Ravens 24, Bengals 20
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
Team Totals: Browns 20, Steelers 16
Over his last 17 starts, Kenny Pickett is averaging a lowly 6.4 yards per attempt with 11 TD passes. He’s thrown for more than one score in a game once in his 22-game career. … For the first time, the Steelers started Jaylen Warren over Najee Harris in Week 10’s win over Green Bay. They each wound up playing 33 offensive snaps, although Warren erupted for 110 yards and a touchdown on 17 touches. Neither has a plus Week 11 draw on the road against a Browns defense permitting the league’s eighth-fewest fantasy running back points, but I’d take my chances on superior pass-game producer Warren if forced to choose between the two. … George Pickens and Diontae Johnson each ran 25 pass routes last Sunday against the Packers, while Allen Robinson checked in third with 18. Pickens is a boom-bust WR3 option against a Browns secondary in danger of missing top CB Denzel Ward (neck) and FS Juan Thornhill (calf). Johnson turned in a painful Week 10 dud (1/17/0) versus Green Bay but should stay plugged into fantasy lineups as a role-secure WR3. … Robinson hasn’t cleared 30 yards since Week 1 and hasn’t hit paydirt all year. … Pat Freiermuth (hamstring) is due back from I.R. this week, yet the Browns have allowed the league’s fewest fantasy points to tight ends keyed by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s middle-of-the-field coverage.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Browns announced Deshaun Watson will require season-ending shoulder surgery. The team also revealed it will turn back to rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson with P.J. Walker backing him up. The Steelers’ D/ST is an increasingly exciting play; in a Week 4 start versus Baltimore, “DTR” went 19-of-36 passing (53%) for a measly 121 yards (3.4 YPA), zero touchdowns, and three interceptions. He was sacked four times and fumbled once on 40 dropbacks. I’m also downgrading Amari Cooper and David Njoku.
Still decimated on the O-Line by losses of LT Jedrick Wills (MCL, I.R.), RT Jack Conklin (ACL), and swing OT Dawand Jones (shoulder/knee), the Browns now draw a Steelers defense generating the league’s eighth-highest pressure rate (25%). Deshaun Watson should expect to spend much of this week’s game under duress, especially concerning since Watson will play on a twisted ankle. Through 12 games as a Brown, Watson is an unimpressive 204-of-341 passing (59.8%) for 2,217 yards (6.5 YPA), a 14:9 TD-to-INT ratio, and 62/317/2 (5.1 YPC) rushing. He’s a fringe QB1/2. … Jerome Ford stayed well ahead of Kareem Hunt for lead-back duties in Week 10’s comeback win over the Ravens, out-snapping Hunt 50 to 28 while out-touching him 18 to 10. Pierre Strong played zero snaps. Hunt’s goal-line usage has posed a nuisance to Ford’s recent results, yet I’m standing by Ford as an upside RB2 play against a Steelers defense that has lost ILBs Cole Holcomb (knee) and Kwon Alexander (Achilles) to season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks. On the year, Pittsburgh has coughed up the league’s 10th-most fantasy points to running backs.
Watson’s 2023 targets: Amari Cooper 39; Elijah Moore 35; David Njoku 26; Ford 16; Marquise Goodwin 7; Jordan Akins 6; Hunt and Harrison Bryant 5. … With 89+ yards and/or a touchdown in six of the Browns’ last eight games, Cooper is a cinch WR2 play against a Steelers defense permitting the NFL’s sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. … Moore hit paydirt for the first time all year last week. He’s still gone eight straight games without clearing 60 total yards. … After averaging 4.4 targets over the Browns’ initial five games, Njoku is up to 8.0 targets over Cleveland’s last four. Injuries to middle-of-the-field Steelers defenders Holcomb, Alexander, and Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) improve Njoku’s Week 11 matchup. … Rookie Cedric Tillman has slipped directly into Donovan Peoples-Jones’ (Lions) old wind-sprinting role. Tillman drew three targets in Week 10’s win over Baltimore but secured none of them.
Score Prediction: Steelers 17, Browns 16
Chicago @ Detroit
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