Week 11 kicks off with a matchup from the AFC North featuring the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Baltimore Ravens. These two teams met back in Week 2 with the Ravens pulling out a 27-24 win in a game where Tee Higgins caught 8-of-12 targets for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they won’t have the services of Higgins as the Bengals begin to find themselves in must-win territory as they currently sit at 5-4 heading into this matchup. The Ravens are sitting at 7-3 but are coming off a fairly devastating loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday after Baltimore blew a 15-point lead in a game where it never truly felt like they would lose. So this game is a bit of a pivotal one for both organizations, especially for Cincinnati who may end up fighting for a Wild Card spot if they were to fall to 5-5. Let’s take a look at how we should approach lineup construction for Thursday night’s Showdown slate!
Spread: Baltimore Ravens (-4)
Over/Under: 46.0 Points
Weather: Temperatures will likely be around 52-55 degrees Thursday night with mostly clear skies and sustained winds of 10-12 miles per hour.
- Tee Higgins, Wide Receiver – OUT (Hamstring)
- Sam Hubbard, Defensive End – OUT (Ankle)
- Andrei Iosivas, Wide Receiver – OUT (Knee)
- Charlie Jones, Wide Receiver – Questionable (Thumb)
- Ronnie Stanley, Offensive Tackle – OUT (Knee)
- Marlon Humphrey, Defensive Back – Doubtful (Calf)
- John Simpson, Guard – Questionable (Illness/Shoulder)
- Kyle Van Noy, Linebacker – Questionable (Groin)
- Devin Duvernay, Wide Receiver – Questionable (Hamstring)
- Daryl Worley, Safety – Questionable (Hamstring)
NFL DFS MVP/Captain
Even in a game where everyone was worried about his back injury and how much of an impact he would/could have, he caught five-of-six targets for 124 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans. Tee Higgins has been ruled out and that just means more work for Chase against the Baltimore Ravens who likely won’t have Marlon Humphrey in this matchup. Chase only has 14 targets his last two games, but we know he has that slate-breaking upside we possess. Now it’s worth mentioning, that despite the lack of targets against Houston, Chase should still feast without Tee Higgins. Per Fantasy Points Data, prior to Week 11, Chase had a 36% target share, 43.8% first-read rate, and a 51.5% air-yard share in games where Higgins was inactive or left due to injury. Chase was overly efficient last week, but for this matchup, the volume should certainly pay off the price tag.
I am well aware that Lamar Jackson has been on the more frustrating end of the spectrum in season-long fantasy football, especially the last few weeks. Since his monstrous game in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions, he has just two touchdown passes with three turnovers in his last three games. The passing volume has been almost non-existent, and the rushing totals have been pretty poor. That may actually drive his exposure at MVP/Captain down. But we are playing DFS and know the upside he possesses for this kind of DFS contest. It’s one game, and it’s a divisional matchup at that. It’s not that he’s been bad, but the Ravens have been establishing the run at will the last couple weeks and he just hasn’t been called upon. In this matchup earlier in the year, he rushed for 54 yards while adding 237 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air. We like the rushing upside and I’ll gladly play him at Captain if others are scared away by the recent production. The Bengals have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for 325+ passing yards in three of their last four matchups.
I’m a little bias toward Mark Andrews. He’s been in two of my best NFL DFS Tournament lineups this year and he’s helped me really build my bankroll with some big performances. Andrews hasn’t hit the 100-yard mark yet in a game this year, but he does have multiple-touchdown upside and easily the most touchdown equity of any pass catcher on the Ravens. The target share of late has been somewhat concerning because Lamar hasn’t really been throwing it over 30 times per game. But this should be a more competitive game. And when Andrews has the ball in his hands he’s made his catches count. He was a bit of a dud last week, but this is a terrific bounce back spot as the Bengals have allowed 23 receptions for over 300 yards to the tight end position in the three games since coming off their bye week.
There are so many reasons to be excited about Boyd for tonight’s game but obviously he should see a spike in work with Higgins out. Just last week he had eight catches on a dozen targets for 117 yards and should have come down with a touchdown but he had a brutal drop in the end zone with less than two minutes to play in the game. He also has a birthday narrative on his side as he turned 29 on Wednesday and as the clear-cut number two for Joe Burrow, he should be able to put together a stellar stat line despite the tough matchup on paper.
Mid-Tier & DFS Value Plays
As is always the case with an elite quarterback, you can certainly play him at Captain. Truthfully, Burrow has been lights out while Lamar Jackson has underwhelmed. I completely understand if you don’t agree with my own positioning of each player within this article. But I prioritize the rushing upside for Jackson over Burrow. So Burrow is still a mighty fine Captain candidate. In his last five games he has a dozen passing touchdowns and he’s gone over 300 passing yards in three of those outings. Burrow, on a bum calf, did manage to throw for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Ravens back in Week 2. But the Ravens have only allowed seven total passing touchdowns this season and only Jared Goff has gone over 250 passing yards. So it’s a tough matchup and it’s a short week of prep for both teams. Passing volume should certainly be in his favor if the Bengals fall behind.
I’m going to be brief because we know what we’re getting with Mixon. He’s the RB1 for the Bengals, but he’s just very inefficient. He’s scored a touchdown in three straight games and usually has one or two games each season where he absolutely goes off and breaks the slate. I don’t know if it comes Thursday night. Even this past Sunday when Tee Higgins was out and Ja'Marr Chase had the pre-game back concerns, Mixon only touched the ball 13 times and we all thought he would be a volume play. The Ravens have been suspect against opposing running backs over their last five games. Mixon’s averaging just under 4.0 yards per carry on the year, which is par for the course for him. He has a good floor for a flex play, but I don’t have high hopes for the ceiling as a Captain candidate.
I am an avid Zay Flowers fan. The kid is absolutely electric when he gets the ball in his hands. But with just one touchdown on the season, I can’t quite commit to playing him at Captain especially when he has just 20 targets in his last four games. When he has the ball, it’s exciting to see what he can do. But on the year he still boasts a 24.5% target share and a 25.7% air-yards share. Those are both very solid numbers for a rookie and he’s going against a Bengals defense that is prone to giving up some big plays as we saw on Sunday against Houston.
Edwards should have more rostership than Zay Flowers simply because he has a ton of touchdown equity. Lamar Jackson’s numbers have been suppressed lately because their running game has just been so dominant. Over his last four games, Gus Bus has 49 carries with seven touchdowns. Averaging a touchdown every seven carries is wildly unsustainable but he’s seemingly finding the end zone every week and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Are there many mouths to feed in this running game? Of course. But on Sunday, Edwards led the running back room in snaps (28) while neither Justice Hill nor Keaton Mitchell topped 15. Edwards also ran the most routes with 10 and had the most opportunities (carries and targets) of the running backs. Plus, it’s clear he’s the guy they want to go to inside the five-yard line. In their last six games, the Bengals run defense has allowed five touchdowns on the ground to opposing running backs. Keaton Mitchell is $5,600 as a flex play on DraftKings. Play at your own risk there. He’s found the end zone in back-to-back weeks but last week he only played 13 snaps, ran five routes, and had just four opportunities (carries and targets). This price tag is a little too juiced and he’s a gamble on a point-per-dollar play.
While I think Rashod Bateman ($4,800) is worth some exposure if building 20+ lineups, I prefer Beckham. Bateman has just 19 receptions on 29 targets in nine games. Odell’s season-long numbers aren’t great in comparison, but he’s only played eight games and has a higher ceiling and a lower floor. I’ll chase the variance on a Showdown slate. He’s become the King of slant routes with the Baltimore Ravens and has found the end zone in back-to-back weeks. He has two performances in his last four games where he caught five passes on seven targets. Again, if the passing volume is low that hurts arguably every single Ravens pass catcher and that likely concentrates the targets share toward Andrews and Flowers.
He will be an incredibly popular and affordable play for this game. Tee Higgins is out as is Andrei Iosivas. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Bengals only had three healthy wide receivers on their active roster but we should assume they’ll elevate two more to the team. He only had four targets on Sunday, but it doesn’t really matter when he found the end zone and managed to pay off his cheap price tag in Week 10. But with the Bengals needing some depth pieces to step up, they can at least rely on him with a few targets as they’ve done in the past.
Justin Tucker ($5,400) is about the most expensive I’ve ever seen a kicker. He’s arguably one of the greatest at his position of all time and he has plenty of volume. He’s kicked 17 extra points in the last four games, with eight field goal attempts as well. The offense is potent, and they move the ball incredibly well. Opposing kickers have put up at least nine fantasy points in six-of-nine games against the Bengals this season. With a high total and the sportsbooks suggesting this should be a close game, that’s a plus to Tucker and there’s an argument to be made that he’s probably a more stable play than some of the other flex options we’ve discussed for the Ravens.
Evan McPherson ($4,000) offers up a massive discount off Tucker which I’m fine taking advantage of. For the same reasons as Tucker, we have an implied total of 46 points and it could be a close game. The Ravens defense is hit-or-miss at times. If they’re completely stuffing the opposing offense then it becomes difficult for kickers to put up points. Or there are performances like last week where Baltimore allows plenty of production to the other side including the team’s kicker. Offenses are scoring a touchdown on just 34.6% (third-best in the league) of their red zone drives against the Ravens. This is good for McPherson as we can’t really afford the Bengals to find the end zone on every drive. If we want to hit the optimal lineup we need the fire emoji from all our players.
At the end of the day, it is a Thursday night game for both teams. They have just three days to prepare, they’re both trying to get in the right mindset after each team lost on Sunday, and overall these can be sloppy games. I’m always inclined to play defenses for Thursday games. Remember last week’s debacle between the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears? We should expect more offense than that matchup but still have some reservations. The Cincinnati Bengals ($3,600) are quite affordable and have 13 takeaways in their last five games. But they aren’t the greatest in terms of sack totals and against a team like the Ravens, who can run all over anybody, there may not be a ton of opportunities for sacks. However, Lamar Jackson has been turnover prone this year. He has 10 fumbles (six of which were lost) and he’s thrown five interceptions. Perhaps the Baltimore offensive scheme of late has been a response to Lamar’s carelessness with the ball at times. The Baltimore Ravens ($4,600) will cost you $1,000 more than the Bengals. In seven of 10 games this year they have at least four sacks and they’ve returned double-digit fantasy points on six occasions. Joe Burrow hasn’t been sacked a ton by any means but opposing D/ST’s have sacked him at least three times in five of the Bengals’ last six games. The matchup for both teams is a little daunting. As soon as the offenses start scoring we’ll be losing points from our D/ST’s and with both teams coming off shootouts this past Sunday, I won’t have a ton of confidence in either group. As always, a D/ST touchdown can’t be predicted but it flips the scripts for this position of variance.
NFL DFS Dart Throw Bargains
Justin Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens
I will take the savings on Justice Hill while everyone chases the production of Keaton Mitchell. Mitchell is twice the cost of Hill on DraftKings simply because he’s scored the last two weeks and a lot of his production against Seattle in Week 9 came late in the game. Last week, Hill played 14 snaps to Mitchell’s 13 and he ran more routes. All in all, they had a similar workload, but the production has been in Mitchell’s favor. So I like the savings on Hill as a sub-$3K play knowing he’ll get some touches in this game.
The natural reaction to the Bengals being down two wide receivers is to think “Well who among their wide receivers should see more work?” Sometimes the answer isn’t always at the same position. Sure, we think about Tyler Boyd and Trenton Irwin stepping up in more. But so has Tanner Hudson. Over his last two games he’s caught 10-of-12 targets for 78 yards. Here’s the kicker with the Bengals tight end room. Ourlads has Hudson atop the tight end depth chart. The Bengals official website has Irv Smith at the top. And ESPN has Drew Sample. So there’s potential for any of the three in this matchup. My personal preference is to rank them Hudson, Sample, Smith. I just can’t look past the volume he’s had of late but Sample is a nice pivot with five catches in his last two games and he saves you $2,200 off Hudson.
Not a ton to go off of here, but he’s caught all six of his targets over the last three games and he’s only $600 in this matchup. If he can get just a couple targets his way he can pay off his price tag on DraftKings in a full PPR format. But it is worrisome how little this offense has thrown the ball lately and he doesn’t run nearly enough routes.
Call this more of a hunch, if anything. Jones hasn’t played since Week 3 and he still hasn’t been activated off IR. But he practiced in full all week so it would be surprising if he wasn’t activated given the Bengals will be without two other pass catchers. So if he’s activated and can log just a few catches, he’s a $200 play that can pay off with minimal production for an offense that needs wide receivers at the moment.