There are compelling games up and down the Week 11 slate, for both real-life and fantasy purposes. Rams-Vikings. Redskins-Saints. Patriots-Raiders. Eagles-Cowboys. Falcons-Seahawks. The possibility of the Jaguars defense leading all units in scoring in their game with the Browns in Cleveland. The Giants may be a laughingstock this season, but their matchup with the Chiefs could be a fantasy bonanza. There’s also a game with Blaine Gabbert and Tom Savage as the starting quarterbacks, proof that no week is perfect. Still, it should be a great week of football. That makes me thankful for modern-day technology and TV packages (well, at least this one), that gives football fans the freedom to see any game they want.
It wasn’t always like this, of course, and we’re going to put ourselves back in a 20th-century mindset to kick off the Week 11 Cheat Sheet.
Rewind the clock 20 years. It's 1997, in terms of technology and TV packages. You're stuck with just a few games available to you at home. What's the one thing you absolutely would not want to miss this week?
Michael Beller: Rams-Vikings by a longshot. I love seeing new blood in the playoffs, so I’m thrilled that a game with these two teams is arguably the marquee matchup of Week 11. I’m most interested in how the Rams offense, which is heading toward juggernaut status, performs against a strong defense on the road. They’ve seen two of the best defenses in the league this year, the Jaguars and Seahawks, and neither game went all that well. The Rams beat the Jaguars 27-17, but two of their touchdowns came on special teams. They totaled just 249 yards and 4.4 yards per play in the game. Jared Goff had one of his worst games of the season, connecting on just more than half of his pass attempts for 124 yards, 5.9 yards per attempt and one touchdown. Todd Gurley was effective, picking up 116 yards on 23 carries, but the Jaguars were happy to give him his day while shutting down the passing game.
At least the Rams came away with a victory in that game. Back in Week 5, they fell to the Seahawks by a 16-10 score. Goff threw for 288 yards, but in actuality he wasn’t much better than in the win over the Jaguars. He totaled 6.12 YPA and threw two interceptions against zero touchdowns, his only game this season with multiple interceptions, as well as the only contest in which he had more picks than scores. Unlike the Jaguars, the Seahawks made Gurley’s life a nightmare, holding him to 43 yards on 14 carries. The Rams got 375 yards and 5.3 yards per play, but couldn’t turn any of that into points, getting shut out in the second half. The Vikings rank ninth in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA. By comparison, the Jaguars are second and the Seahawks are seventh. Given that the game is in Minnesota, this will be just as tough a test as those first two.
Oh, and for the record, the No. 1 team in defensive DVOA? It’s the Rams.
T.J. Hernandez: The game between the Rams and Vikings may be the most important of the season to date, for both real and fantasy football. With Teddy Bridgewater now active, Case Keenum is auditioning for his job every week. When adjusted for strength of schedule, the Rams rank second in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. If Keenum performs well this week, he may hold on to the starting gig for the rest of the season. Only five teams have a tougher rest-of-season schedule for quarterbacks according to 4for4, and a switch at the position could hurt the value of fantasy's WR5, Adam Thielen, for the playoff run.
Over the next four weeks, the Rams play the Vikings, Saints and Eagles, three division leaders and all teams with at least seven wins. This matchup with the Vikings will begin a stretch that will determine the top seed in the NFC, and if the Rams can pull out a victory, the road to an NFC championship may be going through Los Angeles.
Jennifer Eakins: I remember those days not so fondly and acknowledge how fortunate today's NFL audience is to be able to view games in myriad ways. If I was parked in front of my television in 1997, most likely with a choice between two games, I'd be sure to be there for the Bengals-Broncos contest. Both teams are having similar, uninspiring seasons. Denver's defense is championship caliber, but it hasn’t looked that way for the last few weeks. On offense, Cincinnati has the talent, but can't seem to make anything happen this season. Will this be the week both teams put it together? Will we see A.J. Green atop the fantasy mountain on Sunday, or will the No Fly Zone do its thing and shut him down? Can Brock Osweiler look the part of a competent quarterback, or will we see Paxton Lynch take the field for the Broncos before the 60 minutes are up? All will be revealed Sunday afternoon and I, for one, can't wait to see how it unfolds.