SEC In Fantasy, Week 11: Cam Newton, Man Under Pressure

The former Auburn star is rolling again through the air, but the Patriots are falling short. This week, Cam felt the heat from JJ Watt and Co.

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Send a fury of blitzes. That was the game plan from the second drive on for the Texans’ defense on Sunday. For a secondary that has struggled in coverage all season and a run defense that has allowed opposing rushers into the second level far too easily, the real mystery is why it took Houston so long to start sending the house early and often.

In any case, the Patriots really wish they would have picked a different day to figure it out.

Just when Cam Newton and the Pats’ offense had something going — back-to-back wins over the hapless Jets and contending Ravens — the Texans defense seemed to solve its issues in time to cause chaos.

The first drive followed the logical line of how the season had gone for both sides. Houston’s defense only brought four and struggled against the play-action pass — a gain of 34 on the Patriots’ second play of the game, which was followed by a 17-yard connection to Damiere Byrd jumpstarted the New England offense. A few plays later, the Patriots capped off its 84-yard opening drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Damien Harris.

Then, the blitz experiments came. The Texans would spend the rest of the first half figuring out which schemes were going to be effective to stop the run (probably a good idea for a unit that entered dead last in rush defense), disrupt play-action (an effective measure sure to come to keep them honest), and blow up quick screen passes (a staple of the Patriots’ offense this season). The best way to achieve all three was throwing a combination of blitzes at the wall and seeing what stuck.

By the time the first half ended, step one was a success. Pressure was coming from all angles in many shapes and sizes. The Patriots only put together 30 rushing yards from the second drive to the end of the second quarter, and the Texans were feeling loose going into the locker room with a 21-10 lead. So the blitz was there to stay.

The second half started with a New England three-and-out after Rex Burkhead was cut down behind the line on a 3rd down and one toss to the left edge, which left him injured and unable to return.

The Patriots offensive line picked up the free safety blitz well on the next drive and the Newton-to-Byrd connection torched the Houston secondary for 30 yards. Three plays later, Houston only brought the front four and the duo linked up again for a 42-yard touchdown bomb, perfectly placed over Byrd’s shoulder.

When the Texans kicked a field goal to lengthen their lead to a full touchdown in the closing moments of the third quarter, the Patriots went back to work, likely in hopes that the Texans defense would revert back to sending four and give them time to exploit the secondary. No such luck. A pair of sacks and batted down passes held New England to a field goal try, which Nick Folk converted from 36 yards out — making it a 24-20 deficit.

The Texans answered again with a field goal of their own, lengthening its lead once again to a seven point advantage. The Patriots would need to execute a perfect four minute drill against a barrage of pressure to extend the game into overtime. So, they turned to the short passing game. Eight (!!) consecutive short passes to start the drive had them at the Texans’ 30 going in.

Facing third-and-four, the Patriots needed to cross into the red zone to complete its eighth third-down conversion of the day. J.J. Watt had other plans. Just before the snap, the Texans rotated from a three-high look, to rolling both of the outside defensive backs down into a well-timed blitz off the edges.

The right play call was dialed up: a double slant on the right side freed up N’Keal Harry immediately. Meanwhile Watt had shed an intended cut block, got his mitts up, and for the fourth time in the game, batted the pass down at the line. Fourth and four.

Guess what Houston dialed up next? The same play design. This time, Lonnie Johnson Jr. came absolutely free off the edge on a beeline straight to the vertical line in the middle of Newton’s uniform. Cam saw it just in the nick of time, spinning away to avoid his third sack, dodging a defensive end, cutting back toward the line of scrimmage to try to get his eyes back up on the field.

Instead, Justin Reid caught him from behind and latched onto his legs. Falling quickly to the turf, Cam tried his best to throw a desperation heave to his tight end just past the sticks. But the rush had done its job once again and the ball flailed out of his hands, innocently to the ground for a turnover on downs.

A 26 of 40 day for 365 yards, no turnovers, and a touchdown is not usually a losing formula. Unfortunately, it was on Sunday. The Houston defense saved what was by far its best defensive effort for their Week 11 game against the Patriots, rendering the New England record to 4-6 with a home matchup against the hungry Cardinals due up. That will be followed by a December road trip, which will take them to LA for two games in five days before facing the Dolphins in Miami, and rounding out their season by hosting their other two divisional opponents, the Bills and the Jets.

With that breakdown behind us, let’s look at the rest of the wonky week that was Week 11 for the rest of the former Auburn and SEC players in the NFL:

Alabama

QB: Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) – 7.3

RB: Derrick Henry (Titans) - 19.7

RB: Kenyan Drake (Cardinals) - 14

WR: Calvin Ridley (Falcons) – 11.5

WR: Amari Cooper (Cowboys) - 11.1

TE: Irv Smith Jr. (Vikings) – 3.3

FLEX: Josh Jacobs (Raiders) - 12.9

TOTAL = 79.8

The Dolphins’ trip to Denver was a disaster. Tagovailoa completed 11 of 20 passes for 83 yards including a 3-yard touchdown pass and was sacked six times before being benched and replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Broncos. Though Brian Flores made it clear after the game that Tua was going to remain as the starter going forward, it’s hard to ignore how much crisper the Fins’ offense looks with the veteran behind center.

It was another strong week for the Alabama backfield as Henry, Drake, and Jacobs each took a run over the goal line. Kenyan Drake got the scoring started for the unit on Thursday night, taking 11 carries for 29 yards and the early 2-yard touchdown and adding four catches for 31 yards in the Cardinals’ narrow loss in Seattle. Josh Jacobs carried the ball 17 times for 55 yards, including an early 2-yard score of his own, to go along with a 9-yard catch in the Raiders’ entertaining Sunday night loss to the Chiefs.

While Drake and Josh scored the first touchdowns of the night for their teams, Derrick Henry chose to wait until overtime and cross the plane for an impressive jump-cut walk-off touchdown in Baltimore, capping off a 28-carry, 133-yard rushing performance.

After a near month-long hiatus from the Alabama fantasy team, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley clawed their way back to the top receiving spots in Week 11. Cooper was again receiving passes from Andy Dalton, who linked up with the former Tide standout six times for 81 yards in the Cowboys’ upset win in Minnesota. The Falcons struggled mightily Sunday afternoon against their hated division rival from New Orleans. Ridley led Atlanta in non-QB yards by a large margin, ending with 90 after catching five of his nine targets in the loss.

Arkansas

RB: Jonathan Williams (Lions) - 0

TE: Hunter Henry (Chargers) – 12.8

FLEX: Jeremy Sprinkle (Football Team) – 0

TOTAL = 12.8

With his fourth consecutive game of four catches, Hunter Henry scored a 2-yard touchdown and double-digit fantasy points for a second consecutive week. As long as Henry can find red/endzone targets, he will have a chance to be the top-scoring fantasy tight end in the conference, as he has been two weeks in a row.

Auburn

QB: Cam Newton (Patriots) – 19.2

RB: Kerryon Johnson (Lions) - 4.8

RB: Peyton Barber (Football Team) – 2.8

WR: Darius Slayton (Giants) – BYE

TE: C.J. Uzomah (Bengals) - INJ

FLEX: Chandler Cox (Dolphins) - OUT

K: Cody Parkey (Browns) – 9

TOTAL = 35.8

Though the Patriots didn’t manage to extend their mini-winning streak, Newton hurled the ball for 365 yards and a touchdown on Sunday afternoon in Houston. Though only officially sacked twice, the Houston pass rush kept Cam and the Pats from having a huge day. Instead of evening their overall record, the Patriots now stand at 4-6 with six games remaining.

With D’Andre Swift ruled out ahead of the Lions matchup against a struggling Panthers run defense, it looked like Kerryon Johnson might be in for a promising workload on Sunday. And although Johnson out-snapped future Hall-of-Fame starter Adrian Peterson 39 to 17, he only got one more touch than AD. Kerryon was thrown to five times but only reeled in two of those for 21 yards, while taking his six hand-offs a total of 17 yards. In D.C., Peyton Barber turned his 14 offensive snaps into eight rushes for 28 yards in the Football Team’s 20-9 win.

I’m not sure there is worse kicking weather out there than what Cleveland has produced for its home team this month. Gale force winds, pouring rain, cool temperatures, and a lightning delay have all occurred inside FirstEnergy Stadium in the last three weeks. The rain and cold returned for the final time on Sunday, as the Browns wrapped up their November homestand against the Eagles. Cody Parkey has remained undeterred, hitting from 46 and 28 and converting both of his extra points. It may have been another perfect day, had it not been for the Eagles blocking a 47-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter.

Florida

QB: Jeff Driskel (Broncos) - OUT

RB: La’Mical Perine (Jets) – 9.3

WR: Demarcus Robinson (Chiefs) - 7.4

WR: Van Jefferson (Rams) - 7.2

TE: Trey Burton (Colts) - 9.5

FLEX: Antonio Callaway - 1.8

TOTAL = 35.2

The long-expected unleashing of La’Mical Perine did not exactly materialize on Sunday, as the rookie fourth rounder went down with an ankle injury in the third quarter of the Jets’ most recent loss at the hands of the Chargers. Perine quickly scored a five-yard touchdown less than six minutes into the game, which seemed like a promising start at the time, but he would only get seven more opportunities to run before leaving the game early in the second half. His final line: Eight carries for 33 yards and a score in just 11 offensive snaps.

Solid games from Gator pass-catchers bolstered the team to its second-best fantasy scoring week of the season. After touchdowns in consecutive games for the Chiefs, Demarcus Robinson matched his career-high with six catches for 44 yards. There’s something about going against the Raiders that brings the best out of him: the two times he has caught six passes in a game AND his top three career yardage totals have come against the black and silver.

Jefferson and Burton got their points the old fashioned way — low receptions and touchdowns. For Van Jefferson, a solitary target resulted in a 7-yard score on Monday Night. Trey Burton doubled that and caught two passes on Sunday afternoon: a short, 8-yard catch and a 17-yard touchdown connection with Phillip Rivers just after the first half’s two-minute warning.

Georgia

QB: Matthew Stafford (Lions) – 7.6

RB: Nick Chubb (Browns) - 11.4

RB: Todd Gurley II (Falcons) - 3.4

WR: A.J. Green (Bengals) - 12.1

WR: Mecole Hardman (Chiefs) - 2.1

TE: Isaac Nauta (Lions) – 0

FLEX: Chris Conley (Jaguars) - 1.8

K: Rodrigo Blankenship (Colts) - 15

TOTAL = 53.4

Without their starting running back and best receiver, even a visit to a 3-7 McCaffrey-less Carolina was expected to be an uphill battle for the Lions. What occurred Sunday afternoon was more like trying to scale Annapurna. The Lions offense finished with 11 total drives and zero total points against a Panthers defense that hadn’t seemed intimidating all season. Stafford went 18 for 33 for 178 yards and was sacked five times in the 20-0 shutout loss.

Kareem Hunt may have scored the lone Browns offensive touchdown against the Eagles, but Nick Chubb did the dirty work between the goal lines and got the yards. His final line was 20 carries for 114 yards and a win. It was a much different afternoon for the Falcons and Todd Gurley, who quietly finished his day with 29 all-purpose yards on eight carries and a catch.

A.J. Green’s unpredictable season took another turn on Sunday when he cashed in his nine targets for four catches, 41 yards, and his first touchdown since October 29, 2018. Of course, that wasn’t the biggest news from the Bengals’ side this weekend. More on that later.

Hardman and Conley caught just one pass this weekend; Mecole took his single Mahomes’ target for 16 yards and CC was unable to come down with three of his intended passes but reeled in one for 13 yards.

If you didn’t #RespectTheSpecs before now, you certainly do now. Blankenship chunked his first field goal attempt a bit fat and loudly clanked it off the crossbar from 50 yards out. He followed that up by going to WORK in the second half, connecting from 37, 32, and 43. After his counterpart forced overtime with just a couple seconds to go in regulation, HotRod hit his final attempt — a game-winning 39-yarder to elevate his Colts to 7-3 and hand the Packers their third loss of the season.

Kentucky

RB: Benny Snell Jr. (Steelers) – 7.5

WR: Randall Cobb (Texans) – 7.7

WR: Lynn Bowden Jr. (Dolphins) - OUT

TOTAL = 15.2

Benny Snell Jr. should be nicknamed The Vulture. Snell scored his third touchdown on Sunday, all three of which have been one-yard punch-ins. Cobb scored a short-yardage TD of his own, making it a rare multi-score Sunday for the NFL Cats. Unfortunately for Cobb, he injured his toe on the touchdown grab, which forced him out of the game very early and he will likely miss the Texans’ Turkey Day clash against the Lions.

LSU

QB: Joe Burrow (Bengals) – 11.3

RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Chiefs) – 20.2

RB: Leonard Fournette (Buccaneers) – 9.1

WR: Justin Jefferson (Vikings) – 16.1

WR: Russell Gage (Falcons) - 9.3

TE: Foster Moreau (Raiders) – 0

FLEX: D.J. Chark (Jaguars) - 6.1

TOTAL = 72.1

The biggest story from the NFL weekend is unfortunately the latest season-ending injury to strike against a rising star. Not to be morbid, but it’s a wonder that injuries had avoided Burrow to this point. He had been taking shot after shot week after week, showing the kind of resilient chin an MMA fighter would envy. Finally, the big brutal one came and we found out just how brutal it was Monday afternoon:

Burrow’s 22 for 34 for 203 yards, a touchdown, a dozen rushing yards, and a lost fumble seems less than irrelevant.

After running the ball a combined 19 times in the past three weeks combined, Clyde Edwards-Helaire took 14 carries for 69 yards and doubled his season-long touchdown total with a couple of scores, adding an eight-yard catch to a very impressive day for the rookie back. On Monday Night Football, Leonard Fournette had an extremely hard time catching the football out of the backfield, securing only one of his four targets for nine yards. His seven carries for 17 yards were not very impressive either, save for his two-yard touchdown dive in the second quarter.

The Bayou receiving corps was led once again by its standout rookie, Justin Jefferson. Though he only caught three passes, they were all significant — 27, 20, and a 39-yard fourth quarter score that put the Vikings ahead with 9:37 left. But the Cowboys would answer with a very late touchdown and beat Minnesota 31-28.

Russell Gage was the most targeted Falcon in Week 11, catching seven of the 12 balls thrown his direction for 58 yards. D.J. Chark could only catch half of the eight aimed his way for 41 yards.

Mississippi State

QB: Dak Prescott (Cowboys) – IR

TE: Jordan Thomas (Patriots) - 0

TOTAL = 0

Jordan Thomas was on the field and even had a pass thrown to him on Sunday. He was unable to convert it into a catch, though, so it’s a bowl of Cheerios for the West Dawgs.

Missouri

QB: Drew Lock (Broncos) – 12.1

TE: Albert Okwuegbunam (Broncos) – IR

TOTAL = 12.1

Drew Lock completed 18 of his 30 heaves for 270 yards, with 11 passes falling incomplete and the other finding Xavien Howard, making Lock’s 11th interception on the season Howard’s sixth. The Missouri alum added 23 rushing yards to his tally in an upset win over the Dolphins. Nothing flashy, nothing horrendous, enough to win.

Ole Miss

RB: Jordan Wilkins (Colts) – 4.1

WR: A.J. Brown (Titans) – 14.2

WR: D.K. Metcalf (Seahawks) – 12.1

TE: Evan Engram (Giants) – BYE

FLEX: Donte Moncrief (Patriots) - 2

TOTAL = 32.4

Jordan Wilkins toted the tater four times for 21 yards, and caught it the only time it was thrown his way for 15 yards. It’s looking like he is going to be third in the Colts’ tailback pecking order.

With both tight ends on a BYE, Ole Miss was counting on its former unstoppable duo to find the end zone and generate some points for the fantasy squad in Week 11. Though neither had their ceiling game, A.J. and D.K. both scored albeit in very different ways.

Three catches, 46 yards, and an improvised route for a touchdown helped his Seahawks to a 28-21 victory over the Cardinals. For something a little more hard-nosed, we turn to Mr. Arthur Juan Brown:

Those were 14 of his 62 yards, coming from four catches in Sunday’s big AFC win in Baltimore.

South Carolina

RB: Mike Davis (Panthers) – 14.9

RB: Rico Dowdle (Cowboys) – 0

WR: Damiere Byrd (Patriots) – 23.3

WR: Bryan Edwards (Raiders) - 0.6

TE: Jared Cook (Saints) - 1.1

FLEX: Hayden Hurst (Falcons) – 0

K: Ryan Succop (Buccaneers) - 6

TOTAL = 45.9

After playing 42 snaps without a single target in Week 10, Damiere Byrd popped off in a huge way on Sunday. Six catches for a career-high 132 yards, an 11-yard rush, and this over-the-shoulder highlight worthy connection from Cam Newton in the third quarter:

A visit from the Detroit Lions was all that was needed for Mike Davis and the Panthers to rid themselves of their woes, even with a backup quarterback in charge for the day. For Davis, the run of four consecutive games without a touchdown resulting in single-digit fantasy scores ended after taking a 1-yard TD plunge in the first quarter. His 19 carries for 64 yards and a pair of receptions for 15 yards helped the Panthers snap out of their five-game losing streak.

After Succop’s perfect Monday night, which featured a 38-yard field goal and 3-of-3 extra point conversions, the 34-year-old kicker is putting the ball through the uprights at a 93 percent clip.

Tennessee

QB: Tyler Bray (Bears) - BYE

RB: Alvin Kamara (Saints) – 10.5

RB: Jakob Johnson (Patriots) – 0

WR: Marquez Callaway (Saints) - 0

WR: Cordarrelle Patterson (Bears) – BYE

TE: Jason Witten (Raiders) – 6.6

FLEX: Luke Stocker (Falcons) - 0

TOTAL = 17.1

What looked like a concerted Sean Payton effort to get his new quarterback going resulted in Taysom Hill flinging the ball over Alvin Kamara’s head, farther up the field to receivers. Hill only targeted Kamara once on Sunday and did not complete it, making it the first reception-less game of AK’s career. Playing just 48 percent of the Saints’ offensive snaps, a late first half touchdown saved his fantasy day from doom. All in all, it was 13 carries for 45 yards and a score — enough to raise concerns of his fantasy owners. Will this be the new normal with Hill?

Jason Witten: one catch, one yard, one touchdown. Hard to be much more efficient than that.

Texas A&M

QB: Ryan Tannehill (Titans) – 22.9

RB: Trayveon Williams (Bengals) - 0

RB: Cullen Gillaspia (Texans) - INJ

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – 13.4

WR: Christian Kirk (Cardinals) – 7

TE: Jace Sternberger (Packers) – 3.8

FLEX: Josh Reynolds (Rams) – 4.7

K: Randy Bullock (Bengals) - 5

TOTAL = 56.8

The Titans are 4-0 in games that Ryan Tannehill completes over 70 percent of his passes, a stat that has largely been indicative of an effective ground game. They are 5-0 in games Tannehill throws for at least 235 yards. 22 for 31 met the criteria of the former and 259 yards hit the latter mark. His fourth interception of the season was not enough to undo him, as two touchdowns, a two-point conversion, and 35 rushing yards helped elevate the Two-Toned Blue to a tie atop the AFC South and sets up a huge game in Week 12 against the fellow division-leading Colts.

The Monday Night Football matchup pitted a pair of former Aggie wideouts against each other. Mike Evans scored his ninth receiving touchdown of the season, part of his five catch, 49-yard night. Josh Reynolds was only able to manage three catches for 32 yards, making this his lowest fantasy scoring game since Week 4. Christian Kirk caught four passes for 50 yards on Thursday night, which was just a catch and yard less than Nuk.

Randy Bullock came into Sunday’s game with two missed field goals all season — the one we all remember from Week 1 and a 48-yard miss against the Colts in Week 6. On Sunday, Bullock missed another pair of field goals and his only extra point attempt, but connected from 53.

Vanderbilt

RB: Khari Blasingame (Titans) – 1.8

RB: Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Buccaneers) - OUT

WR: Trent Sherfield (Cardinals) - 0

TOTAL = 1.8

Blasingame caught a pass for 13 yards for his highest fantasy output of the year, and putting VANDY ON THE BOARD!

FANTASY STANDINGS THROUGH WEEK 11

1. Alabama: 1016.8 (last week - 1)

2. Georgia: 831.5 (2)

3. LSU: 809.3 (3)

4. Texas A&M: 639.9 (4)

5. South Carolina: 493 (5)

6. Auburn: 471.5 (6)

7. Ole Miss: 403 (7)

8. Tennessee: 336.1 (8)

9. Florida: 275.7 (9)

10. Mississippi State: 151.9 (10)

11. Missouri: 130.1 (11)

12. Kentucky: 118.9 (12)

13. Arkansas: 84.8 (13)

14. Vanderbilt: 18.2 (14)

WEEK 11 ALL-SEC FANTASY TEAM

QB: Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M/Titans) – 22.9

RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU/Chiefs) - 20.2

RB: Derrick Henry (Alabama/Titans) – 19.7

WR: Damiere Byrd (South Carolina/Patriots) - 23.3

WR: Justin Jefferson (LSU/Vikings) - 16.1

TE: Hunter Henry (Arkansas/Chargers) - 12.8

FLEX: A.J. Brown (Ole Miss/Titans) - 14.2

K: Rodrigo Blankenship (Georgia/Colts) - 15

TOTAL = 144.2

Fitting for a week of oddities, Week 11’s highest fantasy scoring SEC alum was Damiere Byrd, who outperformed the combined score of the other four active Gamecocks. When you break your career-high single-game yardage total by 58, as you could probably guess, this is Byrd’s first All-SEC listing of the season, joined by Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the two first-time selections this week.

On the other end, the most honored veterans, Derrick Henry, Justin Jefferson, and A.J. Brown, grabbed the conference’s top scoring spots for a fourth time. Tannehill and Blankenship topped their positions for a third time this season after being beaten out for several weeks in a row. After Kamara’s semi-freeze out, the longest active All-SEC streak is two, shared by Jefferson and Hunter Henry, whose recent touchdowns have propelled him to the top of a weak tight end unit twice in a row.

Predictably, Alabama was the first time to cross the 1,000 point mark this season as the standings remained the same in Week 11. Week 12 is Thanksgiving week, which means that all 32 NFL teams will be active for the first time since Week 4 (COVID-19 tests permitting). Remember to get those lineups set a little earlier this week, as the Turkey Day slate starts before noon for those of us in the correct time zone (Central).

I am thankful for all of you who have returned to check out the weekly rundown. Enjoy this holiday week as best you can, eat well, spend some time reflecting on all there still is to be grateful for in life, and find us here again next Tuesday as we wrap up Week 12 and prepare for the playoff push.

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