AFC North Preview – Josh Brickner @DFF_JoshB
If you are reading this and playing in your fantasy championship in Week 17, please take the following actions:
- Win That ‘Ship: If you have any questions not answered below please hit me up on Twitter (@DFF_JoshB).
- Lobby to convince both your leaguemates and the Commish to change your playoffs to Weeks 14-16 next season.
- If they refuse, run like hell.
[Author’s Note: This was written on Tuesday, December 26th. The analysis and opinions are based on the available information at that time. Please keep tabs on the relevant football news for ALL of your fantasy players in Week 17 to ensure they are not being rested or may only play a quarter.]
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers:
Steelers Offensive Outlook: Who To Start/Sit
The Steelers still have a shot at the #1 seed with a win, however, Mike Tomlin is in discussions at this moment with his staff as to whether or not to rest any starters. Check for updates all week on this situation, as this is the exact reason fantasy football titles should NOT be decided in Week 17. Even without the best WR in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Martavis Bryant led the Steelers to an easy win over the Texans 34-6 on Christmas. Big Ben (20/29 226 Yds 2 TDs) put up a solid stat line for his fantasy owners, as the inept Texans defense put up little resistance. The former Miami (OH) RedHawk is a QB1 with a rock solid floor against the Browns pass-funnel defense at home. Big Ben’s upside is capped by the Steelers likelihood to grind out the clock with a big lead and pull him from the game early. Lev Bell had a down game in Week 16 and scored 19 PPR points. He’s a locked-in RB1 with the same blowout concerns as Roethlisberger.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (6/75/1), Martavis Bryant (3/60), and Vance McDonald (4/52) all picked up the slack without AB against Houston. Both JuJu and Martavis are in the WR2 conversation with limited upside due to the same playing time concerns as mentioned above. The Browns have given up the third most fantasy points to the TE position on the season, but Jesse James (52% of offensive snaps vs HOU) and Vance McDonald (48%) seem to be part of a two-man committee at TE for Pittsburgh. If news comes out throughout the week declaring one the starter over the other, play them!
Browns Offensive (What Offense?!) Outlook: Who to Start/Sit
There’s a lot of optimistic prognostications (read: guesswork) when setting a lineup for a fantasy championship game in Week 17. One thing I’m fairly certain of is this: the Cleveland Browns offense is a pit of misery where fantasy championship dreams go to die. Only two players are even worthy of consideration. Josh Gordon (2/19) let many a fantasy manager down in Week 16 in the Windy City snow-storm. Gordon faces the same challenges as last week; a tough matchup (PIT has allowed 12th fewest fantasy points to WRs), an ADHD offensive play-caller in Hue Jackson, and a future NFL career backup QB in DeShone Kizer. He remains a true boom/bust flex option. Duke Johnson Jr. has averaged 14 PPR points the last two games and is a decent flex option in a game where the Browns should trail.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens:
Bengals Offensive Outlook: Who to Start/Sit
The Bengals left the Lions a lump of coal in their stockings on Christmas Eve, as they knocked DET out of playoff contention with a 26-17 win. Cincy has the same chance this week to play spoiler, albeit a slim one, when they travel to Baltimore in Week 17 with two startable fantasy players. A.J. Green (6/81) provided a solid fantasy floor for his owners in Week 16. Expect the same in Week 17 with some possible upside against a Baltimore D that just allowed 100 receiving yards to TY Hilton in the rain. Joe Mixon played the first five snaps of the game and left with an ankle injury, opening the door for Giovani Bernard to carry the Bengal offense and put up 29 PPR points. With the Bengals likely to rest Mixon in the finale, Bernard is a high-end RB2 based on the potential volume alone.
Ravens Offensive Outlook: Who to Start/Sit
In a driving rainstorm that hindered the fantasy upside of their players, the Ravens held on to beat the Colts 23-16, and now must win against the Bengals on Sunday to be guaranteed a playoff spot. Joe Flacco put up a solid stat line (29/38 237 Yds, 2 TDs) to help put both his fantasy owners and the Ravens in a favorable playoff position. Flacco barely makes the QB1 conversation against a Cincy D who just held Matthew Stafford (19/35 205 Yds 1 TD, 1 INT) in check. Mike Wallace is averaging over 12 PPR points in his last four games and is a low-end WR2 with TD upside, even in a difficult matchup (the Bengals allow the 3rd-fewest points to fantasy WRs on the season). Alex Collins (18 Car/51 YDs; 3 Rec/15 Yds) let down the fantasy community in a plus matchup. Collins is an RB2 against a Bengals run D that has allowed the second-highest fantasy points to opposing RBs the last four weeks.