Week 12 Fantasy Preview: AFC North

 

What We Learned From Last Week

Return of the Killer B’s – Ben Roethlisberger (30/45 299 yards 4 TDs) and Antonio Brown (10/144/3) paced the Steelers passing game in a 40-17 shellacking of the Titans. Big Ben showed he is still a QB1 streamer with upside in the right matchup. The former Miami Redhawk is a decent option at QB against an above average Packers pass D (19th in fantasy points allowed to QBs). AB demonstrated he’s not only the most complete WR in the last ten years but why he should ALWAYS be in your starting lineup when healthy.

As predicted in last week’s preview, JuJu Smith-Schuster regressed to WR3/Flex numbers (4/47) as the Steelers were intent on feeding Brown early and often. Smith-Schuster played a season-high 88% of the offensive snaps but failed to score a touchdown for the first time in nearly a month. Make sure you get Smith-Schuster out of your lineups this week. He’s been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Goring forward JSS is still a strong WR3/Flex play moving forward with decent upside when secondaries focus all of their attention on stopping AB.

Le’Veon Bell gave his owners another safe floor in PPR leagues (12 rushes/46 yards, 9 catches/57 yards). Bell would have had an even bigger day had instant replay not overturned a touchdown. Bell is still a rock-solid RB1 due to his ridiculous volume (averaging 28 touches per game) and is in your lineup whenever he’s active. However, fantasy footballers need to understand his monster games of scoring 30+ fantasy points will be few and far between. While Martavis Bryant was targeted four times, he was only able to catch half of those targets for 30 yards. Bryant’s 59% snap share demonstrates he’s only the fourth option behind Brown, Bell, and Smith-Schuster in the passing game. Even with Smith-Schuster out this week, Bryant is a boom/bust option at best.

Where’s the Run Game?

A week after the Browns ran the ball for 201 yards against the Lions, Hue Jackson decided the best way to beat the Jaguars was to attack their league-best secondary through the air. The results were both predictable and infuriating. The Browns offense twice held the ball late in the 4th quarter with a chance to win, but DeShone Kizer (16/32 179 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs) was strip-sacked on both drives bringing his turnover total to four on the afternoon.

Neither Isaiah Crowell (11/18) nor Duke Johnson Jr had much of an opportunity to produce on the ground. Johnson Jr. got involved in the passing game (4/56/1) to save his fantasy day, but The Crow stayed grounded and didn’t see a single target. On a team that wasn’t an utter disaster, both Crowell and Duke would be reliable fantasy options. Unfortunately, their head coach/play caller would rather hang his erratic rookie QB out to dry against one of the league’s best defenses. Both Browns RBs are risky flex plays moving forward due to the sporadic play calling of Jackson. These fans below perfectly captured the postgame mood of the entire brow-beaten Browns’ fan base:

Don’t Tell the Ravens the NFL is a Passing League

Behind a dominant performance from their D/ST combined with a solid running game (more on this later), the Ravens dominated the Rodgers-less Packers 23-0. The Ravens D/ST is an elite defense in the right matchup and is a Top 10 option against Tom Savage and the Houston Texans on MNF. I would not feel comfortable starting either Mike Wallace (4/56/1) or Jeremy Maclin (4/34) in my lineup while the Ravens are trying to hide Joe Flacco (22/28 183 yards 1 TD 1 INT). Both are high risk/low reward options in games where the Ravens defense should dictate the outcome such as Week 12 against Houston.

What to Watch For – Baltimore Backfield Coming Into Focus

With Danny Woodhead playing in his first game since kickoff weekend, the Ravens backfield held the potential to turn into a three-headed monster limiting the fantasy value of all three players. At first glance at the snap counts and production (see above) might have brought dread to owners of all three RBs. A closer look reveals only those who own Javorius “Buck” Allen need to panic. Alex Collins’ 20 carries and RZ TD run, along with Terrance West being a healthy scratch, showed Collins has the early-down work on lockdown. Woodhead’s 13 snaps appear concerning to his owners. However, both the game flow and this being his first action in ten weeks should explain the limited playing time and quelch those fears.

Woodhead seeing targets on nearly half of his offensive snaps is a great sign and a good barometer for future use. Expect the 5-9 scatback to steal at least two targets from Collins’ four and make Allen an afterthought in Week 12. Woodhead’s role in the offense is the same as Allen’s (change of pack back). Woodhead is just better at it, plain and simple.

If you own Allen, try and trade him for peanuts or just drop him outright. Barring Woodhead missing any time, he has no role on this team. Collins and Woodhead’s have similar value as low-end RB2/Flex plays (Woodhead has higher value in PPR and vice versa for Collins), but the projected game flow will determine which has more upside each week. Collins has the upper hand in a Week 12 matchup against Tom Savage-led Houston Texans where the Ravens D/ST should force turnovers, and the offense grinds out a win. In a game against a good offense where Baltimore projects to play from behind, such as a Week 13 tilt against the Lions, fire up Woodhead.

Can Corey Coleman be the WR1 the Browns Need & A Fantasy Streamer?

This space is usually reserved for the Josh Gordon watch. While I share Hue Jackson’s excitement about Gordon returning to practice this week, let’s discuss a player who will be on the field Sunday. Enter Corey Coleman. Coleman led the Browns in every receiving category against Jacksonville converting 11 targets into six receptions for 80 yards in his first game returning from a broken hand. The Baylor product seems to have a nice chemistry with mediocre QB DeShone Kizer. Coleman should continue to be a focal point in the Browns passing offense even with the return of Gordon in Week 13. Stash Coleman on your fantasy roster, but a tough matchup (Cincy gives up 4th least fantasy points to WRs) and the overall crappiness of the Browns offense gives me serious pause in starting him.

Who Drops the Boom

The Bengals Aerial Attack – Yes, Tyler Kroft only had two catches for 12 yards in Week 11 against Denver. Thankfully, for both his fantasy owners and analysts who recommended him as a streaming option, one of those catches was a one-yard touchdown. This was Kroft’s fourth touchdown and fifth red zone target on the season. Expect both of those numbers to climb in Week 12. Kroft and the Bengals host a Cleveland defense, that while playing better, has been killed by opposing TEs (65/629/8) on the season. Start Kroft with confidence as he torched the Browns for six receptions, 68 yards, and two TDs in a Week 4 matchup in Cleveland.

A.J. Green might have needed an 18-yard touchdown catch in the 4th quarter to rescue his fantasy stat line against Denver’s lockdown corners, but that shouldn’t be the case on Sunday against the Browns. In 12 career games against his intra-state, division rivals Green has 57 receptions, 887 yards, and 7 TDs which includes a 5/63/1 performance back in Week 4. The former Georgia Bulldog is a Top 5 option at the position this week as he has multiple touchdown upside against an improving, but still big-play vulnerable Browns secondary.

In the last four games, Brandon LaFell has converted 24 targets into 16 receptions, 195 yards, and two TDs. LaFell is a medium risk/medium reward Flex play against a Browns defense that will focus most of their attention on stopping Green. Don’t look now, but in his last two games Andy Dalton has thrown for 419 yards and 5 TDs against 0 INTs. These numbers aren’t earth-shattering, but Dalton has a safe floor against the winless Browns at home.

Who Drops the Ball – Joe Mixon

Remember earlier in the season when the fantasy community (myself included) were clamoring for the Bengals to free Joe Mixon? Those were the days. Mixon has gotten a feature back workload, but the high volume has not always translated to success (see above). In his past three games, Mixon has carried the ball 42 times for 117 yards, and two TDs while adding six receptions for 18 yards. Both of those short TDs saved Mixon’s fantasy days in Weeks 9 & 10. However, Mixon was stuffed on two goal-line carries against Denver in Week 11. The former Sooner is nothing more than a TD dependent flex play against a Browns run defense which allows the 9th least fantasy points to opposing RBs on the season.

Game Predictions

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Cleveland Browns 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Green Bay Packers 10
Baltimore Ravens 23 Houston Texans 10

A Happy Thanksgiving from both the Brickner and DFF family to you and yours. In the spirit of giving, please read below and consider donating to the cause if you can.

jbrickner

I have been playing fantasy football since 1995 when I was 10 years old. When not locked in the grip of my fantasy football addiction, I love having my heart broken by Cleveland professional sports teams, quenching my thirst for travel with my wife, and taking long walks with my four-legged best friend Roosevelt. My wife and I will often joke that fantasy football is my mistress, and I look forward to sharing my love for my mistress with the world! Give me a follow on Twitter @DFF_JoshB.

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