Last week, the AFC North teams went 0-4, the first time each team in a division has lost their opening game since the league was realigned in 2002. This week, however, with two divisional games, two teams will begin to separate themselves. How does that affect your fantasy team this week? Let’s look at the matchups for week 2:
CLEVELAND BROWNS at BALTIMORE RAVENS
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Before his week 1 matchup, nobody knew which Brandon Weeden would turn up – the one who lit up the first two weeks of preseason, or the one who we saw most of last year, with erratic ball placement and very questionable decision making. With a 48.3 passer rating and 3 interceptions, we saw the BAD Brandon Weeden. Though the Ravens D struggled against Peyton Manning last week, Weeden is no Manning, and is still missing his top target (Josh Gordon) until next week. Unless you are in a 32 team league, avoid Weeden this week.
Flacco put up decent stats last week (362 yards, 2 TDs, with 2INTs), but was trying to catch up to the free-scoring Broncos for most of the game. The Browns have an underrated defense, and Flacco won’t be throwing 62 times this week. This game does not look to be a shootout, Flacco has few options to throw to, and as a result he is barely a top-20 option this week.
“TRich” started out very well last week, with 4 caries for 26 yards and multiple shredded tackles on the first drive. He finished the game with 47 yards on just 13 carries, after the game (and game plan) got away from the Browns. Richardson has asked to carry the ball more this week, and the coaches claim they’ll permit that. The Ravens are stout against the run, but Richardson still managed a 100-yard game against them last season. If, and it’s a big if, he gets 20-25 carries, he will be able to do that again.
Rice only had 36 yards on the ground last week as the Ravens could not get the run game going, before having to air it out to catch up to the Broncos. He did punch in a short yardage TD, and had 9 catches, providing a nice boost in PPR leagues. Cleveland boasts a ferocious front 7, but Rice will get his touches, and is always a TD threat. He should, as per usual, finish as the 5th-7th best RB for the week.
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Pierce only carried the ball 4 times less than Rice, but was even less effective, with 22 yards for a 2.4 YPC. As pointed out last week, he will be a more important factor for his real life team than your fantasy squad, but he will have a big time from time to time. Bold prediction alert – Pierce takes in a catch for a TD this week.
Greg Little/Davone Bess
While others suggested Greg Little was in for a big game, we suggested you avoid and Browns WRs until Josh Gordon gets back. We hope you listened. While we like Little to have a better game this week (possibly 70+ yards), the advice remains – avoid any Browns WRs until Josh Gordon comes back.
Smith had a ridiculous 23 yards per catch average last week, with 4 for 92. He was very well covered by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for most of the game, and should draw Joe Haden, who held another burner, Mike Wallace, to one catch for 15 yards last week. In what looks to be a low scoring game, Smith is in the WR 20-25 range this week, with potential for a similar stat line to week 1.
Brown did a nice job replacing Jacoby Jones last week, with 65 yards and a TD. His size and speed make him an intriguing prospect, but as a rookie in an offense that (typically) doesn’t pass much, he’ll be inconsistent. His only shot for production is if he can get free with Joe Haden covering Smith all game, which Brain Hartline was able to do effectively last week. An interesting player to watch this week.
All of the Cameron preseason hype got delivered on in week 1, where he was clearly Weeden’s favourite target. Look for that trend to continue until at least next week. The Ravens have struggled against tight ends over the last few seasons, and Cameron can exploit them over the middle and potentially down the seam. A borderline top-5 TE.
Dallas Clark/Ed Dickson
Clark looked better than expected last week, able to find the soft spots in the defense. However, he has no YAC ability, and will only catch short passes as Flacco’s safety valve. Dickson had an awful game, with 4 drops to just 1 catch. On the bright side, he was able to get open, and Flacco gave him the chance to make plays. At some point, he will take those chances, but it is unlikely that it will be against the Browns.
Divisional matchups in the AFC North rarely provide good D/ST matchups. The Browns will have good weeks, this isn’t likely to be one of them.
The Ravens have a much better shot at fantasy production due to Weeden’s inconsistencies, who frequently gifts opposing D/STs top-10 weeks.
Bad kicker, inconsistent offense. Avoid.
Good kicker, good matchup. Start.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS at CINCINNATI BENGALS
Dalton looked good when throwing to AJ Green, bad when throwing to everyone else last week. Look for him to post a similar stat line this week, with at least one (possibly two) less picks. He should start strong, and throw less as the Bengals look to hold a lead.
Through little fault of his own, Big Ben had a miserable time in week 1, taking 5 sacks, passing for less than 200 yards, and finishing with 1 TD and 1 INT in what looked to be a reasonable matchup. He faces a much better defense this week. With no run game to help, he will pass a lot, but will also be under immense pressure. Outside the top-20 options at his position this week.
The Law Firm was dreadful in the season opener, with a stat line of 14 carries for 25 yards, a 1.8 average. He added a goal line plunge for a TD, salvaging value for anyone who started him. But he will be surpassed as the primary ballcarrier VERY soon.
When the Bengals eventually hand the reigns to Gio, look out. Although it was a tiny sample size, he looks even better than in the preseason, with shiftiness, speed and deceptive power. Could find weaknesses against the Steelers this week, look for him to gain at least 80 total yards.
Avoid. Avoid at all costs. Below average players, an atrocious O-line, and the best front 7 in football lining up against them. Just stay away.
Green showed that he should be in the conversation with Calvin Johnson as the best receiver in fantasy football. He had a stunning 9/162/2 stat line while playing against not one but two All-Pro corners. Ike Taylor has had success against him before, but Green is on fire. Look for another monster game.
As noted above, Dalton looks very poor while throwing to any WR aside from Green. The Bengals have too many other options. Not a factor in fantasy football.
Brown was able to get separation last week, and was one of the few Steelers players who weren’t awful. But if the O-line can’t give Roethlisberger time to throw, 5 catches for 70-80 yards might be Brown’s ceiling.
On the surface, Sanders seemed to have a decent game with 7 catches, albeit for only 57 yards. But he was targeted 13 times, almost twice as many as Brown, and couldn’t make catches that he really should have. Lacked effort and commitment. That, combined with the offense’s struggles, do not equate to fantasy success.
Jermaine Gresham/Tyler Eifert
Gresham was more active in the passing game than many expected, finishing with 5 catches. Eifert brought in the same number of passes in his first professional game, and for more yardage. Until the situation clarifies itself (and Eifert becomes the team’s main pass-catching TE), they cap each other’s value. Eifert possesses higher upside, however, and could break out at any time. A match against the team they’re trying to pass as the class of the division seems an appropriate time to do so.
Were targeted once. Offense is horrible. Avoid.
Look out for a huge game. Will be able to get consistent pressure on Roethlisberger, resulting in sacks and turnovers. They have a real shot at being the highest scoring D/ST this week.
While the Steelers seems to always have Dalton’s number, the Bengals simply have too many potent options for the Steelers to hope to stop. If you absolutely HAVE to, play them this week, but take a long and hard look at the waiver wire first.