Another week of the NFL season, and another week for fantasy football owners around the country. For Bengals fans, it's not just "another week." It's a game against a division rival. It's a game that could bump them up further in the AFC standings. It's primetime. For fantasy football fans, "another week" may be an understatement. Leagues around the country are likely in the middle of the playoffs. There's a good chance they're a week away from their fantasy Super Bowl. Win and you're in. "Another week," could be their last week.
For Bengals fans, some may be placing their hopes for a fantasy championship on the shoulders of a handful of players in stripes. Perhaps they're all they have. Perhaps they're just willing to go down with the ship if the Bengals struggle on the field. Regardless of the intent that fantasy owners have, we're here to discuss what you can expect from Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Andy Dalton: He was one of the top quarterbacks in Week 14 with 275 yards three passing and one rushing touchdown. Fantasy owners are likely excited at the prospect of Dalton flipping the switch and igniting as an offensive threat that will blow up fantasy rosters. Keep calm. Temper those expectations. The reality is that Dalton's overall season is full of highs and lows. Simply put, he's inconsistent. I don't like inconsistent in my playoffs. And I don't know that I'm thrilled about Dalton facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that Dalton has averaged 193 passing yards against through five contests. Consider him a QB2 this week, and try to find a better match up with your playoffs on the line.
Running backs: Giovani Bernard turned heads for the first time in his career against the Steelers in Week 2. Bernard finished that game with 65 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Now, he'll be facing the Steelers in their house. Fortunately for Bernard owners, the Steelers are fairly pedestrian against fantasy running backs. Bernard will be a solid RB2 on Sunday. The match up bodes well for BenJarvus Green-Ellis as well. MIami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas ran for 105 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers on Sunday. The Bengals may game plan for a downhill, north-south attack after seeing Thomas' success. I'm willing to consider Green-Ellis a low-end flex option for anyone in need.
Wide receviers: A.J. Green has experienced his share of struggles against the Steelers, namely Ike Taylor. It's worth mentioning that Taylor has seen his own struggles as of late. Over the last three weeks, Torrey Smith, Calvin Johnson, and Josh Gordon have all been able to put up strong stat lines against Pittsburgh. Green is still a WR1 that all owners should start as they look to progress in their fantasy playoffs. Marvin Jones managed 60 yards and a touchdown against the Colts on Sunday, but he's a risky play at this stage. He's no more than a WR4.
Tight ends: Gresham caught six of his nine targets for 66 yards against the Steelers in Week 2. Realistically, he's a TE2, but there's some upside as he is coming off a decent game in Week 14 (5/41/1). Owners plagued by tight end injuries this late in the season could do worse than starting Gresham. Owners that have been waiting for a breakout performance by Tyler Eifert should probably give up the ghost this late in the season. He's an absolute gamble and the odds are stacked against anyone hoping for some production from the rookie tight end.
Defense/ Special teams: I put it all on the table in Week 14. I was exhausted from keeping the Bengals defense at arm's length week after week. They surprised us against the Green Bay Packers. They shocked the nation against the New England Patriots. They'd turn around and fall short against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins. When you look at their overall body of work from a fantasy perspective, they're easily a top-ten defense. An argument could easily be made that they're top five. However, it's worth noting that the Steelers aren't giving up much to fantasy defenses. Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo all struggled to put up meaningful fantasy production against Pittsburgh.
It's difficult to recommend starting Cincinnati this week, but there's no doubt they have the ability to step up and surprise. If your options in free agency are a bit of a stretch, you're probably better off starting the Bengals. If you see more tempting options, you might want to take it.
Be sure to check out Who Dey Weekly's Nick Seuberling and I during the Fantasy Kickoff show every Sunday morning. Follow us on Twitter @FantasyKickoff and send us your questions before the end of the week. We are going to attempt to do a live Google Hangout at 8 a.m. ET this Sunday! Check us out!