This is the final week of the fantasy football playoffs in most leagues, which means several Bengals may ultimately win or lose your league's championship.
Unfortunately, Cincinnati is playing in Denver against a Broncos defense that's been tough for most offenses to have any success against. That means most of your Bengals need to stay on your bench this week, but there are a few guys who should have enough success that they help your team.
Here's a look at this week's fantasy football starts and sits for the Bengals.
RB Giovani Bernard
The Broncos sport one of the NFL's best defenses, ranking No. 1 in both total defense and rushing defense in addition to being No. 4 in scoring defense entering Week 16. That's going to make life hard on just about every Bengal, but especially in today's NFL, someone has to put up points, and Giovani Bernard is likely going to be the Bengals' top scorer this week, at least in terms of fantasy football.
This Broncos' defense has usually given up the most fantasy points to backs who catch a lot of passes. If you look at the backs who've scored the most points vs Denver this season, five of the top seven scores either caught 4+ passes or a touchdown. The top seven guys also were targeted an average of 5.3 times per game.
The best way for backs to beat this defense is typically through the air, and Bernard can excel at this as well as anyone. In last year's matchup, Bernard totaled five catches for 45 yards and a touchdown to go with 36 yards on eight rushes. Don't play Gio this week expecting a big game, but he should be a solid play that gives you 15+ points.
WR A.J. Green
A.J. Green is typically a slam-dunk play, and while he's still someone you should play this week, be wary of the situation he is in, as ESPN's Tristan H. Cockcroft writes:
While Green, whose 9.5 targets-per-game average since the beginning of 2013 ranks eighth in the NFL, might be a difficult sit from a volume perspective, there's no doubt that he's a WR2 at best this week. Regardless of whether he lines up against Aqib Talib (the most likely on the majority of his snaps), Bradley Roby or Chris Harris Jr., Green won't find many openings against the Broncos defense. Another concern is not just the skill downgrade from Andy Dalton to AJ McCarron, but also a diminished target rate working with the latter: Green has averaged 8.0 snaps and 5.1 routes run per target working with McCarron, compared to 6.6 and 3.7 working with Dalton this season.
Green isn't exactly lighting the world on fire as of late either. He's topped 100 receiving yards just twice in his past seven games, and those came against two of the NFL's worst pass defenses in Cleveland and Pittsburgh (both rank in bottom 8 in yards per pass allowed).
It also doesn't help that Green is dealing with a back injury that limited him to just one catch for 36 yards last week against a bad 49ers defense. Denver is also the fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers this season, per FFToday.
My advice: Start Green only if you don't have another capable receiver on your bench. Some guys you may have snagged on the waiver wire this season that are better options include Doug Baldwin, Rueben Randle (with OBJ suspended), and DeSean Jackson (who played on Saturday).
WR Marvin Jones
As mentioned above, this is a very tough matchup for any Bengals pass-catcher, especially with AJ McCarron at quarterback. Jones may actually be the worst fantasy play of any Bengal this week since he's going to be on the boundary getting a lot of one-on-one matchups with either Chris Harris or Aqib Talib, two of the best corners in the game.
RB Jeremy Hill
Remember when Jeremy Hill torched the Broncos last year? Forget about it when it comes to this matchup. Several key Broncos were missing in that game, including the team's current top tacklers in Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. And for whatever reason, the Bengals were far better running the ball (6th in rushing) than they are this year (ranked 15th).
What makes Hill a tempting play is he's the back who typically gets the goal-line carries as he's rushed for 10 scores this season. However, he's now going against a Broncos defense among the NFL's best while allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs over the past five weeks, per FFToday,
Keep Hill on the bench this week.
QB Andy Dalton and Tyler Eifert
The Bengals have ruled out Tyler Eifert and Andy Dalton, so it goes without saying that both players must be benched this week. Adding to this, neither of their backups are worthy plays this week either. Both AJ McCarron and Tyler Kroft showed some promise last week against a poor 49ers defense, but not enough so that they should be started in what's likely your league's championship.