Odds are, if you played a player from Cincinnati or Cleveland last week you were disappointed. There weren’t really any notable standouts for either team in Week 1, and each squad looked like they were still getting into sync.
Will that change this week?
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: So Mixon has a habit of going off on the Browns. He had two really good games against them last year, and this defense is arguably less equipped to deal with him now that they are so thin at linebacker and safety. Mixon didn’t have the best Week 1, but it is easy to expect him to bounce back against this defense.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, RBs, Browns: If only one of these guys were playing they’d be a must start. I even think there is room for both of them to have fantasy relevant games after the Chargers held their own running the ball last week, and the Bengals will be down Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels in the middle of that defensive line. Still, Hunt out touched Chubb 17 to 11, which could be because the team got behind early. It still shows that Cleveland wants to get Hunt involved as much as Chubb, which puts a pretty decent ceiling on both their fantasy values in a good matchup.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: You have to be willing to admit when you were wrong when you write things like this. I anticipated Tyler Boyd being Joe Burrow’s favorite target, but that was far and away Green in Week 1. He had nine targets, which included two that could’ve been touchdowns. He only had 51 yards on the day, but until we see otherwise, it is fair to expect him to keep targeting Green early and often.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns: Prior to the injury report I would’ve listed Beckham in the next section. However, with Jarvis Landry’s availability in doubt and David Njoku out, the list of possible targets are dwindling at a rapid pace. Baker Mayfield may be saying that he can’t force passes to Beckham, but he may not have much of a choice come Thursday. Beckham also had decent outings against the Bengals last season.
Browns’ defense: We are all excited about Burrow, but he showed last week that he is still capable of making rookie mistakes. Not to mention the pass rush ran through the Bengals’ offensive line like butter last week. It is fair to expect some sacks and turnovers this week. That doesn’t mean the Bengals can’t win.
Good but not great
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: I still think that Boyd and Burrow will get on the same page soon. This could even be the week, but until we see it I can’t keep listing him as a favorable play. He was tied for the second most targets with five last week, but maybe Cincinnati will be working the ball out quicker to Boyd to avoid getting their quarterback killed this week.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns: Mayfield had a very forgettable Week 1. He and this offense looked out of sync for the most part, and the only player he threw a touchdown to is out with an injury and Landry may not play either. There is always that chance that he and Beckham get on the same page and score a couple touchdowns together. I wouldn’t exactly be excited to start him though.
C.J. Uzomah, TE, Bengals: The clear winner of the Bengals’ tight end you want in fantasy was Uzomah in Week 1. He had five targets and caught four passes in Week 1. His missed target came when he got his feet tangled with a defender in the end zone. If you have to stream a tight end for Week 2 then Uzomah may be worth an add, but don’t go starting him over an established player.
Austin Hooper, TE, Browns: Without Njoku, Hooper could be in line for a bigger role. He had a very quiet Week 1 after being a very highly touted free agent addition. Last year Hooper would probably be closer to a must start in this matchup, but the Bengals looked to be far more equipped to actually cover tight ends. Still, Mayfield has to throw the Ball to someone.
Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals: The only reason Burrow is taking a step up out of being a sit this week is because he showed he has fantasy value as a runner. He also was inches away on a few occasions to throwing for touchdowns. It is easy to see how scary this offense could be once everyone gets a rhythm. He is at least playable in two quarterback leagues.
Just sit them
The rest of the Bengals wide receivers: John Ross is a boom-or-bust play in fantasy. He and Burrow almost connected on a deep throw, but the rookie quarterback spread the ball around enough that it is tough to feel confident playing anyone but Green or Boyd on Thursday night. Auden Tate and Tee Higgins didn’t have a single target in Week 1.
Bengals’ defense: This defense looked improved from last year’s, but don’t let that trick you into thinking they are playable in fantasy or worth a stream. They didn’t create a turnover, and they only recorded two sacks on the day (one of which was arguable a stuffed quarterback draw). Without Atkins in the lineup it is hard to see that changing, but Mayfield may be good for a turnover or two. There are just better streaming options.
Browns wide receivers: If Landry is active you play him. Otherwise, you need to look elsewhere for replacing him outside of Cleveland. No other receiver caught more than a single pass last week, and it is too much of a risk to choose which one could be stepping up for not nearly enough of a payout.