Game Previews: All Fantasy Relevant Players For Week 9
Steelers vs. Ravens
What did we learn when these teams met in week four?
Pittsburgh’s offense was held to 14 points at home when they played Baltimore earlier this year, dropping the Steelers to 1-2-1 and causing concern among the media about the direction that the team was headed. The Ravens completely shut the Steelers down in the second half, allowing no points and forcing the Steelers passing attack to look out of sync. Ever since, however, the Steelers have rebounded, going 3-0 and scoring 41, 28, and 33 points in each win. The Ravens, on the other hand, have lost three of four games since these two teams met. Traveling to Baltimore will provide a tougher test this time around for the Steelers, but with these teams currently headed in opposite directions, there are also reasons for optimism.
Will James Conner continue his dominant three-game stretch?
Ever since the Baltimore game, RB James Conner has been an elite RB1, totaling six touchdowns, 526 total yards, and 13 receptions in only three games. The three defenses he faced during that stretch (ATL, CIN, CLE) pale in comparison to the Ravens, however, who held Conner to 44 scoreless yards on 12 touches in their last matchup. The Steelers apparent recommitment to the running game is encouraging for his chances this week, however.
As long as the Steelers don’t quickly fall behind by multiple scores, expect Conner to be used early and often. He should obviously be played in all season long leagues, but the matchup might be tough enough to look in other directions in daily fantasy. Expect solid volume for Conner with lackluster yards per carry, and his day may come down to if he can score a touchdown. Fortunately, his heavy involvement in the red zone always makes him a decent bet for a touchdown.
Is Ben Roethlisberger a no doubt starting option this week?
While QB Ben Roethlisberger has a history of playing worse on the road, he has been very good this year outside of three late turnovers against the Browns in the week one rain. This may be the week to try other options, however, as Roethlisberger struggled at home against the Ravens in week 4, throwing for only 274 yards with a touchdown and an interception. I would not advise dropping a promising bench stash to pick up a replacement quarterback as I hate rostering two quarterbacks. But if you already have another option, or have a player that you want to drop anyway, this may be a week to consider your options. Roethlisberger has a good enough floor that playing him shouldn’t ruin your week, so if you don’t have the roster space start him like usual. Roethlisberger has a fractured non-throwing finger, but that doesn’t seem likely to affect him much at all.
Who are the startable passing game options?
WR Antonio Brown should obviously be started in all leagues, having scored a touchdown in all but one game, including five touchdowns in the last three weeks. Against the Ravens in week four, Brown posted five catches on 11 targets for 62 yards and a touchdown. That seems like a decent projection for this matchup as well, with a chance for improved efficiency giving him a better final line.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has disappointed lately, with only four catches in three of his last four games. He had a similar line to Brown in week four against the Ravens, minus the touchdown. Keep starting him in all season long leagues, as he still has had double-digit targets in four of seven weeks. But I would wait for a better matchup before jumping back in on him in daily fantasy.
TE Vance McDonald had a respectable five catches on five targets on 62 yards in the previous matchup with the Ravens but has proven to be an up and down fantasy option. His lack of red zone work is hurting him, as he is a clear fourth option in scoring position. You probably don’t have access to a better option this week in season-long leagues, but he doesn’t look all that promising in daily fantasy.
Should I start Pittsburgh’s defense or kicker this week?
K Chris Boswell was held to only two extra points earlier this year against the Ravens, and while this game could turn into a low scoring field goal contest, I would rather target a kicker in a higher scoring game.
Baltimore’s offense has not been a good target for streaming fantasy defenses, and the Steelers defense only scored four fantasy points week four against the Ravens. While not the worst option, you should have better options on waivers than the Steelers D.
Boom: James Conner
Bust: Ben Roethlisberger
Will the Ravens go pass-heavy against a weak Steelers secondary?
So far this year, there’s been one way to efficiently beat the Steelers, and that’s through the air. Their run defense has been very good, but their secondary has been poor. They’re giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Enter Joe Flacco, who’s been pretty mediocre this year, but who put up 363 yards and two touchdowns the last time he played the Steelers (his best game of the year). I’d imagine the Ravens will go pass-heavy here, and Flacco will be playing at home, which is always a good thing for him, making him an interesting bye week QB option if you need one.
How are the receivers looking?
In my opinion, not as great as you might think. John Brown is likely to see Joe Haden, and while Haden isn’t what he once was, he’s still a solid corner. That should be a pretty even matchup, and I could see Brown putting up some points. Similarly even will likely be Michael Crabtree and Coty Sensabaugh. I know Crabtree’s targets have been a bit all over the place lately, but he’s a good shot to get a pass in the red zone because of his size, and that means solid touchdown opportunity. This might be the week he gets back on track. As for Willie Snead, he’ll likely see Mike Hilton, which should slightly favor Hilton. Snead is a boom-or-bust play, as usual. If he gets the targets, he could have a good game, but those targets haven’t necessarily been consistent. He’s a flex play in deeper leagues.
Will Alex Collins succeed against a tough Steelers run defense? And what about Ty Montgomery?
I’ll answer the second question first: I don’t see Ty Montgomery as a threat to Alex Collins‘ workload. I think Montgomery fills a kick-returner need for the Ravens and, if anything, could eat into Javorius Allen‘s looks as a receiving back rather than Collins. That being said, I think Collins is a low-end RB2 this week. The only run defense to give up fewer fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than the Steelers is the Ravens, oddly enough. And the last time Collins played the Steelers, he had 11 carries for 42 yards. If he gets 15+ carries, I could see a decent game, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s also worth noting that Collins is listed as questionable for the game. He sat out Thursday’s practice but practiced fully on Friday, so I expect he’ll play. If he doesn’t, then Allen and Montgomery become interesting, but good luck figuring out who’s the worthy fantasy play.
Will we see anything worthwhile in the tight end position?
I don’t think you can count on it. The Ravens keep saying they want to get Hayden Hurst more involved, and then they just don’t. Sure, he got a touchdown last week, but that was during garbage time passed to him by Lamar Jackson. I’d love to see Hurst get more of an opportunity, he’s talented, but as of now, it’s a three-headed monster between Hurst, Mark Andrews, and Nick Boyle, and there’s no clarity there yet.
Boom: Joe Flacco
Bust: Alex Collins
Sleeper: Michael Crabtree