Kickoff: Sunday, January 1 at 8:20 PM ET
Location: M & T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
Betting Odds: BAL -2.5, 35 Total on Oddshark
Writer: Drew DeLuca (@DrewDeLaware on Twitter)
Kenny Pickett (Sit, QB2)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett continues his on-the-job training as the team’s franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, he’s learning behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Nevertheless, he’s quietly coming along; his interception last week was his first since Week 11, so he’s protecting the ball better than most first-year signal callers. Thanks in part to a soft Raiders pass defense in Week 16, Pickett finished as a Top 15 fantasy quarterback for just the second time in his rookie season. His matchup gets tougher this time around, so expect low-end QB2 numbers for the Pitt product.
Najee Harris (Start, RB2), Jaylen Warren (Sit)
Finally! The Steelers made Najee Harris an integral part of the passing game in Week 16, something his fantasy managers have been waiting for all season. Harris drew nine targets, his highest total of the season. The Alabama product racked up 95 yards in Week 16, eclipsing 85 total yards for the third time in the last four games. He also played over 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps for only the second time since Week 8.
Jaylen Warren had been siphoning touches in recent weeks, but a hamstring issue slowed him down somewhat. Nevertheless, Warren exceeded a 30 percent snap share for the third consecutive week, though he won’t see enough volume to warrant a Week 17 start. Sit Warren, but start Harris and pencil in high-end RB2 numbers for your Week 17 championship matchup.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Diontae Johnson (Start, WR3), George Pickens (Start, WR3), Steven Sims Jr. (Sit), Pat Freiermuth (Start, TE1)
Diontae Johnson‘s 36 targets over the past four games are by far more than any other Steelers wide receiver over that span. He has hauled in five or more passes in five straight games. He may not boast a ceiling in the same stratosphere as 2021 or before, but his high floor makes him deserving of a lineup spot in your Week 17 Championship Game. Per PFF, his 127 targets without a touchdown represent the largest single-season drought of all time, and yet he’s still a Top 30 fantasy wide receiver in 2022. Could this be the week he finally crosses the stripe?
Rookie George Pickens lacks Johnson’s steady floor, but his upside is just as high. Pickens. who caught the game-winning touchdown pass last week, has posted 50 or more receiving yards in three straight games. Expect Johnson to post a high-end WR3 stat line while Pickens weighs in at the low end of the WR3 scale. Steven Sims Jr. offers no value in any league of any size.
Pat Freiermuth should reprise his role as a dependable TE1 in Week 17. The Ravens aren’t a pushover for opposing fantasy tight ends, yielding only 5.0 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends over the last five weeks. Baltimore has given up only one touchdown to a tight end over that span. It was caught by Pat Freiermuth in Week 14. The matchup may seem daunting, but Freiermuth is still a must-start.
Lamar Jackson (Start, QB1*), Tyler Huntley (Sit, QB2*)
Lamar Jackson did not practice Wednesday, so Tyler Huntley‘s four-week run as the Ravens’ interim starter likely lives on. During that span, Huntley has been a let-down. Huntley has yet to throw for 200 yards in a single game this season, and finally threw his first touchdown pass of the season this past weekend. His best fantasy asset is his rushing ability, yet he has topped 40 yards on the ground only once so far this year. Those in need of a streaming option for their championship game would be better off looking elsewhere.
Should Jackson be cleared to start, I’d take a look around the depleted Ravens’ wide receiver room, give a nod to injury pessimism, and significantly temper expectations. Low-end QB1 numbers would be within his range of outcomes, but high-end QB2 totals feel more likely on a leg that’s likely far from 100 percent.
JK Dobbins (Start, RB2), Gus Edwards (Sit, FLEX), Justice Hill (Sit), Kenyan Drake (Sit), Patrick Ricard (Sit)
JK Dobbins failed to find the end zone last week, but his four red zone touches represent his highest total since Week 4. Aside from Huntley, no other Ravens skill position player had more than one. Dobbins split the backfield workload with Gus Edwards, who outgained Dobbins 99-59 despite a near-fifty-fifty split. The week prior, Dobbins handled twice as many touches as Edwards.
I love the “Gus Bus,” but it’s hard to recommend him as a “Start” given how volatile his workload has been ever since Dobbins returned to action in Week 14. Consider him a desperation FLEX option for Week 17, while Dobbins slots in as a low-end RB2 thanks to a higher floor. Other Ravens running backs can be safely ignored: Justice Hill hasn’t seen more than three touches in a game since Week 11. He can safely be ignored by fantasy football managers during championship week, along with fullback Patrick Ricard and Kenyan Drake.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
DeMarcus Robinson (Sit, FLEX), DeSean Jackson (Sit), Sammy Watkins (Sit), Mark Andrews (Start, TE1), Isaiah Likely (Sit), Josh Oliver (Sit)
With Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay on IR, the Ravens chased down a couple of veteran street free agents over the past few weeks in an effort to stabilize a raw, unproven wide receiving corps. Welcome to Baltimore, DeSean Jackson and Sammy Watkins. Don’t laugh, but they’re now lining up with the team’s de facto alpha wide receiver, DeMarcus Robinson. Okay, fine. You can laugh; after all, it’s comical to expect significant production from any of these three, although Robinson at least offers a fighting chance at returning FLEX value.
These may be desperate times for the Ravens, but they likely aren’t for your fantasy team if you’ve made it this far. Even with a favorable matchup against a struggling Steelers secondary, I’d recommend sitting any and all Ravens wide receivers. As always, the Baltimore offense runs through Mark Andrews. A sure-fire TE1, he’s the only Baltimore pass catcher we can confidently start in Week 17.
Two interesting footnotes: fellow tight end Josh Oliver was on the field for 81 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 16, more than any other Ravens wide receiver. Oliver and Isaiah Likely have drawn as many targets over the last two weeks (5) as any Ravens wide receiver, with the exception of Robinson.