Kickoff: Sunday, October 4th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Betting Odds: CIN -3, 48 total via Oddsshark
Gardner Minshew (Sit)
So here’s the deal with the Bengals defense. I think there’s a preconceived notion that they’re simply not good and can be steamrolled on any given week, however, they do have some playmakers and they’re not really that bad against the pass. They’ve actually allowed the 8th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs this season, and that’s largely thanks to two players; Cornerback William Jackson, who Pro Football Focus ranks as the 6th best coverage corner in the league, and Jessie Bates III, who they have as the 2nd best coverage safety in the NFL.
After what we saw against Miami last week, Gardner Minshew simply isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it fantasy QB despite how much we want him to be. That’s especially the case when his favorite target D.J. Chark doesn’t suit up, and with a bleak outlook for Chark this week I think I’m sitting Minshew wherever I have him rostered.
James Robinson (Start, RB1), Chris Thompson (Sit)
Remember everything I just said about the Bengals’ defense being better than you think? Scratch that, because it’s not the case in the ground game. They’ve allowed the 2nd most rushing yards among all teams this season, and RBs against them have averaged five yards per carry. This is good for the 6th most fantasy points against by RBs and if you’re not salivating over this matchup for James Robinson yet, let me give you one more nugget: Jacksonville has the 8th best run-blocking offensive line by adjusted line yards, according to Football Outsiders. Robinson is primed for a huge game this week and if you roster him you’d be smart to fire him up everywhere.
As far as Chris Thompson goes, he’s simply not getting any usage on the ground, which makes him way too volatile to start in any leagues at this point.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
D.J. Chark (Start, Flex), Keelan Cole (Start, Flex), Laviska Shenault (Sit), Chris Conley (Sit), Tyler Eifert (Sit)
D.J. Chark missed week three with chest/back injuries and he’s since undergone more testing, which is not a good sign if you ask me. He likely won’t be fully healed by Sunday, so if he does play it’s possible he’ll be limited. In a matchup that already isn’t quite as spicy as it looks on the surface, I’d be hesitant to start Chark even if he does suit up despite the lingering injuries. If he plays, and you have no other options, I can understand slotting him in as a flex play, but be prepared for disappointment if you do.
In Chark’s absence, Keelan Cole has been the guy who has stepped up and contributed most, averaging 13.9 PPR points per game this season. He’s caught 15/17 targets for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and though his 6.0 aDOT suggests he’s not a deep ball threat, that can be useful as a flex play in PPR formats. His stock will definitely take a hit of Chark suits up, but keep an eye on this and if Chark is out then you may have a respectable PPR game out of Cole.
Laviska Shenault continues to be utilized in unique ways in this offense, with 11 receptions on 14 targets, along with eight carries for 48 yards. With Cincinnati being most vulnerable against the run I have a feeling we may see Jacksonville try to get the ball in his hands on the ground a bit more this week, and I like his chances to break out a long one. He’s still too risky to start in season-long fantasy, but as a DFS tournament play, I think he’s a solid addition to your lineup.
I’ll admit I didn’t watch all of the Jacksonville-Miami game last Thursday, but it seemed like every time I looked up I saw a drop from Chris Conley. He’s second on the team in targets, but he only has eight receptions and he’s not a guy I trust in fantasy.
Joe Burrow (Start, QB2)
In his three games as the starting QB of the Bengals offense, Joe Burrow has looked the part of a franchise QB worthy of the 1st overall pick. His 64.5% completion percentage, 5 TD, and only one interception over that time are impressive for a rookie, especially considering that Football Outsiders ranks Cincinnati’s offensive line as the 4th worse in pass protection. Burrow got hit hard last week, scaring the entire city of Cincinnati and those who roster Burrow in fantasy. He ended up being fine, and luckily for him, the Jaguars pass rush isn’t nearly as good as Philadelphia’s. Jacksonville got lit up by Ryan Fitzpatrick last week and I like Burrow as a solid QB2 with QB1 upside this week.
Joe Mixon (Start, RB2), Giovani Bernard (Sit)
Cincinnati’s offensive line is bad at protecting the pass, but they’re even worse in the run game. They’re the third-worst team in adjusted line yards according to Football Outsiders, and that’s been a big reason why Joe Mixon has been such a disappointment this season. His 3.2 YPC this season is the lowest of his career, and while his 9 targets through three games are in line with his career average I think we were all expecting a bit more in the passing game from Mixon this season. Jacksonville is middle of the pack against RBs this year, allowing the 12th most fantasy points against, but it’s not a matchup that jumps out on paper. Mixon is the type of guy you’re going to start if you roster him, it’s just a shame that his offensive line will still probably hold him back from being the 1st round stud you expected when you drafted him. An RB2 prediction is about as good as I can give him this week, but roll with him and hope for the best.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Tyler Boyd (Start, WR2), A.J. Green (Sit), Tee Higgins (Sit), Drew Sample (Sit)
Jacksonville 9th fewest fantasy points allowed to WRs this season, so it’s a pretty good matchup for a WR corps that is uber-talented on paper. In reality, Tyler Boyd is the stud you want in this game as he leads the team in targets, receptions, and yards. He was targeted a whopping 13 times in Week 3 and caught 10 of them, a much different result from the 13 targets A.J. Green received in Week 2 when he only caught three of them. As for Green, he was only targeted six times in Week 3 and he’s a borderline play this week. He’s a flex play at best but you should look elsewhere in this one.
You may be tempted to set a Tee Time and start Tee Higgins this week after his breakout Week 3 performance, but I would be cautious to do so. It’s clear that Cincinnati is still trying to get Green involved and I worry that Higgins will be the forgotten man some weeks. He’s a volatile option that could hit at any time, and we haven’t seen enough sustained consistency from him yet to recommend him in this one.
After C.J. Uzomah’s season-ending injury in Week 2, Drew Sample inherited the starting TE job but was only targeted once in Week 3. Jacksonville has allowed the 5th most fantasy points to TEs this season but Sample is a dart throw at best unless you have no other options.
-Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23 on Twitter, iamatechnician on Reddit)