Kickoff: Sunday, October 25th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Betting Odds: CLE -3.5, 50.5 Total via Oddsshark
Baker Mayfield (Sit)
Baker Mayfield has been dealing with a rib injury and was the “cause” of his benching last week against the Steelers. Not sure how much I believe that. Mayfield was 10 of 18 for 119 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions and was not comfortable at all during the game. A start against the Bengals is exactly what Mayfield needs to get back on track. But with the Bengals’ awful run defense and low volume passing game in general, there are better streaming options for fantasy.
Kareem Hunt (Start, RB1)
This is a smash spot for Kareem Hunt. In Week 2 against the Bengals, the Browns ran for a total of 215 yards and three touchdowns. Now, Nick Chubb is hurt, and D’Ernest Johnson should not be a worry to Hunt owners. Before the starters were benched with Mayfield last week, Hunt was on the field for 70% of snaps. Hunt has been effective too. He is seventh in PFF’s Elusive Rating (minimum 30 rushes) but has been up against the toughest part of the Browns schedule. Now, we get to see what Hunt can really do.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Odell Beckham Jr. (Start, WR2), Jarvis Landry (Sit), Austin Hooper (Start, TE1)
A low volume pass offense limits the ceiling for this trio of receivers. Jarvis Landry has seen the worst of it so far this year, seeing more than six targets only once all season and zero touchdowns. It has been better for Odell Beckham Jr. who has been the focal point of the passing game, but that still isn’t enough for consistent volume. Beckham is just 35th in routes run (per PFF) among WRs but is 16th in WOPR (per airyards.com). Beckham always has upside for a splash play and touchdown so should be treated as a WR2, while Landry can’t be trusted in a game that projects for a high rushing total. Austin Hooper got off to a rough start but has climbed his way back into the TE1 discussion. He is now 16th in routes run (per PFF), eighth in WOPR, and 16th in air yards (per airyards.com). The Bengals are weak against opposing TEs, so Hooper is a low-end TE1 option.
Joe Burrow (Start, QB1)
The last time these teams met, Joe Burrow had the first 300 yard game of his young career. Since then, Burrow has had three more 300-yard games and one stinker against the Ravens (who can blame a rookie for that). Burrow is 10th in air yards attempted (per airyards.com) and quietly ninth in CPOE with a plus-3.6 (per NextGenStats). Burrow should continue the strong start to his career here.
Joe Mixon (Start, RB1), Gio Bernard (Sit)
The question here is if Joe Mixon is healthy. As of writing this preview, there has not been any update on his foot injury from the end of the game against the Colts. If Mixon is healthy, he is an RB1 and should be treated as such. Mixon is leading the league in opportunity share (per FantasyData), which is the percentage of running back carries and targets. Gio Bernard can’t be started if Mixon is playing as that opportunity share tells you. But if Mixon is out, Bernard would be a solid Flex option and should be added immediately.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Tyler Boyd (Start, WR2), A.J. Green (Start, Flex), Tee Higgins (Start, Flex), Drew Sample (Stream)
Almost the opposite of the Browns’ receiver discussion above, the Bengals like to pass a lot. Tyler Boyd is third in the NFL in routes run (per PFF) and leads the team in targets. Boyd should be started consistently with the amount he’s on the field and his role as Burow’s security blanket. A.J. Green despite his disappointing performances is 6th in the NFL in air yards (per airyards.com) and 17th in routes run. Green had his first good game last week and was fourth in targets in the NFL for the week. Green’s game could be a mirage, but it’s encouraging to see him finally capitalize on the air yards. He can be played tentatively as a Flex this week. Tee Higgins is already up to 21st in routes run and third in team targets after only becoming a full-time player in Week 3. Higgins was able to put up 125 yards last week, even in a game where Green had numbers. Higgins is also a fine Flex option this week. So if you’ve listened to our Waiver Wire podcast, you’ve heard me bring up Drew Sample. Sample has the peripherals we want in a TE. He is 12th in routes run at the position (per PFF) and leads the Bengals in red-zone targets. He has yet to convert this usage into a strong fantasy game but it is coming. So, Sample is a decent streaming option against a Browns defense that has been susceptible to TEs.
-Frank Costanzo (@FrankQBList on Twitter, Zzzonked92 on Reddit)