Week 9 – November 8, 2015
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Opponent: Oakland Raiders
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter Sunday’s rivalry matchup with the Oakland Raiders coming off two straight losses. The loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week stings for many different reasons, including losing Le’Veon Bell for the season with an MCL injury as well as very likely losing any chance at winning the AFC North in the process.
There is no time for the team to hang their heads, however, as the red-hot Raiders come to town. This is not the typical Raiders team of the past decade. The young Raiders are revived under new head coach Jack Del Rio and are producing top 10 offensive numbers. The Steelers need to snap out of their funk against AFC opponents, as they are now 1-4 on the season. This game has huge implications for wild card seeding. Lock and load this one for a shootout.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made his triumphant return to the field last Sunday, only to flop miserably in the second half against Cincinnati. Ben led a beautiful touchdown drive right out of the gate but was unable to put anything substantial together after that.
His struggles in returning from injury have been well documented but the team desperately needs his A-game this week against Oakland. If the Steelers are going to make a playoff run, it will once against be on the shoulders of Big Ben.
Oakland comes to Pittsburgh with the 31st ranked passing defense in terms of yards allowed per game. The 302 yards per game that they surrender is worse than only the New York Giants. The Raiders are allowing the 6th most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season (20.06).
Need any more proof that this is an incredible matchup for Roethlisberger? The Raiders are the only team in the NFL to surrender more than 250 passing yards every single week this season. Ben is a tremendous fantasy play this weekend. I would lock him in your lineups and strongly consider him as a daily fantasy play.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 27/39, 315 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Antonio Brown is probably the happiest of all of us now that Roethlisberger is back from injury. AB’s chemistry with Roethlisberger is unmistakable. Brown re-enters the top 3 fantasy wide receiver discussion this week.
Brown is a top flight option against a Raiders secondary that surrenders 16.1 receptions and 196.3 yards per game to opposing wide receivers. Last week against the Jets, the Raiders surrendered 18+ PPR fantasy points to both Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. Brown should have no problem carving up the Raiders cornerbacks en-route to a 100+ yard performance.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 9 receptions, 102 yards, 1 TD
With “breakout player” Markus Wheaton rendered nearly irrelevant in the Steelers offense and in fantasy circles at this point, it is once again time for Martavis Bryant to shine opposite Brown. Bryant has seen his snaps increase each week since his return from suspension and injury in Week 6. In Week 6, Martavis saw 61% of snaps, 65% in Week 7 and 83% last week with Ben back under center.
The Bengals were clearly prepared for the deep shots as they routinely double teamed Bryant as he ran those 9 routes. Don’t expect the Raiders to be so lucky this week. I love Bryant’s chances of hitting a long touchdown this week and should post a great stat line for his patient fantasy owners.
Martavis Bryant Stat Projection – 6 receptions, 86 yards, 1 TD
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 2 receptions, 27 yards
Heath Miller has been an excellent fantasy option with Roethlisberger under center this season. In those contests, Heath has seen 8 targets per game and posted an incredible stat line last week. Heath consistently made tough catches over the middle on his way to 10 receptions and 105 yards.
No team has given up more fantasy production to tight ends than the Raiders. They are surrendering a league high 13.8 standard fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.
Miller should be able to work over their linebackers and safeties and put up a second straight week of top tier production.
Heath Miller Stat Projection – 6 receptions, 68 yards, 1 TD
The Steelers team, fans and fantasy owners were shocked last week as Le’Veon Bell hit the deck with a gruesome knee injury. Bell will miss the remainder of the season with an MCL injury but thankfully should make a full recovery in time for the 2016 season. Fantasy owners are left scrambling and if you were fortunate enough to have DeAngelo Williams as Bell’s handcuff, you are in good shape moving forward.
DeAngelo Williams has looked incredible this season in relief of Bell. Williams led all fantasy running backs in points over the first two weeks of the season. Although the Raiders are allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game (83), Williams is in a great spot to produce this Sunday. A great stat I found this week in research (hat tip to 4for 4 fantasy) is that Steelers running backs average 5.3 yards per carry when running behind Ramon Foster. Williams should also have success when running to the right behind Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro, as the Steelers are averaging 4.7 yards per carry to the right.
Remember that one of the most important parts of fantasy production is touches and percentage of snaps. Williams was on the field for over 88% of snaps when starting this season and saw over 20 touches per game in Weeks 1-2. Williams is a strong fantasy play this week and moving forward for the second half of the season.
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 18 rushes, 84 yards, 1 TD / 4 receptions, 32 yards
Kicker Chris Boswell has added much needed stability to the position. Look for him to get on the board again this week as a mid-range option as your fantasy kicker.
Chris Boswell Stat Projection – 1/1 Field Goals, 4/4 Extra Points
The Steelers have been on an unfortunate downswing over the past two weeks and must rebound this week against Oakland if they intend on making the playoffs this year. They are in prime position to break out offensively, even without Bell, against a Raiders defense that is inept at stopping the pass. Look for a solid fantasy performance from all the major players and a Steelers win on Sunday.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 31, Raiders 24
Tune in to @SteelersDepot all season long to find my fantasy projections and analysis and feel free to shoot me your lineup questions each week at @TonyD_12 on Twitter.