Week 15 – December 20, 2015
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Opponent: Denver Broncos
The Pittsburgh Steelers stayed hot in Week 14, beating the Bengals as they usually do in Cincinnati. Ben Roethlisberger is now 10-2 in twelve games in Cincinnati. This week will present a much stiffer test against the Denver Broncos top ranked defensive unit.
The Steelers are in an excellent position this week in the playoff race as they can move into the 6th seed with a win regardless of what the Jets or Chiefs do based on a common opponents tie breaker over the Jets. A win will not be an easy task as Denver leads the league in sacks and gives up the fewest yards per game in the league.
In the classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, something has to give. Pittsburgh enters the game with the second ranked offense in the league, and a league leading five straight games with 30 or more points.
Denver allows a league leading 210 passing yards per game, a full 30 yards less than the next best defense. The Steelers offensive line is going to be the key in this matchup as they try to keep Ben clean. The Steelers weapons will put pressure on the Broncos like they have not seen before this season. Ben has proven over and over that he plays best in the tough matchups. Seattle boasts the second best pass defense and Ben carved them up for 456 passing yards just a few weeks ago, so there is no reason to think that he will not play well at home on Sunday.
As has been mentioned here before, Ben Roethlisberger has significantly better home splits than road numbers. This season, Ben has averaged 341.6 passing yards per game at home to go along with 13 touchdowns, while he averages 320.3 passing yards per game on the road with only 2 touchdowns. These impressive home splits give some optimism that Ben will be able to post a solid stat line for fantasy owners this Sunday.
If you are in your fantasy playoffs as a big favorite and need a safe play, you may want to look to options like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Matt Stafford who may be on your waiver wire, but Ben may give your team a huge advantage if he gets hot. I wouldn’t downgrade him enough in this tough matchup to recommend sitting him. Ben is an excellent option in large tournaments on Fanduel and DraftKings because his ownership percentage will be very low in this matchup.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 26/41, 305 yards, 2 TD
As Ben goes, so goes Antonio Brown and company. In his last matchup against an all-pro, Richard Sherman, AB was kept in check. He will get another incredibly tough test this weekend. Broncos’ cornerback Chris Harris has not surrendered a touchdown to an opposing wide receiver in over three seasons. Brown is just the type of player that could break that impressive streak, but it won’t come easy.
Denver allows only 11.02 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per game, by far the best in the NFL.
In this tough matchup it will be interesting to see how much Todd Haley moves AB around to free him up. Brown is averaging 135.8 receiving yards per game over his past five games. He is still a solid start this week but temper your expectations to some degree in this matchup.
Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton have been fantastic lately in giving Brown more room to operate. In his past three games alone, Wheaton has 16 receptions, matching his total from the first 10 games. Wheaton has entered the flex conversation again for your fantasy teams but does take a hit when Heath Miller plays. You should have better options this weekend.
Martavis Bryant feels like he is on the verge of stardom. A few more tough catches and his numbers will skyrocket into the elite category. Bryant will need to be fantastic this week to allow the Steelers to stretch the field. Bryant has averaged 19.7 yards per reception over his past four games on 22 receptions.
Bryant is in play every week and this week he makes an excellent tournament option to pair with Roethlisberger in daily fantasy leagues. Bryant has the ability to get deep on any play and will put pressure on the Broncos secondary with starting safety T.J. Ward ruled out in this contest. I like Bryant to score this week.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 7 receptions, 87 yards
Martavis Bryant Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 4 receptions, 35 yards
Heath Miller came back strong from his rib injury with a 10 catch performance against the Bengals. The one area on defense that Denver is susceptible is against tight ends. Denver gives up the 11th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Miller is the true security blanket for Roethlisberger and I like him to have another nice game this week. Start Miller with confidence as a low end TE1 in all formats.
Heath Miller Stat Projection – 6 receptions, 58 yards, 1 TD
Denver is strong against the run as well, allowing the 10th fewest rushing yards per game. They do allow 16.75 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, and I think that is a solid expected output for Williams in this matchup. DeAngelo Williams continues to keep the Steelers offense humming in the absence of Le’Veon Bell and they will need him to keep that trend going as they make their playoff push.
DeAngelo will likely see around 22-25 touches in this matchup and should produce another solid stat line. His yards per carry may be held in check to some degree on Sunday but his value in the passing game keeps him as a high end RB1 in PPR formats.
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 18 rushes, 78 yards, 1 TD / 4 receptions, 52 yards
Kicker Chris Boswell was fantastic last weekend against the Bengals, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts. After his performance in Cincinnati, he now has 90 points in his first 9 games started. His 10 points per game leads the NFL in scoring among all players. Boswell looks to be the future at the kicker position and will likely have numerous opportunities to score in this one. Continue to roll him out as a strong option at kicker.
Chris Boswell Stat Projection – 2/2 Field Goals, 3/3 Extra Points
The Steelers have a prime opportunity right in front of them this weekend against the Broncos. The Denver defense will present the toughest test that the offense has faced all season long. At home, I believe that the Steelers get the job done and win this game to move into the 6th seed in the AFC Playoffs. Get ready for a showdown on Sunday afternoon! Good luck to you in your fantasy playoff matchups.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 27, Broncos 20
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.