Week 14 – December 11, 2016
Location: New Era Field, Buffalo, New York
Opponent: Buffalo Bills
The Pittsburgh Steelers are back on the road this week after one of their more impressive victories this season over the New York Giants. The Steelers face the real New York team this week as they travel to cold, snowy Buffalo. The weather forecast is something that you must monitor as a fantasy owner on a weekly basis, especially in December.
Cold and snow are not always a detriment to fantasy production, but windy conditions almost always are. Weather.com is forecasting a high of 32 degrees at kickoff and 1-3 inches of snow. The wind is forecasted for a moderate 12 mph, not enough to avoid this game from a fantasy perspective.
Although we have detailed the struggles of Ben Roethlisberger on the road, the Steelers offense has been rolling over the past month, notching two road wins. During that time span, Big Ben has 8 touchdowns and only 1 interception. His lone poor fantasy performance was in the extreme windy conditions in Cleveland a few weeks ago.
As for this weeks matchup, the Bills pass defense looks fine on the surface, ranking 15th in schedule adjusted fantasy points given up to opposing QB’s, allowing 17.2 fantasy points per game.
However, the Bills passing defense has struggled mightily in recent weeks. Over the last five weeks Derek Carr, Blake Bortles and Russell Wilson have each thrown 2 touchdown passes and Tom Brady threw 4 touchdown passes against the Bills.
I like Big Ben to continue his sharp play this week but temper expectations for a huge statistical performance. If you are in the fantasy playoffs, I would certainly stick with Ben in season long leagues but may avoid him in DFS this week outside of trying to differentiate your lineup in a large tournament.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 23/36, 265 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Antonio Brown was double teamed all day against New York but still did damage and made a spectacular touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. The lack of a secondary receiver has allowed defenses to focus on Brown more but Ladarius Green’s breakout performance in Week 13 may allow Brown to get more easy looks moving forward.
Buffalo is solid against opposing wide receivers, ranking 9th in schedule adjusted fantasy points given up to receivers. The Bills allow 32.8 PPR fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, which is plenty for Brown to burn Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby.
All other Steelers wide receivers need to be avoided at this point from a fantasy perspective. Eli Rogers continues to be solid as a slot receiver but not as a fantasy performer. Sammie Coates breakout season will now only be remembered as a single breakout game and can be dropped in non-keeper formats.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 7 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD
Eli Rogers Stat Projection – 2 receptions, 35 yards
Cobi Hamilton Stat Projection – 1 receptions, 15 yards
Ladarius Green, welcome to Pittsburgh! Wow, what a show the big tight end put on against the Giants. If you read our article last week, we predicted the breakout with a projection of 55 yards and a TD but Green certainly exceeded our expectations.
With Green now heavily involved in the Steelers passing game, opposing defenses are going to have a much more difficult time game planning for this explosive offense.
Green is not a traditional Pittsburgh tight end, but he is a 6’6” weapon as a receiver and you can see Ben’s trust in him growing each week. Buffalo is moderately effective at limiting tight ends, ranking 13th in schedule adjusted fantasy points per game allowed (12 PPR points).
The Raiders tight ends went for 75 yards on this Buffalo defense last week so there is little reason not to be confident in starting Green again this week. Although Green played only 48% of the offensive snaps last week, he ran a pass route on 74% of his plays and led the Steelers in targets with 11. Green is a field stretching machine and Buffalo does not have the linebackers to match his athleticism. Green should have another nice week in Week 14.
Ladarius Green Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 65 yards, 1 TD
Jesse James Stat Projection – 2 receptions, 15 yards
Le’Veon Bell continues to be a monster out of the backfield. He shredded a relatively strong Giants defense for 182 scrimmage yards in Week 13 and has reached 100 total yards in 8-of-9 games since coming off suspension in Week 4.
Bell is literally being used like a top flight wide receiver, seeing 8.6 targets per game, good enough for a 13.3% target per snap rate. For comparison, AB is averaging 10.6 targets per game (2nd in the NFL) for a 16.5% rate.
Bell would likely be in the MVP conversation with David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott if not for his suspension. The Bills got lit up for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns last week against Latavius Murray. Buffalo is stout up front, ranking 6th in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs but make no mistake, Bell is matchup proof.
*NOTE: The Bills top graded (via PFF) defensive end Kyle Williams may miss this game due to a back injury. This injury would boost Bell’s stock even more*
The Steelers also got good news on DeAngelo Williams this week. DWill was able to return to practice in a limited fashion on Thursday and may be able to make his return this week. It would be ideal if DWill could get 5-8 touches per game to save Bell for the playoffs.
Le’Veon Bell Stat Projection – 23 rushes, 89 yards, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 55 yards
Mark Kaboly of DK Pittsburgh Sports reported earlier this week that kicker Chris Boswell was expected to play, but ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said the Steelers won’t know his status until he goes through pregame warmups. The Wizard of Boz returned to full practice on Friday following absences on Wednesday and Thursday. Randy Bullock filled in admirably for Boswell last week against the Giants and would kick again if Boswell can’t go. In snowy conditions in Buffalo, I would look elsewhere for fantasy production from your kicker. The Bills only allow 7.1 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers.
Chris Boswell Stat Projection – 1/2 Field Goals, 3/3 Extra Points
The Steelers desperately need to prove that they can win a tough road game as a favorite. This is a winnable game against an inconsistent Bills team but this is also a scary game because the Bills can run the ball so well. The Steelers must take care of the football in difficult weather conditions and continue to play with the same intensity they have displayed over the past three weeks. I don’t love this game from a fantasy perspective but continue to roll with the stars this week as the Steelers look to win a close one on the road.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 24, Bills 23
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.