Week 15 – December 18, 2016
Location: Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, Ohio
Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
The Pittsburgh Steelers roll into this AFC North matchup on a four game winning streak. Ben Roethlisberger played his worst game of the season and yet the Steelers still found a way to beat a good Buffalo Bills team in their snowy, home stadium. Le’Veon Bell and the improved Steelers defense is exactly the recipe that the Steelers need to win in December and January.
When the schedule came out at the beginning of the year, this Week 15 matchup in Cincinnati surely seemed like it may determine the AFC North based on the Bengals strong play over the past three seasons. However, injuries and poor coaching will have the Bengals on the outside looking in come playoff time.
The Steelers control their own destiny now in the AFC North even if they were to somehow lose this game, but it is critical for them to win to keep the one game edge over Baltimore and to keep up in the AFC Wild Card hunt. The Bengals have plenty of motivation themselves, as they would love nothing more than to try to ruin the Steelers season.
This matchup is always extremely physical but Ben Roethlisberger has thrived in his career in Cincinnati and it appears that he is primed to beat the Bengals once again on their home turf. Including the playoffs, Roethlisberger is 20-7 against the Bengals in his career including an unbelievable 12-2 record against them in Cincinnati.
Ben doesn’t have the most difficult statistical matchup against the Bengals, who rank 17th in schedule adjusted fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (16.5 points per game). The more concerning factor is that Ben has been incredibly poor on the road. We have hammered this fact all season long and it is even more critical to consider this week in the semifinals of your fantasy playoffs. Check out his home and road statistical splits from this season:
You may not have a better option in your season long leagues but I wouldn’t touch Ben on DraftKings or Fanduel this week. Temper your expectations for Big Ben in his final road start of the season.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 23/36, 235 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
The Steelers wide receivers may have been the best group in the NFL at this time last year. This year, it is a different story as Antonio Brown seems to be getting slowed by the lack of other weapons in the passing game. Mike Tomlin detailed why Sammie Coates is still not seeing the field with his finger injury and DHB doesn’t seem like he is ready to return any time soon.
This week they will face a stiff test in the Bengals defense that is ranked 2nd behind Denver in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Cincy is allowing only 27.7 PPR fantasy points per game to receivers, an impressive number.
I like Brown to continue his strong play but AB has not been seeing the volume in the passing game that we have grown accustomed to over the past few seasons. As with Ben, temper your expectations for AB as well this week.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 7 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD
Eli Rogers Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 30 yards
Cobi Hamilton Stat Projection – 1 reception, 15 yards
Ladarius Green has been up and down over the past month for his fantasy owners. This week could be a week that Green bounces back in a big way. The Bengals can be beat by the tight end position. In fact, Cincinnati has given up the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, 19.3 PPR fantasy points per game.
I like Green to catch a touchdown this week and put up a nice stat line for fantasy owners. Green looks like an excellent play on DraftKings and Fanduel this week.
Ladarius Green Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 45 yards, 1 TD
Jesse James Stat Projection – 1 reception, 10 yards
Coming off the game of his career, Le’Veon Bell continues to propel the Steelers offense. Bell set a Steelers single game rushing record for his stellar performance in Buffalo and looks to continue that momentum this week in Cincy. Fantasy owners who have Bell on their squad have an excellent chance to win their fantasy title as he is the hottest player in football right now.
This week Bell will face off against the Bengals defense that is allowing the 5th most fantasy points to opposing running backs (25.7 PPR fantasy points per game). Bell will be the focal point of the Steelers offense again this week and you should pay whatever price needed to play him in daily fantasy leagues.
In the first matchup with the Bengals, DeAngelo Williams racked up 94 rushing yards on 32 carries on top of 38 yards on 4 receptions in relief of the suspended Le’Veon Bell. Look for Bell to easily top 150 total yards this week.
Le’Veon Bell Stat Projection – 25 rushes, 120 yards, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 55 yards
Kicker Chris Boswell returned from an abdominal injury last week and notched an impressive performance in tough kicking conditions in Buffalo. Boswell made all three of his extra point attempts and both of his field goal attempts. Boswell should have another productive fantasy outing this week as the Steelers should have no issue moving the ball against this Bengals defense. Cincy is allowing 7.1 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers.
Chris Boswell Stat Projection – 2/2 Field Goals, 3/3 Extra Points
The Steelers will come into this game focused and determined to get another AFC North win. Ben Roethlisberger has dominated the Bengals in his career, especially in Cincinnati. Look for the Steelers running game and defense to carry the day once again. Ladarius Green is my Start of Week. Good luck to all of you still in the fantasy playoffs!
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 27, Bengals 16
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.