Fantasy football has become a billion dollar industry with millions of leagues worldwide and daily fantasy games at the touch of your finger. Many have made nice careers out of attempting to predict the future by telling you what a player will do. They use statistics, trends, history and even intuition to come up with best guesses. Now it’s my turn. I’m going to take my 20+ years of fantasy football participation to give you my best guess each week for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Week 1 Opponent – Baltimore Ravens
Location – Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Record vs Opponent (Last 10 meetings) – 5-5 (2-3 at Home)
Last Meeting – November 4, 2018 Steelers 23 Ravens 16
It took until week 4 to put a notch in the win column so that’s a step forward. Another positive is that it was a divisional win. This week is another divisional game as the Baltimore Ravens come to town and they are ranked as the number one team in a lot of offensive categories.
But that doesn’t matter. Records don’t matter. Nothing that has happened so far in this season matters. It’s the Ravens week and when these teams meet you’re in for an old fashioned slobber-knocker. The game will like be close and the kickers will have a say in who wins.
Baltimore has an offense led by Lamar Jackson that is first in a number of categories including Points per game and rushing yards. Mark Ingram was brought in from New Orleans and is the leading rusher and Gus Edwards is his big bodied backup.
The receivers are led by second year TE Mark Edwards and rookie WR Marquise Brown. Andrews leads in receptions with 23 and Brown leads in yards with 304 with nearly half of those yards coming in week 1. They spread the ball around with 6 players having at least one TD reception.
The Steelers used a short passing game focusing on the running backs on Monday night and that led to an efficient performance from Mason Rudolph with only 4 incompletions while setting a new career high in yards. He also threw for 2 touchdowns for the third consecutive game.
Baltimore’s defense overall has good numbers against the pass having given up only 5 touchdown passes and an average of 302 yards per game. However, over the last 3 weeks that yards per game average jumps to 343 yards per game.
|Roethlisberger vs BAL (last 5)||28.2||44.6||309||1.8||0.8|
|Baltimore Allowed 2019||21.75||35||302||1.25||0.75|
Prediction – What will the offense look like this week? Will Randy Fichtner add some new wrinkle or will he rely on what worked last week? I hope it’s the former because the Ravens will come prepared.
Rudolph – 24/33, 264 yards, 2 TD, INT; 3 rushes for 9 yards
The staff made good use of the running backs last week. Jaylen Samuels got 21 touches including 3 touch passes while running the Wildcat offense and totaled 83 yards rushing and receiving. James Connor received 18 touches, 10 coming on the ground, and totaled 125 yards and a receiving TD.
The Wildcat was a nice wrinkle and it gave the offense a spark, something it desperately needed. It’s on tape now and the Ravens had time to plan for it. I’m sure it will be used this week but I don’t expect it to be as often. I would expect Samuels to have an active role again trying to get him isolated on LB’s in the passing game.
Baltimore has given up 374 yards rushing this year and that includes an 88 yard run last week so they have been solid vs the run. Here are the averages over the last 5 games vs Baltimore.
Prediction – In the past the Steelers have had a more traditional running attack with the RB1 doing basically all the work. I think we see all three backs again.
Connor – 12 carries for 52 yards; 3 receptions for 22 yards
Samuels – 7 carries for 24 yards, 4 receptions for 33 yards
Snell – 2 rushes for 7 yards
With the scheme focused on the running backs on Monday the wide receivers were put on the back burner. Diontae Johnson led the way catching all 6 of his targets, gaining 77 yards and another deep touchdown. JuJu Smith-Schuster only had 4 targets and caught 3 for a measly 15 years. All other wide receivers were shut out. I hope that doesn’t happen any more.
The Ravens defense has been giving up more through the air the past few weeks. They held Odell Beckham to 2 receptions last week and Jarvis Landry had 8 receptions. So it could be another tough week for JuJu and another good one for Johnson. The averages over the last 5 vs Baltimore show good numbers for the top two receivers.
Prediction – I think they’ll make an effort to get Smith-Schuster the ball more maybe even using him on those Wildcat passes. Johnson will continue his steady performances. James Washington will get some this week as well.
Smith-Schuster – 6 receptions for 79 yards, 1 TD
Johnson – 5 receptions for 59 yards
Washington – 3 receptions for 44 yards
Nick Vannett stepped in and stepped up last week. He chipped in a couple receptions trying to fill the shoes of Vance McDonald. There’s a chance McDonald plays this week and I’m looking forward to seeing the 12 personnel packages. The Steelers have had solid production in they yards per catch area vs the Ravens over the last 5 games.
Prediction – The Ravens haven’t had to face a lot of big named tight ends so far other than Travis Kelce. Ricky Seals-Jones got open for a TD last week but other than that they’ve done fairly well vs TE’s.
McDonald – 2 receptions for 17 yards, 1 TD
Vannett – 1 reception for 10
The two kickers in this game are both coming in perfect through 4 games. Justin Tucker is 6 for 6 on field goals and has hit all 13 extra points. Chris Boswell has connected on 7 field goals and 7 extra points.
Prediction – 3/4 field goals, 2/2 extra points
Score Prediction – I have predicted the incorrect winner every week so far. Last week I went with the reverse psychology and took the Bengals. These games are usually close and I’d expect the same this time around. A win here for Pittsburgh will, at worst, keep them one game out of the division.
Ravens 26 – Steelers 23