If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! I'll be following this old adage for this week's Best Fantasy Games as there a couple of second rounds going on between division opponents. The Steelers and Bengals faced off in Week 8 and let fantasy owners down with a low scoring game that finished with a 16-10 win for Cincinnati. The Saints and Bucs had their first match-up way back in Week 2, when rookie quarterback Jameis Winston got the first win of his career, beating New Orleans 26-19. Not a terrible offensive total as far as points go, but none of the big-time players involved had a better than average fantasy game. As you've probably guessed, I highlighted both of these match-ups between these divisional foes, neither of which lived up to expectations. Despite that, I still stand by those decisions in principal and because of that, I'm doubling down on both match-ups. That's right! Round Two: Fight!
There area few other interesting options this week, but none that I have complete confidence in. The Bills-Eagles game should invove a lot of points, but I have a feeling most of those will be in Buffalo's favor. Most of Philadelphia's points came from the defense and special teams in last week's upset of the Patriots in New England and I'm not trusting that offense if I don't have to. I do love me some Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins this week though and LeSean McCoy has plenty of motivation here with the revenge narrative, as he returns to Philadelphia to face Chip Kelly.
I could see the Giants-Dolphins game as being higher scoring that anticipated because of the poor defenses, but we all know the only two options you can start for the G-Men: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. And does anyone have faith in Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins' passing game after last week's 86 yard performance against the terrible Ravens' secondary? I thought not.
The usual rules apply here, such as that these are the games I believe will involve the highest amount of usable and relevant fantasy players this week. Other players in other games will have big weeks, but these games should have the best conditions for the most fantasy players to be relevant. Good luck to everyone in Week 14!
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals - Dec. 13 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 49.5
Steelers: The last time Ben Roethlisberger went up against Cincinnati, he was coming off a MCL injury that was expected to keep him out even longer than that, meaning he wasn't 100% healthy. Many (including myself) thought that Big Ben and the Steelers' offense would get right back on track and after a touchdown on their first drive of the game, it was looking pretty good. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh's offense was basically silent the rest of the game, scoring just a field goal the rest of the way. It's a different story this go around. Big Ben has been on fire ever since then, scoring at least 25 fantasy points in standard leagues in all four games up to this point with a high of 41 last week against Indianapolis. Oh, and you want to hear some more good news for Roethlisberger? The Bengals could be without their top three cornerbacks on Sunday, as Adam Jones (foot), Dre Kirkpatrick (calf) and Leon Hall (back) are all on the injury report as of Thursday. It's possible that one or two of them suit up, but it sounds like you can count on at least one of them missing this week's contest, with Jones being the most likely to be out. This is on top of CB Darqueze Dennard (another first round pick) already being ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury. With the weapons Big Ben has on this offense, he should be in for a big week here. Top-3 QB this week.
Like I said, the weapons are a-plenty in Pittsburgh's offense, with guys like WRs Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant leading the way in the passing game and Markus Wheaton slotting in as a nice #3 WR. How can you stop them all? And even if you do, then you have to worry about RB DeAngelo Williams gashing you through the running game and with his pass-catching ability out of the backfield. I don't think I have to say anything about how good Brown is...but I will anyway. Even with Ben Roethlisberger suffering multiple injuries this season and missing a few games, Brown is still the #1 WR on season in standard fantasy leagues, ahead of other top-tier guys like DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham. He may have been down for a few weeks when Big Ben was out, but he's more than made up for it at this point. The guy who plays opposite him, Martavis Bryant, could be the most freakish athlete at the position right now. He just separates from DBs with such ease and is one of the best deep threats in the game. I mean, the dude is averaging over 20 yards per catch (20.1 to be exact) and has had at least 9 fantasy points in every game he's played this season except one. He's a great WR2 with upside this week. As for Wheaton, I can't say with confidence that he should be considered a starter, but he did manage to score 11 fantasy points the week after going off for 201 yards receiving against Seattle. He should have a good match-up in this one, I'm just not sure if there will be enough work for him to put up decent numbers because Brown and Bryant should just crush it this week.
The aforementioned DeAngelo Williams has been far better than even the Steelers could have hoped when they signed him in free agency after his release from Carolina this offseason. He filled in admirably for Le'Veon Bell at the beginning of the season and has been a great RB1 option since Bell's season ending knee injury, averaging 4.9 yards per carry on the season on 141 rush attempts, not to mention 25 additional touches in the form of receptions. The Bengals have been pretty stingy against the run this season, coming in as the 9th ranked rush defense in the league and 10th in fantasy points per game (fppg) allowed to RBs. But against an offense like the Steelers, I just don't think they're going to be able to account for all of this offensive weaponry. I'd continue to trust in Williams as a solid RB1.
Bengals: That Steelers' pass defense hasn't been great overall this season (29th in the league) and I'm sure fantasy players still have memories of Russell Wilson's 5 touchdown game against them two weeks ago dancing around in their heads. They played better last week, but that was against the Matt Hasselbeck led Indianapolis Colts, so that's not saying a whole lot. Bengals' QB Andy Dalton has been very solid this season, scoring less than 22 fantasy points only three times this season. One of those times was against Pittsburgh in Week 8, but I don't see that happening again, partially due to the fact that the Steelers will likely put up some major points against the Bengals' weakened secondary. It also sounds like Dalton will get back one of his best weapons, TE Tyler Eifert, back after a one week absence with a neck injury. I'm happy to trust Dalton as a very safe QB1 option this week.
Eifert has been a touchdown machine this season. He's Dalton's #1 option in the red-zone, which is evident by his league leading 12 TD receptions. That's overall, not just the for TE position. This is a pretty juicy match-up too, as the Steelers are 25th against TEs in fppg allowed. As long as he's healthy, you know what to do here. The other big name in the Cincinnati receiving game is WR A.J. Green. Green has been somewhat of a disappointment this season based on his draft slot and big name, but he's got 18 fantasy points in each of the past two weeks and is still the #8 WR on the season in standard leagues. Pittsburgh is giving it up to WRs this season, ranking 27th in fppg allowed to this position. I believe Green stays hot in a possible shootout here and is a Top-5 WR this week. The other deep threat on this passing offense is Marvin Jones, who pops up every now and then for a big play. He's got as good a chance this week as any to have one of those, but you can't rely on it. Because of that, Jones isn't anything more than a low-end flex or WR3 at best, although he could be a decent shot in the dark in DFS tournaments.
The running game has been tough to decipher all year in Cincinnati, with both Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard taking turns being the relevant guy in this backfield. Hill has put up 16, 9 and 15 fantasy points in his last three games, respectively, and looks like be on a bit of a roll. But if this game turns out to be a shootout like so many of us are expecting, wouldn't it make more sense for Bernard to be more involved if there's a lot of passing? He's only had 6 and 2 fantasy points in his past two games, which makes him hard for anyone to trust. It doesn't help matters that the Steelers are the 6th ranked rush defense and are 3rd in fppg allowed. If I had to use one guy here it would be Hill due to the possibility of some short yardage TDs, but only as a RB2. I do think Bernard could be useful as a flex though, because of the previously mentioned likelihood of a shootout.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dec. 13 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 50.5
Saints: Drew Brees and the Saints are usually better at home, but I don't think anyone was expecting them to put up 38 points against the Carolina Panthers' defense last week. Tampa Bay is right in the middle of the pack against QBs in fppg allowed, so I'm not really scared of this match-up for Brees, but I'm a little worried because it's on the road in Tampa. Not scared enough to put Brees outside of the QB1 range though.
Second-year WR Brandin Cooks has really hit his stride in the second half of this season, scoring double digits in fantasy points in four out of five games starting in Week 8. He also seems to be getting more deep passes thrown his way, or he and Brees are at least connecting on more of them. The Bucs are also mediocre against WRs in fppg allowed and they have given up 16 receiving TDs to WRs, which is tied for the 4th most in the league. I like Cooks to continue his streak this week as Brees' primary target in a game where they should have to score since Tampa Bay will be able to move the ball against their porous defense. Rookie WR Brandon Coleman had a nice game last week as well, but I think that was mostly because Willie Snead was out with an injury. Whether Snead returns or Coleman remains in the lineup, I don't really trust in either guy as anything more than a deep flex or WR3 at best. TE Benjamin Watson resurfaced last week for a TD reception and 9 point fantasy outing. This is yet another position that Tampa Bay is not terrible, but not great against. Watson may not be the most reliable guy, but how many of those are there really at this position? He's still a low-end TE1 option.
The biggest news out of New Orleans this week has been that RB Mark Ingram will be placed on season-ending Injured Reserve with a torn rotator cuff that he is believed to have suffered several weeks ago against Washington. Ingram was such a steady contributor and important piece for both the Saints and his fantasy owners this season, but with New Orleans out of playoff contention, there was no reason to cause further risk to Ingram, who signed a long-term deal in the offseason. The question now is who picks up the slack? Well, Tim Hightower should see an increase in work now, especially in the early downs, but the guy I'm more interested in is C.J. Spiller. He's been a major disappointment this season, with many believing he'd be the new Darren Sproles in the Saints' offensive system, especially after they got rid of TE Jimmy Graham in the offseason. Spiller has been an afterthought, registering just 31 rushing attempts and 36 targets (for 29 receptions) on the season. The Bucs are 12th against RBs in fppg allowed and 7th overall against the run, so I'm not interested in anyone in the running game with Ingram out here anyway. What I am interested in is how Spiller will be used in this offense, because he could (and should) be getting a lot more touches. He's not safe by any means, but he could be an interesting flex and he should definitely be a cheap option in DFS.
Buccaneers: Start all your Bucs! At this point there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and scoring points against the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans' defense has been historically bad this season and are oh so close to being dead last against both the run (32nd) and pass (31st). They're last (32nd) against both QBs and TEs in fppg allowed, are 30th against RBs and a comparatively stout 25th against WRs but have given up a league leading 20 receiving TDs to WRs. Basically, you can name a position and the Saints give up a ton of fantasy points to them. I'll talk a little bit about the Bucs' guys just in case you need some more assurance.
QB Jameis Winston has actually been solid in his rookie season, coming in as the #14 QB in standard leagues to this point. He's had at least 15 fantasy points in ever game except one, establishing at least a decent baseline. Winston also had a big game against another failing defense in Week 11, when he threw 5 TDs and no INTs against the Eagles. With WR Vincent Jackson and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins back for the Bucs, Winston has all of his best weapons available to him. He's a great streaming option this week and is a very promising DFS tournament play.
Mike Evans is the #1 option in this passing game and has definitely had some decent numbers this year, but he's also had a ton a drops. Despite that, Evans has put up double digits in fantasy points in five of seven games since the Bucs' Week 6 bye. In a match-up this fantastic, Evans has to be a WR1 this week. Since returning from a knee injury in Week 11, Vincent Jackson has tallied at least 7 fantasy points in all three games as the #2 WR in this offense. He may be 32 years old, but the dude can still go deep and come up with some big plays. Jackson is a WR2 this week. Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught 3 of his 6 targets for 31 yards in his first game back from a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 2 and it could have been more, as he dropped a certain touchdown pass from Winston. Seferian-Jenkins had a huge Week 1 and I've already said that the Saints give up the most fantasy points to opposing TEs. He may not be a safe option, but he's got a ton of upside and is a definite TE1.
RB Doug Martin has been the best Bucs player for most of this season. Martin is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and has rushed for the second most yards this season behind only Adrian Peterson. He's also the #3 RB in standard fantasy leagues so far this season, with Peterson and Atlanta's Devonta Freeman ahead of him. He's even been decently involved in the passing game with 23 receptions, despite the emergence of Charles Sims as a receiving threat out of the Buccaneers backfield. Against this defense, Martin may be the #1 RB this week. Speaking of Sims, he's averaged a healthy 4.7 yards per carry himself and has 30 receptions and 3 receiving TDs on the season. He's a great guy to have as a flex option this week, especially in a PPR.
Like I said, start all your Bucs.