The Pittsburgh Steelers missed the postseason for the first time since 2013 after starting with a 7-2-1 record and then getting completely bulldozed by the AFC West. Analysts have hemmed and hawed about the reason for the abysmal end to the season. Some implicate poor coaching, locker room turmoil, and perhaps Twitter’s favorite argument - the absence of Le’Veon Bell. This argument has spewed into one of the most hotly contested debates - Why in the world did a team of this caliber miss the postseason?

The Bell Saga

At the start of the NFL season, the top story was related to the impending arrival of Le’Veon Bell, star running back on the receiving end of his second consecutive franchise tag. Bell and the Steelers had been negotiating a long term contract, but couldn’t see eye to eye when it came to annual salary and perhaps more importantly, guaranteed money. By July, Ian Rapoport reported that Bell had turned down a 5 year, $70 million contract with $33 million in guarantees.

Bell held himself out of Steelers Training Camp, as he did in 2017, but still all signs pointed to Bell signing his Franchise Tender in week 1 - including statements by himself indicating that 2018 would be his “best season yet”. He was a no-show for the Steelers’ first practice of the regular season on September 3, 2018, and thus opened Pandora’s box to question how the Steelers would go on without their star RB.

The decision to no-show drew significant criticism from Bell’s teammates including offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro. Each week, Steelers players, coaches, and fans alike waited on word of whether or not Bell would make an appearance at the practice facility. The Steelers started the season 1-2-1 in his absence, leaving the league to wonder just how much Bell’s absence had affected the team. The Steelers denied the suspected turmoil in the locker room, and soon enough they sparked a six game win streak to end up 7-2-1.

During that six game win streak, James Conner posted 811 total yards and 8 touchdowns. The Steelers were hot, and although they couldn’t quite shake the Bell narrative, Conner certainly helped to ease the qualms of Steelers fans who had their worries about the run game in Pittsburgh. There were certainly big shoes to fill following Bell’s 2017 season where he finished with 1,946 yards from scrimmage and a career high 85 receptions.

The ever efficient Pittsburgh run game - Should the Steelers’ have paid Bell?

Perhaps it is their difference in running style that accounts for Conner’s perceived ineffectiveness when compared with Bell. Bell’s patience in allowing for blocking schemes to develop is the hallmark of his work; Conner’s philosophy is much simpler - be aggressive, and plow through the defense. Perhaps Conner’s running style is not as fascinating for fans to watch, but when comparing measurables, Conner outperformed Bell in almost all categories except total attempts and total scrimmage yards.

Despite the fact that Conner played 13 games in 2018 to Bell’s 15 games, it’s clear that Conner outperformed in most yards per touch measurables and total touchdowns. Prior to his ankle injury against the Los Angeles Chargers, Conner was on pace for 1,835 scrimmage yards, 69 receptions, and 17 touchdowns - an impressive stat line for any back, nonetheless one who received less than 10 carries in three games. There is a strong correlation between Conner’s number of carries and his effectiveness in the run game which would lead us to wonder - why didn’t the Steelers give him the ball on a more consistent basis? He struggled in games with less than 10 carries, averaging 2.3 yards per carry in those contests. In the 6 games that he received 10-19 carries a game, he averaged 4.59 yards per carry. Most impressibr, in the 4 games where he saw 20+ carries, he averaged 5.03 yards per carry. He demands a workload to get into rhythm, and when the Steelers made the point to use him, he crushed Bell’s stats.

Many have made the argument that Le’Veon Bell opened up the offense and that his absence changed the dynamic of their play. It has to be noted that the stats simply don’t align with this idea. The Steelers’ offense flourished in 2018, despite often uncharacteristic slow starts to their games. Ben Roethlisberger had a career year with 5,219 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. He completed 67% of passes (a top 3 year), and had two 1000+ yard receivers for the first time since 2011 (before Bell’s arrival). Tight ends, Vance McDonald and Jesse James, combined for 80 receptions and 1,033 yards. The sheer volume of successful offensive weapons in the passing game simply does not compute with this argument being made.

Although Le’Veon Bell has been a valued teammate and player with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s hard to justify the argument that he’s worth his demanded cap space. The stats have pointed to Conner’s effectiveness, and at a 2018 price tag of $578,000, he’s too good (and too affordable) to justify a $15+ million paycheck for Bell.

Why on earth aren’t the Steelers running the ball in the second half?

I’m hardly the first to beat the drum on the questionable offensive play calling by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers won every single game where they ran the ball more than 17 times in a game. Seems to be a pretty simple equation. If the team’s defense is struggling, run the ball, chew the clock, and keep the opposing offense off the field for as much time as possible. Many have made the argument that running the ball is a product of being ahead in the game - however, in all of the Steelers’ losses, at half-time, they were ahead or tied in six of these games, and down by 3 points in the other. Even by the end of the 3rd Quarter, Pittsburgh was up or tied in five of those 7 games, never down by more than 7 points in the other two losses. None of these scenarios should trigger an abandonment of the run game - particularly a run game that is effective.

As exhibited above, Bell averaged more rushing attempts than Conner in each of the four quarters. The biggest disparity was in the fourth quarter, a stat that exhibits the abandonment of the run when it was critical to win time of possession and keep the game out of the hands of a leaky Steelers defense.

The Steelers promoted quarterbacks coach, Randy Fitchner, to Offensive Coordinator in early 2018. Given his eight year tenure as the QB Coach and strong relationship with Ben Roethlisberger, it was not a far leap to assume that his quarterback was going to sling the rock often. Rather, what surprised fans was that the running game became an afterthought, even in obvious goal line situations. It affected time management, and possibly most problematic, it forced their defense to spend more time on the field than desired.

Against Kansas City, a defense that gave up the 6th most rushing yards in the league and the 3rd most rushing touchdowns, the Steelers’ last rushing attempt was with 3:15 left in the THIRD quarter. At that point, the Steelers were down by only one touchdown. In this contest, Big Ben had a total of 60 passing attempts and handed the ball off only 9 times with the Steelers missing a key opportunity early in the season to exploit a leaky run defense. Those that beat the Chiefs included: the Patriots (34 rushing attempts), the Rams (with an injured Gurley, still had 17 rushing attempts), Chargers (24 rushing attempts), Seahawks (43 rushing attempts), and Baltimore forced them into OT (40 rushing attempts).

Versus the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers are down by 3 points with nineteen minutes left in the game. They have two possessions in those nineteen minutes - and run the ball ONCE. Ravens score a field goal with 3 minutes and 37 seconds to go in the games, leaving the Steelers down by six points with two time outs. The next Steelers possession, Roethlisberger throws on the first three plays of the drive, ending with an interception on a pass intended for Antonio Brown. The Ravens score a field goal, and it’s game over.

Versus the Denver Broncos, Steelers are tied at half and tied to finish the 3rd quarter. With 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Steelers go down by 7 and have two possessions to tie it up. They complete 15 plays - 14 passing attempts, ONE rushing attempt. At Denver’s 2 yard line, ready to tie the game with 1:07 to go, the Steelers elect to pass. Ben targets Antonio Brown in double coverage, and the ball is intercepted easily. Game over.

Versus the Los Angeles Chargers, Steelers are up by 16 points at half and 8 points with 1:38 left in the 3rd. Pittsburgh has three offensive possessions after that point - they run 21 plays in that time - THREE rushing attempts to Big Ben’s EIGHTEEN passing attempts.

Versus the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers are up by 4 points at half, and remain up by 4 points at the end of the 3rd, with Ben on the bench since half time. Despite being ahead and playing with a backup QB, Steelers elect to have Dobbs keep or throw the ball 11 times and hand off to the RBs 8 times. For the Steelers’ final possession, Roethlisberger enters the game to execute a brilliant drive with 5 minutes to go. They throw on all 7 plays and score a touchdown to take the lead. However, after exercising an efficient passing game, they leave the Raiders three minutes on the clock - just enough time for the Raiders to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown to take the lead. With 15 seconds on the clock, Ben throws to James Washington, who laterals to JuJu, bringing the ball deep into Oakland territory. Boswell attempts a 40 yard FG to send the game into OT - he slips, and game over. In a game in which the Steelers had the lead for almost all of the second half, and they were playing with their backup QB, how do you only have 16 rushing attempts in the entire game?

Versus the New Orleans Saints, the Steelers are down by 3 points at half, and up by four points to end the 3rd quarter. With :02 in the 3rd (and the lead), Steelers elect for balance and to run some time off the clock - 5 rushing attempts, 3 passing attempts. Stevan Ridley receives his third carry of the game and first of the half, fumbling the ball and losing possession at a crucial moment in the game. Next drive, still up by 4 points, Steelers elect to abandon the rushing game, and have three straight pass attempts to go three and out. The fake punt fails, and the Steelers lose another opportunity to limit time of possession for the top 5 New Orleans Saints offense.

Everyone seems to put this failed season on the offense, but the numbers say differently.

Between the tumult in the locker room, the absence of Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger’s red zone interceptions, and the AB drama, it is easy to overlook the defensive struggles. Despite the turmoil perceived among the offense, the offensive unit actually made strides to improve on what was already a powerful offense. In 2017, the Steelers offense was ranked 8th best in the league scoring 25.4 points per game. In 2018, the offense improved to the 6th ranked offense in the league with 26.8 points per game.

Their defensive struggles can be highlighted by comparing almost every single measurable from the 2017 season to now. In 2017, Pittsburgh’s defense allowed the 7th fewest points - 308 total points on the season. In 2018, Steelers defense allowed the 17th fewest points - 360 total points on the season. Pittsburgh did not lose a game in 2018 when the defense held opponents to less than 24 points - which is not an unreasonable number to ask of your defense.

Unfortunately, yardage and points were only part of the problem. The defense failed to force turnovers at a historic rate - 15 total on the season, tied for the fewest in franchise history. They lead the league in dropped interceptions (13) and had 7 fewer turnovers this year than they came up with in 2017. They had 29 fewer tackles for loss, 4 fewer sacks. Fewer, fewer, fewer. This all comes down to the ability to come up with plays that can put pressure on opposing offenses while diffusing pressure on their own by providing them a shorter field.

Versus Baltimore in week four, we saw the defense bend to allow a FG on each of the 4 final Ravens possessions of the game. In Denver (an offensive disaster, I’ll give you), the Steelers defense allowed 24 points - the third highest score for the Broncos offense all season. In week 13, we saw the Steelers defense allow a score on each of the Chargers’ drives in the second half, on top of a special teams touchdown. We’re also going to have to agree here that having a linebacker cover Keenan Allen was not a smooth move - 14 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown. In Oakland, the defense allowed two 4th quarter touchdown drives to give the Raiders the win. In the Saints game, the defense allowed 31 points and couldn’t make the crucial stop late in the 4th Quarter on the NO final TD drive.

Each of these games was a missed opportunity for the defense to force plays, make stops, and win games by holding opponents when the Steelers were in winnable situations.

How do we fix this defense? Steelers need a solid corner to play opposite Joe Haden. It’s time to come to grips with the fact that Artie Burns will not be a “thing” for the Steelers, and no matter how many times you bench him, it probably won’t ignite the fire. There’s also the gaping hole at inside linebacker, largely due to Ryan Shazier’s absence, who has not played since a catastrophic spinal injury sustained in week 13 of the 2017 season. In the 21 games prior to Shazier’s injury, the Steelers defense allowed a total of 378 points, an average of 18 points per game. In the 21 games since? They’ve allowed a total of 500 points, an average of 23.8 points per game. Trading up to grab Devin White in the 2019 draft would be the quickest fix. If the defense again finds itself unable to hold in crucial game situations, Keith Butler may be on the hotseat.

Final Destination took into action after the stolen Jaguars win: 8 defining moments of the 2018 season that changed everything - In Chronological order

1) The touchback that almost wasn’t - At the start of the 2nd Quarter in Denver, Xavier Grimble has a great run and catch. Grimble fumbles through the side of the endzone just an inch away from crossing the plane. Touchback - ball goes to Denver. This turnover was a momentum killer, instead of going up 7-3, the Steelers waste a great drive to a turnover in at the end zone.

2) Throwing to Brown in double coverage isn’t always the best judgement call - The Steelers have the ball at the Denver 2 yard line - ready to score a TD to tie the game with 1 minute on the clock. Steelers’ decide to throw the ball. Ben tries to squeeze it to Brown in an area with three Bronco defenders. The ball is easily intercepted. Game over. This was the 2nd interception of the game, both targeting Brown.

3) Not the first false start that led to a touchdown - At least not for the Los Angeles Chargers. In week 6, against the Browns, Russell Okung, left tackle for the Chargers, comes off the line early, which leads to a long TD to Tyrell Williams. This no call leads to the dismissal of referee Hugo Cruz after the game. Versus the Steelers in week 13, another extremely obvious false start, this time, on right tackle Sam Tevi - not called, leads to a Travis Benjamin 46 yard TD.

4) The first illegal block in the back that was ever not called - The number of punt return TDs in 2018 (7) was the fewest in the last 20 seasons. Returns have become almost unbearable to watch in today’s NFL, as we’ve seen an enormous uptick in the average number of illegal blocking penalties per game that have made it virtually impossible to return the ball down the field. Not for the Los Angeles Chargers though. With 12:54 to go in the 4th quarter, the NFL officiating crew missed an obvious illegal block in the back on a Desmond King 73 yard punt return touchdown. Chargers tie the game - 23-23.

5) Big Ben and the mysterious second half rib injury - While on the road in Oakland, up 14-10, Ben Roethlisberger didn’t appear from the locker room with the rest of his team after half amidst whisperings of a possible rib injury. The offense struggled under Dobbs for a quarter and half, and although Ben did appear from the locker room in the 3rd quarter, he remained on the sideline. In the 8 minutes of possession with Dobbs under center, he completed a total of 4 passes for 24 yards and an interception. Ben Roethlisberger came in for the final two drives of the game. He immediately drove the team down the field to score a go ahead TD and then put his kicker in FG range to attempt to tie the game at the end. When asked about Ben’s injury in the post-game press conference, Tomlin stated that Roethlisberger “probably could have come in a series or two earlier, but we were in the rhythm and flow of the game.” Sorry, Tomlin. There was no flow.

6) The Oakland Tales continue - After Big Ben/JuJu leads a triumphant last drive to bring the Steelers into field goal range, Boswell slips on the 40 yard FG attempt to tie the game to go in OT as the game clock expired. Why did all of Steeler Nation know, long before the snap, that the ball would never make it through the uprights?

7) The ghost of a PI Call - In the first quarter, on 4th and 1, the Saints go for it on the Steelers 34. Brees targets Kamara, who is covered by Joe Haden, deep right to the end zone. The ball sails over the pair, and with a light touch (or less) to the back by Haden, refs throws the yellow flag for defensive pass interference. First and goal, Mark Ingram scores at the 1. A call that swung momentum early against a team where momentum can mean everything.

8) Bad Juju - Still in New Orleans, with 0:42 in the game and the Steelers down by 3, the Steelers offense is driving, Ben throws a bullet to hit Juju with a catch and run for 7 yards. A fumble is forced and recovered by New Orleans at the NO 35. Game over. This was JuJu’s only fumble of his career - including college.

Down the stretch, Steelers lost 4 out of 5 games, three of those five of which they were without Conner, all of which were lost by a TD or less. The flukey nature of these losses is almost impossible to ignore, and it leaves us to question – if just one of these plays had gone differently, would we be talking about Bell vs. Conner right now? Would the week 17 Antonio Brown controversy have come out? Most importantly - would the Steelers have made the playoffs?

Unfortunately for the Steelers, it doesn’t look their woes have an immediate end in sight. Antonio Brown, a cornerstone of the Pittsburgh offense and undoubtedly one of the best in the league, has recently indicated he’d like to leave the team, and the Steelers are surely open to the idea. After going AWOL in week 17 practices, Brown was forced to sit for the game. Like clockwork, out came reports of a feud between Big Ben and his star wide receiver, perhaps not coincidentally, just the day before the team announced Juju Smith-Schuster as the Steelers MVP.

More recently, and perhaps more troublesome, have come reports of a domestic dispute between Brown and his daughter’s mother back in January. The league will be initiating an investigation on the incident, but it’s not a good look at a time where Kareem Hunt remains an free agent following a drunken dispute with a young women at a hotel in Cleveland. Even if Brown isn’t in for a suspension, the report is enough to make you wonder what kind of trade value the Steelers get for him at this point, despite the talent. In an age where teams take a hard line on domestic violence issues - when forced to - we will likely not be hearing the last of this incident. Either way, the Steelers should have a focus on finding ABs replacement this off season.

Where will the Steelers be at the end of the 2019 season? Only time will tell...

Every fantasy season, I try to take my notes on strategy for the coming year. Yet, despite those best intentions, it becomes too easy to get caught up in the draft season hype and make those same mistakes. Here are some of my notes and reminders for 2019.... could you all remind me of this article again in August? ;)

Don’t draft rookie WRs

Rookie wide receivers take time to get adjusted into the offense and to gain trust from the coaches and their QB. 99% of the time, if you draft a later round rookie WR, you will drop them after a few weeks of very little production. By the time they actually produce, they are on the waivers, and you may find yourself spending FAAB on a guy you already drafted.

The exception to this in 2018 was Calvin Ridley. He exploded in week three with 7-146-3 before coming back down to reality and finishing with an overall average season. Later on, we saw names like DJ Moore, Courtland Sutton, and Dante Pettis come on as viable streaming options, but they weren’t fool proof options as we had hoped. Hyped duds this season? DJ Chark, Antonio Callaway, Michael Gallup, Tre’Quan Smith, Anthony Miller. All had contributory efforts, but were unreliable enough that they were considered boom/bust at best.

Stick to the vets you know and love until you see those promising signs of production in your rookie wide receivers. Measure their involvement by tracking their offensive snap percentage. Track their targets per game. Watch their film - the eyeball test can speak wonders about their route running, perceived chemistry with the quarterback. Play the wait and see game and get those rookie wide receivers on the cheap, once they’re dropped by your impatient league mates.

Zero RB can work if you know how to play the waivers I tend to prefer to take a RB with my first round pick, particularly if I have an early or mid-first rounder. Those are the stud RBs who are the the workhorse backs of their team. However, if you decide to hold off on drafting your RB until the middle rounds, known as the Zero-RB strategy, it can work. The strategy is intended to allow fantasy owners to stack up on wide receivers, who are less injury prone and are intended to provide more long term value through the season.

When employing this strategy, it becomes critical to hit on your mid-rounders and be incredibly active on waivers. Guys that went late or undrafted in 2018: Conner, Lindsay, Chubb, Aaron Jones, Matt Breida, James White. Other league winners? Chris Carson, Elijah McGuire, Damien Williams, and CJ Anderson. Many who drafted early RBs (a la Bell, DJ, Freeman, Fournette, Cook, Howard, Drake, Collins… and yes, I’m counting Henry here, too) probably wish they would have replaced them with a stud wide receiver who might have provided more steady production.

Top 12 RBs on the season in half PPR:

Gurley McCaffrey Barkley Kamara Elliot Gordon Conner White Hunt DJ Mixon Lindsay

7 out of the 12 were 1st round picks, while Conner, White, and Lindsay went late or were undrafted. 1st round RBs tend to be safer, but once they’re off the board, there’s value in going wide receiver-heavy if you can play the cards right. Unfortunately, there will always be injuries that allow for backups to shine and you can grab them off waivers as the season goes on. You just have to snag them before your opponent does.

Draft a TE early or punt the position:

The 3 tight ends that went early in every draft this season were Gronk, Kelce, and Ertz. 2 of those guys ended up being great picks. You can’t blame anyone who spent an early draft pick on Gronk, as he has historically been a stud at the position and he came into the season looking to be Brady’s only viable target. To follow, in rounds 4 through 10, came names like Graham, Olsen, Engram, Rudolph, Burton, Njoku, Doyle… Need I go on? You probably weren’t satisfied with their production on a consistent basis, or worse - your guy suffered a season ending injury. Your best bet this season was to scour the waivers and play the match ups. Some late-round (or undrafted) guys who outplayed the others? George Kittle, Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, OJ Howard.

Next year, I either plan to spend a higher draft pick on Kelce, Kittle, or Ertz, or I am completely punting the position until later rounds of the draft. Knowing how volatile the position has been, I would rather take a dart throw on a TE, see if I hit, and have the option to stream based on the match ups if they don’t produce. A combination of Hooper, McDonald, Herndon, Ian Thomas, and Brate in right match ups were probably enough to at least match your opponent’s TE production and it came at a much lower cost.

Unless they are expected to be week in and week out studs, there is no need to waste a mid round draft pick on a TE, especially in today’s fantasy landscape.

Streaming defenses - playing match ups will win you weeks:

People picked the Jaguars far too early because of their league winning 2017 fantasy season. Unfortunately, the Jaguars disappointed many people who decided to waste a 10th-13th round pick on them, as did Philly. Most defenses were volatile, matchup dependent, and laid up some major stinkers (negative points, perhaps) that could have cost you a week.

Chicago grossly outscored other fantasy defenses by a 50 point margin, but with any other defense, it was a more viable and effective option to stream against low scoring and turn-over prone offenses (Ahhh, the Cardinals). It should also be noted that Chicago was, on average, the 10th defense off the board. They were a tremendous value through 2018 - which means that they will likely be drafted early next season and will have a higher price tag than I prefer to pay.

Come 2019 draft season, I still prefer to scout those defenses with opponents in situations that might cause an offense to sputter in the first 1-4 weeks: those with new coordinators or coaching staff in an adjustment period, QBs in a new system, lame duck offenses who didn’t make many changes in the off season. If you’re sensing a theme here - you’re right. Skill position depth. Is. Key.

There is no need to draft a QB before round 8 Rodgers, Watson, Brady, Wilson, Newton, Brees, Wentz, Cousins all went before round 9 in 2018. They were solid performers for segments of the season, though most went through droughts, and some completely disappointed based on their draft stock (Brady, Wentz).

The issue with drafting a QB early is that you’re stuck starting them through all match ups - good and bad, despite the low production. The draft capital you spend on an early round QB makes it difficult to sit them for someone with more consistent production or a better match up. For instance, Aaron Rodgers ranked as the QB10 weeks 1-14 despite being drafted for most as the first quarterback off the board. He finished his season as the QB4 thanks to a monstrous week 16 performance, but for many, his production came too late. Starting him week in and week out may have kept you out of that week 16 championship game.

Players like Mahomes, Big Ben, Luck, Ryan, Rivers, Goff (all of who were drafted after the 8th round) had either better or more consistent seasons than those early round QBs. Streaming is also a viable option with guys like Trubisky, Prescott, Mayfield, Jackson, and Allen providing QB1 production in plus matchups. I’m not advocating to punt the position, like you can with a kicker, TE, or defense, but the value picks in the late rounds allow for you to load up on wide receiver and running back depth that your league mates might not take the chance on. Bonus: Please remember that kickers are completely random DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT draft a kicker before the very last round of your draft. Don’t draft one at all, if your league allows that. Better yet, vote them out of your league entirely. Some late round or undrafted kickers who ended up in the top 10 this season? Fairbairn, Myers, Maher, Rosas, Parkey, Janikowski.

People tend to think that if they draft a kicker early with name value like Justin Tucker, Greg Zuerlein, or Gostkowski that they will have an advantage over the league. While it’s certainly best to have a reliable kicker, place kicking is situational and kicker usage is variable week to week. Take your kicker in the last round while your league mates draft them in the 12th or 13th, and again, you’re at an advantage with skill position depth going into the season.

#FantasyFootball #NFL

  • Kate Magdziuk

Your last minute quick reference for everyone and anyone relevant to fantasy.

Jets at Bills

Over/Under: 38 pts

Starts: Lesean McCoy. Bills defense. Literally, that’s it. It will be cold game, around 32 degrees, which is where McCoy seems to like to shine.

Sits: The entire Jets offense. Literally.

Sleeper: Josh Allen. Zay Jones.

Potential Poopers: This whole game. It will probably be a pooper.

Giants at Redskins

Over/Under: 41 pts

Starts: Saquon Barkley.

Sits: Eli Manning. Mark Sanchez, OBJ (Injured)

Sleepers: Chris Thompson. Sterling Shepard. Evan Engram.

Potential Poopers: Adrian Peterson. Jordan Reed, Redskins Defense, Giants Defense

Saints at Bucs

Over/Under: 54.5 pts

Starts: Brees, Thomas, Kamara, Ingram, Evans, Godwin, Humphries.

Sits: Brate, Peyton Barber.

Sleepers: Tre’Quan Smith.

Potential Poopers: Jameis Winston. He’s likely a fine start given the offensive weapons, but against Saints high powered defense, I am nervous he could make some bone head plays. Typically, WRs have much better fantasy games against the Saints, than QBs do.

Patriots at Dolphins

Over/Under: 48 pts

Starts: Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, James White (in PPR)

Sits: Ryan Tannehill. Frank Gore, Rex Burkhead

Sleepers: Danny Amendola - #RevengeGame, Josh Gordon

Potential Poopers: Kenyan Drake, Tom Brady

Ravens at Chiefs

Over/Under: 51 pts

Starts: Patrick Mahomes. Yes, even vs Baltimore. The dude hasn’t met a match up he doesn’t like. Travis Kelce. Tyreek Hill. Lamar Jackson. Gus Edwards.

Sits: Spencer Ware. Michael Crabtree. John Brown.

Sleepers: Mark Andrews.

Potential Poopers: Chris Conley. Despite being on the field for most offensive plays, he was still quite limited in his involvement through what should have been a decent match up in week 13. Combine that with the Ravens’ difficult secondary, and I’m looking for better options elsewhere.

Colts at Texans

Over/Under: 50 pts

Starts: Andrew Luck. TY Hilton. Eric Ebron. Deshaun Watson. Deandre Hopkins. Lamar Miller.

Sits: Marlon Mack

Sleepers: Ryan Grant, Demaryius Thomas Potential Poopers: TY Hilton (listed in start and potential pooper), You probably need to start him but the injury could have a negative impact on his production.

Falcons at Packers

Over/Under: 51 pts

Starts: Aaron Rodgers. Aaron Jones. Davante Adams. Julio Jones

Sits: Austin Hooper

Sleepers: Randall Cobb. Calvin Ridley.

Potential Poopers: Tevin Coleman. Matt Ryan. Jimmy Graham.

Panthers at Browns

Over/Under: 47.5 pts

Starts: Christian McCaffrey. DJ Moore. Nick Chubb. Baker Mayfield. David Njoku

Sits: Duke Johnson.

Sleepers: Antonio Callaway. Curtis Samuel. Ian Thomas.

Potential Poopers: Jarvis Landry. Cam Newton. He’s still ranked in my top 10 for this week, but he’s looked off as of late. It’s clear his shoulder is bothering him more than he’d like to admit, so it’s possible we may see a decrease in his rushing attempts as he sorts this out. Tempering expectations.

Broncos at 49ers

Over/Under: 45 pts

Starts: Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Jeff Wilson JR, George Kittle. Denver Defense

Sits: Case Keenum. Nick Mullens.

Sleepers: Marquise Goodwin

Potential Poopers: Dante Pettis. He’s the new hotness after a recent uptick in production topped off in the absence of Marquise Goodwin. However, Goodwin’s likely back, and this may interfere with.

Bengals at Chargers

Over/Under: 48.5

Starts: Joe Mixon. Justin Jackson. Phillip Rivers. Keenan Allen.

Sits: John Ross. TY Williams.

Sleepers: Mike Williams

Potential Poopers: Austin Ekeler. Tyler Boyd. CJ Uzomah.

Lions at Cardinals

Over/Under: 40.5

Starts: Legarrette Blount. David Johnson. Arizona Defense.

Sits:Matthew Stafford. Josh Rosen. Ricky Seals-Jones

Sleepers: Theo Riddick (in full PPR leagues).

Potential Poopers: Kenny Golladay. Larry Fitzgerald. Detroit Defense.

Steelers at Raiders

Over/Under: 51.5

Starts: Ben Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown. Juju Smith-Schuster. Jaylen Samuels. Jared Cook.

Sits: Derek Carr

Sleepers: Vance McDonald. Stevan Ridley & Ryan Switzer (in very very deep leagues). Most hype has gone to Jaylen Samuels, the new hotness, but Ridley quietly received 8 carries last week after Conner went down. He may be the Steelers’ guy on first and second downs, which is a good position to be in with such a strong offense.

Potential Poopers: Jordy Nelson. Jalen Richard. Doug Martin.

Eagles at Cowboys

Over/Under: 44.5 pts

Starts: Amari Cooper, Zach Ertz, Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys D

Sits:Josh Adams, Alshon Jeffery

Sleepers: Dak Prescott. Michael Gallup.

Potential Poopers: Carson Wentz, Golden Tate.

Rams at Bears

Over/Under: 51 pts

Starts: Mitch Trubisky. Allen Robinson. Tarik Cohen. Todd Gurley. Brandin Cooks. Robert Woods,

Sits: Jordan Howard Sleepers: Anthony Miller

Potential Poopers: Jared Goff, Josh Reynolds, Trey Burton, Rams D, Bears D.

Vikings at Seahawks

Over/Under: 45.5 pts

Starts: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook

Sits: Doug Baldwin

Sleepers: Not taking any sleepers in this game.

Potential Poopers: Lockett, Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, Kyle Rudolph

#FantasyFootball #FantasyFootballAdvice #NFL

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