As luck would have it, in the midst of one of the biggest scandals in the history of the NFL, the league’s weekly Thursday Night Football game happens to descend upon the epicenter of it all in Week 2. Shouldn’t be awkward at all!
The game will still go on as scheduled, of course, as will your second week of fantasy matchups. I’m here tonight to give you the low-down on which players from this Steelers-Ravens showdown you should be starting this weekend:
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) vs. Joe Flacco (Ravens)
Neither of these fellers is really much of a fantasy QB1 barring some kind of injury issues for your team, but they each have enjoyed recent success against one another. Joe Flacco threw the ball a whopping 62 times in the Ravens’ loss to the Bengals in Week 1, yet put up only middling fantasy numbers in the process. Big Ben was airing-it-out against the Browns, too, averaging nearly 11 yards-per-attempt on his way to a W.
The only way I’d consider starting one of these guys in a standard-sized fantasy league would be if you have someone like Tony Romo and you aren’t yet sold that he’s in game shape, or you’re worried about Philip Rivers going up against the Legion of Boom. In that case, I’d recommend Roethlisberger over Flacco, though not by a wide margin.
Le’Veon Bell (Steelers) vs. Bernard Pierce/Justin Forsett (Ravens)
Bell torched Cleveland last week to the tune of nearly 200 total yards along with a touchdown in Week 1, and certainly looked like the fella the Steelers thought they were getting when they used a relatively high draft pick on him a year ago. He also had two of his better games of the season last year against these same Ravens, so there’s absolutely no reason you should be considering benching his ass this week. If you are, you cray-cee.
With Ray Rice having been terminated, the ball-carrying duties for Baltimore will be delegated between Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett on a permanent basis, it seems. Unfortunately for Pierce, he sucked last week against Cincy, and that was before losing a fumble and getting benched for the rest of the game. His replacement, Forsett, impressed in the meantime, racking-up 70 rushing yards on 11 totes with a TD. If you want to start one of these guys, Forsett seems to be the safer bet. Though you’re obviously starting Bell over both.
Antonio Brown/Markus Wheaton/Martavis Bryant (Steelers) vs. Torrey Smith/Steve Smith/Jacoby Jones (Ravens)
Once again, the obvious top billing here belongs to a Steeler, and it’s Antonio Brown. He’s established himself as a viable WR1 by most standards at this point, and here’s hoping he Karate kicks a few Ravens tomorrow night for an encore of last week’s brilliant performance. However, he’s never really had great success against Baltimore, so take that for what it’s worth. Still, though, it’s not like you’re leaving him on the bench. As for Wheaton, he will likely remain Roethlisberger’s No. 2 passing target with Lance Moore expected to miss his second consecutive game. He was quite solid with 6 receptions for 97 yards a week ago, so you may give him a look as a WR3 or flex type. The rookie Bryant missed last week with an injury, and I wouldn’t give him much consideration here until we actually see what he can do.
As mentioned earlier, the Ravens’ passing game wasn’t really lighting-it-up in Week 1, but Torrey Smith has a history of torching the Steelers, so I’ll be plugging him in despite a meh outing against the Bengals. Steve Smith drew the majority of the targets from Flacco, but how likely is that to continue? Torrey is the true big-play threat in this offense, despite Steve Sr. making the big play last week. I don’t dislike Steve tomorrow by any means, but Torrey gets the slight nod. Jacoby Jones is an ignorable spare.
Let’s rank them all: Brown, T. Smith, S. Smith, Wheaton…and the other two that you aren’t using.
Heath Miller (Steelers) vs. Dennis Pitta (Ravens)
Heath Miller is STILL the Steelers’ tight end? Holy shit it seems like he’s been here since the ’70s. Anyway, old man (WAIT WHAT HE’S ONLY 31) Heath Miller is a name you may as well ignore this week. He could always snake a score, but you’re really tempting fate if you feel like it’s a good idea to throw him out there. Also, the Ravens tend to stifle opposing TEs pretty effectively.
Conversely, Pitta was the player most targeted by Flacco last week, and that’s probably going to continue. As a Texans fan, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Gary Kubiak’s offense is fairly obsessed with tight ends. Pitta should be a solid start.
Follow me on Twitter @TaylorBojangles.