Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens Fantasy Advice (2020 Fantasy Football)
After what looked early on like a year that would be filled with scheduling nightmares, the NFL has had a largely undisturbed season, at least from a scheduling standpoint.
After the Bills-Titans game in Week 5 was pushed to Tuesday, which then forced a Monday night doubleheader in Week 6, it’s been largely business as usual. Fantasy managers’ seasons have certainly been impacted by COVID-19, but they haven’t had all that much uncertainty about whether games would be played heading into nearly any weekend.
That all ended in Week 12. The Steelers-Ravens game set for Thanksgiving was pushed to Sunday, and now to Tuesday, which will result in the rescheduling of the Week 13 Thursday night game between the Ravens and Cowboys. The best-case scenario involves this week’s game going on as scheduled, but without James Conner, Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, and a handful of others.
The uncertainty leaves fantasy managers in a precarious position. The Steelers have several strong fantasy options. Even without Jackson and Dobbins, there are some viable fantasy starters on Baltimore.
Should fantasy managers take the risk, and leave Gus Edwards, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson in their lineups? Or should they avoid the uncertainty altogether, and put in whatever replacement options they have?
The answer is … it depends. But, as with any fantasy decision, there are always options. So, let’s explore your Week 12 choices here.
Discuss a contingency system with your league
The ship has likely sailed at this point, but hopefully your commissioner has put in place a protocol to deal with the situation fantasy managers face with the Steelers-Ravens game. Many commissioners have implemented a system where fantasy managers can designate a contingency player who they can place in their lineups in case Tuesday’s game is canceled.
For example, a manager may have Benny Snell and place (gulp) Frank Gore as his or her contingency option. The understanding is that the manager will have Snell in his starting lineup if Tuesday’s game goes on as scheduled, and will only receive Gore’s fantasy points if and when that game gets canceled. If Gore winds up with 20 fantasy points, and Snell with four, the manager takes Snell’s points regardless.
If your league did not implement this system before Week 5, it is probably not going to do so now. Nevertheless, because it is Week 12, a make-or-break week for many fantasy managers’ playoff hopes, your commissioner and league may want to level the playing field. So, the first option is to request that your league implement a contingency system.
Start any other reasonable option
On Thursday morning’s start/sit livestream on our YouTube channel, I advised fantasy managers who faced close calls, particularly with options in the then-scheduled-for-Sunday Steelers-Ravens game, to start their Thursday players. This was most often with Duke Johnson vs. Gus Edwards or Brandin Cooks vs. Diontae Johnson. I apologize for how many times I uttered the phrase, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Those were easier choices. With players ranked within a few spots of one another, taking the minor projected downgrade for guaranteed production was a no-brainer.
These are not decisions that I would think twice about making. Look at our Expert Consensus Rankings. Check out my Week 12 rankings. Use the following quick rule of thumb to guide you about when to sub in a replacement option without sweating the decision:
- Ben Roethlisberger: start any quarterback within six or seven spots in the rankings
- Robert Griffin III: you are likely starting Griffin only in two-quarterback or superflex leagues. Start any other quarterback who is starting for an NFL team in Week 12
- Benny Snell: start any other top-36 running back
- Gus Edwards: start any other top-36 running back
- Steelers receivers: start any receiver within 12 spots in the rankings
- Ravens receivers: I don’t think you understand fantasy football
- Mark Andrews: start any other top-12 tight end (Update: Mark Andrews has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and will miss Tuesday’s game. Play another option.)
- Eric Ebron: start any other top-20 tight end
Is it possible you’re going to leave fantasy points on the field? Of course. But the difference in projected fantasy points with those options is not worth the chances of taking a zero. Lock in your production when you can get it.
Give yourself some outs
By Sunday afternoon, fantasy managers may have a good idea as to whether the Steelers-Ravens game will be played as scheduled on Tuesday. But they may have a better idea by Sunday night. Better yet, they have a near certain idea by kickoff of Monday Night Football.
So, if you’re not sitting with one of the “reasonable” options outlined above who you can just start without needing a backup plan, your best bet is to give yourself as many outs as possible by rostering players who play on Monday or, at the very least, Sunday night. Not only will this allow you the chance to have as much information as possible, but it may also put you in a position to know how many points you need.
For example, if you’re down three fantasy points with only Ben Roethlisberger left to go, then you might as well pick up and start Mitchell Trubisky on Sunday Night Football. If you’re down 25, your odds are slim, and you might as well wait on Roethlisberger because if he doesn’t play, you’re probably not winning anyway.
Here are some players to roster now to maximize your options:
- Carson Wentz (available in roughly a third of Yahoo!, ESPN, and CBS leagues). If the Steelers-Ravens game is not 100% confirmed to be played by Monday night, start Wentz.
- Mitchell Trubisky (widely available in all leagues). Trubisky should be started only in the limited situation described above: where you need just a few points heading into Sunday Night Football.
- Carlos Hyde (available in 65% of ESPN leagues, 56% of Yahoo! leagues, and 49% of CBS leagues). Chris Carson looks likely to play (though he’s not a lock as of this writing), but even if he does, he’s unlikely to see a full workload. Hyde should factor in and looked good against Arizona
- Boston Scott (available in roughly 70%of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, and about 50% of CBS leagues). Scott should likely see eight-plus touches and factor into the passing game in a game in which the Eagles will likely be trailing
- Jamaal Williams (available in 50% of ESPN leagues, 40% of Yahoo! leagues, and 28% of CBS leagues). Williams actually represents the best option of the three, but fantasy managers will likely have a much better idea of if the Steelers-Ravens game will be played by Monday night, as opposed to Sunday. Nevertheless, if you’re in need of fewer than 10 half-PPR points, rolling with Williams is the right call if there is still uncertainty.
- Jalen Reagor (available in roughly 75% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues and 67% of CBS leagues). Reagor shouldn’t be this widely available, but he is the ideal pickup for managers rostering any of the Steelers’ wide receivers. The Seahawks are terrible against the pass, and Reagor should see a minimum of the six targets he has averaged in his most recent three games. If there is any uncertainty about Tuesday’s game as of kickoff of the Eagles-Seahawks game on Monday night, start Reagor with little hesitation.
- Travis Fulgham (available in roughly 20-30% of leagues). Fantasy managers have held Fulgham despite his recent dip in production, but he, too, is a fine backstop option. He should see plenty of targets and find his way into production. If he’s available in your league, then you can feel comfortable waiting until Monday night to decide on how to play things at wide receiver.
- Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard. I group all four of these receivers together because they’re all within 10 spots of each other and outside the top 60 receivers in the expert consensus rankings, and available in anywhere from 70% to 90% of leagues. These four are all desperation dart throws and you should really roster them just with the hope of getting a little more clarity by Sunday night. Absent needing only minimal production, they’re all too risky to start if there’s still a possibility that Tuesday’s game will be played.
- Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister (both widely available in all leagues). With Greg Olsen on IR, the door is open for both Seattle tight ends to step up. The Eagles are a fairly soft matchup for opposing tight ends, though Dissly and Hollister may cannibalize each other’s production. Still, both make borderline top-24 options, which, in today’s landscape, isn’t that terrible for available options. Dissly would be the slight preference given the snaps breakdown without Olsen.
Note: All things being equal, Jimmy Graham and Robert Tonyan are preferable plays to both Seattle tight ends if they are available in your league. But it is a marginal difference, and you’re better off grabbing one of the Seahawks’ options to buy yourself a little extra time.
The Steelers-Ravens situation presents fantasy managers with a tricky situation. But, with careful consideration, it’s one that fantasy managers can properly manage.
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