Facebook Pixel

    Gio Bernard Fantasy Outlook: Start or sit in Week 16

    It’s championship week in fantasy football, and every lineup decision is more critical than ever. One of the more difficult fantasy decisions is Cincinnati Bengals RB Gio Bernard for Week 16. With one of the best matchups possible this week against the Houston Texans, can you safely start Gio Bernard with everything on the line?

    RB Gio Bernard played well in Monday’s surprising victory

    I still have no idea how that happened, if I am honest. All I can say is there were literally planets aligned that night, for real. The universe told the Steelers, “You shall not pass!” The Bengals handed them their third-straight loss with a score of 27-17. A large part of that came from the production of Gio Bernard.

    From fumble to functional

    After fumbling on his first touch last week and getting benched for the rest of the half, the Bengals went right back to Bernard as their feature back against the Steelers. The 26 touches were easily a new season-high. Bernard rushed 25 times for 83 yards and one touchdown while catching his only target for 14 yards and another score. That was the first time Bernard has found the end zone since Week 8. Bernard finished with 22.7 PPR fantasy points and was the RB9.

    It likely didn’t benefit many people as Gio Bernard had lost the trust of anyone who had played him in fantasy in previous weeks. He came off the heels of the best possible matchup in Week 14 and fizzled out, only to be facing the best rush defense in the NFL. Naturally, that was when you should have played him because it is 2020, and things don’t make sense. 

    What does make sense is that he will have the starting role again this week.

    The Bengals have ruled out RB Joe Mixon…again

    If this surprised you, then I don’t know what to say at this point. I have no expectations we see Joe Mixon this season. I also have a hard time placing any faith in the Cincinnati Bengals medical staff. Last year it was the A.J. Green watch, and he never returned. This season it is Joe Mixon, who should have had surgery back in Week 7 rather than playing this waiting game.

    Zac Taylor confirms Mixon will miss Week 16

    Ben Baby of ESPN reported that Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has ruled out Joe Mixon this week. Beyond that, Taylor noted, “we’ll see about next week” concerning the possibility of the running back returning for the Bengals’ season finale versus the Ravens on January 3rd. In Mixon’s ongoing absence, Gio Bernard will continue to head the team’s backfield, with Samaje Perine and Trayveon Williams on hand to work in complementary roles.

    So Joe Mixon might play next week, you don’t say? 

    I am going to let former President George W. Bush take this one for me. 

    “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

    Bernard’s fantasy performance came as a shock last week

    Gio Bernard has been bad recently, at least prior to Week 15. When he first came in for Mixon, he seemed like a waiver wire darling. In his first two weeks, Bernard had 36 touches for 174 total yards and three combined touchdowns. He was the RB3 and RB7 in those two weeks. After their Week 8 bye, it’s been all downhill from there.

    From Week 10 to Week 14, Bernard was the RB38. He had 40 carries for 118 yards and no touchdowns in five games. He also caught 15 of his 20 targets for 85 yards while averaging 6.7 PPR points.

    His weekly finishes were RB30, RB36, RB35, RB45, RB67. Suddenly, he’s the RB9 against the Steelers, because sure, why not?

    Contextual factors of the post-Burrow offense in Cincinnati

    There is no denying that a large part of this is the loss of rookie QB Joe Burrow. Since Week 11, when Burrow went out with his gruesome knee injury, the Bengals, with a mix of Ryan Finley and Brandon Allen, had scored 40 points heading into their game against the Steelers. 

    They had over 300 yards only once (Week 14 vs. Dallas) in the games after Burrow’s injury. It was also the first time they hadn’t turned the ball over. Since Week 11, the Bengals had 10 turnovers entering Monday night.

    Throw in a poor offensive line, and it is not surprising that Gio Bernard had struggled. No one was afraid of the pass, no push from the OL, and limited scoring opportunities.

    Can Gio Bernard be trusted in Week 16 of the fantasy season against the Houston Texans?

    If you can start someone against the Houston Texans defense, you almost always have to do it. They have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points as a whole in 2020 (102.54 per game). Additionally, they allow the second-most to skill position players (83.15) with 37% from the RB, fourth-most.

    Their defense as a whole has allowed 1.55 PPR points per offensive play, which is more than all but three other teams. They’ve allowed a league-high 1,916 yards on the ground to RBs, or 136.9 rushing yards per game. Houston has also given up a league-leading 17 rushing touchdowns to RBs. Through 14 games played in 2020, the Texans have allowed 17 different running backs to finish as the RB21 or better against them. The last two running backs they faced (David Montgomery and Jonathan Taylor) finished as the RB1 and RB6.

    They also allow the highest yards per carry in the NFL at an astonishing 5.4. No other team is even at 4.9 yards per carry.

    Any reason to pump the brakes?

    Every single thing about this game smells like a trap. We just saw Gio Bernard go against the 26th-ranked defense and put up a dud (RB67) and then somehow have his best game against the number one rush defense. I can’t rank him any higher than right on the cut line of the RB2/RB3. The Bengals are still a bad team at the end of the day and can disappear along with Gio Bernard’s fantasy chances in Week 16.

    There is a shot he can boom in this matchup, but I am nervous. If you want to play Bernard as a flex, go for it, but know the floor is there to end your championship dreams. Perhaps fortune can favor the brave.

    Want more fantasy football analysis and news?

    Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL and the 2020 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also seeing our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.

    Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

    Related Articles