Is there anything better than a divisional battle between two teams with big-time expectations? The Baltimore Ravens fantasy analysis comes down to what you can expect from the reserve running backs while the Cincinnati Bengals fantasy breakdown is that of hope. Hope for a bounce back. Hope that the debacle last week was a blip on the radar and not a sign of wasted fantasy football draft capital.
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Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
- Spread: Bengals -3.5
- Total: 46 points
- Ravens implied points: 21.25
- Bengals implied points: 24.75
Lamar Jackson: The study of Lamar Jackson is an interesting one. I’m in his camp, but as a sharer of information, I find it my duty to give you both sides of the argument.
The Good: In his first week under Todd Monken, Jackson completed 77.3% of his passes despite being without Mark Andrews. Yes, it was a cushy landing spot in Houston, but passing confidence for an athlete like Jackson cannot be overstated.
Speaking of confidence, the connection with rookie Zay Flowers (nine completions on 10 targets for 78 yards) was well ahead of even the most optimistic projections.
Jackson checked the boxes we needed to see him check in Week 1 while also leading the team in rushing. J.K. Dobbins’ torn Achilles gives Monken every reason to increase the drop-back rate, thus opening Jackson up to more of those school-yard plays that pile-up fantasy points.
The Bad: Desmond Ridder and Bryce Young scored more fantasy points last week than Jackson. He averaged under 10 yards per completion and was unable to find the end zone, two traits that seriously cap fantasy potential.
Jackson’s most recent game against the Bengals was Week 5 of last season. His 44 opportunities netted just 14.8 fantasy points. That’s 40.3% fewer points per opportunity than he averaged last season.
Jackson is my QB6 this week. I’m buying in and willing to talk trade if the manager with him is the least bit concerned.
Joe Burrow: Joe Cool was anything but that in Week 1 (82 pass yards). He and the Bengals put up the most disappointing offensive showing of the week. It was ugly. Very ugly. But was it that unexpected?
Brian Blewis on the PFN Betting Podcast highlighted the slow Burrow start to last season after limited work in the preseason — three passing TDs on 89 attempts through two weeks with four interceptions and just six yards per pass attempt — as to why he is fading Cincy to open this season. He was spot on.
Burrow just didn’t look right last week, and this matchup isn’t going to do him any favors. In his past three games against the Ravens, Burrow has just three TD passes (109 attempts), though he did rush for a score in two of those games.
His struggles may carry over into this game and get ironed out with time, but if I have Burrow on my fantasy roster, I’m rolling him out there this week (my QB9). I like him more than I like the other fringe pocket passers, and the QBs in this range who rely on their legs lack the overall offensive upside to match Burrow.
JK Dobbins: Dobbins’ season is done after tearing his Achilles in Week 1. When this season ends, Dobbins will have appeared in 24 of 66 (36.4%) possible regular-season games in his four NFL seasons.
Gus Edwards: I have Edwards projected as the lead back in Baltimore’s offense moving forward, which lands him on my Flex radar. His lack of versatility and competition by way of Justice Hill cap his ceiling, but Edwards has been efficient when featured — 87.7 rush yards with 0.6 TDs per game for his career when getting more than 15 touches — and that elevates his floor to a point where I’m comfortable.
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For reference, I prefer Edwards to either RB in Washington or with the Rams.
Justice Hill: Hill scored twice last week, both on two-yard plunges, and maybe that’s his role. He’s never had more than 10 carries in an NFL game, a trend that makes Edwards my preferred option in this new-look backfield.
Hill was a popular waiver wire addition this week, which he should be. I’m just not sliding him into starting lineups without assurance that I can count on 12-15 touches.
Joe Mixon: The veteran running back was the lone Bengal that gave fantasy managers something of use (73 total yards with three catches) in the Week 1 loss.
Mixon continues to be a high-floor RB that you can count on, but for whatever reason, his TD equity spikes at home. All seven of his rushing scores last season came at home, a season after nine of 13 did. This trend is likely just the result of Cincinnati’s offense as a whole being more comfortable in those spots.
Mixon’s role keeps him as a low-end RB1 in our Week 2 PFN Consensus Rankings, though his capped ceiling keeps him off of my DFS radar. In his three games against Baltimore last season, Mixon ran 36 times for 144 yards and didn’t have a single carry gain more than 12 yards.
With four prime-time games this week, the DFS slate is thinner than normal, but I’d still prefer Aaron Jones or Jahmyr Gibbs in Mixon’s general price range.
Zay Flowers: Have yourself a debut, kid! Flowers earned a 47.6% target share and had more catches (nine) than the rest of his teammates combined (eight).
The numbers are one thing, but the agility and comfort are another. I expect Jackson to gain comfort in Monken’s offense with time, theoretically putting Flowers in a spot to return a profit on his draft price this summer. I have Flowers ranked as a top-30 receiver that I am comfortable starting.
Rashod Bateman: Bateman caught all three of his targets last week (35 yards), but if we’re talking under 15 yards per catch, he’s going to struggle to crack fantasy lineups. Bateman’s a big-play threat that will have his moments as this offense develops. That much I feel good about. Having said that, his target earning abilities are a question mark, and without volume, his floor is simply too low to play right now.
Odell Beckham Jr.: See Bateman, Rashod. The volume of opportunities is something I need to assume in Baltimore before assuming it. Both Beckham and Bateman should remain on rosters because Baltimore’s offense has too much potential and too few reliable receivers. However, neither should be sniffing your lineup.
Ja’Marr Chase: Week 1 was ugly for this passing game, but Chase did manage to earn a 29% target share. Of course, he turned that usage into just 6.4 fantasy points. Not ideal.
Burrow threw 37.5% of his targets to Chase against these Ravens in last season’s playoff meeting, a level of involvement that will land him inside the top 15 wide receivers in most weeks. Don’t let last week impact your decision-making this week: Chase is my WR8.
Should you trade Tee Higgins?
Believe it or not, I've gotten asked this question a TON this week.@Markkern111 broke down whether or not you should be looking to trade the talented WR after a historically poor performance in Week 1!⤵️⤵️https://t.co/LGdYv7nJy8
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) September 14, 2023
Tee Higgins: You’re just going to have to trust the process here. I don’t think there’s anything I can tell you to make you feel better about the zero-point, eight-target performance against the Browns. Higgins also struggled in his two games against Baltimore last season (44 yards on 13 targets), so I understand wanting to explore other options, but I’m hanging in there and have Higgins as a viable WR2.
I lied. I can make you feel better.
Higgins saw just two targets in last season’s opener, and guess what? Everything was fine. He saw 10 targets the next week, totaling 71 yards, and found the end zone. Better times are ahead for everyone attached to this offense, and Higgins is no exception.
Tyler Boyd: He’s fringe fantasy relevant when the Bengals’ offense is cooking, so Boyd’s completely off the radar as Burrow works himself into form. Even if you’re in a pinch due to injuries elsewhere, Boyd still is not a must-roster player, though I understand if you want to have him as insurance should something happen to Chase or Higgins.
Mark Andrews: The hope is that the quad injury that cost Andrews Week 1 isn’t the type of thing that lingers. And as long as the Ravens are comfortable in playing him, fantasy football managers should be too.
Andrews has seen at least 10 targets in each of his past three games against the division-rival Bengals, and he should be heavily relied upon in his season debut. Don’t get cute here.
Irv Smith Jr.: The three-reception, 17-yard Week 1 stat line didn’t raise any eyebrows, and, likely, your league-mates aren’t remotely interested. That’s fine, you’re smarter than them.
Can we agree that not every Bengals game is going to be as ugly as last week? If so, should we not be intrigued by the idea that Smith ran a route on 80% of his snaps? Of course, some of that was a result of game flow, but still … that’s a rate worth monitoring.
Smith isn’t a fantasy football starter this week and doesn’t even need to be rostered. He just needs to stay on the radar for those of us who are streaming the position.
Should You Start Gus Edwards or James Conner?
In most close lineup decisions, I will side with the player on the better offense with the thought being that I’ll take my chances on valuable carries. That said, we don’t yet know exactly how the touches are going to break down in this Baltimore backfield.
Ask me this question next week and my answer may be different, but given what we (don’t) know, I’ll take the safe volume that comes with Conner.
Should You Start Tee Higgins or DJ Moore?
Neither star receiver looked good last week, and yet, we have both as starting options in our PFN Consensus Rankings. I lean the way of Higgins in this specific question: both could garner a similar target share. The passing pie is just going to be bigger in Cincinnati than in Chicago.
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