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Week 4 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchups Analysis


Nothing like saving the worst game of the week for last. In another forgettable matchup of winless teams, the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Pittsburgh to take on the almost as bad Steelers and Mason Rudolph.

If I were ESPN at this point, I would be asking for a refund from the NFL. Or at least a discount on the next negotiations. I mean, the least they could do is help pay the salaries of Joe and Booger for crying out loud.

Saying this, there is still a game going on and still players we need to look at for fantasy purposes. So, without taking too much time, let us look at those players who may, or may not provide value for you.

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Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Game time: Monday, September 30, 2019 @ 8:15 pm EST
Game line: Steelers -3.5, O/U 43.5
Records:
Cincinnati Bengals 0-3
Pittsburgh Steelers 0-3

 

Must-Starts

Joe Mixon (RB, CIN)

After missing a lot of Week 1 and having his team demolished in Week2, Mixon finally had a 100-yard game from scrimmage in Week 3.

This week he takes on a run defense which gave up two touchdowns to Jeffery Wilson last week. Joe Mixon is far more talented than Jeff Wilson, right? This does not mean he will have three touchdowns or even two but the yardage should be there, not to mention the pass game work. This could lead to even more yards than last week against the Bills and could also lead to a touchdown or two. Either way, he is still a top back in the league, and this alone means he cannot be benched regardless of matchup.

James Conner (RB, PIT)

Coming into the season, Conner was thought to be a top-six fantasy back in this offense. With Ben Roethlisberger out and the team struggling, this looks less and less likely. Against the Bengals though, we have to give him one more chance.

Although he has not had the season we wanted, he is still getting the work. He has over 75% of the rushes from the backfield and he is also seeing more than 80% of the running back targets this season. He is still the bell cow. He is just not performing as of yet. Cincinnati coming to town this week should change this.

If he doesn’t perform this week, it will be time to panic for reasons we've already explained. For at least this week, however, he should be a top-10 play.

Tyler Boyd (WR, CIN)

All of the must-starts in this game have a clear advantage - they are the obvious number one option for their teams. This starts with Tyler Boyd.

Sure, six receptions for 68 yards is not dominant. But in a weak Bengals offense, it is solid. He is still going to be a top-20 receiver as long as A.J. Green remains out and you cannot sit a top-20 player at any position no matter the game.

The Steelers secondary with the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick is better. But the Buffalo secondary which Boyd took on last week is still better. He was able to get 68 yards last week. This week should be just as good. If not better. A touchdown could also be in the cards.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, PIT)

Again, the number one target needs to be started. We did not know what to expect from Juju this season taking over for Antonio Brown. He has not been the monster we had hoped, but he is coming off a game in Week 3 in which he scored a touchdown. So, this seems to bode well going forward.

With James Washington and Diontae Johnson on the field, and Donte Moncrief benched, Juju has been moved back into the slot. This is a great thing, not only for Juju but for the team as a whole. This is his natural position and it will open up more targets for the young talent.

Mason Rudolph is still figuring out the offense. Having his best player in the slot, right in front of his eyes can only make his reads easier. Throw to Juju? Check. This is a lot easier than going through progressions and risk throwing interceptions.

With this move, Smith-Schuster looks to get double-digit targets on a weekly basis. This will lead to more yards and hopefully more touchdowns. Not just this week, but for the rest of the season. So, put him in your starting lineup with confidence and don’t look back.

 

Consider Sitting

Andy Dalton (QB, CIN)

400 yards in Week 1 in Seattle was slightly impressive. But it did come partly due to the fact Joe Mixon missed much of the game with an ankle injury. This week, Mixon is playing and as mentioned numerous times already, Andy Dalton is playing at night. This is not a good combination of factors.

There are so many other quarterbacks to play this week. Whether they be players on every roster like Tom Brady against the Bills or streamers like Daniel Jones against the Redskins, there is no reason to have Dalton or Rudolph in your lineup outside of deep two-QB leagues. Some games you want to wait for Monday night to play a lot of players. This is not one of them and it starts first and foremost with the quarterbacks.

Mason Rudolph (QB, PIT)

Two touchdowns and one interception was not a terrible debut but the 174 yards leaves a lot to work on.

With Cincinnati coming to town this week, the Steelers should have an easier time to get the win. If this is the case the run game should get a lot more work, leaving less opportunity for Rudolph. James Conner has been a disappointment this season but Pittsburgh will want to get him going. Expect Conner to get more run as the Steelers try to limit any game-changing mistakes by Rudolph as they look for win number one of the seasons.

John Ross (WR, CIN)

Ah, how the seemingly mighty have fallen. John Ross was the jewel of the Nile the first two weeks of the season. Enamored by his leading the league in receiving, owners were fooled into thinking he was a good fantasy option. But Week 3 was a different story. Two catches for 22 yards on six targets is not an elite player and the slide should continue this week.

With Minkah Fitzpatrick in the fold, the Steelers Defense was noticeably better last week against the 49ers. Back home and facing prime time Andy Dalton this week, it should only get better. We have seen what Dalton is in prime-time action - a turnover machine. This means unless you are the number one target in this matchup for the Bengals, you shouldn’t get play for fantasy. The number one is Tyler Boyd. This is why Ross is a sit and not a start for this one.

James Washington (WR, PIT)

We were hoping last week to see the Oklahoma State connection. We didn’t. We probably won’t in this one either. The run-first approach which will be employed by Pittsburgh means to sit all receivers except for Juju. Washington may have some good games coming up. We will have to wait and see. But as for this one? Sit him next to the other Steelers receivers.

Diontae Johnson (WR, PIT)

It was nice to see the rookie get a touchdown grab last week. But this is Mason Rudolph behind center, not Big Ben. This means those big plays are going to be fleeting at best and non-existent at worst.

Even Juju Smith-Shuster had a down week against San Francisco despite being the number one receiver and top weapon on the team. He is a must-start because of this. But Rudolph only throwing for 174 yards and the fact this game should be a heavy run game means the rest of the pass-catchers should take the week off from your lineup, even as bad as the Bengals Defense has been.

Vance McDonald (TE, PIT)

This one is pretty simple. The oft-injured McDonald is questionable and not worth risking this week. The team went out to acquire Nick Vannett from Seattle, which is a clear sign they aren't confident about his health. Grab someone off of waivers to start and save McDonald for another day.

Tyler Eifert (TE, CIN)

Sure, he is healthy, for now... This is not a good matchup for pretty much any Bengals player. With the likes of Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, they still need to be started. But when it comes to the secondary players like Eifert, you are better off finding a streamer for this week. Will Dissly against the Cardinals anyone?

Neither team has a tight end worth starting in this one. But with the injury to Vance McDonald, bye for George Kittle and letdowns by other starting TEs, I would consider Eifert in a "break glass in case of emergency" situation.

 

Possible Sleepers

Giovani Bernard (RB, CIN)

Mixon is very good but he has not been the same this season. He has also been injured. If he misses any time this week, or if the Bengals want to use their newly re-signed Bernard better, he could easily see a 50/50 split in this game. He may not be as efficient with it as Mixon will be, but it could still mean double-digit fantasy points for your team.

Both backup running backs are listed as sleepers and both will have some value. If push came to shove, Bernard would have more value than Samuels. Especially since the Bengals should be playing catch-up in this one.

Jaylen Samuels (RB, PIT)

As a former tight end, we know the hands he has out of the backfield. In a game which will likely see a lot of short passes from both teams, Samuels might be a sneaky flex start for you. Conner will likely get most of if not all of the rush work. But Samuels could easily find five or six receptions and a possible touchdown. If you are struggling to find a flex play this week, you could do worse than waiting until Monday for Samuels.

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