This offense will be defined by health - if Ben Roethlisberger stays healthy, this team should cruise to the playoffs. If not, we are looking at a replica of 2019, a top-5 (maybe No. 1) defense and bad QB play. They finished 31st in offensive DVOA and third on defense. The dropoff from their 2018 rank (sixth overall) was one of the most dramatic fall-offs I have ever seen, and it lets us know just how valuable the QB position is in the NFL - 313 passing yards per game in 2018 down to 186 passing yards per game in 2019, the largest single-season decline of passing yardage per game from the season prior in league history, per Sports Radar.
Other than going into individual player evaluation, there isn’t much to talk about with PIT due to their 2019 season being worthless for predicting 2020. 2018 doesn’t help much either, since Antonio Brown was still the league's best WR. They added Eric Ebron to go along with the young/dynamic WR corp and a stable of RBs, led by James Conner. Like Roethlisberger, Conner just needs to stay on the field, but that is a big ask for the often injured RB who has missed 8 games in two seasons. His efficiency metrics dropped last year, but we need to factor in how far the offense as a whole dropped off before worrying about Conner (three top-6 RB finishes last season on the back of 7 TDs).
Pittsburgh told us they are worried about Conner by drafting Anthony McFarland this year after taking Benny Snell last year. They also rostered Jaylen Samuels. The offensive line will need to block better, finishing 30th in adjusted line yards per carry.
This is a loaded squad at all levels in an established scheme. The line is the best in the league, featuring T.J. Watt, who led PIT to the accumulating the most sacks and best adjusted sack and pressure rates. They should come out in Week 1 and make life difficult on all the Giants' fantasy commodities. Pittsburgh has a 16-2 record on MNF in the Tomlin era (nine straight wins) and led the league in creating opponent turnovers.
I hope you got on PIT early, as I posted it in the NFC East guide.
Joshua Dobbs was signed after he got cut by Jacksonville. Dobbs is familiar with the system after spending 2017-18 with the Steelers. He's unlikely to ever will be an NFL starter, but he is better than Duck Hodges, one of pro football’s worst quarterbacks. If Dobbs was the No. 3 QB last year, the Steelers make the playoffs. Dobbs also can challenge Mason Rudolph for the backup job.
With all the focus on how good Lamar Jackson was (great), the Ravens offensive line and RBs were a tad overlooked. They finished third in adjusted line yards and first in RB yards per carry, which removes Jackson’s stats. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is the alpha at LT, allowing the fewest pressure of any tackle in 2019. At RT, the BIG man, Orlando Brown Jr. keeps Jackson protected well if he does decide to sit in the pocket. The big story was Marshal Yanda retiring while still being a top guard. Veteran D.J. Fluker will be a downgrade, but I don’t think we need to worry about any of the Ravens skill position players due to the loss.
One thing I will be watching out for is the distribution of targets. Last year, BAL and PHI led the league in TE target share and were one of five teams in the modern era with a 40% target share to the position. Most probably assume Haden Hurst (9.4%, 32% route participation) had the second-highest target rate, but it was actually Nick Boyle at 10% (66% snap share, 36.8% route participation). He is not very talented, but opportunity can outweigh talent sometimes in the NFL, especially in a circumstance like this, where he is being brought along for the ride. A rising tide lifts all boats. I expected BAL to carry 3 TEs, but it is just Mark Andrews and Boyle on the final roster.
4.11 yards per carry is about league average, but the BAL backs picked up 4.41 YPC, mostly due to the chaos caused by Jackson’s rushing ability. We know historically that rushing QBs give a bump to the traditional running attack, which is on display in BAL. I can’t get enough of Mark Ingram at his ADP in best ball, as people keep taking J.K. Dobbins one round or more ahead of the veteran. I love Dobbins and think he brings another almost unfair edge to this Ravens offense, but that does not mean Ingram is going away. He finished FIRST in juke rate last season, eighth in yards per touch and had the most favorable game scripts of any RB. He had five games in the top-10 and five games outside the top-25 in terms of fantasy points. I know that saying a player is better in best ball is a bit of a hedge, but when someone is this TD dependent (15 TDs, fourth), you are going to have these massive week-to-week swings.
The Ravens just get it, loading up their secondary to form one of, if not, the best unit(s) in the league. They come at you from all over the field with safety/cornerback blitzes, creating havoc for opposing QBs. They can be so aggressive because they have Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith at CB, who can all hang in single coverage. In addition to being good, they are going to be in a ton of positive game scripts for fantasy, with Jackson and company crushing people on offense, teams are forced to pass, which plays right into their strengths. In terms of adjusted sack rate and adjusted line yards allowed, the defensive line wasn’t as good as you may think.
On the market
Per BaltimoreRavens.com, Mark Ingram regarding Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: "There's always some battles within the battles," Ingram said. "Obviously, we want to prove we're the best running back room in the league. I always have a chip on my shoulder and a burning desire to prove I'm one of the best running backs in the league. That's something that never leaves. We respect Chubb and Hunt, the Browns and their run game. But we believe in our room."
Baltimore had said all offseason they planned on carrying four running backs into the season. I had my doubts, even up to the 53-man roster deadline, but the Ravens kept true to their word.
Ravens coaches talked so much about the importance of depth at tight end following the trade of Hayden Hurst this offseason. The competition for the third tight end job was built up to be one of the most important of training camp. Yet, after the 53-man roster was settled, there were only two tight ends on the team. So what gives? FB Patrick Ricard is a great blocker, playing a majority of his snaps at fullback last year and earning a Pro Bowl nod. Baltimore is pretty comfortable with Ricard being the primary backup (to Andrews and Boyle).
In the words of former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, “You don’t ever have too many corners.” Baltimore usually abides by that philosophy, stocking the roster at cornerback for the upcoming season. However, Baltimore bucked that trend this year, keeping just five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster.
All 10 of the Ravens’ 2020 NFL Draft picks made the final 53-man roster.
2019 record: 6-10 | 2020 projection: 8-8 Head coach: Kevin Stefanski (First season) Offensive coordinator: Alex Van Pelt (First season) Defensive coordinator: Joe Woods (First season)
Check out Derek Brown and Anthony Amico's breakdown of the Browns system, play calling and coaching breakdown:
Via Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland.com: Browns center JC Tretter was back out on the field in full pads for the first time on Thursday, preparing to face the Ravens exactly one month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. "Knee is feeling good,'' he said on a video conference. “We have been on a pretty good pace, doing the right thing, taking it and ramping up the right way. We’re just going to continue that this week and make sure that everything is going the right way. It will just to continue to progress as the week goes on.”
2019 record: 2-14 | 2020 projection: 6-10 Head coach: Zac Taylor (Second year) Offensive coordinator: Brian Callahan (Second year) Defensive coordinator: Lou Anarumo (Second year)
Check out Derek Brown and Anthony Amico's breakdown of the Bengals system, play-calling and coaching breakdown:
On a team loaded with talent on offense, the play of the offensive line will be the deciding factor in their success. They will welcome back Jonah Williams, who lost last season due to injury, leading to a revolving door at LT in 2019. He is a blue-chip talent, but unproven in the league, and coming off an injury in a year without preseason isn’t optimal. The rest of the line is league average or worse, which is a concern for Joe Burrow, who played behind a fantastic OL at LSU. I can promise you he has never seen anything like what the Steelers are going to throw at him in terms of scheme and talent. That said, I am a big Burrow fan and am drafting him all over the place late in best ball. As you can see above, CIN is not favored in a single game this season currently, with their matchup in Week 4 being their best shot. That will create a positive game script for this passing offense with a coach who wants to play uptempo.
Joe Mixon is the other guy we need to discuss because I don’t think people realize how good this dude is. Even with horrific QB play, no A.J. Green, while in the first year of a system, Mixon ended up with some VERY impressive underlying metrics:
First in evaded tackles.
Fourth in juke rate.
Second in yards created.
Eighth yards created per touch.
He also had some nice usage stats, finishing third in goal line (inside the five-yard line) carries, seventh in RZ touches (inside the 20), fifth in overall carries, sixth in opportunity share and eighth in rush yards (8 TDs).
Burrow OVER 3,700.5 passing yards (-110)
The Bengals are waiving tight end Jordan Franks, offensive lineman Josh Knipfel, and tight end Mitchell Wilcox, according to Ben Baby and Tyler Dragon. Knipfel and Wilcox were signed as undrafted free agents this year, while Franks spent time on the Bengals’ 53-man roster last season.
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