Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Game Time: Thursday, November 14 at 8:20pm ET
Spread: Browns -3
Mason Rudolph – It wasn’t a bad game for Rudolph, it just wasn’t anything amazing. He had his second highest yardage total of the season, but that is a very unimpressive 242 yards. He continues to limit his turnovers, and didn’t throw an interception in Week 10, but he also had just a single touchdown. That was the third week out of the last four where he had just one score. He is being labeled with the dreaded “game manager” tag, and isn’t really worthy of fantasy consideration, even against the Browns.
James Conner – Considering he was practicing at the end of last week, it makes sense that Conner could play this week, even though they play on Thursday. He had his big breakout game of the season the last time he played in Week 8 with over 100 yards, albeit against the Dolphins. It has been a disappointing year for Conner to this point, but hopefully this game against one of the worst run defenses in the league will help him out. If he is able to go, Conner should be good for 100 yards and a score. If he can’t, Jaylen Samuels is barely a flex play as he hasn’t come through in Conner’s absence.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Those of you who used a first round fantasy pick on this guy must hate reading this news every week. Smith-Schuster continues to be a huge disappointment as he had just three catches and now has more weeks with fewer than five catches (5) than weeks with five catches or more (4). He still has just a single 100 yard game on the year, and has had fewer than 50 receiving yards in three of the last four weeks. He will certainly see a lot of Denzel Ward in this game and isn’t a great fantasy option. He could be your flex play, but this has the makings of another game under 50 yards.
Diontae Johnson – He has been a very hard guy to trust of late, after it seemed a few weeks ago that he was the definite number two behind Juju. He did have four catches for 64 yards against the Rams last week, but he has been so up and down. The Browns pass defense doesn’t tend to give up a ton of yards, but they have allowed 16 passing touchdowns in nine games. With Mason Rudolph clearly not a guy who slings the ball around a lot, Johnson would be best served on your bench. He has now finished behind James Washington in production for two straight weeks. There seems to be little rhyme or reason of which of these two guys is the best receiver to play. Washington is hot right now and could be your flex, but both are inconsistent and unlikely to lead you to a fantasy win.
Vance McDonald – He did have seven targets for the second straight week, but that turned into just a paltry 11 receiving yards on the day in Week 10. McDonald is not fantasy worthy in this offense, and even with tight end being a virtual wasteland, you can certainly do better than him for Week 11.
Baker Mayfield – It was an adventure, but in the end it wasn’t a bad game for Mayfield. He mostly looked like an NFL quarterback again, which was fairly impressive considering the Browns played the Bills. Although he failed to throw for even 250 passing yards for the fourth time in the last five weeks, it was Mayfield’s first two touchdown game of the season. Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Steelers defense just made Jared Goff look like a fool in Week 10, and Mayfield could be in danger of having that same fate this week. He has been improving a little the past two games, but is still a little too risky to put in your DFS lineups or seasonal leagues where you only play one quarterback.
Nick Chubb – There was concern with Chubb’s value in fantasy with the return of Kareem Hunt from suspension, but he barely missed a beat with a 116 yard game in Week 10. Chubb ran the ball exactly 20 times for the fourth consecutive week, and was even targeted four times, even if he only caught two for six receiving yards. The guy is a beast, he is a stud, and even if Hunt does have a minor role, Chubb is still the main event in this offense. He will be a great play Thursday against a middle of the road rushing defense in Pittsburgh.
Kareem Hunt – Hunt had just four carries for 30 yards, but he was super involved in the passing game with seven catches for 44 yards. Maybe this is how he will fit into the offense, which is great for everyone because Nick Chubb was only mildly involved as a pass catcher anyway. The Steelers defense has been strong this season and they are the reason that they are still in the playoff hunt. It still seems very risky to play Hunt not knowing if they threw to him a lot because of the tough Buffalo defense or if this is how he will be used going forward. He was on the field for 54% of the snaps, which isn’t a bad number. He could be used as a flex in a week with four teams still on bye, but that could be an ill-advised start.
Odell Beckham – Considering he was blanketed by a great corner in Tre’Davious White all game, Beckham’s output of five catches for 57 yards isn’t that bad for Week 10. He was targeted a season-high 12 times, which is an encouraging sight, but in the end the production has been fleeting. The Steelers have a couple of strong corners as well in Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick , so this could be another rough one for Odell. The other problem with trusting him is the erratic play of his quarterback. Beckham was open a couple other times this past Sunday, and Mayfield just couldn’t get him the ball. He remains a must-start, but he has become more of a WR2 than that elite guy you thought you drafted back in August.
Jarvis Landry – This is where the Browns receiving party has been at over the last three weeks. Landry has been targeted at least ten times in the last three games, and has scored twice over that stretch. His nine catches against the Bills was a season high, and in PPR leagues he has been a gem lately. Even with his quarterback not playing his best, Landry has scored at least 11 points in PPR leagues over the last three weeks. He remains a strong start as a WR3 in fantasy for Week 11 even against a fairly strong Steelers pass defense.
Summary: The Browns got right last week at the expense of the Buffalo Bills, which was a bit of a surprise. Baker Mayfield sort of looked like an NFL quarterback again, and the defense played well. Mayfield faces another stiff test with a vastly improving Steelers defense. Since the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick Pittsburgh’s defense has been very opportunistic and has been forcing turnovers. I see Baker struggling this week, and having a few turnovers. Mason Rudolph is far from a great quarterback, but he will do just enough, and James Conner will inject a little life in the offense with his return. This will be a hard fought divisional game, but the Steelers edge out the Browns in a squeaker
Prediction: Steelers 27, Browns 21