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FFL: Week 12 | NFL: Week 12

Steelers, Bengals focused on bad starts, not bad blood

Thu Sep 26 6:43pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer

Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Antonio Brown, Vance McDonald, Giovani Bernard, Xavier Grimble, Nick Vannett, James Conner, Joe Mixon, Mason Rudolph

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019., in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Munson)


Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)


Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) rushes during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)


PITTSBURGH (AP) The familiar faces that fueled the hostility between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are gone.

Vontaze Burfict is in Oakland. Adam ''Pacman'' Jones is retired. George Iloka is looking for work. Antonio Brown is off being Antonio Brown, stuck in self-induced NFL purgatory after flaming out in three cities in the span of six months. Le'Veon Bell took a year off, then took the New York Jets' money. Joey Porter is out of coaching. Ryan Shazier's career is on hold.

Together, they spent years toeing and sometimes crossing the line between playing with an edge and something considerably darker. The list of moments memorable for the wrong reasons includes Burfict's questionable celebration after ending Bell's season in the 2015 ; Porter taking a break from his job as Pittsburgh's outside linebacker coach to walk onto the field in the final minutes of a 2015 wild-card game to jaw at Burfict, the same game when Shazier's helmet-to-helmet hit with running back Giovani Bernard led to the NFL modifying the rules on such collisions.

Oh, and there was the Monday night meeting in December 2017, which featured Iloka violently slamming into Brown in the end zone as Brown hauled in the winning touchdown a couple hours removed from the harrowing sight of Shazier being carted off with a spinal injury from which he is still recovering.

Their absence likely means the bad blood between both sides has subsided. That's probably a good thing considering the current state of both teams. The Steelers and Bengals are a combined 0-6 heading into Monday night's meeting in Pittsburgh.

''Both of our backs are against the wall, which is kind of sad at this point of the season,'' Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro said. ''It will make for some good football, that's for sure. We both need a win very bad.''

The winner can at least point toward a bit of forward momentum heading into October, while the loser will be all but eliminated from AFC North contention with the leaves still on the trees. While the Bengals began the season with modest expectations under first-year coach Zac Taylor, the Steelers figured to be in the mix with Baltimore and Cleveland. Ben Roethlisberger's season-ending right-elbow injury and a defense that's been unable to get critical stops has Pittsburgh facing just its second 0-4 start in 1968.

No wonder Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin is, as he put it this week, ticked off. Taylor isn't quite there yet with his team, though he's also well aware of the weight facing the Steelers still carries regardless of the faces or the stakes.

''I certainly watched my fair share of games this offseason, trying to prepare myself for what's in store in this division,'' Taylor said. ''You get a pretty good sense of the feelings here. People aren't shy when you're out in the community in the offseason letting you know their thoughts on the Steelers.''

The noise will almost certainly get louder on Tuesday morning if the Bengals can't find a way to win in Pittsburgh for the first time since November 2015.

ON THE RUN

Cincinnati's biggest issue has been a nearly nonexistent running game that's forced Andy Dalton to carry almost the entire load. It was a bit better during a 21-17 loss at Buffalo , with Joe Mixon running for 61 yards and catching two passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. Mixon came into that game averaging 1.6 yards per carry. The Bengals will try to get the running game going to keep Pittsburgh's defense from locking in on Dalton.

''Once you start to get a rhythm in the run game and they start keying into it and saying, `We've got to stop the run, we've got to stop the run,' you get the balance of the complementary stuff that plays off it,'' Taylor said.

IN A TIGHT SPOT

A week after starting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick just days after acquiring him in a trade with Miami, the Steelers are giving another new arrival a crash course with plans to immediately throw him into the fray. Pittsburgh sent a fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft to Seattle for tight end Nick Vannett. Pittsburgh is in need of help at tight end with Vance McDonald nursing a left arm injury and Xavier Grimble on injured reserve with a calf problem.

HELPING MASON

Mason Rudolph overcame some early nerves to throw for 174 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL start against San Francisco . The Steelers actually had the ball and the lead late in the fourth quarter before James Conner's fumble set up San Francisco for the winning touchdown. It was the second time the 49ers turned short fields courtesy of Pittsburgh turnovers into touchdowns. If those drives end in field goals instead, the Steelers aren't winless.

''When you have a guy in there, first time starting, you want to do everything you can to support him and make his job a lot easier,'' linebacker T.J. Watt said. ''Any way we can do that defensively, we're definitely going to try and do that. We've just got to do more of it.''

WORST MATCHUP ON WORST STAGE

The Bengals play the team that has dominated them, on the stage where they've been at their worst. The Bengals have lost eight straight and 11 of 12 against their AFC North rival. Oh, and the Bengals are 6-15 in prime-time games since 2011, when Andy Dalton was a rookie, including 2-5 on Monday night.

Player Notes
Delanie Walker Nov 22 1:40pm ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for the Titans Week 12 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Should Walker suit up, expect him to be on a limited snap count with Jonnu Smith still functioning as the team's primary pass-catching tight end. If Walker sits, Smith moves back into the low-end TE1 streaming range. Neither would be enticing options if Walker returns this week, however.

From RotoBaller

Corey Davis Nov 22 1:40pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (hip) is expected to be available in Week 12 after missing their last game. Since Tannehill has taken over in Week 7, Davis appears to be in a fairly even split with A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries for targets. In a low volume passing offense, Davis is nothing more than a low-end WR3 with a near zero floor. A.J. Brown would be recommended as the top option of the three due to his big play ability after the catch, but none are exciting options in a matchup where the Titans will likely try to run the ball with Derrick Henry.

From RotoBaller

Derrick Henry Nov 22 1:30pm ET

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry seems to get better as the year progresses every season. Henry is the PPR RB6 overall on a per game basis since Week 8 as the Titans have began to lean more heavily on their stud RB. This week should be no different as the Titans are coming off of a bye to host the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars have been allowing running backs to run freely in recent weeks, most recently allowing the Indianapolis Colts to rush for 264 yards on 7.3 yards per carry. Henry should be able to wear the Jaguars down in the second half, paving the way for big play opportunities.

From RotoBaller

Alvin Kamara Nov 22 1:30pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara gets a great matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. Kamara got himself back on track last week, as he racked up 122 scrimmage yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team tough on opposing backs. He's still scored just two touchdowns this year, though the Carolina Panthers could be just what the doctor ordered. They've allowed the sixth-most rushing yards and the most touchdowns to opposing backs. Kamara will have a huge workload in this game and has a chance to be the best fantasy back of the week. Start him as an RB1 and reap the rewards.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Tannehill Nov 22 1:20pm ET

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been a QB1 on a points per game basis ever since his insertion into the starting lineup in Week 7. Part of his consistency has come from his willingness to run, with 16 rush attempts through four games. Tannehill and the Titans are coming off a bye week to face a Jacksonville Jaguars Defense that has not lived up to the hype they had coming into the season. Tannehill should once again be able to produce borderline QB1 numbers at home this week, making him a solid streaming option and a nice discount play in daily fantasy formats.

From RotoBaller

Devonta Freeman Nov 22 1:20pm ET

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (foot) has been ruled out for Week 12 against the Buccaneers. He will miss his second straight game, which will put Brian Hill in line to make the start. Freeman should remain rostered in just about all leagues as he should have a chance to return in Week 13 and he'd likely reassume his No. 1 running back duties. Hill got a heavy workload in Week 11, but didn't do much with it, while Qadree Ollison ended up scoring a touchdown as the team's No. 2 running back in the game. Hill is a low-end RB2 or flex option this week.

From RotoBaller

David Njoku Nov 22 1:13pm ET

Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku (wrist) won't play Sunday, Nov. 24, in Week 12.

Fantasy Spin: There was some hope after Njoku was cleared to practice earlier in the week coming off the Reserve/Injured list, but instead we'll have at least another week of the fantasy-unfriendly Ricky Seals-Jones/Demetrius Harris/Stephen Carlson logjam at tight end.

From TheHuddle

Drew Brees Nov 22 1:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will take on the Carolina Panthers at home in Week 12. The 40-year-old has attempted at least 35 passes in four starts and has thrown for multiple touchdown passes in three games this year. The Panthers have a strong pass defense ranked 13th in the NFL and have 39 sacks, tied for first in the league. The Saints may go run-heavy in this game, considering Carolina has given up the seventh-most rushing yards in the NFL. Still, it's hard to bet against Brees in the Superdome. The Panthers may not have an answer for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, allowing Brees to do just enough. Brees is a QB1 this week, though he'll likely be a low-end option.

From RotoBaller

Evan Engram Nov 22 1:03pm ET

New York Giants TEs Evan Engram (foot) and Rhett Ellison (concussion) on Friday, Nov. 22, were ruled out for Week 12.

Fantasy Spin: Giants tight end fantasy frustration continues, and with Scott Simonson and Kaden Smith now moving up to the top of the depth chart, it's a situation to be avoided altogether until further notice.

From TheHuddle

Jay Ajayi Nov 22 12:53pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles RB Jay Ajayi could have a 'notable role' in Week 12 on Sunday, Nov. 24, especially if fellow RB Jordan Howard (shoulder) misses a second straight game, according to a team beat reporter.

Fantasy Spin: Ajayi didn't play in Week 11, but that was days after being signed off the street. Rookie Miles Sanders' turn as the Philly's lead back didn't net much success (47 yards on 13 total touches) in Sunday's loss to the Patriots, and if Howard does sit out, it sounds like Ajayi would handle most of the Eagles' carries with Sanders reverting back to his pass-catching, change-of-pace role. If Howard is indeed out -- and we likely know for sure until Sunday morning -- throw Ajayi in as a flex/RB2 if you're in late-season need at running back.

From TheHuddle

Antonio Brown Nov 22 12:43pm ET

Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) isn't a candidate to be re-signed by the New England Patriots, a source told The Athletic on Thursday, Nov. 21.

Fantasy Spin: Brown is still under investigation by by the league, and until that wraps up, he won't be signing with any team. Even if he's cleared, don't expect to see Brown back in the league until next season.

From TheHuddle

Nelson Agholor Nov 22 12:33pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor (knee) didn't practice again Friday, Nov. 22, but head coach Doug Pederson says the wide receiver is trending toward being able to play in Week 12.

Fantasy Spin: It sounds like Agholor has a chance of playing Sunday, but so does Philly's top receiver Alshon Jeffery. If so, Agholor falls back to deeper-league flex territory given his injury and recent struggles.

From TheHuddle

Chase McLaughlin Nov 22 12:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers kicker Chase McLaughlin has started two straight games while starting kicker Robbie Gould (quadriceps) has been out. Gould is yet to practice this week and appears to be trending towards missing his third straight game. McLaughlin has converted for of his five field goal attempts and all four of his extra-point attempts in Gould's absence. This week, the 49ers face the Packers in a game that figures to be high-scoring. McLaughlin is worthy of starting this week, just make sure to keep an eye on Gould's status leading up to the game.

From RotoBaller

Alshon Jeffery Nov 22 12:23pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is trending in the right direction in terms of playing in Week 12, head coach Doug Pederson said Friday, Nov. 22.

Fantasy Spin: Jeffery's last action came before the Eagles' bye in Week 10, and if he plays he'll be a WR2 start against a beatable Seattle secondary. Stay tuned for Philly's official Week 12 injury report.

From TheHuddle

San Francisco 49ers Nov 22 12:20pm ET

The 49ers Defense has been floundering a bit lately, giving up between 25 and 27 points in their last three games. This week, they face the Packers, who are coming off their bye week. The Packers average around 25 points per game and have thrown a league-low two interceptions on the year. They've also only yielded 22 sacks on the season. The game could end up being something of a shootout and the Packers will likely end up scoring right around their average in points with little likelihood of turnovers. The 49ers defense is a low-end starting option at best, but you might want to avoid them if you can this week.

From RotoBaller

Tevin Coleman Nov 22 12:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman is in a great position to have a solid game in Week 12. He's had at least 13 touches in each game he's played since his return from injury and it looks likely that the team will be without No. 2 running back Matt Breida (ankle) for the second straight week. Coleman hasn't flourished with his heavy workload this year, apart from his four-touchdown explosion against the Panthers. Still, he's been managing to gain around 60 yards per game and he's been active in both the run game and pass game for the 49ers. Expect him to see at least 15 touches this week against a Packers Defense that has been vulnerable against both the pass and run. Coleman could end up with between 80 and 100 yards this week with a good chance to score.

From RotoBaller

Green Bay Packers Nov 22 12:10pm ET

The Green Bay Packers Defense will face Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12. Garoppolo hasn't been careful with the football this year, as he's committed 17 turnovers in 10 games. The Packers have intercepted nine passes this year, ranking eighth in the NFL. Garoppolo has been sacked at least once in all but one game this year, giving the Packers defense a decent floor this week.

From RotoBaller

Matt Breida Nov 22 12:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (ankle) is yet to practice this week and is listed as questionable for Week 12, though he might be trending more towards doubtful. If he ends up suiting up, he's a very risky start this week. The team's No. 1 running back Tevin Coleman will likely carry the load and if Breida plays, he'd probably see around five or six touches as Raheem Mostert will likely be involved too. Breida should remain on most rosters in leagues of 12 teams or deeper but keep him on your bench this week regardless of whether he's active or not.

From RotoBaller

Raheem Mostert Nov 22 12:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (knee) has been a limited practice participant this week, but he appears likely to play. Last week, he saw eight touches against the Cardinals while Matt Breida (ankle) was out and Breida is likely to be out for the second straight game in Week 12. Mostert should see around eight to ten touches this week, which will give him a good chance to break some big plays against a vulnerable Packers Defense. The team has a multitude of injuries, most notably George Kittle (knee), Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (back). If the 49ers are without a few of those guys in Week 12, Mostert could be counted on even more. He's a potential flex play in leagues of 12 teams or deeper.

From RotoBaller

Matthew Stafford Nov 22 11:53am ET

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back) is out for Week 12.

Fantasy Spin: Jeff Driskel has been quietly good against two tough teams the last two weeks. He threw for 478 yards, three touchdowns and an interception with 88 rushing yards and a score against the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. He's a sneaky low-end QB1 against the Washington Redskins.

From TheHuddle