Ravens vs. Steelers: Fantasy Studs and Duds in Pivotal AFC North Showdown
With a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens (9-2) will clinch a playoff spot. If the Cincinnati Bengals lose to the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens will clinch the AFC North for the second consecutive season.
To say that Baltimore is going to be fired up would be a gross understatement.
But the Steelers, who will be playing their third consecutive game without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (h/t Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), aren't about to lay down and let the Ravens walk all over them without putting up a fight.
For fantasy owners, not having Roethlisberger available in the final regular season game of their squad's season stings, but that doesn't mean this game doesn't bring with it a plethora of players who are going to have wide-ranging impacts on fantasy games this week.
Let's take a look at who you need to get into your lineup and who you want to stay as far away from it as possible.
Stud: Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
This isn't the Baltimore Ravens defense that we have grown accustomed to. According to ESPN, the Ravens are surrendering 17.4 points per game to opposing running backs, who are picking up nearly 118 yards per game and averaging just over four yards per carry.
While the Steelers' backfield has been crowded and a bit muddled lately, things have cleared up this week, via the team's official Twitter account:
" @jdwyer27 is going to start for us at running back. He has been the most productive of the group. He will get most of the carries" Tomlin— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 27, 2012
When these two teams faced off two weeks ago, Dwyer picked up 55 yards rushing on 12 carries, splitting time with Rashard Mendenhall, who had 11 carries himself.
With Dwyer getting the bulk of the work this week, he's a lock to eclipse 80 yards rushing and pick up at least one rushing touchdown.
Dud: Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Wallace has been disappointing for fantasy owners this season, eclipsing the 100-yard mark only once and averaging only four catches and 52 yards per game so far in 2012.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is calling Mike Wallace a "co-starter" with Emmanuel Sanders. If Big Ben is out, you almost have to bench Wallace— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) November 28, 2012
You don't "almost have to bench Wallace," you need to bench Wallace. With Charlie Batch under center and his playing time limited, Wallace is going to be a non-factor for the Steelers on Sunday.
Stud: Baltimore's D/ST
Pittsburgh turned the ball over eight times against the Cleveland Browns in Week 12, including three interceptions by Steelers starting QB Charlie Batch.
Things aren't going to get any easier for Batch this week, who will be pressured by Terrell Suggs all day long and struggle to move the ball down the field.
Baltimore will struggle to stop Jonathan Dwyer on the ground, but that won't negatively impact its contributions to your fantasy squad.
Dud: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
While Pittsburgh's 2012 season hasn't gone as planned, its defense remains one of the best units in the NFL—especially when it comes to defending the pass.
According to ESPN, only the Chicago Bears (9.1) allow fewer points to opposing quarterbacks on a weekly basis than the Steelers (10.3). And Pittsburgh will be getting All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu back onto the field for the first time in over a month, further strengthening an already stout pass defense.
Per NBC's Pro Football Talk, Polamalu isn't just going to be on the field for a few plays:
Steelers expect Polamalu to play a "significant role" this week wp.me/p14QSB-6zwl— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 30, 2012
Joe Flacco plays better at home than he does on the road, but look elsewhere for your starting QB this week, as Flacco is going to disappoint.
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