Steelers vs. Bengals: Fantasy WRs Who Will Shine on Monday Night Football
Week 2's Monday Night Football contest pits two division rivals together, as the Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on their home turf.
Neither team is an offensive powerhouse, though the AFC North competitors will feature a few productive wide receivers of particular interest to fantasy owners looking for big-time points.
Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger aren't really known as big-play quarterbacks, as it's usually their wide receivers that rack up the yards after making the reception. Thankfully for them, nearly all of their top receivers are capable of ripping off huge runs and totaling up the yards after catch.
Receivers who can do that are extremely valuable, and owners that were lucky enough to fill out their team with such players will reap the benefits all season long. In a game that will likely be highlighted by each team's defense, it's the wide receivers who could steal the show for fantasy owners.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Might as well start with the obvious here. A.J. Green is the top wide receiver in this game and arguably a top-five receiver in the league. His impact will largely influence the final score and whether or not the Bengals are victorious.
Green has a history of success against the Steelers, having accumulated four touchdowns and 247 yards on 18 receptions. Those are his second-best marks against any team, as his 18 catches, 344 yards and four touchdowns against the Cleveland Browns top the list.
These numbers are obviously a bit inflated because he plays Pittsburgh twice per year, but averages around four catches, 60 yards and a touchdown per game are respectable. With another year of progression under his belt, expect even more from him in this one.
He is Dalton's only offensive weapon through the air. Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham are really just secondary options. The offense runs through Green, and his ability to get open against the Steelers secondary will dictate the pace of the game.
Over 100 yards and a touchdown or two are legitimate projections for Green. He and Dalton have a great rapport, and owners should expect that to trump the Steelers' tight coverage in the secondary.
Green is an impact player in fantasy. He'll perform like one on Monday night.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antonio Brown has played five career games against the Bengals and has compiled some great numbers against the division rival. With 22 catches, 373 yards and a touchdown (plus three rushing attempts for 22 yards), Brown appears to be a lock to have at least a decent Week 2.
The difference in 2013 is that he is now the team's go-to receiver. After Mike Wallace left for the Miami Dolphins this offseason, the Steelers chose to stand pat and allow Brown to lead the receiving corps. He and Roethlisberger work well together, and their chemistry will be put on display on Monday night.
Cincinnati has a pretty good secondary, so it might be difficult for the two to hook up downfield. Brown is great for YAC, though, and head coach Mike Tomlin may choose to run several screen plays and checkdowns through him near the line of scrimmage. With the right blocking, Brown has the speed to break a few plays open.
If Roethlisberger adapts to what the defense is giving him early on, then Brown should have a big game. Should he continue to try and force balls down the field, Brown may not fare as well.
Brown's production really rests on the shoulders of his quarterback, but this has all the makings of a favorable matchup if they execute the correct game plan—whether that be downfield bombs or dump-offs at the line of scrimmage.
Eighty-plus yards and a touchdown on six receptions sounds about right for Brown.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
Emmanuel Sanders is a first-year starter in Pittsburgh, as Wallace's opening didn't just open the door for Brown to have larger role. Sanders has just five touchdowns in 41 career games, and I don't expect him to find paydirt against the Bengals either.
I do expect him to rack up some receptions and a decent amount of yardage, though, making him a strong play in leagues that award one point per catch.
Expect Sanders to do the opposite of Brown.
If the Steelers decide to work Brown in downfield, then Sanders will likely be within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage as somewhat of a possession receiver. If Brown stays close to the line, then Sanders will be making his way over the top of defenses.
Is Brown or Sanders the better play in Week 2?
Should the Steelers choose to use each receiver differently, Sanders will capitalize when Roethlisberger switches it up and tosses the ball his way. If the Bengals are caught napping, Sanders will make a difference in this ballgame.
Again, I don't predict a touchdown, but he'll probably set up one or two by the time the game ends. Seven to eight catches and 80 or so yards seems reasonable for Sanders. If he reaches those numbers, then the Steelers will likely come out on top.
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