*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
The Steelers may have plunged the final dagger in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry and snuffed out John Harbaugh’s career as head coach of the Ravens in 2019, all in one shot here.
The Ravens have been teetering on the brink of ‘cleaning house’ for a few years now, but they always hang in there with solid seasonal performances…but this may mark the end of the line – four losses in their last 5 games, a three-game losing streak, 2+ games behind the Steelers and having just lost the tiebreaker upper hand they had over Pitt. This was a crushing loss for the Ravens.
Neither team was electric here, but Pittsburgh was obviously the better team…in front of the Ravens home crowd, and they just methodically counter-punched the Ravens all game and got a 14-6 lead at the half, pushing that to 20-6 midway through the 3rd quarter. The Steelers just sat on the Ravens the rest of the way. The Ravens kept trying to get back into it but never really did.
Baltimore is 4-5, on their way to 7-9. Getting to 9 wins, now, appears to be ‘out of the question’.
The Steelers are 5-2-1 and winners of 4 in a row. They project to 10-5-1. They are headed to the #3 seed in the playoffs; they’ll never surpass KC or NE this year, for seeding.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Let’s tackle Le’Veon Bell’s latest cryptic tweet…that he’s leaving Miami, which has been read to mean he is heading to Pittsburgh.
It’s smart of Le’Veon to report at the last-minute Wednesday (PIT plays TNF this week). He will get a game check for nothing reporting Wednesday. The deadline for him is 11/13/2018, so he can report this week, ahead of time, not play, get paid, and then the fun/drama begins.
There is almost no way that the Steelers will allow Le’Veon Bell to step foot on the field for them or allow him in the locker room. So, now, this is an image stunt and negotiations for both sides. Le’Veon has the upper hand and he should use it – sign his franchise tag, and start getting paid top dollar to not-play…knowing the Steelers don’t want him. Pittsburgh can put him on an exempt list for two weeks and then just put him inactive the rest of the season.
The Steelers are trying to save face and money by showing they want Bell to report, but they really don’t. I suspect they are making offers for a settlement behind-the-scenes to pay him not to play and cut him or take the franchise tag away (to save money). Bell holds all the cards. He should call their bluff and just say he’s ready to report for duty. Eventually, Pittsburgh will pay top dollar to have him not play. They might as well just pay it and sit on him in case Conner goes down with an ACL, etc., but even then, I don’t think they’d want Bell to play – because he doesn’t want to play. The relationship is toast. Bell will not play a down for the Steelers.
However, there are still some nervous Conner owners. If you can buy Conner as an RB2 somehow amidst the fear…do it. Have no fear of Bell rumors on him returning – embrace them as opportunities to ‘buy’. Although, I suspect most FFM’ers already had Conner from the jump or got him the past few weeks because we’ve been ahead on this story.
I was wrong about David Johnson this season, but, like I always do…I made it up to you. Please accept and enjoy James Conner as a token of DJ 2018 apology.
-- I pushed Hayden Hurst (1-21-0/2) last week, and he looks fine…but he was/is not the Ravens TE to own, apparently. Mark Andrews (3-50-0/6) was/is.
Andrews and Hurst split snaps 27 apiece here but, once again, Andrews led in targets/touches. It wasn’t just the solid targeting…it was also the fact that four of Andrews’s 6 targets in this game were end zone shots. With better thrown passes, Andrews has at least 1 TD if not 2 in this game. Flacco was forcing it to him in the end zone. Big jump for Andrews in our projections this week.
-- The Ravens have one of the best schedules for the passing game in all of football the next 5 weeks. CIN-OAK-ATL-KC-TB. It could make Joe Flacco (23-37 for 206 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) a QB1 for a stretch, but…
Do you trust Flacco can put up sustained QB1 numbers for any stretch?
Do you trust Flacco will be the starting QB in two weeks?
People are already forming a mob demanding a Lamar Jackson takeover, as expected. Rookies are always unicorns that can fix everything for the ‘fans’ and ‘analysts’. Once the rookie doesn’t save the day immediately, the mob never apologizes, they just move like locusts to the next crop to destroy with their ‘demands’ and ‘insight’.
The more I think about this, the more I believe John Harbaugh will be the head coach until the end of the season – out of respect for his service. As long as Harbaugh is head coach, he owes it to Flacco to ride off a cliff together. Also, with this schedule, the Ravens could hit a hot streak and sneak back into the playoffs…WITH Flacco not the unicorn. Harbaugh knows he’s done after this year one way or the other, so this is his last stand.
The odds of what will happen ahead:
90% = Harbaugh coaches the rest of the season. Flacco QBs until the Ravens are officially dead. Lamar Jackson starts like Weeks 16-17 in a lost season at that point.
10% = Ravens lose to Cincy Week 10, Harbaugh is fired, and an assistant coach is promoted by the new GM to push LJax…or Harbaugh gives up on Flacco Week 11 and tries to run the table with Lamar as a last hope.
Snead-Crabtree-Brown will be pretty decent plays if Flacco stays in with the schedule ahead.
-- One move that I think Harbaugh will push – he’s going to push Ty Montgomery over/with Javorius Allen, and go with a three-headed monster backfield looking for the hot hand with Collins in the lead role.
With the schedule ahead, the best Ravens’ RB is going to get a lot of cheap, short TDs. Don’t pooh-pooh Collins, who is the odds-on favorite to get them.
FYI, Kenneth Dixon is nowhere in sight. Whispers of another suspension are looming his return. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens cut him the next 1-2 weeks.
-- With all the offense ahead, you want to keep Justin Tucker (3/3 FGs, 1/1 XP) if at all possible. He’s the ‘best in class’ and all your other options are inferior. You thought Brett Maher and Ryan Succop were sweet relief options…as you watched them miss FGs on MNF.
There’s no kicker like Tucker. Don’t part with him easily.
If you have a BYE week or injury crisis and need to gamble because you are 4-5/3-6 and this week means everything for your playoff life…you have to sacrifice the BYE week Tucker…and hope to get him back next week and forced to live with it if you don’t.
-- The Steelers defense has held their last 4 opponents to 17-21-18-16 points. Including squashing high-flying Atlanta and halting the solid Bengals-Browns-Ravens offenses.
Once this defense gets past Carolina this week, which is a so-so matchup – then you have some DST gold – JAC-DEN-LAC-OAK. Three strong starts.
Best pairing with the Steelers-DST if you don’t want to use them Week 10…Indy has the best match for Weeks 10, 13, 15-16 issues.
If you only cared about Weeks 15-16 (NE-NO), then WASH (if they stay in it), JAC, DEN are best pairings.
-- Fantasy Playoff Notes from these two teams:
The Steelers look pretty strong on schedule ahead – Weeks 14-16: OAK-NE-NO. Two shootouts and a cupcake game. Week 14, Conner playing half a game is a fear. YOU NEED A BYE.
The Ravens go KC-TB-LAC Weeks 14-16. Not bad. Weak for their DST. Could be nice passing game wise but the KC defense is rising and the Ravens likely to be blown out. Lamar Jackson could start after that and change everything. Hard to confidently project the Ravens Weeks 14-16 because everything could change any week now…coach, QB, offense, etc.
Snap Counts of Interest:
31 = Collins
26 = Allen
27 = Andrews
27 = Hurst
21 = Boyle
51 = McDonald
35 = James
68 = Conner
06 = Samuels