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Wild Card Saturday Preview: Ravens at Steelers

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Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
January 3, 2015. 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC

The late game on Saturday is a clash of bitter AFC North rivals and perennial contenders. The Ravens were edged out ofa  division championship by the Steelers, forcing them to travel to Heinz Field for the first round of this year’s playoffs. These games are usually low-scoring, win in the trenches kind of games that end 13-12. However, these are not the same teams of year’s past. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are long gone in Baltimore and the players left from the great Steelers defense are well past their prime. This could very well turn into a battle of field goals and field position because that’s just what these teams do against each other, particularly in the playoffs. But all signs point to a high-scoring shootout this week. Ben Roethlisberger already has a six TD game against the Ravens this year and with Le’Veon Bell looking unlikely to go with a hyperextended knee, expect a high flying offensive attack from Pittsburgh. The Ravens would probably prefer to lean on their rushing attack if they keep the game close. Odds are this game will come down to the last drive of the game or close to it. Because with these two teams, it always does.

Baltimore Ravens: What to look for

Joe Flacco has a history of stepping up huge in the playoffs. He is one of the best playoff QBs of this generation and he has a Super Bowl MVP and a contract that far outweighs his talent. He cost only $6,700 this week on DraftKings. His price tag is only higher than Andy Dalton’s and Ryan Lindley’s. This could make him a great value pick, especially against a subpar Steelers’ defense that is allowing the sixth-most points to opposing QBs this season. Flacco may be a sneaky good play.

Running Backs
Justin Forsett was one of the biggest surprises of this season. He wasn’t drafted in many leagues because he was the fourth ranked RB on his own team heading in to the season. The trio of Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro were all ahead of him. He actually ended the season as the RB8 making him a solid RB1. He is fairly priced at $6,100, but the Steelers are tough against opposing RBs and poor against the aerial attack. It would not be shocking to see Baltimore move away from the running game if it doesn’t start off hot. He is a solid play this week but does have some downside depending on how the game progresses.

Wide Receivers
We all remember Jacoby Jones’ playoff highlights but Torrey Smith and Steve Smith are the players to focus on here. Torrey has been the hotter of the two ending the season, while Steve was a top WR early in the year. Torrey is a boom-or-bust big play threat who has managed to find the end zone 11 times this season. Steve is one of the toughest, feisty, big play WRs this league has seen. I love Steve’s toughness and it cannot be overlooked, but there is a reason Torrey costs more money, even if it’s only $400. Torrey clearly has more upside and is the more obvious play. However, the crafty veteran Steve Smith will fight to the end and should not be overlooked. These two are pretty much a flip of a coin. Their value is about equal. If you want to use a Ravens’ WR, choosing which to use may be best left to cap room. If you have extra, grab Torrey. If money’s tight, grab Steve.

Tight Ends
Since Dennis Pitta went down with a season ending hip injury early in the season, Owen Daniels has been a major disappointment. He caught as many TDs with Pitta in the first three weeks as he did the rest of the season. Daniels is a starting TE that only costs $3,300 so he does have value. Nonetheless, there are very few statistics to back up the pick. He is more of an “I don’t have much money to spend on a TE so I’m just going to cross my fingers and hope” kind of guy.

Pittsburgh Steelers: What to look for

Big Ben has been unbelievable at home this season. He has thrown for 2,778 yards, 23 TDs and only four INTs. He also had two, back-to-back six TD performances at Heinz Field. With Bell injured he may throw the ball a ton this weekend. At $7,300, he is cheaper than Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Tony Romo. Roethlisberger is the best pick of this week. Especially against arguably the worst secondary in the league. They have been ravaged with injuries and the players remaining have not been good. The smart money is on Roethlisberger this week.

Running Backs
It looks like Bell isn’t likely to play in Saturday’s game and the Steelers will have to rely on some combination of Josh Harris, Dri Archer and Ben Tate. Bell is a bad pick this week. He’s the most expensive RB and will be limited at best. So who do you go with assuming Bell is inactive? Tate is expected to be utilized as a backup after being signed this week and we don’t know a whole lot about the other two guys, but we can make educated guesses. Archer is a 173-pound back who cannot handle a full workload. However, he may have some PPR value being that he is considered an offensive weapon much like Dexter McCluster and Dennard Robinson. We’ve seen that go both ways. Don’t count on him for more than PPR value unless he breaks a big play. He was the fastest player in this year’s draft though, so it is possible. Harris is the guy who I expect to see the bulk of the carries. We really have no idea if he’s any good. While no Steelers’ RB is a good play this week, especially because no team has given up less fantasy points to opposing RBs than the Ravens this season, Harris is the guy to own if you insist on owning one of them. Harris is $1,000 cheaper than Archer and that is pretty much the difference. If you’re searching for a cheap back, you may be better off rolling the dice on a Cardinals RB.

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown is the best fantasy WR in the league and is facing the team allowing the third-most fantasy points to WRs. On top of that, their second option in the passing game is most likely out. Although he is the most expensive WR at $8,900, he is well worth the high price tag. Start Brown this week! At $4,100 Martavis Bryant is also a great value pick. He has been boom-or-bust but he has huge upside and has a great matchup. At that price, if you don’t have Brown he’s almost a must own. Pairing them is also a possibility. If you do that you better go all in with Big Ben, too. The rest of the Steelers WRs are really just desperation picks but Markus Wheaton is not a bad desperation pick at $3,100. Still, it’s a serious roll of the dice.

Tight Ends
You have to love Heath Miller this week at $3,900. He comes cheap and has become consistent down the stretch. At that price you really can’t beat him. You are most likely better off saving the $1,600 you would spend on Greg Olsen and grab Miller. Expect him to be a top two TE this weekend.


Final Score
Baltimore: 35
Pittsburgh: 38

Best Play
Ravens: Joe Flacco
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger

Josh Harris

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