This Week’s Bold Prediction: Is Wentz Fantasy Relevant against Pittsburgh?
I think he is and here’s why:
Currently, after 2 games, Pittsburgh are ranked 31st in passing yards allowed. And with the way Wentz has been playing it would seem like there is a good opportunity for Wentz to blow up in week 3. After all, Pittsburgh certainly has one of the most high powered offenses and toughest defenses in the league so far, right? Well… Let’s look at how Pittsburgh faired in 2015.
Pittsburgh allowed 6 of 16 opponents to score more than 300 yards, and 10 of 16 opponents to score for than 250 yards. They averaged 271.9 yards a game with a median of 281 yards. Overall, Pittsburgh gave up the third most passing yards in the regular season totaling 4,350. This is countered by Pittsburgh ending the season as the fifth best rushing defense.
For a recent and relevant comparison, Chicago was ranked fourth in passing defense in 2015 and held a whopping 8 teams to less than 200 passing yards, including Green Bay (twice!) and Arizona. Chicago only had one opponent score more than 300 yards — Detroit.
So how has Pittsburgh fared so far in 2016? Are they still similar to their 2015 performance?
Pittsburgh allowed 329 passing yards to Cousins in week one. However, Pittsburgh’s defense prevented Cousins from getting any touchdowns and forced two interceptions. Even with zero touchdowns and two interceptions Cousins put up a ~12 point fantasy week ranking him 26th in the league just ahead of Trevor Siemian and Dak Prescott. Wentz finished 12th with ~19 points in week 1, just ahead of Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton.
Now I am sure you are saying, “Hey! That was against an abysmal Cleveland defense!” right? Well, Cleveland is ranked 21st in passing defense allowing an average 286 passing yards per game to Pittsburgh’s 347.5 so far this year. Cleveland also has allowed a lower completion rate of 57.3% to Pittsburgh’s 62.9%. In 2015 it was 63% and 64.3% respectively. Not much change from 2015 for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh also only allowed 55 rushing yards on 12 attempts. By the 7th minute of the 3rd quarter, Pittsburgh were up 24 to 6 forcing Cousins and crew to throw as much as possible to catch up, limiting their already ineffective running game.
Pittsburgh allowed 366 passing yards and one touchdown to Dalton in week 2. Pittsburgh’s defense was rather sleepy on this one, but they did do a great job at shutting down A.J. Green with 8 targets, 2 receptions for 38 yards. Even with A.J. Green shut down, Dalton managed a ~19.5 point fantasy week ranking him 14th in the league just ahead of Aaron Rodgers and Sam Bradford.
Pittsburgh again held the running game in check allowing 46 yards on 18 attempts and no touchdowns. Though it's good to note that Dalton's passing touchdown came from a 25 yarder to Bernard. Still, Pittsburgh again limited the run game with their exceptional run defense and their explosive offense. They force their opposing team to throw. It showed in 2015 and seems to continue in 2016.
Wentz right now is projected to have ~16 fantasy points in Yahoo!’s week 3 ranking. The main concern I have with this is that they are basing this on a projected 255 yards, 1.4 touchdowns and 1 interception. I think this is extremely conservative especially given the performance Wentz has been putting up. Sure, he played Cleveland in week 1 and struggling Chicago in week 2. But in 2015 and continuing into 2016, Cleveland and Chicago secondaries are far more stingy than Pittsburgh.
Philadelphia had 133 and 100 rushing yards in the Cleveland and Chicago games respectively. They had 34 rushing attempts against Cleveland and 32 against Chicago. However, given Pittsburgh’s good run defense (ranked 2nd so far this season) the run game will not be an effective strategy in week 3. Couple this with a very good possibility that Wentz will be playing from behind much of the game, Wentz will be throwing the ball much more often. Though Pittsburgh only put up 1 sack for zero yards so far this year, they were ranked 3rd last year in sacks and yards lost due to sacks. Chicago beat up Wentz pretty hard at times, so if the O-line can keep him upright for most of the time, he should fair as well as Cousins and Dalton.
In the same context, it’s important to note that Pittsburgh has only allowed one touchdown in two games and that they seem notoriously good at making opponents kick field goals in the redzone in the past two games. But last year they were below average and ranked 19th in passing TDs allowed (29). Pittsburgh only had two games where they held an opponent without a touchdown and 4 games were held to one touchdown (ARI, CIN, CLE, IND). They averaged 2.18 touchdowns a game with a median and mode of 2 touchdowns. I feel it’s safe enough to assume that Pittsburgh’s 1 TD over 2 games is an outlier this year (much like the sacks) while 2 per game is more realistic.
Weekly BOLD Prediction:
345 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception for ~23.5 fantasy points. I would put his performance between 8th and 10th for week 3 and should certainly be started in 12+ man leagues. I recommend he starts over the following: