The NFL knows us too well. They drop us into the season like a fantasy battle royale match with a potential Super Bowl contest. Then, we get another banger after they pit Patrick Mahomes against Justin Herbert in Week 2.
I need a breather. The season’s a marathon, not a sprint.
[Watch Thursday Night Football on Prime Video: Sign up for a 30-day free trial]
The league decided to help us with that. We’ve got a less-compelling game to kick off the week — a way to ease us into the weekend instead of an adrenaline rush. But there’s still some fantasy intrigue despite the lack of star power in this game.
The Battle for the AFC North Starts in Cleveland
My Bengals fandom has me disgruntled (read: embarrassed) at the prospect of being last in the division. But tonight’s winner will sit alone atop the AFC North. At least, until Baltimore plays. I was certain Cincinnati would cruise by Pittsburgh, but the Steelers offense still has some firepower.
I was concerned Diontae Johnson’s role wouldn’t evolve with the new offense. Ben Roethlisberger’s “grip it and rip it” approach resulted in Johnson having an aDOT of 8.8. For reference, Cooper Kupp’s was 8.6. We’ll take a 28.8-percent target share all day. But we need targets *and* yards. He only had half that recipe for success.
Johnson’s 618 air yards ranked 25th amongst his peers. Again, primary slot receivers like Christian Kirk had similar metrics. This offense needed more verticality, and Mitchell Trubisky has been up to the challenge thus far.
The Steelers still have a pass-friendly offense, and Trubisky is top 12 in air yards per attempt (8.0). So we can say this offense is progressive. It’s also aggressive. Trubisky’s 14.1% deep-ball rate is well ahead of his predecessor’s (10.1%). But given their matchup, he may not have to look downfield much to come away with his second divisional win.
To their credit, Cleveland’s put together a strong offense. They’re fifth in EPA per play, and it’s not like…