Bengals Rookies Steal MNF Show

Nick Mensio
September 17, 2013
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Bengals rookies stole the show in Monday night’s 20-10 win over the Steelers. Second-round running back Giovani Bernard totaled 65 yards and two touchdowns on his nine touches, while first-round tight end Tyler Eifert reeled in three passes for 66 yards.

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Back to Bernard. He was out-touched by BenJarvus Green-Ellis for the second week in a row. That’s to be expected at this stage of the season, but the Bengals really need to get Bernard double-digit looks on a weekly basis. At least they upped the rookie’s touches from five to nine this week. Unofficially, Green-Ellis played 50 snaps to Bernard’s 29. The snap count is skewed a bit because Green-Ellis got all of the clock-killing mode carries late in the fourth quarter. Following Bernard’s 27-yard touchdown catch on a dump-off pass over the middle from Andy Dalton in the third quarter, the Bengals were giving Bernard plenty of second-half run with the offense. What’s more telling is that Bernard got a carry inside the ten-yard line and turned it into a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Bernard has proven that he can be a short-yardage back this summer. He scored three one-yard touchdowns in the preseason. Look for Bernard’s role to steadily grow over the coming weeks. He has a juicy matchup against the Packers next week. He’ll be a legitimate RB2/flex play. Green-Ellis offers little upside in fantasy.

With offensive coordinator Jay Gruden trotting out a lot of two-tight end sets over the first two weeks of the season, Eifert has had plenty of opportunities to contribute despite being the clear No. 2 tight end behind Jermaine Gresham. Eifert saw five targets Monday night, and he had the longest play of the evening. Eifert was left wide open up the right seam in the first quarter. He reeled in a 61-yard pass from Dalton to set up Bernard’s seven-yard touchdown run. Eifert might be a sneaky play as a TE2 next week against the Packers. Green Bay has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends through two weeks. The Bengals have too many offensive weapons. All they’re missing is a quarterback.

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Steelers at Bengals Quick Slants

A.J. Green was targeted 14 times on the night, but he was locked down by Ike Taylor and held to just six catches for 41 yards. Look for Green to shred the Packers next week. He’s had his troubles against the Steelers. … Felix Jones started at running back for Pittsburgh. Isaac Redman was injured on the opening kickoff and missed the first 15 minutes as he was being evaluated for a concussion. Jones was easily the least-bad of the Steelers running backs. He still wasn’t effective. It’s a situation to avoid. … Jermaine Gresham committed four penalties – two holds and two false starts. He was the most-penalized tight end in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. … How Jerricho Cotchery is still employed by an NFL team is a fair question to ask. He’s way too slow and has shaky hands. Third-round rookie Markus Wheaton needs to see more time in three-wide sets for the Steelers. Their receivers couldn’t separate much on Monday night. … Andy Dalton’s deep ball remains non-existent. The Bengals worked on it with him in the spring. Apparently, it is what it is.

News Nugget #1

Reggie Bush tweaked his left knee in the second quarter of Sunday’s Week 2 loss to the Cardinals. He returned a few drives later but re-tweaked it and was done for the afternoon. Bush underwent a Monday MRI. The results came back negative. Bush is going to be sore for much of the week, but the expectation is that he’ll be able to play on Sunday against a leaky Redskins defense. Bush’s durability has become a concern after two weeks of play. He’s suffered minor knee, groin, and finger issues since Week 1. Joique Bell needs to be owned in all formats as the clear No. 2 running back in Detroit. He has a similar skill set to Bush. Reggie will be a borderline RB1 this week against Washington, though he may be listed as questionable on the injury report.

News Nugget #2

Coach John Harbaugh says Ray Rice is day-to-day with his left hip flexor strain. Rice didn’t undergo an MRI, and Harbaugh said his running back was unlikely to practice this week ahead of Sunday’s tilt with the Texans in Baltimore. Rice is shaping up as a game-time decision, and one that we wouldn’t expect to play if he does indeed end up missing the entire practice week. Bernard Pierce entered the season as arguably the top handcuff to own, so he’s likely owned in most leagues. Hopefully you Rice owners prepared accordingly. Pierce will be in line for a heavy workload should Rice sit this one out. Rice’s injury is not considered a long-term concern.

News Nugget #3

ESPN’s Adam Schefter passed along an interesting note Monday afternoon. He reported that Matt Simms “has some real support to play” from members within the Jets’ organization. Geno Smith has struggled mightily with turnovers; he’s given the ball away five times in two games. Simms, a former undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, beat out Greg McElroy for backup duties during the summer by completing 74.6 percent of his 59 passes without a turnover in exhibition action. Coach Rex Ryan heaped some praise on Simms following the preseason finale.

"This young man has really improved now ... oh, my goodness," said Rex of Simms. "Clearly, he has arm talent to play in the league. Quite honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anybody make the improvements he's made."

If Smith continues to give the ball to opposing defenses with sloppy play and questionable decision-making, the Jets may entertain the idea of throwing Simms into the fire. Ryan is simply looking for wins in an effort to save his job. Gang Green’s defense is going to keep them in most games.

Quarterback/Running Back Slants

A report from a local newspaper suggests Brandon Weeden (right throwing thumb) will likely sit out Week 3 against the Vikings. Jason Campbell is the favorite to start in his place, though the Browns will also consider Brian Hoyer. Weeden is still the team’s best option for the duration of the season. … Blaine Gabbert (hand) isn’t expected to play this week. … Coach Mike Shanahan said the Redskins aren’t considering benching Robert Griffin III. … Shonn Greene had his right knee scoped Monday. He’ll be out a “few weeks.” Jackie Battle will handle short-yardage duties. … Coach Gary Kubiak wants to keep getting Ben Tate his touches. Tate is averaging 7.08 yards-per-touch. … The Packers don’t plan to update Eddie Lacy’s (concussion) status until Wednesday. … The Jaguars are calling Maurice Jones-Drew’s ankle injury a “tendon sprain.” His status for Week 3 is up in the air. … Cardinals rookie Andre Ellington has taken over as the No. 2 running back. … Coach Mike McCarthy praised James Starks’ work this summer. He’ll be the top waiver add this week at the running back position with Lacy’s status in question.

Wide Receiver/Tight End Slants

Malcom Floyd (neck) is unlikely to play in Week 3. Rookie Keenan Allen will take his place in three-wide sets. … The Lions’ website expects Ryan Broyles to make his debut this week. … Andre Johnson (concussion) was able to ride a stationary bike Monday. He’s on track to play this week. … Darrius Heyward-Bey’s (shoulder) MRI came back negative. He’s expected to practice this week. … Larry Fitzgerald simply “wore down” in Sunday’s win and did no further damage to his tender hamstring. … Danny Amendola (groin) reportedly wasn’t moving well in Monday’s practice. … Josh Gordon returned from his two-game suspension Monday. He has serious upside. … Brandon Myers (ribs) isn’t expected to miss any time. He banged bodies with plenty of Broncos in Sunday’s loss. … Rob Gronkowski (back) took part in individual drills Monday. We could see him in uniform Sunday. … Martellus Bennett (shoulder) is expected to be fine for Week 3. … Vernon Davis suffered a hamstring strain on Sunday night. The 49ers revealed no further details Monday.