Spin Doctors: Jay Cutler vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Roto Arcade

OK, by now you should all know the rules in this feature: Two members of the Yahoo! fantasy team debate the merits of two similarly priced fantasy commodities, then readers feast on all parties in comments. It's a Roto Arcade tradition unlike any other. Today, I'll argue on behalf of Jay Cutler (ADP 99.5) and Scott Pianowski makes the case for Ben Roethlisberger (96.3). Let's play the feud...

Behrens, predictably, promotes the Bear: Some of you (or maybe all of you) will accuse me of simply ranking the QB field like a Chicago homer, and that's fine. I can take it. I wasn't exactly bullish on Cutler during the Martz years, but fine.

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If you think I'm just sitting here in a Bears-themed room, drinking from a Bears stein, wearing my Bears Zubaz, then ... well, OK. I am doing those things, yes. That was a super-lucky guess.

But the fact remains: When I rank the NFL for fantasy purposes, there's no hometown inflation. I was an unabashed Cutler lover back in 2008, in the Denver days, and I think no less of his talent today. (Roto Arcade flashback: Many of you pounded me for Jay's placement in this mock, before the trade to Chicago). Cutler has spent the past two seasons directing an offense where the playbook didn't suit the personnel, throwing to perhaps the league's worst receiving corps — an unreliable collection of kick-returners and non-playmakers.

This year, it's a very different story in Chicago.

The Brandon Marshall acquisition gave the Bears a credible No. 1 target, a skilled receiver with terrific size (6-4, 230) and athleticism, coming off five straight 1,000-yard seasons. Cutler, of course, was his quarterback for the first and second of those 1,000-yard campaigns — in 2007 and '08, Marshall caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards and 13 scores. With Marshall on the field, Chicago is no longer forced to pretend that guys like Devin Hester and Earl Bennett are anything more than secondary receivers. Rookie second-rounder Alshon Jeffery is another option with size (6-3, 220) and sticky hands, and an impressive highlight reel. And you're no doubt already familiar with the receiving skills of running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush. We should also note that the Bears have reunited Cutler with Jeremy Bates, his former position coach in Denver.

I've got nothing against Roethlisberger this season, particularly at his current ADP, so I won't take shots at him. But now that Chicago has embraced the arms race that exists in the NFC North — surrounding Cutler with weapons, redesigning the offense to fit the quarterback's unique skills — I think there's an excellent chance Jay will return to the level he reached in 2008, when he finished with 4,526 passing yards and 25 TDs. Cutler ranked as the third highest-scoring fantasy asset that season, both overall and per-game, and he has the potential to get there again. He's the mid-draft QB you want.

Pianowski builds a case for Big Ben: Jay Cutler has played five full seasons in the NFL. He's outscored Ben Roethlisberger (on a points-per-game basis) once. He went 1-for-2 in the Denver days (the five-game rookie season doesn't count), and he's missed in all three Chicago attempts.

[Related: Fantasy First Down: Jeremy Maclin poised to soar for Eagles]

Brandon Marshall is sure to boost Cutler's bottom line, of course. They played together from 2006-2008 and moved the ball up and down the field. But touchdowns are the needle-movers in fantasy, and that's where the duo struggled. Marshall scored just 14 touchdowns in his 36 Denver games with Cutler, never getting more than seven in a season. Marshall's career-best of 10 scores came in 2009, riding with Kyle Orton.

Chicago's receiving group is mediocre after Marshall; it's a collection of ordinary talents. (I'm assuming rookie Alshon Jeffery has a modest debut). But the Bears do have two impressive backs to rely on, Matt Forte (admittedly, a great receiver) and Michael Bush. I'll be surprised if this isn't a balanced offense for most of 2012 — good for the team, I suppose, but not so rosy for Cutler.

Maybe the skill players aren't exquisite in Pittsburgh, but Big Ben has more to work with than Cutler does. Mike Wallace is a star in anyone's book, Antonio Brown came into his own last year, and Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery are solid support guys. Tight end Heath Miller is not an elite receiver, but he's capable enough.

And then consider what Pittsburgh has in the backfield: An iffy Rashard Mendenhall (ACL sold separately) and an unproven Isaac Redman. I know the Steelers gave us the ground-and-pound gibberish in the spring, but I don't believe it. I think Todd Haley turns the aerial show loose in the fall. I also consider the current Steelers defense a little weaker than Chicago's group; I'm expecting more shootouts in Pittsburgh's games. Big Ben is your man.

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