The fantasy football playoffs are about to start, yet one of the leagues biggest stars is a massive question mark. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will reportedly return to the field in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos. While you’d normally start Green without thinking twice, the longtime Bengal has a lot working against him. For one, Green is coming off a fairly serious foot injury and might not be 100%. Additionally, Andy Dalton injured his thumb, forcing untested journeyman Jeff Driskel into the starting lineup.
Green represents one of the biggest gambles in Week 13. He has the potential to take over any game and put up top-five wide receiver numbers. However, his injury and Jeff Driskel’s inexperience could lead to a dud of a game. With so many variables surrounding Green, let’s take a look at what fantasy owners should expect from Green against the Denver Broncos.
Fantasy Football: What to Expect From A.J. Green In Week 13
Let’s start with the easiest thing to predict: Green’s health. Green injured his toe in late October and hasn’t seen the field since. However, the Bengals receiver declared himself “good to go” for Week 13, so he should be back on the field this Sunday.
Obviously, nobody is 100% at this point in the football season, but Green shouldn’t be at risk of re-injury. The Cincinnati Bengals, once in the heart of the playoff race, have taken a serious turn for the worst. Once 4-1, the Bengals have dropped to 5-6 and are essentially out of the playoff race. They’ve suffered serious injuries across the board and everyone in the organization is well aware this just isn’t their year.
If the Bengals were in the thick of the playoff race, they might have tried to rush Green back. However, since it’s clear there’s no hope for this Bengals team, there’s no reason to accelerate Green’s rehab. If he’s playing, it’s because he’s feeling confident in his body and his overall state of health. Expect Green to be at or near 100% for Sunday’s matchup against the Broncos.
The Quarterback Dilemma
This is the risky part. The age-old fantasy football philosophy says to start your studs whenever they’re capable of playing. While that can be sound advice, that theory will be tested with Jeff Driskel at quarterback.
Driskel hasn’t seen much action in his NFL career, yet his track record leaves a lot to be desired. Initially signed as the San Francisco 49ers sixth-round pick in 2016, Driskel never made the roster after failing to beat out Christian Ponder for the backup spot. The Bengals claimed him off the waiver wire and he’s remained in Cincinnati ever since.
The good news here is that Driskel has had three years to learn and understand the Bengals offense. The entire playbook should be fair game, which is a positive for Green’s value. The downside is that nobody knows what Driskel can bring to an offense. Outside of a few garbage time snaps, Driskel hasn’t played at the NFL level. With minimal game tape to look at, let’s take a dive back into who he was at college.
Driskel’s Scouting Report
Driskel is an athletic quarterback who’s prone to scramble to get out of trouble. When he does throw the ball, he’s best throwing short passes inside the numbers. He has the arm strength to push the ball to the sidelines but doesn’t have the accuracy to do it consistently.
In his limited sample size, Driskel has played exactly to that scouting report. Per SharpFootballStats.com, Driskel has attempted 30 passes to the short portion of the field or the deep middle of the field. He’s completed 22 of said passes for 239 yards, one touchdown, and a 107.5 passer rating.
However, he has struggled on deep passes outside the numbers. Driskel has attempted five passes in those directions and is still waiting on his first completion. Granted, he’s played less than a game of professional football, but this performance aligns perfectly with his scouting report. It’s safe to assume that this is what we expect from Driskel moving forward. Now, let’s look at how Green’s strengths align with Driskel’s.
How Green and Driskel Mesh
Green is a fantastic player no matter where he’s targeted, but he’s had his most success in the short portions of the field and the deep middle. So far on the season, Green has 33 receptions for 400 yards, four touchdowns, and a 106.7 passer rating when targeted in those parts of the field. This all adds up to a 56.3% success rate, which is above the league average.
Additionally, most of Green’s targets have come where Driskel likes to throw it. Per SharpFootballStats.com, just over 83% of Green’s targets have been in the short portion of the field or in the deep middle. This is obviously great news for his fantasy production, as he’s doing the grand majority of his damage in the areas of the field where Driskel can consistently connect. The Bengals won’t need to adjust their offense, and Driskel won’t have to make uncomfortable throws. This duo should naturally mesh well together.
Looking At the Denver Defense
Adding to Green’s fantasy value is his matchup. We’ve already established that most of Green’s production will come in the short parts of the field or the in deep middle. Fortunately, the Denver defense has struggled all season long to defend these portions of the field.
So far in the season, Denver has allowed 237 completions for 2,596 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in the short field and in the deep middle. The high turnover rate could be a worry if you’re starting Driskel for some reason, but that won’t negatively impact Green. As far as his production is concerned, an interception is really no different than an incompletion. The Broncos are prone to giving up receptions, yards, and touchdowns in these portions of the field. Green is more than capable of capitalizing on this matchup, and Driskel should be able to find him consistently.
Last Word on A.J. Green
Green, normally one of the safest bets in fantasy football, is not without risk in Week 13. The Bengals wide receiver is coming off an injury which cost him multiple games and will be catching passes from a new quarterback against the Broncos. These serious concerns have left fantasy owners wondering what to do with their star wideout as the fantasy football playoffs begin.
Fortunately, Green should continue to be his regular self when he gets back. The Bengals are essentially out of playoff contention, so there’s no reason to play Green. Yes, they’re technically alive, but they’re lying to themselves if they think this team is capable of making a playoff push. A.J. Green would not be playing if there was a serious risk of re-injury, simply because there’s nothing left to play for. It’s safe to expect him at or near full strength leading into the game.
Additionally, Jeff Driskel should be able to get the ball to Green. Driskel struggles to push the ball to the deep sideline and can be effective when throwing short or deep over the middle. This aligns with how Green has received the grand majority of his targets and yards. Driskel is certainly a step down from Dalton, but Green should be able to produce regardless.
Lastly, Denver’s defense struggles to stop these types of passes. They allow completions, yards, and touchdowns on a frequent basis to these portions of the field, which is great news for Green. He’s healthy, he’s a dominant receiver going against a favorable matchup, and Driskel should be competent enough to get him the ball. Unless you’re absolutely stacked at the wide receiver position, make sure to put Green in your lineup.
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