Andy Dalton had about the worst start possible to the 2017 season, throwing four interceptions in the first two games as the Cincinnati Bengals slumped to an 0-2 start. He’s been better since then, tossing seven touchdowns to just two picks in the past three games before the Bengals entered their bye in Week 6.
Dalton is coming off another strong performance, throwing for 328 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-36 passing in a Week 5 win over the Buffalo Bills. He continues to lean on A.J. Green as his favorite target, which is a winning formula as long as Green stays healthy.
Fantasy impact: Dalton is never going to have a consistent fantasy ceiling, which makes him a hard sell as an every-week starter. That said, owners missing Aaron Rodgers and going through the bye weeks could find him useful as a crunch-time streamer.
Dalton doesn’t have a desirable matchup this week, though, with the Pittsburgh Steelers giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Dalton is more of a QB2 against an underrated Steelers defense.
Finding a franchise quarterback in the NFL is not easy. For some teams, decades of trying to find the right signal caller can lead a front office into making desperate decisions. Enter the Cincinnati Bengals. After several failed attempts that included names like David Klingler, Jeff Blake, Akili Smith, Jon Kitna and a valiant effort from Carson Palmer, the franchise opted to settle. Enter Andy Dalton.
Through 98 regular season games, Dalton has recorded a total of 58 wins, 38 losses and 2 ties since joining Cincinnati in 2011 and an overall quarterback rating of 89.0. Rather pedestrian numbers when you consider 10 of those wins came against the Cleveland Browns.
So synonymous has Dalton become with the notion of average, a rating concept for quarterbacks was born known as the Dalton Line. If your quarterback is ranked lower than Dalton, the bare minimum of acceptability, it is time to find a new one.
Unfortunately for Bengals fans, Dalton has been far from average when facing Pittsburgh, he has played well below the Dalton Line. Of all the teams in the league, none have beaten him more often than the Steelers, with Dalton winning just three of the 12 games he has appeared in. Discounting the teams he has played a mere handful of times, only the Baltimore Ravens have forced a lower average quarterback rating from Dalton than Pittsburgh.
In those 12 games, only once has Dalton eclipsed his career average quarterback rating. In 2014, he had a performance worthy of a 128.8 rating, but the Bengals still lost 42-21. That game was very much the anomaly and Dalton has recorded five games against the Steelers when his rating did not exceed 65.0.
Dalton has almost matched his touchdowns passes to interception ratio when playing the Steelers at 13 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Almost good enough for one of each a game and far outside his career ratios based on totals of 149 touchdowns to 87 interceptions. An average of 6.34 yards per pass attempt (YPA) versus Pittsburgh is beaten only by Houston Texans among teams that have played Dalton more than three times.
Even though he has been dominated by Pittsburgh throughout his career, Dalton sees no more significance in a Steelers matchup than any other game he plays in a season.
Perhaps his lackadaisical attitude is to blame in part for his poor efforts in these contest, but in fairness, his lack of talent is more likely the root cause. Despite his terrible record in the AFC North, victories over the Browns aside, the Bengals opted to extend Dalton’s contract through the 2020 season, a sign the front office is prepared to settle at the position for a while longer. Steelers fans can only hope Dalton will see a third contract in Cincinnati.