Monday Night Showdown – Steelers Browns – DFS Strategy & Picks – Week 15 Concludes

The Steelers better be on their A Game tonight because the way that the Ravens and the Browns played this weekend – nothing is going to be a gimme in the AFC North. Thankfully the Steelers have what should be a “Get Right” game on tap tonight after back to back losses. We shall see, but we will also be ready to reap the rewards of fantasy points in our DFS Lineups, so let’s get right into the game!

My Captain/MVP Picks

Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben is far and away projected to be the highest owned player on the slate as well as the highest projected scorer on the slate. Couple all of that with him being the highest priced player on the slate too. Unlike last night where the highest priced player was Nick Chubb and I believed he would be lower owned at Captain due to the salary, I actually think much of what is driving Ben’s ownership tonight is that he will likely be the most popular choice for Captain/MVP. Despite the Steelers’ most recent losses, if you look back to Week 10 against the Bengals, Ben was unstoppable. 333 Yards, 4 Touchdowns and no interceptions. That performance led to Ben’s highest fantasy point total of the season: 32.3 FPTs. However since that game and more specifically over the last 4 weeks, Ben has had his troubles. First he has had an interception in each of his last 4 games including 2 last week against the Bills. He also has thrown for over 300 yards once over the last few weeks. The plus side over the last month is that he has also thrown 7 touchdown passes. However, I want to point out that the Bengals come into this game now ranked 11th in the league against Quarterbacks. Granted that is largely due to a stretch where they faced Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daniel Jones and the returning Alex Smith, but still. Couple a Bengals defense that has probably had 4 weeks to prepare for a return match with Ben and Ben’s own struggles plus his enormous ownership tonight and his high Salary – and for me Ben isn’t a lock and load Captain on DK. On FD where salaries don’t matter as much, I am more apt to play him at MVP despite the ownership.

This would normally be where I would suggest a contrarian pivot off a very chalky and popular pick but tonight that will prove trickier than expected. Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Connor and Tyler Boyd are all projected at 40 – 60% ownership. I believe that the reason Johnson and Claypool are so high in ownership is due to stacking as they are the most popular plays to stack with Ben and likely Tyler Boyd is the most popular Bengal to run that stack back with.

Editors Note: James Connor has been ruled out tonight as of 3:45p. Benny Snell will start for the Steelers and Anthony MacFarland will be the primary backup with Jaylen Samuels having a role as a pass catching back.

So for me, if I am targeting a Steelers receiver at Captain instead of Ben, I am looking at the lowest owned of the bug three Ju Ju Smith-Schuster. Ju Ju is currently hovering in the 30% ownership range and that would make him enough of a pivot for me to play him at the top spot. Over the last 5 weeks Ju Ju has only failed to see 7 or more targets once and over that stretch he also has 4 touchdown passes. In week 10 against the Bengals, Ju Ju racked up 22.7 FPTs with 9 catches for 77 yards and a score. Don’t sleep on Ju Ju tonight.

I also don’t mind taking a shot on Chase Claypool who is the cheapest of the three Steelers’ receivers. I think the salary discount on Claypool is driving his near 50% ownership as his performances over the last 3 weeks certainly aren’t warranting that level of attention. But despite the recent drought in touchdowns, we know from watching the games that Claypool is a target for Ben in the Red Zone and he has proven he has multiple touchdown upside as well. So I don’t mind rolling the dice there.

Diontae Johnson looks to be the most popular to pair with Ben in a stack and is actually projected to be the second highest owned player on the slate becuSe of it. Johnson has the highest target share on this team – but what scares me are the Drops, of which he has had several over the last two weeks. For me if you are going to stack him with Ben, I would make sure you have another pass catcher with them and I would also use Ben at Captain and not Johnson. Drops are really.

With the news that James Connor will be out tonight I think Benny Snell will be a popular pick at Captain. The Bengals are giving up over 130 yards per game on the ground so there is a chance that Snell could deliver – but what I am worried about is how much the Steelers offense has been favoring the passing game over the run since the second half of the season began. They are the most Pass friendly team in the league so I believe that Snell’s opportunities may be limited. Keep in mind that Connor’s ownership was pushing 40% tonight so I would expect that Snell’s will end up in the same range. For me if I am multi entering and was looking at a running back to start at Captain/MVP I may take a flyer on Anthony McFarland who even in limited opportunities last week showed some explosiveness. There is a chance that he is figured more into the mix tonight and I could also see if the Steelers have this game in control they give him a shot to see what they have. For what it’s worth I believe a lot of the Steelers Pass/Run disparity has come from the troubling running back situation with Connor out and in. We may see that alleviate itself if the Steelers get up big.

On the Bengals side I think Tyler Boyd will be the natural pick at Captain but seeing where his ownership is currently makes me want to stay away and pivot to taking a shit on Tee Higgins who is seeing about 30% ownership but much like what I mentioned on Ju Ju, that is just enough for me to consider going to Higgins as a pivot from Boyd. Higgins saw 9 targets and took them for 115 yards and a score in week 10 and if the Steelers double team Boyd, I could see Ryan Finley looking Higgins’ way on the outside.

If you really want to save some salary and go contrarian I also don’t mind taking a flyer on AJ Green believe it or not. Since Week 10, Green has been on a bit of a Renaissance seeing 5 or more targets in 3 of his last five and scoring 2 touchdowns in that span as well. Week 15 has already seen Larry Fitz and Dee a Bryant score touchdowns, what’s to say one more throwback could get in the end zone here too?!

I bet you are all saying – well what about Ryan Finley? If Finley was seeing no ownership, I would be all for it. But Finley is nearing 50% ownership which says to me that over half of the players in tournaments will have either Ben or Finley as Captain tonight. I immediately want to pivot. Especially because I am just not sure what we will get out of Ryan Finley tonight. His season high of 7 attempts and 40 yards isn’t enough for me to invest in him at Captain. I will use him I’m a flex but I prefer Higgins or Green as a contrarian Captain and Boyd, probably the best Bengal to play despite the heavy ownership.

Flex, Flex, Flex it up!

For me if you are stacking the Steelers I would try and build a 4 man including Ben with two of the “big 3” Wide Receivers plus either Tight End Eric Ebron or ever present third down ace James Robinson. I just don’t see the Steelers going away from their pass heavy game plan especially with Connor missing. The other way I would go is to use Ben a receiver and a running back with the Steelers Defense. Both of these stacking philosophies are if you believe the Steelers will roll. I think mixing Snell and McFarland into your player pool is a good idea. Snell should lead this backfield and you never know the Steelers could go run first – but I also think McFarland will see some action. And don’t forget Jayden Samuels who could see some third down work and if for some reason the Steelers fall behind, would be very prevalent as a pass catcher.

I am going to try and avoid Tyler Boyd as a a run back to my Steelers stack as I believe that will be an uber popular move. Instead I would consider stacking Finley with either Higgins, Green or Tight End Drew Sample. Just to be different.

Despite the Steelers being heavy favorites I could actually see a lineup with 2 Steelers and 4 Bengals being the optimal to cash assuming the Bengals will be playing catch up. In this case I think you need to include Finley and Boyd with Higgins or Green. You can look to Tight End Sample or I also don’t mind Gio Bernard in a stack like that since he will be getting the majority of snaps and he could break off a solid run, or a solid catch and run and certainly fall in the end zone if the Bengals can make it to the goal line. I also think a kicker Austin Siebert may be an important piece to your Bengals stack. The Bengals will want points any way they can and I could see Siebert having a busy night…

Using Ben as a run back with a pass catcher will be very popular so if I am building a Bengals stack I’m going a 5 man with Ben by himself. Finley, Boyd, Higgins or Green, Sample, Siebert and Ben. Just to be different.

And this is 2020 and anything can happen – so taking a shot on the Bengals defense on a lineup or two is not the craziest idea. I mean Ben has thrown 5 interceptions in 4 weeks and we do have back up running backs starting tonight. Anything can happen – Interceptions, Sacks, Fumbles included!

Good Luck in your Contests!

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