This one’s a big game in terms of the AFC playoff picture, as the 8-3 Chargers visit the 7-3-1 Steelers. It’s also a matchup between quarterbacks from that strong 2004 draft class in Ben Roethlisberger ($10,800) and Philip Rivers ($9,800). DraftKings Sportsbook has this one as both a close and high-scoring game, with Pittsburgh -3.5 and the over/under set at 51.5 points. This one should lead to some nice fantasy production.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices
THE PME ON CHARGERS VS. STEELERS
ADAM LEVITAN’S TARGET PROJECTION
JuJu Smith-Schuster, $15,600 Captain’s Pick, $10,400 Flex — The Steelers are scheming JuJu to the best matchups as he pulls neck-and-neck with Antonio Brown for lead dog duties in this wideout corps. He’s averaging 12 targets per day in games decided by 10 points or less this season.
Projection — 9 Targets
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Steelers have failed to cover the spread in seven of their past eight games as favorites against AFC opponents.
— The Chargers have covered the spread in six of their past eight Sunday games as underdogs.
— Ten of the Steelers’ past 11 games as home favorites have gone OVER the total points line.
— James Conner has scored at least one touchdown in each of the Steelers’ past three home games.
— Keenan Allen has scored a touchdown in each of the Chargers’ past three games.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
If the Chargers win…Right off the bat, win or lose for the Chargers, Rivers is severely underpriced on this slate. This is his cheapest Showdown salary of the season by $600 (at SEA), as his salary is down $1,800 since his past two games and a whopping $3,600 lower from his peak in salary. All this for a player who’s thrown either two or three touchdowns in every game this season (21.6 DKFP per game).
At WR we have Keenan Allen’s ($10,000) salary down $1,000 since last week, while also riding his best streak of the season. Over his past four contests, Allen’s scored no fewer than 17.7 DKFP, averaging 21.5 DKFP. He has nine targets per game during this span and a touchdown in three straight games.
Tyrell Williams ($6,400) is questionable with a quad injury, but even if he plays, we can fade him. Williams played just nine snaps against the Cardinals and failed to see a target before getting hurt. Mike Williams ($5,400) makes for a much stronger target as the WR2. With limited targets, Williams still has been a reliable red zone target for Rivers this season, pulling in seven touchdowns — two coming last week.
Now let’s talk value at WR — and I mean VALUE. Travis Benjamin ($200) — no, that isn’t a typo — stepped into the WR3 role and caught all three of his targets for 47 yards last week. Benjamin’s been an impactful player in the past, so he’s worth rostering for literally nothing. A catch without even including the yardage is 5x value for Benjamin. A touchdown catch without including any yardage is a laugh-out-loud 35x value. Way too much value here for a WR that got 44 snaps last week.
Tight end is the Steelers’ weak spot in terms of DKFP allowed, ranking just 22nd. I prefer Antonio Gates ($2,400) here given his familiarity with Rivers and playing in big games. He has a nice ceiling, giving us a 5-80-1 line for 19 DKFP just two weeks ago. Virgil Green ($800) would be the contrarian consideration, but Benjamin is the better punt play in my mind.
Melvin Gordon should be sidelined with a MCL sprain, leaving Austin Ekeler ($8,200) in charge of the backfield, but his price reflects that. Ekeler ran us just $4,000 on last week’s Showdown slate. He did manage 26.3 DKFP against Arizona, but Pittsburgh allows just the seventh-fewest DKFP to RBs. Given the workload we can expect here, Ekeler is worth playing if you’re building a game script that has the Chargers coming out victorious. It’s also worth mentioning Justin Jackson ($2,800), who took seven carries for 57 yards last week. That was likely a product of the blowout win over a poor Arizona rush defense, but he’s on the radar with Gordon out.
If the Steelers win…Forget the home/road narrative for Big Ben. He’s on a really strong stretch right now, even with three of his past four on the road — 25-plus DKFP in each of those games. However, it never hurts rostering Ben at home, averaging 27.4 DKFP in five games in Pittsburgh this year. The Chargers rank just 19th against QBs this season, so Roethlisberger makes a ton of sense to roster.
We know exactly where the damage through the air will be done when it comes to the Steelers. Antonio Brown ($11,000) and JuJu Smith-Schuster ($10,400) are arguably the top WR tandem in the NFL, both making for fantastic plays on this slate. While they’re the three most expensive players on the slate, we have the value to stack all three — the two WRs and Roethlisberger — if you feel they both go off. JuJu has been spectacular in his sophomore campaign, and he should be popular after a 13-189-1 line with more than 40 DKFP on 17 targets this past week. This could be a week to pivot to AB if you’re choosing just one Pittsburgh WR.
The Steelers don’t have a deep value play like the Chargers do in the passing game, but Ryan Switzer ($4,000) is a value consideration. He’s scored 5.1-plus DKFP in four straight, earning eight targets and seven touches for 71 yards last week for 13.1 DKFP.
Vance McDonald ($5,200) has been the Steelers’ higher-upside TE this season, surpassing 10 DKFP on five occasions. I prefer to pay a bit more for that upside rather than roster Jesse James ($4,400). James went off for 27.8 DKFP in Week 2, but hasn’t reached 8.0 DKFP since.
James Conner ($8,800) is a very interesting play on this slate. I think targeting the passing game will be more popular, but we get a big discount on Conner — down $2,000 in salary since last week and $3,600 from his peak. While Conner has failed to reach 15 DKFP in his past three games, we also know how high the ceiling is here — 32-plus DKFP in each of his four previous games. Conner makes for a good place to save salary on a stud.
THE OUTCOMEThe Chargers seems like a trendy pick here, but in the end I feel Pittsburgh can pull this one out at home. There should be offense along the way, though, leaving us with a nice Showdown slate. I’d fade the defenses with the way both QBs are playing and consider the kickers as value plays. But there are some extremely discounted offensive players with roles in their respective offenses that could leave the kickers off the board.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 30, Los Angeles 24
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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