We’re accustomed to seeing the Super Bowl champs take the field for the TNF opener, but this year we’ll get something different. The Patriots will host banner night against the Steelers on SNF, giving us a matchup filled with big fantasy names. The Patriots have dropped down to 5.5-point favorites in this one, with a total set at 49.5 points.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices
SUNDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN SPOTLIGHT
New England Patriots
Tom Brady ($10,200) and the Patriots offense had a rough showing in Pittsburgh last season in Week 15, scoring just 10 points and losing the game after failing to convert four times in the red zone. New England got over it, though, as the 17-10 loss was their last in a season that ended with a Super Bowl victory. I actually think this game will see more defense than expected, and the Patriots D/ST ($4,400) to be a strong unit all season. I expect New England to focus more on the run this season, but Brady’s the more solid of the two QB plays in my mind.
When it comes to TB12’s targets, Julian Edelman ($9,600) is by far the safest and also the priciest. However, he and Phillip Dorsett ($3,800) are the only two Patriots WRs I’m looking at targeting here. Edelman averaged 19 DKFP last season, finished the postseason on a hot streak (and with a SB MVP trophy) and just comes with such a safe floor — fewer than 12 DKFP in only one game. He had one of his worst games of the season against the Steelers, but in a game this offensively struggled, he still wound up with a 7-90-0 line on 11 targets for 16 DKFP. If you need value, I think paying down for Dorsett makes sense. Brady has proven he trusts him, and found him for touchdowns in three of the final four games last season.
Josh Gordon ($7,400) and Demaryius Thomas ($4,600) had very strong showings in Week 4 of the preseason. Let’s remember that means those games came against the Giants’ backups. Gordon still has to get all the way back into football shape, and is overpriced given his inconsistent role. That could mean a larger role for Thomas early, who I’d be more comfortable playing in this one. I’d still prefer to fade DT, though, as new WR tend to take time to gel with Brady.
Jakobi Meyers ($4,200) is an interesting name, but another fade for me. He was spectacular in the preseason, and should carve out a solid role in this offense as the season progresses. But all those big numbers Meyers put up in the preseason came from other QBs — Brady actually had a lot of difficulty connecting with Meyers. I think this is another relationship we need to watch play out before investing in it.
As for the TE position, Rob Gronkowski (retired) and Ben Watson (suspended) aren’t options, which leaves a questionable Matt LaCosse ($2,800), who’s dealing with an ankle injury. If he plays, you can consider him a contrarian value play in tournaments.
Along with Edelman, Sony Michel ($8,000) is my favorite play on the Patriots. New England’s committed to the run this year, and showed in preseason that they don’t mind consistently handing it to Michel to hammer the rock. The Pats showed complete trust in Michel as a rookie during their Super Bowl run, and it should result in a monster second season. Damien Harris ($2,600) should spell Michel as the backup, but we’ll see how many snaps/touches that actually results in. If Michel were to get hurt, Harris would become a huge fantasy name. But until we get some clarity on how the workload will be split, Harris is nothing more than a punt play.
James White ($6,600) is also a very strong play, and likely will see more chances as a trusted pass-catcher than as a rusher. In his 19 games last season, including the playoffs, White brough in 107-of-150 targets. White’s upside on receptions alone makes him valuable.
Rex Burkhead ($3,000) is pretty much off the fantasy radar at this point.
While Antonio Brown losing his mind is making all the headlines, Ben Roethlisberger ($10,600) did lose one of the top WRs in football and we haven’t counted that against his fantasy value all that much. JuJu Smith-Schuster ($11,000) will keep this passing game moving, but there’s no way I can trust Big Ben in a tough road environment, especially higher priced than Brady.
JuJu is the better target to spend up on, somehow managing a monster target share with AB in the lineup last season. As the unquestioned WR1 now, JuJu is in position to see about 15 targets. The upside is obvious.
Donte Moncrief ($6,200) and James Washington ($5,000) have pretty similar fantasy value this season. Washington’s cheaper and has bigger play upside, so I’d lean toward rostering him over Moncrief. Washington also has some familiarity with Ben, which counts for something. Moncrief may be the more intriguing tournament play, though. He’s a talented WR, and this is a nice fresh start for him as a starter. Ryan Switzer ($4,000) is the only other WR to consider, but with Dorsett so cheap on the Pats’ side, and Washington just $1,000 more on the Steelers’ side, I’m not considering him in my player pool.
Vance McDonald ($6,000) is a solid option, but maybe more of a cash play given his track record. He averaged 9.1 DKFP last season, but only scored in double-digits five times. Only once did he really breakout for over 15 DKFP, so his ceiling’s limited. I’d prefer to pay for a WR or a pass-catching RB like White.
James Conner ($10,800) is a different story, as he should be in line for a huge role in this game. Connor brings a monster ceiling, scoring over 30 DKFP on five separate occasions last year. On pure workload, Connor also brings a safe floor into this matchup.
The only thing not to like about Connor has nothing to do with his own play, it’s just how good his backup is — Jaylen Samuels ($4,800). Samuels may be able to co-exist with Connor in different roles — in a Week 17 game the Steelers went all out to win, Samuels only carried twice, but brought in 7-of-8 targets for 40 yards. Pittsburgh wants to use this guy in the passing game, meaning we can roster him even when Connor is a full go. With Conner out of the lineup, Samuels also gashed the Pats for a big game in Week 15 — 19-142-0 on the ground, and caught both of his targets (22.2 DKFP).
Final Score: New England 24, Pittsburgh 17
I expect this to be a tough battle for both teams, and the defenses to both play better than expected, which gives me a lean on the under. In the end, I feel the Pats figure out a way to prevail at home on banner night, especially since the Chiefs embarrassed them the last time they were in this situation two years ago.
I’m looking to go mid-priced Captain play so that I can afford to roster a couple studs, which leaves me on James White CP ($9,900). His role in the passing game gives him a safe floor, and his upside for a touchdown and some additional carries helps his ceiling.
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