As per league rules, the Dolphins had to appear in at least one primetime game this season. Tonight is that night. Honestly, I can tell you all from experience that watching every single snap of a contest involving this team doesn’t have to be as awful as you might expect. Ryan Fitzpatrick ($8,400) can be fun sometimes and he has a really swell beard. The retro uniforms Miami will be wearing this evening are among the best in all of football. Plus, there’s a chance you might see something you’ve never seen before. Onside kick returned for a touchdown? Sure. Why not? You could also simply play a bunch of Showdown lineups on DraftKings and make things interesting from a financial perspective. In any case, just be happy this is likely the only time you’ll have to endure the Dolphins for the rest of the year.
It’s Miami. It’s Pittsburgh. Let’s break it all down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
Pittsburgh SteelersThough it’s not how we’d usually start, I think discussing the merits of Steelers D/ST ($8,000) is crucial to the rest of this slate. This is easily the most expensive we’ve seen a defense on Monday Night Football so far this season, but that fact does not come without good reason. Things have improved slightly for the Dolphins since the team benched Josh Rosen ($6,600) late in their Week 6 matchup with Washington; however, the team still ranks second-from-the-bottom in both points scored per drive (0.98) and turnovers per drive (.188). That’s pretty much the DFS equivalent of sending up the Bat Signal for a defense’s viability. Yet, if you’re still not sold, may I point you towards this evening’s matchup in the trenches. Miami possesses one of three offensive lines surrendering an adjusted sack rate of over 10% in 2019. Even in the most optimistic view, its a young and inexperienced collection of players and one that will be missing center and captain Daniel Kilgore for the second-straight week. Conversely, the Steelers own the AFC’s best adjusted sack rate and their 20 raw sacks sat as the fifth-most in the entire NFL entering play in Week 8. Using your Captain’s Pick on a D/ST has become a staple of recent Showdown contests, with matchups like Patriots-Jets and Vikings-Redskins immediately coming to mind. I don’t see any evidence as to why that won’t be the first step in a successful build once again.
James Conner ($13,400) is another salary-based quirk. It’s a little jarring to see a player separated by more than $2,000 from every other person on this slate, but, as you’ll probably believe, the logic in this pricing bares out in the stats. The Dolphins have conceded more points per week to opposing running backs than any other team in football. They’ve allowed a league-worst 5.17 adjusted line yards per carry, they’ve stopped the fewest number of opponent rushing attempts for zero or negative yards, and the 160.8 rushing yards per contest they’ve surrendered at the most of any AFC team. There’s not a lot more you could ask for in a matchup, though you’d be right to want more out of Conner. The third-year back remained highly productive from an overall fantasy perspective, with his touchdown expectancy and pass catching volume equating to an elite 1.03 PPR fantasy points per touch; however he’s been nowhere as efficient or involved as he was last season. Heck, Conner’s yet to rush for over 55 yards in a single game and, despite Jaylen Samuels’ ($4,400) absence, the 24-year-old was limited to a mere 29 snaps against the Chargers. Still, considering Pittsburgh targeted its RBs on a NFL-high 32% rate from Week 3 to 6 and that Miami’s giving up a league-worst 9.5 yards per opponent attempt to the position, Conner’s obviously viable. It’s just about recognizing that Samuels, who practiced in full all week, is an equally tempting asset if he’s officially ruled active.
Finally, we get to Mason Rudolph ($10,800). It’s impossible to have a “bad” matchup when you’re playing the Dolphins, but it’s vital to understand which players are truly in the most ideal situations to thrive. To put in bluntly, Rudolph doesn’t have overly appealing advanced stats. He possesses the third-lowest aDOT of any quarterback to see at least 25% of his team’s offensive snaps (6.7 yards), a 7.4% touchdown rate screams regression, and he’s averaging a pitiful 2.5 air yards per throw. Again, it’s always on the table to have an outlier performance versus a squad that’s actively trying to lose, yet, if anything, Miami induces lowered volume for QBs. When you’re constantly trailing by multiple scores, teams tend to take their foot off the gas, as seen in the Dolphins’ league-low 46.2% opponent pass ratio.
So, with limited pass attempts and an addiction to check-downs, finding Steelers’ wide receivers to trust is a difficult process. James Washington ($3,800) is the toughest sell as the team’s deep threat, as his massive 15.2-yard aDOT does not align with Rudolph’s preferred areas to attack. In fact, just 13 of Rudolph’s 94 throws in his rookie campaign have been over 15 yards, with the pivot connecting on a minimal four of those opportunities. Really, Diontae Johnson’s ($7,800) been the main beneficiary of Rudolph being under center, as the duo of third-round picks have seemingly developed a chemistry. In Rudolph’s three starts, Johnson’s been targeted a team-high 20 times, while JuJu Smith-Schuster ($10,600) has seen only 18 passes directed towards him. It might not seem like a huge difference, but, with Smith-Schuster’s salary up over $10K, its something to note.
Miami DolphinsWell, if we’re trying to be positive about Miami, the team does keep narrowing its player pool for us. So that’s nice. Coming into Week 8 it appeared that the Dolphins would be working with an underwhelming three-man committee approach at running back; however, with the reported trade of Kenyan Drake to Arizona, we’re now left with only Mark Walton ($6,000) and Kalen Ballage ($1,600) on the depth chart. In general, it’s unwise to expect too much from RBs on a two-touchdown underdog, and I wouldn’t suggest that tonight’s contest will stray far from conventional wisdom like that. Pittsburgh’s been stout against the run all season long, yet, in its last three games specifically, it’s allowed a microscopic 3.3 yards per opponent rush. That certainly limits the upside of Walton, who, even with Drake in town, had seemingly usurped the Alabama product as Miami’s lead-back. So, despite Walton playing more than half the Dolphins’ offensive snaps last week and his capability as a pass catcher, it’s Ballage that I’m intrigued by. He might literally be scared of the football, but the second-year pro has clearly established himself as Miami’s goal line RB. Though he’s only seen the field for nine offensive snaps the past two weeks, he’s scored both rushing touchdowns registered by Dolphins’ running backs. His role simply has to expand with Drake shipped out and, at the end of the day, I’d just rather spend less than $2K on a fantasy asset in a bad matchup than $6K on a slightly better fantasy asset in a bad matchup.
Editor’s Note: Walton, not Ballage will start in tonight’s game.
Aside from its questionable backfield options, the few viable pieces of Miami’s offense will revolve around Fitzpatrick. Last Sunday, the veteran somehow scored the most DKFP (21.6) and threw for the most yards (282) of any pivot who’s faced the Bills all season long. Chalk that up to the unpredictability of “Fitzmagic” or a revenge game if you must, yet the fact of the matter is Fitzpatrick fits the archetype of a player you’d like to use to bring back a massive Steelers stack. He’s a gunslinger. He’s always willing to chuck the ball deep – something that could both help his own fantasy prospects and those of Steelers D/ST. He’s also flanked by two decent options at wide receiver in DeVante Parker ($7,200) and Preston Williams ($6,200). However, despite the former currently being in the midst of a three-game touchdown streak, I’d like to focus my attention on the latter. Williams has seen a team-high 33 targets dating back to the beginning of Week 3. That’s a very respectable 8.3 per contest. Because of that high volume, Williams entered Week 8 with the 18th-most air yards of any wideout within that span of time, even though the Dolphins had their bye week scheduled in that stretch. Additionally, he leads Miami with seven red zone targets, three more than Parker. He’s due for some touchdown regression and, if you’re looking for a mini-stack with Fitzpatrick, Williams would be my weapon of choice.
Other than those few gentlemen, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some DFS viability. Fitzpatrick has shown a willingness to pepper his slot receiver with targets throughout the past decade, but Albert Wilson’s ($2,000) snaps have been sporadic with the diminutive WR still working his way back to full health. The same sentiment rings true for big-play threat Jakeem Grant ($800), who saw just seven snaps last weekend versus Buffalo. Maybe you could take a flyer on Mike Gesicki ($3,600), banking that the recent connection he seems to have with Fitzpatrick is real, yet there’s no real point in taking chances on a group of players with indescribably low floors.
THE OUTCOMEAs always in these lopsided scripts, the intention is to stuff as many Pittsburgh pieces as possible into a single lineup. To do that, you need to be somewhat frugal in selecting a Captain’s Pick. Steelers D/ST ($12,000 CP) will likely be a popular play, but I have little qualms with eating that chalk. However, if you do want to stray off the beaten path, taking a chance with Jaylen Samuels ($6,600 CP) could be a high-upside way to differentiate your lineups. Heck, if you’re feeling bolder than that, Ryan Fitzpatrick ($12,600 CP) isn’t out of the realm of possibility, either.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 31, Miami 14
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) 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.