DFS NFL: Week 18 Saturday Breakdown

DFS NFL: Week 18 Saturday Breakdown

This article is part of our DFS NFL series.

Week 18's two-game Saturday slate isn't a barn burner, but at least both games should play with some semblance of competitiveness, with Houston and Indianapolis battling for the AFC South title while the Steelers fight tooth and nail against the Ravens for one of the final playoff spots in the AFC. The Ravens do not intend to play starters much at all, but their divisional hatred should keep the them playing through the whistle at the very least.

The games:

Baltimore (+3.5) vs. Pittsburgh, 35.5 O/U
Indianapolis (+1.5) vs. Houston, 47.5 O/U

QUARTERBACK

As you can tell from the over/unders, more of the fantasy production is expected to occur in the AFC South showdown. C.J. Stroud ($7300 DK, $8300 FD) in particular is a tough fade on a slate with no other seeming sure things at quarterback, and it's hard to complain about that game playing in a dome, even if it's on the road. If Stroud isn't your preference you might want to consider Gardner Minshew ($5900 DK, $7100 FD) in the same game, though the Colts are more run dependent than the Texans. The Houston defensive line is beat up and the pass rush should be a little late to Minshew, or later than usual at least.

Mason Rudolph ($5400 DK, $6800 FD) against the Ravens backups is an interesting question, even with the low over/under from that game. You'd normally cross off Rudolph as an option against Baltimore on the road, but wideouts like George Pickens and Diontae Johnson running against backups could be a much easier version of the game. Then again, even if the Steelers are moving the ball, they'd probably like to run often in order to get out as quickly as possible. In the same game Tyler Huntley ($5700 DK, $6700 FD) has theoretical upside as a rushing starting quarterback, it just isn't clear how much help he'll have or how many snaps he might lose to Malik Cunningham.

RUNNING BACK

Jonathan Taylor ($7400 DK, $9200 FD) doesn't have an easy matchup against a Houston run defense that did very well in 2023, but the shortage of standout alternatives still makes it easy to justify paying up for Taylor. Taylor has more rest than he normally would at this time of the year and the Houston defensive line is dealing with extensive injuries, so the matchup might be better than it appears at a glance. If Zack Moss (arm) can't play then Trey Sermon appears to be the first runner off the bench, with Tyler Goodson following.

Even if you pick Taylor you might want to consider Devin Singletary ($6000 DK, $6500 FD), because Dameon Pierce is firmly in the rearview mirror and Singletary has taken up big workloads in recent games, seeing 61 carries and 14 targets in the last four weeks. The Indianapolis run defense isn't friendly, but they've been worse this year than some number of years.

Najee Harris ($5600 DK, $7500 FD) and Jaylen Warren ($5400 DK, $6000 FD) are both interesting options at running back, as the Steelers should call on both in a presumed winning script against the Ravens backups. The Ravens will still play hard and are well coached, but the Steelers still have more reason to care and will for once have a talent advantage over the defense they're facing.

Melvin Gordon ($4800 DK, $5400 FD) might not project for good efficiency against Pittsburgh, but he could be a cheap source of snaps and touches since the Ravens aren't expected to let Gus Edwards or Justice Hill play much, if at all.
 

WIDE RECEIVER

Nico Collins ($7600 DK, $8000 FD) is the top-ranked wideout on the slate and one who could see an almost excessive target share with the Texans seemingly down to just him, Xavier Hutchinson ($3000 DK, $4800 FD), John Metchie ($3000 DK, $5000 FD) and maybe Robert Woods ($3800 DK, $5300 FD) at receiver (Woods is questionable after missing practice all week with a hip issue). It almost raises the concern that Collins might see too much defensive attention, but the Texans are favored in most part because their quarterback is so easily the best on the slate. If Stroud goes, Collins goes. Maybe Stroud doesn't go, but that's the only way Collins gets grounded against this weak Colts corner rotation. Great as Shane Steichen might be for the Colts, it's still Gus Bradley running that defense. Advantage Texans. Among the practice squad guys Steven Sims is the one with the best prospect profile, followed by Alex Bachman, Johnny Johnson and Chase Cota, but it's not clear if any will be called up by Houston.

If not Collins then Michael Pittman ($7500 DK, $7700 FD) has to be the best candidate to lead the slate in targets. The Houston corner rotation is strong but the pass rush is depleted, meaning Pittman might have an extra beat to get open. Josh Downs ($5200 DK, $5800 FD) is almost always the second-leading target for Indianapolis, even in games where downfield decoy Alec Pierce ($4300 DK, $5500 FD) plays more snaps. The returns for both players have been up and down at best, though they can probably make the good excuse that quarterback play has held them back.

George Pickens ($5600 DK, $7500 FD) and Diontae Johnson ($5100 DK, $6700 FD) are both interesting prospects as they mostly face Baltimore's backups, in a game where Baltimore will probably use a fairly vanilla game plan so as to not put too many tricks on tape for their eventual playoff opponent. Pickens is a loud talent and Johnson is of course quite good himself, so substantial opportunity and efficiency could be on the table for one or both players, and there's no need to pair them with Rudolph (though you certainly could).

The Ravens wideouts aren't so easy to mine for production. Huntley and Cunningham are both rushing specialist quarterbacks and might not give many target opportunities to anyone. Among the backup Ravens wideouts Tylan Wallace, though he's questionable with a knee issue. Laquon Treadwell is probably your primary option otherwise for Baltimore.

TIGHT END

Unless the Ravens give Isaiah Likely ($4800 DK, $6400 FD) a starter-like snap count then the top tight end in terms of routes run on this slate will almost certainly be Dalton Schultz ($4200 DK, $5800 FD), whose target volume could benefit from the Houston injuries at wide receiver. Schultz had a touchdown poached last week by backup Brevin Jordan ($2500 DK, $4600 FD), but Jordan only ran 10 routes to Schultz's 21. Jordan is still a fine punt pick with the Texans running a two-tight end offense in light of their injuries at receiver.

Pat Freiermuth ($3600 DK, $5000 FD) might be the best tight end projection on the slate aside from Schultz. Freiermuth is a very good player who has been held back by circumstances, but against Baltimore's backups it's possible that Freiermuth could for once play on a fair difficulty level.

It's tough to identify a clear option among the Colts tight ends, both because they lack talent and because they rotate heavily. Mo Alie-Cox ($2500 DK, $4500 FD) is their best one but he often gets stuck with blocking, leaving Kylen Granson ($2900 DK, $4800 FD) as their primary route runner despite years of poor results. Granson does have three games with 60 or more receiving yards in 2023, though.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

The Steelers ($3100 DK, $4700 FD) and their pass rush in particular are a frightening matchup for any crew of backups, though even if they're dominant Saturday it's worth remembering the Steelers are facing a very run-heavy offense. Not allowing points is great, but sacks and turnovers are where the points are at for fantasy purposes, and quarterback rush attempts can't result in sacks or interceptions. Turnovers are still very much on the table for the Steelers, but they might need to score quickly on offense to get Baltimore throwing more.

Baltimore ($3300 DK, $4000 FD) might field a formidable defense even with its backups, and Mason Rudolph remains a dubious quarterback at best. Plus, offenses almost always get worse when they travel to Baltimore, so these backups might have something of a stat boost from the venue.

You might want to pick from one of the Steelers or Ravens defenses, if only because the scoring projection is safely higher in the case of the Indianapolis Colts ($2900 DK, $3800 FD) and Houston Texans ($3000 DK, $3500 FD). Houston's defense might have been the pick of the slate, but with pass rushers Jonathan Greenard (out) and Will Anderson (questionable) injured the Houston pass rush might not look like itself.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Mario Puig plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: rotwireyasiel, FanDuel: rotowireyasiel, FantasyDraft: rwyasiel, DRAFT: rwyasiel.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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