This article is part of our DFS NFL series.
It was another busy week in the NFL, with waiver wire stashes paying off in season-long leagues (Christian Watson and Rachaad White to name a few) and key value opening due to injury in the DFS context. Getting the running back values right was a key part of cashing on Sunday's main slate, but now it's time to shift our focus to the Showdown contest in the Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and Colts.
It's a matchup of subpar offenses and slightly above-average defenses, which certainly leads to the suggestion that it will be low scoring. Sportsbooks agree, as the total has landed between 39 and 39.5 points. As the home team, the Colts are slight favorites, generally at 2.5 points. That gives us an implied team total of about 21 for Indianapolis and 19.5 for Pittsburgh. The positive news is that the offenses are relatively concentrated, so production is likely to flow through a few key players on each side of the ball.
It's yet another week with an uninspiring choice at quarterback. Kenny Pickett ($9,800 DK, $15,000 FD) is priced slightly higher on both sites, so we'll start with him. From just about every angle, he's had a poor rookie season. He's averaged only 6.0 yards per attempt, has a 1.3 TD percent and a 3.4 INT percent. That's not exactly the recipe for fantasy success. The case for him is that when needed, the Steelers haven't been shy about the offense going pass heavy. Since Week 7 when Pickett took over as the full-time starter, he's reached 30 pass attempts three times. This game should be competitive and low-scoring, in which case the Steelers could opt to ride Najee Harris. On the other hand, the Colts are something of a pass-funnel defense. All together, I'd have a hard time choosing to build around Pickett.
Matt Ryan ($9,600 DK, $14,500 FD) checks in a bit cheaper, but not to a notable degree. Since returning as the Colts' starter, he's completed a high percentage of his passes. That hasn't led to fantasy success, as he has 222 and 213 passing yards in those two games and two total touchdowns. The Steelers are a definite pass-funnel defense, but it's hard to see the Colts turning away from Jonathan Taylor as the focal point of the offense. I'm comfortable playing neither quarterback.
If forced to choose, I'd play Ryan for floor and Pickett for ceiling.
It won't come as a surprise to learn that Jonathan Taylor ($11,400 DK, $16,500 FD) is the most expensive player on both sites. For those fading the quarterbacks, price won't be a deterrent. For those rostering a quarterback, there are enough punt plays to allow rostering Taylor. His form also shouldn't push us away from playing him. Since Ryan has taken back over as quarterback, Taylor has 44 rush attempts and six targets across two games. With that opportunity, he's racked up a combined 257 total yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers were gouged by Samaje Perine, but have otherwise been fairly stout against running backs. On the other hand, Taylor is pretty clearly the most talented player in the game and is a very safe, comfortable play. He'll be highly rostered.
A lot was made of Jaylen Warren challenging Najee Harris ($9,400 DK, $13,500 FD) for the lead-back role in Pittsburgh, but that didn't come to fruition and now Warren has been ruled out of Monday's game due to a hamstring issue. Harris has come alive a bit lately, but he still has only one rush of more than 20 yards this season. He has seen at least six targets in two of his last three games, which is a significant boost on DK and an advantage he has over Taylor. The Colts have a stout run defense and have allowed only one 100-yard rusher this season — Derrick Henry. The case for Harris is based around volume and a competitive game, but one in which the Steelers can effectively move the ball.
Both of these backs are workhorses, which means that backups typically won't have a ton of value. Deon Jackson ($5,000 DK, $7,500 FD) has a pass-catching role that would make him interesting on DK, but his price is not forgiving. While a more palatable price on FD, his role does not fit the scoring system well.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Michael Pittman ($10,200 DK, $13,000 FD) is the highest-priced receiver on either team, so let's begin in Indianapolis. His value was revived with the return of Ryan under center, as he's racked up 16 combined targets the last two games. His strength as a play varies by site. On DK, he's a good volume option as he's very likely to lead the Colts in targets, receptions and yards. However, he has only one touchdown, which came in Week 1, and he has only six catches of 20 or more yards on the season. FD rewards touchdowns and big plays over volume, so Pittman flips to a relatively poor value there. We can almost copy and paste exactly the conversation about Pittman and use it to describe Parris Campbell ($6,800 DK, $10,500 FD), but he comes at a much lower price on both sites. For that reason alone, I'd play Campbell over Pittman on either site because their roles and production have been nearly identical with Ryan back in the mix. On the surface, it appears that Alec Pierce ($5,200 DK, $9,500 FD) has little rile in the offense, as he has 51 receiving yards combined across his last games. However, he saw eight targets in a tough matchup against the Eagles in Week 11. Pierce is reliant upon big plays and touchdowns to score, which is more conducive to the scoring system of FD. It's a bit of narrative, but he profiles (at least somewhat) similarly to the types of receivers that have done damage against the Steelers in recent weeks, which include: Tee Higgins, Juwan Johnson and A.J. Brown. Pierce isn't near the same talent level as Higgins or Brown, but his style of play could cause issues for Pittsburgh.
As for the Pittsburgh receiving corps, it's a fairly straightforward breakdown. The primary difference is that George Pickens ($7,400 DK, $11,500 FD) is now more expensive than Diontae Johnson ($7,600 DK, $11,500) by the narrowest of margins on FD. Pickens is coming off an 83-yard performance, while Johnson hasn't surpassed that mark since Week 3. There's something of a case to be made for Johnson on platforms that are PPR scoring (DK), but Pickens has matched Johnson's target total across the last two weeks and has quickly proven to be the more explosive of the two receivers. Pickens is the obvious choice on FD and is also slightly preferable on DK. Pat Freiermuth ($6,400 DK, $10,000 FD) is the third piece of the Steelers' pass-catching corps, but it may be a mistake to frame it that way. As opposed to the 10 targets for Johnson and Pickens in the last two weeks, Freiermuth has seen 19. His efficiency is more inconsistent, but he showed some big-play ability in Week 11 against the Bengals. The Colts are a relatively tough matchup against tight ends but are generally easier to attack through the air than on the ground. In other words, if the Steelers attack the Colts' defense as the numbers suggest they should, matchup shouldn't be a deterrent to playing Freiermuth. He is a sneaky captain option (particularly on DK) for those who want to move away from the likely popular choices of Taylor or Pickens. Even if that's a bit too risky, Freiermuth is a pretty easy choice to include on rosters on either site.
With some digging, there are intriguing peripheral pass catchers on each team. For the Colts, Ashton Dulin ($400 DK, $5,500 FD) is worth making note of. He hasn't been targeted in two games since returning from a foot injury, but he performed well early in the season. Even a couple of catches will be worthwhile at his price point as he is almost the minimum price on each site. Kylen Granson ($4,800 DK, $6,500 FD) was carving out a decent role in the offense but is doubtful for this game. If he's surprisingly active, he's particularly intriguing on FD. If Granson is out as assumed, Mo Alie-Cox ($3,600 DK, $6,000 FD) would presumably step into the top tight end role on the depth chart — at least in name. Jelani Woods ($1,400 DK, $5,500 FD) has been out since Week 9, but he looks to be in line for a return. If that occurs and Granson is out, Woods is another punt play worth considering. Woods saw multiple targets in two of his last three games prior to suffering the injury. Like Dulin, a few catches would likely do enough for him to return value. There's one option that stands out in Pittsburgh. Steven Sims ($200 DK, $7,500 FD) and Gunner Olszewski ($200 DK, $6,500 FD) have split the third wide receiver role, but Olszewski saw his target and snap rate increase in Week 11. He'd be my choice of the duo and is my favorite minimum-priced player on DK. I'd prefer Woods on FD for potential touchdown opportunity. Finally, Zach Gentry ($2,200 DK, $5,500 FD) has reached 40 yards twice this season, but those performances are from Weeks 1 and 3.
Chase McLaughlin ($4,200 DK, $8,500 FD) is the higher priced of the two kickers on DK, which makes sense as the favored team. He's missed a field goal in each of his last three games, though he has 11, nine and 12 points in three of his last four performances. In a dome, we should expect more range and presumably more accuracy, but that hasn't necessarily occurred.
Matthew Wright ($4,000 DK, $8,500 FD) has taken over for the injured Chris Boswell in Pittsburgh. He has attempted multiple field goals in each of his four games this season and tallied 12, eight, eight and 13 points.
Once again, as the home favorite, the Colts ($4,600 DK, $9,000 FD) are slightly more expensive. The Colts have an above 7.8 percent sack rate on the season and that increases to an 8.8 percent clip at home. The Steelers have allowed an 11.1 percent sack rate across their last three games, so the pass rush could definitely get to Pickett. On the other hand, the defensive unit has only 0.4 interceptions per game. Overall, that sets us up for a decent floor performance, though asking for a defensive touchdown is unlikely relative to expectation.
The Steelers' ($4,400 DK, $9,000 FD) defense was hyped up entering its Week 11 matchup against Cincinnati with T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick together for the first time since Week 1. They performed well through the first two quarters and change but were ultimately run out of Acrisure Stadium. The Colts don't have anything coming close to the offensive firepower of the Bengals, and Matt Ryan has a 7.5 percent sack rate.
As the home favorite, I'd slightly prefer the Colts. Both teams have a decent floor and there are paths to a ceiling performance.