Kickoff Monday, Sep 30th 8:15pm Eastern

Bengals (
21) at

Steelers (

Over/Under 45.0


Key Matchups
Bengals Run D
28th DVOA/31st Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
12th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Bengals Pass D
21st DVOA/32nd Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass
Steelers Run D
13th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Bengals Run O
22nd DVOA/27th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
7th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Bengals Pass O
14th DVOA/26th Yards per pass

>>>> More Showdown Cash Game thoughts added by Xandamere this week. If you’re still trying to turn this edge to your favor, some of the thoughts here will be really valuable. (Note: As this is part of the Mastering Showdowns course, it is available only to Annual subs. Apologies to the Weeklys out there!)

Showdown Slant ::

Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!

This game opened at 43.5 and has been bet up to 45 with the Steelers dropping from 4.5 to 3.5 point favorites (i.e., the money’s coming in on the Bengals). And it’s easy to see why, as the Bengals have actually been a somewhat competent on offense this season — at least in the passing game — with Andy Dalton averaging 22.2 DK points per game and attempting no fewer than 36 passes. 

The Steelers look awfully different under Mason Rudolph compared to Big Ben. Last week they attempted to lean on the run, but the 49ers got out to a lead and it just went south from there. The 49ers stacked the box and dared Pittsburgh to win with Rudolph, and he wasn’t able to make it happen, managing an abysmal 52% completion rate despite focusing heavily on short passes with an anemic 6.4 yards per attempt (to be fair, he did hook up with both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson on long TDs late in the game). The Bengals D is not the 49ers D, and the Steelers should be on team #Establishtherun in this game, and it seems likely that Cincinnati will try to mimic what San Francisco did so successfully. If Rudolph can make them pay for it, that will open up the run game; but otherwise, James Conner could be in for a tough evening. All that said: Conner has a lock on this backfield and he’s a home favorite with solid pass game work. Most of the time, that would make him one of the strongest plays on the slate, but the Bengals can throw enough of a wrench in things to at least cast some doubts.

In the pass game, we have a case of a stoppable force (Rudolph) meeting a movable object (the Bengals secondary). JuJu, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson played almost every snap last week and should do so again here, with a fairly even distribution of targets. In the long run we can expect JuJu to own the largest share of targets, of course, but James Washington has the college and preseason connection with Rudolph while Johnson connected for a touchdown last week. JuJu is the safest, while both Johnson and Washington offer reasonable ceiling and scary floor. The tight end situation is a bit of a mess as we don’t know if Vance McDonald will be able to play, and behind him is someone named Zach Gentry and a just-acquired Nick Vannett. If McDonald is out, this is a pretty easy situation to stay away from unless you’re chasing a fluke play. 

The Bengals’ run game is, frustratingly, not just the Joe Mixon show as Giovani Bernard continues to steal snaps and (highly ineffective) carries. Mixon has touch counts of 9, 16, and 17 so far this year, with 10 targets boosting his floor but abysmal offensive line play hurting him. I always like to bet on talent at low ownership and think Mixon is a lot better than this — he should have a couple of slate-breaking games this year — so I’ll be trying to overweight the field on GPP exposure. Just recognize that the floor is awfully low for a supposed three-down bellcow back.

In the pass game, Cincinnati is all about Tyler Boyd and John Ross. Ross was miserable last season but has looked much improved this year and seems like a legitimate weapon. The Bengals are also scheming to get him the ball with both short and downfield looks. Depending on pricing, he may be one of my favorite captain choices. Boyd has averaged over 10 targets per game this year and would look even more impressive if he had found the end zone (the touchdowns are coming, and he’s going to keep seeing massive volume as long as the Bengals are behind). Just be aware that he’s becoming a lower yard-per-catch guy and he needs a lot of volume in order to smash, so he doesn’t necessarily fit well in a lineup that is built on Cincinnati playing from ahead. Finally, Auden Tate took over the WR3 role last week and put up a 6-88-0 line on 10 targets. This kind of came out of nowhere (at least to me), but he performed well in the role so I wouldn’t expect him to go away. On the Thursday—Monday slate, at least, he’s awfully cheap, so it’s possible that he ends up being a significantly mispriced player in this Showdown. Finally, at tight end, C.J. Uzomah has been used mostly as a blocker while Tyler Eifert is a legitimate red zone weapon but won’t do much if he doesn’t score a touchdown.

The way this game is most likely to play out is that the Steelers will try to lean on the run to start the game. The Bengals should stack the box to try and prevent that and make Rudolph beat them, as mentioned above. The Steelers should be ready for this after what happened last week and will try to make the Bengals pay, and that’s where the game hinges: if the Steelers can get their pass game going even a little bit, it will unlock the run game, and James Conner will have an opportunity to smash. If they can’t, and the Bengals take a lead, Pittsburgh will need to try to put the ball in Rudolph’s hands and become more aggressive — which didn’t work against San Francisco, but the Bengals’ secondary is far less talented. 

Other ways the game could play out: 

  • It could be an ugly shootout between two teams with fairly suspect secondaries. In this case both QBs would shoot up the viability charts while Conner and Mixon would drop.
  • Either team could wreck the other. 5-1 onslaughts are always viable but feel especially so here as I don’t think anyone would be surprised if either offense failed here (the Bengals being on the road, Pittsburgh because of having Mason Rudolph at QB). 
  • It could be an ugly, low-scoring game. In these games the QBs drop off from viability as you’re just hunting for whatever skill player gets in the end zone or just have enough touches/yards.
  • There are very few ways this game could play out that would really shock me, frankly.

As always, captain choices vary depending on the scenario for which I’m building, and I say this without seeing pricing; but at first glance I want to be overweight on Conner, JuJu, and Ross at captain. There’s a good chance, based on full weekend slate pricing, that Auden Tate is enormously underpriced and becomes a chalk staple. 

Some groups to consider:

  • At most 1 kicker
  • At most 1 defense
  • Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
  • Pair captain receivers with their QB
  • At most 1 of Uzomah and Eifert (they both need a TD to be viable)
  • If Vance misses, at most of 1 of the Steelers backup TEs
  • At most 1 of Willis, Tate, and Erickson
  • No Mixon in captain Boyd lineups and vice versa (I don’t think these two are incompatible when not in the captain slot, but if expecting one to be the optimal captain, i.e. the highest scoring player on the slate, I don’t think I want the other)

Notes after pricing came out: Pricing on this one looks…I don’t want to say tight, but rather tight for the two teams that are playing and the Vegas total. Given the matchup against the Bengals I actually think Mason Rudolph looks pretty underpriced as it’s rare in Showdowns these days to see QBs under $10k. Joe Mixon is overpriced relative to his workload and production so far, but he has plenty of ceiling. Auden Tate is much more expensive than I was hoping for when I originally did this writeup, as are James Washington and Diontae Johnson. Vance McDonald is doubtful and Nick Vannett is priced up considering he’s been on the team for less than a week. There really aren’t any compelling value plays priced down around the kickers, which makes me want to reconsider the “at most 1 kicker” rule in this one; there just aren’t guys priced around the kickers who I see as having significant chances to outscore them.

JM’s Original Notes on this game for those building Thursday-to-Monday rosters ::

  • This game (with an Over/Under of 43.5) is a candidate to go over-owned in Thursday-to-Monday contests by people who can’t handle watching the Monday night game without a player in it; we could see some bigger scores emerge; but if this game were on the Main Slate, it would be far down our list
  • Because of this, you should really only target this game for slate-breaking upside
  • With none of these plays viable in cash games, but with all carrying Tier 3 potential, here are the guys from this game who have legitimate paths to slate-breaking upside :: James Conner (heavy touches in an above-average matchup), JuJu Smith-Schuster (heavy targets with big YAC upside), John Ross (it only takes one or two catches, and his role remains real)
  • Mixon, Boyd, and Diontae Johnson could all post a nice score as well; though in the context of the 15-game slate, I would be leaving these guys alone myself and saving them for the Showdown on Monday

Advanced Showdowns

Xandamere’s Advanced Showdown Course is now available through OWS :: Marketplace! This is his tournament course for Showdowns; and given the tangible edge in this contest type, it should pay itself off pretty quickly(!).