Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
Well, after a week full of exciting island game showdowns we’re back to boredom, with a whopping 40.0 total game as the Steelers visit the Browns. Cleveland is a modest home favorite in this low total snoozefest, and given how both teams have been playing, we can expect a lot of running unless something gets out of hand.
We’ll start picking this apart with the Browns run game. The big news here, of course, is that Kareem Hunt returned from suspension, which should eat into the workload for Nick Chubb….right? As it turns out, Chubb played 81% of the snaps, against a season average of 73.6%. Obviously it being a close game throughout helps, but Chubb was on the field more. Hunt played 54% of the snaps, which for those math wizards at home tells us that the two running backs were on the field together quite a bit. Hunt saw 11 touches with seven of them being receptions, while Chubb saw two receptions on four targets. Chubb had been averaging four targets per game up until this point, so at least based on our one game sample, it looks like not much has changed. Hunt has a large role but at least in a one-game sample that came at the expense of the ancillary wide receivers and tight ends. Both seem viable here (especially with Hunt priced at just $5,800!), and by DVOA, Cleveland’s rushing attack against the Steelers’ D is the biggest mismatch (3rd vs 16th).
The Cleveland pass game last week was the aforementioned Hunt, Odell Beckham, and Jarvis Landry. Chubb got four targets and nobody else outside those names got more than two…and this in a game in which Baker Mayfield dropped back 38 times. The trio of ODB, Landry, and Hunt combined for a whopping 31 of 38 pass attempts. While I doubt the offense will remain THAT concentrated (and the Browns offense has been very spread out since the second half of last season), concentration is what we like to target in DFS. ODB has the squeaky wheel narrative and saw 12 targets, and though he was largely shut down, I’d expect him to see healthy volume here in a bounce back spot. Landry has actually outscored ODB on the season, shockingly, though I still have a hard time paying $8k for him when ODB is just $9.2k (maybe that’s a hole in my game?). Rashard Higgins only saw one target last week but played about half the snaps and is the next best receiving option, though he’s not really a bargain at $4,400 (and there is a chance Antonio Callaway eats into his snaps once again this week). Demetrius Harris is only getting a couple of targets per game and is a touchdown-or-bust play. Both Higgins and Harris have to outscore the kickers to be viable, which on very low volume means they need a touchdown or a broken play.
The Steelers are getting James Conner back just in time to get an advantageous matchup against a Browns run defense that has been exploitable this year. Conner should resume his bellcow role with Jaylen Samuels mixing in. Conner is an elite play in this game, while Samuels is still massively priced up in case Conner misses the game and is absolutely not a good play (though at $8,800, nobody, and I mean nobody is going to be on him, and if you happen to catch a weird game like the wildcat game a couple of weeks ago…I won’t be playing Samuels, but let’s just say weirder things have happened than him having a big game here).
The Steelers’ aerial attack is actually really interesting to me in this game. JuJu Smith-Schuster has seen his price declining all year (justifiably so) but he still has gamebreaking ability with the ball in his hands and he gets a fantastic matchup against a Cleveland slot defense that has been exploited all season long. I think a lot of people will just say “Mason Rudolph is bad and the Browns’ overall pass D is pretty good” and thus JuJu’s ownership will be lower than it should be. Diontae Johnson and James Washington have much tougher matchups on the perimeter, though it was encouraging to see Washington finally pay off last week after everyone expected Rudolph to focus on him due to their preseason connection. Albeit in a challenging matchup, Washington has averaged just under six targets per game in his last few matches, and with 16 yards per reception on the season he has plenty of big play ability. Diontae Johnson is more expensive and with a lower ceiling, though I’d argue also a higher floor. Vance McDonald has seen seven targets in back to back games and, much like Washington, also has great big play ability. Washington and McDonald are both interesting tournament plays, while Nick Vannett and Johnny Holton are tourney dart throws who have been playing a decent number of snaps but have seen almost zero actual involvement in the offense.
Finally, I want to mention the defenses. I normally don’t write up defenses in showdown because I always feel the same way about them: it’s an incredibly high-variance position. “Defense” has shown up in optimals at a larger percentage this season than last season, but that’s largely been due to the Patriots being part of so many island games this year. My general rule of defense in showdown tournaments is “be underweight chalk defenses and overweight defenses nobody is on,” since it’s just so hard to predict defensive scoring. I am also never someone who plays double defenses. Double defense is owned at a much higher rate than it “hits” (though we did see a double defense optimal in this Monday’s game….which also just tends to drive up double defense ownership for the next week or two!). You can chase it if you want, but I’m a “trust the data” person and I will happily never play double defense and just recognize that even if it costs me a chance at one or two tournaments per year, overall it’s a net positive move. In this particular game, we have two very aggressive defenses and two mediocre and mistake-prone quarterbacks. While I normally avoid chalky defenses, the one metric I look for is pressure, and both of these defenses get pressure at above-average rates and are up against weaker offensive lines. I like both of them here.
The most likely way for this game to play out is for the run games to be the focus, but one or two strong receiving scores to emerge as well. Between them, Landry and ODB have had five games this year that would likely make them part of the optimal lineup if they scored that many points in this matchup, while on the Pittsburgh side we’ve had three from Juju, two from Johnson, one from Washington, and one more (maybe two) from Vance McDonald. While the running backs are the premium plays in this game, it’s more likely than not that at least one receiver ends up being in the optimal lineup as well.
Some other ways the game could play out:
- Despite having dubious quarterbacking situations, both of these offenses have been throwing the ball quite a bit, and that isn’t just due to falling way behind in games. Mason Rudolph has thrown 36, 35, and 38 times in his last three, while Baker Mayfield has 38, 41, and 31 dropbacks. Both of these offenses are inefficient, but they can get there on volume, and in a game in which I feel people are going to (reasonably) gravitate toward the running backs, taking stands on the passing attacks is an interesting angle.
- Given how both offenses are, on the whole, fairly mediocre and both defenses are stout, it’s pretty reasonable to see either one of these teams just failing completely and not putting up much of a fight. As is almost always the case, 5-1 onslaughts are likely to be lower owned than their chance of hitting.
My favorite captains in this one are the three running backs, with JuJu and ODB not that far behind. I’m not sure there is one obvious smash captain for tournaments, as any of the receivers could realistically put up 20 points and in a relatively low-scoring game be the top scorer on the slate, so pick your favorites and take your stands.
Some groups to consider:
- At most 1 kicker
- At most 1 defense
- Pair captain receivers with their QB
- Pair captain QBs with at least 2 receivers
- At most 2 of ODB, Landry, Hunt, and Higgins except in Cleveland onslaughts (this is a tough rule as it’s not impossible to imagine 3 of these guys succeeding — but, overall, this is not a prolific passing attack and the odds of 3 of them ending up in the optimal lineup feels very low, at least to me)
- Similarly, at most 2 of Juju, Johnson, Washington, and Vance.
— 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(!).