Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Diontae Johnson has seen double-digit targets in every healthy game but one (a two-target game in which the Big Ben attempted only 25 passes, his lowest number of the season).
- We should expect Najee Harris to see a heavy workload, albeit in a difficult matchup on the ground. His pass game usage is likely to spike to offset efficiency concerns on the ground.
- Ridiculously slow expected combined pace of play, particularly in the first half.
How pittsburgh Will Try To Win ::
The Steelers continue their short area, pass-heavy approach this season after making that transition over the previous season with an aging Ben Roethlisberger. They hold the league’s fourth-highest situation-neutral pass rate but have scaled back their pace of play all the way down to a 21st-ranked 31.86 situation-neutral pace of play. Furthermore, they rank dead last in the league in first-half pace of play, indicating an emphasis on slowing games down in an attempt to win games in the second half (fifth-ranked pace of play in the second half of games, largely driven by neutral-to-negative game scripts). The big news out of Pittsburgh is the absence of Juju Smith-Schuster for the remainder of the season, which boosted the pass game volume of running back Najee Harris and rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth in their first game with JuJu out of the lineup. The most surprising aspect of JuJu missing time was the emergence of Ray-Ray McCLoud III, who played 69% of the offensive snaps in their Week 6 overtime victory. Thinking it through logically, it makes sense that McCloud stepped into the vacated slot role left behind by Juju as the majority of his snaps have come from the slot this season (119 of 140 snaps from the slot).
The run game is dominated by rookie running back Najee Harris, who has played 80% or more of the offensive snaps in five of the Steelers’ six games thus far. Furthermore, if we take away his massive 19 target game in which the Steelers played from behind and played largely without Diontae Johnson and Juju Smith-Schuster, Najee has averaged over six targets per game over the last three games played (plus that 19-target explosion four weeks ago). We should expect the likeliest scenario to land Najee in the 25-28 running back opportunity range, with five to seven of those looks being targets. The matchup yields the lowest net-adjusted line yards metric on the week at just 3.62 (Pittsburgh ranks 30th while Cleveland’s defense ranks sixth).
Diontae Johnson has seen double-digit targets in four of five healthy contests (a two-target outlier game in Week 5 against Denver, where he still went for 72 yards and a score), making his range of outcomes one of the highest on the week at the wide receiver position. Behind Johnson, targets are likeliest to flow through Najee Harris, Chase Claypool (assuming health), Pat Freiermuth, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Eric Ebron, likely in that order. Big Ben has attempted 40 or more pass attempts in four of the previous five games (and four of six total games on the season), with the only games where he failed to reach 40 pass attempts coming in comfortable wins over the Bills in Week 1 and the Broncos in Week 5. The Browns rank fourth in the league in completion rate allowed at just 61.14%, 11th in yards allowed per pass attempt at just 6.6, but 17th in yards allowed per completion at 10.8. This theoretically boosts the raw expectation of wide receiver Chase Claypool, who acts as the primary intermediate to downfield receiver on this offense.
How cleveland Will Try To Win ::
The Browns appear to be getting healthier, as all of Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Nick Chubb appear likely to play this week. Donovan Peoples-Jones currently appears as the likeliest to miss this week, which should open up additional snaps and usage for Rashard Higgins on the perimeter opposite OBJ. That said, Cleveland utilizes multiple tight ends on the field at the third-highest rate in the league (behind only a massive 55% combined 12- and 13-personnel rate from the Dolphins and the misleading 56% combined 12-, 13-, and 22-personnel rates from the Falcons), so we shouldn’t expect more than 60-65% snap rate he has seen over the previous two weeks. The Browns rank 30th in the NFL in situation-neutral pace of play, 30th in second half pace of play, and 31st in situation-neutral pass rate. One final note with respect to injury news revolves around Baker Mayfield, who remained noncommittal regarding his expected status for Week 8. He returned to practice on Thursday but was seen making only short-area throws in positional drills. I’d tentatively expect him to return to action here with the possibility his injured shoulder prevents him from taking shots downfield.
The ground game is a bit harder to figure out with Nick Chubb returning from a pretty solid absence. It takes a bit of “reading between the lines,” but I wouldn’t expect Chubb to return to more than his usual 50-55% snap rate workload. Instead of working with Kareem Hunt, it’s likely D’Ernest Johnson steps into the complementary role, likely seeing 45-50% of the available snaps. The likeliest outcome puts Chubb’s usage in the 18-22 running back opportunity range, while Johnson is likely to fall in a very Kareem Huntian 15-17 opportunity range. With neither of these two back typically involved much in the passing game, we should theoretically see a small uptick to the expected volume of the primary and secondary pass-catchers on this offense, but trying to figure out who would benefit the most is a fool’s errand. The matchup on the ground yields a “low for the Browns” 4.635 net-adjusted line yards metric. Either way, the focus of this Browns team should remain on the ground game, particularly with Nick Chubb returning and D’Ernest Johnson looking like a capable NFL-level back last week.
If we can confidently project Baker Mayfield to land in the 28-33 pass attempt range, and since we can confidently assume both healthy running backs won’t be utilized heavily in the passing game (two targets for Johnson in his only game as the starter; Chubb has seen two or fewer targets in every game this season), that leaves a small path to an increase in volume for OBJ and Jarvis against an opponent that filters the majority of the pass game work against them to the wide receiver position. These are still low expected volume players (neither has seen double-digit looks this year), but this might be their best shot at cracking the double-digit target mark this season. The reality of the situation for the Browns is we still can’t confidently narrow the expected target share enough for us to feel confident in any one pass-catcher. The Steelers filter the majority of the pass game work against through the wide receiver position (fourth-fewest running back targets allowed and fourth-fewest tight end target rate allowed thus far), and OBJ and Jarvis should be on the field the most, but that’s about where the positives end.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
When we combine the tendencies from each of these teams, we’re left with a scenario where the first half is likely to be played at a snail’s pace. Each team is likely to slow things down and play to win the game in the second half. That dents the overall appeal of most play-makers from each side, with the two exceptions being the expected high usages of Diontae Johnsons and Najee Harris, which we’ll get into further in the coming section. Combined, these two teams run about 128 offensive plays per game this season, with the Browns demonstrating a wide range of outcomes up to this point (71 or more in four of seven weeks and 61 or less in the other three games) and the Steelers checking in with 65 or fewer plays in four of six contests. Since we don’t expect the Browns to break off chunk gains and we don’t expect the Steelers to attack downfield with great frequency, each team should be relegated to having to march the field in order to put up points. The Browns rank 16th in drive success rate allowed while the Steelers rank eighth, giving further credence to the idea that this game will play sloppy in the first half.
DFS+ Interpretation ::
By Alex88 >>
- The 42.5 Vegas total (as of Wednesday evening) is the second lowest on the week
- PIT has yet to score 28+ pts this season
- The average actual total in PIT games has been 41.5
- Per numberFire, PIT ranks 29th in adjusted seconds per play (31.4)
- CLE ranks 28th (31.3)
- Ben ranks 28th in PFF passing grade
- He ranks 31st in YPA, 30th in ADoT, and 26th in QBR
- Since Antonio Brown’s departure following the 2018 season, Ben has only faced CLE twice
- Both times happened last season, once in October and then in the Wild Card Round
- He scored 10.98 & 37.04 DK pts, respectively
- DK log this season: 12.02 // 14.8 // 18.22 // 11.28 // 17.02 // 11.86
- That’s zero games with 19+ DK pts, despite supporting seven 20+ performances from his RBs & WRs
- CLE ranks 26th against QBs (22.9)
PIT Passing Attack
- PIT has used 11 personnel at a 76% rate (league average is 59%) and 12 personnel at a 16% rate
- Snap share: Diontae Johnson 69.8% // JuJu Smith Schuster 68.9% // Chase Claypool 64.7% // Pat Freiermuth 50.6% // Eric Ebron 46.6% // James Washington 37.8% // Ray-Ray McCloud 35.5%
- Target share: Diontae 21.3% // Claypool 17.9% // JuJu 11.9% // Freiermuth 8.5% // Washington 6% // Ebron 5.5% // McCloud 3.8%
- With JuJu hurt in Week 5 and lost for the season, notable snap changes: McCloud went from 34 to 52 snaps, Ebron from 25 to 34, Freiermuth from 32 to 45, and Claypool (returning from injury himself) from 36 to 63
- Only Freiermuth had a notable target change, from 2 to 7
- Diontae ranks ninth in air yard market share and sixth in WOPR, per Koalaty Stats
- Diontae’s DK log: 14.6 // 22.5 // 24.2 // 15.2 // 18.6
- Claypool ranks 13th in air yard market share and 20th in WOPR
- Claypool’s DK log: 9.2 // 10 // 9.7 // 18.6 // 27 // 3.7
- Washington’s best DK output came against the Browns in December 2019 (24.1 pts), but in 31 games the past three seasons, he’s averaged just 8.18 DK pts
- McCloud has never hit double digits
- In the Wild Card round last season, Ben’s production primarily came through JuJu (37.7 pts), Diontae (25.7), and Claypool (22.9)
- JuJu dominated the slot usage
- In Week 6 this year, McCloud saw the most work from the slot (34 snaps to Claypool’s 11)
- CLE ranks 20th against WRs (40.3)
- This season, only Freiermuth has cracked double-digit DK pts among the TEs (11.2 vs. CIN and 12.8 vs. SEA)
- CLE ranks eighth against TEs (9.2)
- Najee leads all RBs in the league with an 86.4% snap share
- He’s second in target share with 19.6% and fifth in touches per game with 22.7
- Per Koalaty Stats, his goal line share ranks fifth, WOPR ranks second among RBs, and RBOPR ranks first
- He’s tied for third in DK ppg (21.2) with Alvin Kamara
- DK log: 5.9 // 19.1 // 31.2 // 21.1 // 25.2 // 24.7
- CLE ranks fourth against RBs (19.1)
- The lone notable performance came via Austin Ekeler, who scored 33.9 DK pts with a stat line of 17 attempts for 66 yds and 2 TDs & catching all five targets for 53 yds and 1 TD
- In his first start this year, Keenum ranked 20th in PFF passing grade
- Stat line: 21/33 – 199 – 1
- In 56 career games, he averages 14.54 DK ppg
- He’s had only nine games with 20+ DK pts
- PIT ranks 14th in DK ppg allowed to QBs (19.8)
CLE Passing Attack
- CLE’s personnel usage from Weeks 1-6: 11 personnel 44% // 12 personnel 20% // 21 personnel 11% // 13 personnel 21% (most in the league) // 22 personnel 2%
- In Week 7 with Keenum under center: 11 personnel 48% // 12 personnel 12% // 21 personnel 6% // 13 personnel 20% // 22 personnel 12%
- CLE ranks 23rd in numberFire’s adjusted pass rate
- Notable snap changes from Week 6 to Week 7: David Njoku 26 to 42 & Harrison Bryant 17 to 30
- Target counts in Week 7: Jarvis Landry 8 // Odell Beckham 6 // Austin Hooper 3 // Anthony Schwartz 3 // David Njoku 2 // Harrison Bryant 2 // Rashard Higgins 2
- Landry’s DK log against PIT as a Brown: 20.6 // 11.9 // 14.3 // 13.6 // 7 // 16.4 // 20.2
- OBJ’s DK log this season: 13.7 // 5.1 // 4 // 12.9 // 4.3
- Donovan Peoples-Jones is the only other WR to put up 12+ DK pts this season, but he hurt his groin in the Week 7 pre-game and hasn’t practiced since
- PIT ranks 29th against WRs (44.4)
- Njoku is the only TE to score double-digit DK pts
- He had 10.6 @ KC and 30.9 @ LAC
- PIT ranks 11th against TEs (9.8)
- With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt absent in Week 7, D’Ernest Johnson stepped into the lead role
- He ran 22 times for 146 yds and 1 TD & caught both of his targets for 22 yds
- Chubb is expected back in Week 8
- Chubb’s DK log this season: 23.1 // 16.8 // 8.4 // 14.5 // 27
- Chubb against PIT in his career: 2.1 // 9.5 // 9.2 // 8.9 // 19.8 // 24.5 (Wild Card last season)
- His DK salary has fallen $1,000 from a season high of $7,800 in Week 2
- PIT ranks fifth against RBs in DK ppg allowed to RBs (19.8)
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