Showdown Slant ::
Presented by top Showdown mind Xandamere!
The poor Steelers are on their third quarterback of the year with Devlin Hodges taking over as they travel to meet the Chargers. The game has a modest 41.5 Over/Under, with the Chargers checking in at a not-terrible 24 point total and the Steelers at 17.5. The Chargers’ defense is, of course, pretty banged up, but this could still be awfully ugly…
Let’s start with the Steelers. The realistic strategy is to try and lean heavily on the run game (the Chargers are 25th in run defense DVOA), while James Conner is now absolutely locked into a bellcow role with Jaylen Samuels hurt and just Benny Snell behind him. As long as the game remains close (and perhaps even after it no longer is), Conner should get the work. While I don’t generally lean heavily towards road underdog RBs, Conner’s matchup, pass game involvement, and locked-in role make him a very strong piece.
The Steelers’ pass game is going to be severely limited with Hodges at QB. Hodges racked up great stats in college, but then wasn’t even drafted, and managed just five yards per attempt in the preseason. JuJu Smith-Schuster is almost certainly going to be shadowed by Casey Hayward, which combined with bad QB play really hampers his outlook. Diontae Johnson has a stronger matchup, while Vance McDonald could assume the standard “checkdown crutch for a rookie QB” role that many tight ends fall into. Especially at their prices, I would prefer playing Johnson or Vance to Juju on most of my rosters. James Washington is out, and based on last week’s snap count, Johnny Holton seems next in line at just $200. Even with bad QB play that’s just too cheap for a guy playing at least 50% of the snaps. The ceiling is low, but the floor feels pretty reasonable. (Of course, if Donte Moncrief is active for this game, the certainty on this number three role evaporates a litte.)
And thus ends one of the fastest team offense writeups I’ve done this season.
On the Chargers’ side, Melvin Gordon returning has brought the Austin Ekeler early season train ride to an end….or at least, maybe it has. NFL scouting is not my strong suit, but even to me, MG3 looked fairly slow and indecisive. He caught four of six targets but for a whopping total of seven yards. Some rust is expected, of course, but this looked fairly ugly and at $9k it’s hard to see him as an attractive piece until we see a stronger role and performance. Austin Ekeler saw a whopping 16 targets while outsnapping MG3 66% to 46%, though at least part of that would have been due to Keenan Allen being largely erased by the coverage of Chris Harris. With the Chargers as large home favorites, I envision more MG3 usage as they try to get him re-acclimated, which likely means that both Gordon and Ekeler are overpriced for their median expectations, though both have multi-touchdown ceilings in this spot.
In the pass game, the Chargers are (finally) getting healthier, with Mike Williams playing almost every snap last week and now Hunter Henry looking likely to return (albeit likely just for a few snaps in his first game back). Keenan Allen has the dream “slot receiver against the Steelers” matchup and should see more volume than the six targets he got last week, but keep in mind he’s still the kind of receiver who tends to need a lot of volume to truly smash with his mediocre aDOT. In this somewhat ugly game, Allen brings a strong floor, but he would need the Steelers to (unexpectedly) keep up in order to have much of a chance at his ceiling. Mike Williams seems to be back to full health as he saw 13 targets last week, and he brings plenty of ceiling that he only needs a few targets to access. Travis Benjamin is the same, really, at a much lower price (and with a much lower target floor). The Chargers’ TE situation is basically a full avoid even if Henry returns as he’s only expected to play a handful of snaps.
The way this game is likely to play out is the Steelers try to keep the ball on the ground but are unable to stop the Chargers, who eventually take a big enough lead to force the Steelers to the air. They’re likely unsuccessful at this, and the Chargers should win the game pretty handily. The premium pieces here are Conner, Allen, and perhaps even the Chargers D. It’s hard to see Rivers, MG3, or Ekeler as premium pieces if the Chargers win easily (if you ask me to choose, I’d pick Ekeler out of those three).
Some other ways the game could play out:
- The Steelers’ offense could be more successful than expected (which would largely rely on Conner, Johnson, and McDonald, though Juju has enough ability to beat any matchup), which would force the Chargers to open up more in response. More volume makes Rivers, Williams, and Ekeler more attractive, and of course it gives Allen access to his ceiling.
- The Steelers could just totally fall flat here, on the road against a relatively tough (even if banged up) defense with a third-string QB.
While I always tilt my captain exposure to the game script I’m building for, I feel like that’s even more important in this game than it is in most Showdowns, given how so many of the top plays become significantly more or less attractive based on game flow. Conner is my favorite all-around captain, and I want to be overweight Mike Williams generally as well. I’m also interested in Ekeler, Allen, and even MG3 and Diontae Johnson as lower ownership plays in specific game flows.
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 1 of the Steelers’ backup WRs (since we don’t know for sure who’s stepping in to the Washington role — unless we find out before kickoff!)
- At most 1 of MG3 and Ekeler (unless you want to get weird in an onslaught lineup)
— 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(!).
(Note from JM :: Xandamere is currently in FIRST place through five slates in the King of the Showdown tournament. One slate remains!)
JM’s Original Notes for those playing Thursday-to-Monday Slates ::
- The Steelers are recapturing their ability on defense of late, though they don’t have anyone who can eliminate Keenan Allen the way Chris Harris could last week, which keeps him in the high-priced receiver mix this week. (As always with Keenan: he really needs a monster target share to “get there” at his price. Given the Steelers’ pass rush and the return of Mike Williams, that monster target share is no longer a given — but that doesn’t mean it can’t show up.) Williams is a large-field dart alongside Keenan for his big-play upside. If Williams happens to miss this week, Keenan gets a bump.
- The Chargers backfield still needs time to shake out before I would be targeting it on a 14-game slate myself. I would be saving this backfield for the Showdown slate, though it seem likely that Ekeler retains a big role in the pass game if you want to chase.
- The Chargers’ defense has been absolutely decimated by injuries this year, and Casey Hayward should trail JuJu Smith-Schuster in this game, which opens the door for Diontae Johnson and Vance McDonald to see extra looks. The outlook for these two is further enhanced by the expected absence of James Washington — so while you’re still looking at Mason Rudolph under center (note: Rudolph not cleared in time for this game; it’ll be Devlin Hodges), there are definitely worse spots than this for “talented players in a good matchup having targets filtered their way.”
- The Steelers run game has been a mess so far this year, but with Jaylen Samuels out and the Chargers having trouble stopping the run, James Conner is in the mix. He should also see a few more touches through the air with Hayward on JuJu, and he’s in the large-slate conversation this week.