Kickoff Sunday, Dec 9th 4:25pm Eastern

Steelers (
30.5) at

Raiders (

Over/Under 51.0


Key Matchups
Steelers Run D
13th DVOA/20th Yards allowed per carry
Raiders Run O
24th DVOA/29th Yards per carry
Steelers Pass D
7th DVOA/29th Yards allowed per pass
Raiders Pass O
28th DVOA/24th Yards per pass
Raiders Run D
17th DVOA/19th Yards allowed per carry
Steelers Run O
12th DVOA/17th Yards per carry
Raiders Pass D
8th DVOA/8th Yards allowed per pass
Steelers Pass O
19th DVOA/20th Yards per pass


Eyes will be on this late game in Week 14 with DFS favorite James Conner set to miss, and with this valuable Pittsburgh backfield now belonging to Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley in a soft matchup against the Raiders. For that matter: the entire, explosive Steelers offense (fourth in yards per game // fourth in points per game) has a great matchup against a Raiders defense that has allowed the fifth most yards and the second most points in the league. The only thing likely to stand in the Steelers’ way in this spot is the potential blowout nature of this game. The 7-4-1 Steelers opened as massive 13.0 point road favorites against the 2-10 Raiders, in a game with an Over/Under of 51.5. Pittsburgh has since lost 2.5 points off this spread, but at -10.5 they are still the second biggest favorite on this week’s Main Slate.


This is a great spot for the Steelers’ run offense, against a Raiders team that ranks 28th in yards allowed per carry and 32nd in rushing yards allowed per game. With Oakland constantly falling behind and presenting a pristine matchup on the ground, they have faced the lowest pass play rate in the NFL — leading to them facing the third most rush attempts in the league. No team has allowed more rushing yards to running backs than the Raiders. On average, Oakland is allowing 130.5 running back rush yards per game, with 3.33 running back receptions and 34.4 running back receiving yards added for good measure. The Raiders have allowed 12 running back touchdowns in 12 games. The average “backfield” DFS score against Oakland has been 24.1 on FanDuel and 25.75 on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.

Of course, the big story in this spot is the loss of James Conner, who will give way this week to Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley.

We have two games this year in which Conner has missed time. The first came in Week 10 with Conner in concussion protocol and the Steelers up 38-14 vs the Panthers. In that game, Samuels played 18 snaps and Ridley played 10. Samuels had five carries and three receptions. Ridley had eight carries and a target on his 10 snaps, being used primarily to close out the game.

The second opportunity came last week, with the Steelers in a tight game against the Chargers. Samuels played 17 snaps (15 of which were pass plays), seeing two carries and three targets. Ridley played zero snaps. There has been talk this week that Samuels will start this game for the Steelers and Ridley will play the second series (with the two rotating from there), but the likeliest outcome here is Samuels taking over the bulk of the work until the Steelers establish a safe lead late in the game. Samuels played tight end and H-back at N.C. State, and while he never topped 12 carries in a game, he was regularly involved in the run game — giving the Steelers the type of all-around threat they prefer in this offense. In his eight-year career, Ridley has 30 catches. In four years of college, Samuels set an N.C. State school record with 202 receptions.


Most teams have gone run-heavy against the Raiders, and it is likely that the Steelers will eventually establish a comfortable lead in this spot — but there is also a case to be made that without Conner on the field (and with a pass-first player in Samuels giving their offense the look it is most used to), this team will end up putting the ball in the hands of Ben Roethlisberger for much of the first three quarters. If this ends up being the case, the matchup could not be better for Ben, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the Steelers’ passing attack. The Raiders have faced the fewest pass attempts in the entire NFL (that’s the concern…), but they have allowed the most yards per pass attempt in the league. If the Steelers do decide to let Ben / Jaylen win this game (over a plodding Ridley), the Steelers have potential to pop in this spot.

While season-long numbers tell us that both AB (first in the NFL in targets per game) and JuJu (ninth in the NFL in targets per game) are among the most consistent receivers in the league, week-to-week usage has been a bit more up-and-down than we would love. AB has three consecutive games with 13 targets, but he had target counts of 6 // 8 // 10 // 6 heading into this stretch. JuJu has a 17-target game and a 19-target game, but he also has games of four, five, and six targets. Brown is dominating in the touchdown department, with 12 to JuJu’s four — though JuJu ranks second in the NFL in red zone targets with 23 (seven more than AB). Juju has two more catches and 83 more yards this year than his more heralded teammate, which sets him up to outscore AB a couple more times down the stretch if he captures some positive touchdown regression. With this offense adjusting route trees and responsibilities each week to account for opponent, it’s always a bit of a guessing game as to which of these guys will see the biggest workload and post the best box score production. Consider AB the safer play, as he has seen fewer dips in usage. Consider each guy to have similar upside. All of this would be more exciting if these guys were not among the highest-priced plays on the slate, but each guy has potential to justify his price tag. The cheapest price comes on FanDuel, where JuJu costs only 12.5% of the salary cap, compared to a more appropriate 16.4% on DraftKings.

Behind these two, Ryan Switzer continues to soak up work underneath, though he has topped two catches only once. James Washington should return as a sparsely-used number three option with Justin Hunter on I.R. Washington has not topped 25 yards this year. Vance McDonald and Jesse James continue to split snaps and targets — with Vance carrying the higher upside, but with neither more than a guess-and-hope play.


Analysis has been somewhat futile on the Raiders’ passing attack this year (for that matter, analysis has been somewhat futile on this offense as a whole), as Derek Carr entered last week’s game against Kansas City with fewer than 200 passing yards in four of six games, and he proceeded to pop for 285 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, with his second highest completion rate of the year (against a Chiefs team that allows downfield passing but has been one of the better teams in the league at preventing catch rate efficiency). Along the way, Carr produced a 10-97-0 game for previously-dead Jordy Nelson and a 7-100-1 line for part-timer Jared Cook. Tanking Jon Gruden did not even bother to design man-beating routes for Jordy — instead running him on simple hitch routes, outs routes, sideline shots, and bubbles. Heading into last week, the best yardage total by a wide receiver against the Steelers since Week 4 had been 86 yards for Emmanuel Sanders (Week 12), followed by 82 yards for A.J. Green, 73 yards for Mohamed Sanu, 62 yards for Julio Jones, and 62 yards for Tyler Boyd. No other wide receiver against the Steelers had cracked even 60 yards since September. This stat was blown up by Keenan Allen last week in his monster 14-148-1 game. It will be more difficult for Jordy/Carr to beat this tough matchup, but a big part of Jordy’s absolute evaporation was a six game stretch with four or fewer targets. Maybe Jordy sees double-digit looks again if/when the Raiders fall behind.

Seventh-round rookie Marcell Ateman has turned 19 targets into 82 yards across the last three weeks; he’s a low-floor, bet-on-volume play. Seth Roberts continues to handle possession targets in this offense, which has yielded a low ceiling but a consistent floor.

The best matchup goes to Cook, who has always been scary to bet on even in good offenses, and whose recent usage has been inconsistent at best, with target counts since Week 6 of 2 // 5 // 2 // 9 // 6 // 5 // 8. The safest bet here is five or six targets, but he could disappear in this offense, or he could spike for 8+ looks. Pittsburgh has allowed the ninth most receptions to tight ends, creating opportunity for Cook to potentially sneak past the field with another useful line.


The Raiders’ backfield will take on a middling Pittsburgh run defense (12th in yards allowed per carry) with one of the least attractive timeshares in the NFL. On a team that ranks 22nd in yards and 29th in points, Doug Martin is racking up two to three receptions for 20 to 30 yards most weeks, while topping out at 61 rushing yards in all but one game this year. Martin has looked better than expected and has scored in back-to-back games, but he would likely need a couple long plays or a multi-touchdown game to be worth a spot at the important running back position. Martin continues to split time with Jalen Richard — though Richard’s workload (three straight games of four targets // 36 carries on the year) has been too thin for him to produce a single fantasy-strong game so far. He’s nothing more than a close-your-eyes-and-hope play, with a decent floor so far, but with no real upside to date.


It wouldn’t be crazy for Jordy Nelson to post another strong game in this spot for the Raiders — though I won’t go near him myself; his floor is low enough that I would rather bet on the “low-priced wide receivers with upside” who won’t get a zero in a realistic worst-case scenario. Cook is intriguing for the upside he provides, though even as the best way for the Raiders to move the ball here, he comes with low floor in this injury- and trade-wrecked offense. He would be tourney only for me, and there are obviously safer ways to chase upside.

It’s a different story on the Steelers’ side of the ball, where I expect Samuels to be used more than enough to matter this week at his depressed price, and where there are also clear paths to AB and JuJu posting high enough scores to justify their lofty price tags. These two are more “appropriately priced” than “underpriced” for their upside in a likely blowout, and there is risk of the Steelers tilting run-heavy as the game moves along; but both should be in clear consideration for tourneys. I could also see taking a shot on Ben in this spot in large-field tourneys. Unless the Steelers’ defense fails to show up, this team will probably not need a huge game from Ben in order to win — but with Conner down, this could still be a spot in which Pittsburgh goes pass-heavy through the first three quarters.