On Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 8:15 PM EST, The Cinderella darling of the NFL tries to avoid becoming a pumpkin at home against the reeling Steelers. Ryan Fitzpatrick and his unlikely band of misfits look to move to 3-0 as the Steelers search for their first victory and look to begin their ascent out of the NFC North basement on Monday Night Football.
Steelers @ Buccaneers Monday Night Football Preview
When: Monday, September 24th at 8:15 PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida
Antonio Brown returned to practice on Wednesday after missing team meetings and film sessions earlier in the week. The star wide-out cited his frustrations with losing and the current state of the Steelers as Pittsburgh remains winless and dead last in the NFC North. Brown’s actions appeared suspicious after he quote tweeted a fan and used the phrase ‘Trade Me’
Of course, any logical fan would recognize this as playful, competitive banter but it surely didn’t look great once Brown skipped mandatory meetings. The Steelers remain woefully flawed without Le’Veon Bell despite James Conner‘s solid play and the defense hasn’t been the same since the Ryan Shazier tragedy. The New England Patriots were unable to overcome their story-lines on Sunday Night despite a historic resume of crushing adversity, will the Steelers be sealed by the same fate?
A huge bright spot for Pittsburgh has been the continual rise of second year pro, Juju Smith-Schuster. Schuster has 27 targets through two games and has wrangled 18 of them for 240 yards and a TD. His counterpart, Antonio Brown, has seen more targets (33) but has done much less with those opportunities (18 catches, 160 yards, 1 TD). Along with James Conner (152 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 10 receptions, 105 receiving yards), their is still a three-headed monster for Ben Roethlisberger to work with, it’s just slightly regressing due to the Bell absence.
Roethlisberger (393.5) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (409.5) lead the league in yards per game and will likely regain their spots among the top passing yardage through three weeks. Roethlisberger is coming off a 452 yard performance with 39 of 60 pass attempts completed, 3 TDs, 1 INT and a rushing TD. In their classic spread offense, Big Ben looked vintage in a shootout against the Chiefs.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Chiefs spread was a tad bit more effective. On a mere 28 pass attempts, Patrick Mahomes finished with 326 yards and SIX touchdowns. Pittsburgh had no answer for the trio of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. It’s hard for NFL fans to admit this, but the Buccaneers pose an identical threat this week with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm (woof). Fitzpatrick has historically sat in a spread offense and has been phenomenal with his new weapons in Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers await the end of Jameis Winston‘s suspension.
Fitzpatrick has been other-worldly in his first two starts of the season posting 819 passing yards with 8 TDs, only 1 INT and he has a completion percentage of 78.7% which only trails the ageless Drew Brees. He has an outrageous Yards Per Attempt of 13.4, almost 4 yards higher than the second best (Patrick Mahomes, 9.6). With his success, four receivers have been stand outs thus far (Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and OJ Howard).
Evans, 25, has been an elite WR in his first few seasons with 1000+ yards in each of his first four campaigns with 34 total touchdowns under his belt. He leads the team in targets this year with 19 and has brought in 17 balls for 230 yards and 2 TDs. Maybe more impressive is the rejuvenation of DeSean Jackson. Jackson only has 9 targets thus far but has caught all 9 for 275 yards and 3 TDs. That’s 30.6 yards on average every time a ball is thrown to DeSean! Chris Godwin has also been a nice surprise grabbing 8 of 10 targets for 97 yards and 2 TDs and second year TE OJ Howard is developing nicely with 5 of 6 targets for 150 yards and a TD (30 yards per reception).
In what will be a high-scoring affair, both offenses should be able to expose the anemic product on the defensive side of the ball for both sides. The Buccaneers defense is worst in the league allowing 77.4% of passes to be completed while the Steelers have allowed 7 passing TDs through two games and 9 TDs total.
Ben Roethlisberger shines on Monday Night Football. In 18 career appearances, he is 14-4 with 3640 yards and 26 touchdowns, while forfeiting 17 interceptions. He has won his last 5 MNF appearances by an average margin of 12.6 points per game.
On the other side, Ryan Fitzpatrick is 2-3 on Monday Night with 761 yards, 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He has lost his last two appearances by an average margin of 28 points per game including a 41-10 loss to the Colts in 2016 while he was with the Jets.
Since 2014, Antonio Brown has been significantly worse in DFS on the road averaging 7.09 DK points less than his home splits
TOP DRAFTKINGS Monday Night Football VALUE
On DraftKings, they are hosting a $1M Monday Night Showdown with just the players from this game available with $250k going to first place. You have the opportunity to select a ‘captain’ who will receive 1.5x the fantasy points. For this slate, you can really only afford a few top priced options before having to dip down into the $5000 or less range.
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I would avoid Antonio Brown ($11800) for this contest based on his price and his inefficiencies on the road combined with swirling rumors and controversy that surronds him this week. In this contest, you can roster Juju Smith Schuster ($9000) for $2800 less and still get a healthy count of targets. Ben Roethlisberger ($11000) has 101 pass attempts on the season (50.5 per game). In a game where he will be flirting with that number again, no price is too high to add Big Ben to your lineup.
The Buccaneers have allowed 39.1 DK Points per game to opposing running backs in the first two weeks. James Conner ($9600) had a bit of a ‘down’ week with only 19.5 DK points in Week 2 but should feast on Tampa Bay’s front seven. James Washington will go under the radar but the rookie wide receiver was on the field for 80% of the snaps in Week 2 and saw 5 targets. Against a Buccaneers defense that has allowed 49.1 DK points per game to wide receivers, there is plenty of points available for numerous Steelers weapons. he also gives you a huge discount at $3600.
Jesse James ($5200) had a very strong outing in Week 2, catching 5 of 5 balls for 138 yards and a TD. Surprise, Surprise…The Bucs are the worst team against opposing TEs on DraftKings, allowing 20.5 DK points per game. It’s hard to imagine playing all 4 (Schuster, Conner, Washington and James) but that may be the way to go on this slate.
On the other side, both DeSean Jackson ($7800) and Mike Evans ($9400) are hard to fade. If you roster James and Washington, you should have enough $ left over to target at least one of the two. The Steelers were gashed by 5 plays of 20 or more yards and and 10 plays of 10 or more yards at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 2 which bodes well for both Jackson and Evans. If I had to pick one, I would lean towards Jackson for the cap relief.
OJ Howard is quickly turning into a down field target and will continue to be a huge presence in the red zone. The Steelers are the 3rd worst team against the TE for DK Points allowing 19.7 to opposing TEs per game. Howard is also only $5600 on a slate that has 8 players above $6000 available. And my favorite ‘punt’ play on the slate is Chandler Cantazaro at $3000. He snagged 12 DK Points in week 1 and was useless in week 2 as the Buccaneers didn’t attempt a FG. With the high upside of extra points and the amount of possessions both sides should have, Cantazaro should be a safe bet for 8-12 DK points and gives you the ability to pay up for the rest of the guys above.
James Washington ($5400 Captains Price)
*Juju Smith-Schuster ($13,500 Captains Price) would be my second choice if you have the available cap room.
- Steelers +1
- Buccaneers -1
- Steelers +100
- Buccaneers -120
- Over/Under 55
- Steelers +100
- Over 55
The line opened at Steelers -2 but has surprisingly moved to Steelers +1 despite only 34% of the money on the Buccaneers. In my opinion, this creates a valuable bet of Steelers (even money) in a game where they should be incredibly desperate to keep up in the AFC North. Though impressive, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers have to come down to earth at some point. They will likely still put on a show tonight, but 400+ yards and 4 TD per game is not a feat Fitzpatrick has been known to regularly repeat.
Despite the heavy presence of the public betting (74%) and 77% of the money being on the Over, I can’t fade that number comfortable. Both defenses have displayed such poor acumen and both offenses are so one dimensional and high flying that 55 is too weak to pass on. Expect of final score somewhere north of 30 points for both sides.