Sunday Night Football – Seahawks At Steelers NFL DFS Showdown Breakdown

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Sunday Night Football - Seahawks At Steelers NFL DFS Showdown Breakdown

This Sunday night brings us an intriguing matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is quite a different game than it would have been if not for the unfortunate injury to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson’s finger injury sustained in last week’s game will keep him out of action for as many as four weeks. Geno Smith will be covering the QB position for Seattle in his stead.

Geno Smith fared surprisingly well last week upon replacing Wilson, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a good game from him. Still, the Steelers defense has allowed the 10th fewest points in the NFL so far this year. The Seahawks, even with Wilson at the helm, have struggled a bit offensively. We may not see as much from Smith as we did last week in this tough road matchup against Pittsburgh. With lead running back Chris Carson also still out, it might be tough going overall for this injury-bitten Seahawks squad.

This year, the Seahawks’ defense has been rough, and this could be an excellent spot for Pittsburgh’s offense. Still, Big Ben is not the same player anymore under center, and the Steelers will be without JuJu Smith-Schuster at receiver. His replacement in James Washington may also be a bit banged up after missing last week’s game with a groin injury, despite no longer carrying an official injury designation. He has been largely unable to take advantage of his playing time even when healthy.

With the lack of weapons on Roethlisberger’s side and what should be a game the Steelers play from ahead, a run and short-pass-heavy approach would be expected. This will make running back Najee Harris likely the most valuable player in this game. The most important question is whether Geno Smith can perform as a suitable replacement for Russell Wilson and keep the Seahawks competitive. Let’s take a look at some strategies for NFL showdown DFS contests on DraftKings and FanDuel.

DraftKings Strategy

The number one thing you will notice if running a large set of lineups using industry projections and an optimizer: Najee Harris will appear in close to, if not every lineup you run, the majority of which in the Captain slot. Even though he’s the most expensive player on the slate, he’s a must-have in any optimal construction due to the nature of these two offenses.

Most of the Steelers’ offense runs through Harris in general between Roethlisberger’s current state and the weakened Steelers receiver corps. He is on the field for almost every snap and is getting robust targets for a running back. On top of it, the Steelers are 5.5 point favorites in a home game that screams a run-heavy game script.

Although it makes sense considering the nature of these offenses, surprisingly, there are many optimal or close to optimal builds that contain only one or neither quarterback. Roethlisberger appears in far more optimal lineups than Smith, as would be expected. This is not generally the case, and it is usually a high leverage move to play neither quarterback. It is typically suboptimal, yet tonight, it may actually be optimal. Yet, we can still expect the majority of the field to play at least one quarterback in their lineups. This is an easy way that we can gain leverage while still being optimal.

We should also see relatively high ownership on Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool on the Pittsburgh side. At the same time, I expect DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to go somewhat under-owned due to their prices and Geno Smith being their QB. Many NFL DFS players will look to the Seattle running game as a source of value. Chris Carson’s replacement Alex Collins is priced in the mid-range. His backups DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer, are priced near minimum.

The projections will spit out a lot of lineups with Harris/Johnson/Claypool and Seahawks RBs while including sparse shares of Metcalf/Lockett. Yet, this doesn’t actually go according to how the game is most likely to play out. Harris may be as close to a must-have as exists here, indeed. Yet, why would we be targeting the backup running game from a substantial underdog on the road against a tough defense? Game-script would most likely lead to a lot of work for Metcalf and Lockett playing from behind, Geno Smith at QB or not.

According to the likely game outcome, a straightforward way to gain leverage is to be overweight on Metcalf/Lockett in your lineups and underweight on the Seattle running backs. This will automatically lead to less exposure to Johnson/Claypool due to pricing constraints.

While official ownership projections are not out across the industry yet, I would anticipate ownership on Najee Harris being through the roof. 70+% at least, and he should be the most owned Captain as well. The absolute most significant leverage move you could make would be to not play him at all and knock out the vast majority of the field if he was to fail. I still think he is so optimal that this is likely less than ideal considering the other leverage possibilities available to us.

Defenses and kickers may go under-owned, per usual. We’ll have to see precisely how ownership projections shake out closer to lock. Still, this game has a high likelihood of being low-scoring, and we may want to look at the defenses and kickers. I would think some NFL DFSers might gravitate to the Steelers D, but it is priced up, which may depress ownership.

FanDuel Strategy

The FanDuel NFL Showdown format is much simpler than DraftKings. There are only five roster spots, and the multiplier spot does not come with a 1.5X salary. There is little to no advantage to playing anyone but the highest-scoring player in the multiplier. So, ownership should be highly condensed. Heavy lineup duplication is very hard to avoid without straying very far from optimal builds.

FanDuel NFL scoring favors RBs and QBs over WRs. This is due to the half-PPR format making receptions less valuable and touchdowns more important. With Najee Harris extremely likely to be the highest-scoring player and a running back to boot, we should see very high MVP ownership. It will be tough to get unique with lineups that feature Harris in the MVP slot.

Alex Collins for Seattle should also be extremely popular in the flex positions. It is possible to fit both QBs, Harris, and Collins into lineups with acceptable punt value pieces. You can include one QB/Harris/Collins with a high-priced receiver as well. These should be the prominent chalky constructions, with Harris and possibly Roethlisberger in the MVP slot.

Suppose you want to get unique with Harris or Roethlisberger at MVP. In that case, you will have to go away from this construction heavily and likely leave a good bit of salary on the table. The easiest way to be unique is to play neither Harris nor Roethlisberger at MVP and hope for a blowup game from another feasible candidate such as Smith/Collins/Johnson/Metcalf/Lockett. There are certainly worlds where any of these players outscore Harris/Roethlisberger, and they will come at a fraction of the MVP ownership. A lineup with Metcalf or Lockett in the MVP and Geno Smith in flex that entirely fades the Seattle running game but includes Najee Harris would be an example.

Generally speaking, all of Harris/Collins/Roethlisberger/Smith/Johnson/Claypool should be very high-owned, with three or four of them in most optimal lineups. Using as few of them as possible while still making a lineup that can compete will get you well on the way to differentiation. Particularly if you avoid Harris and, to a lesser extent Big Ben in MVP.

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I'm a DFS player (JackG1111), DFS content provider, and musician.

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