NFL Showdown is not about who you play as much as how you play them. Median projections are a tool in the toolbox, but they are to be trusted far less than they would be on the main slate. This is because of the ramifications associated with a single player underproducing or overproducing relative to their projection.
If a wide receiver who was projected for nine points instead earns 22 points, then there is a strong likelihood that his performance came at the detriment of a teammate, or even a member of the opposing team. His running back likely received less opportunity, while the opposing team’s running back may have seen a boost. In this scenario, his quarterback may have also produced well.
The game theory is much more intricate than this one example, but it gets you down the path of thinking of showdown as an if/then rather than a raw projection.
There may be times when Cooper Kupp finishes as the best play of the slate without Matthew Stafford, and other times Jonathan Taylor may rush for 200 yards while Matt Ryan and Michael Pittman still make the optimal lineup. Showdown is non-binary, but over time sound lineup construction will reign supreme.
Most important of all:
The likeliest outcome is only one of infinite outcomes. When rostership dictates that the field has the game figured out, lean into builds around a different scenario. The term “any given Sunday” should be the mantra for successfully building Showdown lineups.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading to Indianapolis to take on the Colts as 2.5-point underdogs. The total is set at 39.
Jaylen Warren – Hamstring – Out
Miles Boykin – Oblique – Questionable
Kylen Granson – Illness – Questionable
Pittsburgh Steelers Offense
Kenny Pickett: $9,800
Kenny Pickett has been attempting an enticing number of passes over the past four weeks. His fantasy value hasn’t been hindered by passing volume, but it has taken a hit due to a lack of scoring production. Pickett has thrown just three touchdown passes in his seven starts. Showdown production on slates with low totals depends heavily on touchdowns, making Najee Harris the stronger play in this price range.
Najee Harris: $9,400
Najee Harris has had a down year, but his usage over the past two weeks has been promising. He carried the ball exactly 20 times in each contest and even managed six targets last week. He played 90% of the snaps and with Jaylen Warren out he is likely to do so again. He’s the strongest play on the Steelers.
Diontae Johnson: $7,600
Pickett is attempting a promising number of passes, but Diontae Johnson surprisingly has not been one of the primary benefactors. He’s only been targeted 10 times over the last two weeks while still playing over 90% of the snaps. With so few options on this slate, Johnson is still viable as a one-off in Colts-heavy lineups.
George Pickens: $7,400
George Pickens has the same snap share and target share as Johnson. He gets a slight edge because he has caught two of Pickett’s three touchdown passes, but they’re equally viable. Pairing Pickett with both receivers makes for an affordable stack but is a bit too much of an investment in Pittsburgh.
Pat Freiermuth: $6,400
Pat Freiermuth has been more involved than both Johnson and Pickens yet he’s over $1,000 cheaper. He plays roughly 70% of the snaps and is averaging over seven targets per game. He managed to turn twelve targets into eight receptions for 79 yards last week. He and Harris should be prioritized on the Steelers’ side of the ball.
Gunner Olszewski: $200
With the Chase Claypool trade, there has been a void left at the third wide receiver spot for the Steelers. Gunner Olszewski played 42% of the snaps and managed three targets last week. He is the preferred punt option.
Steven Sims: $200
Steven Sims played 44% of the snaps last week but did not come near Olszewski’s 40 yards last week. He has also carried the ball three times in the last two weeks making him almost as worthy of a dart throw as Olszewski.
Najee Harris / Pat Freiermuth / Jonathan Taylor / Parris Campbell
Najee Harris has the safest floor of any member of the Steelers but he also has the chance to match Taylor’s workload at $2,000 less. Pat Freiermuth is the best receiving option and doesn’t necessarily need Pickett to succeed to find his way into the winning lineup. Taylor is the highest raw projection on the slate and is worth playing regardless of ownership. Campbell is the best value for the Colts. We aren’t required to play a quarterback at all on this slate with a total of under 40.
Indianapolis Colts Offense
Matt Ryan: $9,600
Since being reinserted as the starter for the Colts two weeks ago, Matt Ryan has averaged 30 pass attempts. He’s completing over 70% of his passes but has thrown just one touchdown. We like stacking the Colts as the home favorites, but Ryan also has a condensed distribution we can take advantage of. Ryan and Pickett share the same lack of scoring production, but we like stacking the Colts here so Ryan gets the nod.
Jonathan Taylor: $11,400
Jonathan Taylor is seemingly back to his former self with Jeff Saturday at the helm. He’s handled 44 carries over the past two weeks while playing most of the snaps. He’s also had a touch of receiving involvement. His salary seems a bit rich given his production this season paired with his small sample size with Saturday at head coach, but it feels safe to assume the Saturday-led Colts will continue to lean heavily on the best back in the NFL.
Michael Pittman: $10,200
Michael Pittman is averaging eight targets over the past two weeks with Ryan and is his most trusted receiver. His box score production is down but if Ryan has a ceiling performance Pittman is the most likely benefactor. His elevated price tag should keep his ownership in check making him over of the better plays for the Colts.
Parris Campbell: $6,800
Parris Campbell has been a pleasant surprise of late. He’s been targeted similarly to Pittman and has matched his box score production. At such a price discount we likely see a higher roster percentage for Campbell, but they can be played in the same lineup with Ryan.
Alec Pierce: $5,200
Alex Pierce has had a few nice ceiling performances on the season and earned eight targets last week. He only managed to catch three of them for 28 yards and should go overlooked due to his price. He won’t show up in any optimizers but Pierce is worth taking a shot on at low ownership.
Mo Alie-Cox: $3,600
Kylen Granson is a fine play to include in the player pool if active, but he’s dealing with an illness. If Mo Alie-Cox is active without Granson he is the best value play on the Colts’ offense.
Ashton Dulin: $400
Ashton Dulin is playing 20% of the snaps but he has not been targeted since returning from injury two weeks ago. Before his injury in Week 5, he was targeted at least once a game with Ryan at quarterback, so it seems likely they’ll rekindle their connection.
Jonathan Taylor / Matt Ryan / Pat Freiermuth / Alec Pierce
This is an expensive core that would require a couple of low-priced plays, but if the Colts find offensive success it is likely to go through Taylor. Freiermuth is the best value for the Steelers and would benefit from trying to play keep up. We saw him receive 12 targets last week without Pickett finding fantasy success, so it is not a requirement to pair the two. Alec Pierce is not going to project well, but his ceiling outcome is worth taking a shot at when his roster percentage is going to be so low.