Week 2 Monday Night Single-Game NFL DFS: Top FanDuel & DraftKings Plays
Welcome to the Showdown breakdown for the finale of Week 2 Monday night football doubleheader, an NFC North battle between the Browns and Steelers. The Steelers must improve after looking completely lost on both sides of the ball against the NFC runner-up 49ers a week ago. The Browns, on the other hand, played like defensive juggernauts, securing a Week 1 upset against the Bengals. With two teams committed to defense as the backbone of their offensive identities, it makes sense that this games total sits so low at just 39.0. But there are multiple paths to a shootout in a matchup for these two squads, which makes it quite the interesting slate for single game DFS players.
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This chart represents the general offensive strategies for each team when the game outcome is still in question (win probability between 20% and 80%). The final two minutes of each half are also excluded. We’ll include last year’s statistics through Week 4 of the regular season. Teams in the upper-right quadrant pass more often and play faster than the average NFL team in neutral game scripts, and conversely, teams in the lower-left quadrant play slower and run more often than the average NFL team.
Browns (-1.5, 20.75) @ Steelers (+1.5, 18.25); Over/Under 39.0
If you needed a reason for why this game has a ridiculously low 39.0-point total, this chart would be it. The Browns are one of the most run-oriented teams in the entire NFL, choosing to run their offense through perennial Pro Bowler Nick Chubb. The issue, of course, is that Chubb is so wildly successful as a rusher that it decreases the pace of play and the amount of plays overall that the Browns tend to run on a per-drive and per-game basis. Since returning to the field in Week 13 last season, Browns’ quarterback Deshaun Watson has topped 35 pass attempts just one time. In his final season in Houston, Watson had 35-plus passes in 50% of his starts.
The Steelers are a little bit different offensively and have shown signs of increasing their aggressiveness in 2023. Using data from both this year and last, Pittsburgh ranked well above average in terms of pace, and in Week 1, they ranked number one in the NFL in pass rate above expected, a stat that factors the Steelers’ full game scoring deficit into its calculation. Despite little to show for it in Week 1, it appears that the goal is to open up the offense more for their second-year starter. The Browns defense, a unit that just held Joe Burrow and company to three points, is an equally tough test as the 49ers were a week ago.
While there may be 22 people on the field for every play, each play and game is heavily dictated by the performance of each team’s quarterback. While efficiency isn’t everything for quarterbacks, it is the best indicator of future performance, so we use a trio of metrics to suss out top performers at the position compared to lackluster ones. xDrive Success %, or True Drive Success Rate, is a measurement of a QB’s ability to turn drives into scores weighted by sample size. EPA or Expected Points Added, is a measurement of the QB’s contribution, both running and throwing, to the team’s scoring and production vs. the average NFL team. Completion % over Expected (CPOE)represents the accuracy and efficiency of a QB’s passes compared to league expectations.
Here is yet more evidence of possibly offensive drudgery in this primetime divisional battle. This chart doesn’t paint either quarterback in a particularly positive light. Neither player has ranked above average in terms of their ability to consistently complete passes, extend drives, or perform above a replacement level on a per-game basis since the start of the 2022 season. For both signal callers, there is at least some optimism that these numbers can improve, and with it, so too can their production. But compared to the rest of the league, both the Steelers and Browns are getting replacement-level quarterback play.
Most surprising of all might be Watson’s xDrive Sucess, the first column in the chart above. Watson ranks a staggering 59th out of 60 quarterbacks in the metric dating back to last season. These numbers suggest that the Cleveland offense produces in spite of Watson, and not because of him. Pickett has now failed to reach 250 yards passing in six straight games and has only topped 300 yards once in his career.
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