Sunday Night DFS Single-Game Breakdown: Steelers at Patriots

Sunday Night DFS Single-Game Breakdown: Steelers at Patriots

The first single-game slate of the season was a barn-burner with the Packers edging the Bears in a thrilling 10-3 shootout. Have I mentioned I like to exaggerate at times? The Sunday Night Football game will certainly feature more points as it features two high-powered offenses in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.

Let's break down the game and how we can find the edge that might get us at the top of the leaderboards.


Both players are expected to play, but if for some reason they can't go it would be a bump for Ryan Izzo/James Develin (if LaCosse is out) and Phillip Dorsett (no current projection)/Jakobi Meyers (if Thomas is out)

Evaluation of Vegas Spread and Total

New England -6 Over/Under 49

If there is a time Vegas lines are inefficient, it's at the beginning of the season. The Patriots are solid home favorites and Vegas expects nearly 50 points to be put up. Let's look at the likely game flow given this spread and total and assign some probabilities to each potential outcome.

  • Close, low-scoring game (<40 points) - 15%
  • Close, average-scoring game (40-49 points) - 25%
  • Close, high-scoring game (50+ points) - 15%
  • Blowout for the home team, low-scoring game - 10%
  • Blowout for the home team, average-scoring game - 10%
  • Blowout for the home team, high-scoring game - 10%
  • Blowout for the away team, low-scoring game - 0%
  • Blowout for the away team, average-scoring game - 5%
  • Blowout for the away team, high-scoring game - 10%

What Players Benefit Most From Potential Gameflow

Close, low-scoring game (<40 points)

Close, average-scoring game (40-49 points) 

Close, high-scoring game (50+ points)

Blowout for the home team, low-scoring game 

Blowout for the home team, average-scoring game

Blowout for the home team, high-scoring game

Blowout for the away team, average-scoring game

Blowout for the away team, high-scoring game

Pricing and Projections

These projections are taken from the industry-leading 4for4 DFS projections at the time this article was written. The prices listed are the default single-game prices on both sites. For the Captain spot on DraftKings, the price (and subsequent fantasy points awarded) are multiplied by 1.5. On FanDuel, the prices are the same throughout, but the MVP slot receives 1.5 times the fantasy point value of the other roster positions. 

Pittsburgh at New England Prices and Projections
Player Team Pos FD Price FD Proj FD Pts/$ DK Price DK Proj DK Pts/$
Damien Harris NE RB $7,500 2.1 0.28 $2,600 2.5 0.96
Demaryius Thomas NE WR $6,500 4.2 0.65 $4,600 5.2 1.13
Jakobi Meyers NE WR $5,000 1.7 0.34 $4,200 2.3 0.55
James Develin NE RB $5,000 1.5 0.3 $2,000 1.9 0.95
James White NE RB $12,000 10 0.83 $6,600 12.2 1.85
Josh Gordon NE WR $11,500 9.8 0.85 $7,400 11.9 1.61
Julian Edelman NE WR $13,000 13.3 1.02 $9,600 17 1.77
Matt LaCosse NE TE $5,000 3.6 0.72 $2,800 4.3 1.54
New England Patriots NE DEF N/A 6.6 N/A $4,400 6.6 1.5
Rex Burkhead NE RB $6,000 5.4 0.9 $3,000 6.2 2.07
Ryan Izzo NE TE $5,000 0.7 0.14 $200 0.8 4
Sony Michel NE RB $13,000 11.1 0.85 $8,000 12.5 1.56
Stephen Gostkowski NE K $10,000 8.6 0.86 $3,400 8.6 2.53
Tom Brady NE QB $15,000 19.3 1.29 $10,200 20.1 1.97
Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB $15,000 17.8 1.19 $10,600 18.7 1.76
Benny Snell Jr. PIT RB $5,000 1.8 0.36 $2,400 2.3 0.96
Chris Boswell PIT K $9,000 8 0.89 $3,200 8 2.5
Diontae Johnson PIT WR $5,000 1 0.2 $1,000 1.3 1.3
Donte Moncrief PIT WR $8,000 8.6 1.08 $6,200 10.9 1.76
James Conner PIT RB $14,000 15.5 1.11 $10,800 17.9 1.66
James Washington PIT WR $9,000 5.8 0.64 $5,000 7.1 1.42
Jaylen Samuels PIT RB $7,500 5.9 0.79 $4,800 7.2 1.5
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR $14,500 13.8 0.95 $11,000 17.3 1.57
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT DEF N/A 5.2 N/A $3,600 5.2 1.44
Ryan Switzer PIT WR $5,000 1.3 0.26 $4,000 1.8 0.45
Vance McDonald PIT TE $9,500 8.2 0.86 $6,000 10.4 1.73
Xavier Grimble PIT TE $5,000 1.3 0.26 $1,800 1.7 0.94
Zach Gentry PIT TE $5,000 0.5 0.1 $1,400 0.6 0.43

Roster Construction

The Captain/MVP/All-Star Slots

Likely outcomes tell us we'll either see a close game or a blowout by the home team. 75% of the probable outcomes have it finishing as an average or high-scoring game, so expect some fantasy production from the skill position players. The QBs are the obvious MVP/Captain choices with Julian Edelman, JuJu Smith Schuster, Sony Michel, and James Conner all in play in these typical scenarios. There is some concern with targeting JuJu as the top scorer given the Patriots proclivity at shutting down and opponent's top player and the excellent secondary play from the defending champions. If you're going to be contrarian, you'll want to stack the away team and/or go with defenses/kickers. The latter approach is definitely not one I am advising, but it's contrarian for sure (and probably contrarian just for the sake of trying to be different, which is usually a recipe for disaster). Both kickers are in play as salary savings options, however.


The aforementioned obvious MVP/Captain choices should also garner the most interest and I expect Tom Brady and Julian Edelman to garner the most ownership with the Big Ben to JuJu connection not too far behind. The two starting RB's (with Conner outpacing Michel) will be a bit behind that group. I expect the two QB's to be around 60% owned, JuJu and Edelman around 50% owned, Conner 50% and Michel 40%

Other players I expect to garner 20%+ ownership are James White, the two kickers and DST's, Vance McDonald, Donte Moncrief, and James Washington. White is certain to have more ownership on DK where it is a point-per-reception. 

Potential Low-Owned Difference Makers

Moncrief and McDonald at 25%ish ownership have the potential to have big games if the Patriots are successful in shutting down JuJu. I like both at higher percentages if I am mass multi-entering. Josh Gordon will go overlooked in this matchup and he's always in play as a difference-maker. If he's 10% owned, I want to be triple that. The sneakiest play for me, however, is Jaylen Samuels who I expect to see an increased role and there are some game scripts where he could receive more run than you might expect (if the Steelers fall significantly behind for instance).

Optimal Lineup Construction

Using the 4for4 projections these are the optimal ownership numbers when running the numbers through a 300-lineup model:

Pittsburgh at New England Optimal Lineup Breakdown
Player Team Pos FD MVP FD AnyFlex DK CAPT DK Flex
Damien Harris NE RB 0 1 0 0
Demaryius Thomas NE WR 0 12 0 1
Jakobi Meyers NE WR 0 6 0 0
James Develin NE RB 0 0 0 0
James White NE RB 0 13 5 40
Josh Gordon NE WR 0 12 1 17
Julian Edelman NE WR 0 33 10 57
Matt LaCosse NE TE 0 13 0 4
New England Patriots NE DEF 0 0 0 6
Rex Burkhead NE RB 0 20 1 23
Ryan Izzo NE TE 0 3 0 4
Sony Michel NE RB 0 12 1 11
Stephen Gostkowski NE K 0 20 10 55
Tom Brady NE QB 89 11 42 56
Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB 11 66 13 59
Benny Snell Jr. PIT RB 0 7 0 0
Chris Boswell PIT K 0 19 7 48
Diontae Johnson PIT WR 0 4 0 0
Donte Moncrief PIT WR 0 34 2 30
James Conner PIT RB 0 42 6 36
James Washington PIT WR 0 8 0 3
Jaylen Samuels PIT RB 0 17 0 5
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR 0 21 1 18
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT DEF 0 0 0 4
Ryan Switzer PIT WR 0 5 0 0
Vance McDonald PIT TE 0 19 3 24
Xavier Grimble PIT TE 0 2 0 0
Zach Gentry PIT TE 0 0 0 0

Where's the Edge?

I always find the optimal lineup roster construction interesting as it can highlight some potential fallacies in conventional thought. Of particular interest in this game, is how JuJu Smith-Schuster is a near must fade. He only appears in about 20% of the optimal lineups. On FanDuel (as is usually the case given their soft pricing), QB is the way to go at the MVP spot. Brady is the clear front runner at Captain on DraftKings. In addition to JuJu, other players that merit lower ownership than the field are James White (on FanDuel), both defenses, James Washington, and Sony Michel.

Players that stand out as warranting more ownership are lead by Donte Moncrief who appears in over 30% of the optimal lineups. On DraftKings, the kickers show up in a combined 120% (or an average of 60%) of optimal lineups, so having one of them in your lineup (and sometimes two) makes a ton of sense.

I like the fade of JuJu and Michel this week, although it wouldn't surprise me at all if either of them has a big game, but to gain leverage on the field I think being underweight on those two is a good play. As I mentioned previously, I'm going to be overweight on Josh Gordon and Jaylen Samuels and want about 30-40% of Moncrief to be slightly above what I expect his actual ownership to be. On DraftKings, if you're playing Brady I think you almost have to play Julian Edelman and/or James White. Those two are just points-per-reception monsters. The optimals bear that out as well with Edelman appearing in 67% of the optimal lineups and White in 45%. James Conner is a safe volume play on both sites and if you're playing cash he should be an integral part of your cash game lineup as his volume is more certain than any other RB in the game.

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