Winners and Losers from Steelers – Colts

The Steelers defeated the Colts 20-17 in a game that was not supposed to be close. They were losing 17-9 going into the 4th quarter before tying the game and scoring the game winning field goal with time expiring. So why was it so hard? Do the Steelers play poorly after a bye week? Do they play down to the competition? Could it be that *gasp* the other team is trying too? Let’s look at the winners and losers.

Winners

Martavis Bryant

Finally a good game from Martavis Bryant! He had 3 receptions for 42 yards on 5 targets and also caught the crucial 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter. it’s not a huge game and it wasn’t perfect, but he was a part of the offense for once so hopefully that’s the start of bigger contributions.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Someone tell JuJu Smith-Schuster rookie wide receivers aren’t supposed to have huge rookie seasons, because JuJu apparently didn’t get the memo. Today he had 5 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown on 7 targets. He has caught a touchdown in 3 consecutive games now.

Ben Roethlisberger in the 2nd half

Ben Roethlisberger had a lousy first half, but made the throws when it counted in the 2nd half, including a 10 play, 70 yard drive to score the game winning field goal. Ben had 2 touchdowns in the 2nd half and completed a 2 point conversion.

Ryan Shazier

In the Lions game, Coach Tomlin said the team needed to make more splash plays, and pointed at Ryan Shazier missing an interception at the end of the game. This time he made the interception and it was huge. Shazier’s interception at the Colts 10 yard line in the 4th quarter led to a Steelers touchdown.

Red Zone Offense

While not perfect, the Steelers scored 2 times out of 4 chances in the red zone. Considering the red zone percentage was around 30% in the first 8 games, we’ll take 50%.

Losers

Chris Boswell

What happened Chris? Boswell is usually automatic but missed a crucial field goal and got an extra point blocked. This probably is just a bad day because he has only missed 2 field goal attempts all season.

Ben Roethlisberger in the 1st half

Ben was 7 of 15 for 72 yards and 1 interception in the first half. He wasn’t the only one that was awful in the 1st half. The Steelers have historically played poorly after a bye week. Why is that? Apparently it’s not easy to get back into the swing of things after time off. But back to Ben – it’s been 9 games now and he hasn’t been great the whole season. I think the reality is that he’s old and is not at the level he was at his peak. He can still play great at times, but just not as often as previous years.

Communication

When the Steelers scored a touchdown in the 4th quarter to make it 17-15, they decided to go for a 2 point conversion. They had to call a timeout because they weren’t lined up correctly then still had a delay of game penalty. How could this happen? Is it the coaching? The players?

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Steelers vs Colts Preview

The 6-2 Steelers travel to Indianapolis to face the 3-6 Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers are coming off a bye week and should be well rested and healthy. If you think this is going to be a cakewalk for the Steelers, you haven’t been watching NFL games. Let’s look at the match-ups.

Colts Offense vs Steelers Defense

This would’ve been a much more closer game if Andrew Luck was back from his shoulder injury, but Jacoby Brissett has been impressive since coming from the Patriots. They rank 23rd in passing offense with 205 yards per game. But they are dead last in the league in sacks allowed. That’s not good news for them when the Steelers defense is 4th in the league with 26 sacks.

One thing Brissett has going for him is that he can run, and the Steelers sometimes have trouble against mobile quarterbacks. Leading receiver T.Y. Hilton has a groin injury, and if he’s going to miss the game, that will hurt the Colts greatly.

Edge: Steelers

Steelers Offense vs Colts Defense

The Colts defense might be just what the Steelers need to get on track. The Colts are last in the NFL with an average of 29 points allowed per game. It didn’t help when cornerback Vontae Davis was released this week.

The question is, will the Steelers offense stop itself? The main issues the offense had the first half was red zone inefficiency, Ben Roethlisberger‘s inconsistency and Martavis Bryant‘s attitude. With a week off, we’ll see if they’ve resolved these problems.

Edge: Steelers

Game Prediction

This has every indication of a blowout. The Steelers are healthy, well rested and ready to run on all cylinders. The only thing going against them is the notion that they play down to the competition.

Steelers 34, Colts 17

Steelers Mid-Year Review and Second Half Outlook

The Steelers have the best record in the AFC at 6-2, and that’s about what they were expected to be at this point. What wasn’t expected was how they would get to this point. Let’s look at each position group and see if they were a winner or loser.

Offense

Ben Roethlisberger: Loser

The numbers aren’t too bad – Ben has had a completion percentage of 61% with 2062 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. But what is bad is Ben’s play so far this year at times. He has missed deep throws, which used to be his specialty. The expectation for the offense before the season began was that it would score 30 points a game. That hasn’t happened once. The Steelers are winning on their defense and the offense scoring just enough.

There’s a few theories on why Ben isn’t at his usual level. Is he too old? Hurt? In a slump? No one knows but the good news is the defense and running game are good enough that Ben doesn’t have to put the team on his back like he has in previous years.

Running Backs: Winner

Le’Veon Bell started the season slow due to missing all of training camp. He really got going in week 4 against the Ravens, rushing for 144 yards. Since that game, Bell has been the focal point of the offense and has responded well, rushing for 760 yards, good for 3rd the league. James Conner and Terrell Watson have been used very little and Bell is projected to get a record number of carries. Are the Steelers using Bell too much? They don’t seem to think so.

Wide Receivers: Winner

The problem with the offense last year was that there was no strong number 2 receiver besides Antonio Brown. That was supposed to be different this year with the return of Martavis Bryant from suspension and the drafting of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Has it worked out that way? Not exactly. JuJu has been a pleasant surprise and has had some good games. Bryant on the other hand has been a major disappointment on and off the field. In 7 games he has 18 receptions for 234 yards and 1 touchdown. For the Steelers to be successful, Bryant has to be productive on the field. Off the field, he’s unhappy with his playing time, his agent requested a trade and he’s complained on social media. The difference between the Steelers reaching the Super Bowl or not may rest with Bryant.

Offensive Line: Winner

The entire offense struggled in the early part of the season and the offensive line didn’t get off to a great start either. But they have turned into maybe the best offensive line in the league. They’ve given up the 2nd fewest sacks in the league and helped Le’Veon Bell to 3rd in the league in rushing yards. They should get even better with the return of Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert.

Tight Ends: Loser

If there’s one weakness on the offense, it’s the tight ends. Jesse James has 20 receptions for 193 yards and Vance McDonald only has 3 receptions. McDonald’s lack of production could be blamed on his being traded to the team shortly before the season began. Hopefully he can contribute more to the offense and give the offense another receiving threat.

Defense

Defensive Line: Winner

The defense as a whole has been a pleasant suprrise this year. They are 2nd in pass defense partly because the defensive line is putting so much pressure on quarterbacks. They’re 4th in the league with 26 sacks and that’s without DE Stephon Tuitt for most of the season. Cam Heyward and Javon Hargrave were expected to be good but Tyson Alualu and LT Walton have provided great depth. If Tuitt is healthy, this defensive line could be devastating.

Linebackers: Winner

The Steelers have invested many high draft picks in the linebackers and it’s finally paying off. Ryan Shazier is healthy and might be the defensive MVP of the team and maybe the league. T.J. Watt has had a great rookie year. It’s been so good that James Harrison has hardly played. Will be play in the second half?

Secondary: Winner

The secondary was the biggest weakness last year has been the most pleasant surprise this year. Two newcomers have made huge contributions: Mike Hilton and Joe Haden. It can be argued that the quarterbacks they’ve faced haven’t been very good and the Lions did have a huge day passing, so there is room for improvement.

Special Teams: Winner

The Steelers red zone offense has been terrible this year and they’ve had to rely on K Chris Boswell to get them 3 points. Luckily he’s been very good at that, making 18 of 20 field goal attempts. Punter Jordan Berry has been inconsistent.

Looking Ahead

It can be argued that the Steelers do not have a tough remaining schedule. It could’ve been a lot tougher but injuries to Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck have made those games a lot easier. They go to Indianapolis, are home to Tennessee and Green Bay, go to Cincinnati, are home to Baltimore and New England, go to Houston then finish with Cleveland at home. The biggest challenge will be New England and that may determine home field advantage in the playoffs.

So what can we expect the rest of the season? I believe the passing game will improve greatly, the running game will still be good and the defense will continue to be effective. IF they can stay healthy, I see them going 6-2 in the second half and 12-4 overall.

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 9)

There are only two to four weeks left in the regular season of fantasy football. Hopefully you are not one of the bottom feeders in your league out of playoff contention. If you are, you can attempt to pick up players on waivers and win games for pride. On the other end of the spectrum if you are fighting for a playoff spot or a top dog, landing a productive waiver player at this point in the season can get you into the playoffs. The players below are mostly influenced by the trade deadline.

1. Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins

Drake is here due to the Jay Ajayi trade. He should see a massive uptick in touches for the Dolphins. He has not been very active catching passes, but the Phins should lean on the ground game because of quarterback injuries. If Drake can have an electric game next week he could become a bell cow for the team. (Percent Owned: 0.3 NFL, 0.4 ESPN)

2. Damien Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins

This is obviously also because of the Ajayi trade. It is a toss up who will become the teams lead back, so it could be beneficial to add both backs if you can make the space on your roster. However, if you can only add one I would choose Williams. He is the better pass catcher and if the team goes down early, Williams will see more snaps. (Percent Owned: 0.1 NFL, 0.3 ESPN)

3. Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

Robby Anderson is quietly having a good year in New York. Quarterback Josh McCown is doing a nice job getting his number one target the ball and Anderson is benefiting from it. Although he is going up against a tough Bills defense this week, he is a solid add for the rest of the year and he is not owned in a majority of leagues. (Percent Owned: 2.5 NFL, 26.5 ESPN)

4. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu was on this list several weeks ago and he is still a very viable add. He is now the number two target for Big Ben due to the Martavis Bryant debacle. JuJu blew up last week with 193 yards and a touchdown, and set a record for longest touchdown in Steelers history. Do not expect him to put up those numbers every week, but he is a great add at this point in the season. (Percent Owned: 13.1 NFL, 29.3 ESPN)

5. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Collins is in a crowded backfield as Terrance West and Danny Woodhead will be coming back from injury soon, as well as Javorius Allen who Collins is currently splitting carries with. Collins ran for 113 yards and caught two passes for 30 yards last week. If the Ravens decide to go with the hot hand, Alex Collins will continue to see touches in the crowded backfield. (Percent Owned: 5.5 NFL, 32.2 ESPN)

6. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams

Goff has performed very well compared to last season and has the Rams offense humming. Helped by star running back Todd Gurley, Goff is protecting the ball and scoring an average of 15 fantasy points per game. If your quarterback is struggling or injured, Goff can be a great fill in or quality starter for the rest of the season. (Percent Owned: 14.2 NFL, 26.7 ESPN)

DFS Trends and Tips

DFS Trends and Tips: Week 8 Review

By Nathan Smith

As the NFL season progresses, statistical trends start to develop among teams and players. These trends are often translatable into the world of DFS, as picking up on the right things can give you an edge in lineup construction. In week 8, there were several relevant and notable developments that stood out.

Texans @ Seahawks

Quarterback Russell Wilson has shown he often plays better in front of the 12th man. Wilson often starts the season off somewhat slowly, before rapidly improving as the season progresses. Heading into week 8, Wilson was a must play for me versus the Texans. In addition to the boost from the home crowd, Wilson faced a better matchup than most people realized. The Texans typically boast a strong defense, but are extremely banged up as of late. After losing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season, the Houston pass rush hasn’t been as formidable as it was to start the year. The Texans are also missing linebacker Brian Cushing and no longer have stud cornerback AJ Bouye this season. When many DFS players see “vs HOU” they tend to have a subconscious bias, remembering how good the Texans defense has been previously, instead of analyzing how good they are now. Because of this, too many people scrolled right past Wilson’s name in week 8. With an advantage in personnel, and lower ownership than deserved (11.1% in the DraftKings Milly Maker), the deck was stacked in Russell Wilson’s favor in week 8.

Tyler Lockett is another player who elevates his level of play as the season goes on. Coming off a significant injury, the Seahawks wanted to bring Lockett along slowly as he worked his way back to 100%. As mentioned, the Houston secondary isn’t nearly as formidable as it once was, meaning Lockett was stepping into a great matchup. Houston was coming off a bye week where they had two weeks to prepare and scheme for Seattle’s offense. It is highly likely they focused more of their energy and game plan around Seahawks star wide receiver Doug Baldwin. With the attention shifted away from Lockett, the speedster was able to capitalize to the tune of 6 catches for 121 yards.

The takeaway here is these performances can be used to strategize player selections for week 9. We want to find the talented players with a good opportunity and matchup, that others are quick to write off because they haven’t had a strong game recently. Lockett’s talent, speed, and playmaking ability are undeniable; he is one of the NFL’s best kept secrets. Dismissing him as a good DFS play based on his recent game logs doesn’t make much sense at all. As mentioned, the Seahawks were looking to get him more and more involved as the season went on. Coming home, and in a spot where Doug Baldwin was going to be the center of the defense’s attention, now was as good a time as ever for Lockett to break out. As far as Wilson, it is as simple as analyzing the matchup and following the trends. With Houston’s defense in shambles, and Wilson’s home/road splits, it wasn’t hard to determine he was a great play.

We can’t talk about this game without mentioning one of the most eye-popping trends of all: the Texans passing game. Houston is led on the offensive side of the ball by rookie QB Deshaun Watson of Clemson. He is on fire lately, as nothing seems to slow down his electric connection to the wide receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V. There has been nothing to suggest any of these three will slow down any time soon. Running back Lamar Miller has benefited as well, since the passing game is taking up so much of the defenses’ attention. Even on the road in Seattle, the Texans offense continued to be explosive. They are a particularly fun team to target because we know where the production is going to come from with Watson (38.78 week 8 DraftKings points), Hopkins (39.4), Fuller V (32.5), and Miller (22.3).

Raiders @ Bills

So far, the Bills have been absolutely atrocious at the wide receiver position. They would probably kill to have a guy like Tyler Lockett on their team. Without much success in the passing game, it is natural that they want to rely on their star running back, LeSean McCoy. Prior to week 7, reports surfaced that the Bills wanted to lean on McCoy even more so than usual. The box score backed that up, as he racked up 28 touches for 122 total yards and 2 touchdowns. With a week 8 home game against the Raiders, ‘Shady’ waltzed into another great spot. The Bills weren’t going to all of a sudden back off of their commitment to him, as he is clearly their best offensive player. Another trend in Shady’s favor was the home matchup against a west coast team. For the most part, west coast teams don’t perform as well when playing on the east coast. Although the game was at 1 pm, a three-hour time difference means the Raiders’ players body clock would be set to 10 am at game time. With this likely hindering the Raiders, Buffalo had a great chance to establish a lead early on. This would point to the game plan once again favoring McCoy, who could help his team establish dominance in time of possession. By running the ball frequently and keeping the clock moving, the Bills played keep away and limited the Raiders chances of a comeback. McCoy was popular (26.2 % owned in the DraftKings Milly Maker) and expensive (8700), but he was well worth it in this matchup, as he finished with 32.3 points.

There are two takeaways here that can be used moving forward. Always trust high end talents in high usage spots, and take advantage of west coast teams traveling to the east coast as they are not likely to match their usual level of play.

Steelers @ Lions

In week 8, the Steelers’ faced off against the Lions, a team known for scheming to take away the opponents’ #1 wide receiver. With so much attention being paid to Antonio Brown, production was likely to come elsewhere in the Pittsburgh passing game. Jesse James isn’t exactly a dynamic tight end, and #2 receiver Martavis Bryant was a healthy scratch due to attitude problems. Enter USC product JuJu Smith-Schuster. With awesome touchdown celebrations and a quirky stolen bike fiasco, the rookie wide receiver has been trending upwards recently, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Smith-Schuster is a fun-loving type of person and a great follow on Twitter. His social media presence is matched by his rapid improvement on the field, as the coaching staff seems to think very highly of him. Playing on turf, after moving up the depth chart and gaining momentum, against a defense that is susceptible to getting beat by #2 wide receivers…well let’s just say the play basically wrote itself. Primetime games are not on the DraftKings main slate anymore, but you could get exposure to him on the primetime only slates, late afternoon slates, and on FanDuel. I was shocked to see him come in at only 1.2% owned on the FanDuel mini contests, where he rewarded me with a whopping 28.8 points and a nice payday to go along with it.

The takeaway here is less about the Steelers and more so about “funnel defenses”. Teams like the Lions and Cardinals are known to limit the success of #1 WR, and allow production to other passing game weapons. The Lions have stand out cornerback Darius Slay and a scheme built to stop opposing #1’s. The Cardinals have all world CB Patrick Peterson, who frequently takes away any hope the opponents’ #1 WR has of succeeding. Consequently, both of these defenses funnel production to other areas, making them very attackable on a week to week basis. There are other examples of this trend that may be as simple as a team stuffing the box against the run, opening them up to getting beat in single coverage by speedy deep threats.

Moving Forward

Many of the trends mentioned in this article may be hard to keep track of, so I encourage taking notes as well as staying up to date with podcasts and articles from your favorite content providers. Most sharp DFS touts will be aware of these types of trends and point them out every week. Over time and with repetition, you will start to remember them and get a feel for when the time is right to attack certain situations.

With week 9 on the horizon, NFL teams are starting to show their strengths and weakness more and more. It’s time to use familiar data, information, and trends to our advantage and hopefully turn that into profit. Be sure to follow me on Twitter, and keep it tuned to The Sports Talk leading up to week 9 for more sharp analysis and my recommended #PlugPlayers of the week.

Winners and Losers from Steelers – Lions

The Steelers defeated the Lions 20-15 to go into the bye week with a 6-2 record, best in the AFC. The Lions had plenty of chances in the red zone, but the Steelers defense stopped them every time, and that was the difference in the game. Oh, and a guy named JuJu… Let’s look at the winners and losers:

Winners

JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster had himself quite a week. He got called out by Martavis Bryant and handled that well. Then his bike was stolen and recovered – that became the main story in Pittsburgh news. Then tonight, he had one of the greatest games a Steelers wide receiver has ever had. He had 7 receptions for 193 yards on 10 targets. One of them was a 97 yard touchdown catch, which was the longest touchdown catch in Steelers history. How do you follow up a week like that? Will they name him mayor?

Red Zone Defense

The Lions had 7 chances in the red zone and didn’t score a touchdown on any of the chances. Some of that is because of questionable calls by the Lions, but mostly it was the defense being incredible in the red zone. The Lions didn’t come close to scoring a touchdown in any of the chances.

Losers

Pass defense

Matthew Stafford passed for 423 yards against the top-rated Steelers defense – a defense that allowed 147 yards per game before this game. The Lions were dealing with injuries to their offensive line but they were excellent in protecting Stafford, only giving up 2 sacks. The Lions couldn’t score in the red zone but they had no problem moving the ball into the red zone.

Martavis Bryant

Does the name Wally Pipp ring a bell? Bryant was inactive for the game because of his antics on social media and interview demanding a trade. In his absence, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a fantastic game, getting almost as many yards in one game as Bryant has had all season. Did Bryant just move down the depth chart?

Eli Rogers

One player that didn’t take advantage of Bryant’s absence was Eli Rogers. He dropped a very easy touchdown in the first half and didn’t get another target after that.

Steelers vs Lions Preview

Everything is coming up roses for the Steelers. They have the best record in the AFC, the 2nd best defense in the NFL and have won 2 in a row. They play the Detroit Lions Sunday night in Detroit. There’s no way they could lose this game, right? Not so fast. Let’s look at the matchups.

Lions Offense vs. Steelers Defense

This almost doesn’t seem fair – the Lions have injury issues at almost every position on offense, most of which is QB Matthew Stafford with an ankle issue. The Lions are also on their 3rd tackle as journeyman Brian Mihalik will play at left tackle. Also, the wide receivers are dealing with various injuries. The Steelers defense has to be salivating at this as they are 2nd in the league in sacks and 3rd in the league in points per game. The Steelers dominated the Bengals last week, giving up 14 points, getting 4 sacks and 1 interception. They are firing on all cylinders right now.

Edge: Steelers

Steelers Offense vs. Lions Defense

The Steelers have had a very successful season so far, but also a very controversial one. Every week there seems to be some drama. This week once again it was wide receiver Martavis Bryant. On Instagram he said he was better than teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster and demanded a trade in an interview. This led to Coach Mike Tomlin making him inactive for this game. How will the offense look in his absence? Will JuJu Smith-Schuster play in Bryant’s more? Or will Eli Rogers or Justin Hunter get more snaps? Whoever it is, they should get a lot of attention as cornerback Darius Slay is one of the best in the league, and he’s expected to shadow Antonio Brown. The Steelers offense has underachieved so far this year partly because Martavis Bryant has been a disappointment. If they can get production from the other receivers, the passing game could flourish.
Injuries haven’t affected just the Lions’ offense – former Pro Bowl defensive tackle and Steeler killer Haloti Ngata was placed on injured reserve. This will weaken the run defense and that’s not good news for the Lions, as the Steelers running game has had over 150 yards the last 2 weeks. The Lions defense has 9 interceptions, so the Steelers would be smart to keep it on the ground.

Edge: Steelers

Game prediction:

The Steelers usually play well on Sunday nights so hopefully they don’t suffer a let down after 2 intense matchups. The Lions would’ve had a chance if they were healthy, but with injuries at key positions, they won’t be able to keep up. Expect the Steelers pass defense to shut down Stafford and the running game to run it down the Lions throat.

Steelers 33, Lions 17