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DFS Picks for Steelers-Chargers: How to allocate your budget

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By Matt Savoca, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Yahoo is expanding its daily fantasy football options in 2021 with a single-game offering. Yahoo has a roster construction of one "Superstar" that scores at a 1.5 multiplier, while the remaining four FLEX roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the "Superstar" salary does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.

Depending on the type of contest we’re creating rosters for, we’ll need to adjust our player selection strategy. If playing in a tournament with a huge amount of contestants, it will be vitally important to play something other than the optimal lineup based on projections. Differentiating yourself from the rest of the field is equally valuable. Once we understand the type of roster we need to be building for the specific contest you’re trying to take down, we can then focus on player selection, working to identify combinations of players who could all hit their respective ceilings together, based on specific game environments. Slow, run-oriented defensive battles often allow very different players to hit their ceiling score compared to when a game is fast-paced and pass-happy.

This Sunday, the 5-3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers head to Los Angeles after a brutal 16-16 tie against Detroit, as they take on the Chargers at SoFi stadium in Los Angeles. Depending on what happens earlier Sunday, both teams could be playing for an opportunity to vault into first place in their respective divisions with a victory by kickoff, making this game as vitally important a matchup as we can get, and a fascinating single-game slate to break down. 

Vegas Total and Spread

The over/under for this game is 46.5 points. The Chargers are favored by 6 points, with an implied total of 26.25 points, compared to the Steelers’ implied total of 20.25. The Steelers' implied total improved by roughly 0.75 points when it was announced Ben Roethlisberger ($21) would return this week.

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Weather

None. Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium has a dome.

Potential Game Flow Scenarios

With Ben Roethlisberger ($21) officially activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Chase Claypool ($16) also good to go after a one-week absence, the Steelers will be at full-strength in Los Angeles. They’ll still have an uphill battle to climb offensively against the Chargers, who have made things difficult for opposing passing attacks all season, ranking second-best in the NFL in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Still, the overall upside of Pittsburgh’s offense, and the shootout potential of this game, on the whole, is drastically increased due to the presence of Roethlisberger and Claypool. Expect Big Ben to come out throwing, getting the ball to Diontae Johnson ($18), who has 10 or more targets in six games this season, while mixing in deep looks to Claypool and James Washington ($13). While Roethlisberger has a middling projection in this contest and is only averaging 13.8 fantasy points per game, he has an outside chance at a ceiling performance, especially if he’s able to connect on a few deep shots to Johnson or Claypool early, or locate his tight ends Pat Freiermuth ($17) and Eric Ebron ($10) in the red zone.

We can also be certain the Steelers will feature Najee Harris ($30), who is on pace for an absurd 415 touches this season. Despite the Steelers’ offensive line ranking below-average in nearly every efficiency metric, Harris ranks fourth in evaded tackles and sixth among running backs in fantasy points per game. Ranking first in the NFL in opportunity share, route participation rate, and top-12 in goal-line carries, Harris is a no-brainer Superstar play in both cash games and large-field tournaments. The Chargers rank dead last in the NFL in yards allowed per rush attempt this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris is in a smash spot against the Chargers' run-funnel defense. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

The Chargers have struggled of late, having lost three of their last four games, with their one win coming on a walk-off field goal. At the very least, the Chargers have scored at least 20 points in each game this season, and average 24.7 offensive points per game, 12th in the NFL. Justin Herbert ($33) doesn’t have an easy matchup, but the Steelers are at far less than full-strength defensively, having already ruled out safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, cornerback Joe Harden, and defensive end T.J. Watt. With so much star power missing for the Steelers we can more confidently project Herbert and his primary offensive weapons to meet expectations. Both Keenan Allen ($24)—who has seen a surge in targets over the last three weeks — and Mike Williams ($22) are suddenly in much better spots than the matchup might first suggest. Williams has seen a massive drop-off in targets since Week 5 when he saw a career-high 16. His salary hasn’t fully re-adjusted to his new, lower-opportunity role, but Williams has still seen five or more looks in every game this season, making him a decent play, particularly in tournaments. There are no concerns for Austin Ekeler ($29) in this matchup, as he’ll be heavily utilized in the passing game if the Steelers defensive line clogs up the running lanes. Ekeler has seen 5–10 targets in 67% of his starts this season.

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Here’s a brief rundown of which players would likely benefit the most from various game flow scenarios.

Close, low-scoring game

  • Najee Harris

  • Austin Ekeler

  • Chargers

  • Steelers

  • Keenan Allen

  • Justin Herbert

  • Diontae Johnson

Close, high-scoring game

  • Diontae Johnson

  • Mike Williams

  • Keenan Allen

  • Najee Harris

  • Austin Ekeler

  • Justin Herbert

  • Chase Claypool

  • Pat Freiermuth

  • James Washington

  • Jared Cook

Blowout for home team

  • Austin Ekeler

  • Chargers

  • Justin Herbert

  • Keenan Allen

  • Mike Williams

  • Najee Harris

  • Chase Claypool

Blowout for away team

  • Najee Harris

  • Diontae Johnson

  • Chase Claypool

  • Ben Roethlisberger

  • Keenan Allen

  • Pat Freiermuth

  • Steelers

  • James Washington

Cheap/Unique Stack Options

Chargers ($13) and Jared Cook ($13)

The Chargers quietly rank fourth-best among all defenses in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses, and even with Ben Roethlisberger ($21) back, he’s been averaging 2.25 sacks allowed and 0.5 interceptions thrown per game, which means the Chargers defense has enough upside in this spot to be considered for the Superstar position. Meanwhile, Jared Cook ($13), despite a paltry 10 yards receiving in Week 10, has averaged 4.8 targets per game over his last four starts, and has scored twice this season. This combo can be easily paired with Austin Ekeler ($29) or Justin Herbert ($33) to create interesting Chargers’ mega-stacks.

Low Salary Volatile Plays

James Washington ($13)

With Chase Claypool inactive in Week 10, Washington played on a season-high 87.7% of snaps, earning six targets from Mason Rudolph, also a season-high. Though Chase Claypool will return this week, Washington should still get plenty of run, likely playing close to 60% of snaps, and could still see enough opportunity to pay off at the lowest salary for any primary passing game contributor on either offense.

Ray-Ray McCloud ($11)

McCloud saw a career-high 12 targets in Week 10, catching nine for 63 yards with Mason Rudolph at quarterback in Pittsburgh. McCloud typically plays a hybrid, gadget-receiver role, and averaged just 1.8 opportunities per game in the six contests prior to his Week 10 breakout, but there’s always a chance he earned a more substantial role after a fairly strong week.

Superstar Picks

Austin Ekeler ($29)

Ekeler ranks top-10 among all running backs in opportunity share, route participation rate, breakaway runs and evaded tackles, and is currently second among all active running backs in fantasy points per game. Even against the Steelers' above-average rush defense, Ekeler is a near-lock for 18 opportunities and has multi-touchdown upside if the Chargers take command of this game early.

Keenan Allen ($24)

Allen has seen double-digit targets in three straight games and has topped 95 yards receiving in back-to-back contests. Though his two total touchdowns might suggest otherwise, Allen also ranks fifth in the NFL with 15 targets inside the 20-yard line, making him a strong positive regression candidate in the touchdown department.

Diontae Johnson ($18)

The unquestioned primary wide receiver in Pittsburgh, Johnson has seen exactly 13 targets, as he did last weekend, in 50% of his games this season, and has seen double-digit looks in all but two weeks. The Chargers have been strong in the secondary this year, ranking 13th in PFF’s team coverage grade, but Johnson should see enough volume with Roethlisberger back at the helm for him to have a huge game anyway.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.

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