Washington Football Team at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Washington Football Team heads to Pittsburgh for a bout with the Steelers’ injury-plagued defense. Key losses in the front-seven, ILB Devin Bush and EDGE rusher Bud Dupree, benefit both QB Alex Smith and breakout rookie RB Antonio Gibson. Stud perimeter cornerback Steven Nelson (knee) will also miss Monday’s game. Pittsburgh is expected to address the absence by pushing Cam Sutton, a member of their 1-2 punch at slot cornerback — the other being Mike Hilton — to the outside. Sutton has played well on the inside, but the 5’11”, 188 lbs moderate athlete will have a tough time handling Washington’s star-in-the-making, WR Terry McLaurin whose athleticism and talent are among the league’s best. Of course, McLaurin will have to do battle with lock-down CB Joe Haden for much of the night, but the prospect of Sutton coverage cements his Top 15 status for Week 13. Alex Smith—while not wowing with his accuracy—is aided by Washington’s commitment to play-action passing. In total numbers, Washington is 12th in the league in terms of total play-action passes (95) — and that’s after most teams’ have already played their Week 13 game. Consider Smith a high-floor/capped-ceiling QB2.
Of the remaining WAS receivers, few bear much intrigue. Playing largely on the outside, Cam Sims is the only one with a steady snap share but he’s not done much with it. Tag-team slot receivers Isaiah Wright and Steven Sims Jr. could make a little noise with Mike Hilton now the only actual slot CB available, but the duo shouldn’t seriously be considered outside of one-game DFS slates. Dontrelle Inman is not fantasy-relevant.
Expectations for tight end Logan Thomas must be lowered against Pittsburgh. Although 11th in TE targets across the league (60), producing a bevvy of useful outings, Thomas has a brutal match-up on tap against a Steelers defense allowing the fewest .5PPR PPG (5.4) to opposing tight ends. He’s a back-end TE1 with a likely low ceiling this week.
Washington RB coach Randy Jordan sung the praises of stud rookie back Antonio Gibson this week, stating the young running back is rapidly gaining a better understanding of RB pass protection responsibilities — a key aspect of being a dual threat lead back in today’s game. The combination of Gibson’s ascending snap and target shares in recent weeks, along with the aforementioned losses to the Steelers’ defensive-front, lock Gibson’s fantasy outlook into the RB1 ranks Week 13. He’s this week’s overall RB7. J.D. McKissic has become just a high-floor flex play with slight upside in full-point PPR leagues.
Despite the loss of center Maurkice Pouncey to the COVID-19/Reserve List this week, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger maintains mid-tier QB1 prospects against a Washington defense comprised of talented pass rushers and a weak secondary.
Pittsburgh’s juggernaut of a 3-receiver set, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool has proven that no matter the match-up, they’ll all get theirs. Accounting for the reverberations of Pouncey heading to IR, we can brace for a slight dip in each player’s ceiling but teams like Cincinnati and Dallas, who are woefully short-staffed when compared to Pittsburgh, have had a number of great wide receiver showings in recent weeks. Consider the trio great bets to return WR2 usage with Johnson the favorite to finish in the position’s Top 12, given his hearty target market share.
James Washington is now just a WR handcuff for the fantasy playoff battle.
The return of tight end Vance McDonald did not eat into Eric Ebron’s fantasy production at all last week, as the former didn’t see a single target. Consider Ebron a mid-tier TE1 option with decent upside, given the match-up. Washington is allowing the 12-most .5PPR PPG (10.5) to the position.
With lead back James Conner contracting COVID-19 last week, Benny Snell Jr. stepped into firm No. 1 RB duties, taking on a 71% snap share. Now-No. 2 RB Anthony McFarland Jr. registered a measly 3 carries and 1 target in the contest, assuring those who claimed Snell off of waivers that they’d acquired Pittsburgh’s current bellcow. Unfortunately, the team’s loss of center Maurkice Pouncey is likely to effect Snell most of all, as a backup center is not conducive to interior rushing production. Still, an impending 20-touch workload with dual threat usage — in the vaunted Steelers’ offense — is bound to return RB2 production at worst. Snell is this week’s overall RB16. McFarland is just a handcuff.