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NFL Matchups: Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals Fantasy Football Preview

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This a snippet of Adam Pfeifer’s NFL matchups column, previewing Steelers vs. the Cardinals for Fantasy Football Lineups. With just a few weeks left in the season, we have to begin assessing not only injuries and matchups, but also potential resting of stars for the long haul. All of it has a tremendous effect on our NFL DFS and season-long fantasy lineups. So let’s dig into some NFL DFS matchups and NFL game breakdowns for your Week 14 Fantasy Football Lineups on DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo and FantasyDraft.

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Pittsburgh Steelers @ Arizona Cardinals

Total: 43.5

Line: PIT -3

Steelers passing game

The matchup is more than ideal but I’m going to have a hard time playing Devlin Hodges this week. Yes, the Cardinals are coughing up the second-most fantasy points per pass attempt (0.59) and most fantasy points per game (25.2) to opposing quarterbacks this season. However, Hodges has attempted 20 and 21 passes in his two starts this season, as the Steelers continue to rely on their defense and running game, especially with all of their injuries. At $5,900 on DraftKings, Hodges is far too expensive for my liking with regard to NFL DFS. And in seasonal leagues, I highly doubt you have to go to him.

It looks like JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to miss another game for the Steelers, setting up both James Washington and Diontae Johnson for plenty of work. Over the last two weeks, Washington has played 75 percent of the snaps, while Johnson has played 66 percent. Washington has had consecutive strong outings, posting stat lines of 4-111-1 and 3-98-1, while also averaging 3.94 yards per route run during that span, the fourth-highest rate in football.

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Hodges has been much better than Mason Rudolph, and more aggressive, too, as 14.8 percent of his pass attempts have traveled 20 yards or more this season. Washington has also been priced up around the industry, making me second guess, though the upside is still clearly there, especially against a Cardinals defense that has allowed 60 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season, the most in the NFL. He remains in play as a boom-or-bust WR3, while Johnson is the more intriguing NFL DFS option because he has run six fewer routes over the last two weeks and is much cheaper.

It may cost me, but I will be fading Vance McDonald on DraftKings this week. Yes, I understand the tight end flow chart against Arizona but I am not willing to pay $4,300 for a tight end that hasn’t been very involved this year. His 13.2 percent target share is 23rd among all tight ends and has found the end zone just once over his last nine games. Sure, he could easily score against a Cardinals defense allowing a league-high 13 touchdowns to opposing tight ends, and he’s a fine streaming play for that reason. But at that elevated NFL DFS price tag, I am out.

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Steelers running game

James Conner does not look ready to return to action this week, which means Benny Snell is worth a look as a flex or low-end RB2 again. After getting the start and 21 carries back in Week 12, Snell didn’t start last week but eventually took over as Pittsburgh’s lead back, finishing with 16 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. He now has 37 carries over the last two weeks, though his pass-catching upside is extremely limited, as he’s run just nine pass routes over the last two games. Still, he should be able to get 15-20 carries again, as opposing offenses are averaging 68.4 plays per game against the Cardinals this season, the most in the NFL.

Cardinals passing game

It was a day to forget last week for Kyler Murray, as the rookie quarterback completed 19-of-34 passes for 163 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception. He added a rushing touchdown. Things won’t get much easier this week, as the Steelers and their red hot defense come to town. Pittsburgh is pressuring opposing signal callers at the second-highest rate in the NFL this year (29.2%) and over the last four weeks, the Steelers are coughing up the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing passers (11.02). Pittsburgh also blitzes at the sixth-highest rate in the league (32.8 percent), which doesn’t bode well for Murray, who is sporting the league’s fourth-worst passer rating against the blitz (63.2). Murray has six different games without a touchdown this season, making him someone I’m not willing to trust in the opening round of my fantasy playoffs, especially in a bad matchup.

Over the last four weeks, Christian Kirk has one huge game sandwiched between three awful ones. Of course, the six-catch, 138-yard, three-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay stands out but outside of that, he has stat lines of 3-23, 6-41 and 2-8 over his last four. Because Murray has been inconsistent, so has Kirk, who is 48th among all wide receivers in fantasy points per pass route (0.42) and 74th in fantasy points per target (1.58). Over the last four weeks, the Steelers have been a top-five pass defense and rarely surrender big passing plays, making Kirk a risky NFL DFS play this weekend.

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Larry Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has been better lately but still lacks a ceiling. He’s 57th in the league in yards per target (7.8), while seeing just 10 deep targets all year long. Fitzgerald does get the best matchup of the Arizona pass-catchers, as he lines up in the slot over 89 percent of the time, while Pittsburgh is coughing up a league-worst 27.8 fantasy points per game to the slot this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Nickel corner Mike Hilton is allowing 0.47 fantasy points per target on the year, one of the worst rates on the slate.

Cardinals running game

Kenyan Drake remains the lead back in this offense. Last week, with all three backs active, Drake led the way with an 80 percent snap rate and 15 touches. David Johnson played just 23 percent of the snaps and touched the ball six times, while Chase Edmonds was active but never took the field. It is possible that Edmonds actually takes the field this week, which would make this a three-way committee, the devil when it comes to fantasy football. And the matchup is bad, too, as the Steelers have allowed just one rushing touchdown over the last four weeks and the fewest rushing scores per game on the season (0.4).

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