This a snippet of Adam Pfeifer’s NFL matchups column, previews Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the San Francisco 49ers for Fantasy Football Lineups. Fantasy rosters needed protective spray because players were bit hard by the injury bug in Week 2. Multiple starting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers all suffered injuries this past weekend, with a handful of key offensive linemen also going down. As a result, we missed on plenty in this article, but we hit on plenty, as well. Back on the horse. With that in mind, let’s dig into some NFL matchups and NFL game breakdowns for your Week 3 Fantasy Football Lineups.
To read the FULL column, click HERE.
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Pittsburgh Steelers @ San Francisco 49ers
Ben Roethlisberger has suffered a season-ending elbow injury, which means rookie Mason Rudolph will receive the keys to the Steelers offense. The final quarterback that is in play as a DFS punt, Rudolph is just $4,800 on DraftKings. Rudolph is a guy who likes to throw the ball deep, which isn’t too much different than what Big Ben did as the Steelers starter. That does present him with some upside and given how Ben looked with the elbow, is this really going to be that big of a downtick? It is safe to say that the Steelers offense isn’t going to score nearly as many points this season, but that could be more due to the absence of Antonio Brown. Rudolph is a viable punt quarterback this weekend.
JuJu Smith-Schuster saw a team-high five targets after Rudolph entered the game last week. He should have scored a 60-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker but Rudolph underthrew him. While JuJu does go from a top-five receiver to a back-end WR1, I’m not jumping ship. The offense is still going to go through him and with how the defense has looked through two weeks, Pittsburgh should be throwing a lot this season. They said before the game they were going to move JuJu all around the formation, which they will likely continue to do. He’ll definitely see some coverage from Richard Sherman, who has been really good since the start of last season. But I still have Smith-Schuster as a top-12 receiver this week and going forward.
James Washington could see an uptick in value. For starters, it appears Donte Moncrief has been benched after dropping another pass on Sunday, which led to Rudolph’s lone interception. This will result in more playing time for Washington, who played with Rudolph in college at Oklahoma State. The two connected a lot during the preseason, too, which isn’t very surprising. If Washington finally becomes Pittsburgh’s number-two receiver, there is some upside as a dart throw in tournaments.
Both of Rudolph’s touchdown passes went to Vance McDonald on Sunday, one of which was a screen pass. After an offseason where the team said his snaps wouldn’t go up, McDonald has played 80.6 percent of the snaps, including 91 percent last week. Given the big play ability that Vance has, especially after the catch, you have to be excited about him becoming an every-down player. Despite the quarterback change, Vance remains a top-10 tight end for me.
Steelers running game
James Conner hurt his knee on Sunday and although he said he should be good to go, he didn’t practice on Wednesday. You obviously need to keep an eye on his status throughout the week because if he doesn’t play, Jaylen Samuels will dominate the Steelers backfield and become a top tier value play. The former tight end is a very skilled pass-catcher who was very good when called upon last year. Samuels averaged 18 touches per game in Weeks 14-16 of last year to go along with 109.3 scrimmage yards per game. If he’s the starting running back, I would view Samuels as a borderline top-25 running back play. If Conner suits up, you probably have to start him unless you have crazy running back depth. He hasn’t looked all that great this season and the 49ers have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
49ers passing game
Jimmy Garoppolo had a huge game on Sunday, throwing for 297 yards and three touchdowns. The Bengals couldn’t cover or tackle anyone in this game, making Garoppolo’s job fairly simple. In fact, per Mike Florio of NFL Fantasy, 333 of Garoppolo’s 463 passing yards have come after the catch, an insanely high number. I guess that shows how talented some of these skill players are, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Garoppolo, but you definitely don’t want to depend on that.
His 6.4 average depth of target ranks 29th in the NFL so far, but Pittsburgh is coughing up a healthy 8.9 yards per attempt this year, the fifth-worst mark in football. The Steelers have allowed 641 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions through two weeks, though the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick should help. If you picked up Garoppolo as a streamer or quarterback replacement, you should feel fine using him at home this weekend.
The good news? Dante Pettis saw his snaps jump from two to 35 on Sunday. The bad news? He wasn’t targeted. The second-year wideout now has more pass attempts than receptions this season and cannot be trusted in fantasy lineups. Deebo Samuel, on the other hand, was great last week, catching five of seven targets for 87 yards and a score.
He is explosive with the ball in his hands, averaging 8.8 yards after the catch per target, while his 88 total yards after the catch are the seventh-most in football. I’d like to see the 49ers play him in the slot more, as the Steelers continue to use linebackers in coverage and have been lit up by slot receivers so far this year, as Lockett went for 10-79 last week and Phillip Dorsett scored two times out of the slot in Week 1. But given the volume and playing time, I have interest at just $4,500.
Marquise Goodwin also scored last week but has only seen six targets through two weeks. If Pettis continues to see limited snaps, Goodwin could see the most coverage from Joe Haden this week, which isn’t the greatest spot. I just prefer Samuel in all aspects this week, who is $500 cheaper.
We are still waiting on that huge game from George Kittle but it is coming. It could be this week, facing a Pittsburgh defense that just allowed Dissly to find the end zone twice against them in Week 2. Kittle is still averaging a healthy 2.57 yards per route this season (5th among TE), but is only 20th among tight ends in total routes run (42). That is kind of annoying, honestly but this is still a surefire top-three tight end with slate-breaking upside.
49ers running game
Anyone who played Matt Breida was probably tilted. He had a good game, rushing for 121 yards on just 12 carries, but it was Jeff Wilson Jr. who got the two short touchdowns. Breida was fantastic in this game, as nine of his 12 runs went for five or more yards. He got the start but Raheem Mostert led the backfield in snaps (32), while Breida was at 21 and Wilson finished at 15. Wilson had 10 carries in this game but it is worth pointing out that seven of them came in the fourth quarter with the game already put away. Breida and Mostert will likely split the work, making them both FLEX options until Tevin Coleman returns. Head coach Kyle Shanahan did say that their plan when they got down there (red zone) was to use Wilson, so don’t be shocked if he continues to steal goal line work.
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