We are on the cusp of our first Monday Night Football action of the year! The fantasy relevance of tonight’s games are more prevalent than most Monday’s as we will see not one, but two games tonight! First we get to see the stingy Pittsburgh defence try and slow down one of the best RB’s in the game…Saquon Barkley. That game will kick off at 7:10 EST while the late game features two teams that are going with different week 1 starting QB’s from last year as the Denver Broncos host the Tennessee Titans, 10:20 EST. Let’s now get into the picks and previews of game 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) vs. New York Giants (+6.5) – Total (45.5)
My biggest intrigue about this game is focused on the performance of Big Ben Roethlisberger. We had to experience a season of Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges who combined, made up for the 30th ranked passing offence according to Football Outsiders’ passing DVOA. I personally think this is the reason why James Conner was unable to sustain any success running the ball last year, which led to the Steelers finishing….you guessed it 30th in the running offence metrics according to Football Outsiders’ running DVOA.
Reports out of camp are that Big Ben’s shoulder looks great and he is making all the throws to his young wide receiver corps which is led by another 2019 fantasy disappointment, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Juju will be competing for targets with Diontae Johnson who put on a clinic to end the year, newly signed Eric ‘red zone target’ Ebron, and then a compliment of James Washington and rookie wide out (Canadian) Chase Claypool.
All these unknowns on the offensive side are worrisome but what makes their team one of the contenders of the AFC is their defence. According to Football Outsiders‘ weighted defence rankings metric, which in essence accounts for the recent performance, the defence ranked 1st. On the year they ranked 3rd in Football Outsider‘s defence efficiency rankings which, should come to no surprise when you have talented players like Cam Heyward and Joe Haden but it was the coming out parties of Minkah Fitzpatrick and possibly the now best Watt…TJ who helped insert this defence as one of the, if not, the best in the league.
New York Giants
The newest coach in to fall from Belichick coaching tree will get his shot Monday. Joe Judge will look to utilise his best weapon, Saquon Barkley to the best of his abilities despite the tough match-up. Barkley only played in 13 games last year but still managed to average the 6th most points in standard formats on a per game basis. Saquon will look for second year QB Danny ‘Dimes’ Jones to have that all encompassing second year leap. Giants are praying that last year’s woes were just due to him being a rookie as he showed more causes for concern despite some flashes of brilliance in games against the Lions, Jets and Washington Football Team.
Jones had the 9th highest interception % (not a good thing), fumbled the ball 10 times (in 13 starts), 8th worst completion % (61.9) and had the 9th highest sack % (7.6). The offensive line is definitely a weak-point of the New York Giants as they ranked 25th in run blocking vs. 17th in pass protection according to Football Outsider‘s offensive line ratings. Danny Dimes will look for rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas to step up as they had their arguably best offensive lineman, Nate Solder opt out this year.
What they lack on the line cannot be said for their talent in the play-makers department. The receiving corps of Golden Tate, Sterling Shepherd, and Darius Slayton is an above average corps and then you throw in young tight end Evan Engram, this team should start to have more success offensively.
Let’s now turn to the defence, according to Football Outsider‘s defence efficiency rankings, the Giants ranked 28th and more specifically, 30th against the pass and 7th against the run. They addressed this in the off-season with their signings of coveted CB James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez. I like these signings however, am still not confident they will be even a top 20 offence this year. Joe Judge brought a New England staff with him so maybe their scheme leads to more success on the defensive side of the ball.
Picks for MNF
I thought the Giants offence might be an exciting one to watch this year but this first contest ain’t it chief. The Steelers defence and scheme are going to prove to be too strong for the offensive line of the Giants. I don’t see Jones or Barkley for that matter, having much fantasy success against this team. Barkley is a must start in all formats but i would recommend fading him in Draftkings Showdown slates.
The Steelers offence will in turn, have more possession which should prove to be advantageous for fantasy owners of their play-makers. Pittsburgh’s offensive line will have to improve from last year’s 30th ranked Football Outsider’s ranking of offensive lines in order to give Big Ben and the offence the time needed to produce. With the Giants having 23rd ranked adjusted sack rate, I think this is the start you draw up as a Steelers fan.
As mentioned in ActionNetwork’s article, Mike Tomlin owns an incredible 16-2 record on MNF. Based on that and everything above, the Steelers -6.5 is the pick with a slight lean to the under. As for Draftkings Showdown picks, the giants struggled against WR’s last year giving up the 5th most amount of points against WR’s. With James Bradberry most likely to shadow Juju look for Diontae Johnson to be open throughout tonight’s match-up. I also do not hate Eric Ebron(asarus) to be a dominant force in the end zone.
Steelers -6.5, Draftkings: Fade Saquon, start Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron. Golden Tate is out so i lean to play more Sterling Shepherd tonight!