Wild Card Preview: Miami at Pittsburgh

Here is the wild card preview for sixth-seeded Miami Dolphins visiting the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.


It’s no secret Ben Roethlisberger runs better at home, but you might not realize the extent or the size of the sample. This season, in six home games,1 Roethlisberger threw 20 TD passes. He threw just nine in eight road games. He averaged 319 yards per game at home versus 238 on the road.

But you can go back to the start of 2014 and the splits are just as huge.


Dude averages over 30 fantasy points per game at home over a three-year sample. In his only home playoff game in that span (2014 vs. Baltimore), he threw for 334 and one touchdown, with two interceptions.

Miami is the 14th ranked pass defense by Football-Outsiders DVOA, but will be without top cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has bounced back to play well in 2016 after being a laughingstock for much of the past few seasons. Roethlisberger is an elite play for the wild card round, but keep in mind for multi-week leagues he’d go on the road to Kansas City should the Steelers advance, which is a much less enticing setup.

Matt Moore has played well in three starts for the Dolphins, tossing eight touchdowns to three interceptions. But the team has limited his volume as they’ve maintained the run-first identity they switched to upon Jay Ajayi’s emergence in Week 6 (against these Steelers). Moore has averaged just 27.3 pass attempts and topped out at 34 last week even in a heavily negative game script against New England. Unsurprisingly, he’s also failed to hit even 250 yards passing.

Should Miami contend in this one, it’ll likely be on the ground. Given that Pittsburgh tends to give up more points on the ground than through the air relative to league averages, it’s tough to see Moore being carried by multiple passing TDs. Take away the TDs and he simply hasn’t put up strong enough numbers to warrant major consideration in playoff DFS.

Running Back

Ah, Le’Veon Bell. Where do we begin? In just 12 games, Bell amassed 1,884 total yards, good for more than 150 per game on average. He also accounts for a hefty percentage of Pittsburgh’s scoring – he reached paydirt nine times in his final seven games this season.

Bell saw a season-low 10 carries the last time these teams met, a Miami win in South Florida. He added six receptions and still totaled over 100 yards. It’s much more likely the case that the Steelers’ overall ineptitude in that game hurt Bell’s final line than the Dolphins have his number.

Coming off a week of rest in Week 17, expect Bell to get a monster workload in this one. He’s a 10-point home favorite in an offense that plays much better at home, but he’s also game script independent – should they fall behind, we can expect plenty of passing game involvement to make up for a lack of rushing opportunity. Bell’s a great option in all formats, as Pittsburgh is perhaps the best bet from wild card weekend to get at least two games.

On the other side, Ajayi is intriguing to me for DFS. As noted above, Pittsburgh tends to allow a higher ratio of rushing scores to passing scores than most teams. It’s a tough spot as road underdogs with an 18-point implied total, but Ajayi was able to gash this defense for 200 yards in their last meeting. I’m not expecting a repeat, but I do think Miami’s gameplan will feature Ajayi heavily, assuming they don’t get down by mutliple scores early.

And if the Dolphins do score some points of their own, Ajayi’s the most likely beneficiary.

Wide Receiver

Sammie Coates should be back for Pittsburgh to contend with Eli Rogers for secondary pass targets, but it’s Antonio Brown who should be expected to hog the ball. With Maxwell out, the Dolphins don’t have the secondary pieces to contain Brown. We’re already expecting big things from Roethlisberger, and there’s no reason on Miami’s side it won’t go through Brown.

That, to me, makes Coates and Rogers more difficult plays. The late news that Ladarius Green will miss the game is a positive for those two, but Brown and Bell should soak up a hefty chunk of Roethlisberger’s targets, with Coates, Rogers, and Jesse James all pitching in three or four.

Miami has given up a 40+ yard pass play in their last three games, and four of their last five. Coates is the deep threat here, so among these ancillary pieces, he is the guy that warrants some DFS GPP exposure as a home run threat.

On Miami’s side of the ball, RotoDoc and I disagreed a bit on this week’s On The Daily. He likes Kenny Stills as an option here, and I have to say I do understand his reasoning. Stills has scored in four straight, and is a big play receiver on an offense I’ve already noted will be low-volume. My concern for DFS purposes is I anticipate people will be on him because he’s been more “boom” than “bust” lately, so I think it makes some sense to stay away if ownership is higher than the probability he’ll hit.2

Jarvis Landry¬†is also in play. But save for a couple big plays late in the season, he remained a volume-dependent receiver in 2016. In an offense that’s throwing less, and with enough options that he hasn’t consistently seen WR1 targets, he’s tough to trust.

That leaves DeVante Parker, someone RotoDoc and I were in agreement about as an interesting name. There have been work ethic and motivation questions for Parker, but the talent is there. He’s coming off back-to-back 7-target games and I’m willing to take a shot on him playing up to his potential in his first career playoff game. There’s a lot of narrative there, but he’s cheap and shouldn’t be super high owned, so he’s worth mixing into lineups.

Tight End

Neither tight ends in this game offer much. Jesse James is mildly intriguing given Pittsburgh’s high team total and expected passing success, but he’s lacked volume even when Ladarius Green has been out of the lineup. Playing him is hoping for a touchdown, and even then he might stay below 10 PPR points.

Dion Sims has caught four TDs in the last six games, and is min-salary on DraftKings.3 But he’s also seen just eight targets in Matt Moore’s three starts, and is down the totem pole in a low volume offense with a low team total offering little in the way of scoring optimism. He’s another TD dart throw at best.

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  1. He missed a game due to injury and sat out Week 17, both of which were at home.  (back)
  2. RotoDoc seemed more optimistic Stills might come in below something like 20 percent ownership, and frankly he’s smarter than me, so maybe use some Stills.  (back)
  3. He’s $5,000 on FanDuel.  (back)
By Ben Gretch | @YardsPerGretch | Archive

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