We kick of Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season with the game of the year as the New England Patriots head to the tropical climate of Western Pennsylvania to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now when I say “game of the year” obviously there’s a little facetiousness to that distinction. The New England Patriots are horrendous. As a Patriots fan myself, I’m leaning right into it. This team sucks. Am I embarrassed? Not really because if they keep this up they can potentially land Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels. My birthday was on Tuesday and the only thing I want is another loss to solidify the draft slot. And things are looking good for the tank job. This game is going to be like attending your child’s music recital. You’ll go and watch and at the end of the night you’ll say “Great job, I’m so proud of you for doing your best.” But in the back of your mind you’re thinking “I gave up my Thursday for this?” 

Rhamondre Stevenson has been ruled out for New England as has Demario Douglas and it doesn’t matter who the Patriots start at quarterback. Everybody sucks. Pittsburgh will be without some key pieces as well but I’m optimistic that after the Los Angeles Chargers ran up the score in a six-point win on Sunday against New England, Mitch Trubisky can lock up a 3-0 win Thursday night at the very least. Embrace the suck of this matchup because it’s due to be an ugly one. It’s a Showdown slate and we need to be comfortable with submitting uncomfortable DFS lineups for Thursday’s game!


New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)

Over/Under: 30.0 Points (Woof)

Weather: Mostly clear skies with little wind. Temperatures will likely be in the low 40’s throughout the night.

Notable Injuries

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers


George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

He’s a big play threat at any moment with plenty of receptions going for over 25 yards. He was actually getting fed early in last week’s game against Arizona. But when Kenny Pickett got hurt it only looked like he received one target from Mitch Trubisky in the second half. But they did connect on a big third & long play…

Even with Kenny Pickett, the target volume wasn’t great when Diontae Johnson came back from injury. But there were reports the Steelers wanted to feature both Pickens and Jaylen Warren more in the offense, following the firing of Matt Canada. But if he can get behind this Patriots defense then he’s the one player with that big-play upside. Unfortunately, Trubisky isn’t a player known for his deep ball so it could be a play that Pickens has to make on his own.

Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s pretty difficult to pinpoint who could get a majority of the targets from Mitch Trubisky Thursday night. And truthfully, it could be a run-heavy game on both sides of the ball. But Frank Stampfl of CBS Sports did note that in the four games Trubisky started and finished in 2022, Johnson had a 35% target share, which was significantly higher than the next closest player, Pat Freiermuth at 17%. Johnson didn’t do much last week with his volume, but he did have three targets in the second half from Trubisky and he did find the end zone. His effort sometimes comes into question, but he’s a reliable target with good hands and has a rapport with his quarterback.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB, New England Patriots

With Rhamondre Stevenson out for this game, we can trust Ezekiel Elliott to get a heavy share of the carries in this backfield. In half of Pittsburgh’s game this year they’ve surrendered 100+ rushing yards to opposing running backs and eight total rushing touchdowns. He has multiple receptions in four straight games as well and he’ll be a viable pass catching option out of the backfield. Normally I would talk about “ceiling” type performances for Captain candidates. But this game could be so hilariously awful that the highest scoring player may have just 20-25 points in the Captain slot.

Jaylen Warren, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris hasn’t practiced all week and with it being a short window to prepare, that’s somewhat concerning. Warren has been an efficient runner all year. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry on over 100 rush attempts and he has 38 receptions in a dozen games as well. The Patriots don’t give up a ton of rushing yards to opposing running backs. This defensive unit has actually been pretty solid lately even with all the injuries they’ve sustained. But they have allowed eight touchdowns on the ground to opposing backs and if Harris is limited in any capacity that’s great for Warren’s outlook.

Defense/Special Teams

I’m mixing up the order this week. I’m not listing any defenses at Captain, but I will list them right under Captain. We are going to see some outrageous rostership numbers with the defenses Thursday night. There will be plenty of lineups stacking both defenses. D/ST exposure at Captain will be much higher than normal. The over/under is set at 30 points and it’s entirely possible we’re looking at both D/ST’s at over double-digit exposure at Captain. The Steelers specifically will see plenty of exposure and it’s warranted at the Flex position. The Patriots offense has scored just 13 points in their last three games. That alone elevates the Steelers despite the gaudy $6,600 price tag. The Patriots aren’t without their own injuries on the offensive line so this could be a tough night for whoever starts at quarterback for the Patriots. Patriots quarterbacks have been sacked a dozen times in the last three games so T.J. Watt must be licking his chops at this opportunity. New England is averaging less than 300 yards per game over their last three contests so expect the Steelers to be incredibly popular Thursday night.

On the other side, we can at least consider the Patriots D/ST. They’ve been playing well of late and get overlooked because of how bad the offense is. The Patriots defense has allowed just 26 points in their last three games. That’s really good. But nobody talks about it when the offense is only putting up half that number in an effort to throw the season away. In that three-game span the Patriots have six sacks and those all came against the New York Giants. At $5,000 the Patriots are in play, but they aren’t a lock. It’s hard to have any confidence in a defense at that price that has 24 total sacks on the year with just 11 takeaways.

Mid-Tier & DFS Value Plays

Mitch Trubisky, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

I don’t necessarily love either quarterback in this game. Both may have a ceiling of maybe 12-14 fantasy points in this matchup. If I’m going to trust one it’s Trubisky who has more experience and better weapons at his disposal. In mostly just one half of action last week he threw for 117 yards and a touchdown, but he also lost a fumble. The Patriots have allowed just 13 touchdowns in a dozen games this year and in their last three games they’ve limited each quarterback to under 220 passing yards. But we also have seen Trubisky generate fantasy production with his legs in the past. It’s not the best matchup but the Steelers at least have an 18-point implied total so there’s some production to be had.

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Harris has at least a dozen touches in every game dating back to Week 3. However, as mentioned above, he has not logged a practice this week. So that’s a little tough. But in a game with a low total and a player that hasn’t practiced all week, perhaps there’s a little leverage here. It is interesting that he had three targets from Trubisky late in the game against Arizona so if he is active and ready to go then I see a path to a dozen touches. For what it’s worth as of Wednesday night, the Steelers are optimistic he’ll suit up and play.

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

Freiermuth saw three targets in the second half of Sunday’s game with Trubisky under center. On top of that, we alluded to the fact that he had a 17% target share last year when Trubisky started. That number isn’t a lot, but it’s not bad when Diontae’s share is at 35%. Muth only had five total targets last week and the Patriots are a tough matchup for opposing tight ends. They’ve yielded only one touchdown to the position all year. They’ve done well to keep tight ends in check. But despite the fact that Trubisky isn’t a rookie, Muth still manages to be a reliable target over the middle for any quarterback and they are scheming for him across the middle more.

DeVante Parker, WR, New England Patriots

Parker caught four-of-nine targets this past week and if it is Bailey Zappe that gets the start (which appears to be the case), then at least we know we have the quarterback that looked Parker’s way a fair amount. Parker hasn’t found the end zone this year and it’s highly unlikely it happens this week. Parker’s 36% target share last week speaks volumes especially because the Steelers have allowed nine touchdowns to wide receivers all year, but zero in their last three games. We will need a little passing volume here but I’m optimistic he’s Zappe’s first read.

Chris Boswell, K, Pittsburgh Steelers

I don’t love whoever is the Patriots kicker Thursday night. As mentioned previously, the offense has put up just 13 points in their last three games. They did nothing last week against a worse defense than Pittsburgh’s. So if they can’t move the ball or score touchdowns, the kickers just won’t have much action. Could they surprise us and keep it close on Thursday? Sure. But I think we’ve seen enough to know that this offense just can’t do anything right at the moment. Boswell is a bit pricy at $5,400 especially because he may only go out and kick two field goals. But in a game as low scoring as this one, that may be optimal as a Flex play. Through the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots allowed double-digit fantasy points to opposing kicker on four occasions. But in their last six games, no kicker has returned nine fantasy points. Every point will be valuable in this Showdown matchup so even if he only kicks a couple field goals that could be enough to be optimal even as just a Flex play.

Hunter Henry, TE, New England Patriots

It seems wild that Henry is cheaper than a kicker but that’s the state of things in New England right now. Henry is a free agent after this year after taking a nice payday from New England following his tenure with the Los Angeles Chargers. But given the recent struggles of the offense and shortcomings of their quarterbacks, it hasn’t been a great ride for Henry. So I’m sure he’d like a few highlights ahead of his free agency bid, right? Nobody on the Patriots right now has a ton of touchdown equity. They’re struggling to put points on the board, but he did receive some targets last week from Zappe. Unfortunately, this isn’t a matchup that projects well for him. Maybe we can hang our hats on the fact that the Steelers have allowed a tight end to score in back-to-back weeks. Or that they were absolutely torched by Trey McBride last week. It’s a longshot and probably not a great point-per-dollar play by any means.

NFL DFS Dart Throw Bargains

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, New England Patriots

It’s not so much the revenge game narrative that piques my interest, but rather all the injuries to the wide receiver room for New England. Demario Douglas is out, as is Kayshon Boutte. DeVante Parker is even questionable but I do expect him to suit up at least. Smith-Schuster did spend the first five seasons of his NFL career with Pittsburgh before winning a Super Bowl with Kansas City last year. He may collect more opportunities and snaps out of the slot but it’s been a wildly disappointing year for him. If you wanted to go with Tyquan Thornton ($3,400) over JuJu I wouldn’t have much of an argument. Thornton had five targets and a carry in Week 12 against the New York Giants, but just one target and one carry last week. Fortunately, the carry did go for 39 yards.

Allen Robinson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

It seems a little odd, but at $3,000 this is an interesting play because all three of his targets came in the second half with Trubisky under center. Both Robinson and Trubisky have some familiarity with each other dating back to their time as teammates on the Chicago Bears. Similar to the connection Joe Flacco and Elijah Moore flashed this past weekend, it may not take long to find their groove Thursday night. But remember, Robinson won’t be on the field for two-wide receiver sets.

Ty Montgomery II, RB, New England Patriots

Elliott won’t shoulder the entire burden for the carries out of the backfield. Montgomery only had one carry for two yards on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. However, with Stevenson ruled out then maybe Monty earns a few more carries. JaMycal Hasty ($200) might even have the same upside if he is active for this game and he’s the bare minimum on this slate.