Kickoff: Sunday, December 18th, at 1:00 PM EST
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Betting Odds: PIT +2.5, 38.5 total via Oddsshark
Writer: Matthew Cava (@cavaM_ Twitter & Reddit)
Mitch Trubisky (Sit), Kenny Pickett (Sit)
Kenny Pickett exited Week 14 rather early due to a concussion from a sack he took in the first quarter. It’s his second of the year, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him sit this week. Mitch Trubisky came in relief and performed as expected, completing 22 of 30 attempts for 276 yards, one passing touchdown, and three interceptions. In short, with it being the first week of the fantasy playoffs, neither QB is worth a stream.
Najee Harris (Start, RB2), Jaylen Warren (Sit)
Najee Harris saved his fantasy day last week against the Ravens with a rushing touchdown, because otherwise, he turned 12 total carries into just 33 yards, also adding two receptions for 17 yards. If Pickett were to miss this game against Carolina, look for Harris to have an uptick in his workload, which lines him up for an RB2 finish in what’s been an overall disappointing season. Jaylen Warren is back in the mix, but not fantasy relevant. The Panthers are allowing the 16th most fantasy points to running-backs this season.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Diontae Johnson (Start, WR3), George Pickens (Sit), Pat Freiermuth (Start, TE1)
Diontae Johnson has put together back-to-back productive weeks entering Week 15. In the loss to Baltimore last week, Trubisky targeted Johnson eight times, to which he had six receptions for 82 scoreless yards. It’s been a rough go this year, considering Johnson has just 647 yards and zero touchdowns to his name. Consider him a WR3 option this week against a Panthers defense allowing the eighth most fantasy points to WRs this season. Rookie George Pickens himself had 78 yards against the Ravens but on only three targets. In the past two weeks, he’s been targeted five times total, and thus makes him a bit hard to trust in the first round of the playoffs. A report surfaced on Tuesday that Pat Freiermuth played through a foot injury last week, which could explain why his snap percentage was on the lower side than the norm with 56.4% per FantasyData. Even so, ‘Muth had his fantasy day saved with a touchdown reception, as he caught three of six targets for 33 yards. At the time of writing, the team believes his status for Sunday isn’t in question, and he’ll remain on the TE1 radar in a thin position.
Sam Darnold (Sit)
Sam Darnold is a winner of two in a row since making his season debut but hasn’t thrown for over 200 yards in either of the games and only has two passing touchdowns in that span, though he did chip in a rushing score last week as well. He’s kept clean of the ball, with no interceptions to his name for a QB who notoriously coughed the ball up in New York. All that said, Darnold holds no streaming relevancy this week, even going against a Steelers defense that has allowed the ninth most fantasy points to QBs this season.
D’Onta Foreman (Start, RB2), Chuba Hubbard (Sit)
Carolina has focused on running the ball more ever since Darnold has been under center, with D’Onta Foreman leading the way with 45 carries in that span to Chuba Hubbard‘s 31. Hubbard ended up scoring in the win against the Seahawks last week, turning 14 carries into 74 yards. Foreman himself had 74 yards as well on 21 carries. All that said, the Steelers are middle of the pack against the run, allowing the 19th most fantasy points to the position this season, which means if you were to start any Panthers RB this week, it continues to be Foreman.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
D.J. Moore (Sit), Terrace Marshall Jr. (Sit), Ian Thomas (Sit)
We’re talking playoffs now, so every roster decision counts. D.J. Moore has had a rather disappointing season, having only 46 receptions on 91 targets for 605 yards and four receiving touchdowns. His production has been hindered due to bad quarterback play, and now he’s dealing with a knee sprain that has him labeled “day-to-day.” Even if Moore is a go against Pittsburgh, it’ll be hard to trust him in a pivotal week. Terrace Marshall Jr. would surely see an uptick in targets if Moore were to miss this game, but he can’t be trusted in your lineup either, especially with BYE weeks being over with across the league. Tight end Ian Thomas had two catches against Seattle, but that has done nothing to move the needle on his fantasy relevancy.