Fantasy News & Analysis

Premium Content Sign Up

Week 3 DraftKings Thursday Night Football Showdown: Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

  • We recommend fading Nick Chubb as CPT. He does have the highest probability of being the optimal CPT choice, but has negative leverage as the most popular choice for the field.
  • Amari Cooper and Diontae Johnson have slight positive leverage as CPT, with the most relative value of George Pickens.
  • Click here to become an expert on the Showdown format and winning strategies.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Click here to sign up and try PFF+ for free!

The biggest wrinkle of the Showdown format is the ability to choose one captain (CPT), who costs and is scored at 1.5 times the standard values. The CPT designation opens up another layer of strategy while exponentially increasing the number of possible lineup combinations, which is important for reducing duplicate winners and split prizes. I wrote a primer on playing this format, with details on historical positional trends and salary usage.

This season, I’m going to analyze all of the NFL’s “island” games (TNF, SNF and MNF) and playoff matchups, utilizing PFF’s weekly projections, current betting lines and millions of simulated historical combinations to identify the best and worst values for an upcoming matchup.

There are five main components to this Showdown slate analysis that you’ll find below:

  • A breakdown of methodology and the most similar historical matchup to this game: 2018 Week 11: Baltimore RavensCincinnati Bengals, with rookie-year Lamar Jackson as Jacoby Brissett and Andy Dalton playing the role of Mitchell Trubisky.
  • Optimal lineup allocations (CPT and total roster) for both teams based on the results of similar historical matchups.
  • Comparison of player ownership projections for FLEX and CPT produced by a model trained on 2018-2022 Showdown contest results to optimal allocations.
  • Recent CPT ownership trends illustrated for both starting lineups.
  • A table showing the most common players on optimal lineups for each team. This allows you to see which other players are commonly found on the same optimal lineups as a player you’re interested in rostering.


To analyze this specific Showdown slate, I looked through thousands of NFL matchups from 2014 to 2022 and found the closest analogies to this contest according to the following parameters: betting spread, over/under and average fantasy points scoring for the top-ranked positional players of both rosters (QB1, RB1, WR1, TE1).

I won’t detail every matchup that falls into the top 100 for this game, but for illustration purposes, let’s look at the most similar matchup:

Historical Current
Player Pos Team Player Pos Team
Lamar Jackson QB BAL Jacoby Brissett QB CLE
Alex Collins RB BAL Nick Chubb RB CLE
Michael Crabtree WR BAL Amari Cooper WR CLE
Mark Andrews TE BAL David Njoku TE CLE
Andy Dalton QB CIN Mitch Trubisky QB PIT
Joe Mixon RB CIN Najee Harris RB PIT
Tyler Boyd WR CIN Diontae Johnson WR PIT
C.J. Uzomah TE CIN Pat Freiermuth TE PIT

The spread and over/under are similar in these matchups (Ravens -6.5, 43.5 O/U versus this matchup at Browns -5, 38.5 O/U). All the players aren’t perfect matches, but that’s why we use 100 similar matchups and not just the single most similar.

The optimal roster for that historical matchup, assuming positional salaries equaled what they are for this Showdown slate, would have been:

Player Team Position Roster Position Fantasy Pts
Gus Edwards BAL RB CPT 20.5
Lamar Jackson BAL QB FLEX 19.7
Andy Dalton CIN QB FLEX 19.3
Joe Mixon CIN RB FLEX 14.2
Justin Tucker BAL K FLEX 12.0
Tyler Boyd CIN WR FLEX 11.1

For this game and 99 other similar matchups, I calculated every possible combination that fits with Showdown rules (one CPT, at least one offensive player from each team) and would fall under the $50K salary threshold, assuming the salaries for the historical similar matchups are the same as those for this contest.


The most unique part of the format, and therefore the biggest opportunity for a competitive advantage, is choosing your CPT. Should you always choose a QB who typically has the highest absolute fantasy scoring? Are defenses and kickers viable options? RB versus WR?

I went through the millions of possible lineup combinations for the 100 most similar matchups and found who the CPT selections were on the top-five scoring lineups for each matchup. Here are the 500 CPT choices from those matchups by position rank according to salary.


This graph illustrates the full range of allocations for the different positions to measure how many of the 500 optimal rosters had exactly zero, one or two of the given positions.


The boxplot above shows the ranges for CPT ownership for each starting player in contests since 2019.

Projected ownership versus optimal

This is where the analysis comes together and becomes actionable. What’s most important when viewing these numbers is to contrast them to the optimal numbers taken from the analysis above for different positions. Then, we see where the leverage may exist.

The two tables below compare the optimal allocations above, with adjustments for the personnel of this particular matchup, to our ownership projections for CPT and FLEX.



Unlimited Fantasy League Sync
Fantasy Start/Sit Line-Up Optimizer & Waiver Wire
WR-CB & OL-DL Matchups, PFF Player Grades, & Premium Stats 2.0 Tools
Nathan Jahnkes Rankings - #1 Most Accurate Last 70 Weeks
PFF Best Bets, Player Props, & Power Ranking Tools
NFL Mock Draft Sim with Trades & Draft Grades

Already have a subscription? Log In


Unlock the 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit, with League Sync, Live Draft Assistant, PFF Grades & Data Platform that powers all 32 Pro Teams

$31 Draft Kit Fee + $8.99/mo
$89.88/yr + FREE Draft Kit