Week 16 daily fantasy advice: Previewing the week in DFS
Schedule weirdness for Christmas creates extra DFS slates in Week 16. Tyler Loechner looks at the prime plays of the week.
Week 16 daily fantasy advice: Previewing the week in DFS
We have just two weeks of holiday-spirit filled regular season football this year, but that’s still plenty of time to put together some winning DFS lineups.
As usual, this is where you can start your weekly DFS prep. And you might want to start earlier than usual this week, since the main slate comes a day early. The NFL will play Week 16 on Saturday instead of Sunday because of Christmas.
I have little interest in playing the Thursday-Monday DFS slate this week. The Thursday night game will see the Giants travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, and the only players I’m interested in this game are Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants D/ST. The Monday night game will see the Cowboys and Lions square off the day after Christmas. Ezekiel Elliott is always in play, but it’s not a must-have matchup, so I don’t feel the need to jump into any Thursday-Monday slates just to roster him.
There’s also a mini Sunday slate featuring an AFC North battle between the Ravens and Steelers and an AFC West tilt between the Broncos and Chiefs. Both have “ugly offensive game” written all over them.
The main slate will feature 12 games on Saturday, including seven at 1 p.m., five at 4:05/4:25 p.m. and one on Saturday night. It’s an action-packed day with several exploitable matchups. We’ll try to highlight some of the best.
Below are my early-week musings in DFS for Week 16.
(Note: I’m providing only DraftKings and FanDuel salaries as I live in Florida, where Yahoo does not operate.)
Tom Brady is the most expensive quarterback on both FanDuel ($9,000) and DraftKings ($7,700). You can’t ever really go wrong with Brady, but I don’t anticipate owning much of him this weekend because of price. The Jets are a meager 4-10, but they always seem to play Brady and the Patriots close. In Week 12, Brady threw a season-high 50 passes against the Jets, but didn’t top 300 passing yards (286) and throw a decidedly average two touchdowns. He still scored 19.04 points in that game — again, you can’t go that wrong with Brady — but it’s not the kind of matchup that warrants top-dollar. I’m happy to pay down at quarterback this week.
Philip Rivers is a player that seems to go underowned each and every week, and if that appears to be the case again in Week 16 (we’ll know more on Thursday night after some ownership percentages are released), then I’m going to be well overweight on him. The Browns have given up the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and have ceded multiple passing scores in all but two games this year. Rivers has thrown for at least two touchdowns in seven straight games.
Andy Dalton is expected to get A.J. Green back this week, and he’s quite cheap at only $5,300 on DraftKings and $7,400 on FanDuel. But he’ll be on the road against a Texans squad that ranks in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing quarterbacks — not a great fit, right? Well, prior to Blake Bortles Blake Bortles-ing all over the place in Week 15, that Texans defense had given up 12 passing scores in its previous five games, including at least two in each. They had only ceded six passing touchdowns over the first eight weeks of the season. I’m not yet willing to fully bang in the table in support of Dalton this week, but he does stick out as a potential cheap contrarian play at the quarterback position.
Speaking of contrarian plays, how’s the suggestion of Melvin Gordon for you? Obviously, this depends on his ability to actually play come Saturday, but if he practices this week and gets positive reports, I’m definitely going to roster some Gordon in this plus matchup against the Cleveland Browns — and he should be extremely low owned because of the injury. This is obviously a wait-and-see situation, but it’s one I’m going to be keep a close eye on.
This is it. This is the Todd Gurley matchup people have been waiting for all season long. He finally gets to play against the dreadful 49ers rush defense! Unfortunately, DraftKings and FanDuel both priced Gurley up because of the matchup, rendering him unplayable. He’s the fifth-most-expensive running back on the main slate on FanDuel this week at $7,900. That would make sense if it were still 2015. I wanted to play Gurley this week, but I’m afraid that’s too rich for me. He’s $6,500 on DraftKings, and in order to return just 3x value, he would need to score 19.5 points — something he has achieved only once this season. You can forget about 4x value (or more).
Latavius Murray, meanwhile, is another player in a plus spot. But unlike Gurley, Murray actually has a ton of touchdown potential — and he’s cheaper. Murray is $7,300 on FanDuel and $6,200 on DraftKings. His 12 rushing scores are tied for fourth among running backs, and he ranks in the top eight in both fantasy points per snap and points per opportunity. I love him this week against the Indianapolis Colts, who have been susceptible to the run all year.
One of my favorite early-week cheap running backs is Dion Lewis, at least on DraftKings, where he gets a full point per reception. Lewis carried the ball 18 times for 95 yards against the Broncos in Week 15, and while I don’t think he’ll see that many carries again this week, it certainly indicates that he’s back to full speed. Lewis’ increased usage in the running game is certainly a plus, but so is the matchup. Lewis set season-highs in targets (six), receptions (four), yards (34) and yards per reception (8.5) when he faced the Jets in just his second game back from injury, in Week 12. He’s far from a sure bet, but this could be Lewis’ best game of the year.
You would think a Week 16 date with the burnable Indianapolis Colts secondary would make Amari Cooper a must play, but he has become one of the riskiest expensive wideouts in DFS. Cooper and his almost-touchdown antics have been tilting for fantasy players ever since he entered the league, but he has reached new levels of disappointment in recent weeks, scoring fewer than six FanDuel points in three of his previous four games. We know Cooper is talented enough to catch 12 passes for 175 yards and two scores, so I’m never going to tell you he’s a bad GPP play, but for me at least, he’s completely unplayable in cash for the rest of the year, even this week in a primo matchup. I’d much rather have his discounted veteran teammate, Michael Crabtree.
Brandin Cooks just exploded for over 40 DraftKings points in Week 15, and he wasn’t even playing at home. He heads back to the Superdome in Week 16 to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that held him mostly in check just two weeks ago, in Week 14. In that game, Cooks caught five of 10 targets for 61 yards and no score. He did, however, have some big plays called back. And after inexplicably seeing no targets in Week 12, Cooks has re-established himself as the main target in New Orleans. He leads the team over the past three weeks in all passing categories, including targets (26), receptions (18), yards (320) and touchdowns (two). Excluding the weird Week 12 no-show, Cooks has seen at least eight targets in four straight games and has caught seven passes in three of them. He’ll be a popular pick after last week’s explosion, but he can be leaned on again this week against the Buccaneers.
Doug Baldwin has strangely been given a huge discount on DraftKings this week, and he costs only $6,000. He had cost no less than $6,400 in any of his previous four games. I think people just presume the matchup against the Cardinals will be tough for wideouts. And that’s true — if the wideout is playing against Patrick Peterson. But Peterson likely won’t shadow Baldwin; it didn’t happen when the two teams met earlier this year. That means more Tyrann Mathieu for Baldwin. Mathieu has given up 0.42 fantasy points per route run to opposing wideouts this year, which ranks fifth-worst among all starting corners. Mathieu was burned in Week 15 as well, allowing seven receptions on eight targets for 82 yards and a score, and an NFL QB rating of 149.0.
Looking for a wideout under $6,000 on FanDuel? Maybe you should go back to Taylor Gabriel. You know, the out-of-nowhere stud who has scored seven touchdowns over his previous seven games, and has topped a respectable 13 FanDuel points in all but one of those contests. Julio Jones could be back on the field, but Gabriel’s target count truly hasn’t been altered with Jones out of the lineup in recent weeks. He remains exceedingly cheap on FanDuel. DraftKings, meanwhile, has priced him up above the likes of Baldwin, Crabtree, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Thomas, Tyrell Williams and others. He’s not a bad play on DraftKings, but he’s definitely harder to roster.
I have no interest in playing Jordan Reed in DFS this week. He’s the most expensive tight end on both sites, but he just hasn’t been healthy enough to make an impact — let alone the kind of impact you’d need to place well in a tournament. He played just 10 snaps in Week 14, and returned to play just 19 ineffective snaps in Week 15 before being ejected from the game. Don’t let Reed’s flashy ejection blind you from the fact he did nothing all game, and has just two receptions for 16 yards over the two previous weeks. That used to be one drive’s worth of work for Reed. Until he proves he’s healthy again, I’m out.
Greg Olsen, meanwhile, is an expensive tight that that’s worth paying up for this week. He draws the Atlanta Falcons, who have been shredded by tight ends all year long. Olsen caught six of 13 targets (tied for his season high in targets) for 76 yards and a score when playing the Falcons earlier this year. And after some down weeks from Weeks 8 to 13, Olsen has rebounded well, and he now has two straight games with at least 85 receiving yards.
Value is definitely difficult to find at tight end this week, but I’d say both Chargers tight ends — Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates — are worth a look on FanDuel, where they both cost $5,400. I’d trust Henry more slightly more, since touchdowns matter more on FanDuel, and Henry has clearly established himself as a reliable red-zone threat for Philip Rivers.
Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.