FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 16
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of this week's top plays of the slate.
Patrick Mahomes ($9,400 on FanDuel): Although Patrick Mahomes didn't hit his ceiling against New Orleans, he provided another strong fantasy effort at 25.86 FanDuel points, giving him at least 19 points in 13 of 14 games this season. He should have an easier path to a spike week versus the Falcons, who rank 26th in schedule-adjusted pass defense, per numberFire's metrics, and have allowed the most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks. This game also has easily the highest total of the week at 53.5 points, the only matchup exceeding 50 on the slate. Our model projects Mahomes for the most points across all positions.
Deshaun Watson ($8,500): Deshaun Watson is coming off his best fantasy performance since Will Fuller was suspended, piling up 373 passing yards and 2 scores against the Colts while tacking on 25 yards on the ground (23.42 points). He now draws his easiest post-Fuller matchup in Cincinnati, a team that ranks 22nd in adjusted pass defense. There's some blowout risk with Houston favored by 8.0 points, but the Bengals showed some fight in a shocking upset over the Steelers, and a porous Texans defense that sits 30th overall in our rankings should help. Watson projects as the best point-per-dollar play at the position.
Jalen Hurts ($8,200): In this space last week, I openly questioned what kind of ceiling we could realistically expect out of Jalen Hurts in his second career start. Well, 37.82 points later, it appears we have our answer. Not only has Hurts rushed 29 times for 169 yards and a touchdown through two starts, but last week proved he can get it done through the air, as well. While it's admittedly still a small sample, he's now averaging 0.23 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, which is well above the league average (0.13) and just ahead of guys like Justin Herbert and Tom Brady. Hurts gets a golden opportunity to build on his recent success versus Dallas, which ranks 29th overall in adjusted defense and 23rd against the pass.
Christian McCaffrey ($10,000): With several mainstays at running back off the main slate, only Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb ($9,000) have salaries above $8k. McCaffrey has scored 27.0, 22.8, and 32.1 FanDuel points in his three healthy games and is pretty much in a class of his own in adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets), averaging 32.3 across those weeks. He would immediately rise to the top of the wish list if he plays against Washington -- but that remains a big if.
David Montgomery ($7,800): If McCaffrey is ultimately ruled out again, that actually leaves David Montgomery projected for the most points at the position, and he's been on quite the roll since Mitchell Trubisky took over at quarterback, scoring over 20 FanDuel points in four straight games. Over that span, he's seen 23, 25, 19, and 36 adjusted opportunities, with his only sub-20 mark coming in a blowout win. The Bears are 7.5-point favorites over the Jaguars, so Montgomery should cash in some more points against the 25th-ranked adjusted rush defense.
Miles Sanders ($7,300): In two games with Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders has seen 24 and 21 adjusted opportunities, and he's rarely left the field with a snap rate hovering over 80%. Just as importantly, despite Hurts' rushing ability, Sanders has remained the main threat near the goal line, notching 8 of 10 red-zone carries. The Cowboys are 26th in adjusted rush defense, potentially setting Sanders up for a big game. This game has the slate's second-highest total (49.5), and Philadelphia is only favored by 1.5-points, making this is one of the better spots to target for a shootout.
Austin Ekeler ($7,000): Although Austin Ekeler saw a whopping 46 adjusted opportunities when he returned in Week 12, he's since averaged 26.7 over the last three weeks with Kalen Ballage healthy, and his snap rate has dipped to 62% or below in those games. Not only is Ballage continuing to see work, but he and Ekeler have split carries from inside the 10-yard line at three apiece, leading to Ballage vulturing a score from one yard out in Week 15. Ekeler was limited with a quad issue in practice last week and was reportedly on "somewhat a pitch count" against the Raiders, so it wouldn't be surprising if the Chargers maintain this workload split for their final games. While all of this potentially puts a slight dent in Ekeler's outlook against Denver this week, his passing-game work remains invaluable, and his median projection makes him the top point-per-dollar running back value in our model.
Tony Pollard ($6,300): In Week 15, Tony Pollard emerged as a last-minute value option when Ezekiel Elliott was ruled out, and Pollard did not disappoint, racking up 28.2 FanDuel points off 30 adjusted opportunities (12 carries and 9 targets). At this stage in the week, it's unclear what Elliott's status will be, but if he's inactive again, Pollard becomes a fantastic choice even with the bump in salary.
Tyreek Hill ($9,400): Kansas City's top wideout leads the position by a sizable margin in projected points, which probably isn't shocking given his recent play. Hill has seen double-digit targets in six of the past eight games, averaging a 28% target share and 38% air yards share over that span. His 19.77 FanDuel points per game this season lead all flex-eligible players on the slate excluding Christian McCaffrey.
Calvin Ridley ($8,700): Given the high salaries of the Chiefs' top options, it's going to be awfully difficult to fit Calvin Ridley into Kansas City game stacks. Still, he's someone we'll want exposure to in the slate's premier matchup. That's especially the case if Julio Jones ($7,500) is inactive again, as Ridley has soaked up a massive 31% target share and 52% air yards share in five games without Jones. Ridley's really cashed in on the situation the past two weeks, hauling in a combined 18 of 26 targets for 287 yards and 2 scores. Even if Jones is back, Ridley has still seen a 21% target share and 35% air yards share in eight games together and has produced spike weeks of 29.4 and 26.4 points.
Allen Robinson ($7,500): It was disappointing to see Allen Robinson only draw 5 targets against Minnesota, but that had more to do with David Montgomery running all over the Vikings on 32 rushes, leading to Mitchell Trubisky attempting just 21 passes. A similar scenario could play out this week with Chicago heavily favored over Jacksonville, but on a slate lacking sure shootouts, it's the type of risk we'll have to take. In the prior three games with Trubisky, Robinson's seen 13, 7, and 13 targets, scoring over 20 FanDuel points twice. The Jaguars are 25th in adjusted pass defense.
Jarvis Landry ($6,500): After posting lackluster numbers for much of the season, Baker Mayfield has suddenly come alive in recent weeks, throwing for 258, 334, 343, and 297 yards and a combined 10 touchdowns over the past four weeks. Although the Browns are 9.5-point favorites over the Jets, we may still see Mayfield slinging it against a defense that ranks 29th in adjusted pass defense compared to 7th versus the run. Furthermore, the Jets are coming off an upset over the Rams, showing that they're not necessarily going to just roll over down the stretch. Not surprisingly, Jarvis Landry has been the main beneficiary of Mayfield's improved play, averaging 9.5 targets over the last four with three touchdowns.
Michael Gallup ($5,600): Michael Gallup left Sunday's game early due to injury, so we'll have to see if he's able to practice this week, but he's a potential bring-back value option in Eagles stacks if he's good to go. It's actually Gallup who leads the Cowboys in targets over the past five games with Andy Dalton, averaging 7.0 per game with a 21% target share and 30% air yards share. The good news is if he's ruled out, we can still turn to Amari Cooper ($6,600) and CeeDee Lamb ($6,000), too, who would see an uptick in volume.
Travis Kelce ($8,800): Travis Kelce came through yet again in Week 15, scoring 18.8 FanDuel points and earning himself a spot on the FanDuel perfect lineup. The salary is really starting to get up there, but his 17.21 FanDuel points per game are nearly seven points better than the next closest tight end on the slate. Against the position, Atlanta ranks 27th in Target Success Rate allowed and has given up the fifth-most FanDuel points per game.
Dallas Goedert ($5,700): Dallas Goedart leads the Eagles with 14 targets across Hurts' two starts, coming away with a solid 23.0% target share and 20% air yards share. While that volume hasn't led to exciting fantasy production thus far, this Philadelphia-Dallas matchup should be one of the slate's better game environments, and Goedart can serve as a low-salaried stacking option with his quarterback. It also can't hurt that the Cowboys rank 30th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends. Goedert projects as one of the better tight end values.
Houston D/ST ($4,600): While the Baltimore D/ST ($5,000) projects for the most points among defenses in a plus spot against the Giants, it's the Texans that shake out as the top point-per-dollar value. That's because they're up against the Bengals, who remain one of the league's worst offenses despite their upset win over Pittsburgh. Ryan Finley has averaged an abysmal -0.51 Passing NEP per drop back, one of the worst marks in the league, and even if Brandon Allen returns, his -0.10 per drop back puts him in the range of Drew Lock and Carson Wentz. Although Houston has one of the worst defenses in the league, we saw a similarly poor Cowboys unit post 18 FanDuel points against the Bengals a couple of weeks ago.
Los Angeles Chargers D/ST ($3,700): Unfortunately, the Texans' services don't come cheap, so if you're hunting in the sub-$4,000 range, the Chargers are intriguing against Lock and the Broncos. Remarkably, Lock has at least one turnover in 10 of 11 starts this season, and in the only game he didn't turn the ball over, he still fumbled twice. The Chargers are slight home favorites, so it isn't unreasonable to picture the Broncos falling into a negative game script, potentially leading to another Lock interception or fumble.