FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 12
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 ($9,000 on FanDuel): The Chiefs are expected to annihilate the struggling Rams. KC is a 14.5-point home favorite, and the likely absence of Matthew Stafford (concussion) further points toward a lopsided contest.
Despite the obvious blowout risk, Mahomes' upside isn't in doubt on an offense that ranks first in pass rate over expectation. He's surpassed 20 FanDuel points in seven straight starts, cracking 30 points three times during this stretch.
The signal-caller continues to be incredibly efficient through the air, ranking second in both Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and Passing Success Rate this year. As a result, Mahomes leads the league in both passing yards (326.5) and passing touchdowns (2.8) per game.
It also doesn't hurt that he hasn't been a complete zero on the ground, chipping in 3.8 carries and 23.8 rushing yards per game.
While the Rams have been stout against the run, they rank just 24th in schedule-adjusted pass defense, per numberFire's metrics. According to our model, Mahomes is projected for the slate's most FanDuel points across all positions.
Tua Tagovailoa ($8,300): Tagovailoa is another quarterback who could find himself cruising to an easy win, but on a slate lacking particularly high totals across the board, I'm more willing to take a shot on these heavy favorites.
The Dolphins come out of their bye as 13.0-point home favorites over the Texans, arguably the NFL's worst team this season. Houston is abysmal on both sides of the ball, sitting 30th in adjusted total offense and 28th in adjusted total defense.
While it's really hard to see the Texans putting up much of a fight, Miami ranks sixth in pass rate over expectation, which hopefully leads to most of the Dolphins' touchdowns coming off Tua's arm. Tagovailoa has thrown for three touchdowns in each of the last three games, and he's the only player ahead of Mahomes in Passing NEP per drop back and Passing Success Rate this season.
Lamar Jackson ($8,200): After submitting yet another subpar fantasy performance, Jackson is becoming harder and harder to trust in a sputtering Baltimore offense. He's failed to hit 20 FanDuel points in six of his last seven games.
And yet, with the statuses of Justin Fields (shoulder) and Kyler Murray (hamstring) up in the air, Jackson might be one of the only dual-threat quarterbacks available to us this weekend. This is still a player averaging 9.7 carries and 66.6 rushing yards per game -- both of which align closely with his career averages -- and he's logging 30.6% of the Ravens' rushes in the red zone, one of the highest marks among quarterbacks.
Lamar's big-game potential with his legs remains easy to like, but it's fair to wonder whether he can get back on track as a passer. Over this seven-game stretch of mediocrity, he's thrown for six total touchdowns. That's a far cry from the 10 he tossed across Weeks 1 through 3, and the absence of Rashod Bateman (out for the season) could be taking its toll on a passing attack that's thin on weapons beyond Mark Andrews.
Despite these growing concerns, this matchup against Jacksonville could give him an assist. The Jaguars rank 27th in adjusted passing offense, which has contributed to them allowing the 10th-most FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks. Jackson is projected for the second-most points behind Mahomes.
Austin Ekeler ($8,800): There's a fair bit of value at running back this weekend, but if you're spending up, workloads don't get much better than Ekeler's.
While the Chargers' lead back doesn't log as many snaps as other elite fantasy backs, his fantastic role in the passing game has led to him averaging 29.1 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets) per game, which is the league's second-best mark behind Saquon Barkley. Not only does Ekeler lead all running backs in targets by a wide margin, he has the 10th-most among all players.
In addition to Arizona ranking 24th in adjusted rush defense, they also don't defend pass-catching running backs well. Against the position, the Cardinals are 32nd in adjusted fantasy points allowed per target.
James Conner ($7,000): We can also look to the other side of the aforementioned Chargers-Cards game, as Conner has become the featured back for Arizona. Over the last two games, he's averaged 25.5 adjusted opportunities and an 86.0% snap rate, and he's been the top choice inside the 20-yard line, boasting a 75.0% red-zone rush share.
This is also the perfect opponent for the Cardinals to lean on the run game. While the Chargers are a borderline top-10 adjusted defense versus the pass, they rank 29th in adjusted run defense. L.A. has allowed the third-most FanDuel points per game to running backs.
At his mid-range salary, Conner pops as one of the best values in numberFire's projections.
Latavius Murray ($6,200): Few, if any, could have expected Murray to be DFS-relevant in 2022, but here we are.
With Melvin Gordon getting waived and Chase Edmonds suffering a multi-week injury, Murray enters the week as the lead back for the Broncos. Even while splitting snaps roughly down the middle with Gordon in Week 11, Murray logged a season-high 25.0 adjusted opportunities, which is a promising sign for his role moving forward.
This matchup against Carolina has a miserable 35.5 total, but with Denver entering as slight road favorites against a poor offense, the game script should allow for Murray to see plenty of volume. The Panthers have also allowed the sixth-most FanDuel points per game to opposing backs.
Antonio Gibson ($6,100): While Brian Robinson certainly isn't going anywhere in the Washington backfield, the scales could be shifting in Gibson's favor. In Week 11, Gibson led the way in adjusted opportunities (24), scrimmage yards (103), snap rate (67.2%), route rate (70.4%), and red-zone rush share (57.1%).
That usage came in a positive game script against Houston, and with the Commanders popping up as 4.0-point home favorites over Atlanta, we could see more of the same this weekend. The Falcons rank 26th in adjusted rush defense, so Washington shouldn't have to deviate from their recent run-heavy approach.
For another potential option, if Joe Mixon remains out with a concussion, Samaje Perine ($6,600) would fill in as Cincinnati's lead back against Tennessee. Perine had a three-touchdown day in Week 11.
Since an ugly blowout loss to the Saints where Adams made only one reception on five targets, he's gone on a rampage across the last three weeks, averaging 14.7 targets, 8.7 receptions, and 137.7 receiving yards with a 39.6% target share and 48.0% air yards share. Oh, and he's hauled in five touchdowns over that span.
Las Vegas' matchup against Seattle has one of the better totals on the board (47.5), so there could be some back-and-forth potential here. The Seahawks are just 23rd in adjusted pass defense.
DeAndre Hopkins ($8,400): Whether it's Kyler Murray or Colt McCoy under center, Hopkins continues to get peppered with targets on a weekly basis. He's seen double-digit targets in four of his five games, leading to a 31.9% target share and 45.5% air yards share. Hopkins has scored double-digit FanDuel points in all five weeks he's played.
As noted with Ekeler and Conner, this should be a fantasy-friendly matchup for all involved. While Hopkins will have to contend with a solid pass defense, it shouldn't be enough to deter us when he has such a voluminous role. He's projected for the third-most points at wide receiver, per our model.
Deebo Samuel ($6,900): Samuel is coming off one of his better performances (18.9 FanDuel points), but he isn't getting a salary bump due to playing on Monday night.
The presence of both Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell seemed like it would reduce Samuel's rushing usage, but he's actually averaged 3.5 carries and 32.0 rushing yards with a rushing score in the two games with all three active. Combine that with a team-high 26.3% target share, and Samuel continues to show multiple avenues toward accruing points.
The 49ers appear to be rounding into form on a three-game win streak, and they're expected to keep it going as 9.5-point home favorites over New Orleans. Against wide receivers, the Saints rank 32nd in adjusted fantasy points allowed per target. Samuel shakes out as one of the top point-per-dollar plays in numberFire's model.
Kansas City Chiefs: With both JuJu Smith-Schuster ($6,600) and Kadarius Toney ($6,100) uncertain to play, it's difficult to pick out any one Kansas City wideout this early in the week. But between the modest salaries of Toney and JuJu and the even lower salaries of those behind them, what is certain is that there will be value once we find out who's playing.
If Smith-Schuster and/or Toney remain sidelined, that leaves Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($5,800), Skyy Moore ($5,400), and Justin Watson ($5,000) as the top remaining wideouts. In Week 11, it was actually Moore who led the wide receivers in targets (6), while Watson logged the highest snap rate (87.1%) and route rate (97.1%).
This situation is one to monitor as we get closer to Sunday.
Travis Kelce ($8,200): Of course, if you don't want to mess with that murky Chiefs wideout situation, you could always just roll with old reliable in Travis Kelce.
He comes at a hefty salary, but only a handful of tight ends can come anywhere close to his weekly ceiling. Kelce is fresh off his second 30-point fantasy performance of the campaign, and he leads all tight ends in targets per game (9.4).
The star tight end predictably tops our position projections, and Mark Andrews is the only other player who comes anywhere close.
George Kittle ($6,200): With both Kelce and Andrews on the slate, it's riskier to completely punt at tight end in case one of them has a spike week. But Kittle is someone who can pop for the occasional big game and comes in at a much more palatable salary.
While Kittle has more inconsistent results in this run-happy San Francisco offense, he rarely leaves the field (91.5% snap rate) and remains heavily involved in the passing attack (85.6% route rate; 18.5% target share). He's also a primary target when the 49ers are in close, owning a team-best 38.5% end zone target share. Kittle has exceeded 18 FanDuel points twice in eight games this year.
New Orleans has defended tight ends well, but that's much less of a worry for an athletic, yards-after-catch machine like Kittle.
Miami D/ST ($4,400): As noted earlier, the Texans have one of the league's worst offenses, and as a team that finds itself playing from behind most weeks, that's made them a fantastic team to attack with opposing defenses.
Houston quarterback Davis Mills is expected to be benched in favor of Kyle Allen this week, and it probably says a lot about Allen that the move wasn't made sooner. Mills leads the league in interceptions (11) and is seventh in sacks taken (28) this year. When Allen was the Panthers' starter for the majority of 2019, he threw the fourth-most picks (16) and was sacked the fifth-most times (46).
It sure sounds like we will see more of the same for the Texans regardless of who is starting. Expect plenty of opportunities for Miami's defense to generate fantasy points.
Denver D/ST ($3,900): Sadly, we won't see Baker Mayfield out there for Carolina against Denver, but Sam Darnold may not be much of an upgrade. The Panthers sit 32nd in total adjusted offense and 32nd adjusted passing offense -- and Christian McCaffrey is not walking through that door.
While the Broncos' inept offense has gotten all the headlines, their defense has actually been one the NFL's best and ranks third overall by our metrics. Denver projects as the best point-per-dollar value at D/ST this weekend.