FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 16
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the 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.
Josh Allen ($9,500 on FanDuel): Weather will be a prominent storyline on Saturday's main slate, and the combination of 20 MPH winds and single-digit temperatures in Chicago for the Bills-Bears game would normally make this an easy game to cross off for quarterbacks.
Of course, Allen is no ordinary signal-caller, and his rushing ability gives him an avenue toward fantasy points despite the windy conditions. Plus, he's no stranger to frigid games. The QB3 on the season, Allen is averaging 6.8 carries and 51.9 rushing yards per game, and he's scored the third-most rushing touchdowns at the position (6). Only Jalen Hurts has a higher red zone rush share than Allen's 31.4%.
And even with occasional turnover issues, Allen has by and large been efficient through the air this year, so he should have a better chance than most at navigating the weather. Per numberFire's metrics, he ranks fifth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back and sixth in Passing Success Rate.
Chicago's shoddy defense should also give Allen an assist. According to our schedule-adjusted rankings, the Bears are 30th against the pass and 23rd versus the run. Keep close tabs on the forecast in case things worsen, but the Buffalo quarterback is projected for the most FanDuel points across all positions, per our model.
Patrick Mahomes ($9,200): Mahomes is right behind Allen in our projections, and while he'll also have to deal with less-than-ideal temperatures, the winds aren't expected to be nearly as bad, making him the safer choice of the two. In fact, the Chiefs not only have by far the highest implied team total (29.25) as 10.0-point favorites over the Seahawks, but this matchup also has the slate's top over/under (48.5).
Facing the 27th-ranked adjusted pass defense, Mahomes should be able to feast in an offense that continues to rank first pass rate over expectation. He leads the league in Passing NEP per drop back and remains tops in passing yards and touchdowns per game. And as we were reminded last week, he can also make meaningful contributions on the ground when the opportunity presents itself (five rushes for 33 yards and a touchdown).
Justin Fields ($7,800): Much like last week, a lack of obvious matchups with shootout potential makes it difficult to pinpoint a pure pocket passer who could go off this Saturday, so I'm once again opting for Fields in this third slot.
Between the weather and a top-10 adjusted Buffalo defense, Fields will have his work cut for him as an 8.5-point home underdog. But as a significant 'dog to the Eagles last week, he passed for a pair of touchdowns and ran 15 times for 95 yards. Averaging 10.4 rushes and 77.5 yards on the ground per game, Fields has his eye on Lamar Jackson's single-season rushing record, so there's little reason to think he's going to dial things back down the stretch.
Coming at a discounted salary compared to Allen and Mahomes, Fields looks like a great way to save some cap space without skimping on upside.
Gardner Minshew ($6,100): I'm not usually a fan of punting at quarterback, but with Hurts expected to miss Saturday's game, Minshew deserves a shout. He enters the picture with one of the league's best supporting casts -- and his salary is just $100 above the minimum for quarterbacks.
In two starts for Philadelphia last year, Minshew recorded a respectable 14.4 and 18.8 FanDuel points -- and keep in mind that this was prior to the A.J. Brown trade -- and last season's 7.9 adjusted yards per attempt would've been a top-10 mark among qualified starters. He also wasn't a zero as a runner when he was with Jacksonville, rushing for 24.6 yards per game in 2019 and 17.0 per game in 2020.
Although this Eagles-Cowboys matchup features two strong defenses, this game is being played indoors, is tied for the second-best total (47.5), and rates as the slate's best in combined pace, giving us hope for a back-and-forth affair. We probably can't expect Minshew to hang with the ceilings of the prior three entries, but he should be capable of posting 20-plus points while his salary opens up all sorts of possibilities elsewhere in our lineups.
Christian McCaffrey ($9,400): Our model actually ranks Washington first in adjusted rush defense, so this is by no means an easy spot for McCaffrey. That being said, his volume has been through the roof in games without Elijah Mitchell, and that immense role could still lead to a fantastic fantasy outing.
In four full games sans Mitchell, McCaffrey has logged 36, 37, 20, and 42 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets), and the one low mark was due to CMC getting extra rest in a blowout win. He's scored 36.3, 24.6, 28.3, and 22.8 FanDuel points over those weeks while averaging an absurd 146.5 scrimmage yards per game.
And even though the Commanders have a stout rush defense, McCaffrey could still see success as a receiver against a team that's 27th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to running backs.
Saquon Barkley ($8,500): Between being played in a dome, having a high total (47.5), and ranking third in combined pace, this Giants-Vikings matchup is looking like one of the slate's most fantasy-friendly spots.
Barkley proved himself to be fully healthy last week, coming through with 20.5 FanDuel points on 34 adjusted opportunities against Washington -- another positive sign for the aforementioned McCaffrey -- so we should feel confident in his workload against Minnesota. Excluding his abridged workload in Week 14 (injury/blowout), Barkley has been the focal point of this offense, averaging 29.2 adjusted opportunities and an 82.9% snap rate over 13 games.
The Vikings may be strong against the run, ranking 2nd in adjusted rush defense, but they are significantly weaker against the pass (26th). This should prop up the Giants' passing game as a whole, and that includes Barkley, as Minnesota is 29th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to opposing backfields. He's averaging 4.6 targets in his healthy games and saw a season-high 8 last week.
Tony Pollard ($7,700): Pollard doesn't get the volume of other top running backs, but even with Ezekiel Elliott healthy over the last five games, Pollard has exceeded 20 FanDuel points three times. Despite playing only 53.3% of the snaps over this span, Pollard has still averaged 23.2 adjusted opportunities and parlayed that into an impressive 104.8 scrimmage yards per game. Unfortunately, Pollard has ceded red zone touches to Elliott, garnering only 31.3% of rushes inside the 20 during this stretch.
It isn't a perfect role for a player with a salary still hovering near the $8,000 mark, but we've seen that he can still post big scores, and that's certainly in the realm of possibilities against the Eagles. Although Philadelphia's rush defense has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, they remain 29th in our rankings,
Kenneth Walker III ($6,900): Walker missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, so as of this writing, it's unclear if he'll be active on Saturday. However, he played until the end of Seattle's last game, and with that being a Thursday contest, he's had extra time to rest up.
If Walker is a go, he's an intriguing mid-range value against Kansas City, a team that's just 22nd in adjusted rush defense. In Week 15, he played 75.4% of the snaps while logging 22 adjusted opportunities, which falls in line with what he's averaged in seven games since Rashaad Penny went down (75.3%; 24.3).
With Seattle a sizable underdog, game script could factor into Walker's usage, but he did see five targets last week and notched a season-high eight targets in a Week 10 loss to Tampa Bay, so he can be a factor in the passing game. That could be even more the case with star wideout Tyler Lockett expected to be out with a broken finger.
Justin Jefferson ($9,300): Due to his domed home digs, Jefferson avoids all the weather nonsense present in other games, making him that much more appealing if we're spending up at wide receiver. This season, he's hauled in a league-best 11.3 targets per game off a 30.1% target share and 41.8% air yards share, resulting in him leading the NFL in both receptions and receiving yards.
He's exceeded 20 FanDuel points in five of the last seven games and is looking virtually matchup-proof these days. He easily leads his position in projected FanDuel points this week.
D.K. Metcalf ($8,000): With Lockett expected to sit, that leaves Metcalf as a potential target hog against Kansas City. Metcalf already garners a 25.9% target share and 37.8% air yards share as is, and Lockett's absence vacates an additional 23.5% target share and 32.6% air yards share. That's especially significant because no other pass-catcher in this offense has shown a particularly consistent role, with tight end Noah Fant having the third-highest target share at a mere 11.5%.
Our model pegs Metcalf for the third-most targets among wideouts, and he's the perfect bring-back option in Mahomes lineups. Kansas City is 31st in adjusted fantasy points allowed per target to wide receivers, and they've given up the fifth-most FanDuel points per game to the position.
If you can't find the room for Metcalf, then taking a chance on Marquise Goodwin at $5,800 is a budget alternative. Goodwin has been Seattle's third wideout, and he had his best game of the season when Metcalf was dinged up in Week 7, leading to him scoring two touchdowns on his way to 20.7 FanDuel points.
JuJu Smith-Schuster ($7,300): While Mahomes is always a threat to lead the slate in scoring, stacking him has been tricky all season. Travis Kelce remains the obvious answer, but at $8,600, his salary is that of an elite wideout, which can be tough to allocate at tight end.
Smith-Schuster could be emerging as a reliable stacking partner, though. Over the last two games, he leads all Kansas City pass-catchers -- including Kelce -- in target share (25.3%), snap rate (84.6%), and route rate (86.2%), and he's second to only Kelce in air yards share (26.5%). The result has been 9 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 and 10 receptions for 88 yards in Week 15.
Although JuJu is unlikely to blow us away with flashy chunk plays, this kind of volume will always get our attention when attached to an elite arm, and the $1,300 in salary relief compared to Kelce puts far less strain on the rest of our lineup slots.
Richie James ($5,200): The best way to attack Minnesota is through the air, which could lead to Daniel Jones dropping back to pass more than usual. The Vikings have allowed the third-most FanDuel points per game to wide receivers.
James could be one player to reap the benefits, as he's the Giants wideout who has led the team in target share (22.6%) the past two weeks, and he's been second in air yards share (29.6%).
With James, Darius Slayton, and Isaiah Hodgins all playing roughly the same number of snaps recently, there ultimately isn't a ton separating the three, but James is the most enticing due to him having the lowest salary. He caught 7-of-9 targets for 61 yards and a score two weeks back, and we'll gladly take that sort of output again.
T.J. Hockenson ($6,000): In seven games with the Vikings, Hockenson has logged the second-highest target share (20.4%) behind Justin Jefferson, and he rarely leaves the field with an 88.9% snap rate. The only problem is that the tight end has hauled in just one touchdown since joining, leaving him with only two weeks with double-digit FanDuel points.
But as the second option in this passing game, Hockenson should have more touchdowns coming in future, and he projects as one of the best values at the position if you aren't paying up for Kelce.
Cole Kmet ($5,100): Kmet was a dud in Week 15, but the good news is we can roster him at an even lower salary this time around. While the forecast is a net negative for the Bears' passing game, if high winds force Fields into shorter throws, that should theoretically benefit his lead tight end. Kmet still led the team in targets last week, and he now has a 26.4% target share in his last five games with Fields.
Cleveland D/ST ($4,100) and New Orleans D/ST ($3,800): I'm lumping these two defenses together, as they're both coming from the same game. This Saints-Browns matchup has some of the worst weather across the entire slate, with sustained winds bordering on 30 MPH and temperatures around 12 degrees.
The total has dropped all the way to 32.5, and while a low total typically isn't a strong indicator of fantasy D/ST success, scoring may be incredibly hard to come by in what could be a sloppy turnover-fest.
Houston D/ST ($3,600): The Texans' defense has been horrendous this season, but they could be worth a shot versus Titans backup Malik Willis. There's no doubt that Tennessee will try to run the ball down Houston's throat, but the Texans have been surprisingly feisty against far better opponents in the Cowboys and Chiefs the past two games, so it isn't crazy to imagine Houston getting out to lead and forcing the Titans to pass.
Making two starts this year, Willis has averaged a mere 3.5 adjusted yards per pass attempt with a 13.5% sack rate. Coincidentally, this will be Houston's second time facing him, and in that game, they allowed only 17 points while notching 3 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery.