Week 16 NFL DFS Starting Points: Vegas Lines
You know that targeting the highest scoring games and particularly the teams with the highest implied totals makes sense in fantasy football. This analysis will highlight exactly which situations are the best to take advantage of and which you might want to avoid within those games. We’ll also highlight a couple games to use caution with as well as some less obvious targets. The focus is on Sunday games, since both main DFS sites have eliminated Monday and Thursday games from their big tournaments.
The high scoring games:
Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Total 53, Saints -3
It’s division rivalry week in the NFL, and we start with a game we just saw two weeks ago. That was frankly a fantasy disaster, with Drew Brees throwing zero touchdowns with three picks and Jameis Winston mustering just 184 passing yards with no touchdowns. Vegas has not lost faith, however, and we should all take notice of that. It’s hard to avoid the recency bias, but Brees certainly showed that he is still capable of huge games (four TDs in Arizona) and probably wasn’t hurt during his two-game slump. He should be a popular play this weekend given that the Bucs are just an average pass defense for fantasy this season. Winston is more of a wild card, with an obviously lower ceiling than Brees, but certainly should be able to come away with close to 300 passing yards and a couple scores this week.
Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Cameron Brate are the pass-catchers I’m looking at, with Evans the clear top choice in this game. Cooks is coming off an amazing performance in Arizona, but don’t forget about Thomas. He actually saw more targets than Cooks (10) last week and is a tad cheaper than him too.
On the ground, Doug Martin is the safest back to play from this game. He rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago and the Saints are still the third-best fantasy matchup for running backs. Between Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower, it’s tough. Ingram is clearly more involved, but it seems Hightower is getting higher priority goal line carries recently—and scoring. It was only one game, but it worked for the Saints, and that, plus Hightower’s effectiveness down the stretch last year, is enough reason for me to consider him in tournaments for just $5500.
Indianapolis at Oakland
Total 53, Raiders -3.5
I’m sold on Andrew Luck. I doubted him against Houston and Minnesota and he put up strong numbers in both games. Oakland should be a much easier test for Luck, in a game that sort of matters for both teams. Use him in any format. On the other side of the field, Derek Carr hasn’t been himself the past couple weeks. Blame his finger injury, injuries to his two top receivers, good secondaries, whatever, but Carr should come with some caution tape this week. The Colts are the ninth-best QB matchup for fantasy, and the implied team total says GO!, but until I’m sure that Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are healthy, I’m reserving Carr for risk/reward lineups and playing him alone or with Latavius Murray. Murray is tied for third with 12 rushing touchdowns, so between Carr and Murray I think you can safely account for all the Raiders scores.
While the Vikings weren’t able to stop Luck, they did effectively shut down T.Y. Hilton, who should bounce back nicely this week. The $7600 price tag is more than fair for one of the highest upside receivers on the slate. Hilton is seventh in targets and second in receiving yards this season, behind only Julio Jones. I’m loving the Luck-Hilton mini stack this weekend. Frank Gore saw two touchdowns vultured by Robert Turbin last week, but Turbin isn’t really a threat to Gore’s workload. Gore still had over 100 rushing yards vs. the Vikings, and almost always makes for a fine mid-cheap priced play in cash games. I’m not guessing about any of the other pass catchers in this game—Philip Dorsett, Jack Doyle, Mychal Rivera, Seth Roberts, Erik Swoope or Dwayne Allen are touchdown-dependent plays who rely more on luck than logic to reach value.
Atlanta at Carolina
Total 52, Falcons -2.5
It’s hard to make a case for not using Matt Ryan, Julio Jones (if healthy), Devonta Freeman, or even Taylor Gabriel and Tevin Coleman in the league’s most prolific offense. So I won’t. All did something the last time these teams met, and remember it was Jones’ 300-yard receiving game. I downgrade Coleman in the tougher rushing matchups like this one, and while Mohammed Sanu has been extremely efficient (71 percent catch rate), his volume is too low to make a difference and Ryan isn’t looking for him in the end zone.
On the Carolina side of this game, no team allows more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than the Falcons. Cam Newton has performed well in favorable matchups this season, with the exception of the previous meeting with Atlanta when he threw for just 165/1. I do worry about his shoulder during the short week (Monday-Saturday), and given the other options in his price range, I’ll be saving Newton for a high upside tournament play. Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen get the best DvP matchups for the Panthers after Newton, and both are in play assuming Olsen’s elbow checks out okay. Olsen leads all tight ends in receiving yards and targets, and is second in receptions, but he’ll need to be cleared before I use him.
The low-scoring games:
San Francisco at Los Angeles
Total 40, Rams -3.5
Consider using either defense here, as no team has given up more fantasy points to opposing defenses than the Rams this season, and the 49ers rank sixth in that dubious category. The low total, high amount of turnovers, and inability of both teams to score points makes this a solid fade for me. I wouldn’t go near Jared Goff, even in this dream matchup, coming off a concussion, regardless of the salary relief possibilities.
Cincinnati at Houston
Total 41, Texans -1.5
In what could be a good defensive showdown, the Texans will try to hold onto the lead in the AFC South with Tom Savage at the helm. The Bengals are an average QB defense for fantasy, and I think it’s fair to expect some mistakes from Savage. He targeted DeAndre Hopkins 17 times (!) last week, but Hopkins still failed to exceed value vs. the Jaguars. On the other side, Houston is one of the worst QB matchups (sixth-fewest fantasy points allowed per game), and Andy Dalton has struggled without A.J. Green. Even if Green is back, this Bengals team has nothing to play for, making them more risk than reward for me.
High team totals you might miss:
New York at New England
Total 44.5, Patriots -16.5
Tom Brady is probably the top QB play for Week 16. The Jets secondary has been among the worst in the league, giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs this year. As they play for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, look for Brady and Bill Belichick to keep their feet on the gas no matter how big the lead. The Patriots defense should also be considered here, as the Jets have been a turnover machine this season, and Bryce Petty’s six interceptions to three touchdowns ratio hasn’t stopped the bleeding.
Arizona at Seattle
Total 43.5, Seahawks -8.5
Another divisional rivalry where one team has something to play for…Seattle has locked up the division title, but needs to win to keep their first round bye alive. We just saw a struggling Drew Brees right the ship in Arizona, a defense I normally shy away from in DFS. In Seattle, I think Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin make for great plays this week in any format. I’m avoiding the Seattle run game—there are better options--as well as Jimmy Graham thanks to the Cardinals allowing the fewest fantasy points to tight ends by a lot. The Seattle defense at home is always an attractive play if you can find the salary for it. Tyler Lockett has been stellar at home lately, both as a receiver and as a returner. He’s a cheap way to get some exposure to this high implied team total.