We are heading down the stretch run of the 2015 NFL regular season, with just three more weeks to cash in on the full-scale daily fantasy fun. Injuries are really cropping up at a fast rate these days, and that provides us with some potential value opportunities, especially at the running back position. Let’s take a peek at some quarterback and running back options for Week 16.
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses.
Five to target
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers ($9,300)
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8,900)
3. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars ($8,200)
4. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears ($6,900)
5. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings ($6,600)
Simply put, Cam Newton is your #1 fantasy quarterback until proven otherwise. The Panthers, despite their 14-0 record, have yet to clinch the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. That means their starters will see a full workload in Week 16, though this could become a question in Week 17 if they are going for 16-0. The steamrolling Panthers get a date with the sinking Falcons this week in another game where the Carolina offense should be able to move the ball at will. If you can fit Newton in a lineup, he is the obvious top choice at quarterback.
Though not quite as consistent as Newton, Ben Roethlisberger is an interesting pivot if you can’t quite fit Cam into your lineups. The Steelers have proven that they will throw the ball as many times as they need to in order to win, and they draw a great matchup with the weak secondary of the Baltimore Ravens this week. The only concern is whether or not the game will stay close enough for Pittsburgh to need to throw the ball late in the game. In fact, that’s part of the reason why Baltimore’s pass defense has actually improved their season ranking of late; Baltimore’s offense is so bad that they can’t stay in games. However, the Ravens can hopefully score against an equally porous Steelers Defense. If this game stays close, this could be another vintage day for Big Ben and company.
Blake Bortles has turned himself into a quietly consistent fantasy option this year. He has two quality wide receivers at his disposal along with one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the league. He quietly ranks 5th in the NFL with 31 passing touchdowns this season, and now he draws a prime matchup with a woeful New Orleans pass defense that has allowed eight more touchdown passes than any other team in the league. Fire up Bortles as an elite option in this contest.
Jay Cutler is always a boom-or-bust fantasy option, but he has shown some signs of life in recent weeks. He has thrown for a pair of touchdowns in each of the last two games, and the Bears should look to attack this Tampa Bay defense through the air as opposed to on the ground. Tampa Bay is much stronger against the run, and Cutler has a very enticing price tag on FanDuel this week. Give him a look as a decent value option.
This could be the perfect storm of circumstances for Teddy Bridgewater in Week 16. The Vikings get a prime-time, home date with the New York Giants. The Giants rank dead last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 308 yards per game through the air. In addition, Adrian Peterson’s status is up in the air after he suffered a hamstring injury last week. This could lead to more of an aerial-focused attack for Minnesota this week, and Bridgewater is dirt cheap on FanDuel at just $6,600. He is a great salary-saving tournament option in a favorable matchup.
Two to avoid
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints ($8,200)
2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ($6,800)
Even if he is cleared to play this week, I don’t think it is a smart move to risk taking Drew Brees in daily fantasy. There are other playable options in this price range, and Brees is dealing with a very painful plantar fascia injury. Jacksonville’s defense is stout against the run, which would initially make Brees an interesting target. However, the injury combined with the up-and-down nature of the Saints Offense makes it advisable to pivot to a safer option, especially in cash game formats.
The fall from grace for Matt Ryan has been somewhat astounding. He has one of the top three receivers in the whole league, but yet has not shown any consistency whatsoever in 2015. He is on pace to have the fewest touchdown passes he has thrown in a season since his rookie year, but yet he is also throwing more interceptions. The 18:15 TD:INT ratio is light years worse than the 28:14 he posted last year. Stay far away from the struggling quarterback in a tough matchup with Josh Norman and the Panthers.
Five to target
1. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($8,100)
2. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals ($7,300)
3. Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs ($6,700)
4. Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks ($5,500)
5. Karlos Williams, Buffalo Bills ($5,400)
In a statistic that will shock many folks, Doug Martin is actually just nine yards behind Adrian Peterson for the NFL rushing lead. and his 5.1 yards per carry clip ranks behind only Thomas Rawls and Ryan Mathews, both of whom have far fewer carries than Martin. In short, he’s having a quietly great year. The good times should continue against a Bears team that is allowing 126 yards per game on the ground, good for the seventh worst figure in the league. He is a safe option at running back on a week where several other top options are banged up.
After clamoring for more work for this guy over the first three months of the season, DFS players everywhere have finally gotten their wish. David Johnson is emerging as the true feature back for Arizona, and he is a well-rounded guy who can contribute both on the ground and via the passing game. He obliterated the Eagles Defense for 187 rushing yards last week, while catching four passes for 42 yards on top of that. The price increase to just $5,800 is simply not enough. Johnson is a top running back in all formats against a beatable Packers front seven.
It is clear at this point that Spencer Ware is not operating at 100% health, as he was active but to be used only in an emergency last week. Charcandrick West should operate as the #1 back for the Chiefs down the stretch, and he is coming off a solid 16/76/1 performance against Baltimore a week ago. The Chiefs are large home favorites against a horrid Browns rush defense this week, making West a viable option in any format – even if Ware is back in the mix this week.
This could be the time to give a head nod to the highly touted but always under-achieving Christine Michael. This pick worries me a little bit, as Pete Carroll has said they will continue to use a committee approach with Marshawn Lynch out. However, Michael did log sixteen carries last week and was relatively productive with that heavy workload. He won’t be a factor in the passing game, but he could find his way into the end zone in a game where Seattle is a heavy home favorite. This is definitely more of a tournament play than a cash-game option.
The running back value will be plentiful this week; it’s just a matter of finding the right diamonds in the rough. Karlos Williams stands out as a potential option with LeSean McCoy out of commission for the Bills. Remember, it wasn’t long ago fantasy players were touting Williams for scoring touchdowns in six straight games to start the season. He will likely share work with Mike Gillislee, but Williams is the better bet for more touches and a potential score. He should see plenty of work in a game the Bills could likely control from the outset against the struggling Cowboys and their third-string quarterback.
Two to avoid
1. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons ($8,500)
2. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers ($6,300)
Cam Newton had another huge game last week and saw his price drop by $100 on FanDuel. Conversely, Devonta Freeman had his first big game in over a month and immediately saw his price rise by $100. That doesn’t make much sense, especially since Atlanta heads into a tough matchup with those undefeated Panthers. The Falcons are solid underdogs on the NFL odds board in this game, and the game flow does not project to ride in Freeman’s favor. Against a very good defense, don’t chase Freeman’s big game from a week ago.
Eddie Lacy cratered back down to earth in Week 15 with a dud of a performance against the Raiders that yielded just 11 carries for 23 yards. He has mixed in good games with horrible ones over the past two months, and he has become impossible to trust at this point. In a road matchup against a tough Arizona defense, Lacy is better suited to someone else’s roster than your own this holiday season.