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. DK=DraftKings, FD=FanDuel.
The high scoring games:
Pittsburgh at New Orleans, Total 53.5
This is a great opportunity to get some perspective on the Saints. They’ve been strong defensively and relatively weak offensively lately. People are being let down by Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in DFS and season-long fantasy leagues. Here’s the message: Vegas has not lost hope! The best line-setters in the country think the Saints are going to score a ton of points this week. They are back home and their salaries are depressed. Take advantage and be sure to roll out a Saints stack at least in a tournament.
Despite the recent dominance, I can’t quite bring myself to trust the Saints D/ST. Again, maybe in a tournament setting, but the Steelers are a better team than any they’ve recently steamrolled. I also don’t trust a secondary WR (Tre’Quan Smith or Keith Kirkwood) or Mark Ingram. He’s getting nearly as many carries as Kamara, but his upside and downside are lower than Kamara’s…too low to justify the price difference.
Load up on the Steelers’ pass game – Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, even Vance McDonald – because although the Saints haven’t been as generous over the past five weeks, they still rank in the top five for fantasy points allowed to QB and WR. In fact, they allow the most fantasy points to WRs. I’m avoiding the RB situation as of now, because if James Conner returns, it’s likely they’ll ease him in, which diminishes both his and Jaylen Samuels’ value.
Atlanta at Carolina, Total 47.5
The reason I mentioned stacking Saints or Steelers in a tournament was that you’re going to want to spend up on Christian McCaffrey in cash games. There’s no matchup I’m afraid to use him in, but facing Atlanta is one where I’d literally pay any salary for him (it’s $9300 on FD, $8800 on DK). I’m definitely using him over the more expensive Todd Gurley (see below) on DK, but it’s close with Ezekiel Elliott vs. Tampa Bay. With McCaffrey’s salary so high, you’ll need to find some mid-range guys in good spots to build around him (Cleveland vs. Cincinnati is a good source of those this week, and I also like guys like Demaryius Thomas and T.Y. Hilton). Cam Newton isn’t playable with this shoulder injury showing up in the box scores. He simply can’t make the throws he needs to make. New Orleans and even Cleveland exposed that, so even though Atlanta is one of the best fantasy matchups we can think of, Newton’s a risk at his price. Ditto the WRs. Lock in McCaffrey and move on.
Atlanta is showing some signs of life after a debilitating stretch that cost them a chance at the playoffs, with Matt Ryan earning 20-plus fantasy points in his last two games. This is a divisional tilt, but does Ryan have the motivation to keep it going? It’s a top eight QB matchup for him and top 10 for Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. I view the Falcons as a risk/reward tournament option this week.
Tevin Coleman is coming off a nice game vs. Arizona, which is why we always consider a RB facing Arizona, and Ito Smith is out of the picture. The Falcons have someone else waiting in the wings to share backfield duties with Coleman, so I don’t expect a major role change. This is NOT a highly favorable RB matchup, so there’s no need to work Coleman into DFS lineups this weekend. Austin Hooper, however, rates as a fairly safe TE play. Not only is this a good on-paper matchup, Hooper is averaging over 10 PPR fantasy points per game, is slightly better on the road, and is demonstrating a solid 80 percent catch rate.
The low scoring games:
Jacksonville at Miami, Total 39
I can’t think of a single thing to say about this game or anyone playing in it. There’s no talent/price/opportunity nugget I can give you. The matchups are bad, the players are bad, the coaching is bad. So just avoid it.
Chicago at San Francisco, Total 42.5
Here’s a low scoring game I don’t hate. For the Bears. I’m surprised they’re not bigger favorites, but I guess that has to do with Nick Mullens. He’s been poised and impressive in his six starts this season, with at least 220 yards passing and a touchdown in each (including Seattle twice). I’m not considering him here as the Bears on defense have 45 sacks this season (five of Aaron Rodgers last week, tied for fourth-most in the league overall) as well as 35 turnovers (26 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries). Mullens’ nice season aside, the 49ers are the seventh-most sacked team and have given up 27 turnovers this season. San Francisco can be a fun team and can make some big and/or interesting plays, but I can’t be confident where they’ll come from and I don’t think there will be enough of them to make a fantasy dent this week.
On the Chicago side, the D/ST is in play, as noted. Also, Mitchell Trubisky and the receiving game, including Tarik Cohen, should be in store for a continuation of the return to fantasy relevance. Trey Burton lived to catch a touchdown in Week 15, and while passing volume was still low, Allen Robinson led the receivers. This is another affordable stack or a team to grab that last WR/RB/TE for your cash game lineup.
High team totals you might miss:
LA Rams at Arizona, Total 47
Jared Goff is coming off an inefficient 54-attempt win over Philadelphia Sunday night, and I’m still not ready to trust him against a stingy Cardinals pass defense. It goes against the wisdom of Vegas, and the Rams do have one of the highest team totals of the week. Some of that mistrust depends on the status of Todd Gurley. I mentioned what Coleman did against the Cardinals; Gurley could triple his 20-fantasy point line if fully healthy and fully unleashed. But that is a big “if”…Adam Levitan noted earlier today that the Rams have tended to be more cautious with injuries heading into the playoffs, and of course, Gurley is the No. 1 asset to protect. In a game they’re expected to win easily, Gurley is a risky high end RB play this week even if he’s cleared.
The three-headed WR monster is alive and well in LA, as we saw Josh Reynolds (12 targets), Robert Woods (nine targets) and Brandin Cooks (seven targets) finish within 20 yards of each other in Week 15. Woods got the TD. Cooks and Reynolds are probably the best bets to avoid Patrick Peterson, but I’m not confident in any one of them being the super duper best play of the game. This team total screams GPP stack, but be cautious with the cash game lineup.
Trent Sherfield is worth scrolling down to click on. He’s still minimum salary on FD, just over that on DK. He’s seen 12 targets in the last two games, and hauled in eight of those, including his first touchdown last Sunday. The Rams are a tough, but not impossible, matchup. The price is so right. There are too many running backs I like more than David Johnson this week but I don’t hate him as a contrarian option.
Buffalo at New England, Total 44.5
Josh Allen getting no respect here despite leading all QBs except Lamar Jackson in rushing yards this season, with notably fewer games played. It turns out that QB rushing yards don’t correlate well with QB fantasy points, and this is a spot to forget your recent memory of Allen and look elsewhere for a QB. To boot, his salary is almost equal to Tom Brady’s on both sites. Not that I want you to roster Brady either. The Bills are a nasty pass defense, allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs, second-fewest to TE, and fourth-fewest to WRs. So not to sound like a broken record but this could be a very low scoring game in which I don’t trust the Pats pass game. They might be an interesting tournament stack – I’d go the classic Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman version – based on the Vegas team total implied here. The run game would be one to target, if the run game of the Patriots was at all transparent. At least James Develin didn’t score in Week 15, but neither did any other NE RB. James White and Sony Michel are the priorities.
What about NE’s D/ST? I love that they’re at home, that they face Buffalo, still not a high-scoring team and still turning the ball over with regularity, and that the Bills are basically without a running back. But the Patriots Defense is not good. They’re not opportunistic, they don’t bring a lot of pressure, and their fantasy scoring is wildly variable. I think they’re probably worth some exposure, but by no means a must-play.
New York Giants at Indianapolis, Total 46.5
I was wrong about not loving Marlon Mack in Week 15, and for loving Andrew Luck too much for that matter. I thought things set up well for the pass game in Dallas, but Luck had other plans, not to mention the Cowboys Offense having no plans at all… So it might be harder for me to go back to Luck in DFS lineups than it will be for you to use him in Week 16. This is a nice spot for Luck, Hilton, Mack, and the Colts’ D/ST given the way they’ve played lately. The salaries are all fair, they’re at home, they’re huge favorites, what could go wrong? Seriously, the defense is the second-most expensive on DK, but they’ve allowed no more than 315 total yards of offense against them in the past four games. They also average over 10 fantasy points per game at home. Probably worth it vs. the Giants.