The defining characteristics of the Week 16 slate are (1) extreme value at running back and (2) almost no running backs worth paying up for. This is going to push many people towards similar roster builds with at least two cheap running backs and multiple top wide receivers. Cooper Kupp may be the most popular wide receiver play we have had all season. On an individual player level, the biggest decisions of the week are going to be which of the extremely popular plays to fade and which to go all in on.
The next big consideration is whether to game stack and if so, which games. With very few high Vegas game totals, there is not a single obvious shootout game on the slate. It is more viable than normal to pick and choose and not go overboard with game theory and correlation. That being said, if any of the games do turn into high-scoring affairs, it will have an outsized impact on the slate.
The third major factor is going to be injuries and illnesses. For the third straight week, we are inundated with news of players landing on reserve due to COVID protocols. Between now (Friday morning) and kickoff Sunday morning, we should expect more names to be added to the list. We also have a number of star players whose availability is unknown (Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, D'Andre Swift, etc.). The advice here is to not get too locked into any plays before Saturday night or Sunday morning. Do your research and make some preliminary lineups but wait to do most of the actual lineup building until Sunday morning. The last-minute information is going to be a critical piece of the puzzle even more so than normal in Week 16.
As mentioned above, there are very few games with high totals. The Rams-Vikings matchup with an over/under of 49 is the only game on the slate with a total of 47. As such, expect Matthew Stafford to be extremely popular and for Kirk Cousins to be a popular “contrarian” play who ends up being not so contrarian. We have a lot of the usual suspects as the top options this week. As they have been all season, Patrick Mahomes II, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts look to be amongst the top options.
Top QB Plays
Jalen Hurts ($7,700), Philadelphia vs. NY Giants
There was some concern about how mobile Hurts would be in his Week 15 return to the field after suffering an ankle injury in Week 12. He put this concerns to rest with another strong rushing performance (8 carries for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns). While Hurts struggled to throw the ball in his matchup with the Giants a few weeks ago, he did rush for 77 yards. We are playing Hurts for that rushing upside. He has 13 rushing touchdowns in 17 career starts. While we are mainly interested in Hurts because of what he can do with his legs, he had one of the best passing games of his career last week, throwing for 296 yards on just 26 attempts with a 77% completion rate. The Hurts-Dallas Goedert stack is my favorite of the week.
BIRDS' EYE VIEW: Jalen Hurts is one of only three QBs in @NFL history to rush for 700+ yards and 10+ TDs in a single season, joining Kyler Murray (2020) and Cam Newton (2011). #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/XzeeoUXNRg— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) December 24, 2021
Justin Herbert ($8,400), LA Chargers at Houston
Herbert was recently named the starting Pro Bowl quarterback for the AFC over Patrick Mahomes II, Josh Allen, and others. He has emerged as a full-fledged superstar who is going to be a top daily fantasy option almost every week for the next decade-plus. The career stats tell the story.
What #Chargers QB Justin Herbert is doing in his first two years is out of this world:— Dan W. (@ChargersHomer) December 23, 2021
71 TDs and ~9,000 yards with 3 games still to play, and ranks 2nd in the NFL this year in QBR (66.2). ðŸ¤¯ pic.twitter.com/z6b07tovBP
Herbert has 71 total touchdowns in just 29 games (2.45 per game). For context, Peyton Manning averaged 2.09 and Tom Brady has averaged 2.04 touchdowns per game in their careers. In addition to his weekly status as a top option, Herbert is especially attractive this week given the Chargers team total 928) is the highest on the slate by 1.5 points.
Other QBs to consider:
Patrick Mahomes II ($8,700), Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh
This play is somewhat dependent upon the status of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Without his top two targets, Mahomes loses much of his luster. We have seen Mahomes rounding into form in recent weeks. He was nearly flawless in Week 14 against the Raiders, completing 83% of his passes and throwing for 258 yards on just 24 attempts. In a more competitive Week 15 game, he threw for a season-high 410 yards against the Chargers.
Joe Burrow ($7,100), Cincinnati vs. Baltimore
Burrow has been excellent this season, ranking as the top-graded quarterback overall according to PFF. He had the best game of his career the last time he faced the Ravens, throwing for 416 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Joe Mixon banged up and the Baltimore secondary banged up, this is a very nice spot for Burrow to potentially repeat his monster Week 7 performance.
Matthew Stafford ($7,900), LA Rams at Minnesota
Cooper Kupp could be in over half of the tournament lineups this week. His popularity is going to make Stafford even more popular than he otherwise would have been. It may make sense to be slightly below the field on Stafford but we will want to have some exposure given his upside and the potential that the Rams/Vikings game turns into a shootout.
As mentioned in the slate overview, the key to the Week 16 FanDuel slate is the extreme value at running back. It is fair to expect Alexander Mattison, Justin Jackson, and Ronald Jones II to see 20-plus touches this weekend. Each of the three plays in extremely running back-friendly offenses that have supported high-end RB1 fantasy numbers this season. Each is priced at $5,500 or less. If there is a positive, it is the presence of three extreme values and not just one. This adds an element of strategy both in terms of how you want to build lineups in general (Do you play 0, 1, 2, or 3 of these backs in your main lineup?) and in terms of the decision of which of the three (if any) to fade. Of the three, Ronald Jones II is the best fade and the only one of the trio I plan to be underweight on this week.
Adding to the popularity of the cheap backs is the fact that there are very few pay-up options worth targeting. Najee Harris played every snap again last week and has a solid projection but runs behind a struggling line. Plus, the Steelers have a team total of just 18.3 points. Cordarrelle Patterson and James Robinson have plus matchups, facing the Lions and Jets, respectively. Both are in play. There are some solid options in the mid-tier like David Montgomery and Clyde Edwards-Helaire who should be less popular than the three cheap options and still give you a path to the cap space required for Cooper Kupp and another top wide receiver.
Top RB Plays
Alexander Mattison ($5,500), Minnesota vs. LA Rams
If any player gets locked into all of my lineups this week, it will be Mattison. He has started three games this season and averaged 24.3 carries for 105 yards in those outings. He is locked into a massive role as a runner. Mattison also has starred as a receiver when starting. In his three starts, he averaged 5.3 receptions for 44 yards. The Vikings are going to be loathed to abandon the running game regardless of the score and even if they do, Mattison should be amongst the team leaders in targets. As such, he is virtually game script proof and carries an incredibly high floor in a solid matchup against a Rams defense allowing 19.8 FanDuel points per game to opposing running backs.
Justin Jackson ($5,400), LA Chargers at Houston
Jackson projects nearly as well as Mattison. He is set up to take over a role similar to Austin Ekeler’s, which is of extreme value given that Ekeler is the RB2 this season behind only Jonathan Taylor. In fact, Jackson likely projects for more carries than Ekeler in the lead role. While that may be offset somewhat by fewer opportunities in the passing game, there was a reason why Ekeler was priced at $9,400. In short, there is nowhere near a $4,000 pricing difference between what we should expect from Jackson in a lead role compared to what we would have expected from Ekeler. In terms of touts, it does not get much better than this:
.@dawson_knox joined @LizLoza_FF and @AustinEkeler to thank him for helping lock up a first-round bye!— Yahoo Fantasy Sports (@YahooFantasy) December 23, 2021
Austin broke some bad news, but has advice for all of his managers out there. ðŸ‘€
Full episode of Ekeler's Edge âž¡ï¸ https://t.co/V1YzNBwV30 pic.twitter.com/FO7k98DU6v
The spot could not be any better for Jackson. The Chargers are 10-point home favorites against a Texans defense that is giving up 24.4 FanDuel pints per game (sixth-most).
Other RBs to consider:
Ronald Jones II ($5,400), Tampa Bay at Carolina
While Jones is my least favorite of the three elite bargain options, it does not change the fact that he too is vastly underpriced. Leonard Fournette was priced at $8,000 on this slate and Jones should be priced similarly stepping into the lead role. The Buccaneers are 10-point favorites and have the second-highest team total on the slate, behind only the Chargers. The game script is ideal for Jones to get heavy usage as a runner. The one factor that makes him a lesser option than Jackson and Mattison is the uncertainty regarding his pass-catching usage. Last week after the Fournette injury, Ke'Shawn Vaughn played 6-of-8 snaps in obvious passing situations and has played ahead of Jones in the two-minute offense in the past. Plus, the Panthers are by far the stingiest defense in the entire NFL against opposing running backs in the passing game. Carolina has given up the fewest receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns to opposing running backs in the entire NFL.
David Montgomery ($6,600), Chicago at Seattle
Montgomery is amongst the safest projections on the slate for 20-plus touches. His Footballguys consensus projection is for 17 carries, a number he has hit in three of his last four games. Montgomery has also averaged 7.3 targets per game over his last three and has caught 84% of his targets on the season. The Seahawks allow the second-most FanDuel points to opposing running backs (25.8). The only negative for Montgomery is the Bears' 18-point team total.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($6,500) Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh
We may never see Edwards-Helaire as a volume pass catcher. He certainly has not been to this point in his career. However, if there was ever a week to break the trend, this could be it. With both Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill questionable, Edwards-Helaire moves up the pecking order. He also played a season-high 51 snaps last week and ran a route on 68% of Mahomes’ dropbacks, which is 23% higher than his season-to-date average. The Steelers have been getting absolutely smashed on the ground. Two weeks ago, Dalvin Cook had the best rushing game of the 2021 season (205 yards). Last week, the Titans rushed for 201 yards. This is about as good a spot as we could hope for.
Even with a sky-high salary, Cooper Kupp is going to be in over half the lineups this weekend. He has been great all season, especially hot lately, and has a prime matchup. Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill (if he plays) will also be understandably popular. There are plenty of solid options in the mid-tier, including Marquise Brown, Stefon Diggs, Antonio Brown, and the Chargers and Bengals top wide receivers.
Top WR Options
Cooper Kupp ($9,800), LA Rams at Minnesota
If we ignored game theory and ownership, playing Kupp is the easiest call of the season. The Vikings give up more FanDuel points to opposing wide receivers than any team in the NFL (34.8 per game). Kupp is on pace for the greatest receiving season in NFL history, lapping the field in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Kupp has been absolutely on fire of late. He has averaged 10 catches for 129.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game over his last three.
The more interesting conversation is around how to deal with the fact that Kupp is projected for 55% ownership. In terms of game theory, it only makes sense to fade an elite play when there are solid pivots with similar upside. On this slate, there are no obvious pivots. As noted above, we do not have an elite expensive running back play. Davante Adams is not on the main slate and Tyreek Hill is questionable. There is nothing keeping you from playing both Kupp and Justin Jefferson, so where is the pivot that really makes sense?
Antonio Brown ($7,000), Tampa Bay at Carolina
Aside from Kupp, Brown is my favorite wide receiver play on this slate. He is in line for a massive target share with Chris Godwin out and Mike Evans very questionable. In the three games before his injury, Brown played 57% or less of the snaps in each outing. He still averaged 7.7 catches for 93.3 yards and 1.0 touchdowns on 10.7 targets per game. In what should be more of a full-time role, Brown should get a boatload of opportunities. There is also a little bit of a narrative angle here with Tom Brady coming off of an embarrassing primetime performance and looking to get both the Buccaneers season and his MVP campaign back on track.
Evans is a major question mark, but Bucs should have Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden. Arians said Breshad Perriman is "very close" to coming off reserve/COVID-19 list. If he can't go, they could add Cyril Grayson or Justin Watson to the 53 as WR5. https://t.co/Eyi2sOLeBA— Greg Auman (@gregauman) December 23, 2021
Marquise Brown ($6,400), Baltimore at Cincinnati Brown has seen his efficiency drop substantially in recent weeks. In the first half of the season, he averaged 9.9 yards per target on 8.6 targets per game. In the last five games, his YPT has plummeted to 4.4 but his targets per game have actually increased to 10.4. In tournaments, we want to focus on range of outcomes and what the high range of realistic scenarios looks like. In Brown’s case, it is easy to see the potential for a ceiling game. He has had at least 12 targets in four of his last seven games and was targeted 14 times in the previous matchup with the Bengals. It is not unrealistic to imagine Brown again getting 12-to-15 targets and seeing his yard per target number bounce back in a big way.
Justin Jefferson ($8,400), Minnesota vs. LA Rams
Jefferson is the WR2 on this slate. You can easily fit him in alongside Kupp in a mini-game stack. Jefferson has six straight games with at least nine targets and has averaged 11.5 targets over that stretch. He has not only been getting massive opportunities of late but has also been extremely efficient. He is averaging 16.4 yards per reception and over 10 yards per target over the last six games. The Vikings are home underdogs and the offense will have to keep pace with an explosive Rams offense. This is a great spot for Jefferson.
Other WRs to Consider:
Tyreek Hill ($8,700), Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh
Keep an eye on the news over the next 48 hours to see if Hill will be cleared in time to take the field against the Steelers. With Travis Kelce’s status also in limbo, there is a lot we do not know about the Chiefs passing game so this is one of those spots where we want to keep an open mind until we have a clearer picture of player availability on Sunday morning.
DJ Moore ($6,400), Carolina vs. Tampa Bay
The Panthers quarterback situation is a bit of a mess but Moore is still too cheap for a player who has seen 10-plus targets in three straight games. In his last four games against the Buccaneers, Moore has averaged 97.8 yards on 11.3 targets per game. He is the run-it-back option if you stack the Buccaneers passing game.
Stefon Diggs ($7,500), Buffalo at New England
Throw the 4-51-0 line Diggs put together in Week 13 against the Patriots out the window given the game was played in insane winds. The last time Diggs played in Foxboro, he was dominant, catching 9 passes for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 16 last season. He is priced down and may go relatively overlooked given the popularity of Kupp, Jefferson, and Brown.
Even if Travis Kelce is out, we have plenty of strong tight end options. In fact, this could be a week where we look to flex a tight end. Mark Andrews, Rob Gronkowski, and Dallas Goedert each have point per dollar projections that justify flex consideration.
Top TE Options
Dallas Goedert ($5,900), Philadelphia vs. NY Giants
In his last two outings, Goedert has been phenomenal. In those games, he caught 13-of-15 targets for an average of 16.4 yards per target. He has been making plays down the field and looking great in doing so. While he was a non-factor against the Giants in Week 12, the bet here is that the last two weeks are more in line with what we should expect from one of the league’s hottest tight ends. The price point makes no sense given his back-to-back 100-plus yard games and the huge gap between him and Andrews/Kelce makes Goedert the top play.
Kyle Pitts ($5,900), Atlanta vs. Detroit
We have not seen a huge fantasy game from Pitts since Week 7, so he is understandably not at the top of the list for most. That being said, he has still been producing solid numbers and seems to be trending up, with 61 and 77 receiving yards in his last two games. The Falcons have a Vegas team total of 24.5 points and it is hard to see them getting there without Pitts doing some damage.
Other TEs to consider:
Mark Andrews ($8,000), Baltimore at Cincinnati
Andrews has been fantastic of late, averaging over 10 yards per target while seeing 24 total targets over the last two weeks. He has back-to-back games with 10-plus catches, 115-plus yards, and at least one touchdown. He is the top overall projection on the slate at the position. The only question is whether he is worth spending the extra $2,100 on compared to Goedert and Pitts. Given that there are fewer pay-up options and much more value at running back than normal, the salary savings may not be worth pursuing. The Bengals did hold him to his second-worst game of the season (3-48-0) in their Week 7 matchup and Andrews has averaged only 45.6 receiving yards per game in seven career games against Cincinnati.
Rob Gronkowski ($6,700) Tampa Bay at Carolina
With Chris Godwin out and Mike Evans questionable, Gronkowski should take on an even bigger role than normal even with Antonio Brown returning. The Panthers have held opposing tight ends to just 9.0 fantasy points this season and were great against Gronkowski last season (1.0 catches for 25.5 yards per game). But do you want to bet against the Brady-Gronkowski combination coming off of a down week?
Atlanta Falcons ($3,800) vs. Detroit
Jarred Goff is highly unlikely to play, meaning we will probably see Tim Boyle under center for the Lions. Boyle has been a disaster this season, with an adjusted yards per attempt of -0.6. Yes, that is a negative 0.6 adjusted yards per attempt. At a bargain salary, this is a nice spot to play the Falcons defense against an extremely undermanned Detroit offense.
Philadelphia Eagles ($5,000) vs. NY Giants
The Giants boast a measly 15.5 team total, the lowest on the slate. It does not matter whether it is Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm under center for New York. Either way, the offense is likely to be a disaster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($4,700) at Carolina
Carolina has the second-lowest team total on the slate at 16.5. The Panthers also have a messy quarterback situation with Cam Newton and Sam Darnold both expected to play at some point. The lack of continuity and affinity for costly mistakes from both quarterbacks makes this a prime spot for the Buccaneers defense, especially if the offense can jump out to a big early lead.