As the end of the NFL regular season winds down, we start to get some strange scheduling by the league, beginning here in Week 16. The league opted to nix Thursday night shenanigans in favor of playing three games this Saturday. As DFS players, another slate is just another opportunity to bring home some green.
The DFS sites were happy to oblige and provide some decent tournaments that are worth checking out this Saturday. Jedi_Pred mentioned a couple in his Contest Selection writeup and there’s certainly some money to be made here prior to the main slate kicking off on Sunday.
I’m going to mix up the format from what I did this past Thanksgiving and instead just go position-by-position looking at the top overall plays. They are geared toward building tournament lineups as these mini-slates are often best suited for tournaments over cash games. That being said, I’ll still give my overall thoughts on players in all types of formats (Cash/SE/3-Max/20-Max/150-Max) to help Mafia members entering any type of contests this Saturday.
Let’s dive right in.
Deshaun Watson, HOU – Watson and the Texans are implied for a slate-leading 26.5 points against this Buccaneers defense. Given Tampa’s stout run defense (No. 1 in Rush DVOA), it stands to reason we can anticipate a pass-happy attack from Watson given that opponents pass against Tampa Bay at a league-high 66.9% rate. Tampa Bay ranks top-10 in most fantasy points and passing touchdowns allowed to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve given up multiple touchdowns to 9-of-14 opponents and Watson is currently in the midst of a four-game streak scoring multiple times in each game. He enters this matchup averaging 23 FPPG and given the close spread (HOU -3), it wouldn’t surprise at all if we see Watson put up a ceiling game with him typically excelling in back-and-forth affairs.
Jameis Winston, TB – Winston may be without his top receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but that doesn’t mean we should expect the league’s current reigning passing leader to pivot to a heavy run game. The Bucs pass at one of the higher rates in the league (62.1%, 8th-highest rate) and after seeing Winston log a full practice on Thursday, he should be good to go in this matchup despite the depleted receiving corps. Luckily for Winston, his matchup with Houston should negate the downgrade in receiving talent around him. Houston ranks 26th in Pass DVOA defense and ranks top-5 in both fantasy points and touchdowns allowed to opposing QBs. They’ve been on a massive downslide as of late, allowing four of the last five quarterbacks they’ve faced to score at least three touchdowns against them. Winston showed last week without Evans that he could have success throwing to the ancillary pieces of this offense. Winston and Watson project to soak up the majority of QB exposure on this slate.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF – If we sort by “Ceiling” in our Projections for this slate, Garoppolo ranks second in both DK and FD’s scoring settings behind only Watson. If trying to avoid the chalky TB/HOU matchup, pivoting to Garoppolo could make some sense in tournaments. Garoppolo completed over 72% of his attempts the last time these two teams faced off, throwing for 243 yards but tossing zero passing touchdowns. He did run one in for six points, but the Rams defense he faced that week did not have Jalen Ramsey at the time. Even if we project Ramsey to shadow Emmanuel Sanders, Garoppolo has plenty of other targets to pivot towards. This Rams pass defense has been wildly inconsistent as of late, allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over the past month (19.8 FPPG). This game also sets up very well from a pace perspective with both squads operating at a blistering pace in neutral gamescript (+/- 6 points) with both squads falling inside the top-10. Vegas gives the 49ers a 6.5-point spread in their favor so don’t be surprised if we see a lot of play volume here in what could end up being a late-night hammer.
Todd Gurley, LAR – DFS owners of Gurley last week were lucky to be salvaged by a late touchdown and garbage time production as the Rams offense fell completely flat in Dallas. The 49ers defense is adept at providing pressure with the duo of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead combining for 19 sacks so far this season. In turn, I’d expect Jared Goff to pivot to a short passing game to negate the pass rush, getting Gurley involved through dumpoffs and screens. Gurley is coming off a 6-target outing last week where he was able to take one of those receptions in for six points. Opposing backs have struggled against this 49ers run defense, but we’ve seen some versatile playmakers prevail primarily through the passing game.
Raheem Mostert, SF – Over the last month, Mostert has averaged 18.2 FPPG, sixth-most among all running backs. He’s scored in four-straight while averaging 14 touches per game. The Rams rank bottom-five in explosive run rate against and Mostert has routinely picked up yardage in big chunks this season. In fact, Mostert leads all qualifying backs in percentage of runs that go for 15+ yards (10.5%). His receiving targets leave a little to be desired, but he’s one of the most solid rushers on this slate and carries multi-touchdown upside.
Devin Singletary, BUF – Simply chasing volume here, but there’s nothing wrong with that in fantasy. New England’s rushing defense is nowhere close to the level of their pass defense. We’ve seen multiple 100-yard rushers against this run defense. Singletary is posting solid touch totals in both the rushing and receiving game, making him somewhat gamescript-proof. On a slate without many backs that provide volume (21.3 touches/game last four), Singletary is one of the few guys that offers it multiple ways.
James White, NE – White saw 10 targets the last time these two teams faced off. Tom Brady has been struggling connecting with his outside receivers so it makes sense to anticipate a decent number of dumpoffs for White again in this matchup. His recent usage — 22 targets the last three weeks — also supports this line of thinking as he’s elevated himself to second on the depth chart in target share (19%) during this span. Buffalo ranks middle of the pack in receiving production allowed to opposing backs, but given White’s target volume, I’d have a tough time not including him in DK builds.
Duke Johnson, HOU – On a small slate like this, getting a bit creative with game stacks can go a long way. Carlos Hyde did not practice on Wednesday and is now “questionable” for tomorrow’s game. Given that the Bucs possesses the league’s top run defense and have allowed over 79% of the yards against them to come through the air, pivoting to the receiving back in Johnson makes too much sense. All four of Duke’s touchdowns have come from inside the red zone and Tampa Bay ranks top-6 in red zone trips per game allowed. At just $4,100 on DK, he can let you fit in multiple studs without any issue. He makes a lot of sense on either side of Watson/Winston gamestack.
Ronald Jones, TB – Contrarian pivot off the Winston chalk. Bruce Arians mentioned getting the backs more involved in the passing game, so if MME’ing, it makes sense to potentially add some RoJo to the mix. Jones has eight targets over his last two games with 22 total carries. Houston has already ruled out two starting members of the front-seven in Benardrick McKinney and Jacob Martin. There’s always the possibility that Peyton Barber steals looks, but that fear is exactly what will drive down ownership. Risky play, but with Houston giving up a league-leading 97 receptions to RBs so far this year, I’ll have a sprinkling in 20-max builds.
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU – Good chalk to eat. He draws a matchup with a very beatable Tampa Bay secondary that’s allowing the most fantasy points to opposing receivers. Hopkins moves all over the formation and Tampa Bay is equally terrible defending perimeter wideouts (3rd-most FPs) and the slot (2nd-most FPs). Lock and move on.
Will Fuller, HOU – As always, Fuller carries slate-breaking upside. He also carries just as high a probability of providing a dud, so leave him out of your FLEX spots in case you need to make a drastic late-swap pivot. Tampa Bay ranks inside the top-10 in both passing touchdowns (7th) and passing plays (9th) allowed of 20+ yards. Watson trails only Russell Wilson in percentage of deep balls thrown (15.6%), setting up Fuller for a potential ceiling outing if they can connect.
Breshad Perriman, TB – Coming off three touchdowns last week and playing in a game without Evans or Godwin, Perriman is going to carry massive ownership. As Winston’s top receiving option, that makes total sense, but we should be chasing him here for the targets and not the replication of three touchdowns. Perriman led the Bucs in Air Yards last week (124) while sporting a ridiculous 20.7 aDOT. Deep shots should occur often to Perriman and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he crested north of a 20% target share this week. He’s a solid play in all formats, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for a fade given his long tenured history of mediocrity.
Justin Watson, TB – The UPenn uber-athlete is a favorite of dynasty leaguers and preseason degens alike given his 6’-2” height, his 4.49 40-yard dash time, and 92nd percentile SPARQ score. He showed in half a game two weeks ago his ability to rack up plays, picking up 8 targets and a 5-59-1 stat line in just the second half alone of the shootout with Indy. Now that Scotty Miller has been placed on IR, Watson steps in as the WR2 for Tampa Bay this week in a game that should feature heavy passing from both sides. I like the idea of going overweight on him versus the field as a leverage spot on Perriman.
Robert Woods, LAR – We saw a fazed Goff misfire multiple throws last week against Dallas. There’s a strong possibility that he’s consistently under duress in this one as well given the 49ers’ adept pass rush, but the target total for Woods last week — nine targets — was nothing to scoff at. It brings Woods to five-straight games with at least nine targets. He’s posted at least 90 receiving yards in four-of-five and I’ll weight that recent target share (27%) more heavily than his last outing against San Francisco where he put up a goose egg. The quality of the targets may be lacking in this matchup, but given that Woods has displayed a floor of nine targets recently, he’s one of the stronger receiver plays of the entire slate.
Julian Edelman, NE – Brady’s perimeter targets have failed to produce consistently. There’s a reason he routinely turns to his long-tenured slot receiver 25% of the time. Ignoring last week’s 34-13 blowout win over Cincinnati, Edelman had previously posted eight-straight games with double-digit targets. The Bills’ strength in their pass coverage is in taking away perimeter WR1’s with Stephon Gilmore and TEs with their duo of safeties. Over the last four weeks, the Bills have given up the 14th-most fantasy points to slot receivers (which is where Edelman runs 68% of his routes) compared to just 25th-most fantasy points to perimeter wideouts. If we ignore last week’s aberration, Edelman is one of the few receivers on this slate that actually provides a solid floor.
Cole Beasley, BUF – Beasley posted a whopping 13 targets last time he faced the Patriots. He’ll now face them without starting slot corner Jonathan Jones (groin), who has already been ruled out in this contest. I don’t want a ton of exposure to this projected low scoring game, but Beasley is the type of one-off, low-owned receiver that feels like he could catapult you up the GPP leaderboards.
Deebo Samuel, SF – Starting corner Troy Hill (thumb) has already been ruled out in this matchup. While others chase Emmanuel Sanders during what’s anticipated to be shadow coverage from Jalen Ramsey, I’d much rather pivot to Samuel as he runs his routes against backup Darious Williams. Williams is a 5’-9” 2018 UDFA that played just four snaps last season. So far this year on limited snaps, he’s allowed 8-of-9 targets to be completed against him for 127 yards and a touchdown (155.8 QB Rating allowed). Samuel has been highly efficient on targets received this season, ranking top-25 in PFF’s Yards per Route Run metric and has either reached the century mark or the end zone in four of his last six. I’m taking a mini break from writing this article right now to increase my Deebo exposure.
George Kittle, SF – Like Hopkins, there’s very little reason to fade Kittle outside ownership reasons and differentiating lineups. Kittle is coming off a ridiculous 17-target outing where he posted a 13-134-0 stat line. He now faces a Rams defense that he torched for 8-103-0 back in Week 6. His 27% target share is 10% higher than the next closest, Samuel (17%), and his anytime touchdown prop on FD Sportsbook is the highest on the entire team (+125). Kittle is head and shoulders the top TE play of the slate.
Tyler Higbee, LAR – The overall TE1 over the past three weeks unfortunately will have teammate Gerald Everett back and in the lineup this week. There’s an argument to be made that Higbee’s play over the last three weeks has elevated him to the top of the depth chart and that he’s still going to be used in a similar manner. There’s also the possibility Everett takes back his job now that he’s healthy. The Rams’ recent success has largely been due to them successfully running the ball out of 12 personnel (2TE sets). Everett is not nearly the same blocker as Higbee, but I’d be surprised if they kept Everett on the bench in favor of Johnny Mundt. After seeing Everett log full practices Thursday and Friday, I’d imagine we see him returning to the lineup this week and he won’t be out there just running wind sprints. He’ll be somewhat involved, likely at the expense of Higbee’s recent enormous target share. It puts Higbee in a dangerous spot for cash games and single entry, but a terrific GPP option with the masses afraid of Everett’s return. He’s the type of player you need to take a stand on if MME’ing. I plan on going overweight on him versus the field.
O.J. Howard, TB – Additional 12 personnel sets by the Bucs shouldn’t surprise anyone this week given the receivers they are running out. For those that forgot, prior to this season, Winston had historically heavily relied on his tight ends with them comprising of 19.6% of his career attempts while sporting a 117.9 Career QB Rating when targeting the position. Jonnu Smith, Mark Andrews, and Noah Fant all posted at least 15 PPR points against this secondary in the past five weeks. Howard could finally be elevated to top TE status by default now that Winston lost his primary receiving options.
Cameron Brate, TB – Brate is a fantastic pivot off Howard if trying to get unique here. Not only is it a massive shift off the chalky Kittle/Higbee combination, but it’s a contrarian way to gain access to this 50-point game total that the Bucs are in. Winston has a strong rapport with Brate, particularly around the end zone where he’s posted at least six touchdowns each of the past three years prior to this season. With Houston’s struggles in the secondary, I have no qualms with anyone adding Brate to their player pool.
SF DST – We know that Goff folds like a lawn chair when pressured. San Francisco ranks third in sacks (47) and fifth in takeaways (26) this season. The 49ers have the personnel to generate pressure and either capitalize with sacks or interceptions by the secondary and should be the highest owned DST on the slate given their price point on each site.
NE DST – You could pay up a little and pivot off the chalky SF DST for a defensive unit that’s nearly just as strong and taking on a turnover/sack-friendly Josh Allen. Allen’s sack rate (7.3%) is well above league average and his high turnover frequency — 9 interceptions, 14 fumbles — is something that New England can certainly capitalize on. When these two teams last played, the NE DST racked up 25 fantasy points on both DK & FD.
HOU DST – Winston create turnovers? Huh. Never would’ve guessed. If trying to get off the chalk two defenses (SF & NE), perhaps we see Houston prevail. In games where Winston is forced to pass the ball and keep up, he’s often taking a ton of sacks and turning the football over with interceptions and fumbles. Oddly enough, these games have also coincided with some of his top fantasy performances, making Winston the rare QB that it’s okay to stack with the DST against him. Opposing DST’s against Winston and the Bucs have averaged the sixth-most fantasy points (9.6 FPPG) — highest amount among the six teams on this slate.
Roster Construction Notes
Ownership is going to heavily revolve around the TB/HOU matchup, but for good reason. Both squads can put up points in a hurry and both defenses provide little resistance, particularly against the pass. They’re a solid base to build around in every contest.
If playing in cash games, Gurley & Singletary are the two backs projected for the most volume.
I like the idea of going double-TE on this slate. Despite it being something that’s often shunned in some DFS circles, it can be a way to build unique lineups on a smaller slate. There are some quality tight ends on this slate that have higher projections than similarly priced backs and receivers. It’s a solid path to differentiating in lineup construction.
Don’t be afraid to fade chalk Perriman. He’s coming off a career-high in fantasy points and has routinely disappointed when turned to in his four-year career.
Leaving salary on the board in smaller slates is another way to differentiate lineups. Don’t feel compelled to spend 100% of it.
George Kittle currently comes in with our second-highest projected number of fantasy points at the skill position on both DK & FD, trailing only Hopkins. Lock-buttoning him would not be a terrible idea.
Don’t try to cover all your bases. You’ll likely spread yourself too thin rostering players with limited upside. Create a concise pool of players and take stands with players you have conviction in.
Don’t forget about late swaps. Always flex players in your latest game so you have room to maneuver. The number of winners that have late-swapped their way to first place would astound you.
Good luck this week!