NFL DFS Plays/Fades, Week 16: It all hinges on Julio Jones

julio jones

Here we sit in Week 16 – Championship Week in yearly leagues and the beginning of the end for DFSers – and the status of Julio Jones looks likely to play a major role in the successes/failures of many of our DFS lineups.  Julio is a sheer, unadulterated stud whenever he’s on the field, and his backups make for excellent plug-and-plays when he’s not.  Without further ado, your guide to Week 16 in NFL daily fantasy:

Week 15 in Review


My cash games panned out OK.  Not great.  I suffered from the Raiders’ insistence on shelving the run game – which had been humming along nicely – during the third quarter of a game that wasn’t remotely to a blowout, severely limiting Latavius Murray‘s opportunities.  (Of course, once they worked their way to the Kansas City 1 in garbage time, they opted to throw their touchdown.  Grr.)  I also got near no-shows from Russell Wilson, LeGarrette Blount and Marqise Lee.  Still, I managed to profit a bit thanks to Le’Veon Bell doing Le’Veon Bell things and Odell Beckham, Jr.’s three scores.


My top GPP lineup buttered the bread, as the Matt Ryan/Harry Douglas stack paid off handsomely.  The Mark Sanchez/LeSean McCoy one, of course, did not, as McCoy had THREE short TDs vultured by backups.  I managed to turn Lineup #1 into solid money by playing the right contests, but the other two doomed from the start.  Jordy Nelson dropping a wide-open 94-yard TD was the story of the day for me, to say nothing of underachievements from Kyle Orton, Martellus Bennett and DeAndre Hopkins (once Ryan FitzMagic was bounced).

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Week 16 Plays & Fades



PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Aaron Rodgers (@TB, $9,000 DK) – Don’t be shaken by Rodgers absolute dud.  You can’t let outliers (like Rodgers’ first sub-81.5 rating in 19 games) dictate your strategy, and besides, Buffalo does field a premier defense.  Move on, like Rodgers most certainly will, and play him against a Buc team that just allowed Derek Anderson to throw for 277, but is scrappy enough to stay close enough to keep Rodgers throwing.  That is, if paying heftily for a QB is your thing.  Projection: 275 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 26 rush yards

FADE WITH GLORY: Peyton Manning (@CIN, $8,400 DK) – Just like last week, Manning is anything but a recommended play.  Not only is he squaring off with a Bengal secondary that’s allowed a league-low 14 pass TDs, but also because it’s becoming more and more clear that the Broncos are taking the air out of the ball for their playoff push.  Manning has thrown just 40 passes over the last two weeks and hasn’t topped 233 yards or two TDs in the last three.  Peyton could go off at any time, of course, but the exorbitant salary isn’t worth the gamble.  Projection: 196 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, -4 rush yards


Matthew Stafford (@CHI, $7,000 DK) – Here’s your play of the week.  Stafford looks like a top-three QB at a steep discount; you’d pay more for * on either DK or FD.  The matchup, of course, is delicious: the Bears are a nasty mess and have allowed 25.6 FP/gm to their last eight QB opponents.  (Included in that number was Stafford’s 390-yard, two-TD Thanksgiving beatdown.)  Don’t be scared off by the game flow of a likely Lion win; Stafford has thrown 12 passes over his last two fourth quarters with healthy leads.  Again, this is a no-brainer; Stafford will be in the vast majority of my lineups this week.  Projection: 300 passing yards, 3 TDs

Matt Ryan (@NO, $7,400 DK) – With or without Julio Jones, Ryan has two trusted wideouts and will fling and fling the ball.  Including last week’s Julio-less performance, Ryan has attempted 41 passes/game over his last five, averaging 317.4 yards along the way and throwing 11 touchdowns.  He’ll take that momentum into a tasty dome matchup that will likely call for another 40ish attempts.  Ryan isn’t quite the bargain Stafford is, and his matchup is a bit iffier in the vivacious Superdome, but he has similar upside.  Consider stacking Ryan with Roddy White and/or Harry Douglas, who will likely account for 80-85% of his production.  Projection: 275 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 18 rush yards


Mark Sanchez (@WAS, $6,200 DK) – Yes, he’s been erratic the last two weeks, and I know he’s a scary name to bet on in Week 16.  But he’s got a sexy price tag for such an enticing matchup.  Washington is ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus with an atrocious -65.7 coverage rating, and their only talented CB, midseason rookie sensation Bashaud Breeland, has come unglued of late.  While Sanchez hasn’t produced many big plays from under center, note that Washington has allowed 50 completions of 20+ yards, the eighth-highest total in the league.



PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Le’Veon Bell (vKC, $9,800 DK) – His salary is again exorbitant, but Bell again projects worlds ahead of all other RBs this week.  He’s the league’s most talented back, and he’s as matchup-proof as they come, seeing 31.3 looks/game (rushes + targets) since LeGarrette Blount’s release.  (And note that the Steelers have yet to add a real #2 RB to their roster.)  Game flow doesn’t affect him, as he’s tallied 5.4 catches/game this year, merely a bonus to his top-tier rushing production.  In GPP games, I’d advise you to look for a cheaper and less-owned lottery ticket, but there’s simply no better cash play in all of DFS.  Projection: 213 scrimmage yards, 1 TD, 6 receptions

FADE WITH GLORY: Arian Foster (vBAL, $8,600 DK) – Foster is little more than a volume play this week – and not a good one, considering his matchup and price tag.  The Texans will almost certainly feed him all he can handle with Case Keenum stepping in at QB, so the floor will be nice and high, but there’s not much of a ceiling against a Raven D that’s only allowing 3.7 yards/rush.  I can only imagine what that number will be once they stack the box against Keenum’s offense.  Simply put, paying Foster’s enormous salary this week would be silly.  Projection: 91 scrimmage yards, 3 receptions


Joique Bell (@CHI, $6,000 DK) – Over three games dating back to Thanksgiving, Bell has turned his 60 looks into 343 scrimmage yards and found the end zone four times.  He’s splitting the offensive workload quite evenly with Matthew Stafford, and the days of competition in the Lion backfield are long over.  Against a broken-down Bear defense, there’s little reason to expect a decrease in Bell’s volume, and the goal line table should be set nicely for a guy who’s seen seven carries from inside the 10 over the last three games.  Projection: 85 rushing yards, 1 TD, 4 receptions

Fred Jackson (@OAK, $5,500 DK) – Jackson finally has a stranglehold on the Buffalo backfield, taking 62% of its carries over the last three weeks – and that looks unlikely to change even if/when C.J. Spiller returns.  While Jackson’s rushing production has been less than impressive, he’s supplemented it with typically great receiving numbers, averaging five catches and 30 yards over that span.  These projections might be a bit high – the formula gives him a TD though he hasn’t scored in three weeks – but he’s the lead dog and has as good a chance to score in the red zone as anyone.  He’s a solid cash play for the cost.  Projection: 97 scrimmage yards, 1 TD, 5 receptions

Matt Asiata (@MIA, $4,500 DK) – I don’t like his talent, you don’t like his talent – but neither of us coach the Vikings.  Mike Zimmer seems to adore Asiata’s steadiness in the passing game, and doesn’t seem inclined to give Ben Tate much run at all, so Captain Plodder remains the team’s lead back on all three downs and the goal line.  And while his impact (and ceiling) are low, he’s produced like a borderline fantasy RB2 lately, averaging 69 scrimmage yards and 4.7 receptions over the last three weeks.  Asiata is a good bet to exceed those totals against a Dolphin defense that’s faceplanted mightily, allowing 192.3 ground yards/game over its last four.  Projection: 99 scrimmage yards, 5 receptions

Lamar Miller (vMIN, $4,400 DK) – While the Vikes have pieced together a solid pass defense, they’re leaky against the run, as Jonathan Stewart and Chris Ivory have posted nice ground games recently.  And Miller has run well all season, averaging 4.7 yards/rush on the year.  Two things have kept Miller from RB1 status: volume (just 12.7 rushes/game while head-scratchingly splitting time with Daniel Thomas lately) and goal line usage (just two carries from inside the five since Week 9).  As a result, he looks like a steady cash play this week, but his lack of TD potential lowers his ceiling.  And his price tag.  Projection: 95 scrimmage yards, 3 receptions


Doug Martin (vGB, $3,700 DK) – We’ve seen a mini-resurgence from Martin over the last two games, in which he’s turned 19 rushes into 118 yards.  That’s a tiny sample size, but this is a tiny salary, so Martin makes for a nice dice roll; semi-featured backs in good matchups should cost more than this.  The Packers are somewhat soft up the middle and allow a lot of TDs, so Martin has a decent shot at a real RB2 week.  There’s no better gamble this far down the salary line.  Projection: 61 scrimmage yards, 1 TD, 1 reception



PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Calvin Johnson (@CHI, $8,700) – On Thanksgiving, Megatron emerged from a mini-slump to eviscerate the Bears with an 11-146-2 line.  Little has changed, save for the Bears tumbling even further from relevance and Matthew Stafford’s late-season resurgence.  Johnson heads into Week 16 with a gorgeous matchup, little competition for targets, and an offensive scheme that throws the ball with big leads.  These projections might even be low; the only thing in the way of a top-three WR finish is The Unforeseen.  Maybe an attack from this guy.  Projection: 8 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD

FADE WITH GLORY: A.J. Green (vDEN, $8,200 DK) – It’s not that I hate Green this (or any) week; there are just much better options for your dollar.  Green is the only playmaking receiver in Cincinnati (by a mile) and figures to draw plenty of coverage from Chris Harris, who has been the league’s best cover man this year.  According to PFF, Harris leads all CBs in coverage grade and yards/coverage snap.  (He’s also #2 in pass rushing productivity; if not for J.J. Watt, he’d likely be my call as DPOY.)  And even when Green avoids Harris, he’ll face Aqib Talib on the other side – all with Andy Dalton throwing him the ball.  Keep in mind that these projections are based upon each player’s matchup against an entire defense, not accounting much for shutdown CBs.  I’d be stunned if Green even sniffed these projections, and I certainly won’t pay this salary to test it on my lineups.  Projection: 8 receptions, 129 yards


Julio Jones (@NO, $7,700 DK) / Roddy White (@NO, $6,600 DK) / Harry Douglas (@NO, $5,600 DK) – You know the book on Julio – he’s arguably the best of the post-Megatron class of wideouts, sees 28.9% of Falcon targets, has just assaulted good secondaries lately, etc.  He’s quite simply the top WR in fantasy any week in which he’s playing near 100%.  But he missed Sunday’s game with a hip injury, and he hasn’t practiced this week.  Assuming he sits again (or plays on a limited basis), the other two are very attractive options, on their own or in a stack.  Matt Ryan has thrown for 317.4 yards/game over the Falcons’ last five, a trend that continued nicely in Week 15 with Julio in sweats.  And since the overwhelming majority of that yardage goes to his starting WRs, it’s safe to expect big production from whomever they are in a given week.  If Julio is out, I’m playing at least one of White/Douglas against the Saints’ rocky defense – which allows the second-most red zone TDs in the league – in four of my five Sunday lineups, and stacking both in one of those.  Bear in mind that these projections INCLUDE Julio’s presence on the field; take him out and White and Douglas project to much, much higher numbers.  Projections: Jones 8 receptions, 159 yards, 1 TD; White 6 receptions, 58 yards, 1 TD; Douglas 6 receptions, 76 yards

Vincent Jackson (vGB, $5,600 DK) – Last week, I pointed out that Jackson has seen more targets than ballyhooed rookie Mike Evans lately AND done more with them – except score touchdowns.  Week 15 then bore that out, as Jackson again drew more targets while dusting Evans in catches and yardage.  Here’s how their usage and production have played out over the last four weeks:

V. Jackson402337006546.5$5,600$6,700
M. Evans3913154452.445.9$6,700$7.900

Even with a 0-4 deficit in TDs, Jackson has outscored Evans over that span (and outscored him definitively on DraftKings).  And since TDs are somewhat fluky (and Evans’ TD rate is likely unsustainable), I’ll again advise you to chase Jackson and fade Evans – especially considering their huge difference in salary.  The Packers-Bucs game is projected by Vegas to reach 48.5 points, and with the Bucs likely to trail for much of it, I expect Josh McCown to put it in the air 35+ times.  And since he only throws to two guys, I’ll be chasing at least one of them.  Evans makes for the better GPP gamble, but the steady Jackson is a nice cash play at this salary.  Projection: 6 receptions, 87 yards

Julian Edelman (@NYJ, $6,500 DK) – Edelman is back to “PPR Machine” status, as he hasn’t dipped below five catches in any of his last six games (and has topped seven in five of them).  He’s also scored in back-to-back weeks.  With Edelman, you don’t have to worry much about game flow, as the Pats routinely throw with big leads, and the Jets are usually a tough matchup for them anyway.  He’s a great, high-floor play in any DFS format due to his matchup and the relative lack of playmakers in the Patriot offense.  Projection: 7 receptions, 84 yards

Golden Tate (@CHI, $6,100 DK) – It’s nice to see Tate’s salary finally reflect his WR2 reality.  With Calvin Johnson back in the lineup, Tate isn’t nearly the top-tier option he was at midseason, but he remains a talented wideout who sees solid usage (8.3 targets/game over his last four).  What’s encouraging about his prospects this week are his matchup – he burned the awful Chicago defense for 8-89 on Thanksgiving – and the fact that he’s actually seen more red zone targets than Megatron over the last three weeks.  He’s no must-play, but makes for a nice GPP option if you’re going WR-heavy (which you should be).  Projection: 6 receptions, 56 yards, 1 TD


Eddie Royal (@SF, $3,800 DK) – Yes, the much-maligned Royal – maligned mostly by me – has come into major fantasy relevance.  With Keenan Allen likely done for the year, Royal will likely step into his role as co-security blanket (with Antonio Gates) for Philip Rivers, and it’s hard to see him failing to post WR2/3 numbers at worst.  For whatever reason, Rivers loves Royal and pushes him into the fantasy picture.  Even with everyone healthy, Royal has posted six double-digit PPR weeks this season.  He has no projection from my chart, but I’m expecting a line in the neighborhood of 6-70 with a solid chance at a TD.  You will not beat that upside at this inky-dinky salary; Royal could single-handedly win your Saturday matchups this week.

Marquess Wilson (vDET, $3,600 DK) – He’s certainly unproven, and last week’s starting debut (three catches, 16 yards) was only rescued by a late goal line touchdown.  (In fact, it won Drew Dinkmeyer $1,000,000.)  But Wilson is talented and should spend the stretch run ranging from the second to fourth option in the Bear passing game.  And while the matchup doesn’t look good on paper, keep in mind that Jay Cutler threw the ball 48 times for 280 yards and two scores against the Lions three weeks ago.  Also note the theory that second-team QBs hold strong rapports with second-team WRs, which would certainly fit the bill here as Jimmy Clausen will be starting this bloodbath.  There Will Be Passing (the Bears have run the ball just 43 times over their last three), and garbage time counts the same as the first quarter in fantasy.  There’s great value here for Sunday matchups that don’t include Royal; I expect a line around 5-60.



PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE: Greg Olsen (vCLE, $6,000) – Talk about a stud.  Olsen has been targeted relentlessly by both Cam Newton and Derek Anderson as the clear face of the Panther passing game.  Last week, Olsen saw nine targets (and a 7-76 line) by halftime and coasted to the top TE line of the week.  I see no reason to expect less of the same this week as Joe Haden tangles with Kelvin Benjamin, Olsen’s only real competition for targets.  Pencil him in as the top option this week – an even better option than the more expensive Rob GronkowskiProjection: 8 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD

FADE WITH GLORY: Jimmy Graham (vATL, $6,300) – He’s just not right at the moment.  Graham is again seeing a solid compliment of targets (18 over the last two weeks), but he’s not turning them into consistently great TE production.  Certainly not the numbers you’d need to justify this salary.  Last week, when going up for a jump ball in the end zone, he seemed to favor the shoulder he sprained in Week 4; there’s a good chance he’s just not over it yet, relegating him to a decoy/shoot-for-the-splash-play role.  In any event, he’s simply not worth this salary.  Projection: 3 receptions, 37 yards


Antonio Gates (@SF, $5,000 DK) – Gates isn’t exactly cheap, but he would be if his expected usage were to come around in the wake of Keenan Allen’s (likely) season-ending injury.  Gates has already spent the year as Philip Rivers’ preferred TD target (10 scores) and has seen 23 targets over the last three weeks.  With Allen shelved, it’s likely the Bolts’ passing game will go primarily through Gates and Eddie Royal, meaning the sky’s the limit for their numbers going forward.  You want to plug him into your Saturday lineups without question; he could flirt with some 8-100-2 lines over the final two weeks.  (This projection does not account for Allen’s injury; I think Gates has a baseline of 6-65-1 this week.)  Projection: 5 receptions, 50 yards

Mychal Rivera (vBUF, $4,000 DK) – “You can’t trust Melanie, but you can always trust Melanie to be Melanie,” explains Ordell Robbie in Quentin Tarantino’s phenomenal Jackie Brown.  Likewise, while you should never truly trust anything emblazoned with a Raider logo, you can trust the fact that they’ll drop rookie Derek Carr back 40+ times – even when the run game is working – and ask him to win games with heavily-pressured dumpoffs.  Rivera has benefited mightily from this “strategy,” turning 27 targets into a 17-169-1 line over the last three weeks.  If you’re looking for salary relief from a cheap yet somewhat dependable TE, Rivera might be your man.  Projection: 5 receptions, 52 yards


Charles Clay (vMIN, $3,500 DK)  Drafted by many as a mid-tier TE1, Clay hasn’t come close to meeting that mark.  A mixture of injuries and Jarvis Landry‘s emergence has shoved him into a fight for #3 in Ryan Tannehill‘s pecking order.  But things have been looking up: Clay has seen 30 targets over his last four full games, turning them into a 23-200 line.  Clay isn’t utilized downfield, so he won’t provide eye-popping yardage.  But the receptions are a nice boon at this price, and he’s utilized heavily in the red zone (11 targets over his last five games), so a TD wouldn’t surprise anyone.


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