Happy holidays and welcome to the week 16 edition of Starts and Fades! Last week we had some absolute massive performances from a few players; Nick Foles led the way to another profitable weekend. Usually we can count on the Vegas point-spreads to guide us in our player pool, however that is not the case this week. The teams that were favorites went 14-0 last week, making the odds makers lose a ton of money. They responded by making the smallest point-spread 3.5 points this week, something I have never seen before. Luckily, I dug deep into the slate and am here to bring you which players to use in your daily fantasy lineups. Grab your coffee, settle in, and let’s get started!
During this article you will often see references to DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). It's a metric from Football Outsiders that measures a team or players efficiency by comparing results from every play to a league average based on situation and opponent. For example, if an offense runs for 4 yards on a 3rd and 3, it will be weighted and graded more favorably than if an offense runs for 4 yards on 3rd and 15. DVOA is a better way to compare team’s offenses vs opposing defenses than more traditional stats like yards gained and allowed.
Five Core Plays
Cam Newton ($6800 on Draft Kings, $8300 on Fanduel)
Full disclosure: I love Cam Newton the player, but I do not care for Cam Newton the human. However, that is another story for another time. This week, Cam gets a plus matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; they have the 31st ranked DVOA total defense. Moreover, the Bucs are 29th in DVOA pass defense. This is a winnable matchup for the former Heisman award winner. The passing upside makes Cam a good play, but the rushing upside is what makes him (and Russell Wilson in a bounce back spot) a great play. Newton currently has a 30% market share of rushing attempts for his team. Furthermore, he has ran for over 50 yards in five of the past six games. The Carolina Panthers offense is rolling, and they certainly will not lack motivation. If the Panthers win their final two games, they are in the playoffs. Much like Nick Foles last week, I am comfortable going all-in with a motivated Newton. While most daily fantasy players will be stacking Cam with Greg Olsen or a wide receiver, I will be stacking him with…
Christian McCaffrey ($6400 on Draft Kings, $7300 on Fanduel)
Typically McCaffrey has been a Draft Kings only play. This is because Draft Kings gives a full point for each reception. However, the former Stanford standout has scored five touchdowns over his last six games, making him usable on Fanduel where you really want touchdowns. The matchup is great, as Tampa Bay ranks 23rd in stopping pass-catching running backs. That role does not even properly describe what CMC can do, as he lines up everywhere on the field for the Panthers. With having Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey on your roster, you are virtually guaranteeing to get most of the Carolina Panthers yards against the Bucs. Also, their current scheme and philosophy makes it a good bet you will get all of the Carolina touchdowns as well.
Dion Lewis ($6000 on Draft Kings, $6700 on Fanduel)
This is something I do not do often. What is that you ask? I usually do not trust a New England running back. In the past, this has been a recipe for disaster with so many guys being able to touch the ball. However, this week I do not think it is so crowded in the backfield. Rex Burkhead will not be in uniform this weekend, freeing up a lot of early down work. I do believe Mike Gillislee has some potential to steal goal line carries. However, I think you easily see 16-18 touches out of Lewis this week. The Patriots rank first in run-blocking per ProFootballFocus, and are ranked as the seventh best DVOA run offense. The Bills are awful against the run, as evidenced by their 28th ranked DVOA run defense. Moreover, the Bills are dead last in rushing touchdowns allowed. The Patriots have a sharp coaching staff, and I think we see a heavy dose of the running game this week.
Dede Westbrook ($6100 on Draft Kings, $5900 on Fanduel)
I do not think you could have gotten any less lucky last week if you rostered Dede. Where do I begin? He was the chalk cheap option and put up two catches on two targets for 21 yards. Must have been a bad play for me to recommend, right? Not quite, as unheralded wide outs Jaydon Mickens and Keelan Cole combined for 11 catches, 247 yards, and three touchdowns. I’m not done, fullback Tommy Bohanon also scored twice on the goal line, marking the first two times he has scored in his career. It was truly the definition of a bad beat, and I am going right back to Dede this week in an exploitable matchup with San Francisco. The 49ers have the 31st ranked DVOA pass defense. I suspect many will flock to Cole after his monster week, but with Marqise Lee already being ruled out, I think Dede goes back to his high target ways.
Keenan Allen ($7700 on Draft Kings, $8300 on Fanduel)
The Chargers are another motivated team I will be looking to have a piece of this weekend, as if they win out they are in the playoffs as well. The Jets are still at minimum decent against the run, making Keenan Allen my favorite Charger this week. He takes on a depleted Jets secondary; New York is literally the worst team in the league as stopping opposing team’s best wide receivers. He was already a target monster, but the Chargers may have to throw to him even more after losing Hunter Henry. I think our expectations need to start at five catches, 75 yards, and a score. It will be hard to find a better way to spend your daily fantasy dollars this week.
Five Players to Avoid
Brett Hundley ($5000 on Draft Kings, $6000 on Fanduel)
After the Packers were officially eliminated from the playoffs, they put a healthy Aaron Rodgers back on Injured Reserve. A move like that sends a message to the rest of the team that these last two games are insignificant. For this reason, I find it hard to believe that the Packers come out with any kind of fire or motivation. Minnesota has the fifth best DVOA pass defense. They also have the third best overall defense according to ProFootballFocus. In addition, wide receiver Davante Adams has a concussion and most likely will not play. Hundley played the Vikings in week six, and promptly threw three interceptions. I recommend we let the Packers season die without rostering them in daily fantasy this week.
Devonta Freeman ($6500 on Draft Kings, $7000 on Fanduel)
What a difference a couple days makes. At the beginning of the week I thought I would be writing up Freeman in the core section. However, team mate Tevin Coleman has cleared concussion protocol and is ready to continue his role in sharing the Atlanta backfield with Freeman. The matchup is actually pretty good, as New Orleans is ranks 26th in DVOA run defense. The problem in rostering Freeman lies in projected ownership and workload. I suspect he is currently going to be one of the more popular running backs on the weekend. Casual players will not understand the potential impact Coleman can have on Freeman’s fantasy day. With so many high-priced studs like Bell and Gurley available, and the cheaper options I listed above, I do not think Freeman is worth the play in what could be a smaller workload than expected.
Marshawn Lynch ($4500 on Draft Kings, $6600 on Fanduel)
Oakland is a longshot to make the playoffs, but Lynch has really came alive in the second half of the season. However, this week he gets one of the stiffest challenges for any running back. The Eagles are arguably the best run defense in the league; their adjusted line yards allowed of 2.73 yards per carry and fourth ranked DVOA run defense. There are better ways to spend your money, especially on Fanduel where Lynch is closely priced with Dion Lewis.
Sterling Shepard ($6600 on Draft Kings, $6700 on Fanduel)
Sterling Shepard is clearly the top target of Eli Manning. This sounds like it is a good thing, however, it is not. This means Shepard will most likely draw the shadow coverage of Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals. Typically, Peterson will follow a team’s best receiver into the slot if he is the clear number one option for his team. In this case, that's Shepard. Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall are on injured reserve, and I think Shepard has a long day this weekend.
Julio Jones ($7900 on Draft Kings, $8500 on Fanduel)
If you have been a reader of this article since the inaugural edition, you're well versed in the talent of Marshon Lattimore. He is the stud rookie corner from the New Orleans Saints who has already made a habit of shutting down. Or in Julio’ case slowing down, elite wide receivers. These two met just a few weeks ago, with Julio’s stat line reading an inefficient five catches on 11 targets for 98 yards. This game is a crucial game in the NFC South; I suspect the winner of this individual matchup will go a long way in which team wins the game.
As the football season winds down, I want to thank you for reading this article. If you have been reading the whole year, I appreciate your support. I look forward to writing this article through the first couple rounds of the playoffs. Happy holidays to you and yours-- make sure you take some time this weekend to let the people that matter to you know just how much they matter. As always, stop by next week as we recap how our core plays did and breakdown the dreaded week 17!
Written by Kevin Kinder, Second Nexus Contributor