Week 15 NFL DFS Picks: 2ToN’s Taeks
ONLY A FEW MORE WEEKS!!!! It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty here, folks! Only a few more main slates for you all to complain about the lack of 20 targets and 40 carries for your plebeian players! At this point, teams may have already pivoted to an atypical playoff offense or “tanking” for a better pick and/or test out their current talent pool. Harder divisional games are on the way, which could mean even more absurd games like the NYG/PHI MNF game where nothing makes sense and Darius Slayton is actually Randy Moss reincarnated. Thankfully, most of the bad teams will continue to be bad and hemorrhage fantasy points as per the usual. DVOA metrics and the norm are generally static this late into the season outside of a select few tryhard teams (looking at you Raiders, go rest Jacobs already!). This allows us to finagle the optimizer into spitting out the results we want based on our sheer, unadulterated bias against those said bad teams. I’ll certainly be doing the same unabashedly, with a few caveats. I’ll likely try to lower exposure on “injured” players struggling on bottom tier teams and crank up the exposure on talented players on teams trying to make a playoff push. Ignoring the SF/NO game was a colossal mistake of epic proportions, so let’s learn from that mistake. Scroll on!
While there are plenty of good QB choices this week in favorable match-ups, including the QB on the other side of the Texans game, I get the feeling that the Texans feel their backs are up against the wall. They’re in danger of missing out on the playoffs thanks in part to the surging Titans and a plucky Steelers team that just won’t go away. The Texans also don’t have a gimme game by any means against the aforementioned surging Titans, and I fully expect the Titans to force a shoot-out of sorts behind the incredible league-leading YPA arm of Ryan Tannehill. The Titans defense also has been quite awful over the past month despite their offensive success, dropping to 18th DVOA overall (23rd pass) and allowing the 11th most total yards per game in the same span. Even their redzone defense has been atrocious, ranking 3rd highest in RZ TDs allowed (64%) that’s jumped to 75% in the last three games. If there ever was a time to lock a full game stack, TEN/HOU might just be what the doctor ordered. Everyone is a legitimate top play in that game, but I do particularly like Watson more than anyone since he benefits the most in a shoot-out should the Titans get an early lead. After all, the Titans have given up the 3rd most fantasy points to QBs. I’ll trust the numbers on this one.
Yeah, I’m a believer now. I think Garoppolo’s gonna continue being the main cog for the 49ers offense that’s becoming less reliant on a diverse rush attack to pick up first downs. They’ve allowed Jimmy G to shine as a QB over the last 4 games as a true compliment to their myriad of running backs. He’s now eclipsed 70% completion rate in 4 straight games with a clean 10 YPA average and an 11/3 TD/INT ratio in that span. Perhaps the increased trust in Deebo Samuel’s ever-improving recent stellar play has been a big part of Jimmy G’s resurgence. Getting back Manny Sanders and George Kittle certainly doesn’t hurt. Still, the point here is the 49ers are willing to let Jimmy G dictate the pace of the game rather than hoping a blissful rush attack and a ferocious defense would be enough. I fully expect Jimmy G to have another career day against a 26th DVOA ATL pass defense that lost Desmond Trufant once again for the season. Not only am I relying on the Falcons staying true to their metrics (5th most points to QBs, average against the run), I’m also betting that due to the injuries piling up on the 49ers defense (Sherman, Dee Ford, Tartt, K’Wuan Williams) should create more offensive snaps for Jimmy G. The Falcons are by no means a weak offensive team and the 49ers are pushing for a playoff bye, so perhaps Jimmy G’s number will be called upon more often than not. One can only hope…
BOOST ‘EM UP!
Listen, it’s been a brutal season for the entire Browns team. Mayfield was coming off a very promising rookie campaign and saw his team have a great offseason with the Odell Beckham addition. The Browns had all the hype in the world and wishful thinking, only to erode into a flaming garbage dump that’s all too familiar for the local Ohio residents. They’ve turned a corner lately though, with 3 wins in their last 4 games after a strong statement win against the Bills. Unfortunately for Mayfield, he is not the reason for the team’s recent success. He’s now thrown for less than 200 yards in 3 of those 4 games with a wilting 7.4 YPA. Still, he did manage a 300 yarder against a bottom Miami pass defense. That’s probably good enough to get a little Baker exposure against the worst pass defense, regardless of how abysmal he’s been. Zona’s allowing the most passing yards and points to opposing QBs, with a hair-raising 33.8 PFF coverage grade. YIKES!!! If Mayfield goose eggs this game despite yet another Odell squeaky wheel narrative where it seems Baker is united with whatever Odell’s whining about, then you can go ahead and cross him off your list of rosterable QBs. The projections seem to believe that a catastrophically bad Zona defense is a fine remedy for Mayfield’s fantasy woes, so I’ll leave the boost setting alone and crank volatility to a 30, maybe a 40.
It’s the siren’s song! Will you listen to the enchanting sounds of CMC and his absurd floor? Or will you listen to the hapless, legless sailors who decry CMC’s price as a death sentence and your blind captain screaming, “REGRESSION TO THE MEAN!!!!” at the top of his lungs? Fall into the never-ending abyss of DFS or rise above the screaming losers who fade CMC? Decisions, decisions…
There are about 4-5 legitimate RB1 options to choose from this week, but I think I like Carson’s chances at nabbing a top score while holding a steadfast floor should he not get the TDs. The ACL injury to Penny further bolsters Carson’s workhorse role in a smash spot. He’ll get a Panthers run defense that ranks dead last in DVOA and boasts the 2nd worst run defense grade. Seattle’s continued their run-first mentality all season long, ranking 5th highest overall in their run per play percentage and 7th in the last 3 games. Obviously Carson is going to be the biggest beneficiary of those numbers, but let’s not forget the struggles of the Panthers offense that has left the defense on the field for far too long. The Panthers have the 8th worst turnover differential and it’s taken its toll on the defense, surrendering an average of 33 points and the 3rd highest yards per game in the last 4 games. Add in an average of 145 rushing yards allowed to that list and you’ll understand why Carson is an absolute must-play among the stud RBs. Carson’s had 8 games of at least 20+ touches with several close calls, so I have zero doubts he’ll make it 9 after this week.
MORE MIAMI DOLPHINS PLAYS!!!! It’s actually a quite reasonable one if we do some deep diving into Laird’s numbers. His snap count has increased from 12%, 23%, 36.5%, 59.2%, and 81.9% ever since his number got called 5 weeks ago. His touches also have similarly increased as his snap rate went up, with his highest touch and total yardage last week (20 touches for 88 yards). He’s already got the PPR floor as a shifty receiving back (17 targets last 4 games for 132 yards and a TD) so the addition of the bellcow (sort of?) RB role inherently boosts Laird’s overall fantasy ceiling. He’ll get a slightly stout Giants run defense that’s teetering between really good and really bad. They’ve got a strong front that usually dissuades power runs but struggle on the edge and defending against scatbacks who can pulverize their nonexistent LB coverage. The Dolphins generally stink at power runs, gaining most of their success on outside runs with Laird against the Jets. I expect more of the same gameplan they used versus the Jets against a similarly built Giants defense. Remember, this is the same Giants defense that had an awfully tough time slowing down Boston Scott (6/69 receiving) once the Eagles realized how pathetic the G-Men’s LB corps was. Trust the optimizer and make Laird your best value RB!
BOOST ‘EM UP!
Stay with me here. I know Arians has been a giant ball-buster for Jones’ fantasy outlook. I know Jones’ snap count has been hideous over the past few games (29%, 50%, 28%, 34.6%) while running behind the carcass of Peyton Barber. Jones is still by far the Bucs’ best and most explosive running back….when he gets the opportunities to do so. In his two highest snap rate mentioned above, Jones was able to get 15 touches each and at least 50 total yards. Decent, I guess? The biggest knock for Jones’ fantasy production has been the utter lack of consistent redzone touches, losing easy short touchdowns to Barber that could have made Jones an easy value play every week. Barber’s had at least 1 RZ opportunity in 3 of the last 4 games (5 total) and cashed on 3 of those, while Jones has had one whole game with a RZ touch (4 in that lone game) and hitting pay dirt only once. Pretty brutal if you ask me. I’m going out on a limb here and thinking the Bucs elect a more run-heavy approach with a banged up Jameis Winston and losing Evans to a season-ending hammy injury. They face a woeful Lions run defense that ranks 18th DVOA and grades out as the 4th worst run defensive unit. It’s a prime opportunity for Jones to assert himself as the RB of the future and take advantage of a Lions run defense giving up the 4th most points to RBs. Sprinkle in the 3rd most offensive snaps allowed and perhaps Jones’ snap rate can go back to the healthy 50%+ it was before. Even more bonus points for a Jones ceiling game – the Lions have been absolutely mangled by receiving backs (2nd most receiving yards, most receiving TDs allowed). Jones has 1 less route run than the Bucs’ usual 3rd down/passing down back in Dare Ogunbowale and equal amount of targets (12) in the last four games. Ronald Ekeler? Austin Jones? Whatever, I’m boosting him with a 20 and shooting for the sky with a 50 volatility. DON’T TELL ME HOW TO LIVE MY LIFE!!!
Gotta stack ’em whenever you can, baby! As I mentioned before, I get the feeling that the Texans will use this game as a way to vault themselves into the playoff picture with a strong victory. That probably only happens if both Watson and Hopkins have huge fantasy days. Hopkins has been a target hog all season (2nd most targets among WRs) while seeing both his air yards and YPR/R increase over the past few games. That hasn’t exactly translated into big fantasy outputs but the effort and opportunity is there. Without Adoree Jackson, the Titans’ best coverage CB, Hopkins is in prime position to finally put up a gob-smacking performance for the ages. He’s come close a few times but just couldn’t close the deal. Tennessee should allow both Watson and Hopkins ample opportunities for a big-time connection since they allow the 5th most offensive snaps per game with the 5th best run defense DVOA. More passes mean more targets which means more chances to complain about Nuk getting tackled at the 1-yard line! Man, that’s been an annoying pattern. Take the risk and trust the projections putting Nuk as the best WR play on the slate!
He’s been the main target for Kyler Murray for most of the season and is coming off another solid floor game (8/85 on 9 targets). Kirk has largely been priced among the mid-tier WRs due to his lack of TD prowess (3 TDs all season, all in 1 game). He’s still a huge target hog (35 targets last 4 games) with a 24% market share of the team’s targets. He gets a favorable match-up against Cleveland’s primary slot defender in T.J. Carrie since Kirk runs 53% of his routes in the slot. Carrie’s been by far one of the Browns’ biggest weaknesses on the defensive side, surrendering nearly 500 yards and 4 touchdowns in his coverage. If it wasn’t for stud corner Denzel Ward and mostly playing against run-first teams, Carrie likely would pop up as one of the worst CBs in coverage. Good news for Kirk and his buttload of targets. The problem is you just can’t get too excited about the Cardinals’ offense in general and the utter lack of TD opportunities for Kirk. Solid price, good floor, below average upside in a great match-up. Somehow comes in as a great value on a slate that’s RB heavy. Good enough for me.
BOOST ‘EM UP!
No Chark. Bad Oakland defense. Led the team in targets last week. BAD OAKLAND DEFENSE. No Chark. Low, low price. There’s little to hate about Westbrook as a price-friendly WR to build around. Oh, wait. He’s a Jaguar. That’s a negative, along with his pitiful 6.5 aDOT and less than half of Chark’s total air yards. Also, he’s a Jaguar. Thankfully, awful metrics don’t matter when it comes to PURE opportunity, and that’s exactly the situation Westbrook finds himself in. Someone has to gobble up Chark’s 22% MS/T he’s leaving behind and take advantage of an Oakland pass defense that ranks 31st DVOA with the most plays of 20+ yards allowed. Certainly could be Fournette when it comes to targets, but one would think Westbrook at the very least picks up a good chunk of Chark’s 1200+ air yards. Maybe? Again, he’s a Jaguar. Boost to a 10 and add a 40 volatility with a large order of fries, extra salt.
We’ve got a couple of real viable TE1 plays this week with Ertz, Waller, and the always consistent Kelce, but I lean heavily towards Kittle for a couple of reasons. One – He’s George Kittle! The man is still leading all TEs in YPR/R despite being banged up and missing a few games. Two – ATL is giving up the 9th most yards to opposing WRs, including an embarrassing 5/52/1 to Ian Thomas last week that likely would have been a 100-yard day, had Ian Thomas simply closed his hands on a wide-open bomb. Three – Kittle has been in beast mode over the last 4 games with lines of 6/67/1, 6/129/1, and 6/79/1. Yes, the one other game was a 2/17/0 goose egg but nevertheless! The man is an absolute beast and took a while to really rev his engine. With the 49ers giving the offensive reins to Jimmy G, I fully expect a passing onslaught by the duo if Kittle’s targets stay the same and ATL continues to use Kazee (57.4 grade) as the primary coverage guy on TEs. It’s by far the best TE match-up with a great shot at scoring a TD. Kittle and Bits!
With Everett likely to miss another game, Higbee should continue his recent trend as a top tier value play. He’s been playing so well that the Rams have run less 11 personnel and opted for more 2 TE sets just to have Higbee involved as both a pass and run blocker. Higbee in the last 2 weeks ranks 1st in air yards and top 5 in aDOT among eligible TEs (9.9!) while adding the highest YPR/R and 2nd most targets. The guy is a certifiable stud as a starter, period. The match-up on Dallas looks promising on paper, with the 11th most fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs. Dallas is around the middle in the ancillary statistics but teams have generally figured out their rather vanilla zone coverages. Good news for Higbee, who has excelled at finding the soft spots in the zones and getting plenty of seam looks from Goff. Fire ’em up as a value lock play!
BOOST ‘EM UP!
Some people still feel the stigma of a vaunted Vikings defense and shy away from the pass catchers that face the Purple People Eaters. The reality is while the Vikings do limit touchdowns, they definitely haven’t limited receptions or yardage. The Vikings have seen the most targets from opposing TEs (125) and surrendered the 4th most receptions on those said targets. Only one touchdown allowed though, which is pretty remarkable for that insane amount of targets. It’s a big reason why I think Henry hits a ceiling game against a vulnerable defense. Henry’s had a tough time carving out a consistent role on a team full of weapons, but he’s managed to stay afloat off his lofty 10.8 aDOT and 5th most air yards among TEs. Those numbers certainly would lead to bigger numbers on other teams, but that’s beside the point. Henry likely will be glossed over in favor of other TEs in “better” match-ups despite the Vikings actually being a relatively good match-up overall. Hopefully, Henry’s RZ numbers go back to his normal numbers when he was top 10 OVERALL at redzone targets. Those numbers have tumbled this season with only 20% MS/T of the team’s RZ targets. Not ideal, but not enough to stay away as a YOLO play. No boost here but I’ll give him a slight volatility touch to 20, but I do believe Henry is at the very least a good floor play off of receptions alone.