NFL DFS Week 15 Picks
Last week’s mantra was to trust the projections. The optimizer damn near almost got all of us there…..until it didn’t. Amari Cooper’s 4th quarter explosion out of nowhere sunk many of the beloved DailyRoto subs battleships, but Rome was not built in one day. Or maybe it was and my history teacher is actually fake news? Either way, here is this week’s new mantra – Keep It Simple, Stupid! Better known as the K.I.S.S Method, the following picks will be consolidated to match that mantra. It’s your last few weeks of regular season NFL DFS which all the important stats/metrics have been compiled, stacked, checked, and rechecked again. All you have to do is just kiss your lineups with the optimizer. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is! Pull the lever on the DailyRoto slot machine and hope you’re lucky enough to hit the jackpot with an Amari Cooper game!
On a relatively short slate with several key games chopped up by the classic greedy mongrels of the NFL, one pattern emerges from perusing the available games – Tough, tough QB matchups. I’m not comfortable spending up for perennial DR man-crush Russell Wilson despite having one of the best QB matchups just simply due to a heavily run-first offense that caps his upside. That leaves Big Ben as the no-brainer top QB play of the week if one were to pay up for a QB. He’ll get a Patriots defense that’s playing absolute classic Belichick ball – let them get short gains all the way until the red zone then put the clamps on them. They’re a middling defense on paper with an overall 21st DVOA grade, including the ever-so-important pass defense rating of 19th. Despite having several highly PFF-graded players in the secondary, the Pats as an overall team just simply has had too many breakdowns and struggle against athletic offenses. Sounds kind of like the Steelers offense, doesn’t it? Yep, which is why the most important stat to me for the game is the fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs – 7th most points allowed for the Patriots. Easy. Simple. Always pick Ben at home against bad pass defenses. Watch Antonio floss on ’em again!
As I mentioned before, it is rather tough sledding for most QBs on the main slate. However, the next two QB plays weren’t only just the top value plays, they were also some of the top overall plays on the slate. Both Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson offer tremendous value at a position where less than ideal matchups may muddy the QB waters. Brady hasn’t been his wheel-and-dealing self so far this season, but he’s still Tom Brady with a 23/8 TD/INT ratio. Nothing spectacular, but at his current price? Against a Steelers defense that’s been getting poached by opposing QBs in the past few weeks (Carr – 322 yards 2/0, Rivers – 299 yards 2/0, even scrub Keenum 197 yards 2/0)? 21st DVOA pass defense with the 13th most points allowed to QBs? The very same Steelers team that always seems to give up a billion dink-and-dunk dump-offs to Brady? Is this real life? Brady is 10-2 against the Steelers in his career, with 19 TDs and ZERO interceptions in his last six games against the Steelers. You read that right. The guy absolutely owns the Steelers. Don’t overthink it.
We’re gonna keep rolling with the Lamar Train. Don’t matter what the injury is or any concerns. Just keep on rolling with a QB who’s stockpiled 332 total rushing yards in his last four starts. Absurd numbers. Who’s his next victim, you ask? Why it’s the dumpster fire Buccaneers defense! Not only are they a pitiful 28th DVOA pass defense, but the Bucs defense is also giving up the 2nd most passing touchdowns! You know what you’re getting with Jackson, and you know how bad the Bucs are. The Bucs even stink worse at run defense! Cheap price, great upside, safe floor. What more could you ask? A free burger or something? Nah, just buy my hot sauce recommendations instead.
This was actually a tough one to decide between Josh “I’m Secretly Vick” Allen and Derek “Not David” Carr. Allen’s been throwing the ball poorly but making up for it with THREE straight 100+ rushing yards. Carr has been surprisingly solid as of late despite losing half his offensive weapons and gets one of the worst pass defenses. Tough one, but I’m going to go with Derek Carr as Jon Gruden tries to prove he’s not actually the Encino caveman. Carr’s last two games saw him complete well over 70% of his passes for 607 combined yards and 5 TDs with no INTs. The yards combined were the most in a two-game span for him since Week 2-3! That’s a pretty long time if you ask me. The Raiders have revamped their offense with a quicker pace and a higher no-huddle rate (4th highest over the last few games), which is more of Carr’s speed (no pun intended) and most comfortable with. Seems like a good time to take a chance on him against a crumbling Bengals defense that’s about to overtake the Falcons for the worst overall pass defense. They’re giving up the 2nd most points to opposing QBs, rank 27th DVOA which is generous, and have been eliminated from the playoffs. It’s two bad teams trying to schlep their way through a torrid season and end it on a good note. The Bengals likely will end up with several sour notes, but the Raiders are poised to end it with thunderous fanfare after an upset over the Steelers. Play the hot hand!
With not many home-run hits at the RB position, it’s best to find the guaranteed workloads if paying up for a top RB play. Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley are the best candidates for a high amount of workload despite mediocre matchups. Barkley’s coming off a career game with 170 rushing yards but faces a Titans run defense that’s been stingy all season with the 3rd fewest points to opposing RBs. Elliott put in another workhorse game with 40 combined touches for 192 total yards. He’ll face a solid Indy run defense that’s been hit or miss depending on their stud rookie LB Darius Leonard. Both RBs are almost guaranteed to see 20+ touches regardless of the matchup, and both are integral parts of their respective passing offenses. Barkley’s riding a four-game streak of at least 100 rushing yards, including a superb 125-yard performance against the number one Chicago Bears defense. Talk about being matchup-proof. Elliott has the better matchup on paper though, with the Colts run defense ranking 5th best DVOA but allowing the 10th most points to RBs. What you’re really looking for here is the guaranteed workload on a week where smash-spots are limited. Trust the projections!
I like Chris Carson this week against the 49ers in what should be a dominant game from the Seahawks. Some may want to play the waiting game on Conner injury news, but let’s go ahead and be smart this week. Carson is in a run-first offense (52.29% ratio and up to 56.90% over last three games, most in NFL for both) and has collected the lions’ share of the carries over the past month. He’s even getting most of the red zone looks (30% market share of RZ touches, 3 straight weeks with 4 RZ opportunities) which makes his price a little questionable in a favorable matchup. The 49ers haven’t had a run defense in so long that they might end up having to draft both Patrick Willis and Chris Borland’s sons to get back to their run-stuffing roots. Until then, continue to roster RBs against a 49ers run defense giving up the 9th most rushing TDs and 14th most points to RBs. Remember, K.I.S.S!
This is a purely analytical pick, but I’m going with David Johnson once more as my sleeper pick of the week. Sigh. Why am I doing this again? You know what, screw it. Here, look at this. 23 touches last week including 8 catches for a whopping 12 yards. Atlanta has given up 100 receptions to opposing RBs (most) for 872 yards (also most). 3rd most overall points to RBs, 31st DVOA run defense, blah blah blah. You get the gist. If the coward Cardinals would just let David Johnson run free like the beautiful gazelle that he is, then it’s a huge smash spot at a likely deeply discounted ownership. If the Cardinals can’t even muster a decent performance with a top 5 RB in the NFL against a slump-buster ATL defense? Just give up. All is lost. The end is nigh. Death comes for the red birds. Winter has already come and extinguished DJ’s hopes at being fantasy relevant. Leftwich just needs to kiss his missing SB ring and let DJ gallop along gracefully like the 225-pound behemoth he is.
We need a stacking option with Big Ben as the top QB play, right? Normally that would be Antonio Brown, but as both the optimizer and CB statistics say, JuJu Smith-Schuster is actually the better option. He’ll get away from the stifling coverage of top 10 CB Stephon Gilmore, battling instead against Jason McCourty as the Patriots have reshuffled their usual slot cornerback responsibilities. It had usually been Jonathan Jones manning the nickel spot, but due to poor play the Pats have now used McCourty more in the slot and moving J.C. Jackson on the boundary. That’s resulted in a tighter boundary coverage but a worse middle presence. Let me explain. McCourty has fared better on the boundary than at slot, with a 123.8 passer rating over the last two games as nickelback with Jackson out wide. Overall, McCourty has allowed 12/117/2 in his coverage over that span. Jackson on the other hand? 5/38 on 9 targets with the most defensive snaps among the CBs. I like those odds for JuJu in a blow-up game with Belichick likely keying on AB with bracket coverage.
Plenty of low-tier options, but none that really jump out to me. Westbrook is popping pretty hard, so let’s dig deep into that matchup. Kessler is still the starting QB but actually seemed better than Bortles for the most part last week. He still stunk, to be sure, but he took more deep shots and showed actual touch. The leading WR in that game? Westbrook, with a 7/88/1 on 10 targets stat-line. Will that happen again? Who knows, but it’s a favorable matchup against a reeling Redskins team that’s lost its identity as a football team. And that’s just on the offensive side. Defensively, they’re slipping into the abyss with the 8th most points to WRs including the 3rd most receiving TDs. To make matters worse, 90% of Westbrook’s routes are in the slot which means he’ll face Greg Stroman as his primary nickel matchup. Poor Stroman, who’s had to fill in for usual slot man Fabian Morneau over the last few games. For his troubles, he’s allowed 7/118/1 in his coverage for a perfect 158.3 rating. And that’s on less than 20 snaps a game? Which is still the most among the Redskins’ secondary. Now I see why Westbrook is popping so hard. Kiss the baby!
Who loves air yards? I do! Who’s a guy people constantly sleep on that garners a ton of air yards unsuspectingly? Corey Davis! Davis has been an air yard machine all season, consistently ranking in the top 10 every week and top 20 overall. This is despite dealing with a short QB shuffle, a gun-shy Mariota, and a Titans offense that goes back and forth from being a dynamic run-first team to an air-it-out offense. Whatever may happen this week, Davis should still thrive in a good matchup against a Giants secondary that has no real strengths anywhere. The Giants rank 24th for their pass defense despite only the 6th fewest points allowed to opposing WRs. Their secondary grades out as a bottom 10 unit, with Janoris Jenkins being the main offender. Jenkins has given up the 5th most receiving yards and is tied with Davis’ teammate Malcolm Butler for most TDs given up. Not great, Bob. If Davis can just muster up his usual metrics of a top 10-15 aDOT/YPRR and receives his 26% MS of the team’s targets, then he’s going to get plenty of chances to torch a Giants secondary that’s giving up the 3rd highest rate of explosive plays per game. Now that’s a nice french kiss.
The way I see it, you either take a chance on Rudolph eviscerating a Miami LB corps that just has had absolutely no idea how to cover anything that resembles a player. Or you go ahead and lock in Handy Vance against the Pats’ vulnerable LB coverage unit. He had a decent day last week with a 4/37 line, but a Big Ben injury ruined what could have been a better game. With Ben firing on all cylinders, chances are McDonald should find the soft spots of the Pats zone coverage and take advantage of the athletically-challenged LB corps in man-to-man coverage. They’re also giving up the 13th most points to TEs, not like that matters though. If you don’t care about that, then just pick Rudy against a Miami D that’s tied for the most TDs given up to TEs. And I hate that stat because it’s so true. You’d think by now that the Dolphins would just double the TE in the red zone, right? Nope. Abysmal. Unacceptable. Punt the position or pick whatever the optimizer says to pick. Just leave me alone.
We’re going into the C.J. Uzomah well again. He stunk the joint last week with a middling 3/37 line but considering Driskel could only muster 170 yards, I guess I’ll give Uzomah a pass. He’ll get an Oakland TE coverage unit that ranks worst in DVOA, tied for the most TDs allowed, and gives up the 3rd most receiving yards. They hadn’t been this bad until recently, which might explain why Jon Gruden is confused about PFF negatively grading his beloved LBs like Tahir Whitehead. The same LB who’s now surrendered the 7th most receiving yards among all LBs. The more worrisome stat is that he’s the sole leader for most touchdowns allowed among all LBs. Worrisome for Gruden, not for us DFS degenerates! For a punt, Uzomah offers decent upside and should only be behind Tyler Boyd for most targets. Time to kiss your lineups goodbye.