This is the time of year when everyone who plays season-long fantasy football (except those still in the championships, of course) has a bad-beat story to tell. So many of this week’s tales of woe are being told by owners whose title hopes were just dashed by Cam Newton.
Mourn not, recently eliminated fantasy owners. We still have two weeks left in the regular season, and through the magic of DFS, you can wash away the errors committed in your season-long leagues and build a more perfect beast. FanDuel is your chance for redemption, my heartbroken friends.
Let’s look at some of the guys worth considering for your Week 16 portfolio:
Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars ($8,200) — I’ve been fading Bortles all season because I think he’s an average NFL quarterback masquerading as a good one, and yet he keeps churning out good fantasy numbers, bolstered by high passing volume and the Jaguars’ strange reluctance to run the ball inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. Even as a Bortles skeptic, I can’t fade him this week against the Saints. He’ll be heavily owned, but if you go in a different direction and Bortles goes berserk, you’ll be trampled by the crowd.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions ($7,600) — Stafford had thrown 35 or more passes in six consecutive games before Week 15, when he attempted only 25 passes against the Saints but completed 22 of them for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford’s home matchup against the 49ers on Sunday is promising.
Frank Gore, RB, Colts ($6,000) — Only the Saints give up more schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game to running backs than the Dolphins, according to our pals at 4for4.com. Gore’s numbers over the last two months haven’t been pretty, but he’s gone up against top-10 run defenses in five of his last seven games. I think the veteran makes sense as a DFS play this week.
Karlos Williams, RB, Bills ($5,400) — Some people consider him a must-buy at this price. I’m not quite that enthusiastic, since Williams isn’t very far removed from a shoulder injury and may split carries with Mike Gillislee. But this is a tempting price for a guy who scored seven TDs in the first six games of his career.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers ($7,200) — The Pittsburgh offense is such a finely tuned machine. The Steelers have averaged 35 points over their last six games, and that stretch has included matchups against the Seahawks, Bengals and Broncos—not exactly defensive cupcakes. If I don’t use Antonio Brown this week against a shaky Baltimore pass defense, I’ll use Bryant.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs ($6,900) — In his last four games, Maclin has caught 31 of 40 targets for 370 yards and four touchdowns, and he’s in a good spot this weekend against the Browns at home. A stack with Maclin and Alex Smith is worth considering.
Kamar Aiken, Ravens WR ($6,600) — Aiken has had at least five receptions in seven consecutive games. With Jimmy Clausen quarterbacking the Ravens over the last two weeks, Aiken has had 13 catches for 218 yards and a TD. He’ll face a Pittsburgh defense that’s much tougher against the run than the pass.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals WR ($6,300) — Larry Fitzgerald gets more love, but Floyd has become the Cardinals’ best receiver. He’s scored six TDs over his last eight games, with four 100-yard games over that span.
Zach Miller, Bears TE ($5,600) — He has five TDs in his last six games and is becoming a prominent part of the Chicago passing attack. He’ll be even more integral to the Bears’ offense if Alshon Jeffery sits out this week with a hamstring injury.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers ($8,900) — Big Ben has had a lot of difficult matchups this season and few easy ones. In his easiest matchups – against the 49ers, Raiders, Browns and Colts – Roethlisberger has averaged 361.5 passing yards and three TD passes. He gets an easy matchup Sunday against the Ravens, who have the fourth-worst opponent passer rating in the league.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots ($8,800) — Although he’s $700 cheaper than he was last week, Brady probably won’t be a popular DFS play this week because he’s still fairly expensive, he doesn’t have a full complement of wide receivers, and people tend to overrate the Jets’ pass defense. The Patriots didn’t bother trying to run against the Jets back in Week 7, when Brady attempted a whopping 54 passes and threw for 355 yards and two TDs. He could get similar passing volume this time around.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings ($8,200) — The ankle injury that he sustained last week turned out to be minor, and he has a solid home matchup this week against a wobbly Giants defense. Peterson is worth the money.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers ($7,400) — Williams and Peterson were also on last week’s list of worthwhile chalk plays, but in a year of carnage at the RB position, there’s nothing wrong with paying up for the few productive workhorses at the position. D-Will has run for six touchdowns over his last six games.
David Johnson, RB, Cardinals ($7,300) — He paid big dividends last week by scoring three TDs and rolling up 229 yards from scrimmage against the Eagles, and he should continue to get ample touches this week against the Packers.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers ($9,300) — The price is exorbitant, but there’s good reason to pay it. Brown is averaging 113.3 receiving yards per game, he’s scored multiple TDs in three of his last five games, and he has a great matchup against a Baltimore pass defense that’s been a hot mess all year.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars ($8,400) — Take a walk with me down Narrative Street and consider this week’s egregious Pro Bowl snubbing of Robinson. He’s tied for the league lead with 13 TDs and ranks seventh in receiving yards with 1,141, yet Robinson inexplicably lost a Pro Bowl spot to the less deserving A.J. Green. If A-Rob feels even the least bit slighted, he’ll have a great chance to take out any frustrations on the Saints. I do love a good narrative. Don’t you?
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots ($8,200) — With Danny Amendola almost certain to be out this week, Brady will no doubt lean heavily on Gronkowski. The last time the Patriots faced the Jets, Gronk caught 11 of 16 targets for 108 yards and a TD.
Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers ($6,800) — He’s become a fixture in my weekly lineups. Olsen had only three catches for 52 yards against the Falcons two weeks ago, but Atlanta has had trouble with opposing tight ends, so this isn’t a matchup to fret about.
Top kicker values: Cairo Santos ($4,700), Chris Boswell ($5,000), Matt Prater ($4,500)
Top defense values: Tennessee ($4,000), Seattle ($5,400) Kansas City ($5,400)
Here’s the lineup I’m unfurling for my weekly entry in FanDuel’s “$75K Sunday NFL Scramble”:
Blake Bortles ($8,200)
Adrian Peterson ($8,200)
Frank Gore ($6,000)
Allen Robinson ($8,400)
Martavis Bryant ($7,200)
Michael Floyd ($6,300)
Greg Olsen ($6,800)
Cairo Santos ($4,700)
Lineup construction began with a Bortles-Robinson stack. If you prefer a Bortles-Allen Hurns stack against the Saints, I’m cool with that, too, but I'm fully expecting him to demonstrate why he should have been chosen for the Pro Bowl.
Even before Peterson tweaked his ankle last week, he was being bottled up by the Bears, and I expect a rebound in Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the Giants and their cheesecloth defense.
My philosophy on the selection of Gore is similar to my philosophy on last week’s selection of Vikings WR Stefon Diggs, who came through with a pair of TDs: A stretch of tough matchups have depressed their numbers and scared away DFS players.
Just as Diggs finally drew a favorable matchup against the Bears last week, Gore has a juicy matchup against a lousy Dolphins run defense this week.
As potential home run hitters in prolific offenses, Bryant and Floyd are irresistible at their current prices.
Olsen is a regular in my weekly lineups. Santos is attractive in a favorable home matchup against the Browns, and I saved some money with the bargain-basement Tennessee defense, which stands to take advantage of the Texans’ unsettled QB situation this week.