Welcome to the Daily Fantasy Roundup where we'll cover every inch of what you need to set a great lineup every week. If you've been following this column all year, you should be absolutely pumped for Week 16. There are a number of plays, DFS theory concepts and matchups I'm excited to exploit this week. In this week especially, we will hammer home the correlation theory of opposing passing game. Often times, we will see that when one pass offense goes off, the other must take to the air to keep up, creating favorable shootouts for DFS. We talked a number of these concepts on a special Week 16 DFS edition of the NFL Fantasy LIVE Podcast yesterday, and now it's time to roll all the plays out. Let's get after it.
Since this article is published on Thursday before the game, due to the holiday, there is no ownership percentage to explore. You'll have to deal with my guessing on the matter. Additionally, I didn't feature any Thursday/Saturday plays, and just focused on the Sunday contests. If you can get in on the Saturday slates, Cousins, Reed and Jackson are fine plays.
Top quarterback plays
Matthew Stafford - With most of the attractive quarterbacks this week being of the high-end variety, Matthew Stafford is one of the few safe and upside laden value quarterbacks. Stafford has a pristine matchups with the 49ers, who allow a 108.9 passer rating and a 13-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Stafford is not getting the credit he deserves for redirecting what looked like a horrific season at the onset of 2015. His work in the red zone is a big reason why. Stafford has an NFL best (among every game starters) 35.7 touchdown rate and 75.0 completion percentage in the red zone. Of course, much of that may have to do with this week's 100 percent exposure player.
Top running back plays
DeAngelo Williams - It's the same evaluation every week with Williams. Even if the opposing defense matchup favors the passing game, you want exposure to Williams. Since Week 9, Williams plays on 93 percent of the Steelers snaps, while the other backs accounted for just 22 plays. Last, but certainly not least, he's the finisher for one of the NFL's best offenses. Despite not being a full-time starter the whole season, Williams is second in the NFL with 43 red zone carries. He's one of the safest building blocks in daily fantasy.
David Johnson - You saw what David Johnson could do last week, as he scored over 40 points across the industry at a value. He's locked in for 20-plus touches in the NFL's best offense, and still a relative value to that role on DFS sites. The Packers allowed 5.18 yards per touch over the last four weeks, and Johnson's pass-catching prowess should show up in this spot, as well.
Denard Robinson - The Jaguars running back is arguably a better play this week than he was last, when he was the 100 percent exposure player. Robinson posted a mere 14 points in PPR formats, but the public sentiment seemed to espouse more disappointment than anything else. That's a bit foolish, but it will drive his ownership percentage down for a juicy matchup with New Orleans. The Saints allowed over 27 points to the running back positon over the last four games, and Robinson played 100 percent of the Jaguars' snaps last week, handling all of the running back work.
Bilal Powell - Over the last three games, Bilal Powell averaged 18.3 points per game. In that stretch, Powell out-played and out-snapped Chris Ivory (46 percent to 43 percent), while handling 17 fewer touches. In a game where the Jets will need to keep pace with the Patriots, it's hard to imagine the trend of Powell over Ivory not continuing in a pass-heavy game script. Powell's upside and floor is worth obsessing over at his value.
Alfred Blue - Bill O'Brien told us that a zero touch game in Week 14 for Alfred Blue was merely a factor of his injury, and not a performance benching. It turns out he was being genuine, as Blue came out the next week and led the Texans backfield with 20 carries. Despite some interesting talent behind him, it appears that Houston is committed to Blue. Week 15's win over the Colts was his fourth game since Week 8 with more than 15 touches. The Titans showed a strong defense at times this year, but the unit is falling apart of late. Over the last four weeks they allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs. The Texans have a good chance to beat the Titans on the road with Zach Mettenberger under center. A favorable running game script will set up an opportunity for Blue to post solid RB2 numbers, at worst. Talent aside, there is no reason to turn your nose up at a back set to push for 20 touches in a good spot. A Powell and Blue combo is an interesting low-value running back pairing that could push for 30 combined touches and allow you to chase high-end options.
Top wide receiver plays
DeAndre Hopkins - Over his last three games against Tennessee, DeAndre Hopkins averaged seven receptions and 142.3 yards. If you know me, you know I don't care for those stats normally, but most of the same personnel is still in place, and you could even argue that their secondary is worse now. Hopkins stayed strong throughout a recent spell of inconsistent quarterback transition, averaging 10.8 points per game the last four games. However, with Hoyer projected to play on Sunday, we should see much more of his ceiling in this spot.
Jeremy Maclin - At this point, Maclin is a pretty elite non-tournament play. Since Week 11, Maclin owns a 39 percent share of the team's passing targets. He's still quite undervalued for a receiver averaging 18.65 points the last four weeks.
Kamar Aiken - If you're looking for a volume play at a value, Aiken is the best option. He hold a 28 percent share of the team's targets. The Baltimore quarterbacks know he is the only reliable receiver they have left. The Steelers secondary is prone to lapses, and this game should get out of hand, forcing Baltimore to the air.
John Brown and Michael Floyd - Larry Fitzgerald's new role in this passing game tanks his fantasy stock. Over the last five games, Larry Fitzgerald has an average depth of target of just 6.5 yards and plays almost exclusively from the slot. With that usage, he has a crawlspace-like ceiling. He also will draw coverage from Casey Heyward, the Packers best corner if Sam Shields sits with a concussion, who plays in the slot on 79 percent of his snaps. Both Floyd and Brown are undervalued in comparison to their current standing in the pecking order.
Dorial Green-Beckham - Dorial Green-Beckham has target totals of five, six, seven and nine the past four games, a clear steady increase. Green-Beckham played on 84 percent of the snaps last week, just barely behind Harry Douglas for the team lead among wide receivers. The opportunity is finally there for this rookie to take a step forward to establishing himself as a pro. The Titans slowly worked him into their offense, and he's paid dividends with two 100-yard games to end the season. Zach Mettenberger will be behind center, and he'll take plenty of sacks in the face of Houston's fearsome pass rush. However, what Mettenberger will also do is sling the ball downfield in a more aggressive fashion (right or not) than his predecessor at quarterback in Marcus Mariota. He'll give the big rookie wideout plenty of chances to win on big plays in the deep game.
Top tight end plays
Zach Miller - If Alshon Jeffery sits, or is limited, Zach Miller becomes the primary passing offense in Chicago. Since Thanksgiving, Miller ranks second on the team in passing targets, while Jeffery soaks up 32 percent of the share. While Tampa Bay is weakest at cornerback, there's a scenario where Miller sees 10 targets in this game. For a tight end with touchdown upside in the low mid-section of the positional listing, that's quite a bargain.
Benjamin Watson - People really are not taking notice of the season Benjamin Watson is having. The veteran tight end is on pace to push for 76 catches for 900 receiving yards, a career year at the age of 35. In the last two games Watson had 23 targets (most on the team), with a whopping seven of them coming in the red zone. He's a locked in floor play with a heavy volume of the passing offense, and the touchdown upside for a great tournament value play.
Top defense plays
Bills DEF - It's hard not to obsess over the Bills this weekend as a defensive play if we are talking about the upside for highest scoring unit of the week in fantasy. They face Kellen Moore in Buffalo, and badly need a strong performance, which should cause Rex Ryan to come out blitz-a-blazing. Moore threw three interceptions in just 25 pass attempts last Saturday. I'm personally tempted to go all in on this disappointing unit sure to come with a low ownership percentage.
Stack of the week
Blake Bortles/Allen Robinson or Julius Thomas/Brandin Cooks or Benjamin Watson - We discussed the utility of game stacks on the Week 16 DFS special edition of the NFL Fantasy LIVE Podcast , and we have a great opportunity for many in the Saints and Jaguars game. As long as Drew Brees plays, and he is planning on trying to as the full plantar fasciitis tear is easier to deal with than a partial, this game should turn into a shootout. With two pass defenses ranked 30 and 32nd in Football Outsiders DVOA, and explosive playmakers on both offenses, it's hard to imagine this game finishing with a point total lower than 50. In order to maximize your upside in a tournament, you need to stack players from both sides. With Brees' health questions, Blake Bortles is the safer quarterback option. For the pass catchers, it's worth experimenting with a wide receiver and a tight end from both teams. The Saints rank 28th in DVOA's defense against No. 1 receivers, while the Jaguars top shadow corner could not hang with Julio Jones last week. Both Robinson and Cooks should get theirs in this spot. The Saints are dead last in DVOA's defense against tight ends, while the Jaguars are 28th. Both Thomas and Watson are elite tournament plays this week.
Ben Roethlisberger/Brown or Bryant and Markus Wheaton - The public will be all over a number of combinations of Roethlisberger, Brown and/or Bryant. It's certainly worth having those stacks aplenty in Week 16, however, it'll be tough to take down a tournament with their ownership levels so high. In this situation, to still get exposure to the Steelers big-name passing assets and still have a tournament winning strategy, consider pivoting one of those spots to Markus Wheaton. In the last four weeks, Wheaton has three touchdowns and more fantasy points than Eric Decker, Julio Jones and his own teammate, Martavis Bryant. Of course, he's not the player those receivers are, but he's producing results. Wheaton took a ton of heat from the fantasy community throughout his career, but looks like he's developed into a solid third receiver. In an offense as strikingly potent as Pittsburgh's, that has value. Wheaton could post yet another solid outing against a poor Ravens secondary on Sunday.
Best contrarian play(s)
Eli Manning/Hakeem Nicks stack - Yes, I know what year it is. I'm not getting into bed with a Reuben Randle lineup at what could easily be a 15 percent ownership figure. Both Eli Manning, for the lack of Odell Beckham, and Hakeem Nicks, for a lot of reasons, figure to be low owned. It creates an interesting tournament opportunity. At the bare minimum on DFS sits, Hakeem Nicks does not have to do much to return value to your lineup. In fact, just a touchdown catch would go a long way, and recent usage suggests that may not be too much to ask. While Nicks only played 35 snaps since he signed with the Giants, has three red zone targets. With Beckham out of the lineup, Nicks may inherit a ton of his work.
Aaron Rodgers - It's easy to talk yourself into Aaron Rodgers as a contrarian play this week from a theory perspective. His value is now the lowest it's been in quite some time. Conversely, it's hard to imagine his ownership percentage won't be under three percent, especially with a small influx of new players coming to daily fantasy after getting bounced in their season-long leagues. Rodgers pulled the rug out from under several championship contenders in redrafts with a 10.06 score on NFL.com's scoring format against the Raiders. Not many will be lining up to use him in Week 16 in a worse spot on paper. However, opposing passers average 36 attempts against the Cardinals, as their offense demands you take to the air to keep pace. The Packers could get in to a shootout game script, and they need this win to keep up in playoff seeding. Rodgers should be at his best, and with no receiver worth creating a stacking pair, he lets you create some unique lineups at a likely low ownership rate.
Best obvious play
Cam Newton - As Rotoworld's Ray Summerlin continues preaching on his podcast, "not having at least one Cam Newton tournament lineup is like DFS malpractice." Since their Week 9 win over the Packers, Newton's low mark was the 17.82 points scored against the Cowboys in a blowout win where the defense scored two touchdowns. That is quite a marvelous floor. Despite Newton's status now as the top quarterback across the DFS industry, it's worth grabbing some exposure to him.
My near 100 percent exposure player
Golden Tate - I almost always default to a running back in this space, as their outlook is just far too secure. However, there may not be a safer player in fantasy than Golden Tate right now. After a painfully slow start to the season, Tate averages 17.15 points per game the last four weeks. His role swiftly changed when the Lions installed Jim Bob Cooter as the offensive coordinator. Since their Week 8 loss to the Chiefs, Tate is tied with Calvin Johnson for the team lead in targets with 56. The real kicker comes in the scoring areas, where Golden Tate is tied for third in the NFL with 12 red zone targets, catching 10 of them and five for touchdowns. Cooter loves dialing up the short flat or screen passes to Tate as an extended handoff in the red zone. Tate's elite reception floor and touchdown upside makes him a tremendous play in all DFS formats. Against a 49ers secondary allowing 2,002 passing yards and 13 touchdowns on the road, it's hard to imagine Tate not meeting expectations given a still low value on DFS sites. Suddenly he's become the perfect DFS asset.
Cheat code of the week
Christine Michael - "I just don't know how to quit you". Just when we were all ready to pull the plug on Christine Michael for good, he gave us one last reason to hang on. It was in a pristine matchup, but Michael seized the momentum early and sliced through the Browns run defense. He looked powerful, determined and aggressive. Michael sustained the offense, with a long run of just 10 yards. It was not as if he accrued his production through boom or bust plays. This was a steady and consistent effort. When the Seahawks welcome the Rams to their building on Sunday, they'll find another game script favorable to running the football. St. Louis allowed the third-most yards in the NFL the last four weeks on a 5.01 yards per carry figure. If Christine Michael sees the bulk of the carries once again, which is no guarantee, he could be looking at another career day in a favorable spot. In the punt play range across the DFS landscape, it is a chance worth taking in tournaments.