Editor’s Note: The Week 16 Establish The Run tournament on DraftKings is live! Click here to enter. It’s a $3 buy-in, 3-entry max with 3,000 entries. No rake and added prizes. To see Adam Levitan’s lineup review of previous winners, check out our YouTube page.
Texans at Bucs
Team Totals: Texans 27, Bucs 24
Texans-Bucs sets up as a potential track meet pitting against each other teams that rank Nos. 3 (Tampa Bay) and 10 (Houston) in points per game with beatable pass defenses on both sides. Always a high-floor, high-ceiling fantasy bet, Deshaun Watson enters Week 16 with top-12 scores in 10-of-14 starts and slate-breaking upside every week, especially with Will Fuller in the lineup. … Although Carlos Hyde turned in his third 100-plus-yard rushing game of the season in last week’s 24-21 win at Tennessee, Hyde didn’t see a single passing-game target and will be hard pressed to repeat his ground-game success on Saturday. Keyed by space-eater DTs Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh with speedy playmaker LBs Devin Smith and Lavonte David behind them, the Bucs have held enemy backs to a measly 3.12 yards per carry and just eight all-purpose TDs in 14 games. Hyde is a touchdown-or-bust flex option. … Duke Johnson has been a continued non-factor with eight touches or fewer in four of Houston’s last five games, although he became a bit more intriguing when Hyde landed on Thursday’s injury report as questionable with an ankle ailment.
Watson’s Week 15 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 8; Fuller 7; Johnson and Kenny Stills 3; Jordan Akins and Darren Fells 2. … Fantasy’s most consistent receiver outside of New Orleans, Hopkins has five-plus catches in 18 straight games and 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his last eight. Even with Fuller back to slightly lessen his target projection, Hopkins is a shoo-in top-two WR1 play against a Bucs secondary allowing the NFL’s most fantasy points to wide receivers. … Fuller looked all systems go in last week’s win over Tennessee, drawing seven targets on a 94% playing-time clip and leading the Texans in Air Yards (93). This is a smash spot for Fuller, who checks boxes for talent, matchup, and opportunity in a probable shootout. Hopkins and Fuller’s Saturday outlook will further improve if CB Carlton Davis (ankle) can’t play; Davis has had a breakout season as a press corner under first-year DC Todd Bowles, easily emerging as the Bucs’ top cover man. Davis barely practiced this week. … Stills has been one of fantasy’s least predictable receivers all year, but he’s worth a long look on Saturday-only DFS slates. Fuller’s return kicked Stills into the slot, where interior WRs Tyler Lockett (13/152/2), Cooper Kupp (9/121/1), Danny Amendola (8/102/0), Sterling Shepard (7/100/1), Russell Gage (8/76/0), Zach Pascal (5/74/1), Larry Fitzgerald (8/71/0), and Dede Westbrook (5/60/1) have torn up the Bucs. … Held below 25 yards in six straight games, Fells has settled in as a touchdown-or-bust punt regardless of matchups. Akins has cleared 30 yards once in his last eight.
Jameis Winston’s Week 16 outlook isn’t quite as bullish as Watson’s due to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Scotty Miller’s triumvirate of hamstring pulls, but his matchup is just as favorable, and Winston won’t stop slinging it to his pass-catching remnants in Bruce Arians’ no-risk-it, no-biscuit attack. 11-of-14 quarterbacks to face the Texans have registered top-12 fantasy scores, while Houston’s pass rush has evaporated without J.J. Watt (torn pec, I.R.), plummeting to No. 26 in sacks (28). A top-ten fantasy QB1 in six of his last eight starts with top-five scores in three of his last four, Winston is a locked-in starter in season-long finals week. … The good news for Tampa Bay’s backfield is Houston hemorrhages ground-game efficiency, yielding a 168/775/3 (4.61 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs over its last seven games. On the season, no defense has coughed up more running back catches than the Texans (97). The bad news is Arians and OC Byron Leftwich remain committed to an RBBC; Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber split touches evenly (12) last week in Detroit, and Dare Ogunbowale continues to siphon valuable passing-down snaps. Jones and Barber are low-floor flex darts on Saturday. … Ogunbowale warrants long-shot sleeper consideration on Saturday-only DFS-tournament slates. He’s led the Bucs’ running backs in targets and passing-down snaps all season long, and Arians stated this week Tampa Bay would have to lean more on backfield passes due to so many wide receiver injuries.
Now atop the Bucs’ wideout depth chart, white-hot Breshad Perriman enters Week 16 with a highly efficient 14/314/4 stat line on 18 targets over Tampa Bay’s last four games. Houston’s inability to pressure quarterbacks enhances its vertical-pass susceptibility – the Texans have yielded the NFL’s tenth-most 20-plus-yard completions (51) – while Winston leads the league in 20-plus-yard plays (67), and Perriman’s calling card has always been his 4.3 long speed. In a plus draw playing the best football of his career, Perriman is an upside WR2. … Justin Watson turned in a disappointing, two-target Week 15 against the Lions after opening the game behind Miller, but Godwin and Miller’s injuries should vault Watson into near every-down usage. He’s an opportunity-based WR4/flex option against the Texans. … With four-plus catches in three straight games and snap rates above 80% in all of them, O.J. Howard has regained TE1 value as Tampa Bay’s wideouts drop like flies. This is a standout matchup for Howard; fellow TEs Noah Fant (4/113/1), Mark Andrews (4/75/1), Eric Ebron (4/70/1, 4/44/0), Jonnu Smith (5/60/0), Austin Hooper (6/56/0), and Seth DeValve (4/41/0) all turned in useful PPR stats against the Texans over their last eight games. … Cameron Brate has remained a rotational player despite the Bucs’ wideout losses, but he did draw seven Week 15 targets and is playable on Saturday-only DFS slates.
Score Prediction: Texans 28, Bucs 27
Bills at Patriots
Team Totals: Patriots 22.5, Bills 16
The Bills visit Foxboro in Saturday afternoon letdown position after last Sunday night’s national-TV road win over the Steelers to face a Patriots team that’s allowed an average of 11.8 points over its last ten regular season home games and held Buffalo to ten points at their place when these clubs met in Week 4. Josh Allen has fared poorly in two career meetings with Bill Belichick’s defense, completing just 33-of-69 passes (47.8%) for 370 yards (5.4 YPA), a 1:5 TD-to-INT ratio, and four sacks taken. Expect New England’s D/ST to stay hot after it got back on track in last Sunday’s beatdown of the Bengals. … Even with top back Devin Singletary sidelined at the time, the Bills enjoyed immense rushing success on Frank Gore’s back (17/109/0) versus the Patriots in Week 4, before Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard rebroke New England’s run-defense dam in last week’s prolific 30/163/0 (5.4 YPC) combined rushing effort. Feeding Singletary and mixing in off-script Allen runs may give Buffalo its best shot at controlling Saturday’s game. Singletary has been up to the bellcow task, averaging 20.2 touches over the last five weeks to cement every-week RB2 value. Gore is down to 10.2 touches per game during that stretch. One concern stems from Singletary’s two late-game fumbles in last week’s win over Pittsburgh, although the Bills stuck with him after the ball-security hiccups and can’t afford to remove Singletary’s explosiveness from their backfield.
Allen’s 2019 target distribution: John Brown 106; Cole Beasley 90; Dawson Knox 44; Singletary 39; Isaiah McKenzie 32; Robert Foster 13; Gore 12; Tyler Kroft 9. … Brown busted his three-game sub-40-yard slump by parlaying 10 targets into 99 yards in last week’s win over Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Brown will be Week 16’s near-surefire victim of should-be DPOY Stephon Gilmore’s coverage. Those two matched up for the majority of these teams’ Week 4 game, and Gilmore held Brown to 69 scoreless yards on 11 targets. … Beasley endured a miserable Week 15 – uncharacteristically dropping two passes and finishing with six scoreless yards on six targets – but he was Buffalo’s best receiver in these teams’ Week 4 affair (7/75/0). Beasley remains on the PPR-specific WR3/flex fringe with 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in seven of Buffalo’s last nine games. Beasley’s matchup improved when the Patriots ruled out slot CB Jonathan Jones (groin) on Thursday. … The Bills deployed a near-even timeshare between Knox and Kroft in last week’s victory, canceling both out as Week 16 tight end streamer possibilities.
Even in last week’s decisive 34-13 win at Cincinnati, the Patriots’ passing-game shortcomings remained apparent on Tom Brady’s season-low 128 yards and pitiful 4.4 yards per attempt, his second fewest of 2019. Brady enters Week 16 with just one top-12 week in his last seven starts, while Buffalo’s defense has limited 12-of-14 signal callers faced to fantasy scores of QB13 or worse. His passing offense lacking any tangible long-ball threat, trust factor sparse with his pass catchers, and Julian Edelman clearly not physically right, Brady is no longer viable beyond two-quarterback leagues. … Cognizant of their pass-game deficiencies, the Patriots attempted to kickstart their run game against the Bengals by feeding Sony Michel 20 touches – tied for his most since Week 8 – and even effectively involving Rex Burkhead (8 touches), while James White (6) took a backseat after an early 23-yard receiving score. Although the three-man nature of New England’s backfield keeps each member’s fantasy outlook in weekly check, a repeat game plan wouldn’t be surprising in what projects as a low-scoring slugfest against the Bills. Ground-game production can be induced at Buffalo’s expense – Sean McDermott’s defense generously yields 4.50 yards per carry to enemy backs – and the Patriots are likely at little risk of falling behind by multiple scores. Michel maintains touchdown dependency due to his barely-there passing-game role.
Update: The more I’ve considered the running back-unfriendly context of Saturday’s three-game slate, the more I’ve bought into the idea of Sony Michel-plus-Patriots D/ST correlation plays in DFS tournaments. Buffalo faces some letdown risk as alluded to above, and Sean McDermott‘s defense can be run on efficiently. This game should be played in either neutral script or script favoring the host Patriots, benefiting Michel as a 20-plus-touch candidate.
Brady’s Weeks 13-15 target distribution: Julian Edelman 28; White 22; Mohamed Sanu 14; Jakobi Meyers 10; Matt LaCosse 9; Phillip Dorsett 8; N’Keal Harry 6; Burkhead and Ben Watson 4; Michel 3. … On a shortened week, Edelman (knee, shoulder) will try to gut out his various injuries after logging his second-lowest playing-time clip (62%) and route total (31) of the season in last Sunday’s win over the Bengals. Edelman also tallied his second-fewest yards of the year (30) when the Bills and Patriots met in Week 4. A locked-in WR1 for most of the season, Edelman suddenly looks like a risky WR2/3. … Albeit ineffectively, the Pats weeded Meyers and Dorsett out of last week’s wideout rotation and settled on Edelman in the slot with Sanu and Harry outside. Despite his playing-time hike, Sanu finished below 30 yards for the seventh time in his last eight games and has been horrifically unproductive as a Patriot with a 7.4 yards-per-catch average and 148 yards on 37 targets (4.0 YPT). … Harry has yet to clear 20 yards or exceed four targets in any game this year, but OC Josh McDaniels has begun manufacturing some touches for the first-round rookie and is clearly calling plays for Harry in scoring position. Ultimately, Harry is best approached as a touchdown-or-bust WR4/flex whose main Week 16 fantasy appeal is on Saturday-only DFS slates. … LaCosse narrowly usurped Watson as the Patriots’ primary pass-catching tight end in the last two weeks, running 35 routes to Watson’s 29 and drawing 7 targets to Watson’s 3. Neither is a good fantasy bet against a Bills defense permitting the NFL’s second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but LaCosse is the superior dart throw on Saturday-only DFS slates.
Score Prediction: Bills 17, Patriots 16
Rams at 49ers
Team Totals: 49ers 25.5, Rams 19.5
Their Weeks 13-14 hot run exposed as small-sample fraudulent in last week’s blowout loss at Dallas, the Rams enter another trouble spot Saturday night in the Bay Area. For Jared Goff, the good news is San Francisco’s defense has sprung leaks caused by injuries to CB Richard Sherman (hamstring), DE Dee Ford (hamstring), NT D.J. Jones (ankle), SS Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), CB K’Waun Williams (concussion), MLB Kwon Alexander (ACL), and DE Ronald Blair (ACL), most of whom will miss Saturday night. The bad news is top CB Sherman is on track to return, RE Nick Bosa, DT DeForest Buckner, and LE Arik Armstead remain capable of creating up-front havoc, and Goff’s passer rating nosedives from 99.1 when kept clean to an abysmal 56.8 under pressure, while Goff’s yards per attempt dip from 8.14 at home to 6.94 on the road. It certainly doesn’t help that Goff will play through “stiffness” in his right (throwing) thumb after smacking it on LT Andrew Whitworth‘s helmet last week. … Todd Gurley maintained bellcow usage in Week 15’s defeat, setting or equaling year highs in playing time (96%) and routes run (51) and essentially luckboxing a useful fantasy game with a garbage-time touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion to “cut” the Cowboys lead to 37-15. Nevertheless, Gurley’s every-down role, San Francisco’s defensive depletion, and McVay’s commitment to leaving in his first-team skill players during blowouts keep Gurley in the RB1 crosshairs. Gurley is averaging 19.6 touches over Los Angeles’ last five games.
Goff’s Weeks 12-15 target distribution: Robert Woods 45; Tyler Higbee 39; Cooper Kupp 26; Brandin Cooks 16; Gurley 15; Josh Reynolds 10; Johnny Mundt 4; Gerald Everett 2. … Woods entered Week 15 as one of football’s hottest receivers, only to exit with a 4/17/0 clunker. Woods dropped a pass and was tackled almost instantly by a Cowboys defender whenever he got the ball. It’s also slightly concerning that San Francisco held Woods catch-less in these clubs’ Week 6 date. Still averaging 11.2 targets over his last five games, Woods is at worst an upside WR3 play in Saturday night’s rematch. … Legitimately the NFL’s hottest tight end, Higbee visits San Francisco coming off three straight 100-plus-yard games while leading all players at his position in targets (33), catches (26), yards (334), and yards after catch (168) during that span. The 49ers’ tight end defense isn’t nearly as imposing without Tartt, and Higbee will rarely come off the field if Everett (knee) remains sidelined here. … Kupp’s Week 15 snaps returned to normalcy (92%) following Week 14’s opponent-specific hiccup, and he’s now reached pay dirt in three straight games. While clearly not the every-week WR1 Kupp teased in the season’s first half, he remains a quality WR3 with WR2 upside against San Francisco’s injury-riddled back seven. … Cooks led the Rams in Week 15 Air Yards (100) but is scoreless since Week 2 with fewer than 60 yards in eight straight. He is tied for fifth on the Rams in red-zone targets this year (4). Cooks is a Hail Mary WR4/flex best deployed on Saturday-only DFS-tournament slates. … Reynolds played 37% of the Rams’ Week 15 offensive snaps.
Update: Tyler Higbee became a bit riskier on Thursday when Gerald Everett (knee) was removed from the injury report altogether following a full practice week. It’s entirely possible Everett simply doesn’t play much — the Rams have gone out of their way recently to build run-friendly personnel packages, and Everett isn’t a plus run blocker — so I’m sticking confidently with Higbee in season-long leagues. He’s just not quite as safe as he was the past three weeks.
Favored by nearly a touchdown at home, Raheem Mostert projects to spend his third straight game as 49ers lead back against a Rams defense Seahawks and Cowboys backs obliterated for 52/326/3 (6.27 YPC) rushing in the last two weeks. Matt Breida hurt himself with two Week 15 fumbles – one lost – while Tevin Coleman flubbed a blitz pickup and touched the ball four times. With touch counts of 21 > 12 > 15 on snap rates of 73% > 59% > 53% in Weeks 13-15, Mostert warrants RB2 utility in this plus spot. … A wildly uneven fantasy scorer even as his on-field play improves late in the year, Jimmy Garoppolo is best treated as a boom-bust option against a Rams defense that’s held 11-of-14 quarterbacks faced to box-score outcomes of QB15 or worse. Garoppolo has flashed upside with four top-six fantasy results, but he’s finished QB16 or lower in 9-of-14 games and draws a suboptimal matchup on Saturday night.
Jimmy G’s Weeks 13-15 target distribution: George Kittle 29; Emmanuel Sanders 19; Deebo Samuel 15; Kendrick Bourne 9; Mostert 6; Kyle Juszczyk 5; Breida 3; Coleman 2. … Wade Phillips’ Rams defense has consistently lacked answers for Kittle, who drilled Los Angeles for receiving lines of 9/149/1 > 5/98/1 > 4/100/0 in these teams’ last three meetings. The Cowboys’ far-inferior tight ends tagged Phillips’ unit for 6/76/1 receiving on eight targets last week. … With fewer than 25 yards in 3-of-8 games but a pair of eruptions mixed in, Sanders has defined boom-bust WR3 since joining the 49ers. He’s still topped 60 yards just twice since Week 4. Sanders is also the Niners’ likeliest wideout to command Jalen Ramsey’s shadow coverage, although Ramsey has been far from a shutdown force with L.A. … Samuel has four targets or fewer in three of San Francisco’s last four games, his usage diminishing as Kittle and Sanders overcome midseason injuries. As the No. 3 pass option on a run-first, defense-oriented team, Samuel is a boom-bust WR4/flex option more worthy of consideration on Saturday-only DFS slates. … Held to 42 yards or fewer in eight straight weeks, Bourne is an entirely touchdown-or-bust dart throw each week.
Update: I’m giving Deebo Samuel‘s outlook a slight positive bump after the Rams ruled out No. 2 CB Troy Hill (thumb) on Thursday. Los Angeles’ next-man up is second-year UDFA Darious Williams, who has allowed eight completions on nine targets (89%) for 127 yards (14.1 YPA) and a touchdown this season.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Rams 20