Welcome to our weekly column where I dive into the Las Vegas odds to find the best players with the best matchups in what Las Vegas thinks will be the best games for fantasy football this week.
If you’re reading this you’re either elbow deep into daily fantasy — hello, I hope to see you in the top five with some major moolah on the line. I’m epcn across the fantasy landscape and @epcn on Twitter. Let me know if we’re facing off — or you are deciding between several awesome options on a championship final squad.
Congratulations if you’re in the finals. My work for the site this season — mostly this column, which is the most intense thing I work on each week — led me into five semifinals, four in pay leagues. Now I’m in three finals, all pay leagues. And I’m up 600% in daily fantasy across Draft Kings, FanDuel and Yahoo, with a $40 tournament win last week at Yahoo. (I also won $20 on a $3 Draft Kings NBA tournament Monday, but more on that in a couple weeks when we bury daily fantasy NFL for 2015-16).
A ton of money changes hands in Las Vegas sportsbooks on NFL Sundays.
They have crack teams of number crunchers who are way better than me and you when it comes to guessing likely scores of NFL games.
Many sports fans have joked about a team kicking a late field goal to finish just under or over the betting line, as if the game was fixed or something. And, well, the game bettors play is kind of fixed, because those aforementioned number crunchers are so darn good at what they do.
It would be foolish for the fantasy football community to ignore these experts. We are better when we take the sums of many parts to form our opinions about players and situations, and Las Vegas betting odds need to be one of the primary parts of the equation.
Here are the projected scores using the current (early) over/under and betting odds for fantasy football championship week, Week 16 of the 2015 NFL season.
Projected scores/matchups/Las Vegas | Game day weather | Waiver wire
Daily fantasy: Draft Kings values | FanDuel values
Projected scores for Week 16
|Sun Dec 27||Jacksonville Jaguars||24.25||New Orleans Saints||27.75||1:00 PM||52|
|Sun Dec 27||Green Bay Packers||22.5||Arizona Cardinals||27||4:25 PM||49.5|
|Sat Dec 26||Washington Redskins||22.5||Philadelphia Eagles||25.5||8:25 PM||48|
|Sun Dec 27||Pittsburgh Steelers||28.75||Baltimore Ravens||18.75||1:00 PM||47.5|
|Sun Dec 27||Carolina Panthers||27.25||Atlanta Falcons||20.25||1:00 PM||47.5|
|Thu Dec 24||San Diego Chargers||21||Oakland Raiders||26||8:25 PM||47|
|Sun Dec 27||Chicago Bears||21.5||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||24.5||1:00 PM||46|
|Sun Dec 27||New England Patriots||24.25||New York Jets||21.25||1:00 PM||45.5|
|Sun Dec 27||Houston Texans||20.5||Tennessee Titans||25||1:00 PM||45.5|
|Sun Dec 27||New York Giants||19.75||Minnesota Vikings||25.75||8:30 PM||45.5|
|Sun Dec 27||Indianapolis Colts||21.25||Miami Dolphins||22.75||1:00 PM||44|
|Sun Dec 27||San Francisco 49ers||17||Detroit Lions||26||1:00 PM||43|
|Sun Dec 27||Cleveland Browns||15.25||Kansas City Chiefs||27.75||1:00 PM||43|
|Sun Dec 27||Dallas Cowboys||18.5||Buffalo Bills||24.5||1:00 PM||43|
|Mon Dec 28||Cincinnati Bengals||18.5||Denver Broncos||22||8:30 PM||40.5|
|Sun Dec 27||St. Louis Rams||13.5||Seattle Seahawks||27||4:25 PM||40.5|
Games are listed from Las Vegas-implied highest- to lowest-scoring based on over/unders. No teams on bye.
First thing to note: That 45.5 over/under for the Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans game is mine, well, actually, it’s the average this week across the NFL. There’s no number for that one, yet. But the scores seem fine to me. The sportsbooks do have the Titans favored by 4.5.
Before we get into the blowouts, close games and fastest-paced (yes, that’s NEW!) games, let’s talk about some general stuff.
First that Jacksonville-New Orleans game is the only one coming in over 52 points. It’s supposed to be close and fast-paced. The Green Bay-Arizona game comes in at nearly 50 points, with the Cardinals a pretty big favorite at home.
There are no games below 40 points, but we have two at 40.5 — Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks.
Let’s get into the blowouts and close games.
As always, remember a team expected to have a big lead, especially playing at home, usually represents a great matchup for its running back and defense. Quarterbacks and receivers on the losing end of a blowout are prime candidates for garbage time, again, especially at home. Meanwhile, in games that are expected to be close means we can expect the game script to follow suit. Top talents and matchups should be in full effect.
We use composite odds and over/unders from Vegas Insider to generate the projected scores. I will reference Defense-adjusted Value Over Average a lot, it is a Football Outsiders’ metric which can be a better predictor of future success than fantasy points allowed. All team rankings and yards allowed to receivers are referenced from Football Outsiders’ Defense Efficiency page. This is one of our first features of the week, so keep an eye out for late injuries and lineup changes.
Blowouts (7 points or more)
Typically blowouts provide good opportunities for winning running backs and their defenses, as they try to put away the win, and losing quarterbacks and their wide receivers, in garbage time. All of these advantages are amplified for home teams.
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5) — As detailed below, this game features two of the slower teams in the NFL, making this one the likely third slowest-paced game of the week. The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson could easily throw for five more TDs against a Rams pass defense that has allowed more passing yards to opposing quarterbacks in the last five weeks than any team in the NFL. And that could all happen in the first half, leaving us with steady doses of Christine Michael. Ninja, he’s been cut by too many teams for me to really put much faith in him. But the Rams also rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed to running backs in the last five weeks. The Rams passing defense, on paper, looks strong against all receiver types against tight ends and receiving running backs. But if I drop $1 on a Wilson-led DK tournament team, I’m stacking Doug Baldwin or going home. The Seahawks have experienced some weakness against slot/bench receivers and tight ends. As much as I don’t trust Christine Michael, I trust Jared Cook less. However, like I said in the waiver wire article, he’s probably not the worst TE play of the week. Austin is probably the only part of the Rams offense that I’ll consider in more than one daily fantasy lineup. Over the last five weeks, the Seahawks have allowed just 200 rushing yards to running backs, the least in the NFL. They’ve also only allowed one total touchdown to them, tied for the least in the NFL. They have allowed the seventh-most receiving yards, but that’s not enough for me to consider Todd Gurley too heavily this week.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-12.5) — This should be a huge week for Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, if he plays. Cleveland allowed at least 98 yards from scrimmage to running backs in each of the first eight weeks and gave up 84 yards on just 16 carries to Christine Michael last week. I also don’t expect the Chiefs to ask Alex Smith to do more than be a game manager as usual. Jeremy Maclin has proven he can have a solid game, even if Smith doesn’t do much. This might also be a good spot for Travis Kelce. The Browns gave up a three-TD game to Tyler Eifert this season and a two-TD game to Troy Niklas. However, they haven’t given up many yards, so I’m not sure Kelce is a good option in cash games. The Chiefs are top-five against both the run and the pass, however, they have struggled against No. 1 wide receivers this season, so Travis Benjamin could surprise and a contrarian Benjamin-Johnny Manziel stack will likely be low-owned against against a strong defense in the projected second-slowest pace game of the week.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) at Baltimore Ravens — The Steelers-Ravens game is projected to be the fourth-fastest paced game of the week. The garbage time factor should be in full effect as the Ravens play from behind, at home against an offense that, at times, looks like it could put up whatever score it wants. Let’s start with them. Kamar Aiken has been way better than he gets credit for and the Steelers have allowed 86.5 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers and 76.5 yards per game to No. 2 receivers. That also means whoever starts between Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen will be an interesting DFS play. On the Steelers side, well, I shouldn’t have to tell you anything. If you’re in the championship, no matter what I say here you’re probably starting Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and DeAngelo Williams. You’re probably even going to start Markus Wheaton if you have him. Jermaine Kearse’s 100-yard receiving game a few weeks ago was the only one allowed by the Ravens since Week 6. However, I think this Steelers offense is every bit as dangerous as that Seahawks offense which had a monster game for everyone against Baltimore. One last Steelers concern: Pittsburgh is on the road and this is a division game against a common opponent.
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions (-9) — Kendall Gaskins? I’m not going to consider a single 49ers player this week. Maybe Blaine Gabbert and Vance McDonald or Blake Bell in a weird DFS quarter arcade. The Lions, on the other hand, get a great matchup for fantasy owners who survived last Megatron last week, or took advantage of Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate. Ameer Abdullah was pretty good too. He’s in a great spot against a defense that has just been crushed by running backs in the last five weeks. They’ve been so dominant few quarterbacks have had to do anything against them. That said, they gave up a 3-TD game to Russell Wilson and earlier in the season got blasted by Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and even Joe Flacco. If the Lions end up leading by nine points at some point, it’s likely because of some combination of Stafford and Tate and/or Calvin Johnson.
Carolina Panthers (-7) at Atlanta Falcons — As outstanding as the Panthers defense has been, they’ve given up four-TD games to Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning and a three-TD game to Drew Brees. The Falcons offense has been inconsistent at best, but don’t be surprised if they come in with a little extra juice in a division game, late in the season, against an undefeated opponent with an elite wide receiver against an elite cornerback who might catch some extra scrutiny from officials. Jones had seven catches for 88 yards in the last meeting with Norman. Let’s call that the baseline.Devonta Freeman is pretty much matchup-proof as well and the Panthers just allowed Shane Vereen to make eight catches and score a TD. The Panthers should win however they want to. Cam Newton threw three touchdowns against them last time — two to Ted Ginn, who had 120 yards. I think that was the game where he dropped two other potential long TDs. The Falcons also gave up five rushing touchdowns in the last four weeks, so whichever running back is expected to get the lion’s share of carries is a prime candidate to get in the end zone. I hope it’s rookie Cameron Artis-Payne.
Close games (3 points or less)
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-3) — The Eagles have allowed the most passing touchdowns, the second-most fantasy points and the fourth-most passing yards to quarterbacks in the last five weeks. I picked up Kirk Cousins in one league to consider playing him over Aaron Rodgers in the championship game. With those passing expectations also comes our expectations for TE Jordan Reed. The Eagles have allowed 10 receiving touchdowns to wide receviers, the most in the NFL, and are tied for the fourth-most receptions allowed to the position. So let’s keep DeSean Jackson in play after a huge week last week. Pierre Garcon might also be a sneaky play in daily fantasy sports tournaments. He scored last week. Now, back to Reed. It’s not a great matchup. However, Cousins throws the ball to him too much for him not to get some sort of volume of plays. The Redskins have allowed the 10th-most passing yards to quarterbacks and the fourth-most touchdowns to the position over the last five weeks, so it’s likely another good spot for Sam Bradford, coming off one of his best week’s of the season. Like the Eagles, the Redskins have been far more giving to wide receiver than tight ends over the last five weeks, so while we need to consider Zach Ertz based on his recent performance, we should also consider Jordan Matthews who surprised us all by being fantasy relevant last week. The Eagles have allowed eight total touchdowns to running backs over the last five weeks, second-most in the NFL, and have allowed the most yards from scrimmage to the position by a large margin — they lead in both rushing yards allowed AND receiving yards allowed. I’d feel better about those stats if I knew for sure which of Washington’s backs to play. It’s probably Alfred Morris, but I wish it was Matt Jones.
Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins (-1.5) — Andrew Luck is out, which is unfortunate because this game could be the third-fastest pace of the week. The Dolphins didn’t really live up to expectations last week. These teams have allowed a combined 26 touchdowns, more than five per game, to opposing quarterbacks in the last five weeks. I look for this one to push considerably over the implied total. That means we’re likely to see some big fantasy performances come out of this one. The most talented player on the field is probably T.Y. Hilton. Jarvis Landry is potentially the biggest PPR play of the week. The matchups point to good games for No. 1 receivers on both sides. The Colts have been gashed by running backs for three weeks in a row, which could mean more room for Lamar Miller. It’s too bad he’s been so inconsistent this season. The Dolphins gave up 90 yards on 12 carries to Donald Brown and four total touchdowns to Danny Woodhead last week, a week after allowing Rashad Jennings to post 102 total yards a week after allowing Buck Allen to post 167 total yards and 10 catches. Frank Gore is still the lead dog for the Colts and could be in line for one of his best games of the season.
New England Patriots (-3) at New York Jets — I just saw a tweet from Adam Levitan, one of the smartest people in fantasy football. He said, and i’m paraphrasing here, the Patriots’ Tom Brady has thrown a ton and have averaged just 12 carries per game in the last three meetings with the Jets. Over the last five weeks, the Jets have allowed the ninth-most passing yards to quarterbacks and the fifth-most receiving yards to wide receivers. This could be a big week for Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell and/or Keshawn Martin. Of course, whenever we’re talking about Patriots passing, Rob Gronkwoski is our primary receiving target. The path of least resistance against the Patriots is on the ground, where they’ve allowed the ninth-most rushing yards and fifth-most TDs to running backs in the last five weeks. Bilal Powell has been more effective than Chris Ivory, but I think the team stays committed to Ivory at least in a committee role. It would be stupid for us to not consider Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at home against a division rival. They’ve been among the best and most consistent in football, making them strong players to consider despite lackluster matchups.
5 fastest-paced games (from Football Outsiders’ offensive pace chart)
|Washington Redskins||22.5||Philadelphia Eagles||25.5|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||24.25||New Orleans Saints||27.75|
|Indianapolis Colts||21.25||Miami Dolphins||22.75|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||28.75||Baltimore Ravens||18.75|
|New England Patriots||24.25||New York Jets||21.25|
Pace determined by average of both teams’ time between plays. Faster pace means more plays than usual likely to be executed.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints game doesn’t fit into any of our parameters above, but we definitely need to talk about it. It’s supposed to be the second-fastest paced and highest scoring game of the week. So that means a Santa’s gift bag full of fantasy goodness for us.
The Saints are a mess on defense, but they are particularly bad against tight ends and running backs (both running and in the passing game), which means Julius Thomas and Denard Robinson should be our top options to go along with Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars are susceptible to No. 1 receivers, tight ends and pass-catching backs. Again, a lot of the Saints success will hinge on Drew Brees’ health, but Brandin Cooks and Ben Watson are the top options here. Tim Hightower is an interesting play, but the Jaguars typically do well against running backs and funnel action to opposing passing games.
5 slowest-paced games (from Football Outsiders’ offensive pace chart)
|Dallas Cowboys||18.5||Buffalo Bills||24.5|
|Cleveland Browns||15.25||Kansas City Chiefs||27.75|
|St. Louis Rams||13.5||Seattle Seahawks||27|
|Cincinnati Bengals||18.5||Denver Broncos||22|
|Carolina Panthers||27.25||Atlanta Falcons||20.25|
Pace determined by average of both teams’ time between plays. Slower pace means fewer plays than usual likely to be executed.
Projected high scores
Teams with a higher projected score should also have higher projected fantasy points, so it doesn’t hurt to see which teams are expected to go bananas and which ones are supposed to drop an egg.
Arizona Cardinals — The Cardinals at home are expected to win relatively easily against the Packers, but let’s not count out Aaron Rodgers against any defense. That would be a best case scenario because the way the Cardinals are right now, they only need to complete a touchdown pass or two then let David Johnson continue his emergence to superstardom. I wonder how long Carson Palmer plays in this one, or how long David Johnson does for that matter. They’ve been unstoppable, winning eight in a row. The Seahawks can’t catch them, but they could lose the No. 2 seed to the Packers if they lose out and GB wins out. Looking for someone to stack with Rodgers on the other side? Try Randall Cobb, as a what-the-heck option in a big game. The matchup points to Richard Rodgers but his value is completely reliant on touchdowns. Pass-catching backs also have a bit of an advantage against the Cardinals, but I can’t recommend any part of the Packers backfield right now.
Oakland Raiders — I wish the Chargers were more generous to opposing running games. That’s really where Oakland’s strength is. DVOA suggests the Chargers are way worse against the pass than their fantasy points allowed or yardage allowed indicate, so Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, they’re all in play. Tight ends have done well against the Chargers, too, so Clive Walford and/or Mychal Rivera might be considered as what-the-heck starters. The Chargers have the 31st-ranked DVOA run defense, which also goes against yardage and fantasy points allowed. If the DVOA rings true then Latavius Murray becomes a very interesting, very low-owned option in daily fantasy leagues.
Minnesota Vikings — I’m not sure what Odell Beckham Jr.’s suspension being overturned does to the projected score in this one, but I have to believe it was factored in. Watch this line as the week progresses. The Vikings are not an easy matchup for any receiver type, but they do allow a bit more to No. 2 wide receivers and tight ends. If the Giants can get Will Tye and/or Reuben Randle going, it’s going to loosen things up for Beckham. The Giants also have shown a commitment to give carries to Rashad Jennings the last few weeks and he’s put up low-end feature back yardage totals — including 100 total last week. The hope is that all of that comes to pass, which forces the Vikings to let Teddy Bridgewater open things up to Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph, who could have huge games if this thing shoots out. The Giants can’t stop tight ends or No. 1 receivers. They can’t stop running backs receiving out of the back field either and Adrian Peterson doesn’t need a good matchup or a passing boost for me to recommend him to you.
|New Orleans Saints||27.75|
|Kansas City Chiefs||27.75|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||24.5|
|New England Patriots||24.25|
|Green Bay Packers||22.5|
|New York Jets||21.25|
|San Diego Chargers||21|
|New York Giants||19.75|
|San Francisco 49ers||17|
|St. Louis Rams||13.5|