Michael Pittman Jr. caught 10 balls but managed only 60 yards (*puke emoji*), which was the most stinging UNDER of the season for me. Elsewhere, game flow didn’t go D’Onta Foreman‘s way, and Miles Sanders cooled off in the Windy City. On the bright side, Travis Etienne Jr. bounced back and Drake London continued to sky.
Ultimately, two of my five picks hit. I’m motivated to improve on those results this go-around. Utilizing ESPN’s metrics database and some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, I’m here to help you secure the bag in fantasy and at the books.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-4, 48)
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Pick: Daniel Jones OVER 221.5 passing yards (-145)
The QB position has been an unexpected season-long headache for fantasy players. Injuries to star signal-callers Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson and unpredictable weather are forcing managers to consider other options in the second week of the fantasy football playoffs. The stakes are undeniably high. Thankfully, Daniel Jones draws an indoor matchup against a generous pass defense.
Minnesota has given up 205 passing yards to an opposing quarterback 11 times this season. Admittedly, the Vikings held Matt Ryan to under 200 passing yards in a scratching affair last weekend. But Mac Jones (382), Mike White (369) and Jared Goff (330) all went off for over 300 passing yards in the three games prior to Week 15.
Additionally, the Vikings are allowing 7.9 yards per attempt (second most). That means Jones would need to throw the ball only 28 times to clear the above line. As it turns out, he has recorded at least 27 pass attempts in 12 of 14 games this season. Danny Dimes — like a lot of QBs — gets flustered under pressure. Interestingly, he gains nearly 38% more yards per pass when not pressured. That sets up nicely against a Vikings squad that creates pressure at the fourth-lowest rate.
Jones’ ceiling is partially capped due to the dearth of weapons surrounding him. However, with the emergence of Darius Slayton (more on him in a bit) and with a vintage-looking Saquon Barkley, Jones could flirt with his passing yards projection on Saturday. He’s a top-10 play to stream and a gift to fantasy managers needing to Band-Aid the position for a week.
Pick: Darius Slayton OVER 3.5 receptions (-166)
Slayton flexed his way into many a fantasy roster over the bye weeks, recording double-digit efforts in six games since Week 5. He has materialized as the G-Men’s No. 1 WR, leading the team in snaps (551) and targets (62). In a game with the second-highest over/under of the slate (48) and with his team a 4-point underdog, the Auburn product figures to best his average of 3.1 catches per contest at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday.
Minnesota has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing WRs on the season. A bit more digging reveals that the Vikings have given up THE MOST receptions to opposing wideouts over 2022 (211) and in the past four weeks (67). Moreover, Minnesota allowed passes to WRs to be completed at the third-highest rate (67.8%). That bodes well for a player who has averaged seven looks per contest over his past five outings.
As mentioned above, the Vikings have managed the fourth-lowest pressure rate. That’s relevant to Slayton because he has been targeted on 25.6% of routes when Daniel Jones is NOT pressured (the number drops to 12.5% when Jones does feel the heat). Slayton might not be worthy of a start in redraft, but he’s an interesting option in DFS and projects to catch five balls for around 50 yards.
Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5, 37.5)
Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Pick: Taylor Heinicke OVER 0.5 INTs (-169)
The refs may not have been on Heinicke’s side last Sunday, but the turnover gods certainly were. Under pressure all night, Heinicke attempted numerous passes that were millimeters away from being picked. He’s not likely to be as lucky facing the 49ers’ staunch defense in Week 16.
San Francisco has generated 14 INTs (behind only Philadelphia) in 2022. In fact, the 49ers are intercepting a league-high 3.6% of passes when the team does not blitz. That speaks to the dominance of the 49ers’ D-line. San Fran can get pressure without sending six men, which leaves more defenders available to pick off a bewildered QB. It also spells trouble for a Commanders squad that has allowed pressure at the third-highest rate since Week 7 when NOT blitzed.
Part of Heinicke’s appeal is the gutsiness with which he plays. That bravado can also lead to mistakes, though, particularly when playing catch-up. The Commandeers are 6.5-point underdogs, which might cause Heinicke to press and result in an abundance of off-target throws. That’s actually a trend that has followed the Old Dominion product over 2022, as he owns the third-highest off-target rate on the season (ahead of only Zach Wilson and Davis Mills).
Yikes. Obviously, Heinicke is not the stream you want or need in Week 16.
Cincinnati Bengals (-4, 41.5) at New England Patriots
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Pick: Ja’Marr Chase UNDER 71.5 receiving yards (-117)
Ugh, this one makes me nervous. And I definitely don’t want to manifest a dud of an outing for an absolute star in the fantasy semis. Yet, this number seems awfully high for a game with a total of 41.5 projected points.
Believe it or not, Chase has gone under 71 yards in four of 10 games this season. Each of those contests has been on the road. The same thing was true in 2021, as he went under the above line in nine games while six of them were away.
That betters the odds of an under at Foxborough, particularly when noting the Pats’ desire to create chaos. New England ranks third in pressure rate. Joe Burrow is fearless in the pocket, but he moves away from his No. 1 WR when feeling the heat. Chase is being targeted on only 16.1% of routes when Burrow is pressured. When given time, however, Burrow looks to Chase on 31.6% of his routes. That bodes well for Tee Higgins — not Chase — come Saturday.
Ultimately, the second-year phenom remains a top-six play in redraft. His ability in the red area (22 red zone targets, WR2) is beastly. However, noting a recent dip in efficiency (6.3 YPT over Weeks 14 and 15), his yardage total might come down on Christmas Eve.
Detroit Lions (-2.5, 43.5) at Carolina Panthers
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Pick: Jamaal Williams OVER 41.5 rushing yards (-117)
Williams has been a touchdown monster, leading the position with 14 scores thus far into 2022. His production has waned, however, over the past three weeks as he has gone under 40 rushing yards in each contest since Week 13. With the Lions 2.5-point favorites at Carolina, however, I think he’s due for a bit of a bounce-back.
Charlotte is by no means a cold-weather locale. However, the Queen City is expecting temperatures in the low 30s with wind gusts up to 15 mph this weekend. Jared Goff — ever the Cali kid — is not a fan of chilly climates. That characteristic has potentially crept into the Lions’ game plan, as Detroit has recorded the fifth-highest rush rate outdoors (45.7%).
While D’Andre Swift‘s total touches have increased since returning from injury, Williams continues to thrive as the team’s lead rusher. The former Packer has posted double-digit carries in every game this season and is averaging 15.5 totes on the year. He is undoubtedly the Lions’ between-the-tackles grinder. That sets up well against a Panthers squad that has allowed the seventh-most yards per RB carry up the middle as well as the second-most yards per carry (up the middle) before contact.
Williams remains frustratingly TD dependent in redraft. But his efficiency figures to receive a boost in this matchup. Consider him a floor flex in the RB30 range.
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