FanDuel Single-Game Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 16 (Vikings at Saints)

In the sports world, Christmas Day always makes me think of the NBA -- and we sure have a good slate for it -- but we also get an NFL game to swap back and forth to.

The 6-8 Minnesota Vikings are clinging to playoff hopes (4.9%, per our projections), but the 10-4 New Orleans Saints stand in the way. FanDuel Sportsbook lists the over/under at 51.5 points, and the home Saints are 7.5-point favorites. Our projections give the Saints a 74.7% chance to win.

Before we dig in more, don't forget to brush up on some single-game perfect lineup trends and leverage our Sharpstack single-game optimizer for correlated lineup plays.

High-Level Simulation Results

I simulated this game a thousand times -- using numberFire's projections -- to see some high-level takeaways. Here's what I found.

Player Salary Median
FanDuel Points
Top Score
Top-5 Score
Alvin Kamara $15,000 22.5 35.8% 89.2%
Dalvin Cook $16,000 19.3 21.3% 79.4%
Drew Brees $14,500 18.7 15.8% 72.6%
Kirk Cousins $14,000 16.2 10.6% 63.4%
Justin Jefferson $12,500 13.1 6.2% 48.9%
Adam Thielen $12,000 11.8 5.6% 41.3%
Emmanuel Sanders $10,500 11.2 3.8% 36.1%
Wil Lutz $9,000 9.0 0.3% 16.5%
Latavius Murray $8,500 7.7 0.2% 15.2%
Jared Cook $9,500 7.5 0.2% 13.7%
Irv Smith Jr. $7,500 6.6 0.2% 8.5%
Lil'Jordan Humphrey $5,500 4.9 0.0% 5.8%
Tre'Quan Smith $7,500 4.1 0.0% 1.6%
Tyler Conklin $6,000 3.4 0.0% 0.3%
Chad Beebe $6,000 2.7 0.0% 0.0%
Ameer Abdullah $5,000 2.4 0.0% 0.0%
Juwan Johnson $5,000 2.5 0.0% 0.1%
Taysom Hill $10,000 2.1 0.0% 0.0%

Here's a snapshot of how these two teams stack up, based on numberFire's opponent-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric.

Team Total
Minnesota 11 9 10 20 17 20
New Orleans 9 11 6 8 4 8

Slate Breakdown

Using numberFire's projections as the base, it's actually the two running backs -- Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook -- comprising 57.1% of the top-score games over a thousand simulations.

We currently project Kamara for 22.5 FanDuel points and Cook for 19.3, so that helps explain the gap. The two offenses, as seen in the above table, are both good, but the difference is the defense. Kamara gets the better matchup. Last week with Drew Brees back under center for the Saints, Kamara handled 11 carries and 6 targets for 94 yards and a receiving score. He played 40 snaps (73%).

Cook's workload is nothing to scoff at, though, and he has averaged 25.6 carries and 4.5 targets per game for 160.0 yards in eight games since returning in Week 8. He's very easily the 1B to Kamara's 1A at worst and is actually my preference for MVP just based on his market shares relative to Kamara's, particularly if the public prioritizes the back who plays for the favorite.

Brees returned in Week 15 to post 0.12 Passing NEP per drop back against a top-12 adjusted pass defense. The NFL average is 0.13 on the full season and just 0.03 against top-12 pass defenses, so it was a promising return. More promising, even, is that Brees held an 8.0-yard average depth of target, and 29.4% of his pass attempts traveled at least 16 yards downfield. His marks entering last week were 5.3 and 10.4%, respectively.

Kirk Cousins has averaged 0.20 Passing NEP per drop back since the team's Week 7 bye if we remove Week 12 to account for Adam Thielen's absence. In three games against top-12 adjusted pass defenses in that span, he's averaged 0.12 Passing NEP per drop back, thus giving us reasons to believe that the Vikings' offense can move the ball even against a tough opponent.

The simulations are low on Justin Jefferson and Thielen, primarily because of their volume and matchup. Jefferson averages a viable 7.7 targets per game since the team's bye when we adjust for the game that Thielen missed, and Thielen is at 6.4 targets per game. Jefferson has a yards-per-game lead of 31.2 (82.1 to 50.9) and an air-yards-per-game lead of 29.3 (94.7 to 65.4). Next up in market share in this sample behind Jefferson (25.1%) and Thielen (20.9%) is actually Cook (14.9%). If pivoting away from the running backs and quarterbacks, Jefferson is most interesting.

Irv Smith Jr. is a source of salary relief, but he has one game with better than a 15.0% target share and a cap of 5 targets within a game.

Last week without Michael Thomas, volume was dispersed. Kamara led with 6 targets (17.6%), and Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook had 5 targets (14.7%). The volume was low, but the downfield work actually existed (remember Brees' downfield attempt rate). Sanders caught 4 of 5 targets for 76 yards and had 2 deep shots. Cook had 3 downfield targets and a team-best 74 air yards.

With Tre'Quan Smith not practicing on Tuesday, we could see value at reciever for the Saints. Last week, Juwan Johnson ran 27 (77.1%) of the routes, via ProFootballFocus, trailing just Sanders' 28 (80.0%). He had a downfield target and four total targets despite no catches. Lil'Jordan Humphrey drew 4 targets on 20 routes (57.1%). He caught 2 for 29 yards. That plus the name value could draw the public to Humphrey, but Johnson had the better underlying data.