FanDuel Daily Fantasy Football Helper: Week 17
Welcome to our weekly FanDuel NFL primer, where we give you an overview of the Sunday main slate to help you get started on your research.
As always, we recommend checking out all of numberFire's daily fantasy tools at your disposal. In particular, our weekly projections can help you nail down who might be the slate's top scorers and best values, while the heat map is a great way to get a general overview of the slate's implied totals and every team's strengths and weaknesses.
Now, let's run through some of the top plays in Week 17.
Josh Allen ($8,800 on FanDuel): Fresh off an impressive showing against a strong New England defense, Allen is now averaging a league-high 24.7 FanDuel points per game, and he's projected for roughly that many points by numberFire's model this week versus Atlanta. No other quarterback on the slate comes close.
The Bills are 14.5-point favorites, so there's admittedly some blowout risk despite a juicy matchup versus a Falcons defense that ranks 31st in schedule-adjusted pass defense, per numberFire's metrics. That said, Allen's now produced 28 or more FanDuel points on seven occasions this season, and not all of them came in close games.
This is due in no small part to him being proficient as both a runner and a passer. He's averaging 6.8 carries for 41.3 yards per game and trails only Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts in rushing yardage among quarterbacks. At the same time, he's top 10 in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (minimum 200 drop backs), with his mark of 0.20 checking in well above Jackson (0.09) and Hurts (0.10), both of whom are roughly league average.
Allen's arguably the league's most dangerous dual-threat this season, and he could very well be peaking at just the right time.
Patrick Mahomes ($8,500) and Joe Burrow ($7,700): This Kansas City-Cincinnati bout is now up to a 51.0-point total, making it one of just two games exceeding 50.0 on the slate. Throw in the Chiefs being close(ish) 5.5-point road favorites, and this is one of the better spots for a possible shootout.
Mahomes has been more up and down than we would like in 2021, but he's still averaging a rock-solid 0.23 Passing NEP per drop back, which is the fourth-best tally this season. He'll also have Travis Kelce back this week, giving Mahomes his full arsenal of pass-catchers.
And while the Bengals have played pretty well on defense lately, they still rank just 17th in adjusted pass defense, so this isn't a matchup to shy away from. Mahomes is projected for the second-most points in numberFire's model.
But what will really determine the fantasy potential for this game will be the Cincinnati side. In Week 16, Burrow made headlines (and the perfect FanDuel lineup) following a ridiculous 525-yard, 4-touchdown beatdown of the Ravens, and we would love to see him chuck it 46 times again this week.
However, the Bengals have often taken a conservative, run-heavy approach this season, and such a strategy would put a damper on this game as a whole. The Chiefs also rank 26th in adjusted rush defense (compared to 8th against the pass), so Cincy could also have success running the ball, too.
But as Burrow showed last week, this clash oozes upside if we get the game environment we're hoping for. In addition to last week's effort, Burrow's also hit 416, 348, and 348 passing yards this season. While this game is a far tougher test for Burrow than Baltimore was, another ceiling performance isn't out of the question if he is unleashed.
Kyler Murray ($8,200) and Dak Prescott ($7,400): Prescott may be coming off an emphatic bounce-back performance, but there's no question he and Murray haven't exactly been crushing it down the stretch. That said, this contest carries a slate-high 51.5-point total, making it an intriguing one to target. While both teams have imposing defenses, this rates as the best matchup in overall pace and the fourth-best in pass rate, per Brandon Gdula.
Beginning with Murray, over Arizona's three-game losing streak, he's averaged -0.01 Passing NEP per drop back while throwing just two touchdowns to three interceptions. That obviously isn't very encouraging, and perhaps he's missed DeAndre Hopkins the past two games.
However, Murray still ranks sixth in Passing NEP per drop back for the season (0.20), and the fact that he's rushed for more than 50 yards in three of four games since his return suggests his ankle is fine. He hasn't run as consistently as we would like overall this year, but he still ranks fifth in rushing yardage at the position, and his recent output is more along the lines with what we saw in 2020.
Despite the tough draw versus this Dallas defense, Murray is the type of dynamic talent who could pull off a similar performance to what Josh Allen did to the Patriots last week.
Meanwhile, Prescott posted his best fantasy performance of the season in Week 16 (31.3 points), and it couldn't come at a better time after duds in four the previous five. Perhaps he's finally over his mid-season calf injury, though the Cardinals will presumably offer up far more resistance than Washington did.
Despite the rough patch, Prescott's season-long 0.20 Passing NEP per drop back is right up there with Allen, though the difference is that Prescott isn't running as much as he used to. That makes it slightly tougher for him to match Allen and Murray in ceiling, but he also carries just the 12th-highest salary at the position.
Prescott also hasn't had all his pass-catchers healthy for most of the season, too, and last week was a good reminder of how many weapons he has at his disposal when Dallas is healthy.
Jonathan Taylor ($10,000): Despite Carson Wentz getting placed on the COVID-19 list, the point spread has only dipped ever so slightly, with the Colts remaining healthy 6.5-point favorites over the Raiders. This could be a sign that Wentz has a good chance to return in time for Sunday's game under the NFL's new COVID-19 policy.
That would be a boost to Taylor's outlook. Taylor -- unsurprisingly -- projects as the top running back this week. Incredibly, Taylor has racked up more than 100 yards from scrimmage in 11 of the past 12 games, and in the one game he didn't, he still reached 97 yards. Last week marked the first time Taylor hasn't scored a touchdown over that entire torrid stretch, and his 19 rushing and receiving touchdowns lead the league this season.
While Taylor's targets have dried up lately, that's been more due to positive game scripts, and he's now logged 32, 32, 29, and 27 carries over Indianapolis' last four wins. There's little reason to think he won't be leaned on heavily against the Raiders, a team that's given up the 6th-most FanDuel points to running backs and ranks 23rd in adjusted FanDuel points allowed per carry to opposing backfields.
If Wentz is ultimately ruled out, things do get a bit more tricky for Taylor -- particularly at his lofty salary -- as the whole offense would be downgraded. He'll still be the focal point regardless, though, so the volume should be there as long as the game is competitive.
David Montgomery ($7,200): Following Taylor -- and a sizable gap -- numberFire's projections have Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, and Montgomery clustered together. The difference is those first two guys are up in the $9,000 range, leaving Montgomery as the top overall value in our model.
While he may be held back by a Bears offense that's struggled to score points, his workload has been one of the best in the league lately. Since seeing a jump in passing game work in Week 13, Montgomery has enjoyed a 21.7% target share over the last four games, helping him to an average of 33.0 adjusted opportunities (carries plus 2x targets). For context, Derrick Henry was averaging a league-best 32.4 adjusted opportunities when he was healthy.
Montgomery's scored only five touchdowns over his 11 games, but with the Bears coming in as 5.5-point home favorites over the Giants, this could be the right opportunity for him to add to that tally. The Giants are a below-average defense across the board, ranking 21st adjusted total defense.
Sony Michel ($7,100): Michel had already leapfrogged Darrell Henderson in the pecking order, but with Henderson now hitting the injured list, Michel could have a close to an every-down role moving forward. Cam Akers may become a factor, but it's hard to see him getting more than a handful of touches in his first action this season after a significant injury.
Over the last three games with Henderson out -- including last week's early injury -- Michel has averaged 29.7 adjusted opportunities with a 95.3% snap rate. He's a true workhorse back, and the Rams are 3.5-point road favorites over the Ravens with a solid 25.25 implied team total.
The only concern will be the matchup versus a Baltimore defense that ranks second in adjusted rush defense. However, volume and a positive game script should still favor Michel, and he could also get some work in the passing game against a defense that's 28th in adjusted FanDuel points allowed per target to running backs.
Darrel Williams ($6,200): In his five starts with Clyde Edwards-Helaire out, Williams has averaged 24.6 adjusted opportunities, and if we exclude a blowout loss to the Titans -- a game script we shouldn't expect this week -- that number jumps even higher to 27.5.
While it's possible Derrick Gore also gets some touches, Williams should be the primary back in what could be one of the more fantasy-friendly games of the slate. At his modest salary, he projects as one of the top values at running back.
Cooper Kupp ($10,200): What is there left to say about Kupp's 2021 campaign? Despite a "down" Week 16 game from a fantasy perspective because he didn't get in the end zone (16.3 points), Kupp eclipsed 100 yards for the 10th time this year and tallied double-digit receptions for the 5th time.
Amazingly, Week 4 remains the only game all season in which Kupp didn't catch at least 7 passes and exceed 90 receiving yards. It's also the only week where he didn't score at least 12 FanDuel points.
Kupp has about as high a floor as you could ever hope for from a wide receiver, and he's now up against a Baltimore secondary that just got decimated by Joe Burrow. A spike week is very much on the table.
As always, the salary doesn't make him a must if you're doing only a handful of tournament lineups, but his median projection runs laps around everyone else's at the position.
Antonio Brown ($8,500): Brown gets a big salary bump on FanDuel this week, but it's well-deserved after catching 10 of 15 targets for 101 yards. Those 15 looks from Tom Brady were good for a whopping 51.7% target share, and it's abundantly clear who Brady's favorite target is without Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
While we obviously shouldn't expect that high a target share moving forward, Brown will once again be in the spotlight with Evans looking iffy, though he did return to practice on Thursday. Even if Evans is able to return, this whole offense should excel against a Jets defense that ranks 32nd in adjusted pass defense.
A.J. Brown ($7,500): The only guy to see more targets than Antonio Brown last week? The Titans' wideout who shares the same last name and initials.
While it hasn't been as fruitful a campaign as many hoped for, A.J. Brown reminded everyone of his upside in his first game back from injury, grabbing 11 of 16 targets for 145 yards and a score against the 49ers. He was a true one-man wrecking crew with a 53.3% target share and 80.3% air yards share.
Hopefully Brown remains the focus this week against Miami, a team that's still middle-of-the-pack in adjusted pass defense (16th) despite their recent win streak.
Christian Kirk ($6,400): Rostering the pass-catchers from the two high-total games of the week will be a popular strategy, and there are plenty of viable guys to choose from between Dallas, Arizona, Kansas City, and Cincinnati.
But the great thing about the Cardinals' group is that none of them have high salaries. And while Kirk has the highest, it's still fairly low for his role post-DeAndre Hopkins, as he's enjoyed a 24.1% target share over the last two games, putting him well above the Cards' other wideouts.
Whereas before it was hard to figure out which guys you should stack with Murray, the absence of Hopkins could be creating a more defined pecking order. Although Dallas has a tough pass defense, they're more of a neutral matchup for wide receivers, sitting 15th in adjusted FanDuel points allowed per target to the position.
But if you're unwilling or unable to get up to their lofty $8,000-plus salaries, Gronkowski is someone to consider. Gronk was a big letdown as one of the most popular tight ends last week, finishing with just 1 catch for 23 yards on 2 targets.
While none of that is probably getting you excited to roster him, the dud game should reduce his roster percentage this time around, and keep in mind that he still played almost every down. Gronkowski logged an 88.7% snap rate and 77.4% route rate, both of which are consistent with what we've seen from him all season.
With how Tom Brady spreads the ball around, Tampa Bay's pass-catchers have alternated big games all campaign, and even with the Bucs still shorthanded, we shouldn't expect Antonio Brown to soak up more than half the targets every week. Prior to Week 16, Gronk had seen at least eight targets in four straight games.
The Bucs have one of the slate's highest implied totals (29.00) as 12.5-point favorites over the Jets, so there should be a plethora of Tampa touchdowns to go around. Gronk could be one such beneficiary versus a defense that's 30th in adjusted FanDuel points allowed per target against tight ends.
Zach Ertz ($5,500): If you believe the Arizona-Dallas game shoots out, then Ertz is one of the easy ways to gain exposure. Kirk may be the top wide receiver on Arizona, but Ertz could very well be the best option overall. He's now seen 11 and 13 targets over the last two weeks, good for a 27.6% target share. He rarely left the field in Week 16, logging a 96.9% snap rate.
This is a fantastic role for such a low-salaried tight end, let alone one in a fantasy-friendly game environment.
Buffalo D/ST ($4,500): On a slate with quite a few substantial favorites, there are several ways to go on defense. But the Bills might be one of the better point-per-dollar values on the high end, as they carry just the sixth-highest salary despite being favored by more than two touchdowns at home versus the Falcons.
Buffalo's defense has rated well in numberFire's metrics all season, and they enter the week as the second-best unit. Despite a modest sack total, they also rank second in quarterback pressures per drop back.
Matt Ryan's been mediocre by just about any metric this season and will likely struggle if forced to attempt a comeback against a surging Bills team.
Miami D/ST ($3,600): Although Miami is a slight road underdog to Tennessee, they might be worth a look if you need a value play.
Yes, it's hard to know how "real" this team is against a myriad of weak opponents across their seven-game win streak, but the defense has been getting the job done, averaging 10.9 points allowed and 4.7 sacks per game over that span.
In fact, the Dolphins actually lead the league in both sacks and quarterback pressures per drop back, and they now sit 11th in numberFire's defense rankings.
While this isn't a gimme matchup against the Titans, Ryan Tannehill has really fallen back down to earth in 2021, throwing just 15 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, and the offense as a whole has predictably had a difficult time replacing Derrick Henry's production.