Week 16 is upon us, and as always, there’s a ton of appealing matchups on paper for fantasy purposes. Some of them stand head and shoulders above the rest, and the narrative quickly forms to present us with the chalk players of the week. Sometimes it makes sense to go along with the crowd and include these players on our rosters, while other times there may be equally appealing options that will be owned at a lesser percentage. That’s what this column aims to help you sort through on a weekly basis. Before we dig into the week’s top chalk selections and how to approach them, let’s take a look at the games that everyone will have on their radar this week.
Chalk Games Of The Week
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints offense came to life last week in a big way, and that was on the road. What do you think the interest level in this squad will be as they return home to the friendly confines of the Superdome in Week 16? We’ll call it extremely high, and a projected total of 52.5 points certainly doesn’t hurt. We can expect to see stacks spearheaded by Brees aplenty, and there’s no valid reason not to include him on your short list of signal callers.
There’s plenty of ways to construct your Brees stacks as well. Brandin Cooks or Michael Thomas make the most sense, but you can certainly make a case for a little differentiation via Willie Snead. The Buccaneers come to town with one of the more popular wideouts in DFS circles in tow. Mike Evans has monstrous upside - BUT - he’s been held in check for three weeks running. Teams are finally catching on to the fact that shutting down Evans leads to a halting of the Buccaneers vertical passing efforts, and that’s led to a bit of a rough stretch for Jameis Winston. Cameron Brate is seeing a lot of love in DFS circles this week, and there’s a good chance you’ll be reading more about him below.
This one has good potential to devolve into a shootout. The caveat to that is that we were thinking the same when these two clubs hooked up a few weeks back, and the end result was a 16-11 victory for the Saints. That’s a small red flag, but it’s just further validation that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. The running games for both clubs can be safely avoided. Could a monster game happen for either Mark Ingram or Doug Martin? Certainly, but there’s also plenty of more likely scenarios at the running back position in Week 16, and our salary cap dollars may be better spent on those investments.
Indianapolis Colts @ Oakland Raiders
This is another tilt that has shootout written all over it, and the oddsmakers in Vegas agree. The projected total for the game between the Raiders and Colts checks in at 52.5 points, and that points to a high probability of fireworks in the late afternoon window on Saturday. Andrew Luck and Derek Carr should be two of the more popular quarterbacks for this week, but don’t let that impact your decision making. There’s plenty of other ways to differentiate your rosters on a weekly basis, and you should never bypass a signal caller when you love the matchup.
As for which one to love more, Luck has been playing better of late, but the Raiders are by far the better team. Luckily we can have it both ways for fantasy purposes, as a Raiders victory will not impact Luck’s fantasy prospects. In fact, it enhances them if we find ourselves in a situation where the Colts are playing catch-up. T.Y. Hilton is the clear cut option to stack with him, and he should wind up as one of the week’s more popular wideouts. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree make a ton of sense on the other side, and they are a veritable coin flip for stacking purposes with Carr.
The running games are a bit more intriguing for this one. The Colts have been gashed at times by opposing backs in 2016, while the Raiders have shown some vulnerability against the run over the past few weeks. Frank Gore and Latavius Murray should fly under the radar as well, and they make for intriguing contrarian options at the RB2 spot.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top chalk plays and how we can approach them for our lineups, starting with the quarterback position.
QB Drew Brees, $7,400. We already touched on Brees above, but we’ll reiterate our stance: We like him this week, and he makes a ton of sense for your lineups. After a two-game swoon, he exploded last week for 389 yards and four scores against a relatively decent Cardinals pass defense. While the Buccaneers have stepped it up tremendously in the defensive department as the season has moved along, halting Brees at home is a pretty tall task for even the strongest of squads.
He’s a little pricey, but it’s not so prohibitive that you can’t fit in another stud or two at the skill positions. It’s always important to remember that there’s plenty of value to be found on a weekly basis, and Footballguys is the place you want to come to find it. For example, this week we find Washington RB Rob Kelley at the low price of $5,200 in an appealing matchup against the Bears, and Titans WR Rishard Matthews at $4,900 against the Jaguars. Those are just two examples, and there’s plenty more to be found.
For pivots, we can stay in the expensive neighborhood and look to any of the $7,000+ quarterbacks on Saturday’s main slate. Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck all bring a ton of upside to the table as well, but we can also expect them to be pretty popular. If you’re looking to save a little, Aaron Rodgers is playing at home against a team that just got shellacked in the form of the Vikings, and he checks in at $6,700.
RB Jordan Howard, $6,300. The expensive stud running backs are always popular for DFS purposes, and this week’s main slate will be no exception. David Johnson and LeSean McCoy will find plenty of support, but we’ll look for a good portion of the masses to look to save some coin on at least one of the RB spots, and a solid research routine will point them to Howard. That’s because he has an appealing matchup in front of him against a Washington squad that’s struggled against the run of late, and his affordable price will help seal the deal.
We like him as well, and we certainly won’t discourage you from including him on your rosters. While not a must start by any stretch, there’s also no reason to fade him. The ownership percentage won’t be that enormous that you’ll need to grab him or risk being left behind, but he will be popular enough. For those that wish to mix it up, you can spend a little more and look towards Todd Gurley. The Rams have been atrocious this season, and that’s led to some seriously disappointing output from him. However, a matchup against the porous run defense of the 49ers has the makings of a personal Super Bowl, and it might present him with the chance to remind us why we were all so excited about him heading into the season.
WR T.Y. Hilton, $7,800. A highly-targeted wideout in a potential shootout is always a popular DFS selection, and Hilton certainly fits the bill this week. We already covered the game in detail, and there’s no reason to believe that the air will not be filled with footballs in Oakland. A lot of them will head towards the hands of Hilton, and he looks to be in line for a productive day. He deserves serious consideration for your lineups, and this is another situation in which we won’t concern ourselves with the ownership percentage.
There’s plenty of other directions to go at wideout, but we’ll use the salary scale as our guide. Spending up won't provide us much relief on the ownership front, and there’s no guarantee that Mike Evans or Julio Jones will provide the return needed to justify their lofty price tags. Saving some money opens up a lot more options, and Jordy Nelson is sticking out like a sore thumb at $7,000. He also has a healthy appetite for targets, and he’s been delivering a nice return of late to boot.
TE Cameron Brate, $3,900. In a week without a standout matchup for the stud tight ends, a good portion of users will look to save some money at the position. Chances are they land on Brate, who has settled in as the second option in the Buccaneers passing attack behind Mike Evans. He’s hauled in touchdowns in two of his last three games, but the one game he failed to find the end zone just happened to be against this week’s opponent, the Saints.
We’ll definitely consider Brate for our lineups, but we’re not as gaga as some are. Despite the lack of a clear cut top dog at the position for the week, there are some appealing matchups out there if you dig. For example, the Jets have been atrocious against tight ends this week, and there’s a pretty good chance that Tom Brady and company have picked up on that little nugget. Martellus Bennett could have one of those big games that he’s capable of this week, and he should be owned at a much lesser percentage than Brate.
D New England Patriots, $3,600. Speaking of the Patriots, they will be facing off with an inexperienced quarterback that’s leading the charge for a team they are not big fans of. Despite the disparity in records, there’s no love lost between the Patriots and Jets. That points to a hard hitting affair - at least from the Patriots - and that boosts the turnover potential up a notch. Add in the fact that Bill Belichick has a tendency to devise gameplans that expose the weaknesses of young quarterbacks, and we can expect Bryce Petty to be in for a very long day.
The Patriots are the week’s top defensive option on paper, and the only case we can make for fading them is for the sake of mixing things up. Those that are looking to go that route can look towards the Seahawks and Packers, both of whom are playing at home against struggling teams. Struggling teams in matchups against teams with strong home field advantages can be ripe for turnovers, and the Seahawks and Packers certainly check off that box.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 16. Enjoy the games this weekend, best of luck with your lineups, and have a fantastic holiday season. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.