It’s hard to believe that it’s Week 16 already, but here we are with a regular season that’s winding sown and a playoff picture that’s beginning to come into focus. Thankfully, we still have several more weeks of games and DFS action to look forward to, including the playoffs. The competition in the world of DFS is certainly not getting any easier, if anything it can become more challenging as the season moves along. Top plays become more readily apparent and our hidden gems can turn out to be not so well concealed. But if we dig deep enough, we may still be able to find just the right under the radar play to really separate our lineups from the pack. That’s what The Contrarian aims to help you do each and every week as we go through each position to identify some potential diamonds in the rough and take a look at the games and matchups that just aren’t receiving much love in a given week. Let’s get started with our search for Week 16, starting with some games that may be off the radar for most DFSers.
This Week’s Projected Low-Scoring Games
- Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs. Chiefs -11, 42 ½. The Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL and have rolled to eight consecutive victories. The Browns remain the Browns and are preparing for the 2016 draft.
- Dallas Cowboys @ Buffalo Bills. -6, 42 ½. Big things that were expected for both franchises in 2015 have unfortunately failed to materialize.
- St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks. Seahawks – 13 ½, 40 ½. The Seahawks have won five straight and welcome a Rams team that has actually won two in a row after a rough patch of five consecutive losses.
- Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos. Broncos – 3 ½, 40 ½. One of the week’s lowest projected totals is reserved for the Monday Night timeslot. Both teams have visions of first round byes dancing in their heads as they prepare to faceoff.
Despite the large spreads and low totals, the offenses of the Chiefs and Seahawks should have their fair share of supporters this week. The low projected total for the Bengals and Broncos may scare some people away, but there could be some hidden gems in the receiving corps of both teams. The Rams and the Browns are both entering hostile environments as huge underdogs and will fly under the radar. In the case of most of the players from both squads, it’s best to leave them there as opposed to in your lineups in Week 16. Finally, the matchup between the Bills and Cowboys just may have some hidden gems that we’ll cover down below.
Matchups That Will Scare People Off
- Panthers vs. QBs. The Panthers have been stout defensively in 2015 – was last week’s allowance of 35 points to the Giants an anomaly or a sign of cracks in the armor?
- Seahawks vs. RBs. Interesting matchup this week between a strong Seahawks run defense and the league’s top rookie running back.
- Broncos vs. WRs. The shutdown Broncos defense was just lit up by the Steelers and their plethora of receivers – was it just the way the game played out or are there some bigger problems to be concerned with in Denver?
- Chiefs vs. TEs. The Chiefs have allowed exactly three touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season.
- Cardinals vs. DEF. The Cardinals have forced opposing defenses into negative territory six times in 2015.
The Panthers and Broncos showed some vulnerability to QBs and WRs respectively last week, placing this week’s opponents on the radar as potential contrarian candidates. The Seahawks have bottled up nearly every opposing running back they have faced this season, but will be facing off with the explosive Todd Gurley this week. We may have more to say about this below. The Chiefs will face off with the Browns this week. Gary Barnidge has been the most consistent fantasy performer for the Browns offense and could be a sneaky play for some garbage point potential. The Cardinals face off with the Packers in a game with a projected total of 50 ½ points. We can safely avoid both defenses for this game.
Last Week’s Disappointments
- GB QB Aaron Rodgers. Week 15 was another disappointment from a fantasy perspective for Rodgers, who scored only 11.06 points.
- TB RB Doug Martin. A back squarely in the mix for the league’s rushing title took a detour last week and delivered us 10.7 points.
- CHI WR Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery missed stretches of last Sunday’s game with his hamstring issue but found the end zone on his lone reception.
- PIT TE Heath Miller. Miller was viewed by many as a sneaky play in Week 15 but ended up being an afterthought in the Steelers passing attack.
- Panthers DEF. The Panthers found themselves in a shootout last week as the Giants dropped 35 points on them.
All of the above offer bounce back potential in Week 16. Rodgers, Martin and the Panthers have their fair share of supporters each and every week and will likely be too highly owned in Week 16 to consider them as contrarian options. We’ll have to monitor the news on Jeffery to see how the hamstring shapes up for this week’s game against the Buccaneers, but the risk of him re-aggravating it may steer us to a safer option at wide receiver. That leaves us with Miller, who may be an intriguing buy-low candidate as he burned many DFSers last week.
On to this week’s list of contrarian candidates, we’ll find some representation from the above categories and several choices that appear to be well off the radar for Week 16 – but may actually have the opportunity to deliver a solid return this week. We’ll begin our search for diamonds in the rough with the quarterback position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, $5,200
Tough matchup on tap for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets, who will look to keep their playoff hopes alive against their divisional nemesis, the New England Patriots. Fitzpatrick is averaging a solid 19.1 points per game, but remains at the bottom of the quarterback salary barrel. He has exceeded the 20+ points threshold five times this season, including a Week 7 matchup against the Patriots when he threw for 295 yards and two scores. The Patriots will have to pick their poison between Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who have combined for 2,191 receiving yards and 21 scores this season and provide Fitzpatrick with one of the most dynamic receiving combos in the league. Many will be scared off by the matchup, pointing us to Fitzpatrick as an interesting contrarian candidate in Week 16. Similar output to Week 7 would offer us a return of off 4.17x salary and free up a ton of much-needed salary cap space.
Eli Manning, $5,600
The absence of Odell Beckham Jr Jr. will keep Eli Manning well of the radar this week, but the underrated Manning just may surprise many and continue on his recent hot streak. Over his past two games, Manning has thrown for eight touchdowns versus only one pick, 582 yards - good enough for an average of 28.24 points per game. Granted, those numbers occurred with Beckham at his disposal, but Manning has some other weapons to lean on, namely Rueben Randle and Will Tye. Neither player will ever be confused with Beckham, but they have combined for four of Manning’s eight touchdown tosses over the past two and figure to see a healthy bump in targets against the Vikings. Both receiving options come in at a low price of $3,500, offering the opportunity for a low cost, under the radar stack that may be one of the top contrarian options of Week 16.
Darren McFadden, $4,900
Darren McFadden has been one of the bright spots from a fantasy perspective in an otherwise forgettable Dallas Cowboys season. He has rushed for 100 yards five times this season, including each of the last two weeks. The Cowboys will have an inexperienced quarterback at the helm this week when Kellen Moore takes the reigns, pointing us to an even bigger workload for McFadden, who should fly under the radar due to a lack of interest in a game that’s devoid of playoff implications and has one of the lowest projected totals on the board.
Todd Gurley, $6,200
Todd Gurley is a true boom-bust pick for Week 16 that many will shy away from due to a road matchup with the rolling Seahawks and their stellar run defense. Few opposing running backs have found even the slightest modicum of success against the Seahawks in 2015, let alone in the friendly confines of the Pacific Northwest. After hitting a bit of a rookie wall in Weeks 11 through 13, Gurley has bounced back with two nice fantasy outings in a row – 30.7 points in Week 14 against the Lions and 15.9 points last week against the Buccaneers. For $6,200, we’ll need a return somewhere in the middle to pay off our investment, which will certainly be a tall order against an imposing Seahawks defense. Gurley is definitely a risky pick in Week 16, but the type that of pick can have a huge impact on the leader boards if he’s able to break out for a 20+ point outing.
Kamar Aiken, $5,400
There are question marks at the quarterback position for the Ravens and there is currently no clarity on who will be behind center on Sunday. The options of Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen or Ryan Mallett will not exactly strike fear in the hearts of the Steelers as they finalize their Week 16 game plan, but regardless of who is slinging the rock, they could find some under the radar success against a Steelers squad that has allowed five passing touchdowns over the last two games. We can also expect Kamar Aiken to be heavily peppered with targets, as he is the unquestioned top option in the passing attack as the season has developed. He’s coming off of a terrific game against a tough Chiefs defense – 8/128/1 for 29.8 points – and could be in line for similar production on Sunday.
Rueben Randle, $3,500
We covered the expected bump in targets for Rueben Randle this week, which points us to a strong low-cost option at wide receiver. Randle has found the end zone in three of his past four games and is averaging 11.0 points per game – decent production as the second banana in the Giants passing game. As would be expected, Beckham Jr. leads the Giants in targets by a wide margin – 152 to Randle’s 78. Those targets still need to be distributed on Sunday and we can expect Randle to receive his fair share. Beyond the bump in targets, the Vikings have shown some vulnerability in the passing game of late and have surrendered seven passing touchdowns over their past three games. Randle is a top contrarian option this week and could have a little coming out party in front of the nation on Sunday Night Football.
Zach Miller, $4,000
A doubtful designation for the Bears Alshon Jeffery points us to another situation with a team that will need to compensate for the lack of their top target. Enter Zach Miller, who could emerge as Jay Cutler’s go-to guy for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers. Miller has taken over as the top tight end in Chicago with the injury to Martellus Bennett and has already been a factor in the passing game. Over the past two weeks, he has been targeted 12 times and hauled in 11 of them for 142 yards and a touchdown. He’ll see a healthy bump in targets this week and presents us with a low-cost, against the grain option at tight end this week.
Jason Witten, $3,900
The tight end can quickly become an inexperienced signal caller’s best friend and that’s a situation we have in front of us for Sunday’s tilt between the Cowboys and Bills. Kellen Moore will receive his first career start after coming on in relief against the Jets last week and will be looking Witten’s way quite a bit. Further bolstering that possibility is a doubtful tag for Dez Bryant, who will likely miss Sunday’s game. Expect a heavy dose of Daren McFadden complemented by a short passing game featuring Witten, who is one of Week 16’s top low-price contrarian options at tight end.
Cincinnati Bengals, $3,600
We can safely assume that the Seahawks and Chiefs will be the most popular defenses of the week, despite their hefty price tags. Both teams are rolling and paying at home against inferior opponents, painting a picture of a fantastic potential return. Several other defenses are facing inexperienced quarterbacks in Week 16, offering up some tantalizing fantasy prospects as well. The Bengals Monday Night dance partner, the Denver Broncos, fit that bill and will capture some interest. But the more intriguing defensive play may be on the opposite sideline. The Bengals defense has scored 15+ points in three of their past four and are also in a good spot against Brock Osweiler and a Broncos offense that can be shut down. This week’s Monday Night affair has one of the week’s lowest projected totals at 40 ½ points, pointing us to a possible defensive struggle and intriguing prospects for the Bengals defense.
Tennessee Titans, $2,000
The Tennessee Titans may come in at a bargain basement price of $2,000, but they offer us some potential upside that will go unnoticed due to the overall struggles of the team. Over the past two weeks, the Texans have given up nine sacks and turned the ball over three times. Brian Hoyer is likely to miss Sunday’s game, placing the keys in the hands of Brandon Weeden and whetting the appetites of Titans defenders. Low price, good upside and a presence under the radar point us to the Titans as a solid contrarian play for Week 16.
That’s a wrap for The Contrarian for Week 16. As we mentioned in the opening, under the radar plays become even harder to come by as the season grows long, but by digging just a little deeper we can still find some potentially hidden gems. Be sure to keep the above players in mind as solid complements to your favorite chalk plays of Week 16. Best of luck this weekend!