Here it is. The final stretch, and likely the last week we’ll have easily predictable player usage. This time of year, one of the biggest X factors in fantasy is motivation. Lots of teams are still jockeying for playoff position and will have every motivation to play to win. Plenty of players will need to put together another few weeks of good tape, to convince another team to give them a chance and a contract. And don’t overlook other people looking for contracts, like interim head coaches and coordinators. They’ll be looking to bolster their resumes before hitting the open market too. It’s just one more thing to keep in mind as you set your rosters this weekend, for season long and DFS.
Ultimately, motivation is just one more thing to judge during your lineup construction. Keep your eyes peeled for injury updates, as there will be many players looking like game time decisions. A last minute injury update can be the difference between cashing and crashing. The stress of the season is almost over, so embrace the chaos and remember: it can’t be as bad as last week. Probably. Onto the targets.
DFS Targets: Week 16
Nick Foles, vs. HOU ($4,700)
Back up position players taking over a starting role will always be a nice source of value in DFS. Several starting QBs have gone down this year. This has led to many backup QBs taking over, but few have managed the fantasy highs of Nick Foles. Priced as the QB28 on the full slate, Foles is one of the cheapest starting QBs available. For his $4,700 price, you are getting a player with lots of starting experience, and a very recent stretch of sustained success in the highest pressure situations a QB can face. This is his fourth start of the season, and the lowest price he’s had of those four games. Last week against the Los Angeles Rams, he was $200 more expensive, and Foles was effective again. Pricing this week, and really this season, seems to favor paying up at RB, and saving this money here can pay off huge.
Now set to make his fourth start, Foles looks ready to reignite the Eagles nearly lost season. Foles’ post season heroics are still fresh in everyone’s mind. After doing just enough to beat the Falcons in the divisional round, Foles exploded for 725 yards, six TDs, and just one INT in the NFC championship and Super Bowl. He forever etched his place in Super Bowl lore by calling for the “Philly Special” and beating the New England Patriots. It sounds too over the top for a sports movie, and somehow it happened.
As the season opened, no one believed he could sustain that level of production. With Carson Wentz still recovering from injury, Foles opened the season and immediately fell back to reality. In a playoff rematch with Atlanta, Foles floundered. Scoring only 6.08 points, he did manage to get the win. In Week 2, the production increased, 19.66 points, but the result was a 21-27 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that was it until last week, when further examination of Wentz revealed a spinal compression fracture. Playing against the Los Angeles Rams, front runners of the conference, Foles looked good. Throwing well to Alshon Jeffrey in particular, he totaled 270 yards while going 24/31 passing. Even more impressive than the upset win, was his offensive line keeping Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in check.
With most of the Eagles healthy, it’s not hard to see a scenario where Foles comes through with a good game. Upfront, that line that kept him clean last week will all be back (normal starting LG Isaac Seumalo missed last week and has been ruled out this week). The skill position group will be the same, and the Eagles running back issues seem to have been helped with the return of Darren Sproles in Week 13. This offense just put up its second highest score of the season with Foles running the show. Now, it will look to keep things rolling this week and keep pace in the NFC East race.
The Eagles are firmly in must win territory to claim their division. Dallas has a nice match up with Tampa, and somehow Washington has remained alive. A visit from the Houston Texans is not something that they should be afraid of. While the Texans have done a reasonable job holding opposing QBs in check for most of the season (allowing 18.8 points per game to QBs), they are vulnerable. Houston is seventh in passing yards allowed, and are particularly susceptible to outside WRs. Alshon Jeffrey looked like he had playing with Foles all year last week, setting a new season high in receiving yards with 160. If that connection can hold, it will open up things considerably for the other Eagles.
Houston is also a good match up for TE Zach Ertz. The Texans allow the 14th most points per game to TEs, the 11th most yards, and the 10th most receptions. All that production and Houston has only seen two of the top 12 fantasy TEs this year (Ebron in Week 4 and Gronk in Week 1). Ertz had seven targets from Foles last week, and 20.4 points in Nick’s second start of the season in Week 2.
Injuries could completely sap the Texans’ offense too. DeAndre Hopkins, Keke Coutee, and Lamar Miller are all questionable and have only had limited practice all week. If Houston can’t rest their defense, Philly could be looking at an easier win than many might expect.
Elijah McGuire, vs. GB ($4,700)
Even with a substantial, $1,100 price increase, McGuire is still a potential bargain this week. Now the unquestioned starter for New York, he has crossed the $4,000 threshold for the first time all season. Even with that, McGuire still clocks in at only RB31 in the full slate. Starting RBs priced this low are usually not talented or are in a major time share. While the talent is still developing, but the workload is solid. There is a real chance for a big return on this price.
With only two years in the league, McGuire doesn’t have an extensive production profile. Last year, as a rookie, he had two spot starts for a 5-11 Jets team, and totaled 18 yards on 11 carries. Not ideal. In 2017, his best work came as part of a rotation, like in the Jets’ Week 4 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. McGuire (93/1) and Bilal Powell (163/1) combined to rush for 256 yards and two TDs. McGuire had more time to learn from the sidelines this year, after breaking his foot right before the season started.
This year, he’s shown more hints of his potential, both as a rusher and pass catcher. In Week 14, he showed he might be able to handle another crack at the starting job. Crowell left early, leaving McGuire and Trenton Cannon to handle the backfield. McGuire led the way with 17 carries and 3 receptions. Included in his 17 carries was his lone TD, which gave the Jets the lead with 1:17 remaining. He followed that up with another good performance last week. Totaling 71 yards and another TD, Mcguire was the dominant back in terms of touches and snap count. Cannon’s work was only to rest McGuire, and there isn’t a real split here among the two as far as skill set goes.
I trust McGuire to be the more effective part of this backfield, and he’s earned the right to be the RB1 for NY this week.
Heading into New Jersey for a December tilt with no playoff implications is not how many expecetd this season to wind down for the Packers. The Packers have already given up the 11th most rushing yards and rushing TDs. Opposing offenses have had more success on the ground than through the air all year against Green Bay. Running backs especially have been better on the ground against Green Bay. On the season, the Packers have actually given up the second fewest receptions to RBs. Pounding the ball has worked, with opponents totaling over 100 yards rushing in eight of the last nine Packers games. In that time, the average team total is 135.1 yards. McGuire will be the main guy, and should see the bulk of that work. Rookie QB Sam Darnold has returned from his foot injury and is coming off his best game of the season. As long as he can keep the defense from keying in on the run game, Elijah should produce.
Dante Pettis, vs. CHI ($4,300)
After hitting value again last week, Pettis’ price has somehow dropped. Last week, Pettis was a great value play for $4,400, and is $100 less this week. Now the WR50 on the full slate, he is in the midst of a great stretch of his rookie season. This is the fifth time this season he is over $4,000 and stops a streak of four straight weeks where his price increased. You would be hard pressed to find an option giving you Pettis’ level of production at his price for four straight weeks. A price adjustment should have taken hold, but the Chicago defense is likely depressing that. Feel free to take advantage of this price discrepancy.
Pettis is quietly having the best stretch of his career and is one of the hottest young WRs going right now. Over the last four weeks, he’s averaged a line of 4.25/84.5/1 on 6.5 targets. That’s good for 18.7 points per game. He has been the best WR for San Francisco in that time, and has surpassed Marquise Goodwin as the top receiving threat. There is no real threat to his production either, as Goodwin has been back the last two weeks. Pettis has been the better option, and likely has benefited from teams overestimating Goodwin’s role.
After a knee injury sustained in Week 4 kept him out of action for four weeks, Pettis was slow to reintegrate into the offense. It wasn’t until Week 10 that Pettis became a valuable part of the offense. The six targets he had that game are his lowest in his hot stretch and was followed by seven each the next two games. Match up concerns were put aside the next week, as he went from scoring against Tampa Bay, and their generous pass defense, to a road game in Seattle. How did he respond to his first professional trip to Century Link Field? A career day and a 5/129/2 receiving line. After scoring against Denver and accumulating 49 yards, he again hurt Seattle for a 5/83 day. This isn’t a fluke, and his connection with QB Nick Mullens is real.
One final thing to hammer home just how good Pettis has been since Week 12. He has outproduced George Kittle in that split, averaging 1.2 points per game more than the breakout TE. There isn’t much else for him to prove, other than his ability to do this over a whole season.
As scary as the Chicago defense has looked at times this year, they aren’t a terrible match up. While overall, Chicago has allowed the 10th fewest passing yards this season, they have also surrendered the eighth most yards to WRs. This is part of why the Bears are tied for the fifth most points per game to WRs. The main thing saving the Bears passing defense is holding WRs to the fifth fewest TDs, but Pettis won’t need to rely on TD production to hit value again this week. In a game where the script will likely lead to a lot of passing attempts for SF, Pettis looks locked in for good volume. Looking at roster construction, Pettis also provides a good opportunity for some lineup differentiation, as many could be scared off by the Bears. Don’t pass up this opportunity, and hop on the Pettis band wagon.
Evan Engram, @ IND ($4,600)
This might be the highest ranked player I’ve recommended in this column all year. That has more to do with the sad state of the tight end position than anything else. Despite being the TE7 on the full slate, Engram’s price still warrants inclusion here. Listeners of the DFStatistics podcast (which I co-host with Matt Williams) know I have been strongly advocating paying up at TE recently. This is a time where I think you are safe to pay down if Travis Kelce is too high for your tastes. In a disappointing sophomore season, Engram’s price is the third highest it has been all year. After a week as TE1 in terms of production, Engram jumped up a whole $500. His pricing was set without knowing that Odell Beckham Jr. would be missing another game, but we can take advantage of that knowledge.
A combination of injuries and poor QB play have combined to induce a sophomore slump for Engram this year. After spraining his MCL early in the season, Engram returned and soon after injured his hamstring too. Having returned from the latter in Week 14, Engram has now put up double digit points in back to back games for the first time this year. In those two games, Engram has averaged 8.5 targets and a 5.5/76 line, good for 13.1 points. This production has come while OBJ was absent, which has been a recurring theme for Engram. In just two years, Engram has been good for 3.61 more points per game without OBJ. In case you missed it above, OBJ has already been ruled out.
As for the other TEs on the roster, Rhett Ellison is the only other one who has contributed offensively this year. In the last two games, he has played in about half of the Giants offensive snaps. His production from all that time on the field? Nothing. He has a lone target in the last two weeks with just as many receptions, yards, and TDs as you and me. It has been all Engram the last two weeks. He will get a chance to be the secondary part of this offense with Saquon Barkley drawing lots of attention.
The Colts’ defense has been hot of late. In the last five games, Indianapolis is allowing just 12.2 points to opposing offenses, and just shut out the Dallas Cowboys last week. On the season, Indy has played as a slight funnel defense, having been much better against the run than the pass. While Indy ranks in the middle of the defensive ranks in passing yards allowed, those yards have been very easy to come by. The Colts allow the second highest completion percentage and the 13th highest QB rating. This is good news for QB Eli Manning, who honestly might not be a better QB than his best receiver. Shorter passes should be a successful for NY and Engram is the best bet for production as Indy allows a healthy 14.8 points per game to TEs. Sterling Shepard has been bad most of the year, and even Barkley can only do so much. The passing offense will likely go through Engram, like it did last week when he had a team high 12 targets against one of the best defenses against TEs. Pop Engram into your lineups when you don’t pay up for Kelce or Ertz, and enjoy.