Week 16 Recap

In about 90% of fantasy football leagues (more of a hunch than a real statistic), Week 16 is traditionally the Super Bowl. The culmination of an emotional roller coaster; a four month grind over spreadsheets and projection analysis. It was only fitting this Week 16, that for the first time all season, we did not have a 30+ point scorer at the running back position. With all of the build up and the great performances that we have had out of the league’s running backs this season, it would only make sense that in the most important week of the year, the position collective underwhelmed to the point of a season low.

While there were no 30 point guys, at least we had seven 20+ point guys in Week 16. Among them were consistent stalwarts at the position, such as Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara , however the rest on the list were either out-of-nowhere backs or circumstantial performers. You could argue that C.J. Anderson was both, as he filled in for the injured Todd Gurley and dropped 23.2 points on the Cardinals. In the process, Anderson racked up 167 rushing yards and a touchdown, ironically giving the Rams their offensive groove back, something that they have been missing for much of the last month. All it took was losing Todd Gurley for them to get back on track… Huh?

Other notables on the 20+ point list include Elijah McGuire , who did a great job filling in for the injured Isaiah Crowell , and the two Williams’ – Damien and Jamaal – who both filled in as the starter this week and finished as top fantasy performers.

Below the 20 point guys were a bunch of other solid contributors. Darren Sproles makes this list, as he needed just 12 touches to rack up 19.8 points. Doug Martin and Sony Michel each eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, while they both also got into the end zone once. Both of their teams won as well, however what held back their fantasy performances was the lack of receiving production. Regardless, both backs posted over 17.5 points in PPR leagues, making for a more than adequate fantasy performance.

Also positively notable in this range was Ezekiel Elliott , who posted 16 points, despite not getting into the end zone. With his 109 total yards on the day, he has all but locked up both the rushing title and the all-purpose yards title. His now 77 receptions on the season more than shatter his previous career-high. The Cowboys have the division locked up as well as their standing in the NFC playoff picture. Simply put, he has nothing to play for and he’s pretty banged up at the moment... Don’t expect Zeke to play in Week 17.  

As for those who disappointed, pick a name… Marlon Mack had just 10.8 points, despite coming off of a huge performance against the Cowboys in the previous week and now taking on a Giants defense that had just allowed 170 yards to Derrick Henry . Joe Mixon was playing the Browns and their bottom-five rush defense. He finished with less than 10 fantasy points on the day and suffered an embarrassing loss to the surging Clevelanders. Phillip Lindsay broke his wrist and finished with just 7.7 points against the lowly Raiders, Kalen Ballage was supposed to see a ton of work after blowing up in Week 15. He had just 10 rushing yards on four carries this past week. John Kelly was supposed to be the back in waiting once Todd Gurley failed to suit up, but he managed just 5.9 PPR points and ceded his workload to the far more productive C.J. Anderson … I could honestly go on, but you get the point. The league picked a bad week to deliver underwhelming running back performances.

Who I Like in DFS This Week

Last week I gave you the top scorer of the week in Christian McCaffrey , a great play in Chris Carson , two more solid plays in Nick Chubb and Ezekiel Elliott , and a couple of not-so-great plays in Kalen Ballage and John Kelly . While it appears to be a mixed bag of results, for the most part Santa-Dom-Us gifted you a winning recipe under the tree for your Christmas weekend of DFS football. This week, for your New Year’s slate, I look to deliver again. With the prospect of several top backs resting for the playoffs however, things are a bit trickier when trying to tab the elite scorers for the week. Bear with me…

So the plan this week is to first identify which teams are still in the mix and at least have something to play for. Then identity which teams are eliminated from playoff contention. Those two kinds of teams should be treating their offensive game plans either “business as usual” or even “all hands on deck.” I’m expecting these types of teams and their running backs to be good for DFS this week. The teams that I plan on staying away from this week are teams with clinched playoff scenarios. Headed into the playoffs, their obvious goal will be to remain or get as healthy as possible. Playing their starting running backs in a meaningless Week 17 game will not make much sense, considering the wear and tear of the position over a full regular season.

So, the teams that still have everything to play for (win or go home scenarios, more or less) include the Colts and the Titans, however their night game is not included on either of the DraftKings slates, so you can rule them out. The other four teams with everything to play for include the Vikings, the Eagles, the Ravens, and the Steelers. On a basic level, that puts all of the starting running backs on these teams in play for DFS this week, but I’ll take matchups and talent into consideration below.

The teams that are in the playoffs, but still have seeding to worry about include the Patriots, the Bears, the Rams, the Chargers, the Chiefs, and the Texans. These teams, while several have great running backs, I am less likely to build a DFS lineup around their starting backs because of the toxicity of the potential “resting” scenario. There is a ton of unpredictability with teams in this situation, as they may only play their starters in the first quarter, for one drive, or they may bench them all together.

The rest of the teams are either locked into their playoff position or are completely eliminated from playoff contention. I’ll assume that teams out of the playoffs will continue running their offenses as they have been all season, while the teams locked into playoff positions will bench any key players or injured guys in need of rest. While I won’t completely rule out any teams from DFS play, I can comfortably say that I will play players from teams locked into playoff positions the least. With that being said, I may find interest in some talented backup running backs if the matchup is good enough.

Okay. With all of that now prefaced and out on the table, here’s who I like in DFS this week…  

Locks of the Week

I feel like there really aren’t any “locks” this week, but if I had to choose I would go with…

Saquon Barkley vs. DAL ($8,200)

The Giants have nothing to play for and neither do the Cowboys, however it should be noted that no matter what, this game is ultra competitive every year. I don’t expect the Giants to limit Barkley in this one, while I believe that the Cowboys will play plenty of backups. Defensively they already lost Tyrone Crawford last week and will likely sit anyone else with even a questionable tag headed into the contest. Barkley will be playing for pride and the Rookie of the Year Award. He may go off, and even if he is somehow bottled up by the Cowboys defense, keep in mind that he caught 14 dump off passes in their first meeting this season. He has a safe floor in my opinion.

Whoever Starts for PIT (James Conner = $7,500 | Jaylen Samuels = $6,800)

The Steelers are in desperation mode in Week 17, which makes their offensive players incredibly valuable in DFS this week. If they have proven anything over the last few years, it is that it doesn’t matter who starts at the running back position for them, the position will heed production by itself. On top of that, the Bengals are horrible defensively, particularly against the rush, which should mean plenty of production for whomever starts for the Steelers at running back this week. For this reason, whether it is Jaylen Samuels or James Conner , I’m starting them on DraftKings at either price.

I’m Keen on…

Chris Carson vs. SEA ($6,500)

The Seahawks have clinched a wild card spot, but they still can play for which seed they get. They likely will need to win in order to maintain the fifth seed instead of the sixth, so I see some motivation for them to build up a big lead. If they are going to do that, Seattle will need to rely upon their workhorse, Chris Carson . Over the last three weeks, Carson has averaged 109 rushing yards per game, while he has scored four rushing touchdowns over the same span. In Week 17 he will have the opportunity to take on the league’s worst rushing defense – the Arizona Cardinals (allowing over 150 yards rushing per game) – while still having playoff seeding to play for. I honestly considered him in my “locks” section.

Elijah McGuire @ NE ($5,300)

The Jets have little to play for other than pride, but that shouldn’t matter in regards to McGuire considering his former backup status. McGuire is potentially still playing for a 2019 roster spot, so there is little chance that he will take any plays off. Since taking over the starting job three weeks ago, McGuire has racked up at least 15 points in each game, while he peaked with 23 last week against the Packers. If you have watched the Patriots this season, you know that they struggle stopping the run. If they plan on trying that this week by stacking the box, McGuire is proficient enough as a receiver to hurt them that way as well. Ultimately though, the Patriots have little to play for anyway, while the Jets have been trending in the right direction over the last few weeks. I could see them winning this game outright, behind the arm of Sam Darnold and the legs of Elijah McGuire .

Doug Martin @ KC ($4,400)

Doug Martin looked great last week in a meaningless game, so why can’t he do it again? In fact, this week, the matchup is even better, as the Chiefs boast the worst rush defense in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He comes at a very fair price too.

Flex Flyers

Jacquizz Rodgers vs. ATL ($3,800)

The Falcons are by far the worst in the NFL against receiving running backs this season and Rodgers is coming off of a game in which he caught seven passes against the Cowboys. I see potential upside here in a guy who is priced under $4,000 this week.

Josh Adams @ WAS ($3,700)

Adams has not been hot of late, but neither have the Redskins. The Eagles are in “win or go home” mode and Adams is still technically the lead back. The fact that he’s under $4,000, is virtually guaranteed at least 12 touches, and has way more to play for than like 90% of the other starting running backs this week makes me think that there is plenty of value to be had in Adams.