Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers (Thursday, 8:25 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 47 pts, Raiders Total: 26 pts, Chargers Total: 21 pts
I see this Christmas Eve throw down as a solid candidate to go over Vegas' projection simply because both defenses have shown that their defenses can be sieves when attacked the right way.
I mentioned last week that Derek Carr has eye-popping win-loss splits, putting up elite fantasy numbers in Oakland wins. Vegas likes the Raiders not just to win here, but to score a lot of points in the process. It makes good sense: Only three teams allow more yards per play than the Chargers and only two defenses allow more points per play.
While San Diego has been fairly stingy against signal callers – 15th in schedule adjusted points allowed to quarterbacks – Carr is a reasonable cash game option considering his price point. I trust those win-loss splits.
It was nice to see Latavius Murray get a starter's workload last week against Green Bay. Murray took 21 carries for 78 yards – hardly stellar, but worth noting. Running backs have decimated the Chargers through most of 2015, so unless game script goes sideways here, Murray has a chance to do some damage if Oakland sees fit to give him the ball 15-20 times. Murray ran for 85 yards and a score in the Raiders' Week 7 win over San Diego. Oakland collected 128 rushing yards in that contest.
Amari Cooper dominated the Chargers' secondary in that Week 7 matchup, catching five of six targets for 133 yards and a touchdown. The only thing that makes me hesitant to go all in on Cooper is that teams have been content attacking San Diego's defense on the ground, evidenced by wide receivers catching just 148 passes against the Chargers in 2015 (the third fewest). Only four defenses have given up fewer receiver scores than the Chargers.
Philip Rivers has done just fine against defenses that fail to put pressure on the quarterback. We saw as much last week against Miami's defense, which – as mentioned in this space – has failed to harass passers all season. Oakland is 19th in quarterback hits through 15 weeks. That's not awful. It's a number that makes me think Rivers could once again be a fine cash play. He'll drop back to pass 40 times in this one if he drops back once. I'm not in love with Rivers' upside, but I'm OK with his floor.
While Antonio Gates is a cash game lock (tight ends have scored 11 touchdowns against Oakland in 2015), I don't think it's wise to chase Danny Woodhead's Week 15 fantasy explosion for cash purposes. Melvin Gordon is out, sure, but even so, Woodhead saw just 36.6 percent of San Diego's offensive snaps. Donald Brown saw almost the same percentage. Shocking, I know, but Woody isn't going to cash in for four touchdowns every week. If you feel inclined to deploy him, do so on DraftKings, where he can meet cost with that site's PPR scoring.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington (Saturday, 8:25 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 47 pts, Eagles Total: 25 pts, Washington Total: 22 pts
DeSean Jackson's return to the Washington lineup has done worlds of good for Kirk Cousins, who won a lot of DFS tournaments in Week 15. Cousins, since Jackson came back from injury, has completed 71 percent of his passes for more than 1,800 yards, 13 touchdowns, and a meager three picks.
That's very much worth noting in this matchup against a Philadelphia coverage unit that has allowed the third most yards to receivers, along with a league-high 22 wideout touchdowns. Washington receivers caught 20 passes for 210 yards against the Eagles in their October contest. Cousins-Jackson is arguably a top-3 QB-WR stack for Week 15, and I think either can be used in cash games and GPPs.
If you think this might be a high scoring affair – and I do – then Jordan Matthews makes for a logical correlation stack alongside DJax. Matthews has quietly drawn 21 targets over the past three games, reeling in 14 of those balls for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Matthews drew seven targets when these teams met in Week 4. While I'm not comfortable with Matthews in cash contests, his GPP appeal is tremendous. Washington gives up the 10th most adjusted fantasy production to enemy receivers.
Sam Bradford put up 25 fantasy points in his first meeting against Washington. It's important, however, to take a peak at his stat line in that game. He completed a measly 15 passes – two of which happened to be long touchdowns. Bradford's peripheral numbers are mind numbingly bad: he averages fewer fantasy points per drop back than every quarterback in the NFL except for Nick Foles, Peyton Manning, and Matt Hasselbeck. Bradford had nice garbage time production in Week 15. Ignore that and fade the Eagles' quarterback in Week 16.
Zach Ertz, targeted last week in this column as a sneaky cash game punt play, has become a pretty steady part of Chip Kelly's disastrous offense. Ertz now has 17 targets over the past couple weeks. The most important part: he's played more than 75 percent of Philly's offensive snaps over that span. Washington is tough against tight ends (allowing the second fewest adjusted points), but I think it hard to ignore such a cheap tight end option seeing volume. We should not expect another Week 15 performance. We should consider Ertz for his floor though.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 47 pts, Panthers Total: 27 pts, Falcons Total: 20 pts
Let me just get this out of the way: Cam Newton is a no-brainer cash game quarterback who should also be in many of your tournament lineups. His floor is nice. His ceiling is epic. Don't get trapped in the mindset of only seeking bottom-barrel quarterbacks for your GPP lineups.
Atlanta's defense has become sneaky bad against tight ends over the second half of the season. They allow the seventh most adjusted points to tight ends, including 5.9 receptions per contest. You'll have to pay up for Greg Olsen, but I think he's well worth the investment – especially on FanDuel, where tight end is tough in Week 16.
Consider this: If Ted Ginn – WR16 through 15 weeks – could catch, he would be a top-5 fantasy wide receiver. Almost all of his production comes on deep shots, which are by nature very fluky. Ginn had a fantastic Week 15 performance against a laughably bad Giants' secondary. This week is a different situation entirely: Atlanta allows the fewest adjusted fantasy points to opposing receivers – less than the Broncos. I don't think I'll have Ginn exposure anywhere, including in GPPs.
If you're rolling with Julio Jones in his rematch against shutdown corner Josh Norman, you're hoping the Falcons do the reasonable thing and put Julio in the slot. Norman has admitted that he won't cover No. 1 wideouts when they aren't lined up on the outside of the offensive formation. Julio runs 29 percent of his routes from the slot. If we hear that he may be moved away from Norman, I think Julio becomes a must-play cash game wideout. No one in the league has more targets this season.
Don't hesitate to pay the high price for Carolina's defense in cash contests and GPPs. Only the Browns and Titans give up more adjusted fantasy production to opposing defenses and the Panthers have recorded more quarterback hits than all but three defenses. Matt Ryan should be under immense pressure and forced into obvious passing situations in this one. Deploy the Panthers defense with abandon.
Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 43.5 pts, Bills Total: 24.75 pts, Cowboys Total: 18.75 pts
Kellen Moore will draw the start for Dallas this week, making Buffalo's defense a reasonably priced option for any sort of DFS contest. Probably Moore will be able to generate more offense for the Cowboys than Matt Cassel has this year. That doesn't mean we should ignore Moore's three interceptions on just 25 attempts against the Jets last weekend.
LeSean McCoy is expected to miss the final two games of the season, leaving Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee as Buffalo's runners in a game against a Dallas defense allowing the ninth most adjusted fantasy points to enemy backs. Williams, who missed Weeks 13 and 14 with a banged up shoulder, saw just 11 snaps last week against Washington. Gillislee took full advantage, breaking off a long run and finishing with 83 total yards on six touches.
Without further clarity, neither Bills runner is a cash game play. I'm more than a little interested in whoever gets the starting nod though. Dallas opponents have run the ball at least 24 times in six of the past eight weeks. It would come as no shock if that happened once again in this one.
With Moore seemingly willing to force the ball to Dez Bryant, I think the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver deserves some GPP consideration against the Bills. Buffalo allows the 12th most schedule adjusted points to wideouts and Bryant saw 10 targets in Week 15, many of them after Moore entered the game. Bryant will have a significant size advantage on both of the Bills' outside cornerbacks.
Sammy Watkins has taken full advantage of a few plush matchups this month. It's all well and good, but Dallas is plainly and simply a bad matchup for receivers. Only Denver and Atlanta allow less fantasy production to opposing receivers, who have notched eight touchdowns in 14 games against Dallas. With Watkins' ever-rising DFS price tag, I'm not sure I can stomach him in cash lineups. This game shapes up to be of the disappointing variety from a DFS perspective.