This article is part of our DFS Tournament Guide series.
This guide focuses strictly on the main slate of Sunday afternoon games, with recommendations meant to be used for large-field, GPP tournaments. Player prices will only be mentioned for the two largest DFS sites, though much of what's discussed can be applied throughout the industry.
Variance and low ownership are desirable in large DFS tournaments, but we still need a few building-block players that are strong bets to outperform their price tags even if they don't have the highest ceilings and/or are likely to be popular plays. We'll also want to keep a close eye on injury situations with potential to create value for teammates (this is covered at the bottom of the page).
RB Jamaal Williams, GB (at NYJ), ($5,400 DK; $5,800 FD)
Williams was the last man standing after Aaron Jones hurt his knee in the first quarter of Sunday's 24-17 loss to Chicago, ultimately posting a 12-55-1 rushing line and 4-42-0 receiving line while handling an 87 percent snap share. With Jones now on injured reserve and Monday signing Kapri Bibbs the only other halfback on the roster, Williams is presumably headed for another week of workload dominance, only this time he'll be facing Gang Green (4.5 YPC allowed) instead of the Monsters of the Midway (3.8 YPC). The Packers are favored by three points with an implied total of 25, and they may try to rely on their rushing attack with Aaron Rodgers a bit banged up at the tail end of a lost season. Williams is the furthest thing from spectacular, but we've seen what he can do with a heavy workload in a Rodgers-led offense, highlighted by a three-game stretch with 376 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns in Weeks 12-14 last season. His familiarity with the scheme and competence on passing downs should make up for the lackluster running talent
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (vs. GB), ($4,700 DK; $5,700 FD)
I rarely target running backs on opposite sides of a game, but it just so happens the Packers-Jets contest features two cheap players positioned for three-down roles. McGuire handled snap shares of 74 and 75 percent the past two weeks, recording 35 carries, six catches, 154 scrimmage yards and two TDs against the Texans and Bills. His feeble mark of 2.9 YPC in the lead role is slightly discouraging, but we do need to acknowledge that he faced defenses ranked first and seventh in YPC. Green Bay, on the other hand, sits in 17th place at 4.5 YPC while ranking even lower (25th) in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted run defense DVOA metric. Already playing with their best defensive lineman (Mike Daniels) stuck on injured reserve due to a foot injury, the Packers are now missing stud defensive tackle Kenny Clark (elbow), who has 55 tackles and six sacks in 13 games. It'll be one of the few times this season when the Jets' offensive line has a matchup advantage.
Steelers at Saints
This marks back-to-back weeks with a game featuring the Steelers easily carrying the highest over/under (53) on what appears to be a low-scoring slate. The stacks obviously didn't pan out in last week's 17-10 win over the Patriots, and while there's reason to think twice about relying on players from the Saints and Steelers, we might see reasonable ownership figures due to recency bias.
This is the only game on the main slate projected for more than 48.5 points, though I do worry that it involves a Saints defense which has allowed 17 or fewer points in six consecutive games. With New Orleans ranked second in the NFL at 3.7 YPC allowed, it's time to stop relying on Jaylen Samuels ($6,700 DK; $6,700 FD). In fact, I'm mostly mentioning this game out of a sense of obligation, as the only stack I'm truly intrigued by — Drew Brees + Michael Thomas + Antonio Brown — isn't exactly sneaky but is rather expensive. It isn't a stretch to imagine the scenario in which New Orleans plays strong defense and dominates time of possession behind busy days for Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The 6.5-point spread makes it a major concern.
Texans at Eagles
While an over/under of 46 points obviously isn't encouraging, this game instantly came to my attention thanks to the friendly prices on Nick Foles ($4,700 DK; $6,000 FD), Alshon Jeffery ($5,300 DK; 6,300 FD) and Zach Ertz ($5,900 DK; $7,400 FD). Jeffery was the only one to enjoy a big fantasy game last week, but Foles did well to produce 8.7 YPA against a solid Los Angeles pass defense. Now heading back home for a must-win game, Foles and co. will face an imbalanced Houston defense ranked first in YPC (3.6) and 20th in YPA (7.6). The Texans don't look too bad in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but that's largely because they haven't faced any good ones besides Andrew Luck (twice), Tom Brady and Baker Mayfield, allowing a ridiculous average of 384 passing yards in those four matchups.
We obviously shouldn't expect the same production from a mediocre QB like Foles, but we also don't need it once his price is taken into account. He's averaged 36.9 pass attempts in his eight full games (including playoffs) the past two seasons, with Ertz drawing 9.3 targets in those contests and Jeffery seeing 6.3 in the six games he's played. Oddly enough, Jeffery has been much more efficient with Foles under center, producing 11.3 YPT with four touchdowns in the six games. Ertz has admittedly been the opposite in terms of efficiency, yet still averages 6.5 catches for 62 yards and 0.3 scores playing with Foles.
The other side of this matchup doesn't look all that different, featuring predictable target distribution (Hopkins, Hopkins and more Hopkins) against a defense with a solid front seven and a struggling secondary. The Eagles don't have the same imbalance in terms of YPC (4.9) vs. YPA (7.5), but no defense has faced fewer carries (301) and only two have faced more pass attempts (558). The YPC mark also appears somewhat inflated by matchups, with Philadelphia facing Ezekiel Elliott (twice), Saquon Barkley (twice), Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. The Eagles defense ranks 14th in DVOA against the run, compared to 20th against the pass.
DeAndre Hopkins ($8,600 DK; $8,900 FD) represents the obvious way to attack this defense and its much-maligned cornerback group, especially with Lamar Miller (ankle) shaping up as a game-time decision. Deshaun Watson ($6,600 DK; $8,000 FD) is another strong option at quarterback, but the Foles-Hopkins-Jeffery-Ertz stack is my favorite play of the week on both major sites.
While not nearly as important as quarterback-receiver combos, RB-Defense mini-stacks present another opportunity to take advantage of positive correlations in tournament lineups. We're generally looking for teams that are comfortably favored to win, preferably with a starting running back who dominates goal-line and clock-killing work.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (vs. NYG), ($5,500 DK; $7,000 FD) + Colts D/ST ($3,400 DK; $4,500 FD)
There's no shortage of options to fill this space in Week 16, with honorable mentions due for Nick Chubb + Browns, Dalvin Cook + Vikings, Kalen Ballage + Dolphins, Sony Michel + Patriots and Tevin Coleman + Falcons. So why Mack ahead of the other options? Mostly because I think his team is the safest bet of the bunch to avoid a letdown and win by a comfortable margin. It also helps that Mack carries a low price relative to his ceiling, thanks to a proven tendency to disappear in tricky matchups. Of course, he's also produced 149 or more scrimmage yards and multiple touchdowns in three of his 10 appearances, running wild in easy wins over the Bills, Raiders and Cowboys. Coming off last week's destruction at the hands of Derrick Henry, the Giants are actually a softer matchup than any of the aforementioned teams, allowing running backs to pile up 153 scrimmage yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game. Looking to the other side of the ball, it doesn't take a genius to roster a defense that notched a shutout last week and now gets to face an offense looking to rebound from a shutout of its own. I'm sure the Giants will get on the scoreboard in some capacity this week, but it's no surprise to see their implied total at just 19 points with Odell Beckham (quad) ruled out for another week. The correlation with Mack is strong enough to justify paying up for the Indy D/ST.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (vs. TB), ($9,000 DK; $8,800 FD)
Elliott failed to match expectations after I listed him in this space last week, but I won't deviate from my promise to continue using him until his price reaches the Todd Gurley range. The usage remained encouraging even in a humiliating 23-0 loss, with Elliott taking 18 carries for 87 yards and catching seven of eight targets for 41 more against the underrated Indianapolis defense. In fact, the only thing missing was a touchdown, which shouldn't be an issue in Week 16 with the 5-9 Bucs traveling to Dallas. Tampa Bay has given up a league-high 21 touchdowns to running backs, yielding 4.7 YPC and 6.8 YPT in the process. Now sitting at seven consecutive games with at least 17 carries, four catches and 112 scrimmage yards, Elliott offers an unmatched combination of floor and ceiling. He can also be paired with the Dallas defense ($2,600 DK; $3,700 FD) to slightly offset the cost while taking advantage of some modest correlation potential
Fading The Field
Every week we see at least one or two players carrying high ownership without the backing of a top point-per-dollar projection. Recency bias is often the motivating factor, as many DFSers subconsciously overestimate the predictive value of recent results.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (vs. GB), ($4,500 DK; $5,900 FD)
Coming off back-to-back games with a touchdown and three in a row with seven or more targets, Anderson once again looks like the player we saw last September-November when Josh McCown was playing quarterback for the Jets. My concern is that Anderson's still a classic boom-or-bust wide receiver, relying on low-percentage downfield throws to produce his points. That's usually a good thing for tournament play, but not so much when a player has a ton of buzz and is likely to be at least 20 percent owned in GPPs. The aforementioned McGuire offers similar upside and ownership in the same price range, without the ugly floor we get with Anderson. The speedy 25-year-old may have looked sharp the past two weeks, but he's still reached double-digit PPR points in just four of 12 games this season. Even if we acknowledge that the recent improvement isn't just luck, recency bias likely will drive ownership too high.
The Bargain Bin
QB Nick Foles, PHI (vs. HOU), ($4,700 DK; $6,000 FD)
QB Taylor Heinicke, CAR (vs. ATL), ($4,000 DK; $6,000 FD)
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (at SF), ($4,300 DK; $6,000 FD)
RB Kenyan Drake, MIA (vs. JAC), ($3,900 DK; $5,800 FD)
RB Kalen Ballage, MIA (vs. JAC), ($3,700 DK; $5,500 FD)
RB Jeff Wilson, SF (vs. CHI), ($3,700 DK; $5,400 FD)
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (vs. GB), ($4,500 DK; $5,900 FD)
WR Dante Pettis, SF (vs. CHI), ($4,300 DK; $5,400 FD)
WR Antonio Callaway, CLE (vs. CIN), ($3,900 DK; $5,100 FD)
WR Isaiah McKenzie, BUF (at NE), ($3,900 DK; $5,400 FD)
TE C.J. Uzomah, CIN (at CLE), ($3,300 DK; $5,000 FD)
TE Blake Jarwin, DAL (vs. TB), ($3,000 DK; $4,700 FD)
D/ST Atlanta Falcons, (at CAR), ($2,300 DK; $3,400 FD)
D/ST Philadelphia Eagles, (vs. HOU), ($2,100 DK; $3,200 FD)
D/ST San Francisco 49ers, (vs. CHI), ($2,000 DK; $3,300 FD)
Pricing Discrepancies Between FD and DK
I'm not seeing any significant difference in my strategy between the two major sites, as the players with the largest pricing discrepancies aren't ending up in my lineups. Of course, there are still a few players that stand out, with FD pricing working relatively in favor of QB Deshaun Watson ($8,000), RB Dalvin Cook ($7,100), RB Jaylen Samuels ($6,700), WR Stefon Diggs ($7,300), WR Julian Edelman ($7,000), WR Amari Cooper ($7,000), WR Jarvis Landry ($6,300) and TE Eric Ebron ($6,100).
Injury Situation(s) to Monitor
This one is actually more interesting for season-long purposes, seeing as C.J. Anderson isn't available on DFS sites and may end up handling the lead role. Regardless of whether or not Todd Gurley (knee) ends up playing, the Rams likely will rely on their passing attack during the early portion of Sunday's game in Arizona. Robert Woods ($6,600 DK; $7,500 FD) should be busy early and could stay busy all afternoon if the Cardinals are able to make a game of it.
Sterling Shepard ($4,800 DK; $5,000 FD) is 0-for-2 through the first two weeks of Beckham's absence, but we can still make a decent argument for the third-year pro with his uber-talented teammate set to miss another game. Shepard was targeted on 15 of Eli Manning's 67 pass attempts (2.4 percent) the past two weeks, after averaging nine targets per game without Beckham in the lineup last season. Evan Engram ($4,600 DK; $5,700 FD) is more expensive than Shepard relative to the competition at his position, but Engram also gets a better matchup, facing an Indianapolis defense that's been excellent at defending wide receivers but mediocre against tight ends. Averaging 5.5 catches for 76 yards on 8.5 targets the past two weeks, Engram is probably the sharper play of the two, even after accounting for ownership.
Jones (hip) has a well-documented history of playing through injuries and producing at a high level, but he did express some uncertainty about his availability for Sunday's game at Carolina, and he's now listed as questionable after returning to practice Friday as a limited participant. It's been a long time since I paid attention to Calvin Ridley ($5,100 DK; $5,500 FD) or Mohamed Sanu ($4,400 DK; $5,300 FD), but there's no way we can ignore them if Jones and his 10.9 targets per game are removed from the equation. Ridley and Sanu are essentially dead even in terms of catches, yards and efficiency numbers, with the rookie holding an 8-3 edge in the scoring department despite drawing just seven red-zone targets all season. Ridley may have all the hype if Jones ends up sitting, but Sanu will come with a similar point-per-dollar projection at much lower ownership.
I'm not sure I'll actually be tracking this injury for DFS purposes, but it feels wrong to simply ignore it. My concerns about the red-hot New Orleans defense will be amplified if Smith-Schuster (groin) can't suit up, and there's no way I'm using James Washington ($3,100 DK; $4,600 FD) when I'm worried his team won't be able to put up points. I still believe in Washington as a prospect in the long run, but even after last week's solid showing he's caught just 13 of 33 targets during his rookie campaign. If anything, I'd rather spend up for Antonio Brown ($8,300 DK; $8,700 FD) in a spot where the ownership should be reasonable and the target count could get out of hand.
For all the differences in what/who we root for as football fans, I think we can all agree that safeties and snow games are a good time. Unfortunately, we've yet to be blessed with the latter this season, and it appears the fourth week of December will go by without a real snow game. The forecast does call for light flurries/drizzle in Cleveland, so maybe we get lucky and the precipitation turns up while the temperature heads down to 30 degrees instead of 35. The rest of our Sunday slate appears quite boring from a weather standpoint, offering no real potential for wind, precipitation or frigid temperatures to impact games.