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The NFL Fantasy Football Matchups: Week 16 Saturday Game Breakdowns with Adam Pfeifer

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After a summer filled with research, rumors, trends and mocks, you are here. You’ve made it. It is Week 16, the fantasy championship for the majority of fantasy leagues around the world. One more week to sweat matchups and roster decisions. One more week to scour the waiver wire, to solidify yourself as a fantasy god. Of course, with everything on the line, this will be the most stressful week of the year. Luckily, this column isn’t going anywhere just yet, as we break down all of the action and help you with those tough lineup decisions. And if you aren’t in contention anymore, well, this article still offers plenty of value for all of the NFL DFS generates out there.

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Let’s get to the matchups for week 16 Saturday NFL games.

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Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Total: 50

Line: HOU -3

Texans passing game

You have to feel good about Deshaun Watson this week. The No. 4 quarterback in fantasy points per dropback (0.54) and No. 2 quarterback in fantasy points per game (22.1), Watson faces a poor Tampa Bay secondary that is coughing up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers (21.1). The Buccaneers are also surrendering 2.1 passing touchdowns per game on the year, the fourth-most in the league.

Tampa Bay has been a massive pass funnel this season, as 65.9 percent of the touchdowns scored against this defense have come through the air, the 11th-highest rate in the NFL. Meanwhile, 79 percent of the yardage surrendered by the Bucs has been via the pass, easily the highest rate in football. As long as the Bucs can keep this game close, Watson should project as one of the three best quarterback plays of the week.

DeAndre Hopkins is about as consistent as it gets at the wide receiver position. He’s had at least 80 yards or a touchdown in nine different games this season and is now second in receptions (99), sixth in receiving yards (1,142), second in targets (141) and second in target share (31.1%). It is worth noting that his targets aren’t quite elite when Will Fuller is in the lineup, as Hopkins is averaging 8.8 targets per game in the nine full games Fuller has played this season.

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Still, nine targets for a player like Hopkins is more than enough, especially against a Tampa Bay secondary that is coughing up the most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. The Buccaneers are also allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers on the left side of the formation (14.5), which is where Hopkins lines up right around 40 percent of the time. Hopkins remains an elite NFL DFS play this Saturday.

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A nagging hamstring injury has kept Will Fuller off the field more than he’d like this season. He did, however, return last week and played 94 percent of the snaps, hauling in five of seven targets for 61 yards. Fuller has been limited in practice all week but should play again on Saturday, making him a high-end WR3 in a very favorable matchup. Despite missing a handful of games, Fuller is still 13th in the league with 23 deep targets while averaging 6.4 air yards per target.

Watson, meanwhile, is second among all signal-callers with 78 deep attempts, averaging 5.6 per game, so Fuller will see plenty of opportunities to make big plays down the field. 10 different wide receivers have reached the 100-yard mark against the Buccaneers this season, while also allowing the second-most passing plays of 40 yards or more, making Fuller a very enticing NFL DFS option.

It probably isn’t smart to chase Kenny Stills’ two-touchdown, three-target game last week. However, with Fuller active, Stills moved into the slot 81 percent of the time, which is notable against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is allowing 23.3 fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers, the third-most in football. However, with his lack of consistent targets, Stills is nothing more than an NFL DFS GPP play for me.

Texans running game

The matchup is terrible but Carlos Hyde should continue to see solid volume, especially in a game where the Texans are slight favorites. Hyde is now 10th in the league in carries, averaging a solid 16 per game. And in Houston’s nine wins this year, Hyde is averaging nearly 19 carries per game, so projecting him for 16 to 20 carries seems safe in this spot. However, the matchup is brutal, as the Bucs are allowing just 3.4 yards per carry this season, the second-lowest mark in the league. They are also stuffing 30 percent of all carries at the line of scrimmage, the second-lowest rate in football. No team is allowing fewer rushing yards per game than Tampa Bay (73.3), making Hyde a low-ceiling FLEX play at best this weekend.

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Buccaneers passing game

Without his No. 1 receiver last week, Jameis Winston continued to post huge fantasy numbers. He went off for 458 yards and four touchdowns last week and even though he’ll now be without his top two wideouts, Winston still offers plenty of upside. No quarterback in the NFL has attempted more deep passes than Winston (94), averaging nearly seven per game. He leads all active passers in intended air yards per pass attempt (10.2), while also leading the league in completed air yards per completion (8.4).

The Texans, meanwhile, are allowing a healthy 11.1 yards per completion this year with 76.9 percent of the touchdowns scored against this defense coming through the air, the second-highest rate in football. Even with the injuries, the philosophy of this Buccaneers offense isn’t going to change, especially if they are underdogs against a pass funnel defense. Keep firing him up as a top-six quarterback option in Week 16 NFL DFS.

OK, so with now both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin sidelined, here is what needs replacing in Tampa Bay: 44 percent of the targets, 65 percent of the end zone targets and 58 percent of the air yards. Breshad Perriman has been taking advantage of the uptick in playing time, especially last week where he exploded for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to this past week, Perriman had seen six and five targets for 87 and 70 yards against the Colts and Jaguars. And over the last three weeks, he’s run a route on 92 percent of Winston’s dropbacks.

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With Evans out, Perriman immediately slid in as the WR2 in Tampa Bay, logging 89 percent of the snaps on Sunday. But now Godwin is likely done with a hamstring injury of his own, which will make Perriman the No. 1 receiver in a pass-heavy offense. Perriman has had his issues since entering the NFL but he’s always been a big-play guy and that hasn’t changed this season, as he is averaging 17 yards per catch (14th), while sporting the league’s sixth-highest average depth of target (17.1). His presence as a deep threat matches well with this offense, as Winston leads the NFL in deep pass attempts. With a good matchup against the Texans on deck, Perriman is suddenly looking no worse than a high-end WR3.

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With Scotty Miller also hurt, Justin Watson will now become the No. 2 receiver in this offense, which makes him NFL DFS relevant. We saw him produce against the Colts in Week 15, catching five balls for 59 yards and a touchdown. He is going to be an every-down player in a solid matchup, while playing in one of the pass-happiest offenses in the league. In deeper leagues, Watson is worth a look, especially with all of the wide receiver injuries over the last two weeks.

Could we finally see the tight ends in Tampa Bay see consistent usage? It sure seems like it. With Evans sidelined last week, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate combined for 15 targets against the Lions. Howard has already seen his playing time increase, logging 86 percent of the snaps over the last three weeks. The Texans are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this year (10.9) and over the last three weeks, they have allowed 10 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns to the combination of Jonnu Smith, Noah Fant and Jeff Heuerman.

Buccaneers running game

In the final week of the fantasy season, there is no way I put faith in this Tampa Bay backfield. Over the last three weeks, Ronald Jones has played 36 percent of the snaps and is averaging 14 touches per game. During that same span, Peyton Barber is logging 35 percent of the snaps while averaging 11 touches per game. No matter how many times Jones looks to have the edge, no one is separating themselves as the lead back in this offense. And if they can’t behind, Tampa Bay is not afraid to play Dare Ogunbowale as their pass-catching back, especially in two minute drills.

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