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Week 16 NFL DFS + Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown Column With Matt Savoca




Matt Savoca gives you the most in-depth data for Week 16 NFL DFS slate and breaks down NFL DFS Picks for DraftKings + FanDuel lineups

Table of Contents

(41.5) Carolina Panthers (19.5) @ Washington Football Team (22)

All Graphs Reflect Last Five Weeks of Data, Click Graphs to Enlarge

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Team Passing and Pace

First, let’s take a look at the possibility of this game turning into a shootout, as teams that play faster and pass more than average tend to score more fantasy points. When both teams play aggressively, it often creates a game environment perfect for fantasy scoring. Games have a higher probability of going over their Vegas total as well. Ideally, we’re seeking matchups where both teams are in the upper-right quadrant of the chart below (see the chart’s caption for more details).

The X-axis is Early-Down Air Yards divided by team game-script-adjusted plays per second (using Awesemo’s Game-Adjusted Pace from the Advanced Stats Page). The Y-axis is True Neutral Early-Down Pass Rate, a key indicator of a team’s desire to have a pass-oriented game script. The matchup-specific teams’ logos are displayed amongst all other teams in order to contextualize team pace and passing versus league averages (the dotted lines on the chart).

With the Panthers operating a fast-paced but run-oriented offense, and Washington operating at just about league-average from a pace-and-passing perspective, especially with Alex Smith at the helm, this game only has limited shootout potential. Washington’s defense may be the best overall unit in this game, and if Carolina is successfully slowed, then Washington will have no problem grinding out a low-scoring win, far from ideal for fantasy football.

Recent Quarterback Performance

Next, let’s examine the starting quarterbacks’ recent play. Sustained drives in the NFL rely on efficiency at the quarterback position, so I’ve identified my three favorite performance indicators for assessing quarterback performance. The three bar charts below (see the graph’s caption for more detail) represent a quarterback’s per-drive efficiency (left bar-chart), per-play efficiency including rushes/scrambles (center) and per-pass efficiency (right). Higher rankings from both players indicate a higher likelihood of efficient play, thus a higher probability of fantasy points.

The three columns represent my three primary performance indicators for quarterbacks. Furthest left (tDSR) is True Drive Success Rate, a drive-based efficiency metric that measures a quarterback’s ability to turn drives into touchdowns, regressed based on sample size. The middle column, Expected Points Added (EPA), is a measure of per-play efficiency and includes scrambles and designed runs. Finally, on the right is per-pass efficiency, Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) based on the publicly available completion percentage model included in the NFLFastR package.

Alex Smith certainly gives Washington a significantly higher chance to win compared to (the recently fined) Dwayne Haskins, but Smith has struggled from an efficiency standpoint over his last four starts, ranking below league-average on a per-drive, per-play, and per-pass basis. Teddy Bridgewater‘s expected points added per play (the chart in the middle) is the only metric where he’s not well below-average either. Needless to say, a game with two inefficient quarterbacks rarely has many points (or fantasy points) scored in it.

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NFL DFS Player Pool Picker: Upside Analysis

Now, let’s examine the primary skill players from each offense. Unless participating in a large-field tournament, these are the players you should be focusing on in your daily fantasy football lineups. For each player, I’ve made it easy to compare their per-game fantasy (in column 3) to their DraftKings main slate salary ranking (in column 2). Column 4 ranks the player using my favorite position-specific volume metric: Expected fantasy points, which is curated by PFF.  The Defense vs. Position column is an extremely helpful position-specific and player-group specific (for example, the metric delineates between primary wide receiver vs. secondary wide receivers) metric that helps determine if an offensive player is likely to be in a position to exceed their expected fantasy points. Higher numbers in the Defense vs. Position column indicate easier matchups for the offense, while numbers closer to one indicate a stout defense against that specific position-group.

The final column, Expected Projection, combines a player’s expected fantasy points with their weekly matchup into one helpful value metric. Apart from the Awesemo projections (which should still carry the most weight in determining player value), Expected Projection is one of my favorite metrics to help me narrow down my favorite plays of the week. The rankings are always specific to the slate, meaning if a player or team is ranked No. 1 at a specific metric, they may not necessarily be ranked No. 1 in the NFL, but they are for this specific slate.

Carolina Panthers NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
CAR Teddy Bridgewater, QB #15 #6 #14 #15 18 Fpts (QB11)
CAR Mike Davis, RB #8 #16 #19 #4 9.5 Fpts (RB21)
CAR Robby Anderson, WR #19 #35 #36 #29 12.5 Fpts (WR18)
CAR DJ Moore, WR #16 #12 #25 #5 12.5 Fpts (WR18)
CAR Curtis Samuel, WR #25 #9 #13 #23 15.5 Fpts (WR8)

It looks like the Panthers’ passing attack has some underrated upside in this matchup, despite Washington ranking as one of the most efficient defenses in the NFL on a per-play basis. Curtis Samuel, with a salary just inside the top-25 wideouts seems like a viable play in all formats this weekend, while Robby Anderson appears to have a slightly stronger matchup than teammate D.J. Moore.

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Washington Football Team NFL DFS Core Offenses

Team Player Positional Salary Rank FPTs/Gm Rank Expected FPTs/Gm Rank Defense vs. Position Expected Projection
WAS Alex Smith, QB #16 #18 #28 #30 13 Fpts (QB17)
WAS J.D. McKissic, RB #10 #12 #13 #6 16.5 Fpts (RB4)
WAS Terry McLaurin, WR #9 #17 #25 #23 14 Fpts (WR12)
WAS Logan Thomas, TE #3 #3 #3 #28 13.5 Fpts (TE2)

Fire up your Washington players this weekend (including Antonio Gibson, if he’s able to return this Sunday). The Panthers defense ranks 23rd or worse against opposing quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends over the last five weeks, making Smith, Terry McLaurin, and Logan Thomas (who’s the third highest-salary tight end on the slate this weekend) all viable in daily fantasy football lineups this weekend.

NFL DFS Backfield Values: Running Back Opportunities

Nailing the running back position in your fantasy football lineups is vitally important. There are many metrics that help fantasy gamers determine which running backs earn higher-value touches than their peers, but my favorite is Quality Opportunities per game. It only counts running back looks that come via the receiving game (as receptions are much more valuable on a per-play basis than rushes) or via goal line rushes (inside the opponent’s 10-yard line) since there isn’t anything more valuable than a touchdown.


This chart measures Quality Opportunities per Game (Targets or Goal line carries), and its variant, Quality Opportunity Share, which are both key performance indicators for running backs. This metric helps filter so-called “empty touches” from a running back’s workload and highlights the opportunities that are most likely to be successful for fantasy football. It includes injured players, in order to help contextualize players who might be receiving a smaller or larger workload based on personnel shifts.

If Antonio Gibson plays, he’ll be a smash play at likely low-ownership in a very winnable matchup for Washington. If Gibson sits, fantasy gamers should absolutely consider J.D. McKissic, but his salary, tenth-highest among running backs, makes him difficult to utilize. Christian McCaffrey‘s impending return makes this information less actionable, but the Panthers seem to limiting Mike Davis‘ touches down the stretch, making him an extremely thin play this weekend even if McCaffrey sits.

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NFL DFS Receiving Values: Skill Position Opportunity Ranges

The wide receiver and tight end positions are two of the higher-variance positions in all of daily fantasy football, so it’s important to consider both floor and ceiling when predicting a player’s usage. Players with unexpectedly high opportunity in the passing game often have the best chances to outperform their projections, so I created a chart that measures a player’s opportunity range of outcomes (see the caption of the graph for more details on how this is calculated.). The horizontal bars represent a player’s expected opportunity range, while the center dot represents their average opportunity.

This chart measures the mathematical uncertainty in each player’s true weighted opportunity metric (the metric is explained in the caption of the Game Opportunity Chart above), providing an insight into a player’s range of outcomes related to receiving opportunity. For each player, the team-color dot is the “true” metric, while the red dot indicates the “observed” stat. The bars represent a player’s 95% credible interval, which we can use to measure the uncertainty (both positive and negative) related to their expected workload through the air.

The passing attacks from both teams are fairly straightforward, with Washington centered around Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and running back J.D. McKissic, and Carolina consolidated-around D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel. Any of the three Panthers’ wideouts could ultimately wind-up leading the team in receiving opportunity, but this chart indicates Moore has a slight edge over his teammates.

NFL DFS Auxiliary Offensive Players for Large-Field Contests

In daily fantasy football, depending on the size and type of contest you’re playing, it’s often advantageous to expand your player pool to less-utilized offensive players. In this section, we examine every part-time player’s usage based on playing time, opportunity and (again) defensive matchup. For each player, I create an Opportunity Score, which scales a position-specific opportunity metric between zero (least valuable) and 100 (most valuable). Scores above 50 tend to indicate starter-level opportunity, while scores over 80 indicate star-level usage. Finally, I categorize the players as an NFL DFS value, a mass multi-entry option (MME-only) or a player to avoid altogether.

Carolina Panthers NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
CAR Rodney Smith, RB 23% 9 #4 Look Elsewhere
CAR Ian Thomas, TE 68% 41 #5 Look Elsewhere

Washington Football Team NFL DFS Tournament Picks

Team Player Snap Share Opportunity Score Defense vs. Position Outlook: Value, MME-only, Look Elsewhere
WAS Cam Sims, WR 88% 47 #17 Look Elsewhere
WAS Peyton Barber, RB 23% 47 #6 Look Elsewhere
WAS Steven Sims Jr., WR 33% 31 #31 Look Elsewhere
WAS Isaiah Wright, WR 30% 24 #31 Look Elsewhere

With both team’s passing attacks focused-on their primary weapons, and this game has a relatively low Vegas total, as well as a low shootout probability. Fantasy gamers can therefore rule out the auxiliary options from both offenses.

Final Thoughts

If Christian McCaffrey returns, fantasy gamers should have absolutely no fears about starting him. Play him wherever he fits in lineups. On the Washington side, Smith, McLaurin, and (a healthy) Antonio Gibson all have sizeable upside at low ownership.

Prediction: Washington 24, Panthers 21.

Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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