Sunday features a 12-game main slate starting at 1 p.m. ET.
In this article, I’ll be using various FantasyLabs tools and other industry metrics to break down the slate.
Finally, make sure to check out all the projections available for purchase within the FantasyLabs Models. Subscribers now have the option to purchase Derek Carty’s THE BLITZ from our Marketplace. Projections from One Week Season and Establish the Run are available if you’re a subscriber to those specific sites (our optimizer is a separate add-on feature).
You can also combine them to create your own aggregate projections:
NFL DFS Quarterback Picks
The Bengals and Chiefs will square off in a marquee matchup on Sunday afternoon. The total on that game sits at a slate-high 53.0 points, and the Chiefs are listed as just 2.5-point road favorites. That suggests a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, which are typically the best games for fantasy purposes.
Patrick Mahomes is certainly viable in this matchup, but Joe Burrow stands out as the stronger option. He’s significantly cheaper across the industry, and he also draws a far easier matchup. The Chiefs’ defense has been exploitable all season, and they entered last week ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders pass defense DVOA. They moved up a bit following a dominant performance against Bryce Perkins, but that doesn’t really mean anything.
Burrow has also historically thrived as a home underdog. He’s been in that situation on seven previous occasions, and he’s averaged a Plus/Minus of +5.73 on DraftKings (per the Trends tool). That includes a game vs. the Chiefs last season where he racked up 37.84 DraftKings points.
Trevor Lawrence has started to turn the corner for the Jaguars. He’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in five of his past six games, and he’s scored at least 20.96 DraftKings points in four of them. He’s coming off one of the best showings of his career in his last outing, finishing with 28.94 DraftKings points vs. the Ravens. He racked up 321 passing yards and three touchdowns, both of which eclipsed or tied his previous season highs.
Lawrence has a great chance to build on his success vs. the Lions. Their defense has been shaky all season, but their offense is fantastic. That creates ideal conditions for fantasy scoring. The Lions have played in eight games with a healthy Amon-Ra St. Brown, and there have been at least 49 points in seven of them. The total for this game currently sits at 51.0 points, so expect to see plenty of offense in this matchup.
On the other side of that matchup, Jared Goff stands out as another very appealing option. He’s dirt cheap at $5,300, and the Jaguars have been even more exploitable than the Lions on defense. Goff owns an Opponent Plus/Minus of +4.5 on DraftKings, which is the second-highest mark at the position. Goff hasn’t had the greatest fantasy season, but Jamaal Williams continues to vulture most of the team’s touchdowns. If they can score a bit more through the air this week, Goff has the potential for a big game.
Paying up for a stud quarterback is always viable on FanDuel, and Lamar Jackson stands out as the best of the bunch in Week 13. His $8,200 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 94%, and history suggests that’s simply too cheap for him. Jackson has historically averaged a Plus/Minus of +3.09 with a comparable price tag, so he’s worth considering even in a tough matchup vs. the Broncos.
Is Justin Herbert a strong option vs. the Raiders? Matt Martin makes the case in this week’s Quarterback Breakdown.
NFL DFS Running Back Picks
Josh Jacobs went absolutely nuclear last week vs. the Seahawks. He racked up 33 carries for 229 rushing yards, and he added six catches and 74 yards in the passing game. He also scored two touchdowns – including a walk-off game-winner in overtime – bringing his fantasy total to 51.3 DraftKings points.
Jacobs is officially questionable vs. the Chargers with a calf injury, but he was questionable last week, and we all saw how that worked out. He’s having the best year of his career as a runner, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and 105.4 yards per game, but the biggest difference for fantasy purposes is his involvement in the passing attack. Jacobs has always given way to a pass-catching specialist in years past, but he has proven to be a reliable option in that department this year. He’s racked up a target on at least 22% of his routes run in three straight weeks, and he’s averaged five catches per game in that stretch. That’s not exactly a Christian McCaffrey-level of usage, but it’s a marked improvement.
Jacobs also draws an outstanding matchup this week vs. the Chargers. They have been victimized on the ground all season, ranking 29th in rush defense DVOA, so Jacobs has the potential for another big performance. His price tag has also barely budged on DraftKings, and his $7,900 salary comes with a Bargain Rating of 95%. He also leads the position with 10 Pro Trends, so there’s plenty to like with Jacobs in Week 13.
It’s rare to find a starting running back at a cheap price tag anymore. The DFS sites have become increasingly aggressive in pricing up backups, so we haven’t had a ton of opportunities to take advantage of injuries. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of merit in targeting a backup at $6,000 on DraftKings when thrust into a starting role, but the days of getting that player at a massive discount are basically over.
That makes Zonovan Knight feel like an outlier. He’s priced at just $4,600 on DraftKings and $5,800 on FanDuel, so he’s a great source of value on this slate. The Jets lost talented rookie Breece Hall to an injury earlier this season, while Michael Carter is currently doubtful. James Robinson was a healthy scratch last week, so Knight is the favorite to lead the Jets’ backfield in touches vs. the Vikings.
Knight made the most of his opportunity in Week 12, turning 14 carries into 69 rushing yards. He also caught all three of his targets in the passing game, adding an additional 34 receiving yards. The Vikings are another team that has struggled defensively this season, and the Jets’ offense looked competent for the first time in ages with Mike White at quarterback last week. Overall, Knight is a great way to fit some of the top studs on the slate into your lineup.
Austin Ekeler is opposing Jacobs this week, and he has plenty of merit in his own right. He’s had a massive role as a receiver recently, racking up at least 12 targets in four of his past six games. The Raiders rank dead last in pass defense DVOA vs. opposing running backs, so this is an ideal spot for Ekeler to go.
Dameon Pierce and Nick Chubb are squaring off in Houston, and both players have appeal at different price points. Both teams own a bottom-three mark in rush defense DVOA, so both players should be able to find success in this contest. Pierce stands out as an outstanding value at $5,900 on DraftKings, but Chubb has the edge from a game script perspective. The Browns are listed as seven-point road favorites, and it’s possible the Texans have mailed it in.
Travis Etienne killed a lot of lineups last week after leaving the game early with an injury, but Doug Pederson said Etienne is “good to go” against Detroit. The Lions have been worse against the run than the pass recently, and Etienne could command lower ownership than usual coming off an injury. He’s underpriced at $6,400 on DraftKings, resulting in a Bargain Rating of 95%.
NFL DFS Wide Receiver Picks
Amon-Ra St. Brown has stood out as a high-end target all season, but the massive fantasy performance seemed to be eluding him. He finally put it all together last week vs. the Bills, finishing with 30.9 DraftKings points on nine catches, 122 yards, and a touchdown.
ARSB dominates the targets for the Lions. He’s racked up a 28.3% market share this season, despite missing one game and being limited in two others. In terms of targets per route run, St. Brown tops all high-volume receivers. He’s been targeted on 33.9% of his routes this season, giving him an edge over guys like Tyreek Hill (33.0%), CeeDee Lamb (31.9%), and Cooper Kupp (31.7%).
With that in mind, $7,100 is a bargain for St. Brown against the Jaguars. He leads all receivers in THE BLITZ in projected DraftKings Plus/Minus, and he ranks second in median and ceiling projection.
The Texans are going to be without Brandin Cooks on Sunday, leaving Nico Collins as the team’s top receiver. Collins has already been emerging as a serious threat in the Texans’ passing attack, and he’s in line for a solid workload vs. the Browns. Cleveland hasn’t been quite as bad against the pass as they have been against the run, but they still rank just 22nd in pass defense DVOA.
The big question is if any of that actually matters. The Texans are starting Kyle Allen at quarterback for the second straight week, and he was a disaster vs. the Dolphins. He threw two interceptions and was sacked five times in that contest, and the Dolphins’ pass defense is even worse than the Browns’. Houston is currently in pole position for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so it’s to their benefit to continue losing games.
Regardless, Collins should get plenty of targets whether the team is getting blown out or can keep this game competitive. That makes him a nice option at $4,200.
Zay Jones has logged at least 10 targets in three of his past five games, including each of his past two. He erupted for 14 targets, 11 catches, and 145 yards last week vs. the Ravens, finishing with 30.5 DraftKings points despite failing to score a touchdown. He’s another elite value at the position at just $4,900, and he feels a bit safer than Collins if you can afford the extra salary.
Garrett Wilson also remains affordable, and he took off with White under center last week. He saw eight targets, which he converted into five catches, 95 yards, and two touchdowns. He’s been the Jets’ clear No. 1 receiver all year, and with some better quarterback play, Wilson is talented enough to make that count.
On the other side of that matchup, Justin Jefferson has been priced down to $8,700 on FanDuel in anticipation of his showdown with Sauce Gardner. Gardner has been the best cornerback in football as a rookie, and he’s already shut down a lot of big-name receivers. However, Jefferson is probably the best receiver in football, and this is the rare opportunity to target him at a reduced salary. I’m not willing to bet against him.
NFL DFS Tight End Picks
At this point, just expect Travis Kelce to be in this spot every time he’s available on the main slate. He’s been the best tight end in fantasy this season by a wide margin. He’s averaged 21.7 PPR points per game this season, and Mark Andrews is second at 14.5. That’s an absolutely massive gulf, and Kelce is capable of blowing away the field at the position in any given week.
Kelce did find the end zone last week, but it was a down performance for him overall. Still, he’s posted a positive Plus/Minus in six of his past eight games on DraftKings, and he’s scored at least 15.7 DraftKings points in all eight contests.
For what it’s worth, the Bengals do stand out as a tough matchup. They rank seventh in DVOA vs. the position, and Kelce owns a neutral +0.1 Opponent Plus/Minus. Of course, matchups don’t really matter when you’re as good as Kelce, and he’s not expected to be especially popular on this slate. Paying up for him in tournaments is always a strong option, but there are better projected values for cash games.
Pat Freiermuth isn’t cheap at $4,300 on DraftKings, but he isn’t expensive either. Since Week 7, Freiermuth has taken over as the Steelers’ top pass-catcher. He leads the team in target share and targets per route run, and he ranks third on the team in air yards. Among tight ends, only Kyle Pitts, Kelce, and Dallas Goedert have racked up a higher percentage of their team’s targets than Freiermuth over that time frame.
Freiermuth was quiet last week vs. the Colts, but he’s in a prime bounce-back spot vs. the Falcons. They rank 29th in pass defense DVOA, and they rank 19th in passing touchdowns per game allowed. Freiermuth seems due for some positive regression as a scorer – he has just one touchdown compared to three expected touchdowns – so I like his chances of finding the paint in this spot.
Tyler Higbee wasn’t targeted for the Rams last week, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Perkins was horrible in his first career start, so the team will go back to John Wolford this week. Wolford isn’t a huge upgrade, but Higbee had eight catches for 73 yards in his lone start this season. He’s another solid per-dollar option at $3,700.
Andrews has some buy-low appeal at $7,100 on FanDuel. It results in a Bargain Rating of 94%, and Andrews started the year like a man on fire. He had at least 18.9 FanDuel points in four of his first six games, so he clearly has some upside. Pairing him with Jackson when both players are priced down is an appealing proposition.
NFL DFS Roster Construction
This is an interesting week in terms of lineup construction. There is an abundance of value at running back and receiver, so it’s pretty easy to build whatever type of roster you desire.
The current optimal lineup from THE BLITZ doesn’t feature Zonovan Knight at running back but rather a trio of Jacobs, Pierce, and Kenneth Walker III. I’ve explored some different builds with both Knight and Pierce at running back, but unless you want to pay up for Kelce, I don’t think you need to go there. As much as I think Knight is a strong per-dollar option, paying up for a couple of underpriced running backs seems to pay the way to go.
That path leads you to Collins and Wilson at receiver, which is completely reasonable. You can also get St. Brown as your top pass-catcher, which is ideal. Those three players have the top projected Plus/Minus marks at the position, so getting all three of them in the lineup is excellent.
That leaves just quarterback and tight end, and you can go with a few different combinations at those positions. THE BLITZ likes Kirk Cousins and Freiermuth, but Lawrence and Goff are also viable.
The optimal FanDuel lineup per THE BLITZ is quite different. It does recommend pairing Knight and Pierce together on FanDuel, which allows you to get up to Jackson at quarterback. It also has Jefferson at wide receiver, along with Collins and St. Brown. I’m not sure how I feel about Jefferson as a cash game play, but there’s no denying that he’s underpriced at $8,700.
As far as GPPs, you can utilize our NFL Models to identify some potentially overlooked targets. We do ownership projections for every player, and our Leverage Rating compares those projected ownerships to each player’s projected ceiling. If a player has a high ceiling but low projected ownership, they will have a strong Leverage Rating. Those types of players are ideal in tournaments.
Make sure to also take advantage of all the excellent written content that will be produced prior to kickoff.
Good luck this week!