It’s going to be tough to expect this week’s Thursday night game to live up to the hype surrounding last week’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, as we had Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert duking it out at the quarterback position in a game that needed overtime to decide the outcome. Mahomes and Herbert combined for 646 passing yards and five touchdowns, with the Chiefs coming out on top due to a 34-yard touchdown from Travis Kelce in overtime.
To follow up last week’s exciting matchup, we have the San Francisco 49ers traveling to take on the Tennessee Titans to kick off Week 16. The 49ers come into this game with an 8-6 record having won five of their last six games, while the Titans are 9-5 with losses in three of their last four games. With San Francisco and Tennessee both vying for playoff spots in their respective conferences, here are my favorite captain and flex plays for DraftKings’ Showdown slate on Thursday night.
Captain Spot Considerations
Deebo Samuel ($17,400)
It has already been announced that Elijah Mitchell will not suit up for the 49ers on Thursday night, meaning that Jeff Wilson Jr. will handle the starting duties at running back for the second straight week. At the same time, that likely means we continue to see more of Deebo Samuel in the backfield for San Francisco. Samuel has seen his usage as a runner increase in the past month or so as he’s scored at least one rushing touchdown in each of his last five games. While his volume through the air has declined, Samuel’s role as a runner makes up for his lack of targets. We’ve been saying it’s tough to expect Samuel to score on the ground every week for the past few weeks, so there’s no reason to believe his role changes in Week 16. Samuel enters this game as one of the only players in this contest that has a legitimate chance to score on the ground and through the air, making him a more-than-viable option at the captain spot. There’s also the fact that the Titans give up the second-most points per game (41.18) to wide receivers on DraftKings.
George Kittle ($16,800)
With Samuel being utilized more out of the backfield in recent weeks, George Kittle has become the No. 1 option for Jimmy Garoppolo in the passing attack. Kittle has been utterly dominant in his last three games, hauling in 28 receptions for 425 yards and three touchdowns. I tend to avoid using tight ends in the captain spot, but Kittle is among the few exceptions as he’s basically a wide receiver that is listed as a tight end on the depth chart. Matchups are irrelevant when it comes to players like Kittle as the Titans actually allow the sixth-fewest points per game (9.04) to tight ends on DraftKings. Whenever using Kittle or Samuel at the captain spot, you’ll likely want to pair them with Garoppolo. Don’t overthink it and play Kittle with confidence in Thursday night’s matchup with the 49ers and the Titans.
A.J. Brown ($13,200)
It remains to be seen who the Titans will have available at the wide receiver position on Thursday night. A.J. Brown has been on injured reserve since Week 11, but Tennessee could activate him in time for this week’s game. Simply put, if Brown can return, then he’s the wide receiver on the Titans that I’d prefer to use on DraftKings. Brown would likely return to his No. 1 role for Tennessee, who could desperately use some firepower at wide receiver right now. Even though the Titans have a run-heavy offense, Brown has two 30+ point outings on the green site this season, showing that he has a decently high ceiling. Also, the 49ers have a pass-funneling defense (No. 2 rush DVOA defense, No. 21 pass DVOA defense), so the Titans could be forced to throw more than they’d like. In the event that Brown is not activated for Thursday — or if he’s severely limited — then I’d replace him here with either Julio Jones or Brandon Aiyuk. Between the two I’d go with Aiyuk as Jones is battling a hamstring injury and he’s been known to sustain in-game injuries this late in his career.
Flex Spot Considerations
Brandon Aiyuk ($8,000)
Speaking of Aiyuk, the second-year wideout has been flourishing in San Francisco’s offense since Kyle Shanahan finally allowed him to see the field. Aside from his performance last week, Aiyuk had scored in double-digits in four out of his previous six appearances. And with Samuel getting more touches out of the backfield, Aiyuk has seen fewer than six targets just twice since Week 8. Aiyuk is a talented wide receiver that is exceptional with the ball in his hands. It just so happens that the Titans give up the second-most points per game to the wide receiver position as mentioned above. What makes the 49ers such an easy team to stack is the fact that they have such a condensed market share of targets that funnels to Kittle, Samuel, and Aiyuk. Provided that, with Mitchell sidelined, I’d expect Aiyuk to have a solid role in Thursday’s contest.
D’Onta Foreman ($7,600)
There’s no doubt that the Titans are going to come out and try to lean on D’Onta Foreman and the ground game early and often. Foreman has dominated the carries in Tennessee’s backfield in the past three games, totaling 54 attempts for 264 yards and a touchdown in that span. What causes some hesitancy to play Foreman is his lack of usage in the passing game as Dontrell Hilliard and Jeremy McNichols have seen more targets in recent weeks. So if the Titans find themselves down big, then Foreman could be phased out of the game in favor of Hilliard and McNichols. At the same time, if Tennessee can keep the game close, Foreman is a threat to achieve the 100+ yard rushing bonus and potentially a touchdown on the ground. The Titans don’t have many guys to rely on in their offense right now but Foreman has been a reliable contributor since Derrick Henry went down with a foot injury.
49ers DEF/ST ($3,800)
On these one-game slates, we tend to create scenarios in our heads on how the game will go. Thursday night games have been highly unpredictable — like most years — but I believe the defense of the 49ers will have no trouble containing the offense of the Titans. Tennessee’s offensive line has surrendered 41 sacks this season, which is the sixth-most in the NFL. If the 49ers can force the Titans to play from behind, San Francisco has a guy named Nick Bosa that has 15 sacks and they have a defense that’s compiled 36 sacks thus far (10th most in the NFL). Ryan Tannehill is tied for the league lead for interceptions with 14, so turnovers have been a common occurrence for the Titans. We could see quite a few sacks and takeaway opportunities for the 49ers, who have scored 9+ points on DraftKings in five of their last six games.
Dontrell Hilliard ($2,800)
While Foreman is the safer option at running back for the Titans, Hilliard might be my preferred option due to his salary and his role in the passing game. San Francisco owns the No. 2 ranked defense in rush DVOA, making it likely that Tennessee will need to turn to their aerial attack sooner rather than later in this game. We saw last week that Hilliard is the clear No. 2 behind Foreman. In what was a close game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hilliard received just two fewer snaps than Foreman and six more snaps than McNichols. On top of that, he touched the ball 13 times for 59 yards, with four of those touches being receptions. It’s clear that the Titans view Hilliard as their favored pass-catching back and we don’t need him to do much at his low salary on DraftKings. A few catches and maybe a touchdown would make Hilliard a smash play at his price.