We are just two weeks away from the end of the regular season, and the NFL is still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 23.4 points per game per team. But scoring has dropped precipitously as injuries have mounted, game tape has accumulated, weather conditions have worsened, pace of play has slowed and divisional opponents have rematched.
For example: In Weeks 10-12, NFL teams scored 24.3, 25.8 and 23.7 points per game. In Weeks 13-15, however, they managed just 21.4, 21.8 and 19.3 points, which are the three lowest-scoring weekly averages for the season. Year over year, scoring is up, but within 2018, we’ve seen a very notable downward trend.
Will scoring continue to decline in Week 16? Or will teams put up more points in the last “real” week of the NFL season?
The action continues with a 12-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at four quarterbacks at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news feed.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
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- Deshaun Watson: $6,600 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
- Andrew Luck: $6,200 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel
- Dak Prescott: $5,700 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
- Nick Foles: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
Deshaun Watson: Houston Texans (+2.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 47 Over/Under
UPDATE (12/23): Running back Lamar Miller (ankle) and wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) are out.
When I think of Watson, sometimes I imagine him sitting by himself in the back corner of the team bus, draped in flannel and legs nestled into his chest, staring at a blurry photo as tears stream down his face and the “Use Your Illusion II” version of “Don’t Cry” moans to him through his Walkman headphones.
The photo: Wide receiver Will Fuller streaking down the field.
The melodrama: Early ’90s.
The Texans have lost only one game since Week 4, and Watson had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time last year, but his 2018 campaign has been a little bit of a letdown. Watson is the No. 10 fantasy quarterback with 20.2 FanDuel points per game, which is respectable, but last year he dominated with an average of 28.4 FanDuel points in his six starts. Watson’s 2017 Plus/Minus of +12.38 is easily the highest mark posted by any quarterback in any season in our database, and he hit his salary-based expectations in every start.
This is not to suggest that Watson is having a poor season. From a fantasy perspective, he has definitely regressed on a per-attempt basis. Consider his year-over-year efficiency as represented by paFPOEPA and ruFPOEPA (passing and rushing Fantasy Points Over Expectation per attempt), which measure how effective passers and runners are at turning opportunities into fantasy points relative to historical expectations based on the line of scrimmage (accessible within the RotoViz Screener).
- 2017 (seven games): 0.25 paFPOEPA, 0.49 ruFPOEPA
- 2018 (14 games): 0.09 paFPOEPA, 0.06 ruFPOEPA
Watson’s rushing dropoff has been particularly notable.
- 2017 (seven games): 7.5 yards per attempt, 0.61 success rate
- 2018 (14 games): 5.6 yards per attempt, 0.51 success rate
But his rushing efficiency is still pretty good, especially considering that he’s playing in the wake of a season-ending knee injury suffered last year.
And as a passer he’s perhaps been even better this year, based on his adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), success rate (SR) and Pro Football Focus (PFF) passing grade.
- 2017 (seven games): 8.4 AY/A, 0.51 SR, 64.1 PFF
- 2018 (14 games): 8.5 AY/A, 0.52 SR, 79.4 PFF
Watson hasn’t been the fantasy producer he was last year, but he’s still very much capable of having a big performance in any given week.
But he very much misses Fuller (knee, injured reserve), who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8. In his 20 career starts, Watson has exhibited stark Fuller-based splits.
- With Fuller (11 games): 25.8 FanDuel points, 31.9 pass attempts, 288.3 yards passing, 2.73 touchdowns passing
- Without Fuller (nine games): 18.8 FanDuel points, 28.9 pass attempts, 224.2 yards passing, 1.33 touchdowns passing
Of any player targeted at least five times by Watson over the past two years, Fuller by far has endowed Watson with the greatest per-attempt efficiency (per the RotoViz AY/A app).
Without Fuller, Watson has diminished upside.
On top of that, the Texans have heavily leaned on the run since Watson’s Week 5 chest (lung and ribs) injury, which at one point was so severe he wasn’t allowed to travel by plane for the team’s Week 7 road game in Jacksonville.
- Texans offense, Weeks 1-5: 23 points scored, 38.4 pass attempts, 29 rush attempts
- Texans offense, Weeks 6-15: 26.3 points scored, 26.6 pass attempts, 30.6 rush attempts
Although the team has been productive with its run-heavy offense, Watson has had far fewer opportunities as an individual to put up fantasy points. And the potential absence of rookie slot receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) doesn’t help Watson.
Coutee has missed the past three games with a lingering soft-tissue injury, and his availability for Week 16 is uncertain. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has been a competent complementary receiver, but the offense has missed Coutee.
But running back Lamar Miller (ankle) is also uncertain to play. He missed the second half of Week 15, and although his injury isn’t considered serious, it’s possible the Texans could hold him out and emphasize Watson and the passing game at the expense of backup running backs Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman.
And Watson has a good matchup against the Eagles. Watson has taken an NFL-high 52 sacks, but the Eagles are just 28th with a 6.0% adjusted sack rate, and their secondary is beyond injured.
- No. 1 cornerback Ronald Darby (knee) is on IR.
- No. 2 cornerback Jalen Mills (foot) is on IR.
- No. 3 cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) has missed Weeks 7-10, 12 and 15 with a lingering soft-tissue injury.
Backups Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas respectively started at left and right cornerback last week: They have subpar PFF coverage grades of 62.3 and 65.3 and are entirely exploitable.
On top of that, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (back) has seen just 19 snaps this year and didn’t play last week because of spasms, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf) has missed the past four games and free safety Rodney McLeod (knee, IR) is out. At all levels of their defense, the Eagles are susceptible.
Perhaps this is due to scheme, but the Eagles have been particularly vulnerable against quarterbacks with the ability to produce with their legs.
- Marcus Mariota (Titans, Week 4): 31.4 FanDuel points, 344-2-1 passing, 10-46-1 rushing
- Cam Newton (Panthers, Week 7): 25.7 FanDuel points, 269-2-0 passing, 7-49-0 rushing
- Blake Bortles (Jaguars, Week 8): 19.7 FanDuel points, 286-1-0 passing, 8-43-0 rushing
- Dak Prescott (Cowboys, Week 10): 21.7 FanDuel points, 270-1-0 passing, 6-9-1 rushing
- Dak Prescott (Cowboys, Week 14): 26.4 FanDuel points, 455-3-2 passing, 4-2-0 rushing
While it’s not ideal for Watson to find himself as a road dog, he could be aided by a pass-heavy game script, as the team has not unexpectedly relied more on the passing game in its losses this year.
- Losses (four games): 36 pass attempts, 26 rush attempts
- Wins (10 games): 28.7 pass attempts, 31.6 rush attempts
If you’re looking to roster him in guaranteed prize pools, maybe use our Lineup Builder to stack Watson with Thomas, who benefits from the defensive attention wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins gets. Since 2014, No. 2 wide receivers have had a 0.52 correlation with their quarterbacks. The sample is small, but Watson and Thomas have a 0.98 correlation through six games.
Watson is the No. 1 FanDuel quarterback in the Bales and Raybon Models.
Andrew Luck: Indianapolis Colts (-10) vs. New York Giants, 48 O/U
UPDATE (12/23): Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (ankle) is a game-time decision after sitting on Wednesday and Thursday and getting in a limited practice on Friday.
Despite missing wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle for significant stretches of the season and working with a mostly no-name assemblage of skill-position players, Luck is the No. 5 fantasy quarterback with 22.5 DraftKings points per game.
In every healthy season since his second campaign, Luck has been a top-five fantasy passer. And aside from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who hasn’t played a full season yet, Luck leads all quarterbacks with 23.6 DraftKings points per game since 2014.
Even though Luck missed the entire 2017 season, the Colts have not been shy with their quarterback. While there was speculation before the season that the Colts would attempt to limit Luck’s usage, he trails only Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with his 557 pass attempts.
When Luck was replaced by Jacoby Brissett in Week 3 so the backup could throw an end-of-game Hail Mary, Internet punditry branded Luck a weak-armed has-been. In the 11 games since then, Luck has passed for three-plus touchdowns eight times and been one of the most productive per-game passers in the league.
- 24.1 DraftKings points
- +6.80 Plus/Minus
- 81.8% Consistency Rating
- 39.4 pass attempts
- 67.0% completion rate
- 299 yards passing
- 2.64 touchdowns passing
Luck has thrown just two touchdowns over the past three weeks — and it’s notable that his recent downturn has coincided with the absence of Doyle (kidney, IR), who is one of his most reliable receivers — but Luck is still in elite form right now.
Although Luck is returning from a significant shoulder injury, as the season has progressed, he’s shown more of a willingness to test his arm strength. In Weeks 1-3, he had a league-low 5.6-yard average depth of target (aDOT), but in the three months since then, he’s had an 8.6 aDOT, just behind Mahomes (8.7) and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (8.7).
Perhaps Luck hasn’t exactly regained his old form — his arm probably still is not as strong as it once was — but his recent downfield aggressiveness is in line with what we’ve seen out of him in the past.
- Luck’s 2016 aDOT: 8.9
- Luck’s 2015 aDOT: 10.2
- Luck’s 2014 aDOT: 9.2
- Luck’s 2013 aDOT: 8.4
While Luck hasn’t been efficient with his passes — he’s dwelling in the league’s basement with the likes of Cam Newton and Blake Bortles with his 7.1 yards per attempt — Luck has produced in the red zone, ranking second with 28 touchdowns and fourth with 84 attempts inside the 20-yard line. Additionally, he’s third in the league with 39 targets to the end zone and second with 21 touchdowns on such targets. Aside from his 13 interceptions, Luck is making the most of his passes.
Luck has a good matchup against the Giants. He doesn’t have great pass-catching options outside of Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron, but both players are positioned for success. The Giants are dead last in the league against No. 1 wide receivers with a 23.4% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and they haven’t used cornerback Janoris Jenkins in shadow coverage since Week 4. Jenkins has lined up mostly at right corner this year, so Hilton should be able to avoid Jenkins on a high percentage of his routes.
Additionally, Jenkins is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Although he was a Pro Bowler in 2016, Jenkins has a 65.4 PFF coverage grade this year and has allowed a 69.6% completion rate when targeted. No cornerback has allowed more passing touchdowns than Jenkins has with seven.
And Ebron is in a good spot, given that the Giants are without Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins (shoulder, IR). Undrafted backup journeyman Michael Thomas has filled in for Collins over the past two weeks. In that span, he’s allowed an 85.7% completion rate. With his size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds), Thomas matches up poorly with Ebron (6-foot-4, 250 pounds). Second in the league with 12 touchdowns receiving and tied for third with 16 end-zone targets, Ebron could gift Luck with multiple passing scores.
One potential drawback of rostering Luck is that, despite his skill, the Colts have a 21-10 record to the under as home favorites with Luck at quarterback. Since 2012, under bettors have enjoyed a 32.7% return on investment when the Luck-led Colts have been favored in Indianapolis (per Bet Labs). Even if the Colts win, they still might not put up a lot of points: Just last week, they scored only 23 against the Cowboys, despite winning convincingly as 3-point favorites at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Even so, Luck is likely to get his fantasy points: He’s first among all quarterbacks with his median and ceiling projections on DraftKings, where he’s tied for the position lead with seven Pro Trends. We’re projecting Luck to be the slate’s most popular quarterback.
It helps that the Colts-Giants game has the slate’s fastest-paced situation-neutral matchup.
On Sunday morning, I will probably look to bet the over on Luck’s yardage prop. In the post-Reggie Wayne era (since 2015), Luck has averaged 302.4 yards passing per game as a home favorite.
To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 214-100-12, good for a 66% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Luck is the No. 1 DraftKings quarterback in the Koerner and SportsGeek Models.
Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys (-7) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48 O/U
As a self-loathing Cowboys fan and old-school Tony Romo truther, I’m perpetually conflicted when it comes to Dak, especially after last week’s “performance,” in which Prescott threw for just 206 yards and had more interceptions (one) than passing touchdowns and rush attempts (zero).
Dak has been markedly better since wide receiver Amari Cooper joined the Cowboys in their Week 8 bye.
- With Cooper (Weeks 8-14): 19.0 DraftKings points, 72.1% completion rate, 7.7 AY/A, 274.3 yards passing
- Without Cooper (Weeks 1-7): 17.0 DraftKings points, 62.1% completion rate, 6.8 AY/A, 202.4 yards passing
But Amari’s addition hasn’t resulted in significantly more passing touchdowns for Dak, and it has coincided with fewer quarterback rushes and yards.
- With Cooper (Weeks 8-14): 1.29 touchdowns passing, 5.7 carries, 33.7 yards rushing
- Without Cooper (Weeks 1-7): 1.14 touchdowns passing, 3.9 carries, 9.6 yards rushing
The Cowboys are clearly better with Amari. Without him, they were 3-4. With him, they are 5-2 and slated to win the NFC East.
But we shouldn’t overstate the impact he’s had on the offense. Even though the Cowboys are accumulating more yards per game with him, they are still just as inefficient as ever when it comes to converting yards into points (per the RotoViz Team Splits App).
- With Cooper (Weeks 8-14): 274.1 yards passing, 125 yards rushing, 19.4 points per game, 1.85 points per drive
- Without Cooper (Weeks 1-7): 202.4 yards passing, 136.9 yards rushing, 20 points per game, 1.86 points per drive
It’s not as if Dak has suddenly transformed into a top-tier fantasy quarterback simply because he has a strong No. 1 wide receiver, especially since he’s very dependent on his offensive line, the interior of which is highly vulnerable.
- Left guard: Second-round rookie Connor Williams struggled in the first half of the season and was benched after Week 10. In his stead, Xavier Su’a Filo has “earned” a 43.5 PFF grade.
- Center: All-Pro Travis Frederick (illness, IR) has missed the entire season. Backup Joe Looney has a 55.1 PFF grade.
- Right guard: All-Pro Zack Martin (knee) is questionable after missing Week 15. If Martin misses this week, Williams will attempt to fill in for him.
What Dak really has going for him this week is his matchup. The Bucs are 29th in pass defense (20.9% DVOA) and 30th in points allowed (28.8 per game).
Since they fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the Bucs have been better.
- Weeks 7-15: 22.6 points, 357 scrimmage yards
- Weeks 1-6: 28.2 points, 440 scrimmage yards
But they still aren’t good, and on the road, they’ve been horrible.
- On road (seven games): 28 points, 416.1 scrimmage yards
- At home (seven games): 21.1 points, 357.1 scrimmage yards
And the Bucs are incredibly injured.
Linebackers Kwon Alexander (knee), Jack Cichy (ankle) and Kendell Beckwith (ankle) are all on injured reserve. On top of that, linebacker Adarius Taylor (personal) missed last week with a private issue, and his availability for this week is unknown. In the secondary, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder, IR) is out, as are strong safety Chris Conte (knee, IR) and free safety Justin Evans (toe, IR).
Against such a defense, Dak could conceivably dominate. The Bucs have allowed a top-four mark of 22.7 DraftKings points per game to opposing quarterbacks.
But there are a couple of drawbacks to Dak. For one, since Smith’s dismissal, the Bucs have been much better in pass defense.
- Weeks 7-15: 68.8% completion rate, 204.4 yards passing, 1.56 passing touchdowns, 0.78 interceptions
- Weeks 1-6: 76.8% completion rate, 355.8 yards passing, 3.2 passing touchdowns, 0.2 interceptions
Also, the Cowboys have an 18-28 over/under record with Prescott, gifting under bettors with a 17.3% ROI since 2016.
But throughout his career, Dak has been at his best as a home favorite.
- Home favorite (17 games): 67.2% completion rate, 33.5 pass attempts, 255 yards passing, 1.71 passing touchdowns, 0.47 interceptions, 24 rushing yards, 0.41 rushing touchdowns
- All other situations (29 games): 65.1% completion rate, 28.8 pass attempts, 205.7 yards passing, 1.14 passing touchdowns, 0.59 interceptions, 18.4 rushing yards, 0.34 rushing touchdowns
Most importantly, he’s not expensive. On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, Prescott was highlighted as a potential cash-game play and is the No. 1 DraftKings quarterback in the Bales and CSURAM88 Models.
Nick Foles: Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) vs. Houston Texans, 47 O/U
I don’t really want to make a pro-Foles argument, but he’s a min-priced quarterback on FanDuel, so if you’re looking for a punt play, he’s probably your guy. The Texans have a quarterback-flowing funnel defense that ranks second against the rush (-27.5% DVOA) but 22nd against the pass (10.6% DVOA), so Foles could benefit from a pass-heavy game plan.
Foles is a classic boom/bust passer. Since Week 14 of last season, Foles has started eight games for the Eagles (including playoffs and disregarding the partial Week 17). In three games, he scored at least 25 FanDuel points. In three others, he scored fewer than 10.
- Three upside games: 28.0 FanDuel points, 68.4% completion rate, 38 pass attempts, 320.7 yards passing, 3.33 passing touchdowns, 0.33 interceptions
- Three bust games: 8.2 FanDuel points, 59.8% completion rate, 34 pass attempts, 175.3 yards passing, 0.33 passing touchdowns, 0.67 interceptions
The Texans have allowed a middle-of-the-road 17.7 FanDuel points per game to quarterbacks this year, and in his eight complete starts since 2017, Foles has averaged 16.9 FanDuel points. His median projection should be in that general range — but he’s not particularly likely to have a fantasy performance this weekend that aligns with that projection. This should go without saying, but Foles is a GPP-only play.
Foles has a position-high 62% Bargain Rating and projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 quarterback in the Levitan, Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
Week 16 Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other Week 16 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: Dak Prescott
Photo credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports