The regular season is over, but that’s no reason to stop playing daily fantasy football. Wildcard weekend brings a wonderful four-game slate that kicks off on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at three 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.
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- Deshaun Watson: $6,700 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel
- Dak Prescott: $5,500 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Mitch Trubisky: $6,200 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
Deshaun Watson: Houston Texans (-1.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts, 48 Over/Under
UPDATE (1/5): Wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) is officially questionable but expected to play.
The Texans opened as -2.5 favorites, but the line has moved toward the Colts. On the Wednesday edition of The Favorites podcast, bookmaker Bob Scucci noted that the public and the wise guys are both backing the Colts, which in theory doesn’t bode well for Watson.
Even so, given the smaller slate, Watson has the highest median, ceiling and floor projections of all quarterbacks in our Models.
Additionally, according to The Action Network NFL Power Rankings, the public and the sharps might be wrong to back the Colts: Our numbers suggest that the Texans are the most undervalued team of wildcard weekend.
The Texans have a slate-high 25.0-point implied Vegas total, and professional bettors have targeted the over throughout the week, which makes sense: It’s winter, and the Texans-Colts game will be played indoors. Over the past 15 years, domed games have a postseason over/under record of 28-9-0, good for a magnificent 49.8% return on investment (per Bet Labs). For comparison, outdoor postseason games are 53-70-4 with a -15.5% ROI.
The game environment is definitely in Watson’s favor: The Colts and Texans are both top-10 in situation-neutral pace and should combine to have the week’s fastest-paced matchup.
Watson had something of a mixed campaign. Last season, Watson had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time, but this year he was “just” the No. 7 fantasy quarterback with 22.4 DraftKings point per start. That’s a respectable number, but in 2017 he had an all-time high mark of 29.4. Watson’s 2017 Plus/Minus of +13.15 was patently absurd, and he hit his salary-based expectations in every start.
Watson was bound to regress in 2018, but even so, he has been marginally disappointing.
From a fantasy perspective, he has definitely taken a step back 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 (16 games): 0.08 paFPOEPA, 0.13 ruFPOEPA
Watson’s rushing drop off has been particularly notable.
- 2017 (seven games): 7.5 yards per attempt, 0.61 success rate
- 2018 (16 games): 5.6 yards per attempt, 0.53 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, 81.0 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, especially since slot receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) seems likely to play after missing the past five games. Coutee has practiced in full this week, so there’s little reason to think that he’ll be limited this weekend.
Watson should very much benefit from the return of Coutee.
But he of course will still miss wide receiver Will Fuller (knee, injured reserve), who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8. In his 22 career starts, Watson has exhibited stark Fuller-based splits.
- With Fuller (11 games): 27.2 DraftKings points, 31.9 pass attempts, 288.3 yards passing, 2.73 touchdowns passing
- Without Fuller (11 games): 21.4 DraftKings points, 30.5 pass attempts, 235.6 yards passing, 1.27 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 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 6-17: 26.1 points scored, 28.6 pass attempts, 29.7 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.
There’s nothing particularly special about Watson’s matchup with the Colts, but it’s not imposing. The Colts have a funnel defense: They rank fourth against the run in Football Outsiders’ DVOA but 20th against the pass. And Watson did well against the Colts earlier in the year.
- Week 4 (at Colts): 35.1 DraftKings points, 69.1% completion rate, 375-2-1 passing, 6-41-1 rushing
- Week 14 (vs. Colts): 18.2 DraftKings points, 71.1% completion rate, 267-1-0 passing, 5-35-0 rushing
The Colts have held quarterbacks to a bottom-12 mark of 17.9 DraftKings points per game, but no quarterback has done better against the Colts than Watson did in Week 4. On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, we talked about Watson as a strong play in cash games and guaranteed prize pools.
Watson is tied for the position lead with seven Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 quarterback in the Bales Model.
Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys (-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks, 43.5 O/U
UPDATE (1/5): Left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle) is officially doubtful and expected not to play.
As a self-loathing Cowboys fan and old-school Tony Romo truther, I’m perpetually conflicted when it comes to Prescott. In Weeks 14 and 17, he averaged 421 yards and 3.5 touchdowns passing against two divisional rivals. In Weeks 15-16, he averaged 183.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns against two non-elite pass defenses.
That’s what he’s done over the past month.
What is anyone to make of him?
- With Cooper (Weeks 8-17): 20.7 DraftKings points, 71.3% completion rate, 8.0 AY/A, 274.2 yards passing
- Without Cooper (Weeks 1-7): 17.0 DraftKings points, 62.1% completion rate, 6.8 AY/A, 202.4 yards passing
But Cooper’s addition hasn’t resulted in massive number of passing touchdowns for Prescott, and it has coincided with fewer quarterback rushes and yards.
- With Cooper (Weeks 8-17): 1.56 touchdowns passing, 3.9 carries, 7.7 yards rushing
- Without Cooper (Weeks 1-7): 1.14 touchdowns passing, 5.7 carries, 33.7 yards rushing
Without Cooper the Cowboys were 3-4. With him, they have gone 7-2 and won the NFC East.
But we shouldn’t overstate the impact he has on the offense. Even though the Cowboys are accumulating more yards per game with him, they are by no means radically better at converting yards into points (per the RotoViz Team Splits App).
- With Cooper (Weeks 8-17): 274.1 yards passing, 111.8 yards rushing, 22.1 points per game, 1.98 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, and it’s not as if the Cowboys have been significantly better or even that good of a team with Cooper.
The Cowboys are 7-2 with Amari Cooper.
They’ve also been outscored 201-199 since he joined the team.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) January 3, 2019
The Cowboys look like a team destined for some rude postseason regression.
And it doesn’t help that the interior of Dallas’ offensive line is vulnerable. All-Pro center Travis Frederick (illness, IR) has missed the entire season, and in his stead backup Joe Looney has earned a 53.7 Pro Football Focus grade.
Additionally, left guard Xavier Su’a Filo (ankle) exited the team’s meaningless Week 17 game with an injury and is yet to practice or participate in walkthroughs. He’s been poor enough on his own with a 43.3 PFF grade, but if Su’a Filo can’t play the Cowboys will be forced to use rookie Connor Williams, whom Su’a Filo replaced in Week 11 after the second-rounder’s early-season struggles became to much for the team to bear.
But Prescott has a couple of factors in his favor. The Seahawks have allowed a middle-of-the-road 18.2 DraftKings points per game to quarterbacks, but in the second half of the season (since Week 10), they’ve often been exploited by quarterbacks (with the exceptions of rookie Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen in Week 17).
- Jared Goff (Rams, Week 10): 24.0 DraftKings points, 71.8% completion rate, 318-2-0 passing, three yards rushing
- Aaron Rodgers (Packers, Week 11): 24.6 DraftKings points, 70.0% completion rate, 332-2-0 passing, three yards rushing
- Cam Newton (Panthers, Week 12): 23.5 DraftKings points, 83.3% completion rate, 256-2-1 passing, 63 yards rushing
- Nick Mullens (49ers, Week 13): 26.7 DraftKings points, 62.5% completion rate, 414-2-1 passing, one yard rushing
- Kirk Cousins (Vikings, Week 14): 11.8 DraftKings points, 60.6% completion rate, 208-1-0 passing, five yards rushing
- Nick Mullens (49ers, Week 15): 14.8 DraftKings points, 69.0% completion rate, 275-1-0 passing, -2 yards rushing
- Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs, Week 16): 28.2 DraftKings points, 57.5% completion rate, 273-3-0 passing, 33 yards rushing
The Seahawks rank a manageable 14th with their 79.4 PFF coverage grade, but they are notably week at outside cornerback.
- Left corner Shaquill Griffin: 51.9 PFF coverage grade, 66.2% completion rate allowed
- Right corner Tre Flowers: 56.5 PFF coverage grade, 62.2% completion rate allowed
Dak underperformed against the Seahawks in a 24-13 Week 3 road loss (168-1-2 passing, 10.8 DraftKings points), but with Cooper and at home, he should be better.
The Cowboys have been significantly better at home this year than on the road.
- At home: +6.5 point differential, 25 points per game, 2.28 points per drive
- On road: -4.6 point differential, 17.4 points per game, 1.58 points per drive
And throughout his career, Dak has been at his best as a home favorite.
- Home favorite (18 games): 67.7% completion rate, 33.1 pass attempts, 249.8 yards passing, 1.67 passing touchdowns, 0.44 interceptions, 22.8 rushing yards, 0.44 rushing touchdowns
- All other situations (30 games): 64.9% completion rate, 29.3 pass attempts, 211.7 yards passing, 1.23 passing touchdowns, 0.57 interceptions, 17.8 rushing yards, 0.33 rushing touchdowns
And in the playoffs, home favorite quarterbacks have tended to outperform expectations even more.
And perhaps most importantly, Prescott is the slate’s second-cheapest quarterback: He enables you to pay up at every other position.
For tournaments, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack Dak with tight end Blake Jarwin. Since 2014, quarterbacks on average have had a 0.47 correlation with their No. 1 tight ends, but Dak and Jarwin have had a 0.73 correlation.
Prescott is the No. 1 DraftKings quarterback in the CSURAM88, Levitan, Raybon and Freedman Models.
Mitch Trubisky: Chicago Bears (-6.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 41.5 O/U
Trubisky is very much a game plan-dependent passer, relying heavily on early-game scripted plays for success: In the first quarter, he has a strong 9.3 AY/A, but after that he has a low 6.7 mark. On top of that, since returning from a shoulder injury he suffered near the end of Week 11, Trubisky has been a remarkably below-average per-game passer and runner.
- Weeks 14-17: 12.3 FanDuel points, 188.5 yards and 1.0 touchdowns passing, 0.75 interceptions, 14.5 yards and zero touchdowns rushing
- Weeks 1-11: 22.6 FanDuel points, 246.9 yards and 2.0 touchdowns passing, 0.9 interceptions, 36.3 yards and 0.3 touchdowns rushing
At times, Trubisky looks like the NFC North version of Blake Bortles with his style of play and decision-making, but he unquestionably progressed as a second-year passer. That Trubisky was able to put together three games with 300 yards and three touchdowns before his injury speaks to his talent and the game-planning ability of head coach Matt Nagy.
Trubisky’s wide receivers have been banged up for chunks of the season, but Allen Robinson (ribs), Taylor Gabriel (shoulder) and Anthony Miller (shoulder) all are probable to play after practicing fully on Wednesday and Thursday, and they have good matchups.
The Eagles 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) missed Weeks 7-10, 12 and 15-17 with a lingering soft-tissue injury.
For the past three weeks, the Eagles have been using backups Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Cre’Von LeBlanc as the starting left, right and slot corners. They respectively have mediocre PFF coverage grades of 63.0, 67.9 and 63.2 and collectively have allowed a completion rate of 64.4% in their coverage.
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
- Deshaun Watson (Texans, Week 16): 36.5 FanDuel points, 339-2-0 passing, 8-49-2 rushing
Against this injured secondary, Trubisky has the position’s second-highest floor projection on FanDuel despite having the fourth-lowest salary.
On Sunday morning I might look to bet the over on Trubisky’s rushing prop. Given how rushing quarterbacks have fared against the Eagles this year, he could offer some value.
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 225-106-12, good for a 66% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
With a position-high 50% Bargain Rating, Trubisky is the No. 1 FanDuel quarterback in the CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, Raybon, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
Wildcard Weekend Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other wildcard weekend positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4)
Photo credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports