The final week of the season is here, 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.
Four of the five lowest-scoring weeks this season have been played in the month of December.
- Week 13: 21.4 points
- Week 14: 21.8 points
- Week 15: 19.3 points
- Week 16: 22.7 points
Year over year, scoring is up, but within 2018, we’ve seen a very notable downward trend, which could continue into this weekend, given that Week 17 tends to have a preseason-esque randomness thanks to the mixed motivations of each team.
Regardless, with no Thursday and Monday Night Football, we have the largest main slate of the regular season (15 games), and many teams are playing to win. The action kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at two tight ends 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.
NOTE: This week especially, the players at the top of our Models might change radically as we get more news regarding how teams with no need to use their starters plan to deploy their players. Be sure to check our Models regularly for updates.
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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Model Tight Ends
- Travis Kelce: $7,200 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
- Christopher Herndon: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
Travis Kelce: Kansas City Chiefs (-14) at Oakland Raiders, 52.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (12/30): Running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) is officially questionable but expected to play.
On the Week 17 edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, we talked about the Chiefs as a team to stack and Kelce in particular as a player to roster.
There are a lot of reasons to like Kelce. For one, the Chiefs-Raiders game has major playoff implications. With a win, the Chiefs will secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes can lock up the MVP award with a solid performance: We should see the Chiefs at their best, and they have a slate-high implied Vegas total of 33.5 points.
Additionally, Kelce has personal motivation. With 1,274 yards, he has a real chance to break the single-season tight end receiving record that Rob Gronkowski set in 2011 with 1,327 yards. Kelce is having a historic fantasy season for a tight end, and the Chiefs will look to get him the ball early and often to ensure that he has a real shot to break the record — especially since 49ers tight end George Kittle is close behind him with 1,228 yards.
Although they have lost three of their past five games, the Chiefs still lead the AFC, and on a per-game basis they’ve …
- Outscored their implied total by 6.5 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 9.9 points (No. 1)
The Chiefs rank first in scoring at 35.3 points per game, and Kelce is a key contributor to their success, ranking top-two among all tight ends with his 141 targets, 98 receptions, 1,274 yards receiving, 1,330 air yards, 522 yards after the catch and 10 touchdowns.
Since his All-Pro campaign in 2016, Kelce leads all tight ends with 13.2 FanDuel points per game. He’s also provided outstanding salary-adjusted value with his +3.04 Plus/Minus.
Kelce is currently in full-on #ZeusMode, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is out, so Kelce could have yet another big performance: Kelce has been nearly unstoppable in the eight games this season in which Watkins has played less than 80% of the offensive snaps.
- Week 4 (at Broncos): 17.3 FanDuel points, 7-78-1 receiving on 12 targets
- Week 9 (at Browns): 25.4 FanDuel points, 7-99-2 receiving on nine targets
- Week 10 (vs. Cardinals): 7.6 FanDuel points, 6-46-0 receiving on seven targets
- Week 11 (at Rams): 23.7 FanDuel points, 10-127-1 receiving on 15 targets
- Week 13 (at Raiders): 32.8 FanDuel points, 12-168-2 receiving on 13 targets
- Week 14 (vs. Ravens): 17.2 FanDuel points, 7-77-1 receiving on nine targets
- Week 15 (vs. Chargers): 9.6 FanDuel points, 7-61-0 receiving on nine targets
- Week 16 (at Seahawks): 7.9 FanDuel points, 5-54-0 receiving on nine targets
If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.
Kelce has a great matchup, which isn’t surprising given the 12-168-2 receiving performance he had against the Raiders in Week 13. The Chiefs have the slate’s most explosive passing-game matchup.
On top of that, the Chiefs have the week’s highest pass funnel rating at 88.71.
The Raiders rank 31st against the pass with a 27.8% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and they are dead last against tight ends (44.4% DVOA). If you roster Kelce in guaranteed prize pools, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack him with Mahomes, both of whom are in one of our top stacks of the slate. Since 2014, No. 1 tight ends have had a 0.47 correlation with their quarterbacks, but Kelce has had a 0.78 correlation with his passers.
The Raiders have allowed a top-five mark of 12.5 FanDuel points per game to tight ends.
One drawback is that the game is in Kansas City. While playing at home is normally advantageous, that’s not necessarily the case for the Chiefs if we’re looking for lots of points. In the Andy Reid era (since 2013), no home team has made under bettors more money than the Chiefs have with their 17-29-1 over/under record, good for a 22.9% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
The outdoor and raucous Arrowhead Stadium is a hard place to play, especially once the weather is cold, and it’s not just road teams that have played worse in Kansas City this season (per the RotoViz Game Splits App).
- Chiefs Home Games: 52.86 o/u, 52.14 points scored, Chiefs 32, Opponents 20.14
- Chiefs Road Games: 55.19 o/u, 72.87 points scored, Chiefs 38.25, Opponents 34.62
Throughout the Reid era, the Chiefs have scored 2.81 fewer points at home and opponents have scored 6.04 fewer points in Kansas City. Divisional games after Week 10 have a 286-365-15 over/under record since 2006. It’s possible that the Chiefs could score fewer points than expected given the circumstances.
Even so, Kelce is extremely unlikely to have a poor game, given his position-high median and ceiling projections in our Models. He truly might break the slate.
On Sunday morning I will probably bet the over on Kelce’s touchdown prop. He’s scored seven touchdowns in his eight games without Watkins, and this season the Raiders have allowed tight ends a top-four mark of nine touchdowns, two of which Kelce himself scored in Week 13.
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 222-103-12, good for a 66% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Leading the position with 10 Pro Trends, a 99% Bargain Rating and a +3.75 Projected Plus/Minus, Kelce is the No. 1 FanDuel tight end in the Bales, CSURAM88, Levitan, Koerner, Raybon and SportsGeek Models.
Christopher Herndon: New York Jets (-13.5) vs. New England Patriots, 46.5 O/U
UPDATE (12/30): Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Jermaine Kearse (Achilles) are out.
There’s a weird quirk in my DraftKings Model — it likes Herndon seemingly every week.
Of course, last week he had 20.2 DraftKings points, so maybe the Model knows what it’s doing.
Since Herndon’s Week 6 breakout, he’s top-two on the Jets with 45 targets, 33 receptions, 447 yards receiving, 151 yards after the catch and four touchdowns. Over that span, Herndon has been a relatively strong per-game fantasy producer next to some other, more-hyped players at the position.
- Christopher Herndon (10 games): 10.2 DraftKings points
- Rob Gronkowski (seven games): 10.3 DraftKings points
- Evan Engram (eight games): 9.9 DraftKings points
- David Njoku (10 games): 9.6 DraftKings points
- Trey Burton (10 games): 9.0 DraftKings points
There’s nothing great about the Herndon’s matchup. In fact, the Patriots are second in the league with a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of 92.6.
But Herndon is dirt cheap at $3,400, and the only tight ends with more than his six Pro Trends on DraftKings are Kelce, Kittle and Engram. He leads the position with his 98% DraftKings Bargain Rating.
You probably don’t need to pay down at tight end on this slate, but if you’re looking for a tournament punt play, Herndon warrants strong consideration.
Week 17 Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other Week 17 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87)
Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports