NFL Week 15 Fantasy QB Breakdown: Lamar Jackson Is the Mid-Priced Cash-Game Play
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Lamar Jackson
- Tom Brady has struggled on the road in the second half of seasons, but he could have an exploitable matchup against the Steelers.
- Lamar Jackson could also be in a favorable spot against a weak Buccaneers defense.
- Here's a deeper dive on both quarterbacks' fantasy potential this week.
We are just three 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 23.8 points per game per team. The action continues with an 11-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at five 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.
>> Sign up for The Action Network’s daily newsletter to get the smartest NFL conversation delivered into your inbox each morning.
This week, two quarterbacks in the middle of the salary scale stand out in the FantasyLabs Pro Models.
- Tom Brady: $5,900 DraftKings; $7,900 FanDuel
- Lamar Jackson: $5,900 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
Tom Brady: New England Patriots (-2.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers, 54 Over/Under
UPDATE (12/16): Steelers safety Sean Davis (knee) and edge defender Anthony Chickillo (ankle) will play after practicing in full on Thursday and Friday.
Including the playoffs, Brady has faced the Steelers five times over the past five seasons, most recently in Week 15 of 2017, when the Patriots controversially won in the final minute. For two teams not in the same division, the Pats and Steelers know each other as well as any teams can.
There are a few factors working against Brady this week. For one, he has tended to underperform in the second half of the season over the past half decade.
- Games 1-8 (36 games): 23.4 DraftKings points, +2.78 Plus/Minus, 61.1% Consistency Rating
- Games 9-16 (37 games): 18.9 DraftKings points, -1.98 Plus/Minus, 40.5% Consistency Rating
On top of that, he’s also been markedly better at home over that span.
- Home (35 games): 22.8 DraftKings points, +1.97 Plus/Minus, 60% Consistency Rating
- Away (37 games): 19.4 DraftKings points, -1.35 Plus/Minus, 40.5% Consistency Rating
When he’s played on the road in the second half, the results have usually been unsatisfactory.
- Away in Games 9-16 (20 games): 17.6 DraftKings points, -3.4 Plus/Minus, 35% Consistency Rating
Last season, Brady had just 16.7 DraftKings points when he played the Steelers at Heinz Field.
But maybe this week Brady will buck his second-half road trend.
Just last week, Brady put up 29.6 DraftKings points on the road against the Dolphins with a 358-yard, three-touchdown performance. And since last season (including playoffs), the Steelers defense has been significantly worse without Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (back).
- With Shazier (12 games): 17.8 points, 16.1 first downs, 294.7 scrimmage yards, +3.45 expected points
- Without Shazier (18 games): 24.8 points, 20.3 first downs, 336.3 scrimmage yards, -5.56 expected points
The Steelers have something of a funnel defense, ranking seventh against the run (-14.5% DVOA) but 21st against the pass (9.9% DVOA). Given that the Steelers-Pats game features the slate’s fastest combined situation-neutral pace, Brady could find himself throwing a lot of passes against an exploitable defense.
And what Brady really has going for him this week is the combined presence of wide receivers Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman, tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Sony Michel, all of whom Brady has been without for at least two games this season. When the Patriots offense has its full assortment of skill-position players, Brady has been at his best.
- With Gordon, Edelman, Gronk and Michel (six games): 24.8 DraftKings points, 69.7% completion rate, 318.3 yards passing, 2.17 touchdowns passing, 0.33 touchdowns rushing
- Without at least one of the four (seven games): 16.2 DraftKings points, 62.1% completion rate, 255.7 yards passing, 1.43 touchdowns passing, zero touchdowns rushing
On Sunday morning, I will probably look to bet the over on Brady’s yardage prop. With the aforementioned quartet of players, Brady has never failed to pass for at least 277 yards, and he’s had at least 340 yards in three of six games.
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 212-96-11, good for a 66% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Brady is the No. 1 DraftKings quarterback in the Levitan, Koerner and SportsGeek Models.
Lamar Jackson: Baltimore Ravens (-9) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 46.5 O/U
UPDATE (12/16): Left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) is doubtful after not practicing on Thursday and Friday.
The spread opened at -8.5, but it has moved toward the Bucs even though they have gotten only 42% of the tickets. This reverse line movement suggests that some sharp money is betting against the Ravens, which theoretically doesn’t bode well for Jackson, but his fantasy-friendly rushing role ensures that he’ll put up points regardless of game script.
With Jackson as the starter, the Ravens own a 3-1 record and have looked like the AFC North version of Tim Tebow’s 2011 Broncos.
With a run-heavy, ball-control offense and top-three DVOA defense, the Ravens have transformed themselves into a hard team to beat. Recently declared the full-time starter by head coach John Harbaugh, the explosive first-round rookie has a real chance to lead the 7-6 Ravens to the postseason.
There’s nothing pretty about how Jackson has played over the past month. He’s thrown three interceptions and fumbled six times. He’s managed just 150 yards and 0.75 touchdowns passing per game. His 5.9 AY/A is brutal. But as a runner, he’s dominated opponents with a 67-336-2 stat line, and he’s had at least 10 rushing attempts in every start. He’s in full-on Konami Code mode.
The Bucs rank dead last in the league with a 61.2 PFF rush-defense grade, and they’ve been especially poor on the road.
#Bucs point totals allowed:
At home: 28 + 17 + 9 + 16 + 23 + 30 + 21 = 20.6-point average.
On road: 40 + 48 + 34 + 37 + 42 + 38 = 39.8-point average.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) December 12, 2018
They’re 30th in the league with 29.5 points per game allowed.
And the Bucs are incredibly injured.
Middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee, injured reserve) is out, as is backup middle linebacker Jack Cichy (ankle, IR). Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder, IR) is out. Rookie cornerback Carlton Davis (knee) exited Week 12 early and missed Weeks 13 and 14.
Strong safety Chris Conte (knee, IR) is out. Free safety Justin Evans (toe) missed Weeks 11 and 12, tried to play in Week 13 and managed only 35.7% of the defensive snaps: He sat out last week and is uncertain for this week. And backup free safety Isaiah Johnson (concussion) suffered a head injury in Week 13 and missed Week 14. He might not clear the league’s protocol in time to play on Sunday.
Against such a defense, Jackson could dominate. The Bucs have allowed a top five mark of 23.0 DraftKings points per game to opposing quarterbacks.
Regardless of how the game script unfolds, Jackson’s rushing ability gives him a high floor. In his four starts, he has a position-high 10.1 expected fantasy points as a runner and has hit his salary-based expectations in each game with an average of 19.9 DraftKings points per game.
In GPPs, Jackson is very stackable with the Ravens defense, and he also might be roster-able with wide receiver Willie Snead: Jackson has targeted him a personal-high 20 times, and Snead has a strong price-adjusted combination of consistency and upside.
Jackson is the No. 1 DraftKings and FanDuel quarterback in the Bales Model.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 15 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.