NFL Week 16 Fantasy QB Breakdown: Can You Trust Dak Prescott in Dallas?
Matthew Emmons, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Dak Prescott
- The Colts and Andrew Luck might have the best passing game matchup of the week vs. the Giants.
- Dad Prescott's matchup isn't too shabby, either. He finds himself as a home favorite against the Bucs, a situation in which he has thrived.
- Here's a deeper dive on both quarterbacks' fantasy potential this week.
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 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.
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This week, two mid-priced quarterbacks stand out in the FantasyLabs Pro Models.
- Andrew Luck: $6,200 DraftKings; $8,200 FanDuel
- Dak Prescott: $5,700 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
Andrew Luck: Indianapolis Colts (-10) vs. New York Giants, 48 Over/Under
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.
Week 16 Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other Week 16 positional breakdowns.
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