Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (25).
- Marlon Mack is set up to feast on a vulnerable Giants defensive front.
- Tevin Coleman is expected to get the majority of the backfield touches against the Panthers on Sunday.
- Here's a deeper dive on both running backs' 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 four running backs 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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Model Running Backs
This week, two mid-priced backs are popping in the FantasyLabs Pro Models.
- Marlon Mack: $5,500 DraftKings; $7,000 FanDuel
- Tevin Coleman: $4,800 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
Marlon Mack: 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.
Mack struggled through the first half of the season with hamstring, ankle and foot injuries that resulted in four missed games, and he was forced from Week 12 with a concussion, but when healthy he’s been the explosive lead back for a team that’s won seven of its past eight games.
Mack has played at least 40% of the Colts’ offensive snaps in seven games this year. In those contests, he’s been plenty productive, averaging 19.9 DraftKings points, 99 yards and 1.14 touchdowns on the strength of 18.3 carries, 2.14 targets and 1.4 receptions per game.
Although the Giants are a middle-of-the-road-ish 19th against the run in Football Outsiders’ DVOA with a -4.5% mark, they are more exploitable than that ranking might suggest.
For the season, they’ve allowed a top-eight mark of 29.1 DraftKings points per game to opposing backfield, and since trading away run-stuffing nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison in Week 8, the Giants have been dominated by a variety of running backs.
- Adrian Peterson (Redskins, Week 8): 30.6 DraftKings points, 26-149-1 rushing, 1-7-1 receiving on one target
- Week 9 (bye)
- Matt Breida (49ers, Week 10): 31.2 DraftKings points, 17-101-1 rushing, 3-31-1 receiving on four targets
- Peyton Barber (Bucs, Week 11): 22.0 DraftKings points, 18-106-1 rushing, 2-4-0 receiving on two targets
- Josh Adams (Eagles, Week 12): 16.4 DraftKings points, 22-84-1 rushing, 0-0-0 receiving on one target
- Tarik Cohen (Bears, Week 13): 37.6 DraftKings points, 8-30-0 rushing, 12-156-0 receiving on 14 targets
- Derrick Henry (Giants, Week 15): 33.2 DraftKings points, 33-170-2 rushing, 1-0-0 receiving on one target
The only lead back not to have his way with the Giants since the Harrison trade was Adrian Peterson in Week 14, and that’s understandable: Third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez started the game, and he was quickly benched in favor of fresh-off-the-street fourth-stringer Josh Johnson.
If Mack gets his full allotment of opportunities — and there’s little reason to believe he won’t as a big home favorite — he could have a massive performance.
Tevin Coleman: Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers, 44.5 O/U
UPDATE (12/23): Wide receiver Julio Jones (hip, ribs) is a game-time decision after sitting on Wednesday and Thursday and getting in a limited practice on Friday. Given that the Falcons are out of contention for the playoffs, there’s a non-zero albeit small chance he won’t suit up.
This has been a lost season for Coleman, but last week he found some Samson-like redemption against the Cardinals, scoring 23.5 DraftKings points on the strength of 145 yards and a touchdown rushing.
His matchup this week isn’t nearly as good — the Panthers have held opposing backfields to a bottom-six mark of 21.2 DraftKings points per game — but Coleman still has the potential to put up points in a run-heavy game script.
While Coleman has shared touches and snaps with rookie running back Ito Smith for much of the year, Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, so Coleman should truly have the backfield to himself.
And without starter Devonta Freeman (groin, IR), Coleman has been at his best throughout his career.
- Without Freeman (15 games): 12.6 DraftKings points, 12.7 carries, 2.8 targets, 1.9 receptions, 77.4 yards and 0.67 touchdowns from scrimmage
- With Freeman (39 games): 8.8 DraftKings points, 8.2 carries, 2.3 targets, 1.6 receptions, 53.5 yards and 0.46 touchdowns from scrimmage
Although the Panthers rank 10th with an 85.7 PFF run-defense grade, it’s likely that they will struggle to play a complementary style of football in this game.
On the offensive side of the ball, they will be without quarterback Cam Newton (shoulder), whom the team has decided to rest for the final two games of the season. In his place, the Panthers will rely on backup Taylor Heinicke, who entered the league in 2015 as an undrafted player out of Old Dominion.
Although Heinicke has a non-zero chance of turning into a modern-day Tony Romo — he started four years in college, he won the Walter Payton Award as a sophomore, and he helped the ODU program transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to Conference USA in his final season — he’s making his first NFL start.
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.