By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
Howdy loyal readers, Grant here with your weekly round-up of quarterbacks you should be eyeing for this upcoming week. If you want to know who you should start in your fantasy league, these rankings should be an excellent tool to advise you.
A word of warning before we get into it, however. Everyone gets hot and cold streaks, and just because someone performed one way this week doesn’t mean they’ll repeat it next week. But if someone is consistently in the top ten despite getting little to no fanfare from leagues at large, it might be a prospect worth considering.
The statistics used to determine these rankings come from ESPN.com, so if you’re favorite player is low, blame them, not me. I’m just the guy crunching the data.
This is the final push before most championships start, and I wish every reader the best of luck in your penultimate fantasy endeavors!
Before we get into the #1 quarterback on the week, let’s take a quick look on my thoughts last week on Alex Smith:
“I don’t expect great things against the New York Jets for the upcoming week.”
Isn’t it fun being so utterly, completely wrong? Mind you, the Chiefs didn’t win the game, as I had expected, but Alex Smith put in an exemplary performance. Smith completed 19 of 33 pass attempts for 366 yards and four – count it, four – touchdowns. And for all the concerns about an older quarterback being immobile, Smith rattled off a career long, incredible 70 yard run, racing to the Jets red zone.
Alex Smith currently sits as the #3 quarterback on the season, but it is concerning how many of those points have been derived. Of his 248 points on the season, roughly half have come from his best four games. Conversely, his four lowest games add up to just 48 points. Smith has been boom-bust this season, and while he has the high ceiling of games like these, the floor is terrible. If you’d asked someone last week about Alex Smith there’s a good chance they would say he was an early season mirage, a flameout.
I love the rest of season schedule for Smith, he has three home games in a row coming up, two of which are against the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins. But he has faltered in seemingly great match-ups before – his lowest outing of the season was against the hapless New York Giants, where he put up just 7.9 points. The talent is clearly there, but can you rely on it at such a crucial time?
This game was the most competitive the Chiefs have looked in a long while, and it’s no coincidence that Andy Reid gave up play-calling to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. When a 5-0 team hit game thirteen with a 6-5 record, something’s gonna change. I’m willing to roll out Smith this week against the Oakland Raiders, I like where Nagy went this week, but it’s no certainty that this pattern will continue or that Smith can continue putting up top ten numbers. It’s dicey either way, but he’s better than any streaming option out there in my opinion.
Speaking of streaming options, Josh McCown came out and delivered this week for anyone who chose to start him. The Chiefs have been one of the weaker defenses this year, and McCown took full advantage of that, completing 26 of 26 pass attempts for 331 yards and a touchdown. Alone those numbers would be solid, but he also rushed 7 times for 19 yards and two touchdowns, putting him at five total on the season. He trails slightly behind Smith in total points, but he comes out of it with an admirable 31.1 points and the win on the field.
I’ve sung many praises of Josh McCown this season. Coming into the season he’d never completed a full season as a starter, but the hidden value was always there. McCown has had some bad games here or there, ignoring a low floor of someone playing for the New York Jets would be silly, but McCown has been relegated to streams in most leagues in spite of being the #7 quarterback on the season. Plugging him in as an automatic starter isn’t necessarily viable, he’s faltered with difficult match-ups, but I don’t think the once vaunted Denver Broncos are such a threat that he isn’t viable for teams with questionable starters.
Blake Bortles was great this week, completing 26 of 35 pass attempts for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He padded these stats out a bit with 27 yards on the ground and a two point conversion, landing him in a comfortable third place behind the two leaders from the Jets-Chiefs game. The Jaguars won the game in a blow-out, 30-10, as expected against a team with a weak defense like the Indianapolis Colts.
Figuring out what to do with Blake Bortles has always been tricky. The Jags have seemingly switched to a more pass-heavy offensive approach, but then big games – like in week eleven against the Browns – he randomly passes for under 200 yards. Against the Cleveland Browns! If you’re willing to ignore the low floor, however, he generally puts up good enough numbers and completes enough passes that, with the holes in the Seahawks once elite defense, I would feel okay streaming him. Or at the very least, picking him up for the game against Houston in two weeks. That, at the very least, promises to be a juicy match-up.
Russell Wilson continues to deliver, completing 20 of 31 pass attempts for 227 yards and three touchdowns, picking up 31 yards on the ground in the process. Since the Seahawks bye Wilson has not faltered, with a great floor of just shy of 20 points. While the Seahawks offensive weapons are not excellent, and the defense has somewhat sputtered in the wake of injuries, Wilson still finds a way to get it done week in and week out, firmly leading quarterbacks on the season.
The question for Wilson owners isn’t so much his performance this week, that was almost expected; it’s whether he’s start-able against the best defense in the league for the first week of fantasy playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars have held numerous quarterbacks to single digit performances, but Blaine Gabbert recently put in a solid performance against them. They’re not infallible, and while I think expecting him to be a top five performer may be asking a bit much, Wilson should absolutely be started this week. You don’t bench the best quarterback in the league because of a bad match-up, start your studs.
Cam Newton continues to deliver, albeit in a week a bit low on quarterback scoring – of the 32 starting quarterbacks, Cam is the last to break the 20 point barrier this week. Cam completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for 183 yards and two touchdowns, adding in 51 yards on the ground like he loves to do. After a shaky start to the season, Cam’s done fantastic over the past month; he hasn’t hit single digits since week seven against the Bears.
A lot of the reasoning I have for starting Russell Wilson should apply to Cam against the Vikings, but I’m much hesitant to advocate starting him. He should be fine, but unlike Wilson, Cam has had a lot of bad games this season – recent history is important, but I’m not going to ignore a 7.4 point floor. I don’t expect Cam to do outright terrible, but I actually would prefer to stream someone like McCown over him. Maybe it sounds delusional, but I just don’t see there being any upside in this match-up, and he already has a poor floor. What makes him a better start outside of his name compared to someone like a McCown or a Keenum? Food for thought, at the very least.
The Bengals were thrashing the Steelers during the first half of Monday Night Football, and it paid off in a big way for Andy Dalton. Dalton completed 21 of 36 pass attempts for 234 yards and two touchdowns, as well as picking up 19 yards on 2 carries. Outside of a terrible opener and a weak performance against the Jags, Dalton has been a fine mid-tier streamer most weeks, with occasional peaks into the top ten in weeks like this. The Bears provides low upside for him, but I don’t think the floor is so low that he can’t be a quick and dirty option in deeper leagues.
Joe Flacco? In the top ten? Say it ain’t so! A las, the streak of terrible performance has ended, Flacco put up his best performance of the year to the tune of…18.7 points. Man, even when I’m trying to compliment him it just sounds bad. Flacco completed 23 of 36 pass attempts for 269 yards and two touchdowns, which is nothing to write home about, but in a down week enough to be noteworthy. He plays the Steelers at home, but in spite of some recent struggles…well, he’s Joe Flacco. Unless you really think he’ll reach that “incredible” ceiling of 18.7 points, keep fading Joe Flacco.
Jameis Winston was back in action and delivered in a big way for fantasy purposes, completing 21 of 32 pass attempts for 270 yards and two touchdowns. 18 yards on the ground more or less make up for a fumble, but his play on the field was troubling. He made two costly errors that could have cost the Bucs the game, especially against a team that’s in shambles like the Green Bay Packers. I actually think looking just at the stats here is dangerous, and I would personally be hesitant to start Winston. Not so much that I’d automatically bench him, but I’d be willing to entertain streaming options.
Marcus Mariota put up a relatively good game the week after I lost confidence in him. Mariota completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for 150 yards and a touchdown as well as 23 rushing yards and another touchdown. Mariota isn’t a good passer in the pocket, 150 yards is not what anyone wants to see, but if he can get it done with his legs it will be enough for a good fantasy performance. Personally, I don’t like him as an option going forward, but the Cardinals have allowed 5 rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks; if there’s a week you’re gonna start him, now isn’t terrible.
Philip Rivers had another good week, completing 31 of 43 pass attempts for 344 yards and a touchdown. The singular touchdown keeps him out of deeper fantasy relevancy for this week, but Rivers is a passing quarterback who is still delivering on the yardage. His floor is safe and he’s been on fire recently; I don’t expect that to change against the Washington Redskins. He’s a safe play with high upside, and someone I’d definitely be looking to pick up in my leagues.
Big Ben looked like a Big Bust until the second half comeback, finishing with 24 completions of 40 pass attempts for 290 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Roethlisberger wasn’t exactly good but, again, in a weak field he did enough for fantasy relevancy. Heading back home Roethlisberger has a lot of upside, but against the Baltimore Ravens his floor is very low as well. He could boom-or-bust, so if you need someone who’s going to put up a floor and nothing else look elsewhere. If you need the big swing, Big Ben is probably available.
Case Keenum was efficient in the pocket again, completing 25 of 30 pass attempts for 227 yards and two touchdowns. His ground game could use some work, he ultimately lost a yard on four carries, but there’s enough weapons on the Vikings offense that he can usually turn in a good game. The Vikings won 14-9 and Keenum still turned in a good performance, which is all I need to know about his floor. The Carolina Panthers are a dangerous opponent, but not so dangerous that Keenum loses his spot as one of my top streaming options; the upside for a high-scoring shoot-out is definitely there.
Carson Wentz had a bit of an off week, completing 29 of 45 pass attempts for 348 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He also had 6 carries for 30 yards and a fumble, which add a net point to his outing. As far as I’m concerned, like many quarterbacks this week we saw Wentz’ floor rather than his ceiling. He still broke the 300 yard mark in spite of a lack of touchdowns, and everybody makes mistakes. In an offense like the Eagles, I’m continue to put Wentz out there as an elite option.
Tom Savage had a good week for…well, for Tom Savage, completing 31 of 49 pass attempts for 365 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The yardage is actually very impressive, he came one yard short of tying Alex Smith; it’s not often I’ll be able to compliment a Tom Savage performance. But the lack of touchdowns is always going to be an issue and always going to lower his ceiling – I think this is about as high as Savage can get, unfortunate as it is.
Derek Carr was mediocre this week, completing 22 of 36 pass attempts for 287 yards and a touchdown. It’s not bad, he’s middle-of-the-pack for a reason, but against an injury-riddled New York Giants, let alone one led by Geno Smith, Carr definitely underperformed. Carr has an incredibly high ceiling, some games he just blows up, but determining when and where they will happen may as well be like throwing a dart blindfolded. There’s no rhyme or reason, and it’s hard to advocate starting a guy who’s going to get you something like 14 points most weeks.
Rounding off the top half is Jared Goff, who completed 21 of 31 pass attempts for 220 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Against the Arizona Cardinals I would have hoped for more from Goff, who is leading one of the best offenses in the league, but he’s been solid most weeks. I think the guy’s overrated and match-up dependent, he’s had three bad games against three great defenses, and personally I expect similar results against the Philadelphia Eagles. Personally, I won’t be starting Jared Goff come Sunday, and I would advise the same for any readers out there.
Dak Prescott kinda rebounded this week, completing half of 22 pass attempts for 102 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 28 yards on the ground. In a weak week it was enough to land in the middle-of-the-road, but the Cowboys needed to lean on the ground game a lot this week; Dak got all his value from touchdowns this week, and while he didn’t make many mistakes his placement is more a mirage than something I would count on. Dak is not back, at least as far as I’m concerned, but I think a lot of people are going to make a mistake and start him.
Drew Brees completed 25 of 32 pass attempts for 269 yards and a touchdown. It’s not reinventing the wheel to say Brees is a good quarterback, but he just isn’t on a pass offensive. He hit Michael Thomas for a pass this week, which is nice for both of their stats, but as long as the Saints are a team that runs the ball Brees ceiling is going to be capped. The biggest issue is they’re so good that Brees is never forced to pass the ball to move field position, which while great for him in reality, doesn’t bolster the stats for fantasy value. In my two quarterback league I’m sitting Brees for Keenum, I love the player but the situation isn’t right.
Jay Cutler had a mixed bag of a week, completing 18 of 31 pass attempts for 235, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The weird thing this is his second best week outside of an excellent, albeit losing effort against the Raiders in week nine. Cutler has no fantasy relevance, especially going against a revitalized Patriot defense this next week. Keep him on the waviers, where he almost assuredly resides.
DeShone Kizer is a bad quarterback. Like, he’s not the bottom of the barrel this week, but – okay, let’s look at his stats. Kizer completed just 15 of 32 pass attempts for 215 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He had 5 carries for 46 yards and a fumble. Josh Gordon looked excellent this week, but even with a weapon like that Kizer kept wildy over-throwing and under-throwing his passes. He’s just not an NFL caliber quarterback; the only asset he has is his legs, and even that’s not bankable like it is for someone like Marcus Mariota.
Kirk Cousins was another guy who had an up-and-down performance, completing 26 of 37 pass attempts for 251 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and a fumble. Cousins has had very good performances, Cousins has had very bad performances, neither of which you were expecting for someone who’s supposed to average in the middle of the rankings as far as starting fantasy quarterbacks. He’s the sixth best quarterback on the season, which makes it so hard to sit him, but he’s not perfect and he’s not match-up proof. Against a Charger defense that’s been pretty solid, I don’t know if I’d start Cousins over some of the better streaming options.
Matthew Stafford completed 24 of 29 pass attempts for 292 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and a fumble. Stafford is a good pocket passer, but against the Baltimore Ravens he couldn’t get much going. Stafford is another mid-tier quarterback who struggled with mistakes this week, but no one expected him to thrive against the Ravens. I expect a bounce back against the Buccaneers this next week and would start him without a second thought over most other options.
Jacoby Brissett had a rough game, completing 21 of 36 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. 36 rushing yards are nice, but the old adage holds true: if you’re throwing more interceptions than touchdowns, something’s going wrong. Brissett was never meant to be a season-long starter, and while he’s had occasional moments of brilliance most weeks have been like this. To be entirely fair, he was playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I don’t know how much better it would be against the Buffalo Bills.
Jimmy Garoppolo struggled as all rookies do in his first starting game, completing 26 of 37 pass attempts for 293 yards and an interception. He didn’t get much done on the ground, his 4 carries amounting to just 8 yards. Having said that, his accuracy and passing yardage was really solid, especially on a team like the 49ers, against a strong defense in the Chicago Bears. And, even more importantly he actually won them the game. In two quarterback leagues there are worse options than Garoppolo to supplement you’re starting guy and he’s definitely worth a pick-up in keeper leagues, even if he’s just there to warm your bench for the time being.
Blaine Gabbert struggled against the Rams this week, completing 18 of 32 pass attempts for 221 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. No one expected the Cardinals defense to put up much of a fight against the Rams elite offense, but it is a bit disappointing that Gabbert couldn’t make it more of a shoot-out. The Titans defense has been hit-or-miss this year, and Gabbert is worth the stream in deeper leagues if you want to try for a sneaky play.
Tying exactly with Gabbert is Mitchell Trubisky, who I incorrectly predicted would out-do Jimmy Garoppolo this week. Trubisky completed 12 of 15 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown; passing seemed to be almost an afterthought, and the only thing saving it from complete ruin was the touchdown. On top of that Trubisky had minimal gains on the ground, 4 for 19. Trubisky’s rookie year is looking like a bust, and for a number two pick that has to be disappointing. He’s worth the fade until the Bears can figure something out offensively; that, however, likely won’t come this season.
Contrary to what many expected, Geno Smith did not throw a bunch of interceptions, completing 21 of 34 pass attempts for 212 yards and a touchdown to tight end Evan Engram. He did, however, fumble the ball twice, and both turnovers went to the Raiders, so the current reality isn’t great either. Smith came in to put up a mediocre performance, get his coaching staff fired, and promptly hit the bench for Eli Manning’s return; there’s no fantasy relevancy to be had here.
Tom Brady completed 21 of 30 pass attempts for 258 yards and an interception. Brady being this low, in a 23-3 blow-out no less, is honestly hard to believe, but when all the touchdowns go to running backs you’re fantasy day i going to be rough. Obviously no one thinks Tom Brady is a bad quarterback, it was just a temporary lack of end zone production. I expect him to be back in business next week against the Dolphins, this is just a temporary blip on Brady’s extraordinary career.
Brett Hundley is back to being Brett Hundley, completing 13 of 22 pass attempts for 84 yards and an interception. 66 yards on the ground are where he got pretty much all his value on the week, as Hundley was the only starting quarterback to complete the game with less then 100 yards. It’s worth noting that the Packers did – somehow – ultimately win the game. Having said that, seeing Hundley as anything more than a deep reach is silly, and the three touchdown game seems to be more of an aberration than anything else. There’s no trusting Hundley, especially in the playoffs, even against a team like the Cleveland Browns.
Matt Ryan struggled to do much of anything against the Vikings this week, completing 16 of 29 pass attempts for 173 yards. Ryan still managed to get some decent yardage out of the pocket, but the Vikings shut down any attempts to score in the air. Ryan hasn’t been having a great season, but numbers like this are more a result of the match-up than anything else. I don’t expect him to be marvelous against the Saints on Thursday, but he’ll almost certainly be viable as a mid-tier starting option.
Tyrod Taylor completed half of 18 pass attempts for 65 yards and an interception, as well as rushed for 32 yards, before being removed from the game with a knee injury. After recently winning back the starting job Taylor will lose it once more to Nathan Peterman as a result of said injury, and it’s likely he’ll be out for the rest of the fantasy season. It’s a shame, but in a contact sport as harsh as football, these types of things happen; at any rate, Peterman is certainly not a startable asset given his past performance.
It says a lot when you take the spot at the bottom of the list below quarterback’s who couldn’t break 100 passing yards or who only played portions of the game, but Trevor Siemian is a special kind of quarterback. Siemian competed 19 of 41 passing attempts for 200 yards and three interceptions. 16 rushing yards bring him up to a whopping 3.6 points on the week, which is barely better than the games he didn’t even play in.
As outright bad as Siemian was – and boy, was has he bad – he’s still the best quarterback the Broncos have at this point and will continue to perform in that starting role. Normally I wouldn’t be afraid of the New York Jets defense, but with such a bad performance, Siemian might psyche himself out even further. At any rate he’s not a starting option for fantasy purposes, and I’m sure the Broncos will be looking at this game to see if he’s still a starting option in reality.