Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 3
It’s been a weird two weeks for quarterbacks.
Alex Smith is the No. 1 overall quarterback. He’s followed by Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz, who have finished as top five quarterbacks in each of their starts after barely being playable last season. Jared Goff and Josh McCown have scored more points than Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. So has Sam Bradford, despite playing only one game. Neither Brian Hoyer nor Andy Dalton has gotten to seven total points on the season yet. They’re both sitting behind Kevin Freaking Hogan, who scored seven points in 1 ½ quarters of relief duty on Sunday.
It might get worse before it gets better. This week’s slate includes a bunch of road favorites and bad players in good matchups. That means the takes will be hot this week as we try to predict the QB1s (top 12 finishers).
(As a reminder, this isn’t a pure start/sit column-weird stuff happens every week, so there are a few far-fetched but plausible QB1 predictions sprinkled in.)
1) Derek Carr (OAK): @ Washington
Carr has been on fire to start the year, taking advantage of a couple of easy matchups to post two QB1 weeks. The favorable schedule continues in Week 3. Washington’s defense has given up the 5th most passing yards through two games. This game has the highest over/under of the week (54), putting Carr in prime position to nab the top slot.
2) Matt Ryan (ATL): @ Detroit
Is this matchup harder than it looks? Detroit’s defense was a dumpster fire last year, but so far they’ve given up only 33 points (8th best in the league). Of course, that came against the Cardinals and the Giants, whose offenses haven’t exactly been clicking to start the season. I think we’ll see Detroit’s true colors in Week 3. Atlanta comes in as a road favorite off a huge primetime win, and I like them to keep rolling. Two good offenses in a dome means a lot of points will be scored in this one.
3) Matthew Stafford (DET): vs. Atlanta
Stafford started the season against the Cardinals and Giants, who had the 3rd and 4th best pass defenses last year according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, so it’s highly impressive he’s siting at QB5 right now. As mentioned above, Stafford’s Week 3 matchup looks like a shootout with Matt Ryan. Giddyup.
4) Tom Brady (NE): vs. Houston
Dating back to 2014, Brady has averaged three fewer points per game when the Patriots are a double-digit favorite. Giving 13 to the Texans, expect an efficient first half from Brady followed by a lot of Mike Gillislee mop-up duty to close the game out. Whether Brady puts up big stats or ends up as just a solid QB1 will likely come down to who gets the early touchdowns.
5) Aaron Rodgers (GB): vs. Cincinnati
Rodgers has been more “solid” than “stud” to start the year, and it may be status quo for another week. Rodgers barely had a chance with both starting tackles out last week, and now Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are banged up. The matchup isn’t great either-the Bengals’ defense ranks 12th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and they’re allowing just 4.6 net yards per attempts (5th lowest in the league). Still, Rodgers at home is money, and if Andy Dalton continues to implode then Green Bay’s offense is going to be in very favorable situations all day. I don’t expect a monster week, but enough for a strong QB1 performance.
6) Philip Rivers (LAC): vs. Kansas City
Rivers is always money in September. I don’t think the weather has anything to do with it, it’s just the time of year when all of his receivers haven’t blown out their ACLs yet. Rivers is clearly enjoying having Keenan Allen back, but secondary targets like Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Henry have all started strong to make this one of the deepest passing corps in the league.
Rivers has been a QB1 in both starts, and now gets the Chiefs, who have given up the 4th most passing yards in the league. He’s a good start in redraft, and likely to be an underowned quarterback in DFS.
7) Jay Cutler (MIA): @ New York Jets
The quarterback playing against the Jets will pretty much always show up in this space. They’ve given up five passing touchdowns already (3rd most in the league), despite facing just 56 passing attempts (6th fewest in the league). Cutler looked surprisingly competent in his first game, completing 73% of his passes with one touchdown and zero interceptions against a good Chargers secondary. Most importantly, HC Adam Gase didn’t look afraid to give him the ball the way he was with Ryan Tannehill last season.
8) Kirk Cousins (WAS): vs. Oakland
Oakland’s defense looks improved from a season ago, and Cousins finally looks like the guy Washington hasn’t wanted to commit to. I’m still willing to bet Cousins and the Washington O find their footing in this matchup. A slow start should have been expected with a new offensive coordinator and so many new faces at receiver. With the highest over/under of the week and not much doing in Washington’s run game, Cousins should get plenty of volume in this one.
9) DeShone Kizer (CLE): @ Indianapolis
Kizer does the two things a rookie quarterback needs to do to be relevant: throw deep and run. He ranks third in deep ball attempts per PlayerProfiler, and has five carries in each of his first two games. Thus far the Colts’ secondary has been torched by Jared Goff and just missed a second torching by Carson Palmer, who would’ve had a big game if not for a few receiver miscues and recalled touchdowns. There are plenty of growing pains ahead for Kizer, but this matchup offers a ton of upside.
(Bonus bold prediction: despite having the lowest over/under this week, this game ends up as a shootout.)
10) Dak Prescott (DAL): @ Arizona
Last year Prescott was a consistent fantasy starter without a ton of upside-10 QB1 finishes, but only three top-6 finishes. That’s exactly what he’s been so far, finishing as QB12 and QB11. Those performances came against the Giants and Broncos, two of last year’s top pass defenses, which gives some hope for what appears to be another tough road matchup. Frankly, I’m not convinced the Arizona defense is the elite unit it was last season. Either way, this one’s more of a gut call, but I trust the talent.
11) Josh McCown (NYJ): vs. Miami
The Jets are a laughingstock, and not without reason, but the offense has quietly been not terrible. They’ve scored on nearly 32% of their drives (21st in the league), including a respectable 20 points last week and 12 points the week before against a much improved Ryan-less Buffalo defense.
This week McCown gets a home game against the Dolphins, who gave up over 300 yards to Philip Rivers last week and were one of the worst pass defenses in 2016. McCown could surprise on Sunday. He’s a good tournament play in DFS.
12) Cam Newton (CAR): vs. New Orleans
You know the old saying “if something looks too good to be true then it probably is.” At home against the Saints looks a little too good to me for a quarterback who does not look right. Sure, the Saints can’t stop anybody. They’ve allowed 777 passing yards in two games. Only New England and Indianapolis are within 200 yards of that.
So Newton should put up points. Should. But Newton has yet to register a QB1 week, barely running and still missing easy throws while Carolina’s offense has sputtered. They managed just three field goals at home against Buffalo last week, and now he loses his best receiving target in Greg Olsen. He has to be on the list this week, and I think you have to start him in season-long leagues, but I’d let others try him out in DFS.