Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 6
Week 6 is a reality check. Injuries have shaken up your team. It’s hard to hold out hope your disappointments will turn things around. Bye weeks have you asking start/sit questions on guys you wouldn’t have dreamed of even owning a month ago. It’s rough out there.
That’s definitely how I feel trying to put together this week’s list of QB1s (top 12 finishers). It’s going to be a weird week; let’s get to it.
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) Drew Brees (NO): vs. Detroit
This game has the highest over/under of the week (51), two pass-heavy offenses, and will be played in the Superdome. All of this should-should-spell shootout. Of course, we thought the same thing last year when New Orleans managed just 13 points against Detroit in a Week 13 dud.
I think Round 2 will be better. Brees actually has only one QB1 finish thus far, but he’s playing great (8.12 net yards/attempt, 3rd in the NFL) and putting up fantasy points (19.4 per game, 7th in the league). He just hasn’t had the big week yet.
The Detroit defense has improved from a season ago, and is giving up the 8th fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, but that’s largely due to some soft matchups and a little luck. In Detroit’s two difficult matchups, against the Falcons and Panthers, they gave up 30 and 27 points. I think that’s the floor for New Orleans on Sunday.
2) Deshaun Watson (HOU): vs. Cleveland
Watson is just four points away from being the top quarterback in fantasy, which is incredible given how his season started. He’s done it on the strength of his rushing ability (accounting for over 25% of his scoring) and an unsustainable touchdown rate (throwing touchdowns on 8.3% of his pass attempts). The latter won’t last forever, but that doesn’t matter this week. Cleveland has been an extreme pass funnel defense, ranking 3rd against the run but just 31st against the pass according to Football Outsiders. Watson’s touchdown luck is going to run out eventually, but this sets up as pretty much the perfect spot for another big week.
3) Tom Brady (NE): @ New York Jets
Brady will try to stop the Jets’ three-game winning streak in a battle for AFC East supremacy!
No, really, the winner of this game will have sole possession of first place. The dumpster fire version of the Jets hasn’t materialized as expected, but that’s largely because they’ve faced a pretty soft schedule through five weeks. It’s a little concerning Brady didn’t practice until Thursday due to a shoulder injury, but at his age there’s no need for the Patriots to press him. I expect he’ll be fine for Sunday, and I expect he’ll put up big, big numbers.
4) Matt Ryan (ATL): vs. Miami
Ryan has been a major disappointment so far, ranking just 21st in points per game among quarterbacks. Outside of a few more interceptions and a few less touchdowns, he’s not really playing much worse than in his MVP campaign a season ago. Coming off a bye against one of the worst pass defenses in the league, I expect things to turnaround for Ryan this weekend. Vegas agrees: Atlanta’s implied team point total is 29, highest of the week. The only concern is that this game turns into a blow out early, limiting the need for Ryan to throw.
5) Aaron Rodgers (GB): @ Minnesota
Rodgers is having another strong start to the season, finishing as a QB1 in four out of five starts, but hasn’t had a blow up game. He’s yet to eclipse 25 points, after doing so seven times last season. The breakout may be one more week away
Rodgers is on the road against Minnesota, allowing the 7th fewest points to opposing quarterbacks. Still, the Vikings pass defense hasn’t been quite as stout as a season ago, especially for teams with enough weapons to stay away from Xavier Rhodes. It looks like he’ll have both starting tackles back, which should help, along with his full cast of receivers. It will be tough-sledding, but expect Rodgers to grind his way to 20 points for another solid week.
6) Kirk Cousins (WAS): vs. San Francisco
With three of his top targets from 2016 either gone or injured, it was no surprise Cousins started the year off slowly. He’s rebounded quickly, reaching 20 points in each of his last two games. Coming off his bye, he’s in a good spot at home against San Francisco, in its second consecutive cross-country game and third consecutive road game. The 49ers defense has given up at least 26 points and 400 yards in two of their last three games
7) Philip Rivers (SD): @ Oakland
Rivers has quietly amassed four QB1 starts in five games. Much like last season, Rivers has been hovering around the back-end of QB1 territory, finishing 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th in those four starts. Oakland offers the chance for a little more. The Raiders’ defense is allowing 8.0 adjusted net yards/attempt, 2nd worst in the league. Meanwhile, the Chargers have gone from run-heavy in 2016 to pass-heavy in 2017, playing more from behind and unable to move the ball efficiently on the ground. I’m always nervous using Rivers-it seems like he only has three-touchdown games or three-interception games, with no in between-but this week I like him to hit the positive extreme.
8) Carson Palmer (AZ): vs. Tampa Bay
There are two reasons I like Palmer this week. First, he’s at home. In two home games Palmer is averaging 19 fantasy points, compared to just 13.5 points in three road contests. Second, with no running game to speak of in the post-David Johnson world, Palmer is on pace for a record-setting 726 passing attempts. So the volume will clearly be there against what’s been a porous (albeit injury-riddled) pass defense
9) Cam Newton (CAR): vs. Philadelphia
Newton had seemingly rounded into form the last two weeks, completing 77% of his passes and averaging 10.8 yards per attempt while posting consecutive top-five finishes. He had another strong showing on Thursday Night Football, but it could’ve been even better. Newton had two interceptions that weren’t his fault, and he lost a couple points on a would-be rushing touchdown where he was called out at the one. It was also a shame to see Carolina waste so many plays on 3-yard runs against a stout Philadelphia front seven, instead of attacking their weak secondary more. C’est la vie.
10) Josh McCown (NYJ): vs. New England
This one’s pretty simple: quarterbacks facing New England have an average weekly finish of 6.2. The next closest team is Cleveland at 10.4. Only Deshaun Watson failed to finish as a QB1 when facing New England, and he still put up 20 points in that matchup. The Patriots’ elite offense and nonexistent defense are a perfect storm for fantasy production. This week it’s McCown’s turn.
11) Jacoby Brissett (IND): @ Tennessee
After finishing tenth among quarterbacks last week, this is a prime matchup for Brissett. Tennessee has given up the third most points to opposing quarterbacks, as only Blake Bortles and Jay Cutler have failed to finish as a top-eight quarterback against the Titans. Brissett has been playing pretty well since settling in as the Colts’ starting quarterback, posting two QB1 weeks in his last three games. It’s a bit concerning that he has more rushing touchdowns (three) than passing touchdowns (two), but since he’s been a relatively accurate passer I think that will correct itself.
12) Kevin Hogan (CLE): @ Houston
Hey look, the Browns have a new starting quarterback. Who could’ve guessed?
Hogan has looked good in limited appearances this season, throwing for 377 yards on 38 attempts in three games. As a passer, he’s been willing to take chances down the field, which is what you want from your fantasy quarterback. More importantly, though, Hogan is both a willing and able rusher, with 140 rushing yards on just 13 attempts. That’s the kind of production that can elevate the fantasy prospects for a low-end quarterback like Hogan.
It’s a good matchup for Hogan: Houston has been a bottom-10 pass defense this season and just lost J.J. Watt. Combine that with the Browns’ own shaky secondary, and this game has sneaky shootout potential.