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Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 15

by Scott Cedar | @scedar015 | Featured Writer
Dec 15, 2017

So, are you a “we lost Carson Wentz” type of person or a “we get Aaron Rodgers back” type of person?

With the holiday season upon us, the fantasy playoffs in full swing, and no more Thursday Night Football until August, I’m feeling optimistic. Jolly, even. This week shapes up as a good one for quarterbacks, with a bunch of games projected for high scores and a lot of QB2 types elevated by good matchups. Whereas some weeks I can barely get to 12, my first cut of this list had 18 names on it. 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.

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1) Russell Wilson (SEA): vs. Los Angeles Rams
Fantasy’s top overall point scorer put up 21.8 points last week on the road against Jacksonville, which is only the toughest matchup you can have. This week is considerably easier.

The Rams appear to be another elite defense for Wilson, but I think they only look that way due to a soft schedule. Top quarterbacks have been able to beat them, as evidenced by the late Carson Wentz lighting them up for 27.2 fantasy points last week. Expect similar from Wilson this week.

2) Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): vs. New England
If Jay Cutler can put up 23 fantasy points against New England, then Roethlisberger should be good for around 60 this weekend.

Really, though, this is an interesting matchup to assess. New England had been playing great defense since October and hasn’t allowed more than 300 passing yards since Week 6. Before last week, the last five quarterbacks to face the Patriots finished as QB20 or worse. On the other hand, the Pats rank just 24th in pass defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and have faced a pretty soft slate during their supposed turnaround.

On some level, this is all just academic. Roethlisberger has been on fire lately, finishing first or second among quarterbacks in three of the last four weeks. He hasn’t finished a week lower than QB14 since Week 6. This game also projects as a shootout, with by far the highest over/under of the week (53) and a tight point spread (NE -3).

3) Tom Brady (NE): @ Pittsburgh
Two absolute clunkers in a row from Brady. So the question is: should we be concerned?

His numbers in three December games are not great. 62% completion percentage, one touchdown to three interceptions, and 6.7 yards per attempt. He’s also popped up on the injury report a couple of times with an Achilles injury, for what that’s worth. You can question whether Brady, at age 40, is wearing down as the season progresses.

I don’t think so. And in any event, I don’t think it matters for Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. For much of the season the Steelers were a top pass defense, but as John Daigle notes, of late they’ve been getting burned by some pretty weak competition. Add in the aforementioned shootout potential, and this sets up as a bounce-back week for Brady.

4) Dak Prescott (DAL): @ Oakland
Prescott’s first 300-yard game of the season put him back in QB1 land for the first time since Week 9. Is he officially over his midseason, post-Zeke swoon? Does it matter against the Raiders, who rank dead last in completion percentage and adjusted yards per attempt and have allowed a QB1 performance in over half their games?

5) Cam Newton (CAR): vs. Green Bay
Last week DeShone Kizer completed 71% of his passes and threw for three touchdowns against the Packers en route to a QB1 finish. As the thrift store version of Newton (copyright Rich Hribar), Kizer’s solid day is a nice bit of foreshadowing for this weekend.

Green Bay is allowing the 2nd highest completion percentage and 5th highest yards per attempt in the NFL. They’re allowing 16.9 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, which is middle of the pack, but have faced the 10th fewest pass attempts. Newton is always hot and cold as a thrower, but this should be one where he puts up strong numbers through the air. That, plus a robust ground game (averaging 8.6 rushing attempts for 53.9 yards since Week 4), and you get a high floor, super-high ceiling this week.

6) Aaron Rodgers (GB): @ Carolina
First game back. On the road. Facing a top 10 pass defense. No, this is not ideal.

But this is Aaron freaking Rodgers. He finished no worse than 13th in any of the five games before he got hurt. If you kept him this long, you’re starting him. Ranking him 6th almost feels like an insult.

7) Drew Brees (NO): vs. New York Jets
There’s nothing my wife hates to hear more than “it’s fine.” I can love her outfit, movie choice, cooking, whatever. Or I can hate it. But if I tell her it’s fine, I’m in trouble. That indifference grates on her worse than anything.

That’s what’s made Brees so frustrating this year: he’s fine. He’s probably not throwing for more than 300 yards, scoring more than two touchdowns, or reaching more than 20 fantasy points. It’s not exciting. It’s not fun. It’s not what you paid for. But it’s fine. So he’s definitely starting for you on Sunday.

8) Matt Ryan (ATL): @ Tampa Bay
I thought long and hard about whether I really want to include Ryan here. He has just three QB1 weeks all season and hasn’t finished higher than 10th among quarterbacks in a given week.

And yet, the Falcons are six-point favorites against a Tampa defense that ranks dead last against the pass (per Football Outsiders). How do you pass that up? Ryan’s first matchup against Tampa was one of his better games of the season, completing 74% of his passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. I hate that Matt Ryan is a smart play this week, but Matt Ryan is a smart play this week.

9) Blake Bortles (JAC): vs. Houston
By NBA Jam rules, Blake Bortles is officially on fire.

He has three consecutive QB1 finishes, averaging 22 fantasy points in that span. Now he gets a Texans defense allowing the 4th most points to opposing quarterbacks. Add in that he’s at home with a defense that is going to put him in favorable spots all day (good luck with that, T.J. Yates), and Bortles seems like a near lock to make it four in a row.


10) Philip Rivers (LAC): @ Kansas City
Kansas City has allowed some big games this year. Five quarterbacks have posted a top three weekly score against the Chiefs. No other defense has allowed more than three such games.

Those big games count, but I think they’re clouding our view of this defense. In the eight games, the Chiefs weren’t gashed, quarterbacks are averaging just 11 fantasy points and with an average weekly finish of 21st. That includes their first meeting with Rivers this season when the Chiefs picked him off three times and limited him to 3.5 fantasy points. They’ve been especially tough in Arrowhead, where only Carson Wentz has thrown for over 245 passing yards.

All of that is just to say this matchup isn’t as easy as it may seem. That doesn’t mean you should shy away from Rivers. He’s been one of the most consistent quarterbacks all season, finishing as a QB1 nine times. Only Russell Wilson and Wentz have more. Rivers offers little upside (just one finish as a top-six quarterback), but he’s as safe a bet as it gets in a critical playoff week.

11) Jimmy Garoppolo (SF): vs. Tennessee
First of all, I want to say that I spelled his name correctly without having to look it up and I’m very proud of myself.

Garoppolo had another strong game last week on the road against Houston, throwing for 334 yards on 33 attempts. The only problem so far has been touchdowns, just one in his two starts. That can’t last if he keeps throwing for 300 yards.

He’s in a blowup spot this weekend in his first home start, facing Tennessee’s bottom 10 pass defense. The 3-10 49ers are actually favored over the 8-4 Titans, which tells you how Vegas views this game. I love Jimmy G in DFS and would roll him out in your season-long playoffs without fear.

12) Case Keenum (MIN): vs. Cincinnati
Keenum was not great last week, throwing two interceptions and needing 44 passes to get to 280 yards. The calls for Teddy Bridgewater got louder again this week. And yet, Keenum grinded out 19.2 fantasy points and once again finished as a QB1. It’s his 5th QB1 finish in the past six weeks.

If he could do that in a road game against Carolina’s top 10 pass defense, he can certainly beat the Bengals at home. I covered the Bengals’ woes above – they’re clearly more concerned about booking tee times for January. I mean, if Mitch Trubisky can put up 21.3 fantasy points against them last week, then what chance do they have against Keenum and his elite cast of weapons?

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Scott Cedar is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Scott, check out his archive and follow him @scedar015.

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