Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 16
The last week of the fantasy season couldn’t start on a more perfect day: Festivus 2018.
As you’re gathered around the aluminum pole with your family and friends. I’m sure you’ll be thinking just one thing: “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”
I feel ya.
The quarterback position is usually easy. This year it was pure frustration. Whether it was Andrew Luck sabotaging your own rehab, Matt Ryan finishing inside the top 10 a whopping zero times, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston missing the memo on third-year leaps, or Derek Carr finally playing like a Carr, there were a lot of QB grievances to air.
Even if you hit on your quarterback, you probably dropped a Frank Costanza tirade at some point this season. Wentz and Rodgers getting injured, Brees turning into a game manager, Brady going MIA in December, Cam Newton‘s stupid post-game hats…I’ve lost my train of thought. Let’s get to the QB1 picks for Week 16.
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) Cam Newton (CAR): vs. Tampa
Newton went off against the Packers, throwing for four touchdowns and tying his season high with 11 rushing attempts. Next up is another weak secondary. One of the worst in the league, actually, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tampa has allowed the most passing yards per game and the third-most yards per attempt. They also rank dead last in sacks. You kind of need to pressure Newton and limit big plays to have any success against him. Tampa is terrible at both. Newton managed only 12.6 fantasy points in his first matchup against the Bucs, but he’s been playing so much better in the second half of the season. This is a blow-up spot.
2) Russell Wilson (SEA): @ Dallas
I’m writing off last week. Seattle just got steamrolled by a younger, hungrier team who was tired of being the whipping boy of the NFC West. It happens.
Before last week’s dud, Wilson had eight straight games with 19 or more points. With Chris Carson still leading Seahawks running backs in yards, it really is all Wilson for the Seattle offense. Facing a Cowboys defense allowing the seventh-most passing touchdowns, Wilson is a good bet for multiple scores.
I do have some hesitation ranking Wilson this high. Seattle has a dangerously low implied team total (21 points), which is a major red flag. I just don’t know how much lower you can move fantasy’s top scorer playing a below average defense.
3) Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): @ Houston
The number one quarterback in fantasy over the last five weeks versus the defense allowing the second-most points to opposing quarterbacks. Hmm…
The loss of Antonio Brown hurts, but it won’t show this week.
4) Alex Smith (KC): vs. Miami
Since Andy Reid ceded play-calling duties, Smith appears to have refound his early-season form. He even came through last week in a tough matchup against the Chargers, putting up 231 yards and two touchdowns for his 9th QB1 finish.
This week he’s at home against a Dolphins defense that ranks bottom 10 in passing touchdowns allowed, completion percentage, and sacks. Forget what you saw against the Patriots two weeks ago. This is a bad defense.
Smith fell flat two weeks ago in an even better matchup against the Raiders, but if you made it this far with Smith I think you have to ride him.
5) Tom Brady (NE): vs. Buffalo
Let’s make this quick because anyone who owns Brady already got knocked out of their playoffs.
He’s been undeniably terrible lately, averaging 11.1 fantasy points over his last three games and finishing no higher than QB19. And this matchup is troubling. The Bills are allowing just 12.3 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, third-fewest in the league. It’s not that their pass defense is great, but their run defense is atrocious. They’ve allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL, which is not great news considering much of Brady’s recent slide has resulted from Patriots’ running backs stealing all the touchdowns.
I wish I had better analysis than “he’s Tom Brady and the Patriots are 12-point home favorites,” but basically you’re starting him because he’s Tom Brady and they’re 12-point home favorites.
6) Matthew Stafford (DET): @ Cincinnati
Week 14: Bears defeat Bengals 33-7.
Week 15: Vikings defeat Bengals 34-7.
So…Lions are winning 35-7 this weekend? Maybe the pattern doesn’t hold, but as the back-to-back blowouts show, Cincinnati is out of office for 2017. As for the Lions-tell me if you’ve heard this one before-they have no ground game and are entirely reliant on Stafford for offense. For the most part, he’s delivered, with at least two touchdowns or 300 passing yards in 11 out of 14 games. There’s not as much ceiling as you’d like-he’s topped 20 points just three times all season-but he’s a safe bet to notch his 7th QB1 finish of the season.
7) Drew Brees (NO): vs. Atlanta
Last week I promised you that, despite a prime matchup, Brees wasn’t getting to 300 yards, three touchdowns, or 20 fantasy points. His line against the Jets: two touchdowns, 281 yards passing, and 17.1 fantasy points. QB17 on the week. Once again, he was fine.
Expect more of the same versus Atlanta. That’s what we saw two weeks ago, when Brees completed 26 of 35 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns, and one devastating pick. He’ll have the benefit of playing at home in this one, and Vegas has bestowed the Saints with a massive 28.75 implied team total. Even so, with a season-high of 22.2 fantasy points it’s hard to predict anything more than “very good” for Brees.
8) Jared Goff (LAR): @ Tennessee
In 10 games against the pass defenses in the top half of the league, Goff is averaging 1.3 touchdowns, 224 passing yards, and 17 fantasy points per game. In four games against pass defenses in the bottom half of the league, he’s averaging 2.75 touchdowns, 312 passing yards, and 29.5 fantasy points (h/t RotoViz).
Guess which half Tennessee’s pass defense falls into? Goff is on the road coming off a statement win against a division rival, so I suppose there’s letdown potential here. But that feels awfully Narrative Streety to me. I think he’s a safe bet for a QB1 week with upside for a big game after Gurley stole all the touchdowns last weekend.
9) Philip Rivers (LAC): @ New York Jets
With the red-hot Chargers in line to take control of the AFC West last week, of course they laid an egg. So Chargers.
Anyway, Rivers has a one to six touchdown/interception ratio in two games against the Chiefs, and a 24 to eight touchdown/interception ratio against everyone else. This week he gets to play an “anyone else.” The Jets, in fact, who are allowing the fouth-most points to opposing quarterbacks. As one of the most consistent quarterbacks all season (nine QB1 finishes; only Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz have more), Rivers is a safe bet even on the road.
Flacco has actually found his form in December, scoring 18.7, 16.8, and 21.8 points in his last three games. He’s a viable season-long starter and a very good DFS play if you’re going cheap at quarterback.
11) Nick Foles (PHI): vs. Oakland
Kudos to you if you had the onions to start Nick Foles on the road last week. Four touchdowns later, Foles was the QB4 for the week with 25.5 points. The Giants’ defense has that holiday spirit, believing it’s better to give than to receive.
This week sets up even better for Foles, with a home game against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Nick Foles leading you to the championship…another Festivus miracle!
12) Blake Bortles (JAC): @ San Francisco
With four straight QB1 finishes, Bortles is everyone’s favorite streamer this week. I went back and forth on this all week and finally decided to throw him into the final slot. On paper, it makes sense. He’s red-hot, and the 49ers have Football Outsiders‘ 31st ranked pass defense.
But does lighting up Arizona, Indianapolis, Seattle, and Houston over the last month really mean that much? On the road with three rookie receivers is not a formula for success. Again, on paper he makes sense. But I’d think hard about other options.