QB Tiers & Rankings: Week 2 (Fantasy Football)
There were a lot of “Alex Smith, QB1″ jokes after he lit up the Patriots in the 2017 season opener, but guess what? Joke was on us. It held all year, as Smith finished fourth among quarterbacks. There’s a lot you can learn from Week 1.
Other things that happened in Week 1 last season? Trevor Siemian threw two touchdowns against the Chargers and finished as QB4. DeShone Kizer completed 67% of his passes, scored twice, and finished as QB9. Yes, the same DeShone Kizer who scored -2 fantasy points in about two minutes Sunday night. We know nothing after Week 1.
Sifting through what’s real and what’s a small sample size mirage is the challenge as we enter Week 2. This week is especially tough with several of the every-week starters in tough matchups, a massive QB1 tier, and not much behind them. Let’s get to it.
When Cam Newton is rushing, he’s the best quarterback in fantasy. So despite a ho-hum performance for the Panthers offense, his 10 carries last week were a great sign. With injuries to Keanu Neal and Deion Jones gutting the Falcons defense, Newton is in position for a major spike week. Even on the road, a 30-point game is in play.
To the extent you’re worrying about Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers because of tough match-ups, don’t. Since 2015, Brady has averaged 18.3 fantasy points per game against top-five pass defenses. For Aaron Rodgers, it’s 17.7. (h/t RotoViz Game Splits)
If you’re a glass-half-full guy, Russell Wilson scored 20.4 fantasy points against a good defense on the road with Will Dissly as his top receiver. If you’re more grounded in reality, you have to be concerned Wilson is going on the road against an underrated Bears defense without his top three pass catchers from 2017. Seattle’s implied team total is a dangerously-low 20 points. Wilson is a magician, so this may work out, but he’s an uncomfortable start in Week 2.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): vs. Kansas City
Patrick Mahomes (KC): @ Pittsburgh
Alex Smith (WAS): vs. Indianapolis
Jared Goff (LAR): vs. Arizona
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF): vs. Detroit
Philip Rivers (LAC): @ Buffalo
Matt Ryan (ATL): vs. Carolina
Kirk Cousins (MIN): @ Green Bay
Matthew Stafford (DET): @ San Francisco
Andrew Luck (IND): @ Washington
Throw out what you saw from Roethlisberger last week-the weather was terrible and he’s always worse on the road. Back at home as the favorite in a projected shootout (52.5 over/under, highest of the week), Roethlisberger has massive upside. Heading into the season, the Chiefs defense looked like it would be one of the worst in the league. That’s exactly what we saw Week 1. They allowed 418 passing yards (second most in the league) and three touchdowns, and that’s not accounting for another ~200 yards and two touchdowns that the Chargers dropped.
Patrick Mahomes’s 28.3-point explosion overstates the case a bit-a 15% touchdown rate and 9.5 yards per attempt are not remotely sustainable-but his monster Week 1 performance is one I’m buying.
No one ever wants to order the chicken at a restaurant, even though it’s a safe bet, healthy, and one of the cheapest things on the menu. Hello, Alex Smith. Last year’s QB4 picked up right where he left off in 2017, scoring a solid 19.6 fantasy points with another efficient stat line (21/30, 255 yards, two touchdowns). He’s in a great spot at home against an awful Colts defense that just gave up 7.6 net yards per attempt (8th most in Week 1) to Andy Dalton.
On the road in Minnesota may end up being the toughest match-up in the league, so it’s no surprise Jimmy Garoppolo struggled in Week 1. The turnovers were killer, but the 49ers actually moved the ball fairly well. I trust Garoppolo to rebound big in Week 2 against a much softer Lions defense that just got torched by Sam Darnold. The 49ers are home favorites with one of the highest implied totals of the week (27), putting Jimmy G on the right end of a projected shootout.
Kirk Cousins is startable, but note the relatively low implied team total (23.5) as they head on the road. I like Green Bay’s defense to take a big step forward this season with the talent they added, and more importantly, the addition by subtraction (replacing Dom Capers with someone who knows what he’s doing). The Packers mostly shut down the Bears offense on Sunday night, holding them to just 4.6 yards per play, 6th lowest in Week 1.
In a prime blow-up spot, Matthew Stafford totally imploded. It feels gross but stick with him. This game has one of the highest over/unders of the week, the Lions’ receiving corps remains one of the best in the league, and the San Fransico pass defense didn’t look any better in Week 1 than it did last season, when they finished 25th in defensive DVOA (per Football Outsiders).
Andrew Luck continues to make me nervous. Turning 53 pass attempts with a 73.5% completion percentage into just 319 yards tells you everything you need to know about how his arm is feeling. He’s my last QB1, largely based on his name. It’s not always easy to carry two quarterbacks, but I would think about a streamer this week.
After finishing 29th in defensive DVOA last season, the Raiders dumped their top defensive player a week before the season. Shockingly, they got lit up on Monday Night Football, allowing scores on 60% of the Rams’ drives. That makes Case Keenum, who overcame three interceptions to finish as QB13 last week, an easy streaming play at home. Keenum’s biggest risk is the Broncos running game stealing all the scoring-Oakland allowed 5.4 yards per carry last week (2nd most) and Denver should have a positive game script most of the day.
Tyrod Taylor didn’t look good in Week 1, but the weather had Roethlisberger playing terribly too. For fantasy, it didn’t matter, as Taylor’s legs propelled him to 24 fantasy points and a QB6 finish. He offers similar upside in Week 2 against the Saints. The Browns have intriguing weapons, especially now that Josh Gordon has a game under his belt. Fresh off a burnination by Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Saints were bound to regress after jumping from 31st to 8th in defensive DVOA from 2016 to 2017. I think they settle in as a neutral matchup, especially in the dome.
Last year Jared Goff averaged nearly eight fewer points per game when facing top ten pass defenses. I think that’s what you’re going to get out of Mitch Trubisky this year-solid in favorable match-ups, but otherwise unappealing. Seattle’s defense has done a Lynyrd Skynyrd-style replacement over the last two years, and the lineup that remains now qualifies as a good match-up. They gave up three touchdowns and 324 passing yards (4th most) to Keenum in Week 1.
Eli Manning (NYG): @ Dallas
Blake Bortles (JAC): vs. New England
Nick Foles (PHI): @ Tampa Bay
Sam Darnold (NYJ): @ Miami
Ryan Tannehill (MIA): vs New York Jets
Ryan Fitzpatrick (TB): vs. Philadelphia
Dak Prescott (DAL): vs. New York Giants
With Eli Manning, I’m like a little kid staring at the stove. I’ve been told it’s hot. I know it’s hot. But I won’t really learn the message until I reach out for that red glow and get burned. So yes, even on the road, as an underdog, and with an implied team total of 19.75, I like Manning. Who on Dallas is stopping OBJ, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley?
Buying Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quintessential Week 1 overreaction move. We have seen a LOT of Ryan Fitzpatrick. We know who he is. He can throw four touchdowns one week and just as easily throw four interceptions the next. Explosion, implosion, rinse and repeat. Philadelphia is a top defense, they looked great in Week 1, and they get a few extra days rest. Don’t bite.
On the other side of the ball, Tampa finished 31st in pass DVOA last season. Guess where they ranked in net yards per attempt in Week 1? 31st. I wouldn’t want to start Nick Foles, but don’t be surprised if he follows up an abysmal opener by lighting up this weak Bucs defense. Really, this Fitzpatrick/Foles match-up could end with each team in the 40s. Or with each team scoring negative points. Everything’s in play.
Is it a bad sign that I was able to put “Buffalo QB” and “Tennessee QB” in the benchwarmers tier before knowing who those teams were actually starting? Bad offenses facing good defenses…yuck.
Still down on Derek Carr, but I think he’ll do better than three interceptions and 65 targets to his running backs and tight ends, as he did on Monday Night Football. I don’t know that he’ll do better. But I do think it.