QB Tiers & Rankings: Week 15 (Fantasy Football)
Before we get into the quarterback tiers, I just want to thank the NFL for this weekend. I already lose sleep obsessing over scores during the regular season. It’s to the point that I can barely enjoy the games anymore. That anxiety is turned up to Defcon 5 (or Defcon 1, whichever is the bad one) during the playoffs. And now, for this weekend only, we get to stretch that over four days. Should be fun.
Drew Brees had his second consecutive bad game, managing just 201 yards and a touchdown against Tampa’s porous defense. He gets another porous defense this week, as the Panthers have allowed the 7th most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and are allowing 30.4 points per game over their five-game skid. You always prefer Brees in the Superdome, but Carolina’s propensity to give up passing scores (29, 3rd most in the league) gives Brees significant upside. Especially as the favorite in what looks like a high-scoring game (51.5 point over/under).
It should be all systems go for Ben Roethlisberger in a favorable match-up against the Patriots. New England shut down Minnesota’s stud receivers just a few weeks ago, so the blueprint is there to stop Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. On the other hand, the Steelers have been an elite offense all year, while the Vikings…well, they just fired their offensive coordinator. This game has one of the highest over/unders of the week (52) and a tight spread (Patriots -2.5) suggesting a fantasy-friendly shootout and a big game for Roethlisberger.
Deshaun Watson will be on the road in a short week against a Jets defense that has actually played pretty well against the pass. The saving grace is the rushing-the Jets are allowing the 3rd most rushing yards to quarterbacks, and Watson has 45 rushing yards per game over his last three. Watson always has blow-up potential, but I see him as more of a high-floor play this week.
Dallas is allowing just 16.3 fantasy points to quarterbacks (10th fewest) and playing out of their minds on defense lately, but I’m not overly concerned about Luck at home.
Jared Goff (LAR): vs. Philadelphia
Tom Brady (NE): @ Pittsburgh
Mitch Trubisky (CHI): vs. Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers (GB): @ Chicago
Dak Prescott (DAL): @ Indianapolis
Kirk Cousins (MIN): vs. Miami
Matt Ryan (ATL): vs. Arizona
Baker Mayfield (CLE): @ Denver
Jared Goff looked like B. Rabbit in the opening scene of 8 Mile on Sunday night. Knees weak, vomit on his sweater, etc. The Bears defense had him shook. Against the Eagles, I expect Goff to look more like B. Rabbit calling out Clarence because his parents have a real good marriage. The Eagles’ secondary, never strong to begin with, is banged up and just allowed 434 passing yards to the Cowboys. Goff has also been significantly better at home (70% completion rate, 19/2 touchdown to interception ratio, 9.8 yards per attempt) than on the road (59%, 9/9, 7.4). The Rams also have the highest implied team total of the week. I expect a big bounce-back game for Goff (32.5).
Tom Brady finally returned to fantasy relevance, throwing for 358 yards and three touchdowns to finish as the QB1 on the week. Expect another big game on Sunday. Pittsburgh has a top 10 run defense but ranks just 21st against the pass per Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and the Patriots will always scheme to their opponents’ weaknesses. As noted above, this is likely to be one of the highest scoring games of the week. Bonus points for Rob Gronkowski finally looking healthy.
Mitch Trubisky was pretty lucky that his Sunday night stinker was overshadowed by Goff’s even bigger dump. If you survived Trubisky’s 4.7-point outing, I think you can go right back to the well with him. The most important thing is his running, and he wasn’t limited (six attempts) in his first game back from a shoulder injury. The Bears are big home favorites with a solid implied team total (25.5), and over the last month only Josh Rosen has failed to put up a top 10 week against the Packers.
Aaron Rodgers looked a lot better sans Mike McCarthy, but it still led to just two touchdowns, 196 yards, and a QB8 finish. That’s more or less what he’s been all season, and it came against the Falcons’ bottom-tier defense. The Bears…not bottom tier. The Packers are road underdogs with a low implied team total (19.5). You may not have a better option, but I would shy away from Rodgers this week if possible.
Dak Prescott is QB2 over the past month and gets an Indy defense allowing the 2nd highest completion percentage in the league (71%).
Kirk Cousins has been a train wreck over the past month, and switching coordinators this late in the season is not ideal. Especially with all the rumblings that HC Mike Zimmer wants to “establish the run,” because it’s 1994 or something. Regardless, I’m bullish on Cousins this week. The Dolphins have the 26th ranked pass defense per Football Outsiders, and the Vikings have Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Back at home with a solid 25.75 implied team total, Cousins should rebound from that ugly, ugly Monday night performance.
Matt Ryan is QB4 on the year, but just QB19 over his last three. He’s suddenly turned into a dinker and dunker, averaging just 6.7 yards per attempt in that span (down from 8.5 yards per attempt in his first ten games). I’m not overly scared of his match-up against the Cardinals, but they’ve been so much tougher against the pass (5.9 net yards per attempt, 4th fewest) than the run (4.4 yards per carry, 13th fewest). Combine that with Arizona’s ineptitude on offense and I see more solid than ceiling.
Per Rich Hribar, the Browns lead the league in yards per play (6.9) since Week 9. Baker Mayfield is QB7 in that span. He gets the Broncos on Saturday who just allowed 332 passing yards to Nick Mullens. They also lost a starting cornerback for the second week in a row. Rookies on the road always deserve caution, but Mayfield has a lot of upside this week.
For all the hype on Lamar Jackson, he’s turned in finishes of QB13, QB15, QB11, and QB14 since taking over as the starter. Fine, but obviously we haven’t seen his upside yet. That may come against Tampa. The Buccaneers are allowing the second most yards per play (6.3) and fourth most fantasy points to quarterbacks (20.9). I’d consider him over Ryan and Mayfield this week.
Josh Allen has also been on a tear with his legs, running for 355 yards over the last four weeks. He’s QB5 in that span. Still, it feels like the bottom can fall out at any time. He was averaging 10.4 points per game before this hot streak, and that’s still very much in his range of outcomes. Especially against the Lions. While the Detroit defense scares nobody, as many have pointed out, they have been great at stopping rushing quarterbacks. They’ve allowed just 62 rushing yards to quarterbacks all year (fewest in the league), including games against Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Mitch Trubisky. Allen has massive upside, but I’d only use him if I needed to swing for the fences to get the W.
Russell Wilson (SEA): @ San Francisco
Cam Newton (CAR): vs. New Orleans
Marcus Mariota (TEN): @ New York Giants
Jameis Winston (TB): @ Baltimore
Derek Carr (OAK): @ Cincinnati
Eli Manning (NYG): vs. Tennessee
Case Keenum (DEN): vs. Cleveland
Nick Mullens (SF): vs. Seattle
Ryan Tannehill (MIA): @ Minnesota
Jeff Driskel (CIN): vs. Oakland
Matthew Stafford (DET): @ Buffalo
Sam Darnold (NYJ): vs. Houston
Nick Foles (PHI): @ Los Angeles Rams
Russell Wilson’s low volume finally bit him (10/20, 72 yards, 8.98 fantasy points), and at the worst possible time for fantasy players. San Francisco is a bottom-tier pass defense, so this certainly could be a bounce-back week. I’d just prefer an option with more upside for Week 15. Wilson is QB14 on the year and has only one 25+ point game after having five a season ago.
Cam Newton is playing hurt, and now Carolina is essentially eliminated from the playoffs. It’s not a good combination, especially against a Saints defense that hasn’t allowed more than 17 points since Week 9.
What happens when both teams bring knives to a gun fight? We’ll find out Sunday when the Raiders travel to Cincinnati. I think Derek Carr should be ok in this one. The Bengals allow the second most points to opposing quarterbacks (21.6) and allow the fourth most net yards per attempt (7.3). For what it’s worth, Carr is the QB2 over the last two weeks. In Week 7, I might have Carr as a streamer. In the playoffs, I can’t get him above solid starter in two quarterback leagues.
Jameis Winston has been hot since retaking the starting job, with a 6/1 touchdown to interception ratio and at least 19 fantasy points in all three games. He’s QB4 in that span. Still, I would not start him in this game. The Ravens are allowing the 6th fewest points to opposing quarterbacks (15.8), and are allowing just 5.2 net yards per attempt (best in the league). Maybe I’m over-compensating for the bad match-up, but his bust potential is too high for a playoff game.
What’s more unsustainable, throwing three touchdowns on 5.7 yards per attempt or throwing three touchdowns on 13.9 yards per attempt? Ryan Tannehill has done each in consecutive weeks. There’s no denying he’s producing since coming back from injury, but it’s on such low volume (no more than 25 attempts in any of the three games) and he’s never been a particularly efficient quarterback. I’m not buying it.
Jeff Driskel is tempting against a Raiders defense that allows more passing touchdowns and gets fewer sacks than anyone. He actually has a touchdown in each of the three games since Dalton got hurt and is completing a decent 66% of his passes. The problem is it’s purely dink and dunk (6.4 yards per attempt). It’d also be nice if Driskel, a great athlete, would actually use his athleticism. He has just eight rushing attempts in three games.
Nick Foles is a pure desperation play for 2QB leagues (side note: this is why you shouldn’t play in 2QB leagues). This Eagles coaching staff doesn’t have the same magic as a season ago, and the Rams defense has looked much better in recent weeks.
You can play almost anyone against the Falcons. Josh Rosen is the reason we say “almost.”