Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 8 (2019)
All season long in this space, I will rank the top-10 quarterbacks for each given week based on a variety of factors. The primary consideration will always be the true talent and ability of the signal-caller. Other circumstances, such as the scheduled matchup, surrounding talent, offensive line play, and advanced metrics are then weighed in to produce a weekly ranking.
Before we proceed, let’s review how last week went among the ten quarterbacks I ranked as the most likely to finish as the top overall fantasy producers at the position:
HITS: Lamar Jackson (BAL)
There’s no way around it. Last week was a brutal week for my projections. Aaron Rodgers overcame injuries to his receiver core to post one of the best games of his career against an Oakland Raiders team coming off a bye with an extra week to prepare for him. Matthew Stafford carved up Minnesota’s high-rated defense, and this forced the Vikings to keep Kirk Cousins throwing in order to stay ahead. Jacoby Brissett had one of his finest games a pro, tossing four touchdowns and 326 yards against Houston. Ryan Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota and proceeded to throw for 312 yards and multiple scores against the Chargers’ struggling defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to throw for 282 yards and a score and rush for an additional score against one of the best defenses in football in the Buffalo Bills.
While I fully own up to last week’s poor showing, there’s very little shame in not calling Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill as top-1o producing quarterbacks. Everyone is due for at least one rough week in a season full of unpredictable (and improbable) outcomes. All I can do is take Week 7 on the chin and dig a little deeper into each matchup.
On to Week 8… but first, a caveat. It might seem like a few of the unconventional names listed below represent an overcorrection to last week’s misfires, but the matchups and context actually support why each name below has top-10 upside this week.
10. Ryan Tannehill (TEN) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tannehill roasted the Los Angeles Chargers last week for over 300 yards and multiple scores. Tannehill is playing with arguably the best supporting cast of his career with Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and underrated pass-catchers Jonnu Smith and Adam Humphries. Make no mistake, the Titans will prioritize running the ball with Derrick Henry. That’s the identity of the team HC Mike Vrabel wants to promote, and it’s the best way to keep Tampa Bay’s explosive offense off the field. However, the Bucs should force Tannehill and the Titans to keep their foot on the gas unless Jameis Winston implodes and the Titans go up big early. Tannehill has played in two games this season, and he has averaged 9.0 yards per attempt or better in both. The Buccanneers have allowed a league-low 68.0 yards per game to opposing rushing attacks, so Tennessee will have to embrace the pass if they want to move the ball efficiently to win.
9. Jameis Winston (TB) @ Tennessee Titans
Tampa Bay HC Bruce Arians had two weeks to prepare for a Tennessee defense ranked top-3 in rushing DVOA, but just 14th in passing DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. This discrepancy plays into Tampa Bay’s offensive strength, with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin forming arguably the best-receiving duo in football. After accumulating 17 sacks in their first five games, the Titans have just two since then, perhaps a sign that their pass rush is experiencing a bit of regression. As mentioned above, there is always the chance that Winston turns into a pumpkin from the get-go and disintegrates into a pick machine. However, the extra time should have allowed Arians an opportunity to design a game plan that better enables Winston to protect the football while still exploiting mismatches on the outside.
8. Teddy Bridgewater (NO) vs. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are a bottom-five unit in defensive DVOA. Their 263.3 average yards allowed to opposing passers is the eighth-highest mark in the NFL, and their 17 touchdowns allowed through the air leads the league. With Alvin Kamara limited and a bye on tap for Week 9, there’s a good chance the Saints will start Latavius Murray and feed him a steady diet of carries, but the matchup alone makes Bridgewater a high-upside start. The last time he had a matchup this good (Tampa Bay in Week 5), he threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.
The Saints’ defense should be able to contain Arizona’s “Air Raid” for most of the day, so Bridgewater won’t feel pressured into forcing throws and can pick his spots instead. Patrick Peterson helped hold Daniel Jones to a modest stat line last week, but Michael Thomas was able to haul in 8-89 on 12 targets against Jalen Ramsey in Week 6. Plus, New Orleans’ O-line is unlikely to allow eight sacks like the Giants’ line did.
7. Tom Brady (NE) vs. Cleveland Browns
Brady lost Josh Gordon, but New England sent a 2nd round pick to Atlanta for Mohamed Sanu. The Browns have given up just 219.3 yards per game to opposing passers, but their 12 touchdowns allowed ranks inside the top-1o. Expect a game plan that prioritizes short and intermediate throws to Julian Edelman, Sanu, and James White with the occasional deep shot to Phillip Dorsett. Add it all up, and Brady should have a high enough floor for a top-1o day.
6. Jared Goff (LAR) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (in London)
Goff should face little resistance against a Bengals defense ranked as the 31st-worst in the league based on DVOA, second only the Miami Dolphins. Admittedly, Goff failed to truly take advantage of a great matchup against Atlanta last week, but a lot of his struggles this year can be attributed to the struggles of the O-line that have forced him into overthrows and general inaccuracy. This ranking assumes the Bengals will struggle to mount much of a pass rush and Goff will finally settle down in the pocket. If so, the final score should be a blowout, and Goff could have arguably his best game of the season against Cincinnatti DC Lou Amaruno’s struggling scheme.
5. Aaron Rodgers (GB) @ Kansas City Chiefs
Rodgers threw for over 400 yards and six total touchdowns last week against the Raiders despite HC Jon Gruden having a bye week to prepare for him and not having Davante Adams on the field. The Chiefs are not the sieve Oakland is on defense. On the season, they have collected 20 sacks and held opposing signal-callers to just an 84.9 passer rating. However, the Chiefs are trotting out the fourth-worst rushing defense based on DVOA. This should play well into Green Bay’s play-action tendencies. The Packers should have no issues setting up the pass with the run this week.
4. Matthew Stafford (DET) vs. New York Giants
Stafford and the Detroit passing game seemingly hit their stride last week, as the veteran quarterback threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns against division rival Minnesota. This week, Stafford draws a New York defense allowing 8.9 average yards per attempt, the second-highest average in the league. Stafford is set up well to throw the ball downfield to receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. Stafford also has three or more touchdowns in three of his six games played so far this season. With starting tailback Kerryon Johnson placed on IR, expect the Lions to lean more on their franchise quarterback rather than rookie rusher Ty Johnson.
3. Josh Allen (BUF) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Allen didn’t quite have the prolific day most were hoping for against Miami’s league-worst pass defense last week, a rather disappointing outcome when you consider Buffalo was coming off their bye. It’s fair to wonder if the team overlooked the winless Dolphins after an extended break. That won’t be the case against the Eagles this week. Philadelphia allows just 3.7 yards per attempt on the ground and a pedestrian 89.4 total yards per game rushing to opponents. Unlikely to impose their will on the ground against a 3-4 Eagles team that needs to get back into the win column, Allen should be able to exploit mismatches against a weak, bottom-five Philadelphia secondary with John Brown deep, Cole Beasley underneath, and the ever-present threat of his own legs to move the chains.
2. Russell Wilson (SEA) @ Atlanta Falcons
Last week, Wilson underwhelmed in what appeared to be a prime matchup at home against Baltimore. However, this week will be the best matchup Wilson faces all season. Atlanta came apart at the seams against the Rams last week; they’re the fourth-worst unit based on defensive DVOA. As a pass defense, only Miami has been worse. Wilson should be able to take advantage of both his legs and his efficient arm. He’s arguably the safest QB1 play in the league this week.
1. Deshaun Watson (HOU) vs. Oakland Raiders
Watson came back down to earth after his historic Week 6 performance, but he still finished with a fine 308 yards passing, 32 yards rushing, and a score. Unfortunately, the two interceptions mitigated some of that progress. The Colts are a much better defense than the Raiders, and Watson hasn’t thrown for less than 280 yards in his last three games, all against tougher matchups than Oakland. The Raiders field the third-worst defense according to DVOA, and they have just ten sacks on the season, the tenth-lowest total in football. Combine that with a 115.6 passer rating allowed and seven completions permitted of 40 yards or more (third-highest total in the NFL), and you get a recipe for success that should allow Watson to thrive.