Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 14 Playoff Edition (2019)
All season long in this space, I have ranked the top-10 quarterbacks for each 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:
Needless to say, last week was rough. Sam Darnold, in arguably the best matchup of his season, attempted 48 passes for a meager 239 yards and zero touchdowns against a futile Cincinnati Bengals defense in a game where the Jets essentially spoonfed the Bengals their first win of the season. As tempting as it is to use Darnold in good matchups, the floor here simply cannot be trusted in the fantasy playoffs. Winston threw for 268 yards, but drives kept leading them inside the five-yard line, where Tampa Bay’s middling rushing attack was able to cross the goal line, thus vulturing red zone scores and robbing Winston of what would otherwise have been a fine day. The lack of a deep threat prevented me from recommending Wentz, even in a good matchup, but Wentz and the passing game found their footing in a shootout with Miami.
Furthermore, the Rams had seemed lost on offense for weeks before finding ways to get Todd Gurley going when suddenly Jared Goff erupted for over 400 yards passing and two touchdowns against Arizona. For some context, the two scores were the first Goff has thrown since Week 8! Fitzpatrick was a popular pivot in DFS play, and he remains a low-floor, but high upside stream in good matchups. Lastly, despite a difficult matchup on Thanksgiving against a tough Buffalo pass defense on a short week, Dak Prescott delivered with 355 yards passing, two touchdowns while adding 25 more yards on the ground, further cementing his status as a weekly must-start.
On to Week 14, and a special playoff edition for the Primer. Rather than just ranking the top 10 quarterbacks for the week, I’m going to ignore the obvious stalwarts (Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, and Lamar Jackson). If you’re in the playoffs, you’re banking on each of them to threaten for overall QB1 in each of the next three weeks.
However, many fantasy owners subscribed to the popular strategy of waiting for a quarterback on draft day. There has been a glob of candidates constantly hovering between QB1 and QB2 all year, depending on the week. Let’s focus on a special top-5 for the fantasy quarterfinals this week, highlighting those in that glob who are most worthy of trusting your fantasy season with based on a variety of contextual factors, plus a bonus name added in for good measure.
5) Ryan Tannehill (TEN) @ Oakland Raiders
Ryan Tannehill has seemingly alternated big and paltry games, throwing for over 300 yards twice and multiple scores five times in the last six weeks, while also throwing for less than 200 yards in three of his last six contests as well. The matchup is ripe against an Oakland defense that has been getting gashed in recent weeks, allowing 74 combined points to the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets. Both those games were on the road, and the crowd at Oakland figures to be rather raucous for the team’s final two home games before next year’s move to Las Vegas. The adrenaline boost should help the Raiders make this a more competitive game than their most recent blowouts, but Oakland remains bottom-5 in passing defense DVOA. They also bleed big plays, giving up 20+ and 40+ yard completions at a top-3 rate. All of this makes Tannehill and his big-play receivers like Corey Davis (13.7 Avg) and A.J. Brown (18.4 Avg) quite appealing this week.
4) Jared Goff (LAR) vs. Seattle Seahawks
Jared Goff entered last week not having thrown a touchdown since October. He tried to make up for lost time with over 400 yards and multiple scores against the Arizona Cardinals. Hosting Seattle this week won’t quite be as easy, but Jadeveon Clowney is arguably the only imposing threat the Seahawks have along the defensive line. Shaquill Griffin has emerged as a top corner, but the rest of Seattle’s secondary has been largely picked apart, while K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner remain liabilities in coverage. In an offense where Goff typically finds the man HC Sean McVay schemes open, Seattle will have a hard time covering Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Josh Reynolds. Even backup tight end Tyler Higbee was able to eat when this offense clicks. Goff figures to keep rolling this week.
3) Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. Carolina Panthers
The Falcons have not been the same prolific passing offense they were to begin the season, but Ryan has thrown for over 300 yards twice in four games since Atlanta’s bye week. Carolina is a run funnel defense (top-7 passing defense DVOA vs 5.3 Yds/C and 137.5 Yds/G on the ground), but the Falcons have not been able to generate a sustainable rushing attack all season behind a turnstile offensive line that has not paved the way for a single 100-yard rusher and allowed the Saints to sack Ryan nine times last week. With Julio Jones likely due back this week, Calvin Ridley emerging, and Austin Hooper potentially back as well, Ryan appears set up for success yet again.
2) Carson Wentz (PHI) vs. New York Giants
Carson Wentz has not been the consistent QB1 his owners had hoped when they drafted him, but no one could have anticipated how underwhelming the O-line would be, nor how crippling it would be losing DeSean Jackson, the only Eagles player capable of stretching a defense. Perhaps the biggest hit to Wentz’ stock has come in the form of his rushing stats or lack thereof. With the Eagles still in the NFC East title picture, Wentz will continue to remain aggressive in a must-win game against a divisional foe like New York. The Giants have allowed a league-leading 8.5 yards per completion and sit as the third-worst passing defense DVOA. The matchup could not be better, and after watching Wentz exploit Miami last week, he’s a good bet to help many win their playoff game this week.
1) Kirk Cousins (MIN) vs. Detroit Lions
Kirk Cousins is arguably the premier play amongst streamers this week. The aforementioned four signal-callers each have their own merits. However, Cousins has demonstrated far more consistency, and if Adam Thielen somehow makes it back for Sunday’s game, Cousins possesses arguably the most upside as well. The Lions rank as a bottom-7 defense in terms of passing DVOA, and the 280.1 Yds/G ranks as the third-most in football. The last time these two teams met, Cousins threw for 338 yards and tossed four touchdowns. Even if Thielen does not play, the Vikings will want to lean more on Cousins with Dalvin Cook banged up. Cousins spread the ball around to nine different pass catchers last week against Seattle, and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. have become featured targets whenever opposing defenses scheme to take star wideout Stefon Diggs out of the game.
Bonus: Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA) @ New York Jets
A case could be made for others like Jameis Winston, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield, but the Jets have fallen into the bottom-12 in passing defense DVOA, and they’ll likely be without Jamal Adams this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown five touchdowns in the last two weeks, and he has gone over 320 yards in two of his last three games. With Adams out, expect Fitzpatrick to target DeVante Parker deep early and often while finding tight end Mike Gesicki underneath. With Sam Darnold having an equally favorable matchup across the field and one of the higher implied point totals on the slate, this game has sneaky shootout potential.