Welcome to playoff time, everyone! It's Week 14 in the NFL, which means most leagues with a three-week playoff format are beginning their playoffs.
With that in mind, it makes sense to look forward at all three weeks (Weeks 14, 15 and 16) to see how the quarterbacks look, both in their own offenses and on the schedule. Matchups aren't everything, but they play a big part in winning a fantasy football league championship. Some quarterbacks have a great playoff schedule, some will be tested, and some should be on waivers by Wednesday. Let's look at how the quarterbacks rank over the next three weeks.
1. Kurt Warner, ARI - @ San Francisco, @ Detroit, St. Louis
Warner has some of the best weapons surrounding him in the NFL, and has a pretty good schedule for your playoff push. With two of his three games indoors, and the third in San Francisco, the weather shouldn't play much of a role, and anyone with both Detroit and St. Louis on the calendar should put up good numbers. The biggest thing to watch is his head, since he's coming off a concussion. All three of Arizona's opponents are allowing over 218 yards per game, putting them in the bottom half of the NFL, so I would feel safe with Warner as your top rated playoff QB.
2. Aaron Rodgers, GB - @ CHI, @ PIT, SEA
Rodgers has the good fortune of playing at the Bears, who have been really bad this year, at the Steelers, who have struggled without Troy Polumalu, and at home against Seattle. Both the Bears and Seahawks have allowed over 20 touchdown passes this year, and the Steelers have been vulnerable the last few weeks. Rodgers is a pretty safe call to start the next three weeks. Watch out for the weather, though; the frozen tundra of Green Bay might not be as bad as Chicago or Pittsburgh.
3. Joe Flacco, BAL - DET, CHI, @ PIT
Wow, look at the Bears and Steelers show up again! And Detroit! Coincidence? Probably not. The Ravens love to run the ball, but Ray Rice has emerged as a solid receiving threat as well. The Ravens are fighting to get into the playoffs, so all of these games matter. Flacco could give you big games in each of the next two weeks before a big divisional matchup with the Steelers in your championship week.
4. Brett Favre, MIN - CIN, @ CAR, @ CHI
That makes a Chicago Trifecta, with all three of the Bears' opponents in the next three weeks making the top four on our list. Favre will get a lot of help by being indoors against Carolina and Chicago. Reality for Minnesota is that, without EJ Henderson, teams might be able to score on them more easily. If they're fighting for home field advantage, they'll need to win these games to stay near the top of the NFC. If Cincinnati, Carolina and Chicago load up to stop Adrian Peterson as most teams have this year, Favre could go off. Just look at what he did to Chicago in their first meeting!
5. Drew Brees, NO - @ ATL, DAL, TAM
Brees just put 419 yards on Washington, and now he gets to play in a dome for all three remaining games. My concern with Brees isn't that he'll perform poorly, but that the Saints will try to keep him healthy; now that they have a two-game lead on Minnesota for the best record in the NFC, running the ball might be more popular in second halves down the stretch. The Dallas game could turn into a shootout with the Saints' banged up secondary, and a home date with Tampa might lock up your championship.
6. Peyton Manning, IND - DEN, @ JAX, NYJ
It's really hard to put Manning outside of any top five list but.. Colts President Bill Polian confirmed that the Colts will rest any players that are tired or nicked up once home-field advantage for the playoffs is clinched. Polian cited a 1999 Week 17 game when the Colts lost LB Cornelius Bennett to a knee injury and proceeded to lose in the first round of the playoffs. Polian said that he doesn't believe in momentum and rust is a non-factor that can be addressed in practice. The Colts won't outright bench starters late in the year, but we don't get the feeling that going undefeated means all that much to them.
7. Tom Brady, NE - CAR, @ BUF, JAX
Call this a hunch, but New England wants to get into the playoffs and won't sit still while their offense underperforms. Carolina has the fifth ranked pass defense in the NFL, though, allowing only 12 touchdowns and under 200 yards per game so far this year. But coming off a bad week, Brady and company will want to make a statement at home. Buffalo won't be an easy game either, but having Jacksonville for the championship week certainly helps. The Patriots need Brady to play better to make the post season, and history would tell us that Brady steps up in crunch time.
8. Donovan McNabb, PHI - @ NYG, SF, DEN
When he gets DeSean Jackson back will play a huge part in him being a quality playoff quarterback for you. You also need to monitor how/when Andy Reid uses Michael Vick, who vultured two touchdowns on Sunday. My gut tells me that the game being in Atlanta had more to do with Vick's performance, and that Reid won't pull the same strings in a playoff push, but you still need to watch for it.
9. Vince Young, TEN - StL, MIA, SD
The Rams make the list as an opponent again! How about that! Young would qualify as a sleeper if he hadn't been in the public spotlight so much since returning to the starting lineup. St. Louis gives him a great opportunity for points, and Miami is surprisingly in the lower third of the league in yards allowed. San Diego could be an intriguing game, as the Chargers try for a bye in the playoffs while the Titans fight for a wild card (and respectability). My concern here is Chris Johnson chasing the single-season rushing record and taking the ball out of Young's hands, but the matchups could still make Young a 200 yard, 1-2 touchdown candidate every week.
10. Philip Rivers, SD - @ DAL, CIN, @ TEN
Rivers gets three teams fighting for playoff spots, with two on the road, which won't be easy. But he's been putting up numbers all year and should continue to do so. I'm not sure about his first week matchup against Dallas, but he could do some good things against Cincinnati and at Tennessee. If you have Antonio Gates, that's a pretty handicap, too.
11. Tony Romo, DAL - SD, @ NO, @ WAS
The Cowboys keep chuckin' the ball, but they have a rough road ahead. The games with San Diego and New Orleans could be a free-for-all through the air, but the Saints' defense is tougher than they showed against Washington. I would keep a close eye on the injury report to see how the Saints' secondary looks before being comfortable with Romo that day. Washington has been good this year, but did just allow 419 yards to Brees. This December might be the same as the rest of Romo's career in the month: lots of potential for big things, but he needs to perform.
12. Matt Schaub*, HOU - SEA, @ StL, @ MIA
We'll mark this one with caution because of his injury on Sunday, but Schaub has arguably the best receiver in the game in Andre Johnson and a pretty soft schedule coming up. If he's good to go, you should feel confident Schaub will get you numbers.
13. SLEEPER: Chad Henne, MIA - @ JAX, @ TEN, HOU
In case you missed it, the "running" Miami Dolphins asked Henne to throw the ball over 50 times on Sunday. And he had a heck of a game. Given his two road games aren't against exceptional defenses, and then he gets Houston at home in championship week, Henne could be a solid sleeper play if you're quarterback has rough games coming up (Jay Cutler/Carson Palmer owners).
14. David Garrard, JAX - MIA, IND, @ NE
It's more likely that Maurice Jones-Drew has a big three weeks than Garrard, but the way Miami, Indianapolis and New England have thrown the ball recently Garrard might have to chuck to keep the Jaguars in games. Also remember that Tim Tebow has already been anointed the 2010 starter for the Jags, so Garrard's playing for his job as well. OK, just kidding about Tebow... or am I?
15. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT - @ CLE, GB, BAL
I really haven't liked much of what I've seen from Pittsburgh in the last few weeks other than Rashard Mendenhall, but the postgame press conference with Mike Tomlin makes me think they'll get real in practice this week. There isn't a better cure for a team's ills than Cleveland, either. My biggest concern here is the big divisional game with Baltimore during championship week; if the playoffs are on the line there, and Ray Lewis plays the run the way he does when the chips are on the table, it might be a long week for Pittsburgh. Big gamble on Roethlisberger this year.
16. Matt Hasselbeck, SEA - @ HOU, TAM, @ GB
Again, the championship week matchup, this time in Green Bay in Week 16, doesn't scream passing. But the Seahawks haven't run the ball consistently all year. The Houston and Tampa games should be good for points, unless weather is miserable in Seattle, but I would caution heading to the playoffs with only Hasselbeck on your roster.
17. Kyle Orton, DEN - @ IND, OAK, @ PHI
Indianapolis is vulnerable to the pass, and Oakland likes to get into shootouts, too. But like I said about Garrard, it might be the running back that gets you paid this year. Knowshon Moreno has been solid, as has Correll Buckhalter, for Denver this year and Orton isn't putting up big yards. If the Broncos run the ball to keep the opposing offenses off the field, you might see a few more 180-yard games from Orton.
18. Eli Manning, NYG - PHI, @ WAS, CAR
He's struggled, and has a few teams with something to prove on the schedule. And, after what I saw from Brandon Jacobs on Sunday night, the Giants might keep the ball on the ground more against two pretty good defenses in Philly and Washington before a home game against Carolina that might be in 30+ mile per hour wind. I don't have a ton of confidence in Eli's schedule to provide you with a winner.
19. SLEEPER: Bruce Gradkowski, OAK - WAS, @ DEN, @ CLE
The Raiders are throwing the ball all over the place and Gradkowski's been successful doing it. Washington's not as bad as paper would tell you they were on Sunday, and the Broncos and Browns could get you some points in critical playoff matchups. If you're sitting on a quarterback with a tough championship matchup (Orton, Hasselbeck, Roethlisberger), he might be a solid value add this week for the stretch.
20. Matt Cassel, KC - BUF, CLE, @ CIN
21. Carson Palmer, CIN - @ MIN, @ SD, KC
22. Jay Cutler, CHI - GB, @ BAL, MIN
23. Jake Delhomme, CAR - INJ
24. Matt Ryan, ATL - INJ
25. Mark Sanchez, NYJ - INJ
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