Seven different signal callers surpassed the 300 yard mark in Week 11, led by Peyton Manning's 389. However, the group of QBs that produced three TDs in their contests was more exclusive, as Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler were the only two who accomplished that feat.
Now we will shift our attention forward to Week 12, which will be final bye week that will be inflicted upon fantasy owners in 2014. As an owners and writer, I will forever wonder why some of the two-team bye weeks could have been expanded to four, so that we would not have suffered through seemingly unnecessary six team byes.
However, I am also thrilled that the entire topic can eliminated from these discussions. Of course, that can only occur after some of you deal with the temporary absence of Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton in your matchups this week.
Fortunately, the information in this week’s rankings will help anyone who is searching for an alternative starter regardless of the reason, as teams maneuver for the fantasy postseason. It also contains detailed analysis of the QB1s, followed by this week’s best and worst matchups.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Andrew Luck vs. Jaguars
Luck's owners should be accustomed to seeing his name entrenched as the league leader in passing yardage this season, and he enters Week 12 with an NFL best 3,388. 303 of them were amassed in Week 11 against the Patriots, and he has now surpassed 300 yards in eight straight contests, while also reaching that number in nine of the Colts’ 10 games this year. He is also tied for second with 28 TDs, after collecting two more versus New England. That maintained his streak of generating multiple TDs in every game this season, which includes the three times that has he produced four. One of those occurred during his September matchup with Jacksonville, and various shortcomings with the Jaguars’ 26th ranked pass defense will prohibit them from containing Luck and the Colt passing attack during this rematch. While Ahmad Bradshaw’s absence is a significant loss, it will also compel OC Pep Hamilton to intensify the Colts’ reliance on Luck
2. Aaron Rodgers at Vikings
If it is possible to assemble a quietly magnificent season, Rodgers just might be in the process of accomplishing that. He has now accumulated 28 TDs, with just three INTs, and has done so without being left in the lineup during blowouts to pad his numbers. After torching Philadelphia for 341 yards and three TDs in Week 11, he has now exceeded 300 yards five different contests, including three straight. He has also thrown at least three TD passes in seven different games. That includes his first matchup with Minnesota, as part of a blowout that resulted in him performing the role of spectator during the fourth quarter. And being pulled early once again in this outing might be the biggest concern for owners, as Rodgers and the Packer offense should roll. Minnesota will enter the contest having just been shredded for 330 yards and three TDs by Cutler last Sunday.
3. Tom Brady vs. Lions
While it is unlikely that you were doubting the sustainability of Brady's exceptional production from Weeks 5-9, the unsightly first half that he delivered against the Colts might have caused a certain level of consternation for some of his owners. But he overcame two early INTs to accrue 257 yards and two TDs, thanks to a massive assist by Rob Gronkowski on the second score. Brady has now ascended into fourth among all QBs with 24 TDs, after generating 20 in his last six games. His yardage total versus Indy was the lowest since Week 4, but he remains ninth overall in that category with 2,649 for the season. He will be confronted with an arduous test this week, as Detroit leads the NFL in total defense, while also allowing the fewest points.
4. Jay Cutler vs. Buccaneers
Cutler has provided the perfect example of a QB who is far more valuable as a fantasy starter then he is for his actual team on the field. He has easily remained within the top 10 in scoring for most fantasy leagues, but his penchant for making critical mistakes has continued with alarming consistency, and has negatively impacted Chicago’s offense. He has thrown INTs in seven games, and has been picked off multiple times in five different contests. Those have hurt owners in leagues that penalize such transgressions, but still has not supplied a complete deterrent toward using him as a fantasy starter. In Week 11, he generated over 300 yards for the third time this season, and his three TDs expanded his season total to 21. Which is the first time that he has reached 20 since 2010. This week, he is the recipient of an appealing matchup versus Tampa Bay’s substandard pass defense.
5. Peyton Manning vs. Dolphins
Attempting to write fresh material about Manning every week has become an interesting challenge, due to the machine-like precision with which he unfailingly generates sizable numbers every time that he takes the field. (That same principle applies to Luck and Rodgers). But in Week 11, an unfortunate but compelling storyline developed, as Manning was forced to perform while Julius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders were sidelined with injuries. The Broncos were already dealing with a diminished number of options in their backfield, and a surging Ram defense, which kept Manning from producing his usual output of TDs. In fact he failed to generate multiple scores for the first time all season, while tossing two INTs. It was the third consecutive week in which he has been picked off multiple times, and the fourth time this year. He did surpass 300 yards for the sixth time, although the narrative shifts to this week’s matchup with a tough Miami pass defense. And the collective health of Thomas and Sanders. Their potential absence would make an already difficult matchup even more daunting.
6. Tony Romo at Giants
Entering his bye week, Romo was 12th among all QBs with a 249 YPC average. But his 8.34 YPA average was the NFL’s third highest, and even though 22 other QBs had thrown more passes, he had capitalized adeptly on his 269 attempts. Romo's 18 TDs in nine games tied him for seventh in that category, and he had connected for three scores during a trio of contests. One of those occurred in Week 7, when he dissected the Giants for 279 yards along with a cluster of TDs. He should return from his bye week healthier, and in great position to achieve similar success in this rematch with the Cowboys’ division rival. New York ranks 22nd against the pass, and has allowed 253 YPG.
7. Drew Brees vs. Ravens
While his on-field execution does not always contain the same unwavering excellence that we've grown accustomed to, Brees had remained extremely productive this season, while giving his owners virtually nothing to complain about. Particularly inside the Superdome, where Brees has thrown 10 TDs in four contests entering Week 11, and had also averaged 317 YPG during those home games. However, he could not achieve similar success against a Cincinnati defense that entered the matchup ranked 20th against the pass. But the Bengals had only allowed 10 TDs through the air this season, and limited Brees to one score. That was just the third time it has occurred this season, and the 255 yards that he amassed were the fewest since Week 2. Despite accumulating less than owners had expected, and being without Brandin Cooks, Brees still has an outstanding chance of attaining far better production this week, versus a Baltimore pass defense that has degenerated in the aftermath of Jimmy Smith's season ending foot injury.
8. Matthew Stafford at Patriots
When Calvin Johnson returned to Detroit's lineup in Week 10, Stafford connected with his phenomenally talented receiver for seven passes and 113 yards. Plus, he located Golden Tate 11 times for 109 yards, to keep Tate within the top four of all WRs. That's obviously an exceptional pair of weapons for Stafford, and the stage was set for him to build similar numbers with that tandem once again in Week 11 against Arizona's 30th ranked pass defense. Unfortunately for his owners, Stafford only located Johnson and Tate seven times for an even 100 yards combined. As a result, Stafford manufactured just 183 yards, and could not produce a TD. While the collective reliability of Johnson and Tate would usually be sufficient to forecast a significant statistical rebound for Stafford this week, Bill Belichick has both the inclination and the personnel to take away Stafford’s most vital weapons.
9. Mark Sanchez vs. Titans
He has now operated for 11 quarters under center within an offense that provides QBs with an exceptional opportunity to assemble yardage, TDs, and fantasy points. Sanchez has responded by averaging 293 YPG, and manufacturing six TDs. Of course, he has also produced four INTs, and his outings have hardly epitomized textbook execution. He delivered a Cutler-esqe performance in Week 12, as he tossed two INTs, fumbled twice, launched inaccurate passes and contributed mightily to Philadelphia's overall nightmare. Yet, what was an on-field disaster transformed into a reasonably productive outing strictly from a fantasy perspective. After the blowout was in full effect, he began assembling yardage and eventually threw for an extremely deceptive 346. That became the second highest total of the week, and it combined with his two late-game TDs to supply anyone who started him with results that were far superior to what he actually delivered to the Eagles. He is in great position to generate another successful outing for his owners, as Tennessee’s pass defenders will not keep the Eagles’ receiving weapons in check.
10. Colin Kaepernick vs. Redskins
Kaepernick's natural ability makes him a candidate to accumulate fantasy points through the air, and on the ground. However, lofty expectations are often left unfilled when owners decide to entrust him as their starter, as his 193-yard, one TD performance against the NFL's 25th ranked pass defense in Week 11 will confirm. But despite that discouraging track record, the combination of potential and genuine opportunity supply him with more viability than the other signal callers ranked below him. As a result, he remains worthy of utilization as a low end QB1 this week because yet another enticing matchup should not be ignored. He will be lining up against a Redskin defense that has permitted 20 TDs through the air, including two to Josh McCown in Week.
11. Philip Rivers vs. Rams
It was reasonable for owners to be optimistic that Rivers would re-ignite his productivity to the level that he had achieved earlier this season, when as recently as Week 7, he was second among all QBs in TDs, and third in passing yards. And that expectation was even more logical, since he would be facing versus a burnable Oakland pass defense that had already surrendered 17 TDs. However, the Raiders held Rivers to 193 yards, and just one TD. That understandably raises concerns about Rivers’ viability in upcoming weeks even further, as he has now been limited to less than 200 yards in three consecutive games, and has failed to deliver multiple scores in two straight contests. Now, he must fight through his health issues, and contend with a resurgent St. Louis defense that is fully capable of prolonging his statistical slump.
12. Ryan Tannehill at Broncos
Tannehill began the season uneventfully by failing to surpass 205 yards in two of his first three games, while averaging 208 YPG during that span. But since that time, 1,730 of the 2,354 yards that he accumulated this season have been assembled and his YPG average has risen to 247. While that falls short of the league leaders, he has also thrown multiple TDs in five of his last seven games, and his season total of 17 ties him for 11th in that category. He has certainly demonstrated enough consistency over a sufficient period of time to be included among the low end QB1 possibilities on a weekly basis. This week he will face a Denver unit that is ranked 18th against the pass, and has allowed 19 TDs through the air. But the Bronco secondary is proficient, and the same pass rush that has generated 27 sacks will threaten Tannehill's comfort level. While he won't deliver monster numbers, he should supply owners with the same steady production that he has attained in recent weeks.
13. Andy Dalton at Texans
14. Matt Ryan vs. Browns
15. Josh McCown at Chicago
16. Joe Flacco at Saints
17. Brian Hoyer at Falcons
18. Kyle Orton vs. Jets
19. Alex Smith at Raiders
20. Russell Wilson vs. Cardinals
21. Ryan Mallett vs. Bengals
22. Drew Stanton at Seahawks
23. Michael Vick at Bills
24. Shaun Hill at Chargers
25. Eli Manning vs. Cowboys
Andrew Luck vs. Jaguars
When Luck faced Jacksonville in Week 3, he led Indianapolis to their first win of the season, and tortured the Jaguar defense throughout the entire contest. He shredded them for 370 yards, which remains the most that Jacksonville has yielded in any game this season. He also produced four TDs through the air, and connected on 31 of his 39 passes. All while guiding the Colt offense to 529 total yards, and 27 first downs. There is no reason why he can't replicate that performance with equal precision this week. The Jaguars rank 26th against the pass, while allowing 262 YPG. They have surrendered 18 TDs, yet have only been able to collect five INTs. In their last matchup before the Week 11 bye, the overmatched Jaguars yielded three TDs to Romo, who became the seventh QB to generate multiple TDs against them this season. Luck will easily become the eighth, and lead the Colts through the red zone repeatedly, versus a defensive unit that is also yielding 28 PPG.
Jay Cutler vs. Buccaneers
The mixed results that occur when employing Cutler as your starter were discussed earlier. While his ability to generate fantasy points is unquestioned… so is the fact that his turnovers are far too frequent, and ultimately damaging for the Chicago offense. While being penalized in your point total is a concern, it does not compare to the issues that an owner would confront if Marc Trestman would somehow decide to bench him. Once again in Week 11, Cutler tossed two INTs, yet did enough to boost the fortunes of the Bears, and his owners. This week he will face a defensive unit that is not equipped to contain Chicago’s aerial attack, as the Buccaneers were next to last in pass defense while allowing 277 YPG heading into Week 11. And even though they rose to a still lowly 30th after allowing 270 to Robert Griffin III last Sunday, they have proven to be highly vulnerable throughout the regular season. The Bucs had also managed just 14 sacks all season, before recording six against the Redskins, and had pilfered only six throws before snatching two by Griffin. Cutler is in position to deliver an excellent outing for his owners if he utilizes his superior weapons effectively in their matchups against Tampa Bay’s flawed secondary. And avoids those costly turnovers.
Andy Dalton at Texans
Owning Dalton can be a maddening experience. He has at times been productive, and can provide a multiple TD performance like he did in Week 11. However, he is very capable of leaving big plays on the field, with passes that could just as easily be underthrown as overthrown. Worse, Dalton can also deliver the ultimate nightmare, as he did during Week 10's 86-yard, three-INT Prime Time horror show. Going beyond the leap of faith that is involved with starting him, he does have an outstanding matchup this week. The Texans are now a lowly 30th against the pass, and have yielded 278 YPG. They have also surrendered 19 TDs through the air, and possess a dubious resume when facing opposing signal callers. In their last six matchups, they have permitted 330 yards to Brian Hoyer, 202 yards to Sanchez in three quarters, 299 yards to Zach Mettenberger, 265 to Roethlisberger, a whopping 370 to Luck, and 324 to Romo. While Dalton can be annoyingly inconsistent, he is in position to deliver high quality production for anyone who is looking for an alternative this week.
Tom Brady vs. Lions
Brady has now averaged 310 YPG in his last six contests, while exceeding 330 yards in three of them. He has also thrown at least four TDs in three separate games, and his YPA has vaulted from 6.2 in September to 8.35 in his last six. His collection of electrified performances and the expanded number of deep throws all coincide with the return of Rob Gronkowski’s overpowering presence in the lineup. That has enabled Brady to stretch the field, and sustain an aerial assault on opposing defenses that has seldom been challenged. He should deliver respectable numbers again this week. But the Patriot attack has averaged just over 40.5 PPG in their last six games, and they will fall far short of that versus Detroit’s imposing defense unit. Their domination in most matchups has kept them atop the rankings in total defense (290 YPG). They also continue to yield the fewest number of points among all teams, as opponents only average 15.6 PPG. The Lions has also been ranked second against the pass, but fell slightly to a still impressive fifth after their Week 11 matchup with Arizona. They have also generated 26 sacks, and moving the ball against this unit will hardly be the proverbial cakewalk.
Matthew Stafford at Patriots
The primary reason for Stafford’s matchup to be contained inside this section was referenced earlier. The Patriots have proven that they can virtually eliminate one of their opponent’s primary weapons, once that specific goal becomes part of their game plan in that particular week. That is very problematic for Stafford this week. Because he clearly has two options that can be extremely explosive, but Detroit’s offense does not possess anyone else on their roster that will cause massive sleep deprivation for opposing defensive coordinators. In fact, the gargantuan drop-off in proficiency that occurs with Stafford's other options at WR and TE, should be sobering for Stafford owners, as his success will remain almost completely dependent upon Johnson and Tate for the remainder of the season. His Week 11 yardage total (183) was his lowest since Week 2, and just the second time all season that he has failed to reach 200 yards. He also did not generate a TD, which was only the second time that has occurred this year. His output will not improve sizably against a New England defense that has already pilfered 11 passes, and can employ Darrelle Revis in a manner that neutralizes whichever Lion wideout that they choose. Stafford owners should brace themselves for a lower than preferred ceiling on his production this week.
Philip Rivers vs. Rams
After averaging 293 YPG from Weeks 1-6, and an impressive 326 YPG between Weeks 4-6, his average dropped to 198 YPG from Weeks 7-9. And after he accrued 14 TDs during his first six contests, Rivers had only tossed five in his last three as he entered Week 11. Then, in what appeared to be a very favorable matchup versus Oakland’s deficient secondary last Sunday, Rivers output remained extremely underwhelming. In addition to the diminished yardage totals that have been prevalent in recent weeks, he has also produced only one score in his last two contests combined, after delivering multiple TDs in seven consecutive games. An encounter with a Ram defense that has become far more formidable in their last three contests is not the formula for enhanced results that his owners currently need. The St. Louis pass rush has generated 13 sacks in their last three contests, and even though Manning did generate sizable yardage against them last Sunday, he was also limited to one TD. That was the third consecutive week in which the Rams held an opposing signal caller to just one score through the air, and that streak should continue this week.