Thankfully, bye weeks have finally ended. Which signals the imminent approach of the fantasy postseason. Preparation for the impending playoffs has been a consistent theme of this column during the past few weeks, as you have been repeatedly urged to review your matchups from Weeks 14-16. Therefore, it might be helpful to touch on a primary reason for this recommendation. Anyone who started Drew Brees or Peyton Manning during their Week 14 matchups in 2014, probably remembers watching in horror as both quarterbacks promptly registered their worst performances of the year. And did so at the most inopportune time. Brees manufactured a season low 235 yards, and just one touchdown, while Manning registered a season worst 173 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
They were not alone in torpedoing many fantasy seasons at the onset of the playoffs, as LeSean McCoy, Demaryius Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Jimmy Graham, and Golden Tate were also culpable in terminating the hopes of many owners. I was among them, as several of those aforementioned players – including Brees – were locked in starters on a team that posted a 12-1 record, averaged over 135 PPG, then proceeded to score just 78 points in Week 14. That resulted in a Round 1 loss to the league’s #8 seed, and an abrupt conclusion to the season.
I have rarely used this column as a forum to discuss my teams, but wanted to emphasize this point. I was aware that a number of my starters would encounter difficult matchups, but I chose to go with the players that had carried me all year. The disheartening results have reshaped my opinion on how to approach Week 14-16 matchups. Which has led to the ongoing mantra within this column in recent weeks. If you have a cluster of regular starters that all face difficult matchups, you should not simply assume that they will all produce sufficiently for you regardless of who will be confronting them at the line of scrimmage. And now is the optimal time to determine if you have the quarterback that you can rely on to provide the level of production that you need throughout the playoffs. With that point firmly established, we can resume our focus on the Week 12 quarterback rankings and matchups, which will help determine your best plan for this week’s contests. Enjoy the games, and good luck to everyone.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Carson Palmer at 49ers
Palmer encountered some familiar faces in Week 11, when Cincinnati invaded University Of Phoenix Stadium. The Bengal defense was operating on a short week, in the aftermath of a disturbingly ugly Week 10 home loss. But, they entered the game allowing only 236 YPG through the air, and had yielded just 11 touchdowns all season. But Palmer has routinely sliced through opposing defenses, and was extremely motivated to beat his former team. He accomplished his goal by overcoming a rough start, and shredding Cincinnati for 317 yards and four touchdowns. As a result, Palmer now leads the NFL with 27 touchdowns, and is second with 3,066 yards for the season. He burned San Francisco for 311 yards and two scores when they met in Week 3, and should achieve similar numbers against the 49ers 27th ranked pass defense this week.
2. Cam Newton at Cowboys
Newton entered Week 11 with 15 passing touchdowns for the season. But he significantly enhanced that total by torching Washington for a franchise record five scores, while locating a different receiver on each connection. Despite the impressive array of scoring through the air, it is Newton’s continued ability to operate as a dual threat that will enable him to reside within the top cluster of quarterbacks in fantasy points. He not only leads all signal callers in rushing touchdowns, but only Devonta Freeman and Jeremy Hill have accumulated more touchdowns on the ground than the six that he has already generated. Newton and the Panthers will travel to Dallas on Thanksgiving, to face a Cowboys defensive unit that has surrendered 10 scores on the ground.
3. Aaron Rodgers vs. Bears
After managing a paltry 77 yards against Denver's league leading pass defense in Week 8, Rodgers assembled 702 yards and six touchdowns in Weeks 9-10. But both performances were fueled by sizable second half comebacks. That left some owners feeling uneasy heading into Week 11 despite the belated boost to their point totals. The production that he delivered in Minnesota won’t necessarily alleviate all concerns, as he generated a modest 212 yards. However, he did burn Minnesota’s eighth ranked pass defense for two touchdowns, and is now third overall with 23 for the season. On Thanksgiving Night, Rodgers will attempt to replicate his Week 1 performance against Chicago, when he burned the Bears for three touchdowns.
4. Drew Brees at Texans
Brees owners have been rewarded with a much better experience this season then it appeared that they would when an ailing shoulder sidelined him in Week 3. Despite conjecture that it might be a lingering problem, Brees rebounded quickly, and has reestablished himself within the top tier QB1s. While his record breaking 505 yard - seven touchdown performance in Week 8 was both brilliant and unforgettable, he has produced excellent numbers consistently since his return. He has generated over 300 yards six times, and is currently fifth overall with 2,972 yards for the season. He is also second with a 330 YPG average, his 20 touchdowns place him sixth, and his 8.0 YPA average is the highest since 2011. Even though Houston’s defense has finally awakened in recent weeks, Brees should deliver 275 yards and two touchdowns. As the Saints’ dreadful defense will force Brees to perform in catch up mode throughout the contest.
5. Eli Manning at Redskins
With so many compelling storylines involving quarterbacks this season, He has not received the recognition that he deserves considering what he has accomplished. Manning entered his bye week tied for third among all signal callers with 21 touchdowns, and had produced multiple scores in seven different contests. Even though he had launched the second highest number of passes - 384 - only six of those have been intercepted. He has also accumulated 2,700 yards, which was the NFL’s sixth best total before his bye. Not only has he achieved outstanding numbers, but he has attained them with a scarcity of weapons beyond Odell Beckham Jr. Manning amassed 279 yards and two touchdowns when these NFC East rivals met in Week 3. He should match that output versus a Washington pass defense that has yielded at least two scores to seven of the last eight starting quarterbacks they have faced.
6. Tom Brady at Broncos
Brady has maintained a track record of excellence throughout his career, regardless of which receiving options are lining up with him. However, in his initial game without Julian Edelman, he did not reach his season long average in passing yards, nor did he assemble a cluster of touchdowns similar to his previous performances this year. He threw for 277 yards against Buffalo in Week 11, which was his second lowest output of the season. He also failed to accumulate multiple touchdowns for the first time this year, when the Bills limited him to just one. Buffalo’s deceptive schemes were a factor, as the Bills creatively unleashed significant pressure on Brady throughout the game. He still leads the NFL with a 338 YPG average, is third with 3,043 yards, and is second with 24 touchdowns. But he will face his most daunting matchup of the season, when the Patriots travel to Denver this week.
7. Ben Roethlisberger at Seahawks
When Pittsburgh’s Week 10 matchup with Cleveland began, Landry Jones was the starter, while Roethlisberger was performing the role of spectator. But the script changed quickly when Jones suffered an ankle injury. That thrust Roethlisberger into the lineup, which enabled him to systematically torture the Browns for a season high 379 and three touchdowns. While owners were deprived of the chance to utilize him due to the unforeseen scenario, they were also spared a week of potential unease, wondering if his most recent injury will negatively impact his ability to perform. The lone concern will be the Seattle pass defense that awaits him this week. Still, considering that Palmer and the Cardinal offense accumulated 363 yards and a trio of touchdowns against them in Week 10, there is sufficient reason for optimism that Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant will excel.
8. Blake Bortles vs. Chargers
Bortles was not overly impressive in Week 11. But by amassing 242 yards, and connecting with Julius Thomas for a fourth quarter score, he still delivered an acceptable number of fantasy points. While that was his 20th touchdown of the season, he failed to produce multiple scores for the first time since Week 4. He also threw an interception for the sixth consecutive game, which expanded his season total to 12. Bortles is improving, but still possesses undeniable shortcomings. However, Allen Robinson continues to operate as a borderline WR1. Allen Hurns has proven to be consistently effective. And if Thomas can emerge as a third viable option, then Bortles will have a cluster of dynamic weapons to maintain QB1 output during his remaining matchups. That applies this week, versus a San Diego unit that has yielded multiple touchdowns to six different quarterbacks.
9. Tony Romo vs Panthers
In his limited action during September, he shredded the Giants for 356 yards and three scores during his only full game of the season, then assembled 195 yards before suffering a broken clavicle the following week. But Romo finally secured his first snaps after missing seven games, when the Cowboys traveled to Miami in Week 11. Even though he demonstrated a small amount of rust during his matchup with the Dolphins, he still performed well overall. Romo connected for 18 or his 28 throws for two touchdowns, while generating a respectable 227 yards. He will throw with greater frequency in upcoming weeks, and should accumulate massive yardage by locating Dez Bryant repeatedly. This week, he will be dealing with a short turnaround, and must contend with the most imposing defense that he has faced during his truncated season.
10. Brian Hoyer vs. Saints
Hoyer has earned his place among streamer options when the matchup is favorable, after building a 12:2 TD/INT ratio between Weeks 4-10, and amassing at least 273 yards in three of those contests. This despite Houston’s feeble post-Foster ground game that has rendered the Texans’ offense essentially one dimensional. While none of the defenses that he encountered – Atlanta, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami – will be confused with the league’s more formidable units, those defenses have not been thoroughly exposed to the degree that this week’s opponent has. The Saints weekly displays of ineptitude have taken vulnerability to a new level. That presents Hoyer, and anyone who chooses to utilize him, with this week’s most desirable matchup. If he is available on your waiver wire, or is already secured as your normal QB2, this is the week to deploy him.
11. Derek Carr at Titans
Carr entered Week 11 having exceeded 300 yards in three consecutive games, and had produced 13 touchdowns in his last four. But despite an appealing matchup against Detroit’s 23rd ranked pass defense, he manufactured an anemic 169 yards and could not produce a score. Carr and his receivers were frequently out of sync, he failed to check out of running plays that appeared doomed to fail, and he allowed the play clock to expire twice. Oakland is regressing in many areas, which will add to the gargantuan amount of pressure that exists for Carr to carry the attack. That could make it more difficult for him to resurrect his previous momentum when the second-year signal caller appeared to be matchup proof. This week he will face a Titan pass defense that ranks third overall, but may be without cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
12. Philip Rivers at Jaguars
At the pace that he had established through his first nine games, Rivers would have generated over 5,300 yards this season, which would easily surpass his career best of 4,710. The lone concern as he returned from his Week 10 bye, was how closely he could maintain his previous level of production without Keenan Allen, who he targeted 89 times between Weeks 1-8. Unfortunately for his owners, the weight of carrying an offense that has endured an endless barrage of injuries finally caught up with Rivers in Week 11. He only managed a season low 178 yards, and also failed to produce a touchdown for the first time this season. The surging Kansas City defense deserves credit for stifling the Charger offense. However, his worst performance of the year does elicit concern. He will attempt to rebound versus a Jacksonville defense that ranks 25th against the pass.
13. Matt Ryan vs. Vikings
Ryan had not thrown three touchdowns in any of his first nine games, prior to finally accomplishing that in Week 11 against the Colts. Unfortunately he also tossed a season high three interceptions, against an Indianapolis pass defense that entered the matchup ranked 28th. Ryan has now manufactured an underwhelming 15:10 TD/INT ratio for the season. Still, it is difficult to rank a quarterback any lower when he is fifth among his peers with 2,982 passing yards, and is sixth with a 298 YPG average. He will not be the beneficiary of a favorable matchup this week. Minnesota’s pass defense has only allowed one opposing quarterback to amass 300 yards this season, and has yet to surrender more than two touchdowns in any game.
- Jameis Winston at Colts
- Matthew Stafford vs. Eagles
- Andy Dalton vs. Rams
- Marcus Mariota vs. Raiders
- Jay Cutler at Packers
- Brock Osweiler vs. Patriots
- Russell Wilson vs. Steelers
- Josh McCown at Ravens
- Mark Sanchez at Lions
- Alex Smith vs. Bills
- Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Dolphins
- Kirk Cousins at Redskins
Brian Hoyer vs. Saints
You really don’t need anything in this paragraph beyond the word Saints to know how enticing of a matchup that this will be for Hoyer. Seven of the 10 quarterbacks that New Orleans has faced have amassed over 300 yards this season, while Ryan just missed joining that not-so-select group with 295. Eight of the 10 signal callers also produced at least two touchdowns. Plus, Eli Manning, Mariota, and Cousins combined for an unfathomable 14 by each registering at least four between Weeks 8-10. All of which has enabled enemy quarterbacks to generate a mammoth 29 fantasy points per game, which is over four points more than any other team is yielding. If you are fighting for a spot in your league’s postseason, seize Hoyer for your Week 12 lineups.
Philip Rivers at Jaguars
Rivers will still be operating with a depleted collection of weapons, but will not be facing a formidable defensive unit this week. This provides owners with an excellent opportunity to determine whether or not Rivers can still deliver the production that they need in the upcoming weeks. Jacksonville currently ranks 24th in pass defense, and has already yielded 17 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Seven have thrown for 270+ yards against the Jaguars, while five have exceeded 290. Six signal callers have accumulated multiple touchdowns, while Hoyer, Fitzpatrick, Flacco, and even E. J. Manuel accomplished that in four consecutive games (Weeks 6-10). The Jags have also intercepted only five passes all season. If Rivers and the San Diego offense struggle against this unit, it is time to search for an alternative starter.
Marcus Mariota vs. Raiders
All 13 of Mariota’s passing touchdowns have been generated in a total of five games, and were boosted significantly by his four-touchdown performances in Week 1 against Tampa Bay, and Week 9 versus New Orleans. He will be presented with another opportunity to collect multiple scores this week, and those of you who have him on your rosters should consider deploying him. The Raider pass defense ranks 30th, is allowing 291 YPG, and has surrendered 16 touchdowns. They have been gashed for at least two touchdowns by Rivers, Roethlisberger, Dalton, Cutler, Flacco, Josh McCown, and even Geno Smith. Plus, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Flacco and McCown all assembled over 330 yards during their matchups, which has contributed to Oakland having permitted the sixth most fantasy points to enemy signal callers.
Tom Brady at Broncos
This will be the most intriguing contest in Week 12, as Brady will guide the NFL’s #1 passing attack into Denver, to face the league’s top pass defense. The Broncos have become embedded in the worst matchup section of this column, with no perceptible reason for that to change. They are allowing just 191 YPG through the air, which leads the NFL, and still have not allowed an opposing quarterback to reach 300 yards. The Broncos have also surrendered just eight touchdowns all season, while permitting multiple scores in just two contests. All of which explains how they have yielded the fewest number off fantasy points to enemy signal callers. Denver also leads the league with 34 sacks, and will attempt to prohibit Brady from attaining his normal comfort level. Buffalo supplied a blueprint toward negatively impacting Brady, should Denver DC Wade Phillips choose to replicate it. This will be the biggest test of the season for both the Patriot attack the Bronco defense.
Tony Romo vs. Panthers
Romo should be even more proficient in how he spearheads the Cowboy offense, after completing his first game following an extensive absence. But his Thanksgiving Day experience will include having to contend with Carolina’s sturdy defensive unit. Only four teams have allowed fewer touchdowns through the air than the Panthers, who have permitted 12. Four of them were generated by Rodgers during Green Bay’s second half comeback in Week 9. Otherwise, that total would be even more impressive. Carolina has also yielded 300 yards to just two quarterbacks, and have limited seven starting signal callers to under 250 yards. The Panthers also lead the NFL with 15 interceptions, and are second only to Denver with 31 sacks. Romo will help his owners in the upcoming week. But all expectations should be tempered during this matchup.
Drew Brees at Texans
The Texan defense delivered an extremely disappointing stretch of performances earlier this season, including a three-game sequence between Weeks 5-7 in which they allowed nine touchdowns. That culminated with a complete meltdown in Week 7 against Miami, after which this unit began to provide the level of resistance that was originally expected of them. In Weeks 8 and 10, which were sandwiched around their bye, they did not yield a touchdown, and permitted under 200 yards through the air in both contests. In their last four games, they have allowed just one touchdown, while collecting four interceptions. They now rank fifth against the pass, should continue their recent momentum while performing at NRG Stadium again this week, and will not supply Brees with a favorable matchup.