For many of the fantasy owners who are fully committed toward success, continual research toward planning your drafts, then maintaining and strengthening your rosters has essentially become a year round process.
Congratulations to those of you who have been rewarded for this unwavering dedication by having your teams qualify for the fantasy playoffs. As you spend this week focusing on matchups, injuries, weather, and the other factors that might keep you awake late at night, this column is designed to provide the comprehensive information that you need when determining which QB to employ in your lineups.
With that in mind, we’ll launch into this week’s rankings, followed by in-depth analysis of the QB1s, along with this week’s best and worst matchups.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Andrew Luck at Browns
In Week 12, Luck surprisingly managed just 255 yards and one TD against a Jacksonville pass defense that ranked a lowly 26th. But in Week 13, he rebounded significantly, shredding the Redskins for a season high five TDs, along with 370 yards. It was the 11th time that he has amassed multiple TDs this season, and his season total is now the NFL’s second highest (34). It was also the 10th time that he has surpassed 300 yards, as he extended his league leading season total to 4,011. Next in line for Luck will be Cleveland, which ranks a respectable eighth against the pass. The Browns’ run defense is more vulnerable (ranked 29th), but the Colts will continue their heavy reliance upon Luck.
2. Aaron Rodgers vs. Falcons
In Weeks 10-12, New England successfully developed specific game plans made it difficult for Luck, Peyton Manning, and Matthew Stafford to connect with their collective arsenals of receiving weapons. But Rodgers did not encounter the same difficulties in Week 13, as he dissected the Patriots for 368 yards and two TDs. It was his second highest yardage total of the season, and his sixth game with 300+. He has also produced at least two TDs in four straight contests, and nine of his 12 games this season. Plus, he has not thrown an INT since Week 8. All of which has helped him construct a stellar TD/INT ratio of 32/3. He should compile excellent numbers this week versus an overmatched Atlanta defense that ranks dead last against the pass.
3. Tom Brady at Chargers
Brady entered Week 13 having thrown multiple TDs in seven consecutive contests, while only tossing four INTs during that span. He had also averaged 315 YPG in those contests, on the strength of four games with 330+. But while his output in Green Bay was respectable, it did not match the previous numbers during his statistical surge. The 245 yards that he manufactured were the lowest since Week 4. And even though his scoring throws enabled him to achieve multiple TDs once again, he has not exceeded two in any contest since Week 9. Fortunately for his owners, 300 yards and three TDs are plausible this week versus a San Diego pass defense that has permitted 14 TDs in their last seven contests.
4. Drew Brees vs. Panthers
After generating a season high 420 yards and three TDs against the Ravens in Week 12, Brees and the Saint offense torched their AFC North rival in Pittsburgh six days later. Brees produced five TDs for the ninth time in his career, and accomplished that despite launching just 27 passes. He has now manufactured 27 TDs, which is the NFL’s fifth highest total. He has also assembled 3,748 yards, and trails only Luck in that category. Owners can now eagerly await this week’s favorable matchup with a Carolina pass defense that has allowed 22 TDs. Brees amassed 297 yards against the Panthers in Week 9, along with two TD through the air. That included his only rushing TD of the year. Expect multiple scoring throws during this rematch.
5. Peyton Manning vs. Bills
Manning manufactured a season low 179 yards in Week 13, which was the first time since Week 5 that he failed to accrue at least 257. That occurred in part because the Broncos placed greater emphasis on their ground game, and pounded Kansas City with 45 rushing attempts. He is still third among all QBs with 3,737 yards for the season. Plus, he connected on two more TDs against the Chiefs, to expand his league leading total to 36. He has generated at least two TDs in 11 of Denver’s 12 contests, and has produced at least three eight times. He should continue that streak this week, although Buffalo’s formidable defense will provide a stern test.
6. Matthew Stafford vs. Buccaneers
Stafford took the field on Thanksgiving Day with an unsightly 13 TD/10 INT ratio. But he took advantage of an opportunity to improve it by exploiting Chicago's 28th ranked pass defense for a season high 390 yards and two TDs. It was his first 300-yard performance since Week 8, and the first multiple TD effort since Week 10. As mentioned previously in this column, he is in position to propel his owners through their fantasy playoffs, as his encounter with the Bears was just the first installment in a four-game sequence with favorable matchups for Stafford. The next opportunity awaits this Sunday when Tampa Bay's improving but burnable pass defense travels to Detroit.
7. Tony Romo at Bears
Between Week 3 and Week 12, Romo had amassed 20 TDs with only two TDs. And he appeared destined to deliver high quality production in Week 13, due to his appealing matchup with the NFL’s 30th ranked pass defense. However, he only generated 199 yards, and could not produce a TD. It was Romo’s lowest yardage total since Week 2. And it was also the first time that he failed to produce a score this season. Worse, he also tossed multiple INTs for the first time since the Cowboys’ opener. Despite the disappointing results, it is best to consider his performance against the Eagles to be an aberration. He should rebound sizably this week by torching Chicago’s overly hospitable pass defense.
8. Ben Roethlisberger at Bengals
Roethlisberger took full advantage of the proverbial garbage time by generating two TDs in the final 2:34. That rescued his owners from what would have been a dreadful fantasy outing, despite a dream matchup versus a burnable Saint defense. He overcame a hit to his throwing hand and two INTs, before delivering those late game connections, and has now amassed 26 TDs on the season. 20 of those scoring throws have been generated at Heinz Field, which is also where five of his six multiple TD performances have occurred. That should be a concern for owners heading into this week’s matchup, as he must face a formidable pass defense on the road. Division rival Cincinnati has only permitted 11 TDs through the air all season.
9. Russell Wilson at Eagles
You will seldom if ever find Wilson's name among the weekly leaders in passing yards or TDs. But he maintains occupancy among the QB1s as a result of game changing abilities that rarely exist with his counterparts. He continues to lead all QBs in rushing with 679 yards, which is also the NFL’s 15th highest total. He is averaging an impressive 7.5 YPC, has accumulated over 30 yards in seven straight games, and has exceeded 100 three times. His four TDs on the ground also leads all signal callers. Plus, he will seldom penalize owners with turnovers, as he has tossed just five INTs. This week he must deal with an Eagle defense that allows 159 YPG through the air, 108 YPG on the ground, but can also perform at a high level.
10. Jay Cutler vs. Cowboys
Many owners (myself included) chose to bench him during his Week 13 matchup with Detroit, in anticipation of an ugly stat line. Not only had he managed just one TD in four of his last six games, but he had also produced just 130 yards in Week 12. Plus, the Lions entered the contest allowing the second fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs. Ultimately, Cutler’s outing was not the massive implosion that some expected, as he accrued 280 yards and two TDs. However, he also threw two INTs, to expand his season total to 14. Anyone who chooses to start him this week should prepare for another combination of TDs and turnovers.
11. Mark Sanchez vs. Seahawks
In Week 13, Sanchez delivered his best overall performance since ascending into Philadelphia's starting lineup. He counteracted a moderate yardage total (217) by generating one TD through the air, and registering another on the ground. He also rushed for 28 yards, displayed accuracy, avoided miscues, and provided the appearance of a proficient NFL starter throughout the contest. He solidified his viability as a QB1, which should bolster his owners’ confidence that he can lead their teams through the fantasy postseason. He will encounter a Seattle defense that is morphing into the impenetrable force that we witnessed in 2013. But he can still benefit from Chip Kelly’s system, which maximizes the QB’s chances to succeed.
12. Ryan Tannehill vs. Ravens
As Tannehill entered Week 13, he was producing just enough to merit consideration as a low end QB1. While he had yet to throw for 300 yards this season, he had the 10th highest yardage total among all QBs (2,582). Similarly, he was 10th with 20 TDs, despite manufacturing two TDs or less in 10 games. It appeared that he could easily increase that TD total versus the susceptible Jet defense that had allowed a league worst 27 TDs. But to the horror of his owners, Tannehill failed to record a TD for the first time all season. Any hesitation toward utilizing him this week is understandable in the aftermath of that performance. However, he does have an excellent chance to rebound against Baltimore’s 31st ranked pass defense.
13. Colin Kaepernick at Raiders
14. Eli Manning at Titans
15. Philip Rivers vs. Patriots
16. Cam Newton vs. Saints
17. Andy Dalton vs. Steelers
18. Zach Mettinberger vs. Giants
19. Matt Ryan at Packers
20. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Jaguars
21. Teddy Bridgewater vs. Jets
22. Alex Smith at Cardinals
23. Shaun Hill at Redskins
24. Joe Flacco at Dolphins
25. Colt McCoy vs. Rams
Tony Romo at Bears
Romo’s disappointing numbers in Week 13 occurred in part because the Eagle defense overpowered the Cowboys’ offensive line, pressured Romo repeatedly, and sacked him four times. Dallas also did not have the usual degree of success on the ground that has benefitted Romo this season. And the fast turnaround from a Sunday Night contest in New York to the Thursday afternoon encounter with Philly was certainly a factor too. It is wise for owners to avoid overreaction, as a well-rested Romo will face an opponent that will not provide the same level of resistance. Chicago’s 30th ranked pass defense has already surrendered 27 TDs this season, and has yielded multiple scores in three of the last four games. The Bears just allowed Stafford to attain a new season high (390 yards) in Week 13, which was the second consecutive game in which they have yielded 300+. Romo should perpetuate that streak, and provide his owners with a favorable number of fantasy points during this critical week.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Ravens
Tannehill’s production had been steady prior to his substandard output in Week 13, and he remains a viable low end QB1 this week. But anyone who chooses to depend upon him will require a much better performance than he delivered in Week 13, or their postseason aspirations will be demolished. Fortunately, he has a legitimate chance to rebound, versus a Raven pass defense that has been tortured by opposing signal callers in recent weeks. The Ravens have dropped to just 31st in pass defense, and are yielding 274 YPG. Starting CBs Ladarius Webb and Anthony Levine are being torched on a routine basis, and should relinquish big plays again during this encounter. In their last two contests, Baltimore has surrendered 385 yards and three TDs to Rivers, and 420 yards with three TDs to Brees in Week 12. And it is highly doubtful that the Ravens will be able to neutralize Miami’s passing attack.
Colin Kaepernick at Raiders
Kaepernick's unrelentingly anemic output has continued long enough to prohibit any further inclusion as a top 12 signal caller. He has only thrown multiple TD passes three times all year, and has only one 300-yard performance. However, dismissing this week’s enticing matchup against Oakland would be ill-advised. Because any owners who are in deeper leagues, or are searching for a streaming option, could benefit from Kaepernick’s exceptional opportunity to finally deliver favorable production. Last Sunday, the Raiders performed as if finally gaining their initial victory in Week 12 had somehow concluded their season. They permitted the Rams to score TDs on their first five possessions, and allowed St. Louis to accumulate over 300 yards before the mid-point of the second quarter. It would had been far worse if Jeff Fisher had not opted to be merciful, and decided to have the Rams decelerate their attack. Oakland’s pass defense will be forced to remain on the field for a significant number of plays, while San Francisco’s sturdy defense consistently overwhelms Oakland’s substandard attack. That will provide Kaepernick with numerous opportunities to supply fantasy points.
Peyton Manning vs. Bills
Manning has guided Denver’s second ranked passing attack with extreme guile and precision while overpowering most opponents in the process. But he will encounter more resistance than has been customary during this week’s matchup with Buffalo. Gaining yardage against the Bills has often been an arduous task this season, and they have been very opportunistic in collecting sacks and turnovers. They rank fifth in total defense while allowing 312 YPG, and are also fifth against the pass (216 YPG). The Bills have also permitted only 15 TDs all season, which is the league’s second lowest total. Plus, their tenacious pass rush has already registered an NFL best 48 sacks. While the Broncos have been two dimensional since C. J. Anderson ascended into the starting lineup, they will not find the same degree of success against Buffalo’s seventh ranked run defenders that they achieved in Kansas City. Which should result in Manning launching passes with more frequency, and a greater opportunity to accumulate yardage. But he must stay upright, and avoid mistakes.
Mark Sanchez vs. Seahawks
Sanchez not only demonstrated that he should be the QB1 for both the Eagles and his fantasy owners during the remainder of their collective seasons, but he would have assembled even better numbers if his receivers – we’re referring to you now Riley Cooper - had avoided costly drops. But even though Sanchez still guided the Eagle offense to 464 total yards, the margin for error will shrink substantially in this week’s difficult matchup. The Seahawk defense has regained elite status, having soared into second versus the pass (199 YPG). In the past two weeks, they have allowed a grand total of six points, while producing seven sacks, and three INTs. In Week 12 they held Drew Stanton to 149 yards, then limited Kaepernick to a paltry 121 in Week 13. Seattle has also pilfered six passes in their last six contests, and it will behoove Sanchez to avoid careless throws.
Ben Roethlisberger at Bengals
While the Bengals rank outside the top 10 against the pass (ranked 14th), attacking this unit through the air presents more issues than it might initially appear. And this matchup does not bode well for Roethlisberger, in terms of his ability to assemble TD passes this week. Cincinnati has only surrendered 11 TDs through the air all season, which is three fewer than any other team. This should be sobering for his owners, as scoring throws from Roethlisberger on the road have already been sparse throughout the season. His 20/6 ratio of TDs at home versus the road have already been discussed in this column. And of the six times that he has launched a scoring throw during six different road games, only once has he managed more than one against an opponent. While it might be extremely difficult for owners to find a better option for streaming purposes, it is difficult to recommend Roethlisberger as a starting option during this week’s crucial fantasy encounters.