And just like that... they're back. Interrupting the long awaited experience of watching all 32 teams perform on a weekly basis, which enabled our weekends to function just fine without them. Now, they have crept into the fold, despite being both uninvited and unwanted by fantasy owners. Because they will now create an additional layer of weekly decision making for the next nine weeks. That's correct... we're referring to the dreaded bye weeks. They have reemerged with a vengeance, as six teams will be impacted this week. Peyton Manning owners will be absorbing his absence the most, while others will be without Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, and (in deeper leagues) Brian Hoyer. With this dubious reality now firmly established, we will move forward undeterred with this week's rankings, followed by the best and worst QB matchups.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Andrew Luck vs. Titans
After overwhelming the talent deficient Jaguars for 370 yards and four TDs in Week 3, Luck will serve up another impressive display against a Tennessee team that has yielded 668 total yards while being outscored 59-17 in their past two contests. While the Titans have permitted a significant percentage of that yardage on the ground, that ongoing inadequacy will help the Colts establish a respectable rushing attack. That in turn will expedite Luck’s efforts through the air.
2. Drew Brees at Cowboys
He is currently fifth with 868 yards, and eighth with five TDs. Not exactly a nightmare scenario for his owners, but those results are not reaching the level of production that was projected when he was secured early in your drafts. Still, this encounter could easily boost his overall numbers, and supply a remedy for any growing disenchantment.
3. Jay Cutler vs. Packers
While this ranking is contingent upon the availability of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Cutler has thrown multiple TDs in every contest to this point, and will remain a steady producer regardless of who is in the lineup. But expect a much more potent aerial assault if his full arsenal is on the field.
4. Aaron Rodgers at Bears
All uneasiness that is emanating from his owners is justified, since Brian Hoyer and Austin Davis have accumulated more passing yardage than Rodgers, who has also failed to reach 200 yards in two of his initial three contests. However, he has averaged 236 YPG while throwing 21 TDs in 12 career matchups with Chicago. The injury riddled Bear secondary will have difficulty keeping Rodgers from delivering his best output of the season.
5. Philip Rivers vs. Jaguars
With a 259 YPG average and six TDs, the 11-year veteran has steadily produced for his owners. When you consider that his output was generated against the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Bills, it does not test the imagination to envision a monster performance versus the NFL’s worst pass defense.
6. Matt Ryan at Vikings
The good news for Ryan's owners was that he had already generated 286 yards and three TDs in just two and one half quarters during Atlanta's blowout of Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, he also exited the game at that point. But those owners won't be forced to wonder what might have been this week, as Ryan should deliver respectable results for four quarters against a Viking defense that exhibited resolve after a shaky start in Week 3.
7. Nick Foles at 49ers
It is doubtful that Foles can attain his 326 YPG average. But the NFL’s second best passing attack will not be completely constrained, as Foles will surpass 250 yards, and generate multiple TDs.
8. Matthew Stafford at Jets
Continuing with our theme of signal callers with considerable talent who have not repaid owners for their sizable investment, we now move to Stafford. His yardage has declined in three straight games, which has been matched by his equally descending TD output. Worse, he tossed two INTs and lost a fumble against Green Bay. Yet, he merits this ranking primarily due to his matchup with the burnable Jet secondary.
9. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Buccaneers
It is not hard to imagine any QB being ecstatic about the chance to face Tampa Bay, in view of their Week 3 debacle in Atlanta. Expect Roethlisberger to prosper against the Bucs' overmatched defense, which has already surrendered five TDs through the air.
10. Tony Romo vs. Saints
He is a mere 17th with 674 yards, and his four TDs have also been matched by the four INTs that he has registered. It is also concerning that after ranking within the top 10 in passing from 2008-2012, Dallas had slid to 22nd, while the Cowboys' ground game has carried the attack. However, hope presents itself during this matchup, in the form of a struggling New Orleans pass defense.
11. Colin Kaepernick vs. Eagles
The high level production that I expected from Kaepernick has failed to materialize, and he will frustrate owners until his mistakes diminish. But he should still accrue desirable numbers during this enticing matchup, versus Philadelphia’s 30th ranked pass defense.
12. Cam Newton at Ravens
He has averaged 266 YPG, and thrown two TDs since his return. But he has only rushed for 26 yards during that span, as Newton’s ongoing ankle issue has limited his ability to accumulate additional fantasy points on the ground. Combine his decreased yardage with the absence of viable weapons beyond Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson, and it will be tough for him to achieve high quality production.
13. Tom Brady at Chiefs
At this point, Brady barely qualifies as a QB1, based strictly upon his output this season. He has thrown exactly one TD pass in all three contests, and his yardage total currently trails 23 other signal callers. He was merely efficient against an overmatched Oakland unit in Week 3, and must now face a KC defense that will be even less accommodating inside Arrowhead Stadium. .
14. Kirk Cousins vs. Giants
Cousins’ 339 YPG average is the NFL’s highest, but he will be tested in this matchup. The Giants have allowed just three TDs, recorded seven sacks, and can encumber Cousins with the stringent coverage of CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara.
15. Mike Glennon at Steelers
16. Joe Flacco vs. Panthers
17. Teddy Bridgewater vs. Falcons
18. Geno Smith vs. Lions
19. Eli Manning at Redskins
20. Alex Smith vs. Patriots
21. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Bills
22. David Carr vs. Dolphins
23. E. J. Manual at Texans
24. Blake Bortles at Chargers
25. Jake Locker at Colts
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Buccaneers
Even with extra time to prepare for this matchup, Tampa Bay defense remains injury riddled and subsequently exposed after their nationally televised humiliation in Week 3. They currently rank 23rd against the pass, and are allowing 262 YPG. They will struggle to match up with Antonio Brown, who Roethlisberger will locate with regularity. Plus, he should expand his output even further through multiple connections with Markus Wheaton.
Tony Romo vs. Saints If you waited to select your QB on draft day, then targeted Romo to be your weekly QB1, you cannot be satisfied with the results. His yardage total places him behind Davis, Hoyer, and Locker among others. Plus, it has to be disconcerting to witness the heavy emphasis upon the Cowboys' rushing attack (unless you also own DeMarco Murray). Only three teams have run the ball more than Dallas, which has enabled the Cowboys to rank an impressive second in rushing yards. That does not help the Romo owners, who can only hope that a home matchup with the NFL's 29th ranked pass defense will jump start his season. The Saints are allowing 278 YPG, have yet to garner an INT, and have recorded just four sacks.
Philip Rivers vs. Jaguars
Only three QBs have amassed more TD passes than Rivers, who has only tossed one INT. He will now enjoy the benefit of lining up against the most vulnerable defense that he has faced this season. The Jaguars have surrendered a league worst 306 YPG through the air, and have also permitted the most TDs (eight). Plus, Jacksonville was just thrashed by Luck and the Colts last Sunday, and must now travel westward for a thorough dissection by Rivers. Expect him to assemble impressive numbers this week.
Nick Foles at 49ers
This is not a prediction that Foles will struggle, and it is certainly not a suggestion that he will deliver a horrific performance. But it will be difficult for him to replicate the massive yardage that he has been accumulating, as his output has been tremendously consistent. He has amassed 322, 331, and 325 yards respectively during his first three contests, and his total of 978 has vaulted him into the league lead. That number will decrease this week, versus a 15th ranked pass defense that has allowed 226 YPG. But Foles should connect on multiple TDs, as only two teams have yielded more scores through the air than the Niners (seven).
Matt Ryan at Vikings
As with the Foles matchup in San Francisco, this is not a forecast of disaster for Ryan this week. But even though the Vikings have battling issues both in and off the field, their pass defense has not been overly hospitable toward opponents. They rank 13th in pass defense, have only permitted three TDs, and have garnered seven sacks. This unit regrouped after a slow start, and did not allow Brees to shred them as had been widely predicted. And they also limited Brady to a season low 149 yards in Week 2. While Ryan’s total will not be contained that significantly, he will not exceed two TDs.
Alex Smith vs. Patriots Owners in deeper leagues may have been garnering acceptable point totals from Smith in the past two weeks, but this matchup against the Patriot defense should create consternation. New England currently possesses the NFL's stingiest pass defense, permitting just 169 YPG. They have also yielded just three TDs, and have collected a league best six INTs. You should employ another option, who will not be facing such an arduous task this week.