In Week 6, eight QBs passed for over 300 yards, led by Jay Cutler. Whose total of 381 was the second highest of his nine-year career. And congratulations to anyone who anticipated that Joe Flacco would lead all signal callers with five TDs. After he generated three with extreme ease during the first quarter in Tampa, owners could not be blamed for checking to see if their QB would be matched up against the woeful Buccaneer pass defense this week.
Of course the answer is a resounding no, as they are joining the Eagles on bye. That means that QBs of two teams will be unavailable for a third consecutive week, with Nick Foles easily being the most critical absentee. As always, this column will help identify the most feasible options for anyone who needs to replace Foles as their starter, or is considering their options for any other reason.
Here are the updated rankings of the top 25 signal callers, including information regarding the QB1s. That will be followed by this week's best and worst matchups.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Andrew Luck vs. Bengals
After shredding the Texans for 379 yards and three TDs in Week 6, Luck fortified his league lead in yardage (1,947), and also in TDs (17). He has now surpassed 300 yards in four consecutive contests, and has registered four games with at least three TDs. His excellent production should continue this week versus a regressing Cincinnati pass defense. The Bengals have plummeted to 22nd, after yielding 576 yards and four TDs to Tom Brady and Cam Newton in the past two weeks.
2. Philip Rivers vs. Chiefs
Owners who drafted Rivers after constructing a considerable percentage of their rosters have garnered a mammoth return on their investment. Since Week 1, he has generated multiple TDs every week, and is currently tied for second with 15 on the season. His 293 YPG average is the league’s third best, as is his yardage total of 1,756. That includes the 313 that he generated in Week 6. Rivers has been unfailingly productive regardless of the competition, and owners do not need to be advised to lock him into all lineups.
3. Aaron Rodgers vs. Panthers
After managing just one TD pass in two of Green Bay's first three contests, Rodgers' throws have found the end zone with enough frequency that he is now tied for second among all QBs with 15. This despite the fact that 14 other signal callers have generated more attempts. He has accomplished this without the benefit of a potent ground game, as the Packers rank 24th in rushing, while averaging only 95 YPG. Eddie Lacy is only 16th with 308 yards, and a 3.8 YPC average. Yet, Rodgers has guided the offense masterfully, and will continue to do so against a vulnerable Panther defense this week.
4. Peyton Manning vs. 49ers
Manning continued his drive toward Brett Favre’s career TD record, after accumulating three more in New York. He has now thrown at least two in every game this season, and has manufactured at least three in four of his five games. But after averaging 323 YPG heading into Week 6, the shaky Jets secondary held him to a season low 237 yards. This week’s matchup will be more daunting, as San Francisco is permitting just 207 YPG.
5. Jay Cutler vs. Dolphins
Chicago's Week 6 matchup with Atlanta carried the potential for a statistical explosion by both Cutler and Matt Ryan, as each QB would be lining up against a burnable pass defense. However, it was Cutler who delivered exceptional results, as he dissected Atlanta for 381 yards and a TD. He is now fourth among all QBs with 1,676 yards, and is fifth with 13 TDs. He should assemble another impressive outing against a Dolphin defense that was just scorched by Rodgers, and has permitted 10 TDs through the air.
6. Drew Brees at Lions
Brees entered his bye week with the NFL's third highest yardage total (1,534), and was fourth with a 315 YPG average. But even though Brees had generated a league high 218 attempts, he was only tied for eighth with nine TDs (and has since dropped to 13th due to the bye). He has yet to manufacture more than two TDs in his first five games after producing at least three six times last season. He will also fail to exceed two in this encounter, as Detroit's sturdy pass defense has only yielded a league best five all season.
7. Matthew Stafford vs. Saints
Stafford has been operating with a limited group of weapons this season in comparison to many of his peers. And that is the case when Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are in the lineup. When Stafford was forced to operate without Johnson and Bush in Week 6, that propelled his statistical ceiling downward by a significant amount. Still, he was able to connect with his remaining weapons for 185 yards. While that is not a desirable amount to his owners, he did manage to avoid thoroughly substandard production. This week, he will benefit from a very favorable matchup with New Orleans' surprisingly ineffective pass defense. And his output will be determined largely by the availability of his most dangerous weapons.
8. Tony Romo vs. Giants
The Cowboys' eye opening win in Seattle provides further evidence that it is time to regard Romo and the Dallas offense as being among the league's best. It should also reposition any thought that the Seahawks possess a shutdown defense, after they were steamrolled for 412 total yards by the Cowboys, with 250 of those coming from Romo and the Dallas passing attack. He has averaged 279 YPG in his last three contests. Plus, nine of his 11 TDs have been generated in the past four games, including the two that he accumulated in Seattle. His offensive line certainly deserves credit for his recent production. And the continued excellence of that unit will bolster his chances of delivering 250+ yards and multiple scores against the Giants' 24th ranked pass defense.
9. Matt Ryan at Ravens
As mentioned previously, the anticipated fireworks between the Bears and Falcons did not completely materialize. Ryan had to rally from a slow start to manufacture 271 yards, but managed just one TD. He has now produced just two TDs in Atlanta’s last seven quarters, and both were generated primarily through Antoine Smith’s propensity to explode after the catch. However, Ryan was victimized by seven drive stifling drops, which repeatedly quashed his efforts. This week's matchup will be much more daunting, as Ryan and the Falcons head to Baltimore. The Ravens have performed better than their numbers suggest, and will force Ryan owners to endure another week of disappointing results.
10. Tom Brady vs. Jets
Well, well, well. Look who has been elevated back into QB1 consideration. After managing just four TDs in New England’s first four contests, Brady has amassed six during the last two. That includes the four that he accumulated in Buffalo last Sunday, when he also generated a season high 361 yards. 274 of those were accrued in the second half, when Brady also manufactured three of his scores. His resurgence should continue this week against the Jets, as the Patriots should launch an unremitting aerial assault. Not only does New York remain far more susceptible against the pass, but Stevan Ridley’s injury should modify how often Bill Belichick utilized his ground game.
11. Colin Kaepernick at Broncos
Kaepernick entered Week 6 with 1,113 yards, which was only the 23rd highest total among all QBs. He had also thrown just seven TDs, which tied him for 19th in that category. But he proceeded to deliver his best performance of the year in St. Louis, by torching the Rams for 343 yards, and three TDs. That surpassed his previous season best by 95 yards, and was his first three TD game of the year. It was encouraging to see him generate those numbers, although it is unlikely that, he will match them this week. Denver's 16th ranked pass is yielding 241 YPG, and has surrendered seven TDs.
12. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Texans
His output was hampered significantly by Todd Haley in Week 6, as Pittsburgh’s OC eschewed the opportunity to attack Cleveland’s 27th ranked pass defense, and focused almost solely on running repeatedly against the Browns’ 29th ranked rush defense. The uneven approach limited Roethlisberger to just seven attempts through the first 27:30 of the first half. The playbook expanded once the Steelers trailed by a sizable margin, which allowed Roethlisberger to eventually connect on 21 passes for 228 yards. But his ability to construct high quality numbers was defused by the debatable strategy. This is not the first time that Haley's play calling has been questioned, and his acumen as a strategist needs to improve for this week’s matchup versus Houston’s 29th ranked pass defenders.
13. Russell Wilson at Rams
14. Cam Newton at Packers
15. Carson Palmer at Raiders
16. Joe Flacco at Falcons
17. Brian Hoyer at Jaguars
18. Eli Manning at Cowboys
19. Andy Dalton at Colts
20. Kirk Cousins vs. Titans
21. David Carr vs. Cardinals
22. Ryan Tannehill at Bears
23. Austin Davis vs. Seahawks
24. Blake Bortles vs. Browns
25. Kyle Orton vs. Vikings
Andrew Luck vs. Bengals
Cincinnati began the year impressively on the defensive side of the ball. But since returning from their Week 4 bye, the Bengals have been embarrassed by Brady while giving up 292 yards and two TDs, then followed up that effort by surrendering 284 yards and two TDs toNewton last Sunday. Worse, they also permitted Newton to generate a game high 107 yards and a TD on the ground. Injuries and mental mistakes have contributed to the decline in the Bengals recent performances, and no QB is currently more capable of wreaking havoc against the suddenly struggling unit than Luck.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Panthers
Last Sunday, Rodgers led the Packers on an exhilarating comeback in Miami, while carving up the Dolphins in the process. He has produced 10 in his last three games, and has avoided tossing an INT since Week 1. Now, he will face a Carolina defense that was among the NFL's best in 2013, yet has been far more hospitable this season. The Panthers permitted just 15 PPG in 2013, finished sixth against the pass, and allowed just 214 YPG. Plus, only two teams yielded fewer TDs through the air than the 17 that were given up by the stingy Panthers. But this season, Carolina has allowed 252 YPG, and in the past three games have surrendered 323 yards to Andy Dalton, 289 to Cutler, and 327 to Flacco. They have also yielded 12 TDs, while permitting five of the six QBs that they’ve faced to generate at least two scores through the air. Their pass rush has managed 13 sacks, but Rodgers should overcome the pressure, and exploit this vulnerable unit for 300+ yards and three TDs.
Matthew Stafford vs. Saints
In 2013, New Orleans excelled in defending the pass, ranking second overall in that category. They trailed only Seattle while allowing 194 YPG, and permitted 20 TDs during the season. Plus, the Saints also recorded 49 sacks, which was the league's fourth best total. However, that prowess against the pass has been nonexistent in 2014, as the Saints rank just 25th overall, and are giving up 268 YPG. They have already surrendered nine TDs through the air in five games, and have managed nine sacks, which placed them 24th heading into their bye. New Orleans will take the field after an additional week to improve their recent performances, but Stafford still has an excellent opportunity to deliver solid numbers. Even if he is not fully stocked with weapons.
Brian Hoyer at Jaguars
Owners in deeper league who have already utilized Hoyer, are already aware that he has performed efficiently, even though his numbers cannot be categorized as exceptional. He has exceeded 200 yards in every contest, and has averaged 266 in his last three. Plus, four of his seven TD passes have been manufactured in the last two weeks. He should generate very favorable numbers against a Jaguar pass defense that has been extremely charitable to opposing signal callers, while taking up residence near the bottom of the rankings. They had surrendered 309 YPG before their Week 6 encounter with Charlie Whitehurst enabled them to reduce that average to 294. They have also allowed 12 TDs, and have managed to intercept just one pass. You should have confidence that Hoyer will deliver a productive outing, if you entrust him as your QB2.
Drew Brees at Lions
A quick glance at statistics would lead you to conclude that all is well with Brees and the Saint offense. But even New Orleans was generating a league best 443 YPG, ranked fourth in passing at 310 YPG heading into the Week 6 bye, and Brees' numbers clearly place him among the league leaders, there have been game sequences in which neither Brees nor the offense has not exhibited the usual degree of excellence that we have grown accustomed to. Some throws to open receivers are not launched with the usual precision, and defensive pressure has caused Brees to make uncharacteristic mistakes. That should be somewhat unsettling for owners considering that Detroit's formidable front is next on the docket. The Lions have already collected 20 sacks, which leads the NFL. And they rank second overall against the pass, while permitting just 197 YPG. This sturdy unit will keep Brees from being among this week’s leaders in fantasy points.
Peyton Manning vs. 49ers
This is not to suggest that Manning and the Broncos will be totally suppressed in this encounter. But his yardage total might be similar to the 242 that he generated in Week 2 against Kansas City. Or the 237 that he registered during Week 6 versus the Jets. The 49ers currently rank second against the pass, and just recovered impressively from a 14-0 deficit in St. Louis. They overwhelmed Austin Davis in the process, sacking him five times, and picking him off to secure the win. The Niners are now tied for fifth with seven INTs on the season. And even though they won't prevent Manning from connecting with his arsenal of weapons, they will not make it easy for him to accumulate numbers.
Matt Ryan at Ravens
Ryan produced three TDs in three of his first four contests, and had tossed 10 heading into Week 5. But his output has diminished considerably in the past two weeks, during which he has managed just one scoring throw. Neither of which was collected by a WR. His decreased production can be blamed in great part on offensive line woes, along with the talent deficiencies within the Falcon offense beyond Julio Jones, Roddy White and Antoine Smith. All of which creates massive concerns regarding this week’s matchup in Baltimore. While rankings are employed frequently in this column, they can be deceptive on certain occasions. That is the case with the Ravens, who rank just 29th versus the pass, but can actually provide sizable difficulties for opposing signal callers. Only one team has allowed fewer TDs than the six that Baltimore has yielded, and two of those took place last in Week 6, after they had forged a mammoth lead over the Buccaneers. The Ravens kept Roethlisberger from finding the end zone in Week 2, and have limited Luck, Newton and Dalton to just one. This will be a tough test for Ryan, and his owners should brace for another low scoring week.