It is hard to believe that Week 7 of the regular season has already arrived. And yet, here we are. Philip Rivers has already eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark, which lends further credence to the validity of the late round quarterback strategy on draft days. And four other signal callers have a realistic chance to join him during their next starts. We have also progressed through three bye weeks, although the Week 7 installment will impact the quarterback position more than any other to this point of the season. Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 15 passing touchdowns, but will not be available for his owners this week. Andy Dalton has provided one of the league’s most compelling story lines this season, is currently second in yardage and is tied for second in touchdowns. But his ongoing transformation into a high quality producer on an every week basis will be placed on hold. Disillusioned Peyton Manning owners will have an opportunity to utilize an alternative starter, in what could be a dress rehearsal for the opportunity to usurp Manning’s QB1 status in many fantasy lineups. And Jay Cutler, who has reemerged as an option for many owners will also be unavailable. However, there are still a number of signal callers who will be under center this week, and the following rankings and matchups will help you determine who to employ in your lineups. They will include updates on where the quarterbacks reside in the most basic statistical categories, to help owners avoid the sometimes dangerous tendency of overreacting to the latest results. Because that can obscure the reality of how effective your starters are actually performing. Enjoy this week’s games, and good luck to everyone.
Bye: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler
Top 25 Rankings
1. Philip Rivers vs. Raiders
Rivers cemented his standing as the NFL leader in passing yards, after accumulating a mammoth 503 against the Packers in Week 6. He connected 14 times with Keenan Allen for 157 yards, before Allen was forced from the contest with a hip injury. Still, Rivers continued to generate an impressive output by completing throws to seven different receivers. And he accomplished it against what had been the league’s fourth ranked pass defense. Rivers has now produced 2,116 yards for the season, has exceeded 300 yards in four different contests, and has surpassed 400 yards twice. He also has thrown 12 touchdowns, as the 33-year old continues to deliver numbers that transcend his status as a low round draft selection in last summer’s fantasy drafts. His torrid pace should continue this week, as the 31st ranked Oakland pass defense is yielding 299 YPG.
2. Carson Palmer vs. Ravens
Palmer produced a voluminous yardage total in Week 6, which resulted in another excellent performance from a fantasy standpoint. But even though he did generate a season high 421 yards in Pittsburgh, he did not exhibit the precision that we have witnessed throughout most of the season. He failed to produce multiple touchdowns for just the second time this year. Plus, he tossed a season worst two interceptions. Fortunately, he did deliver the massive yardage, which was the fourth time that he has surpassed the 300-yard mark this year. That improves his season total to 1,737, which places him fourth overall. And, his 14 touchdowns tie him for second among all quarterbacks. Palmer’s torrid pace could result in his most prolific season since 2006, and it should continue this week. As he will face a vulnerable Baltimore pass defense that has been routinely abused this season.
3. Drew Brees at Colts
Brees has now exceeded 300 yards in four of his last five games, after generating 312 against NFC South rival Atlanta in Week 6. He has also attained that 300-yard mark in three straight contests, after returning to the Saints lineup in Week 4. Brees’ most recent performance increased his season yardage total to 1,614, which places him seventh overall. Brees also demonstrated great efficiently in guiding the New Orleans attack, by connecting on 30 of his 39 passes. Apprehension about his right shoulder should essentially be non-existent, as is the preseason concern that he can only function as a low end QB1. He should generate significant yardage again this week, by gashing a Colt pass defense that ranks 28th, and is yielding 289 YPG.
4. Tom Brady vs. Jets
Brady does not require any type of extra incentive to perform exceptionally, but his Week 6 matchup in Indianapolis did provide mammoth motivation for him to attack the Colt pass defense. While he did not amass the gargantuan numbers that some predicted, he was efficient, and the results left him near the top of the league in every primary passing category. Brady assembled 312 yards, and two touchdowns, which was his third 300-yard performance of the season. That increased his season total to 1,699, which places him fifth overall. His 340 YPG average is second only to Philip Rivers. Plus, he has now generated multiple scores in five consecutive games, while extending his season-long touchdown total to 14. He will deliver respectable numbers again this week, despite a challenging matchup with AFC East rival New York.
5. Andrew Luck at Saints
Luck returned to the lineup in Week 6, after performing the role of spectator for two weeks. Leaving owners to hope that he would finally deliver a high quality outing that resembled his performances throughout most of 2014. Prior to his matchup with the Patriots, he had been averaging 251 YPG, only thrown an anemic five touchdowns, and had been intercepted seven times. But Luck was able expunge some of the disappointment that has surrounded his season, by dissecting New England for new season highs in yardage (312) and touchdowns, while avoiding turnovers for the first time this year. Luck will be presented with an opportunity to provide similar numbers this week, versus the 23rd ranked pass defense of New Orleans.
6. Cam Newton vs. Eagles
Newton had only surpassed 200 passing yards once all season prior to Week 6, and was not projected to deliver sizable production during his matchup in Seattle. But he did amass 269 yards, including 162 in the fourth quarter. That is when he guided two fourth quarter drives that not only provided a sizable boost to his overall production, but also made his performance extremely memorable. His ability to spearhead a road win against the same Seahawk team that had been Carolina’s recent nemesis, should fortify the confidence of the Panthers’ offensive unit, and supply significant momentum heading into this week’s encounter with Philadelphia. Newton should compile 300 total yards against an Eagle unit that ranks 25th against the pass.
7. Matt Ryan at Titans
Even with supreme weapon Julio Jones functioning at something under 100%, Ryan was able to generate 295 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints in Week 6. He has now exceeded 250 yards in all six games of 2015, and his season-long yardage total (1,751) is the league’s third highest. But even though Ryan’s output is sufficient to maintain unchallenged QB1 status, Atlanta’s attack has become increasingly reliant upon Devonta Freeman and the ground game. As a result, Ryan has not reached 300 yards since Week 2. And after generating at least three touchdowns in six different contests in 2014, he has failed to do so this season. It will be difficult to accomplish it this week, when he faces Tennessee’s top ranked pass defense.
8. Blake Bortles vs. Bills
Bortles has not been particularly efficient, as he is only completing 57% of his throws. Plus, he has already thrown seven interceptions. But his cluster of effective weapons, and the sheer volume of his passing attempts, have thrust him into consideration as a prospective starter. Particularly for owners who have lost their starter due to bye or injury, or for those who have become increasingly disenchanted with their current QB1 (I’m looking through the computer screen at you now Peyton Manning owners). He has already launched 242 passes, which is a total that has been exceeded only by Rivers and Joe Flacco. His 1,630 yards places him sixth among all quarterbacks, and his 13 touchdowns represent the NFL’s fifth highest number. Jacksonville will be reliant upon his arm again this week, when Bortles faces a Buffalo pass defense that just surrendered three touchdowns to Dalton in Week 6.
9. Eli Manning vs. Cowboys
The possibility of Manning being forced to spearhead a Giant offense without Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle seemed legitimate prior to his Week 6 matchup in Philadelphia. But OBJ and Randle lined up alongside Manning throughout the contest. However, their presence did not keep Manning from manufacturing dreadful numbers. After completing his first 10 passes, and generating a touchdown on the opening drive, Manning and the Giant offense imploded. He eventually produced 200 yards, while failing to amass multiple scores for the first time since Week 1. He also tossed two interceptions, which matched the number that he had thrown all season. This week he will face a Dallas defense that limited Manning to 193 yards and no touchdowns in Week 1. Expect Manning to improve upon that output during this rematch.
10. Ryan Tannehill vs. Texans
It has been customary in recent weeks for the fantasy community to pump the collective brakes on Tannehill, since he has failed to attain the level of production that many had forecast prior to the season. I was among those who believed that Tannehill could produce at least 30 touchdowns, and over 4,000 yards in his fourth season, and second under OC Bill Lazor’s guidance. He could still develop into a locked in QB1 this season, but has not demonstrated that after his first five games. His 269 YPG average is currently 12th among all signal callers, and his season-long yardage and touchdown totals still leave him best considered as a borderline starter. However, he will be presented with a favorable matchup this week, which vaults him into the top 12. As the Houston defense has already yielded 12 touchdowns through the air.
11. Russell Wilson at 49ers
Wilson's modest production has been discussed on multiple occasions in this column. Along with the ineffective performance by his offensive line, which has lowered Wilson's ceiling significantly. He manufactured 241 yards against the Panthers in Week 6, which is similar to his season-long YPG of 239. It is sobering that there are 22 other quarterbacks that have attained a higher average. Plus, Wilson has not generated multiple touchdowns through the air since Week 2. So why is he ranked within the top 12? First, he does lead all quarterbacks with 251 rushing yards. The bye weeks of Rodgers and Dalton are certainly a factor too. But primarily because his matchup is too enticing to disregard. San Francisco's pass defense has yielded at least 310 yards to four different signal callers, and has permitted at least 224 yards in all six of their contests.
12. Matthew Stafford vs. Vikings
This is Stafford's first top 12 ranking since Week 2, and his appearance is partially a result of the four quarterbacks being unavailable due to their byes. But I have maintained a more favorable opinion of Stafford than many other analysts. Because the issues within Detroit's offense, and his own production, have more to do with OC Joe Lombardi’s conservative approach than they do some type of massive degeneration with Stafford’s capabilities. His throws of 20+ yards have decreased since former OC Scott Linehan departed. Still, he has managed to remain eighth in both passing yards (1,610), and touchdowns (10). He generated 286 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings in Week 2, and should deliver 300 yards and several scores during this rematch.
- Derek Carr at Chargers
- Tyrod Taylor at Jaguars
- Josh McCown at Rams
- Teddy Bridgewater at Lions
- Brian Hoyer at Dolphins
- Landry Jones at Chiefs
- Nick Foles vs. Browns
- Ryan Fitzpatrick at Patriots
- Colin Kaepernick vs. Seahawks
- Jameis Winston at Redskins
- Alex Smith vs. Steelers
- Joe Flacco at Cardinals
- Kirk Cousins vs. Buccaneers
Philip Rivers vs. Raiders
Rivers has already built a 27:13 TD/INT ratio in 18 career matchups with the Raiders, including a perfect 4:0 in 2014. He should continue his success against San Diego’s AFC West rival this week. Oakland exhibited some improvement when they faced Denver in Week 5, but still allowed Peyton Manning to accumulate 266 yards. That is the fewest that they have allowed all season, as both Josh McCown and Joe Flacco exceeded 340 yards against the Silver and Black, while taking advantage of numerous shortcomings within the unit’s pass coverage. The Raiders are allowing 21 PPG to wide receivers and are yielding a league high 15 PPG to tight ends. Although rookie linebacker Neiron Bell neutralized Owen Daniels in Week 5, and could solidify what had been the unit’s most critical weakness. But even if Bell can replicate that level of proficiency, Rivers can attack the Raider secondary, which is arguably the NFL’s worst. Rivers should exploit the inadequacies of cornerbacks Neiko Thorpe and D. J. Hayden, and deliver outstanding numbers for his owners.
Carson Palmer vs. Ravens
Palmer’s steady output this season has supplied a windfall for owners who only needed a minimal investment on draft day to secure him. Another exceptional outing appears imminent this week, when he leads Arizona’s sixth ranked passing attack against Baltimore. The Ravens currently rank 27th against the pass, and are allowing 286 YPG. In Weeks 2-6 they were shredded for the following yardage totals by these opposing quarterbacks: 351 (Derek Carr), 383 (Andy Dalton), 457 Josh McCown, and 340 ( Colin Kaepernick), with those overly generous results being sandwiched between their Week 4 matchup with an overmatched Michael Vick. The Ravens have also yielded 11 touchdowns, which makes the forecast for Palmer even more favorable. Baltimore will be overwhelmed by the combined efforts of Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and John Brown, and Palmer’s owners will benefit greatly.
Russell Wilson at 49ers
Wilson’s disappointing production has not matched the projections of many owners who selected him. Although shortcomings within Seattle’s offense have hindered him greatly. However, he should exploit his opponent in this week's matchup. The 49ers are dead last in pass defense, allowing 306 YPG. Opposing quarterbacks are producing over 24 PPG, as only three teams have surrendered more fantasy points to opposing signal callers. Already this season, Roethlisberger, Palmer, Eli Manning, and Flacco have carved them up for 369, 311, 441, and 343 yards respectively. Plus, that foursome accumulated 10 touchdowns during those matchups. San Francisco is also 19th against the run, and Wilson should expand his current rushing total during this contest. It is a short week, which impacts both teams. But Seattle needs a win, and Wilson will amass a respectable yardage total to help them achieve it during this favorable matchup.
Tom Brady vs. Jets
First, we’ll remove any misconceptions. Brady should be in your lineups. And he will not force owners to suffer through a miserable performance from a production standpoint this week. However, this will not be one of his most prolific games this season. The tough Jet defense is fully capable of disrupting Brady in his attempts to guide the Patriots’ aerial attack. Gang Green now leads the league in total defense (269 YPG), and scoring defense (15 PPG). And, they also rank second against the pass, allowing 187 YPG. They have also permitted the second fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, have yielded just six touchdowns through the air, and have allowed multiple scores just once this season. Brady will supply owners with a respectable outing. But he will not reach his NFL best YPG average. Nor will he exceed two scores.
Josh McCown at Rams
McCown has done a commendable job of implementing the weapons that are available in Cleveland's offense, which has enabled him to deliver several highly productive outings. He produced 340+ yards in three consecutive games from Weeks 3-5, accentuated by his 457 against division rival Baltimore. While some owners are taking advantage of his recent production by vaulting him into their lineups, this is not a week to him employ him as your starter. Only the Jets and Broncos have allowed fewer points to opposing quarterbacks than the 18 being permitted by the Rams. They have achieved that despite being forced to contend with Rodgers, Palmer, and Roethlisberger. Palmer is also the only signal caller to reach 300 yards, and McCown will not be adding his name to the exclusive list. St. Louis has also generated 19 sacks, and will be well rested as they return from their bye. Look elsewhere for your quarterback.
Sam Bradford at Panthers
Bradford has maintained fantasy relevance, even though his performances have sometimes been unsightly. This week he will be confronted with a Carolina defense that ranks seventh in total defense, sixth in scoring defense, and will wreak consistent havoc during this week’s matchup. The Panthers have only permitted five touchdowns through the air this season, which is tied for the NFL lead in that category, as cornerback Josh Norman has all but earned the designation of “elite”. Only five teams have yielded fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and the Panthers have allowed just one 300-yard game this year. If you have an alternative, this is not a good week to depend on Bradford.