As we begin preparing our rosters for Week 9, it is difficult to fathom how rapidly the season has progressed. Eight quarterbacks have already generated over 2,000 yards, and nine have produced at least 15 touchdowns. This collection of the league’s most prolific signal callers contains a number of long-time veterans, including Drew Brees and Eli Manning. That tandem merits special recognition in the aftermath of their amazing duel in New Orleans last Sunday. However, one of these league leaders will be unavailable, during a bye week that will be problematic for some of you. The annoyance factor will be most heightened for owners of Carson Palmer, who is currently fourth with 2,386 passing yards, second with 20 touchdowns, and is virtually irreplaceable. Russell Wilson owners might not be feeling the same degree of apprehension, but his absence will also be impactful. Matthew Stafford owners might have been disappointed with his output at times this season, but his unquestioned talent and improved numbers in Weeks 6-7 make it difficult to locate an acceptable substitute on a frequent basis. And the trio of Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, and Brian Hoyer, have been occasional options in deeper leagues, but will not be available this week. In addition to their absence, there is much more to examine concerning the quarterbacks that will be under center. These Week 9 quarterback rankings and matchups will help you determine who to employ in your lineups, and will include updates on where the signal callers rank in the most basic statistical categories. This helps 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: Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Brian Hoyer
Top 25 Rankings
1. Tom Brady vs. Redskins
Brady owners cannot realistically ask for their quarterback to provide better production than he has supplied during his first seven games of the season. His systematic dismantling of overmatched defensive units continued in Week 8, when he shredded Miami for 356 yards and four touchdowns. He has generated over 300 yards in five of his last six games, and his season total of 2,410 places him second among all quarterbacks. His 344 YPG average is tied with Philip Rivers as the NFL’s best, and he has still only thrown one interception. Plus, Brady has now accrued four touchdowns in two different games, and has amassed multiple touchdowns in every contest this season. It is Washington’s turn to perform the role of tortured opponent this week, as Brady will deliver significant production once again.
2. Philip Rivers vs. Bears
Rivers amassed over 300 yards for the sixth time this season, when he generated 301 against the Ravens in Week 8. That helped the 33-year-old maintain his stranglehold on the NFL lead in passing yards (2,753), and the ongoing proliferation of yardage has kept Rivers highly productive, as have the 18 touchdowns that he has produced. He also connected on 28 of 37 passes in Baltimore, which was the first time since Week 4 that he has launched less than 40. However, he continues to pace all signal callers with 348 attempts for the season. Even without Keenan Allen in the lineup, his output should reside among the league leaders again this week/ When he faces a Chicago pass defense that has already surrendered 16 touchdowns.
3. Andy Dalton vs. Browns
Dalton returned from his Week 7 bye, and could not replicate the level of proficiency that had enabled him to generate the NFL’s second highest yardage and touchdown totals prior to his one week absence. Dalton lined up against a very familiar foe in Pittsburgh in Week 8, and only manufactured 231 yards. It was his lowest total since Week 2, and the second consecutive game in which he has failed to reach 250. He also threw two interceptions for the first time this season, while managing just one touchdown. However, owners should avoid an overreaction, and not lose their confidence in Dalton. He has been far too proficient throughout the year, and should remain in all lineups for an appealing matchup with AFC North rival Cleveland.
4. Drew Brees vs. Titans
If you have been a frequent consumer of this column, then you are already aware that Brees has been held in higher regard here, than has been the case with some analysts that have consistently positioned him as a low ceiling QB1. That narrative will probably cease now, after the 15-year veteran became just the eighth quarterback in NFL history to generate seven touchdowns against the Giants in Week 8. That elevated his season total to 15, which places him in a tie for fifth in that category. He also generated a career best 511 yards, and has now exceeded 300 yards in five of the seven games that he has been under center this season. While it will be difficult to replicate the most productive game of his illustrious career, he should deliver respectable numbers against the third ranked Titans pass defense this week.
5. Eli Manning at Buccaneers
If you are a Manning owner, his two consecutive games with less than 200 yards and a grand total of one touchdown in Weeks 6-7 had to be unsettling. But if you kept him in your lineup due to unwavering confidence that he would deliver far better results, then you were certainly rewarded in Week 8. He delivered six touchdowns against the burnable pass defense of New Orleans, and his excellent performance would be receiving more accolades had it not been for the output of Brees during the same encounter. Manning has now assembled multiple touchdowns in five different contests this season, and will continue to achieve high quality results when Odell Beckham Jr. is reasonably healthy. He is the recipient of another favorable matchup this week, versus a Buccaneer pass defense that has surrendered a whopping 17 touchdowns.
6. Cam Newton vs. Packers
Normally, a quarterback with an unimpressive 11:8 TD/INT ratio, who also trailed 24 other signal callers in passing yards for the season, almost assuredly would not be an unquestioned QB1. But Newton is a unique, and supremely talented entity. His ability to collect rushing yards, and his penchant for rising to the occasion, maintain his standing as an every week starter. He amassed 248 yards, and two touchdowns against the Colts in Week 9, and would have generated an additional 56- yard score if not for Ted Ginn's unsightly drop. He has also accumulated 286 yards on the ground in seven games, and his four rushing touchdowns leads all quarterbacks. He should manufacture a satisfactory number of fantasy points, versus Green Bay’s 23rd ranked defense.
7. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Raiders
Many owners were experiencing emotions that ranged between euphoria and extreme relief that Roethlisberger had finally returned to Pittsburgh’s lineup, after the insufferable experience of watching Michael Vick attempt to guide the Steeler attack. Roethlisberger had been averaging 304 yards, and two touchdowns per game before prior to his knee injury, and that was without Martavis Bryant lining up as a second explosive receiving option to complement Antonio Brown. Unfortunately, his four week absence was evident throughout his performance. He amassed 262 yards, but completed a season low 62% of his passes, and threw a season high three interceptions. Roethlisberger should produce better results this week, against an improving Oakland unit. The Raiders have become formidable against the run, but still allow the second most yardage against through the air.
8. Aaron Rodgers at Panthers
Prior to his Week 7 bye, Rodgers assembled a sparkling 15:2 TD/INT ratio, which had elevated him to the NFL lead with in passing touchdowns. While owners were able to restore him into their starting lineups in Week 8, they did so with the knowledge that he would be confronted by the Broncos’ top ranked pass defense. Denver’s stellar unit entered the contest yielding 192 YPG, and had allowed just five touchdowns all season. But even that impressive resume did not foretell how thoroughly they would stifle Rodgers and the Packer offense on Sunday Night. Not only was the 11-year veteran was limited to a career low 77 yards, but he also failed to register a touchdown for the first time this year. The schedule remains daunting this week, as Rodgers must deal with Carolina’s seventh ranked pass defense.
9. Matt Ryan at 49ers
Ryan had amassed less than 260 yards in three of his last four contests entering Week 8, but he provided owners with a much appreciated respite from moderate output by generating 397 yards against the Buccaneers. It was his first 300-yard performance since Week 2, and just his second of the season. However, he has also thrown for at least 251 yards in all eight of his contests, and has manufactured the NFL’s third highest total for the year (2,399). While he also dissected the Tampa Bay pass defense for two touchdowns, he has yet to accumulate three at any point this season. Still, his overall output in yardage should convince at least some of his nervous owners to keep him inserted in their starting lineups. He should deliver another favorable outing against San Francisco’s 29th ranked pass defense.
10. Jay Cutler at Chargers
Since reemerging under center in Week 4, Cutler had surpassed 250 yards in three consecutive games, before Minnesota’s sturdy defense limited him to 211 in Week 8. He has also produced six touchdowns since his return, after managing one against the Vikings. He appears comfortable with OC Adam Gase’s offense, and he is operating within a system that should maximize his chances for continued success. Few signal callers had a collection of weapons that compared to Cutler's before the injuries to Matt Forte and Eddie Royal. But he still the luxury of locating Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and Marquess Wilson. And he will be attacking a San Diego secondary that has degenerated into a beatable unit. The Chargers have allowed six of the quarterbacks that they’ve faced to generate either 300 yards, or multiple touchdowns, and Cutler could accomplish both in this matchup.
11. Derek Carr at Steelers
The second-year signal caller has now generated seven touchdowns in his last two contests, after gashing the Jets for a season high four in Week 8. It was Carr’s fifth game with multiple scores, and his third with at least three. He also avoided throwing any interceptions for the fourth time this season, and has now constructed an impressive 15:3 TD/INT ratio. Carr also amassed 333 yards against what had been the NFL’s second ranked pass defense, which was his third game in excess of 300 yards this year. He has reemerged as a feasible QB1 option for owners in need, and can be utilized this week versus Pittsburgh’s 26th ranked pass defense. He should approach 300 yards, and manufacture multiple scores again this week.
12. Ryan Tannehill at Bills
The Dolphins had been performing with more proficiency and purpose since Dan Campbell replaced Joe Philbin prior to Week 6. And Tannehill's output had increased sizably since that much needed coaching change. However, Miami's Week 8 matchup in New England brought a swift and decisive conclusion to the short-lived momentum for both the Dolphins and their fourth-year signal caller. Tannehill produced an even 300 yards against the Patriots, but that yardage total was very deceptive. As much of it was accumulated after the Patriots had carved out a huge lead. He also failed to produce a touchdown, and threw two ugly interceptions. However, he can still be employed this week, versus a Buffalo pass defense that has the potential to be troublesome, but has surrendered 15 touchdowns.
13. Andrew Luck vs. Broncos
This portion of the column was being written in the second half of Luck’s Week 8 matchup with Carolina, as he was in the process of struggling once again. But once he engineered a tremendous fourth quarter comeback, his output improved considerably, and the assessment of his performance was altered. But only to a degree. Because even though Luck’s late game production boosted his final output to 231 yards and two touchdowns, the inexplicable throws and turnovers that have created disenchantment among his owners this season, remained on display. He tossed three more interceptions against the Panthers, which expanded his season total to an NFL worst 12. It is possible that the comeback will help Luck recapture the proficiency that he delivered in 2014. But there is nothing that has been exhibited in the recent performances of Denver’s top ranked pass defense to suggest that Luck should be ranked any higher this week.
- Peyton Manning at Colts
- Blake Bortles at Jets
- Jameis Winston vs. Giants
- Sam Bradford at Cowboys
- Tyrod Taylor vs. Dolphins
- Zach Mettenberger at Saints
- Geno Smith vs. Jaguars
- Johnny Manziel at Bengals
- Teddy Bridgewater vs. Rams
- Matt Cassel vs. Eagles
- Nick Foles at Vikings
- Kirk Cousins at Patriots
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Raiders
Roethlisberger could not replicate the proficiency that he displayed prior to his injury, although his presence still brought an end to the torturous process of watching the potentially high octane Pittsburgh offense attempt to perform without him. This week, he should benefit from a favorable matchup with Oakland. The Raiders have improved considerably overall, but still are struggling to defend the pass. They rank just 31st, and are permitting 302 YPG. Oakland has also relinquished at least 265 yards to opposing quarterbacks in all seven games, and have given up at least two touchdowns six times. It is noteworthy that they now rank an impressive second against the run, while yielding just 83 YPG to opposing rushers. That should compel OC Todd Haley to attack through the air, particularly in the aftermath of Le’Veon Bell’s season ending injury. Expect favorable numbers from Roethlisberger.
Philip Rivers vs. Bears
As mentioned previously, Rivers has been propelling the ball to his targets with relentless frequency, which has helped him accumulate significant yardage, and a desirable number of touchdowns. There is little to suggest that a sudden pause in his season-long pattern of production will occur this week. Chicago’s defense has improved against the pass as the season has unfolded, but their secondary can still be exploited. Only three teams have permitted more scores through the air. They have allowed multiple touchdowns in four contests, and were shredded for four by both Palmer and Stafford earlier this season. The Bears are also just 29th in scoring defense, while yielding 29 PPG. Rivers should successfully locate his remaining weaponry, and supply his owners with one final high quality performance before his Week 10 bye.
Andy Dalton vs. Browns
Dalton had either generated 300 yards, or multiple touchdowns in all six of his games prior to Week 8, but could not continue that level of production in Pittsburgh. However, his output will improve sizably this week. Cleveland has dropped to a ranking of 22nd versus the pass, is permitting 258 YPG ,and has been gashed for 15 touchdowns. Six of the eight quarterbacks that they have faced generated multiple scores through the air, with Rivers and Palmer shredding them for seven combined in Weeks 4 and 8. Both of those signal callers also joined Carr and Peyton Manning in generating over 290 yards against them this season. With Joe Haden and Donte Whitner destined to be sidelined for this Thursday Night encounter, their already burnable secondary will be depleted significantly. Dalton owners can anticipate an excellent performance, as he should amass over 300 yards and at least two touchdowns.
Andrew Luck vs. Broncos
Denver’s defensive unit has certainly secured elite status this season, as they have consistently limited the yardage and scoring totals of their opponents. The Broncos still possess the NFL’s top rated pass defense, while allowing just 172 YPG. They have also yielded the fewest touchdowns through the air (five), rank second in scoring defense (17 PPG), and have also permitted the fewest points to opposing quarterbacks (14 PPG). If that is not impressive enough, they are also the league leader in sacks (29), while generating relentless pressure on enemy signal callers. They will place massive constraints on Luck’s ability to produce fantasy points, while their pass rush could easily increase his recent yet recurrent propensity to force throws, and make costly decisions. The recommendation from here is to sit him this week if you can.
Aaron Rodgers at Panthers
Rogers had to contend with Denver's top-ranked pass defense in Week 8, and it certainly did not go well. Unfortunately, his mission will not be much easier this week, as Rodgers will be confronted by yet another imposing unit in Carolina. Even though the Panthers allowed Luck to generate the fourth quarter comeback in Week 8, their pass defense still ranks seventh, and has only surrendered seven touchdowns. Only four teams have permitted fewer fantasy points to opposing signal callers, than the 19 PPG being yielded by Carolina. Plus, they have allowed just one 300-yard passer this season, and have yielded multiple touchdown passes twice. Rodgers will be delivering high quality outings as the fantasy postseason inches closer, but owners must persevere for one more week.
Blake Bortles at Jets
When we last saw Bortles, he engineered a game winning 84-yard late fourth quarter drive in Week 7, that was culminated by a 34-yard touchdown. It was the fifth time in which he had generated multiple touchdowns, and it improved his season total to 15. That number tied Bortles for third overall, heading into his Week 8 bye, and his 271 attempts were also the NFL’s fifth highest. He will be asked to throw frequently for the remainder of the year, and that sheer volume of attempts, will combine with his cluster of receiving weapons to keep him in the conversation among QB1 options. However, his numbers will be underwhelming this week, versus a Jet defense that will be focused on regaining their normal level of tenacity. Even with last week’s uncharacteristically poor performance against Carr, in which they yielded 333 yards and four touchdowns, Gang Green still ranks seventh against the pass, is fifth in takeaways (15), and is third in scoring defense (19.9 PPG). Owners with other options at quarterback should utilize them this week.