Not only did nine QBs surpass the 300-yard mark in Week 8, but four of them also exceeded 400 yards. That includes Ben Roethlisberger’s astronomical 522 yards, which were just part of his record setting performance on Sunday. He also produced six TDs, although that rare feat was nearly duplicated by Tom Brady. The 15-year veteran continued his torrid October by scorching Chicago for five during New England’s impressive aerial display.
Now our attention shifts to Week 9, which will present a massive challenge for some owners. Because after four consecutive weeks with just two teams on bye, the NFL schedule makers have chosen Halloween to play quite the trick. QBs from a whopping six teams will be unavailable this week, including a trio of high profile signal callers from the AFC North.
If you have Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford or Jay Cutler, and have not been making plans for your Week 9 QB starter until now, this will present a scary proposition. Owners who have been reliant on Matt Ryan will also be impacted, as will anyone in deeper leagues with Kyle Orton as their QB2. However, the information in this week’s rankings will help owners who are searching for an alternative starter regardless of the reason. It also contains detailed analysis of the QB1s, followed by this week's best and worst matchups.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Andrew Luck at Giants
Luck's ongoing assault on opposing defenses continued in Week 8, as he generated an even 400 yards and three TDs. It was his sixth consecutive game with 300+ yards, and his seventh in eight contests. That has enabled him to maintain his stranglehold on the league lead in yardage for the season (2,731). He has also thrown at least three TDs six times, and is tied with Peyton Manning for the lead in that category. Luck will now face a well-rested Giants unit that nevertheless has allowed 262 YPG against the pass, and should supply owners with another outstanding outing.
2. Peyton Manning at Patriots
During his first seven matchups, only Seattle has prohibited Manning from tossing three TDs this season. And after generating three more against San Diego in Week 8’s Thursday Night encounter, he has produced 14 in the past four contests. That propelled him into the tie with Luck, even though he has attempted 95 fewer attempts than his counterpart. Manning also remains one of three signal callers who have maintained a YPG average over 300, and has also accumulated 2,134 yards. New England’s second ranked pass defense will provide a challenge, although they have endured several critical injuries. Ultimately, they will not deter Manning from generating at least 275 yards, with three TDs.
3. Drew Brees at Panthers
Any disenchantment with Brees’ output earlier this season should have been eliminated after he generated 311 yards against the Packers, while connecting with nine different receivers in the process. He has now surpassed 300 yards five times, and accomplished it during each of the last four contests. That has improved his YPG average to 318, which trails only Luck. It has also helped expand his season yardage total to 2,227, which is the league’s fourth highest. He also produced three TDs versus Green Bay, which is the first time that he has amassed more than two. His recent momentum should continue this week against a Carolina pass defense that has already surrendered 16 TDs.
4. Tom Brady vs. Broncos
If you are one of the owners who picked him off the waiver wire after his disturbingly unproductive September you continued to reap the benefits of his statistical eruption during October. He has now assembled a mammoth 1,268 yards in his last four games, including two contests with 350+. Brady has also expanded his TD total dramatically, by generating 12 in his last three games. That includes the season high five that he accrued against the Bears in Week 8. A stabilized offensive line has enabled Brady to dissect opposing defenses, and eliminate all concerns regarding his ability to perform at age 37. This week he will face a sizable challenge from a Bronco defense that has undergone their own renaissance.
5. Russell Wilson vs. Raiders
After becoming the first NFL player to produce 300 yards through the air, while also running for 100 on the ground in the same game. While he only manufactured 234 total yards and a TD against Carolina in Week 8, he would have garnered an additional score had Marshawn Lynch not dropped a very catchable pass, which resulted in an INT. Now, he is presented with a chance to exploit an Oakland defense that is allowing 365 YPG. This number actually improved after the Silver and Black faced a depleted Browns offense in Week 8. Wilson's proficiency as a duel threat will enable him to accrue yardage consistently throughout the contest, and deliver excellent output for his owners.
6. Philip Rivers at Dolphins
Rivers supplied owners with a respectable effort in Week 8, by manufacturing 252 yards and two TDs against a Denver defense that is rapidly ascending into top tier status. He is now among the four QBs who have already amassed 20 TDs, and has thrown at least two in seven consecutive games. He has also accumulated 2,213 yards, which trails only Luck. He will remain productive this week, but must navigate the Charger offense through Miami's third ranked pass defenders. The Dolphins have been allowed yardage grudgingly (213 YPG), but have permitted 12 TDs.
7. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Ravens
He shattered his previous career highs by gashing the Colts for a franchise record 522 yards and six TDs. He also connected on 40 of his 49 passes, while thoroughly thrashing what had been an improving pass defense. The emergence and subsequent increased snap count of rookie Martavis Bryant has given Roethlisberger a second dangerous target to complement the essentially unstoppable Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh's offense is functioning much more proficiently than they were during their Week 2 loss to Baltimore, while the Ravens' pass defense just suffered the loss of their outstanding corner Jimmy Smith.
8. Tony Romo vs. Cardinals
Romo gave his owners quite the scare during Monday Night's matchup with Washington, but ultimately returned to the contest after x-rays wete taken on his injured back. That impacted his numbers, as he produced 209 yards and one TD. It was the first time that he failed to generate multiple TDs since Week 2. However, he is still tied for eighth among all QBs with 15 for the season. His ranking is dependent upon his health, which should be monitored as the week progresses. He will have an excellent matchup with Arizona provided that he is under center. The Cardinals are dead last in pass defense, while surrendering 303 YPG.
9. Colin Kaepernick vs. Rams
After seven games, Kaepernick has proven that he can be utilized as a low end QB1. He is still developing the ability to locate open targets, and remains prone to mistakes. But he is also capable of delivering highly favorable numbers if the matchup is conducive to his strengths. No greater example exists than his initial encounter with the Rams in Week 6, during which Kaepernick generated season highs in passing yards (343) and TDs (three). It is the only time that he has reached 300 yards this season, but he should provide owners with another excellent outing in this rematch. The Rams have been gashed for 30 PPG, 11 TDs through the air, and have registered just four sacks.
10. Nick Foles at Texans
After exceeding 300 yards in his first three games, Foles only averaged 217 YPG during his next three contests. But he established a new season high by amassing 411 on 62 attempts in Week 8. He also connected on two TDs, although those were matched by two more INTs. His ratio of 12/9 should be discomforting for owners, who no doubt recall last, year's far more commendable two INTs in 13 games. Now he has the opportunity to improve upon his ratio versus a shaky Houston pass defense. The Texans are ranked 28th, have surrendered 15 TDs, and collected seven INTs.
11. Eli Manning vs. Colts
In a week that will not include locked in QB1s Rodgers, Stafford and Cutler, and is also without Ryan, Manning ascends into the top 12. He joins the entire Giant offense in benefitting from an additional week of preparation. Plus, he has the chance to face an Indianapolis defense that had been performing well, but was suddenly and collectively overwhelmed as Roethlisberger forged eye-opening franchise records against them in Week 8. Manning certainly won't achieve output that approaches Roethlisberger's memorable effort. But he should connect with Odell Beckham, Larry Donnell and his other weaponry with enough frequency to warrant a start. And if Vontae Davis is sidelined, Manning's numbers will soar.
12. Carson Palmer at Cowboys
Palmer has now guided the Arizona offense in three straight contests after being sidelined for three consecutive games. Since his return, he has produced at least 250 yards, culminated by the season high 329 that he amassed against Philadelphia in Week 8. That has elevated his YPG average to 284, which is the NFL's eighth best. Palmer has also thrown two TDs in each of the four contests that he has been under center this season, while throwing just one INT. While the Cowboys have done a respectable job of limiting opposing QBs (237 YPG), Palmer is an appealing option because Bruce Arians will allot him 35-40 attempts. In a bye week that will force many owners to vacate their comfort zone when choosing an alternative starter, you can do far worse than Palmer.
13. Cam Newton vs. Saints
During his two matchups with New Orleans in 2013, Newton only threw for 341 yards in both games combined, managed just two TDs, and tossed one INT. The Saints' defense has not performed nearly as well this season, ranking a woeful 31st versus the pass, while allowing 289 YPG. However, Newton has hardly been a fantasy point machine, and barely retains QB1 status in a week with depleted options. 19 QBs have manufactured a higher YPG average, while 23 - including Derek Carr and Kyle Orton - have exceeded his TD total of eight. He has only thrown for multiple TDs twice this season and has yet to record a 300-yard game. The Saints also have the personnel to match up with Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen, which places an even lower ceiling over Newton's numbers this week.
14. Andy Dalton vs. Jaguars
15. Alex Smith vs. Jets
16. Joe Flacco at Steelers
17. Ryan Tannehill at Chargers
18.. Robert Griffin III at Vikings
19. Brian Hoyer vs. Buccaneers
20. Mike Glennon at Browns
21. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Eagles
22. Teddy Bridgewater vs. Redskins
23. Blake Bortles at Bengals
24. Austin Davis at 49ers
25. Michael Vick at Chiefs
Drew Brees at Panthers
Brees has faced the Panthers 16 times in his career, during which he has produced 29 TDs, and tossed 14 INTs. Five of those TDs occurred last season, when the Panthers also pilfered two of his passes. However, their defense has regressed sizably since that contest. The precipitous decline of what was an elite Carolina unit has been discussed in this column. Even though they delivered an inspired performance against Seattle in Week 8, the massive amount of yardage and points that they have surrendered this season has created an enticing matchup on a weekly basis. They are ranked just 28th in total defense, and are permitting 378 YPG. They are also 22nd against the pass, while yielding 243 YPG. Plus, they had also been gashed for at least 37 points in four of five games before Week 8, are currently ranked 24th in scoring, and are allowing an amazingly high 26 PPG. This remains a burnable unit, which will enable Brees to provide owners with very favorable production.
Russell Wilson vs. Raiders
After generating high quality production against an overmatched Ram defense in Week 7, Wilson’s output dropped dramatically last week in Carolina. But he now faces an Oakland unit that is extremely vulnerable, and he should accumulate significant yardage as a result. Even though the Raiders have the league's eighth best YPG average against the pass, that misleading number has been constructed partially due to opponents' consistent success while attacking the Raider run defense. Their 26th ranked unit has surrendered 130 YPG, which has actually been lowered after they limited Cleveland’s injury depleted offense to 39 yards in Week 8. They have also allowed their opponents to convert over 48% of their third down attempts, which places them dead last in that category. Wilson should consistently amass yardage in sizable chunks whether he chooses to pass or burst through the Raider defense, and should be undeterred when he drops back to pass. Oakland is tied for 28th with just seven sacks, and 26th with only three INTs.
Colin Kaepernick vs. Rams
After seven games, Kaepernick has proven that he can be utilized as a low end QB1. He is still developing the ability to locate open targets, and remains prone to mistakes. But he is also capable of delivering highly favorable numbers if the matchup is conducive to his strengths. No greater example exists than his initial encounter with the Rams in Week 6, during which Kaepernick generated season highs in passing yards (343) and TDs (three). It is the only time that he has reached 300 yards this season, although this remains an exceptional for Kaepernick, who should respond by providing owners with another excellent outing in this rematch. After permitting 361 total yards to the Chiefs in Week 8, the Rams now rank an anemic 31st in scoring defense, while being gashed for 30 PPG. Plus, they have only registered a league worst six sacks.
Tom Brady vs. Broncos
After averaging 198 YPG and managing just four TDs during in his first four games, he has tortured opponents for 317 YPG and 14 TDs in the past four contests. Including his tremendous output versus Chicago in Week 8. However, he will be confronted by a Denver pass defense that has assembled a series of stingy performances since Week 2. In their past six contests the Broncos have yielded the following yardage totals through the air – 255, 258, 118, 190, 263, 252 – and will create a formidable hurdle for Brady in his attempt to remain highly productive. But even if he does not quite reach the lofty averages that he attained in recent weeks, Brady should slightly exceed Denver’s current 243 YPG average, and supply a scoring boost for his owners.
Philip Rivers at Dolphins
Rivers was impressive in Week 8, manufacturing a sizable number of fantasy points against a Bronco defense that was performing with great effectiveness. He will need to navigate through yet another proficient defensive unit this week, if he is to maintain his season long statistical success. The Dolphins currently third versus the pass, are yielding 212 YPG, and have permitted 12 TDs. And after limiting Jacksonville to 13 points in Week 8, the Dolphins have lowered their PPG average to 21.5. Miami has also sacked opposing QBs 21 times, which is the NFL’s ninth total. The Dolphins will prohibit Rivers from reaching a high comfort level for any extended period of time, although he is still capable of supplying his owners with 250 yards, and two TDs.
Michael Vick at Chiefs
Some owners who are scrambling for a Week 9 starter might be enticed by Vick's reemergence into New York's starting role. But there is sufficient reason to be cautious. First, he is taking over a passing attack that is currently ranked dead last, averaging a paltry 179 YPG. Worse... if that is possible... he will be thrust into a matchup with the NFL's top ranked pass defense. Kansas City is the only team that is yielding under 200 YPG (196), and Vick will also be attempting to lead the Jet offense in Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have allowed a grand total of just 319 passing yards to opposing starters in their last two home games combined. Which includes their Week 4 suppression of Brady, who was limited to 159 yards, while being intercepted twice. KC is also fourth overall with 24 sacks, making Vick a risky choice regardless of your level of desperation.