The top options all delivered last week but we had an unheralded group at the bottom including Keenum, Beathard, and Darnold all ranking bottom-10 in terms of Passer Rating on the year.
Last week’s article cautioned with the randomness and the weekly dart throws that sometimes hit the bullseye. In 5 weeks, we have already seen 29 different QBs register a top-12 performance in 6-point passing leagues.
Here’s your reminder how I categorize decoding the top-12 list each week. Remember this isn’t about predicting the order of the top-12 nor who is a safer option but who is likely to end up as a QB1.
Four-Sures: Top 4 for the week and definite must-starts.
Com-Four-table: Four QBs with relatively safe floors with added upside to be a solid top-12 choice.
Four In the Door: Four QBs who could sneak into the top-12 including the Ballers “Stream of the Week” options and at least one daring dart throw.
Four-Get-About-It: Four QBs I’m fading this week and projecting to finish outside the top 12. Often this includes some higher profile QBs with tougher matchups that could underperform.
Tom Brady vs. KC
Brady looked sharp on Thursday night including a jump-ball TD to Josh Gordon. Disregard his 2 INTs as they were the result of tipped balls. The Patriots find themselves in this week’s marquee matchup against Kansas City and have the highest team implied total (31.5) on the slate. The Chiefs rank 30th in DVOA against the pass, have allowed the most attempts (47) per game, and the most 20+ yard completions (27) in the league. Brady is basically the QB1 this week.
Patrick Mahomes @ NE
Brady’s counterpart is the electric Mahomes who, although his ceiling has been lowered the last few weeks, has shown more development rushing the football. With the highest over/under of the weekend, Mahomes will have to keep pace with Brady and boy can he. Mahomes leads the league in passing TDs (14), QBR, and tied for the 2nd lowest sack percentage in the league, a rare feat for a mobile QB. New England especially is susceptible to pass catching RBs ranking 27th in DVOA against the position.
Matt Ryan vs. TB
If you started Ryan last week and were disappointed, cheer up as he plays arguably the worst defense in the league. The Bucs rank 31st in DVOA against the pass, averaging the MOST passing yards allowed (385 ypg) and the highest completion percentage (77.1) in the league. With the 2nd highest team implied total (20.5), have confidence in Ryan again at home. Oh yeah, the Bucs are allowing the MOST fantasy points to opposing QBs on the year.
Aaron Rodgers vs. SF
Rodgers showcased that his knee injury doesn’t define him as he threw for 442 yards, his most since 2013. While that was aided by a mostly negative game script, he gets a legit home matchup against the 49ers. The Packers have the 4th highest team implied total (28) and the 49ers rank 25th in DVOA against the pass according to Football Outsiders. Done deal.
Kirk Cousins vs. ARZ
Cousins is completing a career-high 71.2% of his passes while also ranking 3rd in the league in total attempts. That is something we love in fantasy as he’s locked onto Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. With Dalvin Cook likely out again, it’s not hard envisioning Cousins with 250+ and 2 TDs as a 10 point home favorite against a 1-4 Arizona team.
Jared Goff @ DEN
Goff ran into trouble last week as his 2 top WRs (Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp) were knocked out with concussions. He still led the team to victory on the road and should be fired up again as the Rams have the 3rd highest team implied total (29.8). The Broncos have allowed QB1 performances in 3 out of their 5 matchups, a far cry from the shutdown defense we once knew in Denver. In fact, this defense ranks a pedestrian 17th in DVOA. Goff is a weekly QB1 play until something changes.
Ben Roethlisberger @ CIN
Big Ben rolled last week against Atlanta and I’m not worried by this matchup in Cincinnati. This game has the 3rd highest over/under (53) and the Bengals defense doesn’t move me at all. Apart from Ryan Tannehill‘s stinker last week, the Bengals have given up a QB1 performance as well as multiple TDs every week. The Bengals have allowed the 7th most fantasy points to opposing QBs on the year. If this game hits its total, you know Big Ben has a big of ceiling as any QB out there.
Cam Newton @ WAS
Week 5 was the first time we’ve seen Newton struggle this year with 2 INTs but he still finished as a top-16 QB. These Redskins got thrashed on Monday night by Drew Brees and company. Don’t let the defensive metrics fool you… this defense has given up multiple TDs every week besides Sam Bradford in Week 1 (does that even count?). Newton is an every week start with his rushing floor.
Four in the Door
Andy Dalton vs. PIT
Last week was likely frustrating if you chose to trust Dalton against Miami. It’s time to try again as the Steelers have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing QBs on the year. The Bengals are at home as a 2.5 point favorite against a defense tied for allowing the most passing TDs (13) and 3rd most passing yards per game in the league. Dalton is Jason’s “Stream of the Week”.
Jameis Winston @ ATL
Winston’s fantasy appeal has basically been resurrected from the dead as he finished his 3-game suspension enduring the whirlwind of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bucs are coming off a bye with a winnable game on the road in Atlanta against an injured Falcons defense. They rank 27th in DVOA against the pass as well as have given up the 4th most fantasy points to QBs on the year. I know it might feel like a stretch to trust him, but Winston has thrown for at least 260 yards and 3 TDs in his last 3 matchups with Atlanta. He is Mike’s “Stream of the Week”.
Baker Mayfield vs. LAC
The cover boy for this week’s Decoder article should find himself in a matchup to exploit for fantasy purposes. I love the up-tempo style as the Browns rank 2nd in the league in terms of pace of play (24.8 sec/play). The Chargers’ top CB Casey Hayward has had a subpar year after being rated as a top corner in 2017. In fact, the Chargers rank dead last in DVOA against WR1s and have given up the 9th most fantasy points to QBs on the year. Stack him with Jarvis Landry in DFS and watch the No. 1 pick roll.
Josh Allen @ HOU
It’s time for a dart throw. Last week, we saw Sam Darnold and C.J. Beathard sneak their way into the top-12 and I’m willing to throw out Allen. Remember, I’m not telling you to start Allen over better options from the Ballers QB rankings (Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz etc.). This is strictly a dart throw as the Texans rank 29th in DVOA against the pass and 2nd against the run. Johnathan Joseph, who is way past his prime in his 10th year in the league, is Houston’s highest-rated member of their secondary and PFF’s 86th ranked cornerback. As 8.5 point underdogs, I can see Allen playing catch up while also showcasing his rushing upside. The Texans gave up 34 yards on the ground last week to Dak Prescott.
Philip Rivers @ CLE
Rivers has been on point thus far throwing for multiple TDs each week and completing a career-high 70.1% of his passes. I’m willing to throw some caution in this road matchup. The Browns have given up the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs including holding Big Ben and Drew Brees to sub-QB1 performances. They’re giving up less than 16 points at home this season while ranking 4th in defensive DVOA and 4th against the pass. I know its the Browns but I’m not as thrilled as I think I should be.
Blake Bortles @ DAL
Go do yourself a favor and watch some of Bortles’ Week 5 game tape against the Chiefs on NFL GamePass. It was a piece of… well it wasn’t artwork and yet he stumbled and garbage-timed his way to a top-15 performance. This week he won’t be able to put up the counting stats in what should be an extremely low scoring affair with both teams ranking bottom half in terms of pace of play. The Cowboys know how to put pressure on the QB as they have the 3rd highest adjusted sack rate in the league. I’m only interested in Bortles if there’s a ceiling and I’m not seeing this on the road in a game with the lowest Vegas total (41) of the weekend.
Andrew Luck @ NYJ
Luck played a terrible first half last week against the Patriots but used major garbage time and 59 attempts to will his way to a QB1 finish. I don’t think he’ll be needed in the same high volume fashion on the road in New York. The Jets rank 2nd in DVOA against the pass and have 7 INTs on the year. He’s a fine mid-level start but not one with the ceiling I’d be chasing this week.
Marcus Mariota vs. BAL
No. Just no. This matchup is bad and Mariota was just plain bad last week against the Bills of all teams. The Ravens rank 3rd in defensive DVOA and have given up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs on the year. He’s on probation until we see something change and he starts using his legs more.
Previous Week’s Record: 5/12
2018 Overall Percentage: 51.67%