Week 13 was quite interesting in the QB world. The Giants benched Eli Manning for Geno Smith, Jimmy Garoppolo got his first start of the season, and Tom Savage threw for 365 yards. Weird week, huh? Ready for the weirdest stat of them all? There were 34 QBs to take the field in Week 13, and Tom Brady outscored only six of them. Not throwing for any touchdowns might have had something to do with that. He still outscored Matt Ryan, but that’s not too hard to do these days.
For most fantasy leagues, the playoffs start this week. The stakes are raised, and one bad lineup decision could send you packing until next August/September. The quarterback position is the most important position on the field and pretty darn important in fantasy, too. Let’s take a look at some of the favorable and unfavorable matchups this week.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Defensive Matchup: Oakland Raiders (Home)
After a tough two-week stretch against the Bills and Giants, Smith bounced back in a big way last week against the Jets. He completed 19-of-33 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns. If that wasn’t enough, he added a 70-yard scamper, as well. For the season, Smith ranks seventh in passing yards, fourth in passing touchdowns, and is tied with Tom Brady for the fewest interceptions thrown by a full-time starting QB with just four. Wrap that all up, put a bow on it, and you have the third-highest scoring QB this season. Yes, you heard that correctly. No need to clean out your ears.
As good as Baltimore is at picking off passes, Oakland is equally as bad. They have just one interception on the season. That’s it. I’m pretty sure you and I could suit up and do better than that. Okay, not really, but you get the point. So, we have a defense that can’t intercept anything and a QB that has made a living by not throwing picks. Sounds like a recipe for success for Smith, if you ask me.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Defensive Matchup: Kansas City Chiefs (Road)
Sticking with this Chiefs/Raiders game, Smith isn’t the only quarterback with a good matchup. After a solid first three games, this Chiefs passing defense has been a dumpster fire most weeks. Included in that is a Week 7 matchup where Derek Carr threw for 417 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-30 victory. Sure, Kansas City recently shut down Eli Manning and Tyrod Taylor in back-to-back weeks, but who cares? Shutting down the 25th and 29th-best fantasy QBs is hardly an accomplishment.
Carr himself has been having a subpar season, but he has really found his stride over the last six games. It all started with that Week 7 game against Kansas City, too. In those six games, Carr has thrown for nine touchdowns, four interceptions, and 301.2 yards per game. This is the Carr we’ve come to know and expect. Not that guy who had three sub-200 yard passing games in a row before the Chiefs game. Fire up Carr as a back-end QB1 this week.
Josh McCown, New York Jets
Defensive Matchup: Denver Broncos (Road)
Wait, I’m recommending a Jets QB playing on the road in Denver? It’s official, I might have finally lost it. Actually, when you look at recent statistics, Denver has been struggling against the pass over the last several weeks. Over the last five games, the Broncos have allowed a total of 14 passing touchdowns and at least two in each game. Five of those 14 were against Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler, too. They do a good job at limiting passing yards (fourth-fewest in NFL), but they have allowed the 26 passing touchdowns, which is the highest total in the NFL. When teams get into the red zone, this secondary crumbles.
He might not be a big-name QB, but it’s time to start trusting Josh McCown more. On the season, he’s scored the seventh-most points amongst QBs and is ninth in average points per game. Some names he’s ahead of include Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Jared Goff, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, and Matt Ryan. Need I go on? He’s also thrown for 300+ yards in back-to-back games with four passing touchdowns, two rushing scores, and zero interceptions. Depending on who your options are this week, McCown could be a borderline QB1 or strong QB2.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Defensive Matchup: Jacksonville Jaguars (Road)
This should be an entertaining battle. An elite QB versus an elite defense. While I expect Russell Wilson to perform better than most QBs that the Jaguars have shut down this season, expecting him to put up top-five numbers isn’t realistic. The Jaguars have allowed only 10 passing touchdowns this season, but six of those have been in the last four weeks. On the flip side, they also have six interceptions in the last four weeks, as well.
No QB has scored more fantasy points this season than Wilson. He ranks sixth in passing yards, is tied with Tom Brady for second in passing touchdowns, and he has added 432 yards and three scores on the ground for good measure. Listen, don’t try to get cute and bench Wilson just because he’s facing this insanely good Jaguars passing defense. You don’t bench your stud players against anyone. However, if you need Wilson to put up huge numbers this week to win your playoff matchup, you might end up a tad disappointed. He’s still a QB1, but more in the 6-10 range than his accustomed 1-3 ranking.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Defensive Matchup: Baltimore Ravens (Home)
Although it was only one, Baltimore extended their streak of games with an interception to six last week against Detroit. That pick gives them 10 in their last six games and 20 total on the season. In their first matchup back in Week 4, Baltimore held Roethlisberger to only 216 yards and one touchdown. And, of course, they picked him off once. Their passing yards allowed has gone up from 198.2 before their week 10 bye to 261 in three games since, but they have also picked off six passes in those three games and allowed just a single touchdown through the air.
I’ve mentioned Baltimore’s team defensive stats plenty of times in previous weeks. They’re top-five in basically every significant defensive passing category. If anything, the way to beat them is on the ground, as they’re merely an average run defense. With Antonio Brown still hobbled with a toe injury and JuJu Smith -Schuster suspended, expect a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell this week while Big Ben plays second fiddle. Roethlisberger is more of a high-end QB2 this week than a QB1.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Defensive Matchup: Minnesota Vikings (Home)
Let me start this section with some statistical factoids. Over the last four games, the Vikings have allowed only three touchdowns and 243.8 passing yards per game. Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention those four games were against Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, and Matt Ryan. Those are three top-10 fantasy QBs and another that was a top-five option before the season.
Enter Cam Newton, another top-10 fantasy QB that has been putting up some strong numbers over the last several weeks. However, those games have been against average-to-mediocre defenses. The Vikings are no average defense. Newton is still on the QB1 radar but as more of a back-end option than the top-three option he’s been over the last month.
Sleeper of the Week
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Defensive Matchup: Houston Texans (Road)
It’s about damn time, San Francisco. I’ve been waiting to use Jimmy Garoppolo here ever since you acquired him from the Patriots. In his first start of the season last week, Jimmy G didn’t throw any touchdowns but racked up 293 yards on a strong Chicago pass defense. This week, he gets the pleasure of picking apart Houston’s ragtag excuse for a defense. Only the Jets have allowed more points to the QB position than Houston. Even Jacoby Brissett threw for 308 yards and two scores on this defense. Garoppolo flashed his immense talent in his two starts last season while Brady was suspended. With his high upside and a plus matchup, it makes a lot of sense to roll with him as a QB2 or sneaky good low-cost DFS play.
Thank you for reading this week’s quarterback matchup report on Fantrax. I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there. Make sure you check back in next Friday as we break down quarterbacks for Week 15.