Selecting your quarterback in the playoffs is much different than in the regular season. I normally advise to not worry about quarterback usage at all, even in tournaments, because it’s generally low enough that you should just ride with the best options.
In the postseason, though, there’s going to be a lot of overlap. There are only eight available quarterbacks this week, and one of them rhymes with Schmindley. I’m definitely a proponent of balancing value with expected ownership in tournaments, so that’s something you’ll need to consider when selecting your passers this week.
One way to predict ownership is to look at the Vegas lines. There, we see that Indianapolis and Dallas are projected the most favorably. When combined with the pricing this week, I’d personally predict that Andrew Luck and Tony Romo will have the highest DraftKings usage. That doesn’t mean they’re poor choices by any means, but just that if you’re undecided on a different quarterback, you might want to lean that way if you think you can get him at a lower usage rate.
With that said, I’ve sorted the eight Wild Card quarterbacks into three categories, giving a little analysis on what to expect out of each player/group.
Luck is the only player in the top tier and the clear-cut best quarterback in terms of projected points. You’ll need to decide if he’s worth paying $1200 more than any other passer.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis vs Cincinnati, $8800 – Luck is expensive and faces a Bengals defense that has been the fourth-best against opposing quarterbacks this season. Vegas currently has the Colts projected at 26.5 points, so it’s not like they’re through the roof in terms of expected production. Again, while Luck is the best quarterback in this group, it’s not automatic that he’s the best value. I like that this game is being played in Indianapolis, so we don’t need to worry about the weather (while there could be potential weather concerns in Carolina and Pittsburgh, especially).
Note that wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is a bargain at $7800, so you could run into high usage there as well since you’ll probably opt to stack Luck with Hilton in tournaments. However, Hilton isn’t quite as automatic of a stack with Luck, especially with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the mix, as Bryant with Romo, Brown with Roethlisberger, or Megatron with Stafford.
The Second Tier
After Luck, there are four capable quarterbacks who are all very much in consideration this weekend. Priced within $400 of one another, your decision will basically turn into a pick ’em. One of the keys here will be projecting game flow to determine which quarterback will throw the ball the most frequently and efficiently.
Cam Newton, Carolina vs Arizona, $7600 – Newton is a really interesting player because, although his team isn’t projected to score many points (21.5), he accounts for such a high percentage of their fantasy production when he’s running. And Newton sure has contributed as a runner of late, surpassing 49 rushing yards in each of the past four games and scoring in each of the past three.
The Cardinals’ defense is ranked 23rd against opposing quarterbacks, although I don’t think that’s as important of a stat with Newton since you’re hoping for him to use his legs to give you points. I like that you have the option to stack Newton with Kelvin Benjamin in GPPs, although it’s not a prerequisite for success. There’s going to be so much overlap with QB/WR pairings this week that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a non-stack take down some big GPPs. Newton is the most obvious of the “non-stack” passers.
Tony Romo, Dallas vs Detroit, $7500 – As I mentioned, Vegas likes Dallas this week. Actually, they’re projected better than any other team at 27.5 points. That’s quite surprising to me since they’re playing one of the best defenses in the NFL (against both the pass and the run) in Detroit.
If there’s one thing to love about Dallas this week, it’s that Ndamukong Suh is a dumbass. His absence is a massive loss for Detroit in terms of both their pass-rush and run defense.
My main concern with Romo is that we never really know if he’s going to get enough attempts to provide an elite ceiling. DeMarco Murray has “stolen” a huge percentage of Romo’s fantasy production this year. I actually liked Romo quite a bit more before the Suh news broke because I thought Dallas would be more likely to air it out. Now there’s a very real possibility they’ll use Murray early and often behind their All-Pro interior line.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs Baltimore, $7300 – It looks like Le’Veon Bell is going to be out this weekend, which is a huge blow to the Steelers’ offense. I think it hurts Big Ben, too, because Bell not only helped move the offense into scoring position, but he was also a big target for Roethlisberger out of the backfield. The Steelers signed Ben Tate this week, so they must truly have concerns that Bell won’t be able to play.
It could be the case that an increase in passing attempts will negate Bell’s absence (or even help Roethlisberger’s fantasy production). You can pair Roethlisberger with Antonio Brown, obviously, as well as Martavis Bryant, who could now see an increased role.
Note that the potential absence of Bell could make it much easier to fit Luck into your lineup, too, if you’re going to go cheap with one of Pittsburgh’s backup running backs.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit at Dallas, $7200 – There’s conflicting evidence that Stafford will perform well this weekend. The good news is that he’s playing a horrific Dallas pass defense – one whose overall numbers have been aided substantially by the Cowboys’ running game this year. The Cowboys are 21st in the NFL against opposing quarterbacks, even though they haven’t been on the field as much as other defenses. There’s also the potential for Stafford and Megatron to just go nuts in this contest, which is a scary combination to fade.
The bad news is that Vegas doesn’t like Detroit at all. For whatever reason, they have the over/under at 48 points with Dallas as a touchdown favorite. That means they’re projecting the Lions at just 20.5 points. Maybe they’re just setting the line in anticipation of lots of incoming bets on Dallas, but Vegas generally prefers to set an accurate line.
In the bottom tier, you’ll have the option of playing three quarterbacks who probably don’t have as much access to elite production as the others. That’s especially true for Ryan Lindley against the Panthers, although he also costs just $5200, which represents pretty massive savings.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore at Pittsburgh, $6700 – I’d say Flacco is the quarterback in this group whose play is schizophrenic enough for him to lead you to a tournament victory. I don’t think Flacco is capable of beating quality defenses, but the Steelers’ pass defense is horrific; they’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Vegas has the Ravens at around 21 points. That’s a concern, as is the fact that you don’t necessarily have an obvious stack with Flacco. He’s a candidate to roll out alone in GPPs so that you can fit a couple of elite pass-catchers into your lineup – something like a Flacco/Megatron/Brown trio.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati at Indianapolis, $6100 – Dalton has thrown three touchdowns in just one game this season. He surpassed 300 yards on only three occasions (two of them by two yards or fewer). The Colts’ pass defense was much worse over the second half of the season and Dalton could rack up a lot of attempts in this game, but I think I’d still rather just pay up the $1100-$1500 extra for one of the second-tier passers.
Ryan Lindley, Arizona at Carolina, $5200 – The Cardinals have been the luckiest team in the NFL this year, and Vegas knows that. They have the total set at 38 points with the Cards as 5.5-point underdogs. That means Arizona is projected at just…wait for it…16.25 points. What the hell!?
To give you an idea of how each quarterback’s upside might compare with his price, here’s a look at $/projected point figures that I calculated. This is basically how many dollars you need to spend on each quarterback for every TEAM point that Vegas is projecting them to score. A lower number means more value.
Luck – $332.0
Newton – $349.4
Romo – $272.7
Roethlisberger – $292.0
Stafford – $351.2
Flacco – $304.5
Dalton – $271.1
Lindley – $320
There’s more to consider than simply offensive upside and cost, but it’s really interesting to see some of these numbers. Dalton actually comes out as the best value – barely ahead of Romo – with Roethlisberger checking in at No. 3. Stafford works out to be the worst value – even more so than Newton, whose rushing prowess and share of his offense’s fantasy production isn’t properly reflected here.
And then there’s Schmindley.