One of the most important things to think about when selecting a quarterback is what sort of distribution of potential outcomes he might have in a specific game and how that fits with your goals.
Think about how a specific game might unfold. Is the quarterback’s team a favorite? Could they be running the ball a lot late in the game? Does the quarterback rely on a single player who could be taken out of the game by the defense? Does he account for a high percentage of his team’s red zone workload? All of these questions affect the quarterback’s volatility, and thus how usable he is in certain formats.
Looking for a different position? Check out the rest of the positional targets:
I like Rivers as my top quarterback this week, for example, and a lot of that has to do with how safe I view him. The Chargers are projected to score a lot of points, but not win by so much that Rivers won’t rack up a lot of attempts. If San Diego performs well, it’s highly likely Rivers will have worthwhile fantasy production. I feel very confident Rivers isn’t going to have a 25-attempt sort of game that would limit both his ceiling and floor.
Cream of the Crop
Philip Rivers, San Diego (vs CHI) – $6900
Rivers hasn’t totaled fewer than 24 DraftKings points since September, and he has at least 48 passing attempts in each of the past three games. The Chargers are currently projected at just under 27 points, and we know Rivers accounts for a massive share of their fantasy production. If you aren’t going to pay up for Tom Brady, Rivers is the premiere cash-game play this week, in my opinion.
Tom Brady, New England (vs WAS) – $8500
There’s a lack of top quarterbacks in quality matchups this week, which I think inflates Brady’s value. Other than Rivers, I don’t see a whole lot of safety at the position. After adjusting for quarterback pricing, only one defense in the NFL has been worse against the pass than Washington over the past year. With a projected total of 33.3 points—the highest I’ve seen this year—it could get ugly in New England.
Derek Carr, Oakland (at PIT) – $5500
Carr has been up-and-down this year, as we’d expect with a young quarterback. Even though he’s a value, I don’t really know how much I love him in cash games. He’s generally taken advantage of poor pass defenses, which is a good sign, and the Steelers have one of the worst in the NFL; over the past 12 months, they’ve allowed 2.8 points per game above expectation to opposing passers. He’s on my radar for GPPs, but his cash-game status is ‘TBD’ for me at this point.
Drew Brees, New Orleans (at TEN) – $7200
I prefer Rivers and the $300 savings, but I think we can put to bed the idea that Brees is done. More likely is that he was injured and now finally healthy. The emergence of Ben Watson really aids Brees, I think, because it gives him another avenue to get into the end zone. The reason I prefer Carr to Brees, in addition to the savings, is because I think there’s a better chance the OAK-PIT game turns into a shootout.
Middle of the Pack
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs OAK) – $6600
Roethlisberger looked like crap against the Bengals last week, but he’s a week healthier and facing an Oakland defense that ain’t very good against the pass. It will be interesting to see how the Le’Veon Bell injury affects Big Ben, but I don’t think it’s going to hurt his fantasy value much, and it could even help. Roethlisberger can’t be counted on his cash games, but he’s always been a high-variance GPP option.
Eli Manning, NY Giants (at TB) – $6900
Manning is like Big Ben in that he’s not really trustworthy enough for cash games right now, but is volatile enough to be worth a look in GPPs. That’s especially true given the matchup, as the Bucs have the third-worst pass defense in the league over the past year against opposing quarterbacks, after adjusting for cost.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo (vs MIA) – $5300
Here’s my problem with Taylor, even though he’s a value: if you’re going cheap at quarterback in cash games, I don’t know how you’d play him over Carr, but he also has limited upside that limits his GPP value. Given questions about his health, I don’t think I’ll have exposure, even if he’s technically underpriced.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (at CAR) – $7400
I’m not really concerned about Rodgers’ 77-yard Sunday-night performance. I’d be more concerned that he’s facing another quality defense and Green Bay is currently projected to score fewer than 24 points. There’s a discount here that makes it a little intriguing, but I still don’t envision a huge day.
Rest of the Field
Cam Newton, Carolina (vs GB) – $6900
This is a tough matchup for a passer, but so much of Newton’s fantasy value comes as a runner, which makes him more matchup-independent than the typical quarterback. He does have a decently high floor against anyone, but I still think there are safer options with more upside available for use in cash games.
Peyton Manning, Denver (at IND) – $6300
Manning played well in Week 8, but didn’t put up big fantasy numbers since he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. The yards and efficiency are more indicative of how he played, though. I think there’s a good chance that Denver tries to run all over Indy in this game, and they can probably do that effectively, which limits the allure of Manning.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (vs DEN) – $7000
Feeling crazy? I actually don’t hate Luck this week, at home, given that he’s probably going to need to throw the ball a whole lot.
Jay Cutler, Chicago (at SD) – $5200
The good news for Cutler as it relates to Matt Forte’s injury is a potentially greater workload. The bad news is that Cutler truly relied on Forte as a pass-catcher, so he’s missing arguably his second-best weapon in the passing game. This is a decent matchup with a potentially favorable game script for Cutler and the Bears—and the price is right to take a chance—but I’d still pay up $300 for Carr.
Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, and most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.
Follow him @BalesFootball.