Welcome to the playoffs! In this piece, I’ll be discussing the top fantasy quarterbacks in the context of our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models.
This piece will be focused on the four-game full weekend slate but contains actionable information for any of the Showdown slates as well.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, player ratings in our Player Models will change. For updates, visit the models directly.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
- Wide Receivers on Thursday
- Tight Ends on Friday
- Running Backs on Friday/Saturday
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
Josh Allen ($7,600 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel): Buffalo Bills (+2) at Kansas City Chiefs (55 total)
Allen (as is frequently the case) is running away with all of our projections this week. He leads both median and ceiling projections, as well as the Pts/Sal, despite being the most expensive quarterback. It’s going to be very hard to fade Allen this week, with his salary being fairly reasonable. He was frequently around $8,000 this season on DraftKings, so this is a relative bargain considering the matchup and game environment.
This game has the highest total of the Divisional Round and one of the highest totals of the year. It’s frequently more important to look at how two offenses interact (rather than the defensive matchup), with this game being a perfect example. We have the third and fourth-best offenses (by points per game) squaring off in this one.
Kansas City has been tough against the pass, though, especially in the latter half of the season. With the exception of Joe Burrow’s monster performance in Week 17, they haven’t allowed more than 25 (DraftKings) points to an opposing quarterback since early October…when they played the Bills. Allen threw for over 300 yards while contributing four total touchdowns last time against Kansas City. That game was also at Arrowhead.
We shouldn’t expect Allen to reproduce that kind of score this weekend. Kansas City’s defense has made huge strides since then. While the weather isn’t supposed to be a major factor, it’s still likely to be a bit rougher than it was in early October. Even so, Allen is the obvious best play on the slate. Whether he’s the most plus-EV or not will come down to his Projected Ownership.
Patrick Mahomes ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): Kansas City Chiefs (-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (55 total)
It’s somewhat curious to see the favored quarterback in this game with the cheaper salary this week. (The favored team obviously has the higher team total, which means more total scoring.) It’s not as if Kansas City is a run-heavy offense either – they throw the ball at a higher rate than Buffalo. (Of course, Allen provides more with his legs than does Mahomes, but Mahomes was sixth among quarterbacks in rushing yards this season.)
While the prevailing wisdom is that targeting underdog quarterbacks – who theoretically will be forced to throw the ball more is ideal, that might not be the case, especially in close, high-total games. It’s unlikely either team controls this game enough that they can run out the clock (except perhaps on their final drive), so that narrative doesn’t really hold water here.
Using our Trends Tool, we can test this out, though:
These are the splits for quarterbacks in games with a total of at least 53 and a spread of three or less (DraftKings). Notice that the favored quarterbacks tend to score more raw points (as opposed to just having a higher Plus/Minus). With Mahomes being cheaper than Allen, that’s especially noteworthy.
The strength of Buffalo’s defense (first tin DVOA against the pass) might scare players away from Mahomes as well. He’s my preferred tournament option this week if he comes in at lower ownership than Allen.
Aaron Rodgers ($7,100 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel): Green Bay Packers (-6) vs. San francisco 49ers (47.5 total)
Rodgers is a “high-end” quarterback primarily due to his salary this week, as his projections don’t really hold up. Rodgers has been a better quarterback in real life than in fantasy this season. He’s the presumed MVP (at least by betting markets) but “only” the sixth-best fantasy scorer at the position. (He’s fifth in points per game.) That sounds pretty solid – but four of the more productive quarterbacks are also playing this weekend.
None of that makes Rodgers a “bad” play necessarily, but he’s not the most likely quarterback to win you the week. Green Bay threw the ball at a below-average rate this season (18th in the league). They’ll likely look to continue to be a run-first team if possible this week. They’re the biggest favorite of the weekend, and January games at Lambeau tend not to be the friendliest passing environments:
It’s a somewhat small sample size but likely holds some water given the usual weather there. It’s expected to be in the mid-teens with double-digit wind speeds Saturday night.
Rodgers could get there if this game turns into a shootout, but he’s not the strongest play on paper. Any Rodgers lineups should contain 49ers as well, to capture the needed game environment for Rodgers to have a big day.
Tom Brady ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (48.5 total)
In the first 14 games of the season, Brady went over 30 DraftKings points in seven of them. Since then (five games, including the playoffs), he has one 30-point performance (against the Jets) while averaging under 20 DraftKings points per contest.
We could find similar bad stretches for almost any player, of course, but this wasn’t a cherry-picked sample. The last five games are those Brady has played without Chris Godwin.
For what it’s worth, Brady also had Antonio Brown in his game against the Jets, which also won’t be the case this week.
Besides his recent form, there are a lot of reasons to fade Brady this weekend. The Rams are the toughest matchup from an Opponent Plus/Minus on the slate for one. The Rams’ pass rush is also likely to be a major factor here, with Tampa missing two starters on the offensive line. Brady could do enough to win the football game, but I have serious doubts about his ability to win fantasy contests this weekend.
Joe Burrow ($6,600 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): Cincinnati Bengals (+3.5) at Tennessee Titans (47 total)
Joe Burrow is effectively the inverse of Brady this week. He was a solid fantasy asset all season before going on a tremendous run down the stretch. He’s also far likelier to have a fantasy-winning performance this week than a game-winning one.
It’s a reasonable matchup against a Titans team that ranks 11th in DVOA against the pass, and Cincinnati’s underdog status could lead to an uptick in passing rate. The big concern here is the return of Derrick Henry to the Titans. A vintage King Henry performance would keep the Bengals offense off the field, limiting Burrow’s chances.
Still, it’s hard to completely ignore Burrow and his trio of receivers, especially at a fairly reasonable price. His upside is tremendous, though his chances of an “upside” game are certainly lowered here. Our projections have Burrow as the worst Pts/Sal quarterback on the slate this weekend.
Matthew Stafford ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (48.5 total)
Stafford is my favorite quarterback in this middle salary tier this week for the game against Tampa Bay. There’s a lot to like about the situation for Stafford. This game has the second-highest total on the slate (though that’s a bit misleading, as all three games outside of Bills-Chiefs are fairly similar). He’s facing a Bucs team that opponents pass against at the highest rate in the league. He also has Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham.
These teams met once before (in Week 3), which produced Stafford’s best fantasy game of the year – and a 34-24 Rams win. It’s hard to see scenarios where the Rams run away with this one, so expect Stafford to need to keep throwing the ball deep into this game.
Efficiency hasn’t been an issue for Stafford this season. He ranks third in yards per attempt in the NFL. However, the volume has, with him ranking eighth in total attempts. The matchup with the Bucs is one that should push his attempts much higher than usual, which is a solid recipe for this one.
Stafford hasn’t shown us any truly huge fantasy games this year, but at only $6,200 on DraftKings, he doesn’t need to. He’s a tournament-only play for me, but I’ll certainly have some lineups with him this weekend.
Ryan Tannehill ($5,800 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): Tennessee Titans (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (47 total)
For the first time in a very long time, Tannehill should have Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, and AJ Brown in the lineup on Saturday:
Just 10.9% of Ryan Tannehill’s dropbacks this season came with all of D. Henry, Arthur Juan, and Julio on the field. He averaged 9.4 Y/A on those plays.
24.6% of dropbacks without all three: 5.2 Y/A
31.3% without both AJ and Julio: 5.5 Y/A
30.4% with both AJ and Julio: 8.2 Y/A
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) January 18, 2022
That pretty much says it all. In case you need more convincing, Tannehill has the best Bargain Rating of the week on DraftKings and is taking on the team with the worst pass defense (by DVOA) left in the playoffs. Roster him.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): San Francisco 49ers (+6) at Green Bay Packers (47.5 total)
Jimmy G is the only quarterback I don’t have even a passing interest in this week, thanks to his low ceiling. Since the start of November, Garoppolo has only two games over 20 DraftKings points, with a high of 23.34.
When you couple that with the trend from above about Labeau in January, it’s a tough week to roster Jimmy. (Visiting quarterbacks do even worse, for an average of under 15 DraftKings points per game. No opposing quarterback has topped 20 points in Labeau in January in our database.)
Additionally, Green Bay fares far worse against the run (28th in DVOA) than the pass, so everything is working against the Niners’ passing attack this week. Garoppolo could certainly have a decent game but with all of the strong quarterback options this week, that won’t be enough. Particularly Tannehill, for a similar price point. We can safely fade him this week.