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Week 13 NFL DFS QB Breakdown: Defense Does Matter?

In this piece, I highlight quarterbacks who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.

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.

And don’t forget to check out our Lineup Builder if you like to hand build your lineups or our Lineup Optimizer for those of you that like to enter multiple lineups into tournaments.

Top Quarterbacks in the FantasyLabs Models

There are five quarterbacks atop the individual Pro Models that Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, and Ryan Hodge have constructed, as well as our proprietary Cash Game and Tournament Models

Here’s where they place within our Week 13 Fantasy Rankings (as of Wednesday):

  • Lamar Jackson (1st)
  • Justin Herbert (5th)
  • Derek Carr (10th)
  • Taylor Heinicke (11th)
  • Jalen Hurts (15th)

We’ll discuss why these five are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other backs who could help you take down a tournament.

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.

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Top Model Quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson ($7,800 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (44 total)

At this point in the season, you likely don’t need to be told what Jackson brings to the table. The league’s most dangerous rushing quarterback is averaging over 70 yards per game on the ground — seventh-best among all players. If anything, he’s due for some upward regression in rushing production. He has only two rushing touchdowns through 10 games after scoring seven times in each of the past two seasons.

Jackson had been much improved as a passer early in the season. He has a career yards per attempt (YPA) of 7.5. Through his first five games of 2021, he eclipsed that number in every game (going over 8.5 in all but one). Since then, he’s regressed, with only one game over 6.5.

This is notable because through the first five games, each of Baltimore’s opponent ranked 18th or lower (currently) in DVOA against the pass. Since then, Jackson has faced (in order) the 11th, 19th, 10th, 14th, and 16th best defenses. (For what it’s worth, the game against No.19 Cincinnati yielded an 8.29 YPA from Jackson.)

This all has a point; stick with me. We’re at the point where DVOA (and other measures of defensive success) crystallize, giving us actual insight into the good and bad matchups for players. One of the flaws in the “defense doesn’t matter” argument is in how it’s measured. Early-season defensive metrics probably don’t tell us much, but at this point in the season, they can.

All of which sets up perfectly for Jackson to repeat his early-season passing success. Pittsburgh ranks 26th against the pass, worse than any team the Ravens have faced other than Detroit (9.26 YPA for Jackson in that one). Couple that with Jackson likely having all of his weapons available, and we have the perfect spot for him to be efficient through the air.

Jackson is our highest projected quarterback on both sites but stands out on FanDuel. He has an 85% Bargain Rating there. He also leads three of our Pro Models, including the Cash Game model.

Justin Herbert ($6,700 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals (50.5 total)

Justin Herbert is the QB3 in DraftKings points this year (and has played one less game than No. 2 Jalen Hurts, so Herbert is more productive on a per-game basis). Despite that, he’s only the sixth most expensive quarterback on DraftKings this week, making him a decided bargain.

Of course, this price discrepancy could be due to the matchup. However, the Bengals rank a non-threatening 19th against the pass on the season. They have been tough against the position in terms of fantasy points, with a -2.0 Opponent Plus/Minus allowed on DraftKings this year. However, the same can be said for most of the top quarterbacks on DraftKings this week — the four most expensive options all have negative scores in that category.

Vegas data is favorable for Herbert in this one, too, with this game being tied for the highest total on the board. Slight favorites in high-total games is a good recipe for quarterback success, per our Trends tool:

Especially when they play on the league’s third most pass-happy team, as Herbert does, Herbert has a low of 34 pass attempts on the season, with five games over 40. The volume should be there this week.

Herbert is an exceedingly obvious choice on DraftKings this week, where he leads our Cash Game Model. Tournaments could be a bit trickier due to his likely popularity. Be sure to check out his Ownership Projections later in the week.

Derek Carr ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5) vs. Washington Football Team (49.5 total)

Carr opened the year with three consecutive performances over 25 DraftKings points. Since then, he has… zero such games. Rather than waking up when September ended, Carr has gone to sleep. He’s averaging just over 17 DraftKings points since the beginning of October, which isn’t ideal — but won’t kill your lineup at his current salary.

However, there’s a reason for optimism this week. Washington is a very significant pass funnel, ranking seventh against the run but 20th against the pass on the season. They’ve allowed opposing quarterbacks to top 26 DraftKings points in more than half (six out of 11) of their games this season.

So that gives us reason to believe that Las Vegas will have a pass-first attack this week. Their reasonably high (26 point) implied team total gives us reason to believe they will succeed at it.

The presence of deep-ball specialist DeSean Jackson adds another dimension to Carr’s game as well. Jackson was technically a Raider for three games already this season, but last week was his first game with multiple targets from Carr. He turned four of them into three catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Those yards and touchdowns give Carr a ceiling we haven’t seen in a bit.

Carr is clearly a better value on DraftKings, where he is tied for the best Pts/Sal on the slate. That’s also where he leads one of our Pro Models.

Taylor Heinicke ($5,600 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel): Washington Football Team (+2.5) at Las Vegas Raiders (49.5 total)

Across from Carr, we have Heinicke, who’s been remarkably similar to Carr production-wise this season. Heinicke has roughly six fewer DraftKings points than Carr on the year and is appropriately priced just below him there.

The choice between Heinicke and Carr is really a debate about how we value quarterbacks. Is a higher implied team total the better bet? Or would we prefer a slight underdog, given the presumed increase in passing volume? I dug into our Trends tool to find out:

(Total was held constant at 47 to 52 when analyzing favorites vs. underdogs. Similarly, the spread was held at Plus/Minus four or less when analyzing the team total. The brown shading represents Heinicke’s situation. The grey shading represents Carr’s.)

As you can see, it’s better to play the slight underdog with a smaller total, at least relative to their salaries. You could use our Trends tool to dive deeper into things like ownership and upside levels, but Heinicke makes sense from an optimal lineup angle. He leads one of our Pro Models on DraftKings.

Jalen Hurts ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at New York Jets (45.5 total)

Hurts is the only quarterback to lead Pro Models on both sites this week. However, we prefer him on FanDuel, where he leads two and has a 79% Bargain Rating.

Like Jackson, we know what Hurts is capable of with his legs. Though, unlike Jackson, he’s probably due for some negative regression in the touchdown category. He has 12 fewer rushing yards than Jackson on the season and four times as many scores.

Of course, you could make a case that his touchdowns are due to a difference in usage, which means we can project him for more scores than Jackson moving forward. Personally, I’m on the side that yards-to-touchdowns should normalize at a given position. Players like Josh Allen and Cam Newton, who function as their team’s goal-line back might be an exception, but Hurts and Jackson are used similarly.

However, the matchup is far better for Hurts against the league-worst Jets defense. Hurts is the only quarterback with a salary over $5,600 on DraftKings facing a team with a positive Opponent Plus/Minus allowed to the position this week.

Of course, a blowout win would likely Hurts (pun intended) his chances at a big game this week. In the Eagles’ 38-point victory over Detroit, he attempted only 14 passes and seven rushes, both season lows. The Eagles are only 6.5-point favorites, but it’s always a concern against the Jets.

Other Quarterbacks With Week-Winning Upside

Tom Brady ($7,200 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11) at Atlanta Falcons (50.5 total)

Unlike the Eagles, Tampa Bay keeps passing regardless of the score. Brady has at least 34 pass attempts in every game this season. (For some fun perspective, 14 teams average less than that per game.) Assuming that continues against the Falcons’ 29th-ranked pass defense, it’s a good spot for Brady. (This is also one where it’s OK to ignore the Opponent Plus/Minus stats. Atlanta is “good against quarterbacks” because opposing teams run the ball so much against them while blowing them out. Something the Bucs are unlikely to do.)

Brady’s shot at a huge game likely comes down to where touchdowns go for Tampa. They scored thrice on the ground last week, capping Brady’s upside. The overall production will be fine, though.

Matthew Stafford ($7,300 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (-12.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (48 total)

Stafford and the Rams have struggled mightily during their three-game losing streak. Stafford salvaged a solid day — mostly in garbage time last week but has as many interceptions as touchdowns in that span (five). If there’s ever a spot to turn it around, though, it’s against Jacksonville. The Rams have the second-highest team total on the slate. Stafford’s price is also reasonable, particularly on FanDuel. His big game on Sunday night came after Week 13 prices were released, or he’d likely be more expensive.

Kyler Murray ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel): Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Chicago Bears (45.5 total)

I’m fine with waiting for a “prove it” game with Murray coming back from injury. However, with the Cardinals having a bye last week and Murray being close to playing in Week 11, it’s likely he’s close to full strength.

Given his extended absence, it’s easy to forget how good Murray was this year. He scored at least 22 DraftKings points in six of seven healthy games. Two of those went for at least 34. The Bears’ 19th-rated overall defense doesn’t give us any reason to shy away either. Murray is fourth in Ceiling Projection on both sites but could go drastically under-rostered with players waiting to see how he looks after his injury.

Kirk Cousins ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): Minnesota Vikings (-7) at Detroit Lions (46.5 total)

Detroit is allowing a league-worst 7.9 yards per pass attempt on the season. Minnesota is without Dalvin Cook, which presumably means they’ll be throwing more. What more could you want?

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In this piece, I highlight quarterbacks who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically, our FantasyLabs Player Models. While the models are built for DFS contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.

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.

And don’t forget to check out our Lineup Builder if you like to hand build your lineups or our Lineup Optimizer for those of you that like to enter multiple lineups into tournaments.

Top Quarterbacks in the FantasyLabs Models

There are five quarterbacks atop the individual Pro Models that Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, and Ryan Hodge have constructed, as well as our proprietary Cash Game and Tournament Models

Here’s where they place within our Week 13 Fantasy Rankings (as of Wednesday):

  • Lamar Jackson (1st)
  • Justin Herbert (5th)
  • Derek Carr (10th)
  • Taylor Heinicke (11th)
  • Jalen Hurts (15th)

We’ll discuss why these five are popping in our models, as well as take a look at some other backs who could help you take down a tournament.

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.

Start Your PRO Trial Today

Lineup builder and optimizer

Real-time DFS models

Data-driven analysis & tutorials

Top Model Quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson ($7,800 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): Baltimore Ravens (-4.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (44 total)

At this point in the season, you likely don’t need to be told what Jackson brings to the table. The league’s most dangerous rushing quarterback is averaging over 70 yards per game on the ground — seventh-best among all players. If anything, he’s due for some upward regression in rushing production. He has only two rushing touchdowns through 10 games after scoring seven times in each of the past two seasons.

Jackson had been much improved as a passer early in the season. He has a career yards per attempt (YPA) of 7.5. Through his first five games of 2021, he eclipsed that number in every game (going over 8.5 in all but one). Since then, he’s regressed, with only one game over 6.5.

This is notable because through the first five games, each of Baltimore’s opponent ranked 18th or lower (currently) in DVOA against the pass. Since then, Jackson has faced (in order) the 11th, 19th, 10th, 14th, and 16th best defenses. (For what it’s worth, the game against No.19 Cincinnati yielded an 8.29 YPA from Jackson.)

This all has a point; stick with me. We’re at the point where DVOA (and other measures of defensive success) crystallize, giving us actual insight into the good and bad matchups for players. One of the flaws in the “defense doesn’t matter” argument is in how it’s measured. Early-season defensive metrics probably don’t tell us much, but at this point in the season, they can.

All of which sets up perfectly for Jackson to repeat his early-season passing success. Pittsburgh ranks 26th against the pass, worse than any team the Ravens have faced other than Detroit (9.26 YPA for Jackson in that one). Couple that with Jackson likely having all of his weapons available, and we have the perfect spot for him to be efficient through the air.

Jackson is our highest projected quarterback on both sites but stands out on FanDuel. He has an 85% Bargain Rating there. He also leads three of our Pro Models, including the Cash Game model.

Justin Herbert ($6,700 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals (50.5 total)

Justin Herbert is the QB3 in DraftKings points this year (and has played one less game than No. 2 Jalen Hurts, so Herbert is more productive on a per-game basis). Despite that, he’s only the sixth most expensive quarterback on DraftKings this week, making him a decided bargain.

Of course, this price discrepancy could be due to the matchup. However, the Bengals rank a non-threatening 19th against the pass on the season. They have been tough against the position in terms of fantasy points, with a -2.0 Opponent Plus/Minus allowed on DraftKings this year. However, the same can be said for most of the top quarterbacks on DraftKings this week — the four most expensive options all have negative scores in that category.

Vegas data is favorable for Herbert in this one, too, with this game being tied for the highest total on the board. Slight favorites in high-total games is a good recipe for quarterback success, per our Trends tool:

Especially when they play on the league’s third most pass-happy team, as Herbert does, Herbert has a low of 34 pass attempts on the season, with five games over 40. The volume should be there this week.

Herbert is an exceedingly obvious choice on DraftKings this week, where he leads our Cash Game Model. Tournaments could be a bit trickier due to his likely popularity. Be sure to check out his Ownership Projections later in the week.

Derek Carr ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5) vs. Washington Football Team (49.5 total)

Carr opened the year with three consecutive performances over 25 DraftKings points. Since then, he has… zero such games. Rather than waking up when September ended, Carr has gone to sleep. He’s averaging just over 17 DraftKings points since the beginning of October, which isn’t ideal — but won’t kill your lineup at his current salary.

However, there’s a reason for optimism this week. Washington is a very significant pass funnel, ranking seventh against the run but 20th against the pass on the season. They’ve allowed opposing quarterbacks to top 26 DraftKings points in more than half (six out of 11) of their games this season.

So that gives us reason to believe that Las Vegas will have a pass-first attack this week. Their reasonably high (26 point) implied team total gives us reason to believe they will succeed at it.

The presence of deep-ball specialist DeSean Jackson adds another dimension to Carr’s game as well. Jackson was technically a Raider for three games already this season, but last week was his first game with multiple targets from Carr. He turned four of them into three catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Those yards and touchdowns give Carr a ceiling we haven’t seen in a bit.

Carr is clearly a better value on DraftKings, where he is tied for the best Pts/Sal on the slate. That’s also where he leads one of our Pro Models.

Taylor Heinicke ($5,600 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel): Washington Football Team (+2.5) at Las Vegas Raiders (49.5 total)

Across from Carr, we have Heinicke, who’s been remarkably similar to Carr production-wise this season. Heinicke has roughly six fewer DraftKings points than Carr on the year and is appropriately priced just below him there.

The choice between Heinicke and Carr is really a debate about how we value quarterbacks. Is a higher implied team total the better bet? Or would we prefer a slight underdog, given the presumed increase in passing volume? I dug into our Trends tool to find out:

(Total was held constant at 47 to 52 when analyzing favorites vs. underdogs. Similarly, the spread was held at Plus/Minus four or less when analyzing the team total. The brown shading represents Heinicke’s situation. The grey shading represents Carr’s.)

As you can see, it’s better to play the slight underdog with a smaller total, at least relative to their salaries. You could use our Trends tool to dive deeper into things like ownership and upside levels, but Heinicke makes sense from an optimal lineup angle. He leads one of our Pro Models on DraftKings.

Jalen Hurts ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at New York Jets (45.5 total)

Hurts is the only quarterback to lead Pro Models on both sites this week. However, we prefer him on FanDuel, where he leads two and has a 79% Bargain Rating.

Like Jackson, we know what Hurts is capable of with his legs. Though, unlike Jackson, he’s probably due for some negative regression in the touchdown category. He has 12 fewer rushing yards than Jackson on the season and four times as many scores.

Of course, you could make a case that his touchdowns are due to a difference in usage, which means we can project him for more scores than Jackson moving forward. Personally, I’m on the side that yards-to-touchdowns should normalize at a given position. Players like Josh Allen and Cam Newton, who function as their team’s goal-line back might be an exception, but Hurts and Jackson are used similarly.

However, the matchup is far better for Hurts against the league-worst Jets defense. Hurts is the only quarterback with a salary over $5,600 on DraftKings facing a team with a positive Opponent Plus/Minus allowed to the position this week.

Of course, a blowout win would likely Hurts (pun intended) his chances at a big game this week. In the Eagles’ 38-point victory over Detroit, he attempted only 14 passes and seven rushes, both season lows. The Eagles are only 6.5-point favorites, but it’s always a concern against the Jets.

Other Quarterbacks With Week-Winning Upside

Tom Brady ($7,200 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11) at Atlanta Falcons (50.5 total)

Unlike the Eagles, Tampa Bay keeps passing regardless of the score. Brady has at least 34 pass attempts in every game this season. (For some fun perspective, 14 teams average less than that per game.) Assuming that continues against the Falcons’ 29th-ranked pass defense, it’s a good spot for Brady. (This is also one where it’s OK to ignore the Opponent Plus/Minus stats. Atlanta is “good against quarterbacks” because opposing teams run the ball so much against them while blowing them out. Something the Bucs are unlikely to do.)

Brady’s shot at a huge game likely comes down to where touchdowns go for Tampa. They scored thrice on the ground last week, capping Brady’s upside. The overall production will be fine, though.

Matthew Stafford ($7,300 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): Los Angeles Rams (-12.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (48 total)

Stafford and the Rams have struggled mightily during their three-game losing streak. Stafford salvaged a solid day — mostly in garbage time last week but has as many interceptions as touchdowns in that span (five). If there’s ever a spot to turn it around, though, it’s against Jacksonville. The Rams have the second-highest team total on the slate. Stafford’s price is also reasonable, particularly on FanDuel. His big game on Sunday night came after Week 13 prices were released, or he’d likely be more expensive.

Kyler Murray ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel): Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Chicago Bears (45.5 total)

I’m fine with waiting for a “prove it” game with Murray coming back from injury. However, with the Cardinals having a bye last week and Murray being close to playing in Week 11, it’s likely he’s close to full strength.

Given his extended absence, it’s easy to forget how good Murray was this year. He scored at least 22 DraftKings points in six of seven healthy games. Two of those went for at least 34. The Bears’ 19th-rated overall defense doesn’t give us any reason to shy away either. Murray is fourth in Ceiling Projection on both sites but could go drastically under-rostered with players waiting to see how he looks after his injury.

Kirk Cousins ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): Minnesota Vikings (-7) at Detroit Lions (46.5 total)

Detroit is allowing a league-worst 7.9 yards per pass attempt on the season. Minnesota is without Dalvin Cook, which presumably means they’ll be throwing more. What more could you want?

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