The Quarterback Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
It’s Week 12: The byes are over, the pies have been eaten, and a weekend of football awaits. These are the golden days. Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 11-game DraftKings and 12-game FanDuel main slates.
Also, in the spirit of “Did I really just eat three entire pies? — I need to slim down immediately,” this breakdown will be a streamlined-ish version of the article. You’re welcome.
The Big Two
As it was last week, the top of the quarterback salary scale is dominated by two players.
- Tom Brady ($7,700 DraftKings, $9,100 FanDuel)
- Carson Wentz ($7,200 DraftKings, $8,900 FanDuel)
“Fear is the Path to the Dark Side: Fear Leads to Anger, Anger Leads to Hate, Hate Leads to Victories”
Winners of six straight games, the Patriots lead the slate with an implied total of 32.25 points as -16.5 home favorites. By almost every metric, Brady has a great matchup: The Dolphins are 31st against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). The Patriots relentlessly attack the weaknesses of opponents, and given that second-year turnstile Xavien Howard owns Pro Football Focus’ second-lowest cornerback rating (34.5) he will likely be targeted heavily by Brady. The Pats have a slate-high 92.47 pass funnel rating, and the Dolphins-Patriots game could shoot out (as much as a blowout can) with its slate-high 83.5 combined pass funnel rating. The Pats are first and second in pace when playing with a lead of at least seven points and in neutral situations (FO), and they are 12th with a 60.1 percent pass rate. Brady leads the league with 380 pass attempts and 261 completions. He could throw a lot in this game: The Pats have the slate’s highest passing points expectation.
Even at 40 years of age, Brady is playing the best football of his career. After a disappointing Week 1 performance in which he completed just 44.4 percent of his passes, Brady has been on a tear in his past nine games, throwing for 2,879 yards and 22 touchdowns with a 71.2 percent completion rate. Leading the league with 3,146 yards passing, Brady has been playing at a peak level ever since returning from his Deflategate suspension. In his 22 regular season games since last year, Angry Tom has averaged 9.3 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A); in the half-decade prior, he averaged 8.0 AY/A. Even though Brady (Achilles) is dealing with an injury — and even though wide receiver Chris Hogan (shoulder) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) are unlikely to play — Brady has a position-high DraftKings ceiling projection in our Models.
The 2017 MVP (Because Brady Can’t Win the Award Every Year)
In the span of 10 games, Wentz has gone from uncertain second-year starter to star quarterback. He has already thrown more touchdowns this year (25) than he threw last year (16), when he had a bottom-four AY/A (5.7); this year, he has a top-four mark (8.5). Although Wentz isn’t throwing nearly as often as he did last year (31.8 attempts per game; 37.9 last year), he’s throwing more where it matters, with 1.8 attempts inside the 10-yard line compared to 1.44 last year. Completing 63.6 percent of his passes inside the 20, Wentz has a league-best 17 red zone touchdowns. He’s also dramatically improved as a runner, displaying legit Konami Code capability with 22.4 rushing yards per game vs. 9.4 last year. The Eagles have hit their implied Vegas total in an NFL-best nine games and lead the league with 32 points per game (PPG), a +7.35 Vegas Plus/Minus, and 34 offensive touchdowns.
The Bears are solid in pass defense — they are second with a 9.1 percent adjusted sack rate (FO) and have held quarterbacks to bottom-six marks of 14.5 DraftKings and 13.9 FanDuel PPG — but they could be without starting slot corner Bryce Callahan (knee), who missed Weeks 10-11. In his place, second-year Cre’von LeBlanc (57.4 PFF) has been beatable — and starting left corner Kyle Fuller (48.5 PFF) has been exploitable for his entire career. Prince Amukamara is a stabilizing presence in the secondary, but he plays almost exclusively at right corner. With Nelson Agholor running in the slot and outside receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith taking turns on Fuller, Wentz should have plenty of opportunities to exploit the Bears secondary. It’s suboptimal that the Eagles are without Pro-Bowl left tackle Jason Peters (knee), but in their three games without him they have still averaged 40.3 PPG, and because of his matchup we’re projecting Wentz to have reduced ownership.
Matt Ryan ($6,400 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): On the one hand, the Falcons are implied for 29.5 points as -10.0 home favorites against the Buccaneers, who are 28th in pass defense DVOA and ready to get destroyed by market share monster Julio Jones. On the other hand, Ryan has averaged Consistency Ratings of just 31.3 percent in 16 games as a home favorite in the Dan Quinn era.
Drew Brees ($6,900 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): Brees is away from the Coors Field of fantasy football, averaging just 34.1 pass attempts per game (compared to 41.5 for the previous five seasons), and facing a Rams defense that has held quarterbacks to bottom-five fantasy marks of 14.5 DraftKings and 13.9 FanDuel PPG.
Marcus Mariota ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel): The Titans are -3.0 favorites against the Colts, who are 27th in pass defense DVOA. Although they’re on the road, the Titans are in a good spot indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mariota is especially intriguing on DraftKings, where he’s priced as the QB9 and where every quarterback except for Tom Savage has hit his salary-based expectations against the Colts.
Tyrod Taylor ($5,800 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): “Maybe you’ll get a replacement / There’s plenty like me to be found / Mongrels who ain’t got a penny / Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground. / So goodbye yellow brick road.”
Cam Newton ($6,600 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): Newton leads all quarterbacks in Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he has a position-high ceiling projection. In their three games against running quarterbacks (Taylor and Kevin Hogan/DeShone Kizer), the Jets have allowed 23.3 DraftKings and 22.6 FanDuel PPG to the position.
Jay Cutler ($5,000 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel): Cutler (concussion) is still in the league’s protocol (and coming off a three-interception performance), but the Dolphins are hopeful he’ll start against the Pats, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 22.3 DraftKings and 20.5 FanDuel PPG. If Cutler is unable to play, Matt Moore ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel) could be a high-upside play with low ownership.
Jared Goff ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): The Rams are implied for 27.75 points as -2.5 home favorites and have the NFL’s fourth-highest rush rate. They seem likely to run, especially against a rushing funnel defense ranked fourth in pass DVOA — but the Saints could be without cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore (ankle), Ken Crawley (abdomen), and Kenny Vaccaro (groin). Lattimore and Crawley didn’t practice on Thursday, and their absence on the outside would be particularly brutal, as they are top-20 PFF cornerbacks.
Jacoby Brissett ($5,400 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): Brissett (concussion) is in the league’s prootocol, but he has practiced this week and is expected to be available against the Titans, who are 26th in pass defense DVOA. The Colts could have a pass-heavy game script as +3.0 home underdogs, and Brissett has passed for two touchdowns in three straight games. The Colts should be rested and prepared coming off their bye week.
Andy Dalton ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): In his three games against the Browns in the Hue Jackson era, Dalton has averaged 258 yards and 2.67 touchdowns passing for 23.18 DraftKings and 21.85 FanDuel PPG. The Bengals are -8.0 home favorites, and the Browns have a quarterback-friendly funnel defense ranked first against the run and 24th against the pass in DVOA.
Paxton Lynch ($4,400 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel): Of the three Denver passers, Lynch is the only one drafted with a first-round pick, and the Broncos could have a pass-heavy game script as +5.0 road dogs to the Raiders, who are 32nd in pass defense DVOA.
Blaine Gabbert ($4,600 DraftKings, $6,300 FanDuel): Last week Gabbert threw three touchdowns for the first time in his career, and this week he gets a #RevengeGame against the franchise that replaced him with Blake Bortles. The Jaguars, though, have held quarterbacks to league-low marks of 9.6 DraftKings and 8.7 FanDuel PPG. Revenge will be hard to come by for Gabbert.
Ben Roethlisberger ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel): For the first game all season Roethlisberger last week threw for more than two touchdowns, and this week he’s at Heinz Field, where he benefits from extreme home/road splits. The Packers secondary struggles when healthy, and it could be without right cornerback Kevin King (shoulder) and versatile safety/slot corner Morgan Burnett (groin). Roethlisberger is available only on the FanDuel main slate.
The Model Quarterback
There are two quarterbacks atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek).
- Russell Wilson ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel)
- Alex Smith ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel)
No quarterback will have higher than a 20 percent ownership rate in guaranteed prize pools, but Wilson is likely to be the slate’s chalkiest passer. The Seahawks are facing a divisional opponent late in the season on the road, so the spot isn’t ideal, but they are implied for 25.75 points as -6.5 favorites against a 49ers team that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 21.0 DraftKings and 20.0 FanDuel PPG. A notoriously slow starter, Wilson has been the No. 1 fantasy quarterback since his Week 6 bye, passing for 1,579 yards, rushing for 222 yards, and scoring 14 total touchdowns. Wilson has a correlation coefficient of at least 0.50 with wide receiver Paul Richardson and tight end Jimmy Graham, and the 49ers secondary is exploitable. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Rich and Graham with Wilson, who has position-high median and floor projections. Wilson is the consensus No. 1-rated DraftKings quarterback in our Pro Models and also the top FanDuel passer in the Bales and SportsGeek Models.
Entering Week 9, Smith led the NFL with a 9.7 AY/A and hadn’t thrown an interception yet. One bye, two games, three picks, and thousands of sabotaged lineups later, Smith enters his Week 12 matchup with the Bills as a fantasy pariah. The Bills have allowed an unholy 45 PPG in their three-game losing streak, and the Chiefs should be motivated after scoring just nine points last week and losing four of their past five games. Although Smith perpetually seems to lack upside, no quarterback has more 300-yard/three-touchdown games than Smith’s three. He’s the highest-rated FanDuel quarterback in the CSURAM88 and Levitan Models.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Research the quarterbacks for yourself with our tools, and read the other Week 12 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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