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 14: No Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan. My favorite slate of the season this is not — especially now that FanDuel has removed the Sunday night game from its main slate.
But grinders can’t be choosers. Let’s grind.
The 2017 MVP?
Thanks to the confluence of matchups, injuries, and prime time games this week, the top of the quarterback salary scale is dominated by just one player: Carson Wentz ($7,100 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel).
Despite having perhaps his worst game of the season last week, Wentz is still in the running to win the 2017 Most Valuable Player award. That a 348-yard, one-touchdown outing against the Seahawks in Seattle could be interpreted as bad (even with his two turnovers) shows the extent to which Wentz is crushing this season. Entering the year, Wentz was an uncertain starter. Now, with just a quarter of the season remaining, he’s a star. Although Wentz isn’t throwing nearly as often as he did last year (33.3 attempts per game; 37.9 last year), he’s throwing more where it matters, with 1.67 attempts inside the 10-yard line compared to 1.44 last year. Completing 64.7 percent of his passes inside the 20, Wentz has a league-best 20 red zone touchdowns. He’s also dramatically improved as a runner, displaying legit Konami Code capability with 23.6 rushing yards per game vs. 9.4 last year. The Eagles have hit their implied Vegas total in an NFL-best 10 games and lead the league with 38 offensive touchdowns.
This week the Eagles are +2.5 road underdogs against the Rams, with whom they are tied atop the league with 361 points. The matchup isn’t great for Wentz: Under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Rams are third against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), and they’ve held quarterbacks to the third-fewest fantasy points with 14.3 DraftKings and 12.8 FanDuel points per game (PPG). The Rams are particularly good at applying pressure and creating turnovers, ranking third in the league with 37 sacks and fifth with 14 interceptions. With a defensive line anchored by All-Pro tackle Aaron Donald (Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 interior defender) and a secondary solidified by top-20 PFF safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson III, the Rams are stout. Even though linebackers Alec Ogletree (elbow) and Connor Barwin (arm) are questionable to play, the Rams still present a matchup many DFS players will avoid: The over/under for the Eagles-Rams game opened at 51.0 points but has moved to 49.0. We’re projecting Wentz to have reduced ownership.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5,500 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel): Although his fantasy production underwhelmed in his first start with the 49ers, Garoppolo had a promising performance last week on the road against the Bears, completing 70.3 percent of his 37 passes for 293 yards. The 49ers are +3.0 road underdogs against the Texans, who have allowed top-two fantasy marks to quarterbacks with 21.4 DraftKings and 19.9 FanDuel PPG. The 49ers play at the league’s fastest pace (24.99 seconds per play) and have the highest passing rate (63.5 percent). On the Week 14 Daily Fantasy Flex pod, my bold call was that Garoppolo will have a 300-yard/three-touchdown outing against the Texans. He’s in a #SmashSpot.
Philip Rivers ($6,800 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): The Chargers are -6.0 home favorites against the Redskins, who are 12th in pass DVOA but use shutdown cover man Josh Norman almost exclusively at left corner. Rivers should be able to target slot wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Hunter Henry in the middle of the field at will. Since his Week 9 bye, Rivers has averaged 316 yards and two touchdowns passing per game.
Alex Smith ($6,500 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): After his massive, efficient, and fast-paced outing last week against the Jets, Smith leads the NFL with four 300-yard/three-touchdown passing performances. Although Smith seems to be the epitome of a low-ceiling passer, he benefits from the playmaking capabilities of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. As -4.0 home favorites against the Raiders, who are 32nd in pass defense DVOA, the Chiefs have the slate’s highest passing points expectation, and Smith has position-high median projections in our Models.
Cam Newton ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): The Panthers are implied for just 19.25 points as +2.5 home dogs against the Vikings, who have held opponents to 16 PPG during their eight-game winning streak. They have an undervalued pass defense with edge rushers Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and strong safety Harrison Smith, and opponents have hit their Vegas expectations against them in just four games. Cam has supplemented his aerial output with massive rushing production, but he has averaged a 54.4 percent completion rate and just 185.5 yards passing per game since the Panthers traded wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Kirk Cousins ($5,900 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Cousins is just as good this year as he was last year (8.1 adjusted yards per attempt vs. 8.0 in 2016), but the Redskins are +6.0 road dogs against the Chargers, who are first with a +4.81 Opponent Plus/Minus. The Chargers have PFF’s two highest-ranked pass rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and three top-12 PFF cornerbacks in Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King. They’ve won six of their past eight games, holding opponents to just 14.88 PPG in that span.
Eli Manning ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel): He’s the only quarterback on the slate with literally zero Pro Trends on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The Giants benched him for a reason.
Josh McCown ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): The Vegas lines have moved to the Jets and the over, McCown has a 67.8 percent completion rate, and the Broncos have an NFL-worst -5.63 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. They’ve allowed an NFL-high 26 touchdowns to the position, and McCown has scored multiple touchdowns in eight games. With an 0-8 eight record since their Week 4 bye, the Broncos have allowed opposing teams to hit their implied totals in a league-worst nine games. With a willingness to air the ball out to big-play wide receiver Robby Anderson, McCown is once again ready to crush at almost nonexistent ownership.
Case Keenum ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Since Teddy Bridgewater was activated in Week 10, Keenum has played at a peak level, completing 74.0 percent of his passes for 273.3 yards and 2.25 touchdowns per game. The Panthers are eighth in pass defense DVOA, so Keenum won’t have high ownership, but his upside is underappreciated thanks to wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Blaine Gabbert ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel): Gabbert wasn’t great last week in a tough matchup against the Rams, but the Cardinals have a +4.33 Vegas Plus/Minus in his three outings, and in his 16 post-Jacksonville starts Gabbert has scored 17.18 DraftKings and 16.65 FanDuel PPG with +2.85 and +3.80 Plus/Minus values. The Cardinals are +3.0 dogs, but they’re at home against the Titans, who are 25th in pass defense DVOA.
Jared Goff ($6,600 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): Before his Week 8 bye, Goff had zero 300-yard/multi-touchdown games; after the bye, he’s had three in five weeks. He has a tough matchup against the Eagles, who are fourth in pass defense DVOA, but the Rams are -2.5 home favorites, and Goff will likely have low ownership.
Blake Bortles ($5,000 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Bortles has completed only 59.8 percent of his passes this year, and the Jaguars have a league-low 50.6 percent passing rate, but Bortles has some factors in his favor: The Jags are at home, the Seahawks are without cornerback Richard Sherman (Achilles) and safety Kam Chancellor (neck), and Bortles leads the position with a 99 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings. At least if you roster Bortles you can walk around naked — ’cause you’ll be alone on that island.
Russell Wilson ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): Facing the all-powerful #Sacksonville Jaguars defense as a +2.5 road dog, Wilson is a potential pivot play. Even though he’s in the running for MVP, he’s likely to have reduced ownership because of the matchup: Wilson has been the No. 1 fantasy quarterback since his Week 6 bye, passing for 2,034 yards, rushing for 278 yards, and scoring 20 total touchdowns. It’s not uncommon for Wilson to have a double-digit ownership rate, but quarterbacks facing the Jags have been rostered at around one percent this year. Wilson will be available at a steep ownership discount.
The Model Quarterbacks
There are five quarterbacks atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek).
- Matthew Stafford ($6,300 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel)
- Dak Prescott ($5,600 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel)
- Deshone Kizer ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel)
- Tom Savage ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel)
- Trevor Siemian ($4,700 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel)
The Lions have a middling 6-6 record, but they have hit their implied Vegas total in nine games and are top-five with 26.17 PPG and a +4.10 Vegas Plus/Minus. What they really have going for them this week is a matchup against the Buccaneers, who are 31st in pass defense DVOA and especially exploitable in the secondary with rookie right corner Ryan Smith (55.2 PFF) and veteran zombie slot corner Robert McClain (45.4 PFF). Stafford has a correlation coefficient of over 0.55 with wide receivers Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay, and Stafford (hand) could have reduced ownership because of his injury. (Be sure to monitor his injury status throughout the week.) Use our Lineup Builder to stack Tate and Golladay with Stafford, who is tied for first at the position with six Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated quarterback in the SportsGeek Model.
With running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys have averaged 28.25 PPG this year; without him, 15. With Zeke, Dak has averaged 225 yards and two touchdowns passing and 24.4 yards and 0.5 touchdowns rushing per game. Without him, Dak has averaged 150.5 yards and 0.5 touchdowns passing and 20 yards and 0.25 touchdowns rushing. Clearly, Dak is a different quarterback and the Cowboys are a different team without Zeke. Dak is yet to hit his salary-based expectations in a game without his starting running back, but this week he at least has a favorable matchup against the Giants, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 20.5 DraftKings and 19.5 FanDuel PPG. That we’re expecting Dak to be somewhat popular is a sign of how thin the position is in the slate. He’s the highest-rated DraftKings passer in the CSURAM88 and Levitan Models.
Bales thinks that Browns wide receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman are the greatest thing since Bitcoin and Ethereum — and we’re also high on the future of tight end David Njoku and the receiving ability of running back Duke Johnson — so why wouldn’t we be high on the rookie Kizer? What does it matter that he has an NFL-high 15 interceptions to only six touchdowns passing? Kizer has been horrible to this point, but he has great Konami Code capability (308 yards and five touchdowns rushing) and a nice matchup against the Packers, who have a rotating crew of cornerbacks (Damarious Randall, Davon House, Kevin King, and Josh Hawkins) who all have poor PFF coverage grades below 60.0. A contrarian GPP-only play, Kizer is the top DraftKings and FanDuel quarterback in the Bales Model.
The Texans have been horrible in Savage’s six starts, averaging 14.67 PPG and a -4.96 Vegas Plus/Minus. They have a 1-5 over/under record and have underperformed the spread by a horrid -8.25 PPG with him at quarterback. The one thing he has going for him is his matchup. The Texans are -3.0 home favorites against the 49ers, who are 30th in pass defense DVOA and utterly exploitable via the pass: Safeties Jaquiski Tartt (arm) and Jimmie Ward (arm) are out for the year and cornerbacks Dontae Johnson (42.4 PFF) and K’Waun Williams (42.2) have horrible PFF coverage grades. If you were ever to stack Savage in a tournament with wide receiver and target share monster DeAndre Hopkins, this would be the game. Savage is the highest-rated FanDuel quarterback in the SportsGeek Model.
In a great matchup against the Dolphins last week, Siemian completed only 46.3 percent of his 41 attempts for 200 yards and three interceptions. He’s horrible. Nevertheless, he’s 1) cheap, 2) going to have almost no ownership, 3) not Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch, 4) stackable with wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and 5) at home against the Jets, who have allowed top-two fantasy marks to quarterbacks with 20.6 DraftKings and 20.1 FanDuel PPG. Burn your money. Siemian is the No. 1 FanDuel quarterback in the CSURAM88 and Levitan Models.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Research the quarterbacks for yourself with our tools, and read the other Week 14 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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