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 15. If you’re reading this intro, you’ve already wasted 10 seconds. Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 11-game main slate.
“Fear is the Path to the Dark Side: Fear Leads to Anger, Anger Leads to Hate, Hate Leads to Victories”
As has often been the case this year, Tom Brady ($7,600 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel) is atop the quarterback salary scale.
Brady is coming off perhaps his worst game of the season, and he’s put together two back-to-back un-Brady-like outings, completing ‘just’ 61.6 percent of his passes for 491 yards and a touchdown to three interceptions. Brady’s struggles, however, weren’t entirely unexpected. The past two games were on the road against divisional opponents in the second half of the season, and as Brady has aged he’s tended to underperform in that scenario. In the first decade of his career, Brady was fairly agnostic to this common split, averaging 19.8 fantasy points per game (PPG) in this situation and 20.5 PPG in all other situations. Since 2011, though, he hasn’t been immune to this split: 20.1 PPG against divisional opponents on the road in the second half, 25.7 PPG in all other situations (RotoViz). For Brady, the spirit of this split can be applied to non-AFC East teams that have played the Patriots periodically and/or recently — such as the Steelers, whom the Pats played last year in Week 8 and then again in the AFC Championship. The Steelers know the Patriots well, and the Pats are playing their third consecutive road game in a row and fifth in six weeks. Even though the Pats are -3.0 favorites in a contest that leads the slate with an over/under of 53.0 points, this is a bad spot for New England.
It’s hard to cast shade at Brady, who leads the league with 324 completions, 3,865 yards passing, and 8.6 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), but Brady doesn’t have a great matchup: The Steelers are 10th against the pass in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), and No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden (leg) seems likely to return. Brady struggles against interior pressure, and the Steelers have two of Pro Football Focus’ 10 highest-ranked interior pass rushers in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. It helps that tight end Rob Gronkowski (suspension) will return to action — Brady without Gronk is a different quarterback — and Gronk will have a much easier time without stud linebacker Ryan Shazier (back, Injured Reserve) covering him, but this matchup doesn’t look particularly kind to Angry Tom. He has the potential to go off in any given game, and Brady has a position-high ceiling projection in our DraftKings Models, but the Steelers have held opponents below their implied Vegas totals in eight games. Brady investors have some cause for concern.
Aaron Rodgers ($6,800 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): In case you didn’t hear . . .
Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) cleared for Week 15. https://t.co/zci3iqWkAc
— FantasyLabs NFL (@FantasyLabsNFL) December 13, 2017
. . . Rodgers (collarbone) is back. Before his injury in Week 6, Rodgers led the league with 13 touchdowns passing in Weeks 1-5, was the frontrunner for the Most Valuable Player award, and had 24.0 DraftKings and 22.0 FanDuel PPG. He has a tough matchup against the Panthers defense, which is seventh in pass DVOA, and the Packers could try to take some pressure off him in his return by featuring rookie running back Jamaal Williams, but the 7-6 Packers have a chance to make the playoffs: They’ll need Rodgers to throw the ball. Even though he’s been out of football for the last two months, Rodgers is the story of Week 15. He’s the sign that the fantasy gawds giveth as well as taketh.
Ben Roethlisberger ($6,700 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel): The fantasy gawds continue to giveth. The last time the Steelers had a home game on the main slate was Week 7. That was literally half a season ago. Roethlisberger has easily been the NFL’s best home quarterback since at least 2014 — his +8.27 DraftKings and +6.36 FanDuel Plus/Minus values at Heinz Field are mythic — and he’s facing a Pats team allowing top-five fantasy marks to quarterbacks with 20.6 DraftKings and 19.2 FanDuel PPG.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): In his four career starts, Garoppolo has an 8.7 AY/A. That’s pretty good. In his two starts with the 49ers he’s completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 627 yards and an 8.0 AY/A. The 49ers are favorites for the first time this season — and when a team with only three wins is favored it’s significant. The Titans defense is 23rd in pass DVOA, and the 49ers play at the league’s fastest pace (25.35 seconds per play) and have the third-highest passing rate (63.5 percent).
Jared Goff ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): Before his Week 8 bye, Goff had zero 300-yard/multi-touchdown games; after the bye, he’s had three. His ownership will be low, as the Rams are +2.0 road underdogs, but the Seahawks are vulnerable: Defensive end Cliff Avril (neck), cornerback Richard Sherman (Achilles), and safety Kam Chancellor (neck) are on IR, and linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion) exited Week 14 early and are questionable for Week 15. The Seahawks just gave up 268 yards and two touchdowns on only 27 attempts to someone whose name rhymes with “chortles.”
Blake Bortles ($5,700 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): The Jaguars are last in the league with a 49.8 percent passing rate, and they probably won’t need to throw as -10.5 home favorites, but the Texans have allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 21.2 DraftKings and 19.6 FanDuel PPG. Sex is great, but have you ever put Bortles into 150 tournament lineups and then rode on in the friscalating dusklight?
Case Keenum ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): Since Teddy Bridgewater was activated in Week 10, Keenum has played at a peak level, completing 70.8 percent of his passes for 274.6 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game. The Vikings now look like the top team in the NFC and are -11.0 home favorites against a Bengals team that just allowed the Bears to score 33 points.
Marcus Mariota ($5,900 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel): He’s been a hobbled disaster this season, but Mariota’s a potential pivot play for the slate. Only Browns rookie DeShone Kizer has thrown more interceptions this year than Mariota’s 14, but Mariota’s 62.2 percent completion rate is in line with his career average, and he’s facing the 49ers, who have allowed quarterbacks to score top-four fantasy marks of 20.4 DraftKings and 19.6 FanDuel PPG. Only the Browns (28) have allowed more total touchdowns to quarterbacks than the 49ers (27).
Blaine Gabbert ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): Gabbert has started to lose some of his shine, but the Cardinals have a +1.31 Vegas Plus/Minus with him, and in his 17 post-Jacksonville starts Gabbert has scored 16.66 DraftKings and 16.16 FanDuel PPG with +2.33 and +3.22 Plus/Minus values. The Cardinals are +4.5 road dogs, but the Redskins have lost four of their last five games, and their disintegrating defense has allowed 30 PPG over that span.
Joe Flacco ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): For the last two weeks Flacco hasn’t looked like the worst quarterback in the league with his 8.1 AY/A, and the Ravens are -7.5 road favorites against the Browns, who have a quarterback-friendly funnel defense ranked first against the run but 28th against the pass in DVOA.
Kirk Cousins ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Cousins is just as good this year as he was in 2015-16 (7.9 AY/A vs. 7.9), and the Redskins are -4.5 home favorites, but the Cardinals are eighth in pass DVOA. In the three games since the Week 11 season-ending injury to running back and pass-catching extraordinaire Chris Thompson (leg), the Redskins have averaged 15.7 PPG and Cousins has a zero percent Consistency Rating.
The Model Quarterbacks
There are four quarterbacks atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek).
- Russell Wilson ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel)
- Drew Brees ($6,500 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel)
- Cam Newton ($6,400 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel)
- Nick Foles ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel)
Wilson just put up 24.84 fantasy points against the Jaguars last week: It doesn’t matter who he faces. He doesn’t have a great matchup against the Rams defense, which is third in pass DVOA with a solid secondary and strong pass rushers in tackle Aaron Donald and edge Robert Quinn, but the Seahawks are -2.0 home favorites implied for 25.0 points. A notoriously slow starter, Wilson has been the No. 1 fantasy quarterback since his Week 6 bye, passing for 2,305 yards, rushing for 328 yards, and scoring 23 total touchdowns in his past eight games. Wilson has strong correlation with tight end Jimmy Graham and his wide receivers, but they likely won’t have exorbitant ownership. Use our Lineup Builder to create Seahawks stacks with Wilson, who leads the position with his median and floor projections and is the highest-rated FanDuel quarterback in the Bales Model.
Brees is back at the Coors Field of fantasy football, but he’s not the Brees of seasons past. He is still playing well — his 2017 AY/A of 8.3 is superior to his half-decade (2012-16) AY/A of 7.8 — and he always has the chance to go off for a 300-yard, three-touchdown game, especially at the Superdome, where he benefits from his legendary home/road splits, but Brees is averaging just 34 pass attempts per game compared to 41.5 for the previous five seasons. Unless the Saints have a negative game script they don’t seem likely to lean on the pass, and their status as -16.0 home favorites doesn’t suggest that they’ll need to throw. Still, Brees has a great matchup against the Jets, who have allowed top-five fantasy marks to quarterbacks with 20.1 DraftKings and 19.5 FanDuel PPG. The Saints have the slate’s highest passing points expectation, and we’re projecting Brees to be popular. He’s the No. 1 DraftKings quarterbacks in the Levitan and SportsGeek Models.
Newton has been inconsistent this year, but ever since the Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin his play has radically improved. He’s throwing the ball less often per game (33 attempts vs. 27.8) and accumulating fewer passing yards (229.2 vs. 175.8), but he’s scoring more total touchdowns (1.63 vs. 1.8), throwing far fewer interceptions (1.4 vs. 0.2), and running for way more yardage (31.9 vs. 66). Benjamin’s absence might not be the reason for Cam’s turnaround, but his departure at least hasn’t prevented Cam from producing. Wide receiver Devin Funchess has emerged as a viable No. 1 receiver, tight end Greg Olsen played 92.2 percent of the offensive snaps last week and seems to be healthy, and running back Christian McCaffrey is second only to Le’Veon Bell at his position with 67 receptions. Playing at home, Newton has a favorable matchup against the Packers, who have perhaps one of PFF’s worst collection of cornerbacks. Newton leads the position with eight Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he pulls off the Double Donk as the highest-rated quarterback in the Bales and CSURAM88 Models. He also leads the position with his ceiling projection on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 passer in the CSURAM88 and SportsGeek Models.
With Carson Wentz (knee) out for the rest of the season, it will be up to Foles to lead the Eagles to their fate. For this week at least, that fate looks good against the Giants, who have allowed the most points to quarterbacks with 21.2 DraftKings and 20.0 FanDuel PPG. The Eagles are first in the NFL with 31.1 PPG, and Foles is almost certainly a better quarterback than most fantasy players think. If we ignore his Jeff Fisher-tainted season (2015) with the Rams — and Goff and Keenum would recommend that we should — then we see a quarterback who in his first three seasons (2012-14) with the Eagles had a 7.7 AY/A and last year with the Chiefs had an 8.5 AY/A. In his 2013 Pro Bowl campaign, Foles was legitimately the most impressive non-Peyton Manning passer in the league. The Eagles have hit their implied Vegas total in an NFL-best 11 games, and Foles has a solid trio of wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Torrey Smith. Market share monster Zach Ertz (concussion) has cleared the league’s protocol and should be a big weapon for Foles, as the Giants have allowed a league-worst 10 touchdowns to tight ends. On the Week 15 Daily Fantasy Flex pod, my bold call was that Foles will finish the week as a top-three fantasy quarterback. He’s in a great spot, and he leads the position with an 80 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated quarterback in the Levitan Model.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Research the quarterbacks for yourself with our tools, and read the other Week 15 positional breakdowns.
Good luck this week!
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