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The NFL season rolls on. Teams have significantly underperformed their implied Vegas totals to open the year, but Week 6 looks like a beauty. Even with many desirable quarterbacks unavailable because they are on bye or in games not on the main slate — Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, and others — Week 6 shines with fantasy splendor.
For analysis of the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games, see Joe Holka’s Thursday night breakdown and Justin Bailey’s prime time breakdown (out later this week). Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the 11-game DraftKings and 12-game FanDuel main slates.
The Big Three
There are three quarterbacks at the top of the salary scale this week:
- Tom Brady ($8,300 DraftKings, $9,500 FanDuel)
- Aaron Rodgers ($7,300 DraftKings, $9,000 FanDuel)
- Drew Brees ($7,200 DraftKings, $8,600 FanDuel)
“Fear is the Path to the Dark Side: Fear Leads to Anger, Anger Leads to Hate, Hate Leads to Victories”
The dream of a redemptive 18-1 season is dead, and the Patriots enter Week 6 in a three-way tie for first in the AFC East at 3-2. On the road against the Jets (who have three straight wins), the Pats are -9.5 favorites and third on the slate with an implied total of 28.5 points. Whoever wins this game will have sole possession of first place and control of the division. Angry Tom doesn’t need extra motivation, but he has it. Brady has a lingering injury in his non-throwing shoulder, but he’s fully expected to play this weekend.
After completing just 44.4 percent of his passes in New England’s season-opening home loss, Brady has been on a tear. In Weeks 2-5 he had perhaps the best four-game stretch of his career, throwing for 1,435 yards and 11 touchdowns with a 73.6 percent completion rate. Despite having the league’s highest average implied total at 28.9 points per game (PPG), the Patriots are top-10 with their +0.70 Vegas Plus/Minus. Even with the highest expectations in the league, the Pats are outperforming. Brady’s matchup isn’t great — the Jets are middle of the road with 17.6 DraftKings and 17.4 FanDuel PPG allowed to quarterbacks — but Brady has the highest floor projections in our Models. That said, with the other options available Brady won’t be especially chalky.
From a Vegas perspective, it’s worth noting that there’s reason to be cautious about the Pats: Favorites of more than a touchdown in divisional games are 149-187 against the spread.
Rodgers led the league with 40 touchdowns last year, and through five weeks this year he’s first with 13. While his 6.9 percent touchdown rate might seem unsustainable — Brady has a 5.4 percent rate since 2013 — Rodgers actually averaged 6.6 percent last year and 7.0 percent for the five years before that. Rodgers is more than capable of maintaining his prolific pace. Over the last 12 months he’s started 20 games (including playoffs): In those contests, he’s averaged 2.65 touchdowns per game (to only 0.45 interceptions). It doesn’t hurt that he’s also averaged 296.2 yards in those games.
Intriguingly, the Packers aren’t in a great spot this week, so Rodgers could have reduced ownership. The Packers are -3.0 road favorites against the divisional rival Vikings, who have a respectable pass rush with edge ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter and a solid secondary with shadow cornerback Xavier Rhodes, slot corner Terence Newman, and free safety Harrison Smith. While the defensive-minded Mike Zimmer has been the head coach for the Vikings, Rodgers has hit salary-based expectations in only one of six games against Minnesota, so there is reason to think that Rodgers might not be at his best this week, especially since he has historically been not as good on the road on a per-game basis . . .
- At home (70 games): 273.2 yards, 2.41 touchdowns, 0.46 interceptions
- On road (67 games): 267.4 yards, 2.00 touchdowns, 0.60 interceptions
. . . but Rodgers has been owned at just 5.0 percent against Minnesota, which gives him a lot of value in this slate. Right now we’re projecting him for less than 5.0 percent ownership. As weird as this sounds, Rodgers is a pivot quarterback for Week 6.
When the Saints Go Marching Into the End Zone
It’s been almost a month since we’ve seen Brees at the Coors Field of fantasy football, but this week he finally gets a home game at the Superdome, where the Saints are -6.0 favorites against the Lions with a slate-high over/under of 49.5 points. There’s been some intriguing action on this game. The sharp money seems to be on the Saints: The line has moved toward them by 2.5 points even though 69 percent of the spread bets are on the Lions. At the same time, sharp enthusiasm for this game is muted: The line has moved down from 50.5 even though 75 percent of the over/under bets are on the over. The Saints look good with their implied total of 27.75 points, but this contest could be a game-stack trap.
It’s intriguing that, while Brees is normally a yardage accumulator, leading the league in passing in seven of his 11 seasons with New Orleans and in each of his three seasons (2011-12, 2016) with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael as the play caller, this year Brees is averaging ‘just’ 283.8 yards per game. Brees is still playing well — his 8.5 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) is better than his half-decade AY/A of 7.8 from 2012-16 — but Brees is averaging just 38 attempts per game this year compared to 41.5 for the previous five seasons. The Saints are still playing fast — they’re sixth in neutral pace (Football Outsiders) — so it’s possible that Brees’ dip in volume and yardage is just the result of short-term variance, but his usage should be monitored. For this week, at least, he seems to have the nut hand with the highest ceiling projections in our Models and a position-high seven Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the highest-rated quarterback in the SportsGeek Model.
Josh McCown ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): The Jets are +9.5 home dogs to the Pats, who are dead last in FO’s Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). McCown should benefit from a pass-heavy game script, and the Pats are allowing an NFL-high 8.2 net yards per attempt (NY/A). Completing a career-high 71.4 percent of his passes, McCown is projected for almost nonexistent ownership. The Patriots are the only team this year to allow every opposing quarterback to hit salary-based expectations.
Matthew Stafford ($6,500 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel): Stafford has six straight 4,250-yard campaigns, but five games into the season he’s averaging just 223.2 yards per game. A +6.0 road dog, Stafford is likely to have a pass-leaning game script in a traditionally good spot, but the Lions are implied for only 21.75 points, and they’ve had negative reverse line movement on both the spread and the over/under. Given that we’re projecting Stafford to be one of the slate’s chalkiest quarterbacks and he’s dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries, he actually might be a fade candidate — and I can’t believe I’m saying that.
Philip Rivers ($6,600 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Rivers is completing less than 60.0 percent of his passes and hasn’t had an AY/A as low as his 6.8 since the Norv Turner era. Nevertheless, he’s had only one stinker of a game (Week 3 vs. the Chiefs), hitting salary-based expectations in 80 percent of his games. The Chargers are on the road, but it’s not as if they have a home-field advantage in Los Angeles anyway, and at least they’re facing the Raiders, who are 30th in pass DVOA. Rivers leads the position with a 73 percent FanDuel Bargain Rating.
Alex Smith ($6,400 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Smith’s impersonation of a non-game manager has been convincing through five weeks, evidenced by his +7.18 DraftKings and +6.94 FanDuel Plus/Minus values, but his league-high 76.6 percent completion rate and 10.2 AY/A seem likely to regress toward his pre-2017 Andy Reid-driven marks of 64.5 percent and 7.2 AY/A. The Chiefs are -4.0 home favorites and could opt for a run-heavy approach against the Steelers, who are holding quarterbacks to the second-fewest fantasy points of the season with 9.8 PPG.
Jared Goff ($5,000 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel): Goff leads the position with a 7.74 NY/A and 100 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings! — but he’s a +2.5 road dog facing a Jaguars defense that’s first in pass DVOA and interceptions (10). Aside from two big games against the bottom-feeding Colts and 49ers pass defense units, Goff has completed 53.7 percent of his passes this season. He’s better than he was last year, but if he reaches 1.0 percent ownership in guaranteed prize pools that might be too high.
Matt Ryan ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): The Falcons are -11.5 home favorites implied for a slate-high 28.75 points — but in the Dan Quinn era Ryan has been subpar as a home favorite with -1.25 DraftKings and -1.34 FanDuel Plus/Minus values and 35.7 percent Consistency Ratings. The Dolphins are 29th in pass DVOA and wonderfully exploitable, but that doesn’t mean Ryan will exploit them. Much of Atlanta’s production could go to the running backs.
Ben Roethlisberger ($5,700 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel): This week the Steelers are implied for 21.0 points as +4.0 road underdogs. Does it even matter who they’re playing? Also, when I think of Roethlisberger, I imagine a guy who wakes up, picks himself up off the bathroom floor, has some hair of the dog, and then drives to Steelers practice in his truck while listening to Nickelback: “Someday, somehow / I’m gonna make it alright, but not right now / I know you’re wondering when.” Metaphorically, of course.
The Model Quarterbacks
Besides Brees, there are four quarterbacks atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Kirk Cousins ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel)
- Deshaun Watson ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel)
- Jameis Winston ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel)
- Carson Palmer ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel)
Although Cousins’ per-game volume is down this year — 30.25 pass attempts vs. 35.9 in 2015-16; 251.0 yards passing vs. 283.8 — he’s playing more efficiently than ever: 9.1 AY/A vs. 7.9. The Redskins are -10.5 home favorites implied for a slate-high 28.75 points against the 49ers, who have perhaps the league’s worst cornerback trio in Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, and K’Wuan Williams, all of whom have poor Pro Football Focus grades of under 45.0. It doesn’t help that free safety Jimmie Ward has a 41.5 PFF grade. It’s not a bad week to use our Lineup Builder to stack Cousins with his receivers. Cousins is the highest-rated FanDuel quarterback in the CSURAM88 Model.
Watson has been a revelation over his last three games, throwing for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns (to three interceptions) with a 64.3 percent completion rate and adding 96 yards and another touchdown on 15 rushes — and let’s not forget the two-point conversion. The Texans are -10.0 home favorites implied for 28.25 points against the Browns, who have a pass-flowing funnel defense that’s third against the run and 31st against the pass in DVOA. On the Week 6 NFL Daily Fantasy Flex, Watson was the first person we talked about as a chalk lock. Get used to hearing me call him Deshaun Chalkson: Watson might be the greatest first-month NFL rookie in the history of the universe. He’s the highest-rated quarterback in the Bales and CSURAM88 Models for DraftKings and the Bales and SportsGeek Models for FanDuel, where he leads the position in Pro Trends.
Aside from a 29-7 Week 2 victory over the Bears with a run-skewed game script, Winston has over 300 yards passing in each game. The Bucs are -2.0 road favorites against the Cardinals, who this season have allowed 20.2 DraftKings and 19.6 FanDuel PPG to quarterbacks. On the season, Winston has targeted wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans with 58 percent of the air yards, and Arizona is 27th in pass DVOA on deep passes. There’s some stacking upside with the Tampa Bay receivers and Winston, who’s the highest-rated DraftKings quarterback in the Levitan Model.
Palmer is past his prime and playing behind an offensive line without its starting left tackle and guard in D.J. Humphries and Mike Iupati. Without running back David Johnson, this offense has struggled, putting up a -7.2 Vegas Plus/Minus. Still, Palmer is first and second in the league with 227 pass attempts and 314.6 yards per game. Facing a Bucs funnel defense that ranks sixth against the run and 27th against the pass in DVOA, Palmer is likely to throw the ball more than hand it to whatever washed-up veteran the Cardinals are putting in the backfield this week. Aside from cornerback Brent Grimes, no nickel-package defensive back for the Bucs has a PFF grade of even 45.0. Palmer is the highest-rated FanDuel quarterback in the Levitan Model.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the quarterbacks for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 6 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
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