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.
Although teams have significantly underperformed their implied Vegas totals to open the year, Week 6 was fantastic as several teams outperformed expectations by double-digit point totals. With seven home underdogs, Week 7 is intriguing despite the absence of several desirable quarterbacks, such as Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, et al. 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 12-game DraftKings and 13-game FanDuel main slates.
The Big Two (or Four)
With the loss of Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), the quarterback landscape is drastically different this week. It also doesn’t help that the Falcons-Patriots game is available on the FanDuel (but not the DraftKings) main slate. As a result, quarterback strategy on the two sites will likely differ. In this weird week, there are two (or four) quarterbacks at the top of the salary scale.
- Tom Brady ($8,000 DraftKings, $9,200 FanDuel)
- Matt Ryan ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel)
- Drew Brees ($7,600 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel)
- Dak Prescott ($7,300 DraftKings, $8,400 FanDuel)
“Fear is the Path to the Dark Side: Fear Leads to Anger, Anger Leads to Hate, Hate Leads to Victories”
The season hasn’t gone as planned, but the Patriots enter their Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons atop the AFC East. The Falcons-Pats game leads the week with a 55.0-point over/under, and the Pats are implied for a slate-high 29.25 points as -3.5 home favorites. After a disappointing Week 1 performance in which he completed just 44.4 percent of his passes, Brady has been on a tear over the last five weeks, throwing for 1,692 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 69.5 percent completion rate. He leads the league with 326.5 yards per game and has been playing at a peak level ever since returning from his Deflategate suspension. In his 18 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.
That said, Brady doesn’t have a great matchup. This Falcons defense is (probably) not the same unit he torched for 466 yards and two touchdowns in February. Quarterbacks have struggled against the Falcons this year, averaging just 15.6 DraftKings and 14.8 FanDuel points per game (PPG) with -1.17 and -1.96 Plus/Minus values. On DraftKings, only Rodgers has hit salary-based expectations against the Falcons; on FanDuel, no quarterback has. The Falcons trail only the Steelers, Bengals, and Jaguars with their 5.3 net yards allowed per attempt, and only one of their five starting defensive backs has a Pro Football Focus grade lower than 70.0. At the same time, the Falcons defense has the third-lowest turnover rate (6.0 percent) and fifth-highest rate of drives ending with a score (40.0 percent). Brady has the position’s highest median, ceiling, and floor projections in our Models and will be popular among all quarterbacks in the FanDuel main slate.
With 15.38 DraftKings and 14.58 FanDuel PPG and -5.03 and -4.46 Plus/Minus values, Ryan has disappointed this season as a fantasy quarterback — but he hasn’t been bad in actuality. He’s just regressed back to his pre-2016 self:
- 2017 AY/A: 7.1
- 2016 AY/A: 10.1 (league- and career-high mark)
- 2008-15 AY/A: 7.1
Ryan’s not bad, but he’s no longer the All-Pro
Super Bowl-winning quarterback. He’s just Sarah Marshall’s husband. It also doesn’t help him that the Falcons are 23rd in neutral pace (31.63 second per play, Football Outsiders) and dead last in average drive starting position (own 24.0-yard line). The offense, though, is still doing well, currently top-six in plays, yards, time of possession, and points per drive. Ryan and the Falcons aren’t as dynamic this year — they’re 12th in scoring with 24.2 PPG — but they’re still good.
This week the Falcons might turn their per-drive production into a lot of points. They travel to Foxborough in search of pseudo-revenge as +3.5 road dogs against the Patriots, who have allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year with 28.0 DraftKings and 25.0 FanDuel PPG. Ryan should benefit from a pass-leaning game script, and the Pats are allowing an NFL-high 7.8 net yards per attempt (NY/A) as the only team to let every opposing quarterback hit salary-based expectations. Ryan is yet to have a 300-yard, multi-touchdown game this season, but if there were ever a week for him to get one this would be it.
When the Saints Go Marching Into the End Zone
You are now allowed to start panicking about Brees. Although the Saints scored an unreal 52 points at the Coors Field of fantasy football, Brees attempted only 31 passes and threw for only 186 yards and two touchdowns — and this isn’t an isolated event. 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 264.2 yards yards per game, his lowest mark since his 2005 season with the Chargers. Brees is still playing well — his 2017 AY/A of 7.8 is identical with his half-decade AY/A from 2012-16 — but Brees is averaging just 36.6 attempts per game compared to 41.5 for the previous five seasons. That’s #notgood.
This week, though, Brees might get his voodoo back. The Saints are -5.5 road favorites implied for 26.75 points, and the Packers are dealing with lots of injuries in their secondary. Safety/slot cornerback Morgan Burnett (hamstring) and outside cornerbacks Davon House (quad) and Kevin King (concussion) — all of whom are starters when healthy — missed Week 5 and are questionable for Week 6. On top of that, slot corner Quinten Rollins (Achilles) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6 and is now on Injured Reserve. Additionally, no one in the Packers secondary except for Burnett has a Pro Football Focus grade that’s even average, and most of the healthy defensive backs — cornerback Damarious Randall, free safety Kentrell Brice, and safety/dime linebacker Josh Jones — all have PFF grades below 50.0. If Brees doesn’t crush in this spot, we might need to rethink his status as a weekly top-tier option.
The Young & the Sexless
Dak has reportedly decided to abstain from sexual activity with his new girlfriend until the season is over or the Cowboys are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It’s probably just a coincidence the Cowboys lost their last two games, right? I’m sure it hasn’t crossed Dak’s mind that if he loses the next six games and everything falls right he could have a lot to be thankful for on Black Friday. Phrased differently: Why would anyone be distracted by the possibility of getting to have sex soon with someone attractive enough to catch the attention of a good-looking 24-year-old superstar? As for this week . . .
The Cowboys are 17th in the NFL with a 41.69 percent rushing rate; last year they were first with 48.7 percent. The team is transitioning to a Dak-centric offense, as he has attempted at least 36 passes in four of five games. As a passer and runner, he has an almost unrivaled upside: Over his last four games, he has scored 12 total touchdowns. On the season he’s fourth on DraftKings and second on FanDuel among all quarterbacks with 22.46 PPG. This week the Cowboys are implied for 26.25 points as -6.0 road favorites 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 PFF grades of under 50.0. For people who want Konami Code capability near the top of the salary range, Dak is the choice.
Marcus Mariota ($6,900 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel): Mariota (hamstring) didn’t seem fully mobile in Week 6, but he did pass for 306 yards and complete 71.9 percent of his 32 passes against the Colts — and now he faces the Browns, who are dead last against the pass in FO’s Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). We’re projecting him for single-digit ownership.
Ben Roethlisberger ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Hindenburger has been a disaster this year with -4.68 DraftKings and -4.94 FanDuel Plus/Minus values. He’s yet to hit his salary-based expectations in any game this year, and he has a tough matchup against a Bengals defense that is third in DVOA, but the Steelers are -5.0 favorites at Heinz Field, where Roethliberger has been the league’s best home quarterback with 26.18 DraftKings and 23.72 FanDuel PPG since 2014.
Russell Wilson ($6,400 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): Wilson is in play as a -5.5 road favorite against the Giants — but the Seahawks’ Vegas data is concerning. Since the spread opened, it has moved against them by 2.5 points points even though 54 percent of the spread bets are on the Seahawks. As evidenced by the negative reverse line movement, some sharp money is against Seattle.
Blake Bortles ($4,700 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): Bortles leads the slate with a 100 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings. The Jags are -3.0 favorites against the Colts, who have allowed top-four fantasy marks of 22.8 DraftKings and 20.8 FanDuel PPG. This is what desperation looks like.
Deshone Kizer ($4,900 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel) or Kevin Hogan ($5,000 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel): The Browns will likely have a pass-leaning game script as +5.5 home dogs, and the Titans have allowed top-eight marks of 20.7 DraftKings and 20.0 FanDuel PPG to quarterbacks. One of these guys is going to start against them.
Philip Rivers ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,900 FanDuel): The Broncos are surprisingly 18th in pass DVOA this year, and in Week 1 Rivers passed for three touchdowns against them. The Chargers are -1.5 home favorites, and Rivers will have almost nonexistent ownership rates.
Josh McCown ($5,200 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel): McCown is a potential pivot play with his 15.34 DraftKings and 14.34 FanDuel PPG since the return from suspension of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in Week 3. The Jets are +3.0 road dogs and will likely have a pass-skewed game script against the Dolphins, who have a funnel defense that is second against the rush and 28th against the pass in DVOA. In his Week 3 matchup against the Dolphins, McCown had his most efficient game of the year (11.7 AY/A) and hit salary-based expectations.
Cam Newton ($7,000 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel): Although Newton started the season slowly, only Watson has more than his 29.97 DraftKings and 27.97 FanDuel PPG over the last few weeks. The Bears have held quarterbacks to the eighth-fewest fantasy points this season with 15.0 DraftKings and 14.2 FanDuel PPG — but at single-digit projected ownership Newton warrants exposure in guaranteed prize pools.
Brett Hundley ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Hundley was a good dual-threat three-year starter at California-Los Angeles and has spent two-plus years learning Green Bay’s system as the backup. Given that he’s at home, likely to have a pass-leaning game script against the Saints, and throwing to the best wide receiver trio in the league in Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb, Hundley has upside.
The Model Quarterbacks
There are two quarterbacks atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Carson Palmer ($6,600 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel)
- Tyrod Taylor ($5,100 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel)
What a difference a week makes. Last week Palmer was a guy in need of an improved running game and offensive line — and then running back Adrian Peterson was acquired from the Saints and left tackle D.J. Humphries returned from injury (knee). Voilà — and the Cardinals scored 38 points. It’s not as if the Cardinals no longer have any offensive weaknesses, but their offense is better — and they’ll still need to throw the ball this week as +3.5 dogs against the Rams in the London game. Palmer is first in the league with 249 attempts and 154 completions and second with 309.3 yards per game. Use our Lineup Builder to stack Palmer with a receiver, such as Larry Fitzgerald, who leads the league with 12 targets inside the red zone and is a market share maven. Palmer leads the position with an 80 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated quarterback in the Levitan Model.
A Konami Code specialist who leads all quarterbacks with 1,269 yards rushing since 2015, Tyrod is a go-to pay-down cash game play, especially in slates lacking a surplus of high-end options. Even without his primary receiver in tight end Charles Clay (knee), Taylor is in play against a Buccaneers defense that is 31st in overall DVOA and also pass DVOA. Aside from cornerback Brent Grimes, no nickel-package defensive back for the Bucs has a PFF grade that’s even average. Taylor leads the position with six Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the consensus top quarterback in the Pro Models. Naturally, he’s also first in Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated quarterback in the Bales, CSURAM88, and SportsGeek Models. Tygod is likely to be chalky.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the quarterbacks for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 7 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players herein mentioned. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed: