The home stretch is in sight now for fantasy football players, with four or five games left until the playoff season starts. Owners of the top two quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III, will have to find other options this week. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of great matchups for backup or waiver-wire quarterbacks, but there are some, as you’ll see here.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (@ New Orleans)
If you have Matt Ryan, you’re starting him almost every week regardless of matchup. But this week he is far and away the best quarterback play, as he goes up against probably the worst secondary in the league in New Orleans. In their last 5 games, the Saints secondary has surrendered 334 passing yards per game, while also allowing 13 touchdowns over that span. 300 yards and 3 touchdowns are the minimum expectation for Ryan this week.
Note: Tom Brady faces Buffalo this week, who is 31st in points allowed to opposing fantasy quarterbacks. Seeing how much the Pats ran against the Bills in their last matchup, though, gives me cause for believing Brady might not have an amazing game. Still, at least 250 yards and 2 scores can be expected from Brady.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (@ Minnesota)
Stafford hasn’t been on his “A” game all year, but he has been playing much better of late. The team play of the Lions stopped Stafford from having a monster game against the Jaguars, as the team totaled four rushing touchdowns. Stafford has 319 passing yards and a rushing score in his first matchup with Minnesota, which gave him nearly 20 points. I like Stafford to have a big day against Minnesota, who has given up three passing touchdowns in each of their last 2 games.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (@ New England)
The Jekyll-and-Hyde act continues for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went without a touchdown against Houston last week. When Fitzpatrick has thrown for touchdowns this year, they have come in bunches (5 games with multiple pass TDs, 3 games with none), and they usually come in garbage time. Unless the Bills come out with a radically better game plan against the Patriots this week, there will be a lot of garbage time. Aqib Talib is serving the last game of his suspension and will not be able to help the Patriots secondary this week, so expect a huge, albeit ugly, fantasy day from Fitzpatrick.
Philip Rivers, San Diego (@ Tampa Bay)
Speaking of bad secondaries, Tampa Bay has a pretty bad one too, and opponents know it: no team facing the Buccaneers this season has thrown the ball less than 30 times in the game. While Rivers might not chuck four touchdowns like AFC West counterpart Carson Palmer did last week, Rivers should still find plenty of space to make plays through the air. With Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem both dealing with hamstring injuries, Rivers will have to look to secondary options such as Danario Alexander often, but this is a weak enough opponent that the fantasy upside is still there.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami (vs. Tennessee)
Need a deep quarterback play? Find the guy who’s playing Tennessee. This week, that guy is Ryan Tannehill. The Titans secondary has given up a passing touchdown in every game this season, and they only have six interceptions on the season. That bodes well for Tannehill, who hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4. While the upside isn’t very high with Tannehill in the Dolphins’ offense this week, the downside is minimal. If you’re really desperate, Tannehill will almost certainly be on the waiver wire (owned in just 14.3% of ESPN leagues).
Matt Schaub, Houston (@ Chicago)
If you can be sure of one fact in fantasy football week in and week out, it’s that quarterbacks don’t do well against the Bears. The most fantasy points they have allowed in a game was 15, to Tony Romo in week 4. Schaub has excelled due to the success of the play action pass, and there’s a chance that those plays could find holes in the stingy Bears secondary. But this defense is too good right now, and Schaub just isn’t an every-week play. Make sure you have another option this week.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia (vs. Dallas)
In case you missed the Monday night football game, Vick got abused by the Saints defensive line. Vick has no time to make his throws behind an offensive line with just one healthy starter. Facing off against DeMarcus Ware, plus trying to throw against a much-improved Dallas secondary, will make life difficult again for Vick this week.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore (vs. Oakland)
Flacco isn’t an awful play this week, as Oakland’s secondary ranks just 23rd in points surrendered to opposing quarterbacks. The problem lies in the fact that the Ravens should be running, and running, and running some more this week. After seeing Doug Martin run for 251 yards and 4 scores last week, Ray Rice has to be licking his chops at this matchup. Flacco also has thrown for less than 200 yards three of the last four weeks, and I don’t think he will do so this week either.