The best fantasy QB options to stream for Week 14
Week 13 was an all-around ugly one for quarterbacks, as only Joe Flacco (4), Andrew Luck (4) and Carson Palmer (3) managed to generate more than two touchdowns.
Each week throughout the season in this space, my aim has been to highlight three potential QB1 streaming options from players owned in less than half of ESPN leagues. Of course, some weeks the chalk dominated and my recommendations came up empty, while other weeks I wound up looking pretty smart. If I can take away one lesson from this season-long exercise of scouring the waiver wire to try and find that week’s generic version of Tom Brady: it’s stressful being one of the have-nots. Sure, QB is deep enough not to reach for one on fantasy draft day, but with 20 QBs owned in more than half of ESPN leagues, you don’t want to be that guy or girl shopping for necessities at the dollar store every week.
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Now that playoffs have started and the stakes have been raised, we’re going to adjust the rules a bit. After all, I’d be doing you a disservice to recommend starting, say, Ryan Fitzpatrick in an elimination game, and you (rightfully) wouldn’t take me seriously. But perhaps you (rightfully) aren’t too crazy about starting Marcus Mariota against Denver. With that being said, the premise of this piece for Week 14 is to use PFF data to highlight the top-five QB options who figure to be owned already in your league, but who are likely sitting on your bench. Most of these options are also priced outside the top-12 weekly QB salaries on FanDuel. In other words, QB1s with the public perception of a QB2.
As always around this time of year, keep tabs on weather forecasts before locking in those lineups.
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Kirk Cousins (WAS @ PHI) – 80.8% owned/38.6% started/16th in FanDuel salary
Cousins sits sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring for the season. He also ranks third in fantasy points per dropback (0.60) over the last four weeks, and since Week 8, he ranks third in fantasy points per game (23.8), behind only Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota. For the season, Cousins is sixth in PFF QB rating (95.12) and boasts the second-highest QB rating on deep passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield (126.2).
While Cousins did struggle against the blitz in Sunday’s loss at Arizona — his QB rating dropped from a 96.1 to a 56.7 when blitzed — this week he’ll face an Eagles pass rush that has all but disappeared in recent weeks. In fact, the Eagles are allowing an average of 300 passing yards over their last four games and are our 22nd-graded unit in pass coverage for the season. With losses in five of their last six to drop out of playoff contention, the Eagles look like a team that’s already quit on first-year coach Doug Pederson. As our Jeff Ratcliffe noted after Philadelphia’s Week 13 loss at Cincinnati, starting corners Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll gave up a combined 11 catches on 13 targets for 173 yards. And then there is rookie corner Jalen Mills, PFF’s worst-graded CB in coverage for the season.
If you played it smart and kept Cousins on your bench at Arizona this past week, now is a good time to strongly consider inserting him back into your starting lineup.
Jameis Winston (TB vs. NO) – 69.9%/28.5%/fourth in FanDuel salary
Winston may be down to practice-squad wideouts after Mike Evans, but this week he gets a dream matchup when the New Orleans Saints pay a visit. The matchup easily marks the week’s highest game total (51.5) set by Las Vegas oddsmakers. After all, the Saints were tagged for three passing scores by rookie Jared Goff just last week, and they have yielded the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing passers this season. Our analysts at PFF have New Orleans graded fourth-worst in pass coverage.
As for Winston, he sports a 75.5 adjusted completion percentage since Week 9 along with a 3:1 TD:INT ratio in that span. He led yet another comeback win this past Sunday in San Diego, taking advantage of a Chargers pass rush that failed to generate pressure on 22-of-32 dropbacks. Winston had a 123.7 passer rating when not pressured, as he completed 16-of-21 passes for 213 yards and a score. He also did a nice job recognizing the blitz, posting a 110.6 rating on 9-of-11 passing for 136 yards with one touchdown, one interception and no sacks. The Saints will have to pick their poison in this one.
Carson Palmer (ARI @ MIA) – 75.1%/30.9%/17th in FanDuel salary
Since Week 8, Palmer is averaging QB1 numbers with 19.2 fantasy points per game. Operating behind a patchwork offensive line against Washington in Week 13, Palmer was sacked only twice as he completed 30-of-46 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He has raised his level of play in each of the last three contests, and this week he faces a Dolphins defense that has yielded the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs this season.
Palmer was among our top-graded passers in Week 13 (81.0), as he operated with efficiency while avoiding mistakes. He put the game away with a beautiful play-action pass on a late second-and-10 just past midfield, connecting with J.J. Nelson for a 42-yard scoring strike to ice the victory. Of his 30 completions, 25 traveled less than 10 yards in the air, but Palmer picked his spot to take a shot downfield, and the result was the deciding dagger. Miami can get after the quarterback, so the pocket may not be as clean this week, but Palmer has been on a roll and warrants a spot in starting lineups this week.
Andy Dalton (CIN @ CLE) – 59.4%/7.6%/14th in FanDuel salary
Who needs A.J. Green, anyway? And for that matter, who really needs Tyler Eifert? While Green missed Cincinnati’s Week 13 tilt against Philadelphia due to a hamstring injury, Eifert played but was targeted only twice. Instead, Dalton spread the ball around, connecting with nine different receivers en route to 332 yards and two scores on 23-of-31 passing.
Not only did Dalton complete 74.2 percent of his passes (three incompletions were throwaways, and another was batted at the line), he was 6-of-8 for 103 yards and a 116.7 passer rating against the blitz. And despite not having Green, he completed 5-of-6 “deep” passes for 159 yards and a score, showing nice rapport downfield with Brandon LaFell and rookie Cody Core. All told, Dalton was our top-graded QB this past Sunday.
For the season, Dalton sits in the top-10 in PFF QB rating, thanks in large part to his downfield passing. He’s ninth in adjusted completion percentage (49.1) on passes targeted 20 yards or more downfield, and his 27 completions on such throws are tied with Drew Brees for the most in the league. This week, he gets a Browns defense graded 27th in pass coverage by our analysts. In fact, the Browns have three qualified (25% of snaps played) safeties ranked in the bottom-10 of our positional coverage grades for the season.
Eli Manning (NYG vs. DAL) – 75.4%/29.1%/13th in FanDuel salary
While not my first choice, given the occasional dud performance that always lies around the corner, Manning has been mostly steady since the Giants’ Week 8 bye. Of course, he disappointed in a favorable matchup at Pittsburgh over the weekend, throwing for only 195 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (one of which came at the goal line). Still, Manning is in position to rebound in Week 14 in a pivotal matchup against Dallas.
While the Cowboys have been one of our better-graded teams in pass coverage throughout the season, they are allowing a league-high average of 345 passing yards over their last four games. And despite the lackluster Week 13 showing by Manning, he’s been markedly better at home all season (93.5 home rating vs. 82.5 road rating). He’s also averaging a hair under three passing TDs per tilt over the five games since the Giants’ bye.