Stream Derek Carr for Week 4
After an incredible first week and fine Week 2, the third week of the season — which featured the boldest picks thus far — was also the most disparate. Andy Dalton finished 2nd, Blake Bortles tied for 17th, and Nick Foles finished 28th; one quarterback for each third of production.
But Week 3 features some opportunities to bounce back.
First, we learned that Brandon Weeden is capable of completing some passes, but he’s a liability for folks looking to pick up any Dallas wide receivers. That said, Lance Dunbar figures to be a consistent contributor with Weeden in the lineup.
Second, Tyrod Taylor is for real. That should have been clear last week, but, well, there you have it. He’s still under 50-percent for the evening, so pick him up if you haven’t yet.
And third, Ryan Fitzpatrick is continuing to perform at a really consistent level. It’s not necessarily a really impressive level — he posted his worst PFF score of the season on Sunday — but having Brandon Marshall as a pass-catcher has never kept a quarterback from reaching his potential. Fitzpatrick has thrown two touchdowns each game of the season and, without Chris Ivory in the offense and Philadelphia leaping ahead to a 24-7 halftime lead, New York leaned on its passing game. It wasn’t great. Fitzpatrick passed for 100 fourth-quarter yards and threw two interceptions, en route to making it competitive game. Skip Fitzpatrick most weeks, but he’s good for 15 fantasy points in a pinch.
Notes on last week’s picks
Andy Dalton (383 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interceptions)
Andy Dalton finished as the number two overall fantasy quarterback last week. That didn’t help you if you instead followed the alternate suggestions below, but Dalton paired with AJ Green certainly didn’t disappoint. He now has the fourth-highest PFF rating among quarterbacks, trailing only Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
His poise against Baltimore was impressive. Dalton’s passer rating was actually better when he was blitzed, but it was never poor:
Basically, he’s making a very strong case to be considered a weekly QB1 in most formats. His 8 passing touchdowns trail only three other quarterbacks, and his one interception is very unlike the Dalton we expected this season. He faces Kansas City this week, which has consistently allowed plenty of passing yards and scores this season.
Blake Bortles (242 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception)
Bortles continued his pace this season of completing just over 50 percent of his passes, and it took some late game garbage-time to get up to 17 points. While it wasn’t a poor fantasy game when the whistle sounded, Bortles failed to live up to the expectations I set for him.
That said, his season is technically on the rise …
…but, jokes aside, it will be difficult to justify streaming him against most competent defenses.
This pick rested on the premise Pittsburgh would score quickly and frequently. Instead, the Steelers limped to a small lead and, after Ben Roethlisberger’s injury midway through the third quarter, limped a bit more to victory. St. Louis held the Steelers to 259 yards of offense, about 200 yards fewer than its offense averaged through the first two weeks.
In response, St. Louis didn’t take advantage. The Steelers held the Rams to 37 yards on 16 carries. Without a running game, Foles couldn’t move the chains. The offense ended up converting just 2-of-10 third downs, and went 0-for-2 on fourth downs. Throw in 97 penalty yards, and the Rams were ineffectual.
St. Louis bested a Kam Chancellor-less Seahawks defense in Week 1, but its offense has since struggled in consecutive weeks against defenses of varying quality. They have converted just 4-of-22 first downs over the past two weeks, and Nick Foles has passed for 347 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The decision to stream him Week 3 depended on him being the quarterback who led St. Louis back from a near-collapse against a division rival. Instead, we got the quarterback about whom Chip Kelly felt fine swapping for Sam Bradford.
Stream these three quarterbacks
Andy Dalton (39.6 percent) ($5,900) Cincinnati vs. Kansas City
Kansas City has surrendered 10 passing touchdowns this season, the five most recent coming from the arm of the NFL’s least-available quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Dalton, meanwhile, seems to have turned the corner. As noted above, he’s near the top of the NFL in passing touchdowns and PFF grades. That is thanks in no small part to his stellar offensive line. Dalton has been lights-out when he has time to find a target.
He has only faced pressure on 29 percent of his dropbacks, and he’s been sacked just twice. Whether he will continue to play this well depends on whether he faces pressure in the pocket.
That might not happen this week. Only Justin Houston has been a significant force in Kansas City’s pass rush (though, to be fair, he’s been very significant with an 8.4 rating), and the Chiefs’ pass rush ranks in the middle of the league. And though Kansas City has been excellent against the run, those numbers have been accrued against a string of backup, wounded, or struggling running backs. Expect the combination of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to drag Kansas City’s run defense out of the top three in the league.
Not that it will matter much. Dalton has been excellent whether throwing out of play action or straight dropback (his passer rating is roughly 120 in both instances), and he’s likely to throw a few more touchdowns this week. If you read Pro Football Focus’ justification for grading Aaron Rodgers below average this week (basically: his receivers did the heavy lifting), you can expect the same from Dalton’s receivers: they rank third in the NFL in yards-after-catch-per-reception.
Derek Carr (19.9 percent) ($5,300) Oakland at Chicago
Derek Carr has topped 300 yards passing in two consecutive games, passing for five touchdowns in that span. He also posted his highest PFF grade of the season last week (+1.4), so prospects are excellent going into Week 4 against arguably the worst defense he’s faced this season.
Chicago has surrendered 105 points against three excellent quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, and Russell Wilson. While it may be early in the season to slip Derek Carr into the same sentence as that group, he’s holding his own. His accuracy percentage trails Palmer by just 0.2 points. And from a fantasy-first perspective, his rate of 0.55 points per dropback ranks 9th in the league, comfortably ahead of Wilson (0.43) and a fair distance from Rodgers (0.74), who ranks first.
Throw in the fact Chicago just sent Jared Allen, its second-highest rated defensive player, to Carolina, and Derek Carr’s offense appears teed-up to post its best week yet.
Joe Flacco (44.2 percent) ($6,000) Baltimore at Pittsburgh
This is undoubtedly the riskiest suggested stream this week, as it features a game that could devolve into a class Baltimore-Pittsburgh slugfest, despite neither defense being very ferocious. These games have a way of doing that.
But that will not happen if Pittsburgh struggles to generate a pass rush, or to cover Steve Smith. Only Stephon Tuitt, who has an impressive +6.1 pass rush rating, stands out. Unless he gets some help, Joe Flacco will post another big week. As pointed out in previous columns, he’s terrible under pressure, and excellent when given ample time.
The second part of the equation is Pittsburgh’s coverage, which ranks 30th this season and doesn’t inspire much confidence. Kamar Aiken (-3.1) and Marlon Brown (-2.9) aren’t likely to tear Pittsburgh’s defense apart, but the ageless Steve Smith (+6.2) is. His 23 receptions the past two weeks trail only Julio Jones, while he’s second-to-none in yards (336).