Welcome to week one FanDuelers. Here are my top 20 quarterbacks for kickoff week for the NFL. Good luck with your teams!
1. Drew Brees – NO vs. Atl – In 15 games against Atlanta, Brees has averaged 300 yards passing and two touchdowns per game. That’s pretty amazing for that many games. He hasn’t averaged over 300 yards passing against any team he’s faced more than 5 times. He’s easily my #1 pick this week with Rodgers heading to San Francisco.
2. Aaron Rodgers – GB at SF – The 49ers defense is tough, but Rodgers averaged 280 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception in two games against them last season. It’s nearly impossible to run on them so Rodgers will need to pass the ball. Jordy Nelson is ready to go along with Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley. They’ll be out for revenge after their playoff loss.
3. Matt Ryan – Atl at NO – In nine games against the Saints Ryan is averaging 280 yards passing and 1.5 touchdowns. Last season was a tale of two games with Ryan passing for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns in their week 10 loss to the Saints on the road and then a 165 yard, one touchdown performance at home in which they gave it over to the running game and intercepted Brees five times. You can’t count on Brees doing that again, so Ryan will need to pass.
4. Peyton Manning – Den vs. Bal – With the Broncos defense limited with Bailey and Miller out, there’s a good chance the Ravens will be able to score and Manning will have to throw even more. Last season he was shut down in Baltimore with only 204 yards passing and 1 touchdown, but in the playoffs at home he threw for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has added Wes Welker to the equation.
5. Tom Brady – NE at Buf – Brady owned the Bills last season averaging 288 yards and 2.5 touchdowns in their two matchups. For his career he has thrown 51 touchdowns against them in 22 games. He’s also faced the Dolphins and Jets 22 times each and has thrown 38 and 31 touchdowns against them. I think he may like playing the Bills. This time around he’ll have a new cast of characters, but it never seems to slow him down. Plus the Bills were the 6th worst last year at giving up fantasy points to quarterbacks and Jarius Byrd hurting, he should have an easy go of it.
6. Tony Romo – Dal vs. NYG – Romo has always put up good fantasy numbers against the Giants. For his career he’s averaging 269 yards passing and 2.7 touchdowns. Last year he averaged 372 yards passing and two touchdowns against them. He also threw a whole load of interceptions, but if he plays anything like last year’s season opener he’s a top quarterback this week.
7. Matthew Stafford – Det vs. Min – Last season Stafford faced the Vikings twice and threw for over 300 yards each time, but in one game he threw zero touchdowns and in the other he threw three. The good news is he only threw one interception. The Vikings pass defense lost Antoine Winfield and have gotten younger as well. The Lions will have trouble running the ball against the Vikings run defense so we should see plenty of passing.
8. Andrew Luck – Ind vs. Oak – Luck missed much of his rookie year’s off season work due to school and quickly had to learn a high risk/reward offense and it showed in his numbers, especially interceptions and completion percentage. Now with his old Stanford offense in place and a season under his belt, we will see an even better, more efficient player. The Raiders have little in the way of defense and Luck will pick them apart. My only concern is him sitting in the 4th quarter.
9. Michael Vick – Phi at Was – The new look Eagles under Chip Kelly looked sharp in preseason and Michael Vick seemed comfortable in their offense totaling 454 yards and two touchdowns in around 4 quarters of game time. I’ll be starting him this week even though he’s always a risk to get hurt and this offense has yet to be tested in a real game. I believe his upside outweighs the risk. It doesn’t hurt that Washington gave up the third most passing yards and fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.
10. Colin Kaepernick – SF vs. GB – In the Divisional playoffs last season the Packers weren’t ready for Kaepernick’s read option and he completely destroyed them, rushing 16 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns while also passing for 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. They should be more prepared for it this time, but you would have thought they would have been prepared in a playoff game as well.
11. Robert Griffin – Was vs. Phi – I think Washington will give Morris a chance to dominate this game to ease RGIII back in, but it’s hard to sit him against such a poor pass defense. The Eagles led the league in touchdowns given up through the air. Last season in week 11 Griffin threw for four against them. Plus, if Philadelphia’s offense looks like they did in preseason, there’s a good chance they’ll be putting up some points themselves, making RGIII need to do more. I’d really need a top backup to sit him.
12. Cam Newton – Car vs. Sea – The Seahawks pass defense is possibly the best in the league. Last season in Seattle, Newton passed for a paltry 141 yards against them and rushed for 42 with no touchdowns. For the season only two quarterbacks passed for over 300 yards against them, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford. They also only allowed over two touchdowns to a quarterback one time and that was also to Stafford. Thankfully Newton is at home this time around and last year early in the season when he played the Seahawks he was not playing well at all. Plus he’s still a threat to get you those one-yard touchdown runs. He’s a tough sit.
13. Russell Wilson – Sea at. Car – Wilson had a poor game against the Panthers last season, but that was early Wilson. The later in the year Wilson was a better player. The Panther defense was strong last year and they get Jon Beason back along with rookie Star Lotulelei. So they shouldn’t have much trouble up front, but they can be beat in the secondary with Chris Gamble gone. Wilson can get it done through the air and ground so he’s hard to bench.
14. Eli Manning – NYG at Dal – In his career against Dallas, Manning has averaged 250 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game. But last season they had his number. He averaged just 202 yards passing and threw a total of one touchdown and one interception. He’ll be heading back to Dallas where he had his worst game against them in 2012. The Cowboys have yet a new defensive coordinator and scheme this season and even though they have some talented players, putting it all together in week one may be a tough job. I think this game turns into a shootout.
15. Ben Roethlisberger – Pit at Ten – The Steelers lost their starting running back Le’Veon Bell and will most likely need to throw to win. Roethlisberger has had the Titans number in four previous games passing for an average of 300 yards and 2.75 touchdowns. Last season he threw for 363 yards with one touchdown and one interception against them. The Titans pass defense was one of the worst in the league in 2012 giving up the second most touchdowns, the seventh most passing yards and second worst completion percentage.
16. Jay Cutler – Chi vs. Cin – The Bears new up-tempo offense should increase his attempts and numbers even in tough matchups, but he does have a tough test week one against one of the top defenses in the league. The Bengals were second in sacks and sixth best in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. This will be a great time to see just how good Cutler can be this year, but I don’t think I want him starting on my team in week 1.
17. Joe Flacco – Bal at Den – During The Ravens playoff run Flacco was impossible to stop and the Broncos found that out as he threw for 331 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-35 overtime win. They used the run to set up the deep pass to Torrey Smith and it worked like a charm. This time around the Broncos are also missing Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil so Flacco should have a secure pocket. But I could see the Ravens trying to slow this game down and running it down their throats. He’s an upside play, but in three games against the Broncos in the regular season he averaged 208 yards passing and one touchdown per game. It’s hard to believe he’s now going to consistently be that Super Bowl run quarterback.
18. Terrelle Pryor – Oak at Ind – He gets the start against the Colts who aren’t exactly the top defense in the league and didn’t make enough positive off season moves to move up into that realm. Their more methodical offense should allow their defense to stay rested which will help, but they can be rushed against and that’s what Pryor will do best. His ceiling is high with his 4.38 speed, but his floor is low with his decision-making. He will throw interceptions, but also will rush for a decent amount of yards and probably see some garbage time prevent defenses so he can rack up some easy fantasy points. He’s worth a flier in FanDuel.
19. Alex Smith – KC at Jac – Smith is who he is, but Andy Reid can make that work, especially with Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe helping him out. Gus Bradley is going to help the Jaguars get better on defense, but their lack of playmakers is going to make his job tough. The Jaguars were dead last in sacks with 20 last season and there’s not much hope of that number dramatically increasing. Add that to the fact that the Chiefs have a strong offensive line with the addition of Eric Fisher and Smith should have plenty of time to execute Reid’s West Coast offense, which fits his arm strength.
20. Carson Palmer – Ari at StL – Palmer’s inability to move, his offensive line, the Rams pass rush and good cornerbacks are a bad combination. This will be an extreme test for the Cardinals to see if they can hold off the pass rush enough to make plays down field with their top line receiving group. I am rooting for Larry Fitzgerald and he will get his as long as Palmer doesn’t get injured, but overall this isn’t the game you want to see if Palmer is worth starting in deeper leagues or daily.