Quarterback play around the NFL has been tough to predict early in the 2015 season. Aaron Rodgers has performed up to par, but other preseason favorites (Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson) have been relative no-shows. Early season injuries have affected the QB landscape this year like no other, with top signal-callers Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger missing multiple weeks, and players such as Carson Palmer and Tyrod Taylor thrust into lineups and performing very well. Each week, it seems we have “must-start” QB let us down with a bad game in a seemingly easy matchup. Meanwhile, a typical QB2 leaves you pounding the desk with a three-touchdown game. As the weeks progress, the cream will rise to the top and you will see the usual suspects atop the rankings. The best approach is to continue to rely on the top talent in your lineup, as they eventually will come around. Besides, you do not want to kick yourself for benching your starter during the week that he figures it all out.
The Good – Andy Dalton
Depending on your league’s scoring format, Andy Dalton may currently be ranked as the top QB in Fantasy. Did I just say that correctly? It’s an amazing thought, I know. Say what you will, but Dalton has been on fire through the first five weeks, as he’s compiled 1,518 passing yards with 13 total TDs. Week 5 saw Dalton come out of the gates slowly against the vaunted Seahawks defense, but in a come from behind effort, he finished with another 300-yard performance. One-quarter of the way through the season, Dalton is looking more poised in the pocket and not having the mental lapses we’ve seen from him in the past.
If you are a Dalton owner, now is the time to sell-high. Even though he has good weapons around him, I don’t see him continuing to keep up this pace. Marvin Lewis’s offenses have been notoriously run-heavy over the years, so I would definitely expect a dip in Dalton’s production as they try to work out the kinks in the run game. Look for an owner who has been hit by the injury bug at QB; dangle Dalton and tout him as a QB1, and maybe you can bring back a steal from them.
Week 6 has the Bengals going on the road to play the Bills. Normally, you would consider this to be a tough matchup, but Buffalo currently ranks just 17th in PPG (16.7) allowed to opposing QBs. I would expect another slow week from the rushing attack, leaving the scoring on the shoulders of Dalton and the passing game.
The Bad – Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan was everything you drafted him to be over the first two weeks of the season. A rib injury to Tevin Coleman, and the subsequent emergence of Devonta Freeman, has seen Ryan go from a must-start each week to a QB you can bench based on the matchup. Week 5 could not have been an easier matchup versus the Redskins, who boasted one of the softest pass defenses in the league coming in. Throughout the game, Ryan just could not find his rhythm. Double coverage, on a noticeably hobbled Julio Jones, forced his attention to go elsewhere, and once Leonard Hankerson left with a rib injury, Ryan’s weapons were depleted. Ryan should have salvaged a touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman, but the ridiculous “Dez rule” called it an incompletion, leaving his Fantasy owners very frustrated.
Matt Ryan is obviously QB1 talent, so riding out the storm is advised unless you drafted a backup like Carson Palmer or Phillip Rivers, who is performing on a more consistent basis. At this point in the season, it’s hard to deal a QB the caliber of Ryan based on the offense that he orchestrates.
On a short week, the Falcons go on the road to New Orleans. In what typically is a shootout between these two teams, Ryan is usually a must-start but let’s examine some factors. The Saints are currently 13th in PPG (16.8) allowed to opposing QBs, which looks to be an excellent matchup. But they also are a bottom third defense against the run, which could set up as another heavy Freeman usage game. Also, Julio Jones is still iffy to play, and even if he gives it a go, word is he will be on a pitch count, so temper your expectations.
The Ugly – Peyton Manning
Manning is without a doubt off to the worst start of his career. The 6.5 yards per attempt truly shows his current lack of arm strength. The Broncos’ offense has looked beyond awful in general this season, and already has two games in which they failed to score a passing TD. The offensive line has been an absolute crutch to this team, as it is not opening any holes for the run game, but it is also inviting more blitzes in the passing game, which has made Manning look uncomfortable. He has already thrown three interceptions vs. the blitz, after throwing only four during all of the 2014 season. The Week 5 matchup against the Raiders’ secondary should have provided a Top 10 scoring week for Manning, but a sub-300 yard, two interception game firmly placed him in the dud category for the week.
Manning looks like a shell of his former self so far this season, which makes for a tough call on whether or not to move on from him. His name carries such weight in Fantasy circles that you never think you are bringing back enough value in a deal. But when it comes to winning a title, you have to do what you have to do. Odds are you can talk up the prestige of the Manning name to another owner, and bring back something that can help you in other areas of your roster.
Next up for the Broncos is a road game at the Dawg Pound in Cleveland. The Browns have been fairly respectable against the pass, giving up only 16.4 PPG to opposing QBs, ranking them 23rd in the league. Once again, the offense will live and die on Manning’s ability to move the ball through the air, as the Browns sport one of the league’s top rush defenses. Call it a gut instinct, but I could see this being a low-scoring affair between these two teams. Expecting a Top 5 week from Manning will be a stretch at best.