1. Carson Palmer vs. Min – 10
Carson Palmer has posted giant games against virtually every opponent, and his buzzsaw will next eviscerate the hobbled Vikings secondary. Minnesota was short four defensive starters last week, and Russell Wilson went berserk. In a short week, the Vikings have already ruled out their three best defensive players, Linval Joseph, Harrison Smith, and Anthony Barr, making Palmer equally berserkworthy. Palmer has crushed elite secondaries all year, and hasn’t fallen below 270 yards in seven straight games. His 29 passing touchdowns are second only to Tom Brady.
2. Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cin – 9.5
At this point, it doesn’t much matter who Ben Roethlisberger is playing. With the exception of his “knock the rust off” game when he returned from his six-game layoff, his average full game is an astounding 376 yards and 2.3 touchdowns. But what about that “knock the rust off” game from Week 8? It came against this week’s opponent, Cincinnati, and Ben threw three interceptions and just one touchdown. Cincinnati is a really good pass defense. Since Week 4, only one opposing quarterback has topped one touchdown, and only one has topped 263 yards. So, you need to ask yourself, was Ben’s lousy Week 8 matchup more a function of his rustiness or a very good secondary? My opinion is that Ben’s far too hot to bench, and I trust him to overcome a stout challenge. Be sure to check the status of Cincinnati’s excellent cornerback Leon Hall, who missed last week’s game.
3. Eli Manning vs. Mia – 9.5
Even though he threw for almost 300 yards, Eli Manning was a disappointment last week, considering the tattered state of the Jets secondary. I expected more than his one touchdown pass (which required some heroics by Odell Beckham). I’m trying not to be discouraged because here comes an even better opportunity, against a reeling Miami secondary that has the stopping power of a James Deen safeword. The Dolphins have given up multiple passing touchdowns and/or 300 yards in six of the past seven games. Last week Matt Schaub threw for 300 yards, for Pete’s sake.
4. Cam Newton vs. Atl – 9.5
In his last three games, Cam Newton has thrown five touchdowns twice. So, I don’t really care that the Falcons’ secondary has played well this season. No opposing quarterback has scored more than twice against the Falcons all year, and only once in the last 30 games. So, the Falcons defense has set the bar at two touchdowns, and Cam hasn’t scored more than two touchdowns against the Falcons since December of 2012. But Cam’s playing with a magical purpose that can’t be quantified statistically. Just keep starting him.
5. Andy Dalton vs. Pit – 9.5
Here’s a remarkable stat that helps illustrate how powerful Andy Dalton has been to your lineups: He’s scored three or more touchdowns seven times. Yep, in over half his starts, he’s giving you three touchdowns. He’s on pace for a whopping 39 touchdown season, and the Steelers secondary should be accommodating. Every opposing quarterback, except Nick Foles, has thrown touchdowns against the Steelers. And when they’re bad, they’re really bad, with three total meltdown games, most recently just two games ago against Seattle. In fairness, Dalton put up pedestrian numbers in this matchup in Week 8, and the Steelers have never given up more than two passing touchdowns to Dalton, so a big game isn’t a guarantee, but solid numbers are very likely.
6. Tom Brady @ Hou – 9.5
No matter the adversity of his situation, Tom Brady just keeps coming through for fantasy owners. Last week, without his best pass-catching running back, wide receiver, and tight end, Brady scored four times and put up 312 yards. He faces a very good Houston defense, and I’m worried that JJ Watt will be an unstoppable force against the makeshift Patriots offensive line. Bill Belichick does a great job of taking away opponents’ best assets, but neutralizing Watt is a tall order. Tyrod Taylor threw three touchdowns against Houston last week, but he did it on a paltry 11 completions. That’s an aberration, particularly against a defense that entered that game with one passing touchdown allowed the previous month. I’m nervous about Brady, but he keeps finding ways to succeed, and he’s impossible to bench.
7. Blake Bortles vs. Ind – 9.5
In addition to his five-touchdown outburst last week, Blake Bortles has thrown multiple touchdowns in seven of his past eight games, and hasn’t failed to throw a touchdown yet this year. There’s no reason to expect a let down here. He should have Allen Hurns back (not that Bortles particularly missed him last week) from his concussion, and he faces another yielding secondary, Indianapolis. This is a defense that’s allowed eight quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns, although in Week 4, they held Bortles to one of his worst games of the year, 298 yards and one score. I’ll note that Tennessee held Bortles to one touchdown in their first meeting, and then he obliterated them for five scores in the second meeting.
8. Russell Wilson @ Bal – 9.25
Russell Wilson comes into this game red hot. He’s scored more touchdowns in the past three weeks (12) than he had scored in all of his games leading up to then (10). He’s done so against three very wobbly defenses, and that’s the case again Baltimore. After a horrific start to the season, the Ravens secondary looks improved on paper of late, allowing just four touchdowns in their past three games. But, they’ve faced Case Keenum, Josh McCown/Austin Davis, and Ryan Tannehill. Wilson’s offensive line is playing dramatically better, and his pocket passing has been fantastic. I’m not betting against him in a favorable matchup.
9. Drew Brees @ TB – 9.0
Drew Brees was borderline heroic in defeat last week, throwing three touchdowns against a fantastic Carolina defense. Now he faces a tepid Tampa Bay secondary that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in seven of the past nine games. Compared to Carolina, this is a walk in the park for Brees, and mostly he’s been very good against bad secondaries. The fly in the ointment is the dud he posted when these teams met in Week 2, when he only managed one score, his offense generated just 19 points, and the Saints lost. The loss of Mark Ingram hurts the entire offense, even if it generates more passes from Brees. Ultimately, it means fewer first downs, fewer trips across the 50, and fewer trips to the red zone.
10. Jameis Winston vs. NO – 9.0
Jameis Winston has improved dramatically, and one clear indication is his modest four interceptions in his past eight games. The next step for Winston is to start scoring consistently. He’s only topped one touchdown once in the past six weeks, and just four times all year. But the leaky Saints secondary gives Winston giant upside. Over their past 5 games, they’ve allowed 21 (!!!) passing touchdowns. Half of the league hasn’t given up 21 touchdowns this year. What’s more, they’re 31st in passing yardage allowed too, giving up 301 per game. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and I don’t recall a pass defense any worse than this one.
11. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Ten – 8.5
The Titans pass defense has been blown apart over the past two weeks, allowing eight touchdowns and 652 yards to Blake Bortles and Derek Carr. That, combined with a really good run defense, tells me that we’re going to see a lot more of Ryan Fitzpatrick than #BeastEast. He’s thrown at least 34 passes in six straight games, and that shouldn’t change here. As I remind people every week, Fitzpatrick has been spectacularly reliable, with multiple touchdowns in every full game but one. And the Tennessee secondary just isn’t right without star corner Jason McCourty.
12. Jay Cutler vs. Was – 8.5
I went out on a limb for Jay Cutler last week, giving him my highest ranking of the year, and he flopped horribly. The Niners doubled Alshon Jeffery all day, and Cutler could never get into sync with his other receivers. And, here’s another primo opportunity, and I’m sticking my neck out for him again, despite the fact that he’s scored one touchdown in his past three games. Forget the Monday night game against Matt Cassel, the Redskins secondary is straight up bad. The previous six straight quarterbacks had thrown multiple touchdowns against the Redskins, including five from Cam Newton three games ago.
13. Ryan Tannehill vs. NYG – 8.5
After last week’s horrific dud against a bad Baltimore secondary, it’s going to take some guts to start Ryan Tannehill again. But, this matchup is compelling, and the brave among you will want to consider Tannehill. The Giants have allowed the most passing yards in the league by a lot, 322 per game. Coming off a 19-pass game, you might be worried about Tannehill’s passing volume, but note that the previous week he threw 58 times, and that the Giants have allowed the most pass attempts and the most pass completions.
14. Matthew Stafford @ StL – 8.5
Both the Rams and Lions enter this game completely flat. Organizationally, the Rams are in a freefall. They’ve lost five straight games. They’re halfway to Los Angeles. They have no quarterback. And a once proud defense is getting trucked. Meanwhile, the Lions suffered one of the most heartbreaking losses ever, when Aaron Rodgers (with no help from the friendly referees whatsoever) staged his miracle comeback last Thursday. But, Stafford he can pull himself together, it’s a nice opportunity against a slumping Rams defense. The last four opposing quarterbacks to face the Rams have thrown for 287 yards and 2.3 touchdowns. They’ve allowed nine passing touchdowns in the last four weeks, after allowing just five in the previous eight weeks.
15. Tyrod Taylor @ Phi – 8.5
Despite facing two very good defenses the last two weeks, Tyrod Taylor has scored seven times. He’s getting the ball to Sammy Watkins, finally, and he’s finding his secondary targets, Robert Woods and Chris Hogan. He faces the disastrously bad Philadelphia secondary. In the past month, the Eagles have allowed 15 passing touchdowns, worst in the league. It’s also salient to mention that no team has allowed more quarterback rushing touchdowns than the Eagles, and Tyrod Taylor is a good rushing quarterback.
16. Matt Hasselbeck @ Jac – 8.25
Even though Hasselbeck struggled last week, he’s still scored in all five of his starts, and he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in three of the past four. And this matchup is tantalizing. The Jaguars defense has been a wreck, allowing eight touchdowns to quarterbacks over the past two weeks, and big games to Joe Flacco, EJ Manuel, and Brian Hoyer in recent weeks. Hasselbeck saw these same Jaguars in Week 4, and he only threw one touchdown. But that was his first meaningful start since 2012, so he likely had some rust to knock off. He comes into this week highly questionable, and you’ll want to get comfortable with his health before starting him.
17. Brian Hoyer vs. NE – 8.25
18. Blaine Gabbert @ Cle – 8
19. Marcus Mariota @ NYJ – 8
20. Aaron Rodgers vs. Dal – 8.0
Remember when Aaron Rodgers threw for just 77 yards when he faced the league’s No. 1 pass defense, Denver? Well, here comes the league’s No. 2 pass defense, Dallas. The Cowboys are allowing just 221 passing yards per game, second only to Denver. And their 12 touchdowns allowed are third best, behind only Seattle and Denver. Over their past seven games, only one quarterback has scored more than once. It’s a massive challenge for a passing offense that hasn’t played particularly well. Still, it’s Aaron Rodgers, and as we saw last week, there’s plenty of magic in his arm, and anything can happen.
21. Brock Osweiler vs. Oak – 7.75
On Sunday, Brock Osweiler will get his fourth start. Often, at this stage of development, opposing defenses have enough tape on a quarterback that they’ll learn his tendencies and start to pick apart his game. And this game against the Raiders is a tougher test than people may realize. Over their past month of games, Oakland is allowing a meager 200 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns. And Brock still has his training wheels on. Gary Kubiak has kept Osweiler’s attempts below 27 in every game but his overtime win two weeks ago. Osweiler isn’t hurting the Broncos, but he’s not generating much fantasy output for his owners.
22. Derek Carr @ Den – 7.75
23. Alex Smith vs. SD – 7.75
24. Matt Ryan @ Car – 7.75
25. Philip Rivers vs. KC – 7.75