1. Carson Palmer @ Pit – 10
No quarterback has thrown more touchdown passes than Carson Palmer, and now he faces (arguably) the easiest secondary he's seen all year. ProFootballFocus ranks the Steelers as the No. 31 pass coverage defense. The two comparable quarterbacks who have faced the Steelers, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, combined for 653 yards and six touchdowns. Add in injuries to safety Will Allen and cornerback Cortez Allen, and it's a recipe for a monster game for Palmer.
2. Tom Brady @ Ind – 9.75
Tom Brady saw these same Colts twice last year, and Patriots scored a crazy 87 points. Brady's results were good, although not explosive, with a combined 483 yards and five touchdowns. Going back farther, we can see that Brady has thrown multiple touchdowns against the Colts in 8 of the last 9 matchups, and the one game in which he didn't was a blowout win, with Brady throwing a season-low 25 passes. Barring another lopsided win, Brady should post big numbers against a defense that has struggled to contain Ryan Fitzpatrick (244-2), Marcus Mariota (367-2), Blake Bortles (298-1), and Brian Hoyer (312-2 in three quarters of play). I am worried about the loss of LT Nate Solder, but they have a pretty capable back up in Marcus Cannon.
3. Andy Dalton @ Buf – 9.5
Fantasy football's highest scoring quarterback faces a Bills secondary that's long on talent, but short on results. Andy Dalton is tied for first with 13 total touchdowns, and he's third in yardage at 303 per game. He's using all of his available weapons: Green, Eifert, Jones, Sanu, and Bernard, making the Bengals very hard to defend. Buffalo has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in four of five games, and they've provided the best statistical game of the season to three opposing quarterbacks. Their secondary is getting healthier, but that's no guarantee of a turnaround against the hottest quarterback in the league.
4. Aaron Rodgers vs. SD – 9.5
Here are the quarterbacks the Chargers have faced: Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown, and Michael Vick. That's one of the easiest schedules in the league, yet the Chargers have been merely okay against the pass. By comparison, Aaron Rodgers will create a system shock for the Chargers' secondary, and I expect Rodgers to break out of a two-game slump. Over the past two weeks, he's thrown just three touchdowns while notching 224 and 241 yards. Those are awfully pedestrian numbers. McCown, Dalton and Stafford all posted multiple touchdowns, and Rodgers should have no problem getting to that point. My only worry for Rodgers is that the Packers can (should) employ a run-heavy attack against a team allowing the third-most rushing yards per game.
5. Eli Manning @ Phi – 9.25
When Eli Manning last faced the Eagles, Week 17 of last year, he threw for a whopping 429 yards. We won't see that happen this week, but Manning has some nice upside against a defense that has allowed every opponent to pass for 268 yards or more. Whenever Manning wants some yards, he merely needs to line up Odell Beckham on the right side of the field, where Byron Maxwell plays. Maxwell has been awful—he's allowing a passer rating of 140 on balls thrown his way. Beckham can eat him alive, assuming he plays through his hamstring injury.
6. Sam Bradford vs. NYG – 8.75
We've learned that you've got to pick your spots to start Sam Bradford. After back-to-back good games, and with the Giants on the schedule, this looks like a promising moment. The Giants rank 31st against the pass, allowing 314 per game. Every opposing quarterback has thrown a touchdown, and every opposing quarterback has topped 262 yards. Bradford's best receiver, Jordan Matthews, draws one of the worst slot corners in the game, Trumaine McBride, who is allowing 78% of his passes to be completed. Last year's Eagles quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez each topped 248 yards and threw two touchdowns against these Giants.
7. Drew Brees vs. Atl – 8.75
Unquestionably the Falcons defense is improved under Dan Quinn. But, before we get too excited, here are the opposing quarterbacks they've faced: Kirk Cousins, Brandon Weeden, Eli Manning, Sam Bradford and the Mallett/Hoyer combo platter. Drew Brees is a lot better than those guys. Brees has thrown touchdowns in every game, and has topped 335 yards in three of four matchups. That's shocking high-end consistency from a guy people are calling washed up. Remember, we're just five game removed from the Falcons ranking 31st in pass defense.
8. Philip Rivers @ GB – 8.75
There is no quarterback more underappreciated by fantasy players than Philip Rivers. He's thrown multiple touchdowns in four of five games. He's topped 350 yards in three of five games. Going back to last year, he's thrown 3+ touchdowns eight times. He's explosive, with very little downside. His offensive line is getting healthier, and it's possible that T King Dunlap and/or G Orlando Franklin return this week. And, in all likelihood, Rivers will need to throw to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers secondary looks much improved on paper (6th vs yards, and 3rd vs TDs), but they've faced Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler.
9. Joe Flacco vs. SF – 8.75
Joe Flacco posted a monster fantasy game last week, and now faces an even easier opponent, San Francisco. The Niners rank dead last in passing yards per game, at 315. Just last week, Eli Manning put up 441 yards against San Francisco. Manning, along with Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, have posted huge games. Although, it's fair to note that A) those three quarterbacks are in better passing offenses, and B) all three of those games came on the road. In the Niners' two homes games, against Teddy Bridgewater and Aaron Rodgers, the Niners held them to one combined touchdown pass, and just 224 and 231 yards. Still, this ProFootballFocus' 32nd-ranked pass defense, and Flacco should find some success, with or without Steve Smith.
10. Matthew Stafford vs. Chi – 8.5
There's no point in playing fantasy football if you're just going to continually play it safe, and follow conventional wisdom. Sometimes you've got to be bold, and go against the grain. Starting Matthew Stafford would qualify. He was benched last week, and his performances have ranged from underwhelming to awful. Speaking of underwhelming, the Bears secondary started the season horribly, but they've been better lately, allowing just four passing touchdowns in the last three games. Here's the catch: the Bears secondary has seen the NFL's fewest passes, just 28 per game, so of course they aren't giving up big numbers. The last time Stafford threw for fewer than 28 passes was 72 games ago. This year, Stafford is averaging more than 10 additional passes from what the Bears are used to, and that volume will be the difference. In last year's meeting in Detroit, Stafford threw 45 times for a whopping 390 yards and two scores. Then again, he could stink, and get benched at half. Grow a pair.
11. Peyton Manning vs. Cle – 8.5
All this Brock Osweiler talk has to be unfamiliar (and annoying) to Peyton Manning. But, the reality is that Manning isn't playing well, and his offensive line is a disaster. So, the speculation machine starts. For now, Manning's job is safe, and this game represents a great chance for him to reassert his place. The Browns pass defense is lousy. They rank 27th in completion percentage. They've allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns, 10 already. Cornerback Joe Haden is playing hurt, and getting torched. The only possible problem for Manning is that the Browns run defense is, by far, the worst in the league, and this game could feature a renewed running attack.
12. Andrew Luck vs. NE – 8.25
I want to be optimistic that, now healthy, Andrew Luck will throw with the same confidence and velocity of previous seasons. But, he needs more help from his offensive line. Colts quarterbacks have been sacked eight times, hit 14 times, and hurried 45 times. Meanwhile, New England has the fourth-most sacks, despite having a bye already. So, job No. 1 is keeping Luck upright. After that, we can only hope for relevance. The Patriots hammered the Colts in the two meetings last year (the Patriots scored 87 points!), leaving only garbage time scraps for Luck. I have some worry that it happens again here.
13. Jay Cutler @ Det – 8.25
Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Carson Palmer have posted very big games against the Lions secondary, and Jay Cutler has a very legitimate chance of doing as well. The slumping Lions are allowing a crazy pass completion rate of 77%, worst in the league. And, opposing teams are throwing against them a lot, the 2nd-most in the league. Cutler has topped 250 passing yards in four straight meetings with Detroit. He gets Alshon Jeffery back and possibly Eddie Royal too, which is a huge help.
14. Matt Ryan @ NO (Thu) – 8.25
At this point, it's fair to be worried about Matt Ryan. His deep ball accuracy is off. His star wide receiver is hobbled. His completion percentage is at a four-year low. His six touchdowns puts him behind the likes of Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota (and his bye week), Ryan Fitzpatrick (and his bye week). You'd think that the development of a bona fide running game would make Ryan more efficient, but the opposite has happened. Fortunately, this matchup has "get well" written all over it. If you throw out games by Brandon Weeden and Jameis Winston, the Saints are allowing 318 yards per game, and 2.3 passing touchdowns. If Ryan hits those averages, it'll be his best game of the season. Sadly, Julio Jones is a game time decision. At 100%, Julio's matchup against Brandon Browner would have been absurdly one-sided. But, Ryan should still be able to cobble together very good numbers against a very bad secondary, provided Devonta Freeman doesn't steal all the scoring.
15. Blake Bortles vs. Hou – 8.25
After three straight road games, Blake Bortles comes home buoyed by a 300-yard, 4-touchdown performance last week. He'll face a Houston secondary that has been unchallenged. They've faced mostly bottom-tier passing attacks—the lone the exception being the Falcons, but they were in blowout mode throughout the game, and didn't bother passing for long. Because of the caliber of opponent, the Texans don't look like a bad secondary on paper, but I'm not sure they're much better than the terrible unit we saw last year. With TJ Yeldon ailing, I see plenty of passing coming from Bortles, and sheer volume will create fantasy points.
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Was – 8
Ryan Fitzpatrick comes out of the bye week with two healthy receivers and a likely mandate to pass frequently against the Redskins. For several years, the Redskins have been an elite rushing defense. Prior to last week's lapse against Devonta Freeman, they had been nearly impossible to crack on the ground. As a result, most teams take the much easier route, via the air, especially with injuries to starting corners DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver. In fairness, they put Matt Ryan on a bad game last week, but Eli Manning and Sam Bradford had little trouble in the prior two games. For his part, Stew Beard has been pretty darn consistent. He's scored touchdowns in 14 of his 15 games going back to last season, and he's thrown two touchdown in every game but one this year.
17. Russell Wilson vs. Car – 7.75
18. Cam Newton @ Sea – 7.75
19. Josh McCown vs. Den – 7.75
20. Colin Kaepernick vs. Bal – 7.75
21. Teddy Bridgewater vs. KC – 7.75