Challenge Contests — by Justin Eleff
Quarterbacks, by request
Posted Nov. 12 at 11:23 AM
Reader Chris Metz asked for a column running down the quarterbacks, ranking them by their expected value in the challenges for the rest of the season. And since I had no better ideas, Chris, today is your lucky day. Unless I get everything wrong.
Most generally, what we're seeing around the NFL these days is that the best QBs are the ones working with the worst running games. I won't pretend to know which is the cause and which is the effect here, but consider the struggles of teams like Green Bay to run the ball in 2010 (the Packers are 20th in the league in rushing yards per game), and Cincinnati (22nd) and New Orleans (24th) and Indianapolis (25th) and Dallas (31st) and Denver (32nd).
Those six teams' primary QBs, still counting Tony Romo for Dallas, all rank among the league's top eight in passing yards per game. The other two members of the top eight? Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, whose teams' running games rank 14th (and a disappointing 14th at that) and 3rd, respectively.
So, then, eight top QBs, one top running game. If you're looking to add a QB in the challenges, you can do a lot worse than to consider only those from teams that do not run effectively.
Of course, there are other factors to consider. Ideally I want a really good player in each of my QB slots (so no Carson Palmer), and I want one who throws to a bunch of really good players, too. That second part is tricky, however. I mean, Peyton Manning is so good that Austin Collie has looked like a very good player for most of this season -- but count me as skeptical of Collie. Manning is so good that Jacob Tamme now looks like Dallas Clark. Which raises the possibility that maybe Clark was never very good in the first place -- that maybe Manning is so good, the personnel around him will never matter.
You know who else is that good?
Philip Rivers. After last week's 17-of-23, 295-yard, 4-touchdown performance -- in which the only players to catch passes were Darren Sproles (1), Mike Tolbert (1), Kris Wilson (1), Ryan Mathews (2), Randy McMichael (2), Patrick Crayton (3), Jacob Hester (3) and Seyi Ajirotutu (4) -- either Rivers is the very best QB in the league, or Houston's defense is historically bad. Maybe both.
So I want a good player at QB more than I want one who throws to good players, even though ideally I'd prefer to have both. And, of course, I want everyone to be as cheap as possible. But the salaries are what they are, and since Chris said he was considering Ben Roethlisberger and Kyle Orton -- who aren't especially close in salary -- I assume he just wanted to know what I think of the players, and he'll try to fit the best one(s) in.
NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, I must say I'm not sure any of you should be taking my advice on this particular topic in this particular season. I cannot remember ever having finished last in my league in any category in any challenge contest (in football or any other sport), but here I am: last with a bullet in passing average in the Football Challenge. The number is 6.824. I own many of the right players. But I have been absolutely wretched at picking the right ones to start. Give me my average performance from the other categories in passing average and I'd be 2nd in league and hundreds of spots higher in the overall standings. As it happens I'm 4th-39th-363rd, and the only thing I really have going for me is patience. Which you may notice in reviewing the rankings below; I am less reactionary about players having really great or really terrible seasons than many other "experts." I guess that's because I always think I was right in the first place, and I'm stubborn enough to believe that time will prove me right in the end.
And with that significant caveat, here goes. In order, these are the QBs I like best the rest of the way:
Philip Rivers, SD I thought he was playing out of his mind. Now I just think he's unbelievably good.
Peyton Manning, IND I suspect the quality of his receiving corps -- or lack thereof -- is what's killing his passing average. That, and the fact that the typical Rivers pass is considerably longer than the typical Manning pass; that's just how the two offenses work.
Aaron Rodgers, GB He'd be at the top of this list with Jermichael Finley on the field. No one yet appreciates how big a weapon a healthy Finley can be.
Drew Brees, NO Something is not right. The knee brace, the rumors. I just have an iffy feeling about Brees -- but there's a limit to how many players could ever appear ahead of him on a list like this.
Eli Manning, NYG Ranking based partly on a favorable schedule. There are several good QBs I do not trust to produce every week -- guys whose occasional egg-laying is both inevitable and, as near as I can tell, entirely unpredictable. Eli is the first such Egg-Layer; I expect his numbers to be excellent at season's end, but I would discount him based on how I expect him to arrive at those numbers.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT Still rounding into form. Once he does, I'll expect him to outproduce Brees and Eli from that point forward.
Michael Vick, PHI (points) I assume that Chris needs a QB because he needs passing numbers, and is not so far behind in the rushing categories that Vick's other contributions mean a whole lot. So I've separated Vick the passer (see his categories ranking, below) from Vick the football player. If he passes passably for a few more weeks, however, Kevin Kolb has no chance of seeing the field again in 2010 -- and it had to be noted somewhere in these rankings that Vick is a much better player than his arm alone makes him. In fact, if I had more faith that he would pass passably (and would not hurt himself again), he'd be several spots higher, between Rodgers and Brees.
Tom Brady, NE Continues to show a massive, massively disturbing split between his home performance and his road performance. The Pats had better earn as many Foxborough playoff games as they can.
Matt Schaub, HOU Egg-Layer. Arian Foster has changed the Texans' offense permanently, but Schaub can't fall too far even so. The defense is just too bad. In several more games to come, he'll have to throw and throw to keep pace with opposing offenses.
Kyle Orton, DEN At some point -- like: next week -- the Broncos will give up on 2010 and start using Demaryius Thomas a lot more, which is likely to have a sometimes-boom, sometimes-bust effect on Orton's numbers. And they may also start using Tim Tebow in ways that will rob Orton of some red-zone production. But the Tebow possibility could actually be a good thing for Orton's passing average. He's the one toughest QB to rank.
Brett Favre, MIN Egg-Layer -- but the one toughest QB, period. Maybe the reason he always has a rabbit to pull out of his hat is that they multiply like, well, rabbits.
Joe Flacco, BAL and Matt Ryan, ATL Egg-Layers. Which one did you like better on Thursday?
Jon Kitna, DAL Something tells me Jason Garrett will have a season's worth of surprises for the Giants on Sunday. The only fitting end to the Cowboys' mess of a season is that there will be no end to the mess; Garrett will get them playing just well enough that no one will know whether he deserves the job or not.
Turnip Cutler, CHI Egg-Layer. But, hey, it isn't all his fault. If Lovie Smith would let Mike Martz run the offense Martz prefers -- mind you, I'm not saying he should -- Cutler would be dependable in his limited way as long as he stayed healthy. But Martz has started to cave (the Bears ran 31 times last week in Toronto) and, in any event, "as long as he stayed healthy" might not be "for the rest of the season."
Carson Turnip Palmer, CIN Egg-Layer. But it's worse than that. I started with him, dropped him, burned a purchase for him in the Football Challenge. I held him instead of dropping him (and instead of holding Vick!) in the $35K points game. I have successfully dodged his biggest games, and have watched in bewilderment as he led fourth-quarter rallies after looking and perhaps indeed being brain-dead for three quarters. Going only by what his final numbers might look like, sure, Chris could consider adding him. Chris could also consider feeding his left arm into a trash compactor.
Michael Vick, PHI (categories) Before requesting this column, Chris sent me a perfect summary of Vick the passer via Twitter: "Here's how Vick does it. Inc, inc, inc, 40 yard bomb, inc, inc, inc, 20 yards to DeSean." Exactly -- it rhymes, even, almost! And one of these weeks an extra bomb or two will fall harmlessly to the ground, and I will finally start to catch the field in passing average. Which is to say: Egg-Layer. I hope.
Sam Bradford, STL He's good, and he's going to be really, really good.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF Chan @#$%ing Gailey. It is impossible for a reasonable person to trust that Fitzpatrick will be a viable fantasy QB for any extended period, but in three games since the Bills' bye he's averaged 301 passing yards. OK, but on a whopping 47 attempts.
Josh Freeman, TB and Vince Young, TEN Both should have been separated into points and categories rankings, like Vick, but I'm too lazy. Both are Egg-Layers; you don't really want either.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ Egg-Layer. I can never remember which guy I compare to Troy Aikman -- Sanchez or Matt Ryan. I see both as very good players in real life, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that both can win Super Bowls. (In fact, they could well face off in the Super Bowl this season.) But, like Aikman, neither is really a numbers guy. Then again, Ryan has been brilliant in his last three games, and Sanchez has thrown for 592 yards in his last two.
Matt Cassel, KC The worst guy who deserves to be ranked. Or is he the best guy who doesn't?
Not listed above are the QBs of ARZ, CAR, CLE, DET, JAX, MIA, OAK, SEA, SF, WAS -- in short, QBs who could lose their jobs at any time, or have already done so, or could lose them again after having gotten them back after losing them the first time, etc. The Donovan McNabb story still strikes me as surreal, but, whatever, Chris isn't buying McNabb this week.
Hope this helped.
Posted by DAVID DIGREGORIO | Nov. 12 at 09:31 PM
I think you're a little off on Vick in the category game. He leads the NFL with a 105 QB rating. Considering his cost, rushing yards, and ypc, he needs to be in every line up.
Posted by DAVID DIGREGORIO | Nov. 12 at 09:35 PM
I am first in my league, 18th overall in the midseason game. Very exciting. Would you burn a pick up on Best this week against Buffalo to replace Hillis going against the jets?
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 12 at 10:23 PM
I can see the logic David has and I can see Justin's logic when it comes to Vick. I think there's a good chance he's going to get hurt again though. But one can't really use that when trying to predict. My QBs are Rodgers Rivers Peyton Cutler and no one. So I need a guy this week. Stafford was going to be it but he was hurt. Such a shame too because he had a nice matchup. I know it's sacrilidge but I am considering Vick because of the Reid offense. Reid has him throwing deep and his weapons are really really good. Is he any worse of a passer this season than Eli Manning? Manning just lost Steve Smith too. Thing that makes me nervous is he plays the Giants in two weeks. Can't use him there. He does have Houston in a few weeks. Sigh. He does help with rushing too. I am in the same situation as you Justin. Everything else is good, except kicking, but that is fluky and I think it'll be fine in the end. I am starting to lag a little bit in rushing, so that makes me think of Vick too. I need passing average and half the guys in front of me are only starting 2 QBs because they have dead lineups. That makes it doubly hard to catch up. I will think about this for another day but so far here is who I am considering 1. Eli 2. Vick 3. Big Ben Thanks for the help!
Posted by Chris Metz | Nov. 12 at 10:24 PM
To clear up a point above, they are starting a QB who has lost their job or gotten injured. Alex Smith, Kolb, Stafford. Orton is a popular play for the top guys, so he may be better to go against then Vick in my case. Only 10 people in my league have him. Hmm.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 13 at 12:01 AM
Justin: With your number 1, 3 and 4 QB's on bye this week, is this the week to go with both Manning Bros. and Vick in POINTS? Other options are Big Ben, Schaub (hard to trust), Garrard (great matchup), Orton and Palmer (health?). I didn't start Roddy on Thursday because of his supposed iffy health (HUGE mistake) so I'm a little behind the 8 ball already. What WR's do you like for possible big games this week? I'm starting Nicks and Stevie Johnson. Andre (great matchup, but injury concern), Wayne, D-Jack (Wash gave him nothing in 1st meeting), Megatron (great matchup) from higher priced group. MS-W (great matchup), Wallace, Garcon, Knox from lower priced group. Also, what are your thoughts on Best this week? I think this game presents his best chance to put up big numbers. Is he a better option than Bradshaw, Shady or Hillis IYO? Thanks much.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 13 at 05:42 AM
David: On Vick, either I'll be right eventually or I'll lose. Even in theory there is no way for me to make up ground now except by NOT adding him; add him and I'd be matching teams that are already way ahead of me in passing average. But here are two guarantees: 1. He will not finish the season with 0 INTs. 2. Either his completion percentage will come up or his passing average will come down. To my eyes this is still not a good passer. On Best, I agree with Peter (below your comment, above mine) that this week is his (ahem) best chance to put up big numbers, but who really knows? He's no superstar, and even if he goes off in Week 10 I'm not confident you'll want him in Weeks 11-17. But there's less urgency (not the right word, but fitting somehow) to SAVE purchases in the mid-season game. If you have a strong feeling, no sense asking me or anyone else; go with it.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 13 at 05:47 AM
Chris: I see both sides of the argument, too. As I just wrote to David, I don't see a percentage in my changing my mind on Vick now, and I also don't think I'm wrong about him as a passer. Any team that floats an extra guy deep is going to force him to throw balls into tighter spots than he typically can. A drop here, a pick there; he WILL have ugly passing games. The problem is that, as I wrote in the piece proper, no one can ever guarantee that Eli won't have an ugly passing game. I tend to think Jason Garrett will get the Cowboys' offense working, and that means Sunday could be a shootout. I really like Eli in Week 10 - but that has been a dead setup for disaster in the past.
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | Nov. 13 at 05:56 AM
Peter: The Mannings and Vick look ideal to me in points. My next guys would probably be Roethlisberger and Schaub in whichever order, but they'd be back of the others. At WR I like Nicks and Steve Johnson, agree that Andre Johnson and Wayne make good plays provided the former is healthy, like Garcon as a cheap alternative to Wayne. Two relative stealth plays: Manningham and Mike Williams Southeast. At RB I'd go Bradshaw, Best, McCoy, Hillis in that order, although Hillis has often been matchup-proof.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Nov. 14 at 10:32 PM
Justin: Some lessons learned from yesterday. I guess considering the circumstances in Indy these days, you can no longer put Peyton in the same sentence as death and taxes. Jahvid Best is never usable. Hillis is indeed matchup-proof.
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