Welcome to “Two QBs For Me and You,” a feature where I focus on and breakdown two notable quarterback performances from the week before. … I then go over what they mean moving forward.
Another week, another medley of mayhem in the NFL. We saw two of the best teams at protecting the ball (Minnesota and Philadelphia) turn it over on five consecutive possessions, Jay Ajayi become only the fourth player ever to hit 200 rushing yards in back-to-back games, and one of the most outrageous endings to a game in Arizona, where both kickers missed chip shots late in overtime. British NFL fans will be more embarrassed by the lack of kicking quality in the league than the snoozefests that seem to occur with regularity across the pond (which the Giants and Rams made no attempt to change).
In this week’s piece, I’d like to talk about volume versus efficiency. About real-life play versus fantasy scoring. And about why fantasy points can come in all sorts of ways. For that, I’ll cover the Kansas City Chiefs against the New Orleans Saints.
17-of-24, 214 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- I mentioned efficiency in the introduction, and of that, Alex Smith is the King. He is tied for third in completion percentage on the season, behind or tied with only Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, and our second featured quarterback, Drew Brees. He also finished last week’s win against Oakland with an 86.3 completion percentage (a team record).
- On the Chiefs’ first drive, Smith looked towards Jeremy Maclin, who was streaking down the middle of the field towards the end zone. They couldn’t connect. After a terrific first year in Kansas City, Maclin is the WR50 this season and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Based on this game and the lack of targets so far this year, I don’t see a reason why this will improve.
- One of the poster boys for Zero-RB this year is Spencer Ware, and he continues to prove he’s more than just a flash in the pan. He showed his deceptive jets on a 48-yard touchdown catch-and-run early. He was lined up out wide, and with great blocking from his receivers and offensive line, took it the distance. Head Coach Andy Reid is great at using the screen game to help his quarterback, and it means that despite not throwing the deep ball often, the team can still generate big plays that benefit Smith
- Up 14-7 after a defensive touchdown, the Chiefs moved the ball to the Saints’ 38-yard line and Smith did go deep — to rookie “offensive weapon” Tyreek Hill who made a spectacular grab to make it 21-7. He closed the gap on the defensive back with ease and showcased a DeSean Jackson-like acceleration to reach the ball in the end zone. This was Hill’s only catch of the game, but he also had two runs for 23 yards. Look for the Chiefs to involve him more after this display.
- Kansas City didn’t score another touchdown, but they did exactly what they do best by holding a lead and working the clock. Smith has the timing off this offense down to a tee, and he spread the wealth as ten different players had receptions on the day (only Maclin had more than two catches).
- Smith is in a strong system and has adequate playmakers around him. While the lack of a “true” number one target might hold him back from upside you might get somewhere else, he is QB20 on the year, and that’s exactly the area I expect him to end up in. There is no fear that he will be benched, and the way the offense moves should mean that he will have chances to score each week.
- In the fourth quarter, one play showed me Smith’s confidence in himself as well as Andy Reid’s belief in him. Up 24-14 and protecting their fourth quarter lead, the Chiefs made a bold move by attacking on a 3rd-and-17 from their own 21-yard line. Rather than playing it safe with a screen or draw play (as most teams would), Smith hit Chris Conley on the sideline for a perfect 18-yard strike. Conley completed a textbook toe-drag to get the first down. While the drive ultimately ended in a punt, they took another two minutes off the clock and it was time that ultimately secured the win.
Everything you think you know about Alex Smith is probably true. He has no upside, he’s boring, and he couldn’t win a game single-handedly (single-armedly?) if he had to. These may be right, but when would you ever ask him to be dominant or provide huge upside for your fantasy teams? For where you drafted him and what your expectations were and should be, he does his job. Smith is solid. The Chiefs have now won nine straight home games, but travel on the road this week against the surging Colts. With Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Carolina, and Tampa Bay in their next four, Smith could put up some good numbers.
On the other side of the field from Smith on Sunday was a New Orleans quarterback who can single-handedly win games every week, but it would only lead to victories if he could play on defense as well. Because yes, they are that bad.
37-of-48, 367 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
- While Saints fans will obviously be upset with a 2-4 start, they can’t complain about not being entertained. They came into this game as the first team to score and allow 30+ points in three straight games (and that doesn’t include their opener, in which that happened as well).
- Unsurprisingly, they got on the scoreboard early, with a ten-play, 80-yard drive the first time Brees saw the ball. He hit all of his his top targets in Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Michael Thomas, and it was Cooks who scored on a nine-yard catch. Similarly to Andy Reid, Sean Payton is a great schemer on offense, and the Saints managed to get the speedy wideout matched one-on-one with a linebacker on a wheel route from the backfield. It was an easy pitch and catch for Brees.
- Looking around the league at quarterbacks who are given freedom in third-and-short situations and red zone opportunities, Brees is right up there. While many teams look to pound the ball in, the Saints trust in his arm, and it pays huge dividends for fantasy owners.
- In the first quarter, Brees made a rare unwise decision to throw from his back foot, and it resulted in a pick six by the Chiefs’ Daniel Sorensen. Brees wasn’t able to step into the throw, and Eric Berry attacked a wobbly ball intended for Snead and tipped it into the arms of Sorensen. Good pressure will affect every quarterback in this league, even Drew Brees.
- The good news of being on a bad defensive team is that your quarterback will be in catch up mode throughout most of the game. New Orleans were down 21-7 midway through the second quarter. They couldn’t score again before the half, so they needed to come out with a bang in the second — and they did.
- With a mix of Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower (who looked great, by the way), the Saints marched the ball 75 yards on 14 plays in just over eight minutes. It was Ingram who scored the touchdown, but again it came through the air as Brees simply dumped it to him as he flared out wide.
- The Chiefs had made it 24-14 when the Saints started moving the ball with 12 minutes to go in the game. Brees threw two outstanding strikes to Snead (out route) and Thomas (back shoulder) before KC safety Ron Parker produced one of the best Peanut Tillman-esque punch fumbles I’ve seen in recent years to take the ball from Ingram. Time was running out.
- The Saints defense (surprisingly) held, and Brees again did what he does best and picked apart the Chiefs D by hitting his rookie wideout Thomas three times, along with Cooks and RB Travaris Cadet a pair of times before finishing with an improvised touchdown to Brandon Coleman. It was a great drive, but Ingram’s fumble had killed their chance of having enough time left. The Chiefs did enough on their final drive to allow only 28 seconds for Brees to work with, and it wasn’t enough.
Forget about the result of the game for a moment. Drew Brees is the fantasy QB4 on the season, despite every other quarterback in the top seven having played one more game. He’s on pace for 5600 yards and 45 touchdowns. During this game, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 yards in 100 games. It’s astonishing.
I’m upset for Brees because he’s had to endure years of his defense being the worst in the league, and if only they could just be average, he could have had so much more success and might have another ring to his name. Unfortunately for him, he faces his bogey team (Seahawks) this week, but it’s at home, which is where he performs at his finest. He’s certainly still a certain starter and could ultimately end up as the QB1 on the season, again.
Other Week 7 Quarterback Performances of Note
I’m not really sure if Aaron Rodgers is “back,” or if Eddie Lacy’s injury has just forced the volume from him. That said, I believe the Packers need to let Rodgers sling the ball and find his rhythm again, and if it means throwing the ball 50-plus times, so be it. It was a real shame to see Brian Hoyer go down. He’s been a star for those of us requiring a waiver wire starter. It hurt to see the same happen to Geno Smith so soon. It’s not as if I had high expectations, but a free fantasy quarterback is a free fantasy quarterback, and it would have been nice to allow him to audition for a new real-life gig.
As I mentioned in the intro, Eli Manning and Case Keenum brought the suckiness to the U.K., and I can’t quite work out why the Giants offense is one of the worst to watch in football when they have such exciting wideouts. The Rams will probably lose three of the next four, then beat the Patriots, Falcons, and Seahawks in succession. Because it’s the Rams.
My first thought when Kirk Cousins rumbled into the end zone for a fourth quarter go-ahead score was that he is such an unlikely stud. He really doesn’t look great on the field, makes strange decisions sometimes, and can be hard to figure out — but he has a way of getting the job done. He had an outstanding day, tying Drew Brees for the best completion percentage on the day (77%)*. But then Matthew Stafford came straight back and plucked the win away from him. That’s three straight weeks the Lions have won games late. They face the Vikings twice in the next four weeks, and we will get an idea of how far Stafford has come along.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Move on from Blake Bortles! Unless you plan to find an Ajayi and use your quarterback the way the Dolphins have used Ryan Tannehill the last two weeks. This is how you cover up a weakness. The Bills missed on an opportunity by getting away from their run-heavy ways, which have helped Tyrod Taylor up until this point. I’m mad they risked LeSean McCoy. Was there anyone who didn’t see a re-aggravation of his hamstring injury coming? Now they have to face the Tom Brady-ful Patriots, who will be out for revenge (yes, it’s a revenge game narrative. It always is with these two).
I’d be a little worried with the weekly upside of Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz, despite their solid starts to the season. Both lack weapons in the passing game, although the return of Stefon Diggs to full health should benefit the Vikings quarterback. They may be solid season-long QB2s, but don’t expect game-winners.
One man who is a game-winner is Andrew Luck. He now faces a fantastic stretch of defenses before the Vikings in week 15. He’s a must-start and perhaps a dynasty target if current owners weren’t happy with his early-season unreliability.
Philip Rivers against Matt Ryan was a dream matchup for me as a fan. I’ve watched Rivers engineer comeback after comeback and never give up and seen Ryan make costly mistakes for years on end, so to see the two come to fruition again brought joy to my heart. The Chargers are a serious playoff contender, even though they sit at the bottom of the AFC West. They get one more shot at everyone in their division, starting with the Broncos this week. If they can get back to .500 halfway through the year, watch out (Joey Bosa’s about). The Falcons should win their division and have a plethora of every-week fantasy starters, but this Sunday’s game against the Packers is huge.
Jameis Winston likes to beat up on bad defenses and get beaten up by good ones, so he might have a favorable stretch coming up and faces the Saints in weeks 14 and 16. Owners should be very happy right now. I think Russell Wilson is a buy low (he definitely is in dynasty leagues) because he’s simply really an outstanding player. However, he does face the Cardinals in Championship week.
*Side note – completion percentage does not equal “accuracy,” despite what you may hear or read. You can throw behind a wide open receiver, and he will still catch it, but the ball may not have been accurate enough to lead him. Alternately, the smart throw is often a throw away or putting the ball where only your man can catch it — it counts as incomplete but was deadly accurate. Also, checkdowns increase completion percentage, but you don’t have to be accurate to hit someone short. [Editor: You just have to be more accurate than Brock Osweiler.] The quarterback might not be accurate enough to throw a more difficult pass downfield. I could keep going, but I won’t. It’s simply a pet peeve of mine.
Quarterbacks covered so far:
- Week 1 – Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz
- Week 2 – Philip Rivers and Sam Bradford
- Week 3 – Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer
- Week 4 – Blake Bortles and Andrew Luck
- Week 5 – Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill
- Week 6 – Tom Brady and Case Keenum