Week 15 Rankings and Game Flowbotics

Week 15 Rankings and Game Flowbotics

On Tuesday afternoon, I tweeted out some stats showing how historically horrendous Week 14 was for quarterback fantasy scoring.  Sunday’s slop-fest came at one the worst possible times, the first round of the fantasy playoffs.  In preparation for the second round, let’s start as we always do, with a link to the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet in big green text:

Week 15 Game Flowbotics

A quick aside regarding this week’s installment of Flowbotics… Regretfully, I won’t have much time this week to add notes in the right-hand column of the game breakdowns.  If you have any questions about particular players or match-ups, sound off in the comments or ping me on Twitter, and I will do my best to answer without too much delay.

Moving on, my ranks are a couple mouse-scrolls away, but for the space between, let’s look again at the quarterback position and examine how some tough individual match-ups will impact my Week 15 rankings…

After the aforementioned apocalypse under center last week, some positive regression can be expected.  Unfortunately, many of the passing position’s top performers line up against fantasy’s stingiest defenses this week.  Here’s a statistical look at the four defenses allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, along with the corresponding numbers from their Week 15 opponents:

(Week 15 Opponent)
PPG% of Top-10
% of Top-20
% of QB25
or Lower
Tom Brady
(vs. DEN)
Matthew Stafford
(vs. NYG)
Andrew Luck
(vs. MIN)
Drew Brees
(vs. ARI)

I can’t remember a slate when the “start your studs” mantra was set to be challenged across so many separate match-ups.  With this many high-end quarterbacks squaring off against the league’s best defenses, ranking the position this week is especially arduous.  Here’s how I rationalize my rankings for the four signal callers in the table above:

Tom Brady @ DEN

By the numbers, the Denver Broncos pose the greatest threat to fantasy passing production.  Yes, they’ve allowed two top-10 quarterback finishes this season, but they’ve allowed only three top-20 weeks, fewest in the league.  Every other team has allowed at least five top-20 finishes.

Denver’s worst weeks all came against accomplished quarterbacks.  In Week 1, Cam Newton rushed 11 times for 54 yards and a touchdown en route to 21.16 fantasy points (QB10).  In Week 5, Matt Ryan was the QB19 with just under 15 fantasy points.  And in Week 10, Drew Brees caught the Broncos looking forward to their bye and posted 21.02 points despite two interceptions (QB8).

I expect Tom Brady to join the Bronco-busting fraternity in Week 15, and he’s landed at QB7 in my rankings as a result.  New England’s running game should keep Denver honest and create room for Brady’s various pass-catchers to operate.  Even after Rob Gronkowski’s injury, the Patriots have a lot of depth in the receiving game.  The Broncos shouldn’t be able to consistently stop the run, lock down each receiver in coverage, and pressure Brady in the pocket.  That’s simply too much to ask, even for a defense as great as Denver’s.

Matthew Stafford @ NYG

After a middling start to the season, the Giants have really tightened up against the pass.  They’ve allowed over 13 fantasy points only once since Week 6, when Ben Roethlisberger dropped 17.46 points on them two weeks ago.  It’s fair to attribute some of their defensive success in that span to weak opposition, especially when compared to Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

week 15 rankings game flowbotics 2015 stafford

Nevertheless, the Giants still rank ninth in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA, and Stafford injured the middle finger on his throwing hand in Week 14.  For comparison, a finger injury seemed to sap Derek Carr’s accuracy on Sunday against the Chiefs, particularly on deeper throws.  The Detroit offense isn’t as predicated on long passes as Oakland’s, but I’m worried Stafford may need a game to adjust to a new glove for grip.  He’s the QB24 in my initial rankings shakeout.

Andrew Luck @ MIN

The Vikings have yet to allow a top-10 quarterback finish this season.  They’ve taken more of a bend-don’t-break tack compared to the other defenses we’re examining, though.  Opposing passers have finished in the top-20 in eight of Minnesota’s 13 games, which happens to be the same mark posted by Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Green Bay, Carolina, and Atlanta.  There are some decent-to-good defenses in that list, but it’s not necessarily a murderer’s row.

Enter Andrew Luck, who ranks fourth in average QB finish on the season and has scored 16 or more fantasy points in all but one game since Week 4.  Unfortunately for Luck, Donte Moncrief is dinged up again, but that was the case for much of his run since Week 4.  To add insult injury to injury, though, Luck just lost his best offensive lineman, guard Jack Mewhort, for the remainder of the year.

Minnesota’s second-ranked pass rush is likely salivating over their match-up in the trenches, and Luck’s fantasy owners should be concerned.  This is only his second game of the season against a great defense on the road.  The first was Week 2 in Denver, his worst performance of the season.  Despite my gut telling me to stay the course with Luck, match-up be damned, I can’t ignore the numbers.  He lands at QB14 in my initial rankings, and there are plenty of passers behind him (all the way down to Stafford at QB24) with cases to jump ahead.

Drew Brees @ ARI

Credit to my podcast partner, Joshua Lake, who convinced me to give more credence to Brees’ track record when ranking the Saints’ quarterback this week.  Brees is trending down in recent weeks, but his career of excellence can’t be erased by two bad games, and the Arizona defense is also sliding in the wrong direction as 2016 winds down.  The Cardinals have allowed four top-10 quarterback finishes, with three occurring in their past five games.

In that five-week sample since their bye, passers have scored 17.47 points per game against Arizona.  The quarterbacks they faced were Colin Kaepernick, Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, and Ryan Tannehill plus Matt Moore.  Drew Brees is better than that group on average, and I find it difficult to believe he’ll go a third-straight week without throwing a touchdown pass.  My QB9 opening ranking of Brees may seem like an insult considering his past performance, but he’s still in top-end starter territory.

Week 15 Rankings

Greg Smith

Greg Smith is an engineer, co-founder of TwoQBs.com, and enthusiast for the strategy and design of variance-based games.  When he started playing fantasy football in 2001, his home league's small number of teams necessitated starting two quarterbacks.  That necessity has since grown into obsession, making Greg one of the preeminent champions of 2QB and Superflex formats.

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