The NFL season has reached one of my favorite stages. Teams have played enough games for bettors to make reasonable assessments, but there is still plenty of year left to change the narrative. Through Sunday’s games the league has seven quarterbacks with a passer rating of 100 or more: Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, and Brian Hoyer. A couple of those names – Brees and Rivers – aren’t surprising. But something tells me Bradford and Hoyer didn’t go early in your fantasy draft.
From a betting standpoint, there is always an edge to backing secondary QBs because amateur fans don’t want to put their money on someone without cache. On the flip side, the players that are the face of the league are overbet.
Let’s look at a few quarterbacks that are providing value one way or the other right now.
Last year, Rodgers finished 15th in the NFL in passer rating, not great by his standards. He had the built in excuse that top target Jordy Nelson missed the whole season. This season, he is number 20, ranking below Tyrod Taylor, Alex Smith, and Trevor Siemian, and just ahead of Ryan Tannehill and Case Keenum.
It would be one thing if a bad game was weighing down Rodgers’ numbers, but he has thrown more than one INT only once this year, and has contributed 12 touchdowns against four picks. So what’s the issue? Completion percentage, largely. After posting his worst completion percentage as a starter last year, that number has dropped even further to 60.2-percent this season.
He’s not getting chunk yardage on his completions, either, averaging just 6.46 yards per attempt, 27th in the league. He’s also on pace to fumble more this year than any other in his career.
Of course, at age 32, Rodgers may turn things around. Tom Brady’s still elite at 39, after all. But when you bet on Green Bay, do not think you are backing the guy who won two MVP’s.
One of the great talents to come into the NFL in recent years, Luck has pretty good numbers this season, but buyer beware. Indianapolis can not keep Luck upright, his receivers are dropping like flies, and a lot of his production has come late in games when the team is scrambling to come back. It isn’t so much that his numbers have come in garbage time; the Colts aren’t getting routed. But they are constantly trailing late, forcing them to go into hurry up mode.
Luck is second in the NFL in pass attempts and 13th in passer rating, which is dramatically better than last year (32nd). He is one of the game’s most talented QBs and will have some big games the rest of the way. But given the shoddy offensive line and depleted receiving corps, you can’t bet on Indy thinking you’re getting one of the league’s best offenses.
I liked Tony Romo for fantasy purposes entering the season, figuring that Dallas would run the ball well, which would open up opportunities to pass. When Romo went down, I had no reason to think Prescott could take advantage of those chances.
Even without Dez Bryant for a portion of the year, Prescott has been terrific. He has a passer rating over 100 in five straight games and is top-five for the season. He’s getting better with the deep ball and is already uber-consistent on shorter routes.
Good performances early against Washington, Chicago, and San Fran – three average-at-best teams – left some questions. But dominant wins over Cincinnati and Green Bay the last two weeks have proven that Prescott is an upper echelon signal caller at the moment.
Could the rookie regress? Sure, especially if the o-line and run-game slow down. But I’ll ride the wave while it’s rolling.
Photo credit: Mike Morbeck (Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.