Week 14 is here and that means the playoffs. So it’s important to not mess around with your QBs. As always, you’re starting, regardless of matchup, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Eli Manning. Who are the next five? Here’s where you have to be smart, and weigh equally the talent of the QB with the matchup he has. And, oh yeah, where’s the cutoff line for Michael Vick? He used to be a must-start, but now he’s not. How many quarterbacks could you start ahead of him? Read on below.
6. Matthew Stafford vs. Minnesota: The Vikings defense does one thing really well: Allow touchdown passes. An NFL-worst 24 on the season, or an average of just about two per game. I mean, Tim Tebow hit them for two and more than 200 yards through the air. What do you think Stafford is going to do Sunday? He’ll rediscover Calvin Johnson in the end zone a couple of times and will be over 300 yards in the process.
7. Tony Romo vs. N.Y. Giants: This has been a pretty easy trend to follow all season long. The Giants defense gives up huge games to big quarterbacks. They’ve faced three elite passers and the results have been: Tom Brady, 342 and two TDs; Drew Brees, 363 and four TDs; and Aaron Rodgers, 369 and four TDs. Even Alex Smith and Vince Young were each over 240 yards in recent weeks against them. Romo is still red-hot, coming off 299 yards and a TD against Arizona. Since November, he’s completed more than 60 percent of his passes in every game. You do the math for Week 14.
8. Carson Palmer at Green Bay: As much as I was wary of Palmer last week, I love him this time around. Look, the Raiders got pummeled by the Dolphins and he was still able to go for 273 and two TDs, albeit in garbage time. This is a much more favorable matchup, as Christian Ponder is the only QB since early October who hasn’t thrown for at least 276 yards against the Packers.
9. Michael Vick at Miami: So here lies the QBFKAAMS (The Quarterback Formerly Known As A Must-Start). You didn’t hold onto him through all of his injury woes to sit him when he returned, did you? If he’s healthy enough to play, it means, in a lost season, he’s healthy and can be back to his old dominating self. Miami will get a bounce coming off their most complete game of the season, and Vick gets Jeremy Maclin back as well. It will look like he never left.
10. Tim Tebow vs. Chicago: The Bears are in the bottom third of the league against the pass. Tim Tebow isn’t the world’s greatest passer, but he’s coming off a game in which his QB rating was 149.3. Tebow is starting to heat up a little bit. Denver has just played three of four on the road and will be coming home to a hero’s welcome. Tebow was good for one fantasy point at halftime against the Vikings, then finished with 18. Since becoming the starter, his worst fantasy game has been 14 points. Expect closer to 20 in this one as he runs a little more than he did against Minnesota.
*Just missing on this list for Week 14, believe it or not, are Ryan Fitzpatrick and Rex Grossman. Fitzpatrick seems to have righted himself after a horrendous midseason stretch, and Grossman has a phenomenal matchup this week against the Patriots (hey, if you can make Dan Orlovsky look like Dan Marino, you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel). But the reason they’re not higher on the list is a simple one, and it goes into what I mentioned in the beginning about the talent of the QB. Make sure, if you’re going to get beat, you get beat playing the better of the QBs and not because you got too cute and played Grossman over Vick. But, if you don’t have any of the top 10 guys? Have at it with Rex and Ryan. (Hah, see what the Jets fan did there!)
See Jason Smith on NFL Fantasy Live, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Red Zone Channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.