The goal of fantasy football is to draft the best team possible. There are trades, waiver wire acquisitions, and injuries that take place throughout a season, but drafting productive players is usually a good place to start.
The downside to a successful draft can be the week to week decision that you lose sleep over. Maybe you drafted Tony Gonzalez and took a flier on Jordan Cameron, and now you have a weekly decision to make that is sure to go wrong. This is obviously a good problem to have, but it can result in you not maximizing your fantasy potential.
Having a tough call at tight end is one thing, but what if you nailed (or picked up) Phillip Rivers after spending an early pick on Matt Ryan, now giving you a conundrum at the highest scoring position?
The short answer here is to trade Rivers to the highest bidder after Ryan’s Week 6 bye (shouldn’t be too difficult as you don’t need a quarterback in return and Rivers faces the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7), but that isn’t going to help you for this week. While I think both of these signal callers could wind up in the top-five this week, you need every point you can get and can’t afford to get burned again here.
My gut reaction was to suggest starting Ryan, but the numbers actually point in the opposite direction. The Atlanta Falcons play the New York Jets on Monday night football, and while I do like the Dirty Birds to bounce back after a tough prime time loss to the New England Patriots last week, the Chargers simply match up better with the Oakland Raiders.
The Jets rank eighth in the league in pass yards surrendered per game (214 yards), but I was willing to overlook that stat as they played Tom Brady in a rain storm and three other average at best quarterbacks to open the season. They’ve allowed seven touchdown passes while recording only a single interception, but the Raiders have been even worse as they have yet to record an INT.
Both Ryan and Rivers rank in the top five when it comes to accuracy this season (fifth and second respectively), so the fact that the Raiders are allowing opponents to complete a league-high 72.1 percent of their passes is a massive bump in Rivers’ value.
The Jets also have a shutdown corner in Antonio Cromartie, something the Raiders simply lack, which potentially levels the playing field for Rivers, who has less pass catching talent to work with than Ryan. Dee Milner is expected to miss this game and the Jets will plug in Darrin Walls to start at corner, a player who spent a season in Atlanta practicing against Roddy White and Ryan.
Every little edge counts, and the argument could be made that Walls is the better player given his familiarity. Speaking of familiarity, don’t forget that the Chargers and Raiders play twice a year, while Ryan hasn’t faced the Jets since December of 2009.
What’s been the knock on Rivers over the past 20 games? Critics have picked apart the Chargers quarterback for not throwing the ball down the field, thus explaining his yardage drop after four straight 4,000-yard seasons. While this may be a fair criticism, it is Ryan who has the fourth-lowest aDOT this season, trailing Rivers by nearly 20 percent!
Lastly, would you believe me if I told you Rivers has been as good over the last eight regular season games as any QB in the league not name Peyton Manning? Since Week 14 of last season, Rivers has tossed 19 touchdowns with only two interceptions, a better mark than Aaron Rodgers (18:3), Drew Brees (22:7), Tom Brady (16:6), and Ryan (18:4).
Rivers has completed an absolute silly 74 percent of his passes in his last three games against the Raiders, and given his 2013 rhythm, is there any reason to believe that changes?
Start Rivers this week and then sell high to add value to the rest of your roster and avoid this decision in the future.
Further fantasy questions? Get at me @unSOPable23.
There’s a sleeper wide receiver I’m starting this week, a different quarterback that I’m trading, and a running back that should return to action in a big way.