In an age of elite quarterbacks that put up gaudy statistics, Aaron Rodgers has emerged as the top signal caller who is in his prime. Sure, you could argue (especially in hindsight) that Peyton Manning should have been the first quarterback selected in your fantasy draft, but there is no QB in the prime of his career that has been producing from a fantasy perspective like the Green Bay Packers starter over the last few seasons. That being said, if you have a reasonable second option at quarterback this week on your fantasy football roster, I’m at least considering it as the banged up Packers play host to the Cleveland Browns this weekend.
First, I’ll touch on the obvious downside and that’s the health of Rodgers’ weapons. Randall Cobb (fractured fibula), the Packers most targeted receiver this season and by far the team’s most explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands, left last week’s game and is expected to be out a minimum of one month. James Jones, who has scored in seven of his last eight regular season games in which he was targeted multiple times, sprained his PCL and his status is in question for this week’s game against Cleveland. Those are two major weapons that will be compromised, if not inactive, for Rodgers this weekend, and with an elite corner in Joe Haden likely matching up against the Packers’ lone healthy starter (Jordy Nelson), it is hard to imagine Rodgers breaking out of his recent funk. The Packers will enter this game with three healthy receivers in addition to Nelson, three players who have totaled six catches in the NFL. A big week from Jermichael Finley would go a long way toward helping Rodgers remain an elite fantasy option, but does he have it in him? He’s only caught 67 passes for 753 yards and three scores over his last 19 games, not exactly the type of production that indicates he can take over a game in the fashion he may need to this week.
I mentioned the “Joe Haden effect” that dooms opponents’ No. 1 options most weeks, but this entire Browns defense is better than you think. Before being gashed by Matthew Stafford last week (four touchdown passes) the Browns had surrendered a only two passing touchdowns while intercepting three passes. They rank as the top defense in terms of yards gained per pass attempt (5.8) and often have success getting after the quarterback (19 sacks). Rodgers will likely be uncomfortable without his top threats anyway, and if the Browns can make him move around, it could get ugly as he simply doesn’t have the familiarity with the cast of pass catchers.
From the department of surprising stats, I’ll deliver one final nugget to conclude my argument. In the 2011 season, the one in which the Packers opened with 13 straight wins after winning the 2010 Super Bowl, Rodgers threw more touchdowns than interceptions in every single game. In his last 11 regular season games, however, Rodgers has been intercepted at least as many times as he has thrown a touchdown five times. For one week, I’d rather take my chances with Jay Cutler or Andrew Luck than the consensus top quarterback coming into this season, as I have A-Rod ranked as a fringe top ten option at his position.
Fantasy questions about any sport? I’m always around @unSOPable23