Heading into the Week 10 games I was pretty comfortable with most of my rosters, my embarrassing SOFA squad notwithstanding. But by the time the sun came up Tuesday morning—hardly a certainty given the agony of suffering through the Monday night beatdown of my beloved Vikings—I was scrambling for quarterback help for five of my eight teams.
Three teams sported Michael Vick—one with Ben Roethlisberger as backup, which does me no good this week. Matt Schaub headed up two teams, neither of them particularly well-insured at quarterback.
Worse, after making a big move on Carson Palmer in multiple leagues I still retain his services in only one—and it’s none of the five where I’m desperately in need of a quarterback.
Given the quarterback Armageddon this weekend, I have to believe more than a few of you find yourself in similar dire straits. So I’m opening up my homework on the new batch of waiver wire quarterbacks to help you find a fill-in for this week or perhaps even your playoff run.
I’m limiting this exercise to quarterbacks who are available in more than half of all MFL leagues. Let’s count ‘em down 10 to 1, Casey Kasem style. Or maybe Ryan Seacrest style for you kids.
10. Blaine Gabbert (owned in 19% of MFL leagues)
Gabbert has started since Week 3, yet he has fewer fantasy points than Kyle Orton (benched after five games) and Matt Moore (who didn’t take over until Chad Henne went down with a season-ending injury in Week 4). Gabbert is averaging 10 fantasy points a game; that’s half of what Mark Sanchez does and a third of Aaron Rodgers’ average. He’s topped 150 yards twice, 200 yards once, and never hit the 225 mark; he’s also never thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game. His next two games (at Cleveland, Houston) are tough matchups and there isn’t a softie on his remaining schedule. Nothing to see here; move along.
9. Curtis Painter (23%)
There hasn’t been an instrument invented that can properly measure the chasm between Indy’s quarterback play last season with Peyton Manning at the helm and what Colts fans are suffering through in 2011; it’s like hanging a used square of toilet paper on the wall next to a Picasso. Painter has been benched in two straight and three of his last four games; he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 6. When you’re getting yanked for Dan Orlovsky, that’s a bad sign. As if that’s not enough, the schedule makers have Indy on a mercy bye this week followed by a favorable (on paper) matchup against the Patriots and three poor matchups in the final month. You can’t get far enough away from this situation.
8. John Beck (24%)/Rex Grossman (14%)
I could throw some numbers at you here like how Beck is averaging better than three points a game more than Grossman or that after a Week 13 date with the Jets the Redskins actually have a relatively fantasy-friendly schedule over the final month. But here’s the deal: Mike Shanahan is going to screw with your brain and roll a 27-sided die to determine who starts from week to week and neither Beck nor Grossman is worthy of a roster spot—let alone holding down two so you can cater to the weekly whims of a madman. That this entry is only the eighth worst tells you just how bad Gabbert and Painter have been.
7. Vince Young (11%)/Mike Kafka (2%)
Michael Vick will probably play through his busted ribs, at least for now. Hey, he played the entire Arizona game with them; why not do it again? If he does opt to sit, the Eagles haven’t indicated who’ll take his place. Young would seem to be the logical fit, but he wasn’t particularly impressive in his earlier fill-in for Vick in which he tossed a pick on his only attempt. Mix in injured receivers and a locker room in chaos and aside from a possible spot start at Miami in Week 14, if Vick’s out you really don’t want any piece of the leftovers.
6. Tyler Palko (<2%)
Palko’s NFL resume reads like my college career: he’s appeared in four games with an average point differential of 26 points. Hey, at least I got into lopsided games where we were winning; Palko has been on the short end of the stick in all four NFL appearances. On the bright side he’s completed 69 percent of his NFL passes and never thrown an interception in the pros. He’s better known for his collegiate career at Pitt, where he ranked second only to Dan Marino in career TD passes and yardage and is perhaps best known for dropping the F-bomb in a live television interview following the Notre Dame game his junior year. He’ll have no running game but a decent stable of receivers, and five favorable matchups (and two tough ones) over the final two months of the season. There’s a ton of risk here, but Palko should have the opportunity to throw and has a schedule that might allow him to put up some surprising numbers.
5. Matt Leinart (5%)
Leinart started 11 games as a rookie in 2006, averaging 15 fantasy points a game (the equivalent of what Matt Cassel and Tarvaris Jackson have been doing this year). He’s started just five games since and hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 16 of 2008. Two weeks of first-team reps should help Leinart hit the ground running, but that’s also what I expect the Houston offense will do extensively: hit the ground running, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate shouldering the bulk of the Texans’ offensive workload. Houston’s schedule does the passing game no favors, with two tough matchups (at Jacksonville, at Cincy) in their first three games back, but at least we’ve seen Leinart play in the NFL with some degree of competency. And if he gets Andre Johnson back from his hamstring injury… well, how hard can it be to throw the ball up for AJ to go get?
4. John Skelton (6%)
Over the past five weeks, the top five quarterbacks in average fantasy points per game are Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and… John Skelton? Yep, Skelton’s 222 and 1 against the Rams and 315 and 3 against the Eagles net him 24 fantasy points per game, good for a tie with Brady for fourth on that esteemed list. While that run is unlikely to continue with Skelton facing a schedule whose easiest matchups are a pair of dates with the division-leading 49ers, he certainly knows where to find Larry Fitzgerald; the Cards’ stud receiver has accounted for 35% of his yardage and 75% of his touchdowns. Skelton has proved us all wrong thus far; might as well roll with the hot hand, right?
3. Christian Ponder (43%)
The Vikings’ quarterback of the future struggled in prime time as the Packers got a second look at him, but everyone else on Minnesota’s slate will be seeing him for the first time—and there are some very favorable matchups, including home dates with the Raiders this week and Denver in Week 13. Yes, the Vikings are going to lean heavily on Adrian Peterson, but all those defenders in the box just begs for Ponder to take some shots down the field. Sooner or later he’ll have to prove to the Vikings and opponents that he can take advantage, and what better time to find out than at the tail end of a lost season?
2. Tarvaris Jackson (22%)
How far we’ve come: from beating up JUMbotron all preseason for his misguided faith in T-Jax to recommending him as the second-best desperation option at your disposal. In many ways this is still the same ol’ Jackson; he has nine picks against six touchdowns and is completing barely 60% of his passes. But he’s also posted the first two 300-yard efforts of his career and has familiar face Sidney Rice to throw to. The Seahawks have seen Charlie Whitehurst and know he’s not the answer, so Jackson needn’t look over his shoulder. And with no stoppers on his remaining schedule, T-Jax could be the guy to salvage your fantasy season and get you to the playoffs. However, this is Tarvaris Jackson we’re talking about here, so don’t expect him to win you a playoff game.
1. Matt Moore (18%)
Moore was a placeholder for Cam Newton in Carolina, and he’s likely a placeholder for Matt Barkley or Landry Jones in Miami. But as his 244 and 3 against the Chiefs a fortnight ago indicates, he can hold a place with the best of them. Like Skelton, he knows how to feed his money target; he did it with Steve Smith in Carolina and he’s doing it with Brandon Marshall in South Beach. And the Dolphins have two dates with Buffalo’s struggling secondary left on the docket, along with favorable matchups against the Raiders and Patriots. By the time they hit their only stopper, Week 17 against the Jets, most fantasy leagues will have already settled their championship. You may be down Schaub or Cassel or even Vick, but Moore salvages some of those points. Hey, the Ravens won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer; you can win a Shiva Bowl with Matt Moore. Maybe.
THE TWEET SEASON
With my Twitter following safely past the 500 mark I held a drawing for those of you Huddlers who also follow me at @jtuvey and replied to my tweet with the secret password “Gagliardi”. No, it’s not my wife’s maiden name, as one of you guessed; it’s the name of my college football coach, John Gagliardi, who recently finished the season with career win number 483 at St. John’s University, a Division III football mecca in Collegeville, Minnesota. I’m proud to say I contributed to eight of those wins during my tenure at SJU, though given the lopsided nature of those games the Johnnies probably could have managed to earn the "W" even without me.
But I digress. Tad Anderson (@Tadley24), I pulled your name out of, appropriately enough, a St. John’s cap and you’re the winner of some Huddle swag. Tweet or IM me via the Huddle forums and I’ll give you some swag options and get your contact info. The rest of you can fire your WDIS, trade, and 80s music questions to me and I’ll respond as quickly as possible.
For those of you not following me, I also tweet my Take A Chance On Me players each week from the Saturday radio show I co-host, as well as juicy nuggets I unearth during my research and other info I come across that might help you get an edge in your fantasy matchup. So what are you waiting for? Maybe we’ll have another Huddle swag giveaway at 600.