Atlanta Falcons vs Detroit Lions
Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford
It's going to be fairly entertaining to watch two of the most coveted draft day quarterbacks square off here in week 16. Matt Ryan has his team in position to seal up home field advantage throughout the playoffs while Stafford plays for nothing more aiding Calvin Johnson in his record breaking yardage. These two quarterbacks certainly went in polar-opposite directions in 2012. Matt Ryan has jumped up into the elite while Stafford has fallen flat after his amazing 2011 campaign. Stafford is still on the top of the stat sheet with passing yardage but his interceptions and lack of touchdowns are shocking compared to his yards.
With the exception of a lucky few, the majority of us have our attention turned to next season's plan of attack. Over the past ten or twelve years the quarterback position has turned into the focal point of the fantasy world. That will not be changing anytime soon. Ryan has done enough at this point to earn a top five rank next season among quarterbacks. The offense will continue to shy away from Michael Turner as Julio Jones matures and improves. With the top five spots pretty well sewn up, where will Matt Stafford fall into place? He's been a major disappointment for owners as he's been wildly inconsistent. The final two games of the year have a lot more on the line for Stafford than Ryan.
Oakland Raiders vs Carolina Panthers
Every bad team has a member of the franchise that gets vilified as the scapegoat. The Red Sox blamed Bobby Valentine, the Lakers are currently blaming Dwight Howard, and the Oakland Raiders are seemingly turning on quarterback Carson Palmer. And for the life of me, I just can't understand why? Palmer has had his best pro season since he was in the running of league MVP with the Bengals prior to his knee injury. He has carried the load during the long absence of Darren McFadden. He has turned Denarius Moore and Darius Heyward-Bey into solid options and made Brandon Myers one of the more productive tight ends in the league. What more can this guy do? His team has possibly the worst defense in the league and they were without their best player for half the year. With all of that in mind, it will be the interception total that derails Palmer.
The Raiders have seemingly already made up their minds that a new coach and manager will represent the silver and black in 2013. When change comes at those two particular levels, the new management likes to bring in their own quarterback, more fitting of their personal styles. As productive as Palmer has been, he's no spring chicken and is getting paid a handsome sum for his efforts. If they decide to take the team in a new direction, for example turning to fellow QB Terrelle Pryor, Palmer could get sent packing. The Raiders signal caller would then become one of the more sought after players in the league given the depravity at the position. It would be in Carson's favor to succeed in whatever limited action he receives for the rest of the season in order to earn a home in 2013.
As for Newton, he started off the season as slow as molasses in December. He was a bit of a cry baby during post game interviews and it seemed to be just a matter of time until Steve Smith blew up at his sulking QB. Newton must have had an epiphany midseason during game film one day because he's been lights out for a month straight. He looks to have regained the title of best running quarterback from RGIII and he's throwing like its' going out of style. Newton has to stay on this torrid pace in order to make owners completely forget about the early season troubles. The schedule looks to have been lined up by Newton himself as he faces a couple clunker defenses the final two weeks, starting here against Oakland. If Newton stays red hot he could reassert himself into the first round of running touchdown favored leagues. Even in standard leagues he could do enough to create a heated debate as to who should be ranked higher, Matt Ryan or Cam Newton?
New Orleans Saints vs Dallas Cowboys
Brees has been and will remain an undisputed top three quarterback again in 2013. It doesn't matter if he completely lays an egg here, next week, or in both, he's already a top tier guy regardless. The Saints have clearly suffered from their head coach Sean Payton being banded for the year but that suspension clock only has a few ticks remaining. Payton's (assumed) return would inject creative life back into the offense. While Brees and Payton may not be on the same level as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, it's obvious that they are more successful with each other than without. Add in the return of the skilled receiver Darren Sproles for an entire year and it would be safe to assume that Brees would be able to outperform any stats from this season with relative ease next year.
With Tony Romo, we have the story of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Instead of an all star cast though, Romo will be doing his best Eddie Murphy and playing all parts involved. Romo is a riddle. Just when you think he's going to give you a terrible day, he explodes suddenly and lights up the scoreboard. Just when you think he's pegged for a great game, he completely misfires and leaves you stranded. Even with his bad and ugly games though, he still manages to put together highly productive seasons each year. This year will be no different and neither should next season. But in order to climb the charts he's going to have to make his good showings far more commonplace. This is one of those games that owners have him penciled in for a huge outing. He's going to need to be on his game to go shot for shot with Brees and his gang. The final two weeks will decide who far away from the elite Romo falls in the rankings.
Tennessee Titans vs Green Bay Packers
There remains a world of untapped potential for the young quarterback of the Titans. He finds himself in one of the more idealistic situations for a fantasy QB. He has the talent, he has the weapons, and his defense gets beat like a rented mule. Even with all the factors lining up like bowling pins for him though, he continues to throw more gutter balls than strikes. The biggest positive is that he's managed to completely shake loose of Matt Hasselbeck's shadow. There isn't much of a controversy as Tennessee has made their take known for a while. The best thing for Locker from now until the official end of the season is to remain average at a minimum and avoid injury. If he can successfully manage those two tasks he'll be viewed as a high upside number two quarterback and a breakout candidate.
Rodgers finds himself in a very similar situation as Locker. He has a stable of talented receivers, he's a former MVP so the talent is unquestioned, and his defense is friendlier than the greeters at Wal-Mart. While he has had a good year, it just hasn't been what we were looking for. Rodgers was taken as the top quarterback, in some cases top player overall, and unless he finishes with a lightning flash, he won't finish in the top three at his own position. It's not all gloomy forecasting in Green Bay though as he's suffered massive amounts of injury on offense. With Randall Cobb becoming a dynamic, impact player and Jordy Nelson hopefully avoiding the injury bug in 2013, Rodgers should be expected to beat this season's production next year. Right?
Well, there are a few issues that could be viewed as negatives against Rodgers in 2013. First is that of wide receiver Greg Jennings. With Cobb proving to be a top end receiver, Jennings suffering yet another injury, and the assumed request for a high paying contract, things just look as though Jennings will be a different uniform next year. Tight end Jermichael Finley is already being rumored as gone next season while there are still games left to be played this season. And to top it off the Packers will be scouring the barren running back market searching for a starting worthy option. Rodgers still remains one of the best players in the league but the situation in Green Bay needs to be monitored. His play over the next two weeks would go a long way in keeping our hopes up in the event that the personnel changes are less than ideal or maybe even nonexistent.
Minnesota Vikings vs Houston Texans
There's really not of positive things to say about Christian Ponder. The Vikings looked like they panicked on draft day when they selected him much higher than he was projected. Since that day, Ponder has shown small samples of his talent, with small being the operative word. He just can't string together productive games and the offensive coordinator just doesn't seem to trust him anymore. The offense clearly belongs to Peterson and the Vikings just need a game manager. Unfortunately for Ponder he doesn't even seem capable of that. He will have to show some form of vital signs before the season closes or the Vikings will be in the hunt for a quarterback like Alex Smith that won't win many games but won't lose you any either.
Schaub has gone from one of the best fantasy quarterbacks to being outside the top ten options. Schaub used to be smack dab in the middle of one of those perfect fantasy situations where he needed to throw a lot and the options were elite. Now that the defense is a monster and Arian Foster deserves the majority of offensive looks, Schaub now appears to be more of a second option for fantasy purposes. There may not be a ton of time left to restore favor his way as the Texans could wrap up home field advantage this week. After that the coaches could decide to either limit or sit their starters to keep them fresh for the start of the playoffs. Schaub could finish on a very low note to no fault of his own. Such a finish would further distance...