Tebow, Palmer offer stopgap value in wake of quarterback injuries
Tim Tebow's production on the ground has made him nice stopgap QB in fantasy
Lack of consistency, average weapons has sunk Mark Sanchez's production
Inconsistent season has amde Matt Ryan available trade target in some leagues
Tim Tebow blew up this column.
After watching Tebow pull yet another productive fantasy game together after looking completely incompetent for three straight quarters, the original opening to this column, which eviscerated Tebow, Mark Sanchez, and the Jets' and Broncos' offenses, just wouldn't hold up anymore. Sanchez's play remained putrid, but I couldn't rip Tebow again after a dramatic come-from-behind performance. It still seems impossible that he could continue to be a fantasy weapon with his legs, but it's time I give him the respect he has earned. Maybe, just maybe, he can be a useful fantasy player for the rest of the season.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not vaulting him up my rankings. I'm just giving him a bump up to about 13 or 14. I can't place him any higher as long as he remains an essential non-threat as a passer, but the guy has proved to be a legitimate, reliable weapon on the ground, and that has him in the starting mix at the back end.
Sanchez, on the other hand, didn't have any late-game heroics to save his horrid night. The loss of Shonn Greene didn't help, but Sanchez missed plenty of receivers against a Denver defense that had given up 7.8 YPA in its first nine games. His total lack of consistency combined with the average weapons at his disposal make Sanchez a quarterback to pass on the rest of the season, especially now with bye weeks behind us after Week 11.
There remains much quarterback play to appreciate the rest of the season, not to mention a little turmoil at the position. Aaron Rodgers is having a quarterback season for the ages, and may just come away with every single-season record except Dan Marino's 5,084 yards, which Drew Brees is on pace to break. Just in case you somehow forgot we've been having a historic passing season, as a whole.
On the major-injury front, season-ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel cost us one top-10 quarterback, another top-14 quarterback, and two of the NFL's six starting quarterbacks named Matt (Stafford, Ryan, Hasselbeck, Moore). Luckily, it replaced Schaub with Matt Leinart, keeping us at five Matts. Aaron Rodgers better watch his back for Matt Flynn. I wouldn't want to fight this Matt thing.
On the nagging-injury front, Michael Vick is banged up again, this time with broken ribs. Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford are dealing with thumb and index finger injuries, respectively, clouding their immediate futures just a bit.
Basically, now is a perfect time to take stock of the entire position. There are seven quarterbacks who I'm starting every week, no matter what, unless I somehow own two of them. They are, in order: Rodgers, Brees, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Roethlisberger.
Philip Rivers and Stafford are right on the cusp of that group, but Rivers' inconsistency keeps him out while Stafford's finger woes and declining performance have him on the outside looking in. I do still feel fine about Rivers the rest of the way, and while I wouldn't mind a good backup if I were starting Stafford regularly, he remains a solid play.
All that taken together means I'm talking mainly to Schaub and Ryan Fitzpatrick owners, but also to Vick and Cassel owners. If you've been playing Tebow these last few weeks, you might be in this group, too. If you've been counting on any of the above, be it individually or in some combination, you can still find what you need to patch the holes. Here are a few options.
Matt Ryan, Falcons -- Ryan's a prime trade target for someone desperately seeking a quarterback. Not only is he in the 10-to-13 range for the rest of the season, there's a good chance his owner has one of the every-week starters. Remember, this is about attainability as much as anything at this point. Roddy White has been a disappointment this year, but it's not like he fell off the face of the earth. Even if Julio Jones misses a few games, Ryan has solid weapons with White, Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas, not to mention a strong run game. He has a cushy regular-season matchup remaining with the Vikings and another in the playoffs against the Panthers sandwiched around tough games against Houston and Jacksonville. Even in his worst weeks, he won't be that far outside the top-12, and he still has that top-10 upside for the rest of the season.
Jay Cutler, Bears -- Like Ryan, Cutler was a middle-of-the-pack fantasy quarterback at draft time who hasn't done much to dispel that notion through the first 10 weeks. His numbers don't jump off the page, but Cutler has played very well during the Bears' four-game win streak, save the defense-and-special-teams-fueled win over the Lions. The return of Earl Bennett and the meshing of the offensive line has really helped Cutler the last few weeks, although the line will have to adjust again with left guard Chris Williams out for the season after breaking his wrist against Detroit. Bennett has caught all 11 balls thrown his way since his return two weeks ago, going for 178 yards and a touchdown. Cutler and the Bears also have the benefit of a friendly passing schedule the rest of the way, drawing the Chargers, Chiefs, Broncos and Vikings. His value the rest of the way will be much higher than he's getting credit for at the moment.
Carson Palmer, Bengals -- Wipe out the half of football Palmer played five days after Oakland traded for him, and he's 33-for-55 for 631 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. While the turnovers are a bit troubling, that's 11.5 YPA. As long as the line can keep him clean, he'll do plenty of work with speedsters Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford when he returns. He's got the strength of a great run game, no matter if it's Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, or some combination thereof. Oakland still has Minnesota, Miami and Green Bay on the schedule, three teams in the bottom third in the league in YPA against. Palmer is a better option than Fitzpatrick, Tebow and Flacco for the rest of the season. While it cost the Raiders at least a first- and second-round pick to get Palmer to salvage their season, you can get him at a much cheaper price.
To all the readers, here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. I'll see you in two weeks.
Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller.
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