It was a different world, Week 2.
Back then, spirits were high. Optimism rampant. Hair out of control. Expectations unwieldy.
We all thought we could predict the future, man.
It was in those days of reckless self-assurance that I had the audacity to unfurl this gem:
"With so little differentiation between the second and third tiers at quarterback now, the position, quite frankly, has become matchups-oriented."
I wrote it. You read it. We've been banging our heads against a wall ever since.
Not that it was so outlandish at the time. The general premise of a less-than-elite super tier developing at the position has proven to be true, with fewer points separating the 11th quarterback from the third quarterback than the third quarterback from the second. But after eight weeks of experimenting with it, I can confidently say that playing matchups at quarterback simply won't do -- a possibility I foresaw but didn't fully embrace in that Sept. 19 column:
"The more options you have to choose from, the more potential you have to choose wrong, and if you continually choose wrong, you miss out on all the good weeks, putting you in a worse predicament than if you had just stuck with one guy."
Yes. Yes. That's exactly what's happened to me over and over again in every league except the one where I own Drew Brees.
Why's that? Because I'm not sitting Drew Brees for anything.
I'm sure most people would agree with me there. Along with Peyton Manning, he's one of only two quarterbacks who have legitimately distanced themselves from the others.
But if the secondary benefit of owning a Drew Brees -- i.e., the elimination of any potential dilemma at quarterback -- can make such a difference for my Fantasy team, why not just apply it to lesser quarterbacks, ones who don't necessarily deserve every-week status over their peers but who are productive enough to justify it in the absence of alternatives?
To be clear, I'm talking about intentionally eliminating quarterback depth to protect yourself from yourself.
Now, if you have two quarterbacks of similar value and consistently pick the higher-scoring one each week, you're obviously beyond such measures. But if you're right only half the time -- or, in my case, less than that -- the surplus is only limiting your potential output.
Maybe you still don't buy that choosing is all that difficult and view my inability to do so as nothing more than user error. But look, I don't have the same issue at running back. Not that I have a 100 percent success rate there either, but the correlation between matchup and production is strong enough to satisfy me. The problem is limited to quarterback.
And I don't know why exactly. Maybe different passing schemes work better against some teams than others while running is running is running. Maybe the flow of the game -- who gets the lead and when, which would be mostly unpredictable -- has a greater effect on the passing game than the running game. I'm just spitballing here.
Not that knowing would make a difference. Like it or not, this is the way it is, so unless you delight in chasing your tail, I say you give up on playing matchups at quarterback.
And conveniently enough, I've come to this conclusion just in time for the trade deadline in most leagues.
Not that you have to trade your excess at quarterback, of course. Keeping a spare around in case of injury could end up saving your season. But for it to work, you have to convince yourself he's just a backup, no matter how close his production is to your starter's, and affix him to your bench until you genuinely have no other choice.
I don't know about you, but I can't trust myself to do that. Keeping him around would only tempt me to make a change if I didn't like the way things went the previous week, and once you start down that path, you risk missing out on the best your starter has to offer.
Case in point: In a league where I own Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Case Keenum (if you think playing matchups with two is tricky, try it with three), I recently determined to stick with Wilson every week unless his matchup demanded I sit him, which clearly wasn't the case at the Falcons last week. But then I saw Rivers was facing the Broncos and thought of all the points they've given up recently and how much he'd have to throw to keep up with Peyton Manning and how smart I'd be to deviate from the plan for just one more week and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Lo and behold, Rivers scored 14 points, Wilson scored 25, and I lost by one.
It never fails.
Now, again, it's a dilemma only if the two quarterbacks have more or less the same value. If one clearly outclasses the other, then duh, he's the one to start. But as plentiful as second-tier quarterbacks have become, chances are more than a few teams in your league have more than one, which is why I feel the need to designate priority where none exists naturally.
To that end, here are the 12 quarterbacks I'd be most willing to start the rest of the way. The goal is one per team, so if you play in a smaller league, feel free to shorten the list. I'm not saying these 12 are vastly superior to everyone else at the position, because particularly for the back half, that's simply not true. But if you can come up with a way to have one and only one on your roster without sacrificing too much in the way of value, you won't have to worry about shooting yourself in the foot anymore.
1. Peyton Manning, Broncos: You don't need me to tell you he's the best.
2. Drew Brees, Saints: If you eliminate Week 1, he's basically on par with Manning. Again, nobody's debating whether or not to start him.
3. Matthew Stafford, Lions: After a so-so first five weeks, he's distinguished himself with three-plus touchdowns in three of his last four games. A bad game for him is 250 yards and two touchdowns.
4. Tony Romo, Cowboys: Wildly inconsistent, which is the worst quality for a Fantasy quarterback, but the good games are too good to risk missing.
5. Cam Newton, Panthers: In the same boat as Romo, except the bad games are a little worse. You end up kicking yourself every time you sit him, though.
6. Nick Foles, Eagles: This is as high as I can justify ranking him with so little track record, but three of his last four starts have been nothing short of spectacular.
7. Russell Wilson, Seahawks: The tough calls begin here. Wilson has consistency going for him, but he has a bye and a game at San Francisco ahead.
8. Case Keenum, Texans: Even less of a track record than Foles, but he has been nearly flawless so far and has some nice weapons at his disposal. He also has what might be the best matchups of this group going forward.
9. Robert Griffin III, Redskins: Really hard to trust given his struggles so far, but he's coming off his best game and has terrific matchups in five of his final seven.
10. Tom Brady, Patriots: Like Griffin in that he hasn't earned much trust this year, but if his Week 9 performance is an indication of what he can do with his full allotment of weaponos, you'll be glad you held on to him.
11. Andrew Luck, Colts: Deserves more credit than I've given him thanks to the failures of the Colts' running game but doesn't have a matchup that I'd consider favorable the rest of the way (unless you count Week 17).
12. Philip Rivers, Chargers: After a strong start, he's fallen into the Ben Roethlisberger pattern of steady yardage but sparse touchdowns. Better matchups than Luck going forward, but that's not saying much.
The order here isn't as important as the narrowing down to 12. Particularly after the top six, it's too close to call, which is sort of the basis for the whole column. Even now, I'm debating whether to drop Wilson behind Brady. That upcoming bye really hurts.
The good news is you get to decide which of the 12 to keep and which to shop. Trust Luck over Griffin? Fine by me as long you commit to it. Griffin's trade value is probably as high as it's been all year. Value track record more than anything and prefer to stick with Brady over Foles? I'm sure you'll find a taker for the fresh face, as productive as he's been so far.
Of course, that goes for any of these 12, assuming you play in a 12-team league. If you have more than on your roster, then someone else doesn't have any. More likely, several don't have any because you're not the only one with more than one. I'm not saying they'll all offer fair value, but with this type of deal, the return is secondary. Ideally, you'd pair the quarterback with one of your running backs for an even better running back, but if the offer's in the ballpark and you get something you like, you should be happy to dump your problem on someone else, assuming it's actually a problem
Now, here's where I start making concessions. A time will come when Aaron Rodgers re-enters the discussion, presumably at No. 3 or 4, so keep that in mind in your negotiations. Also, keep in mind I've approached this subject from the perspective of one with excess. If you don't have any of these 12 but do have one and only one of Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan, who were the near misses, you're not so far behind that you should break up your fleet of running backs to upgrade.
Unless you're 4-6 or whatever. In that case, that fleet of running backs isn't doing you much good.