The problem with names in fantasy football is that they’re completely meaningless, which becomes even more true right now as the playoffs begin.
Name value is a phenomenon which exists due to historical precedent after a player has established a pattern of consistently high production. It’s debunked through a simple thought: what happened in the past is not destined to repeat in the future.
Generally this is understood, but right now during the fantasy playoffs when each roster decision is vitally important, you’ll stubbornly stick with the star players and star names, even if there are better options and matchups available elsewhere. And you’ll do that because it feels right, safe, and comfortable.
Which brings us to this question which I promise is very real and legitimate, and not at all a joke: who should you start between Tom Brady and Josh McCown?
You could take Brady’s name out there, and substitute in a number of elite fantasy quarterbacks. Pretty much anyone not named Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees is grounds for a real talk. But Brady provides the most intriguing real talk because of both his aforementioned name value, and his far less appealing matchup when compared to McCown’s Monday night. He’s still the Bears’ starter for at least one more week, and he should be your starter for one more week too.
But here’s the real fun: McCowan is owned in only 39 percent of Yahoo leagues, and 15 percent of ESPN leagues. Let’s explore why you should change that, and really, seriously consider benching Brady, or someone of a similar stature.
Josh McCown vs. Cowboys
The Cowboys are getting Sean Lee back, which is ungood both for Matt Forte and McCown, as he’s mighty fine in coverage. But he alone can’t fix a broken pass defense, and he’s not part of defensive backfield that’s regularly been ripped apart.
First, the overall damage. The Cowboys are giving up an average of 294.9 passing yards per game, the second worst rate in the league. They’re accomplishing that through frequent chunks, allowing 7.8 yards per pass attempt, and 54 receptions for 20 yards or more. The latter number there evens out to 4.5 chunky passes per game, which is especially encouraging for McCown with his dual deep threats of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Please recall just this past Sunday when Jeffery torched the equally atrocious Vikings secondary for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and 80 of those yards came on just one catch.
In addition to feasting on the Cowboys-level Vikings pass defense, McCown did the same two weeks ago against the Rams, showing that he can readily capitalize on a favorable matchup. Over just those last two games against the 30th and 19th ranked pass defenses he’s thrown for 707 yards with four touchdowns, and only one interception despite 83 pass attempts.
This week for McCown should look the same as the last two weeks: a strength (deep passing anchored by the wide catching radius of Jeffery and Marshal), triumphing over a weakness (coverage…any kind of coverage).
Tom Brady vs. Browns
The Browns are losing games mostly because Willis McGahee and Chris Ogbonnaya are their running backs, and getting any offense whatsoever from someone who isn’t Josh Gordon has been a Herculean task, which has made Gordon the offense. All of it, as over the past two weeks he’s been targeted 32 times, turning that into 24 catches, 498 yards, and three touchdowns. And yet even with all that and Gordon’s 95-yard catch, the Browns lost both games, one of which was to the Jaguars.
The other side of the ball isn’t an issue, but it will be for our boy Brady. The cornerback tandem of Joe Haden and Buster Skrine occupy the top two spots in passes defensed with 18 and 17 apiece. Haden also has four interceptions over just the Browns’ last four games, one of which was returned for a touchdown. That seal-down ability has led to this daunting figure: 5.8 yards allowed per pass attempt, which is tied for a league low.
The Browns’ body of work this year against upper echelon quarterbacks is also daunting. Matthew Stafford is second in passing yards per game at 318.8, but back in Week 6 he was limited to only 248 yards at 5.8 per attempt pace, though his patient dinks and dunks led to red-zone opportunities, and four touchdown passes. The story was similar for Aaron Rodgers in Week 7, as he recorded three touchdown passes while hitting on his scoring chances, but a quarterback who was averaging 8.8 yards per pass attempt prior to his injury saw that fall by over a full yard to 7.2, while being held to a moderate 260 yards overall. Production that’s dependent on the volatility of touchdowns is not a comfortable thing.
You’re seeing where this is headed: Brady will do his passing and have a fine day, but the likelihood that he’ll have an elite day against a defense that’s minimized lengthy tosses (only 28 receptions for +20 yards, tied for third fewest) is low. And the chances that he’ll have a McCown-level day are lower.
Give me…McCown: I realize starting McCown over Brady takes extreme bravery, and it’s unconventional, and not at all a move I would do regularly. But in this one week for this one fantasy playoff matchup, McCown has the far better outlook.