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QB Streaming: Pursuing Point Spreads, Off Script Offense and Admiral Ackbar


The original Star Wars trilogy created many characters that have remained popular since their release. Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and others have been on just about any piece of merchandise that can be sold. One of the most popular characters that has actually gained popularity as time goes on is Admiral Ackbar. Ackbar is some fish-like species I suppose, who has like four or five lines total in Return of the Jedi. Despite his lack of lines, his “IT’S A TRAP!” has been quoted and turned into roughly 3,934,248 internet memes.

I’m kind of obsessed about game flow and the impact it has on our fantasy game. I’m not quite yet Kevin Spacey, seven deadly sins obsessed, but let’s just say I have some empty boxes laying around if it ever comes to that. I’ve looked at the effect that the scoreboard has on play calling and distribution of touches for running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, but the most enlightening one from my end, was the quarterback game flow piece.

In that piece, there was a trend that was flashing like a neon sign. Quarterback performances followed suit with the scoreboard. For nearly every quarterback, their adjusted yards per attempt and touchdown to interception ratio plummeted when trailing. Something that is counter intuitive to what many believe when we’re pursuing fantasy points on a weekly level.

Let’s go back to week 14 of last year. Streamers and daily fantasy players were downright giddy over the prospects of starting Ryan Fitzpatrick versus the Broncos. Fitzpatrick was dirt cheap still, coming off of four consecutive weeks of scoring 15 or more fantasy points and was going to have to match the highest scoring offense in NFL history point for point. Even if they were getting dusted, the majority of the community was content having Fitzpatrick wing it around for two quarters plus. We got our wish, as the Titans lost 51-28, with Denver running a season high 98 offensive plays. Only Fitzpatrick proceeded to complete 13 of 24 passes for 172 yards and only one score. He finished with 9.3 fantasy points and was the 29th ranked quarterback that week.

RotoViz’s Dr Strangelove has created this pretty incredible fantasy tool known as the Game Splits App. It’s pretty much the Bat Belt of individual performance dissection. Of course, my first inclination was “how can I apply this to Game Flow?”

Quarterback streaming is relatively a common approach taken by many. Quarterback scoring is at an all-time high with more individual quarterbacks scoring usable points than ever before. One of the things the app allows you to do is adjust player performance by final outcome of the game by deficit and adjusting the point spreads. If you’re adopting the streaming approach, or looking for dirt cheap daily bargains at quarterbacks, can you set your lineup by anticipating a team having to throw a lot from behind or play the point spread in your favor?


I took every starting quarterback in the NFL and a few select backups and ran their career performances through some rigorous pre and post game determinations. Not one single quarterback was better on average in terms of fantasy production in losses than in wins. As the loss became worse, QB points fell further and further.

Based on pregame spreads, quarterbacks who were underdogs entering the week scored below their averages and as the spread grew, so did the fall off in production. There were six quarterbacks who bested their scoring average as underdogs, but the only one with a significant sample size is Philip Rivers. Below is every relevant quarterback coming into the season and their performance based on staggering point spreads and game outcomes for their careers. Use the search filter and sort the columns for fun; the results are actionable.

QBPPGPts in WPositive ChangePts in LNeg. ChangeLoss By 3+Loss By 7 +UnderdogChangeSpread 3+Spread 7+
Nick Foles21.530.18.612.8-8.712.813.820.7-0.816.920.9
Matt Stafford22.327.85.518.7-3.618.616.018.1-4.217.514.3
Robert Griffin23.226.73.520.5-2.720.518.621.5-1.720.922.5
Aaron Rodgers24.526.41.920.9-3.621.116.920.3-
Cam Newton24.526.21.722.7-1.822.220.525.20.724.727.7
Drew Brees22.325.33.017.9-4.417.115.718.4-3.917.724.5
Peyton Manning23.324.61.319.8-3.520.018.319.3-4.018.610.9
Geno Smith15.
Tom Brady21.423.31.915.4-6.014.412.819.9-1.518.811.2
Russell Wilson21.
Andrew Luck22.022.80.820.2-1.820.218.8242.024.124.7
Andy Dalton19.922.32.415.9-4.015.716.018.9-1.019.515.4
Tony Romo21.422.10.720.3-
Jay Cutler18.221.63.414.3-3.914.314.316.9-1.316.916.4
Mike Vick18.420.92.515.3-3.114.913.617-1.418.014.8
Matt Ryan19.920.91.018.2-1.717.816.018.7-1.218.413.8
Colin Kaepernick18.420.82.411.1-7.312.39.916.5-1.916.10.0
E.J. Manuel16.6203.414.3-2.313.211.114.6-2.013.919.8
Ryan Tannehill16.919.93.014.2-2.713.711.216.8-0.116.711.9
Philip Rivers19.419.80.418.8-0.618.918.920.91.521.123.8
Ben Roethlisberger19.219.50.318.4-0.818.215.917.5-1.717.113.8
Matt Schaub16.319.22.913.6-2.713.812.314.9-1.415.515.8
Eli Manning17.318.91.615.3-2.015.314.217.1-0.217.313.3
Carson Palmer18.318.80.517.8-0.517.715.917.1-1.216.714.8
Sam Bradford16.418.72.315-1.414.914.616.3-
Joe Flacco16.918.11.214.7-
Ryan Fitzpatrick16.517.71.215.8-0.715.513.316.4-0.115.814.6
Alex Smith14.817.42.611.9-2.912.210.012.2-2.612.310.9
Jake Locker15.317.21.914.2-
Josh McCown12.417.14.710.3-
Mike Glennon16.
Matt Cassel14.415.10.713.7-0.713.611.814-0.413.212.7
Chad Henne13.914.60.713.6-0.313.712.613.8-0.113.414.6
Brian Hoyer5.

This all would seem like common knowledge. Theoretically if you aren’t scoring enough real points to win actual football games, you likely aren’t going to produce enough counting statistics to make an impact in fantasy. Yet, we still pursue these types of QBs weekly. This also ties into the recent conclusion that Jonathan Bales has come to, that the top quarterbacks come with the highest probability of hitting their expected weekly output, which is value in itself. If you look at the most consistent quarterbacks from last season, the players who led in usable starts came from teams that won a lot of games.

Anecdotal Evidence From 2013

The probability above is heavy handed in favor of basing your quarterback selection on players whose team will likely be securing a favorable outcome. That’s not to say that a quarterback can’t post a usable week if his team loses, it just doesn’t come attached with good odds. Players such as Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are sometimes neutered by their teams’ overall success. Tony Romo still notched the third best quarterback performance of the season last year in a loss to Denver.1 Those weeks are more sporadic than worth chasing though. Here’s a look at top 12 weekly finishes from 2013 based on game outcome.


 *Outcomes based on Standard Scoring (25 PaYards = 1 Pt., 4 Pt Pass TD)

Scrapping week 17 since the majority of leagues don’t use it, leaves us with 192 weekly performances to look at. 126 of those came from quarterbacks who won the game, nearly eight per week. Since these are top 12 weeks, everyone here is scoring points, but again, you can spot the gap that stems from an offense being on script. As far as really elite weekly production, on average only 1.5 quarterbacks per week in the top six scorers were teams who failed to cash in a victory.

As usual, I love to share the fragmented data, so here you can find every top 12 finish from weeks one through 16 for you to sort and search through.

Peyton ManningDEN1146.28BALW
Nick FolesPHI9145.64OAKW
Tony RomoDAL5140.94DENL
Josh McCownCHI14139.52DALW
Aaron RodgersGB2134.9WASW
Nick FolesPHI15133.22MINL
Drew BreesNO8133.18BUFW
Drew BreesNO4132.72MIAW
Peyton ManningDEN16132HOUW
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT11131.88DETW
Peyton ManningDEN13131.82KCW
Drew BreesNO3131.78ARIW
Drew BreesNO10131.68DALW
Cam NewtonCAR6130.68MINW
Andrew LuckIND7130.02DENW
Philip RiversSD12127.78KCW
Peyton ManningDEN5235.76DALW
Michael VickPHI2233.42SDL
Tom BradyNE9233.18PITW
Andrew LuckIND14232.24CINL
Andy DaltonCIN16231.64MINW
Alex SmithKC15231.18OAKW
Andy DaltonCIN8231NYJW
Colin KaepernickSF1230.68GBW
Nick FolesPHI6230.04TBW
Cam NewtonCAR3229.42NYGW
Russell WilsonSEA13229.1NOW
Peyton ManningDEN4229.08PHIW
Robert Griffin IIIWAS10227.64MINW
Andy DaltonCIN7227.48DETW
Cam NewtonCAR11226.56NEW
Tom BradyNE12223.76DENW
Peyton ManningDEN14331.78TENW
Ryan FitzpatrickTEN15330.28ARIL
Philip RiversSD2329.86PHIW
Eli ManningNYG1328.8DALL
Jake LockerTEN3328.76SDW
Case KeenumHOU9328.6INDL
Colin KaepernickSF8327.96JACW
Geno SmithNYJ16327.36CLEW
Cam NewtonCAR13327.32TBW
Peyton ManningDEN10327.1SDW
Robert Griffin IIIWAS7326.32CHIW
Philip RiversSD4326.04DALW
Andy DaltonCIN6325.18BUFW
Carson PalmerARI11324.46JACW
Ryan FitzpatrickTEN12323.4OAKW
Jay CutlerCHI5323.02NOL
Jason CampbellCLE14430.34NEL
Matt CasselMIN15429.18PHIW
Cam NewtonCAR8427.84TBW
Sam BradfordSTL2426.58ATLL
Matthew StaffordDET7426.28CINL
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT9425.9NEL
Michael VickPHI1425.52WASW
Peyton ManningDEN3424.76OAKW
Matthew StaffordDET6424.52CLEW
Ryan FitzpatrickTEN10423.86JACL
Nick FolesPHI13423.68ARIW
Colin KaepernickSF12423.4WASW
Alex SmithKC4423.22NYGW
Colin KaepernickSF16422.98ATLW
Robert Griffin IIIWAS11422.96PHIL
Russell WilsonSEA5422.6INDL
Andy DaltonCIN14530.1INDW
Matthew StaffordDET8526.72DALW
Matt FlynnGB15525.66DALW
Peyton ManningDEN7525.34INDL
Andrew LuckIND1524.92OAKW
Andrew LuckIND9524.84HOUW
Geno SmithNYJ3524.64BUFW
Matt RyanATL2522.96STLW
Nick FolesPHI10522.92GBW
Matthew StaffordDET11522.88PITL
Matt RyanATL4522.84NEL
Thaddeus LewisBUF6522.34CINL
Alex SmithKC13522.32DENL
Geno SmithNYJ5522.06ATLW
Alex SmithKC12521.46SDL
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT16519.98GBW
Drew BreesNO14628.82CARW
Aaron RodgersGB1624.62SFL
Jason CampbellCLE9624.48BALW
Ryan TannehillMIA15624.38NEW
Aaron RodgersGB7623.6CLEW
Robert Griffin IIIWAS2622.9GBL
Nick FolesPHI11622.62WASW
Aaron RodgersGB8622.5MINW
Josh McCownCHI13622.2MINW
Christian PonderMIN3621.72CLEL
Russell WilsonSEA10621.48ATLW
Sam BradfordSTL5621.28JACW
Carson PalmerARI12620.56INDW
Jay CutlerCHI6620.48NYGW
Tom BradyNE4620.44ATLW
Nick FolesPHI16618.9CHIW
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT14724.76MIAL
Matt SchaubHOU1723.84SDW
Alex SmithKC2722.62DALW
Alex SmithKC11722.4DENL
Russell WilsonSEA9722.28TBW
Jake LockerTEN7721.94SFL
Peyton ManningDEN8721.86WASW
Matthew StaffordDET3721.6WASW
Ryan TannehillMIA13721.44NYJW
EJ ManuelBUF15721.42JACW
Ryan FitzpatrickTEN5720.88KCL
Joe FlaccoBAL6720.28GBL
Cam NewtonCAR12720.06MIAW
Jake LockerTEN4719.66NYJW
Case KeenumHOU10719.34ARIL
Matt RyanATL16717.92SFL
Ryan TannehillMIA14823.6PITW
Philip RiversSD1823.6HOUL
Matt RyanATL7821.72TBW
Russell WilsonSEA3821.48JACW
Jason CampbellCLE8821.42KCL
Brandon WeedenCLE13821.3JACL
Kirk CousinsWAS15821.24ATLL
Josh McCownCHI9820.88GBW
Peyton ManningDEN2819.98NYGW
Terrelle PryorOAK5819.94SDW
Matt McGloinOAK11819.58HOUW
Brian HoyerCLE4819.46CINW
Mike GlennonTB6818.92PHIL
Matthew StaffordDET10818.66CHIW
Drew BreesNO12818.52ATLW
Chad HenneJAX16815.58TENL
Tom BradyNE14922.82CLEW
Robert Griffin IIIWAS13921.08NYGL
Alex SmithKC8921CLEW
Colin KaepernickSF7920.76TENW
Tom BradyNE15920.56MIAL
Joe FlaccoBAL9920.5CLEL
Drew BreesNO1920.48ATLW
Tony RomoDAL3920.4STLW
Matt SchaubHOU2919.92TENW
Tony RomoDAL4919.34SDL
Drew BreesNO5919.32CHIW
EJ ManuelBUF11918.7NYJW
Josh McCownCHI12918.48STLL
Sam BradfordSTL6917.08HOUW
Kellen ClemensSTL10916.08INDW
Tony RomoDAL16914.94WASW
Geno SmithNYJ141021.76OAKW
Tom BradyNE131020.84HOUW
Tony RomoDAL81020.84DETL
Drew BreesNO151020.52STLL
Geno SmithNYJ71020.52NEL
Matthew StaffordDET11020.48MINW
Tony RomoDAL91020.28MINW
EJ ManuelBUF31019.72NYJL
Andrew LuckIND41018.88JACW
Matt RyanATL51018.76NYJL
Andrew LuckIND21018.64MIAL
Russell WilsonSEA111018.6MINW
Ryan TannehillMIA121018CARL
Aaron RodgersGB61016.7BALW
Ryan TannehillMIA101015.36TBL
Jay CutlerCHI161014.38PHIL
Russell WilsonSEA71120.3ARIW
Sam BradfordSTL11120.06ARIW
Colin KaepernickSF151120.02TBW
Joe FlaccoBAL141120MINW
Matthew StaffordDET131120GBW
Drew BreesNO91119.18NYJL
Terrelle PryorOAK31118.84DENL
Matt SchaubHOU41118.7SEAL
Jay CutlerCHI21118.5MINW
Philip RiversSD51118.44OAKW
Andrew LuckIND111118.38TENW
Brandon WeedenCLE61116.68DETL
Matthew StaffordDET121116.48TBL
Terrelle PryorOAK81116.12PITW
Andy DaltonCIN101115.16BALL
Andrew LuckIND161114.14KCW
Philip RiversSD141219.96NYGW
Terrelle PryorOAK11219.88INDL
Jay CutlerCHI151219.7CLEW
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT131219.38BALL
Philip RiversSD91219.04WASL
Brian HoyerCLE31218.64MINW
Matt CasselMIN41218.42PITW
Andrew LuckIND51218.06SEAW
Mike GlennonTB111217.64ATLW
Mike GlennonTB71217.54ATLL
Matthew StaffordDET21217.22ARIL
Drew BreesNO61216.54NEL
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT121216.38CLEW
Christian PonderMIN81215.6GBL
Christian PonderMIN101214.26WASL
Joe FlaccoBAL161212.4NEL

There’s something to be said for offensive flexibility. When the offense has the entirety of their playbook open, defenses can be exposed because they are their heels. When the offense is so far off script and play calling shrinks down, it’s harder to effectively move the football, and in turn score fantasy points. Even when a defense has become accommodating in terms of trading yardage for clock, quarterbacks suffer a severe drop off in production. Even Peyton Manning only notched one top 12 week in a loss last year.

When you’re setting your weekly lineups and combing through waivers, the actionable thing to take from here is targeting guys who will be in favorable real game situations. If you’re planning on chasing points that stem from off script offense and an alluring point spread that will create those situations, remember the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar….


  1. Who was giving Dallas nine points.  (back)

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