Numbers can certainly be skewed when it comes to who has done what against whom in recent weeks in the NFL. Safe to say this is what we are dealing with when it comes to looking at San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as QB1 against Baltimore in Week 15.
The Ravens No. 1 against fantasy QBs this season and are ranked third against them over the last five weeks, but have faced the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton and Tarvaris Jackson.
However, it is not just the below-average QBs the Ravens have been able to give trouble.
They have had five games against veteran, fantasy-start worthy QBs this season — Ben Roethlisberger twice, Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Sanchez and Matt Schaub — and those five averaged 261.4 yards per game with four total TDs and six interceptions for an average of just 12.9 fantasy points per game amongst them.
So the numbers say the yards are there to be had for veteran QBs, but the TDs will be limited to one per game and all of the veterans were intercepted at least once.
This is where the problem lies when it comes to starting Rivers. After a struggling start to the season — 11 TDs, 14 interceptions and three lost fumbles over the first nine games — he is now more protective of the ball in the air. He has thrown 11 TDs to three INTs over the last five games and no picks in the last three games; he does have two lost fumbles in the last five games.
The yardage has always been there for Rivers this season. Only twice has he dipped below 240 yards. He has five games above 16 points in his last six outings. But can he survive behind his offensive line’s struggles going against this defense for long enough to have the good outweigh the bad?
It is unlikely the Chargers’ ground game will get going against the No. 2-ranked rush defense. So Rivers will have to have success through the air. Rivers has Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and rookie Vincent Brown at his disposal. The only troublesome trio Baltimore has had to face this season is that of the Steelers twice (280 and 330 yards in the two meetings). Rivers also has tight end Antonio Gates, who is unlike any other the Ravens have had to face this year, and he gives the Chargers four targets with which to work in addition to Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews as pass catchers out of the backfield.
In three games vs. Baltimore, Rivers averages 276.7 yards passing with six TDs and three interceptions. The Week 15 game is in San Diego, on national television and Rivers is throwing for 285 yards per game with 13 TDs and eight interceptions in seven home games this season — six of which came in the first nine weeks of the season.
And there’s Rivers’ December numbers over his career — 25 games, 22 wins, 5,754 yards, 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a 102.0 QB rating.
Rivers is not a top-12 QB for me this week, because I don’t trust his offensive line to keep him upright, but I would still start him ahead of his opponent Joe Flacco as well as Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter