As far as fantasy decision making goes, this one is pretty straightforward. Jay Cutler practiced in full on Wednesday and felt no ill effects on Thursday, so coach Marc Trestman has inserted him right back into his starting job, which is what I’m suggesting we do with the veteran QB.
Those who were able to ride the hot play of Josh McCown down the stretch after a free agent pickup that paid off in a big way are disappointed, today. The rest of the community won’t notice much of a difference. McCown has been outstanding for the Bears, so much so that many were forwarding the argument that the job wouldn’t be Cutler’s when he returned to full health, but alas he is healthy and he’s playing.
— Jeff Dickerson (@ESPNChiBears) December 12, 2013
You’ll recall that before his injury, Cutler was having a strong fantasy season in Marc Trestman’s system, throwing for over 240 yards and for multiple touchdowns in every game but one (we’re talking about his initial injury and ignoring the Lions game where he was far from 100% but played the full contest) and finished as the 3rd and 6th ranked QB in weeks five and six, appearing to turn a corner as he became familiar with the system. Since then, we haven’t seen much of Cutler and McCown did an outstanding job filling in. Essentially you didn’t even notice Cutler was gone, which is what I’m proposing will be the case – in reverse – this week. McCown has been fantasy’s second leading scorer over the last month, an impressive feat, but he is in a system designed to put up numbers and Cutler has the physical tools to do the same.
Plus, he’s got the physical talent on his team to help him do the job. As much as McCown (and if Cutler fares well, him too) has influenced the results in the passing game he’s got a pretty cushy job throwing it to Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett all big bodies capable of dominating opposing secondaries and making plays on contested balls, plus he’s got the benefit of contributions from Matt Forte in the ground game. This week, that will be apparent against Cleveland.
Specific to this week, the Browns aren’t as intimidating a matchup as the popular thinking would suggest against the pass. They rank right in the middle of the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs (16.58 PPG) and their 23 passing touchdowns allowed are the 11th most in the league. Since Week 6, five QBs have scored more than 20 fantasy points against the Browns in eight games, including Tom Brady who posted a 300+ yard second half last week.
Again, the move is largely a moot point. I haven’t adjusted my rankings on any of the skill guys in light of this move because I think the situation is virtually the same for them. As the week progresses, I’ll consider ranking Brandon Marshall ahead of Alshon Jeffery because smokin’ Jay has a strong affinity for Marshall, but at the end of the day you’re starting both WRs without question, and I view Joe Haden‘s likely roll opposite Marshall as a slight downgrade for the receiver (as compared to Jeffery).
In short: start ’em all, Cutler too (he is my 7th ranked QB this week), and move on. The only concern here is that he suffers a reinjury, which is what happened in his last return to action but we’re being told that the QB is ready to go – so go he shall.