Marcus Mariota has become one of the most pleasant quarterback surprises in fantasy football this year. The sophomore signal caller was mostly left as an afterthought during draft season, as a backup with potential upside. The rule of law in Tennessee was supposed to be that of Exotic Smash Mouth (which I will never stop saying), which was going to be built around DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry getting an ungodly number of carriers while the Titans slow the game down and strangle the life out of the other team. While Murray is running an insane amount, the Titans are slinging it all over the yard instead of rushing it and slowing it down.
Now that Mike Mularkey has given him the reins to the roster, and is allowing him to throw the ball more and more, he has become a set-and-forget QB1. In his last eight games, he has gone below 19.9 fantasy points once and has gone over 27 points four times in the same time span. He has gotten increasingly brazen with his passing and has gotten multiple touchdowns in every single game since he had zero on October 2nd, back in week four. He’s been verifiably great, and a bevy of weapons at his disposal certainly don’t hurt. He’s earned his #6 ranking for the season, there’s no doubt about that.
However, Mariota takes on his biggest obstacle this week. Literally, the biggest obstacle that any quarterback can face: the top fantasy defense against quarterbacks this season, the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are less a defense and more a force of nature against quarterbacks, giving up over 20 fantasy points just twice this season (to Cam Newton week one and Drew Brees in week ten). Those two games they yielded over 20 fantasy points? Their only games allowing more than 16 fantasy points. They suffocate quarterbacks, and it takes being one of the absolute best to have a good fantasy game against them. Even then, that might not be enough. They’ve shut down Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, Philip Rivers (twice) and Derek Carr en route to their #1 ranking.
Benching Marcus Mariota may be a tough pill to swallow, given his recent torrid pace and the fact that he is well-rested coming out of the bye. However, only two quarterbacks this year have even been fantasy relevant, let alone good. You’re better off leaving Mariota on the bench this week and live to fight another day.