Fantasy Insight: Where the Rivers Throws

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA
By Tristan H. Cockcroft

It's kind of fitting that Sunday night's game pitted two 24-year-old, 2004 first-round quarterbacks against each other, because the more I watch the Chargers' Philip Rivers throw, the more I feel like I'm watching a newer version of the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger.

Oh, I know what you're thinking ... Roethlisberger has been a fantasy disaster all season, with two more interceptions on Sunday to bring his season to seven compared to zero touchdowns -- ZERO! -- while averaging only 189.7 passing yards in his three games since returning from his offseason motorcycle accident and early-season appendectomy. But the Roethlisberger to whom I compare the 2006 Rivers is not the Roethlisberger of this year, one who waits too long to locate his receivers, then more often than not makes an ill-advised throw. No, Rivers is shaping up as the kind of quarterback Roethlisberger was from 2004-05, when he was actually a pretty efficient passer.

Look at the similarities: Pittsburgh's offense, in 2004-05, was hardly a pass-friendly one, averaging only 23.0 pass attempts per game in those two seasons, and ranking dead last in the category in each year. Still, with the poised, proficient Roethlisberger under center, the Steelers nevertheless ranked in the top 10 in the league in fewest interceptions in each year, and finished a decent 19th (20) and 15th (21) in the league in touchdown passes in 2004 and 2005. That's a remarkably good performance for a guy in a conservative offense, which speaks volumes about Roethlisberger's talent ... and I do think it's still in there somewhere, hiding. Meanwhile, San Diego's offense, this season, has averaged only 26.8 pass attempts per game, which isn't dead last by any means but is also in the bottom half of the league. Rivers, though, has five TD passes compared to two interceptions, which are pretty good numbers for a guy on a team that leans so heavily on the run.

Of course, any comparison to Roethlisberger 2004-05 has to come with the postscript that he was hardly a "great" fantasy player. Sure, he had 12 multi-TD games, but his better performances were vastly unpredictable. About the greatest appeal with Roethlisberger was his tendency to avoid costly mistakes that hurt your fantasy team, which when you think about it qualifies a guy to be a perfectly respectable backup. When those bye weeks strike, it's a nice feeling to know that your stand-in quarterback at the very least won't hurt you, and that description sure fits Rivers. He's a smart passer, and even one with a little upside.

Plus, as we saw on Sunday, those "safe" types can often step up with a nice outing on occasion, like Rivers' 242-yard, 2-TD effort despite the bad matchup against Pittsburgh. He's sure rounding into peak form quickly, so don't underrate him as a solid No. 2 type.