The Quarterback Streaming Challenge: Week 11

A look in at the current state of the Quarterback Streaming Challenge.

Welcome to week 11 of the Quarterback Streaming Challenge. As a quick recap: previous research of mine has found that quarterbacks average fewer points per game in weeks they were started than they do in weeks they were left on the bench. This finding challenges one of the underlying principles of quarterback streaming, which states that by assiduously selecting favorable matchups, one could get production from a player that exceeds his usual total.

Faced with this disconnect, I've designed a controlled experiment to test the hypothesis. I have invited 21 participants to try their hand at streaming quarterbacks based on a real fantasy football industry experts league. These participants are largely writers and contributors at various fantasy football sites— seven here at Footballguys, nine from elsewhere around the web— with five additional at-large spots awarded to fans.

This is primarily an attempt to measure the performance of the Late Round Quarterback strategy, as well as our ability to predict matchups without the benefit of hindsight. With that said, I'll be publishing a recap of how things stand every week so that it can serve as a roadmap for those of you who find yourself streaming in your own fantasy leagues.

In the boilerplate in the intro, I mention a study I conducted last year that suggested we really weren't that good at playing matchups. 

One question that was asked was whether looking only at the later weeks changed anything. In other words, is it possible we were bad at playing matchups early in the year because we didn't yet know which matchups were favorable? And if so, would we naturally improve at our ability to select matchups as the year went on?

Further study did nothing to contradict those preliminary results. Based on my data set from 2015, teams were not only not any better at playing matchups over the second half of the fantasy season, but if anything they were worse!

I bring this up because we're now deep into the back half of the fantasy schedule, with just three regular-season weeks left to go in our project. And instead of seeing teams slowing down, we're seeing them do better and better. I mentioned last week that week 9 was the highest-scoring week of the season by a good amount. Well, week 10 followed that up with the second-highest scoring week.

In fact, of the ten weeks on record to this point, four of the five lowest scoring came in the first five, and four of the five highest scoring came in the last five.

A full analysis will have to wait until we have our season-ending results; we need a player's final point per game average to compare his weekly results against. But early returns run entirely contrary to the results we saw last year at this time. So what gives?

In my mind, the three most likely explanations for the divergent results are as follows:

  1. Last year was an outlier, and playing matchups really does become easier as the season progresses.
  2. This year is an outlier, and playing matchups really does become harder as the season progresses.
  3. Both years have been outliers, and playing matchups neither becomes easier nor harder as the season progresses.

In truth, even having the full data set to study will not put this question to bed. The best possible outcome of our study, (like any other study, actually), is "results are suggestive; further study is warranted".

Convergence has been the theme of the last few weeks, and this week is no different. Another round of buy-ins on Colin Kaepernick means that Kaepernick and Mariota combine to account for half of the quarterbacks in our study.

And here are this week's declared starters:

The convergence on Mariota and Kaepernick has paid huge dividends in the past two weeks, which has in turn led us to this week and the largest consensus achieved to date. We'll see if it continues to pay dividends. Best of luck to our participants, and to everyone following along at home in your own weekly streams.

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