For years, we've been debating the merits of Chicago and Denver quarterbacks: Wade vs. Tripuka, Avellini vs. Morton, Elway vs. Kramer. Today, in our first Spin Doctors of the year, we consider Jay Cutler(notes) and Kyle Orton(notes).
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Before wrenching his ankle against the Lions in Week 8, the former hard-partying Bear was on pace to post one of '08's most unexpected performances. Originally considered wire waste, Orton became a multi-week wonder. From Weeks 3-7 he was the top-ranked QB in fantasy averaging 274 passing yards and two touchdowns per game. However, after the injury, his numbers dropped off dramatically.
Now under the tutelage of prepubescent wunderkind Josh McDaniels, who oversaw a high-powered Patriots offense that produced Tom Brady's(notes) historic '07 campaign and Matt Cassel's(notes) '08 emergence, Orton will take his mediocre attributes to a more potent level. He doesn't possess Cutler's arm strength or mobility, but his fairly accurate arm should thrive in a system predicated on several short posts and slants, similar to the scheme he commanded at Purdue.
Most encouragingly, Orton, unlike Cutler, has dependable weapons around him. Brandon Marshall(notes), Eddie Royal(notes), Tony Scheffler(notes) and tacky-handed rookie Knowshon Moreno(notes) are far superior in terms of talent and skills than Chicago's ragtag receiving corps (sans Matt Forte(notes)). Overlooked but equally influential, Denver's expected defensive inadequacies will also bolster his chances to score.
The Broncos O-line will have to adequately protect the sloth-like Orton and he'll have to fend off Chris Simms(notes) in training camp, but the weapons and system around him could lead to shocking fantasy results. Compared to Cutler's inflated cost (ADP: 72.57), his bargain basement price (121.55) also makes him a friggin' steal.
Fearless Forecast: 59.7 CMP%, 221.2 YPG, 23 TDs, 15 INTs
Let's begin by stating the obvious: Cutler is superior to Orton in every meaningful quarterbacking skill. These include, but are not limited to, arm strength, accuracy, mobility, touch, field vision and pocket awareness. If you deconstruct the position and examine all the traits you're looking for in a QB, you'd have a tough time arguing that Orton is comparable to Cutler, anywhere. These two aren't close in terms of passer-rating, completion-percentage or yards-per-attempt.
Thus it's not really a surprise that Orton is battling Chris Simms for the Denver starting job. In terms of talent, he's much closer to Simms than to Cutler.
Don’t try telling me that Orton surprised fantasy owners in 2008, either. He didn't have a big game that we didn't see coming. We told you to add him before his useful three-game stretch in Weeks 5-7, then we told you to shop him in Week 8. He was always a match-up play.
The only reason we're having this discussion is because…well, it's a gimmick -- ex-Bear versus current Bear -- and Denver's wide receivers are clearly better than Chicago's. It's not reasonable to prefer Orton based on anything else. But if you're just looking at the receivers, then you're not considering the entire passing game. Matt Forte had 63 catches last year while Greg Olsen(notes) and Desmond Clark(notes) combined for 95. And when Devin Hester(notes) possesses the football, he's among the most dangerous men in the NFL. He'll finally have a chance to work with an elite passer. Chicago massively upgraded its O-line, too.
Let's put this thing to a vote:
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