Congrats for still being alive. And congratulations to Tyler (from our show) and Brent (from 97.5 KMOD) for raping and pillaging their way into the championships in our league with decisive wins over mine and Plank's team, both of whom completely crapped the bed in Week 15. Let's dive into stories that won't make me cry.
Panthers 28, Texans 13 - The Panthers are becoming that team that nobody wants to play heading into the playoffs. Cam Newton isn't putting up video game numbers anymore (204 total yards and 2 TD in this one), but they're playing as a team and he's making less mistakes. Beating the potential #1 seed in the AFC is a huge win. From a fantasy perspective, not much to see here. By now, we know who has value for each of these teams, and nothing from this game changed that perception.
Redskins 23, Giants 10 - Yuck, if you're a Giants fan. Bad Eli returned for four quarters in this one, and he wasn't at all helped by a couple of horrible drops by Hakeem Nicks. New York fell flat, but from a fantasy perspective we know what they are. Ahmad Bradshaw has limited value going forward, and the Giants receivers will be targeted Nicks-Cruz-Manningham. For the Redskins, Santana Moss is the only receiver worth owning and starting, but now we're back to square one with the running game. Roy Helu struggled here, amassing just 69 total yards on 26 touches (23 carries, 3 catches). Evan Royster stole 10 carries, and Darrel Young (who?) vultured a touchdown as well. Shanahanigans appear to be in play, but Helu still carried the rock 20+ times, so we'll proceed with cautious optimism as the Redskins head into Minnestoa next week.
Dolphins 30, Bills 23 - Wow, CJ Spiller. Against a Top 5 rushing defense, CJ goes for over 160 total yards and 28 fantasy points. Didn't see that one coming. It's hard to trust Spiller...or the Bills offense for that matter, and to boot Buffalo has matchups at home against Denver and on the road against New England coming up. Neither of those excite us, but it's clear that the offense will work through Spiller in a similar way that it did with Fred Jackson. He should be owned and considered flex-worthy, even with the ugly matchups. David Nelson remains a deep-league play over the next two weeks, but is especially intriguing next week against the Broncos with the likelihood that Champ Bailey will be on Stevie Johnson. Oh, I guess we should talk about Reggie Bush running for over 200 YARDS in this one too. But you started Reggie, right? Time to start treating him as a RB1. And, for the love of God, would you add Matt Moore, at least as insurance? He'll be a great fill-in, especially next week against the Pats.
Seahawks 38, Bears 14 - Predicting a top receiver for Seattle is like predicting your own death - it can't be done. Unless, of course, you actually START a Seattle receiver on your fantasy team, as that's the fantasy equivalent of death and can be easily predicted. After Doug Baldwin went all HAM last week, he disappeared Sunday, catching 1 of his 2 targets for 13 yards. Golden Tate again took the biggest load, although 4 catches for 61 yards isn't all that great. Bottom line is the only Seahawk you want is Marshawn Lynch, who went all beast mode despite sucking to the tune of 2.1 yards per carry. For the Bears, another injury to Johnny Knox means there's not a lot value at all there. Caleb Hanie throws more picks than John Stockton in the 90s. But, interestingly enough, my super sleeper Kahlil Bell had a HUGE game with 108 total yards and a score. Bell is an interesting play in the next two weeks, as the rash of injuries leaves the Bears with few reliable receiving options, and Bell is a far better pass-catcher than Marion Barber.
Saints 42, Vikings 20 - I refuse to talk about Drew Brees' 5 TDs, as that was the death of me in one league. Goo. Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas both were respectable on the ground, and I don't have a problem starting either one as a flex (unless Mark Ingram comes back from injury, which throws a wrench in the whole thing). On the Minnesota side of the ball, I still don't think Christian Ponder is fully healthy, and until I'm confident about him, it's hard to be confident about Percy Harvin, who went goose egg with just 3 catches for 8 yards here. Harvin, who has been a surefire WR2 over the past few weeks, is at best a flex next week at Washington and probably less than that against Green Bay in Week 17.
Bengals 20, Rams 13 - Man, I hope AJ Green is okay, because he is a STUD. Green's injury is worth watching, as Arizona looms in Week 16. If Green's sprained shoulder keeps him out, Jerome Simpson becomes a really interesting championship week option. Cedric Benson continues to be a must-start in any format, and no one from the Rams outside of Steven Jackson is even worth a roster spot. I love Brandon Lloyd, but 5 of 42 isn't winning you your league.
Colts 27, Titans 13 - Celebration!!! The Colts won't go oh-fer the season, which is actually sort of disappointing. From a fantasy standpoint, I still have little faith in the Colts receiving corps to give you consistent numbers, and I also refuse to call Donald Brown a legitimate fantasy starter, but I'm starting to change my tone. For Tennesse, I think it's Jake Locker time. Locker again came in late for an ineffective Matt Hasselbeck and looked pretty good, connecting with Nate Washington for a late score. Meanwhile, bad CJ2K was again present, and with the Titans playing a stingy Jags run D next week I'd be afraid to put a lot of faith in Johnson. Locker, on the other hand, might be an interesting add in deeper leagues, but I don't expect much from him even if he starts. Jacksonville and Houston are both good defenses that don't give up a lot through the air.
Chiefs 19, Packers 14 - Consider the first day of the Romeo Crennel era in Kansas City, as a win over the unbeaten Pack likely secures his place. From a fantasy perspective, though, the game was pretty uneventful for KC. Yeah, I know, Kyle Orton threw for 299 and a touchdown. He's a backup fantasy QB, but that game against Oakland in Week 16 looks pretty good if you're in a bind. I'd be very worried if I'm an Aaron Rodgers owner with a Week 17 championship. I think you'll be okay next week when the Pack play Chicago, because they're still yet to clinch home field advantage. But if they wrap it up (as they should) at home, I'd be more than willing to bet that Rodgers sits Week 17, leaving you to find a QB for your fantasy title hopes.
Lions 28, Raiders 27 - All hail Matthew Stafford! All hail Megatron! Nice to see the dynamic duo back in early season form, and I expect a similar (although not as huge) result next week against San Diego. Kevin Smith, on the other hand, is concerning. He didn't look right all game, averaging under 3 yards per carry against a defense that's allowed a bus to drive through it all year. I wonder how healthy Smith really is, and that bears watching as we get into next week. Over on the Oakland side of the ball, you better believe we're putting Darrius Heyward-Bey into our lineups as long as Jacoby Ford remains out. DHB went crazy on the Lions secondary to the tune of 8/155/1, and next week holds potential against a Chiefs D that I don't believe just yet.
Patirots 41, Broncos 23 - Kept waiting for Tebow Time. Didn't get it. But Tebow was still decent from a fantasy perspective, putting up 24 FPTs in standard leagues...and save for the two fumbles was outstanding protecting the football. You're still starting Tebow...don't jump off the bandwagon yet. Willis McGahee's injury bears watching...obviously if you're a McGahee owner you wanna pick up Lance Ball as insurance, but we'll hope that McGahee is okay. For the Pats, Stevan Ridley got the most carries, but I won't start any Patriots running back, and neither should you.
Eagles 45, Jets 19 - Michael Vick + Lesean McCoy = fantasy championship. Sounds like last year, right? The Eagles close out against vulnerable Dallas and Washington D's, so it might be worth starting Vick, which you're probably doing anyway. And Get Brent Celek into your lineups! We've been talking about Celek forming a good chemistry with Vick FINALLY, and it paid off here, as he got a team-high 6 targets and led all tight ends with 21 fantasy points. The Jets looked off all day, but brighter days should be ahead with the Giants and Dolphins in your fantasy championships. Sanchez is still a borderline QB1, and Shonn Greene is still a solid RB2. Santonio Holmes, however, still has little value, unless you're in a league that awards points for celebration penalties. Despite back to back weeks with a TD for Holmes, he still has just two games all year with 5 catches, and that poses a problem if you're looking for consistency. Holmes is at best a flex play, even in a PPR. I'm not looking too much into the Plaxico Burress 1 for 9 game, as he still seems to be very much a part of the offense, but was just well covered in this one.
Cardinals 20, Browns 17 - Holy Peyton Hillis Batman! 99 yards and a touchdown made me think it was 2010, but I still don't have a lot of faith in Hillis. Keep in mind that was his first double-digit fantasy outing since Week 2, and the Browns wrap up their season against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Hillis will remain on your bench. The same might not be said, however, for Greg Little, who's 76-yard touchdown catch made him one of the top fantasy receivers for the week. Little consistently leads the team in targets, which is fine, but again. Baltimore and Pittsburgh. I have more faith in Little than Hillis, but not as more than a flex or WR3. For Arizona, nothing to see here. Larry Fitzgerald is fine, and should see better days when not being covered by Joe Haden.
Chargers 34, Ravens 14 - Well THIS I didn't expect. The Ravens D posted a negative number for the first time all year, and their struggles basically took Ray Rice out of the equation. I'm calling it an anomaly on Baltimore's end, but you have to feel pretty good about starting your Chargers going forward. Ryan Mathews, Malcolm Floyd, and Vincent Jackson should be in starting lineups in both Week 16 and 17, as neither Detroit's patchwork secondary or Oakland's horrid defense scare me at all.
We'll hit the Matt Forte injury in a sec, but here's the thing....there were actually some AMAZING fantasy performances on Sunday - some big numbers from some familiar names, and some really big numbers from surprising souces as well. We might have even found a couple of waiver wire pickups for your playoff run. Let's dive in:
Panthers 38, Buccaneers 19 - From a purely REAL football standpoint, the Panthers are a scary team going forward and heading into 2012, if they add some defense, they will be an NFC South contender. From a fantasy standpoint, there are two good running backs in Carolina, and one GREAT running back. The great one also happens to play QB. Cam Newton continues to be a dominant fantasy force. posting 37 points in standard leagues thanks to 3 rushing TDs. For the Panthers, we really thought DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could post big games against a putrid Bucs D, and Stewart played well. Unfortunately, as long as Cam is stealing all the goal line carries, there will be inconsistent value and a little bit of a fantasy whac-a-mole game for both of these guys. Only a Week 16 rematch holds any hope for Panthers RBs, as Atlanta, Houston, and New Orleans all post decent to great numbers against the run. For Tampa Bay, Josh Freeman's mysterious shoulder injury bears watching. If he stays out, I'd keep LeGarrette Blount out most games, as defenses will be able to pile on him and the Bucs will be playing from behind a lot. Kellen Winslow and Mike Williams still have some value, but their upside will be limited if Josh Johnson has to stay under center.
Steelers 35, Bengals 7 - Pittsburgh shows that they're still a couple of steps ahead of Cincinnati in terms of talent, and nothing here really surprised us. A much needed big day for Mike Wallace, as he hauled in both of Roethlisberger's TD passes despite only making 3 catches. It was a down game for the Steelers' passing game anyway, with Pittsburgh going back to the old school with 33 rush attempts as compared to just 26 drop backs for Big Ben. Flukey game for Rashard Mendenhall - he still only gained 60 yards on the ground, but he BenJarvused his way to a big fantasy day with a couple of cheap rushing TDs. AJ Green continues to be a #1 fantasy WR, even in tough matchups. Houston poses a problem next week, but Week 15 & 16 games against St. Louis and Arizona are tempting for the Dalton-to-Green combo. What perhaps went unnoticed in this game was 7 targets for Jermaine Gresham, who had a TD called back by a false start penalty in the 2nd quarter. Gresham is back to being Dalton's #2 guy, and should be treated accordingly in coming weeks.
Texans 17, Falcons 10 - The most run-heavy team in the NFL doese it again, even against the league's 2nd best rushing defense. The Texans ran the ball 44 times for 162 yards, and TJ Yates ended up not being half-bad the 25 times he threw the ball. While you're not owning Yates, it certainly helps Foster and Andre Johnson that he appears to be competent, even against a tough D. Owen Daniels still makes me nervous just because Joel Dreesen appears to be the TD vulture of tight ends. A tough game all around for the Falcons, only further cementing Houston as an every-week start on defense. Interesting here though is that Roddy White is back to being Roddy White - only 4 catches, but he was targeted 15 times as compared to 10 for Julio Jones. Encouraging for the value of both going forward.
Jets 34, Redskins 19 - Wow, Shonn Greene. Thanks for sucking all year, then taking a mediocre matchup and turning it into 3 TDs. Don't get too excited people, a combination of an LT injury and a lot of carries from inside the 5 are the only reason Greene did much of anything in this game. Only a garbage-time 25 yard scamper late was impressive enough for me to think about starting Greene. Simply put, he's a matchup play...but solid matchups await for the next three weeks. In the passing game, a good sign for Santonio Holmes owners as he got a team high 8 targets for Mark Sanchez and finally put it in the end zone. Holmes is still a bit of a fantasy black hole because you never really know what you're getting with him. For the Redskins, Roy Helu isn't flashy, but he's productive - another 100 yard game for him, and perhaps more importantly, he got 27 of the Redskins' 28 running back touches. Sounds like a #1 guy to me. Fred Davis led the team in targets, but he'll be out on drug charges the rest of the season. Bummer. Santana Moss got 12 targets though, his highest total since being back. Hard to say what to think about that, but it's at least a positive sign for him.
Patriots 31, Colts 24 - So much for the Pats being my sleeper defense this week...after 3 strong quarters they imploded in the 4th thanks to the powerful arm of....Dan Orvlosky? Interesting that Pierre Garcon ended up being the big fantasy play from Indy yet again, leading the team in targets, catches, and yards while Reggie Wayne caught just 5 balls. Equally interesting is the re-emergence of Austin Collie, who caught 7 of his 8 targets for 70 yards. Collie has amassed just 34 fantasy points all season, so I want to see him get that many targets again before I go crazy for him. For the Pats, the only takeaway is that Rob Gronkowski is the tight end to own, and that Bill Belichick is still the devil. Green-Ellis managed a touchdown, but only carried the ball 6 times. Kevin Faulk snuck a couple of touches in there, and Stevan Ridley made a re-appearance and led the team with 8 carries. Stop carrying Pats RBs.
Dolphins 34, Raiders 14 - I have nothing to say here. Carson Palmer ended up okay after an awful start, thanks to Darrius Heyward-Bey and fantasy zombie TJ Houshmanzadeh. Still, no Raiders receivers instill a ton of confidence in me until Moore and Ford come back. Michael was, predictably, the worse Bush in this game - the Dolphins are good against the run and the Raiders just got behind early. Reggie, on the other hand, continued to be RB2 material with 100 yards and a score. I'm still interested to see how carries are split in Oakland once Darren McFadden comes back. Matt Moore, meanwhile, continues to be the least-owned fantasy worthy QB out there. Go pick up the guy if you need a starter or even an insurance plan. He's not Aaron Rodgers, but he won't kill you most weeks.
Broncos 35, Vikings 32 - Tim Tebow does it again! And this time through the air, with 202 yards passing and a couple of scores, plus a ridiculous game-tying and game-winning drive. I give up on bad things to say about the guy. His throwing motion is childlike and he's not terribly accurate, but he makes plays, so kudos to the dude. Another ho-hum 111 yards for Willis McGahee, who continues to disprove anyone who said he was too old to start in the NFL. Percy Harvin continues to play like a WR1 with Christian Ponder back there, and continues to be the only person not named Peterson that I want on my fantasy team, although Toby Gerhart has filled in admirably. Speaking of WR1s, Demaryius Thomas sure looked like one while nabbing 4 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. He's definitely worth a pickup, as the talent has always been there for Thomas, and we know that Tebow has a habit of locking in on a guy and making him a star for a couple of weeks. Denver is still a run-first team, though, so you're always taking a gamble starting a Broncos wideout. You might get excited about Devin Aromoshodu too, who caught 6 for 90 here against Champ Bailey, and there will be good games for him, but overall it's a little tough to trust the guy from week-to-week.
Titans 23, Bills 17 - That Chris Johnson matchup play thing is starting to pay off, and CJ2K, despite all the crap he's taken, is only 148 yards away from 1,000 on the season. He might get that next week against San Diego, and he certainly looks better, but expectatiosn must be tempered with late playoff matchups against New Orleans, and Week 15 & 16 games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis won't scare us away from starting him either. Oh, and I was wrong on CJ Spiller. Not only did he go over 100 total yards and 16 fantasy points against a pretty good Titans D, he did it on just 17 touches. I will feel just fine about him against San Diego, but games against Miami, Denver, and New England aren't nearly as intriguing.
Chiefs 10, Bears 3 - Yuck. On all fronts. If Matt Forte is out for the season, which it appears he might be with a sprained MCL, Marion Barber is an interesting play for the Bears, and Khalil Bell will get his share of carries as well after a couple of nice runs yesterday. Overall though, neither of those guys is more than a deep-league flex. Caleb Hanie keeps throwing picks, but he also keeps throwing it to Johnny Knox, who is now the only Bears player I feel pretty good about starting every week. Knox has re-emerged as a true #1 with Hanie back there, leading the team with 8 targets, double anyone else in that WR corps. For Kansas City, move along. They Kyle Orton experiement is now a really expensive broken finger, and Tyler Palko is awful. Dwayne Bowe is a flex play still because of his upside, but even his ceiling is capped by bad QB play.
Ravens 24, Browns 10 - SEE Cam Cameron!! See what happens when you give Ray Rice the ball a lot? A career high 204 rushing yards and 28 fantasy points makes Rice owners happy this week, and with matchups against awful run defenses Indianapolis, San Diego, and a re-play against Cleveland coming up, Rice should help propel his owners through the playoffs as long as Baltimore doesn't clinch the division and decide to sit him. Peyton Hillis got 40 yards on his first 8 carries, then Hillis-ed us the rest of the day with 4 carries for 5. He still sucks and is on the bench everywhere. The Browns offense as a whole is atrocious, and I don't feel good about starting any player from this team....ever, especially with 2 matchups against Cincy and another against Baltimore in the near future.
Cardinals 19, Cowboys 13 - A few things I see here. Dallas always finds new and creative ways to lose. Beanie Wells continues to be a must-start most week. Andre Roberts and his 6 for 111 make him an interesting pickup, as he clearly has Kevin Kolb's trust and the #2 wideout position secured in Arizona. With all the attention paid to Larry Fitzgerald, that's not a bad place to be. And not this year...but next year Arizona will be a sleeper D. Patrick Peterson is emerging as a legit cover corner, and Calias Campbell is a beast up front. Arizona is a couple of pieces away from being a consistently ferocious defensive unit, so watch out.
Packers 38, Giants 35 - Wow at this game. And wow at future MVP Aaron Rodgers. A-rod's torrid pace continues - and that game winning drive in 58 seconds might end up being what clinches his postseason awards sweep. Nice to see Jermichael Finley targeted 11 times in this one. Despite his inconsistency, he's such a physical beast a la Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates that you HAVE to keep rolling with him. It was great to see Donald Driver pull in a couple of scores...one of them on a circus catch down in the end zone, but he still only got 4 targets and remains a waiver wire guy. For the Giants, we knew there would be some opportunities for receivers to get open, and boy were there. It certainly appears that Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are the only guys to own, as they combined for 14 catches and 207 yards on 21 targets. Both had monster games, with Cruz leading in yards (119) and Nicks hauling in 2 scores. Mario Manningham, even when healthy, is a non-factor most weeks, and although Jake Ballard remains an interesting deep play at TE, he's just not getting red zone looks.
49ers 26, Rams 0 - The #1 question we got on Twitter yesterday...."What happened to Brandon Lloyd"? A.J. Feeley happened, that's what. We'll see what transpires with Bradford's ankle injury, but with the Rams out of contention, I won't be surprised if they let him take his time to heal in what's been an injury-riddled season for the former OU Heisman Trophy winner. If he's not in there, there is no Rams player with value. Period. For San Francisco, Michael Crabtree went OFF (as predicted) and continues to play like a true #1 receiver. With the division locked up, you'd think that the 49ers would rest some guys, but with only 1 loss and a shot at homefield advantage, you might be able to use Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore deep into your fantasy playoffs. Might not be a bad idea to nab Kendall Hunter if you're a Gore owner though. If you get deep and the Packers lock down homefield, San Francisco might be tempted to rest Gore.
Saints 31, Lions 17 - So, let me get this right...Matthew Stafford throws for over 400 yards but only ONE touchdown, and Calvin Johnson ended the day with just 6 fantasy points? For an unraveling Detroit team, that's exactly what happened as they spiral further and further from playoff contention. Remember at one time when we thought the NFC North would have THREE playoff teams? Lookin more and more like one. Anyway, Detroit limited Kevin Smith's workload to just 12 touches, but he looked healthy and effective in both the run and pass games, meaning good things for him, even with a bad matchup against Minnesota next week. For Megatron, it was at least nice to see Nate Burleson and Titus Young having decent games...if that continues, defenses will have to respect them and hopefully open up some holes for Johnson. New Orleans's receiving corps, meanwhile, continues to be as frustrating as the Patriots running backs. Against a depleted Lions secondary, it was expected to be a field day for Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. NOT SO FAST, my friend. Although Colston and Graham both posted respectable numbers on their 18 combined targets, it was Tulsa product Robert Meachem who had the big fantasy day, capped off by a 67 yard TD catch in the 2nd quarter. No, Meachem is still not a startable fantasy option, as it's tough to tell which guy in New Orleans is the guy to own from week to week.
So you wanna hear my takeaway from the Thursday night game? Okay, here goes:
THE EAGLES SUCK
Seriously, from both a real-life and fantasy football perspective, can you think of a more disappointing team in recent history than the '11 Eagles? Mike Vick has been injured and/or mediocre most of the year. Desean Jackson has done nothing, Jeremy Maclin has been in and out of the lineup, and the defense has been far less effective than advertised. In fact, as we get into the playoffs, here's the fantasy value of a few players from each team:
Lesean McCoy is the ONLY must-start here. If Mike Vick comes back and is healthy, he's still a borderline QB1, and he certainly helps the value of Jeremy Maclin (if HE'S healthy). Brent Celek is a deep-league or desperation tight end. Desean Jackson is no better than a flex play with his bad route-running and crap attitude. Riley Cooper and Jason Avant are both interesting sleepers until Maclin is back.
If Vince Young continues to start at QB, though, only McCoy and POSSIBLY Maclin have any value at all.
Marshawn Lynch is unstoppable and should be starting every week for you. Other than that, I'm nervous about anyone else. Doug Baldwin is getting his fair share of targets, but when Sidney Rice comes back he'll be the only receiver you want. Tavaris Jackson is still awful and won't be starting in any league.