NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 34, BUFFALO BILLS 3
Tom Brady continues to state his MVP case by not turning the ball over, leading New England through a seventh straight game without a turnover. His yardage (140) wasn’t gaudy, but he threw three TDs—two to rookie TE Rob Gronkowski (4-54-2)—while his wide receivers combined for just five catches and 44 yards. The Patriots used a two-headed ground assault, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (19-104, 1-3) handling most of the work but Danny Woodhead (13-93-1, 3-32) chipping in as well.
The Bills couldn’t get out of their own way, turning the ball over seven times led by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s three INTs and two fumbles. The giveaways overshadowed Fitzpatrick’s 18-37-251 and also contributed to his streak of 13 games with at least one TD toss coming to an end. Aside from Fred Jackson’s 13-81 rushing and 2-11 receiving, there wasn’t much to shout about in Buffalo.
FANTASY IMPACT: With David Nelson exiting early due to injury Fitzpatrick found another guy to throw to in Naaman Roosevelt (4-74), who outproduced both Stevie Johnson (5-58) and Donald Jones (5-54). Maybe the Bills won’t need to be in the market for receivers this offseason. Similarly, the Patriots might have been thought to be on the lookout for running backs, but they unloaded Laurence Maroney midseason and have received more than enough from BJGE and Woodhead to be comfortable heading into 2011.
CHICAGO BEARS 38, NEW YORK JETS 34
Why wouldn’t a game featuring two of the better defenses in the league turn into a 72-point shootout? Why wouldn’t Matt Forte gouge the Jets for 19-113-1 on the ground and another 4-56 as a receiver? Why wouldn’t two different Bears receivers—Johnny Knox (4-92-2) and Devin Hester (3-48-1)—score against the vaunted Gang Green secondary? About the only thing that was expected was Jay Cutler (13-25-215-3-1, plus 4-3-1 rushing) throwing a pick six.
Mark Sanchez won’t play next week, but sore shoulder or no he winged it for 24-37-269-1-1 against the Bears. He worked underneath to Dustin Keller (7-79) but also outside to Braylon Edwards (6-78) and Santonio Holmes (4-69-1). The Jets also got an unexpected boost from their ground game, with both Shonn Greene (12-70-1, 2-14) and LaDainian Tomlinson (13-28-1, 2-14) finding the end zone for the first time in more than two months.
FANTASY IMPACT: If you’re playing in a meaningful fantasy game in Week 17, here’s hoping you’re not banking on Jets receivers. With Sanchez sitting Gang Green will turn to either Mark Brunell, who hasn’t thrown a TD pass since 2006, or Kellen Clemens, who hasn’t throwing a scoring strike since 2007. How about Forte showing up again against a legitimate defense? with 97 and a touch against the Dolphins, 117 against Philly, 92 against the Vikings, and now a hundo and a score against the Jets he’s well on his way to outgrowing the “only start against cupcakes” label.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 20, CLEVELAND BROWNS 10
Yawn; the Ravens took down the Browns in hum-drum fashion, with no superlative individual performances unless you count Ed Reed’s two picks. Ray Rice rushed for 92 yards on 25 carries but failed to score and didn’t bust a play longer than 11 yards. Joe Flacco threw a pair of touchdowns but just 102 yards to go with them. Yawn.
If the Ravens were hum-drum, the Browns’ offense was downright narcoleptic. Aside from an early flea-flicker from Mohamed Massaquoi (1-1-29-1 passing, 2-14 receiving) to Brian Robiskie (2-35-1), there was nothing for Cleveland to get excited about. Peyton Hillis (12-35, 1-5) was stymied, as promised by Ray Lewis; in fact, backup Mike Bell (7-27, 2-48 receiving) was more productive.
FANTASY IMPACT: It’s getting a lot more difficult to trust Hillis as a top-five back heading into next season. For starters, Eric Mangini probably won’t be back so he’ll have to impress a whole new coaching staff. Then there’s the obvious fact that he wore down from the workload, which likely means some sort of job share in 2011. On the bright side, he’s closing in on a team record for receptions by a running back. At the start of the season Anquan Boldin (2-15) looked like he would be the Ravens’ go-to receiver; however, he’s had one fantasy helper in the last five. Derrick Mason (4-50-1) has held value, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4-32-1) is horning in on his action.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 20, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 17 (OT)
Playing like a team with playoff aspirations rather than one that’s already been eliminated, the Redskins got just enough from Ryan Torain (20-65-1, 2-4), and Santana Moss (5-85) and not much from anyone else. Rex Grossman (19-39-182-1-1) was much more Rex-like than last week, which didn’t help the Redskins’ attack.
It became obvious early on that Rashad Jennings (15-32, 4-29) is no Maurice Jones-Drew, so David Garrard (22-38-299-1-2, 6-39-1 rushing) did what he could to pick up the slack. With Mike Sims-Walker (1-31) hobbled, Garrard turned to Mike Thomas (6-96-1) and Jason Hill (4-77) when he wasn’t calling his own number. However, Garrard’s OT INT cost the Jags the game and have their playoff hopes on life support.
FANTASY IMPACT: Did we mention Jennings was no MoJo? Much was expected of Jennings getting the bulk of the workload in what projected to be a favorable matchup; instead, Jennings proved that he could possibly be a PPR helper and MoJo handcuff next year, but he’s not about to take a significant bite out of Jones-Drew’s workload unless Jacksonville’s starter is injured. On the Redskins’ side, Torain continues to state his case for the feature back job in DC in 2011. Keiland Williams (2-8, 1-4) is nothing more than a backup, though if Grossman is truly the Redskins’ plan at QB heading into next season it could negatively impact the ground game as well.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 34, TENNESSEE TITANS 14
Jamaal Charles (13-77, 4-40-2) settled the “who’s the better fantasy back” early on, helping the Chiefs race to a 24-point lead with a pair of touchdown grabs. Matt Cassel (24-34-314-3) also found Dwayne Bowe (6-153-1) and even reconnected with Tony Moeaki (5-63) as the Chiefs had their way with the Titans. Of course, to keep the clock running and prevent Charles from posting too good of numbers, Thomas Jones carried 23 times for 51 yards.
The early deficit took Chris Johnson (14-58) out of the game plan and pinned the Titans’ hopes on Kerry Collins (14-37-235-2-2). Collins had Kenny Britt (4-89-1) to throw to, and he also loaded up Jared Cook with 5-96-1, but it was far too little, too late.
FANTASY IMPACT: Johnson’s effort was his sixth of the season without either a touchdown or 100 rushing yards. For a player who was the first overall pick in many leagues, that’s a lot of dogs. Interesting to see what happens if Jeff Fisher is jettisoned, or if Vince Young returns to the helm in Tennessee. One thing’s for certain; CJ won’t be nearly the sure thing heading into 2011 he was believed to be entering this season. While Charles would certainly benefit from Jones seeing a significantly reduced workload, he failed to either score or reach 100 yards from scrimmage only three times in 2010. In many scoring systems he’s outscoring Johnson despite the backfield committee.
DETROIT LIONS 34, MIAMI DOLPHINS 27
It’s unlikely you expected much from the Lions fantasy-wise in Miami, and for the most part they delivered: Calvin Johnson’s 4-52 was barely on the radar, and Maurice Morris (12-22-1, 2-13) wasn’t much help, either. But Shaun Hill (14-26-222-2) helped lead a late charge that saw the Lions put 17 points on the board in a two-and-a-half minute span late in the fourth quarter.
There were some bright spots, as Brandon Marshall (10-102) continued to pile up the catches and the running back tandem of Ricky Williams (14-71, 2-21) and Ronnie Brown (12-37-1, 6-34) was at least mildly productive. But once again interceptions torpedoed an otherwise decent outing from Chad Henne (29-44-278-1-2), and the fact that Lousaka Polite (4-12-1, 1-7) vultured a short-yardage touchdown couldn’t have made Brown and Williams owners happy.
FANTASY IMPACT: Davonne Bess (5-34-1) usually accompanies Marshall into fantasy relevancy from the Miami passing game, and with a score and five catches this week was no exception. However, with Henne continuing to give away the ball like Jake Delhomme the Dolphins may rethink their starter and/or their offensive philosophy for 2011. We saw what a healthy Jahvid Best (6-24, 1-53-1) could do way back in the first fortnight of the season, and we got another glimpse when he took a short pass 53 yards for a touchdown to ignite the Lions’ comeback on Sunday. Perhaps that will be the memory that sticks through the offseason, which should provide ample time for Best’s banged-up toes to heal.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS 25, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 17
It wasn’t particularly pretty, especially with Steven Jackson (24-48-1, 3-19) limited to two yards per carry. Nonetheless, behind 28-37-292-1 from rookie quarterback Sam Bradford the Rams will be playing for a division title next week.
The Niners switched quarterbacks halfway through this game, as Troy Smith’s 7-19-153-1-1 earned him a benching—though Alex Smith (10-15-120) fared little better.
FANTASY IMPACT: It probably won’t matter, as with Mike Singletary on his way out both Smiths are likely to be right behind him. But once again Troy went heavily to Michael Crabtree (a bottom line of 6-122-1, split 4-95-1 on eight targets from Troy and 2-27 on two targets from Alex) while failing to connect with Josh Morgan (2-39) on three targets. At least he remembered where Vernon Davis (3-70) was, accoungint for two of his catches on five targets. Bradford leaned heavily on his wideouts this week, with 20 of his 28 completions going to wide receivers. Danario Alexander (6-99) had the most yards, Danny Amendola (8-53) the most catches, and Laurent Robinson (3-25-1) the touchdown, so they’re still looking for a go-to receiver.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 34, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20
No TO? No Ocho? No problem; Carson Palmer (16-21-269-4) still had Jerome Simpson (6-124-2), Andre Caldwell (4-87), and rookies Jordan Shipley (1-3-1) and Jermaine Gresham (4-56-1). On a day where backups shone, Bernard Scott (11-50-1) outperformed Cedric Benson (24-52) as well.
Maybe the revolving door of receivers finally caught up to Philip Rivers (27-40-256-1-1), who couldn’t rally the troops and salvage San Diego’s fading playoff hopes. Vincent Jackson (4-54) disappointed, trailing both Legedu Naanee (4-59) and Darren Sproles (3-8 rushing, 8-55 receiving) in the box score. Kelley Washington (5-40-1) gained some late revenge on his former squad, but it clearly wasn’t enough.
FANTASY IMPACT: Mike Tolbert fumbled twice and left early in the game with a shoulder sprain and neck injury that looked significantly worse when he was carted off. Ryan Mathews stepped up with 12-55-1 and 3-28, but again his numbers fell short of what the Chargers were looking for. Whether or not the Bengals start over with a new coach, they’ll likely shed both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco in the offseason. However, as indicated by 15-270-4 from their young receiving corps, the cupboard is far from bare.
DENVER BRONCOS 24, HOUSTON TEXANS 23
So this is how the legend of Tim Tebow begins: with 16-38-308-1-1 passing and a game-winning rushing score in his first start at home. Tebow got plenty of help from Brandon Lloyd (5-111), Jabar Gaffney (4-90), and Houston’s bottom-feeding secondary; he also got a surprisingly big assist from Correll Buckhalter (11-42-1 rushing, 3-50-1 receiving), filling in for the injured and ineffective Knowshon Moreno (7-19).
Were it not for a tipped ball on Houston’s final drive, we’d be talking about how Matt Schaub (23-33-310-1-1) led the Texans to a late game-winning score. With Andre Johnson inactive, Schaub looked to Owen Daniels (8-73-1) and Jacoby Jones (5-115) to pick up the slack. Arian Foster (19-91-1, 4-44) certainly contributed as well.
FANTASY IMPACT: Sans Johnson, the Texans have been more of a group effort in the past. But this time it was primarily Jones and Daniels, with Kevin Walter (1-14) barely a blip on the radar. Also notable were the combined 4-54 from backup tight ends Joel Dreessen (3-33) and James Casey (1-21); maybe next year all of that goes to a healthy Daniels. Tebow’s pedestrian completion percentage looks rookie-esque, but it belies his downfield success; he completed five of eight downfield tosses, four of them to Lloyd for 96 of his 111 yards. Yes, it was the Texans’ 32nd-ranked secondary but it will do nothing to slow the Legend of Tebow.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 31, OAKLAND RAIDERS 26
Finally, Peyton Manning (16-30-179-3-2) has something to play for in Week 16. And while his yardage wasn’t gaudy, there’s nothing wrong with three touchdowns; as an added bonus, you got 25 rushing yards—and if you’re bemoaning not getting the TD when Peyton did the Westbrook slide at the goal line to kill the clock and seal the win, you’re just being greedy. Manning also had some help from his running game, as Joseph Addai (12-45-1, 1-6) returned to the lineup and Dominic Rhodes (17-98) turned back the clock with his most productive ground game since Week 17 of the 2007 season.
Oakland’s ground game didn’t quite take off against the Colts as expected, despite Indy’s lead not reaching double-digits until midway through the fourth quarter. With neither Darren McFadden (11-45, 4-31) nor Michael Bush (3-19, 3-15) effective, Jason Campbell (29-42-231-1) stepped up with a solid effort; as per usual, he leaned heavily on Zach Miller (9-66-1).
FANTASY IMPACT: Jacoby Ford (2-21) continues to dazzle in the return game, but he found himself behind Darrius Heyward-Bey (4-40) and Louis Murphy (2-36) in the box score. He has the big-play ability Al Davis loves; if the Raiders can find a quarterback to go deep to him, perhaps he’ll be consistent enough to warrant a regular (rather than desperation) fantasy start. Are we seeing the end of Reggie Wayne’s (3-40) run as an elite fantasy receiver? Jacob Tamme (7-78-1) was a brighter blip on Peyton’s radar, while the other touchdown tosses went to Pierre Garçon (3-35-1) and Blair White (2-20-1). That makes four dogs (no TD, less than 50 yards) in the last two months, which may be enough to punch Wayne’s ticket out of the top tier of wideouts.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 45, NEW YORK GIANTS 17
Aaron Rodgers (25-37-404-4) showed no ill effects of the concussion that kept him out of last week’s game, opening the game with a pair of touchdown passes and rolling up 45 points on the Giants. Jordy Nelson’s (4-124-1) stat line was certainly helped by an 80-yard touchdown, but Rodgers didn’t neglect go-to guy Greg Jennings (7-142) as he spread the ball around to nine different receivers.
The Giants hung around for a while as Eli Manning (17-33-301-2-4) fed Hakeem Nicks (4-93-1) and Mario Manningham (4-132-1), but the four INTs and a fumble from each of the Giants’ backs sabotaged any hopes New York had of hanging with the Pack.
FANTASY IMPACT: Not only were Ahmad Bradshaw (12-31, 5-41) and Brandon Jacobs (8-47) ineffective, both lost fumbles—driving Tom Coughlin absolutely bonkers. Bradshaw’s led to a field goal early in the third quarter, giving Green Bay a 24-14 lead; Jacobs’ gaffe came later in the quarter, and he didn’t touch the ball again after coughing it up. The Packers created a folk hero in John Kuhn, who turned 6-22 rushing and 2-7 receiving into three short-yardage touchdowns. Shows how much they trust Brandon Jackson (18-39, 1-10) at the stripe.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 38, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 15
We’ve been waiting for that “here I am” game from Josh Freeman... and he delivered in Week 15, gobbling up the Seattle secondary for 21-26-237 and five touchdown tosses. Mike Williams (3-44-2) accounted for a pair, as did tight end Kellen Winslow (7-98-2) in a game where starting wideout Arrelious Benn (1-16) left with an injury. In all, 10 different Bucs caught passes, some of them from Josh Johnson (2-2-15) in relief of Freeman after the outcome was decided.
Matt Hasselbeck (3-4-24, 1-1-1 rushing) scored the game’s first touchdown but then left with an injury; enter Charlie Whitehurst (11-18-66), and exit pretty much any semblance of a Seahawk offense. No receiver caught more than three passes or topped 27 yards, and by the time Leon Washington (1-16-1) scored in the fourth quarter the game was essentially over.
FANTASY IMPACT: Whitehurst isn’t exactly acing his auditions to be Seattle’s quarterback of the future, but he’s not getting much help either. Another player the Seahawks traded for in hopes of making them an integral part of the offense, Marshawn Lynch (14-53), is faring just as poorly. And this is a team that will be hosting a playoff game if they beat St. Louis at home on Sunday. While Freeman was tossing his five scoring strikes, LeGarrette Blount was doing much of the heavy lifting with 18-164 on the ground. However, even a late shot at a touchdown was usurped when Freeman called for a pass and hit Maurice Stovall (3-12-1) for a two-yard score.