Digging deeper for a baker’s dozen of did-you-know stuff from Fantasy Week 16.
1. Josh Freeman completed 21 of 26 passes for 237 yards and 5 TDs in the 38-15 win over Seattle. He threw 0 INTs and added 23 yards on the ground. Freeman’s passer rating was 144.2, lifting his season mark to 93.6, the 9th best mark in the league.
Huddle Up: Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Chris Simms… the Bucs finally found a franchise quarterback. Freeman tied the Bucs’ club record with 5 TD passes in a game, held by Steve DeBerg (1987) and Brad Johnson (2002). “His numbers speak for themselves and he is a special player,” said Bucs CB Ronde Barber, who’s seen hundreds of quarterbacks in his day. “He just is. We have never seen a guy like that around here.” Freeman also had a 15-yard completion to Cadillac Williams negated by a penalty, then he was pulled in a blowout with 8:00 left, otherwise he might have gone over 300 yards in a hotly contested game. Freeman is 2nd among all QBs with 330 rush yards and also has a sizzling 23/6 TD/INT ratio – so he should at least be listed on the MVP ballots. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Freeman is in my preseason top-10 QBs this summer.
2. LeGarrette Blount carried 18 times for 164 yards vs. Seattle. He added one catch for 3 yards. Mike Williams caught 3 passes for 44 yards and 2 TDs.
Huddle Up: Against Seattle Blount hurdled his 4th different DB of the year on a 48-yard run, making Lawyer Milloy look like a fool – just like he did to Kerry Rhodes (Arz), Reggie Smith (SF), and Charles Godfrey (Car). 2 of the league’s top 4 Rookie Of The Year candidates are teammates Blount and Williams. Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh are the other candidates. Bradford probably wins because he’s a quarterback, but we have to recognize how amazing Blount and Williams have been. Blount (182-941-6) is going to top 1,000 yards in only 12 games (8 starts!) and Williams (61-924-10) should top 1,000 yards too. These two will become the first duo to lead all rookies in rushing and receiving since Bengals RB Paul Robinson & WR/TE Bob Trumpy in 1968. Note: The Bucs are also the first team to finish with a winning record while starting 10 different rookies since the merger in 1970.
Stat of the Week: Blount has 10 runs of 20+ yards on only 182 carries, or one every 18.2 carries. That’s the 2nd best rate of any RB in the league (min. 150 carries) despite the fact that he weighs 250 lbs! He’s not just a grinder, folks.
|Most 20-Yard Runs
||1 every ___
||24. 0 carries
3. Tim Tebow completed 16 of 29 passes for 308 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in the 24-23 win over Houston. He also rushed for 27 yards and 1 TD.
Huddle Up: Tebow’s 308 passing yards were the most for a Broncos rookie QB since John Elway’s 345 vs. the Baltimore Colts in 1983. Amazingly, at halftime Tebow was only 7-of-12 for 100 yards with an INT (on a horribly naïve throw). Denver was down 17-0. Some people were heading for the exits. Invesco Field was like Josh McDaniels’ personal voodoo dolly and he was sticking a pin into each of the 68,000 fans, one by one. Suddenly on his first pass of the second half Tebow hit Jabar Gaffney for 50 yards on a deep post, and everything changed. Late in the game his go-ahead 6-yard TD run was a designed play, one that only a few quarterbacks - Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman - could pull off with their feet. It was actually about an 18-yard sprint out to the corner pylon with a Texans defender missing on the angle. That’s what’s going to make this kid a huge fantasy factor in 2011 – the rushing numbers. Say what you want about Tebow’s odd throwing motion, the less-than-laser-like spirals, but he’s rushed for 105 yards and 2 TDs in his first 2 games. Tebow was a top-5 fantasy QB from Weeks 15 to 16.
4. Sam Bradford completed 28 of 37 passes for 292 yards and 1 TD in the 25-17 win over San Francisco. He did not throw an interception, the 6th time out of 15 games he hasn’t thrown a pick. Danny Amendola caught 8 passes for 53 yards. Steven Jackson carried 24 times for 48 yards and 1 TD, plus he caught 3 passes for 19 yards.
Huddle Up: Bradford has the Rams set up for a win-or-go-home showdown at Seattle, the winner taking the NFC West and hosting a wild-card game. Bradford has 335 completions on the year and broke Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record of 326. Amendola almost had a monster game, but he narrowly missed out on a TD pass and a kickoff return TD. In the 1st quarter he threw a 40-yard pass to Danario Alexander that drew interference in the end zone. Jackson banged in the 1-yard TD. Late in the game Amendola took a kickoff 84 yards down to the 49ers’ 12-yard line. Jackson has been pretty darn good in December with 60 fantasy points (including 3 TDs in 4 games), the first time he’s had 60+ points in a 4-game stretch since Nov. 2009.
5. Sebastian Janikowski hit 4-of-5 FGs in the 31-26 loss to Indianapolis, along with 2 extra points. He hit from 38, 45, 51, and 59 yards.
Huddle Up: Janikowski has 135 points with one game left, and broke the Raiders’ single-season scoring record of 132 points set by kicker Jeff Jaeger in 1993. He just became the first kicker in NFL history to have 2 FGs of 59+ yards in a career – he hit a 61-yarder last year. I still remember Janikowski attempting one from 64 yards out in 2007, which would have been good from 68. That might have been a record that stood forever, because hardly anyone is even allowed to try from 60+ yards. Janikowski is the #2 kicker in most fantasy leagues right behind David Akers – and in leagues that award distance bonuses he’s neck and neck with Dan Carpenter for #1.
6. Tom Brady completed 15 of 27 passes for 140 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs in the 34-3 win at Buffalo. He added 13 rushing yards.
Huddle Up: It was an odd way to accumulate 20 fantasy points, but most owners were happy with Tom in their Week 16 championship battle. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (20 touches for 107 total yards) and Danny Woodhead (16 touches for 125 yards & 1 TD) were the primary weapons as the Pats logged 12 rushing first downs. Brady only had 7 first downs through the air. 20 of the Patriot’s first 32 plays were runs. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 2 scores, and the rookie tight end is now somewhere around #7 in your league’s TE rankings. Going into Week 17 the Patriots might rest some starters coming out of the locker room at halftime. They have absolutely nothing to play for (locked up the #1 seed) and guys like Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Vince Wilfork could use the rest. I suspect Bill Belichick might let Green-Ellis shoot for 1,000 yards since he’s at 928. Welker is only at 848 yards so 1,000 is not realistic for him -- so I’ll bet you he’s one of the first guys to exit on Sunday. They need him 110% healthy to make a Super Bowl run.
7. Eli Manning completed 17 of 33 passes for 301 yards, 2 TDs, and 4 INTs in the 45-17 loss at Green Bay. He added 12 yards on a scramble to help negate one of those picks in INT-penalty leagues.
Huddle Up: Eli needs Steve Smith in the lineup to maintain his Tier-2 QB status. In the first 8 games with Smith out there, Eli averaged 259 passing yards with 17 TD passes and 11 INTs. In the 7 games without Smith (counting Week 14 when he only played 12 snaps) Eli averages 240 passing yards with 13 TDs and 13 INTs. When Smith was healthy the Giants ranked 11th in 3rd down conversions at 40%, but they’ve since slipped to 21st, down at 36%. Cleveland (37%) now converts 3rd downs better than NYG for the season. And ever since they were up 31-3 on Philadelphia in Week 15, they’ve been outscored 73-17 in the last 68 minutes. Giants HC Tom Coughlin finds himself on the hot seat despite taking his team to the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 seasons; but if they beat Washington in Week 17 and get some help, they’ll be in the post-season yet again.
8. Ray Rice carried 25 times for 92 yards in the 20-10 win at Cleveland. He caught 1 pass for zero yards – with only 2 passes thrown his way.
Huddle Up: It was Rice’s worst receiving output since Week 5 of 2008, and that’s where his bread is usually buttered: The passing game. In the last two seasons Rice leads all RBs with 180 pass targets. The only two RBs with even 140 targets are Frank Gore (147) and LeSean McCoy (140). Rice’s fantasy status hinges more on the particular scoring system than any other top running back. Right now in PPR leagues he’s the 6th best fantasy RB; but in non-PPR he’s 12th. That’s the difference between a 1st or 2nd round fantasy pick in my opinion. Off topic a bit: I’ve been riding Ravens OC Cam Cameron all year but in Week 16 he did let Rice do the clock-grinding. Rice carried the ball on 12 of their last 18 plays – but he gained 3 yards or less on 7 of those 12 carries.
9. Brandon Marshall caught 10 passes for 102 yards in the 34-27 loss to Detroit.
Huddle Up: I wasn’t a big fan of Marshall going into 2010 and predicted he’d be a colossal 2nd round bust. I went so far as predicting that his ex-teammate Eddie Royal will score more touchdowns (It’s 3-3 going into Week 17). However, ever since his mid-season slump and the hamstring injury, Marshall has been quietly making plays. Two straight 100-yard games, and top-10 in fantasy points from Weeks 14-16. Marshall has 917 yards and could hit 1,000 for the 4th straight season – this time with a new team and erratic quarterbacking. I’m actually on board with Baby T.O. as a “sleeper” type of pick in the 4th round next year, if OC Dan Henning (and HC Tony Sparano?) is fired – because Miami has run the ball more than any team except NYJ in the last two seasons.
10. Jonathan Stewart carried 18 times for 71 yards in the 27-3 loss at Pittsburgh. He added 1 catch for 9 yards.
Huddle Up: 80 total yards against Pittsburgh despite playing in the worst pass offense in the NFL (sorry, Jimmy) is no small feat. It’s the 10th most total yards any RB has compiled on Pittsburgh in the last 32 games. Believe it or not, Stewart is ranked 2nd in rushing yards from Weeks 12-16 with 531 yards. Repeat that out loud to yourself. Jamaal Charles is #1 with 532 and LeGarrette Blount is 3rd with 500. DeAngelo Williams is surely leaving in 2011 free agency to land the big bucks, and there will be a brand new coaching staff in place who should embrace Stewart’s bountiful talent. I’ve already begun a short list of 2011 Fantasy Breakout Players and it reads, in order: 1. RB Jonathan Stewart. 2. QB Josh Freeman. 3. RB Shonn Greene. 4. WR James Jones. 5. WR Anthony Armstrong. 6. WR David Nelson. 7. TE Jimmy Graham. 8. TE Tony Moeaki.
11. Peyton Manning threw for 179 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs in the 31-26 win at Oakland. He also rushed for 25 yards.
Huddle Up: Manning wisely stopped short on a TD run off a naked boot in order to run out the clock and ice the game (Listen to Dan Dierdorf foolishly trying to explain the play – he thinks Manning slid down to avoid being hit from behind?). It crushed some fantasy owners, but why would Manning make it 38-26 and give the ball back to Oakland with 1:30 left… when by simply going down at the 1-yard line, the Colts run the victory formation and the game is over.
12. Michael Crabtree caught 6 passes for 122 yards and 1 TD in the loss at St. Louis.
Huddle Up: In the 6 games that Troy Smith started, Crabtree scored 4 TDs. In the 9 games that Alex Smith started, Crabtree scored 2 TDs. Of course it’s not going to matter because Mike Singletary was fired, which means both Alex and Troy will be shoved out too. The new coach is going to put his stamp on the offense with a new quarterback and new offensive coordinator. It would be interesting if Jon Gruden took the job: He’s squeezed 1,000-yard seasons out of the brick-footed Keyshawn Johnson, a 33-year old Keenan McCardell, a 36-year old Joey Galloway, the rookie fluke Michael Clayton, and the talented-but-flaky Antonio Bryant.
13. Jamaal Charles carried 13 times for 77 yards and caught 4 passes for 40 yards & 2 TDs in the 34-14 win over Tennessee. Matt Cassel threw for 314 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs, including a 75-yarder to Dwayne Bowe, who hadn’t scored since Week 12 at Seattle.
Huddle Up: For all the complaining we fantasy owners do about Charles’ relative lack of touches throughout the season, it’s kept Charles fresh so he could do damage like this in December. Chiefs OC Charlie Weis keeps finding inventive ways to get Charles the football. J.C. only ranks 16th in RB total touches with 259, but he’s the 4th or 5th best fantasy RB in most scoring formats. No RB accumulates more fantasy points per touch than Charles:
|RBs - Most Fantasy Points per Touch (Min. 150 Touches)
|LeSean McCoy *
|Adrian Peterson *
* Hasn’t played Week 16 yet